NGO briefing seeks paths to tighten grip on Sri Lanka

Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO), at a briefing held at the UN building in Geneva on the sidelines of the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), called for more pressure on Sri Lanka on the human rights issue.

India-based NGO known as ‘Pasumai Thaazagam’ (Green Motherland), in collaboration with France-based Tamil Centre for Human Rights – TCHR held an NGO briefing on Sri Lanka at the UN building.

The meeting mainly focused on the UNHRC resolution (A/HRC/30/1) on Sri Lanka and the report by the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights.

S. V. Kirubaharan of TCHR moderated the briefing. The panelists were UN Independent Expert Prof Alfred de ZAYAS; former member UN Working Group on Disappearances Prof Osman EL HAJJE; Human Rights activist and International Programme Director of TCHR Deirdre McConnell, TNA member of Parliament S. Shritharan and former MLA and representative of Pasumai Thaazagam, A Ganesh Kumar.

During his opening speech, Kirubaharan said that one has to consider deeply why Sri Lanka has been on the agenda over the last few years of the UN Human Rights Council. Prof Zayas explained how the right to self-determination of the Tamils in Sri Lanka has been hijacked under the pretext of terrorism.

As former member of the UN Working Group on Disappearances Prof Osman EL HAJJE said, the victims have to work seriously to put pressure on Sri Lanka to get the right outcome. As a member of UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) in the past, he witnessed the large volume of cases submitted to the working group.

Deirdre McConnell in her speech highlighted the lack of progress in transitional justice, including the alarming continuation of detention, torture and sexual violence, harassment of human rights defenders and the effects of land grabbing and militarisation of the North and East, where Sri Lankan armed forces engage in commercial and tourist activities depriving the people of their land and livelihoods.

As an elected Member of Parliament with the highest vote polled in the North and East, Sritharan said that every Tamil whether on the ground or among the diaspora, rejects the ‘home grown’ solution to the political problem of the Tamils. Therefore, a political solution has to be found with the help of the international community.

A Ganesh Kumar thanked the participants of the briefing and requested every activist to follow the UN mechanisms in the right manner, to open up paths towards a solution which must be found through the UN procedures.

The meeting concluded with an interactive dialogue between the participants and those on the panel. (Colombo Gazette)