Keeping human rights violations in Sri Lanka on the agenda

I’ve been on the advisory council… of the British-based Sri Lanka Campaign… for a number of years.

I was interviewed by 278 Magazine about the group and raising awareness of the ongoing abuses in Sri Lanka:

How long have you been on the advisory board for SLC?

2-3 years

What initially attracted you to joining the board?

I saw the work online and also had colleagues that were involved in SLC activities. I found that after the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009 had come to an end people seemed blasé about the situation in Sri Lanka but the tensions I the country were far from over. Human rights continue to be violated.

What are the general responsibilities associated with being a member on the board for SLC?

There are no direct obligatory responsibilities with being on the board. As a journalist I regularly communicate about the issue in the press, tweet about it and help promote the issues faced by Sri Lankan civilians.

In brief, describe why Sri Lanka as a country is, and has for so long, experienced such unrest and requires long-term humanitarian aid?

Sri Lankan civilians, particularly the Tamils, are an oppressed people. There is discrimination on so many levels, including job discrimination, education discrimination, no rights in general. There are two basic groups within Sri Lanka, Sinhalese and Tamils. A Sinhalese government rules the country and so the Tamils in general often experience amplified discrimination and oppression. The civil war between these two groups has lasted on and off for about 30 years. It ended about 4 years ago. Despite rhetoric from the government there has been no accountability for the atrocities committed during the period of the war. The Tamils formed a resistance group in an attempt to overhaul the dictatorship of the Sinhalese government, however during the height of the Civil War in 2009 led to their defeat along with estimates of over 80 000 civilian casualties. Although more civilised now, episodes of torture, violence and abuse still occur, and they are basically living in a lawless country.

As far as your awareness goes, describe the day-to-day struggles that Sri Lankan civilians face now and in the past? Men? Women?

Regular occurrences of kidnapping by government officials

Deprived health services

Lesser access to jobs

Limited access to homes

Men and women can both experience sexual abuse

Constant economic struggles

Limited access to education

General livelihood difficulties

Describe the current political climate in Sri Lanka?

Regular elections do exist in Sri Lanka, which provides the illusion of democratic legitimacy. Electoral breaches are completely ignored. There are clear cases of nepotism within the governmental structure. There are consistent threats against any criticism towards the government and it’s constituents resulting in a complete lack of freedom of speech.

At the current time, what are the primary Sri Lankan issues that SLC are tackling?

The SLC campaign has been pushing for four years. They ultimately would like to see accountability for the war crimes committed and not just see it swept under the carpet. There are countless abuses documented by the UN, Amnesty and other support groups. They would like to see reconciliation between the Tamils and Sinhalese so that it is unlikely that another civil war will arise in the future. This would ultimately be achieved by established countries criticising and putting pressure on, the SL government; which is what SLC is pushing for. Australia is, unfortunately one of the least proactive countries towards this cause. The Sri Lankan government still refuses to comply with human rights issues.

For people wanting to contribute and/or learn more about the cause in which ways do you suggest they get involved?

Jump online and visit the SLC website. Amnesty Human Rights Watch also offers lots of up-to-date info on the situation. There are often petitions online that can be signed to help support small progress towards creating positive change within the country. Chat to people to raise awareness about the situation.