Statement by Adayaalam Centre for Policy Research (ACPR) for UPR Info Pre-Session (Geneva)
October 10, 2017
Delivered by: Dharsha Jegatheeswaran, Research Director of ACPR
*Check against delivery*
*Read full statement here.
Dear Member States of the UN Human Rights Council and civil society colleagues,
I speak today as the Research Director of the Adayaalam Centre for Policy Research based in Jaffna, and am here to speak on certain aspects of our joint submission with like-minded civil society actors. ACPR is a not-for-profit think-tank operational since August 2016 working on public policy issues on the island with a special focus on issues affecting the Tamil polity and the North-East of the island.
Our joint submission highlighted six major human rights issues affecting the North-East: (1) militarization; (2) land acquisition and displacement; (3) enforced disappearances; (4) draconian counter-terrorism legislation; (5) lack of accountability; and (6) repression of freedom of expression. My statement today will focus on militarization and repression of freedom of expression, while my colleagues will address the other issues in our submission.
A key commitment made in the Human Rights Council resolutions and a critical component of the conversation around transitional justice is meaningful security sector reform. Despite calls by numerous international bodies and repeated calls by Tamil elected representatives and civil society representatives, the Sri Lankan government has yet to undertake a comprehensive process to demilitarise areas in the North-East and put an end to military involvement in civilian activities which were both commitments under HRC Resolutions 30/1 and 34/1, and the latter of which was included in recommendations by Canada and the United States during the Second Cycle of the UPR on Sri Lanka.
The North-East of Sri Lanka continues to remain heavily militarised disproportionate to the rest of the country. For example, in Mullaitivu District, which is the most war-affected region in the country where the final phase of the armed conflict was fought, at least 25% of Sri Lanka’s army is stationed here, in an area populated by only 0.6% of the entire Sri Lankan population. Even discounting the navy and air force which both have substantive troops stationed here, there is a ratio of one soldier to every two civilians.
The military’s presence in Tamil majority areas is problematic for a number of reasons, but an issue I would like to focus on today in the limited time provided, is the military’s involvement in civilian activities. The military is involved in civilian activities in the North-East in three main ways: (1) military-operated businesses; (2) the Civil Security Department; and (3) military facilitation of private investment into the Vanni region.
The primary areas in which the military operates businesses in the North and East are agriculture, animal husbandry, tourism and small-time commerce. In 2014 the Sri Lankan army created the Directorate of Agriculture which is responsible for running army farms. The number of farms operated by the Sri Lankan Army Directorate has grown from six in 2015, to thirteen in 2017. The military also operates a number of hotels, resorts and war tourism sites in these areas.
The epitome of the continued intrusion of the military into civilian spaces and everyday lives of the Tamils in the Vanni can be seen in the work of the Civil Security Department (‘CSD’) through which the military employs over 3000 people in the Vanni, most of whom are former LTTE cadres and/or from women-headed households. They are primarily employed as workers on farms or as pre-school teachers. Earlier this year, the CSD introduced mandatory military training for all CSD farm employees, requiring them to wear military uniforms at public events and in public spaces. The CSD has also enabled an increasing military presence in pre-schools in this region, as military personnel often frequent awards and sports ceremonies, and pre-school children at CSD schools are given CSD uniforms. At the surface level it may seem that the CSD is providing valuable livelihood opportunities to war-affected impoverished communities, but the real effect has been the creation of economic dependence on the military. This economic dependence has lead to the explicit and implicit suppression of civic and political engagement, the repression of local economic growth, the destruction of community identity and cohesiveness, and further marginalization of Tamil women.
Finally, with respect to military intrusion into civilian spaces, the military appears to play a significant role both as a solicitor of private capital investment to the area and as a ‘human resources’ manager, often coordinating hiring and recruitment processes. For example, in Mullaitivu District, over the last few years, the military has coordinated the establishment and human resources for multiple global companies setting up factories in the area, such as Australian-based Global Design Tex.
Read the full statement with citations here.