The Resolution by the Council of the University of Jaffna, the LTTE press release and our note.
University of Jaffna,
16th November, 1992
University Teachers for Human Rights - Jaffna Branch
The following resolution was passed at the 142nd meeting of the Council of University of Jaffna held on January 18, 1992:-
" It has been brought to the notice of the Council of University of Jaffna that a publication titled " Human rights in Jaffna" has been put out in the name of the University Teachers for Human Rights -Jaffna Branch.
The council wishes to inform the public that this publication is neither a publication of the University of Jaffna nor any of its teachers are associated with this publication.
Vice - Chancellor.
54, Tavistock Place,
London WC1H 9RG
22 -O2 -1993
"The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) deny accusations reported in the London daily press the Guardian and the Independent on Wednesday, 17 February 1993. The allegations of torture and murder of prisoners said to have come from reports published by an organisation called the University of Teachers for Human Rights. It is clear that accusations are baseless and aimed at discrediting the LTTE in the eyes of the international community. The organisation calling itself the University of Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) is not based in Jaffna and we understand that the reports are written in Colombo and in London without any knowledge of the conditions prevailing in the Tamil homeland. Furthermore, in a resolution adopted on 16 January 1992 the council of the University of Jaffna has informed the public that the publications of the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) are neither those of the University of Jaffna nor any of its teachers are associated with the publications. (The copy of the statement is herewith attached).
"Whilst it is true that the LTTE is in control of territory in the North-East, the character of the control exercised by a guerrilla organisation, cannot be equated to the control exercised by the established Sri Lankan government structure.......
...." It is a fact that some Tamil groups are actively engaged along with the Government forces and have been sent to infiltrate the areas within LTTE control and gather intelligence and do sabotage and it has become necessary to apprehend such spies.
"Despite these conditions of hardship, in areas where the LTTE has succeeded in establishing a stable administration, adequate law enforcement machinery has been established. The arrests are made by the police and records of arrests are maintained at police stations. Prisoners are kept in custody in accordance with local and international law until inquiries are completed and at all times treated humanely. At a particular time not more than 200 prisoners were kept in detention pending completion of the investigation of alleged offenses including treason and spying....
"The LTTE wish to say that it will not be deterred by attempts of faceless persons or organisations to tarnish its image but will continue to strive for human rights and the right of self determination of the Tamil people.
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.[Top]
The resolution passed in January 1992, issued to the Colombo press shortly afterwards and evidently reissued ten months later on request, says nothing. No publication with the title "Human rights in Jaffna" was ever issued by us. If the council wanted to distance itself from the UTHR(Jaffna), why did it do so in such vague indecisive terms?
The Vice Chancellor himself was a co-chairman of the national UTHR which was founded in 1988 and continued to be closely associated with the UTHR(Jaffna).The first three reports were issued during the time of the IPKF presence and they documented human rights violations by the IPKF, other militant groups and the LTTE. There were posters in university campuses in the South praising the vice -chancellor of Jaffna for his courageouus stand in being associated with these reports. Almost half the staff of the university filled in membership forms. Following the assassination of Dr.Rajani Thiranagama and the LTTE taking control of Jaffna, the willingness to publicly associate with the UTHR(J) sharply declined and indeed became dangerous.
The war started in June 199O, and one member who returned from the United States after his short spell at Harvey Mudd College, California was asked to stay in Colombo by his colleagues.
Reports 4,5 and Special Reports 1,2 & 3 were released during this time.
The last outwardly active member of UTHR(J) fled Jaffna in September 199O narrowly evading the LTTE's attempt to abduct him.
Higher authorities from the University of Jaffna who visited Colombo informed the University Grants Commission that the two members of the UTHR(J) will face danger from the LTTE.
Accordingly when the university resumed sessions in November 199O these two staff members and a Muslim staff member were placed on special leave.
On instructions from the university the salaries of these two staff members were paid by the University Grants Commission in Colombo up to April 1991.
Since the threat faced by these members was real even in the South, they had to keep a low profile. But they, with others, continue to collect information regarding human rights violations by all forces, including the LTTE . These are published and distributed in the name of the UTHR(J). Although leading members of the UTHR(J) were forced to leave Jaffna, they had not voluntarily done so. They have visited the East and parts of the North outside the Jaffna peninsula to gather information. From their contacts in Jaffna they continue to receive information which is published in the reports. The quality and integrity are for others to judge.
In May 1991 the vice chancellor,Jaffna, without explanation informed these two staff members that they have been vacated from their positions. One member whose sabbatical (an earned entitlement) was then due was refused his request to take his earned leave. Later another letter was sent to one member stating that his vacation of post was back dated to July 199O. All these unprecedented steps were taken, without explanation, against the background of the vice chancellor repeatedly saying that these two academics could not come to Jaffna and promising that every thing will be sorted out as soon as the situation changes.
In the meantime the UGC and the vice chancellor, Jaffna expressed their wish to find an amicable solution accepting that the situation is very abnormal. We do not want to go into detail on these matters as it would place an awkward burden on the university authorities. Nor can we believe that an institution conscious of its obligations as a university and functioning in a healthy environment, would abandon very basic administrative norms to deal with academic staff whose opinions are far from being a threat to civilisation.
In the meantime the trade unions University Teachers Association, Jaffna, and the University Science Teachers Association, Jaffna, also came out with statements ostensibly dissociating themselves from the UTHR(J) . Their statements merely stated in effect that the UTHR(J) has nothing to do with them. This is infact trivially true. The UTHR(J) never claimed that it was part of the UTA or the USTA, Jaffna. Merely dissociating themselves from the UTHR(J) without challenging what its reports are saying reflects the real situation in which the university staff unions, and the university as a whole, are functioning.
The decision of vacation of post against members of the UTHR(J) is far from settled. The extra- ordinary situation in which these decisions were taken obliged us to handle this issue carefully. Although we feel that the general authoritarian approach of the university administration has also played a role in this decision, we would still like the university system, including the UGC, to handle it creatively and solve the problem. If the higher educational institutions can not function with a sense of responsibility respecting proper procedures reflecting basic principles, then the future looks bleak indeed.
Reports 1 to 7 and Special
Reports 1 to 3 were already in existence at the time the decision to
vacate the two members was taken. The council may, if it so wishes, make
its resolution technically correct by passing a fresh resolution informing the
public that none of its teachers is openly associated with any reports
of the UTHR(J) other than the above. [Top]
As for the baselessness of allegations made in our reports, the LTTE would have done well to address similar, and by the nature of the bodies making them, far more damaging allegations made in the Amnesty International Report of February 1993 and the Article XIX document of August 1992. Both these were in existence and had enjoyed considerable circulation at the time the LTTE statement was made. Any human rights organisation worth its salt would consult a variety of sources and have good reasons for making such serious charges. We repeat ours.
We learnt from a number of sources that Thunukkai camp when in existence had about 3000 detainees. There were several other camps holding between 30 to 200 detainees. The public in Jaffna was well aware that a designated LTTE camp where inquiries could be made had a list of about 2000 detainees in September 1990.The list did not include all the detainees. Particularly those involved in political work were not included. Our sources have been former detainees, escaped and released, LTTE sympathisers uncomfortable about the atmosphere of lies, and others who have now left the LTTE. As for the LTTE 's treatment of detainees and disarmed members of other groups, there are several former members of the LTTE in Europe and North- America who are willing to testify.
The LTTE's arguments against the legitimacy of the UTHR(J) are two- fold. The first is that unlike its office personnel in London, others writing from Colombo or London are not supposed to have any knowledge of conditions prevailing in the `Tamil homeland'- presumably meaning the part of the North under its rule. It is a clear admission that the LTTE is running a very closed and suffocating set up without coming to terms with the power of the human spirit, and the natural urge of conscientious citizens to dissent from its totalitarian regime. It is also an admission that an organisation like the UTHR(J) will not be allowed to exist in Jaffna.
The second is based on the legality of our status in the university which we have already dealt with above. That the vice chancellor, Jaffna, has to reissue a council statement after 10 months,which is then circulated from the London address above, says much.
authors of the LTTE press release have drawn the wrong inference from
the council statement - which does not deal with `publications' of the UTHR(J),
but with just one publication which does not exist. This contrasts with their
care in reproducing misnomers (University of Teachers ...) and can hardly be
other than deliberate. [Top]
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