Sri Lanka: Nowhere Safe

The war in Sri Lanka has escalated this past weekend but one thing about the 26 year conflict has not changed; Tamil civilians bear the brunt of the attacks, injuries, and deaths. 70,000 civilians have been killed. The Red Cross reports that hundreds of civilians, including children, have been killed or wounded in fighting since last week.
Vanni area in Northern Sri Lanka, including Puthikudiyiruppu and many Internally Displaced People’s camps.

Vanni area in Northern Sri Lanka, including Puthikudiyiruppu and many Internally Displaced People’s camps.

“The origins of the conflict arise from decades of the Sinhalese majority’s systematic discrimination against the Tamil minority, and its denial of the Tamils’ meaningful participation in the political process. The Sri Lankan army is almost exclusively Sinhalese. Successive Sinhalese-dominated governments have failed to effectively address these longstanding injustices.” Senator Patrick Leahy.

Civilians are sitting ducks, with 250,000 Tamil civilians trapped in the Vanni area conflict zone.  The Sri Lankan government called a 48 hour safe passageway last Friday to allow civilians to escape; only 236 emerged from the conflict zone.

“People are on the move because they are looking for a safe place. But there is no safe place,” ICRC spokeswoman Carla Haddad

Those still trapped in the conflict zone and displaced from their homes are reliant on humanitarian aid that is waiting on the edge of the conflict zone.

The civilian toll rose with strikes on February 1st, 2nd, and 3rd on the hospital in Puthikudiyiruppu hitting the pediatric unit. Twelve civilians have been killed and 30 wounded due to artillery strikes over the past two days. The government forces and the Tamil Tiger rebels have denied responsibility for the assault.

Bits of news from inside the conflict zone come from the Red Cross and healthcare professionals; journalists are barred from entry. Sixteen journalists have been killed since 1992 and 3 imprisoned in Sri Lanka since the beginning of the conflict. Lasantha Wickrematunga, editor-in-chief of The Sunday Leader, predicted his own death:

“It is well known that I was on two occasions brutally assaulted, while on another my house was sprayed with machine-gun fire. Despite the government’s sanctimonious assurances, there was never a serious police inquiry into the perpetrators of these attacks, and the attackers were never apprehended,” he wrote in the column titled, “And Then They Came for Me.”

Civilians must be protected under international humanitarian law, be they women, children, journalists or healthcare workers. Humanitarian aid must reach civilians trapped in conflict zones and the international community should be allowed access to assess the damages.

“We are deeply troubled by comments by the Sri Lankan Government threatening to expel foreign diplomats, aid agencies, and journalists. Reporters have already experienced physical attacks and intimidation, including the latest brazen assassination of renowned journalist Lasantha Wickrematunga. Together, we urge the Government of Sri Lanka to protect all of its citizens and conduct swift, full, and credible investigations into attacks on journalists and other civilians.” Senator John Kerry and Senator Richard Luger.

Written by Ally Krupar, Edited by Zahir Janmohamed

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14 thoughts on “Sri Lanka: Nowhere Safe

  1. It is true that Tamils trapped in the war zone are the ones who suffere lot. LTTE should be held responsible for that, because, government gave 48 hours ceasefire for civilians to escape to safer areas, but LTTE did not allow them to leave. Why? because as usual LTTE keeps the civilians as human shilds. If LTTE realy fighting for the Tamils, how they can keep innocent civilians for their protection. Does anybody think that just because innocent civilians get injured or even killed, the government should stop the attack against LTTE. Then what will happen. LTTE will use those civilians against the government forces, so now where is the civilians.
    The other thing is that the facts in this article is not correct. the article says that " Sinhalese denied meaningful participation of Tamil politics" What are the facts to say so? Who is Luxman Kadirgamer, Who is Admiral Sundaram, Who is Neelam Thiruchelwam???? They are Politician, Sri Lankan Navy Commander and a Journalist respectively. So why this article gives wrong meaning to the world. Is the writer of this article against Sri Lankans or is he supporter of terrorism?

  2. It is true that Tamils trapped in the war zone are the ones who suffere lot. LTTE should be held responsible for that, because, government gave 48 hours ceasefire for civilians to escape to safer areas, but LTTE did not allow them to leave. Why? because as usual LTTE keeps the civilians as human shilds. If LTTE realy fighting for the Tamils, how they can keep innocent civilians for their protection. Does anybody think that just because innocent civilians get injured or even killed, the government should stop the attack against LTTE. Then what will happen. LTTE will use those civilians against the government forces, so now where is the civilians.
    The other thing is that the facts in this article is not correct. the article says that ” Sinhalese denied meaningful participation of Tamil politics” What are the facts to say so? Who is Luxman Kadirgamer, Who is Admiral Sundaram, Who is Neelam Thiruchelwam???? They are Politician, Sri Lankan Navy Commander and a Journalist respectively. So why this article gives wrong meaning to the world. Is the writer of this article against Sri Lankans or is he supporter of terrorism?

  3. Amnesty International in no way approves of any tactic that intentionally harms civilians. Any use of human shields or terrorism by any party in a conflict is subject to international law.

    The quote you refer to: "Sinhalese majority’s systematic discrimination against the Tamil minority, and its denial of the Tamils’ meaningful participation in the political process" is by Senator Leahy. His comments are his own. For more information about documented political repression, check amnestyusa.org. I would recommend looking through the annual reports on Sri Lanka.

  4. Amnesty International in no way approves of any tactic that intentionally harms civilians. Any use of human shields or terrorism by any party in a conflict is subject to international law.

    The quote you refer to: “Sinhalese majority’s systematic discrimination against the Tamil minority, and its denial of the Tamils’ meaningful participation in the political process” is by Senator Leahy. His comments are his own. For more information about documented political repression, check amnestyusa.org. I would recommend looking through the annual reports on Sri Lanka.

  5. In replying to Selvans comment: Luxman Kadirgamer, Admiral Sundaram and Neelam Thiruchelwam all three were appointees by the Sinhalese government. They were not elected politicians by the Tamils for the Tamils.

  6. In replying to Selvans comment: Luxman Kadirgamer, Admiral Sundaram and Neelam Thiruchelwam all three were appointees by the Sinhalese government. They were not elected politicians by the Tamils for the Tamils.

  7. So, I have a Question for Selvan…..

    If the Lanka Govt is 'Doing the Right Thing?"
    Then why is it that they do not "Allow CNN or BBC or Any News Network into the Country.
    If They have Nothing to "Hide"….What are they "Trying" to Keep the Foreign journalists from Finding out?
    Like the Native Americans were herded into reservations….the Tamils in Sri Lanka are herded into Rundown Refugee Camps run by the Sinhalese Govt.
    How long did it take the Native Americans to break-free??
    Have You Lived in a Refugee Camp before?
    I haven't….but I'd rather die fighting for my Freedom than be caged up like an Animal.

    Just like in North Korea…..If they let the foreign journalists in, they bring them to these Camps & it All Seems Orchestrated & dramatized in a certain location where Everything seems set "As Planned".
    I've seen what the Lanka Govt tv Reports.

    You "Seem" to have "All" the Answers….pls
    I'd Love to know Why Anderson Cooper/ P.Bergen CNN's Terrorism Expert who Interviewed Bin Laden,,,,, is not Allowed into Sri Lanka to Report News as It is…."The True News' as You Claim it is happening??

  8. So, I have a Question for Selvan…..

    If the Lanka Govt is ‘Doing the Right Thing?”
    Then why is it that they do not “Allow CNN or BBC or Any News Network into the Country.
    If They have Nothing to “Hide”….What are they “Trying” to Keep the Foreign journalists from Finding out?
    Like the Native Americans were herded into reservations….the Tamils in Sri Lanka are herded into Rundown Refugee Camps run by the Sinhalese Govt.
    How long did it take the Native Americans to break-free??
    Have You Lived in a Refugee Camp before?
    I haven’t….but I’d rather die fighting for my Freedom than be caged up like an Animal.

    Just like in North Korea…..If they let the foreign journalists in, they bring them to these Camps & it All Seems Orchestrated & dramatized in a certain location where Everything seems set “As Planned”.
    I’ve seen what the Lanka Govt tv Reports.

    You “Seem” to have “All” the Answers….pls
    I’d Love to know Why Anderson Cooper/ P.Bergen CNN’s Terrorism Expert who Interviewed Bin Laden,,,,, is not Allowed into Sri Lanka to Report News as It is….”The True News’ as You Claim it is happening??

  9. I've a simple question for Saffran,
    Please tell me whether you believe that all those media are balanced? Do you think that they will give the correct picture to the world. I think I can clear your doubts with answer to this.

  10. I’ve a simple question for Saffran,
    Please tell me whether you believe that all those media are balanced? Do you think that they will give the correct picture to the world. I think I can clear your doubts with answer to this.