Posts filed under 'Courtesy: BBC News'
by Alan Johnston
[BBC, South Asia Desk]
The Sri Lankan Defence Ministry has launched a bitter attack on what it says is irresponsible media analysis of military affairs and the progress of the war in the north of the island.
The Ministry, in a statement on its website, vowed to take action to stop what it called this “journalistic treachery”.
As Alan Johnston of our South Asia desk reports, the statement has been condemned in the strongest terms by media freedom activists.
The Defence Ministry’s message to the media stresses that Sri Lanka is at war. Its forces are engaged, it says, in the noble cause of liberating the country from the clutches of terrorism.
The statement says that those who undermine public support for that mission by making false allegations give aid to the terrorists.
According to the Ministry, only military officers are qualified to analyse military matters, and it attacks what it calls doomsayers and reporters who write inane comments.
It says that “traitors” in the press will be exposed.
The Paris-based watchdog, Reporters Without Borders has described the statement as very threatening, and part of a policy of intimidation.
It says that it opens the way to further restrictions and pressure on defence correspondents in particular, in what is already a dire climate for media freedom.
One leading commentator on military matters was recently abducted and beaten in unexplained circumstances. Another has ceased writing his weekly column. All this comes against a background of almost daily, fierce clashes between the army and the Tamil Tigers.
The military has pledged to defeat the rebels by the end of the year. It’s under pressure and clearly extremely sensitive to any criticism of the way that the war is being conducted. [Sandeshaya]
June 5th, 2008
Related Update: Protesters call Ranil ‘The Traitor’ [Sandeshaya]
The leader of the opposition in Sri Lanka has described the powerful Defence Secretary as a traitor for leaving the country as war against the LTTE intensified.
Ranil Wickramasinghe said Gotabhaya Rajapaksa left Sri Lanka Army (SLA) to live in the United States while the SLA engaged with the LTTE in the north and the east.
[Mr. Hakim says the APRC is a 'fraud' by the Govt. to deceive the world]
He was commenting on alleged threats by the powerful Defence Secretary to journalists and the defence ministry describing those criticise the SLA as ‘traitors’.
Mr. Wickramasinghe made the remarks as UNP eastern provincial councillors who boycotted the inaugural meeting of the EPC held on Trincomallee took oaths before him in Colombo.
APRC ‘a fraud’
“The traitor is the one who resigned from the SLA to leave the country,” the opposition leader told journalists.
The leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), Rauff Hakim, was among the 15 EPC councillors took oaths in Colombo on Wednesday.
The SLMC leader said the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) is an attempt by the government to deceive the international community.
[15 councillors boycotted the inaugural EPC meeting]
The opposition contested the EPC to reveal the government’s inaction to find a political solution to Sri Lanka’s ethnic problem.
“The government’s statements that they will find a political solution through APRC is a fraud,” Rauff Hakim said.
The UNP councillors decided to boycott the inaugural meeting of the EPC to protest rigging of the election, Mr. Hakim added.
The UNP, meanwhile, submitted a petition against the recently concluded EPC elections.
Citing 20 defendants including the elections commissioner, the petitioners appealed to the court to annul the results of Ampara and Batticaloa districts.
Mr. Hakim, who was UNP’s chief ministerial candidate, told BBC Sandeshaya that they will produce evidence of government ministers rigging the elections on 10 May.
Because of intimidation and vote rigging, Mr. Hakim said, the elections were not free and fair in both districts.
The UNP won Trincomalee district, while the ruling United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) secured victory in Ampara and Batticaloa.
All opposition parties, including Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), accused the ruling party of rigging the elections and intimidating the voters using armed groups.
June 4th, 2008
Ms Gandhi said her visit was ‘completely personal’
Priyanka Gandhi, daughter of former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, says she has met a woman serving a jail term for her father’s assassination.
Ms Gandhi said she met Nalini Sriharan last month in a prison in Vellore in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
Rajiv Gandhi was killed by a suicide bomb in May 1991 while he addressed an election rally. India has always blamed the attack on Tamil Tiger rebels.
Sriharan was convicted for being part of the assassination squad.
She was initially given a death sentence along with three others.
But her sentence was changed into a life term, following a plea for clemency by Rajiv Gandhi’s widow and Congress Party president, Sonia Gandhi.
Mrs Gandhi appealed on Sriharan’s behalf because she had a young child.
Correspondents say Priyanka Gandhi’s visit is highly significant because her father’s murder shocked India and turned many people in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere against the Tamil Tigers.
In 2006, they expressed “regret” for the murder in a move which correspondents say was a realisation by the rebels that the assassination was a huge mistake.
“Yes, I did visit Vellore to meet my father’s assassins,” Ms Gandhi told private television network CNN-IBN.
Ms Gandhi confirmed the visit took place on 19 March in the prison where Sriharan is lodged.
“It’s completely personal, I don’t want to say anything about it. I needed to make peace with all the violence in my life,” she said.
“I don’t believe in anger or violence and I refuse to let it overpower me. Meeting Nalini (Sriharan) was my way of coming to terms with my father’s death,” Ms Gandhi said.
Speaking to reporters in Delhi, Priyanka Gandhi’s brother and Congress party MP Rahul Gandhi said he was aware of the meeting.
“Both me and my sister don’t believe in violence and her meeting Nalini was in this context,” he said.
Mr Gandhi said he had no plans to meet Sriharan.
Earlier, The Times of India newspaper quoted Sriharan’s lawyers – who say they have been briefed extensively by their client – as saying the meeting was “very cordial”.
The newspaper quoted Ms Gandhi telling Sriharan, “My father was a good person… Had you known about my father’s good nature, you would not have done this.”
April 15th, 2008