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Thursday, October 28, 2021

An Open Appeal To The European Parliament: No GSP + to Sri-Lanka, if there is No Protection and Promotion of Human Rights and Reconciliation

 Community representatives of North East Sri-Lanka whose rights have been seriously violated held press conferences on 1st October 2021, along with the coordination of Civil society groups respectively in Jaffna and in Batticaloa. They called the European Union Parliament to consider the situation of human rights and reconciliation prior to confirming GSP+ to Sri-Lanka as the human rights is dramatically shrinking and government has failed to rebuild reconciliation.

Minorities are subjected to various forms of discriminations and violations[1], threats, torture[2] and arbitrary arrests under PTA including women and young boys. Due to militarized land encroachment fishers, farmers, livestock breeders and small scale income generators have lost their income. Women have become more vulnerable and due to the failure of proper implementation of law-and-order, violence against women and girls, sexual crimes and child pregnancy have increased. Women and children have suffered direct violence and threat by the police, military and intelligence.[3] PTA is used as a tool to systematically suppress the minorities and to prevent their peaceful political and cultural engagements and to erase their identity in their traditional areas.

The President of Sri-Lanka has established “Presidential Task Force for Archaeological Heritage Management in the Eastern Province” [4] to protect the Buddhist heritages in the Eastern province. This has empowered particular Buddhist monks and their allies to encroach the Hindu Temples of minority Tamils. These extremist elements get the support of the majoritarian politicians, archeological department, police and army to seize the Hindu sites and to turn it as Buddhist worship places. Eg. Athi Ayanar Hindu temple in Kurundhoormalai, Mullaitivu[5]. Archeological department along with the police arrests such Hindu temple trustees and community members under the “Antiquities Amendment Act 1991” and imprisoned them. Eg. Aathi Aiyanar Hindu temple in Vadukkunari malai, Vavuniya.

The rights violated and economically exploited women and men came together and openly expressed their plight and appeal to the EU Parliament through media conferences. Some of these campaigners have experienced and still undergoing multiple ways of discriminations.  In Northern Province the conference was held at the Jaffna Press Club[6] and in the East a separate press meet was held at the Batticaloa media office, and all of their voices are recorded here as bellow:

 Ms. Victor Shanthi ( Krishnaveni), Mother of Female PTA Detainee Ms. Diveniya[7], Kilinochchi,:

“I am Victor Shanthi, member of karachchi Piradhesa Sabai (local government). My one and only daughter Diveniya[8] had been working as a director of the TubeTamil channel in Jaffna. It’s a social services organization. She was arrested on 29th March 2021 without any arrest warrant under the accusation of rebuilding LTTE. We were allowed to meet her only once. She is married and has a special need girl child. My daughter is an active social worker and during covid situation she travelled several places and helped people. My husband was emotionally collapsed by the arrest of our daughter, and he died in Corona last month. Now I am looking after my autistic grand daughter alone. I am a tuberculosis patient and have under gone several surgeries. CID has inquired me as well and they are threatening me as LTTE. My Daughter does not have any contacts with LTTE. I plea you all to help me to get my daughter released.”

Ms. Julius Selvamalar,  Wife of Enforced Disappeared Person, Needhavan IDP camp, Mallakam, Jaffna:

“I am Julius Selvamalar living in Needhavan IDP camp in Mallakam. We have been living in this IDP camp for years. In 2008 my husband was abducted by unknown persons and later he is disappeared. At that time my son was 12 years and daughter was 8 years old. There are several families like me, whose family members have been subjected to enforced disappearances. Women like me who have lost the husbands experience various types of social, economic and cultural discriminations. But the government is trying to provide us death certificates for our disappeared family member. To get this death certificate did we do formal funeral rituals for our beloved once and cremate or buried their bodies? Without any evidence how can we agree to get death certificates for disappeared persons? Women have lost their husbands, children, brothers…  While returning from Vanni families have even handed over their girl children to the army. We did several campaigns and protests to get back our disappeared family members but yet there is no response from the government. We want to know the truth. Government must tell us what they have done to our beloved ones.”

There is an office called OMP was in Kalviyankadu. In 2019 we were asked to register our details to get monthly compensation. But until the date we receive nothing. What ever the government gives it wont equivalent to the earnings of the head of the household husband and the fulfilling and satisfying life we get by that.”

Ms. Sivamani, President of Women Rural Development Society (WRDS), Kokkuthoduvai, Mullaitivu[9]:

“ I am Sivamani, president of the WRDS of Kokkuthoduvai of Mullaitivu district. I represent my village and have come to this meet to reveal the situation of  the agricultural lands of my villagers to the European Union and to get justice. We displaced from our village in 1984[10] and since the we lived a refuge life for over 32 years until 2012. During these 32 years period as our agri lands – irrigation lands and seasonal rain based cultivation lands and highlands of food crop cultivation- were not cultivated and it was turned wild. From the times of our parents we villagers traditionally owned irrigation lands in two locations. One is Mundhirigai Kulam and the other is Aamayan Kulam. Munthirigai Kulam is a four acres land scheme and Aamayan Kulam is three acres scheme. During our absence the government had distributed our lands to Sinhala people. When we walk through these lands we could see that they cultivate four times a year in our lands but in the meantime we get lands in lease from neighbouring villagers for cultivation. Since 2012 we continuously campaign and protest for our lands and hand over memorandums to government officials. Last year the Katchcheri (Office of the District Secretariat) decided that they could give an unused wild land to us in a particular location called Koththiyavadu. People who don’t have cultivation land cleaned the forest and sewed paddy. While they were sewing paddy, police and the forest department officer from neighboring Sinhala village Janakapura and Welioya came there and arrested our villagers and remanded them. Now they are on bail through courts. A motor bile of the villagers also seized and nearly seven months later they got it back. But the motor bike was damaged and not in a condition to use. The government even not allowed us to use the newly given land and we were ordered not to step into the land. Only 50 families got land  in a location called Erinjakadu where the soil is  brackish and not suitable for cultivation. Even grass wont grow in that land. Families of three villages respectively Kokkuthoduvai, Karnattukerni and Kokkulai do not have cultivation land for their livelihood. Then how could we survive? If we go to sea for fishing our fishers do not have liberty to engage in fishing. Sinhala fishers from Southern areas have encroached our coastal areas. Therefore our families live an economically deprived life and even unable to get medical treatment for our illness. Female headed house holds/ war widows and war disabled people also there in our village. Therefore, in this meet I request our lands must be released.”

“ Further, after the war at the army sentry point men and women were divided and ordered to go separate ways and at that time men who left their wives didn’t return. There are parents handed over their children to the army and they haven’t returned yet. How can we consider this as disappearances. We cant accept it has disappearances. A brutal war was waged on us, a cruel treatment was enforced against our ethnic community and an unfair solution was imposed on us. The government destroyed our generation and causing destructions to our future generations as well. We must be liberated from these discriminations”.

Ms. Gowri Manoharan Sasireka, War Injured Woman, Solaipuram, Kilinochchi:

“ I am Gowri Manoharan Sasireka, during the war I was injured on 13th march 2009 and I have become paralyzed bellow my hip and got treatment at Mannar hospital for nine months. My two brothers were killed in the war and I lost both my parents too. After the resettlement I got married and gave birth to a boy child but couldn’t conceive after that due to lack of blood circulation in the abdomen. Due to the injury I am unable to work. My husband is a daily wage labourer and we live in his income. I was not given any assistance from the government so far. There are several war injured people in my  village  who also haven’t received government assistance.

 Mr. Antony Shankar, Secretary, Northern Province Fisheries Society, Mannar:

“ I am Antony, secretary of the Northern Province fisheries society and I am here to tell about the situation of the fishers in the province. In Mannar district, the SriLankan navy has captured all the beach scene locations of fishers from Mullikulam to Thalai Mannar and put-up naval bases. Therefore, fishers who engaged in fishing in these locations are now unable to engage in fishing. Even though the war has come to end in mid May 2009, but the fishers are still in the same condition that they had during the years of the war and there is no much change. In 2012 December 26, the then Defense Secretary Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the present President along with the late Mannar Bishop Rayappu Joseph and the Cardinal Malcom Ranjith visited Mullikulam village and assured that they will release all the houses of the people which were encroached by the navy. But it has not happened yet. 36 acres land of Mullikulam has been taken by the navy. In Chilavathurai, military has taken over an extent of 19.25 acres land and put up its camp. In Mananr Pallimunai village 2.2 acres land was encroached by the navy and 23 houses of villagers are not yet given back to them. In Jaffna there are 16 army camps in fisher locations. Mayiliddy harbour had been used by the fishers of the area as their fishing port to anchor their boats but at present it is announce as international harbour and different boats come and anchor there.

Still fishers have to get pass and enter their details at the navy check point when going to sea for fishing. In Northern province fishers have successful fisher societies. According to the by laws of the fisher societies , the fishing locations are demarcated and fishers of the respective societies can engage in fishing within the demarcated areas. But then Fisheries Minister Rajitha Senaratne changed the by law. In order to destroy the system, he introduced fisher rural societies and according to the new by law there is no demarcated areas and it was expanded to island wide. This has helped the encroachments of Sinhala fishers and now they come and fish every where in Northern area. In Kokkulai and Nayaru area of Mullaitivu district our fishers are unable to engage in fishing as their fisher locations have been encroached. The Southern fishers engage illegal methods of fishing with the support of the navy. Therefore, our sea resources are overexploited.  When the native people oppose it their beach huts were burnt down.[11]

In Pallikkuda of Kilinochchi district, people’s lands were encroached by the military and camps have been built in the area. In Kilinochchi district  Koudharimunai, the small fishers fishing locations were given to foreign companies and those companies have developed seafood farms such as sea cucumber, prawns etc.… and people continue their struggle against this”

Mr. Arunachchalam Kunabalasingam, President of the Vali North Resettlement and Rehabilitation Association, Kathrippai, Achchuveli, Jaffna:

 “I am Arunachchalam Kunabalasingam, president of the Vali North Resettlement and Rehabilitation Society. In 1990 during the war the entire people of Vali North were evacuated by the army. 6500 acres land of this area was taken over by the army. As our lands are in the hands of army in 2013 we started peaceful protests to regain the land. By this we were able to step by step get released 3500 acres land until 2018. Among these released 3500 acres land military still occupies in 500 acres land where they have their military camps. Basically 3000 acres land was released. Still, lands in villages such as Mallagam, Maiyliddy, Urani, Thaiyiddy, Vasavilan, Kurumbasiddy, Kadduvan are needed to be released. In itself Palali 2000 acres agricultural land is under the control of the army. When we asked them to release our agricultural lands, they asked us to give the land titles and even we had given our titles we haven’t yet received our lands back.

The Maiyiliddy fisher harbour is the second fisher harbour in Sri-Lanka and it’s the property of the Maiyiliddy people. This harbour was earlier under the  of the fisheries corporation and has been  brought under the control of the port authority and allowed all people to use this fisher harbour. At present mainly Southern Sinhala fishers are using this harbour. But Maiyiliddy people cant use the harbour as still Maiyiliddy is not entirely released to the native people. 1000 families of Maiyiliddy itself needed to be resettled in that village. At present nearly 400 families of Vali North area are still living in IDP camps since 1990.”

After this government taken over the power, they haven’t released an inch of land. We also face housing challenges in resettlement as our houses which were under the army-controlled areas were not destroyed due to the war, but after 2014 those were systematically destroyed by the army. Initially, St. Anthony’s church in Urani was destroyed and following that shop complexes, public buildings, schools and houses were destroyed including Mayillidy St. Mary’s church and Roman Catholic school, convent of the Roman Catholic sisters, a big Pillayar Hindu temple were demolished. In 2013 with the permission of the army some of us went to see our villages. At that time all our houses were in good condition, a single roof tile was not broken as war hadn’t taken place in that location. Army destroyed all the buildings in the area, buried the waste and leveled the land like a flat land and placed a board stating that’s a “No Man Land”. If it is a “no man’s land” how a harbour come exist there, how did the schools and worship places come there, how did they send people to vote in the locations. Therefore totally, 3500 acres land need to be released.

We appeal the European Union to take into consideration all these issues and emphasis the Sri-Lankan government to release all the lands. Until people live refugee life EU shall not grant GSP + to Sri-Lanka.

Ms. Pirabu Janani,Wife of PTA Detainee,  Amman Nagar, Muthur, Trincomalee:

“ I am Pirabu Janani. My husband was arrested under PTA on 7th December 2019. My older brother was also arrested on the same day. Until to date they haven’t been brought before the court. Wives, mothers and children like ours our living a stressful life by thinking our arrested family members. There are more than 100 persons from North East areas are in prisons as political prisoners. Recently also two persons from Trincomalee have been  arrested under PTA. In such circumstances I request the European Union to recommend the Sri-Lankan government to release all political prisoners before granting GSP +.”

Ms. S. Thilakavathi,  Family Member of Enforced Disappeared Person and a Female Farmer, Kokkatticholai, Batticaloa:

“Lands of Tamil people have been encroached by the government for development purposes, under the name of archeological protection and by the forest department. Our land are encroached and colonization is taking place. Our people have lost their livelihood by these encroachments and these patterns of encroachments must be immediately stopped and lands must be returned to our people.

Further, truth and justice was not yet given to the families of the disappeared persons. State intelligence persons are daily disturbing and threatening these families. We are compelled to take death certificates for our disappeared family members. These are un justice treatments against us. The OMP is not functioning.

First, we need justice. We are not going to benefit by the GSP +. Therefore, please emphasis the government to ensure justice and to restore human rights.

Ms. V. Prabarani, Survivor of Kumarapuram Massacre[12], Kumarapuram, Muthur, Trincomalee:

On 11th February 1996, 25 Tamil villagers were massacred and 25 were severely injured. We the affected families haven’t received any justice for this crime committed against us. Human rights violations are still taking place. I believe, after the Sri-Lankan government ensures justice the European Union would grant GSP + to Sri-Lanka.

Mr. K. Kugathasan, Sampoor, Trincomalee:

“ Due to war people of Sampoor were totally displaced in 2006 and were unable to return to their village for 10 years. Many of them lived in IDP camps for 10 years. After 2015 though the Sampoor villagers were resettled in their village still several hundred acres of lands were not yet fully released to the use of the people. Though 818 acres land was gazeted for people, but it was not yet re-distributed to the people. Further, navy has taken  205 acres paddy land and put up their camps. Other than these, a 520 acres land was taken for coal power plant project and the court cancelled the project due to environment concerns.[13] However, still those lands were not redistributed to the people.

In North East level people face several land violation issues and lost their livelihoods. Therefore, the EU must insist the government to give back all lands belong to people and reconsider the GSP + to Sri-Lanka.”

The affected people expressed their concerns as the European Union provides GSP + to Sri-Lanka based on human  rights conditions. Therefore it’s a duty of the European Union to evaluate the situation prior to granting GSP +.

The government has not shown any positive signals towards implementing UNHRC Resolution 30/1 and recent Resolution 46/1.  The President stated at the 76th UN General Assembly that they will develop their own accountability mechanism. But the past experiences have revealed Presidential pardon was given to a death sentenced soldier who had committed war crime. Similarly in different ways higher officials who have committed war crimes are protected. But, on the other hand, lawyers of habeus corpus cases are threatened by intelligence and their movements are followed even inside the courts. It is obvious that this government will not promote any justice mechanism to bring out the truth and provide justice to the affected communities.

Though the government had stated that it was working with the civil societies, but contrary to that, particular civil society organizations in North East areas are strictly intruded by the state intelligence, police and military. Men attached to state intelligence, police and army walk into the offices and houses of the civil society workers without permission and interrogate them and threaten them to arrest or taking them to CID office in Colombo. There are incidents female civil society workers were continuously trawled by the intelligence and there movements were followed.

It is true due to COVID – 19 pandemic Sri-Lankan economy has gone down. Based on that economic reasons, the government can’t justify failure in negative right as which rights generally does not require money. Eg. A State Minister  went to the prison made the minority Tamil prisoners to kneel down in front of him. Custodial and public torture against civilians by the state entities have become a common trend.

Therefore, We civil society organizations and affected communities in North East Sri-Lanka call upon the European Union to emphasis the Sri-Lankan government to follow rule of law, democracy and to take necessary joint actions along with UN and international community to ensure human rights, justice and reconciliation.

NECC/ (Affected Communities and Civil Society Groups in North East Sri-Lanka)

03 October 2021

Sri-Lanka

[1] State Minister Lohan Ratwatte threatened Tamil political prisoners at gun point and humiliated them, https://srilankabrief.org/sri-lanka-ministers-threat-to-shoot-a-prisoner-families-of-tamil-detainees-call-for-full-resignation-and-independent-investigation/

[2] Tamil fishermen in Northern SriLanka continuously face threat and torture by navy ,

Mannar- https://srilankabrief.org/new-year-day-atrocities-srilanka-navy-attacked-mannar-fishers-in-the-sea/

Kilinochchi- https://srilankabrief.org/no-protection-in-sea-or-land-kilinochchi-fishers-were-tortured-by-sri-lanka-navy/

– In Vavunathivu, Batticaloa two young men were brutally assaulted and injured by police, https://srilankabrief.org/recent-police-atrocities-under-militarization-in-north-and-east-sri-lanka/

[3] – In Vankalaipadu village of Mannar , two women family members were threatened in gun point and assaulted by the navy on 25 September 2021 when the women went to protect their male family member who had been attacked by the navy, direct field information.

– In Trincomalee, a 15 years old boy was brutally slapped on the face by CCID, https://srilankabrief.org/sri-lanka-abducted-ex-ltte-cadre-in-ccid-police-custody-family-threatened-son-slapped-by-armed-abductors/

– In Jaffna , two young female journalists were  threatened by police and their mobile phones were snatched by the police forcibly on 23 September 2021,  https://srilankabrief.org/in-jaffna-police-take-journalists-mobile-phone-by-force/

[4] http://www.ft.lk/news/President-appoints-Task-Force-for-Archaeological-Heritage-Management-in-East/56-701114

[5] https://www.tamilguardian.com/content/sri-lankan-minister-leads-buddhist-landgrab-tamil-temple

[6] Press meet of representatives of affected communities, Jaffna Press Club, 1 October 2021, Samugam News (Tamil) https://fb.watch/8mqrgHiZI6/

[7] https://srilankabrief.org/sri-lanka-call-for-immediate-release-of-all-tamil-women-detained-under-pta-diveniya-jinitha-and-thuvitha/

 [9]https://srilankabrief.org/people-of-mullaitivu-writes-to-prez-sirisena-fundamental-rights-violations-by-the-mahaweli-development-l-zone-project/

11] https://www.tamilguardian.com/content/tensions-continue-mullaitivu-following-burning-tamil-fishing-huts

[12] https://groundviews.org/2017/02/11/his-name-is-kamaleswaran-justice-denied-to-survivors-of-the-kumarapuram-massacre/

[13] https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/controversial-coal-power-plant-in-sampur-cancelled/

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