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Genocide of Tamils and atrocities in Sri Lanka while Australia looks onDownload this statement as a PDF
Statement by Dr Brian Senewiratne(MD, FRCP, FRACP), May 7, 2009
I am a Sinhalese from the majority community in Sri Lanka, not from the brutalised Tamil community. I have campaigned for some five decades for the right of the Tamils to live with equality, dignity and safety in the country of their birth. I am releasing this media briefing as a concerned Australian (here for 32 years), and as a member of the Socialist Alliance, the only non-Tamil organisation to support the struggle of the Tamils for justice.
Last week the Sinhalese-dominated Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) succeeded in its immediate aim of ending the armed resistance of the Tamil people, who live in the North and East of the country. "Bloodbath on the beach" was how the United Nations described the battle and we are yet to see the full extent of this major humanitarian catastrophe.
The GoSL of Mahendra Rajapaksa claims it has triumphed in a "war on terrorism". What it has really been doing is fighting the Tamil people to force them to accept Sri Lanka as a Sinhala-Buddhist nation. It is about the alliance between the religious fundamentalists and the state chauvinists who together, with the backing of key Western countries - have been able to deny the Tamils their rights. According to international law expert Professor Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois, the Europeans and the United States gave the green light to Rajapaksa to go ahead and destroy the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and their homeland.
There had been progress on a negotiated settlement between the GoSL and the LTTE, and even discussion about a federal structure for Sri Lanka, but Rajapaksa terminated the talks and the ceasefire and resumed the fighting, and now the world is witness to the dreadful consequences.
The UN Convention defines genocide as "an act committed with intent to destroy in whole, or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group". In Sri Lanka, this "part" are the Tamils. The GoSL is prepared to commit genocide of the Tamils, similar to Hitler's "final solution of the Jewish question".
It is a genocide when a war against 10% of the population over three decades culminates in the death of 10,000 people in a few months, about 100,000 in the last 32 years. It is genocide when governments try to wipe out a people's political voice and drive half a population into the diaspora.
Sri Lanka's Tamils are now facing genocide or internment in concentration camps that masquerade as "refugee camps". The Tamil civilians were supposedly "liberated" from the Tamil Tigers by the GoSL. But if they are liberated people, why keep them behind barbed-wire fences, and why are international observers, including the media and humanitarian workers, prevented from visiting these camps?
There are 154,000 Tamil civilians, some in tents, others under trees, in 24 camps, behind barbed-wire fences. The tents are for five people, but house between seven and 21. Living conditions are appalling, with deliberate starvation and the denial of adequate medical help.
The women and girls are raped by the Armed Forces, pregnant women are aborted and some even sterilised. The GoSL would deny all this. Can foreign observers check these allegations? No they may not. Why? Because it is an "internal affair". We beg to differ.
There are some 120,000 Tamil civilians left in the government "safe zone", which has been regularly bombed by its armed forces. Even hospitals have not been spared. The defence secretary, the president’s brother, in an interview with British media, said that bombing of hospitals is "acceptable". This contravenes the first and fourth sections of the Geneva Convention, signed and ratified by the GoSL.
The GoSL expelled all humanitarian workers and agencies, including UN agencies, from the conflict zone so that genocide could be done without witnesses. This has not been done in any other country in the world.
More than 6000 Tamil civilians have been slaughtered in just the past four months. Last week, the only obstetrician in the area was gunned down by the Armed Forces. Why? Genocide.
Kfir jets, bombers, multi-barrel rocket launchers and helicopter gunships have been used by the GoSL dropping, in addition to conventional arsenal, cluster bombs and white phosphorus bombs.
The GoSL will, of course, deny this, but the photographic evidence, including leaked UN aerial photographs, recently leaked to the outside world, leave no doubt that these banned weapons are being used.
End Western complicity in war crimes
The foreign ministers of Britain, France and Sweden tried to get into Colombo to discuss the humanitarian disaster with the GoSL. The Swedish foreign minister could not even get a visa to enter the country. The other two got there and returned saying that they had “tried very hard” but achieved nothing.
In the face of increasing international concern at the civilian casualties, the Tamil Tigers declared a unilateral cease-fire. The GoSL refused to reciprocate saying that the offer was a "joke".
On May 21, 2008 Sri Lanka was tossed out of the UN Human Rights Council on account of its outrageous human rights record.
However, little or none of this is mentioned in the Australian media. Australians have a right to ask why.
The Australian Government has failed to act in condemning a serious abuse of human rights by a country with which it shares an ocean.
Commercial and geo-political considerations are clearly more important than humanitarian ones, however serious. Indeed, in giving "aid" to the Rajapaksa government in the middle of its killing spree against the Tamils, the Rudd government has been in political solidarity with the Rajapaksa's military mission.
This is simply not acceptable, and damages the image of Australia by its failure to condemn a murderous regime that has the temerity to call itself a "government", and for failing to institute sanctions on Sri Lanka until the killing stops.
The Australian Government and the Australian media have a serious case to answer for their silence and indifference towards a horrendous genocide. This must stop. The Australian government has a duty - not only to Tamil Australians, but to all those with a conscience - to make every effort to assist now. This must include:
MEDIA CONTACT: Dr Brian Senewiratne 0419 335 334
Socialist Alliance National Office: 02 9690 2508 or 0433 390 872
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