Not on TV: SRI LANKA: A Statement by the AHRC Calling for UNInvolvement

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Sat Sep 25 09:46:13 MDT 1999

Anyone up for 'military interventions,' 'UN peace-keepers,' 'humanitarian
bombings,' etc. in Sri Lanka?  Fortunately for people in Sri Lanka amidst
their misfortunes, their sufferings are not on CNN, BBC, etc., so noone
wants to save them -- yet.  As soon as (if ever, that is) they get on TV,
poor Sri Lankans can count on many Western leftists for demanding a
civilizing mission, for then 'something must be done' to 'stop brutality.'
I hope Sri Lankans will be able to stay off air.   Yoshie

>Date: Fri, 24 Sep 1999 17:30:18 +0800
>To: ahrchk at
>From: Asian Human Rights Commission - AHRC <ahrchk at>
>Subject: [Asia-HR-Alert] SRI LANKA: A Statement by the AHRC Calling for UN
>for a Peaceful Solution to Sri Lankan Crisis
>A S I A N   H U M A N  R I G H T S   C O M M I S S I O N
>Hong Kong, Friday, September 24, 1999
>Within a space of less than a month the world received information from Sri
>Lanka of the killing of a journalist, about seventy civilians and a number of
>combatants. When the journalist was killed there was the allegation of some
>high-powered persons close to the government being involved in the crime. When
>22 civilians were killed, accidentally according to government sources during
>the air raids: It has been pointed out that the government did not respond to
>these killings in any adequate manner. Apparently in retaliation to these air
>raids 50 to 60 civilians including women and children, were killed by the
>In the midst of all these deaths and destruction the public is informed that
>the Sri Lankan government has called for bids for high-tech equipment for its
>war in the North. All newspaper reports from independent journalists both
>and foreign predict of a long and protracted no win/no loose war
>situation. Sri
>Lanka's ministry of defense, on the 13 September 1999, invited foreign
>companies to register for the supply of military hardware, including
>laser-guided bombs and electronic warfare systems. Local and foreign suppliers
>of weapons, ammunition and other services were given three weeks to register
>with the ministry to be eligible for bids for contracts to be awarded next
>year.  Huge advertisements were placed in the state-owned newspapers by the
>ministry looking for engine and airframe maintenance crew for two Hercules
>C-130 aircrafts to be delivered to the airforce by the British Royal Air Force
>the next few months. In a list of aircraft bombs, the ministry sought
>for bombs that are radar-guided, TV guided and for cluster bomb fuses.  Among
>the areas left exclusively to foreign bidding are the supply of sea radio
>equipment, the electronic warfare systems and the airborne data processing
>systems. Most of the equipment and services for the air force were listed as
>open only for foreign suppliers. The ministry also sought registration for
>suppliers of frigates, destroyers and mine sweepers in addition to fast attack
>crafts and patrol boats.  Sri Lanka's defence budget touched an all-time high
>of 760 million dollars last year, accounting for roughly one-third of the
>country's budget. The world naturally has reasons to be alarmed about
>these new
>developments in Sri Lanka.
>This week Mr. Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, in a major policy statement
>declared clearly that human rights must outweigh the notion of sovereignty. He
>spoke about “the rights beyond borders” and called for forging of  “unity
>behind the principle that massive and systematic violations of human
>rights--where ever they occur--should not be allowed to stand.” The full
>statement made by the UN Secretary-General is worthy of close study. The
>international community's reaction to massive human rights abuses in Sri Lanka
>during the last two decades need to be reviewed in the light of this claim
>for a
>significant policy shift in the international community.
>Sri Lanka's record of massive and systematic human rights violations is well
>known and is well documented. For the purpose of this statement we will not
>reproduce the details of this most gruesome record, which is much worse
>than in
>some countries that have received international attention and involvement. For
>the purpose of records we wish to mention a few major aspects that deserve
>attention; there are over 30,000 state acknowledged disappearances in the
>country. The government claimed that it will prosecute around 1,687 cases.
>(There is quite a lot of doubt in the country about the number of prosecutions
>mentioned and the quality of their investigations.) Anyway the number
>by the state indicates only a token response, and done mostly to pacify the
>international critics. Locally, the government's response to
>disappearances has
>only evoked cynicism and bitter criticism of its inaction and hypocrisy. The
>widely held opinion is that the government is unwilling and is incapable of
>taking any effective action against the military and the police. There are
>dozens of mass graves spread through out the country both in the North and the
>South, and so far action has been taken regarding only one case, which is
>largely symbolic and lacking any satisfactory standards.  The war in the North
>claims hundreds of lives weekly and is caused both by the military as well as
>the LTTE. While casualty among the combatants is over 60,000 many thousands of
>ordinary people have also lost their lives, limbs or property due to this
>ongoing armed conflict. According to an UNICEF statement issued in August
>about 50,000 children have been killed in the North and the East. There are
>over 167,000 internally displaced persons and about 300,000 refugees. The
>normal life in the affected areas has been disrupted affecting the livelihood
>of the people, the education of children and health facilities to all. As a
>result of instability for nearly two decades, normal policing in all parts of
>the country has collapsed and the confidence in the police is at an all time
>The proposed high-tech war will only aggravate this situation. A high-tech war
>in a very low-tech country will come to face with many contradictions. The
>perception that the Irish peace talks were the outcome of the use of the
>high-tech equipment by the British government is being presented by some
>as the
>reason for the decision of the Sri Lankan government to let its military go
>high-tech. Whatever is the accuracy of the view relating to Irish situation,
>Sri Lanka does not have the infra-structural facilities for dealing with a
>high-tech warfare. It is quite likely that a grotesque situation is likely to
>rise. The civilian population will again be the victims rather than the actual
>combatants.   On the other hand  the attacks inflicted last week on the
>civilian population are indicative of the dangers the Sinhala villagers are
>exposed to in and around the affected areas. In a brutal war, where each side
>is only seeking for excuses to kill the other, high-tech warfare will only
>increase such casualties. Besides, high-tech warfare is likely to increase
>regional tensions and the possibilities of regional conflict. With two
>neighbors having nuclear capabilities, the eventuality of Sri Lanka been
>into an irreversible corner should not be treated as an exaggeration.
>The present situation of gross human rights abuses is likely to degenerate
>worse forms with the high-tech warfare. As the decision to engage in such
>warfare is now a fait accompli, it is time to consider its implications and
>adopt relevant action by all concerned persons and the international
>Peace Efforts
>Almost all peace efforts in the past have been concentrating on bringing the
>parties to the conflict SL government and LTTE into the negotiating table.
>is artificial and unrealistic. The history of this effort has amply
>demonstrated it. It is naïve to expect any change in this situation. To follow
>this path is to give more time to grater destruction and gross abuses of human
>Like some situations in Africa, in Sri Lanka, both the SL government and the
>LTTE must be regarded as perpetrators of gross of human rights abuses. They
>have both come under repeated international condemnation. Such condemnation
>must now be linked to a planned course of action.
>A comprehensive plan of action must include all parties in Sri Lanka,
>parties as well as the people. It must include a very strong UN component.
>Without a UN involvement the peace in Sri Lanka will only be plain talk, while
>the brutal war goes on. There is no other third party than UN that can play
>this role. Hardly any one took seriously the earlier discussions on the
>intervention of other third parties.
>However, an UN involvement needs to overcome some problems, among which are:
>there is a section of the people suffering from the cold war mentality who
>might be apprehensive of UN's role as being impartial. It will be necessary to
>address these fears and provide genuine assurances that can be monitored. On
>the other hand there are some countries, which present the warfare in Sri
>only as an internal problem, requiring no action on the part of the
>international community. This attitude contributes to the continuation of this
>war in a very strong way. Those who spread such views too must take the
>responsibility for the continuing carnage by both sides. UN
>policy perspectives mentioned earlier must lead to some re-thinking on the
>of those who promote this perspective of non-involvement.
>What the UN General Secretary can now do is to appoint a competent group to
>study the relevant issues and to begin a process of negotiations. Other
>relevant UN agencies such as UN Human Rights Commissioner's office, UNHCR can
>be invited to contribute to such an effort. If they so wish, countries like
>India can play a positive contributory role in such initiative.
>The local and the International NGOs need to review their analysis of the Sri
>Lankan situation in the light of the recent developments and try to proceed
>beyond mere condemnations by proposing more constructive and realistic
>solutions. The constructive suggestions can widen the local, international
>debate and may lead to a development of a comprehensive plan of action. No
>situation of gross abuse of human rights in the world is so much neglected by
>the international community, as that of Sri Lanka. This can be changed by
>collective and constructive effort.
>Local expressions of concern are very much restricted by the deeper fears of
>assassination by one side or the other. The fears are well founded. The
>carnage, taking place daily confirms these fears. Today in no other Asian
>country is there such heightened fear. Such fears themselves are a proof
>of the
>level of human rights abuse taking place in the country. It is not possible to
>boost up the morale of the people without a strong backing from outside.
>there is greater reluctance to deal with specific issues due to fear, people
>nevertheless do express themselves at a more general level. The writings,
>came out last year on the occasion of 50th anniversary of independence, showed
>the great bitterness of the people and the near total loss of confidence
>in the
>political establishment. With encouragement emanating from the international
>community, people are more likely to discharge their responsibilities to
>citizens of all communities with greater commitment. The absence of such
>encouragement can lead to further brain drain and the loss of skilled labour
>thereby aggravating the present situation of poverty in the country.
>In short, the focus of any genuine peace strategy must be the UN involvement.
>Needless to say that the rest is mere bluff.  We would like to be challenged,
>if there is any other realistic solution can be put forward by any one.
>We urge every concerned group and person to take an active part in convincing
>the United Nations and the international community of the need for effective
>intervention to bring to an end systematic gross human rights abuses taking
>place in Sri Lanka.
>Asian Human Rights Commission
>Asian Human Rights Commission
>Unit D,7 Floor,16 Argyle Street
>Mongkok Commercial Centre
>Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR
>Tel: +(852)-2698-6339
>Fax: +(852)-2698-6367
>E-mail: ahrchk at
>You may visit the website of the People's Tribunal on Food Scarcity on
>Burma at:

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