12/09/2011, 00.00
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Social activists: Colombo must resolve the Tamil question

by Melani Manel Perera
" Tamil Indians " in Sri Lanka (originally from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu) still have no right to citizenship or basic rights: work, food, home and land. Even women and children suffer discrimination. Although Sri Lanka is a signatory of the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Colombo (AsiaNews) - "The basic rights of every ethnic community must be protected. The right to work, food, a house, land, the rights of women and children: Today we are witnessing gross violations of these, in every aspect of life. Human rights should allow the different ethnic communities to live together in full equality. " This was revealed by the 4 ESC Rights Collective (Collective for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), in a special seminar organized to demand the State account for what it is doing on behalf of the country's ethnic minorities, in particular the "Indian Tamil", since Sri Lanka is among the countries signatories of the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Sri Lanka’s so-called "Indian Tamil" are descendants of the original peoples of Tamil Nadu (southern state of India), who in the 19th and 20th centuries were sent to work in tea plantations in Ceylon. They belong to the same ethnic stock of the "Sri Lanka Tamil", but these are from the kingdom of Jaffna.

S. Murugaiayh, of the Plantation Sector Social Forum (Pssf), explains: "The Tamil Indians who work in tea plantations live in tiny huts built over 200 years ago. The houses are too small for large families, without adequate sanitation. But they cannot build bigger houses, or they risk losing their jobs and the narrow huts in which they live. "

To living conditions of these communities are also aggravated by their legal status. "The Citizenship Act No. 18 of 1948 - explains Murugaiayh - deprived the Indian Tamil of nationality and it has never been repealed. This is despite the Granting of Citizenship to Persons of Indian Origin Act of 2003 which sanctioned this right. Thus, thousands of people who work and contribute to the national economy, live as stateless people in their own country, without being able to enjoy their economic, social and cultural rights. "

K.P. Somalatha, a representative of the National Alliance for Right to Land, points the finger at "all the development projects implemented by the government, which have uprooted thousands of people from their homelands and from their lives. This is also a gross violation of human rights. " Last year the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has launched a series of development projects - especially in tourism - to make Sri Lanka a "Wonder of Asia". Plans that affect the most vulnerable population: farmers, ranchers and above all fishermen.
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