Jan. 30th, 2009

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For Immediate Release

29 January 2009

Diaspora Organizations Demand GOSL and LTTE Act Immediately to Prevent Humanitarian Catastrophe:
Safety of Civilians in Mullaitivu is Priority

We, the signatories of this statement, strongly condemn both the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for their callous disregard for the safety and welfare of civilians trapped in the crossfire in Mullaitivu. We demand the GOSL and the LTTE immediately prioritise the safety of these quarter million civilians to
prevent the humanitarian catastrophe that has begun to unfold in northern Sri Lanka.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in a statement on 28 January 2009 alerts the unfolding of a major humanitarian crisis:

“Hundreds of people have been killed and scores of wounded are overwhelming understaffed and ill-equipped medical facilities … People are being caught in the crossfire, hospitals and ambulances have been hit by shelling and several aid workers have been injured while evacuating the wounded.”

We also raise our serious concern about the safety and welfare of the civilian population of the Vanni who have been repeatedly displaced in recent months and have suffered untold hardship fleeing aerial bombardment and artillery shelling with inadequate access to food, shelter and medicine.

The LTTE is responsible for forcing the civilian population to retreat with them into parts of Mullaitivu under its control. Here the Red Cross and United Nations estimate that around 250,000 civilians are currently trapped in and around the direct line of the GOSL military offensive and the firing line of the LTTE. We have received reports that any attempt to leave this area carries the risk of death at the hands of the LTTE who are using these civilians as human shields.

However, the “safe zone” established by the GOSL is inadequate. The civilians who managed to escape to the safe zone face extreme risk and have become victims of indiscriminate fire. The GOSL claims that such bombardment is in response to LTTE artillery firing from near the safe zones; this does not justify the GOSL’s actions and such claims reveal the GOSL’s determination to pursue its war agenda at any cost. Furthermore, the GOSL should take immediate steps to show that it is concerned about
the fate of Tamil civilians, including the rights of those who flee Mullaitivu.

Recognising the grave dangers to civilians, the Bishop of Jaffna, Rt. Rev. Dr. Thomas Savundaranayagam in a letter dated 25 Jan 2009 to the President urging larger safe zones, has made the following plea:

“We are also urgently requesting the Tamil Tigers not to station themselves among the people in the safety zone and fire their
artillery-shells and rockets at the Army. This will only increase more and more the death of civilians thus endangering the safety of the people. I insist that both parties must observe the safety zone strictly.”

The LTTE’s use of civilians as human shields and deadly efforts to prevent civilians fleeing the war zone are unacceptable and clearly violate the laws of war. Despite this, it is the Sri Lankan state’s duty to ensure the safety and protection of all of its citizens. Civilian protection must take priority over military objectives. The GOSL should immediately prioritize addressing the escalating number of civilian deaths, the inability of injured civilians to reach areas of safety and medical care, and the sheer fear and terror experienced by the trapped civilian population.

The international community, as evident from their statements on the humanitarian situation, is aware of the mounting humanitarian catastrophe. There needs to be further concerted international pressure to prevail upon the GOSL and the LTTE to ensure the safety of the civilian population.

We therefore appeal to the United Nations and the UN Agencies, governments engaged with the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka including the State Government of Tamil Nadu, and international humanitarian organizations to:

• pressure the GOSL to create additional and more effective safe zones;
• demand that the GOSL and the LTTE establish corridors of safety with associated cessation of hostilities in areas necessary to allow for the safe passage of civilians to secure areas;
• demand that international organizations such as UNHCR and ICRC are given full access to provide adequate care for the civilian population;
• demand that neither the armed forces nor armed groups violate the rights of the displaced civilians arriving in government controlled areas;
• demand that both the GOSL and the LTTE ensure the Geneva Conventions are adhered to in the treatment of civilians; as well as any LTTE cadres that surrender or are captured by security forces and members of the security forces captured by the LTTE, including the right to life and humane treatment of the prisoners of war.

Signed

1. Sri Lanka Democracy Forum (SLDF)
2. International Network of Sri Lankan Diaspora (INSD)
3. Committee for Democracy and Justice, UK
4. Thenee - Tamil Website (web link: www.thenee.com / www.theneeweb.de / www.thenee.eu )
5. Uthayam Newspaper, Australia
6. Parai Magazine, Norway
7. Uyirnilal - Tamil Political Literary Magazine, France
8. South Asia Solidarity Group, UK
9. Free Media, Norway
10. South Asia Solidarity Initiative, USA

to sign onto statement
Contact E-mail: contact@lankademocracy.org

(reposted from [livejournal.com profile] brownstargirl)
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  • 17:32 Keep Guantanamo open--To lock up George Bush and Dick Cheney in ( tinyurl.com/beoj2u ) #

(posted with loudtwitter)
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Êtes-vous avec Obama ou Limbaugh ?

Hétu reports that after every single House Republican voted against Obama's stimulus plan (which is described by Greg Palast, to sum up, as Obama using Noami Klein's idea of Shock Doctrine to hammer through progressive policies), now a progressive group, Americans United for Change is taking three senators to task: Will our Senator, XX, side with Rush Limbaugh too? [... ] or will he reject the partisanship and failed economic policies of the past?

Limbaugh in recent days seems to have remained the sole remaining prominent conservative leader standing. If you've watched the Daily Show recently (or Fox News directly!), you've seen that the right-wing attack on Republican attack on Obama has not let up one second, with Rush Limbaugh's "I hope he fails" on the O'Reilly Factor one the most crass demonstrations of partisanship out there, although for once, someone is honest out there. (!!!!) It's going to be quite interesting to see if Obama (through surrogates, obviously) will actually keep taking on Rush Limbaugh... I'm really interested in seeing how Fox News will fare in this environment. Will its viewers wake up and eventually realize that Obama is the elected president of the U.S., and not some foreign enemy?

It also seems that MSNBC has become to Obama what Fox was to Bush during his administration. It's good to see that Democrats and their allies are finally playing hardball, but is this really the only kind of democracy that can work in the U.S.?

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