76 Tamil Political Prisoners by Tamil Centre for Human Rights

(Established in 1990)
Press release

Ref :
24 February 2004

There are still 76 Tamil political prisoners and detainees

Arrest and detention are legal in any judicial system. But when there is an arrest without reason and arbitrary detention, obviously the detention goes against international standards. In some cases arbitrary arrests end up in involuntary disappearances. If this is the case, it earns media highlighting and human rights activists take up the issue. Then it is a problem for the authority which orders the arbitrary arrests and detentions.

Nowadays there are governments around the world that have created special laws, acts, regulations, etc as temporary measures, under the pretext of dealing with extraordinary security situations, to justify arbitrary arrests and detentions without trial. In countries like Sri Lanka these temporary measures become permanent and the special laws never comply with international standards. The International Covenant on Civil and Political rights (ICCPR) Part III, Article 9

Open Letter to President & PM by Dr. Victor Rajakulendran

An open letter to Sri Lankan President and the Prime Minister

February 12, 2004

Her Excellency, Chandrika Bandaranayake Kumarathunga
The President of Sri Lanka

His Excellency, Ranil Wickramasinghe
The Caretaker Prime Minister of Sri Lanka

Your Excellencies

Re: The current political crisis

Your Excellency the President, you have decided to use/misuse your executive power to dissolve parliament and call for fresh elections. By this action you have walked away from the written promise you gave to the Speaker of the House. That is, you will not dissolve parliament as long as Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasighe’s (RW) government holds a majority in parliament. Moreover, by maintaining silence without giving a valid reason so far, why you dissolved parliament, you have demonstrated that you are very undemocratic too. There were caretaker governments twice before under your presidency. You did not meddle with the cabinet at all during the period prior to those two elections. Then why did you remove 39 non-cabinet level ministers and deputy ministers this time? You have given the reason as they could use the ministry resources such as vehicles for their election campaign. Didn’t those ministers in the previous two caretaker governments use the same resources for their election campaign? Didn’t you allow them to do because they were from your own party?

When you prorogued the same parliament for 2 weeks in November 2003 and took over the responsibilities of 3 important ministries including the Defence, you said that you were doing that to safeguard the security, territorial integrity and sovereignty of your country. What have you done during the last 3 months to improve the security of the country? You and your paid adviser and former Foreign Minister Kadirgamar, were making big noises about LTTE, before you took over the Defence Ministry, accusing them of building a camp in Trincomele area and it is a threat to your naval base. Why you all did not even talk about it after it came under your jurisdiction, if it was a threat to the security of the country as you all shouted before?

Your Excellency the President, you decided to shake the apple cart in November 2003 because time was running out for you to change the constitution in order to abolish the Executive Presidential system and re-introduce the Executive Prime Ministerial system. Many in the International Community (IC) may not know that you cannot be the President of the country for the third time as the Presidency is restricted to two terms only. You needed RW government’s support to achieve this. You decided to get this support, knowing RW very well, through intimidation. This is why you decided to shake the apple cart first and then to offer him the idea of forming a National Government of Reconciliation and Reconstruction (NGRR). Knowing you well, RW without rejecting your idea completely agreed to test this at the provincial government level after the forthcoming provincial government elections. You did not want to trust him on this. Therefore you decided to intimidate RW further to make your ends met and decided to form an alliance with the Marxist party, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) to create the feelings in RW’s camp that you are preparing for an election. As you expected, RW went through a knee jerk reaction. RW, who insisted that you should return the Defence Ministry back to him all this time, suddenly decided to compromise and agreed to share the Defence Ministry with you. If you had agreed to this compromise, peace process would have continued and elections would have been avoided and you could have re-visited the secondary thing (to others) of changing the Executive Presidency at a time, when a change in the constitution is required to implement the outcomes of the peace process.

Your Excellency the President even if you had wanted to do this way, circumstances did not allow you to choose this path. Once you have reluctantly agreed to form the alliance with your former enemies the JVP, you have become a hostage of the power hungry politicians of your party as well as those of the JVP. All they want is to become Ministers and Deputy Ministers of a new government. Therefore they recommended you to dissolve parliament and go for elections immediately. You were trapped and you had no alternative other than to follow their recommendation. But you should be well aware that a 2/3 majority in parliament that is needed to change the constitution is impossible to get at this stage. In that case you are not going to achieve what you initially planned in November 2003, when you prorogued the parliament and took over the three ministries, through this election you have called for now. That is to create an opportunity for yourself, to continue to contest for the executive position (ie. an executive Prime ministership under a changed constitution).

Your Excellency the President, therefore, if you are lucky and your newly formed alliance manages to get a slim majority in the elections, you still have to woo the RW’s party to join you in a NGRR. Then only you could keep the doors open for you to be a contender for the executive position in the next round. On the other hand if RW’s party wins in the elections with an increased majority, they probably would take a much-hardened attitude towards you and may force you to go into political wilderness after you finish your present term or even before you finish your present term in office. Therefore it is clear that the crisis you have created this time is a futile attempt to grab power and an exercise of sending a portion of the country’s resources (at least $7 million as election related expenses) down the drain. Your actions also have further delayed the resumption of peace talks and created the dangerous situation of Sri Lanka disappearing from the Radar Screen of the donor nations.

Your Excellency the Prime Minister, you claim that people gave you a mandate to negotiate with LTTE to find a peaceful political settlement to the Tamil problem, in the last general elections. No one can dispute the fact that you took a bold step to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the LTTE leader and initiate negotiations with the help of Norwegians. However, the way you handled things after President took over the three Ministries casts doubts on your sincerity about achieving peace in your country. When the President invited you to form a NGRR with all the parties in parliament, you declined to accept this invitation. The President then tried to scare you with the threat of dissolving parliament by repeatedly telling of forming an alliance with JVP. Because this threat from her was there for more than a year, you thought that was not real. But when the newly formed alliance was registered with the Election Commissioner in a rush, you realised that this threat was real. This was only within few days from the dissolution of the parliament. At this stage you proposed an arrangement similar to what was prevalent during late President J.R. Jayawardene(JR). That is, President to remain the Defence Minister, and like Late Mr. Lalith Athulathmuthali and Ranjan Vijayaratne in the President JR

Open Letter to US Secretary of State by Appuacci

Dear Mr. Secretary,

Today is February 4, 2004; the day Britain handed over the reins of government to the people of Sri Lanka (the former Ceylon).

Lord Soulbury, in a Foreword to the book A Divided Nation by B. H. Farmer, showed his bitter disappointment at the direction Ceylon took during and after the shocking events of 1958. “.. that this Government of Ceylon was fully aware that the contentment of the minorities was essential not only to their own well-being but to the well-being of the island as a whole.”

Lord Soulbury further commented: “Needless to say the consequences have been bitter disappointment to myself and my fellow Commissioners. While the Commission was in Ceylon, the speech of certain Sinhalese politicians calling for the solidarity of the Sinhalese and threatening the suppression of the Tamils emphasised the need for constitutional safeguards on behalf of that and other minorities, despite the confidence felt by the commission in Mr. D. S. Senanayake and any Government under his control.”

Mr. Secretary, Tamils did not take up arms for a strike against the Sinhala Buddhist governments with no provocation. In fact, to coin a phrase, it was a ‘post-emptive’ effort to defend the Tamils after every known non-violent approach to Sinhala Buddhist domination over the Tamils not only failed, but exacerbated Tamil sufferings. The absence of political will and inadequacy of the powers between the two feuding Sinhala elite leaderships is not conducive to peaceful Tamil life in Sri Lanka. Tamils are, therefore, left with a single rationale: President Chandrika’s maneuver to mishandle the ceasefire that has lasted for more than two years despite the provocation of the Sinhala Buddhist loyalists forces of the President.

Tamils see in you, Mr. Secretary, the ability to make the next ‘donor meeting’ in Washington a meaningful deliberation by inviting the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam , who have earned a name for themselves as the true ‘peace lovers’ and the rightful leaders of the Tamils. Let your action pave the way for Tamils to feel free to enjoy the next Independence Day celebrations.

Thank you,


Ramalingam Shanmugalingam
8324 Regents Road Unit 2 D
San Diego CA 92122
Tel. (858) 546 8542

February 4, 2004

Call to Increased Action for War-Affected Children by UNICEF

SECURITY COUNCIL: Plight of Children in Armed Conflict Reaches Watershed Stage [press release]

[NEW YORK, 20 January 2004] – The battle to uphold the rights and well-being of children exposed to armed conflict “has reached a watershed moment,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on the issue told the Security Council today.

During the annual Council debate on children and armed conflict, Under-Secretary-General Olara Otunnu said that while there has been significant progress on many fronts for children, too many parties go unpunished despite continuing to violate their rights.

“The general situation for children remains grave and unacceptable,” Mr. Otunnu said, citing the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Indonesian province of Aceh, Iraq, Liberia, the occupied Palestinian territories and Uganda as areas where children have particularly suffered over the past year.

Mr. Otunnu’s recommendations to redress the situation include setting up a monitoring and reporting mechanism to track violations of children’s rights during conflicts. But he said there has been some progress in recent years, including greater advocacy for children, the development of international norms for their treatment, and the increasing integration of child protection into UN peacekeeping operations.

Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), told the Council debate that many children suffer more because humanitarian access is often restricted or banned outright during wars.

Ms. Bellamy said child soldiers were not the only victims of wars, adding that girls were especially vulnerable to sexual violence and exploitation.

“Another devastating consequence of today’s wars is that they create and exacerbate conditions that lead to HIV/AIDS,” she said. “The impoverishment that accompanies conflict often leaves women and girls so destitute that trading sex for survival becomes the only option for many.”

A number of the more than 40 delegates who spoke at the meeting said the most effective way to help children affected by armed conflict was to strike at the root of the problem by preventing war from breaking out in the first place.

[Source: United Nations]


– SRI LANKA: Call to Increased Action for Sri Lanka’s War Affected Children [report]

[COLUMBO, 22 January 2004] – A call for more commitment to make lasting improvements in the lives of Sri Lanka’s most vulnerable children has been made in a report that details progress by partners to the Action Plan for Children Affected by War.

It gives an overview on the situation of children affected by war, and details what was done in 2003 to help address urgent needs. The report follows the Oslo, Berlin and Hakone peace talks where the parties asked UNICEF to develop an Action Plan for Children Affected by War to monitor, report on and address child rights violations in the North East. Partners implementing the Action Plan include the Ministry of Social Welfare, Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO), ILO, Save the Children in Sri Lanka, UNDP, UNHCR, and UNICEF.

Despite the two year old cease-fire there are still many children suffering the effects of twenty years of conflict. The Action Plan is a combined agency effort that links Government, LTTE, donors, Non Governmental Organisations and UN agencies in a united approach to address the health, education, and protection needs of children affected by war. It is estimated that 50,000 children in the affected region are out of school, around 140,000 have been displaced from their homes while landmines have killed 20 and maimed 17 children in 2003 alone. In the North East there is a serious deficit of education and health staff. More than 5,800 additional Tamil medium and 200 Sinhala medium teachers are needed.

Of particular concern is the use of children as soldiers. New UNICEF figures in the report state that during 2003, 709 children were recruited by the LTTE. In the same period, a total of 202 children were released, either to the recently established transit centre at Kilinochchi or directly back to their families. From reports submitted by families, UNICEF knows of at least 1,301 children who may still be in the LTTE. In a three month period during August, September and October, recruitment increased with reports of 304 children taken into the LTTE. In the last two months of the year, reported recruitment fell with 17 reported cases in November and 14 in December.

In 2003 systems to address the immediate needs of children affected by war, including children released from the LTTE, have been established. For the first time in the Sri Lankan conflict there is now a formal mechanism for assisting the release and reintegration of child soldiers. The 49 children released to the Kilinochchi Transit Centre in October have been either returned to their homes or, in the case of 8, to appropriate alternative care facilities. At a meeting last week-end between the UNICEF representative to Sri Lanka, Mr. Ted Chaiban and the leader of the LTTE