Newsletter

GTF-ATC Congratulates President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe on passing of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution

Global Tamil Forum (GTF) congratulates the leadership shown by all Sri Lankan political parties and their Parliamentarians, and in particular the leadership shown by President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe on successfully adopting the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Passing of the 19th amendment along with other steps taken to democratise the state and its institutions have significantly altered the unfortunate political culture and practices adopted in Sri Lanka in the recent past. These newly adopted progressive changes annul the trend set by the previous regime, and effectively place the country back in the right course to work towards more meaningful and democratic constitutional changes in the future.

We are aware that the government’s 100-day program could not be implemented in full to meet all its ideals and the 19th Amendment too in its adopted form has lot to be desired. Despite that, the spirit of change and the new political atmosphere involving consultations and compromises are breathtakingly fresh in the context of Sri Lanka and give hope that such conditions, if further developed, will be conducive to resolve other pressing issues faced by the people.

We also recognise the positive steps the government has taken to address certain immediate concerns of the Tamil people. These include removing of military Governors and appointing civilians as Governors for the Northern and Eastern Provinces, transferring of small sections of land back to the rightful owners, releasing of a few Tamil political detainees and the review of the proscription of Tamil diaspora individuals and entities. Though limited in scope they are still significant.

However, large swathes of private land are still illegally occupied by the military, disproportionate number of military personnel still remain in the North and East, intimidation and arbitrary arrests still continue, military remains engaged in day to day life of Tamils in North and East, sexual violence continue against the tens of thousands of war widows and others, Tamil men and women still live in fear even more so in the Northern and Eastern provinces, several hundreds of political prisoners still remain in custody without being charged, the Prevention of Terrorism Act still not repealed, above all the Tamil National Question remains unresolved.

Momentum developed by passing of the 19th amendment and other positive initiatives taken to provide limited relief for the Tamil people, should be developed further to be stepping stones, to resolve the long standing Tamil national problem in Sri Lanka. In this context, it is important that the government accelerates implementing these initiatives and also takes meaningful steps to comprehensively address the issues related to alleged war crimes, serving of justice, political resolution and reconciliation.

Global Tamil Forum, for its part, is fully committed to playing a constructive role in making all these reality.

Guidance for making submission to the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka

Guidance for making a submission to the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka ("OISL")

Australian Tamil Congress Evidence Collection Assistance Team has been working with legal professionals in coordinating evidence collection for the past three years. Our experienced team will be assisting those willing to provide evidence.
 
If you or anyone you know wishes to provide any evidence, please contact us on 1300 660 629(Australian callers). If you need  guidance to write your statement please click here

 

Australian Tamils welcome court injunction halting return of asylum seekers.

The Australian Tamil Congress (ATC), a national organisation representing Australian Tamils, has welcomed a high court interim injunction till 4pm today which will prevent Australian authorities from handing 153 Tamil asylum seekers over to the Sri Lankan navy.
 
"This high court decision is representative of the true Aussie spirit - of ensuring, not denying, a fair go to everyone," said Mr Bala Vigneswaran of the ATC. "These individuals, apparently intercepted in mid-sea as they fled persecution to seek asylum, have a right to a just hearing of their case as per international laws and the UN Refugee Convention. Australia is signatory to this convention, and returning these men, women and children to the very people they are escaping from, without a fair process, is not only in breach of Australia's international obligations but also morally abhorrent," he added.
 
53 Australian legal scholars have also joined in condemning Australia's rapid and inadequate screening interviews at sea and returning of asylum seekers to Sri Lanka.
 
Credible international agencies and eminent persons have documented abduction, arbitrary detention, torture, rape and sexual violence against persons returned to Sri Lanka, who had sought humanitarian protection in other countries.
Earlier this year, the UN Human Rights Council approved an international war crimes inquiry into alleged war crimes committed in Sri Lanka.  
 
The ATC calls on the Australian government to put human rights above political gain and process claims for protection in a robust and fair process.
 
Media contact: Dr Bala Vigneswaran 0404404777

The Australian Tamil Congress welcomes the UN Investigation Team for Sri Lanka and urges the Australian Government to take Necessary Steps to Support the Investigation

On June 25th, 2014, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay announced that three distinguished experts will advise and support the UN international investigation team set up to conduct a comprehensive investigation of alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka, as mandated by Human Rights Council resolution 25/1 in March 2014.  The experts include: Mr. Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate; Ms. Silvia Cartwright, former Governor-General and High Court judge of New Zealand; and Ms. Asma Jahangir, former President of Pakistan’s Supreme Court Bar Association and of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. The Investigation Team working alongside the experts will consist of 12 staff, including investigators, forensics experts, a gender specialist, a legal analyst and various other staff with specialized skills. It will be operational for a period of 10 months, until approximately mid-April 2015.

 

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has welcomed the investigation team, stating “This investigation is an important step in establishing the truth and facilitating reconciliation within Sri Lanka. The inclusion of Martti Artisaahri, Silvia Cartwright and Asma Jahangir completes a strong team with a clear mandate from the UN Human Rights Council”, and has also “strongly urge(d) the government of Sri Lanka to cooperate fully with the Office of the High Commissioner and this investigation, and to ensure those engaging with the investigation can do so without fear of intimidation or reprisals.”  US State Department has also released a statement supporting the appointment of the eminent panel and urged the Sri Lankan government for its full cooperation with the Office of High Commissioner and investigation.

 

The Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) appreciates the progress being made on the UN resolution on Sri Lanka, and welcomes the investigation team and its advisors in their new role.  As an organization that campaigned hard and worked with its partner organizations towards the passage of this resolution, and its predecessor resolutions for the last five years, ATC is pleased to see the advancement of this crucial step in achieving justice and accountability, and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. We also would like to take this opportunity to express our sincere gratitude and appreciation for the political parties and individual Parliamentarians in Australia, and a large number of Australian entities and eminent persons, who consistently supported this just call and helped towards achieving this outcome.

 

ATC extends its fullest support and cooperation to this investigation team.  ATC also urges the UN investigation team to visit Australia and collect evidence from those residing in Australia who may have been affected in the final stages of the war.  We earnestly call on the Australian government to welcome the UN investigation and also urging it to take necessary steps to support the investigation process in Australia.

 

 

 

ATC is calling on the Australian government to urge Sri Lanka to protect its religious minorities from continuing violence

The Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) strongly condemns the communal violence targeting the Muslim community in south-western Sri Lanka over the past couple of days.

More than 78 people have been seriously injured and at least three have been confirmed dead following violence predominantly aimed at the Muslim population in the towns of Aluthgama and Beruwala. On Sunday 15th June, a rally by the extremist, Buddhist Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) organisation, descended into chaos as the BBS and its followers moved through predominantly Muslim areas chanting anti-Muslim slogans and inciting hatred.  Mosques and tens of Muslim-owned local businesses and homes have been destroyed by the rampaging mobs. Violence targeting ethnic and religious minorities, and the police not acting promptly and even-handedly with tacit support from senior government officials, is becoming a regular occurrence, and the current escalation of violence appears to confirm this worrying trend. 

Speaking on the issue during the current 26th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, UN High Commissioner Ms Pillay stated that “the Government must urgently do everything it can to arrest this violence, curb the incitement and hate speech which is driving it, and protect all religious minorities.” Her office has previously raised alarm at the escalation of attacks upon Muslims, Hindus and Christians and the ways in which Sinhalese Buddhist nationalists organisations, like BBS, have incited violence.

US Embassy in Colombo in a statement urged "the government to ensure that order is preserved and the lives of citizens, places of worship, and property are protected" and called on the Sri Lankan authorities to investigate these attacks and bring those responsible for justice. Canadian government in an official statement has called on the Sri Lankan government to act quickly to ensure the safety of all communities, adding that "the attacks on Muslims in the country are completely unacceptable and a clear violation of the right to religious freedom."

ATC calls on the Australian government to publicly condemn this wanton violence inflicted upon religious minorities in Sri Lanka, and to insists that the Sri Lankan government take immediate steps to ensure protection for all communities and to bring those responsible for justice.

 

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