19 September, 2020

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GSL Must Stop Persecuting Tamils And Acting Like A Rogue Nation

By Robert Halfon MP

Robert Halfon MP

Today there was a major debate in Westminster Hall. With many other backbench Conservative MPs, I urged the Government to speak out against the persecution of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

As many ConservativeHome readers know, the years between 1983 and 2009 saw a bitter civil war between the Sri Lankan Government and the Tamil Tigers. During that long and bloody conflict, both sides were responsible for atrocities. But following the ceasefire three years ago, Tamil civilians have been subject to outrageous abuse of their basic human rights. In 2009, for example, 300,000 Tamil civilians were displaced or caged up in barbaric internment camps. As late as November last year, 7,000 remained in these camps. Many more are unable to return home. Thousands are forced to live in tents without access to basic health care, sanitation and education. Even worse: the Sri Lankan military is still occupying 7,000 square miles of Tamil land in the North and East, where they have no credible property rights.

The UN Committee Against Torture has said that the military behaves as if it was above the law; threatening and harassing human rights workers, defence lawyers and journalists. There are reports of violent suppression of Tamil dissidents, disappearing civilians, and secret executions. The Committee to Protect Journalists have said that Sri Lanka still has the 4th highest unsolved rate of journalist murders in the world. For far too long, Sri Lanka has assured the world that they are making improvements, but refused to give concrete details of the Tamil families still detained in camps. Very limited access is given to foreign journalists. It is without doubt a hideous regime.

Of course there will be many who say “Sri Lanka is the other side of the world. What can Britain do?” But the truth is that Britain is in a surprisingly powerful economic and political position to ask Sri Lanka to respect the human rights of all its people. After China, we are Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner, and their main source of Western tourism. In 2009, Britain imported over £600 million worth of goods and services from Sri Lanka. The UK should be ready to look elsewhere for these imports, if Sri Lanka refuses to improve their tragic record on human rights.

Britain also holds a unique place within the Commonwealth. This is relevant, as Sri Lanka is due to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit in 2013. The Canadian Prime Minister has already said that he will boycott the summit if Sri Lankan authorities continue to brutally oppress the Tamils. As I said in Parliament today, this is an action that the British Government should seriously consider. I believe that the international community must now outline a clear set of expectations for Sri Lanka, and give them a firm deadline to comply.

First, if Sri Lanka does not implement the recommendations of the “Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission” (LLRC) by the time it meets again this September, I believe that Britain should boycott the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit in Sri Lanka. Second, Sri Lanka must prove that it is making clear progress towards the following, before the Heads of Government Summit:

  • Persecution of the Tamils and other minorities must stop – once and for all
  • Concrete steps must be taken to demilitarise the north and east of Sri Lanka
  • Civil administration must be restored
  • Tamils and other minorities must have basic human rights: the right to life, a fair trial, freedom of expression, movement and assembly
  • The Sri Lankan Government must publish a list of all prisoners, and where they are being held
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross must have access to all detention centres
  • A neutral Commission must be appointed, by the UN, to safeguard property rights in Tamil areas, and to oversee resettlement programmes
  • Above all, Sri Lanka must comply with the recommendations of the UN panel of Experts report, and arrive at a durable justice for the Tamil-speaking minority

If the above goals are not met by the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit in 2013, the international community must then consider what further legitimate and peaceful pressure that it can put on the Sri Lankan regime. Economic sanctions must remain on the table, including sanctions on overseas investment and tourism.

We must make it very clear to the Government of Sri Lanka that they cannot continue to act like a rogue nation. Enough is enough. Clearly the Tamil Tigers were highly dangerous, but they are no longer a threat. And yet persecution continues. The excuse of “security” must not be used as a cover to wipe out the inheritance of the Tamil-speaking minority.

*Robert Halfon is the Member of Parliament for Harlow.

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Latest comments

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    Sri Lanka is, frankly, corrupt and getting worse. British politicians who visit will, for obvious reasons, get a sheltered experience when visiting. Corruption goes right to the top.
    I was backpacking in Sri Lanka at Christmas when a British citizen, Kuram Shaikah Zaman, was shot dead, and his Russian Girlfriend gang raped, by the area president of ruling party and his cronies. This event happened right behind my room and it was a deeply shocking experience. The most disturbing thing about it was the fact that the controlled media, police etc tried to cover it up (threatening local people, journo’s etc). In fact I think the cover up was relatively successful as there didn’t seem to be too much media coverage in the UK. Interestingly the local people identified that the same guy that had committed the murder has previously killed at least 2 other people (Sri Lankans) and got away with it – why you ask? Because he’s best friends with the President’s son (same reason why is local president of the ruling party no doubt).
    http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/briton-kille
    Report

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    Well done Rob – all well said. Having had a large Tamil community in my constituency at the last election this was something I have raised myself in the past having been acutely aware of the problem of ethnic cleansing and human rights atrocities.
    Channel 4 have been the only real media outlet to have tried to get this issue out in the open.
    Keep campaigning.

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    Being their former colony, Britain has a moral duty to ensure that the minorities are treated fairly.
    Britain can certainly bring it up when the UNHRC meets in Geneva next week.

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      what about justice to my ancestors who were brutally murdered, tortured for more than 100 years of british occupation in SL? What about the freedom fighters who were brutally killed in 1818 and 1848 freedom struggles? when will we get the justice from britain for looting this country’s wealth? what about relocating foreign people in central parts changing demorgraphy in my country to suit the british, stealing land from our ppl? Has that old woman with a crown in britain ever made a public apology for all the evils they have done during their colonial period?
      What about the victims in iraq, Afganistan? When will they get justice? The British talking about human rights is a joke…

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    Mr. Backpacker u do you said Sri Lanka is corrupt…. guess every one in Britain must be gentleman… that maybe why Britain is in such a great state.. hope you at least spend $10 in Sri Lanka to help our poor corrupt country..According to the MP Military is occupying 7000 miles of Tamil Land.. Is that a new type of land??? from what i know in Sri Lanka there is no such thing.. Is Walevatha, bambalapitiya tamil land too..

    This is pathetic all these Tamils think that they own part of the country. Every citizen has a equal right to all the land. You Tamils are the most racist bunch..You even discriminate against ur own race. You still go by the cast system..

    by the way I believe the great injustice that happened to Tamils was in 1983.. That too was partly caused due to killing of 13 army soldiers. Remember its not only tamils who lost everything with the war.I personally lost by best friend who was caught in a ruthless suicide bomb when he was on his way home to his pregnant wife..So is that justifiable? Was the killing of thousands of innocent people by LTTE justifiable?

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      Regardless of who says what, we all need to agree that the government of Sri Lanka discriminates against Tamils. In the neighboring country, India, people are debating how they should improve upon the federal structure of that country. But in Sri Lanka, devloution of land and police powers to the provinces is seen as a major threat to the soverignity of the country. When the Tamils (TNA) say that they are prepared to live under a united Sri Lanka with a federal structure of governance, why does the government keep refusing it?

      By the way, the constitution says that Buddhism shall be given the foremost place in the country. Don’t you think that this constitutional clause place all the Buddhists in the country above those who follow other religions? Isn’t it a clear discrimination? If you notice the president’s independence day speech, you’ll see how it begins:
      “Venerable Maha Sangha and clergy of all religions” – Why can’t he just say the clergy of all religions? Why does he give more importance to one religion? Don’ t you think this discrimination and communalism? As long as discriminatory practices against the minorities continue in Sri Lanka, the West will call Sri Lanka a corrupt, roguish nation.

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        yes we need to address Tamils’ issues and bring laws to put a halt in to the racial discrimination, racial prejudice that is prevalent in the soceity. But over the years discrimination against tamils have diminished the sri lankan soceity has evolved but still they have to do more. I am not sure if india is a federal state, as far as i know India has a quasi federal structure.
        yes they are seen as a threat, because still there are seperatist elements in the tamil diaspora and even in tamil politicians. TNA has agreed to a united Sri Lanka, but still gov and the rest of the country will take some time to be certain of their motives. The problem is both parties lack trust, which will take time to build. But lets hope for the best. I being a sinhalese is, for power devolution and giving police and land powers to the provinces is ok if it does not threaten Sri lanka’s defence. Another thing is do we have a trained and capable tamil police men at the moment? It will take time till we groom somemen.
        The constituiton may say so, but it does not impede the functions of other religions island wide. You can build any religous monument in the country if you want in whatever land you have. Anybody can propagte any religion. People can convert to any religion they want. Other religions do target buddhists a lot in conversions. These things would not be possible if SL was a buddhist state. However SL has been a historical buddhist country, and i think that is why constitution has such a sentence. Similarly you can see scandinavian countries having the cross in their national flags still they are democracies and secular. So i dont see a big issue here, however sri lanka should go 100% secular.
        About your claim on the president’s speech, “Venerable Maha Sangha and clergy of all religions”, well that is a political gimmick and i personaly think the whole sentence is not needed.

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    Mr. Halfon, What do you know about Sri Lanka ? Sinhalese and Tamils ? Terrorism ? You better come & have a look, how tamil people live in Colombo area and other parts of the country.

    Sri Lanka is not your British Colony any more !!! Most of British MP’s are begging votes from tamil citizes who live in GB. So you guys mind your businesses and keep you big moth shut !!!!

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    All white men are good and honest and the rest are corrupt?

    Sure there is corruption in Sri Lanka which is making life difficult fo honest people, , but it also found from the North pole to South pole.

    The British parliamentarians are the least qualified to speak about corruption after cheating on even rentals and allowances.

    Why only speak of the problems of the Tamils?

    Are Muslims lesser mortals?

    Why have you deliberately forgotten how Prabha chased them out of Jaffna over 20 years ago?

    Your silence is the loudest.noise I’ve heard

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    As you can see, Mr. Halfon, the majority of the Sri Lankan population is brainwashed by the family rulers and their ultra-nationalist allies.

    The same kind of sentiments were seen 30 years ago, when then Sri Lankan minister Cyril Matthew stayed in a hotel in Jaffna and ordered his security forces (always mono-ethnic) to burn the Jaffana library in 1977, one of the largest in Asia and a cultural icon for the Tamil community.

    The Sinhala-Muslim riots do not happwen very often and the Islamic mosques are spared only because of the ongoing issue with the Tamil community. However, recently a mosque was burnt in the heart of Buddhist city of Anuradhapura.

    The underlying Islamophobia was evident when the Islamic scholars were asked to leave Sri Lanka last month.

    These scholars were from the countries who saved the ruling family last time at the UN council.

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      Security forces were never mono ethnic in SL. It is the same security force that defeated JVP lead insurgency killing more than 60 000 sinhala youth. It is the same security force that gave security to muslim villages when ltte attacked them. For your infor muslims too work in SL forces.

      The mosque incident was an unfortuante one but i think the lack of laws regarding religous monuments and historical monuments is creating problems in SL. Also what about ancient buddhist sites in Kuragala, digavapiya that are turned into mosques now? so much for a buddhist country?

      Well i know islamophobia is creeping into SL too but it is very rampant in the liberal west. So u cant blame the islanders for that. I think the islamic scholars were asked to leave because of a visa issue and they will visit SL again.

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    I have a good suggestion, why not British govt allocate a peice of land in the UK for the Tamils & issue entry visa for them. Then this problem will be solved overnight. Further i do not know that British parliment is having loads of jobless MPs who talks about other nations when UK as a country is facing loads of economic problems. Soon your people will demos on the roads as happened in Greece, Spain & Italy. Bettter do something for yr country without wasting any more time on petty issues.

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    Never in the history of human conflict have so many been mislead and deceived by so few as the Tamil tiger Diaspora have done with much of he western world , regarding the realities and truth about the happenings in Sri Lanka.

    Doubters of this should follow this u tube link to see and hear for themselves what the Tamil citizens against whom human rights violations were committed by the Sri Lankan forces at the end of the war, have to say about these allegations.

    Much is being made about the british tourist was killed some months ago. Whilst not condoning this in any way, it must be pointed out that the tourists involved were no “Mother Theresa’s” & it takes two to Tango. One off cimes like this happens in most countries , even in New Zealand where I now live,

    The Tiger Diaspora as expected have been quick to punce on this and orchestrate it to the maximum to bring maximum discredit to SL and pressure on it to cave into their Elam goal.

    It has to be categorically denied that the Tamils were ever or are discriminated. They were the privileged minority of the divide and rule Briitish colonial policy, when the Sinhalese were the discriminated and deprived majority. Any attempt to redress these deprivation which the to the inevitable loss of Tamil privileges were seen by some tamils as discrimination. Orchestration of these perceptions led to the militancy seeking an elam where they would once again be the privileged

    Now the government is doing it’s utmost to create reconciliation between the Sinhalese & Tamils and reconstruction of the ravages of the war.. The Tiger Diaspora still entertaining their romantic notions of elam is continuing their misinformation to thwart these efforts as success in reconciliation and reconstruction would spell the ultimate end to their Elam deam.

    Hence , they are using their ill gotten booty of Billions from distortion , extortion drug trafficking and now credit card frauds, to secure powerful political and media allies, most successfully in UK and Canada , tbe their standard bearers beating the drum at a hectic pace now, hoping to secure a body blow on Sri lanka at the sessions of the UN Human Rights Watch in March.

    Western politicians especially from Westminister should visit Sri Lanka and see for them selves what has been achieved after the end of the war in May 2009, before they permit themselves to be used by the Tiger Diaspora destroy all these achievements.

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    I appreciate Mr Halfon’s concern for INNOCENT Tamils.But i heard that someone saying”charity begins at home”.So for starters why don’t you lift the ban and let the British public view the documentary “Unlawful killing” which exposed the MI5 along with British politicians who were involved in the murder of Princess Diana?

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    Mr Halfon,forgot to ask you another tiny matter.Haven’t you found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq yet?If not please do so in the name of human rights even at the cost of slaughtering a few more million Iraqis.

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    There is no persecution of Tamils in SL as many western media try to portray. Tamils engage in businesses, do jobs, live in SL, go vacations around SL like any other Sri Lankan would do, vote and even criticize the gov like most SLns do. Does that mean evry thng is OK? No it doesn’t. Tamils do have problems. Before the emergence of military orgns like ltte, power devolution was the main problem. But when ltte came to the picture the dynamics changed. LTTE used tamils as suicide bombers and gov and even the public started looking at an average tamil differently. The tamils had to undergo many security checks, it became difficult for tamils to roam around colombo without any identification paper. The areas tamils live in N&E became war zones creating a new set of problems to tamils.
    No, civil war did begin before 1983. In early periods the war started as a civil war and ltte represented tamils, but with time ltte changed into a mono ethnic, fascist terrorist organisation. The ltte that was defeated in 2009 was a terrorist outfit. In 2009 these people had nowhere to go. For your information one of the longest running civil(?) wars was ended with the defeat of a ruthless terrorist org in the very area these people used to live. Therefore they were given a place to stay in temporary camps. Have u gone to see these camps? How do u come to the conclusion they are barbaric camps? If 7000 were remained in camps in Nov, doesn’t that mean gov has relocated most of them successfully. I don’t say the conditions in camps are superb, but they have access to basic health care and sanitation. Sri Lankan gov have done well for a 3rd world country in dealing with this problem.

    There are no tamil lands in SL as there are no sinhala lands as well, what we have is sri lankan land. I personally think demilitarization of N&E should have begun long time ago. However i hardly think a foreign man living in a distant country has any say about that as it is purely an internal matter. Sri lankan military is entitled to have a military camp in any part of the sri lankan state.

    It will take time for SL to become a safe place for media persons. I don’t deny there are problems in the aspect of freedom of speech. SL has been engaged in a war for 30 years and I don’t hope for a miracle to happen. Not a single country in this world is absolutely safe for journos. Remembr wikileaks

    As people of SL we are more keen on the human rights of SLns. I hope things would be better. UK is free to look for other markets.
    Yes Britain holds a unique place in Commonwealth and that is why they created it after all. I wonder why other countries including SL continue to be members of common wealth while it was created by British to maintain their colonial legacy. I find it a humiliation.

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    FAIL! MIA will soon be just that, Missing in Action. I don’t take my post-graduate studies for angrted. Therefore I don’t digest anything musicians tell me. She is a supporter of a Tamil group that carried out ethnic cleansing and gross crimes against humanity. But she has NEVER, I repeated NEVER condemned the atrocities by her own people, including her father!As for the Tamil Tiger propaganda in the comments above, I urge readers to see how racist some of their comments are. Yet, they want you to believe that they are the victims?But ask them about the Tamil MPs in the Sri Lankan government and they will call them traitors. So democracy and peace is not what they seek. Yup. So you see how the likes of MIA and other Tamil extremist operate right? It is not a freedom struggle but a struggle of hate and racism against non-Tamils.Eight governments in Sri Lanka in the last 30 years negotiated with them to find a peaceful resolution. This is a fact. You can research all this for yourself.

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