Racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia Intervention

By: Deirdre McConnell
Interfaith International
Geneva, Switzerland

UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and
Protection of Human Rights
Fifty-eighth session

Agenda item 5(a) Racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia

Intervention by Deirdre McConnell

Mr Chairperson,

Interfaith International is happy to note that the Sub Commission has prevention of discrimination as one of its agenda items, especially at a crucial time of this august forum.

In today’s world various types of discrimination have paved the way towards Civil war, Ethnic Conflict, Armed conflict, and so on. Many of these conflicts, fought in exercise of the Right to self-determination, have as their ultimate goal, a durable solution to the political problems which are based on discrimination and xenophobia. In the past, this august forum has heard much about the discriminatory application of law and practise of the Sri Lanka government against the Tamil people, therefore we do not need to go into much detail.

Since Independence, Sinhala dominated governments brought much systematic discriminative legislation against Tamil people.

As soon as Sinhala leaders obtained power in 1948, the Tamils working on the tea plantations were disfranchised and their citizenship was denied. A one language Act (Sinhala only) was forcefully introduced by the Sinhala politicians and nine (1956, 1958, 1961, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1981, 1982 and 1983) state sponsored anti-Tamil pogroms destroyed the economy and the cultural heritage of the Tamil people. In the meantime, the Tamil politicians of the day protested - against these denials of political rights, Sinhala colonisation in the Tamil regions and destruction of Tamils properties, demanding justice, by non-violent methods, for nearly thirty-five years.

However these struggles in and outside of the parliament were continuously suppressed by the Sri Lankan security forces made up of 95% Singhalese. In 1972, discrimination in the education system (standardisation) where Tamil students had to gain more marks than the Singhalese students for University entrance, gave birth to the Tamils’ militancy in the island.

During this period, in the 1977 general elections, the Tamil people in the North East overwhelmingly voted to exercise their right to self-determination. As the Singhala dominated government ignored this democratic mandate and continued to implement their racist policies, an armed conflict was born in the island in 1983.

After a long struggle and massive civilian casualties, a defacto government covering 70% of the Tamil hereditary land has been in existence, that is, for the last 15 years. Since 2002, this has been well acknowledged by many foreign dignitaries and diplomats who have visited the NorthEast.

The Tsunami natural disaster which struck mostly the Tamils areas, caused severe casualties to the Tamil people. Again the people in the North East received discriminatory treatment by the Sri Lankan government. The aid which was sent by the international community was never distributed equally and even the P-TOMS Post-Tsunami agreement for reconstruction of the Tsunami affected areas was blocked by the Sinhala judges in the South.

Go to page:    1   Next >>

Please Click here to login / register to post your comments.