Peace rally urges U.S. to stop Tamil genocide in Sri Lanka
Georgia Tamils and their supporters held a peace rally in front of the CNN Center in Atlanta on Saturday, February 7, to protest against the alleged genocide of Tamils by the Sri Lankan government, and to draw the attention of the public and the press to happenings in the island country.
Nearly 200 Tamil Americans, GATS (Greater Atlanta Tamil Sangam) and PEARL (People for Equality and Relief in Lanka) members gathered in front of the CNN building, rallying and holding placards, flags, and pictures highlighting the scope of the ongoing “genocide” and demanding U.S. action. The banners and signs demanded an end to the war in Sri Lanka, asked that international media and monitoring missions be allowed to report freely on the humanitarian crisis in the conflict zones, and also that international and local NGOs be permitted to provide emergency relief to internally displaced civilians.
The rally was held between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Representatives collected signatures to send petitions to congressmen and senators outlining their position. The petitions also asked for sanctions and economic pressure on Sri Lanka to bring about an immediate ceasefire in Sri Lanka. Tamil supporters at the rally said the silence of the international community had galvanized the Tamil diaspora across the world to organize protests.
A press release from Tamils Against Genocide says the United Nations reported that Sri Lanka has the highest number of state-enforced disappearances in the world, for 2006 and 2007. In 2007, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont introduced language in the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill (HR. 2764) to impose restrictions in military aid to Sri Lanka. This language was signed into law last December. Senator Patrick Leahy said “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.”
Since the Sri Lankan government withdrew from the ceasefire agreement this past January, there has been a sharp escalation in the conflict. The press statement said the Sri Lankan government launched a military offensive against the area controlled by the rebels, using indiscriminate aerial bombings and artillery shelling against the entire civilian population. In September, the government ordered the evacuation of all international NGOs in the region, and proceeded with an intensive military campaign against Tamil areas in the north, the press release added. According to Amnesty International, over 415,000 Tamil refugees have been forced to flee the military onslaught.
The press release further said no food convoys had been allowed into the region since January 16, and the WFP (World Food Programme) had reported that the entire region was experiencing a food crisis.
Since foreign journalists have also been forbidden from entering the region, international attention to the conditions of refugees caught in the conflict is minimal. The government had expelled UN agencies and the International Red Cross, barred journalists, the statement from Tamils Against Genocide said.
The press release also alleged that Tamil refugees fleeing into government-controlled areas were being brutally assaulted. Citing a report published in the British newspaper The Guardian, it said young men and women from the refugee camps were being forcibly conscripted.
For more information, check www.TamilsAgainstGenocide.org and www.pearlaction.org.
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