Facts to the United Nations

World Summit on the information society

 The Tamil Centre for Human Rights (TCHR) officially accredited to participate in the

United Nations World Summit on the Information Society – WSIS in Tunisia

 

 

16 - 18 November 2005 ­

 

 

 

 

 

 

Information ą Nations Unies

Sommet mondial sur la société de l’information

 

 

 

 

 

Informativos a Naciones Unidas

Cumbre Mundial sobre la Sociedad de la Información

 

 

 

   

  

 

LOGO

 

 

 

 

Tamil Centre for Human Rights - TCHR

Centre Tamoul pour les droits de l'Homme - CTDH

Centro Tamil para los Derechos Humanos

(Established in 1990)

 

 

Tamil Centre for Human Rights - TCHR

Centre Tamoul pour les droits de l'Homme - CTDH

Centro Tamil para los Derechos Humanos

(Established in 1990)

 

  

Website : www.tchr.net

           

 

TCHR participation in United Nations World conferences and meetings

 

*       The Tamil Centre for Human Rights (TCHR) officially accredited to participate in the United Nations    World Summit on the Information Society – WSIS in Tunisia, 16 – 18 November 2005.

 

*       The Tamil Centre for Human Rights (TCHR), officially participated in the NGO forum of the UN World    Conference Against Racism – WCAR in Durban, South Africa, from 28 August to 1 September 2001.   TCHR held an information stall including an exhibition at the forum. The TCHR representatives also          attended the main WCAR conference held in Durban, 31 August to 7 September 2001.

        (http://www.tchr.net/reports_wcar_detail.htm)

 

*       In 1993, the TCHR held an information stall and a photo exhibition on human rights violations, in the   United Nations 2nd World Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna, Austria, from 14-25 June.

 

*       TCHR has participated in meetings of Treaty bodies and has submitted reports to the same.

 

Fact finding missions to the North East of the Island of Sri Lanka

 

*       May 2003                                           (http://www.tchr.net/report_studymission_2003.htm)

*       December 2003 – addendum report         (http://www.tchr.net/report_studymission_2003add.htm)

*       July-August 2004                              (http://www.tchr.net/reports_visite_2004.htm)

 

  

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Contents

 

 

                                                                                                                                Page

 

Appeal                                                                                                                                 02

 

Introduction                                                                                                             03

            Denial of Freedom of Expression – seeds of conflict                                                

            The situation in the island of Sri Lanka                                                                                

            35 years of non-violent protest                                                                                            

            Agreements unilaterally abrogated by Sinhala leaders                                                        

Constitutional safeguards scrapped                                                                                  04

            Democratic mandate                                                                                               

            Planned arson attack on Library - destruction of 90,000 books                                          

            Censorship                                                                                                              

            Pressure on humanitarian workers                                                                           

            Media blackout                                                                                                                    

Human rights monitoring censored                                                                        05

            Sri Lanka – Second highest disappearances in the world                                        

            Some of the systematic human rights violations over fifty years                                           

            Human Rights Defenders Assassinated                                                                               

            Journalists assassinated                                                                                          

The internet - Digital solidarity                                                                               06

            Community based media                                                                                         

            Human Rights Web-site                                                                                                       

            Celebration of culture, linguistic diversity – new fonts                                               

Arrest, Killings, Disappearances, Rapes, etc 1956-2004                                      07

Journalists harassed, attacked, killed                                                                   08

Disaster response helped by Information and Communication Technology                    09

            Obstruction of UN Secretary General’s Tsunami affected areas                                           

            Current situation                                                                                                      

            Democratic mandate reaffirmed                                                                                           

            P-TOMS and the CFA must be implemented                                                            

Tsunami disaster in the island of Sri Lanka                                                                      10

            Victims and damage caused by Tsunami                                                      11

            Damage to the fishing industry                                                                                

Human Development, Education and training                                                        12

Respect and solidarity                                                                                             

ANNEXES                                                                                                                13

 

 

 

1

 

16 November 2005

 

 

Mr. Yoshio UTSUMI

Secretary General

UN World Summit on Information Society – WSIS

Tunisia

 

 

Dear Sir

 

 

At the very outset, we the Tamil Centre for Human Rights - TCHR, would like to warmly congratulate you on the ardour you have brought to your tasks, as Secretary General of the World Summit on the Information Society. The WSIS process was born in 1998 and today we see the fruit of untiring work.

 

Information Communications Technology (ICT) and the global changes have played a vital role in the information society. When we compare the 1980s and 90s with today’s world, one realises how many days and months were spent on accessing required information. In today's world, everything can be achieved in a few seconds and minutes with the help of ICT. But is this available to everyone in today's world? No.

 

In today's world, the promotion and the protection of human rights and public awareness of the legal instruments related to the same are under scrutiny. With the greatest difficulty, we assist in monitoring adherence to all the legal instruments of human rights and we advocate for the ratification of the same.

 

Many dictatorial and so-called democratic states have used unconventional powers to prevent ICT facilities from being available to everyone. Such powers are practiced through various forms – censorship, bans, state sponsored vandalism and biased reporting.

 

Sri Lanka is one of the countries that is experiencing this situation. If we carefully consider the realities well documented in reports by UN institutions and its executives, international organisations and academics – there is clear evidence of denial of equality in education to the youth in the North East and denial of rights enshrined in the ICESCR and the ICCPR. Censorship, bans, vandalism against newspapers and attacks and killing of journalists are very frequent in Sri Lanka.

 

Furthermore the government’s manipulation of information technology prevents balanced reporting in Sri Lanka. The biggest publishing house is the mouth-piece of successive governments, justifying the racist mindset and actions of the numerical majority .

 

The latest technology was cleverly used by the state to prevent the actual truth of human rights violations in the North East, from becoming widely known. The effects of more than a decade of economic embargo on the people of the North East and the disappearances that took place in the North East were smartly hidden. According to the UN records Sri Lanka had the second number of disappearances in 1998, a fact not well-known to the world.

 

In 1981, one of the biggest Libraries in South East Asia with 90,000 volumes of book was burned down by the government forces. The international community has not been aware of it to this day, despite the growth of information technology.

 

The election results of the North East in 1977 and in April 2004 have been successfully hidden from the International community. In these elections the people of the North East overwhelmingly voted for their rights – the right to self-determination and for recognition of their sole representatives, the LTTE.

 

As far as Sri Lanka is concerned information technology is used for disinformation regarding the realities in the North East of the island. At times the authorities even endorse the use of dangerous hate propaganda.

 

While this Summit looks at the positive side of the Information society, it is time also to look at the more sinister side that is seriously damaging the developing nations. Action must be taken to ensure that ICT is used for the good of humankind and that issues of justice and human rights underpin the deliberations of this summit.

 

It is for you, Sir, to steer this world summit so that its legacy will be one of contributing to the vision and reality of the communication and information society as under-girded by noble values, recognising the diversity, the dignity and the rights of all peoples and of all persons – as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Covenants.

 

We are confident that steps will be made to achieve this goal in the following days and thereafter. Civil society and past and present victims of human rights violations deserve nothing less.

 

Thank you

 

Yours truly,

 

 

S. V. Kirubaharan

General Secretary - TCHR

2

Facts to the United Nations

World Summit on the Information Society - WSIS

 

Introduction

 

TCHR – Tamil Centre for Human Rights welcomes and endorses the Civil Society Declaration to the World Summit on the Information Society titled "Shaping Information Societies for Human Needs".

 

The declaration states that the heart of civil society's vision of information and communications societies is the human being and that the dignity and rights of all peoples and each person must be promoted, respected, protected and affirmed.

 

“Societies in which everyone can freely create, access, utilise, share and disseminate information and knowledge, so that individuals, communities and peoples are empowered to improve their quality of life and to achieve their full potential” are envisioned - “Societies founded on the principles of social, political, and economic justice, and peoples' full participation and empowerment."

 

Denial of Freedom of Expression – seeds of conflict

 

Communication is a fundamental social process, a human need and a foundation of all social organisation. It follows that all peoples and every person must be able to exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression, association and information. When people are denied these rights problems inevitably ensue.

 

Furthermore, if governments introduce systematic laws and implement racist policies to violently crush dissenting voices, prohibit freedom of expression and practise heavy censorship - serious and long-lasting conflicts can arise. Some such protracted violence has even resulted in armed conflicts.

 

International human rights organisations and other observers have for years warned that injustice and denial of rights, lead to discontent, legitimate anger and that if no redress is found within the country, victims of human rights violations are obliged to take their case to international forums.

 

The situation in the island of Sri Lanka

 

The situation in the island of Sri Lanka is a case in point. Censorship and curtailed freedom of expression in Sri Lanka has long been a concern of human rights organisations who have reported on the situation both in the South of the island and the North East.

 

Whereas in the South the views of certain sections of society have been suppressed, in the case of the North and East, the island’s political leaders of the dominant ethnic community have suppressed the rights of the numerical minority, a distinct people who have their own identity, culture, language and homeland.

 

35 years of non-violent protest

 

Since independence (1948) from the British, racist legislation and Sinhala racism have been at the heart of the political problems in Sri Lanka. Racist policies implemented on citizenship, language, education, land and other areas discriminate severely against the Tamil people in the island.

 

For more than 35 years the Tamil people in the island of Sri Lanka expressed their reactions and opinions on these discriminatory policies, through peaceful non-violent protest. These protests were then suppressed by violent means by the Sri Lankan security forces. Anti Tamil pogroms (including those in 1956, 1958, 1977, 1981, and 1983), unleashed by successive Sri Lankan governments, Sinhala extremist groups and thugs, ruined the socio-economic and the political rights of the Tamil people. Thousands were massacred, burnt or hacked to death, thousands of women were raped and millions of rupees worth of properties were looted and destroyed.

 

Agreements unilaterally abrogated by Sinhala leaders

 

Attempts through parliamentary means, to challenge the oppressive legislation and its accompanying consistent pattern of brutal repression of protest, proved futile. Several agreements signed between the Tamil leaders (Parliamentarians) and the Sinhala leaders (Prime Ministers) to resolve the political turmoil in the country were unilaterally abrogated by then Prime Ministers in power. (In 1957, the "Banda Chelva" pact and in 1965 the "Dudley-Chelva" pact). These agreements were based on a quasi-federal system devolving certain powers to the Tamils in the North East provinces.

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Constitutional safeguards scrapped

 

In 1972, the dominant Sinhala Buddhist majority gave itself an autochthonous constitution, renamed the island as 'Sri Lanka' (Sinhala name) and ensured that the Constitution secured a dominant role for Buddhism. The constitutional safeguards, which had hitherto (de jure but not de facto) debarred the enactment of discriminatory legislation, were scrapped. The human rights of the Tamil people were deteriorating alarmingly.

 

Democratic mandate

 

In the 1977 general elections the Tamil people voted overwhelmingly to establish and exercise their right to self-determination in the North East, based on having a homeland, a cultural and linguistic identity, a sense of nationhood, and the fact that their fundamental rights and freedoms had been systematically and brutally violated. The response of government to this election result was extreme. MPs were banned from even talking about the collective views of the Tamil people and their right to self-determination. The 1977 mandate is still ignored by the Sri Lankan government.

 

Planned arson attack on Library - destruction of 90,000 books

 

A few years later in 1981, in a horrific attempt to annihilate the total sum of literature and information about the entire Tamil history and culture, the library in Jaffna was burned down by Sri Lanka government forces. Over 90,000 books and documents, some very ancient, were destroyed. This was a blatant attack on all that was important in the field of communication and information. The burning down of libraries has been described as “memoricide” - the attempt to erase the memory of a people.

 

The horror climaxed even further. In 1983, thousands of Tamils were brutally murdered in state sponsored racist pogroms. The terror, anguish and suffering experienced were unbearable. Thereafter, a resistance movement for freedom from oppression, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam – LTTE grew rapidly with the support of the masses in the North East. War broke out, its seeds having been sown in the preceding state violence and denial of civil and political rights. Grotesque attacks on civilians by the government armed forces followed.

 

Pressure on humanitarian workers

 

Humanitarian workers who were stunned and horrified by the cold-blooded killing of large numbers of civilians in the North East by aerial bombing and strafing, in breach of the Geneva Conventions, did speak out on a small number of occasions. Those few organisations which did, faced an onslaught of diplomatic pressure and accusations that they had lied. They were forced to make the choice between keeping silent or leaving the island. Those members of civil society who tried to get information and photos of the atrocities and bombings out of the island faced massive obstacles and dangers, risking their lives.

 

Censorship

 

In the context of the ethnic conflict in the island of Sri Lanka, including two decades of war, the government attempted to distort information, presenting a false picture to the world and indeed to the population in the South, about the causes and origin of the war, through its domestic and international communication channels. Hate media, endorsed by the authorities, has been used in the South to whip up anti-Tamil hysteria. To continue to commit atrocities of genocidal proportions it is vital that other countries and their peoples are prevented from knowing the real situation. The public revulsion and outrage would be strong and may lead to international protest against the oppressive government. Therefore the Sri Lankan government exercised draconian censorship.

 

The Emergency Regulations (ER) and the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary provision) Act (PTA) intensified the censorship strategy. Anyone who is Tamil can (still) be arrested simply under suspicion. Rule under ER has become the norm - for more than 34 years since independence. The PTA, made permanent in 1982, gives free hand to the Sri Lanka security forces to arrest, detain, torture, rape, kill and dispose of the bodies of Tamils with impunity. The extraction of false confessions under torture to force Tamil detainees to implicate themselves, became routine; a heinous communication method calculated to make untrue information appear substantiated.

 

Media blackout

 

The government created a media blackout, systematically obstructing journalists from going to the North and East, thus preventing independent international news coverage.

 

4

"Communication experts" were posted by the government in Sri Lanka High Commissions round the world to spread disinformation in key countries and through their political systems, especially where many expatriate Tamils live and were speaking of the realties and tragedies. To those working on the issue, the pattern of disinformation is horribly familiar, it is used to discredit and vilify the other party to the conflict.

 

Human rights monitoring censored

 

Voices expressing concern for human rights were smothered. Human Rights organisations could not function. For example, Peace Brigade International - PBI left the island after the Sri Lankan army insisted on scrutinising their documentation before it could leave the island. The organisation could not work ethically under such conditions. Those whose lives they were protecting would not be made safer by their accompanying presence. On the contrary, they would be even more vulnerable and at risk.

 

On 14 November 1995, anti-NGO (Non governmental organization) sentiments supported by the government drew together a crowd of up to three thousand intent upon disrupting the annual consultation of the NGO Forum on Sri Lanka which held at the Bentota Beach Hotel.

Sri Lanka – Second highest disappearances in the world

 

In fact the gross and systematic human rights violations; have continued for more than fifty years. In 1998, the UN Working Group on Disappearances stated that, "Sri Lanka had the second highest number of disappearances in the world, ranking next to Iraq". Also Sri Lanka was the only country that the UN Working Group on Disappearances has visited three times. So far no proper remedies have been found for these disappearances.

 

Some of the systematic human rights violations over fifty years

 

Š       High Security Zones still cruelly prevent civilians returning to their homes in breach of the Cease Fire Agreement - CFA

Š       More Sri Lanka army personnel are now occupying the Jaffna Peninsula than before the CFA.

 

(Please refer to the statistics given on Page 7)

 

Human Rights Defenders Assassinated

 

Human rights activists face death threats and intimidation. Prominent lawyer Mr Kumar Ponnambalam, defender of the rights of both Sinhalese and Tamils, raised these urgent matters in international human rights forums, including in the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva and in the European Parliament in Brussels. He paid the ultimate price for his courageous and unswerving stand. He was assassinated in Colombo in cold-blood on January 5 2000. Mr Chandra Nehru, former Parliamentarian and human rights activist of NESOHR (North East Secretariat on Human Rights) was assassinated on 7 February 2005 in the East. Until today neither of these killings, nor those listed below have been properly investigated nor have the culprits been brought to justice.

 

Journalists assassinated

 

People cannot think freely, write independently, speak openly, and publicly demonstrate their views and aspirations in this island. Whoever dares to exercise their right to freely express themselves, or their right to defend the human rights of others, runs the risk of facing the death sentence in the form of abduction and murder.

 

As shown on the list on page eight, senior journalists Aiyathurai Nadesan was killed on 31 May 2004, and this year D. Sivaram was murdered on 28 April 2005. Soon after each of these and the other killings, as usual, the government ordering of an immediate investigation follows. In the meantime government officials and ministers get ready to justify themselves. Impunity reigns.

 

5

“I salute a friend and fellow journalist most gruesomely murdered by those who dare not show their faces nor advance or protect their interests as honourable and brave men do. In the land where people were proud of the Sinhala lion, desperate jackals roam, seeking out their defenceless prey. Richard and many more have been brutally murdered; who or what is to be blamed? The collective psyche of the Sinhala people? Enough of this silent impotence. The terrorists have to be resisted. Extreme cowardice and a gnawing lack of self esteem as usual seem to be at the source of this faceless terrorism. Therefore it should be collectively resisted before it starts to knock on every door looking for victims to torture and kill, thereby to reassure itself of its existence.”

 

D. Sivaram, a friend of Richard de Zoysa. Written after the murder of Richard de Zoysa in 1990. D. Sivaram himself was killed fifteen years later in a similarly horrific cold-blooded murder.

 

The internet - Digital solidarity

 

Tamil international news and media networks have exercised the right to freedom of expression in the search to find ways to tell truth to the world. Ground realities have been broadcast by radio, TV and internet sites instantly, in the Tamil language to the diaspora. In turn, the diaspora has produced articles and news items, in other languages. Much information is disseminated via the internet. This has increased the international community’s understanding of the true ground realities in socio-political, economic terms and also touched many in personal ways as individual and collective stories of suffering have been told.

 

Community based media

 

The Tamil diaspora, each family with its own personal experiences of suffering and persecution at the hands of the Sri Lankan government in some way, now have a live and vibrant electronic multi-media in which news is broadcast. Debates are encouraged and views expressed and shared. The Tamil administration in the North East also has its own electronic and multi-media communications of radio and TV. The living conditions and realities as experienced locally can be described and communicated to those living outside the area.

 

Human Rights Web-site

 

TCHR was established in 1990 and launched its website in the new millennium. The immediacy of electronic communication via the internet has helped distribute information efficiently and safely. Prior to the advent of the electronic medium each communication was written and disseminated by post. Information can be supplemented with related articles by hyperlink. The unequivocal corroborative evidence of the killings, atrocities and denial of freedom of expression can be seen speedily and clearly with a few clicks of a mouse.

 

Celebration of culture, linguistic diversity – new fonts

 

The technology required to design and adapt Tamil fonts was developed. This was followed quickly by a vast number of Tamil web-sites in Tamil script, balancing at least in part, the myriad sites in roman letter based language. The diaspora also has sites in English, French and other languages.

 

The sites cover many areas of cultural, political, artistic and scientific interest and continue to be of interest to knowledge based societies all over the world. These sites constitute a celebration of the Tamil language, literature, philosophy and culture, which has developed since ancient times, rich in tradition and knowledge. All this is now in the public domain, advancing the cause of intellectual creativity and innovation, fundamental aspects of the information and communication societies.

 

The “Thirukkural”, world renowned literature on philosophical wisdom, was written about 2000 years ago by Thiruvalluvar, originally on palm leaves. It can be found in Tamil and English on several websites.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6

 

Date

Name of victim

Reporting for:

Incident

18/02/1990

Richard de Zoysa (journalist for UN funded Rome based agency - IPS)

International Press Service

Abducted in Colombo shot dead

14/05/1999

Sri Lal Priyantha

Lakbima

Arrested

15/07/1999

Ten journalists

Freelance & News

Assaulted by Police

21/07/1999

Several journalists

Freelance & News Papers

Victims of violence by PSD (Presidential Security Division)

07/09/1999

Rohana Kumara

Editor-Satana

Shot dead in suburb of Colombo

27/09/1999

Susannah Price (British)

BBC

Received death threats by telephone

02/11/1999

Nadarajah Atputharajah

Thinamurusu

Shot dead in Colombo

03/04/2000

Nellai G. Nadesan

Virakesari

Grenade attack at his home in Batticaloa

20/10/2000

Mylvaganam Nirmalarajan

BBC, IBC

Shot dead at his home in Jaffna

02/01/2001

N. Thiruchelvam

Lake House

Arrested and tortured in Colombo

20/01/2001

M. Vithiyatharan

Editor-Uthayan

Arrested by Police in Jaffna

21/03/2001

A. Fasmi

Thinakural

Arrested by Sri Lanka Army in Mannar

16/04/2001

Marie Colvin (American)

Sunday Times UK

Shot and injured by Sri Lankan army

23/05/2001

Office of the weekly

Athavan

Hit by a lobbed smoke bomb

07/06/2001

Pirabaharan

Freelance

Attacked by gangsters in Bogawantala

17/07/2001

Aiyadurai Nadesan

Virakesari

Interrogated by the Army in Batticaloa

03/08/2001

A. Manoharan

Lake House

Received death threat

26/12/2001

Dharmaratnam Sivaram

Freelance

Beaten with clubs and knives in Batticaloa

26/12/2001

M. Wijetharan

Thinakathir

Beaten with clubs and knives in Batticaloa

26/06/2002

P. Satchivanandan

BBC

Threatened. Family member attacked

02/09/2002

Chandramogan

ABC Radio

Police attacked him in Point Pedro

10/12/2002

Vellupillai Thavasylan

IBC Radio

Police attacked him in Point Pedro

07/01/2003

S. Jayananthamoorthy

Virakesari

Grenade attack at his home in Batticaloa

10/05/2003

Ponnaiah Manickavasagam

BBC - Tamil

Received death threats in Vavuniya

01/08/2003

Lasantha Wickrematunga

Editor – Sunday Leader

A Minister threatened to kill him

29/10/2003

Athula

Hiru FM radio

Wounded when Sinhala-Tamil cultural festival attacked

03/05/2004

Dharmaratnam Sivaram

Freelance

Police raided him in Colombo

28/04/2005

Dharmaratnam Sivaram

Freelance: Tamilnet, Daily Mirror,Virakesari,

Abducted and shot dead in Colombo

17/10/2005

Press Manager

Sunday Leader

 

Assaulted in the Sunday Leader office. Other employees threatened. Arson attack on office.

01/11/2005

Ranee Mohamed,

Berty Mendis

Sunday Leader

Assaulted with batons and swords

Journalists harassed, attacked, killed

 

 

 

 

8

 

 

 

 

 

Disaster response helped by Information and Communication Technology

 

After the disastrous tsunami struck on December 26 2004, news and views could be relayed immediately through community multi-media networks and the commitment of the people. The North East of the island were the most badly affected, being on the East and facing the epicentre of the tsunami in Indonesia across the Indian Ocean. The greater part of lives lost in the island, were of people in North East.

 

The government media focussed on the South and West, broadcasting the devastation of tourist beaches and villages in the South. The Tamil media could cover the North and East and facilitated the immediate and generous aid response of the Tamil Diaspora. Local devastated and distraught people relied on the sums collected by Tamil charities such as “White Pigeon”. These charities, who had served the needs of the people in two decades of war, turned all their abilities and human resources to serving the needs of tsunami victims without any discrimination. Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamils were all helped. This was vital since the aid donated to the Sri Lankan government by other governments and many international organisations never reached the North East. (Refer to page 10 & 11 "Tsunami disaster in the island of Sri Lanka")

 

Obstruction of UN Secretary General’s visit to Tsunami affected areas

 

On 7th January 2005, the UN Secretary General made a humanitarian visit to Sri Lanka to see the Tsunami affected areas. When he requested to visit the North East, the areas in the island most affected by the tsunami, the Sri Lankan authorities deliberately prevented Kofi Annan from making a humanitarian visit there. Thus the international community was denied a chance to hear his views of the Tamil administered areas. The refusal to honour his request is a serious violation of the UN Charter, Chapter XV Article 100.

 

Current situation

 

The world must open its eyes and see the dynamics of what is really happening in the North East. Governments must find the political will to take just and fair action to support all efforts for peace. It is not good enough to remain content with being courteous to a callous government. There is now ample documentation, precisely via the information and communication technologies, to enable the international community to judge for itself the reality of the situation.

 

Democratic mandate reaffirmed

 

To get the peace process on track again, a fair and even approach is needed by the International community. Under article one of the UN covenants - ICCPR and ICESC, it is accepted that the International community has a great responsibility in recognising the legitimacy of the right to self-determination of Tamils and its sole representative status of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam - LTTE.

 

Long ago the Tamil people in the North East overwhelmingly voted to establish and exercise the “Right to Self-determination” in the North East. This mandate is still ignored by the Sri Lankan government and the international community.

 

In the last General election in Sri Lanka, in 2004, the political party the "Tamil National Alliance (TNA)" won overwhelmingly in 22 electorates in the North East. Their election manifesto stated that, "Accepting LTTE’s leadership as the national leadership of the Tamil Eelam Tamils and the Liberation Tigers as the sole and authentic representatives of the Tamil people, let us devote our full cooperation for the ideals of the Liberation Tigers’ struggle with honesty and steadfastness".  

 

P-TOMS and the CFA must be implemented

 

The Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS) and the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) must be implemented. These are life-critical basic necessities for ameliorating the living conditions of the people in North East and for thus creating conditions of normalcy in which peace talks could take place.

 

This is what the Tamil people and all those who sincerely wish for peace demand. Tamils again demonstrate peacefully locally in the homeland and all over the world. Events have been held in which thousands and thousands have participated, calling on the International Community - to be just and fair; to recognise the peoples political rights and right to self-determination and to urge the Sri Lankan government to immediately implement the P-TOMS mechanism for tsunami relief and reconstruction and the CFA.

 

 

9

Human Development, Education and training

 

For meaningful development to take place, peace is a necessity. The peoples’ right to development has been denied for decades, and this has affected the individual rights of people too. Financial aid, earmarked for the North East, was not used for development in those areas, but rather allowed the release of money to purchase armaments, with which to bomb and kill the Tamil people. Schools were bombed, pupils and teachers raped and killed. The list is long, see documentation on TCHR web-site.

 

During the three and a half years of cease-fire little has been done to allow development to take place within the North East. The agreed structure for reconstruction "Sub-Committee on Immediate Humanitarian and Rehabilitation Needs of North East – SIHRN" could not function due to lack of political will of the Sri Lankan Government.

 

The reconstruction aid generously pouring into the country, needing a post-tsunami joint mechanism for distribution, was blocked by the Supreme Court stay order which upheld a petition filed by Sinhala extremists on 15th July 2005 against the implementation of the P-TOMS. That humanitarian aid could be blocked in this way is a heinous denial of rights. As mentioned earlier, the Tamil infrastructure of the de facto administration immediately co-ordinated disaster relief and recovery and later reconstruction efforts, that were admired by the whole world as the international media focussed briefly on them, showing the world the nature of the Tamil administration, working round the clock to serve the critical needs of the people.

 

Tamil Eelam education and health organisations in the North East are serving the people. New colleges are teaching the youth ICT skills, selecting young women and men from the rural areas for training, bridging the digital divide. Their peers from the diaspora are volunteering to go and work with them to help. The Tamil Eelam Law college has functioned since 1993; 120 lawyers and 26 judges have graduated.

 

Respect and solidarity

 

Civil society, made up of people of all walks of life in the North East has been demonstrating with patience and persistence for decades - seeking an understanding response from the world outside. It is high time that the world community of information societies listen to their voices which are eloquently expressing their collective rights. Thus information societies around the world will uphold the values underpinning the UDHR to meet life-critical human needs.

 

Recognising that freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of information form an essential condition for human-rights based information and communication societies, we appeal to the WSIS to:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Where societies are built on values such as cooperation, equity, honesty, integrity, respect and solidarity there can be meaningful dialogue and such societies can contribute to progressively implementing greater political, social and economic equity and to bringing about world peace.”

 

Civil Society Declaration to the World Summit on the Information Society

 

 

 

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ANNEXES

 

 

Annex 1

 

Excerpts from “An Appeal to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights – 56th Session” TCHR 2000

 

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

 

Parish Priest threatened by police

 

October 19th 1999 - The Parish Priest of the Vankalai St. Ann's Church, Rev. Thevasagayampillai who had complained to authorities about the army rampage in the village has been intimidated by the Sri Lankan Police.


A group of policemen had gone to the church on 21 October 21st 1999 and threatened to assault the Parish Priest. The policemen had also warned him not to get involved in the incidents in the village.

Journalists demonstration stopped

A large number of journalists demonstrated in Colombo on July 21st 1999, protesting against several of their colleges being assaulted, allegedly by personnel from the Presidential Security Division (PSD).


The journalists and media photographers were assaulted during a picketing organised by the main opposition party, the UNP on July 15th 1999. The demonstrators marched from Kollupitiya towards 'Temple Tress', the official residence of the President, to hand over a memorandum to the President. However, they were stopped on the way by police who had barricaded all the roads leading to the Presidential Secretariat.

Journalists file fundamental rights cases

 

October 13th 1999 - The Fundamental Rights applications of five media photographers complaining against the assault on them by the Presidential Security Division whilst they were covering the UNP protest rally on July 15th last year, were granted leave to proceed by the Supreme Court.


Ajith Samaranayaka, (Ravaya) Janapriya Samarajeewa (Yukthiya) Buddhika Weerasinghe ( Lakbima), M.A Pushpakumara (Sunday Times) and Sanjeeva Chinthaka (Sunday Times) are the five media photographers who filed the Fundamental Rights Applications in the Supreme Court.


They have alleged that they were subjected to assault while they were performing their professional duties covering the rally on a directive by their employers. Their expensive cameras and equipment were smashed by the Presidential Security Division.

 

Sri Lanka imposes censorship

 

The Sri Lankan President imposed censorship on the local and foreign press under the Public Security Ordinance (Chapter 40) with effect from November 6th 1999. The new regulations preclude the publication, broadcast or transmitting of any material pertaining to any matter inclusive of military operation carried out or being carried out or proposed to be carried out in the Northern and Eastern Province except with the permission of the Competent Authority.


Following is the full text of the censorship proclamation:

The Emergency (Prohibition on Publication and Transmission of Sensitive Military Information) Regulation No.1 of 1998


"No editor or publisher of a newspaper or any person authorised by or under law to establish and operate a broadcasting section or a television station channel except with the permission of the competent authority print, publish, distribute of transmit whether by means of electronic device or otherwise or cause to be printed, published distributed or transmitted any material (inclusive of documents, pictorial, representations, photographs or cinematography films) containing any matter pertaining to military operation in the northern and eastern province including any operation carried out or being carried out or proposed to be carried out by the armed forces or by Police force (Including the Special Task Force) the development of troops or personnel or the

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development or use of equipment including Aircraft or Naval Vessel by any such forces or any statement pertaining to the official conduct moral or performance of the lead or of any member of the armed forces or the Police force or of any person authorised by the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces for the purpose of rendering assistance in the preservation of national security."

 

 

Editor and the sub editor interrogated by Police

 

The Editor A. Sivanesachelvan and sub editor, Mr. T. Sivaganeshan of the widely circulated Tamil daily 'Thinakkural', published in Colombo had been summoned for an interrogation at the Head Quarters of the Criminal Investigation Department on November 24, 1999.


The editors had been taken in for interrogation about news items appeared in the paper regarding the massacre of refugees seeking safety Madhu church .

The chief editor A. Sivanesachelvan was taken in for interrogation from his office and the sub editor T. Sivaganeshan was taken in from his home.

 

Presidential Security Division threatens three journalists

 

Threatening media personnel has apparently become a pastime of some Presidential Security Division members

now that the PA has won the Presidential Election. The latest involves threats made against three journalists for criticising the PSD.

 

“Ravaya” Editor Victor Ivan has complained to the Free Media Movement that PSD Chief Nihal Karunaratne had threatened him over a “Ravaya” report on the alleged attempt to get the bodies of the PSD (killed in the Dec. 18 Town hall bomb blast) released without the magistrate’s permission.

 

In his complaint, Mr. Ivan has stated that Mr. Karunaratne, on December 24 had questioned him over the phone on the news report concerned. The editor has then asked Mr. Karunaratne whether the report was inaccurate and if so to make a clarification. It was at this stage that the PSD boss had adopted a menacing tone. According to Mr. Ivan, the security chief, before replacing the receiver had said :

 

“You mean you want us to speak in the language we know? Okay, I’ll do it”.

 

“Laskbima” journalist Buddhika Weerasinghe alleges that on December 22, a suspected PSD member threatened to assault two of his colleagues who visited the home of Police Sergeant Dayaratne ­ President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s chauffeur ­ who died in the bomb blast.

 

(an extract from “The Weekend Express” of 1st ­2nd January 2000)

 

 

Annex 2

 

Excerpts from “An Appeal to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights – 57th Session” TCHR 2001

 

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

 

At least 31 journalists killed in Sri Lanka !

Reporters Sans FrontiŹres (Reporters Without Borders - RSF)

 

In a letter sent to the Sri Lankan minister of defence and president of the Republic, Chandrika Kumaratunga, Reporters Sans FrontiŹres (Reporters Without Borders - RSF) expressed its profound indignation after the murder of Mylvaganam Nimalrajan, journalist based in Jaffna and regular contributor to the BBC Sinhala and Tamil services.

 

"If the guilty persons are not identified and punished, no independent journalist will be able to feel safe in Sri Lanka", stated Robert Ménard, general secretary of RSF. "Impunity of journalists' murders has already lasted too long. To prove its credibility the government has to guarantee the protection of information professionals throughout the country", added Robert Ménard. RSF noted that at least 31 journalists have been killed in Sri Lanka since 1988 in practising their profession.

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According to the information collected by RSF, Mylvaganam Nimalrajan, correspondent of the Tamil daily Virakesari, published in Colombo and regular contributor to the BBC and several other international media, was killed on 20 October 2000, in his home in Jaffna (north of the island). Whereas curfew had just been imposed, unknown persons machined-gunned the room of his house in which he was, and threw in a hand-grenade. The parents and the nephew of the journalist were also injured.

 

Thirty-eight years old, married and father of three children, Mylvaganam Nimalrajan was the last independent journalist who covered the conflict in the Jaffna peninsula for the foreign press. The journalist lived in a "high-security zone" protected by the army. He was one of the only people who could cover the war between the Tamil Tigers and the regular army. Sri Lankan and foreign reporters are rarely authorised to go to Jaffna. Recently he reported the rigging and threats during the last elections on 10 October. Mylvaganam Nimalrajan denounced, above all, the Eelam People's Democratic Party, a Tamil movement which fights with the government troops against the Tamil Tigers separatist movement. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the murder.

 

Reporters Sans FrontiŹres defends jailed journalists and press freedom throughout the world, that is, the right to inform and be informed, in accordance with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Reporters Sans FrontiŹres has eight branches (Belgium, France, Germany, Great-Britain, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland), representatives in Bangkok, Washington, Abidjan and more than a hundred correspondents world-wide. (Urgent Press freedom - 20 October 2000)

 

Bravely reported on the vote rigging, intimidation and violence

 

In an Urgent Action released on 23 October 2000, the Tamil Centre for Human Rights, stated that the killing of journalist Nirmalarajan was a heinous outrage. The excerpt as follows : "On 19th October Mylvaganam Nimalrajan, aged 38, well-known journalist and father of three, was shot dead in his own home, through the window of his room, as he wrote a news report. He was the secretary of the Northern Journalists' Association.


Days before his killing Mr Nirmalarajan had confided with colleagues that he had received death-threats. He had reported on the serious problems of the Tamil people displaced by the war, and the destruction of family life. He had also bravely reported on the vote rigging, intimidation and violence in the recent elections, carried out by a militant group active on the peninsula. The armed group, which has joined the political mainstream and contested parliamentary elections, helps the Sri Lankan government’s security forces in the peninsula. The human rights violations of the Sri Lankan security forces and the paramilitary groups' working with them is well known.


The same organisation was suspected of carrying out a bomb attack on a Jaffna daily newspaper, Uthayan, in August 1999, which had also been critical of the EPDP. The EPDP is strongly and widely suspected to have been behind the assassination of Mr Nirmalarajan. His selflessness and commitment to his profession as an independent journalist cost him his life.


The cowardly and brutal murder of this respected and courageous journalist, is yet another cruel attempt to silence the voice of truth. All individuals and organisations that believe in justice, human rights and who cherish freedom of expression and life itself must condemn this brutal and callous assassination".

 

 

Annex 3

 

Excerpts from “An Appeal to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights – 58th Session” TCHR 2002

 

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

 

Government plan to destroy "RAVAYA" and "SUNDAY LEADER" offices

 

Former close associate of the President and now a candidate of the UNF S.B. Dissanayake (ex-minister) stated that, the President had a secret plan to destroy the "Ravaya" and "Sunday Leader" newspaper offices along with their printing presses, by getting "Baddegane Sanjeewa" to bomb those with the help of some other PSD officers.

 

He also said at a press conference that the President was so furious with the two editors of these newspapers and even discussed this plan with him. However, he also added that certain people in the Cabinet intervened and prevented it from taking place.

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Just one day before S.B. Dissanayake made this statement, the President has said at a youth wing meeting that S.B. Dissanayake came to her saying that the government is very weak now and survival is very difficult and asked her to create a dictatorial rule in the country, while also volunteering to kill one or two leading newspaper men if necessary.

 

The press conference held by Mr. Dissanayake afterwards also had the "Sunday Leader" editor and when he was asked by Reuters what he feels about it, he said quite nonchalantly that what he heard is nothing new. (Ravaya ­ 12 November 2001)

 

Killing of BBC journalist

arrest warrant served only after 14 months

 

The Jaffna Magistrate has ordered the arrest of two Eelam People Democratic Party (EPDP) members in connection with the killing of journalist Mylvaganam Nimalarajan in October last year. The magistrate's order came after fresh evidence was submitted by the CID who had questioned former EPDP employees and obtained statements which led them to the suspects.

 

 Mr. Nimalarajan, a freelance journalist for the BBC and other agencies, was killed after last year's elections during which he had reported alleged malpractices by the EPDP. Reports said one of the suspects to be arrested was also allegedly involved in Wednesday's attack on TNA members in Kayts. Two people were killed and some top TNA candidates were injured. (excerpts, The Sunday Times ­ 2 December 2001)

 

Foreign Journalist Marie Colvin escapes

attempt on her life in SRI LANKA

 

Tamil Centre for Human Rights - TCHR, has called for un Urgent appeal on an attempt made on the life of a London based journalist Marie Catherine COLVIN. TCHR requested everyone to send an appeal to Mary Robinson, High Commissioner for human rights and President Chandrika Kumaratunga urging the Sri Lankan government to immediately lift the ban on journalists visiting Tamil hereditary regions, especially the Vanni. The appeal dated 23 April 2001 - AE/53/01 reads as follows :

 

"Marie Colvin of Britain's “Sunday Times” arrived in Sri Lanka on March 21. She had obtained her visa to Sri Lanka in the Sri Lanka High Commission, UK, where she had met the High Commissioner. He had arranged an interview for her with the Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Kathirgamar, on April 4 at 1.00 p.m.

 

"In Sri Lanka, there is strict local press censorship and in the recent past Journalists, Lawyers and Human Rights activists who have brought attention to the desperate humanitarian situation of the people in the war-torn Tamil hereditary regions, have either been threatened or killed.

  

On-the-spot account Marie Colvin

 

"From Mallawi, in the Vanni, Marie Colvin reported to 'The Sunday Times' of April 15, giving an on-the-spot account of what she had witnessed under the headline, "Fighting Tigers talk of peace deal". Here we give a few excerpts for analysis :

 

*           ".........a government employee and a Tamil. His descriptions of his own radicalisation was the story of how oppression turns moderates to militants. "I don't want this war" he said. "But before the LTTE, the Tamils were slaughtered. My family was driven from Jaffna and we lost everything. I can't see any other way to win our rights. So I helped them".

 

*           "Although the government claims the Tamils Tigers intimidate civilians, there is evidence of extensive popular support in the regions they control. "The Tamils would be all dead, shot up without these Tigers" said Father Xavier, a parish priest.

 

*           "Ministers in Colombo deny there is an economic embargo on the Vanni, the Tamil area on the mainland, while checkpoints on the internal border enforce a ban on items ranging from fuel, cement and plastics sheeting to instant noodles and vegetable oil. Even sanitary towels are not allowed - presumably because they can be used to dress wounds.

 

*           "Colombo prohibits international aid agencies from distributing food. International aid agencies estimate that 40% of the children in Vanni are undernourished or malnourished."

 

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Totally contradicts

 

"Marie Colvin’s article in the Sunday Times totally contradicts the Sri Lankan government’s malicious international propaganda that has been carried out for years, and this obviously disappointed the government.

 

"Firstly, as Marie Colvin was in the Vanni, she could not attend the appointment with the Minister of Foreign Affairs on April 4. Presumably, Mr. Kathirgarmar was waiting in Colombo, expecting to supply her with gimmicks from his 'Lie Bank'! Secondly her article which appeared in the Sunday Times would have infuriated the government and also indicated clearly that she was actually in the Vanni. These facts alerted the Ministry of Defence and its allies!

 

"On Monday 17 April, after two weeks of visiting the Vanni, Marie Colvin returned to the northern town of Vavuniya, which is held by Sri Lankan army. The government had declared a temporary five-day cease-fire for the Tamil-Sinhala New Year. While Marie Colvin was crossing into Vavuniya - the government troops stationed at Parayanlankulam-Vavuniya opened fire on her. She sustained four shrapnel wounds to a shoulder, thigh, chest and eye. Her lung was bruised and her eye-injury was serious, requiring exploratory surgery in Sri Lanka.

 

"Immediately after the shooting, the government went all out to justify the incident! Even the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka did so in public meetings. There is ample evidence that, in fact, this was an attempt on Ms Colvin’s life.

 

"Indeed, journalists should report to the world the true suffering caused by wars. Marie Colvin, while on her hospital bed in Sri Lanka said that "I was not there on some sort of sneaky spy mission. I went there because, although it is closed to journalists, talking to the Tamil Tigers and writing about a humanitarian crisis are important issues".

 

"From her Manhattan hospital bed, she reported to 'The Sunday Times' of 22 April, “The Sri Lankan government reacted with anger to my presence in the Tamil-held area of the Vanni. It made no apologies for what happened to me!” (excerpts)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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