Anuradha Mittal, founder and executive director of the Oakland Institute said research and documentation could play a key role in the Tamil people’s struggle against the land grab in the North and East.
Anuradha was speaking at a discussion at the Jaffna Press Club yesterday on the Endless War: The Destroyed Land, Life, and Identity of the Tamils in Sri Lanka report released by the Oakland Institute.
Andy Currier, Oakland Institute Researcher, Justice CV Wigneswaran, Parliamentarian and Former Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council , Thavaththiru Velan Swamigal, P2P People Uprising Movement, Nilanthan, Political Analyst also participated in this discussion.
“It is very important to collect evidence in connection with land grabbing. Evidence can greatly assist internationally in the fight against land grabbing. The lack of documentation of land grabbing in the North and East is seen as a shortcoming. Therefore, the Tamil people should focus on documentation ”, Anuradha emphasised.
She pointed out the need to build a mass movement against land grabbing and that the media could play an important role by investigating the violation of land rights.
Anuradha further said the following:
A new resolution on SL is expected this week at the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Zero Draft Resolution presented by the Core-Group ignored the assessment made by the Human Rights Commissioner Bachelet who accused Sri Lanka of reneging on promises to ensure justice. Endless War, the fourth Oakland Institute report on post war Sri Lanka, brings forth shocking evidence on the extent of the continued persecution of the minority Tamil population in the North and East of the country, and warns how 12 years after the brutal end of the civil war, SL is headed to become an ethnocratic state.
The report offers details on how the government-led effort to geographically fragment the North and East is accompanied by a strategy to systematically erase Tamil culture and history. Under the guise of “development projects,” Sinhalese colonization is growing within Tamil areas with the intent to change demographics. Through irrigation schemes, military settlements, archaeological reservations, wildlife sanctuaries, forest reserves and special economic zones – land-grabbing in the North and East has worsened since the regime change two years ago. Several government departments – including the Mahaweli Authority, Archaeological Department, Forest Department, and Wildlife Department, are being used to deploy this strategy.
Our new reporyt, also provides an update on the extent of land grabbing and the impact of widespread militarization on the population in the North and the East. The military occupation remains extreme since our 2015 report, The Long Shadow of War – with roughly one military member for every six civilians.
The military continues to occupy vast amounts of land. Running 5-star resorts, cafes, construction companies, cultivating the land it occupies – the heavy presence of the army severely impacts the lives and livelihoods of the local population. Meanwhile, thousands of Tamils, including over 23,000 people in Jaffna alone, remain displaced 12 years after the end of the war, awaiting resettlement with no end in sight.
Rajapaksa government’s use of the military and various departments to expropriate the lands of Tamil and Muslim populations is geared at expanding the supremacy and domination of the Sinhalese across Sri Lanka and should garner the immediate attention of the UNHRC.
High Commissioner Bachelet’s January 2021 report on Sri Lanka, stressed the need to not only ensure accountability for past human rights violations, but also called on the international community to stop and prevent possible future violence and conflict. Endless War, exposes the reality of the destruction of land, life, and identity of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka and presents a prima facie evidence for collective international action to arrest the worsening human rights situation.
Land grabbing and associated human rights abuses have led to tension and insecurity among the Tamil and Muslim minority populations. The international community has a responsibility to take appropriate action to ensure that these conditions do not escalate the conflict. There is an immediate obligation on the part of the UN and international community to innovate a safety mechanism to monitor, protect, and promote the human rights of ethnic Tamil and Muslim communities. This includes the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on land rights for Sri Lanka and establishment of Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (OHCHR) field presence in the country to monitor and record ongoing human rights violations in the North and East.
The Commissioner’s call for sanctions against top generals and others accused of war crimes and for an International Criminal Court investigation into Sri Lanka’s Tamil separatist conflict are essential to upholding justice and human rights. The UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka must include these recommendations and emphasize on the immediate cessation of land grabbing and planned settlements, while ensuring immediate demilitarization of the North and East. Failure to do so will be once again a mockery of a international human rights regime.
Reconciliation, human rights, and peace is not possible in Sri Lanka unless the situation is handled in accordance with international law, international justice mechanisms, and morality.