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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Amnesty Int’l petitions for Sri Lanka

In response to thousands of disappearance cases in Sri Lanka over 24 years, the University’s Amnesty International chapter is holding a petition drive to encourage investigation from the Sri Lankan government.

By sending the petition, which will be on the first floor of the Union until Thursday, Amnesty members are hoping to bring a quicker response from a government who’s nation has had thousands of killings, rapes and abuse cases along with the disappearances.

“We’re saying, ‘Make it go a little faster here.’ We’re trying to expedite the process, and let them know it’s a grave injustice being done to millions of people,” president Kathryn Tucker said.

About 15,000 disappearance cases have been reported since 1980. Cases occurred in within two major sources of conflict: the confrontation of Tamil separatist groups and government forces in northern Sri Lanka, and the confrontation between the People’s Liberation Front and government forces in the south.

There have been no reported convictions or prosecutions for an overwhelming number of the cases, many of which have been against the Tamils and Sinhales.

Sri Lanka formed a commitment to correct these abuses in 1994 when the People’s Alliance Party, lead by president Chadrika Kumaratunga, came to power. Whether or not Kumaratunga has done anything to address the disappearances is questionable.

“It sounds like she could be doing a lot more,” Tucker said. “These are her countrymen—-the Tamils and the Sinhales.”

The United Nations and Norway are assisting with the situation by trying to facilitate peace talks between the LTTE and the Tamils.

On February 23, 2002 the Sri Lankan government signed a cease-fire agreement that offered renewed hope for improvement with the human rights situation. Amnesty International is aware of 22 killings and 16 attempted killings, abductions and other abuses that have occurred since then against Tamils.

The fate of some people who have been abducted is still unknown. Amnesty International is concerned that these abuses are part of a campaign by the LTTE against the Tamils. Amnesty treasurer Jeanette Beal said rape is one of the main abuses happening.

“Rape is a big thing that most countries in a time of war don’t acknowledge, but it happens to women, men and children and that is a violation of human rights,” Beal said.

The LTTE and Tamils made commitments that demonstrated intent to right the situation in March of 2003. Political assassinations in the country that have happened since then could undermine any improvements that have been made.

Amnesty International believes there has been a lack of credible investigation into these killings, and no measures to protect those at risk.

The poor investigation might be based on a lack of concern from other countries. According to Beal, Americans could help by paying more attention to the Sri Lanka crisis.

“There’s so much turmoil in that area and a lack of concern from the international community,” Beal said. “If we want to improve the quality of life for the world, let’s do it. Let’s move beyond what the president thinks is the popular catchphrase of the day.”

Amnesty International is mainly concerned with the human rights aspect of these disappearances and abuses. This is the first time the University’s chapter has taken action for the situation, but Amnesty International across the nation and in other countries have sent letters to Kumaratunga.

According to Beal and Tucker college students have plenty of reason to be concerned with a petition like theirs.

“I think there’s a whole lot of people who don’t know a whole lot beyond America’s borders, and I think it increases people’s knowledge,” Tucker said.

Beal, who is hoping to get 400 signatures on the petition, said it helps students get an international perspective.

“There’s more to the world than the cornfields of Bowling Green, Ohio,” Beal said. “As future leaders, teachers, entrepreneurs, I expect us to have a global focus–especially if America is a superpower.”

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