Action Alert Archive
Urgent Appeal to the Pope
April 17, 2007
Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse will be meeting the Pope in The Vatican in just 2 days from now, on Wednesday, April 18. The following is a letter template that you may use to appeal to the Pope to help impress on President Rajapakse the pressing needs expressed below - the opening of the A9 Highway and an improved environment for basic human freedoms. Letters may be sent directly to the Pope at email@example.com.
On the eve of your meeting with the President of Sri Lanka Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse, we would like to bring to your attention the current human rights abuses against the Tamil minority in general and with Catholics in particular.
The human rights situation has deteriorated since President Rajapakse took office over a year ago. Many Tamils including parliamentarians, members of the clergy, journalists, civil society leaders and aid workers were assassinated by the security forces. During the recent military operations over 1,600 innocent people have been killed and several thousands were seriously injured or maimed. Also, over a thousand people have disappeared, several women raped and hundreds abducted.
There are continuous reports of aerial bombing and shelling of civilian targets in the East by the Government forces, resulting in around 200,000 people fleeing their homes and living as internally displaced people (IDPs). This is in addition to the nearly 500,000 people who continue to be displaced due to the earlier phases of the conflict and the Tsunami. Due to the much of the conflict taking place in traditionally Tamil areas, most of the IDPs are Tamil civilians. Even the IDPs are harassed by the security forces and their allied paramilitary groups. Already thousands have fled by sea to India and joined around 100,000 already living in Indian refugee camps.
For the last six months, the northern province of Jaffna has been cut off from the rest of the country, after the Government closed the only highway (called A9 highway) that links it to other parts of the country. This is resulting in acute shortages of food and medicine. The most affected are babies, pregnant women, and the elderly. Due to the lack of economic activity and resulting loss of income, several poor families have only one meal a day. There are also reports of malnutrition in these communities. Facing starvation and daily abductions, civilians in the northern province of Jaffna who have tried to flee are prevented from doing so by the security forces. Security forces have instituted a strict permit system, thus effectively holding the innocent civilians as human shields and hostages.
Several international organizations and local relief groups are also prevented by the security forces from taking relief to the affected population. In some instances workers and vehicles of such organizations have come under attack by the security forces.
Some of the issues are:
December 2005: Assassination of a popular Member of Parliament Joseph Pararajasingam, during a midnight mass at the St. Mary's Cathedral Church in Batticaloa. This Church was surrounded by several military check points and in the military's high security zone.
In his Easter address for 2007, Bishop Thomas Soundaranayagam of Jaffna, Sri Lanka, reflected on the horrific conditions the innocent people in North East Sri Lanka are forced to endure:
"In the northern corner of Sri Lanka, we are living in unspeakable human conditions amid shocking imposition of draconian laws, threats of incarceration, and escalating preparations for a renewed battles. In the east more than 150,000 of the most vulnerable people are undergoing immense sufferings uprooted from their ancestral lands and living in camps with shortage of rations, worsening health conditions and with minimum basic facilities."
It is in the face of this urgent humanitarian crisis that we humbly request your help in asking President Rajapakse to open the A9 highway and allow the much needed humanitarian aid to flow unimpeded. President Rajapakse has thus far ignored the outcries of the international community that call upon him to end the human rights abuses and work toward peace. Please help convey the urgency of this issue. Thank you for your assistance.
The mission of People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL) is to end the systemic human rights abuses against the Tamil population in Sri Lanka, and promote equality, rights and justice on the island. PEARL is 501(c)3 non-profit organization led by human rights activists concerned about the situation in Sri Lanka.