Another humanitarian tragedy that fails to hit the prime time
While the war on Gaza preoccupies the attention of international media, human rights organisations international community and public at large another humanitarian tragedy of equal gravity unfolds largely unnoticed in the northern part of Sri Lanka.
The battle front is closing-in from all directions for over 400, 000 Tamil civilians in the North-Western part of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government has imposed a crippling economic, food, medical & fuel blockade for almost a year. The NGOs including various functions of UN such as WFP, UNICEF and UNHCR were ordered to leave the region by the Sri Lankan government in September 2008. In addition to the international isolation and the blockade of essential items in violation of humanitarian law, the indiscriminate shelling and air raids including the use of Russian made cluster-munitions based fuel air explosives (ODAB-500 PM) aim to achieve just one objective i.e drive the population out. The pattern is similar to what the East of Sri Lanka, another part of traditional Tamil homeland faced roughly 2 years back.
Under the guise of military action against the LTTE and liberation from terrorist, the people are up rooted from their homes and herded into refugee camps administrated by the military. Later high security zones are declared all across the so called liberated areas of Tamil homeland preventing the resettlement of the refugees. As a result, the social structure and continuity are broken apart and the demography is engineered.
The story does not just repeat from East of Sri Lanka to the North over 2 years, it is the history of Tamils under the tyranny of the majority ever since Ceylon got independence from Britain in 1948.
In an open letter to Shivshankar Menon, Amnesty International has asked him to pay special attention to the severe difficulties facing the people caught in the middle of the fighting. The letter points to government forces closing in on Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) bases in the north-eastern part of the island.
The letter also calls on him to discuss the general deterioration of human rights in the country, even in areas not directly affected by the conflict.
More than a quarter of a million people, mostly Tamils, face immense hardship and are running out of safe space in the face of intensified fighting between the two sides.