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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2784

Sri Lanka Government on pretext of fighting LTTE fighting minority Tamils says US Senator Bob Casey

Daya Gamage – US National Correspondent Asian Tribune

Washington, D.C. 26 February ( In his Senator Bob Casey declared that the Government of Sri Lanka "frames its war against the LTTE as a war against terror, there exists a broader ethnic conflict between the minority Tamils and majority Sinhalese that has spanned for decades".Senator Bob Casey declared that the Government of Sri Lanka "frames its war against the LTTE as a war against terror, there exists a broader ethnic conflict between the minority Tamils and majority Sinhalese that has spanned for decades".opening statement at the hearing of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 'Recent Developments in Sri Lanka' Senator Bob Casey who presided over the hearing declared that the Government of Sri Lanka "frames its war against the LTTE as a war against terror, there exists a broader ethnic conflict between the minority Tamils and majority Sinhalese that has spanned for decades".

If one interpret this statement in to plain language what Senator Casey who is also the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern, South and Central Asian Affairs said was that the Government of Sri Lanka in her military battle against the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) has "framed" it as a war against terror or terrorism but in reality it is an exercise against the minority Tamils in the Island though he refrained from using the term 'suppression'.

The U.S. Senator in fact was telling the Foreign Relations Committee and through that to the Obama Administration and Hillary Clinton-headed State Department that the LTTE represents the grievances of the minority Tamils in Sri Lanka when he declared "Should the war end and the broader Tamil population continue to face systematic discrimination by and inadequate representation in the Sri Lankan national government, the Tamil Tigers could once again be driven underground to carry out acts of terrorism, perpetuating another go-around in this vicious cycle of violence."

He was careful not to use the term 'acts of liberation' but instead used 'act of terrorism

Even as Sri Lanka has virtually wiped out the LTTE in the north, Mr. Casey accused Sri Lanka of not being serious in addressing the issues of the Tamil minority and arriving at a political settlement.

"So far, there are few indications that a political deal is imminent. Sri Lanka will not negotiate directly with the LTTE. But it does not appear as though the government has much interest in finding alternative Tamil interlocutors nor have the Tamils presented a credible alternative to the LTTE," he said at the Senate hearing last Tuesday.

Dr. Anna Neistat, Senior Researcher, Emergencies Division, Human Rights Watch at the Senate hearing said in her testimony: "The Sri Lankan government is conducting a cynical campaign to prevent all independent public coverage of its military operations and the plight of civilians caught up in the war. While decrying LTTE abuses, it has kept out the media and human rights organizations that could report on them – and on government abuses. It has kept displaced persons locked up in camps and hospitals. It has traded the well-being of tens of thousands of Sri Lankan citizens for evading international scrutiny. It has been trying its best to bury the abuses. While in the country, however, we managed to collect credible information about egregious violations by the parties to the conflict, both of which appear to be engaged in a perverse competition to demonstrate the greatest disregard for the civilian population."

She further said, "Having worked in many conflict areas across the world, I have rarely seen a humanitarian disaster of such scale, where both sides demonstrate such shameless disregard to the safety and well-being of civilians, and which, at the same time, receives so little international attention. Civilians caught in Sri Lanka's conflict continue to die as we speak, and immediate action is necessary to stop this egregious loss of civilian life. Violations of the Laws of War by both sides of the conflict."

She blamed the Tamil Tigers saying "the LTTE has been responsible for deploying their forces within densely populated areas and deliberately firing on civilians to prevent them from fleeing to safety. There is also evidence that the LTTE has used civilians as “human shields."

The Human Rights Watch official on Violations by the LTTE said before the U.S. Senate:

"The LTTE has deliberately prevented civilians under its effective control from fleeing to areas away from the fighting, unnecessarily and unlawfully placing their lives at grave risk. As the LTTE has retreated in the face of SLA offensive operations, it has forced civilians to retreat with it, not only prolonging the danger they face, but moving them further and further away from desperately needed humanitarian assistance. And as the area that the LTTE controls shrinks, the trapped civilian population has become concentrated, increasing the risk of high casualties in the event of attack and placing greater strains on their living conditions.

"Human Rights Watch documented a number of incidents when the LTTE forces fired at civilians who tried to cross to the government-controlled areas, killing and injuring dozens."

On Violations by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces she said:

"The LTTE’s grim practices are being exploited by the government to justify its own atrocities. High-level officials assert that the ethnic Tamil population trapped in the war zone can be presumed to be siding with the LTTE and treated as combatants, effectively sanctioning violations. Sri Lankan forces have repeatedly and indiscriminately shelled areas packed with displaced persons, causing numerous civilian casualties. This includes numerous reported bombardments of a government declared "safe zone" and of the remaining hospitals in the region."

Describing the Plight of the Internally Displaced to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the Human Rights Watch official said:

"The situation of civilians who manage to escape from areas of active hostilities into government-controlled territory is dire. Instead of providing the internally displaced with the assistance and protection they are entitled to under international law, the Sri Lankan government continues to violate their fundamental rights.

"The government has arbitrarily detained people during screening procedures; subjected all internally displaced persons, including entire families, to indefinite confinement in military controlled camps; and failed to provide adequate medical and other assistance to displaced persons. The government has directly restricted the efforts of relief agencies seeking to meet emergency needs, and has deterred agencies from offering greater support through policies that the agencies rightly perceive as unlawful."

Robert Dietz Asia Program Coordinator Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) describing the unfavorable atmosphere in Sri Lanka to engage in independent journalism made the following appeal to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee to get the Colombo American embassy to offer refuge to fleeing journalists:

"The American Embassy in Colombo is deeply concerned about these attacks on journalists and has often acted in their interest. CPJ calls on the State Department to work with the embassy to consider ways to offer temporary refuge to Sri Lankan journalists who decide to flee their country fearing for their safety, and to encourage other countries to do the same. None of these men and women wants to abandon their homeland, their families, and their careers, but they deserve some sort of temporary refuge and support."

Then he made a serious allegation not only against the GSL but a personal accusation on President Rajapaksa:

Describing three media attacks including the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunga he said "there have been no credible investigations, minus the coroner’s inquest into Wickramatunga’s death. While many consider the government the prime suspect in the attacks, officials have vehemently denied any responsibility.

"The lack of reliable investigation into these crimes is in keeping with a long history of impunity for those who attack journalists in Sri Lanka. CPJ counts 10 journalists killed by premeditated murder since 1999, with no prosecutions or convictions. The Rajapaksa government and its predecessors must at least be held responsible for the impunity that surrounds attacks on journalists."

And then a personal attack on Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa:

"Most of the killings came while Rajapaksa served as prime minister from April 2004, through the time he started his six-year term as president in November 2005, until now. According to CPJ’s records, during his time in high office in Sri Lanka, eight journalists have died of what CPJ considers to be premeditated murder. No one has been brought to trial in any of these cases. The number of dead does not include journalists killed in crossfire or other events. The people we are talking about were intentionally killed."

- Asian Tribune -

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