COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s Tamil-majority Northern Provincial Council (NPC) on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution saying that genocide of the Tamil minority has been continuous since 1948, and that the UN must investigate it, submit a report at the March session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), and refer its findings to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for further action.
Expressing lack of faith in the current Lankan President, Maithripala Sirisena, and his ally, former Army Commander Gen.Sarath Fonseka, the resolution recalled that Sirisena was Acting Defense Minister at the height of the military assault on the Tamils in May 2009. And Gen.Fonseka had asserted that he strongly believes that Lanka “belongs to the Sinhalese.”
This being the case, the resolution said: “ Tamils have no hope for justice in any domestic Sri Lankan mechanism, whether conducted by the Rajapaksa regime, Sirisena regime or its successor.”
This assertion is significant in the context of the Sirisena government’s promising a credible domestic investigation and the US toying with the idea of going along with Colombo and not presenting an anti-Lankan resolution at the UNHRC session in March.
Instances of Genocide
Going by the definition of genocide given by UN Genocide Convention dated December 9, 1948, and acceded to by Sri Lanka in 1950, the NPC resolution said that the investigation launched by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) should not restrict itself to the time period February 2002 to November 2011, but go back to the time of Lanka’s independence in 1948.
Genocide began with the Indian Origin Tamils being stripped of citizenship in 1948. The Sinhala Only Act was passed in 1956 and physical attacks against Tamils took place in 1956, 1958 and in 1974 during the International Tamil Conference in Jaffna. This was followed by anti-Tamil riots in 1977 and 1983. In 1981, the Jaffna Library with 97,000 books was burned down.
Just before the 1983 pogrom, President J.R.Jayewardene had said: “ I am not worried about the opinion of the Tamil people. Now we cannot think of them, not about their lives or their opinion. Really, if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala people will be happy.”
1983 marked the beginning of war in Sri Lanka. During the war, prior to 2008, there had been 50 separate massacres of Tamil civilians. The UN had put the Tamil civilian death toll in the 27 year war at between 60,000 and 100,000. According to Mannar Bishop, Rayappu Joseph, at the end of the 2006-2009 war, 146,679 Tamils were not accounted for. The UN Panel of Experts had said that former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa was involved in the infamous “White Van” abductions of Tamils.
The UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts had found that there were “credible” allegations of abduction, rape and sexual violence in the refugee camps against the Security Forces. These genocidal acts “have caused serious mental harm to the Tamils,” the resolution said.
Five years after the war, the military still dominates the North. And one of the results of this is the “drastic increase in Sinhalese settlers, land grabs, construction of Buddhist temples and conversion of street names and village names to Sinhalese.” In the Central Province, forced sterilization had brought down the population strength of the Indian Origin Tamils vis-à-vis other communities. In 2007, the US embassy alleged forced abortions. With heavy military presence, the security of 90,000 female-headed households is in jeopardy.