Tamils to Prez: Tamils Need a Quick Constitutional Solution, Evacuation from Vanni Won't Help

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Tamils for Obama, in a letter sent to the president and secretary of state, explained that an evacuation of Tamils from the Vanni war zone offers no cure to the suffering there. In their opinion, nothing except a quick constitutional solution will end the immediate crisis. As the Colombo government has never acted in good faith on this matter, they say that an outsider--like the U.S. -- must force the solution.

Tamils for Obama wrote to President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton appealing for immediate U.S. action to halt the human catastrophe in the Vanni area of Northern Sri Lanka. This group of Tamil Americans maintains that evacuating civilians from the Vanni war zone is a false way out of the tragedy, and that only a constitutional resolution backed up by the force of an outsider (like the U.S.) will be sufficient to end the disaster there.

The letter stated that "evacuating Tamil civilians from the war zone in Vanni, Sri Lanka, is not the humanitarian good deed many take it for." Tamils for Obama gives two reasons that the evacuation of the refugees is not a good idea.

The first reason is that for most of these Tamil civilians, these Tamil Americans say, "Vanni is their home. If they are forced to leave, it is likely that they will never be allowed to return. One persistent behavior of the Colombo government has been to force Tamils from their homes and then to resettle the communities with Singhalese." They add that "If the U.S. (or any other country) helps to remove Tamils from Vanni, they will be helping Colombo in its campaign of ethnic cleansing."

The letter's second reason for opposing the evacuation is that "the Tamil refugees will probably be moved into what the Colombo government calls welfare camps and which Human Rights Watch says are "internment centers masquerading as 'welfare villages.'" The Tamil group adds in their letter to the president and the secretary of state that "The atrocities that Singhalese forces and paramilitary groups have carried on in existing camps--rapes, assaults, removal of children who are never seen again, imprisonment--are well documented, and so we won't describe them here, but we don't want the U.S. to assist in further abuses."

The Tamil group quotes Senator Patrick Leahy, who recently (February 03, 2009) said in the senate that "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."

They explain that they see Senator Leahy's point as "systematic oppression and government terrorism by Sri Lanka pre-dated the civil war by decades. Armed resistance to oppression and terrorism was probably inevitable."

Leahy's statement, Tamils for Obama points out, indicates that a military victory by the Colombo government will not end the fighting. The letter goes on "If the government tries to resolve the war by crushing the resistance it is almost certain that both oppression by the government and the resulting armed resistance will continue.

"Without a constitutional solution that allows 'the Tamils' meaningful participation in the political process' the war can only go on. Defeating the Tamil Tigers will only drive the political résistance into underground armed resistance." There is no alternative, the letter says, to this civil war continuing "other than a legal and permanent devolution of authority to the Tamil minority."

In the letter, Tamil group notes that "The Sri Lankan government could have achieved a constitutional resolution at any time in the past 60 years, but refused to do this. They chose instead to subjugate and uproot the Tamils, and these policies eventually led to the civil war."

The letter suggests two ways in which outsiders, such as the U.S. or U.N., might end the Sri Lankan civil war, and both have modern precedents. The first "is to have a U.N referendum for Tamils. The precedent for this is the U.N.-sponsored referendum which allowed East Timorese voters to choose between independence and incorporation into Indonesia."

The second is for an outside power, "such as the U.S., to force the two warring sides to sit down and reach a solution. The precedent for this is when the Clinton administration forced Yugoslavia and its rebellious provinces to meet in Dayton, Ohio and to reach an agreement."

The letter urges the U.S. to "Bring representatives of both Tamils and the Sri Lankan government to Dayton (or some other place) without delay and stay until a solution is reached."

Tamils for Obama suggests in the letter that they think "Ambassador Richard Holbrooke is well suited to guide the process." They also suggest that "Some useful and knowledgeable advisors might include former ambassador Teresita Schaffer, Congressmen Frank Pallone and Brad Sherman, Senator Patrick Leahy, and former president Bill Clinton, who are all familiar with Sri Lanka's problems."

They note that any solution must be imposed "without delay," because the fighting is continuing and civilians in the hundreds are being killed every day. Tamils for Obama adds that "Reaching a constitutional solution would bring the very large advantage of ending the civil war and the civilian misery that accompanies it. "

The Tamil American group adds hopefully that "even an invitation to a peace conference considering a constitutional solution that is sponsored by the U.S. might immediately slow or stop the catastrophe in Sri Lanka."

To read the complete letter in English, go to: http://www.tamilsforobama.com/pressrelease/Letter_to_Prez_5.html

To read the Tamil translation, go to: http://www.tamilsforobama.com/pressrelease/Press_Releases_tamil.html
Tamils are an ethnic group living mainly in the northeast of Sri Lanka and southern India. They are a minority population in Sri Lanka, and are currently bearing the brunt of a civil war they regard as genocide. One third of the Tamil population has fled the island and formed a substantial diaspora overseas. Tamils for Obama is comprised of Tamils who have settled in the U.S. or who were born in the U.S.

To contact the group, call at (617) 765- 4394 and speak to, or leave a message for, the Communication Director, Tamils for Obama.


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