Source : Malaysiakini

K Pragalath | May 28, 09 5:28pm


Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

More than 100 people who attended a forum on the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka last night were left disappointed with the absence of the Sri Lankan High Commissioner Dr DD Ranasinghe.

The envoy had previously said that he would attend the forum held at the Bar Counil auditorium.

The participant had wanted to question Ranasinghe on his government’s alleged war crimes against the innocent civilians who were fleeing the war zone in the north of the island state.

Sri Lanka was in a war with the Tamil Tigers and last week declared victory with the death of LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran.

The participants were also eagerly awaiting to confront the envoy after he had labelled the protesters who had gathered at an anti-Sri Lanka rally in Batu Caves on Sunday as “jokers”.

bar forum on sri lanka 27052009 05“We are the jokers who’d love to chat with him,” said DAP’s Klang parliamentarian Charles Santiago.

“We resolve to call for a public apology from the Sri Lankan high commissioner,” he added.

He was among the four speakers who spoke at the forum entitled ‘Conflict and Humanitarian Crisis – What Next?’

The other speakers were S Pasupathi from the World Tamil Relief Fund – which organised the Sunday rally, A Kanesalingam of Tamil Relief Fund and lawyer R Sivarasa, who is also PKR’s Subang MP.

Hosted by the Malaysian Bar, the forum was meant to identify ways to assist the Tamil minority community in Sri Lanka.

Malaysian policy blasted

In his talk, Santiago identified the failure of the United Nations that key to the current humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka.

“The UN had access to satellite photos to show that genocide was taking place, but they did nothing.

“UN has to play a role. In Rwanda they sent a peacekeeping force. Why not in Sri Lanka?” he asked

He also blasted the Malaysian government for its non-interference police in Sri Lanka.

He said the government practiced double standards in this policy as it had previously openly supported for the UN intervention in Bosnia in the early 1990s.

He slammed the government’s silence on the Sri Lankan issue, calling it an extension of the government’s policy to marginalise Indians abroad as well.

bar forum on sri lanka 27052009 01Sivarasa meanwhile remarked that “there has been failure of politics in Sri Lanka”.

“A struggle defined by race will fail,” he stressed.

“We must find support among the the people of Sri Lanka, regardless of race and religion. Sri Lanka has to be a functioning democracy,” he added.

He also said that the global Tamil diaspora had a key role to play in rebuilding Sri Lanka.

Promises undelivered

Tamil Relief Fund’s Kanesalingam, who was the first speaker, outlined the history of Sri Lanka, stressing that the nation first became a unitary state only after the British had colonised the island.

Prior to that, he said the Portuguese and Dutch had administered the state as three provinces which allowed the Tamils to have their own administration.

bar forum on sri lanka 27052009 02Pasupathi touched on the peaceful situation that he had witnessed in the northern part of the island when he last visited it in 2002.

“Things were very peaceful. The people were going on with their lives. They had their own administration,” he said, adding it was so different now after the Sri Lankan army onslaught to the LTTE controlled area.

He also said that the previous Sri Lankan government had failed to deliver their promises for peace and equality.

The question-and-answer session that followed saw some participants asking pointed questions and making strong recommendations on how to help the affected Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Tamil Foundation representative and Malaysia Indru editor Jiwi Kathiah called for a mass protest to be organised to pressure the Malaysian government to act.

Where are the others?

He was also frustrated by the absence of main political leaders in the country to raise the issue.

“Where are Anwar, Kit Siang and Zaid Ibrahim?” he asked.

Sivarasa responded by stating that PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim had made several statements against the atrocities but it was not highlighted by the press.

bar forum on sri lanka 27052009 03Santiago also revealed that the Penang DAP has started funds for the victims in Sri Lanka.

He however admitted that there was a need to enlighten the Chinese and Malays over the issue.

Other members of the audience had other ideas as well. One said the matter should be brought to the attention of US president Barack Obama.

Another, Jerit’s Y Kohila, suggested for the formation of a joint committee against humanitarian atrocities.