Following their unusually robust and public criticism not only of the Government of Sri Lanka but also the international community for the way it has dealt with the gross human rights violations and humanitarian suffering in Sri Lanka (see their statement released earlier this month [1] ), The Elders have re-asserted this message in the below email communication sent out to their public supporters.

The reference to the ‘many’ positive messages is indeed encouraging as it demonstrates that key influencers within the international community agree with the stance that The Elders have taken in placing responsibility on the international community, particularly China, India, Japan and the United States and those non-aligned group of countries to firmly and publicly address the alarming conduct of the GoSL.

The Elders’ voice was a very welcome to the few but bold voices calling for true justice and reconciliation in Sri Lanka and such is their credibility that even the Government of Sri Lanka, well known for its aggressive and bullying response to even the mildest form of criticism, largely stayed silent.

Ordinary people like us must now support the Elders. Together we can get all the institutions that have any influence over events in Sri Lanka to be more accountable for what they are doing – and sadly in many case, not doing. By themselves, the Elders can’t make a miracle happen – it is up to all of us to respond to their leadership.

To this end, we encourage you to engage with people who you can influence, to seek their feedback on The Elders’ stance and what they agree or disagree with and most importantly, to find out what they are willing to do to help push forward this agenda. One thing that all institutions could do is agree to provide, in confidence, any information they may have to the UN panel of experts and in make their support for this panel known in public.

Specifically, if you are a financial supporter of the NGO that happens to be working in Sri Lanka, then write to the Director of that NGO along these lines. And everyone can write to their elected representative. And if you know Sri Lankans and non Sri Lankans who are saying “things aren’t so bad”, you can use the Elders statement with them to. As always, a personal letter written in your own style is what will have most impact.

Please send us information about what responses you get. This will be very useful in making sure we get the action we need from these opinion-shapers, organisations and institutions.

Statement from Martti Ahtisaari

“We have recently voiced our concerns about Sri Lanka’s approach to human rights and the government’s clampdown on domestic critics, which we believe deserves a far tougher response from the international community.

We share the relief of the Sri Lankan people that the country’s 30-year civil war has ended and we acknowledge that there have been some positive signs of progress since the end of the conflict in 2009.

However, peace is fragile; if Sri Lanka is to achieve lasting stability, the government needs to show a much greater commitment to achieving meaningful reconciliation.

We have received many messages thanking us for our statement – and some criticism. It is clear from your comments that a great deal of fear and suspicion remains in Sri Lanka, despite the end of the war. This can only be overcome through greater freedom of information and reporting, greater accountability by both parties to the conflict and by more contact between Sri Lanka’s communities to help build trust and understanding.

I should add that we never expect our views to be met with universal approval – and we hope that you will continue to share your thoughts with us and The Elders’ team.”

[1] The Elders statement on Sri Lanka was released on 3rd August 2010