Jean is a member of the South Asia delegation in the European Parliament which covers Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Jean has consistently raised her concerns over the situation of the Tamil citizens trapped in the ongoing violence between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam). She has spoken about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka on several occassions in the European Parliament and has raised the issue with the press in the UK, trying to ensure the international community responds to the needs of the citizens.
As part of the South Asia delegation, Jean visited Sri Lanka in 2008. The humanitarian situation has now reached crisis point, with very little aid and medical equipment reaching those in the conflict zone. The media in Sri Lanka has effectively be locked down too, so unfiltered and unbiased information is difficult to obtain.
Jean recently highlighted her particular concerns over the lack of media freedom, and indeed the persecution of journalists in Sri Lanka, in a published article for the New Statesman.
Giving a longer term view on the conflict in Sri Lanka, here is Jean's statement for the intervention in the Sri Lanka Debate in May 2000:
The issue of the place of the Tamils in Sri Lanka is a long-standing problem, dating back to at least the year of independence in 1948. There was an agreement to grant autonomy to the north-eastern Tamil region in 1957, which was then abrogated by Government a year later and an estimated 1000 Tamils died in the resulting violence.
Since then, far too many people have died, some 60,000 and there has been a growing catalogue of violence and human rights abuses on both sides, both by the LTTE and government security forces. These are well documented by organisations such Amnesty and the U.S. Department of State in its 1999 Country Report on Human Rights Practices.
Young Tamil men in particular can find themselves being a victim of violent cooercion by the LTTE and violent interrogation by the security services.
I want to stress here, that speaking out against human rights abuses by state forces does not make you a friend of terrorists. What is clear that thousands of people have been displaced within Sri Lanka, thousands more have sought asylum, and the whole population lives with the fear of violence.
We cannot say what the exact state of affairs is at the moment as there is a complete media blackout in force as part of a set of new restrictive laws introduced on May 3rd. This is regrettable, as a clear flow of information of information is essential for understanding the situation. What is clear is that there is an enormous risk of escalation and even further bloodshed.
Something has to change and we have to what we can to work for a peaceful, lasting settlement. It is clear that the international community is no longer prepared to see internal armed struggle as only a problem for the state concerned and that long-term political investment and negotiation is necessary rather than arms sales. Northern Ireland is a clear example of the difficulties of such a process but also the possibilities. But there has to be a will by the parties to engage in such a process and for the bomb attacks, the killings and the violence to stop.
So we support the calls in this resolution for an immediate cessation of hostilities on an agreed basis and for talks to start. This would be helped by agreement between the Sri Lankan political parties themselves. We too welcome the efforts of the Norwegian and Indian Governments and feel that the Commonwealth could have a valuable role to play.
Jean Lambert MEP