Summit platform for rapists and war criminals-Women’s Views

Following article is published in – Women’s Views on News. Which includes interview of Tamil Activist Isai Priya

Rachel Salmon on Nov 12, 2013

Summit platform for rapists and war criminals

Protest against David Cameron’s attendance at Sri Lanka summit, says Tamil activist. This weekend Sri Lanka will host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). Leaders of one third of the world’s population will attend. Among them, the UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron.

The Commonwealth’s decision to hold its summit in Sri Lanka is highly controversial. According to the Telegraph, Sri Lanka has 5,676 “outstanding cases” of disappearances – more than any other country apart from Iraq – the Sri Lankan Prevention of Terrorism Act allows anyone to be jailed without charge for up to 18 months and there have been reports that security forces are still raping and torturing “suspects”.

In September, Navi Pillay, UN high commissioner for human rights, sharply criticised the Sri Lankan regime following a visit to the country, saying that it ‘is showing signs of heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction’.

On 15 November there will a protest outside Downing Street against the killing, rape and torture of thousands of their people by the current government lead by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and at the Commonwealth’s decision to hold this summit there. Members of Sri Lanka’s 300,000 strong Tamil minority who live in Britain will be among the protesters there.

The conflict between the Tamils and Sri Lanka’s majority Sinhala population has been going on for centuries, but intensified in the last 30 years. In 2008 the Sri Lankan government started bombing parts of north and eastern Sri Lanka which were controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and where the Tamil population is concentrated. The Sri Lankan government urged Tamil civilians to move from where the bombing was to a designated ‘no fire zone’ and assured them they would be safe there. But as last week’s Channel 4 documentary No Fire Zone verified, once they got there government forces bombarded them from the air, killing and injuring thousands.

Since then the Sri Lankan government has banned Tamils from meeting, pulled down their temples, assassinated their leaders and hundreds of Tamil women have been raped. Last year WVoN reported that British tour operators were advertising holidays in Sri Lanka that were commercially benefiting human rights abusers, and campaigners were urging holiday-makers to think again about where they were going.

“How can you give a world platform to someone who has committed so many war crimes and crimes against humanity?” Isai Priya of Tamil Solidarity, one of the protest organisers, asked.

Speaking to WVoN, she said, “No answers have been given and the situation has not been resolved. “Even now people are going through as much as they did [in 2008 and 2009] so is it right to give them the privilege of having the Commonwealth meeting?” Isai Priya continued.

“When the LTTE were there the women were treated with respect, because a lot of women were in the LTTE themselves. The LTTE enforced that women were treated OK, so if any women was ill treated they would be arrested straight away.

“Since the LTTE have gone domestic violence has increased, sexual violence against children has increased. “At first, if a woman was raped she was blamed for it. Because so many people have been affected, people now realise it is not their fault,” she added.

The controversy surrounding the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting has brought the plight of the Sri Lankan Tamils to the world’s attention. But Isai Priya said that Friday’s protest must be the start, not the end of the campaign to protect the Tamils of Sri Lanka. She is concerned that the violence will start up again after the summit is over if we fail to keep up the pressure on the Sri Lankan government.

“The government is keeping everything under control before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit. They don’t want to damage their image. “But there were elections in the North recently and a Tamil political party was elected.

Obviously the Sri Lankan government is angry about this. We haven’t seen their true reaction yet, but once the summit is over this is going to come out. “The people have to hope that there is a way out. We must give them our support so they know there are people they can turn to,” she said.

The demonstration takes place outside Downing Street from 4.00pm – 7.00pm on 15 November. Please sign this petition. It calls for an independent war crimes investigation; for the army to withdraw from all Tamil areas and stop the disappearances; for the immediate shut down of militarised detention camps; for countries to stop arming the Sri Lankan regime; for democratic rights for all; for support independent trade unions; and for the right to self-determination.

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