Liberal Internationalism: Amnesty USA Issues Appeal To Get Letters To Obama on Sri Lanka

Thinking through how to deal with violence in a less-powerful society that is at the whim of larger, more powerful societies is hard.  I know I should sign this but take into account the competing agendas of not supporting liberal imperialism ever again and ameliorating humanitarian disasters.  Take a look and see what you think and sign AFTER TAILORING the message.  Here is what Amnesty USA is asking people to send to President Obama - it's focused on what most of us seemed to agree was the priority - stopping the humanitarian crisis.  Below that is my edited version for your consideration.

I appreciate your comments on May 13th highlighting the gravity of the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka. Your voice is a welcome addition to the global outcry over the wanton disregard for human rights in Sri Lanka. Now the important step is to follow-up your comments with concrete steps to end the violence and bloodshed in Sri Lanka.

These calls follow reports of at least 35 people being killed today in an attack on a hospital in a designated "Safe Zone." The shelling comes less than 24 hours after at least 49 people died and more than 50 were injured in an attack on the same hospital.

Within the last few days, the situation in Sri Lanka has worsened, with more than 400 people -- including more than 100 children -- killed over the weekend. This brings the total estimated casualty figure to more than 7,000 killed and 13,000 injured since January. At the moment there are an estimated 50,000 civilians still trapped in the area between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the Tamil Tigers. Satellite imagery obtained by Amnesty International provides further evidence about attacks on civilian sites.

I applaud you for condemning the use of heavy artillery and indiscriminate firing by the Sri Lankan military as well as the tactic of the Tamil Tigers of endangering civilians.

However the "bloodbath" in Sri Lanka -- as the UN has described it -- continues and more action needs be done.

Please raise the following three concerns:

1)  Ensure that food and medical supplies are able to enter the war zone and affected areas. In addition, the Sri Lankan government should allow UN and other international monitors to assess the situation. Journalists should be give free access to report on the conflict.

2)  Contact Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso to speak about the atrocities in Sri Lanka.  Japan, which is one of Sri Lanka's largest aid donors and holds two thirds of the island's foreign debt, needs to do more to leverage its influence to ameliorate the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka.

3)  Establish a commission of inquiry so that those who commit war crimes can be made accountable.

Thank you for your consideration for the above concerns and I look forward to your continued support for human rights in Sri Lanka.

Your voice of concern can ensure that the 50,000 civilians caught in the cross-fire are safely evacuated.

Here is my draft version.  Your comments are welcome - I would like to send this tomorrow.

I appreciate your comments on May 13th highlighting the gravity of the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka, though I had wished that the United States would have taken sensitive, responsible, and effective steps to encourage dialogue and prevent this situation from arriving at this point.  Now the important step is to follow-up your comments with concrete steps to end the violence and bloodshed in Sri Lanka and take further steps to examine the role of past and present global and regional powers in fostering this situation and similar situations around the world, including in Pakistan.  A global conversation is needed on the role of more powerful and wealthier countries in the world and its relationship to suffering in poorer and less powerful countries.  However, the imminent short-term priority is to stop the humanitarian crisis without exacerbating the issues that created it. 

At the moment there are an estimated 50,000 civilians still trapped in the area between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the Tamil Tigers. Satellite imagery obtained by Amnesty International provides further evidence about attacks on civilian sites.

I applaud you for condemning the use of heavy artillery and indiscriminate firing by the Sri Lankan military as well as the tactic of the Tamil Tigers of endangering civilians.  However, as with the situation in Gaza that is ongoing, we should recognize that power is distributed disproportionately among the two sides and that while some of the tactics of the LTTE are abhorrent, the politics, social aspects, and history of the conflict are far more complicated than simply 'blaming' one side or the other or arguing for 'balance' by blaming or not blaming both sides.  At minimum, we should examine the effects of U.S. policy in labeling the LTTE a terrorist organisation and what role that has had in leading to this crisis, as well as other aspects of U.S. policy towards Sri Lanka over the past 60 years.

Please raise the following three concerns:

1)  Ensure that food and medical supplies are able to enter the war zone and affected areas. In addition, the Sri Lankan government should allow UN and other international monitors to assess the situation. Journalists should be give free access to report on the conflict.

2)  Contact Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso to speak about the atrocities in Sri Lanka.  Japan, which is one of Sri Lanka's largest aid donors and holds two thirds of the island's foreign debt, needs to do more to leverage its influence to ameliorate the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka.  However, please encourage him to be clear that the holding of debt does not give the right of one state to dictate policy to another or for multilateral institutions like the IMF or the World Bank to do so.  This non-violent intervention is being requested because of the severity of the crisis and to the extent that external powers have some responsibility in facilitating the crisis whether by of Sri Lanka or those who are connected to it through the diaspora

3)  Play a constructive role in facilitating a reconcilation process so that the people of Sri Lanka - whether they form a unified country, two countries, or some arrangement in between - can begin to heal their lives and their society (ies).  Please note that this needs to be done sensitively and with consideration for local issues, context, and history - simply making general points about human rights or prosecuting those who have committed war crimes has symbolic value but will accomplish little in the long run for the people who live on the island of Sri Lanka or those who are connected to it through the diaspora.
 

4) Please advocate strongly for the rights of stateless individuals and other refugees, and ensure that those refugees from Sri Lanka, whether in the U.S., India, Canada, or elsewhere, are treated humanely and decently.  This could be part of an overall process of reviewing U.S. immigration policies through a  consideration of the actual needs of all people in the United States or who visit the United States, regardless of their citizenship status.

Thank you for your consideration for the above concerns and I look forward to your continued support for human beings in Sri Lanka.  Your one voice of concern can have enormous impact on countless people if it is used properly, despite that we regret that it has become necessary.

 

 

Image: 
Summary: 
Amnesty International issues an action alert to President Obama. Dr. Anonymous redrafts their e-mail and asks for your feedback.

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Comments

Dear Mr. Obama, Your

Dear Mr. Obama,

Your mentioning of the LTTE's role in jailing civilians within a cauldron of death before detailing the Government's role was an admirable political move--gaining you some currency with the chattering class of SL.

The next step for you is build on this goodwill by ensuring, via not leveraging the debt held by Japan or holding up IMF loans, that the Sri-Lankan government does not squeeze civilian bank accounts with even higher commodity prices than they already endure or drive up inflation after the SL government is forced to print money to pay for their military, which has never been prioritized below any other expenditure.

Instead of redeploying the clearly failed embargo on Cuba, focus on your power as the figurehead of American empire.  Mahinda Rajapakse, after all, is impressed by power and the people who hold it--and would, by my estimation, take a personal call from POTUS as justifiable impetus to pressure his generals to be a bit more creative in ending the conflict.

Mahinda Rajapakse, after

Mahinda Rajapakse, after all, is impressed by power and the people who hold it--and would, by my estimation, take a personal call from POTUS as justifiable impetus to pressure his generals to be a bit more creative in ending the conflict.

Or dismiss it as an imperialist intervention. They really don't seem to give a rat's ass what anyone else thinks.

Or dismiss it as an

Or dismiss it as an imperialist intervention. They really don't seem to give a rat's ass what anyone else thinks.

I think they do.  They're just horrendous at public relations for various reasons that one can speculate about.

Now that the SLA has declared

Now that the SLA has declared that they have captured all territory.  Technically the war has stopped.  So they should cease any millitary operations and allow international humanitarian agencies, media etc. free access to these areas and provide aid to the civilians who have managed to survive.

Now that the SLA has

Now that the SLA has declared that they have captured all territory.  Technically the war has stopped.  So they should cease any millitary operations and allow international humanitarian agencies, media etc. free access to these areas and provide aid to the civilians who have managed to survive.

The war may have stopped politically, but it would be surprising to me if it didn't continue on the ground in individual (refugee lives) and group ways (collective punishment).  So let us make them to do it, given that they have demonstrated neither commitment to human beings nor political savvy that would justify a conclusion that they'll do it on their own.  Of course, I'm frequently wrong :)

Unfortunately there is still

Unfortunately there is still firing and shelling according to reports.  But now they have declared victory they should ceasefire.

I got this from a US tamil group which has useful information to add:

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2009/05/prweb2418144.htm

Most of the other petitions are a bit muddled.

I did extract this useful information from one and it concerned me:

"Please stop the appointment of the new Competent Authority, Maj Gen. G A Chandrasiri officer in charge of the resettlement of Tamil civilians from the Vanni, now held in captivity under the custody of the SL government within barbed –wire fenced internment camps.  Maj. General Chandrasiri was the commander of the Sri Lankan armed forces in Jaffna on whose watch unprecedented human right violations including hundreds of forced disappearances and extra judicial killings took place between the periods of 2006 – 2008. We are pleased that assistant secretary general for humanitarian affairs is leaving to inspect these camps and ask in earnest that these camps be run by independent entities under the supervision of the UN."

Also a demand for the release and provision of care and safety for government doctors who released many reports to the world over the internet, and have just left the safe zone and are in detention.

 

i agree with vivek. we should

i agree with vivek. we should dismiss it as an imperialist intervention. no one cares about what others think.

Thhe Tamils were crushed and

Thhe Tamils were crushed and now they are crying. That's what you get for supporting a terrorist organisation.

Tamils have been slapped

Tamils have been slapped silly in Sri Lanka. Can't say I feel sorry for them.

You don't feel bad when

You don't feel bad when civilians are put in camps?  Commnunal logic combined with statements like that is offensive regardless of the group being discussed.

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