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Friends of Sri Lanka in the U.S.
Friends of Sri Lanka in the U.S.

Congressional Human Rights Caucus Meeting on Sri Lanka
on March 2, 1999


March 2, 1999
I would like to thank the Congressional Human Rights Caucus for holding this hearing on human rights developments in Sri Lanka.

My interest in Sri Lanka stems from the constituents of Sri Lankan origin that live in my district in New Jersey. As a result of my contact with the Sri Lankan community in the U.S., and my interest in Sri Lanka, I, along with 10 of my colleagues, established in October 1998, the Congressional Caucus on Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan Americans.

I have been carefully following Sri Lanka's political and economic developments, and I find that Sri Lanka holds high standards of democratic traditions and a liberal economic system. Interestingly, Sri Lanka also has a remarkable literacy rate of 90%.

The U.S. and Sri Lanka have a history of excellent bilateral relations, and currently, U.S.-Sri Lanka relations are strong. I hope that these ties will grow even stronger and that more Congressional visits between the U.S. and Sri Lanka take place.

When Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948 from the British, it was considered an international model of democracy, in terms of its high health and education standards. In 1983, an ethnic civil war began between the Sinhalese majority, and a select group of Tamils who formed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE). This armed conflict has caused over 55,000 deaths, and I am disturbed by the terrorist campaign of the LTTE.

Full Story
Clinton administration and US congress slam LTTE

from Aziz Haniffa in Washington, D.C.
March 3 - The Clinton Administration and members of Congress on Tuesday slammed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for its continuing wanton violence against innocent civilians and conscription of child soldiers in its war against the Sri Lankan Security Forces.

George Pickart, a senior Administration official in the State Department's South Asia Bureau, said, "While we have seen improvements in the Government's record, regrettably, we have seen no signs that the LTTE wants to improve its human rights record or abandon terrorism."

Testifying at a hearing convened by the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, Pickart noted, "The LTTE apparently took no prisoners on the battlefield again," in 1998, "and systematically intimidated and undermined the civil administration of Jaffna."

He said 1998, "brought additional confirmation that the LTTE uses children as front line troops."

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FOSUS Report on the House Human Rights Caucus Hearing on Sri Lanka on March 2, 1999
As you are probably aware FOSUS took an active interest in the hearing on Sri Lanka held by the Human Rights (HR) Caucus of the House of Representatives of the United States Congress on Tuesday, March 2 afternoon. As is well known, after the end of the cold war human rights have emerged as a major factor in US foreign policy in general, and foreign assistance in particular. This is especially true for countries such as Sri Lanka that are not viewed as countries of great strategic or economic importance to the US. For such countries human rights play a critical role in deciding US policy. The depth of interest in the subject that prevails in the House can be gauged by the fact that the HR caucus has over 180 members.

For Sri Lanka the hearings were important for two principal reasons. First, as the statement of the Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington (see attachment) notes, groups sympathetic to the LTTE had lobbied for the hearings. The intention would have been to damage the image of the country and also paint the LTTE as a respectable organization that should be legitimized in the US when its ban comes up for review next year.

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A hearing by the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in the US engineered by pro-LTTE lobbyists with the intention of trying to embarrass the Sri Lankan Government has become a miserable flop. A Washington datelined news report said, while the two members of the House of Representativse who are the co-chairs of the human rights caucus and had called the hearing held on Tuesday did not even attend the meeting. Congressmen, representatives of the State Department and representatives of NGOs, including Amnesty International, who did attend the hearing, appreciated the forward movement made by Sri Lanka in the human rights arena and condemned the LTTE for its continuing wanton violence against innocent civilians and conscription of child soldiers. Representative Frank Pallone, Democrat, said he was "very disturbed by the terrorist campaign of the LTTE". Pallone, who counts among his constituents a fair number of Sri Lankan Americans, both Tamils and Sinhalese, addressing the caucus said "the U.S. and Canada have designated the LTTE as a foreign terrorist organization. This upcoming October, we expect Congress and the Administration to again designate the LTTE as a terrorist group." He said, "recent reports on action taken by the present Sri Lankan Government to improve the human rights situation in the country should be taken note of," and enumerated specific efforts taken by the Kumaratunga administration to alleviate specific human rights issues.

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Human Rights


Sri Lanka

A Factual Perspective

Compiled by

Friends of Sri Lanka in the US (FOSUS)

P.O. Box 2479

Kensington, MD 20891-2479

March 01, 1999

Human Rights

The Shared Goals of US and Sri Lanka

  • Both nations are democracies with long traditions of governments elected by the people.
  • Both countries share a constitutionally enshrined commitment to fundamental rights.
  • The Sri Lankan judiciary, like its counterpart in the US, is an independent branch of government. The Supreme Court acts as the final arbiter on human rights enshrined in the constitution.
  • Both countries are firmly committed to the promotion and protection of human rights globally.

What Sri Lanka Has Done to Protect Human Rights

  • Established an independent Human Rights Commission that investigates all complaints of human rights violations.
  • Has an independent media that is quick to highlight infringements of human rights.
  • The armed forces are now trained and instructed to respect the human rights of all civilians, and those of armed combatants under the Geneva Convention.
  • Punitive action taken against members of the security forces for violating human rights: in the case of rape and killing of Krishanthy (18) and three others in Jaffna, the accused were sentenced to death in a trial-at bar.
  • The alleged Chemmani mass grave in Jaffna – the independent Human Rights Commission and the judiciary are proceeding with a full and transparent investigation.
  • Based on the findings of the "Disappearance Commissions" over 100 security personnel have been indicted for human rights violations. The cases are proceeding
  • Embilipitiya case: Six security personnel and one school principal were recently convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for the disappearance of 24 school children in 1989.

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Last modified: 10-March-99