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US resolution not against people of Sri Lanka“ Suren Surendiran

2014 Feb 05

The Global Tamil Forum (GTF), one of the leading Tamil Diaspora organizations in the UK, has taken up a major initiative to lobby for a US resolution, which is expected to be taken up by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva in March.

GTF Spokesperson, Suren Surendiran, says the US does not work on the Tamil Disapora's pressure and adds, "The US resolutions are not against the people of Sri Lanka. When calling for an international investigation of whether war crimes and crimes against humanity took place, it is directly targeting the regime."

Q: How many countries, according to you and other Diaspora groups, will vote against Sri Lanka this time, would it be more than last time?

A: I am not a magician. I am afraid to predict which countries will vote and whether it will be more than the last time. However, what I know is countries are now aware that the situation on the ground is getting from bad to worse. They know that the Government of Sri Lanka is systematically destroying our claim to our land, religion and culture to an extent of being extinct. It's no surprise that a former Supreme Court Judge and present Chief Minister of the newly-elected Northern Provincial Council (NPC) calls the current ground reality as 'equivalent to genocide.'
Q: Are you lobbying against Sri Lanka and asking countries to vote in favour of the US resolution?

A: Yes, of course. Father S.J. Emmanuel, GTF's President, is at present in Australia, travelling and meeting several enablers and decision-makers, to convince that Australia must co-sponsor any such forthcoming resolution, just as she did in the past two sessions. Father Emmanuel, several others and I, will be travelling to various cities during the coming weeks, including Geneva, to create awareness at the capitals of the voting countries, where such decisions are made.
Q: Are all the Tamil Diaspora groups under different organizations working together on lobbying in favour of the US resolution against Sri Lanka?

A: Many Diaspora organizations and many organizations from Sri Lanka, including the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and other Tamil and non-Tamil organizations are working independently and some collectively, in support of a potential US resolution.
Q: We hear that you are spending millions of dollars to get other countries to back the US resolution. Is that true and what is the budget?

A: Paying millions for votes may be a Rajapaksa regime trait, but international politics doesn't work that way. Even if it did, don't you think the Government of Sri Lanka would have much more capability and capacity for such an approach?
Q: There is speculation that the US is taking a stance against Sri Lanka because of the Tamil Diaspora. How will you defend this statement?

A: If the US Foreign Policy could be influenced by the Tamil Diaspora, do you think we would have lobbied them for the texts of the past two resolutions to be worded as they were? The US action against Sri Lanka is due to the values upon which the US has been founded upon. It is also because of the growing frustration within the international community about the authoritarian direction that President Rajapaksa is driving Sri Lanka towards and his regime's ignorant belief that with time breaches of international laws will be forgotten.
Q: What do you expect in the US-backed resolution this time?

A: We expect that it calls for an international independent inquiry without any ambiguity against both sides to the conflict. It expresses mechanisms to arrest the current deteriorating human rights situation, not just for Tamils in Sri Lanka but also for all communities including followers of minority religions. When referring to sustainable reconciliation, we hope that the resolution will ensure expressing the importance and the relevance of a long-lasting equitable political solution that should satisfy distinct communities in Sri Lanka.
Q: Do you think, after the speculated resolution is passed on Sri Lanka, will Sri Lanka heed to the pressure of the Western powers?

A: Like I have said many times in the past, the resolutions are not against the people of Sri Lanka. It is the regime that interprets them as such and wants the people to believe that these resolutions are against the people themselves. When calling for an international investigation on whether war crimes and crimes against humanity took place, it is being directly targeting the regime that allowed and instructed the military to conduct these crimes and the military itself that physically carried out these orders in breach of international laws and Geneva Conventions and not the people of Sri Lanka.

Q: If the Sri Lankan Government 'ignores' the pressure of the West, what would be the repercussions?
A: International laws are there to be implemented by many means, if and when they are breached. There are several ways that the international community can enforce resolutions passed at various international forums, such as the UNHRC.

Q: We also hear that various Tamil Diaspora organizations work on separate agendas and collect funds. Is that true?
A: Without funds, no actions can be taken or be effective. However, what the Government of Sri Lanka wants everyone to believe is that somehow that it is illegal for Tamils and others to collect money to create awareness of its (government's) authoritarian behaviour and the state of human rights in the island.
Q: Are the organizations united?
A: We are united in seeking justice and a long-term political solution for our people and we will remain united until those aspirations are fulfilled.

Q: Ambassador Stephen J. Rapp said during a recent visit to the island that there won't be harsher resolutions because if the US resolution is too tough, many countries will not vote against the resolution. Can we expect a soft resolution or a tough resolution?

A: Like I said in my answer to your first question, I am neither a magician nor Ambassador Stephen Rapp, to know the details of any forthcoming resolution. However, all what we believe is that the Sri Lankan regime and its military committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. Nevertheless, we as an organization still call for any international investigation to be conducted against both sides to the conflict. The regime and the military are still carrying on with impunity committing further crimes against our people, culture, religion and land, acts that are described as genocidal. The regime as a whole is accused by international bodies as being authoritarian. Justice system is deteriorating to the extent of being a lawless country. Corruption and family nepotism is at the peak in the history of Sri Lanka. Disappearances, sexual violence, State-sponsored intimidation on freedom of speech, religious intolerance are all on the rise to alarming levels.

Q: Even the US and the UK are alleged to have committed war crimes in Afghanistan and in Iraq. When they have their home-grown atrocities, how can they point the finger at Sri Lanka of war crimes? Isn't it hypocrisy?

A: The Global Tamil Forum has a clear set of defined deliverables: a) to create international awareness to rights abuses against our people in the island of Sri Lanka, to seek justice for our people for the assault on their human dignity and the alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against our people; b) to work with the various political and non-political stakeholders in the island and outside and the international community, particularly India, to achieve a sustainable and equitable political solution that recognizes our people's aspirations which have been established through various democratic mandates over the past years; c) to empower our people, particularly living in the homeland of the North and East of the island, who are war-affected, by providing socio-economic assistance; d) to achieve all these above mentioned actions, to agree between the several Tamil movements a set of principles that we can all work from, generally referred to as the Common Framework Agreement; e) when we have such a terms of reference and a mountain to climb with these clear set of deliverables, we cannot and won't pretend to be an organization that has the remit for seeking general international justice or solutions.
Q: Will the UN ever probe war crime allegations against the US and the UK and will the Tamil Diaspora voice in favour that too?
A: With all due respect, I believe I have made the Global Tamil Forum's remit and terms of reference absolutely clear in the previous answer.

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