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NZ Can Prevent Genocide in Northern Sri Lanka

NZ Can Prevent Genocide in Northern Sri Lanka

People in Vanni,
Northern Sri Lanka in desperate search for safety from war
(mid January 2009)
Click to enlarge

People in Vanni, Northern Sri Lanka in desperate search for safety from war (mid January 2009)

21st January 2009
Press Release: New Zealand Can Prevent Genocide in Northern Sri Lanka

In December 2008 the New York-based Genocide Prevention Project released a report highlighting countries where genocide and other mass atrocities are underway or risk breaking out. Eight countries were put on the highest ‘red alert’ list – Sri Lanka is one of those countries. Wellington Tamil Society is calling on the New Zealand government to help facilitate safe havens for civilians in the northern Vanni region of Sri Lanka. Wellington Tamil Society believes safe havens monitored by the United Nations is the only way to avoid genocide in northern Sri Lanka.

In early 2006 Sri Lankan government launched the current phase of its decades long war against the Tamil people of Sri Lanka. Initially, the current phase of the war was focused in eastern Sri Lanka and then, in mid 2007, the war also commenced in northern Sri Lanka. Due to the aerial bombing and artillery attack that precedes movement of ground forces, there has been a great deal of civilian displacement in northern Sri Lanka (as there previously was in eastern Sri Lanka).

People taking
refuge in jungles to avoid war (mid January
People taking refuge in jungles to avoid war (mid January 2009)

The exact count of the people trapped in the northern Vanni region due to this displacement is unknown, but the estimates range between 230,000 and 490,000. The intense warfare (artillery shelling and aerial bombardments – including the use of cluster bombs) in such a heavily populated area, along with the harsh blockage of humanitarian supplies, has had a devastating effect on the civilian population. On a daily basis people are killed or injured. The whole population is starving and is going without shelter and essential supplies.

If the Tamil population in the northern Vanni region stays within the war zone they face death and starvation (i.e. genocide). If they move into government run concentration camps they face total subjugation (i.e. genocide). Additionally journalists, NGOs and even the UN have been denied access to the civilians. Journalists critical of the Sri Lankan government have been systematically murdered.

It is a well reported fact that for the people in the northernmost Jaffna peninsula, who have been under the control of the Sri Lankan government since 1998, life is essentially like living in an open prison.

This pattern is now repeating in the east, which has more recently come under government control.

Human Rights Watch stated in November 2008 that “The Sri Lankan government says that the ‘liberated’ East is an example of democracy in action and a model for areas recaptured from the LTTE.

But killings and abductions are rife, and there is total impunity for horrific abuses.” This will now be repeated again in the Vanni region, but on an even more devastating scale, that is: on a scale constituting genocide.

Wellington Tamils
praying for peace
Click to enlarge

Wellington Tamils praying for peace

Wellington Tamil Society sees only one solution, which is to establish safe havens for Tamil civilians in northern Sri Lanka, monitored by the United Nations. Tamils believe that New Zealand is ideally placed, as neutral party, to work through international agencies such as the United Nations and/or the Commonwealth to facilitate the safety of civilians in the Vanni region. Wellington Tamil Society is planning a series of events to take this request to key overseas missions, Parliamentarians and, most importantly, to New Zealanders.

Background: Tamils have made New Zealand home since the 1960s. You will find over one thousand Tamil families now living in all parts of New Zealand, where they make a significant contribution to New Zealand’s overall culture and to the economy. Tamils place a high value on education and their presence is likely to be seen across a range of professions, including medicine, accountancy and the IT industry. Most Tamils in New Zealand have extended families living in war torn Sri Lanka and have been adversely affected by the decades old war. Today a thriving Tamil community is now suggesting that New Zealand has an important part to play in bringing peace to Sri Lanka.

Wellington Tamils
praying for peace
Click to enlarge

Wellington Tamils praying for peace


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