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June 30, 2009

A Two - Day Trip to the I.D.P. Camps in Vavuniya and Chettikulam

by Kath Noble

We are constantly told that restrictions on access to IDP camps prove that awful things are happening. If the situation were under control, this hypothesis goes, the Government would allow people to go and see for themselves. So when journalists write unverified stories about disappearances, rapes, starvation, epidemics and more, often encouraged by equally imaginative NGO reports, they are believed.

Few of us trust the Government enough to take its word for the wellbeing of the long suffering people of the Vanni.

I was given permission to travel to Vavuniya last week, and this piece is dedicated to what I saw there. While time in the IDP camps was limited to a couple of days, and I was never very far from the officers who were assigned to escort our party, I believe that it would have been difficult to present a story too different from the truth.

There are more than 280,000 people staying in about 20 locations. These range in size from the Vavuniya schools with 1,000 people to the 70,000 people in Zone 2 of Menik Farm on the road to Mannar.

My first impression on walking into Saivapirakasa Maha Vidyalaya on Wednesday was that there were rather a lot of visitors. I hadn’t even realised that they were allowed. Looking in the book maintained by the lady soldier at the gate, 119 people had been in that day, and more were lined up waiting to enter. She explained that relatives only needed to bring their identity card. Many of the visitors were carrying parcels of food to supplement what was given by the authorities, and it was clear from the smart dress of the majority of the 3,000 residents that clothing and other items had been provided too.

The same was true of all the IDP camps I visited, even places a long way from anywhere. At Menik Farm, we passed a CTB bus that had been laid on to transport people from Vavuniya.

The next thing to strike me was that it would have been quite feasible to take a photograph of the residents looking through barbed wire, but only with a little effort. There were two rolls of about ten metres in length next to the gate, and my crouching down in front of one of them would have attracted a fair crowd to the other side, even though there was no actual barrier between us. A wrong impression could thus easily have been given. I saw where the infamous pictures of barbed wire were taken later, at Menik Farm Zone 0, and learnt that it was the arrival of a dignitary by helicopter that had attracted people to the very edge of the camp, which turns out to be rather large in area. People don’t normally stand anywhere near the barbed wire.

An elderly lady approached as our group entered the compound, to complain that she hadn’t been given any soap or washing powder. Whether this was the case seemed after some discussion unclear, and she didn’t look in the slightest bit dirty. It emerged that she and her husband were both over 65 years of age, and therefore eligible for release, but their nearest relatives lived in Kandy and for some reason couldn’t travel to bring them home. Allowing such people to move to a specified location of their choice would seem to be a reasonable alternative.

We moved on to one of the new sites being established in the countryside between Menik Farm and Vavuniya, called Dharmapura. Our military escort told us that some 15 to 20 locations were being developed, to house the 20,000 people staying in Vavuniya schools and to reduce the numbers in the more crowded zones at Menik Farm. Each family would have more privacy, he said, and there would be space to initiate activities to give the residents something to do.

It was here that I began to appreciate the tremendous contribution of the Army. When the Government started working on the IDP camps in anticipation of the outflow of civilians earlier in the year, the job was given to private contractors, but it either didn’t happen or proceeded at an appallingly slow pace. By contrast, the Army is able to clear land and put up shelters in just over a week. When the massive influx of civilians arrived in May, they worked for several days without sleep to get the job done.

By the time I came home, I was convinced that complaints from the United Nations about militarisation of the IDP camps had been counterproductive, because the Army seemed to be the most efficient and dedicated of the agencies involved. Our escort had been in the thick of the battle in Putumatalam, but days later was assigned to the IDP camps. Nevertheless, there were no signs of tension with the residents. People interacted quite naturally with the Army, even small children.

We saw the benefits of these new sites at Weerapuram on Thursday, where some 6,000 residents had moved in from a number of Vavuniya schools two weeks previously. Although the location was dusty, the advantage of having more space was being demonstrated as our vehicle drew up by a group of boys playing volleyball. If the Government implements its plan to give residents seeds to plant homegardens, the conditions would become quite reasonable.

The Army’s efficiency was in evidence again. They had built a covered area by the entrance so that visitors wouldn’t be exposed to the elements while they waited to enter, but the agencies responsible for putting up identical structures to serve as classrooms hadn’t started work, so the tables and chairs provided by the Government lay in a pile by the road. Meanwhile, the officer in charge had decided that lessons had better start, allocating spare tents for the purpose.

I understood some of the concerns about unlimited access too. Having wandered off from the group, a small crowd gathered around me and a retired teacher of English and Sinhala from Kilinochchi was brought out to speak. In a deeply conspiratorial tone, she explained that their children had been taken away from them and many lakhs of people had been killed. Not being fresh off the plane from England, I knew that this was untrue, also because I had met quite a number of their children at the centres for LTTE cadres, but people who come looking for horror stories would leap on such quotes with glee.

Having lots of outsiders running around probably isn’t a very good idea in any case. After the tsunami, hoards of journalists and aid workers descended on the survivors, quickly instilling in them a victim mentality that has proven difficult to shake. Far better that people be allowed to get on with their lives, as much as possible without observation or interference.

There is another lesson from the tsunami that could be usefully applied here too. Chandrika Kumaratunga handed over responsibility for the relief and reconstruction work to a group of completely unaccountable business leaders, TAFREN, whose understanding of and commitment to the interests of the affected people was almost zero. Whether as a result or otherwise, clear plans for their recovery took a long time to emerge and even longer to be put into effect. Indeed, we are still reading stories of tsunami projects being completed, four and a half years after the event. While nothing of the sort has been done by Mahinda Rajapaksa, one way of ensuring that the situation in the IDP camps improves as far and as quickly as possible, and that the resettlement moves forward as it should, would be to give political leadership to people with a stake in the future of the residents. Tamil politicians who are already canvassing for votes have an incentive to do their best.

I saw what the Government can do when it really tries in Menik Farm Zone 0, starting with the piece of cake and ice cold drink that we were given on arrival. Work started there at the end of November, and the results are impressive.

Each family has their own semi-permanent house, appropriate for the climate. Homegardens with banana trees, pineapple plants and a whole collection of leaves that I couldn’t recognise are set out in front, while sufficient numbers of decent toilets are to be found nearby. Toddlers in blue uniforms are taught or at least entertained by ladies in carefully pressed pink sarees in the preschool. There is a play area with swings and a slide alongside. Beyond that are the post office, bank, shop and telecommunications centre. Older children get their lessons too, including several hundred A Level candidates. There is even a vocational training school, where some of the 20,000 residents are offered courses in woodwork, dressmaking, motor mechanics and computing.

People here don’t bother to approach visitors. However, when the officer accompanying me asked at the queue for the telephone if anybody could speak Sinhala, a middle-aged man from near Mullaitivu stepped forward. Having started to talk, it emerged that his English was better than my Sinhala, although he was a farmer, so we switched. He had been in the IDP camp for several months and was clearly unhappy, although he stressed that the facilities were acceptable. With a somewhat resigned look on his face, he shrugged, saying that he had nothing to do.

This should worry those who believe that these people need to be held until the last cadre is flushed out. In Menik Farm Zone 0, the residents are quite comfortable, they have opportunities for education, facilities for games and other social activities, and they can even go to other zones to work as labourers, for which they are paid. Yet they feel their confinement intensely.

I’m not sure that I see the point in this strategy any longer, although I must admit that I don’t have the expertise in security matters to make a proper judgement. All the LTTE leaders are dead, some 9,500 cadres have surrendered or been identified by the Army and are in rehabilitation centres. Meanwhile, it is rumoured that people with money have been able to buy their way out of the IDP camps. If there were any chance that this is true, compelling 280,000 people to stay on in Vavuniya would be mad. The last cadre is probably already here amongst us in any case, with his or her arms cache intact.

The Government will face a number of difficulties in trying to provide the same facilities to all the IDP camps, not least the United Nations and its obsession with basic standards. Wanting to discourage the authorities from keeping people for good is perfectly reasonable, but this is obviously not the intention. Even if the Government abandoned its policy of detention, there would still be people in need of a place to live while their villages were being demined and homes reconstructed. A fair number would probably stay on in the IDP camps. So working to minimum needs can only cause unnecessary suffering. I find it morally outrageous too, seeing as United Nations personnel do not work for basic salaries.

Zone 2 at Menik Farm is as bad as things get, with 70,000 people. Although the situation is considerably better than similar camps in other countries, and indeed better than slums here, it is not good enough for us to sit back and relax.

White tents are to be seen in what appear to be endless rows in every direction. There are toilets and bathing areas, but not of the kind of quality that ought to be possible with the money available. A middle-aged lady from Bandarawela, whose family has been compelled to move numerous times over the decades, pointed out some of the difficulties. While much of the garbage that had accumulated in the first weeks after their arrival has been cleared up, some remains. Many people have been able to start their own cooking, but not all. There are very few areas in which the residents can gather, other than on a patch of dirt with the sun beating down on them, let alone places suitable to hold lessons for children.

Nevertheless, life goes on. A group of kids was playing cricket as we passed through. Several residents have turned the front of their tents into shops, selling bits and pieces to their neighbours. We saw one lady busy with a sewing machine. These people coped in much worse conditions in the Vanni, and that’s without considering the dangers of the conflict. Even if facilities don’t improve, they are better off than they were a couple of months ago.

The stories of disappearances, rapes, starvation and epidemics are clearly propaganda. I know that now, and I am glad that I had the chance to see for myself. The Government deserves a lot more credit for its work than it has been given. The situation is in hand, at least for the moment. Readers may not like to take my word for it either, but there are plenty of others working on the ground on a daily basis. The people that I spoke to didn’t have anything different to say, and it is up to the Government to make sure that none of us have any reason to change our minds in the weeks to come.

(Kath Noble is a freelance journalist based in Colombo.)

Sri Lanka’s Judiciary: Politicised Courts, Compromised Rights

International Crisis Group - Asia Report N°172

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Sri Lanka’s judiciary is failing to protect constitutional and human rights. Rather than assuaging conflict, the courts have corroded the rule of law and worsened ethnic tensions. Rather than constraining militarisation and protecting minority rights, a politicised bench under the just-retired chief justice has entrenched favoured allies, punished foes and blocked compromises with the Tamil minority. Its intermittent interventions on important political questions have limited settlement options for the ethnic conflict. Extensive reform of the judicial system – beginning with a change in approach from the newly appointed chief justice – and an overhaul of counterproductive emergency laws are essential if the military defeat of the LTTE is to lead to a lasting peace that has the support of all ethnic communities.

At independence in 1948, Sri Lanka had a comparatively professional and independent judiciary. New constitutions in 1972 and 1978, however, cut back on the judiciary’s protection from parliamentary and presidential intrusions. The 1978 constitution vested unfettered control of judicial appointments in presidential hands. Unlike other South Asian countries, no strong tradition or norm of consultation between the president and the chief justice developed. Nor did predictable rules immune from manipulation, such as promotion by seniority, emerge.

The Seventeenth Amendment, enacted in October 2001, attempted to depoliticise a range of public institutions, including the judiciary, by establishing a constitutional council. The council limited the power of the president to make direct appointments to the courts and independent commissions. Since 2005, however, Presidents Chandrika Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa have wilfully ignored this constitutional limit by refusing to convene the constitutional council. An increasing proportion of President Rajapaksa’s appointees to the higher court have been from the attorney general’s office. The result is benches stacked to favour the government. The 1978 constitution’s system for removing judges is also broken. Vested in parliamentary control, impeachment is only ever threatened on thinly veiled political grounds against judges who have broken with a ruling coalition. No effective mechanism exists to sanction corrupt or abusive judges.

At the same time, the recently retired chief justice, Sarath N. Silva, chose to exercise his powers in ways that further sapped the independence of the lower courts and the Supreme Court. Through the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), he controlled appointments, transfers and removals of lower court judges. He used those administrative powers to punish judges out of step with his wishes and to reward those who toed the line. Police and other politically influential constituencies used their close ties to the chief justice to influence judicial decisions. Fear of sanction by the JSC has undermined judges’ willingness to move aggressively against the police or the military, particularly in cases involving the rights of Tamil detainees. Entrenching this problem are informal local networks of contacts and collaboration between police, judges and the bar. In part as a result of these ties, there are no effective checks on endemic torture in police custody.

Formal constitutional and statutory rules further undermine judicial independence, deepening Sri Lanka’s political and ethnic crises and compounding harms to human and constitutional rights. Most importantly, Sri Lanka has two sets of emergency laws – regulations issued under the Public Security Ordinance, No. 25 of 1947, and the 1979 Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) – which impose severe limits on courts’ jurisdiction and authority to prevent abusive detention and torture. Emergency regulations and the PTA are used disproportionately in Tamil areas and against Tamil suspects. Without the repeal or radical reform of these laws, continued political alienation of Tamils is virtually assured.

Neither the local magistrate courts nor the provincial high courts provide remedies for illegal or abusive detention under either the emergency laws or the criminal code. Threshold review of detention decisions by magistrates is superficial. The “habeas corpus” remedy putatively available in the high courts rarely succeeds in gaining releases. Some relief can at times be found by filing a “fundamental rights” application in the Supreme Court. But distance, the difficulty of travel, especially for Tamil litigants, and the cost of hiring one of a limited pool of Colombo-based Supreme Court lawyers create impassable barriers for most litigants.

The Supreme Court under Chief Justice Silva did little to alleviate this deficit of justice. To the contrary, its recent opinions tried to cut off options for raising claims in international forums. Silva’s court also intervened at crucial moments in the political process to strike down negotiated agreements designed to address Tamil concerns, thereby strengthening political hardliners among Sinhala nationalist parties and deepening the ethnic divide. While the court has been lauded for recent judgments protecting some rights and invalidating corrupt government contracts, these opinions do not pose a substantial challenge to excessive power of the executive presidency. Judicial interventions against corruption have been sufficiently unpredictable that they provide no real incentive to future office holders to refrain from misusing state resources.

The June 2009 retirement of Sarath Silva and the appointment of the most senior member of the Supreme Court, Asoka de Silva, as the new chief justice offer an opportunity for urgently needed reforms to begin. The new chief justice should take immediate steps to depoliticise the JSC, press for a speedy resolution of the constitutional council case currently pending before the court and begin to establish a more favourable climate in the courts for fundamental rights cases and for those challenging detentions under emergency laws. The JSC, chaired by the new chief justice, should order magistrates in areas where LTTE suspects are being held to use their wide powers to visit and monitor the conditions of the more than 10,000 surrendered or suspected members of the LTTE now in state custody. For any reforms to have lasting impact, however, they will need political support from an empowered bench and active bar willing to resist an executive that has shown little commitment to an independent judiciary.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To the President and Government of Sri Lanka:

1.  Reconstitute immediately the constitutional council under the Seventeenth Amendment by appointing the slate of nominees already forwarded by the government and the opposition parties and commit to respecting the council’s judicial appointments until a more independent and effective mechanism for judicial selection is operational.

2.  Negotiate with the opposition parties in good faith to amend the Seventeenth Amendment to reduce political parties’ involvement in the constitutional council, and instead include members of the Supreme Court selected by lot, president’s counsel of long standing and representatives of civil society organisations with demonstrated experience and knowledge concerning judicial selection, constitutional law and fundamental rights.

3.  Repeal sections of the Emergency (Miscellaneous Provisions and Powers) Regulations No. 1 of 2005 and the Emergency (Prevention and Prohibition of Specified Terrorist Activities) Regulations No. 7 of 2006 (and all previous emergency regulations that may remain in force at present) that authorise detention without charge outside areas of ongoing military hostilities, that derogate from the criminal procedure code and that criminalise conduct involving the exercise of free speech and associational rights.

4.  Move the administration of the legal framework set out in Emergency Regulations and the PTA from the defence ministry to the justice ministry, with clear civilian oversight over the national security apparatus, especially with regard to detentions and detainees’ access to justice.

To the Government and Opposition Parties in Parliament:

5.  Amend the provisions of the 1978 constitution concerning the judiciary in order to:

a) allow actions against the president for the non-performance of mandatory legal duties, e.g., by the way of writs of certiorari, prohibition or mandamus (Article 35);

b) prohibit by law sitting judges from holding other remunerative and/or administrative positions during their tenure on the bench or from securing such posts on commissions or otherwise after their retirement; and

c) create an independent judicial tribunal for the adjudication of charges of misconduct or incapacity of members of the judiciary, including the Supreme Court, where members of said tribunal would be chosen by lot and would exclude any judges who were alleged to be connected in any way with the alleged offences.

6.  Enact a contempt of court law limiting and imposing procedural constraints on the imposition of contempt sanctions in line with the 2005 views of the UN Human Rights Committee.

7.  Amend Chapter III (in particular Article 15) and Chapter XVIII of the constitution, the Public Security Ordinance, and the 1979 Prevention of Terrorism Act (Temporary Provisions) to state that derogations from and restrictions on constitutional and human rights are limited by law to be consistent with the constraints imposed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

8.  Overrule the Singarasa judgment of the Supreme Court by legislation or constitutional amendment, clarifying Sri Lanka’s compliance with the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and committing to following the views of the Human Rights Committee in past and future cases concerning compensation and other remedies.

9.  Enact legislation requiring the immediate publication and wide public dissemination of any regulations (including emergency regulations) issued by the government and opinions of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, with the provision of necessary funding.

To the Constitutional Council (once reestablished):

10.  Follow a rule of seniority in appointments to the higher judiciary except in cases where the constitutional council makes a public finding that compelling reasons exist for declining to promote a judge.

11.  Place a moratorium on the promotion of officials from the attorney general’s office to the higher judiciary, permitting appointments from the attorney general’s office only after there is numerical balance between career-judge appointees and appointees from the private bar on the one hand, and members of the attorney general’s staff on the other in those courts.

To the United National Party (UNP):

12.  Express publicly the party’s commitment to reforming the constitution’s judicial appointment and removal system and the elimination of the emergency powers of arrest, detention and prosecution without full due process protections under the Public Security Ordinance and the 1979 Prevention of Terrorism Act (Temporary Provisions) (PTA), until constitutional amendments can be passed to improve those processes.

To the Chief Justice of Sri Lanka:

13.  Task publicly the registrar of the Supreme Court with independent responsibility for assigning judges to benches of the court in specific cases by random lot, and bar any judge of the court from taking any role in the selection of benches.

14.  Publish clear rules for when benches of more than three judges will be formed in cases raising challenges to administrative or executive action and when appeals or re-hearings from three-judge benches will be heard by larger benches of the court.

15.  Publish clear standards for the exercise of the Supreme Court’s discretionary fundamental rights jurisdiction, including rules that ensure that challenges to ongoing detentions are addressed speedily even pending the filing of any criminal charges, that victims of torture and their families receive adequate compensation, and that all petitioners are protected from improper coercion or violence while their cases are pending.

16.  Even in the absence of legislation requiring the publication of Supreme Court opinions, direct the registrars of the higher judiciary to publish immediately and disseminate widely judgments from those courts in Sinhala, Tamil and English.

17.  Order the expeditious adjudication of challenges to the president’s non-application of the Seventeenth Amendment.

To the Judicial Service Commission (JSC):

18.  Promulgate clear rules to ensure due process protections and publicity in proceedings against judges for misconduct in the JSC, including the requirements that judges be notified of the specific charges against them; that judges have an opportunity to respond in writing and with the aid of counsel; that any findings of misconduct be promptly made available to the judge; and that JSC decisions can be appealed to Supreme Court panels.

19.  Publish a schedule of appointments and transfers for magistrate judges that minimises uncertainty or manipulation in the location and duration of appointments; derogations from the schedule should be open to appeal to the commission and allowed only under publicly stated exceptional circumstances.

20.  Promulgate rules requiring all settlements between police and victims of torture to be subject to approval by a magistrate judge, who should ensure that victims are not subject to undue pressure in reaching settlements and that the settlement is fair.

21.  Order magistrates to use their wide powers to visit and monitor conditions in detention centres housing surrendered and suspected LTTE members; and organise training workshops for magistrates to equip them to use their monitoring powers more effectively.

To the Attorney General:

22.  Expand the role of state counsel in the magistrate courts, tasking them with the role of providing a check on police prosecution of ordinary crimes to ensure against the use of torture or other forms of abusive treatment or discrimination.

23.  Expedite investigations and prosecutions of disappearances, illegal detention, torture or killings by state actors.

To the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Other International Donors:

24.  Ensure that any further funds dispersed on the justice sector are not used as mechanisms for leverage by political actors or factions within the judiciary.

Colombo/Brussels, 30 June 2009

Click here to view the full report as a PDF file in A4 

“Tamil people must be allowed to live in peace and flourish in their homeland.” – Elie Wiesel

The Following statement re: “Tamil People” was issued today by The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity:

Wherever minorities are being persecuted we must raise our voices to protest. According to reliable sources, the Tamil people are being disenfranchised and victimized by the Sri Lanka authorities. This injustice must stop. The Tamil people must be allowed to live in peace and flourish in their homeland.” - Elie Wiesel, June 30th 2009 - http://www.eliewieselfoundation.org/inthenews.aspx

Elie Wiesel is a journalist, writer, professor, political activist, Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor.

Elie Wiesel and his wife, Marion, established The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity soon after he was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize for Peace. The Foundation's mission, rooted in the memory of the Holocaust, is to combat indifference, intolerance and injustice through international dialogue and youth-focused programs that promote acceptance, understanding and equality.

Rains raise fears of malaria setback in camps

Reported by IRIN News

Health experts warn that the arrival of monsoon rains in July could increase the risk of waterborne diseases for tens of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in camps in northern Sri Lanka.

More than 280,000 people who fled fighting between government forces and the now defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are staying in some 35 government camps in four northern districts - Vavuniya, Mannar, Jaffna and Trincomalee.

The majority, 220,000, are living at the Menik Farm camp, a sprawling site of over 700ha outside Vavuniya town.

“With such a large number of people concentrated together, there is always the risk of waterborne disease with the rains,” Laurent Sury, head of mission for Médecins Sans Frontières, told IRIN in Colombo.

Child0630.jpg

A child at a displaced persons site in Vavuniya, northern Sri Lanka-pic: IRIN

MSF runs a field hospital in Vavuniya District where more than 23 of the IDP camps are located, housing 260,000 IDPs.

“There are around 115 patients at the MSF hospital now,” Sury said.

The monsoon rains last about four months, and even though the World Health Organization (WHO) says no large disease outbreaks have been reported, the risk factors for malaria and diarrhoea have increased.

WHO said the Ministry of Health had taken precautions to deal with a possible malaria outbreak, with proper surveillance mechanisms at all camps.

Until 19 June, only 29 cases of malaria had been reported, but health officials initiated a high alert when two cases were reported on 18 June from zone 4 in Menik Farm.

Field staff have been deployed to all hospitals and healthcare units assisting IDPs by the Regional Malaria Office for the Vavuniya District from 8 June.

“This is an alarming situation considering the very small number of malaria cases reported from the entire country in the recent past,” the WHO update said. “An active surveillance for malaria is ... [ongoing].”

Until 18 June, 1,060 cases of dysentery and more than 5,000 cases of diarrhoea had been reported from the camps, it said.

"There is a serious threat of waterborne diseases because of so many people living so close together," one humanitarian official said, highlighting the risk posed by improper disposal of solid waste and rubbish in the camps.

According to OCHA on 27 June, the greatest needs were specialist doctors.

“IDP health workers, paid by the government of Sri Lanka, are working in the IDP sites. Thirty-seven new doctors are expected to be appointed at the Vavuniya District within a week. However, a shortage of specialists remain,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) confirmed.

Chickenpox update

According to the latest communicable Disease Weekly Update released on 25 June, surveillance within the camps by the Ministry of Health staff was being strengthened. The greatest disease outbreak reported so far was chickenpox, with more than 12,000 cases, but those numbers had since been decreasing, the UN reported.

The number of new cases reported is steadily declining and admissions to hospitals are 40–50 patients per day, OCHA confirmed on 19 June.

“In Vavuniya, the number of Hepatitis A cases is also declining. A total of 2,139 cases were reported as at 12 June,” the report added.

Medical officers working with the displaced suspect that most of the chickenpox patients contracted the disease before they arrived in camps.

IRIN News - a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Twenty 20 Championship: Well done, Sri Lanka

by Michael Roberts

The Sri Lankan squad had a wonderful tournament, though the gloss was reduced by their comprehensive loss to Pakistan at the final hurdle. This disappointment should not be permitted to deny striking successes: (a) the comprehensive victories they secured over Australia (one of the favourites), West Indies (twice) and Pakistan in earlier rounds; and (b) the selection of Tillekeratne Dilshan as Player of the Tournament.

163 Sri Lanka XI

World Twenty20 @ Lord's-pic: Hari Ramanathan

The T20 Championship in England was preceded by the IPL Twenty/20 Series in South Africa and one can profit from a brief survey of its implications for Sri Lanka’s squad, not all of whom featured significantly in that event. Those who stood out in South Africa were Lasith Malinga, Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene (whose hamstring injury at a critical stage was one factor in the decline of King’s XI Punjab).

Sangakkara had an erratic series. Angelo Mathews only had one or two opportunities in that tournament, but I thought it extremely significant that he was chosen for the Calcutta Knight Riders without having much international exposure. The T20 Championship revealed to us why the Calcutta Selectors were far-seeing on this point.

They were less than intelligent throughout the tournament in their use of Mashrafe Mortaza and Ajantha Mendis. Despite his international fame Mendis was deployed sparsely, perhaps because his initial forays were marked by troughs. In the result, he was relegated to the bench for most matches. This is significant: one has to investigate why. In the absence of inside information, I conjecture that his omission was informed by the requirements of team balance and Ajantha’s mediocre capacities as fieldsman. In 20/20 matches a few runs lost here and there can make quite a difference and also affect the morale of the fielding side.

As significant was the fact that Mumbai and Delhi respectively did not utilise either Dilhara Fernando or Farveez Maharoof in any of their matches. Though both featured only in the latter stages of the 2008 IPL in India, these men had performed remarkably well and were-–if my recollections are correct—among the best bowlers in that series.

So, why were they omitted? To surmise: again it would have been (1) a question of team balance; and (2) their clumsiness in the field, an absence of “cricket quickness,” namely, the agility and swift acceleration that makes one a good inner ring fielder as well as a capable boundary rider.

Dilhara’s place in the starting Mumbai Eleven was also undermined by the presence of Lasith Malinga (whose recovery from injury had been judiciously handled back home) in the same squad. Malinga’s success in South Africa also undercut Dilhara’s place in Sri Lanka’s squad as our potentially best wicket-taking bowler.

Dilhara was also shunted out by the selection of Maharoof, Kulasekera, Thushara and the newcomer Isuru Udana. Why? All can bat better than Dilhara; while Kulasekera and Udana are more agile in the field. This is quite tough on a bowler of Dilhara’s skill and determination and I hope the Selectors keep him up there as part of our leading fast-bowling stock (with a weather eye on his no-balling propensities).

Sri Lanka’s players eventually went through the T20 championship in England without any injuries and with remarkable success. I considered it a basic error for the team to bat first at Lords during the Irish game (I was more apprehensive before that match than any other). In my view any standard policy must be adjusted to pitch circumstance. Likewise, I would have given Indika de Saram more opportunities to acclimatise to English conditions in the warm-up games by sending him higher up the order. His failures lower down the order in those matches then led to a policy of excluding him in the competition rounds – where I would have dropped Chamara Silva and Mubarak on at least on one occasion in Round Two and slotted in de Saram and Maharoof to permit them a chance to reveal their potential.

By the time of the semi-finals Sri Lanka’s bowling squad was much praised by the TV commentators on the strength of their performances as well as their variety and idiosyncrasy. But I always felt that the Pakistan Seven were a better bowling combination than our Seven. Among their main bowlers only Razzaq, young Mohammed Aamer and Fawad Alam were potential weak links; whereas Mathews, Udana (or Kulasekera) Jayasuriya and Dilshan could also be taken to the cleaners. Again, as one RW stressed on Dilmah cyber-net, the Pakistanis are good players of spin (Younis Kkan is a superb sweeper) and had played our match-winning spinners comfortably in Round Two. As it was, in keeping with the volatile character of cricket, the weak links had some striking successes: Mathews in the semis and Razzaq, alas, in the finals. [Moreover, rather to my surprise both Razzaq and Matyhews figure reasonably high in the list of bowlers with the best averages and best economy rates.]

The Pakistan side were peaking and on a roll by the time they got to the semi-final; and with Afridi complementing his match-winning bowling with a recovery of his batting capacity, the side with nothing to lose outshone Sri Lanka convincingly on the final day. They were also motivated by their recent history: they made a statement to the cricket world. Recent cricket regimes, with the notable exception of Sri Lanka (who were repaid with unkindness at Lahore!!), have indeed treated Pakistan’s cricketers in abominable fashion for over five years.

These caveats notwithstanding I extend my congratulations to Kumar Sangakkara and Sri Lanka’s coaching/fitness teams for the style and manner of their performances at the T20 Championship in England. Apart from the two sets of results identified at the outset of this essay, let me identify three other pleasing dimensions that emerged during the series.

Angelo Mathews revealed his promise as an intelligent cricketer and a promising batsman in particular. So our plaudits should be extended to the Selectors and team management for identifying and encouraging the lad. Particularly important was the ability he revealed to hit into the V, with an occasional foray wide of long-on (a lesson surely for Mubarak, Sanath and others who got out on occasions trying to hit bowlers square). His bowling and fielding can be described as useful, though one would anticipate him yielding lots of runs as bowler on some occasions.

The pressure of the occasion got to Isura Udana during the finals, first when the team management gambled and sent him one spot earlier as pinch-hitter; and then in over number 18. But, seeing him in action for the first time, I am mighty pleased. For one, he is athletic and a decent fielder. He took a great catch off his own bowling and dived forward on the run once at deep midwicket to attempt a catch (earning a blow on face) in a manner which a player like Maharoof or Thushara could never have replicated. As significantly, he is a leftie who bats right-handed. With a stronger left arm and thus with a capacity to keep elbow-high and straight, Udana should have the capacity to develop the on-drive as well as hit in the V. I understand now why his batting strike rate and scores during SL’s domestic 20/20 series impressed the Selectors as well as Sangakkara and company. In brief, Udana is a potential Mitchell Johnson -- a bowling allrounder -- though one whose bowling will not depend so much on pace as much as variation and well-disguised slower balls (an asset that can be nullified by certain pitches).

Finally, Sri Lanka confirmed its capacity to surprise the cricket world with unorthodoxy. Not only did we have two mystery spinners of different types on show, baffling some of the opposition on several occasions, but Tuan Tillekeratne Dilshan re-invented Douglas Marillier’s scoop-shot over the wicket-keeper’s head with striking success (did anyone see Kamran Akmal’s face once?) and injected a new word into our cricket vocabulary: the “dilscoop,” a term that now sits proudly on the mantelpiece beside the “carrom-ball” and “doosra.”

Around the World, Young Tamil Voices Not Quieted By War's End

By Veronica Zaragovia

Sri Lanka's 26 years of civil war effectively ended on May 19, 2009 with a single image. Televisions across the globe broadcast a government-issue photo of slain Tamil Tiger head, Velupillai Prabhakaran, lying on a muddy patch of ground with wide eyes and a fractured skull. His life's end terminated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's decades-long fight for an independent homeland for Sri Lanka's Tamil minority — about ten percent of the population — and a cycle of violence that Sri Lankans of all ethnicities and religions have been living with for decades.

Please! More!

The enormous Tamil demonstration in London on 20/6/09, in support of their people suffering horrific violence and conditions in post-war Sri Lanka.Pic: lewishamdreamer

For the more than 800,000 members of the Tamil diaspora spread out from Toronto to Sydney, the news was met with mixed reactions. Some are fervent supporters of the LTTE and others downright oppose the separatist movement, but grapple with publicly criticizing the Tigers out of fear of a network globally regarded as terrorists. What more Tamils living abroad can agree on is better rights for the minority still in-country. Many Tamils, who are primarily Hindu, have long claimed job discrimination and unequal political power in a nation and government dominated by Sri Lanka's Sinhalese Buddhist majority. For decades, hundreds of thousands of Tamils have endured life under the crossfire between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government, and still today, about 300,000 of the nation's 3 million Tamils remain live in government camps in Sri Lanka's north. Many ex-patriate groups are now lobbying their host governments to pressure Sri Lanka into increasing humanitarian aid to Tamils. And since the war's end about six weeks ago, the most vocal and visible Tamil ex-pats fighting for this cause has been the youth, raised outside Sri Lanka, apart from relatives they now spend much of their free time fighting for.

For years, young Tamils have been staging protests calling for international intervention in Sri Lanka's civil war to help establish a permanent ceasefire. Now they're shifting their energies to persuade Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa to provide desperately needed resources to war-torn areas across the nation. Many young Tamils have grown loudly critical of Rajapaksa, who they say does not respect the rights of minority groups in the country. On June 17 in London, a 73-day protest calling for an end to discrimination against the Tamils by the Sri Lankan government ended with a series of clashes with police in Parliament Square. "I don't see the current government in Sri Lanka has the foresight to build compassionate and prosperous society based on equality, inclusiveness and accommodating the minority aspirations," says Keta Nannithamby, a 42-year-old Toronto resident who has frequent dialogue with Tamil youth via Twitter, the social media site through which he's developed a following of about 350 under the avatar @TamilDiaspora, and provides frequent links to Tamil-related information.

Many Tamil youth living around the world became committed to raising awareness of Sri Lanka's plight in the West after they visited their parents' country between 2002 and 2008, a period of truce between troops and the Tigers, and saw how their families were living there. Vasuki Guna, a 20-year-old university student in Australia, says she can't forget images of children running through a landmine-cleared field or an infant cousin screaming at the sound of a firecracker, confusing it with a grenade. "You come back and can't get the images out of your mind," Guna says. "After I saw that, I was so much more active in organizing campaigns. We have no control of Sri Lanka's government and its corruption, but we haven't just washed our hands. We're determined to fix it."

The number of young Tamils who are specifically sympathetic to the Tigers' cause is unclear, but they, too, vocalize their sentiments. Sam Pari, a 26-year-old doctor in Australia who also visited Sri Lanka during the ceasefire to volunteer at orphanages and hospitals, regularly meets with fellow activists to plan events and rallies. After seeing what she describes as the "discrimination and racism of the government" firsthand, Pari says she understands why the LTTE's resorted to arms throughout the conflict. "The diaspora is very concerned that the one body that protected the Tamils against oppression by the Sri Lankan government is now very much weakened." (Watch a video about civilians displaced by the war. [on Time.com])

But many members of the first generation of Tamils who fled the country when the war began are relieved by the Tigers' seeming end, and wish that the global Tamil youth were more critical of the LTTE. Nirmala Rajasingam, a first-generation activist with the UK-based Sri Lanka Democracy Forum, says the Tigers were "packaged as martyrs and freedom fighters" to the Tamil people, and that the diaspora's "unquestionable support and loyalty made the LTTE more unaccountable for its military power." Rajasingam, who has spent much of her life in exile having once been involved with the guerilla group, hopes this time following the conflict will be a time of introspection for the war's perpetrators. Her younger sister, Rajani, was also involved with the LTTE until she dissented and was allegedly murdered by members of the LTTE, the subject of the PBS' documentary "No More Tears Sister."

Support for the Tigers or rejection of their violent tactics has potential to divide young Tamils. But "it's too early to analyze and evaluate the divisions that could emerge among the youth," says Shanaka Jayasekara, Associate Lecturer at the Centre for Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism at Macquarie University in Sydney. "The extreme radical elements of the Tamil diaspora youth will continue to live in the past glory of the LTTE. The more moderate Tamil diaspora youth will use the opportunity to think outside the LTTE-centric worldview, and the less politicized Tamil diaspora youth will become conciliatory advocates promoting trust building on the ground," Jayasekara says.

While many youth would still like to see the eventual creation of an independent Tamil homeland, their short-term grassroots lobbying is intended to get Western governments to influence Sri Lanka into resettling the internally displaced Tamils today."We know that laws have been violated against our people," says Siva Vimal, a 20-year-old university student in Toronto who is involved with the York Federation of Students but has helped out groups like the Tamil Youth Organization in the past. "A lot of us have never been to Sri Lanka or seen the circumstances there, but we know the fundamental laws of human rights."

Some see another way to harness the energy of the youth movement. Ruth Kattumuri, a co-director of the Asia Research Center at London School of Economics, encourages Western Tamil youth to promote peace and development in Sri Lanka, including creating more opportunities for Tamils by teaching them skills, or helping provide medical care. "They can raise the resources they need to go there and work on rehabilitation and education," Kattumuri said, instead of seeking out media opportunities that she says promote violent images of rowdy protestors. "It's about creating projects which gives them employability. That way you're empowering them. It's about teaching them to fish, rather than giving them fish." [courtesy: The Time]

June 29, 2009

Human Rights Leadership Coalition writes President Obama Urging Action on Sri Lanka

Several prominent human rights organizations have expressed their deep concern over the dire human rights and humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka in a joint letter to President Barack Obama:

Full Text of letter:

June 18, 2009

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

We, representing several human rights organizations, are writing to express our deep concern about the situation in Sri Lanka and urge you to take immediate steps to address the dire human rights and humanitarian situation in that country.

Since December, during the last phase of intense fighting, tens of thousands of civilians have been killed, injured or displaced. Independent observers and media were denied access to the conflict zone. Three medical doctors who were providing independent information were arrested and held incommunicado. Even after the government claimed military victory, it denied access to camps and to the former safe zone where the final battle took place.

Despite repeated warnings by several international organizations of impending mass killings of civilians and despite strong statements of concern by you and several other world leaders, more than 20,000 civilians are reported to have been killed. The Times of London and Le Monde have published investigations, based on reliable data, and suggested that most of the civilian deaths were caused as a result of shelling by the Sri Lankan government.Thousands more were injured and the International Committee of the Red Cross was prevented by the Sri Lankan government for providing medical assistance resulting in many more civilian deaths.

The failure of the international community to take concrete action to protect civilians in Sri Lanka has given the green light to regimes around the world and has signaled that there is nothing that the international community will do when a government kills its own people under the cover of sovereignty.

It is now imperative that the United States assume the leadership necessary to mobilize the international community to protect the surviving civilians and to hold accountable those responsible for mass atrocities. Failure to do so would encourage governments to commit mass atrocities without fear of consequence. That is why your immediate action is important at this juncture.

We appeal to you to take steps to urgently address the plight of those in de facto internment camps and to initiate action to hold accountable those responsible for the mass killings. There are reports that some in the camps have already died from starvation or malnutrition. The United Nations Human Rights Council has called for an emergency meeting on Sri Lanka, but a UN resolution calling for immediate and unrestricted access to the camps failed, leaving individuals there still at risk.

Plight of those in the camps

Over three hundred thousand persons who fled the conflict zone are held in government run “internment camps.” Unrestricted humanitarian aid to those held in the camps will make the difference between life and death, and yet access for the UN and NGOs to the camps continues to be hampered by the government. According to Ms. Magdalena Sepulveda, who delivered a statement on May 26, 2009, on behalf of all UN Special Procedures mandate holders: “The Government of Sri Lanka, citing security concerns, after three months continues to detain in temporary camps the more than 300,000 men, women and children who escaped fighting. This gives rise to concerns of arbitrary detention. Many have endured months of terrible conditions in the conflict zone before their present internment…We deplore that in the camps some have already died from starvation or malnutrition.” According to Amnesty International, there are consistent reports of widespread and serious human rights violations facing the displaced people, including enforced disappearance, extrajudicial executions, torture and other ill-treatment, forced recruitment by paramilitary groups and sexual violence.

Sri Lankan government has misled the international community by consistently stating that there are no more than 70,000 to 100,000 civilians at risk. This is despite statements by the UN and international organizations that there are around 250,000 civilians at risk. Now, with the civilians out of the conflict zone, more accurate number of over 300,000 came to light.

Need for International Commission of Inquiry

Human rights organizations have documented serious violations of international humanitarian law by both the Sri Lankan government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during this period. Despite repeated denials, government forces repeatedly shelled densely populated areas, including at least 30 attacks on hospitals, in the government declared “no-fire area” where it had urged civilians to take shelter. The LTTE violated laws of war by using civilians as human shields and by using lethal force to prevent their escape. Three Sri Lankan doctors who provided detailed information about government shelling and civilian casualties in the conflict zone to outside media and human rights organizations have also been detained merely for fulfilling their ethical duties to their patients, in a clear violation of the rules of medical neutrality.

The situation for civilians was made worse by the Sri Lanka government’s inadequate delivery of relief supplies and the government‘s refusal to grant access to the region for aid agencies as required by international humanitarian law.

The Sri Lankan government’s record on investigating serious human rights abuses is poor and impunity has been a persistent problem. There have been serious ongoing violations of human rights and a backlog of cases of enforced disappearance and unlawful killings that run to tens of thousands, as described for example, in the 2008 Human Rights Watch report “Recurring Nightmare.” Despite this track record, there have been only a small number of prosecutions.

Past efforts to address violations through the establishment of ad hoc mechanisms in Sri Lanka, such as presidential commissions of inquiry have produced few results, either in providing information or in leading to prosecutions. To address abuses associated with the recent fighting, there is an urgent need for an independent, international commission of inquiry into many credible allegations of laws of war violations, including possible war crimes, by both sides, as well as illegitimate detentions.

Mr. President, we urge you to publicly call for an international commission of inquiry and to take necessary steps to achieve it. We also urge you to take steps for the full protection of internally displaced persons, including independent access to camps, former areas of conflict and to conflict-affected civilians by humanitarian and human rights organizations and the media.

Sincerely,

Mr. Larry Cox, Executive Director
Amnesty International USA

Ms. Karin Ryan, Director, Human Rights Program
The Carter Center

Ms. Jennifer Windsor, Executive Director
Freedom House

Mr. Robert Arsenault, President
International League for Human Rights

Ms. Felice D. Gaer, Director
Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights

Mr. A. Frank Donaghue, Chief Executive Officer
Physicians for Human Rights

Cc: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice

Click for copy of the Letter - PDF File

The I.D.P. Experience: Do I know what it means?

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

The troubles and travails faced by the displaced civilian population of the Northern mainland, Wanni is indeed a tragedy of our times.

I have in the past written extensively about the Wanni civilians who lived in tiger-controlled territory and described them as the wretched of the Wanni earth.

These people are now uprooted from their homes and compelled to live as “Internally Displaced Persons” in various camps described as welfare centers. [click here to read in full ~ dbsjeyaraj.com]

What does the future hold for Sri Lanka and all its citizens?

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Can the Tamils Seize a new opportunity” ? was the heading given by Ajith Ratnarajah to his well-written piece on the future of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Though lengthy the post evoked a lot of constructive discussion and debate on this blog.

Ajith had written it from a Tamil perspective and outlined certain ideas and proposals envisaging a bright future for the Tamils of Sri Lanka who at the moment face bleak prospects.

Another person of Sri Lankan origin now resident in Britain has sent an interesting , thought provoking article on what the future holds for Sri Lankans in general and Sri Lankan Tamils in particular.

Gus Mathews the writer in an e-mail sent to me says: [click here to read in full ~ on dbsjeyaraj.com

Starting Point of Realistic Reform is Implementation of the 13th Amendment

by Dayan Jayatilleka

We have a once –in-generations chance to re-found Sri Lanka, to build Sri Lanka anew. To do so, we must be both hard and soft; and vigilant as hawks and as conciliatory as doves. We must be hard enough to obliterate what is left of the LTTE as an organization and surgically pre-empt any attempts at re-emergence, be they local or Diaspora-based and originated. We must be soft and malleable enough to arrive at a consensus with the non-Tiger Tamils as to the shape of the Sri Lanka we wish to build and live in.

Where do we start? With renovation, I suggest. The only available starting point is modest and realistic reform, namely the implementation of the 13th amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution, because it represents the broadest available consensus between the Sri Lankan state and a section on non-Tiger Tamils as well as the Sri Lankan and Indian states. It represents the triangular intersection of the anti-Tiger elements of the “Tamil armed resistance” (as Kethesh Loganathan used to call it), and the Colombo and New Delhi governments.

The day after our Thirty Years War ended this year, a top level Indian delegation paid a call on the President and the joint press statement that ensued ( May 21st) not only contained a commitment by the Government of Sri Lanka to implement the 13th amendment but to explore possibilities of a further movement through dialogue.

The why of it is that 70 million Tamils will not go away from the demographic makeup of India ; a significant percentage of them will always be concerned about the fate of their ethnic kin in Sri Lanka , constituting a political factor that no government at the centre will ignore. Furthermore, no government at the Centre will risk a significant degree of alienation of Tamil Nadu, on the basis that the latter does not care about the fate of Sri Lanka ’s Tamils. We Sri Lankan Sinhalese could very well argue that it is none of their or anybody else’s business but our own, but that is just not the way the world works. As Mervyn de Silva wrote “in the age of identity, ethnicity walks on water”. Look at the intervention or counter-intervention of Russia on behalf of the South Ossetians in the face of a Georgian military offensive. (The Indian conduct of 1987 was a perfect precursor of this). The 13th amendment is the concrete expression of the Indian concern balanced off with Sri Lanka ’s sovereignty. Several scholarly texts, from different viewpoints, shed light on this nexus and its evolution. I refer to those by KM de Silva, Shelton Kodikara, John Gooneratne and Urmila Phadnis.

Sovereignty not only has to be asserted, it has to be defended and defensible. Sri Lanka cannot defend its sovereignty against all comers from all points of the compass, North and South, West and East. It can defend its sovereignty only by power balancing in a multi-polar world. Starkly put, if we lose India , we even lose the Non-aligned Movement, and (as we saw in 1987) we are left naked.

Any attempt at erasure of the 13th amendment will only open the door to greater not lesser concessions because we shall be dealing with a globalized world and the Obama factor as well. Between 1987 and today falls the breakup of the USSR and Yugoslavia , the dawn of the new century and the information age, the emergence of Obama etc. In short, it is better not to re-open the issue of the 13th amendment because we could find that the point of equilibrium stops above and beyond it.

There are minority grievances and there are minority aspirations. The latter are neither imaginary nor unwarranted. That which Virginia Woolf asserted on behalf of women writers is true of human beings in general: A Room with a View. It is part of the human condition that every individual requires an irreducible minimum of space in which to assert one’s distinctive identity and grow, without domination or interference from others. Every civic group needs political and cultural space. That is the bedrock argument for some measure of self rule or autonomy. It is rather different in the United States or France , where the Constitution does not privilege the culture or religion of any community, and there cannot be said to be – nor are there claims to being – a dominant ethnic, or ethno-religious community. The US is a melting pot, a classic case of cultural fusion and change, while the French Republic is sternly secular, with neither veils nor crosses allowed in schools.

Some states and societies are a hybrid, such as India, which has a secular Constitution, a pluralist society (the Prime Minister is a Sikh, the most powerful politician is of Italian origin, the most powerful political family is mixed race) but also provides sufficient space for its constituent communities in the form of a quasi federal system and linguistic states.

Tamil grievances remain from 1951, (if not from DS Senanayakae’s Pan Sinhala Cabinet) when Senator Nadesan voiced his dissent over the National Flag. We are far from a situation in which society is integrated, discrimination is aggressively tackled and the state is neutral between communities. In such a context, where one individual is not the equal of the other and one community has more privileges than the other, it is the case the world over, that collectivities with their distinctive identities and inhabiting recognizable geographic areas over long periods, tend to seek some political space and measure of self rule/self governance.

I cannot think of any state in the world, and I work among 193, that does not hold that Sri Lanka’s Tamils deserve and require equal rights in practice, as well as some autonomous political space, be it devolution of power to autonomous regions or provinces ( as in Britain or China) or something more. I repeat, the 13th amendment is the most modest and economical of these arrangements as far as the majority goes.

The 13th amendment may not solve grievances, but certainly addresses them. Does the Parliamentary or Presidential system solve the grievances of the Sinhalese or the majority of ordinary people or the poor? Obviously not, but this does not lead to the conclusion that these institutions and practices should be dumped in the trash-can because they simply devolve power to politicians and Ministers. They must be retained because, as Churchill said of democracy, they are the worst, save all others.

Political accommodation and reconciliation are not possible on the basis of majoritarian unilateralism. It requires a consensus, a common denominator between the communities. It would be difficult for the Sinhalese to find any of their fellow Tamil (and Muslim?) citizens who could be accommodated short of the implementation of the 13th amendment at the very least. If someone could name a single Tamil political party or leading personality who is willing to settle for anything short of the 13th amendment, I would be pleasantly surprised. What he or she will discover is that even purely domestic political accommodation between the communities/ethnic collectivities is impossible other than on the basis of the 13th amendment at the minimum.

There is a major distinction between Sri Lankans being at the centre of sorting out Sri Lankan problems, and Sri Lankan problems being capable of sorting out exclusively by Sri Lankans. That is the kind of isolationist position I have never held. My unit of analysis has always been the world system taken as single whole, a complex unevenly structured totality, and this is all the more relevant now that we are faced with the threat of a global protracted struggle with Tamil secessionism. If the battlefield is global, our analysis cannot be purely local. Sri Lanka ’s sovereignty must be defended mainly by our efforts, but cannot be defended solely or exclusively by them, and must be defended by a broad united front or concentric circles of alliances. Full if graduated implementation of the 13th Amendment, i.e. the fullest possible devolution of powers within our Constitution, is an essential part of the minimum political programme on which such a global united front can be built and sustained.

Narrow nationalism is an inadequate basis for the defense of the national interest, which is why the greatest of nationalists or more correctly, patriots, were also the greatest of internationalists. An example would be Fidel Castro who never tires of quoting Cuba ’s 19th century national hero, Jose Marti as saying “Homeland is humanity”. And Ho Chi Minh, (the Vietnamese nation’s beloved “Uncle Ho”) who reminded us that “Nothing is More Precious than Independence and Freedom” but also recalled (as a founder of the French Communist Party and the Communist International) the correctness of Frederick Engels’ dictum that “Freedom is the recognition of necessity”. I commend the full implementation of the 13th amendment at least as a tough-minded Engelsian recognition of necessity as both prerequisite and corollary of freedom.

Prof Senaka Bandaranaike discerns a pattern in ancient Sri Lankan history of being ahead of the rest of the subcontinent on occasions, but never being able to achieve a decisive breakthrough and sustain it. This happened at least three times, he once said in a lecture I attended. We now have another chance. It is as if we have obtained a second Independence , when we were ahead of the game in the rest of Asia but we then blew it. Let’s not blow it yet again.

(These are the strictly personal views of the writer).

'Sustained double-digit economic growth needed by all in Sri Lanka'

Lanka Business Online, The web based business portal based in Colombo in an “Ideas” article published today is calling for bold moves to revitalize Sri Lanka’s economy, for the betterment of all.

And it has called to enact Sri Lanka’s North and the East as special economic zones:

Trinco Chamber Of Commerce

at Trinco Chamber Of Commerce-by: indi.ca

Ideas: Make Sri Lanka’s North and the East special economic zones

June 29, 2009 (LBO) - Massive investment is needed in the North and the East to allow these war-torn regions to catch up with the progress they missed because of the LTTE.

The likelihood of obtaining these funds from Sri Lankan tax-payers or from foreign donors is not very good.

The former because we spend all government revenues on salaries and debt repayments and the latter because the success of Eelam War IV on the ground was not matched by success in the external propaganda war.

So what remains is private investment, domestic or foreign, beyond a few loans like the 24 million US dollars the government recently obtained from the World Bank for healthcare in the North.

Just to give a sense of proportion, the healthcare loan is less than one percent of the 4.5 billion US dollars pledged at the 2003 Tokyo Donors’ Meeting.

The keys to attracting private investment are showing high profit potential and/or reducing risk as much as possible.

Private investors go into lawless places like Somalia and the Congo. It is not that they do not go into high-risk places; it is that they demand very high and very rapid returns for doing so.
It is better to reduce risk than to guarantee profits. When NTT invested in Sri Lanka Telecom in 1997 at the peak of the LTTE’s economic war (Central Bank blasted in 1996; World Trade Centre attacked in 1997, etc.), the government sought to guarantee profits by giving it a form of exclusivity over international telephonic services.

This caused significant harm and delayed the emergence, for example, of the business process outsourcing industry. With the LTTE decapitated, it may be possible to attract investment in less harmful ways. We can make it easier to do business in the North and East by reducing different kinds of risk.

Headless though the LTTE may be, law and order has not completely returned as evidenced by recurrent instances of kidnapping. The infrastructure leaves much to be desired.

Getting supplies into factories and getting product to market will continue to be difficult for some time. Checkpoints and road closures will continue, making everything less certain and more expensive. These risks are difficult to reduce.

But there are other kinds of risks. What if the government were to reduce governance-related risks by declaring the Northern and Eastern Provinces Special Economic Zones? Where taxes are not arbitrarily raised for a number of years, say five or ten. Where one will not be solicited for donations at the drop of a hat and asked to sponsor this or that activity of the Presidential progeny.

Where one can hire workers when there is work, and let people go when there is not. Where one does not have to beg for approval to bring in needed specialists from abroad. Nothing really difficult to grasp; just a replication of what was offered to investors in the free trade zones under the Greater Colombo Economic Commission in the late 1970s.

Should this only be for factories? No. In the North and the East, there should be no prohibitions against anyone establishing private universities or healthcare facilities, other than minimal quality safeguards.

But should that mean that people in the North and East will have to pay for services that their fellow citizens in the other provinces get for free? That would be utterly unfair. Instead, they should be given vouchers to the value of what citizens receive in the rest of the country. They will be free to pay any education supplier in the North and the East with education vouchers and any healthcare supplier with healthcare vouchers.

Why would this be allowed? Because there are no vested interests left in the North and the East, unlike in the South where we have iron triangles upon triangles preventing reforms.

Why should this be allowed? Because we need to provide incentives for private investment in the region. Because, even more, we need to work out effective models to improve the supply of infrastructure services and create employment and wealth not only in the post-conflict regions, but in the entire country.

Because sustained double-digit economic growth and the essential enabling governance structures are needed by all of us, irrespective of whether we live in erstwhile border villages or places that were under the authority of the LTTE or in the economic centers that were the targets of the LTTE bombers. [courtesy: Lankabusinessonline.com]

Related article on Indi.ca:

Trinco is happening. The roads are being much and visibly improved, the Board Of Investment is setting up industrial zones and tax holidays, and the port is reopening for business. And it’s happening for all people, Tamil, Sinhala, Muslim, diaspora, whatever:

Trincomalee Small Businessman Kalaichelvan - Talking About IT:

June 28, 2009

'Normality in northern Sri Lanka is still a very long way away'

By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Colombo
Leelawathi Mahagamaralalage
Leelawathi Mahagamaralalage's family is proud of their military tradition, despite the human cost
It is just over a month since Asia's longest civil war in modern times came to an end, with the Sri Lankan government's declaration that it had finally defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels (LTTE) on the battlefield and killed nearly all their leaders.

Yet the army chief says he wants the army, already 200,000, to increase in size by 50%.

To see what the military means to many Sri Lankans, I visited the peaceful bungalow home of Leelawathi Mahagamaralalage, set among banana trees in a village.

Taking pride of place in her front room are shelves with pictures of her family, but mostly of her second son, Nandana.

Plastic surgery

When we get out the album, she weeps. It shows his funeral. A Sri Lankan army soldier, he was killed in battle 12 years ago, aged just 20.

Tamil MP Mano Ganesan
This expansion of the Sri Lankan army in such large numbers gives us wrong signals
Tamil MP Mano Ganesan

She still mourns him and treasures every memento including his final letter.

She has two other sons.

Nandana's elder brother, Chandana, was 14 years in the navy. But a year ago, in a Tamil Tiger grenade attack, he lost much of his hearing, and needed plastic surgery.

With her third son in the police, Leelawathi, despite her pain cherishes all her sons' achievements - and cherishes the armed forces.

"I feel so sad - but proud, too," she says. "I have only the memory of one son. But I am happy because I have two more sons. Even if a family has 10 people, very often, every one of them will join the military, the same as in my family."

The wounded brother Chandana, now retired, lives next door with his family. He fully supports the government's plan to expand the armed forces even now the war is over.

'Searching for heroes'

"The LTTE have no leader now. So the small number of LTTE cadres who are left will try to form another organisation and will try to become leaders, as a matter of pride, and will tell the world that they are the LTTE," he believes.

"So the army must be on alert and observe everything these people are doing, and take any action needed to prevent them forming again."

Brig Udaya Nanayakkara
Camps will be established to see that no terrorist activities take place
Brig Udaya Nanayakkara

Boosted by that pride, which is strongest in Sri Lanka's Sinhalese majority population, the forces are recruiting.

The capital, Colombo, has many posters praising the military. Sinhala-language television stations still carry advertisements to entice applicants, telling them their nation is "searching for heroes". And many are joining up.

The military says the ambitious plan for the massive 50%increase in size is grounded in the need to quash possible militancy and also to help with development work.

It will also step up its presence in Sri Lanka's north, where hundreds of thousands of Tamil refugees are currently interned in camps by the government with no freedom of movement. The authorities say they are concerned about their possible LTTE links and are therefore screening them.

They say that many of the refugees are still "with the LTTE… at least mentally". But they add that 10,000 "LTTE cadres" have been separated, under tight security, within the camps.

When the people eventually return home - which the government says most will do by the end of this year - they will be accompanied by the military for an uncertain period of time.

Sri Lankan soldiers
Many Sri Lankans are fiercely proud of the military

The military spokesman, Brig Udaya Nanayakkara, told the BBC there are plans to build more military bases in the north.

"Presently two security force headquarters are established in Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi," he said.

"Under these headquarters camps will be established to see that no terrorist activities take place in those areas in the near future.

"That doesn't mean people can't go and settle down. People will be able to settle down. But we will have to see that the whole area activities are being monitored by some organised establishment."

That means normality in northern Sri Lanka is still a very long way away.

For many Sri Lankans, the stepping-up of military activity is too much.

'Progressive forces'

A Colombo Tamil MP and leader of a small non-ethnic party, Mano Ganesan, worries that the military is becoming too influential in everything the government does. He fears this will mean less attention is given to political measures to secure the ethnic reconciliation which President Mahinda Rajapaksa says he wants.

Chandana
Chandana lost much of his hearing in a rebel grenade attack

"If we're going to expand the army more and more, what does it mean?" he says.

"It'll not only be bad for Tamils but also bad for the democratic, peace-loving Sinhalese progressive forces who want a united Sri Lanka where all the people can live equally with each other, who are against a Sinhala Buddhist hegemonic state.

"This expansion of the Sri Lankan army in such large numbers gives us wrong signals."

The root cause for Tamil extremism - he says - is "the national ethnic question. Which needs, will demand, a political solution."

The government, however, says it is necessary to bolster the military, even now.

Much of Colombo, especially the downtown business area, is still guarded by checkpoints - what some would call a ring of steel. Filming or photographing them is strictly banned.

To date, the end of the war has seen no change in this. The Sri Lankan state is attached to its military.

Slogans on the wall of the defence media centre say "It's the Soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press; It's the Soldier, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of speech."

After decades of war, demilitarisation and a relaxation of security measures are not going to happen soon. [courtesy: bbc.co.uk]

Greenland's peaceful passage to independence

The following editorial appeared first in the Boston Globe:

"If it bleeds, it leads," goes the old motto of the news business.

If this rule explains coverage of local crime stories and traffic accidents, it's even more applicable to global conflicts with their origins in old colonial conquests.

Those sad legacies have included bloodbaths in Vietnam, Cambodia, East Timor, Sri Lanka, India-Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran-Iraq, Iraq-Kuwait, Israel-Palestine, Chechnya, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, and all too many more.

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[Denmark's Queen Margrethe (C) and Prince Consort Henrik (R) arrive at the cathedral of Nuuk, Annaasissitta Oqaluffia, June 21, 2009 to celebrate the start of the Greenland Self-government-Reuters pic]

A saner way to escape history's nightmare could be glimpsed in Greenland's peaceable accession to independence from Denmark, an event celebrated Sunday on the world's largest island in a ceremony attended by the Danish queen.

Greenlanders, 90 per cent of whom are indigenous Inuits, voted overwhelmingly in a referendum last November to exercise self-rule and eventually to be independent.

Denmark, which has ruled that Arctic land since 1721, accepted the will of the people graciously.

Ironically, this rare version of decolonization was aided by the effects of global warming. With the ice cap over Greenland melting progressively, it has become possible to begin mining long-inaccessible gold, diamonds, coal, and zinc. And seismological analyzes project oil reserves of more than 110 billion tons. The revenue from these newly available resources will allow its 57,000 residents to reduce, and eventually eliminate, their reliance on a subsidy from Denmark of $550 million a year.

Other post-colonial conflict zones have had no such windfalls. But many of them could nevertheless learn something from the pacific way that Greenlanders pursued self-determination -- and the reasonable way that Denmark relinquished its hold over another people.

Tamils "very vulnerable" without political leadership

"Many of the grievances that fueled the conflict have not been met yet, and the question is what incentive does the [Sri Lanka] government have now that they have to reach out and begin reconciliation," said Dr Deepa Ollapally, Deputy Director at the Sigur Center at George Washington to an interview to Foreign Exchange TV, and added that without political leadership Tamils are "very vulnerable."

Associate director of The Sigur Center for Asian Studies at George Washington University discusses the latests developments and the future of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka

Beaches, Palm Trees, Displacement - Welcome to Sri Lanka’s War Zone

by: Christoph Koettl

Amnesty’s Science for Human Rights project just released a satellite image of Menik Farm in Sri Lanka, a de-facto internment camp run by the military, which offers a rare glimpse of the massive displacement caused by the conflict. Mark Cutts, the UN official at Menik Farm, recently told the BBC that “nothing less than a new city had been created.”

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[click here for full PDF satellite image of Menik Farm-by Amnesty’s Science for Human Rights project]

Through this image, along with aerial photographs displaying the devastation in the so called “safe zone”, we want to offer the public a rare opportunity to see on the ground details in a country where journalists and international monitors are widely prohibited from documenting the results of the recent military showdown. Graves, shelters and a shipwreck are among the things visible on the aerial photographs. We have combined all this information in a Google Earth Layer (recent version of Google Earth required), in order to give activists around the world access – something the government of Sri Lanka is denying us so far– and to call for accountability for the crimes committed by both the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers. (Many thanks to AAAS and Ogle Earth for their help in putting this project together).

U.N. emergency relief coordinator John Holmes recently described IDP camps in Sri Lanka as “internment camps”, stating that people are not allowed to move freely in and out. The people in Menik Farm are being vetted by the government to determine if there are any links to the Tamil Tigers.

Clcik here for Amnesty International Online Action Center on re: Sri lanka

[Courtesy of AIUSA]

June 27, 2009

The turn against the ‘rapacious West’ and the re-turn of communalism

by Rajan Philips

The rapacious West” was the epithet Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike flung at the West, feeding off the anti-imperialist fodder of the 1960s. That was during her first stint as PM and she chose the occasion of a State Banquet in Beijing to deliver the insult. J.R. Jayewardene, famous for his after dinner wit, would have cracked a few Chinese jokes. Not that anyone in the West significantly noticed, but the world’s first female PM provoked headlines in Colombo more in jest than in admiration.

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[Sri Lankan protesters burn placards during a protest outside the British Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, May 18, 2009.-AP pic]

JR himself would have chuckled at the spectacle, although he was then in his lonely eminence, in his Ward Place residence. Years later, JR would show his contempt for Mrs. Bandaranaike’s foreign forays by breaking with tradition and passing on the External Affairs portfolio to a lesser person when he succeeded her as Prime Minister in 1977. And it was a massively mandated succession accompanied by full throated hosannas to the West and its economies, and one that crushed the SLFP and wiped the Left off the electoral map. What goes around comes around. This karma will not end.

After more than forty years the rapacious West is back in Sri Lanka’s black book. Another SLFP government under a different family rule is now railing against it. But unlike in the 1960s, the accompanying rhetoric of anti-imperialism is fake and surreal, a farcical encore in the tragic unfolding of a bloody war. It is the war against the LTTE and the unfounded assumption that the West was somehow trying to save the tiger bacon that gave the Sri Lankan government the excuse to whip itself into a patriotic frenzy.

The fact of the matter is that without the banning of the LTTE as a terrorist organization by India and Western governments and the resulting crackdown on its international operations, the LTTE might not have been isolated and weakened to the point of imploding so spectacularly in the end. That the LTTE’s so called conventional military strength was highly overrated both by itself and by the government, but for entirely opposite reasons, is a different matter. What the Western governments, while not opposing the war targeting the LTTE, apparently wanted from the Sri Lankan government was its commitment to minimize the impacts on civilians and the assurance of a political solution after the war. No formal commitment was made and no guarantees remain.

The currently popular culture of disparaging the West and disrespecting the UN is in stark contrast to Sri Lanka’s positions more than twenty years ago, yes, under the then UNP-JRJ government, when the fight with the LTTE began in earnest. In the 1980s India was the main outside supporter of Sri Lankan Tamils and a number of Indian government agencies both at the Central and the Tamil Nadu State level either directly or indirectly supported the various Tamil militant groups including the LTTE, in their mobilization activities using Tamil Nadu as base. In 1987, India forced the Sri Lankan government to abruptly stop its military offensive that had just got underway in the Jaffna Peninsula. Decrying India’s bullying and to countervail India’s pressure tactics the JR government pleaded for Western involvement and even for UN presence on the Island. How the tables have been turned in 2009?

Fast forward to Geneva

At the special session of the 47-member UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva immediately after the war, India was alongside China and Pakistan helping Sri Lanka thwart a resolution by mostly European and a few Latin American countries calling for an investigation of human rights violations by both the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE. India gave all the help it could for Sri Lanka to successfully push through a counter-resolution that amounted to self-congratulation for defeating terrorism and insistence on international financial assistance for post-war reconstruction and rehabilitation. The efforts of even soft-power countries like Argentina, Czech Republic, Chile, Mauritius, Mexico and Switzerland, some of them recovering from their own histories of human rights abuses, to amend the Sri Lankan resolution to allow UN investigation of human rights abuses were also procedurally rejected thanks to India’s objections. Jawaharlal Nehru would have been proud!

In the Geneva debate, perhaps the high-water mark of his inconsistent political career, the Sri Lankan Ambassador to the UN in Geneva allegedly waxed eloquent on his government’s commitment to implementing the 13th Amendment that is already part of Sri Lanka’s basic law. Regardless of what was said or how it was said in Geneva, Sri Lanka could not have got a stronger endorsement of its commitment to the 13th Amendment from anyone other than India. For it was India that took a certain blame for forcing down the 13th Amendment on an unwilling Sri Lankan government, and it is again India that is now taking a different kind of blame for blessing a different Sri Lankan government to wage ‘unlimited war’ against the LTTE on the understanding that the 13th Amendment would be implemented after the war.

Strangely, or not so strangely, one hears positively about the prospects of the 13th Amendment more in New Delhi than in Colombo. Even the alleged commitment to the 13th Amendment in Geneva entered the Sri Lankan news circles as a result of the attacks against it by JVP-JHU-NPM forces. Rather than praising the man who brilliantly saved his benefactor’s bacon in Geneva, the JVP-JHU-NPM attack dogs are criticizing him for what they consider to be an unnecessary commitment. The more transparent 13th Amendment plus or minus advocates within the Rajapakse government are reportedly receiving worse treatment from the same attack dogs than the Ambassador in Geneva.

It used to be said that by raising the extreme separatist demand, Tamil politics had forced the Sri Lankan governments to seriously consider federalism as a constitutional option. The 13th Amendment came as a half-way compromise. Then it was said that with the LTTE around, nothing could be done, neither the 13th Amendment, nor plus or minus. So the LTTE had to go. It is gone now for all intents and purpose, unless you believe that it is not fully gone until every child, woman and man in the 300,000 Tamils interned in the Vanni is screened and cleared.

Even that should not prevent activating the dormant 13th Amendment. Not so for the JVP-JHU-NPM folks. What was killed as separatism at the front door should not be allowed through the backdoor as the 13th Amendment is their argument. The LTTE is gone, but old communalism has returned.

All the while, President Rajapakse is sticking to mute mode when it comes to saying something, anything, positively about a political solution to the Tamil problem. May be he has lapsed into the now common denial mode that with the LTTE gone, gone too is the Tamil problem. Even if he does not care a damn about the wretched Tamils, he could do something to save his moderate supporters from his extreme attack dogs. He is not all that mute when it comes to insisting on Sri Lanka’s unitariness, or establishing his political lineage to the old kings of Sri Lanka.

Some in the President’s camp would want him to be King. It is not the Philosopher King in the Platonian model that they have in mind, but a kingdom of thieves with no checks and balances where they could reap the riches. In such a kingdom, it doesn’t matter whether you have the 13th Amendment, the 17th Amendment, or anything else. It would be a homemade kingdom like Burma, and not a ‘supermarket of Constitutions’ that Socrates envisaged for Athens. And only such kingdoms and not the contemporary constitutional mosaics of the West, where many Sri Lankans of all ethnic and hybrid hues live as free people and not the King’s subjects, that could properly be called ‘rapacious’.

June 26, 2009

Responsibility To Protect Does Not Apply in Sri Lanka Situation

by Jorge Heine

Lakshman Kadirgamar, the former Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, was one of the most incisive legal minds of his generation. A former president of the Oxford Union, he made significant contributions to the ILO and the World Intellectual Property Organisation, among other entities. Whoever met him, as I did, could not help but be impressed with his knowledge of international affairs, his passion for peace in his homeland, and his razor-sharp intellect.

An ethnic Tamil, he was proud to serve as Foreign Minister in the Cabinet of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, a Sinhala, though he knew in so doing he put his life on the line. And, like so many others of the best and brightest Sri Lankan Tamils of our time, he paid for it dearly. He was gunned down one evening in August 2005 in his own home in Colombo, by a sniper using an infra-red-telescope-equipped rifle. As customary, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), one of the deadliest and bloodiest terrorist organisations ever seen, never acknowledged authorship, though it is widely accepted no one else could have pulled off such a complex, high-tech task.

As terrorist attacks spread from Baghdad to Bombay to Baluchistan, and the Afghan war spills into Pakistan, one would think that the end of the 25-year-old war in Sri Lanka in May 2009 would be widely greeted. In the South Asian cauldron, where for too long India has been the only anchor of stability, one war less to contend with is a great relief.

Moreover, the LTTE, banned in 32 countries, was among the worst terrorist outfits. Combining moral turpitude with high-tech savvy, it invented the suicide bomber-vest, pioneered the deployment of female suicide bombers, excelled in the recruitment of child-soldiers, killed one President at home and a former Prime Minister abroad, and developed the extortion of the Tamil communities abroad to a high art, accumulating, according to some estimates, a $ 300 million to $ 400 million war chest. Uniquely, it set up both a Navy and an Air Force, and a specialised suicide bomber unit, the so-called Black Tigers, whose career high point was the “last meal” (vegetarian) they had with LTTE supremo Velupillai Prabakaran before departing for their final mission .

The LTTE’s end should thus be welcomed. Yet, inexplicably, instead of being praised, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been criticised in many western quarters, particularly in Scandinavia and in western Europe. Even before the war was over, the Sri Lankan government was under pressure to allow a ceasefire — presumably to allow the LTTE high command to escape unharmed from its last bastion, on a small sliver of land behind a lagoon in Sri Lanka’s Northern tip, Wanni region.

As usual, the LTTE used human lives as a shield, and surrounded its high command with some 275,000 civilians. The LTTE heavy artillery was set up in the midst of this civilian population. It was to protect those innocent civilian lives that the Sri Lankan government would suspend for a few days the ongoing military operations, first on January 29 and 30 and then on April 13 and 14. Yet, it found that, on doing so, the flow of civilians out of the LTTE-controlled area would diminish from the 1000 or so a day who would escape regularly, as the Tigers, freed from the need to return fire, were able to turn their guns on these innocent hostages.

Even so, and responding to the concern of the United Nations, represented in situ by the U.N. Secretary-General’s chef de cabinet, Vijay Nambiar, as late as early April, the Sri Lankan government was prepared to compromise. A preliminary understanding was reached: the U.N. team would be allowed to go into the LTTE-controlled area, under the auspices of the World Food Programme, to negotiate an end to the conflict, offering full amnesty for the rank and file of the Tigers, and due process of law for their leaders.

This was overtaken by events. On April 20, the Sri Lankan Army broke the security perimeter of the LTTE area, and in 72 hours 105,000 civilians managed to escape, even under Tiger fire. From there on, things moved fast. On May 18, it was over.

The argument has been made that the international community, invoking the concept of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), should have intervened to stop the fighting earlier, since “the Sri Lankan government is as responsible as the LTTE for civilian deaths.” Others, like my good friend and former Norwegian official, Vidar Helgesen, have argued that the outcome of the Sri Lankan conflict shows “conflict resolution the Post-American Way,” one in which the brute use of force would replace “emerging international norms and architecture for human security, the responsibility to protect, peace mediation, peace-building, etc.,” making them “obsolete before they even got started.”

The resolution of the Sri Lankan conflict would thus fall into the same category as tragedies such as the Rwandan genocide, the Srebrenica massacre, and the “killing fields of Cambodia.” The first task now, therefore, would be an international investigation into what happened, and how to allocate responsibility for eventual war crimes or crimes against humanity between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE.

This does little favour both to Sri Lanka and to the very valuable Canadian–initiated concept of R2P, one of the most exciting and innovative notions in IR and international law today. R2P has triggered resistance in many countries of the Global South precisely because of its potential misapplication to situations such as the Sri Lankan one.

In Sri Lanka, what obtained was a straightforward civil war, initiated by a separatist, terrorist organisation, which cost up to 70,000 lives during the quarter century it lasted. During its duration, Sri Lanka remained a full-fledged democracy: five general elections were held, and the government changed hands three times, though the LTTE killed one President, at least one Foreign Minister, and the Army Chief barely escaped from another suicide bomber.

Though the war took its toll, press freedom suffered, and human rights violations were committed on both sides, the most remarkable thing is how well Sri Lanka’s democratic institutions withstood the terrorist onslaught. Parliament had to be moved from its prime location in downtown Colombo, overlooking the sea, to the suburbs — to a building that, like a medieval fortress, is surrounded by water to protect the country’s elected representatives from suicide bombers — this in a country with such a peaceful tradition that it did not even have an independence movement: Britain granted it independence in 1948 almost as an afterthought, after India’s the year before.

During these 25 years, Sri Lanka called on the international community for help through a variety of peace-mediation efforts, both from India and the Scandinavian nations. All of them were taken advantage of by the LTTE to continue to pursue its objectives of a separate, independent Tamil Eelam through its policy of indiscriminate killing of all those it considered stood in its way, be they Sinhala or Tamil, and thus came to naught. Time and again, as early as 1987, the LTTE rejected the many offers just short of independence that were made. Not surprisingly, after some two decades of this, President Rajapaksa realised that only a military solution could bring peace to Sri Lanka.

One of the great successes of the LTTE was its manipulation of western public opinion. It masterfully played on the identity politics prevalent in advanced democracies, and stayed away from targeting non-Sri Lankans (except, of course, closer to home, Rajiv Gandhi, which was its undoing). Prabakaran died with a side arm in one hand and a satellite phone in the other, gambling to the last minute that the international community would rescue him and his acolytes.

While 64 years after the end of the Second World War the Allies continue to celebrate with great fanfare the end of a war that lasted six years, Europeans now have the nerve to accuse the Sri Lankan government of engaging in “triumphalism” — this a bare month after ending a war that lasted 25 years and inflicted great suffering on Sri Lanka.

The main task for the international community today is to help Sri Lanka in its reconstruction effort in the North and the East, and in addressing the very legitimate grievances of the minority Tamil community. The last thing South Asia needs is a finger-pointing exercise aimed at questioning the Sri Lankan state’s legitimate right of self-defence and of using military force to respond to a separatist uprising to protect its territorial integrity. To confuse this with a genocidal exercise like that of Rwanda would have made the international lawyer in Lakshman Kadirgamar cringe.

The end of the Sri Lankan conflict should be seen for what it is: a victory of one of Asia’s oldest and most established democracies over one of the great scourges of our time: terrorism.

(Jorge Heine holds the Chair in Global Governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs and is a Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) in Waterloo, Ontario. He served as Chile’s Ambassador to Sri Lanka from 2004 to 2007.)

Silent majority must raise their voices loudly and clearly

by Shannie

The tragedy of Sri Lanka has been the growth, since the mid fifties, of ethno-religious nationalism and the consequent destabilisation of our pluralist society. Over the years, our political leadership, even though perhaps realising the perils of it, went along this slippery road for political gain. It was only the Left, the old Left of Samasamajists and Communists, who initially refused to succumb to these vocal yet obscurantist forces. In the end, the lure of political power engulfed even them. But, all through this capitulation to narrow nationalism, there remained, within all political parties, the civil society, the academic community and religious leadership, a core element with a commitment to liberalism, pluralism and moderation.

But unfortunately, this liberal element has always been on the defensive and remained silent when confronted by vocal and sometimes violent nationalist forces. In this week’s column we survey the growth of narrow nationalism and the disastrous effect it has had on the country and urge that the liberal and pluralist men and women in our country, the silent majority, must now raise their voices and ensure that the voices of moderation are heard loud and clear now.

Growth of linguistic nationalism

The rise of ethno-nationalism in the mid-fifties was perhaps a natural process following four centuries of colonial rule. The colonial rulers certainly did much to develop the economy of the country – the road and railway network, the opening up of a plantation economy, the introduction of a system of justice and rule of law, the provision of educational facilities throughout the country and the granting of universal suffrage as prelude to greater self-rule were some of the positive features of colonial rule. Even though it may rightly be argued that all this was for the economic exploitation of a colony under their rule. This exploitation resulted in a privileged position for the English-educated local elite who dominated business and commerce and owned vast acres of coconut and rubber plantations and provided the back-bone for the public administrative system.

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Jaffna Hindu College

At the time of independence, the Sinhala and Tamil-educated found themselves therefore in a most disadvantaged position. Among the Tamils, however, the Jaffna Tamils were comparatively better-off. The Christian missionaries and the Hindu bodies had established a network of good English schools throughout the Peninsula. The Christian missionaries had done so in all parts of the country but unlike the Hindu Sabhas and the Ramakrishna Mission which established schools in Jaffna and some in the East, the educational work of Buddhist societies was only sporadic. So the Jaffna Tamil had a head-start in English education and was able to fit into the clerical positions in public administration. The Muslim and Tamil businessmen also showed more enterprise than their Sinhala counterparts and were able to engage in small businesses throughout the country. And so the Sinhala-educated found themselves sharing economic power disproportionate to their numbers.

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St. John’s College Jaffna

The Hartal of 1952 had opened up a new political reality. The resignation of the incumbent Prime Minister from the ruling English-educated elitist class made S W R D Bandaranaike realize that there was then an opportunity to dislodge the UNP from power. He entered into a no-contest pact with the Left parties in preparation for the next General Election. But he also decided to provide leadership to the Sinhala nationalist forces who felt frustrated by the English-educated elite. This brought together in the Bandaranaike-led coalition.

Professor Kingsley de Silva notes, an array of forces ‘which had hitherto been unwilling to unite in support of a common programme – the Sinhalese school teachers, Ayurvedic physicians, Sinhalese writers, and the bhikkhus. Concentrating their attention on the superior educational advantages enjoyed by the Tamil minority, they set their sights on the demolition if the language settlement arrived at in 1944-45 – that Sinhala and Tamil should replace English as the national languages – and campaigned for ‘Sinhala only’, the slogan which became the main plank of the coalition.’

de Silva continues: ‘For the Tamils the implications of the change in language policy were starkly clear. It meant that they would be at a great disadvantage in future in employment, in the administration of the country, and eventually in the professions as well. But more importantly, once language became the determinant of national consciousness, there were fears that the Tamils’ identity as a distinct ethnic group would be eroded through a policy of assimilation. This transformation of nationalism through the prominence accorded to nationalism as a badge of identity affected them as well – language became a focal point of a new ethnic consciousness, of two rival nationalisms.’ (Sri Lanka’s Troubled Inheritance, 2007)

Since the triumph of the Bandaranaike-led coalition in the 1956 Election and the promulgation of the ‘Sinhala Only’ Act (frustrating Bandaranaike’s original draft which provided for concessions for the use of Tamil), many heads of state have attempted to arrive at a settlement that provided for power-sharing. Bandaranaike himself and Dudley Senanayake entered into agreements with S J V Chelvanayakam in this regard. J R Jayewardene had to succumb to arm-twisting by the Indians. But Premadasa and Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge recognized Tamil grievances and attempted to negotiate a reasonable settlement.

Despite being frustrated by LTTE intransigence, Chandrika Kumaratunge presented to the country a set of consensus proposals only to find her political opponents back-tracking. But with the present Mahinda Rajapaksa regime, we seem to have come a full circle and find him in the same position as S W R D Bandaranaike was in the mid fifties – surrounded by hard-line Sinhala nationalists.

Professor Kingsley de Silva recalls an incident in 1956 when Bandaranaike invited a group of opposition members of Parliament to discuss the draft Sinhala only bill. When the group met the Prime Minister, they found to their surprise that he was flanked by two Ministers sympathetic to the language extremists, and worse still, by three of the language extremists themselves: L H Mettananda, Mapitigama Buddharakkita Thera (later the first accused in the Bandaranaike murder), and Baddegama Wimalawansa Thera. The language extremists referred to the Left leaders and others who advocated moderation as ‘traitors’. It is the same language that is used today by the chauvinists to describe anybody who opposes their narrow nationalistic line. As in the 1956 incident, it was surprising to see Wimal Weerawansa at a press conference on Tuesday being flanked by senior SLFP ministers and denouncing his political opponents as associates of the LTTE. The moderate voices cannot remain silent and allow the country to be once again made hostages to extremism.

Nehru’s warning

It is good to recall what Jawarharlal Nehru once stated when he philosophised on conditions that affected human behaviour. Moral considerations, he said, may influence an individual but their effect on a group is far less, and the larger the group the less is their effect on it. And it is easier, especially in the modern world, to influence the group by insidious propaganda. And yet sometimes, though rarely, the group itself rises to a height of moral behaviour, forcing the individual to forget his narrow and selfish ways.

‘War produces both these reactions, but the dominant tendency is a release from moral responsibility and the collapse of the standards that civilization has so laboriously built up. Successful war and aggression lead to a justification and continuance of this policy, to imperialist domination and ideas of a master race. Defeat results in frustration and the nursing of feelings of revenge. In either event, hatred and the habit of violence grow. There is ruthlessness and brutality, and a refusal to try to understand the other’s viewpoint. And thus the future is conditioned and more wars and conflicts follow with all their attendant consequences.’ (The Discovery of India, 1946). [courtesy: The Island]

Three potential sources of pluralist reform in post war Sri Lanka

By Dayan Jayatilleka

As Paul Berman once wrote, “somewhere in the world it is always 1941”. There comes a time in the life of every society when it is faced with an existential threat or challenge. It is the social forces or elements that rise up to this challenge and successfully overcome this threat that then have the power as well as the legitimacy to place their stamp on what comes after. Those who stood on the wrong side of history, or never rose to the occasion, or who abandoned the struggle partway, or simply failed; the defeated enemy, the collaborators, the appeasers and the fence-sitters — and these are not one and the same — all forfeit the chance to place their values, ideas and programs as the leading ones of the social order that follows the great test.

The truths are threefold. The truth is that the Tigers and the Tamil ultra-nationalists overestimated themselves and underestimated the Sinhalese, due to arrogance and racism. The last stage of the war saw a titanic clash of wills, between, on the one hand, the Tigers, the Tamil Diaspora and overseas Tamils from Canada to Chennai, their Western supporters and the Western media, and on the other, the Sinhala people, the armed forces, the Rajapakse leadership, a thin stratum of heroic Tamil rebels against Prabhakaran, and several friendly states. The Balasinghams wrote a book about the Tamil Eelam struggle with a neo-Nietzschean title, The Will to Freedom. The truth is that from a classically Nietzschean perspective, the Sinhalese Will to Power, i.e. to “prevail over” to “overcome” (which was Nietzsche’s meaning) on and over this small island, was and will in the final analysis always be, cannot but be, greater than that of the Tamils to secede. The truth is also that the Tigers, weakened by an Eastern Tamil rebellion, were defeated by a largely Sinhalese army, sustained by the Sinhala people whose collective will refused to break under decades of suicide bombings, body bags coming home to villages and assassinations of their leaders; the Sinhalese who, this time around, like the paradigmatic Silindu in Woolf’s Village in The Jungle, finally turned on their tormentors and blew them away.

If the social bloc that dominates the UNP wished a postwar Sri Lanka of their liking they should not have repeatedly blown the chances they had of defending the country’s territorial unity, integrity and sovereignty -- but blow them it did.

JR Jayewardene did want to win the war, though Lalith Athulathmudali did say that operations were intended to prove to the Tigers that they had no military option. JRJ was perhaps the only UNP president that wanted to win the war and tried to, but he and his administration did not have the basic capacity or intelligence (a) to suppress Black July ’83 (b) not to tamper with the rules of the democratic game to such a degree that it split the Sinhalese and destabilized the domestic situation and (c) to maintain the kind of political relationship with India that would have permitted it to win the war and pre-empted Indian pre-emption, so to speak.

The Premadasa presidency had an admirable degree of multiethnic, multicultural pluralism in its make up and dominant ideology but it allowed the war effort to be paralyzed by infighting within the officer corps and under-funded by bureaucrats with a possible bias or lack of commitment. It made the right decision in putting Gen Denzil Kobbekaduwe in charge of the military effort but it did not consider a military victory possible or, on balance, desirable. (I was possibly the only one in the Premadasa camp whose policy memoranda to him pushed for a military victory. This heartbreaking effort is reflected in my book The Travails of a Democracy: Unfinished war, Protracted Crisis, Vikas, New Delhi 1995).

The UNP’s final chance came with the Prime Ministership of Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe who opted for a lopsided Ceasefire agreement at a time when the balance of forces had turned dramatically against the LTTE due to the successful operations of the Special Forces LRRP and the global anti-terrorist shift due to 9/11. The CFA permitted the buildup of the proto state structure of the Tigers and humiliated the Sri Lankan armed forces.

The moderate, Westernized wing of the SLFP had its chance to win the war and re-mould Sri Lanka in accordance with its more reformist pluralist ideology but it threw the chance away. The re-taking of Jaffna was vitiated by the failure to cut off the LTTE’s retreat thereby permitting the Tigers to escape together with large number of civilians, base themselves in Mullaitivu, regroup and make a dramatic comeback. The strategy was one of taking territory rather than annihilating the enemy; recruitment was negatively affected by campaigns such as Sudu Nelum, Thavalama and the efforts of NIPU etc; corruption was rampant in the sphere of procurement. Above all, there was no commitment to a strategic goal of destroying the enemy but rather to one of driving the Tigers to the negotiating table. Worst of all, Karuna’s rebellion was double-crossed and Prabhakaran’s Sea Tigers allowed to violate the CFA and land in his rear area; General Sarath Fonseka was transferred from Jaffna and placed on the shelf in charge of the Volunteers ( the Sunday Island carried many pieces by me around the time and after, vigorously criticizing the decision and arguing for his placement at the helm of our army); and the tsunami weakened Tigers were sought to be given an administrative–financial authority in the form of the PTOMS, probably as part of a deal with the TNA which would give a third term to the incumbent.

These are not the only critics of the Rajapakse administration and the postwar outcome. Others include the local and foreign NGOs comprising self–proclaimed civil society; the Churches; and the non-Tiger Tamil dissidents such the UTHR and SLDF. Had Colombo’s cosmopolitan civil society not been so totally pro-appeasement, had the churches been visibly and audibly critical of Tiger totalitarianism and exercised greater internal discipline (instead of allowing some of its clergymen to opt for Barabbas, as Fr Bernard continues to do from Mindanao), had the Tamil dissidents worked for a united front of anti-Tiger Tamils which could have launched a resistance struggle in the rear of the LTTE or backed Karuna and Douglas Devananda, who were the actually existing alternatives to the Tigers, their criticisms - pious, petulant or patronizing - of trends in postwar Sri Lanka would not have so little social legitimacy and traction. (I recall the response of an award winning Indian journalist of Tamil ethnicity who wrote a book on the war, when I praised the UTHR-J reports: “yeah, except for that Church of South India tone of preachy Protestant moralizing!”)

None of this justifies any attempt by extremist lobbies to translate and degrade the victory of the Sri Lankan state, its armed forces and the people over the Tigers, a valiant victory which has the potential to be a liberation of all the peoples of the island from LTTE fascism, into an armed version, a militarized equivalent of 1956 or 1972 (the abolition of Section 29 and the formal enthronement of one language, religion and specific state form over others).Whatever their socially enabling and democratic aspects for the vast majority, both 1956 and 1972 contained for the minorities, a dimension of discrimination, domination and divisiveness.

No current critique, however trenchant, of postwar Sri Lankan trends approximates in its luminous perspicacity the following judgment:

“Separate identities have been sustained and fortified by deep antagonisms and wildly contested facts which extend over two millenia and more…Each fresh confrontation and every violent eruption becomes an instant invitation to an overpowering onrush of self-righteous recidivism, against which reason can only erect the feeblest defenses... Having co-opted the clergy, can militant Sinhalese-Buddhism rely on support from the armed services, too?... Now regional councils are coming up for air for the third (and last?) time. All the political parties are discussing the proposal, a shrewd… move to gain endorsement from a national consensus. But has political power already slipped out of the hands of politicians?”

Amazingly, these words appeared a shade over a quarter century ago in the pages of the Far Eastern Economic Review of January 26, 1984, pp22-23, and were written by Mervyn de Silva. Though a little late, I have wised-up sufficiently, not to doubt my father’s wisdom, but was this a description of some aspect of the reality at the time, or a latent tendency at any time given Sri Lankan society, history and mentality, or an early warning-cum-prediction? Only future history will tell.

Does this mean that from a pluralist, reformist or modernist perspective all is lost either by cultural fore-ordination and teleology or by default and abdication? I would argue not necessarily, not inevitably, for three reasons, all discernible from a dialectical standpoint. These are the three potential sources of pluralist reform in postwar Sri Lanka. In ascending order of significance, the first is comprised of the Tamil allies and partners of the state and the governing party. Contrary to the crude, congruent distortions of Colombo’s liberals and their western patrons as well as the Sinhala hardliners, it is not the case that the anti-Tiger camp is monolithically and exclusively Sinhala hard-line while those who are for ethnic equality and autonomy belong to the “antiwar”, “anti-state” and “antigovernment” camp. There is a strategically significant anti-Tiger, pro-state, pro-Govt Tamil stakeholder segment, which stands for equality and devolution.

The second driver of a more pluralist postwar outcome is the democratic system which includes the courts and above all, competitive elections. Municipal elections are imminent, Parliamentary elections are scheduled for the first half of next year and Northern provincial elections are unavoidably on the agenda. With proportional representation, the Tamil people will punch pretty much their demographic weight. Political space cannot but broaden, and the ensuing give-and-take is inevitable, eroding ideological blocs. Post-election, the postwar power bloc would be recomposed.

The third and final source is the external factor. Forget the unfair critics of Sri Lanka and those who tilt to the pro-Tiger Tamil Diaspora for one reason or the other. Those who stood by Sri Lanka during the war and its aftermath are crucially interested in political accommodation of the Tamil minority – with India being an obvious case in point, but by no means the only one holding this view. The statement of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization led by China and Russia, which has admitted Sri Lanka as a “dialogue partner” (my regular readers, going back to the Weekend Express column may recognize that I canvassed for affiliation since its founding almost a decade ago), mentions not only “independence and sovereignty” but also “the rights of minorities”.

It is the dynamic of interaction of these three factors within the anti-Tiger, “patriotic” universe, within the cosmos of the Sri Lankan state, within the power-bloc that won the war, which will make for pluralism, reform and possibly paradigm shift.

We shall need to pay heed to the views of our friends, local and foreign, as it becomes increasingly obvious that the Tiger army is destroyed but the Tiger movement or global network is still alive, a well-placed new generation of Tamil secessionists have been born overseas and have come of age, and though the war is decisively won, the protracted struggle with Tamil Tiger separatism on a world scale is hardly over. A long Cold War has just begun.

(These are the strictly personal views of the writer).

Sinhala and Tamil people of Sri Lanka: Where do we go from here?

By Niro Dissanayake

KDKETC.jpgAll that was predicted and feared/anticipated depending where you are standing has come to pass. The ‘Dutugemunu Principle’ has peaked and the policy of 60 years has come to fruition. The Sinhalese have come a full circle and stand victorious and united with their writ running from North to South, East to West, as was in the time of the great king 2000 years ago. History has repeated itself in eerie fashion.

King Dutugemunu himself is said to be reborn – albeit in the form of President Mahinda Rajapakse. The mindless sycophants and hangers-on are already proclaiming the ‘Return of the King’ and requesting all parliamentary democratic practices be put asunder and He be the ‘Ruler for the next 25 years’ no less. If this is to be another golden age of Sinhalese Buddhists is yet to be seen.

The would-be ‘Elara’ was defeated yet again, dying in the mangroves. No heroic death fighting 'mano-a-mano' with his chief foe this time. His body was paraded half naked before being cremated and the ashes disposed to the sea. And not even a monument to mark his death, or for passing travellers to get out of their cars and pay their respects. No family to remember him either, as they joined him in death. Now destined to be largely forgotten even in distant lands like the bastard child nobody wants to claim.

An abject failure and embarrassment, whose passing has not been mourned or commemorated, and had to suffer the final insult of having his death denied by his most fervent supporters. The suspicious stench of betrayal hangs heavy in the air among those who followed him unquestioningly before. Was it Pottu? Was it KP? Who betrayed the Tamil cause this time, torments their minds and fuels their bitterness and rage against the Sri Lankan unitary state and the Sinhalese people.

Some Tamils languish in physical prison camps in the north of Sri Lanka. Others languish in mental prisons of their own making, in exile, waving the red flags of an organisation defeated, and now irrelevant and consigned to the dustbin of history.

The rest remain under siege with the Sinhalese on one side, the deep blue sea on the other and hostile or unsympathetic nations surrounding them in all directions or worse with the ‘dreaded Sinhalese Army’ living in their midst’s. How can they sleep? Just like Dutugemunu all those years ago. ‘The tables were turned as planned’ would probably say the king.

Perhaps they are better off overseas as a Diaspora – No, the white ‘natives’ are not as happy as their nice cosseted lives were disrupted due to those inconsiderate newly arrived demonstrators. What is a Tamil to do and where is he to go?

There is hope however. Some Tamils have managed to escape their mental prisons and join others who were already outside whose voices of reasons which were drowned out by the hysterical masses in the past, and are becoming increasingly seen and heard. Will they lead their defeated and humiliated people to recover their lost respect, rights and dignity to live within the country they have been just as long as the Sinhalese?

I certainly hope so for then there will be no more need for the ‘Dutugemunus’ or warped principles and we can all live in peace as Sri Lankans.

But as I said before a few years back, and nothing has changed, the cupboard in indeed still bare and the starkness of the lack of credible Tamil leadership would be soul destroying to one of that race.

What Tamils sorely needed now that the madness has passed was Neelan – instead they have Pilliyan. Or Kethesh – instead they have Karuna. Perhaps Thiranagama – instead they have Devananda - an unholy triumvirate who seek to determine their destiny in the East, the North and a national basis respectively.

Such incredible and mindless self destructiveness is difficult to be believed if one had not lived through it and witnessed with one’s own eyes. Those who supported the wanton killing of the cream of Tamil intellect, and followed willingly or unwillingly a mad man who led them up the garden path to a muddy mangrove, a dusty beach, a crowded camp or a foreign land must have now surely come to their senses?

Or are there those who are considering as an alternative, the ‘transnational leader’ who shares the same initials as a famous brand of nuts. Quite apt perhaps if he considers himself as the next ‘Surya Devan’ considering his current popularity with Interpol, not to mention India for the small matter of an assassination of a popular leader.

And perhaps we Sinhalese could have done with our own Tamil ‘yodhaya’ Kadirgamar right now, with his steadying influence and intellect. Instead we have the midget Boggollagama. Perhaps we got the short end of the stick on second thoughts.

Where do the ancient Sri Lankan Tamil people belonging to this blessed island since time immemorial, go from here?

Perhaps they can form a ‘transnational’ council of respected elders of the likes of Narendran, Jeyaraj, or a Hoole or two who have retained their credibility under trying circumstances and who have found common ground with the Sinhalese and seek to heal wounds and build bridges to establish our common humanity. Surely that must be the way forward?

How much influence can they wield on the Tamil people without returning to their homeland is a question only for their consciences to answer? Can they leave those pitiful people to be led by the earlier mentioned leaders or can they return and positively influence a seemingly as yet unsympathetic government?

Tamil Sri Lankans have to find their own way with healthy debate among their own communities at the end of the day. The time is ripe where they can do this with no fear of repercussions. It is probably not for a ‘Sinhalese Buddhist’ to comment on at this present time as the wounds are somewhat raw and the hurt is fresh and may not be welcomed.

I can however pass comment to my fellow Sinhalese Sri Lankans. The relief is palpable and the joy of the end of the war is worth celebrating as well as acknowledging and paying respect to our heroic armed forces who sacrificed so much. The patriotism is at an all time high. I feel it strongly too. I cannot deny it. However now the heat of the battle has passed it is time for a reality check.

This was no victory. This was just the clearing up of a mess of our own making, electing selfish leaders who thought of themselves rather than the country and all its people, where they set brother against brother for their own selfish goals.

Where is the victory when 18,000 of our brave soldiers came back to their homes in coffins? Where widows, fatherless children and disabled soldiers continue to pay for the mistakes of our past leaders?

Where is the victory when the North and East of the country is in ruins, and the rest of the country not reaching its full potential, with 300,000 fellow Sri Lankans in camps and God knows how many in the rows and rows of graves in the Mahaveer cemeteries.

We the majority have dictated who will lead the country in the past, present and future. We have not done too well in the past in our choices of leadership. Neither did we do well in 1983 in our mindlessness.

I will reserve judgement on the leaders of the present as they deserve a chance to put right the political horse trading of jumbo cabinets, kowtowing to extremist groups of the likes of the JHU and JVP, and putting up with the corrupt, incompetent and uncivilised politicians of the calibre of the Mervin Silva’s of today. We sold our souls to the devils to get rid of a bigger evil. It is now time to reclaim back what is ours.

At present we have a historic responsibility to ensure that the government that we elected by us act in the best interests of all the people, be they in the North, South or West or East.

We must ensure those that lost their homes and livelihoods in this war and are suffering in camps are resettled as a priority. We must ensure that the needs of the widows, the disabled and the orphaned or catered for, as opposed to needless waste by self-aggrandizing politicians more concerned about the next election and not the next meal for our more unfortunate citizenry.

We must hold our politicians accountable to the people from herewith. They have no excuses to hide behind now. The war is over, and the time for unconditional support and blind loyalty to the state is at an end.

We are immensely grateful. But we are not stupid. The government would be best advised not to continue to take the people for fools as they can be unforgiving. Even Winston Churchill suffered defeat after a greater war.

It is time for us to firmly grasp the hands of friendship being extended by our Tamil brothers and sisters with open hearts and clear minds, and time to reassure those who are still reluctant to do so.

As a race our failings may be many, but no one can accuse us of a lack of generosity of spirit, ability to forget and forgive, and loyalty to our friends. These are good traits that will serve us well in this time of reconciliation.

If does appear that history has repeated itself with a final battle with a modern day Dutugemunu and Elara. However may I also remind my Sinhalese brothers and sisters, after this epic battle, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the English conquered us because of our disunity? Who can we expect next if we do not come together as Sri Lankans for the future?

I leave you with the words of Dr Narendran's words, which reminded us in a gentle fashion of our responsibilities as a majority race, and who chose not to dwell on our past failings;

‘The Sinhalese on the other hand should learn to treat the minorities, as a people who have been entrusted to their care. The Sinhalese should not view the minorities as enemies, competitors and usurpers. The minorities do not need special favours and dispensations. What they need is to be treated equally and be provided the opportunity to play in a fair game’.

This is the very least we can do. Would you not agree?

Anglican Archbishop bishop urges Canadian government action on Sri Lanka

The head of the Anglican Church of Canada has urged the Canadian prime minister to lead international efforts to protect the civil liberties of Sri Lankans following a government victory over the rebel Tamil Tigers.

In a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper dated June 23, Archbishop Fred Hiltz called on the Canadian government to respond generously to the humanitarian needs of Tamils in the island nation's Vanni district.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz.jpg

Archbishop Fred Hiltz

Full text of a letter by Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the Anglican Primate, to Prime Minister Stephen Harper:

In the letter, the Primate, writing on behalf of the House of Bishops, urges the government to "assume leadership roles in international efforts to guarantee and protect the civil liberties of Sri Lankans at this critical time."

23 June 2009

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister's Office
Langevin Block 80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A3
Canada

Dear Prime Minister Harper,

We, the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada, write to urge the Government of Canada to assume leadership roles in international efforts to guarantee and protect the civil liberties of Sri Lankans at this critical time.

Specifically:

We call upon the Government of Canada to respond generously to the continuing humanitarian needs of Vanni Tamils, long deprived of basic commodities and securities, and more recently, exposed daily to the dangerous crossfire of Government and rebel forces. Thousands of families have been affected. They need immediate relief and sustained support towards social and economic stability in local communities, and in the north and east regions of the country.

We also call upon the Government of Canada, in responding to the humanitarian needs of Vanni Tamils to seek assurance from the Government of Sri Lanka that they will take the necessary measures to guarantee and protect the civil rights, safety and wellbeing of Tamils throughout the country, especially in Jaffna, the Jaffna Peninsula and north east.

Sri Lankan church partners have provided this analysis to share with you:

An impartial political culture will restore civilian administration, rule of law, and trust. Freedom of movement, and a demonstration of national confidence in the non-violent and peace loving majority within the Tamil community are essential, and long overdue. Tamil culture must be reflected in national events and as part of common Sri Lankan identity. Tamil leaders realistically acknowledge the reciprocation Tamils offer this process. Jaffna has a distinct role in dismantling its ethnic isolation and encouraging interaction with Sinhala and Muslim communities, especially amongst children and youth. The A Nine Road must be cleared and opened to the public as soon as possible.

A ray of hope already lies in the fine rapport between Major General Mendaka Samarasinghe and Jaffna’s Council for Peace and Goodwill. It is through such relationships that initial steps towards the integration of all Sri Lankans will come. Everything depends on our [Sri Lanka’s] ability to create a climate of political and cultural trust and socio-economic opportunity that will visibly include and recognise the skills of Tamils.

We further call upon the Government of Canada to seek positions of influence in international structures and processes of reconciliation, aimed at addressing and dismantling the root causes of historic tensions between Sri Lanka’s Sinhala and Tamil peoples. These tensions will resurface and flare and result in much more suffering without clear and continuing pressure by international leaders and states.

Last but not least, we call upon the Government of Canada to urge the Government of Sri Lanka to take all necessary steps to safeguard the democratic rights of journalists. The rights of all Sri Lankans to information must be protected so that Sri Lanka may strive towards a new era of freedom, development and long-term peace. The assault, detainment, torture and murder of members of Sri Lanka’s press are deeply disturbing, especially when Sri Lankan leaders are determined to liberate the people from all types of oppression. It is regrettable that Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic, Bob Rae was denied entry to Sri Lanka in May 2009, for supposedly supporting the defeated rebels. Thank you for formally registering the Canadian Government’s dismay and displeasure at Mr. Rae’s deportation. As distressing as this incident was, it clearly reveals the rigour and resilience required of the international community in dialogue for peace, justice and rule of law with President Rajapakse and his government.

Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, for your attention to my requests. Be assured of our prayers for wisdom and guidance in all your work on behalf of the people of Canada, and our commitments to peace within and among all of the nations.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz,
Primate and Chair of The House of Bishops

Sri Lanka arrests astrologer over political prediction

Chandrasiri Bandara
The astrologer made one prediction too far

The authorities in Sri Lanka have arrested a popular astrologer who predicted that the president will be ejected from office, police say.

Chandrasiri Bandara announced last week that the government would flounder in September and October because of political and economic problems.

The opposition have condemned the arrest and warned that the country is heading towards a dictatorship.

Astrology is taken seriously by numerous Sri Lankan politicians.

Police told the AP news agency that Mr Bandara told an opposition meeting that the prime minister would take over as president on 9 September and the opposition leader would become prime minister.

He was arrested on Wednesday night to investigate the basis of his prediction, police spokesman Ranjith Gunasekera said.

Mr Bandara made his forecast despite the president's high approval ratings following the defeat of Tamil Tigers rebels in May, bringing an end to nearly 26 years of civil war.

The CID (Criminal Investigations Department) is questioning the astrologer," Mr Gunasekara said.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa (left) and Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka (18/05/09)
President Rajapaksa takes astrological predictions seriously

The astrologer predicted that a planetary change on 8 October will be inauspicious for parliament and the government may not be able to contain rising living costs - a forecast which correspondents say has already been made by private economists.

"The crime which Chandrasiri Bandara committed was publishing an astrological column which was adverse to the government," said opposition United National Party General Secretary Tissa Attanayake.

So convinced are Sri Lankan politicians over the accuracy of astrology that many have their own personal seers who decide the auspicious times to launch any new initiative.

President Rajapaksa has declared himself to be a believer, telling foreign reporters earlier this year that he has often consulted a favoured astrologer for advice on what time to make speeches or to depart for trips.

Mr Bandara - who has a weekly television show and writes controversial political columns for a pro-opposition newspaper - is one of the most popular astrologers in the country.

Media rights groups have complained of continued efforts by the government to stifle freedom of speech despite the end of the war.

On Wednesday the main media organisations in the country urged the government not to re-establish a body that can fine and imprison print journalists.

According to Amnesty International, at least 14 journalists and staff at news outlets have been killed by suspected government paramilitaries and rebels since the beginning of 2006. [bbc.co.uk]

June 25, 2009

Not a pretty sight: the row over Sri Lanka's camp toilets

by: Amjad Mohamed-Saleem

Ever since the final days of Sri Lanka's offensive against the Tamil Tigers sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing, aid agencies have been struggling to cope with the needs of the displaced. Add to that the operational restrictions imposed by the authorities, and it has been a challenging environment to work in.

Not helping matters is a standoff between the government and the NGO community that is manifesting itself in the local media. Every day there seems to be an article in the newspapers with regards to what the agencies are not doing. The latest issue is the state of toilets - or lack of them - in the camps in Vavuniya.

The government says it is the United Nations and its humanitarian agency partners who are responsible for building the toilets. It may come as no surprise to some that the government is not happy with the quality and design of the toilets, which can best be described as open pit latrines with some wooden supports to cover the area. Once the pit is filled, you dig a new one somewhere else.

For reasons I am grappling to understand, most standard post-emergency operating procedures follow a process in which the initial response to a disaster is to provide 'temporary shelters and toilets'. The next phase is the 'transitional' or 'semi-permanent shelters and toilets', and then you get to the 'permanent shelter and toilets'.

The argument is that by building 'temporary' structures, people's right to return to their homes - in itself a political issue - is reinforced. In the eyes of the agencies, anything that is built of a semi-permanent nature is tantamount to encouraging people not to return.

Critics say the problem is that agencies then end up spending almost double - by buying materials and paying labour costs to build a shelter, then paying to pull it down so that a permanent shelter can be built on the same piece of land. In the case of post-tsunami reconstruction, the cost of transitional shelters sometimes exceeded the repairs to people's damaged houses.

POLITICISED ARGUMENT

The argument falls a little bit flat when it comes to toilets and sanitation. In displacements such as this, which involve huge numbers of people, sanitation is often the weakest link and a vicious cycle of poor sanitation, hygiene and health is perpetuated. Whatever the nature or the duration of the emergency, one issue of utmost importance is the need to ensure basic human dignity with regards to sanitation.

The government wants slightly better designed toilets which take into consideration local cultural values. However, the U.N. (and other humanitarian agencies) are concerned that by building anything deemed 'transitional or semi-permanent', this might 'encourage' the displaced to remain in the camps. This is where the confusion arises for me. Surely building a good toilet will ensure less disease? At the end of the day, I am certain that given the choice, people will not stay because their toilet facilities are better! These displaced deserve the best that they can get. This means that there should not be any compromise on the basic needs like their toilets.

The issues have become politicised. Most agencies are quietly saying that there should not be anything done of a semi-permanent nature because this would be feeding into the government's agenda of not resettling the people and keeping them in these camps. It is interesting to note that many of the agencies protesting the need for these recently displaced people to return, are the same ones that have not considered the many hundreds of thousands who have been uprooted over the last 20 years of this conflict.

Rellated: Water and sanitation in (post) conflict areas of N-East Sri Lanka ~ by Herald Vervoorn [TC]

Sinhalese, Tamils and Sri Lanka: Need for a paradigm shift

By: Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

The war between the LTTE and the government of Sri Lanka is over. The pursuit of an independent Tamil Eelam- an illusion- initially floated by the democratic political leadership of the Tamils, thereafter passionately pursued by various militant-terrorist groups, including the LTTE and finally carried forward in a highly organized, but fatally flawed manner by the LTTE, has proved to be just what it was- just an illusion!

What it has cost the Sri Lankan state in terms of financial, development and institutional degradation, I am sure will become topics of in-depth study. The financial and social cost to the Tamils of pursuing the illusion of Eelam will never be known in its true dimensions. The destruction wrought on Tamil society in the north and east of the Island, in social terms by the LTTE, independent of the ravages of war, are so deep and wide that it will be almost impossible to describe accurately or quantify in a reliable manner. While the destruction of the valuable collection of books, manuscripts and other documents in the Jaffna public library by forces aligned with the government were deservedly well publicized and remains an incident we have to be ashamed, the destruction wrought on the private libraries in the homes of Jaffna by the LTTE, though substantial, will never be known!

This destruction involved not only the history of individuals and families, but the efforts of generations of Tamil intellectuals. Further, the intellectual, spiritual, mystical and cultural traditions in the north and east that had evolved over thousands of years of Tamil history were trashed, trampled and destroyed. The deliberate cultivation and enabling of the dregs of Tamil society by the LTTE has also left the unique value system of the Tamils, in total disarray. These losses can never be fully regained. The psychological scars left on the people will take generations to heal. While the physical injuries may be healed faster and over come, Tamils in particular have to find ways to deal with thousands of handicapped. and disabled over several decades.

The total destruction of the caste system can be cited as the only benefit accruing from the decades that were dominated by the Tamil militants and the LTTE. This benefit has been unfortunately negated by the emigration and displacement of the standard bearers of the Tamil culture and identity – the middle and upper classes. The Tamils may have become largely a caste-less society, but in the process they have also become a society lacking in ‘Class’ (high quality).

The Tamils of the north and east may need several decades to recover and become a normal people. The brain-washing that was part of creating the illusion of Tamil Eelam will be the most difficult to overcome. While a significant number of Tamils were disgusted with the LTTE and the other militants, now masquerading as democratic political groups, the illusion of Tamil Eelam had become part of the mental make up of most Tamils born since the 1960s. Their thought processes were influenced by various unsavory events that affected the Tamils and by perceptions that were reinforced regularly and most times invented and very effectively propagated. Many Tamils yet continue to harbour doubts as to whether the Sinhala polity can be trusted to play fair by them and accept their linguistic and cultural differences as part of the Sri Lankan mosaic. The hardest task for Sri Lanka will be to win the trust and confidence of the Tamils.

On the other hand, the Sinhala polity has its own fears of Tamil intentions for the future. The Sri Lankan armed forced have fought a hard and costly battle to overcome the LTTE- a formidable enemy- much to the delight of most Sinhalese. While a majority of Sinhalese harbour no malice against the Tamils and accept them as fellow citizens of equal standing, every single Sinhalese to the last man and women, is against the concept of a separate state for the Tamils. For years most Tamils will be considered ‘Closet Tigers’ and separatists by the Sinhala polity. This is natural as the Sinhalese were also the victims of Sinhala extremist propaganda and the LTTE propaganda and terror tactics.

While there were divisions among the Tamils on the question of Eelam, there was unanimity among the Sinhalese against the very thought of the Island being split asunder. The civil war fought over three decades and won on the battle front on behalf of largely the Sinhalese by the Sri Lankan armed forces (the potential gains for the Tamils are incidental), will make it very difficult for the Sinhala polity to view any exercise at devolution of political power without suspicion and as an alternate path to a separate state for the Tamils. There will also be many in the Sinhala political and religious establishment who will nurture and validate these fears, either through ignorance, short sightedness, malice or political expediency.

Tamil politicians of the past and present, and the Tamil militant movements- I should now say of the past- including the LTTE, failed to understand the deep seated Sinhala attachment to the concept of ‘ Sinhala Dwipa’ ( The ‘Sinhala Theevu’ of Bharathiar). The ‘Sinhala Dwipa’ is a concept that is at the core of the Sinhala psyche. It involves the attachment of a people, speaking a language spoken nowhere else, to the land they consider special because of its association with Lord Buddha. We can debate ad-infinitum whether the association with Lord Buddha is fact or fiction and whether the Sinhala language is as unique as believed, but it will make no difference to what the people believe.

The concept of ‘Eelam’ is no different, although it was hijacked by the Tamil politicians and militants, to define an unrealizable illusion. I remember the elders of Jaffna at one time believed in a similar concept of special identity and uniqueness, when confronted with Indian (mainly South Indian) influences. ‘Vaitru Valiyai nambinalum, Vadakathayanai nambathey’ (‘Even if you trust a stomach ache, do not trust the northerner’-English) was their constant refrain. Although there were significant linguistic, religious and cultural affinities, there was deep felt aversion to being overwhelmed by South India (north of Jaffna) by most Jaffna Tamils. Erudite Tamils in Tamil Nadu also recognized the antiquity and quality of Tamil spoken in the north and east of Sri Lanka, and the uniqueness of Sri Lankan Tamils. I also recall an elderly school principal describing the Tamils of recent Indian origin who had come to Jaffna as refugees after the 1977 riots as the ‘Fifth Column’.

The association of Lanka with the Ramayana and Ravana with Saivaism was another dimension in the Tamil sense of belonging to the Island. The location of four of the five (Pancha Easwarams) ancient and revered Saivite temples in Sri Lanka and the presence of the ancient Murugan temple in jungles of Kataragama supported Tamil beliefs. The Tamils who believe Sri Lanka is their land and has been their home for thouands of years, consider themselves also unique and have a special affinity for the parts of the Island they inhabit. This is the ‘Eelam’ that is mentioned in the Sangam poetry, is part of Tamil lore and is at the core of their passions.

The concepts of ‘Sinhala Dwipa’ and ‘Eelam’ are similar and define a passion for an Island by two groups of people who are closely related, speaking two different languages that are also closely related in many ways. Subramaniya Bharathy – a Tamil poet of great stature from South India– had no qualms about calling the Island ‘Sinhala Theevu’ and dream of not only constructing a bridge over Palk strait but also reconstructing the Adam’s bridge to form a highway ( “Sinhala Theevinukor Paalam Amaipoem , Sethuvai Meduruthi Veethi Samaipoem”) to Sri Lanka. Both the Sinhalese and Tamils of Sri Lanka, having lived on a small island close to giant India, had obviously developed a sense of uniqueness and a degree of anti-Indianism, to protect their culture and way of life!

The Sinhala politicians and influential elements in the Sinhala polity had failed to understand the passion the majority of Sri Lankan Tamils had for their Island and thoughtlessly and sometimes maliciously hurt and insulted these Tamils to their very core, by asking them to go back to India, where they were accused of having come. What should have been a struggle or even war for the rights and place of Tamils within Sri Lanka was unfortunately and thoughtlessly permitted to become struggle/ war for a separate state by the Tamil leadership of the day. The short sightedness of the Tamil politicians of yore in seeding the concept of an independent Tamil state within the Island and firing the imagination of disgruntled and immature youth in its pursuit was one of the tragedies of Sri Lankan history.

The failures of the Sri Lankan Sinhala leadership to sense the direction in which the Tamil struggle was evolving and take wise political decisions to remove the root causes, was a further tragedy. The wise steps Jawaharlal Nehru’s government in India took to politically diffuse the separatist movement in the Madras state (now Tamil Nadu), is an example the Sri Lankan governments should have followed. Pride, prejudice and sheer stupidity came together among both the Sinhalese and Tamils to foment an unnecessary, costly and beastly war that has almost destroyed the Tamils as a people and left the Sinhalese severely diminished in terms of their humanity and political maturity.

The time has now come for a paradigm shift in the thoughts, way of life and political process among the peoples of Sri Lanka. The war that has just ended has only proved how stupid we have been. In a narrow sense an unnecessary war has been both lost and won by the citizens of the same country! Whether a war should have been fought over the issues under dispute, will be judged with distaste by our future generations. In a broader sense the war itself was a loss for all peoples in Sri Lanka. If the just concluded war and misery that it has entailed do not jolt us into rational thinking and pragmatic reactions, we are doomed as a nation.

Recognition of the right of Tamils to be Tamils and Sri Lankan citizens of equal status should be the foundation on which the future Sri Lanka is built. This concept should apply to every other community in Sri Lanka. The voice of the majority of citizens, and not only the voice of the majority among the Sinhalese, should be heard in the corridors of power. What is good for all Sri Lankans should be the concern of the government and not exclusively what is good for the Sinhalese, because they are a numerical majority who has a greater influence on electing politicians to office.

Power should be devolved on the existing provincial basis, for the people in different areas of the country to manage their internal affairs. Within the frame work of a united Sri Lanka, every citizen should be equal and should be equally protected, where ever he or she may choose to live. The right of every individual or community to be what they are and live according to what they believe must be respected within the boundaries of just law. Any activity that impinges on the rights of any one citizen or a community of citizens should be a criminal offence punishable to the utmost extent possible. Every citizen should have the right to live wherever he/she wishes in the Island, in peace and security. The rule of law should guarantee the rights of every citizen on the Island and protect them from the ravages of political expediency , security force excesses and mis-governance.

The 300,000 internally displaced people, living in refugee camps should weigh heavily on the conscience of our nation. The service men who have been maimed or injured and families of the dead servicemen who have been widowed and orphaned should also be our concern. The hapless victims of LTTE conscription and brain washing, and their families should also receive our sympathies. They are the unfortunate victims of the flaws in the Sri Lankan political system. They are the unfortunate victims of a liberator who had turned predator. They are the unfortunate victims of a fratricidal war. They are the unfortunate victims of our national stupidity. What we do to rehabilitate these unfortunates and how quickly we do it will define our nation to the world, after the macabre display we put on for the world to view in distaste, during the war.

The Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and others in Sri Lanka and the Diaspora should come together in our millions, to be participants in this rehabilitation and re-building process. This would heal our wounds faster than anything else would. The government should pave the way for this to happen fast and efficiently. This is the tragedy that should catalyze us to come together to become Sri Lankans in the true sense of the word. Those who have backed the war from both sides of the national divide- whether Sinhalese or Tamil- should see and experience the misery they have caused. This should be their penance. The recent UTHR (J) report on how compassionately Sinhala servicemen treated the besieged Tamil civilians in the midst of war and the false propaganda alleging mass rape and murder, should be an eye opener for the Tamils.


The government should be forthright with the people and declare its intentions on how the national reconciliation process will be carried forward. This government is at its peak in popularity and will be elected hands down at least at the next national and presidential elections. The Sinhala people also trust this government, as never before. This is the opportune time to carry out the necessary political reforms in Sri Lanka. The minorities should be politically empowered and given a role to play in national affairs. The Tamils in particular have to be won to the cause of a united Sri Lanka. This would be the best insurance the nation could have against future insurgencies. The Tamils have to be trusted for them to become trusting. Tamils have to be given the time , space and peace of mind to evolve a new political leadership committed to national unity.

A political leadership that is largely unacceptable to the Tamils should not be thrust on them. A political leadership that is the product of the gun culture and is gun dependent or that has been supportive of the gun culture and terrorism, should not be imposed on the Tamils. Hounds trained to kill, pillage and prey should not be let loose on a people who are yet on their knees after a debilitating and brutal war. These groups and the individuals associated with them have mounted a well orchestrated campaign to convince the government they are popular and are the rightful heirs to the vacant Tamil throne! This prank if successful, will not only make fools of the Tamils, but the government as well. The government decision to hold elections, within months of defeating the LTTE and before normalcy has returned to the north, is unjustifiable and will be interpreted as an attempt stifle genuine democracy among the Tamils and impose a ‘Victor’s justice’ on them. There is definitely no need for elections of any type-Local Councils or Provincial Council- now.

Tamils on the other hand have to concentrate their efforts primarily towards recovery as a people, recovery of their economy and re-building their social fabric. This cannot be done without the support of the Sinhalese and the Sri Lankan government. Tamils cannot behave like the proverbial street dog that had been badly abused in the past, and as a result whines and begins to run with its tail tucked between its legs every time some one raises his hands innocently (akin to Pavlov's reflex)! Tamils should stop seeing a ghost behind every shadow and being on the defensive. Tamils should also not continue to harp on past grievances and complain about what they perceive as problems unique to themselves. Tamils have to learn to look around and see whether other Sri Lankans- Sinhalese, Muslims and others- share the same problems. Tamils have to regain their confidence and commit ourselves to a united Sri Lanka, without any reservations.

Tamils have to regain their place as an important component of the Sri Lankan mosaic. Tamil while learning their Tamil better, have to also learn Sinhalese and English. Tamils have to regain their culture, while learning about the cultures around them. Tamils have to become an outgoing people, instead of being insular and struck within their shells. Tamils have to stop being eternal complainers and find solutions to their problems from within. Tamils have to assert ourselves as a force for progress and democracy within Sri Lanka. Tamils need not become a supine people as a result. They should stand up fearlessly for their rights when justified. Tamils in the Diaspora should return and participate in the rehabilitation, reconstruction and reconciliation process, without continuing to encourage the re-emergence of a past that has been devastating to their compatriots and relatives living in Sri Lanka. Tamils have the opportunity to become a better people with a new vision, at this tragic moment in their history. I hope they will be capable of meeting these challenges and God will help them do it.

Tamils have to also recognize they are not a homogenous people. The days of domination by the Jaffna Tamils over other Tamils are gone forever. The needs of the Jaffna Tamils are not the same as those of Tamils living in other parts of Sri Lanka. There are Jaffna Tamils, Vanni Tamils, Mannar Tamils, Batticaloa Tamils, Trincomalee Tamils, Amparai Tamils, Colombo Tamils, West coast Tamils (now being classified as Mukkuwar by some in the Sri Lankan government) and Hill Country Tamils. Each with different needs and different priorities, but linked by a common language. The needs of the Muslims, who speak Tamil and live amongst the Tamils are also different. Tamils have to accept the diversity amongst them and the fact that they have different aspirations in terms of their geographical dispersion. Tamils have to find a unity in their diversity, while Sri Lanka as a nation should also strive to find the unity amongst its diversity.

The concept of the north-east merger was never viable and has been rendered obsolete. The north and east will remain separate and it will be futile and foolish to demand a merger. The Tamils in the east do not need it and do not want it. The Tamils have to come forward to participate in national politics and seek membership in the national parties of their choice. Tamils have to strive to become national leaders acceptable to the Sinhalese and other peoples in Sri Lanka. Tamils and Muslims in Sri Lanka should be able to produce their own Narasimha Raos and Manmohan Singhs, as the minorities in India have.

The Sinhalese on the other hand should learn to treat the minorities, as a people who have been entrusted to their care. The Sinhalese should not view the minorities as enemies, competitors and usurpers. The minorities do not need special favours and dispensations. What they need is to be treated equally and be provided the opportunity to play in a fair game. How well the minorities do in Sri Lanka, will be a reflection on the greatness of the Sinhala people and the religion they practice –Buddhism. Sinhala politicians should begin to reflect the true nature of their people. Buddhist monks should reflect the essence of the teachings of Lord Buddha, in their words and deeds.

All Sinhalese should learn Tamil and begin to interact with the Tamils and Muslims living amongst them. The Sinhalese should visit the north and east now and view the ravages of war and the plight of the Tamils living in refugee camps. Sinhalese should begin to learn they share much in common with the Tamils. The Sinhalese should stretch a hand of friendship towards the Tamils and participate fully in the rehabilitation, reconstruction and reconciliation process to the extent they can. Every positive gesture and word from the Sinhalese, however small, will go a long way in healing our national wounds. What Sri Lanka has to become is largely in the hands of the Sinhalese and it is up to them to shoulder their responsibility towards our common mother land and the other people, who are also her children. The right of being a majority in a multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious country like ours, also involves the need to be inclusive, tolerant, considerate and magnanimous towards the minorities.

“ ONDRU PATTAAL UNDU VALLVEY,
OTTRUMAI NEENGIL ANAIVARUKUM THAALVEY”- (Tamil)

“ United we will prosper, divided we will all suffer” (translation)

Sri Lankan Media Groups Ask Government Not to Re-establish Powerful Media Council

By Anjana Pasricha

In Sri Lanka, media groups have asked the government to scrap moves to re-establish a media panel which could jail journalists. The reactivation of the Press Council is being seen as a means to control the media in a country where concerns have been voiced about intimidation and pressure on reporters critical of the government.

The government's move to revive the powerful Press Council was announced by the Sri Lankan media minister, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena.

The Press Council was staffed with government appointees. It had the authority to hear complaints about inaccurate reporting or defamation and fine and jail journalists if found guilty. It ceased operations in 2002, after it was criticized as an anti-democratic tool to suppress criticism of the government.

The government says it reactivated the body after a parliament committee found that council salaries were still being paid and office space was still being rented. Minister Abeywardena says the media has nothing to fear, and it has no intention of gagging the press or imposing restrictions on it.

But the move to restore the Press Council has provoked concern among journalists in Sri Lanka.

Seven media bodies, headed by the Editors Guild, have in a joint statement to President Mahinda Rajapakse, saying that a media culture cannot be based on placing charges against journalists, fining them or sending them to jail.

Vincent Borsell of the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders calls the decision to restore the Press Council another step to suppress the independent media.

"It's very dangerous and also is unfortunately a new step in all this campaign against free media in Sri Lanka," he said. "I think the government should consider it again."

The Press Council is being considered in the wake of a number of threats and attacks on journalists who have been critical of the government and its handling of a war against Tamil Tiger rebels.

The war ended last month, raising hopes the situation would improve. But some people fear that may not be the case.

Just two weeks after the war ended, a strong advocate of freedom of expression, Poddala Jayantha, was abducted and assaulted in Colombo.

Vincent Borsell says there has been a spate of attacks on journalists, in recent years, dealing a blow to investigative and independent reporting.

"Since the war has restarted in 2007, there is a lot of incidents," he said. "It starts from killings, beatings, kidnappings and death threats. But it also goes on to pressure on the media, so it means now there is no let us say direct censorship in countries like Burma, but there is a huge self-censorship, especially on all the issues related to the army, and all sensitive issues. They are victims of self censorship on issues that were very well covered by the media."

The government denies any interference with the media and says that police are investigating the attacks on journalists. It also says it is prepared to discuss any changes to the Press Council suggested by rights groups.

Amnesty International says at least 14 members of news organizations have been killed by suspected government paramilitaries and the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels since 2006. Twenty journalists critical of the government are said to have fled the country. [VOA News]

Related: Sri Lankan reporter 'kidnapped'

Krishni Ifam, a Tamil reporter who works for media development NGO Internews, said the men had warned her to give up journalism altogether. [BBC]

Michael Jackson, 50, Is Dead

Michael Jackson, the singer, songwriter and dancer who earned the title “King of Pop” in a career that reached unprecedented peaks of sales and attention, died Thursday at 1:07 p.m. Pacific time, a Los Angeles city official confirmed. He was 50.

Reaction From Around the World Readers across the globe described what he meant to them and how they viewed the legacy of his music and career. Share your comments and photos here. [NY Times]


Michael Jackson - Black Or White Official Music Video, released Oct 1991

I took my baby
On a saturday bang
Boy is that girl with you
Yes were one and the same

Now I believe in miracles
And a miracle
Has happened tonight

But, if
Youre thinkin
About my baby
It dont matter if youre
Black or white

They print my message
In the saturday sun
I had to tell them
I aint second to none

And I told about equality
An its true
Either youre wrong
Or youre right

But, if
Youre thinkin
About my baby
It dont matter if youre
Black or white

I am tired of this devil
I am tired of this stuff
I am tired of this business
Sew when the
Going gets rough
I aint scared of
Your brother
I aint scared of no sheets
I aint scare of nobody
Girl when the
Goin gets mean

(l. t. b. rap performance)
Protection
For gangs, clubs
And nations
Causing grief in
Human relations
Its a turf war
On a global scale
Id rather hear both sides
Of the tale
See, its not about races
Just places
Faces
Where your blood
Comes from
Is where your space is
Ive seen the bright
Get duller
Im not going to spend
My life being a color

(michael)
Dont tell me you agree with me
When I saw you kicking dirt in my eye

But, if
Youre thinkin about my baby
It dont matter if youre black or white

I said if
Youre thinkin of
Being my baby
It dont matter if youre black or white

I said if
Youre thinkin of
Being my brother
It dont matter if youre
Black or white

Ooh, ooh
Yea, yea, yea now
Ooh, ooh
Yea, yea, yea now

Its black, its white
Its tough for you
To get by
Its black , its white, whoo

Its black, its white
Its tough for you
To get by
Its black , its white, whoo

Michael Jackson - The Way You Make Me Feel (Grammy Awards 1988) Part 1/2

Michael Jackson - Man In The Mirror (Grammy Awards 1988) Part 2/2

I'm Gonna Make A Change,
For Once In My Life
It's Gonna Feel Real Good,
Gonna Make A Difference
Gonna Make It Right . . .

As I, Turn Up The Collar On My
Favourite Winter Coat
This Wind Is Blowin' My Mind
I See The Kids In The Street,
With Not Enough To Eat
Who Am I, To Be Blind?
Pretending Not To See
Their Needs
A Summer's Disregard,
A Broken Bottle Top
And A One Man's Soul
They Follow Each Other On
The Wind Ya' Know
'Cause They Got Nowhere
To Go
That's Why I Want You To
Know

I'm Starting With The Man In
The Mirror
I'm Asking Him To Change
His Ways
And No Message Could Have
Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place
(If You Wanna Make The
World A Better Place)
Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change
(Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change)
(Na Na Na, Na Na Na, Na Na,
Na Nah)

I've Been A Victim Of A Selfish
Kind Of Love
It's Time That I Realize
That There Are Some With No
Home, Not A Nickel To Loan
Could It Be Really Me,
Pretending That They're Not
Alone?

A Willow Deeply Scarred,
Somebody's Broken Heart
And A Washed-Out Dream
(Washed-Out Dream)
They Follow The Pattern Of
The Wind, Ya' See
Cause They Got No Place
To Be
That's Why I'm Starting With
Me
(Starting With Me!)

I'm Starting With The Man In
The Mirror
(Ooh!)
I'm Asking Him To Change
His Ways
(Ooh!)
And No Message Could Have
Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place
(If You Wanna Make The
World A Better Place)
Take A Look At Yourself And
Then Make A Change
(Take A Look At Yourself And
Then Make A Change)

I'm Starting With The Man In
The Mirror
(Ooh!)
I'm Asking Him To Change His
Ways
(Change His Ways-Ooh!)
And No Message Could've
Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place
(If You Wanna Make The
World A Better Place)
Take A Look At Yourself And
Then Make That . . .
(Take A Look At Yourself And
Then Make That . . .)
Change!

I'm Starting With The Man In
The Mirror,
(Man In The Mirror-Oh
Yeah!)
I'm Asking Him To Change
His Ways
(Better Change!)
No Message Could Have
Been Any Clearer
(If You Wanna Make The
World A Better Place)
(Take A Look At Yourself And
Then Make The Change)
(You Gotta Get It Right, While
You Got The Time)
('Cause When You Close Your
Heart)
You Can't Close Your . . .Your
Mind!
(Then You Close Your . . .
Mind!)
That Man, That Man, That
Man, That Man
With That Man In The Mirror
(Man In The Mirror, Oh Yeah!)
That Man, That Man, That Man
I'm Asking Him To Change
His Ways
(Better Change!)
You Know . . .That Man
No Message Could Have
Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place
(If You Wanna Make The
World A Better Place)
Take A Look At Yourself And
Then Make A Change
(Take A Look At Yourself And
Then Make A Change)
Hoo! Hoo! Hoo! Hoo! Hoo!
Na Na Na, Na Na Na, Na Na,
Na Nah
(Oh Yeah!)
Gonna Feel Real Good Now!
Yeah Yeah! Yeah Yeah!
Yeah Yeah!
Na Na Na, Na Na Na, Na Na,
Na Nah
(Ooooh . . .)
Oh No, No No . . .
I'm Gonna Make A Change
It's Gonna Feel Real Good!
Come On!
(Change . . .)
Just Lift Yourself
You Know
You've Got To Stop It.
Yourself!
(Yeah!-Make That Change!)
I've Got To Make That Change,
Today!
Hoo!
(Man In The Mirror)
You Got To
You Got To Not Let Yourself . . .
Brother . . .
Hoo!
(Yeah!-Make That Change!)
You Know-I've Got To Get
That Man, That Man . . .
(Man In The Mirror)
You've Got To
You've Got To Move! Come
On! Come On!
You Got To . . .
Stand Up! Stand Up!
Stand Up!
(Yeah-Make That Change)
Stand Up And Lift
Yourself, Now!
(Man In The Mirror)
Hoo! Hoo! Hoo!
Aaow!
(Yeah-Make That Change)
Gonna Make That Change . . .
Come On!
(Man In The Mirror)
You Know It!
You Know It!
You Know It!
You Know . . .
(Change . . .)
Make That Change.

billy jean

The Jackson 5 - Rockin' Robin 1972 RARE

June 24, 2009

Turn It Up - Tete-a-Tete:MIA

Maya Arulpragasam is an anomaly in many ways. As M.I.A., she has had a lightning-fast rise. From her early singles “Galang” and “Sun­showers,” which spread virally through the Web in 2004, to her 2005 debut album, Arular (named after her father), and 2007’s Kala (named after her mom), she has garnered nothing but critical acclaim.

Major fame struck in 2008 with the song “Paper Planes,” after its use in the trailer for the Seth Rogen stoner flick Pineapple Express and in the Academy Award-winning Slumdog Millionaire. For the latter, M.I.A. received an Oscar nomination along with the film’s composer, A.R. Rahman—Best Original Song for the track “O...Saya.” In February, on the actual due date of her baby, she performed at the Grammys.

Politically, she’s a tireless advocate of the Tamil people, who’ve suffered in the recent civil war in Sri Lanka between the majority Sinhalese and the Tamil Tigers (the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, also known as the LTTE). Life has certainly changed from her early days living in London public housing to her recent engagement to fellow musician and Seagram heir Ben Brewer (né Bronfman, son of former Seagram CEO Edgar Bronfman).

Nic Harcourt: You’re from Sri Lanka—let’s talk about what’s going on there now. As you know, the majority Sinhalese in the Sri Lankan government recently defeated the Tamil Tigers. You’re an ethnic Tamil yourself. How do you feel about what happened?

M.I.A.: It’s really difficult for me to talk about Sri Lanka. One hundred thousand people have died, and there are, like, hundreds of children who’ve been killed by intense shelling in a no-war-zone area, you know? And it’s done by the Sri Lankan government, yet it doesn’t seep into people’s brains, because everyone’s fighting under the blanket of terrorism, and that kind of makes it okay for the government to kill 100 babies in a day and for us not to say, “That s--t is wrong.”

NH: Has the world turned a blind eye to innocent civilians being killed in the name of the war on terror?

M.I.A.: All over world, that is what’s happening. As soon as you say you’re fighting a terrorist, you can kill anyone you want without anyone asking any questions.

NH: Will it change anytime soon?

M.I.A.: Eventually, it’s going to break. I think we’re getting to the end of it. They can say they’ve wiped out the Tamil Tigers, but I think if you’ve killed a certain number of civilians and you’ve called the United Nations and every human­itarian agency liars, it’s going to catch up with you.

NH: Did you defend the Tamil Tigers in any way?

M.I.A.: I don’t give a s--t what they’ve done to the Tigers—they just shouldn’t kill little kids.

NH: Your father, Arul Pragasam, was a founding member of EROS [Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students], which supported the Tamil independence movement. Do you often feel persecuted because of your dad’s association?

M.I.A.: No, if I didn’t have my music, I wouldn’t be heard, just like the other millions of Tamils who aren’t heard. It’s just weird that I happen to have that association to my dad, who I didn’t grow up with— and that’s been a s--t thing for me.

NH: In January, you went on Tavis Smiley and called what happened in Sri Lanka “systematic genocide.” That sparked an uproar in L.A.’s Sri Lankan community. Then they protested outside the Staples Center during the Grammys and—in a twist of irony—called you a terrorist. What happened?

M.I.A.: Hundreds of thousands of Sinhalese live here in California. And everyone is just blanket pro government. Look, I think it’s easy to accuse someone of being a terrorist and you can have people call your show and say, “How can you have a terrorist on there?” I did an hour-long interview with CNN, and they cut it down to one minute and made it about my single “Paper Planes.” When I went to the Grammys, I saw the same reporter from CNN, and I was like, “Why did you do that?” And she said, “Because you used the G-word.”

NH: The G-word?

M.I.A.: Genocide. I guess you’re not allowed to say that on CNN.

NH: Then what is the solution to this crisis?

M.I.A.: I really don’t know. All I know is it takes nine months to carry a baby in your belly, and you pop it out, and it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. And for a baby to get killed over something that doesn’t even affect the baby—that’s messed up. I don’t have all the answers, but I just hate the mentality that says somebody has to die for this—and really, Sri Lanka doesn’t have to be a totalitarian space.

NH: Moving on to your music...In 2007, you had solid indie success with Kala, toured the States, did Coachella and developed a career for yourself. Then “Paper Planes” gets used in a trailer for Pineapple Express, and all of a sudden, you go from cool indie artist to mainstream. What do you think it was about that single that resonated?

M.I.A.: I think it’s a few things moving together. America was going through an economic crisis, and I made a song that actually has to do with how immigrants are portrayed. I was thinking about how an immigrant comes over here, builds a life from scratch and makes it—I mean, here I am. That was more what “Paper Planes” was representing—not a war-protest song like some people thought.

NH: But then later, the same song is used in Slumdog Millionaire. How did that come about?

M.I.A.: Danny Boyle had a meeting with A.R. Rahman, who suggested to Danny he should use me. When Danny got back to England the next day, his daughter happened to be listening to my CD. So he emailed me to ask if I was interested and said, “This is so crazy...I’ve heard about you from two different people in the last 24 hours in two different countries.” Then I was like, “That’s weird—there’s a film, Pineapple Express, that’s out that’s already tied to the track.” But because they only used “Paper Planes” for a trailer, Danny didn’t mind. So I agreed to do it.

NH: Slumdog came out of nowhere as far as the mainstream was concerned. How did you feel about that kind of attention?

M.I.A.: Me personally, I don’t like it. I don’t like the publicity. There’s nothing I can do with it, especially considering I said I was going to retire back in June.

NH: Why did you decide to play the Grammys on your due date?

M.I.A.: Because I couldn’t say no to Kanye West and Jay-Z and T.I. and Lil Wayne. T.I. and Lil Wayne are real sweet. I’ve known Kanye for a bit. We talked on the phone, and initially I wasn’t going to do it, and he said, “Come down to the rehearsals, and see how you feel.”

NH: Weren’t you worried you were going to pop right there onstage?

M.I.A.: No, it’s really funny. And Lil Wayne was like, “So, when are you due?” And I was like, “Today!” He was like, “Oh my God!” and he was saying prayers for me every day, which was really cool.

NH: Can you see how becoming a mom might change things for you in your music and your writing?

M.I.A.: Yeah, I’m just not going to travel. I made my first album at home, but in a really broke home, where I hadn’t paid rent for a long time. And I ate canned corn out of the tin and had a tab at the local falafel place. Now I can’t hang around with people and drink a beer and discuss s--t. I kind of have to know what I’m doing because the baby needs feeding in three hours.

NH: So you have to be focused when you think about work?

M.I.A.: Exactly. It sharpens your focus— when you’re doing that thing, you have to do it 100 percent.

NH: I guess you don’t have to eat corn out of the can anymore. You know the bills are paid.

M.I.A.: I don’t live lavishly and stuff like that. That’s not my thing. My fiancé has a Benz, but it’s an old Benz, and it runs on vegetable oil. I don’t even drive. The point is, I don’t think it affects me, because the hunger is there and because music has given me a lot of opportunities to discuss things, you know? Even if I was 60, I’m still going to have that fuel.

NH: What’s next for you musically?

M.I.A.: I want to produce more. I produced a few songs for Arular, and I kind of enjoyed it. It’s funny...back in 2005, I’d get people asking, “Where should we put your CD in the shop? Is it indie rock, or is it hip-hop?” And now it’s an irrelevant question, since there’s more music that sounds like me that is not defined anywhere, like Santigold and stuff.

NH: There are no record stores to put the records in anyway.

M.I.A.: Exactly! See? I told you so! I know I’m ahead of the game. So, yeah, it’s just about staying ahead of the game. I have to do it musically, I have to do it in life, and I have to do it all around—as a mom now.

NH: You’re going to spend a little bit of time focusing on that, obviously.

M.I.A.: Yeah, by three, their personalities are formed, and they’re already fully developed, so I have to get in there now and really start programming. [courtesy: LA Times]

Why are displaced Wanni civilians being penalised like this?

by Rohini Hensman

Throughout the gruesome finale of the civil war, the government of Sri Lanka claimed to be engaged in the largest hostage rescue mission ever, to release civilians in the Vanni who were being held against their will by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Yet the vast majority of these civilians are still not free. So what exactly has been happening?

Menik Farm Zone Four

[A model of the Menik Farm refugee camp-pic: indi.ca]

It is certainly true that the LTTE was keeping hundreds of thousands of civilians hostage and using them as forced labour, a source of child and adult conscripts, and a human shield from behind which they could engage in offensive operations against Sri Lanka ’s armed forces. It has also been confirmed that in general the soldiers showed compassion to the escaping civilians, and some even risked their own lives to enable civilians to escape to safety. Although it was clear that for the political and military leadership, the aim of finishing off the LTTE involved sacrificing the lives and limbs of civilians, there did not seem to be any deliberate targeting of civilians during the war. Even the claim by government spokesmen that shelling was necessary in order to free the hostages has some plausibility, given that the LTTE used the cessation of hostilities over the Sinhala and Tamil New Year to tighten its hold over the trapped civilians, not to release them.

However post-war, the picture gets more murky. Around 280,000 of the civilians who have suffered so much already have been kept prisoners behind barbed wire in camps where conditions are in many cases abysmal. It is clear that the government is unable to provide for them adequately, yet those with relations outside who would willingly look after them are being denied the right to join their families. This denial of the fundamental right to freedom of movement is especially cruel for families which have been split up, and are thereby denied the possibility of reuniting, or even finding out what has happened to their loved ones. It is lethal for those who are physically vulnerable; senior citizens were supposed to be released after a court found that many had died of starvation and more were dying daily, but the sick and injured, pregnant women, and mothers with babies are also vulnerable. With the monsoon, it is likely that gastrointestinal diseases will kill thousands. Why, then, are these unfortunate people being penalised like this?

Collective Punishment

Two reasons are cited by the government. The first is that it will take at least six months to make the areas from which they come habitable again, especially to clear away landmines, and therefore they have to be kept in the camps until then. This is a patently spurious excuse for denying them freedom of movement. Even if it takes six months to make the war-ravaged areas of the Vanni habitable, why can’t people who have homes or relatives in Jaffna or Colombo leave the camps? Wouldn’t this in fact reduce the burden on the government, and enable it to look after those who remain more adequately? Why can’t camp inhabitants go to other camps to look for missing relatives, or receive visits from friends and relations? Are there landmines in all these places? Indeed, even if they want to take a calculated risk and visit or rebuild their homes in the former war zone, they surely have a right to do so. Many people – mountain climbers, for example – take risks, and no one thinks of locking them up to prevent them from doing so! This cannot possibly be the real reason why civilians are being imprisoned in internment camps.

The other reason given for holding them is that they need to be screened to weed out LTTE cadres who escaped with them. It is true that after hostages have been released, they are often screened to find out if any of the hostage-takers are among them. But normally, this takes just a few hours, and the hostages are released immediately after being screened. Even if the large number of hostages in this case means that the screening process would take longer, there is no conceivable reason why it should take much more than a month. By now, all the civilians, or at least most of them, ought to be free. From Day 1, a steady stream of civilians should have been given the right to freedom of movement, as they were screened and cleared. Instead, some civilians from the Vanni who were displaced in earlier fighting have been detained without charge for more than a year!

Moreover, the reason why such screening is carried out is to prevent terrorists from escaping, rejoining their group, and carrying out future attacks. But in this case, the LTTE’s military capability has been destroyed, its top leadership wiped out; for a group that was identified completely with its supreme leader Prabakaran, and was defined by its military prowess, this means that it is finished. Furthermore, the hatred engendered in these Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) by the LTTE leadership’s utterly brutal treatment of them, especially at the end of the war, is the best guarantee we have that there is no chance it can be revived, regardless of what the pro-LTTE diaspora may think. In fact, as Anandasangaree has pointed out, their escape to government-held territory in defiance of LTTE orders was itself an act of resistance. If any militant group arises in the future, it will be a completely new one. So the benefits of apprehending a few hundred ex-LTTE cadres are far outweighed by the costs of detaining hundreds of thousands of innocent people without charge for an indefinite period and creating, possibly, thousands of future militants.

The fundamental rights petition filed on behalf of five IDPs held in camps at Kodikamam and Vavuniya makes it crystal clear that they are being held against their will, and that this constitutes appalling cruelty to individuals still suffering physically and mentally from the trauma they have undergone. The IDPs came out cursing the Tigers and positively inclined towards the government forces which had helped them to escape, but with every day that they remain in detention, their hostility to the government will grow; they will feel that they have jumped out of one frying pan into another. If the new Chief Justice hand-picked by the President delays or refuses to order their release, they will have every justification for feeling that the Sri Lankan state is holding them hostage.

Such collective punishment belies the government’s claim that it was trying to free the hostages, and makes it look as if it simply wanted to take them hostage itself. It contradicts Mahinda Rakapaksa’s statement that there are no longer any minorities in Sri Lanka by making it clear that there are minorities who do not share the right to freedom of movement and equal protection of the law enjoyed by the majority. As former Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva pointed out, this lays the groundwork for a new war, since comparable discrimination against and persecution of Tamil civilians played a major role in starting the war which has just ended. It thus insults the soldiers who risked and in many cases lost their lives to free the civilians from the LTTE, and makes a mockery of celebrations of the end of the war.

Indeed, it looks as if this is already the start of a new war: a war against Tamils. The longer Tamil civilians are detained in prison camps, the more disappearances and extrajudicial killings are likely to occur. Given that they are in the custody of an army commanded by Sarath Fonseka, who thinks that Sri Lanka belongs to the Sinhalese just as Hitler thought that Germany belonged to the Aryans, we can only fear the worst.

Moving Towards Dictatorship

There are strong indications that some elements in the government and armed forces do not want an end to the war but want to keep it going, or even expand it. The people of Sri Lanka were asked to sacrifice a great deal in the interests of defeating the LTTE, and we would expect that these sacrifices would now come to an end. We would expect at least two-thirds of the soldiers to be demobilised, so that the rest of the population does not have to pay for them any more; they could easily be employed at the same wages to do constructive work rebuilding the war-ravaged areas and upgrading infrastructure elsewhere, thus helping to attract investment into the country. We would expect the government to avoid practices which led to the war, such as discrimination against and persecution of minorities, and to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and Emergency Regulations which were used for the extrajudicial killing of thousands of Tamils as well as Sinhalese.

Instead, the very opposite is being done. Apart from the illegal detention of hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians and the failure to repeal the PTA and Emergency Regulations, we are told that the army, already doubled to 200,000 during the latter stages of the war, is going to be expanded by another 100,000! What earthly purpose could this serve? One purpose, clearly, is that it will enhance the power of military commanders and the Defence establishment, which would otherwise be reduced in peacetime. Presumably the military occupation of the North and East will be continued by the existing soldiers, treating citizens as aliens. But what will all the new soldiers do? Could they, conceivably, be deployed to the South, to crush any protests that might arise when people realise that far from being able to loosen their belts, they have to tighten them even more?

It would not be the first time this has happened. Let us not forget that the Sinhala nationalist regimes of Jayawardene and Premadasa, with some help from the Sinhala nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), managed to kill more Sinhalese in the space of three years than the LTTE could kill in thirty. Are some elements in the government and armed forces planning a repeat of the tyre-pyres and mutilated bodies piled up by the roadside, clogging the rivers and washed up on the beaches? There are disturbing indications that the Rajapaksa regime is moving in that direction. The murder of Lasantha Wickrematunga, the fact that his killers were never caught, and the justification of it in a BBC interview by the Defence Secretary, was an indication that the death squads which had been operating in the North and East have moved South. Other attacks on journalists, the fact that those who reported the assault on Poddala Jayantha were themselves detained, images of the President as a godlike king, and proposals to cancel the presidential elections and/or make Mahinda Rajapaksa president for life, all suggest a growing Sinhala fascist movement with support within the government.

If there are elements in the government and armed forces working to destroy democracy in Sri Lanka , it is incumbent on all those who love their country to resist. The lack of a viable opposition, given the United National Party’s (UNP’s) equally rotten record, is a drawback; but the courage of Anandasangaree and others in his Democratic Tamil National Alliance in resisting the President’s pressure to get the DTNA to join the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance gives us hope that one could be created. Tamil, Muslim and Left politicians who are part of a government that is detaining hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankan citizens without charge are betraying their constituencies; they should leave the government so that they are in a position to put pressure on it, and stand in solidarity with the DTNA. What is required today is a strong grassroots democracy movement throughout the country, out of which a new political leadership could emerge. The first priority of such a movement should be to defend the democratic rights of displaced civilians.

Setting up a Sinhala Buddhist Dictatorship Masquerading as Democracy

by Vasantha Raja

Sri Lanka’s present administration is a “dictatorship masquerading as democracy” observed Prof. John Neelsen from the Institute of Sociology in Tuebingen, Germany. His judgement is not far from the truth. In this paper I shall argue that a virtual ‘Sinhala-Buddhist dictatorship’ has emerged in Sri Lanka as the outcome of the brutish military campaign that resulted in a humanitarian tragedy of scandalous proportions. Also, I shall show the colonial connection, particularly the British rule that sowed the seeds for the present political impasse in Sri Lanka.

Let me start with a brief description of the war that culminated in the destruction of the Tamil Tiger leadership along with its Tamil mini-state in Sri Lanka’s Tamil habitat.

Successive administrations in Sri Lanka succeeded in branding its nearly thirty-year war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as war on terrorism. This formula worked well in getting the foreign countries - to which hundreds of thousands of Tamils fled for protection - to ban the Tiger Movement and choke the flow of funds to the Tigers. Following the ‘9-11’ US tragedy, Sri Lanka nicely touted its war as part of Junior Bush’s ‘global war on terror’.

The Sinhala nationalist movement in Sri Lanka, on the contrary, correctly identified the Tiger leadership as the zenith of the Tamil minority’s struggle to establish its own Tamil state in the north and east.

The Sinhala/Buddhists saw the island as rightfully theirs. For them, the Tamil struggle is a continuation of the historic Sinhala/Tamil wars in a new form. The army commander, General Sarath Fonseka, in a recent interview articulated the Sinhala perception as follows: “I strongly believe that this country belongs to the Sinhalese; but, there are minority communities and we treat them like our people…we being the majority of the country, 74%, we’ll never give in and we have the right to protect this country…They can live in this country with us. But they must not try to, under the pretext of being a minority, demand undue things.” [My emphasis]

In a similar tone, the Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said: “In any democratic country the majority should rule the country. This country will be ruled by the Sinhalese community which is the majority representing 74% of the population.” In the same vein, Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa, seeing the onrushing victory, said: “Soon the lion flag [VR: Effectively, the emblem of the Sinhala Buddhists] will fly from every house-top from Point Pedro to Dondra Head, from Colombo to Trincomalee.”

All three quotations above - from interviews and public speeches made by the top most personalities of the Sri Lankan state just prior to the final military victory – reflect the general mindset of Sri Lanka’s majority community that has primarily been fuelling the war all along, not terrorism. Terrorism was just a symptom both sides resorted to during the conflict.

Victory celebrations began to spread like wildfire in the Sinhala south shamelessly displaying the hubris of annihilating the Tamil separatists, rather than terrorism. Chief monks within the Buddhist clergy and the Sinhala press were openly referring to Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Sinhala king who should rule the country for good. Some are even suggesting turning the country formally into a Sinhala-Buddhist kingdom. Any sociologist who would study the post-war celebrations in the ‘Sinhala south’ would clearly see an entrenched supremacist mindset in action, nothing less.

All pre-war talks of ‘devolving power to the Tamils’ had vanished. The president was calling upon the people to discard the concept of ‘ethnic minority’ altogether and see everyone as a citizen of Sri Lanka.
However attractive this slogan may seem on the surface let me explain why this approach fails to appreciate Sri Lanka’s social realities; and how in practice this would amount to the defence of Sinhala/Buddhist domination in Sri Lankan politics.

The fundamental fallacy in the Sinhala-Buddhist perception results from the failure to distinguish between ‘ethnic minorities’ and ‘minority nations’. The fact is: Tamils in Sri Lanka are a minority nation trapped within the post-colonial straitjacket of a unitary state. [Later I shall show there can be forms of unitary structures that are capable of accommodating trouble-free coexistence of more than one nation.]

Tamils are in many ways similar to Scots in Scotland or Welsh in Wales. Tamils don’t see themselves as an ethnic minority living in the Sinhala/Buddhist country, just as Scots don’t see themselves as a minority living in the English country. Both Scots and Welsh perceive Britain as a voluntary arrangement by three nations for mutual benefit. The English-dominated state, for instance, conceivably cannot ban the separatist Scottish National Party driving them underground, send an English army to crush Scottish separatism and hoist the English flag all over Scotland. Why not? Because, the political value systems in the west have evolved too far for that; the atmosphere isn’t conducive to such behaviour.

The Tamils have a very long history along with the Sinhalese, though the latter has been the dominant political and cultural force through out Sri Lankan history. When the western colonialists arrived in Sri Lanka [formerly, Ceylon] over four centuries ago there existed one Tamil kingdom and two Sinhalese kingdoms in the island which the colonialists systematically dismantled. The British finally defeated the last Sinhala kingdom in Kandy and imposed a unitary state structure uniting the island for administrative purposes. [Ironically, the last king of the Sinhala kingdom, Sri Vikrama Rajasinghe, who confronted the British forces, was a Tamil; and that indicates the present extreme form of the supremacist mindset is essentially a post-independence phenomenon.]

During the Colonial rule both Sinhala and Tamil cultures were brutally suppressed, and parallel revivalist movements erupted independently of each other in the 19th century – in the Sinhala south to protect Buddhism and Sinhala culture while in the Tamil north to defend Hinduism and Tamil culture. These movements eventually snowballed into powerful anti-imperialist campaigns for freedom.

Unfortunately, these social realities and the robust aspirations of two nations were not reflected in the British-imposed state-structures at Sri Lanka’s independence. On the contrary, the British introduced a rigid unitary system paving the way for Sinhala domination that immensely contributed to future conflicts. There were no mechanisms for the Sinhalese politicians to fulfil the Sinhala-Buddhists’ justifiable economic, political and cultural aspirations without antagonizing the Tamils. [The so-called 29th Clause of the first post-independence constitution to protect the ‘minorities’ - which was contemptuously discarded by the Sinhala majority eventually – was pathetically inadequate to protect the Tamils from discrimination.]

The post-colonial political system, in effect, motivated the Sinhala politicians to whip up anti-Tamil sentiments as the easy way to secure the majority’s vote base. This factor along with the dragging feudal consciousness in Sri Lanka proved to be a lethal combination.

The latter point, I think, deserves a brief explanation: In countries like Sri Lanka, capitalism did not organically evolve from feudalism. Unlike in Europe - where capitalism grew within the womb of feudal society systematically challenging all aspects of feudal consciousness and institutions - Sri Lankan capitalism was arbitrarily imposed by colonialists on a feudal society. Therefore, the feudal consciousness continued to persist in various forms. The Sinhala politicians’ pathological failure to politically solve the Tamil Question, I believe, is partly a result of that.
True, for a developing nation - battered by imperialism for centuries - the glorious memories of a bygone past may be useful to sustain a nation’s badly needed self-confidence. But, they could easily turn into a toxic force, as happened in Sri Lanka, when mixed with political structures that encourage racism.

In fact, the language and the symbolism used during the post-war victory celebrations could, I believe, provide fertile fields for anthropologists to study a very important social phenomenon. Virtually everyone in the Sinhala/Buddhist ‘camp’ - including the president, military leaders and government ministers - perceived the Tamil Tigers’ demise as the modern version of the historic defeat of the Tamil king Elara at the hand of the Sinhala/Buddhist king Dutugemunu.

The real content of the Tamil struggle, the war and the eventual Tiger defeat, however, is vastly different. As I have already explained, it is very much to do with Sri Lanka’s post-colonial state-structures’ inflexibility to even-handedly deal with the political, economic and cultural aspirations of two nations emerging from colonial oppression.

Clearly, the unitary state has been instrumental in pushing the two communities towards head on clash, rather than helping them to see the benefits of coexistence. The successive governments’ one-sided efforts to promote Sinhala language and Buddhism, for instance, turned out as blatant anti-Tamil discrimination. The Sinhala-dominated state’s biased approach against the Tamil regions in infrastructure development is visibly clear. Just like the colonialists who were only interested in developing their central economic hub, Colombo, and related areas, the post-independence governments also neglected the crucially important north and east in the distribution of national wealth. Consequently, the Tamil regions remained undeveloped forcing the Tamil youth to migrate to the Sinhala south for jobs, businesses and prosperity. Thus, the poverty-ridden Sinhala majority increasingly began to perceive the Tamils as a threat to their jobs and businesses. Accordingly, communal riots and anti-Tamil pogroms became a striking feature of Sri Lanka’s post-independence history.

Tamils’ non-violent campaigns for a federal state were brutally crushed by the successive Sinhala governments – a trend culminated in the banning of Tamil representatives from the parliament using draconian laws. The Tamil armed-struggle for a separate state was a direct result of the Sinhala state’s violent efforts to put down Tamils’ Gandhian campaigns. Tamil Tigers’ determined venture to build a Tamil mini-state and militarily protect it was a logical development in response to the Sinhala state’s violent approach.

Now that the Tamil Tigers’ mini-state strategy has been defeated, the Tamils internationally have responded with their new strategy to create a “transnational government” based on the numerically and financially strong Tamil Diaspora that may eventually raise a formidable ‘global’ challenge to the Sinhala state. Whatever the viability of the Tamil leaders’ high sounding objectives abroad, at least a solid movement could emerge to consolidate the Diaspora’s unprecedented energy erupted in response to the war. Thus, it may prove to be a powerful counterpart to the political developments in Sri Lanka itself.

Does the Sri Lankan government have the vision to handle the new developments by politically solving the Tamil question? Highly unlikely, I should say.

After the Tamil Tigers’ military defeat, Sri Lanka’s president Mahinda Rajapaksa made it amply clear that he is not going to devolve power to the Tamils as a separate unit living in the north and east of the island. As mentioned earlier, for him there are ‘no ethnic minorities’ in Sri Lanka to devolve power along ethnic lines. Tamils grievances could be addressed within the existing unitary structures, he said.

However, the Rajapaksa-friendly Tamil politicians - who are getting discredited among the Tamils by the day - and the international community keep pressurizing the government to give in on this issue. [Reportedly, at the recent UN vote on a ‘possible genocide probe’, the government has covertly hinted its readiness to implement an improved version of the 13th amendment – the brainchild of the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 - as a devolutionary package to the north-east Tamils. However, such misleading signals appear to be part of Machiavellian tactics to hoodwink the UN. The harsh reality is that the president is struggling hard to avert the devolution issue altogether paying lip-service to a possible ‘home-grown’ solution in the ‘near future’]

President Rajapaksa’s post-victory speeches indicate a pluralist vision of the Sri Lankan society in which members of diverse social groups develop their traditional cultures or special interests within a common civilization. Thus, he seems determined to avoid any solution along ethnic lines

This approach seems attractive to many Sinhala intellectuals too, because of its obvious modernist connotations, as opposed to outdated nationalist prejudices. But, in a country like Sri Lanka with a ‘minority nation’ of highly evolved nationalist aspirations, the pluralist vision has many pitfalls as its post-independence experience has graphically illustrated to its detriment.

Even in an economically advanced country like Britain pluralism has not worked. How imprudent it is to believe pluralism to be the answer in a poor country like Sri Lanka after decades of brutal war to crush a minority nation.
Perhaps, it is time to learn a lesson or two from the architect of Sri Lanka’s unitary setup, Britain. How did Britain deal with Scottish and Welsh separatism? The London parliament offered a Scottish Parliament and a Welsh Assembly, both explicitly based on Scottish and Welsh right to self-determination. [The British proposals were put to the Scottish and Welsh people separately in the form of referendums for their approval]

Of course, Sri Lanka cannot copy the British answer to separatism from word to word. Sri Lankan situation is quite different. In Britain, for instance, the central administration is far more advanced than its counterpart in Colombo; therefore, whether the British Prime Minister is English, Scottish or Welsh is irrelevant where as in Sri Lanka, at present, a Tamil or a Muslim President is an unthinkable quantity. Also, still the English majority has not strongly felt the need to rush for a regional English Parliament, though the existing lopsidedness of the British state structures is widely being acknowledged.

Thus, the British solution cannot fit the Sri Lankan situation like a glove. What is important is to learn at least the general principles of a democratic approach to somewhat similar problems.

Let’s have a brief look at some relevant demographic and geographical features of the present day Sri Lankan society: Although the Tamils identify much of the northern and eastern provinces as their traditional homeland there are hundreds of thousands of Tamils, including the Tamil plantation workers in the upcountry, live among the Sinhala majority. [Note that the Muslims also use Tamil as their first language.] Also, a substantial section of Sinhalese and Muslims have been living in the Tamil regions for generations. Therefore, considering the deep rooted prejudices prevalent on both sides, it would be in the interest of all concerned to have radical changes in the central administration. In this sense, power devolution to the Tamil regions would be of lesser significance relative to the changes at the centre.

Moreover, geographically Sri Lanka should be seen as a single unit. The water distribution, for instance, is uniquely intertwined. The rivers that fertilize Tamil lands of the north and east originate from the hills located in the Sinhala midlands. Even the climatic zones of the island are distributed as parts of a single whole
Culturally too there have been close interactions between the two peoples that have mutually enriched each other through out history. Virtually in all Buddhist temples there are shrines for Hindu gods. Most Buddhists are devotees of Hindu gods too.

Consequently, all communities’ long term interests would be better served by designing an island-wide political transformation whatever the shortcut measures needed to solve the immediate problems. Two hostile political entities side by side would be counterproductive for both.

Thus, a realistically creative solution, in my view, should have a mechanism for Sinhala and Tamil people to fulfil their cultural aspirations in their own regions through two regional parliaments while the highest level institutions of the economy, judiciary, defence, foreign affairs etc., are secured in an equality-based centre. In more simple terms, there should be a democratically-transformed Supreme Parliament to deal with issues related to the country as a whole, while two regional parliaments look after the Sinhala/Tamil cultural and other interests in their own regions. [For, clarity’s sake I shall avoid dealing with the special interests of Muslims and other tiny communities here.]

How to transform a Sinhala-dominated supremacist centre into a democratic and equality-based Supreme Parliament is the trillion dollar question. This is the key issue to be negotiated with the Tamil political leaders. The Europeon Union, for example, has been going through valuable experiences on similar issues, and if so many nation-states can continue to build mutual confidence on such a vast scale then a tiny island with a few races should be able to do that far more easily. But, without discarding the chauvinist mindset the whole thing is a non-starter.

To start with, the government will have to abandon the “no minorities” delusion. The truth is: with entrenched nationalist aspirations and prejudices of a post-colonial society the ‘pluralist solution’ will only amount to a reinforcement of the Sinhala Buddhist domination that continues to provoke the Tamil struggle to re-emerge in a new form.

Devolution of power to a separate Tamil Unit without touching the centre could also, in my view, further deepen the ethnic divisions along dangerous lines, particularly in the context of the growing regional rivalries between China and India. There is a serious possibility of the Sinhala-dominated centre turning into a Chinese puppet-state while a northern Tamil administration gets swamped by India’s regional interests. If this were to happen, the chances of Sri Lanka becoming a playground for regional power-politics are very real indeed.

But, is it realistic to expect the Sinhala political elite to change its Mahavamsa mindset and go for a radical transformation of the state-structure along the lines I have suggested earlier? I don’t think so. The government seems determined to stick to its militarist agenda of violently demolishing the Tamils’ cry for freedom. Therefore, all fascistic trends the government has been showing in the south so far are likely to grow worse in the coming period.

Alternatively, will the government – under international pressure – go for an asymmetric devolution of power to Tamils in the north and east as being demanded by the mainstream Tamil politicians in parliament? Such a move, in my view, is highly unlikely, because that could anger the southern Sinhala-Buddhist movement that perceives it as a Tamil tactic to split the country. The People’s Liberation Movement (JVP) with a strong base on the Sinhala side has been warning against any such move. This would amount to a betrayal of thousands of Sinhala soldiers who sacrificed their lives in defence of the country’s integrity, the JVP claims.

There are major problems with the 13th Amendment which the anti-Tiger Tamil politicians might like to resolve. The North-East provincial council that existed until 2006 was just one of several councils in the country that exist at the mercy of the Sinhala-dominated centre. The centre can abolish them at will. Also, there are controversial areas such as policing - which the centre wants to keep in its hands ignoring the anti-Tiger Tamil politicians’ request.
Clearly, the 13th Amendment is worthless unless asymmetrical power devolution to the Tamil Unit with extra laws to protect it from arbitrary central interventions is secured. Already, the centre has demonstrated its domination over the provincial councils by abolishing the north-west council on one occasion. Also, the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka has recently nullified a cornerstone of the 13th Amendment, i.e. the merger of the two Tamil-majority provinces, as unconstitutional. Thus, a fundamental aspiration of the Tamils, i.e. to unite northern and eastern provinces, is already in jeopardy.

Moreover, the Sinhala side firmly believes that an asymmetrical devolution of power to Tamils of north & east would only be a steppingstone for a Tamil state. This was a major factor in the deepening distrust between the two sides all along. And, now that the Tamil Tigers’ mini-state project has been militarily wiped out, it might be futile to expect the Colombo administration to create a north-east council free from centre’s control. President Rajapaksa’s constant lip-service to a ‘home-grown’ solution may well be a cover to dodge the mounting international pressure to devolve power to Tamils.

However, there are at least three reasons why the government would loose its nerve unless an acceptable political solution for the Tamils is presented soon

Firstly, the government is increasingly becoming conscious that the military victory does not mark the end of the Tamil struggle. The government has succeeded in demolishing the Tigers’ ‘mini-state project’ only to pave the way for a changed form of struggle. Consequently, the security nightmare that plagued the country for so long is nowhere near ending. And the government will go on ‘disappearing’ every Tamil showing any sign of freedom-sentiments. This will only drive the politically conscious Tamils underground, making the situation increasingly difficult to tackle.

Secondly, Sri Lanka’s dithering economy - already overwhelmed by mounting debts - is showing signs of grave problems, and the potential for social unrest in the south is very real indeed. This could turn the post-war exuberance into its opposite in no time.

Thirdly, the presently raging debate within the Sinhala intelligentsia and the left movement as to the hollowness behind the military victory seems to be gathering momentum. It may well become the catalyst for a new awareness away from the mainstream supremacist mindset. And, there are politically conscious Tamil campaigners who see the significance of relating to the Sinhala progressives. A potentially formidable unity between the rising Tamil movement and the Sinhala progressive forces would be the last thing the Rajapaksa administration would like to see happening.

There’re good reasons for the growing frustration in the south. Many thought the Tigers’ military defeat would bring peace in a perceptible way. But, in the midst of victory celebrations the military commander Sarath Fonseka in a TV interview said he was going to expand the army by 50%, surprising everyone who couldn’t understand why peace needs more soldiers than the war. Also, extending the draconian anti-terrorist law in the parliament was one of government’s immediate steps in the post-war Sri Lanka. In brief, the military victory does not seem to have brought security to the country in a tangible way.

The developments within the Tamil community both inside and outside Sri Lanka are not conducive for peace at all. Inside Sri Lanka the Tamil anger seems to be reaching boiling point by the day. Perhaps, it’s worth quoting the Vavuniya Tamil legislator Suresh premachandra’s account given on June 14 in some length.

“250,000 Tamil civilians are held in camps. Over 1000 were killed. A large number was injured. Children have no parents. Mothers have lost children. Wives have lost husbands. Pregnant mothers and others lack healthcare. No houses; no water. Bathing is limited once in four days. No food; no toilets. One cannot go out since a Sinhala Army has surrounded them. No connection with the outside world. How can the people be happy?” he said. “In Jaffna, we cannot get out of the houses. Checkpoints are everywhere. 600,000 Tamils are ruled by 40,000 Sinhala Army. One cannot come to Colombo at least for an emergency. An air ticket is Rs. 20,000. A-9 road is closed. Roads in Jaffna are closed at any moment the Army patrols on them. Tamils are suppressed day by day.” And in a warning tone he added, “Both sides have the patriotism.”

In a mood of utter frustration he said: “Youths are arrested from camps. Parents cannot go to complain to police. Human Rights organizations are denied access. We cannot do anything. We are also not allowed. Six MPs including MP Srikanthan wrote a letter seeking permission to visit camps. But no reply. MP Kishore sought the President’s permission over the phone. Then the President asked him to join the government. I cannot go at least to my birth place. I cannot look into the welfare of people that voted me. This government is engaged in an opportunist politics violating the human rights and democracy.”

The Tamil MP was describing the situation in the Tamil north. The government says there’re thousands of Tigers at large in the south. Also, there are hundreds of thousands of Tamils in the south who live in fear, as second class citizens, and in constant worry about their relatives suffering in the detention camps. Thus, the question is: how long this state of affairs is going to last without blowing up?

There is no sign of pacification within the Tamil Diaspora either. Quite apart from the protests and lobbies, the think-tanks are busy debating the ways of rebuilding the Tamil campaign on a global scale. As already mentioned, the some Tamil leaders abroad have already begun forming the ‘transnational government’ and strengthening their global campaign. They may try and manoeuvre India’s growing nervousness over China’s systematic encroachment into her outskirts using Sri Lankan state’s predicament. On the other hand, even China – with its ‘global-superpower’ ambitions - may want to build its moral-image globally, and put pressure on the Colombo administration to get its act together.

Also, there are others who encourage the Tamils in the country to join progressive Left parties en masse and compel the Tamil political parties to come to a united front with the Left, anticipating a socio-political turmoil worse than the recent Iranian crisis. The deteriorating economic conditions in Sri Lanka, they think, would be the additional factor.

This last point needs some elaboration:

Sri Lanka is a tiny part of the global economy that is almost entirely dependent on exports and imports for its survival. There’s no viable internal market for capitalists to thrive on. Its foreign exchange earnings have been primarily centred on tourism, tea, garment/textile exports and the ‘export’ of labour mainly to the middle-east for the inflow of foreign exchange remittances – all of which have been drastically affected by the global recession. During the past few decades, easily available global credit facilitated Sri Lanka’s economic and political survival. The global credit crunch has badly affected the major pillars of the Sri Lankan economy causing unexpected problems for the economic pundits.

The war cost has been totally beyond the capacity of a poor country like Sri Lanka. The coffers are empty and the government is totally dependent on foreign loans and aid. The war forced the government to borrow untold quantities of domestic credit too that kept the central bank’s printing machines very busy indeed. Colossal amounts of paper money now circulating within the economy can be seen forcing the living costs to rise uncontrollably while the foreign exchange reserves have slumped to dangerous levels. The dragging global economic doom is not helping the situation at all.

Thus, the continuing triumphalist conceit could soon run out of steam. Economic catastrophe, social unrest and political dissent may well be on the cards. In such a scenario, I think, the spectre of possible link up of Sinhala/Tamil aspirations on a common platform, could become more real than many appreciate at present.

In conclusion, let me briefly mention the essence of the analysis: The post-colonial state-structure - initially floated by British imperialism - was the albatross that reinvigorated a dormant mindset. The political process since has now reached its logical end: a virtual Sinhala-Buddhist dictatorship. However, it has also created the conditions and the potential for a social revolution that could eventually bring about the real democratic transformation Sri Lanka is crying for.

Sri Lankan Tamil detainees give eye-witness accounts

By our correspondents

24 June 2009

It is now more than one month since the Sri Lankan military detained the final batch of Tamil refugees fleeing the northern war zone on May 19. They joined more than a quarter of a million civilians already incarcerated in camps set up near Vavuniya and on the Jaffna Peninsula during the last phase of the war. About 160,000 people are interned in four units in the biggest camp, known as Manik Farm.

In order to brush off criticism of the denial of democratic rights and terrible conditions in the camps, the government falsely claimed that most detainees would be resettled within six months. However, senior military officials have told Mark Cutts, a UN senior coordinator at Manik Farm, that they expect 80 percent of the people to be still detained in a year’s time. Cutts told the BBC that the government was building permanent structures at Manik Farm. Nothing less than a new city had been created, he said, with phone lines, schools, banks and even a cash machine.

The government is treating all the detainees as suspected supporters of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), saying that no-one can be released until the camps have been screened to identify those with LTTE connections. Every day 20 to 30 young people are taken away and their whereabouts are unknown, a human rights organisation, INFORM, reported this week.

Interviewed by the BBC Sinhala Service, a spokesperson for the organisation said people wearing hoods were brought into the camps and they indicated by signs whether a detainee had LTTE connections or not.

No register is being kept of such removals, in violation of Sri Lankan and international law, and the media has been excluded from the camps to prevent any reporting of the conditions in the camps or the fate of the nearly 9,000 youth that the government has admitted taking away to separate detention facilities. Their parents do not know what has happened to them.

A report in the right-wing Island newspaper on June 16 provided a glimpse of how the military and police authorities are applying pressure to the Tamil youth to declare support for the government. According to the article, a deputy inspector general of police Nimal Lewke addressed over 2,000 detainees at the Neriyakulam Technical College and told them that President Mahinda Rajapakse was “their only hope”. Lewke told the Island that about 8,729 youth were being held in several detention centres at Vavuniya as LTTE cadres, including about 1,700 young women, and that 283,000 displaced people were in camps at Vavuniya, with 11,000 more on the Jaffna Peninsula.

Because of the government’s exclusion of the media, the only source of information is the testimonies of detainees relayed by relatives. We publish below two interviews given by relatives who visited two Manik Farm camps, in which they report the conditions there, as well as detainees’ accounts of the military’s shelling of civilians in the final stages of the war.
* * *
On the day I visited the camp, Education Minister Susil Premjayantha and Resettlement Minister Rishad Bathiuddeen were meeting with some NGOs [non-government organisations] in the camp. So we had to wait until they left. Police officers were controlling the people, wielding batons.

Speaking about the last days of the war, my relative told me: “The military fired more than a thousand shells an hour. The shells fell on people because there was a smaller chance of falling on the land--people were so crowded into a tiny area. About 1,400 people killed on the day when I was injured. I saw this in the hospital. I do not know how many died on the spot. I was admitted to Mullivaikkal hospital. After few days, they took me by ship to (eastern) Pulmoddai hospital. Again I was transferred to Polonnaruwa hospital. Later they brought me to Vavuniya and finally here. They photographed me each time when they transferred me.

“We are like prisoners here. Why don’t they allow us to go out? The toilets are overflowing. There is a lack of water to use toilets and for other needs. There are some tube wells for drinking water. For that we have to wait in a long queue. We have to bathe in a river running behind the camp. However if we bathe in that river continuously, some skin deceases will spread among us. A doctor visits the camp only once a week. Sometimes essential medicines are not available. We have to obtain a token two days in advance to consult the doctor for any severe illness.

“We are living with fear. We do not know what will happen at anytime. The foreign representatives who visit here do not know the real situation. We are not allowed to speak with them. When the UN secretary general [Ban Ki-moon] visited, the authorities took half the detainees out of Kadirgamar camp and cleaned it up. They showed him each family with a tent. They took him only to that camp.”

An elderly person who was leaving the camp with a relative who was released after nearly a month of requests, said: “I think we were the first people who crossed into the military-controlled area after the government announced that we could do so. But the treatment that the young and middle-aged people got and the words used against us made me think that I should have died starving rather than come here.

“Now of course they have put up tin sheets and thatched roofs. When we came here it was almost like a jungle. Numbers of families had to live in one hut. Because it is hot, people can sleep anywhere but the problems start if it begins to rain. If it rains, you can’t even walk because of the muddy land.

“Since we came here many of the parents with children have never slept at night for fear that their children would be taken away. There were numbers of such incidents. We had no lights, so nobody knew what was going on.”

A 60-year-old person who visited a camp to see his children said: “I went from one camp to another searching for the family of my daughter who was in Kilinochchi. Yesterday I went to a camp at Periyakattu in Vavuniya, which opened soon after the government announced its war victory. But visitors are not allowed there. The military considers those interns to be strong supporters or associates of the LTTE because they were there in the war zone until the last minute.”
* * *
I went to a camp recently to see some of my relatives detained there. We wrote down the name of the detainee we wanted to visit, his block and tent number and handed it over to the officers, who seemed to be intelligence officers or members of paramilitary groups working with the military.

They announced our visit by loud speakers. We were not sure whether the message had gotten to the particular relative. However, we stayed in the queue for checking. Officers checked all our bags and parcels, and our bodies. No shopping bags, betel and areca nut, big bags, boxes or hand phones were allowed.

We had to talk with our relatives through the barbed wire fence. We were allowed just 15 minutes. There were about 60 or 70 visitors talking to their relatives behind the fence, so it was difficult to hear or respond to each other.

My relative, 19, described his experience under the military’s shelling attacks in Mullivaikkal: “There were pieces of shells in the backbone of my mother. We think the shells were fired by the army. Medical staff would only give medicine without removing the shrapnel, because they said she would become paralysed or unconscious if the pieces were removed. After my mother was injured, I carried her and moved secretly during an entire night, without the knowledge of the LTTE, to reach the military-controlled area.

“My brother, who is 13, must study in grade 7 and I in the advanced level. But we have not been able to go to school for more than six months. The officials said they would arrange for us to study in the advanced level.

“They cook meals here for us. This morning it was porridge. For lunch, they gave us rice with soya meat, pumpkin, dhal and dried fish. We may have porridge tonight also. People who were able to find pans were cooking, but when a temporary tent burned down [due to a cooking fire], we were asked to stop cooking.

“We are facing a huge lack of water and there are lots of flies here. They gave us a floor sheet to put inside the tent, but the flies live on those sheets.” As we talked, flies flocked around our faces.

Another relative I wanted to meet did not turn up although I lined up in the queue three times. He may not have received the message about my visit. On my third attempt, I met another detainee I know and managed to send things for my relative through him. That detainee, a government employee told me:

“We are unable to get a good meal. The meals are not tasty—they are just to prevent hunger. I do my job here and they pay me. How many days do we have to suffer this camp life? There is no water here. Smallpox and mumps are spreading.” [courtesy: WSWS]

June 23, 2009

UNSC must help undo some of the damage that its previous inaction helped foster-HRW

The United Nations Security Council should make sure that its existing commitments to protect civilians during armed conflict are actually carried out, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to council member states.

Even though there is no fighting in Sri Lanka's "no fire zone", HRW said: "There is still a need, however, for the council to urgently address the continuing humanitarian and human rights crisis and help undo some of the damage that its previous inaction helped foster.

In its letter, Human Rights Watch identified the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Chad, and Sri Lanka as examples of nations in which the Security Council has failed to take meaningful action to address and prevent civilian suffering during armed conflict. Persistent problems needing attention in those countries include: sexual violence, lack of justice and accountability for abuses, continuing violence toward internally displaced people and refugees, and violations of international humanitarian law.

Full text re: Sri Lanka, in HRW's Letter to UN Security Council Regarding the Debate on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

The Security Council's indifference to the plight of the Sri Lankan civilians caught up in the fighting between government forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the final months of the armed conflict this year represents a failure of historic proportions. According to UN estimates, more than 7,000 civilians - and perhaps as many as 20,000 - died from January through May 2009 in the midst of serious violations of international humanitarian law by both the Sri Lankan army and the LTTE. And yet, the Security Council failed even to discuss the issue, except in the context of an "informal interactive dialog," which precluded in advance the possibility of any council action.

The Secretary-General's seventh report on the protection of civilians emphasizes the suffering of Sri Lankan civilians both during the recent conflict and continuing today. Both sides in the conflict showed wanton disregard for human life in violation of international humanitarian law. The LTTE used civilians as human shields and forcibly prevented civilians from escaping the conflict zone. The Sri Lankan government also committed grave violations, none of which are excused by its claims of fighting terrorism. Despite denying the use of heavy weapons to council members, government forces repeatedly shelled densely populated areas, including hospitals.

It is now too late for the Security Council to act to protect the civilians killed and wounded in the government's erroneously named "no-fire zone." There is still a need, however, for the council to urgently address the continuing humanitarian and human rights crisis and help undo some of the damage that its previous inaction helped foster.

Nearly 300,000 ethnic Tamil civilians are now detained in the government's closed "welfare camps," including entire families who are prevented from leaving either for work or to move in with relatives or other families. The council should act to protect them by pressing for the rights to liberty and freedom of movement of civilians placed in government camps and basic human rights protections for persons the government suspects of being LTTE members; ensuring access to humanitarian organizations, the media, and human rights organizations to internally displaced persons and former conflict zones; and creating an international commission of inquiry to investigate alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by both sides during the recent fighting.

Conclusion

As the Secretary-General says in his latest report on civilian protection in armed conflict, the debate on June 26 provides an opportunity for "determined action" and "reinvigorated commitment by the Security Council, Member States, and the United Nations to the protection of civilians." We urge the council to use the debate to urgently remedy existing shortfalls in civilian protection.

The Council should act more robustly and strategically to confront the appalling conditions suffered by civilians in armed conflict in these four countries and worldwide. Protection of civilians needs to be made a priority in reality, not just in words.

Sincerely,

Steve Crawshaw
United Nations Advocacy Director

June 21, 2009

"We do everything possible and suitable for Tamils living in Sri Lanka"- Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya

"We are concerned about the Tamils in living in Sri lanka. And not any other organization....and we do everything possible and suitable for Tamils living in Sri Lanka," but "not according to the people outside of Sri Lanka needs," said Sri Lanka's Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya.

Sri Lanka's Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya to the United States stated this when responding to a question at the "talk" he gave on "Bringing an End to A Quarter Century of Civil War," at The Center for Human Rights and Democracy at the Georgia State University recently.

Dionne Walker, of the Associated Press writing on the appearance of Sri Lankan Ambassador at GSU on June 15th, said:

Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya, speaking to an audience in a police-guarded library at Georgia State University, denied allegations that ethnic Tamils are being held in welfare camps against their will and insisted that "the truth of Sri Lanka is not always the news stories you see." He said the government is working to get the Tamils back into their homes within six months.

According to AP, at the GSU Ambassador also said:

However, releasing them to return to their homes isn't simple, he said, because rebels have peppered the countryside with explosives.

"It would be criminal to send people back to villages and land riddled with mines," said Wickramasuriya, adding the threat is also why journalists haven't been welcomed to the conflict area.

Reconciliation and painful realities on ground

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

A harsh fact of life is the hiatus between rhetoric and reality.

One is starkly reminded of the chasm between promise and performance as we see current developments unfolding.

On the one hand there is the very discernible yearning of ordinary people from all ethnicities to put the past behind us and move forward to reconciliation, justice,amity and unity.

But there are other forces obstructing this natural process by obstinately sticking to obscurantist ideology. [click here to read the article in full ~ on dbsjeyaraj.com]

10th death Anniversary – June 22: Mervyn de Silva and the Lankan condition

by Dayan Jayatilleka

Father’s Day this year falls on the eve of the tenth anniversary of the death of my father, Mervyn de Silva, journalist and editor, literary critic and satirist, broadcaster and commentator on world affairs, or as Godfrey Gunatilleke put it in a sixth anniversary revaluation, “literary critic, intellectual, political analyst and media communicator all in one”. The founder editor of the Editor’s Guild of Sri Lanka, the award instituted in his name by the industry is the pinnacle prize of the annual Journalism Awards ceremony.

My first memory of anything was the perspective from the playpen, of my father alone at the dining table, in trousers and vest, typing, while my maternal grandmother watches us with a smile. My last memory of him was seeing him die, through a glass door, clearly, at the intensive care unit of a Colombo hospital. Hours or days later I walked back into his study and saw his typewriter, stubbed out cigars, well thumbed volumes of Walter Lippmann and I.F. Stone, the empty chair. “Aren’t you going to write anything on your father for the anniversary? Why not say how he might have viewed this time, after the war?” suggested Sanja, my wife, gently. So here I am ten years after and ten thousand miles away, typing.

He died just before he turned seventy and the world moved into the new century, millennium and (perhaps) paradigm. Had he been alive he would have welcomed Barack Obama at least as enthusiastically as he did JFK. What would he have said about the moment that Sri Lanka has arrived at today? Is it possible for us to extrapolate what his insights might have been from a recollection of what he wrote and said?

Mervyn would have written about the war, its aftermath and future prospects; the Rajapakse presidency; Tamil politics; the serious challenge to Sri Lanka’s external relations; the erosion or squandering of her “soft power” resources; and the structure of the international information order as revealed by the coverage of the closing stages of the conflict.

He described himself as a liberal and a humanist. He was both these things but not of a sort that shied away from the subject of warfare. He would have been a shrewd observer of the epic endgame of the Eelam wars. He would have done so with no trace of enthusiasm for either side but empathy for both, as would a literary critic with a grasp of tragedy or a masterful cricket commentator like John Arlott. Though his early columns such -- as the series of exposes on his boarding school -- were cathartic and savagely satirical, in his mature middle years Mervyn (unlike his son) kept his passions restricted to the precincts of his private life and outside the boundaries of his published writing. As Neelan Tiruchelvam told me, someone who did not know Mervyn could read his writings without once guessing which ethnicity, nationality or religion he belonged to. That is the objectivity, maturity of attitude and consummate journalistic professionalism he would have brought to bear on his comments on the Rise and Fall of Prabhakaran and the Tamil Tigers.

Mervyn de Silva would however had little patience for Colombo’s critics of the Rajapakse administration. It was Prof Michael Roberts who resurrected his three part defense in the Ceylon Observer in 1967 of the SWRD surge of 1956 and its successor project of a broad united front of the centre–left (which crystallized the next year at Bogambara with the inclusion of the Communist party). That essay contained a relentless critique of the effete “aesthetic” aversion of the attitudinally almost indistinguishable Westernized Right and orthodox Left, to the stirrings of the Sinhala rural masses couched as they were in cultural and linguistic terms. My support for President Rajapakse flowed directly from the influence of my father. As I told him in the days he became the Leader of the Opposition, at a party at Galle Face Courts hosted by a young journalist Farah Mihlar (now a London based, occasional Guardian blogger) at which Gen Sanath Karunaratne was also present, I would support him fully, not least because I had no emotional option but to do so since I knew that was what my father would have wanted. When Mervyn died many politicians had paid their respects, beginning with Mr. Thondaman Sr, but three had actually committed their appreciation to print that year: Sarath Amunugama, MHM Ashraff and Mahinda Rajapakse. The Rajapakse article appeared in the Daily News and recalled his presence as youthful observer at political discussions between Mervyn and his uncles George and Lakshman Rajapakse, Mervyn’s friends and class mates. He also recounted Mervyn’s and his convergence in solidarity with Palestine and the PLO.

As his support for SWRD Bandaranaike, which extended to Sirima Bandaranaike, and his open uncritical sympathy for Premadasa (long before my own association with the latter, whom I first met in our Ward Place flat when I was a school-kid) demonstrated, Mervyn endorsed and supported political leaders of both mainstream democratic parties who were left of centre or progressive, in twin terms of sensitivity to mass aspirations and the cause of the Third World. In this he was hardly alone, though there were only a clutch of Westernized Colombo based Sri Lankans with an elite liberal education, to do so. Most either supported the UNP or the Trotskyist LSSP. Supportive of the SLFP and broad center-left coalitions, he nonetheless mourned the absence of a policy elite and coherent moderate ideology for the SLFP. The UNP and Left had their ideology and intellectuals, but he observed that the centrist SLFP did not – a failure which made it permanent prey to pressure groups of one or other illiberal persuasion.

What made Mervyn rare within the liberal or progressive intelligentsia, was that he was highly sensitive to both radical Sinhala youth aspirations and Tamil and other minority sentiments and aspirations. What made him unique was that while he was prophetic about youth rebellion and strongly sympathetic to the radicalism of the university educated rural Sinhala youth, (“an angry young tiger at the gates”, was the poetically allusive concluding line of a 1969 Royal College lecture turned title of a Ceylon Observer series) he always kept his balance, scorning those Westernized fellow travelers of the JVP as seeking to regain their lost romantic youth, and dismissing as “grotesque”, the description of post-1971 Ceylon by Amnesty International’s Lord Avebury in the Guardian (London) as “an Island Behind Bars”.

Unique also was his combination of the defense of popular peasant based nationalism and the sovereign state in Sri Lanka and the Third World, with an explicit warning in his important Daily News debate of November 1972 with Regi Siriwardena, of the dangers of disregarding or derogating that of universal value within the Western literary and artistic canon, in a striving for greater grounding and relevance. Thus he balanced an understanding and appreciation of majority nationalism in Sri Lanka with a warning against too far a swing of the pendulum. For Mervyn de Silva, the universality of the human condition was the higher value and loyalty.

Perhaps the most striking evidence of his unique voice was that he sounded the alarm and implicitly took a stand on the Tamil question long before others, and after the Old Left, strident in its cautionary notes of the 1950s, had ironically been in the very vanguard of generating Tamil secessionism and youth militancy through its fashioning of the 1972 Constitution which it regarded as crowning achievement and acme of progressivism. Mervyn’s explicit early warning (and it wasn’t his first) came in a Ceylon Daily News editorial of July 1st 1972, titled “What's up in the North?”, several weeks after the new Constitution was promulgated ignoring the six point letter sent to the framers and fathers by Mr. Chelvanayagam and the Tamil parliamentary leadership, and Prabhakaran had picked up the gun, commencing a cycle of carnage that lasted close to four decades. Here are some salient extracts:

“…The emergence, however hesitant or faint, of a militant youth group in the peninsula is a phenomenon about which we have written before. If the observation is correct, it is a factor of enormous significance - especially to the government. It is tempting these days to make a fetish of youth movements and youth politics. In Lanka, the temptation is almost irresistible after last year's holocaust. In any case, this is not only a young nation but a country of young people, as the relevant statistics prove.

The frustrations of the educated young Tamil at a time when even science graduates cannot find suitable jobs do not require much explication. The fact that these frustrations are universal and that they are shared by his Sinhala counterpart does not make the Tamil youth's psychological load lighter. And if he feels, in fact, that the educational system and system of recruitment to the public sector have been deliberately contrived to reduce his chances, he has more reason for anger. An anger that reaches the limits of tolerance makes inflammable material for a certain kind of politics.

…A movement of militant youth rooted in the soil of Jaffna and nourished by material frustration, a feeling of humiliation and bitterness could be another kettle of fish.”

This 1972 editorial tells me very clearly that while Mervyn would have warmly supported President Rajapakse, brushed aside his cosmopolitan and Western critics with some measure of derision, and dispassionately recorded the dramatic fall and destruction of Prabhakaran with his tragic flaws of hubris and cruelty which consumed Mervyn’s friends and acquaintances A. Amirthalingam, Lakshman Kadirgamar, Neelan Tiruchelvam, and Shri Rajiv Gandhi, he would be posing today the question of the Tamil condition as key to the Sri Lankan condition and prospect.

In 1984 Mervyn committed his Lanka Guardian to a venture in partnership with the South Asia Perspectives Project of the United Nations University, which brought together some of Sri Lanka’s finest minds in a search for a solution. The document that resulted, if implemented, would have pre-empted the externally propelled Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987. Exactly a quarter century later, its platform of broad provincial autonomy remains valid and yet dormant and only partially fulfilled.

To what extent do the causes and condition of collective Tamil angst and alienation illumined in his 1972 editorial remain, after over three and a half decades of armed conflict? How will these be addressed, who by, and when? Mervyn had the knowledge and lucidity not to confuse war with the issue of ethnic identity. Unlike many affluent Tamil friends who sympathized with the Tigers, Mervyn’s knowledge of history would tell him that war, whatever its character and content, if fought relentlessly to its conclusion, has winners and losers; that the “rejectionist” type of terrorist or insurgent movement – such as one which could blow up Rajiv Gandhi and Neelan Tiruchelvam--make negotiated settlement impossible; and that if such a movement wagers all or nothing and loses, it ends up with nothing. He would know that history does not repeat itself in simple cyclical terms and that the threat of a renewal of insurgent or terrorist violence would hold no fears for a first rate, formidable and ferociously successful Sri Lankan military which has destroyed a world class irregular armed force on the latter’s own terrain, just as he knew that no guerrilla or conventional war by any combination of actors could militarily defeat the Israeli Defense Forces within its ’67 borders (as distinct from Lebanon, another country).

At the same time Mervyn would stress that the issue of the alienation of the Tamil people and the complex challenge of accommodating Tamil ethnic identity within the Sri Lankan state and society, reconciling it with historic Sinhala fears and ancient memories, emphatically do not lend themselves to a military or militaristic solution. In his travels through the Middle East, Mervyn saw (and I was there with him) how the scintillating Israeli military victories of 1967 and to a lesser extent 1973 (Sharon’s counter attack) turned into an endless quagmire because of the policies of permanent displacement, settler-colonization of the lands of the displaced and the refugees, increasingly fundamentalist religiosity, annexation masquerading as antiquarian archeological exploration, and harsh military occupation with its myriad daily humiliations and lacerating lived experience.

The widely traveled and enormously literate Mervyn was an admirer of both the American social experiment of melting pot, meritocracy and individual opportunity as well as of Russian and Chinese ethnic regional autonomy, neither of which have been adopted or adapted by Sri Lanka. His understanding of strategy was sufficiently broad and multifaceted to spur a sustained critique of Lalith Athulathmudali’s narrower National Security/“Total Defense” mindset, and the Lalith-Mervyn debate of 1984 (at the YMCA forum I think) was a precursor of the recent American debate on security between the neoconservative Bush-Cheney camp and the liberal Realists including Joseph Nye and Barack Obama. In his last years Mervyn supplemented Henry Kissinger and (Russia’s) Georgy Arbatov as staples of intellectual inspiration, with increasing references in his columns to Prof Joe Nye. Mervyn would have cautioned that designing the postwar order in Sri Lanka through purely or primarily National Security lenses, and worse still, attempting to impose Sinhala over-lordship on the overwhelmingly Tamil North, would erode Sri Lanka’s standing and legitimacy even among its neighbors, undermine the national interest and de-stabilize national security itself. Had he been around long enough, it would have been typically Mervyn-ish to write, perhaps as columnist Kautilya in the Island, that Sri Lanka’s problem is not an ancient, pervasive Sinhala Buddhism, but an obsolescent, lingering SINHALA BUSHISM.

(These are the purely personal views of the writer)

June 20, 2009

Water and sanitation in (post) conflict areas of N-East Sri Lanka

Technical solutions based on quick impact and do no-harm

by Herald Vervoorn

1. Introduction

Water and sanitation are vital for human health, generates economic benefits, helps the environment and contributes to dignity and social development. Irrefutably, water, sanitation and health are interrelated. Thus access to adequate sanitation and quality water is essential for better health and overall living conditions.

This is applicable in general, but above in (post) conflict situations. People in such circumstances do already have a difficult time and are often more vulnerable. As well in emergencies during a conflict period (or disaster like the tsunami) as in the recovery phase specific water and sanitation options need to be provided.

zoaf1a.jpg

Figure 1a Need for basic facilities (shelter and watsan) in (post) conflict areas

In each phase a specific approach is needed to provide the people with suitable watsan solutions. The interventions should be based on quick impact and do no-harm.

This paper suggests basic solutions that can be implemented fast enough as timely intervention in emergencies and that can assist people quickly for rehabilitation, but that have no significant negative (long term) impact. Also for development specific options are mentioned. Several technical solutions are described, but also issues like the sustainability, ownership, community mobilization (participation), etc. are included.

2. Need for Watsan in (post)conflict situations

As mentioned, water and sanitation are especially important in post conflict situations. In emergencies water and sanitation is often essential to survive and needs to be provided as quick as possible to prevent from outbreak of epidemic diseases causing more casualties.

After a conflict like during the CFA or after a disaster like the Tsunami, when people settle down again to live in a particular place, they need the rehabilitation of water and sanitation facilities to be able to recover and to restart their lives. The rehabilitation becomes gradually replaced by development when additional facilities are provided or facilities are improved. When people can take enough water close by their home, it does not only safe a lot of time and energy to bring the water to their home but also ensures enough water can be used for cleaning, bathing and often also for purposes like home gardening or even some agriculture. Sanitation is not only needed for safe health, but also improves the self esteem and psycho social well being. When toilet facilities on the own compound can be used instead of going to common places like the jungle or sea it prevents from problems for women like harassment or abuse or that they tend to drink (too) less to reduce the frequency of urinating especially at night.

The relief, rehabilitation and development solutions should not only be technical feasible, but also based on quick impact and do no-harm. In emergency it is probably more important to provide half of the required (Sphere) amount within say 2 or 3 days, than the full amount after one or two weeks. For rehabilitation it is important that all people get as soon as possible basic facilities, to assist them in starting up their lives and to increase their self esteem to enable them to focus on other issues than their daily struggle to survive. Special attention is needed for the extremely vulnerable households, like female headed households, families with many small children, families with disabled members, etc. Without basic facilities being restored, it is difficult for them to think about peace and future developments.

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Figure 1b Need for basic facilities (shelter and watsan) in (post) conflict areas

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Figure 1c Need for basic facilities (shelter and watsan) in (post) conflict areas

The interventions should also be based on do no-harm. In emergency this means that providing bad quality water could create more risk than providing no water at all. In rehabilitation there is a risk of providing the wrong solutions, like a toilet that becomes flooded during the rain or assisting a family that doesn’t fit into the criteria. However, there is also a perhaps more serious risk that people are not getting enough assistance, if quickly restoring the basic facilities it is not wanted for certain reasons by (local) authorities or if the expectations are too high. If technical standards are raised to a very high level, people are actually prevented from getting assistance while donors are not able / willing to provide such facilities and / or the progress of assistance becomes very low.

For development the watsan facilities can be improved like introduction of new technologies, for example eco-san toilets, or the amount of facilities can be increased while more time is available for research and implementation.

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3. Situation in Sri Lanka

3.1 General situation in Sri Lanka

Normally people in SL use water sealed toilets. In the cities toilets are nowadays mostly in the house, but in the rural areas toilets are mostly built separate. In urban areas these toilets are connected to a sewerage system, septic tank or soakage pit. In rural areas the toilets are in general connected to a soakage pit and only rarely to a septic tank. The poor households who cannot effort to build a toilet use often a dry pit in their compound.

3.2 Situation in (post) conflict areas (North-East)

In the rural (post) conflict areas, people expect to have a pour flush toilet with soakage pit. In general people have relatively large compounds (> ¼ acre) and therefore a minimum required distance (100 feet) between toilet and wells can be kept. Most families do not even have a private well. Due to the conflict and displacements toilets were damaged or families have never been able to build a toilet, while they had no income and there was no cement. In certain districts only a small percentage of the population has a real toilet, the others have to use a pit, corner of their compound or go to the sea or jungle.

If for example Kilinochchi district is considered, in 2005 almost 36.000 families were registered of whom most (64%) have been returned after being displaced due to the conflict. Some families have built a toilet themselves or with the assistance of programmes of the GoSL and INGOs during the CFA, but most people (probably 75%) did still not have a toilet when the CFA came to an end. Similar applies to other (parts of) North Eastern districts.

3.3 Situation in Tsunami affected areas

In the Tsunami affected areas in the North-East, many fishermen families were during the CFA restarting their lives. The coastal villages were somewhat more densely populated than the inland villages, while the fishermen like to live close to the sea and therefore prefer to occupy the coastal belt directly bordering the sea.

If these families had water and sanitation facilities, these normally existed of a shallow well and a pour flush toilet with soakage pit. However, many families were still using the sea and jungle around as toilet and were depending on certain common wells for drinking water. Only in some town areas there was pipe born water and in the town most compounds had a kind of toilet.

Due to the Tsunami devastation, new houses had to be built including water and sanitation facilities. In some cases this was done in the original plots, but more often a land was newly planned and divided in plots. The new lands can be seen as urban areas while the plot seize is relatively small (<20 perches) and a complete new set up had to be made. On top of this, many sites exists of relatively low land with high groundwater tables. Therefore just rehabilitation of water and sanitation facilities like the people had before was not always suitable and new plans had to be made [see also Navaratne, 2006]. As long as the permanent structures were not ready, transitional water and sanitation solutions were needed.

4. Watsan solutions

4.1 Watsan – relief

For emergency relief it is important to be able to quickly provide watsan facilities. The Sphere standard mentions that initially one toilet per 50 persons should be the target, which then can be changed to one toilet per 20 persons. However no set timeframe is mentioned. It would be good if an indication of a timeframe was given, like within 3-5 days one toilet per 50 persons and within another 3-5 days 1 toilet per 20 persons. Such a timeframe will prevent agencies from wrong competing after installing toilets and will show that agencies not only have to focus on quality but also on progress. Sometimes donors come after a few weeks and only the final result is visible, however not only the final product should be valued but also the process of implementation.

Very basic solutions, like excavating a ditch are described in several handbooks, however it is questionable whether people will use such facilities or will go to other places. Some agencies have stock of fibre glass slabs that can be used as squatting pan. However also with local available materials, temporary toilets can be set up very fast. One example is shown in the following figure, using normal squatting pans. Half empty barrels are used as foundation for a squatting pan and an empty barrel as soakage pit. In situations with low infiltration capacity (low permeability or high groundwater table), a second barrel can be connected to the first barrel so that if the water overflows, the water can infiltrate through two barrels. The rooms around the toilets are made plastic sheet fixed on jungle sticks. There are many advantages of using these local materials: a water sealed toilet is provided, materials are commonly available at relatively low prices (compared to importing special products and keeping in stocks), labour are familiar to install these materials and toilets can be constructed in short period.

While it is not always known how long people will stay at a certain place in emergencies, the volume of the pit does not need to be very high. If the capacity is not big enough, new toilets can be made or additional pits can be constructed. As long as the toilets are not set up too close to a well, there are no real negative impacts of these temporary toilets. If cleaning materials are provided as well, people can keep the toilets clean or a hygiene promotion committee needs to be organised.

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Figure 2a Constructing temporary toilets with local materials

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Figure 2b Constructing temporary toilets with local materials

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Figure 2c Constructing temporary toilets with local materials

4.2 Watsan – rehabilitation

When the situation improves for the ordinary people, like during the CFA, rehabilitation can start. When people return to their original often also water and sanitation facilities are missing. In general a private (cement block lined) well is not affordable, so for water they depend on common wells. If they build a toilet this is mostly a pour flush toilet with a simple pit. While many households, especially the extremely vulnerable households, are not in a position to construct such toilets, some programmes of the GoSL and NGOs assist with this type of toilets.

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Figure 3a Pour flush toilets with soakage pit – complete with room

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Figure 3b Pour flush toilets with soakage pit – complete with room

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Figure 3c Pour flush toilets with soakage pit – complete with room

Although a septic tank might technically at first impression seem to be a better solution (no direct contact with groundwater), a toilet with simple soakage pit is for many circumstances as part of a rehabilitation programme still the most suitable option. The following reasons are given:

- generally no or limited budgets for expensive options like septic tanks are available in a (post) conflict situation, while for rehabilitation quick impact is required (many toilets in a short period) and therefore less costly options are preferable;

- in rural areas with relatively large plots, large distance between toilets and wells can be maintained and often households do not even have private wells;

- in areas with high groundwater table, the whole construction can be elevated higher above ground level;

- often the groundwater table is only for a short time per year (the raining season) at its highest level, so most of the time groundwater pollution will not take place;

- if wells are in the neighbourhood of a toilet, these are normally designed for the dry period, so groundwater that becomes slightly polluted by pits (at about 6’ below surface) during the raining season will not enter the wells while water enters from the bottom (at 20’ – 30’ depth)

- proved solution, except for some highly populated town areas (Jaffna: groundwater pollution) no negative impacts;

- the construction of the pit is a simple technique and can be done by the beneficiaries (participation / ownership), for a septic tank of reinforced concrete skilled mason have to execute the work

- because of the simple technique, no risk for failure (if a septic tank is not water proof, it actually doesn’t function properly)

- no or very low maintenance (if septic tanks are not cleaned after some years, they will not function properly

In several manuals / guidelines, it is recommended that the bottom of the pit should be 2.5 m or 3 m above the static groundwater level. Based on the points mentioned above, it seems for rehabilitation reasonable to accept (raised) toilets with a soakage pit also if the groundwater level reaches a higher level (f.e. up to about 1.5 m during the raining season) and even a very high level could be for a few days per year acceptable if distances to wells are large and in soils with a low permeability. Therefore, it is recommended not to decide only on the maximum height of the groundwater table but to take into account as well the period of high groundwater level, the difference between the minimum and maximum level, the soil conditions and the population density / plot seize (distances to wells). For example villages with land plots ≥ ¼ acre could be considered as rural areas where a normal soakage pit toilets is acceptable and only in urban, densely populated areas septic tank toilets or other options could be considered.

People normally prefer a completed toilet with cement block wall room. However for health and hygiene reasons, a proper base with water sealed squatting pan connected to a (lined) pit with some cheap kind of room around the base would be enough (f.e. cadjan or tinsheet). There are several reasons that agencies assist with a complete toilet: some (local) authorities allow only ‘full assistance’, some donors like to see complete products, only a base and pit doesn’t look professional (no nice photos), etc.

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However, if assisted with only the base and pit it is possible to provide with the same budget many more households (2-3 times). Beneficiaries can be mobilised to do some part of this work themselves, while it doesn’t require much skilled work. For example they get cements and sand to make blocks if a pit is excavated and they get a second batch of cement and the other materials to finish the work. So also a higher number of toilets can be implemented in a certain period compared to providing full toilets (probably 3-4 times). The beneficiaries can finish the room whenever they want and according to their own choice. This participation and need to finish the room themselves, will also improve the ownership of the toilet. If it turns out that specific vulnerable households really cannot finish a toilet, the room can be provide as part of a development programme.

The small risk of groundwater pollution by simple soakage pits, is in most situations a much smaller risk than giving no assistance because of lack of funding of expensive options (like septic tanks) or too low progress.

For the transitional phase after the tsunami, also semi permanent watsan solutions have been provided. For example in Vaddamarachchi East and Mullaitivu per 10 families 5 toilets connected to one pit were provided. These toilets had a normal squatting pan fixed in a base of cement and were finished with a room of tinsheet. At certain transitional camps, piped water was provided from an overhead tank for as well drinking water as for bathing places. ZOA Refugee Care decided to provide only water for drinking, while for bathing one well per 20 families was constructed. This proved to be a much more sustainable solution. Less water had to be pumped from the drinking water wells (preventing for capacity problems and salt water intrusion) and the bathing water could be drawn from a larger number of wells by people themselves as they are used to do. Also much less operation and maintenance was needed.

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Figure 5a Semi-permanent watsan facilities in Tsunami transitional camp

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Figure 5b Semi-permanent watsan facilities in Tsunami transitional camp

Similar as for the Sphere standards for relief, it would be good to set a time target for rehabilitation like 40-50% of the people should be provided with basic facilities within 2 years up to 100% within 4 years. Donors and authorities can based on the targets make together an action plan. Again as example Kilinochchi district is used as it had a high need for rehabilitation after the CFA. If the above approach had been followed it is realistic to state that the watsan facilities of 80 - 100% of the people could have been rehabilitated instead of 10-25%. Assuming in 4 years (2002 till 2005) about 30,000 families should have been assisted that means about 7,500 families a year. With an average of 750 families a year assisted through about 10 channels / organisations (like NEIAP, NECORD, UN organisations, INGOs, LNGOs, etc) this could have been realistically achieved. However, now people are continuing to live without facilities and with more people getting displaced again the situation has only worsened. Besides that such an approach would have at least had a positive impact on the chances for peace.

4.3 Watsan – development

For water and sanitation in development the facilities can be improved or more facilities (like wells) can be provided. If needed, simple soakage pits can be replaced by septic tanks or new technologies like ecosan (composting toilets) can be tested. Also for septic tanks still the effluent needs to be diverted somewhere. An easy solution is a soakage pit or trench, but also an evaporation bed or sewerage system can be used.

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In situations with high groundwater table, the problems for a normal soakage pit toilet or septic tank are more or the less similar. The water level in the soakage pit needs to be somewhat higher than the groundwater level to be able to infiltrate and therefore the toilet and pit have to be raised (see figure 4). The effluent from the septic tank also needs to infiltrate and therefore also a toilet with septic tank needs to be raised completely (base, tank and soakage pit). For (urban) situations with high groundwater levels it is in fact the best solution to lower the groundwater level for the whole area in combination with raising the ground level and / or a sewerage system. Further improving the operating of the septic tank is possible by introducing secondary treatments before the water drains into the ground or surface water, like a biofilter, lined / unlined wetland or seepage bed.

In the development phase, more attention can be paid to community mobilisation, to be able to introduce common systems like water pipeline and / or sewerage. The time frame can be longer, while people already should have the basic facilities, so that funds can be arranged and proper planning / designing can be done.

In sandy areas with shallow groundwater, private wells can be relatively easy provided by using hume pipes. This can also be considered for rehabilitation as shared wells (f.e. 4 families). Although not popular in Sri Lanka, shallow tube wells with hand pumps could be a good alternative to open wells. Some misunderstand the use of hand pumps, while they think that this has a negative impact on the groundwater, however if water is taken from the same aquifer as by the open wells, the impact is same or even less (less wastage, less chance for pollution). While families are not used to hand pumps awareness and explanation will be needed. Also maintenance issues have to be taken into account.

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5. Conclusion & recommendations

For proper water and sanitation solutions it is important to consider the particular situation for which these solutions are provided, like for relief, rehabilitation or development. In general more attention is paid to technical standards, but less to progress and impact. Even the international Sphere standards (emergency) do not focus on the progress, although it would be good if an indication of a timeframe was given like within 3-5 days one toilet per 50 persons and within another 3-5 days increased up to 1 toilet per 20 persons. In this paper it is advocated that solutions also should be based on quick impact and do no-harm.

Similar for rehabilitation it is impossible to provide within a short time the best water and sanitation systems and to expect people in the mean time to live without water and sanitation facilities at all. Likewise as after the tsunami as it was widely accepted that people first got a transitional shelter and after that a permanent house. It is suggested to provide as soon as possible all families with basic facilities, that do no harm and can be further developed / improved in future. As for the Sphere standards for relief, it would be good to set a time target for rehabilitation in (post) conflict areas like 40-50% of the people should be provided with basic facilities within 2 years up to 100% within 4 years. Donors and authorities can based on the targets make together an action plan. If the above approach had been followed in for example Kilinochchi district, it is realistic to state that the watsan facilities of 80 - 100% of the people could have been rehabilitated instead of 10-25% during 4 years of the CFA. Besides that, such an approach would have had at least a positive impact on the chances for peace.

For the choice of type of toilets in general the groundwater level is used as an indicator. However, it is recommended to also include other indicators as whether it is for rural or urban areas, soil conditions, whether the highest ground water level occurs only for a short time and the difference between high and low groundwater level (sometimes more than 20 to 30 feet) and whether distances to wells are large. Based on such indicators it seems for rehabilitation most adequate to provide in rural areas (land plots ≥ ¼ acre) normal soakage pit toilets and only in urban, densely populated areas septic tank toilets or other options.

To be able to have high progress for the rehabilitation, to improve the participation and ownership of the people it is recommended to provide only a proper base with squatting pan and pit, but to let the families finish the toilet room. In this way more families can be assisted with a technical good solution in a short period and the rehabilitation phase finished early. In the development phase specific families can be assisted further or systems improved to f.e. septic tanks or sewerage systems.

Special attention is required for areas with high ground water level (also this occurs only for a short period) to ensure that the toilets can be used always. Normal soakage pit toilets can be completely raised but same is needed for septic tank toilets.

In (post) conflict areas like the rural areas in the north east, many people live without basic water and sanitation. For them it is important that they can live as soon as possible with basic facilities and therefore rehabilitation is needed. Without basic facilities being restored, it is difficult for them to think about peace and future developments. In the guidelines for water and sanitation not only the technical aspects need to be included, but the solutions should also be based on quick impact and do no harm. The solutions should not cause any direct harm (f.e. drinking water pollution), but also no indirect harm like preventing people from getting assistance by raising the standards and required budgets to too high levels. For development more time can be used and funds can be arranged to introduce more sophisticated systems or new technologies.

Herald Vervoorn (M.Sc. Civil Eng. Technical University of Delft) Civil Engineer, ZOA Refugee Care, 2003-2006

REFERENCES

1. Achieving sustainable sanitation: Lessons from tsunami reconstruction in Sri Lanka M.A.I.B. Navaratne, 32nd WEDC International Conference, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 2006

2. Ecological Sanitation Compost Toilets in Sri Lanka: An Appropriate Solution? Constanze Windberg, Germany, Philippe Barragne-Bigot, 32nd WEDC International Conference, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 2006

3. Draft Sri Lanka Standard, Code of Practise for the Design and Construction of Septic Tanks and Associated Effluent Disposal Systems (First Revision), SLS 745 : 2003

4. Standards for the Provision of Water and Sanitation Services in Development Programme; INGO Water and Sanitation Group Kilinochchi, draft v1.1

5. Minimum Standards for the Provision of Water and Sanitation Services in Emergency, Water and Sanitation Group Trincomalee – Sri Lanka, Trincomalee, 11th March 2005

6. Water, sanitation and hygiene for populations at risk, Action Contre la Faim, 2005

7. Infrastructure Manual, Designs and Specifications, 2004-2008 Draft, ZOA Refugee Care

Waiting for the command to Grieve: Controversy over the death announcement of Prabhakaran

By Naveen Kanapathipillai

Events that happened in the Vanni theatre of war in the middle of the month of May came as a shock for most of the Diaspora Tamils. Despite the fact that the LTTE was cornered in a narrow strip of land and a chance for the top level leaders to escape and regroup was minimal, many Tamils hoped for a miracle. During the peak of the fighting that resulted in carnage where thousands of civilians and tigers killed, the concern was whether the legendary Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was still in the fighting area. Speculations were many.

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[Protesters wear masks of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran during a rally against Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the southern Indian city of Chennai May 28, 2009-Reuters pic]

There were reports that the LTTE supremo did move to a safer area in Vanni jungles with a handful of his fighters. Less credible speculations like the leader`s escape to a South Asian country was also floated. At some point sections of the Tamils who hoped that their leader might have made his way to another area, began to talk that he was still with his cadres and people and leading the fight. Seevaratnam Puleedevan, the executive of the LTTEs Peace Secretariat who was eventually shot dead by the military when he either tried to surrender or negotiate for the safety of the wounded , told the international media earlier that their leader was among them leading the fight. Mr. Nadesan, slain political head together with Puleedevan also confirmed this claim in a press interview, earlier.

Tamils in disbelief

The magnitude of the impact of the news from Vanni between 16th to 19th of May on the Diaspora Tamils is enormous. Almost all the top level leaders were killed, and most of the pictures shown and circulated in the cyber space seemed much authentic and reliable. When still and motion pictures of LTTE leader Prabhakaran lying on the bank of Nanthikadal was aired vast section of the Tamils were stunned, dismayed and were in disbelieve. There was a strong believe that the invincible Prabhakaran would not allow the enemy to humiliate even his dead body. Late S.P Thamilchelvan the former political head of the LTTE recalled in some meetings with the Diaspora that during the fight with the Indian army Prabhakaran had given instructions to his body guards to burn his body if he had to die in a clash with the Indian army. The body guards went around with a can of petrol when the leader was on the move in the Vanni jungle, described Thamilchelvan then. So the general opinion was that Prabhakaran wouldn’t let anybody to humiliate him even after his death.

Sri Lankan intelligence sleuths themselves had believed Prabhakarans body was burnt after he committed suicide or that he might have exploded himself with the ammunition left at the final phase of the war. The huge explosion heard at one occasion during the last days of the fighting adds fuel to this speculation. This is why the Army initially fabricated a story that the LTTE supremo got killed while he tried to escape in an ambulance, and the body was heavily burnt.

Later the military went back to its former claim, and provided evidence for Prabhakaran’s death. Almost instantly after the exhibition of Prabhakaran’s body by the Sri Lankan military on the 19th of May, Tamils in the west distanced themselves from the news and began to question the authenticity of the video footage and the picture published. LTTE overseas network shown its vehement agitation in denying the reports and suggested many stories of picture manipulation. Some of the reactions were very emotionally oriented and they denied accepting any rationality in the news. Selvarasa Pathmanathan, the head of the International relations department of the LTTE confirmed the news on the 24th of May after first denying it in a report earlier for reasons not known.

Dispute in the ranks

Pathmanathan’s announcement was in the dislike for the ardent LTTE supporters and politicians in Tamil Nadu Nedumaran and Vaiko. They were not prepared to bring the news to LTTE sympathisers in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. There are reports that Nedumaran and Vaiko were persuaded by the present administrators of the LTTEs overseas network to denounce the announcement. This network was headed by Manivannan also known as Castro from Vanni, and Castro was presumably killed or took his own life in the latest phase of the war.

It is his remnants in Europe who are administering the overseas network at present. It is also known among the Tamils that Castro department did not like the appointment of Pathmanathan as the head of International relations by Prabhakaran for almost four months back. Pathmanathan is one of the senior member who stood by Prabhakaran during the early days of the LTTE`s build up. He was instrumental for the build up of LTTE oversees branch network. He played major role in providing lifeline to the LTTE for a very long period. With the introduction of Castro and his close aides as in charge of LTTE oversees network, he left behind in standby for few years. It is Prabhakaran himself who felt the need of reintroducing Pathmanathan as the head of International relations at the heat of the fast development in Vanni.

When Pathmanathan made his own investigation with the remaining cadres and put the pieces together he was sure about the death of his leader. It is learned that Pathmanathan then in the first place took initiatives to discuss the Prabhakarans demise with the overseas network of the LTTE. The key figures administering the network were initially cooperative in the discussion, but later shifted the position and started to claim Prabhakaran is alive when the announcement is made on 24th of May. At this stage head of Political Section of the LTTE for district of Batticola and Amparai Thayamohan had also confirmed the death of Prabhakaran in an interview with BBC Tamil Oosai, on the 28th of May.

Overseas branches of the LTTE are nevertheless not mindful of the claims from the ground, and insist that their beloved leader is still alive and refuse to pay last respects. They have chosen to shoot the messenger, namely Pathmanathan, instead of accepting the message at this critical juncture. Some sections of the overseas branches have even begun to spread various rumours about Selvarasa Pathmanathan to discredit him. They even threatened some Tamil media that carried Pathmanathan’s announcement.

Why such controversies?

Though Tamil people held a mixed position on this message, it is obvious that there is no such doubt within the LTTE sections on the demise of their leader. The conflict and controversies within the overseas LTTE is about whether to acknowledge and announce the death of their leader or not. Sources close to LTTE circles reveal discussion on announcing the death of Prabhakaran was alive since the 19th of May.

Two positions emerged; one is for announcing death and the other for not doing it. Sources further revealed Selvarasa Pathmanathan and the remaining LTTE leaders in the ground and a section of overseas LTTE held the position that the death should be immediately announced. They were of the opinion that a last respect should be given to the leader without delay. The official position of the LTTE overseas branches was that such an announcement should not be made or delayed until Maaveerar Naal (Great Heroes day) 2009. Some even started referring how the legendary Subhas Chandrabose`s death become a mystery in India, and how his death plays a role for patriotism there even today.

The reasons behind these different positions collected through various sources that are close to Pathmanathan, Thayamohan and LTTE overseas network are:

Why the death should be announced?

1. We are accountable and responsible to our people and telling the truth is essential and fundamental for responsible behaviour. Furthermore, we are at a very critical juncture in our liberation struggle and we cannot start our next phase of the journey with a lie.

2. Tamil people all over the globe should be given the opportunity to give their last respect to the leader when it is obvious that their leader is no more.

3. It is very important to announce LTTE`s position on the next phase of action immediately to the Tamil people and the International community. After having consulted the ground realities with the leaders in the ground and assessed the international climate, it is strongly felt that LTTE should renounce violence as mean to achieve its political goals. Acknowledging Pirabhakaran’s death is important to declare the new path.

4. The other argument is based on moral responsibility of the current path of the LTTE. “We cannot make annai (Prabhakaran) responsible for our present course of action”. If LTTE maintains the position Prabhakaran is alive and safe, it would lead to a situation to make him responsible for all the actions carried out by the present LTTE.

5. It is also revealed that Pathmanathan strongly felt that as the most senior member of the remaining LTTE cadres and head of Department of International Relations, he has the responsibility and accountability to the Tamil people and the International Community to announce the death and make an end to further speculations. He also felt that he would also be responsible for late announcement or non-announcement of their leader’s death.

Why the death should not be announced?

1. Some of the cadres and majority of Tamil people are not in a mental state to accept and acknowledge Prabhakaran’s death.

2. Announcement would affect the morale of Tamil people and would lead to negative consequences to the existing LTTE supported structures.

3. Announcement would affect present diaspora protests and demonstrations and other activities of the organisation including fund raising.

4. Non announcement may give the space or motivation to the cadres who are willing to continue the armed struggle. Keeping Prabhakaran’s death as a mystery would always keep the fertility to revive the armed struggle.

5. We can wait until Maaveerar Naal 2009 to announce the death of Prabhakaran.

Mendacity of Tamilnet on the issue

Though Pathmanathan and leaders in the ground have recognised the possible negative impacts the announcement could make on the existing structures and working programmes, they strongly felt that hiding the reality and building next course of action on false premises would create more damages in the future than in its short term benefits, sources close to Pathmanathan reveal. After having analysed all the arguments, they have come to a conclusion that their leader’s death should be announced immediately. Pathmanathan was negotiating with overseas branch network to make a cordial arrangement, but negotiations failed

At one stage of the negotiation, it was agreed to announce the death on the 23rd of May, but this was spoiled by a Tamil Net-news published on the 22nd of May, claiming Prabhakaran is safe. This news cited head of International Secretariat of Intelligence wing Mr. Arivazhakan as the source. There are strong reasons to believe that this news is created to scuttle Pathmanathans preparations to announce the leader’s death the day after.

Credibility of Tamilnet`s news citing the intelligence wing news is highly questionable. In the past, LTTE never announced a structure called International Secretariat of Intelligence wing. This announcement is also dangerous to remaining LTTE supported networks. Every country in the world is very sensitive to intelligence activities of other countries and organisations and they take firm actions against such intelligence activities. If Tamil Net claims existence of an institution called International secretariat of Intelligence wing, it one way or another indicates LTTE conducts intelligence activities internationally and such activities are co-ordinated through an international secretariat. Tamil Net is seen as a media close to LTTE by policy makers, and such policy makers and diplomats will give serious consideration on such an institution.

On this basis, this announcement may have very serious implications to the LTTE overseas network in the future. In this background, it is hard to believe the rationale of any LTTE intelligence cadre to claim the existence of an “International secretariat of Intelligence Wing”.

It is reliably learnt that Tamil Net was aware on the 21st of May that an arrangement was made to announce the death of Prabhakaran on the 23rd of May, but published the news from a so-called intelligence wing that Prabhakaran is safe, on the 22nd of May. Even though Tamil Net had direct contact with Pathmanathan, it did not consult with him to verify the news. In contrast, Tamil Net’s contact person told one of the Tamil Nadu leaders (Not Nedumaran or Vaiko) in a conversation that the news was published in consultation with Pathmanathan. There are strong reasons to believe that the intention of Tamil Net was to stop Pathmanathan’s announcement on the next day. It is understood that Tamil Net took great effort to stop Prabhakaran’s death announcement, but the real motive behind that position is not clearly emerged yet.

Pathmanathan was annoyed by the Tamil Net news and questions the motive of this news. Sources close to him reveal that he felt that dirty game has put on motion to sabotage the announcement of Prabhakaran’s death. Despite this sabotage attempt, Pathmanathan continued his dialogue with the person who heads the LTTE oversees branch network after the demise of Castro.

Pathmanathan told him on 22nd of May evening that if LTTE branch network gives an assurance to cooperate with his stand on the need to announce the leader`s death, he would delay the announcement even for 10 days; if not, he would release the announcement the next day, claim the sources. No such assurance was given. After consulting with the leaders in the ground and his contact network oversees, Pathmanathan made the announcement on the 24th of May.

Debate around the announcement

Though vast section of Diaspora felt hard to believe their beloved leader’s death, many who understood the reality began to discuss and debate on the announcement. Those who are close to LTTE oversees network questioned Pathmanathan’s determination in announcing the death. They felt the announcement could have been delayed. They were not fully aware of the controversy over the announcement within LTTE, and speculated various conspiracy theories. One of the strongest speculations was that Pathmanathan was under immense international pressure to announce the death.

Sources close to Pathmanathan deny this speculation. They claim that there was no such pressure over Pathmanathan to announce Prabhakaran`s death. The announcement was made on the basis of moral and political responsibility based on the interest of Tamil nation. It is our moral responsibility to tell the truth to our people and give them opportunity to pay the last respect to the leader, Pathmanathan felt. Furthermore, Pathmanathan holds a strong opinion of chances for an effective armed struggle is very minimal after Prabhakaran’s death and such an armed struggle could have become counter-productive to the Tamil nation at this critical point of time. Ground reality was also not conducive for another phase of armed struggle. Furthermore, any delay in renouncing violence, may lead to very serious consequences to the safety of the cadres who are now in the custody of the Sri Lankan government. It is also important to make a conducive environment to resettle the displaced people to their own places as soon as possible. The delay would also justify militarisation project of Sri Lankan government and would be an obstacle even for a little democratic space that could be created through international pressure on Sri Lanka.

Having realised negative consequences of international isolation during the last phase of war, Pathmanathan strongly felt that the first task of LTTE is to gain international reputation in its next phase of the struggle. He also had a strong conviction that delays in openly announcing a new path would give room for speculation of LTTE’s next phase of action. One such strong speculation could be that LTTE is preparing itself to launch another phase of the armed struggle with the support of Tamil Diaspora. It would be a hindrance to build a relationship with the International Community and would give the space and rationale to the Sri Lankan government to lobby with the International Community to crack down LTTE oversees network, he felt. By analysing all these political aspects, Pathmanathan and the leaders in the ground felt that the new path of LTTE should be announced immediately. It is a moral and political obligation to acknowledge Prabhakaran’s death, before the announcement of new path. Therefore, Pathmanathan and the leaders in the ground have decided to acknowledge their leaders death without further delay.

Denial for mourning

The behaviour of LTTE oversees network after the announcement was very disappointing and threatening. They claimed that their leader is alive and refused to give the last respect to their leader. They threatened the media that announced the Pathmanathan’s statement and interview. Here in Canada, almost all the media carried out the Pathmanathan’s message and started to mourn Prabhakaran demise immediately after the announcement. After few hours, LTTE oversees network functioned effectively and stopped the announcement and mourning of the media that are under their influence or not willing to confront the LTTE oversees network. They also intensified vicious campaign against Pathmanathan. Tamil Net also attempted to discredit the statement of Pathmanathan by citing various sources including another unknown LTTE structure called LTTE Secretariat for Diaspora Affairs.

It is very disturbing to note the moral quality of the leaders of LTTE overseas branches by refusing to give last respect to their legendry leader. Tamil people as a whole are not allowed to give their last respect. It is revealed by some source close to overseas branches that if they accept Pathmanathan announcement, he would take upper hand over their network. Further revelation about these internal disputes and the role played by some individuals in the Tamil Diaspora are withheld for ethical concerns.

Though Pathmanathan is a senior person within the remaining LTTE and made huge contribution to the growth of the LTTE, he is not well-known among general public. It is easy to shoot the messenger who brings a bad news and the news Pathmanathan brought was considered very bad by many Tamils.

VP0620A.jpg

[Demonstrators carry pictures of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran during a protest in Berlin, May 30, 2009-Reuters pic]

LTTEs overseas branches are now left with the responsibility to bring Prabhakaran alive or bring the bad news once again may be with all the reasoning for delaying it. However, the biggest victim in the controversy is LTTE leader Prabhakaran who was fought for Tamil independence for more than three decades with dedication and sacrificed his whole family for the cause. He is ceased to get any kind of last respect yet. Yes! We, Tamil people are not given the opportunity to give our last respect to Prabhakaran at a time when our emotions are alive. We have been asked to wait to grieve until the command is given. It is a great tragedy that death announcement of our great leader and our right to give last respect to him is denied by Prabhakarans very own followers. Prabhakaran himself wouldn’t have liked this situation.

The writer can be contacted at – tamildiaspora@live.com

Sri Lankan Refugees: Time to Honor their Courage, Restore their Rights

by Indira Ravindran

June 20th marks World Refugee Day, and this affords us an opportunity to remember the 80, 000 Sri Lankan Tamils who have sought refuge in Tamilnadu over the past quarter-century. These refugee children, men and women are housed in 117 guarded camps across the state. They struggle to survive with available camp resources that range from modest to meager, and many are still traumatized by memories of the violence and unrest that caused them to flee their country. Yet, the most disturbing aspect of refugee life is not the daily struggle, nor the past trauma, rather it is the debilitating uncertainty of the future. Refugees do not know when they will return home, or what they will find there, once they return. Almost every one of them longs to return home.

IDP camp - Pulmoddai 115

[Sahanagama IDP site, Pulmoddai 13th Mile Post - pic: drs. Sarajevo]

In the month since President Rajapakshe’s declaration of victory in the bloody civil war, and the ensuing celebrations by Sinhalese on the streets of Colombo , there has been no mention of the fates or the collective future of Tamil refugees outside the island. Is it really possible to have peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka without ensuring justice for the long-suffering refugees? International experience with ethnic conflicts over the past century has demonstrated that the rights of displaced people – those displaced internally as well as those who have sought refuge across borders - are an integral part of any post-conflict scenario. Refugee ‘right of return’ is an important element to ensure lasting future peace; and besides, it is mandated by international law.

According to the 1951 Refugee Convention (also known as the Geneva Convention) a refugee is a person who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country…”. Sri Lankan refugees began arriving soon after the start of the ethnic violence, and the pogroms that killed thousands of Tamils in 1983. As such, they rank among the world’s oldest refugee populations, and represent what is known as a “protracted refugee situation”. Subsequent batches of refugees arrived at different times, escaping either government shelling or the LTTE’s forced recruitment and bitter reprisals.

Some have arrived in recent months, while several children, who were born in Tamilnadu, have never known a life outside the camp. Yet others have – legally or surreptitiously – returned to Sri Lanka , only to become refugees all over again, due to fresh bouts of fighting. Countless others have drowned at sea while making the perilous journey across the waters that separate the Sri Lankan and Tamilnadu coastlines. Taken together, these refugees are nevertheless distinct from the “stateless” Sri Lankans, namely, the Indian-origin Tamils who arrived when they were disenfranchised by the post-independence Ceylon Citizenship Act (1948). These were the men and women who shockingly fell “through legal cracks” during the messy process of British decolonization: some were eventually granted Indian citizenship. Others remain in legal limbo.

As with the time and manner of their arrival, the fortunes of the refugees in Tamilnadu, has also been chequered. Those with any means at all, have emigrated to Western countries. A few have managed to move out of the camps, and have integrated with the local population. As with refugees around the world, they are viewed with suspicion and distrust by the local population despite linguistic and ethnic affiliations. The months and years following Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination by Tamil Tigers, were particularly distressing times for the refugees. Further, the camps came under increased surveillance for suspected Tiger recruitment activities. However, over the years, the Tamil refugee population has weathered many storms, and has come earn the sympathy and regard of the state government. In my observation, a key factor has been the phenomenal grassroots organizing work done by a voluntary non-profit organization known as OfERR, Organization for Eelam Refugee Rehabilitation, which has a presence in most of the camps throughout the state.

With a single-mindedness of purpose, namely to return to their country with honour and dignity, they have laboured to create a non-political, non-sectarian, gender-sensitive environment within the camps. With an inspired leadership and a dedicated cadre of volunteers, the organization has, on the one hand, lobbied the state government for greater recognition and rights, including admission for refugee children to local schools and colleges. On the other hand, they have instituted leadership development programmes for their own people, through self-help groups within the camps, women’s and youth entrepreneurial initiatives, and the promotion of environmentally sustainable practices in day-to-day life. Despite the annual uncertainties and fluctuations in their donor-base (mostly Western-based religious and charity organizations) OfERR has struggled to keep alive these programmes.

OfERR has been openly appreciative of the Tamilnadu government’s cooperation over the years. Although India has not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention, or its 1967 Protocol, the national government has by and large complied with international standards, at least in the case of Sri Lankan refugees. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) maintains an advisory presence in Tamilnadu. Apart from forging a relationship of mutual respect with the hosts, OfERR has gone one step further, and has aspired to repay its “debt of gratitude” to the people and government of Tamilnadu. Since 2004, the organization has deployed its volunteers to assist in the post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction work in the three worst-affected coastal districts of Tamilnadu.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first instance of a refugee community offering spontaneous and substantive assistance to a host community in its time of need. This is unprecedented and inspiring. It will be a loss in legal and humanitarian terms if the Sri Lankan government does not make provision for ‘refugee return’ in its rebuilding programme. These refugees are skilled, resilient, motivated people who long to return to their fields and villages and towns and shores, to seek their missing family members, and to help rebuild their country. The international community must act to honour their courage and restore their rights.

(Author teaches International Politics & Law in Shanghai, China)

Sri Lanka Tamils' plight compared to Nazi Germany in London Protest

More than 20,000 pro-Tamil protesters swelled the streets of London around Parliament today, Jun 20th as campaigners compared the Tamils' plight in Sri Lanka to Nazi Germany.

Tamil Tiger march 20th June 2009.

Demonstrators pretend to be in a concentration camp to show how Tamils in Sri Lanka are currently being treated.

Tamil Tiger march 20th June 2009.

Demonstrators act out a scene showing the brutality being experienced by Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Tamil Tiger march 20th June 2009.

Missing or killed loved ones...

Someone close

"I wish I had spoken to this man to find out what had happened to the person in the picture he is holding. I am assuming he is lost or has been killed in the fighting in Sri Lanka"-Robinandcamera

Tamil Tiger march 20th June 2009.

More missing or killed loved ones...

Tamil Tiger march 20th June 2009.

[Pics and captions courtesy of: Robinandcamera]

BBC Report on the protest rally said:

An estimated 20,000 people have marched in London in support of the minority Tamil population in Sri Lanka.

In May government forces wiped out the Tamil Tiger leadership, ending a 26-year war between the army and rebels.

More than 250,000 people are displaced from their homes in northern Sri Lanka, according to the UN.

The demonstration follows a 73-day protest for peace in the country that ended on Wednesday and featured mass sit-ins blocking central London roads.

Many of those at Saturday's demonstration waved black flags representing the civilians killed in the last phase of the conflict.

They carried placards accusing the Sri Lankan government of genocide and asking for thousands of displaced people held in camps to be released.

Some of the campaigners compared the plight of displaced Tamils in Sri Lanka to Nazi Germany.

Supporters built a mock-up concentration camp and marchers chanted: "Shame on Gordon Brown."

Suren Surendiran, of the British Tamils Forum, said: "The comparison with Nazi Germany will shock - but it should do.

"There are hundreds of relatives here who do not know what has happened to their next-of-kin. Genocide is happening before our eyes in Sri Lanka and the international community has taken little or no action to help.

"We have held talks with Gordon Brown but now we are calling for action."

Several main routes through the centre of London were closed to allow the march to take place.

The Tamil Tiger rebels started fighting in the 1970s for a separate state for Tamils in Sri Lanka's north and east.

They argued Tamils had been discriminated against by successive majority Sinhalese governments.

The UN says thousands of civilians were killed in the war earlier this year.

More pictures ~ by karmagarda

June 19, 2009

Pro-Tiger diaspora in a post-Prabhakaran scenario

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

A noteworthy feature of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has been the special manner in which it glorifies death and pays homage to dead tiger fighters.

Fallen LTTE members were eulogized as martyrs and referred to as “Maaveerar” or Great heroes.

The departed tigers were buried in cemeteries known as “Maaveerar Mayaanangal” (great hero cemeteries) and memorials called “Maaveerar Thuyilum Illangal” (sleeping abodes of great heroes) were constructed. [click here to continued ~ dbsjeyaraj.com]

June 18, 2009

tatement from the Department of Intelligence of the LTTE

Full text of statement by Kathirkamathamby Arivazhakan, Head, External Affairs Wing, Department of Intelligence, released on June 18, 2009:

Our Beloved Tamil Speaking People!

Department of Intelligence of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has now confirmed that the Leader and the Commander–in–Chief of our organisation, Tamil Eelam National Leader His Excellency V. Pirabaharan has attained Martyrdom.

The Leader’s Martyrdom has been confirmed through sources including our Intelligence cadres in the know of the final incidents concerning attempts to move the National Leader to a safer location who have now reached safety, Fighters of other departments and our informants with links to the High Command of the Sri Lankan armed forces.

Conflicting reports had been emanating from Wanni‐ Mullivaaikkaal front in mid May from 15th (Friday) to 19th (Tuesday). Reports received from our Intelligence cadres en route to safer locations who had limited communication facilities were in incomplete formats. As a result, with the facts gleaned from them and believing that our beloved Leader was well we decided to release a report on 22nd, May. At the same time, conflicting messages had also been sent by our Commanders responsible for the safety of the Leader who happened to be with him to the end. We are able to discern that even Mr. Selvarajah Pathmanathan, Head of the Department of International Relations of our organization, found himself in a situation making two conflicting statements.

While regretting for releasing that unconfirmed report on May 22nd in respect of the Great Sacrifice of Tamil Eelam National Leader, Department of Intelligence of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam seeks forgiveness from the our beloved people for leading to confusion by releasing that report.

Various sources gave varying information on the Martyrdom of our National Leader. Contradictory information are circulating that he was arrested, that he surrendered, that he was killed after interrogation and that he committed suicide.

In this situation, we, the Department of Intelligence have the responsibility to release confirmed news and information. Arising from this responsibility we confirm emphatically that the National Leader did not surrender and was not arrested but fought attaining Martyrdom.

At this critical juncture we have to carry forward our liberation struggle with the same steadfastness, discipline and co‐ordination as done by our Great Leader who created and nurtured it. The task before is to get together for the ‘Provisional Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam’ that is to be formed as the next phase of our struggle to achieve the goal of securing the political aspirations of our people.

While paying our Heroic Salute to the Tamil Eelam National Leader, our Heroic Fighters and Commanders, the Department of Intelligence of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam Salutes our Beloved People subjected to genocide.

Thank you.

Yours truly,

Kathirkamathamby Arivazhakan

Head, External Affairs Wing
Department of Intelligence

This report is released on behalf of Mr. Kathirkamathamby Arivazhakan, Head, External Affairs Wing, and Department of Intelligence of the Liberation Tigers.

[click for official release - English ~ Tamil]

The mood in Jaffna is that of being tragically marooned

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

A Christian clergyman who inspired many of us during our student days was the Anglican Bishop of Kurunegala Rt. Rev Lakshman Wickremasinghe.

This eminent theologian known popularly as Bishop Lakshman was a practical man of action when it came to the question of human rights violations and inter-ethnic justice and unity.

Bishop Lakshman was one of those who pioneered the Civil Rights Movement in Sri Lanka when the State unleashed massive repression during the time of the first Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) insurgency in 1971.

[click here to read the article in full ~ in dbsjeyaraj.com]

Reconciliation: A Sinhala "middle-class" point of view

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Opening up this Blog for people to express their views on national reconciliation, ethnic amity and inter-racial justice seems to have created a vibrant forum.

I am particularly heartened by the positive responses of so many people from different walks in life.

Of course a web – based forum in English is naturally confined to a particular socio-economic background. Nevertheless many people of this strata too have been estranged due to recent events. So let them converse too. [click here to read the article in full ~ in dbsjeyaraj.com]

UN's Ban Tips Hat to Protesters from High Above NY, Claims He Met With Tamils

by Matthew Russell Lee

It was projected as a light evening of honor for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, to receive from the Foreign Policy Association a Global Humanitarian Award, along with former US president Bill Clinton.

[pic: by Aquaview]

Clinton, however, canceled his appearance due to "family health issues" -- word on the street, literally 55th Street in front of the St. Regis Hotel, was that Hilary was in a car crash. [Update: the man in the street, as is so often the case, was half-right: Hilary broken her elbow on the way to the White House, but there was no vehicle involved.] And Ban himself was protested, for hours, with chants urging him to resign, or to "go home," or at least to feel shame.

The protesters, it must be said, were nearly entirely ethnic Tamils. Despite the tens of thousands of people killed in the war in Sri Lanka, unlike Darfur, Myanmar or the Middle East, the victims have yet to gain noticeable solidarity from non-Tamils. This feels of abandonment was palpable Wednesday night in front of the St. Regis Hotel.

Inner City Press, which has asked questions at the UN which have cut both ways but focused on civilians, was filming the photographing the protest. Several of the participants asked, where is the rest of the media? A television producer known to Inner City Press stopped by, gave congratulations for having found the news, but emerged from a cell phone calls saying that "there is no crew."

One of the protesters asked, "No clue?" The producer continued along. Later two Turkish journalists stopped by, on their way to covering Ban Ki-moon's speech. They urged Inner City Press to come upstairs and hear it. Since Ban had slipped by the protesters there was little left to do but to go up and hear him.

A half-dozen seats had been set in the back of the ballroom for the press. There had been a reception; dinner had been served. Now Ban Ki-moon arose, and to his credit made a joke. "I was impressed and encouraged," he began, "I know there were hundreds of people who were welcoming me or some other person in front of the hotel."

The audience, a mix of Ambassadors and business people, laughed. Several had been shouted at as they entered. Claude Heller, the Ambassador of Mexico who had at least tried to get the Security Council to consider the plight of civilians in Sri Lanka, had stopped and told Inner City Press, "this is good." But others hurried back the protest, as in finding the mention much less chanting of the word genocide in Midtown Manhattan distasteful.

Ban said of the protesters, "I am aware of their concerns, their pride, their challenges... that is exactly why I went to Sri Lanka four weeks ago." It was May 23, and Inner City Press was with him. Ban said he had visited the IDP camps, "met with government leaders, with representatives of the opposition, representatives of the Tamil minority."

About this last, doubts exist. As the press corps sat waiting on the UN plane at Colombo's airport, Inner City Press was told that Tamil MPs who had been promised a meeting with Ban were barred from the airport.

Inner City Press asked UN officials Lynn Pascoe and John Holmes about this, and was told an answer was been forthcoming. None has been provided. Neither was visibly in attendance on Wednesday night, but seated with Ban was his chief of staff Vijay Nambiar.

$$$ For Nambiyar bros

Down on 55th Street, a protesters displayed a sign, "$ for the Nambiyar brothers," meaning Vijay and Satish, a former Indian general part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force which occupied northern Sri Lanka in the late 1980s, strafing the population and losing 1500 troops before decamping.

Many, including some of Ban's own senior advisors, say that sending Nambiar at the UN's envoy was unwise. Nambiar has been quoted that the doubts are beneath contempt. If so he better look around himself, as the doubts extend to the UN's 38th floor around him. Ban moved from Sri Lanka to the climate change issue, urging the Foreign Policy Association to help him "seal the deal in Copenhagen."

The FPA, whose board members include former AIG big wig Maurice Greenberg and the CEO of Santander, a bank which allegedly laundered money for Augusto Pinochet, on Wednesday also gave an award to the CEO of an Italian oil company. These hypocrisies are beyond the scope of this article.

Inner City Press had waited outside the St. Regis from six to 8:30 p.m., seeking to get from Ban himself a reaction to the protest. After the speeches and the dinner, Ban was spirited out by a side door, and faced neither the protesters nor the Press. A swag bag was passed out, with publications about oil.

Down on 55th Street, the protesters had been told to leave at 8:30 by the police, who said that hotel had cooperated at much as it would. Ban said he heard the protesters, but he never faced them. His spokespeople have told Inner City Press that they will not comment on "what you read in the news about Sri Lanka." How about mass internment? Watch this site. [courtesy: Inner City Press]

Ban-Ki-moon awarded for covering up genocide of Tamils

Related earlier live update by Innter City Press: UN's Ban Protested for Inaction on Sri Lanka Ethnic Cleansing

June 17, 2009

End of Government Commission on Wartime Abuses Puts Justice at Risk

International Investigation Needed

The Sri Lankan government’s announcement that it was ending its special inquiry into conflict-related abuses underscores the need for an international commission to investigate violations of international law by government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Human Rights Watch said today.

“Sri Lanka’s presidential commission of inquiry started with a bang and ended with a whimper,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The need for an international inquiry into abuses by both sides is greater than ever.”

The mandate of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry, which was established in 2006 and assigned to investigate 16 incidents of killings, enforced disappearances, assassinations and other serious abuses, expired on June 14, 2009 and reportedly was not renewed. Although the commission’s chairman, former Supreme Court chief justice Nissanka Udalagama, said that seven of the 16 cases had been investigated, none of the commission’s reports have been released or any other public action taken. Among the cases the commission investigated was the brutal killing of five students in Trincomalee, the summary execution of 17 aid workers in Mutur, and the bomb attack that killed 68 bus passengers in Kebitigollewa. Human Rights Watch has expressed concern about the slow pace of the investigations and President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s unwillingness to release the investigation reports.

The last weeks of the war heightened the need for an independent and impartial inquiry. Fighting in northeastern Sri Lanka intensified from early January until the government’s defeat of the LTTE in May. During that period, both sides were implicated in numerous serious violations of the laws of war. LTTE forces used displaced persons as “human shields,” and fired on civilians who tried to flee the conflict area. Government forces repeatedly fired heavy artillery into densely populated areas, including at hospitals caring for the wounded.

During the special session on Sri Lanka of the UN Human Rights Council in May, the UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pallay, said that an “independent and credible international investigation into recent events should be dispatched to ascertain the occurrence, nature and scale of violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law, as well as specific responsibilities.”

On May 23, Rajapaksa and the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, issued a joint statement from Sri Lanka in which the government said it “will take measures to address” the need for an accountability process for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

“The decision to disband the presidential commission shows that President Rajapaksa has little intention of fulfilling his promise to Secretary-General Ban,” said Pearson. “It’s now up to concerned governments to step in and ensure that justice is done for the victims of abuses in Sri Lanka’s long war.”

There have been serious ongoing violations of human rights in Sri Lanka and a backlog of cases of enforced disappearance and unlawful killings that run to the tens of thousands, as described for example in the 2008 Human Rights Watch report “Recurring Nightmare.” Despite this track record, there have been only a small number of prosecutions.

Human Rights Watch said the presidential commission of inquiry was just the latest inadequate and incomplete effort by the Sri Lankan government to investigate serious human rights abuses and bring those responsible to justice. Other efforts to address violations through the establishment of ad hoc mechanisms in Sri Lanka produced few results, either in providing information or leading to prosecutions.

PUCL India initiatives on the SL conflict and petition to the UN

Initiatives by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, India, in collaboration with other like minded organisations and civil society personalities, in raising the issue of Human Rights violations in Sri Lanka and also initiating an effort to investigate crimes against humanity and war crimes;

This effort in fact is the best documented effort by any organisation in articulating the legal framework on which the present SL regime could be investigated into on both those crimes. It carries substantial information relevant to the accusations:

PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES

270-A, Patpar Ganj, Opposite Anand Lok Apartments (Gate-2), Mayur Vihar I, Delhi 110 091

Phone 2275 0014 PP FAX 4215 1459

Founder: Jayaprakash Narayan; Founding President: V M Tarkunde

President: K G Kannabiran; General Secretary: Pushkar Raj;

Vice-Presidents: (all names in alphameric order) Binayak Sen (Chhattisgarh); Mathew Manakattu (Kerala); Prabhakar

Sinha (Bihar); Ravi Kiran Jain (Uttar Pradesh); Sudha Ramalingam (Ms) (Tamil Nadu & Pondicherry); Yogesh V Kamdar

(Mumbai). Secretaries: Ajit Jha, Kavita Srivastava (Ms). Organising Secretaries: Chittaranjan Singh (Uttar Pradesh);

Gautam Thaker (Gujarat); Himanshu Bourai (Ms) (Uttarakhand); Nishant Akhilesh (Jharkhand); P B D’Sa (Karnataka);

Treasurers: D Jagannathan (Delhi); SAA Pinto (Mumbai).

E.mail: puclnat@yahoo.com & puclnat@gmail.com

Please visit PUCL website at www.pucl.org

08th May, 2009

K.G. Kannabiran, President

To

The President,

UN Security Council and other Members

Sub.:

(1) Seeking Immediate UN Military Intervention for Human Protection in Sri Lanka under the `Responsibility to Protect’ Doctrine, and

(2) Reference by the Security Council to the International Criminal Court for

the Prosecution of,

(i) Mahinda Rajapakse, The President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka;

(ii) Gotabhaya Rajapakse, Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law and Order, Government of Sri Lanka; and

(iii) Lt. General Sarath Fonseka, Army Commander, Sri Lanka

for Commission of Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes under Articles 5,6,7 and 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court read with para 138 and 139 of the World Summit Outcome Document, 2005 adopting the `Responsibility to Protect’ Doctrine and Security Council Resolution 1674 of 2006.

Mr. President and Members of the Security Council,

The PUCL is presenting herewith a detailed representation seeking

a) immediate UN military intervention for human protection in Sri Lanka under the

`Responsibility to Protect’ Doctrine;

b) monitoring of the camps of the Internally Displaced People (IDP) by independent

United Nations agencies and

c) reference to the International Criminal Court for prosecution the crimes against

humanity and the war crimes committed by the present Sri Lankan regime.

I. About PUCL

1. The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (henceforth referred to as PUCL) is one of India’s largest human rights organizations. It was formed in the year 1975 by eminent leaders of India’s freedom struggle like Jayaprakash Narayan, Acharya Kripalani and others. PUCL is not affiliated to any political party. It is an independent, non partisan, non governmental organization. The PUCL as a policy does not accept any funding from any institutions or governments. All the members of PUCL work for the organization on a completely voluntary basis and the PUCL has no paid functionaries. The organization has members from all walks of life including former judges of the high courts in India, senior lawyers, doctors, professors, teachers, engineers, scientists, writers and others. Former national Presidents of PUCL have included distinguished jurists Justice V.M. Tarkunde, former Judge of Bombay High Court, Prof. Rajni Kothari, Emeritus Professor and Mr. Rajinder Sachar, former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court. The present National President and the Complainant in this Petition is a senior Advocate of Andhra Pradesh High Court with over 50 years in the legal profession. Over the last 3 decades the PUCL has led many campaigns against human rights violations and seeking justice for victims of humanitarian crimes.

II. Context in Sri Lanka

2. The resumption of military hostilities between the Sri Lankan army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) from mid-2006 has resulted in grave and serious humanitarian crisis in the northern part of Sri Lanka. The issue of humanitarian crisis that has engulfed Sri Lankan Tamils is not just an issue of ethnic strife and an internal matter of another sovereign country but a matter of concern in all of South Asia in general and in India in particular given the vast number of refugees of Sri Lankan origin who stay in India and the implications of the war on security in the sub-continent and in view of the `responsibility to protect’ doctrine which casts a responsibility on world citizens to intervene in situations of grave humanitarian crisis and widespread human rights violations.

We are conscious of the fact that several Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs have pointed out to the intransigent stand of the LTTE to comply with humanitarian principles. We believe that all parties to the conflict, including the LTTE, are accountable for human rights violations. However, we equally believe that the responsibility of the Sri Lankan state to respect and act in accordance with internationally recognized human rights norms stands on a higher moral ground with a sense of greater responsibility towards its own citizens as a legitimate government. Hence state action cannot be equated to the actions of non-state players. It is with this basic premise that we address this representation to you.

III. Artillery and aerial bombing of Civilian Safety Zones

3. On 22nd January, 2009, the Government of Sri Lanka unilaterally declared and demarcated “safe zone” areas and made announcements informing all the civilians caught in the war zone to take refuge in those safe zones, commonly called the `no fire zones’. More than 100,000 to 150,000 Tamil civilians have reportedly taken shelter in these areas on the basis of the assurances given by the Sri Lankan army that the area would be safe for civilians and would not come under artillery attacks. There have been persistent reports that there have been thousands of civilian casualties in the safe zones due to heavy bombing by the army. The Sri Lankan army has continuously denied these reports. However a recent report by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) which came to light on April 27th confirmed the heavy use of artillery and aerial bombing of civilian safety zone (CSZ) by the Sri Lankan armed forces. This act of aggression against unarmed civilians undoubtedly constitutes `war crimes’ and has to be viewed seriously.

IV. Large Scale Civilian Deaths of Tamils

4. The Statement dated 13th March, 2009 of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navaneetham Pillai ( http://www2.ohchr.org/english/press/newsFrameset-2.htm) points out that between Jan 20th to 7th March, 2009 alone, more than 2800 civilians were killed and more than 7000 persons injured by the Sri Lankan army. Most of these deaths occurred in the no-fire zones where the Sri Lankan government had demarcated safety zones for Tamil civilians to take shelter in.

V. Lack of Food Supplies to the Vanni region

5. The Food Delivery Report for March, 2009 of the United Nations Office of the Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator, Sri Lanka dated 13th March, 2009 disclosed that an estimated population of about 15,000 to 190,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the No-Fire Zone (NFZ) required about 3,000 Metric Tonnes of food stuffs monthly. Against this estimate, the amount of food stuff that was actually made available by the Sri Lankan state amounted to only 150 MTs and 224 MTs in February and March, 2009. The huge shortfall meant that vast population of Tamil civilians has been forced to starve and survive with whatever paltry rations they could access. Though thousands have fled the war zones and have been relocated in camps run by the Sri Lankan army, the shortage of food and other essential commodities continue. According to our information the Sri Lankan government is following a deliberate policy of restricting food supplies thereby leaving thousands of Tamils to suffer hunger and die of starvation and neglect.

VI. Indiscriminate Shelling of Hospitals and Denial of Medical Aid

6. Hospitals have not been spared from bombings by Lankan Security forces. The hospital in Udaiyaarkaddu within the so-called safe zone again came under heavy shelling by the Sri Lanka Army on February 5, 2009. At least 7 civilians were killed and 27 wounded in the close vicinity of the makeshift hospital functioning in a school. 2 ambulances and the medical store of the hospital were completely destroyed. A nurse was killed. On 6th February, 2009 Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) bombers bombed and fully destroyed Ponnampalam Memorial hospital in Puthukkudiyiruppu (PTK), killing scores and wounding many. 61 patients were killed in the air attack. ICRC and Sri Lanka Red Cross Staff were also injured in PTK town. The SLA and SLAF attacks have included 4 attacks on hospitals (3 on PTK and 1 on Udaiyaarkaddu) and 2 attacks on churches Suthanthirapuram & PTK. Both Kilinochchi District and Mullaitivu District General Hospitals have been Displaced

7. The conditions of the injured, sick and infirm are particularly precarious. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) between 19th February and 29th April more than 12,400 injured persons and their relatives were evacuated from the combat zone by ship (http://www.icrc.org/web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/htmlall/sri-lanka-update-300409?opendocument) . However the non-availability of medicines, especially life saving drugs had severely affected hospital services in the no-fire zones. “Given the catastrophic situation of thousands of displaced, sick and wounded people still in the conflict area, the parties must do more to protect them and must allow more food and medicine into the area,” said Monica Zanarelli (http://www.icrc.org/web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/htmlall/sri-lanka-update-300409?opendocument), the ICRC’s deputy head of operations for South Asia. It should be mentioned that the ICRC is amongst the only international relief organisations permitted to work in the war zones and their officials have to use diplomatic language to express their views lest they offend Sri Lankan authorities thereby risking the meager health services they offer to injured, sick and suffering civilians. However her statement describes graphically the grim picture prevailing in the war affected areas.

8. An illustrative list of hospitals which suffered shelling and bombing by the Sri Lankan security forces during the period December 2008 – January 2009 is given in Annexure 1 being submitted with this Representation.

VII. Camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) – Virtual Detention Camps

9. There are alarming reports that the camps set up by the Sri Lankan government to house the Tamil civilians constituting Internally Displaced People (IDPs) fleeing the war area are unsafe. It is reported that even before the IDPs are brought to these camps youth are separated from the families and taken away to undisclosed destinations. No records are maintained of the names and numbers of such youth separated from their families and their fate is unknown. A matter of serious concern are allegations of rape and sexual violence inflicted on young girls and women by security and paramilitary forces and the existence of forced prostitution rings in these camps.

10. The camps are over crowded, with thousands forced to live in the open with little or no water and sanitation facilities or privacy areas in the case of women. Food supply and medicines continue to be in short supply.

11. There are growing reports that the safety of the IDPs are compromised by the movement of members of the para military forces and informers made up of former Tamil groups acting as para military outfits working in close connection with the Sri Lankan military. Enforced disappearances, abductions and killings are continuously reported from the IDP camps.

VIII. Prohibition of media reporting

12. The Sri Lankan government has ensured that no independent media persons are allowed access to the war zones or to the camps. Even UN agencies and other aid workers have been barred from visiting or working in the area. As a result there is no independent verification of events occurring in the war zones. Whenever media people are allowed access it is by way of a guided tour of specified areas under the watch of security forces without free access to meet with people and collect information. Thus all information emanating from the war zones are only the official statements of the Sri Lankan government. The outside world has no means to verify the same. Anyone violating the government’s ban is visited with serious life threatening consequences. Ms. Anna Neistat, Senior Emergencies Researcher at Human Rights Watch experienced the harsh response of the government when she was visited the IDP centres without permission and was thereafter blacklisted from entering Sri Lanka.

IX. State of Impunity

13. Apart from the humanitarian crisis prevailing in the war zones in the Vanni region following the outbreak of intensified fighting since January, 2009 marked by large scale death of civilians and allegations of enforced disappearances, `white van’ abductions, killings and sexual abuses in the safety / IDP camps, a general state of impunity and human rights abuse characterises state functioning in Sri Lanka. For the last 2 ½ years the Sri Lankan government has used the pretext of waging a `war against terror’ to set up a vast network of police, para-military and military forces across the entire Island state which today have become institutionalized forces of terror. The Report of the UN Human Rights Council highlights the Statement of the UN Commissioner for Human Rights who pointed out that “while Sri Lanka has many of the elements needed for a strong national protection system, in the context of the armed conflict and of emergency measures taken against terrorism, the weakness of the rule of law and prevalence of impunity is alarming” (Para 20, page 7, “Compilation Prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in accordance with Paragraph 15(B) of the Annex to Human Rights Council Resolution 5/1”, 8th April, 2008.). A much more serious indictment has been made by the UN Special Rapporteur on extra judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston, who has pointed out that extra-judicial executions have increased dramatically which have been accompanied by “efforts to dismantle existing mechanisms to ensure the accountability of security forces for human rights violations. It is tempting to ascribe these trends to the failure of ceasefire and the outbreak of hostilities. But this is at best, only a partial explanation” (Para 9, page 6. Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extra judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston, Addendum, Follow-up to Country Recommendations, 14th May, 2008).

14. The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions felt concerned enough to report that the police were engaged in summary executions and that torture was the main cause of deaths in police custody. More importantly he pointed out that the vast number of custodial deaths was caused not by rogue police but by ordinary police officers taking part in established routine.( Para 10, page 6, “Compilation Prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in accordance with Paragraph 15(B) of the Annex to Human Rights Council Resolution 5/1”, 8th April, 2008.) The working group on enforced or involuntary disappearances noted at the end of 2007 that there were 5516 outstanding cases. The working group also pointed out that the increase in reported cases of recent enforced disappearances seem to indicate a “wide spread pattern of disappearances”(Working group, A/HRC/7/2, para.344 referred in para.12, “Compilation Prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in accordance with Paragraph 15(B) of the Annex to Human Rights Council Resolution 5/1”, 8th April, 2008.)

15. We would like to stress here that the state supported architecture of terror is terrorizing not just Sri Lankan Tamils of northern Sri Lanka but also all other Sri Lankans who may be seen as dissenters against the ruling regime or are seeking accountability from it. It may not be out of place here to refer to a letter dated Apr. 28, 2008 signed by 13 civil society organizations (CSOs) of Sri Lanka to the Heads of Nations across the world seeking their support to vote out Sri Lanka from the UN Human Rights Council (Bi-annual elections of Human Rights Council held in May, 2008). The CSOs strikingly pointed out, “the government has permitted National Security concerns to outweigh the protection of fundamental rights, particularly of minorities of Sri Lanka. Emergency regulations currently in force enable arbitrary arrest and long term detention with out indictment, as well as  torture. The fact that illegal detentions and torture also take place in cases not related to the conflict, only highlight the deep roots of the current Human Rights crisis” (http://www.cpalanka.org/research_papers civil_society_letter_on_re%20election_of_SL_to_HRC_April%2028.pdf)

X. Killing of Journalists and Media Professionals

16. The present government headed by Mahinda Rajapaksa has systematically targeted the media community to ruthlessly suppress all freedom of expression in the country. The violence unleashed against the media can be gauged by the fact that in the last two and a half years about 20 journalists have been killed and over 35 journalists driven by fear and threat had to flee the country and live in exile. A matter to be noted is that in the killings of journalists, a distinctive feature is the targeting of Tamil journalists, especially those who exposed the human rights abuses of the government. The best known example of the state of terror and impunity is the killing of well known editor of the Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickramathunge on January 7th, 2009 by a gang in broad daylight as he was traveling in his car from his residence to his office. The killers have still not been apprehended.

17. We attach a list of media workers killed, abducted and arrested between 24th January, 2006 and February, 2009 as an illustration of the state of terror prevailing in Sri Lanka.

XI. List of UN Reports

18. The continuous reign of state terror, state of impunity and massive human rights violations committed by state agencies in Sri Lanka, the systematic dismantling of existing democratic institutions by the Sri Lankan government leading to the ineffectiveness of existing judicial institutions to ensure justice to the victims have been systematically documented by expert bodies of the United Nations itself. The following is a list of some of the reports of UN Rapporteurs.

  • Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extra Judicial Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Philip Alston on his mission to Sri Lanka from 28th November to 6th December, 2005, March 27, 2006 (UN Document: E/CN.4/2006/53/Add.5).
  • Conclusions and Recommendations of the Committee against Torture, Dec 15, 2005 (UN Document: CAT/C/LKA/CO/2).
  • Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extra Judicial Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Philip Alston to the UN Human Rights Council, Sep 19, 2006.
  • Statement on Sri Lanka from the UN Special Adviser on Children and Armed Conflict in Sri Lanka, Alan Rock, Nov 13, 2006.
  • Conclusions of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict in Sri Lanka, June 13, 2007 (UN Document: S/AC.51/2007/9).
  • Report of the Secretary General on Children in Armed Conflict in Sri Lanka, Dec 21, 2007 (UN Document: S/2007/758).
  • Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, January 10th, 2008 (UN Document: A/HRC/7/2).
  • Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Manfred Nowak, 26th February, 2008 (UN Document: A/ HRC/7/3/Add. 6).
  • Annual Reports of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review

(UPR) of the UN Human Rights Council 2007, 2008 and 2009.

19. Apart from the above mentioned UN Reports there are also well documented and detailed reports by respected international human rights organisations like Human Rights Watch, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, International Crisis Group and Amnesty International, and Sri Lanka based groups like the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Centre for Policy Alternatives, Colombo and other organisations which provide detailed information about the wide spread prevalence of human rights violations in Sri Lanka.

XII. Response of the Sri Lankan Government – Denial and Abuse

20. The Sri Lankan Government has been exhibiting a remarkably hostile and aggressive response to any complaint of human rights violations committed by any of its forces. Often times the response is not merely one of denial of any wrong doing but characterized by a virulent counter attack on the person or organisation forwarding the complaint as being `terrorists’ themselves or representing the LTTE.

The Sri Lankan Government has not stopped at launching a vilification campaign against anyone challenging their actions including in inciting violent attacks on the persons concerned. This much is reflected in an open letter written to President Rajapaksa by an International Coalition of International Press Freedom and Human Rights Organisations on 11th April, 2008 which pointed out that “Senior members of the Sri Lankan government and security personnel have made inflammatory comments condemning journalists as traitors, implicitly allowing for the incitement of violence against journalists and media institutions” (http://www.freemediasrilanka.org/English/news.php?id=904&section=news)

21. The Sri Lankan government officials and ministers have never hesitated at calling UN senior Officials themselves as terrorists and terrorist supporters. Foreign diplomats were not spared the personalized verbal assaults on their bona fides and integrity. This type of personalized attack was pointed out by British MPs in a debate on Sri Lanka in the House of Commons on 18th December, 2008.

22. The standard ploy of the Sri Lankan Government denying any questioning of its policies stands exposed in the context of the claim of the number of civilians caught in a shrinking land mass in the Vanni areas since the outbreak of the final assault launched in January, 2009. While the UN agencies consistently pointed out that close to 180000 to 250,000 civilians were trapped in a shrinking land mass, the Sri Lankan government deliberated understated the population as numbering only 70,000 subsequently reduced to 30,000 civilians. This was done to deliberately mislead the world community.

XIII. Responsibility to Protect: Military intervention for human protection

23.It is pertinent to point out that vide para 138 and 139 of the World Summit Outcome Document, 2005 the General Assembly of the United Nations unanimously adopted the `Responsibility to Protect’ Doctrine which recognizes that every individual state has the responsibility to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity which responsibility includes prevention of such crimes, including their incitement, through appropriate and necessary means. Where national authorities have manifestly failed to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity the responsibility to protect the victims of grave humanitarian crimes devolves on the international community through the United Nations, and more particularly through the Security Council and where peaceful means have been inadequate the Security Council is mandated to initiate collective action in a timely and decisive manner in accordance with the UN Charter, including Chapter VII and international law.

24. The conditions warranting military intervention to protect human rights was elaborated in the 2001 Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty(http://www.iciss.ca/report2-en.asp)  which formed the basis for the adoption by the UN General Assembly of the `Responsibility to Protect’ Doctrine. As the Commission explained, military intervention for human protection purposes is justified in two broad sets of circumstances, namely in order to halt or avert:

large scale loss of life, actual or apprehended, with genocidal intent or not, which is the product either of deliberate state action, or state neglect or inability to act, or a failed state situation; or

large scale “ethnic cleansing,” actual or apprehended, whether carried out by killing, forced expulsion, acts of terror or rape.

25. If either or both of these conditions are satisfied, the “just cause” component of the decision to intervene is amply satisfied. (para 4.19). The Commission also pointed out that the decision to militarily intervene was to be taken only in exceptional circumstances when the violence was of such a scale as to “shock the conscience of mankind” or which present such a clear and present danger to international security, that they require coercive military intervention. (para 4.13).

26. The ethnic war in Sri Lanka has witnessed the deaths of thousands of civilians including women, children and elderly. Grievous injuries have been caused to many thousands more. Bombings of civilians by Sri Lankan Security still continue. There is imminent danger of death to thousands of civilians in the coming days. The survivors face precarious and insecure lives encountering lack of basic amenities as well as constant fear of abductions, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings on grounds of being LTTE suspects. The brutal human rights atrocities such as torture and killing with impunity has shocked the `conscience of the world community’. There is absolutely no sense of security or personal safety of survivors at the hands of the Sri Lankan authorities who are manning the safety camps.

27. The impact of the war in Sri Lanka is not limited to the Island nation alone. The war has caused unrest in South Asian region and poses a serious danger to international security. It can no longer be viewed as an internal problem of the Sri Lankan state. Hence the situation warrants immediate military intervention for human protection.

XIV. Reference to the International Criminal Court for the Prosecution of Sri

Lankan authorities for Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes.

28. The PUCL requests the United Nations Security Council to make a reference as per Art. 13(b) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, to investigate and prosecute under the Rome Statute, Chapter VII of the UN Charter and other relevant statutes the following persons:

(i) Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka,

(ii) Gothabaya Rajapaksa, Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law and Order, Government of Sri Lanka, and

(iii) Sarath Fonseka, Army Commander.

for the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes as elaborated in Articles 7 and 8 of the Rome Statute of the ICC.

29. It will be pertinent to note that the preamble to the Statute elaborates that the purpose of the Rome Statute is to ensure that the most serious crimes concerned to the international community as a whole must not go unpunished and that there effective prosecution must be ensured by taking measures at the national level and by enhancing international co-operation. The preamble also reaffirms to resolves to guarantee lasting respect for the enforcement of international justice. It is towards these ends and for the sake of the future and present generation an independent permanent international criminal court in relation with the United Nation system has been established with jurisdiction of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole.

30. The PUCL would like to bring to the notice of Security Council that the above mentioned persons are responsible for the commission of crimes against humanity as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against civilian population. The accused are guilty of the following crimes against humanity.

i). Murder; (Art. 7 (1) (a))

ii). Extermination; ‘Extermination’ includes the intentional infliction of conditions of life, inter alia the deprivation of access to food and medicine, calculated to bring about the destruction of part of a population; (Art. 7(1) (b)

read with 7 (2) (b))

iii).Deportation or forcible transfer of population; ‘Deportation or forcible transfer of population’ means forced displacement of the persons concerned by expulsion or other coercive acts from the area in which they are lawfully present, without grounds permitted under international law; (Art. 7 (1) (d)

read with 7 (2) (d))

iv). Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law; (Art. 7 (1) (e))

v). Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender as defined in paragraph 3, or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law, in connection with any act referred to in this paragraph or any crime within the jurisdiction of the Court; ‘Persecution’ means the intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights contrary to international law by reason of the identity of the group or collectivity; (Art.

7(1) (h) read with 7 (2) (g))

vi). Enforced disappearance of persons; ‘Enforced disappearance of persons’ means the arrest, detention or abduction of persons by, or with the authorization, support or acquiescence of, a State or a political organization, followed by a refusal to acknowledge that deprivation of freedom or to give information on the fate or whereabouts of those persons, with the intention of removing them from the protection of the law for a prolonged period of time.

(Art. 7 (1) (i) read with 7 (2) (i))

vii). Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.

31. The PUCL is conscious of the fact that the State to which the accused belong to, namely, Sri Lanka is not a signatory to the Rome Statute. We are also aware that the State of Sri Lanka has not given a declaration accepting the jurisdiction of the court under Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute. Under these circumstances the only way in which the Sri Lankan state can be made accountable is by a reference by the Security Council acting under Chapter VII of United Nations to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. As per Article 13(b) of the Rome Statute such a reference would confer jurisdiction to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to exercise powers conferred by Article 15 and to investigate and prosecute for the crimes referred to in Article 5 of the Rome statute committed by the Sri Lankan state.

32. It is submitted that Article 5 of the Rome Statute provides for the crimes within the jurisdiction of the court. As per this Article the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction with respect to the following crimes:

(a) Crime of genocide (Article 6)

(b) Crimes against humanity (Article 7)

(c) War Crimes (Article)

(d) Crimes of Aggression

We are enclosing along with this representation the following annexures:

(1) The List of Hospitals bombed by the Sri Lankan Army.

(2) List of Media workers killed, abducted and arrested by the Sri Lankan security forces.

(3) List of Persons murdered, abducted or disappeared in the Jaffna region in respect of whom official complaints were lodged with the appropriate authorities and regarding whose cases no action has been taken by the Sri Lankan government till date.

The information in the annexures coupled with the reports of the various United Nations authorities and other international human rights groups makes out more than a prima facie case of the complicity of the Sri Lankan state in the commission of these crimes.

33. A brief summary of the provisions of Article 8 detailing the elements of `war crimes’ will be useful to establish yet another grave humanitarian crime committed by the Sri Lankan high officials. Article 8.2(c) and (e) covers cases of war crimes in conflicts not of an international character. The following are some of the main elements of war crimes established by the accounts of UN agencies and others:

Intentionally directing attacks against civilian populations as such; Intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion etc. including hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are collected. (8.2(e)(iv).

XV. An Appeal to the Security Council

34. In view of the grave humanitarian threat to thousands of Tamilian civilians in the northern Vanni area of Sri Lanka, the PUCL urges members of the Security Council to rise above partisan considerations and politics of expediency for geopolitical considerations and give a voice to the suffering victims of the war and a brutal state in Sri Lanka. We remain confident that the vast documentation attesting to the grave humanitarian crisis will persuade all members of the Security Council to unanimously agree to immediate military intervention for human protection thereby saving the lives of thousands of civilians.

35. The PUCL points out that if states are allowed to get away with commission of mass murders of its own people and those guilty of mass humanitarian crimes go unpunished, world citizens will lose all faith in the United Nations and in the rule of law. If brute states are permitted to cover their acts under the cloak of sovereignty and internal affairs, then there is little relevance to international doctrines providing for peace and safety of citizens. As far as victims of state brutality are concerned the United Nations and Security Council should be their protector and not the protector of brute regimes who use the context of their holding power to block any demand for accountability for their crimes.

36. The situation in Sri Lanka is very grave. Thousands live under the constant danger of being bombed to death or dying due to starvation and deprivation of basic medical care. Those who survive have to contend with the spectre of insecure life in government run IDP camps where danger stalks in the form of abductions, disappearances, murders, and sexual assaults.

The PUCL demands the following:

(i) That the Security Council immediately decide to launch military

intervention for human protection in Sri Lanka under the

`Responsibility to Protect’ Doctrine.

(ii) That the administration of Camps for IDPs should be taken over

and be under the control of UN agencies;

(iii) The Security Council makes a Reference to the Prosecutor of the

International Criminal Court for prosecuting Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gothabaya Rajapaksa and Sanath Fonseka of the Government of Sri Lanka for committing crimes against humanity and war crimes.

India: 8th May, 2009 (K.G. Kannabiran)

President, People’s Union for Civil Liberties

Annexure 1

List of Hospitals which suffered shelling by the Sri Lankan Security Forces during the

period December, 2008 – January, 2009

Date Location Incident

15/12/08 Mullaitivu Mullaitivu General Hospital came under artillery fire. Minor injuries to 2 patients, damaged ward and medical equipment.

17/12/08 Vaddakachchi 10am SLAF fighter jets bombed refugee settlement 250-300m from Vaddakachchi Hospital.

19/12/08 Mullaitivu Mullaitivu General Hospital

11.30am 5 shells hit hospital causing damage to wards, operating theatre and the Medical Superintendent’s HQ. 2 staff wounded.

20/12/08 Mullaitivu Mullaitivu General Hospital affected by artillery fire, shells exploded inside the hospital grounds.

22/12/08 Kilinochchi Kilinochchi General Hospital 6.20am Airstrike in the vicinity of the hospital, shrapnel hit hospital building. No injuries reported.

25/12/08 Kilinochchi – Kilinochchi General Hospital Shelling landed in the hospital grounds, narrowly missing staff. Damage to new-born nursing section, outpatient department and reception.

30/12/08 Kilinochchi – Kilinochchi General Hospital 4pm. Artillery shells hit hospital causing damage to the building. No injuries reported.

1/1/09 Ambulances unable to proceed from Vanni hospitals to Vavuniya due to fighting

2/1/09 Mullaitivu 5.00am Aerial bombing of petrol station/ bus depot 250m from Mullaitivu General Hospital, killing 4 people and injuring 8.

2/1/09 2 people injured when ambulance convoy transporting seriously ill patients from Tharmapuram PTK to Vavuniya came under artillery fire at Mannaakandal. The ambulances were forced to turn back.

3/1/09 Ambulances unable to proceed from Vanni hospitals to Vavuniya due to fighting.

8/1/09 Tharmapuram Tharmapuram Hospital. 1.20pm Artillery shells fired at Tharmapuran Junction 75m from the hospital. Hospital was filled beyond capacity treating the injured while at the same time, people sought shelter in the hospital grounds [7 killed, in the attack].

10/1/09 PTK PTK Hospital (Ponnambalam Teaching Hospital) 11pm Artillery shells fired at IDP settlement located behind PTK hospital.

13/1/09 PTK PTK Hospital 10am hospital attacked, 1 killed, 6 wounded. Patients were forced to flee the wards to seek shelter from the artillery fire.

Annexure 2

SRI LANKA – List of media workers killed, abducted and arrested

MEDIA WORKERS KILLED,

24 January 2006

Subramaniyam Sukirtharajan (Journalist) - On January 24, Sugirdharajan, a Trincomalee port employee as well as a journalist was shot dead as he waited for a bus to go to work in the morning. He had published photographs and news reports critical of the army and of paramilitary groups active in Trincomalee, in the newspaper Sudaroli Oli. His photographs of the 5 students killed in Trincomalee on January 2 helped contest the original reports that they had been killed by grenades.

Suresh Kumar and Ranjith Kumar – May 3, 2006

As media workers gathered in Colombo to celebrate World Press Freedom Day, a group of unidentified men attacked the office of the Uthayan newspaper in the northern city of  Jaffna. Suresh Kumar, the Marketing Manager and Ranjith Kumar, a worker in the circulation department, were killed during this attack. Five others were injured and the office was damaged. The police took 6 persons in custody.

Sampa Lakmal de Silva – July 2, 2006

Freelance journalist Sampath Lakmal de Silva was shot dead by an unknown group. He was abducted at 5.00am from his home in Borallasgamuwa, south of Colombo. His body was found three kilometres from his home.

Marithas Manojanraj – August 1, 2006

Newspaper vendor Marithas Manojanraj was killed by a mine that detonated as he was on his way to Jaffna on July 27 to collect newspapers for distribution.

Sathasivam Baskaran – August 16, 2006

Sathasivan Baskaran, driver and the distributor of the Jaffna-based Uthayan newspaper, was shot dead in his Uthayan delivery vehicle after taking advantage of the temporary lifting of a curfew to deliver copies of the newspaper. He was shot in his clearly marked vehicle in an area controlled by the Sri Lankan armed forces.

Sinnathamby Sivamaharajah – August 21 2006

Sinnathamby Sivamaharajah, managing director of the Jaffna-based Tamil newspaper Namathu Eelanadu, was shot dead in Vellippalai. As a consequence of the murder, the publication of the newspaper was stopped.

Rushika Prasadini (killed in accident on her way to work)– December 19, 2006 Rukshika Prasadini, a journalist, was injured in a car accident with another vehicle driven by a diplomat. She later died in Colombo as a result of her injuries. Her family is seeking justice for the tragic death; however, they are facing obstacles due to the involvement of diplomatic immunity.

Subash Chandraboas, (Journalist) – 16th April

The editor of the Tamil-language monthly magazine “Nilam” (”the Ground”), Subash Chandraboas, aged 32, married and father of an eight-year-old daughter, was shot dead on 16 April 2007 at about 7:30 p.m (local time) at his residence in Thirunavatkulam, Vavuniya.

Selvaraj Rajivarnam (journalist) – 30th April 2007

Selvarahj Rajivarman, journalist of Uthyan daily shot dead on 30th April 2007 in Jaffna. He was the crime reporter, who reported on killings and disappearances taking place in Jaffna.

Nilakshan Sahadavan (22) – 30th April 2007

A journalist student of Jaffna Media Resource Training Centre (MRTC) and a part time journalist was shot dead this morning by unknown gunmen. Motorbike riding gunmen woke him up at their family home in Kokuvil, Jaffna around 4.00 am and shot him injuring seriously. Kokuvil, just 3 miles away from Jaffna city, is heavily guarded by Sri Lanka military and the shooting took place during the curfew hours.

27th Nov 2007

SL government jets bombs Voice of Tigers radio station in Kilinocchi around 4.30pm 17th Nov 2007 killing 11 civilians among them were three media workers of VOT.

Isaivizhi Chempiyan alias Subajini, media staff VOT

Suresh Linbiyo, a technical desk worker media staff VOT

T. Tharmalingam- media staff VOT

W .Gunasingha (killed in a claymore attack)- 6th December 2007

Kebithigollewa provincial corresponded of Sinhala daily Divaina, was killed on 6th December when the bus he was travelling was hit by a claymore mine killing 16 people.

Paranirupasingham Devakumar – 28th May 2008

Sirasa, Shakthi and MTV Television Network Jaffna district correspondent P. Devakumar was hacked to death om 28th May. in Navanthurei on his way home from Jaffna town. A friend of Devakumar was also killed by in the attack. Devakumar, a resident of Vaddukoddai, Jaffna, was 36 years old and married for one year. He had worked for MTV for nearly three years.

MEDIA WORKERS MISSING OR ABDUCTED

Nadarajah Guruparan – 28th Aug 2006

Director news, Sooriyan FM radio Nadarajah Guruparan is reported to be missing FMM on the morning of 28th August 2006. Sooriyn FM was the popular Tamil language channel of ABC radio net work based in Colombo. He was released after 12 hours, mainly due to intense campaigning by local and international press freedom organisations.

M.A Sisira Priyankara; M.L.Senaviratna; Nihal Serasinghe – 28th Nov 2006

Three activists of the Sri Lanka Railway trade union and its publication ‘Akuna’ were abducted on 5th Feb 2007. the publisher of the newspaper M.A Sisira Priyankara(38), layout designer M.L.Senaviratna(35) and another activist Nihal Serasinghe(40) were abducted from suburbs of Colombo. They were later fond in police custody and government accused them of working with LTTE in creating a southern armed group.

Subramaniam Ramachandran, – February 15, 2007

The correspondent of the Tamil dailies Thinakural and Valampuri was abducted by an unknown group and is feared dead.

Pakkiyanathan Vijayashanthan – 18th May 2007

Pakkiyanathan Vijayashanthan alias Vijayan, who had been a journalist and actor, was reported missing on 18th may 2007. He worked for a Tamil daily as a Trincomalee correspondent and later edited Saamadana Nokku, Tamil edition of Peace Monitor, a publication of the Centre for Policy Alternatives up to 2004. He was released early 19th morning, due to intense campaigning by media and HR organizations in the country.

Anthonypillai Sherin Sithranjan – 5th November 2007

A newspaper delivery person of Jaffna based Tamil daily Yal Thinakkural, Mr. Anthonypillai Sherin Sithranjan was reported missing since 5th November 2007. Mr. Anthonypillai is 36 years old, married and father of one child. He lived at Uyarappulm, Annaikkottai, Jaffna. He went missing after taking papers for distribution from Yarl Thinakkural office in K.K.S Road at 6:00 a.m. on 5th November.

Vadivel Nimalarajah – 17th November 2007

Mr. Vadivel Nimalarajah, proof reader of Jaffna based Uthayan newspaper reported missing since 17th November 2007. He has been with Uthayan newspaper for last three years as night proof reader. Mr. V. Nimalarajah was cycling on his way home when he was abducted by unidentified group near the Navalar Road railway crossing around 7.30 am. He is 31 years old, unmarried and lived at Nicholas Lane, Kachcheri Nallur Road, Jaffna.

Keith Noyahr – 22nd May

Keith Noyahr, Deputy Editor and Defense analyst of the English weekly The Nation was abducted late evening 22nd May and dropped near his home early 23rd morning, after mercilessly assaulting him. There is no other reason for abducting and assaulting his independent him than his writing and analysis of the war in the North. Hand cupped and blindfolded by the abductors he was asked to revel his military sources.

MEDIA WORKERS ARRESTED

Sivaramya 1st May 2007

Female journalists and a relief announcer Sivarmya was arrested at the entrance of World press freedom day conference organized by UNESCO in Colombo on 1st May 2007. She was labeled as a suspected suicide carder of LTTE by government media planning to kill a government minister. She was released on 3rd after representations by UNESCO and local

media organizations. Later she filed a FR case against the government at Supreme court and wan the case.

Tiran Alles – 30th May 2007

The Chairman of Standard Newspapers Ltd. and former Civil Aviation Authority Chairman Tiran Alles was remanded on the 30th of May till June 13. The Terrorist Investigatin Division (TID) earlier visited Mr. Alles at a hospital where he was undergoing treatment

and arrested him around 6.45 pm after questioning. He was released without any charges after three months.

Rangan – 02nd Dec. 2007

A journalist with the Tamil daily Sudaroli, Ranga, was arrested in a cordon and search by the Rajagiriya Police and detained for 12 hours. He was released after representations made to the Police by the newspaper and the FMM. No charges were brought against Ranga by the police.

Capucine Henri, C. Siomon – 24th Dec. 2007

Two French journalists detained by the military over videographing a road block was kept

in Police custody over Christmas night in the Rathgama police station, in Galle district. The TV crew of female journalist Capucine Henri and cameraman C. Siomon of the France 24 newschannel were filming a Tamil family visiting their detained relatives on Christmas eve. They were released without any charges on 26th evening after 43 hours.

Arthur Wamanan – 24rd Oct. 2007

The Sunday leader journalist Arthur Wamanan (23) was arrested by Criminal Investigating Department (CID) on a complaint lodged by Minister Mano Wijeratne on 24th Oct. Arthur had called the minister to obtain his comments using his mobile telephone with regard to a story. Mr. Wijeratna complained that he received calls demanding ransom from the journalist. On 26th journalist Arthur Wamanan was granted bail and court reprimanded the CID saying arrests of this nature created a bad precedent besides being a threat to media freedom.

Gemunu Amarasinghe – 12th February

On 12 February 2008, Gemunu Amarasinghe, a photojournalist working for Associated Press (AP), was arrested by Civil Defense Committee members while he was covering students entering Isipathana College, Colombo. He was doing a photo story on the reopening of schools after their being closed for a week. He was handed over to the police by members of the Civil Defense Committee and taken to the Narahenpita police station. He was released nearly two hours later after intervention by media institutions and organizations.

N. Jasiharan, J.S. Tissainayagam, – 6th & 7th March 2008

Number of journalists were taken in for questioning on 7th and 8th of March with some of them held incommunicado for hours by Terrorist Investigation Department (TID). Most of the journalists arrested were associated with www.outreachsl.com, a news and features web site. On 6th March, E-Kwality printing press owner and writer N. Jasiharan was arrested with his partner Valarmathi without any valid reason. On 7th March, the TID arrested the Editor of www.outreachsl.com and freelance journalist, J.S Tissainayagam . Both of them are still in custody. J.S Tissainayagam has filed a FR case against he government at Supreme Court.

K. Wijesinghe, Uthayanan, Ranga Lasantha – 7th & 8th March 2008

Journalists K.Wijesinghe, Camaramen Ranga Lasanatha, and visual editor Unyanan of www.outreachsl.com were arrested on 7th and 8th and they were release on 13th without any charges being made against them.

Wasanthan Sivakumaran – 8th March 2008

S. Sivakumar (alias Balasubramanium Wasanthan) , Spokesperson of the FMM and Editor of the bi-monthly Tamil language Sarinihar magazine was arrested, questioned by Terrorist Investigation Department (TID) and released on the same day. On 7th March TID took one of his cousins into hostage till he appeared at his office. Released

Susanthi Thambirasa, – 27th March 2008

relief announcer released after 18 months. Susanthi Thambirasa, who had been arrested on the charge of being a LTTE suicide bomber nearly one-and-a-half year ago, was freed by the Colombo Magistrate’s Court on Mar. 27th. Earlier on January 31st, the Attorney General informed the Court of Appeal that there were no objections to her release. A resident of Ampara, Susanthi was arrested along with journalist M. Parameswary near Savoy Cinema in Wellawatte on 23rd November 2006. At the time of her arrest, Susanthi was a relief announcer at the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation and also worked at Sunera Foundation, an NGO.

Source: www.freemediasrilanka.org accessed 6th May, 2009.

Annexure 3

List of Persons murdered, abducted or disappeared in the Jaffna region in respect of whom official complaints were lodged with the appropriate authorities and regarding whose cases no action has been taken by the Sri Lankan government till date.

Note: The source of the information in this Annexure is not being disclosed for security reasons.

Murder

1. Mr. Daniyal Santharuban , Erlalai South, Mayilankadu, Chunnakam was abducted by a group of person came by white colour van at Chunnakam (between Chunnakam and Kenthiyalady Junction) on 16.01.2007 around 11.00am. Complainant further mentioned that her husband had been reporting to the civil affairs office Jaffna on every Sunday. His dead body was found at Chunnakam on 22.01.2007

2. Mr. Veerasingam Rathnasingam Kaddudai, Manipay left home to agriculture department in Jaffna on 22.01.2007 around 1.30pm, thereafter he was missing. When the complainant went to agriculture department and questioned about his sonin-law it was told by the officers that he left the department around 2.00pm on the same day. His dead body was found at Chulipuram on 26.01.2007

3. Mr. Gunaratnam Kajenthiran , Suthumalai North, Manipay was working at New Vasantha’s Fancy House, Clock Tower Road, Jaffna. On 25.01.2007 about 8.15am he left home to his work place. Later owner of the Fancy House phoned to the complainant and asked why his son did not attend for work. Usually his son straight away go to the working place. His dead body was found at Ooddumadam on 30.01.2007

4. Mr. Jeyakumaaran Mayooran 30/4, Mooththavinayagar Road, Nallur, Jaffna was abducted on early 31.01.2007 morning around 1.00am around 15 army personnel came to their house and arrested Mr. Jeyakumaaran Mayooran and took him. The complainant further pointed out here two EPDP members also accompanied with army. They took his motorbike (Hero Honda, Splender No. NP GI 7780) and their two mobile phones with them. His dead body was found at Rajapathai, Kopay on 01.02.2007

5. Mr. Thurairajah Sasiharan ,Station Road, Chunnakam was abducted by unknown persons who came to their house in two motorbikes on 04.03.2007 at 10.30pm. He was killed and his dead body was found on 09.03.2007

6. Mr. Rasenthiram Kajan Manthuvil West, Kodikamam was arrested by army patrol troop on 13.06.2007. His dead body was found.

7. 24 January 2006, Sugirdharajan, a Trincomalee port employee as well as a journalist was shot dead as he waited for a bus to go to work in the morning. He had published photographs and news reports critical of the army and of paramilitary groups active in Trincomalee, in the newspaper Sudaroli Oli. His photographs of the 5 students killed in Trincomalee on January 2 helped contest the original reports that they had been killed by grenades.

8. On May 3, 2006 Suresh Kumar, the Marketing Manager and Ranjith Kumar, a worker in the circulation department of Uthayan newspaper in the northern city of Jaffna, were killed at a gathering in Colombo to celebrate World Press Freedom Day as a group of unidentified men attacked the office.

9. On July 2, 2006 Freelance journalist Sampath Lakmal de Silva was shot dead by an unknown group. He was abducted at 5.00am from his home in Borallasgamuwa, south of Colombo. His body was found three kilometres from his home.

10. On August 1, 2006 Newspaper vendor Marithas Manojanraj was killed by a mine that detonated as he was on his way to Jaffna on July 27 to collect newspapers for distribution.

11. On August 16, 2006 Sathasivan Baskaran, driver and the distributor of the Jaffna-based Uthayan newspaper, was shot dead in his Uthayan delivery vehicle after taking advantage of the temporary lifting of a curfew to deliver copies of the newspaper. He was shot in his clearly marked vehicle in an area controlled by the Sri Lankan armed forces.

12. On August 21 2006 Sinnathamby Sivamaharajah, managing director of the Jaffna-based Tamil newspaper Namathu Eelanadu, was shot dead in Vellippalai. As a consequence of the murder, the publication of the newspaper was stopped.

13. On December 19 2006, Rukshika Prasadini, a journalist, was injured in a car accident with another vehicle driven by a diplomat. She later died in Colombo as a result of her injuries. Her family is seeking justice for the tragic death; however, they are facing obstacles due to the involvement of diplomatic immunity.

14. The editor of the Tamil-language monthly magazine “Nilam” (”the Ground”), Subash Chandraboas, aged 32, married and father of an eight-year-old daughter, was shot dead on 16 April 2007 at about 7:30 p.m (local time) at his residence in Thirunavatkulam, Vavuniya.

15. On 30th April 2007 Selvarahj Rajivarman, journalist of Uthyan daily shot dead in Jaffna. He was the crime reporter, who reported on killings and disappearances taking place in Jaffna.

16. On 1st August 2007 Nilakshan Sahadavan (22), a journalist student of Jaffna Media Resource Training Centre (MRTC) and a part time journalists was shot dead this morning by unknown gunmen.Motorbike riding gunmen woke him up at their family home in Kokuvil, Jaffna around 4.00 am and shot him injuring seriously. Kokuvil, just 3 miles away from Jaffna city, is heavily guarded by Sri Lanka military and the shooting took place during the curfew hours.

17. On 27th Nov 2007 SL government jets bombs Voice of Tigers radio station in Kilinocchi around 4.30pm 17th Nov 2007 killing 11 civilians among them were three media workers of VOT. Isaivizhi Chempiyan alias Subajini, media staff VOT Suresh Linbiyo, a technical desk worker medial staff VOT were killed.

18. On 6th December 2007, Kebithigollewa provincial corresponded of Sinhala daily Divaina, was killed when the bus he was travelling was hit by a claymore mine killing 16 people.

19. On 28th May 2008 Paranirupasingham Devakumar Sirasa, Shakthi and MTV Television Network Jaffna district correspondent P. Devakumar was hacked to death. In Navanthurei on his way home from Jaffna town. A friend of Devakumar was also killed by in the attack. Devakumar, a resident of Vaddukoddai, Jaffna, was 36 years old and married for one year. He had worked for MTV for nearly three years.

20. On 28th Aug 2006 Director news, Sooriyan FM radio Nadarajah Guruparan is reported to be missing FMM on the morning of 28th August 2006. Sooriyn FM was the popular Tamil language channel of ABC radio net work based in Colombo. He was released after 12 hours, mainly due to intense campaigning by local and international press freedom organisations.

21. On January 7, 2009 Lasantha Wickramatunge, editor of the Sunday Leader, was murdered in broad daylight during morning rush-hour in Colombo. Wickramatunge was one of Sri most independent-minded journalist. He had earned a global reputation for his campaigning style and was honoured by world bodies for his commitment to transparency and probity in public life.

22. Paranirupasingham Devakumar, a reporter with Maharaja TV in Jaffna, was killed in May in a brutal knife attack during curfew hours just outside Jaffna city.

23. In September 2008, Radhika Devakumar, a journalist who had briefly worked as official spokesman for the provincial government in the east, was shot thrice and critically injured as she walked home in Batticaloa town.

24. On 14 December 2007, Thavarajah, Chairman of the Red Cross Jaffna branch, who won the “best volunteer” award in 2005, was found dead after being abducted in Jaffna:- http://www.bbc.co.uk/sinhala/news/story/2007/12/071219_eu_redcross.shtml

25. On 1 June 2007, two Tamil Red Cross workers, Sinnarajah Shanmuganathan, 38, and Karthigesu Chandramohan, 28, who had come to Colombo for a training program in Tsunami work, were abducted and killed by men claiming to be Sri Lanka Police from Fort Railway Station. Their bodies were found at Kiriella in Ratnapura near Colombo on 3 June 2007:- Two Tamil Red Cross workers abducted, killed, TamilNet, 13 June 2007

26. On 1 April 2007, six ethnic Sinhalese civilians identified as Welage Chandrasiri, T.M. Dhanapala and his 18-year-old son Dhanapala Wijetunga, T. Wijakon, and two brothers, L.M. Dayananda Kapporal and Maduranga Kapporal, working on a post-tsunami construction project, were shot dead. Three others identified as V. U. Nandanage and two Tamils, Indran Pirapaharan and Maduramuththu Nagarasa were injured at Mailampaaveli in the eastern district of Batticaloa. The government blamed the LTTE for the killings but the LTTE denied its involvement and blamed the Karuna group:-

http://www.achrweb.org/Review/2007/16407.htm#_ftnref2

27. On 23 July 2007, Mr. Arumainayagam Alloysius, a Sri Lankan staff member of the Danish Refugee Council was reportedly shot dead by unidentified gunman while he was on his way to work in Jaffna:- Danish aid group says staffer killed in Sri Lanka, The Reuters, 23 July 2007

Source: Confidential

Enforced disappearance of persons

1. Mr. Balasooriyan Rajeef Thunalai West, Karaveddy was arrested by army personnel

in a cordon and search operation at Karaveddy (Kovil Market Area) on 31.12.2006

morning and was taken by army by troops carrier. When the parents try to stop the troops carrier, they were badly assaulted by army.

2. Mr. Thuraisingam Baburaj 346, Chemmany Road, Nayanmarkaddu, Jaffna is an employee of Jaffna Main Post Office. On 04.01.2007 early morning 1.30am, a group of gunmen came to his house in motorbike and broke in to is house and abducted him. When the inmates try to prevent the abduction they were assaulted and were scolded with abusive language. Even females were scolded with filthy and were assaulted by the gunmen.

3. Ms. Mankayakkarasi Mathiyaparanam Amman Road, Thirunelvely West, Thirunelvely went to her aunt’s house at Mallakam on 03.01.2007 about 9.30am, then she left from there at about 3.30pm to return home, but she did not come back.

4. Mr. Saravanamuthu Arumuganavalar Kadavaippulam, Chunnakam was abducted by a group of gunmen consisting 20 – 25 persons who broke in to his house on 01.01.2007 around 11.30pm.

5. Mr.Raveedran Rajeenthan Kokuvil West, Kokuvil was abducted by 10 gunmen who broke into the house by white colour van and abducted him on 03.01.2007 early morning 12.30. When the inmates try to prevent the abduction they were assaulted and were scolded with abusive language. At the same time when his father begged them to release him, he was shot at his leg and presently he is admitted at the Jaffna Hospital.

6. Mr. Subramaniyam Parameswaran No 11, Racca Road, Jaffna was abducted On 04.01.2007 at midnight 12 o’clock by a group of gunmen who came to their house and introduced them as Sri Lankan Police, and asked to open the door. Due to the fear they did not open the door then the gunmen broke in to the house and took Mr. Subramaniyam Parameswaran. When the inmates try to prevent the abduction the gunmen threatened them with gun.

7. Ms. Sivagnanam Nirojini Meesalai East, Meesalai presently Salvation army hostel, Borella is working at Salvationamy Hostel. On 23.12.2006 she left to her aunt’s house from hostel, thereafter she was missing.

8. Mr. Thirunavukarasu Ratnasabapathi Uduvil East, Chunnakam left home to go to shop at Thurai Veethy, Inuvil, thereafter he was missing, up to now no message him.

9. Mr. Seevaratnam Niranjan,, Moothavinayagar Veethy Nallur, Jaffna was abducted by 5 army personnel attached to Navatkuli army camp who came to his house and forcibly took him on 07.01.2007 at 8.45pm. When they took him it was told that he would be released, but army refused it and no message up to now.

10. Mr. Poobalasingam Rameshkumar, Siththivinayagar Veethy Navatkuli, Kaythadi was forcibly took from his house by army attached to Navatkuli army camp on 08.01.2007 early morning at 12.30. Up to date no message.

11. Mr. Subramaniyam Selvarajah ‘Tharmakulasingam’ Sanasamuganilayam, Valvettithurai went to Nelliyady to buy cloths on 06.01.2007 at 5.30 pm thereafter he did not return home. It was informed to the complainant that he was arrested by army at Malu junction near Telecom but did not release yet.

12. Mr. Paramsothi Tharan Sayan Murukiah Kovilady, Puloly, Point Pedro is an A/L student of Point Pedro Velautham Maha Vidyalayam. He left home to go to Tuition Class at about 11.00am, but he did not return back.

13. Mr.Murukananthan Pirapananthan 600/A, Viyaparimoolai, Alvai, Kaaraiyady Manal, Point Pedro is an A/L student of Hartly College. He was missing after he went his friend’s house on 15.01.2007 about 1.30pm. The complainant came to know that he was taken by some army personnel who came by troop’s carrier to his friend’s house at Vathiri in Nelliyady

14. Mr. Sellathurai Jeyanthan Kumaran Kulam, Thunnalai South, Karaveddy was arrested by the army between Kalikai Junction and Manthikai Junction on 12.01.2007 around 4.30pm. One of the known persons to the complainant had seen the arrest made by the army personnel who came by motorbike. But the army refused the arrest.

15. Ms. Vasanthan Anista Usan, Mirusuvil left home to go to her husband’s house on 10.08.2006 in Vanni, thereafter no contacts with her. Up to now no message about her.

16. Mr. Sivasubramaniyam Regan Adiyapatham Road, Kalviyankadu, Jaffna. Mr. Sivasubramaniyam Regan Adiyapatham Road, Kalviyankadu, Jaffna was abducted by a group of gunmen broke in to their house and abducted him on 18.01.2007 at 4.00am.

17. Mr. Nahendran Thayalan Uyarappulam, Aanaikkoddai was abducted by a group of gunmen came by white colour van at Pallankaddu Junction (Between Kakkaithevu and Savatkadu) on 19.01.2007 about 9.30am.

18. Mr. Rajendran Thevanesan Barathy Pulam, Campus Road, Thirunelveli, Jaffna came to Colombo from Doha on August 15, 2006. Then he came to Vavuniya on August 17, 2006 and stayed with his friend Mr. Jeyakumar at Thekkavaththai. Thereafter he left from his friend’s house in Vavuniya to go Batticaloa in September 2006 but he did not reach there. Up to now no message about him.

19. Mr. Sittampalam Pulenthiran, 5/4, Eachchamooddai Chundikuli, Jaffna was abducted by a group of gunmen who came to his house and took him on 22.01.2007 early morning 12.30am. While he was taken the gunmen told to the inmates that he would be released after the investigation. Up to date no information about him.

20. Mr. Velautham Emil Pramittan, 17/2, Mathews Road, Jaffna was abducted by a group of gunmen who came to their house on 22.01.2007 around 1.30am. When the inmates shouted the neighbours came to the spot then the gunmen assaulted the neighbours and made the open fire and took him.

21. Mr. Kumaravelu Suthakaran , Thirunelvely East Thirunelvely was abducted by three gunmen who were wearing army uniform came to their house and searched the house, and took Mr. Kumaravelu Suthakaran on 21.01.2007 early morning 12.30am. When they took him they told that they would release him after the investigation, but up to date no message.

22. Mr. Kanapathippillai Kajendran, Chavakachcheri North, Chavakachcheri is working at Chandran Stores, Hospital Road, Jaffna. On 18.01.2007 in the morning he left the home to go to his working place and around 10.30 he informed to the complainant he was at Jaffna. On the following day complainant try to contact his son over the hand phone but it was continually off and at the moment no message about him.

23. Mr. Akamparam Jeyaruban ,Kaithady Centre Kaithady went to the shop at Kaithady Junction to buy some provisions on 20.01.2007 about 5.00pm, thereafter he has not returned to home.

24. Mr. Kundusamy Nagaraj, 187/5, Kilnar Lane, Jaffna was distributing the shot eats to the small hotels in Chavakachcheri, Nelliyady, Thirunelvely, Karainagar, Kayts, Velanai. On 21.01.2007 at 1.30pm he went to distribute the shot eats to his customers, thereafter he was missing.

25. Mr. Junith Rex Simsan, 16/5, Mathews Road, Jaffna was abducted on 23.01.2007 early morning around 1 o’clock when some gunmen came to their house.Complainant pointed out that on the previous day around 2.15pm around 35 army personnel came to their house and checked the house. Further army personnel checked all the documents of the inmates. Therefore the complainant is suspecting her son would have been taken by army.

26. Mr. Murugathasan Premsunthar, 8/1, Perumaal Kovilady, Jaffna is a businessman. On 20.01.2007 at 8.00am he left the home for his business purpose, thereafter he was missing.

27. Mr. Nadesalingam Rajkumar Goldsmiths Road, Sangaththanai, Chavakachcheri and his two other friends were arrested by the army personnel at Kerudavil Junction on 23.01.2007. Later his both friends were released by army. But he was not released up to date. According to his friends after they were taken to the Kanakampuliyady Army Camp both of them were released, and Mr. Nadesalingam Rajkumar was not released and he was being kept in the camp.

28. Mr. Sothirajah Mohanakanth, 80, Kachcheri Nallur Road, Jaffna was abducted on 25.01.2007 early morning around 1.15am some army soldiers came by troop’s carrier to their house and arrested Mr. Sothirajah Mohanakanth. When the inmates try to prevent the arrest they were assaulted by the army personnel and they damaged their house also.

29. Mr. Kandasamy Saseeskanna 42, Manipay Road, Jaffna was abducted on 25.01.2007 early morning around 1.15am some army soldiers came by troop’s carrier to his aunt’s house at No.80, Kachcheri Nallur Road, Jaffna and arrested him. When the inmates try to prevent the arrest they were assaulted by the army personnel and they damaged their house also.

30. Mr. Thiraviyanathan Thiraviyavendan, 312, Ukkulankulam, Vavuniya Presently No.80, Kachcheri Nallur Road, Jaffna was abducted on 25.01.2007 early morning around 1.15am some army soldiers came by troop’s carrier to their house and arrested her son Mr. Thiraviyanathan Thiraviyaventhan. When the inmates try to prevent the arrest they were assaulted by the army personnel and they damaged their house also.

31. Mr. Kanthasamy Chandrakumar Ward No. 4, Velanai East, Velanai was arrested by the Navy personnel on 24.01.2007 around 11.00am from his tailoring shop at Vangalady Junction, Velanai. When he was taken it was told that he would be handed over to the police.

32. Mr. Kangesan Mayooran, 108/7, Kachcheri Nallur Road, Jaffna left home to go to Commercial Bank on 24.01.2007 at 10.00am, thereafter he was missing.

33. Mr. Ponnaiyah Sureshkumar Vellaampokkaddy, Kodikamam, Jaffna was asked by the army officers attached to the Kodikamam army camp to report to the camp on 24.01.2007. Accordingly on 24.01.2007 about 9.30am he left home to go to camp thereafter he was missing.

34. Mr. Thampirajah Thamayanthan School Road, Anaikkoddai, Jaffna left home to visit his relative’s house in Nallur on 10.01.2007, thereafter he was missing. According to the relative he met her and left the home around 2.30pm.

35. Mr. Kandasamy Prabakar, Sarasalai North Chavakachcheri went to Colombo to getting driving licence on 05.07.2006 and he returned to Vavuniya and stayed there. At last on 01.01.2007 he contacted with the complainant over the phone, telling that he wants to return to Jaffna by ship. Thereafter he did not come and no message about him.

36. Mr. Balasubramaniyam Mathanaseelan Maavady, Samarabagu, Valvettithurai left home to attend a wedding of his relative’s on 28.01.2007 around 2.00pm, thereafter he was missing. Later she came to know that he was arrested by the army in Valvettithurai while he was waiting for the bus at the bus stand in Valvettithurai.

37. Mr. Sivarajah Sabesan Paththini Amman Kovilady, Kamparmallai, Valvettithurai, Jaffna left home to go to shop to buy bread on 28.01.2007 around 3.00pm, thereafter he was missing. Complainant came to known that he was shot by army, and arrested by them in Valvettithurai. Thereafter he was taken by army to the Oorani hospital for the treatment for the shooting injury

38. Mr. Yogarajah Mathanraj (26), No.17, New Sivan Road Nallur, Jaffna has been missing since 31.01.2007. He was arrested by Kotahena police on 29.01.2007 at about 5.30pm and was released by them on the next day at about 7.00pm, but he did not reach to his residence. Thereafter he was missing.

39. Mr. Markandu Vijeyasuresh 50/32, Koolavady, Koddady, Jaffna left home for his business purpose on 10.01.2007 around 8.00am, thereafter he was missing.

40. Mr. Ranganathan Ranchan 2nd Lane, Kalasalai Road, Thirunelvely, Jaffna left home on 02.02.2007 around 9:30 pm and thereafter he is missing.

41. Mr. Sellaiyah Surenthiran Mohanathas Veethy, Madduvil East, Chavakachcheri, Jaffna was taken to the camp and handed over him to the army officers. Later around 11.00am when his mother went to the Madaththady Camp she was told that her son was handed over to the Nunavil army camp. Then she went to the Nunavil army camp and was told that her son was not at that camp and ask the details at the Madaththady Army Camp. Thereafter on the same day evening she was told by the army officers at the Madaththady army camp that her son was escaped from their custody. Thereafter no message about him.

42. On 07.02.2007 early morning around 1 o’clock some gunmen broke in to their house and took Mr. Sinnaththurai Vijeyaruban (29). Complainant further pointed out that the gunmen came there by motorbikes.

43. Mr. Kiddinan Krishnarajah, Paththini Amman Kovilady, Valvetti, Valvettithurai, Jaffna was taken by army personnel who came to their house on 07.02.2007 early morning 2 o’clock. Now no message about him.

44. Mr. Jesudasan Jeyaratnam St. Nicolas Church, Navanthurai, Jaffna was stopped by the army personnel who were on duty at Pannai Checkpoint while he was on the way to Allaippiddy to collect the firewood on 07.02.2007 around 7.00am. A person named Mr. S. Baskaran who was accompanied with him informed to the complainant about the incident. At the same time another person also informed to the complainant that he had seen Mr. Jesudasan Jeyaratnam was involving some work with the army personnel at the Pannai Checkpoint around 1.00pm on the same day. When the complainant went to the Pannai Checkpoint and asked about her husband, she was told that her husband was released by them immediately in the morning. Now he is missing.

45. Mr. Vellaiyan Mohanachandran Kaithady North, Kaithady, Jaffna went to Siruppiddy in Neervely to buy some goods for his business purpose on 07.02.2007, thereafter he has not returned to home. While the complainant was searching her husband in Neervely and Puththur area she was told by some people in the Puththur area that on 07.02.2007 army arrested one person who was identified as a person from Kaithady.

46. Mr. Yohanathan Ramesh 9/1, Palam Road, Kantharmadam, Jaffna was working at Hello Trust. On 08.02.2007 around 6.00am he went to work, thereafter he has not returned home.

47. Mr. Sellaiyah Nicshan Mulli Road, Ariyalai, Jaffna was abducted by a group of gunmen who came by white van to their house on 09.02.2007 around 11.00pm.

48. Mr. Yoganathan Kapilan 24, Ramanathan Road, Nayanmarkaddu, Jaffna was abducted on 10.02.2007. Early morning at around 12.15am a group of gunmen came to their house by a van and took Mr. Yoganathan Kapilan. The gunmen were covering their faces with cloths leaving their eyes.

49. Mr. Saravanamuththu Ramanakumar Suthumalai North, Manipay, Jaffna left home as usual on 09.02.2007 around 4.00pm, thereafter he did not return home.

50. Mr. Joseph Thevakaran Kappanda Muham Chankanai was stopped by unknown gunmen at Kantharmadam on 10.02.2007 at about 9.00am while he was on the way to Mallakam with his wife and he was took by them in a white van.

51. Mr. Ariyanesan VijeyakumarSevvalavu, Chunnakam was abducted early morning around 1.00am . group of gunmen came to his aunt’s house at Kallarai, Mallakam on 10.02.2007.

52. Mr. Rajasingam Suresh No. 111, Mulli Road, Ariyalai, Jaffna was abducted by a group of gunmen from his house on 11.02.2007 early morning 1.00am. When the inmates begged them to release him the gunmen assaulted the inmates and took him.

53. Mr. Nagalingam YoganathanMayilankadu, Erlalai East, Erlalai was abducted On 11.02.2007 early morning around 3.55am a group of gunmen broke in to their house

54. Mr. Kanapathippillai Krishnapavan Periya Kadatkarai, Thondaimanaru has his house very closer to the Thondaimanaru army camp. They don’t stay there and staying some other place. On 11.02.2007 around 11.00am he went to his own house, which is very closer to the camp. Since he did not return to the home up to 4.00pm the complainant went to the house and found that the motorbike, which was used by him was in the house but he was not there. Now he is missing

55. Mr. Nagarajah Nadenthiran 211/132, Temple Road, Jaffna is an employee of Hello Trust. On 09.02.2007 around 7.15am he left home for work as usual, thereafter he did not return home. Up to now no message about him.

56. Mr. Patkunanathan Suhirthan 265, Kanagaratnam Road, Nayanmarkaddu, Nallur, Jaffna left home for his work on 13.02.2007 around 8.30am, thereafter he has not return back. The complainant came to know that he was stopped by the army personnel at Kaladdy Junction (near the Technical College).

57. Mr. Sabaratnam Sathees 595/14, Navalar Road, Nallur, Jaffna left home with his friend namely Mr. S. Subaskaran to go to bank on 13.02.2007 around 10.30am, thereafter he did not return home. The complainant came to know that he was stopped by the army personnel at Kaladdy Junction (near the Technical College).

58. Mr. Sanmugarasa Subaskaran ward no.5 Analaithevu left home with one of the EPDP member namely Kantheepan to settle some bank matters in Jaffna on 12.02.2007. After both reached to Jaffna on 13.02.2007 in the morning complainant’s husband went to his friend’s house in Nallur leaving EPDP member at their office.Thereafter both complainant’s husband and his friend namely Mr. Sabaratnam Sathees went to bank, thereafter no message about him. The complainant came to know that he was stopped by the army personnel at Kaladdy Junction (near the Technical College).

59. Mr. Thavarajah Ravivarman, College Road Point Pedro left home to go to hospital on 19.01.2007 at about 10.00am, but he did not return back. Thereafter he was missing.

60. Mr. Sanmuganathan Sujeevan Mooththa Thamby Lane, Manipay left home as usual on 06.02.2007 around 2.00pm, but he did not return home. Thereafter no message about him.

61. Mr. Subramaniam Ramachandran Thunnalai East, Karaveddy is an area reporter (Karaveddy area) of Thinakkural New Paper. On 15.02.2007 at about 6.45pm while he was on the way to his house with his friend, one unknown person stopped them near the Valliyanantham Pillaiyar Kovilady, Thunnalai and asked him to follow him. Accordingly he followed him, thereafter he was missing. Further complainant mentioned that according to the villages a white colour van was moving in that area at that time.

62. Mr. Selvaratnam Umasuthan Karaikkal Sivan Kovilady, Inuvil East, Inuvil was abducted by 4 unknown gunmen on 17.07.2007 who came to his carpentry shop around 10:30 am.

63. Mr. Pathinather Prasanna 21/3, New Road, Passaiyoor, Jaffna is a fish monger doing sales in the Kalviyankadu Market. As usual on 17.02.2007 at about 10.30am he went for work with fish loaded on his bicycle. Since he did not return to the home up to 2.00pm complainant had started inquiring about her husband. Later she came to know that army personnel came by troop’s carrier stopped two fish mongers along the road at Nayanmarkaddu at about 1.00pm and took them. Thereafter no message about him.

64. Mr. Anton Prabananth 21/4, New Road, Passaiyoor, Jaffna is a fish monger doing sales in the Kalviyankadu Market. As usual on 17.02.2007 at about 10.30am he went for work with fish loaded on his bicycle. Since he did not return home up to 2.00pm complainant had started inquiring about her son. Later she came to know that army personnel came by troop’s carrier stopped two fish mongers along the road at Nayanmarkaddu at about 1.00pm and took them. Thereafter no message about him.

65. Mr. Uthayasekaran Meharathan Meesalai North, Vembirai Kodikamam left home to go to shop to buy Samahan on 08.08.2006 around 12.00noon, but he did not return home. Thereafter he was missing.

66. Mr. Rajakili Vimalaruban Kulamankaal, Mallaham is working as a blacksmith at Mallakam Junction. He left home after the quarrel at his work place.Therefater he is missing.

67. Mr. Kirishnan Pathmasritharan Sinnamadu, Ward No.3, Puliyankoodal Kayts, Jaffna was missing after he was interrogated by the Navy personnel at Mariyamman Kovilady, Puliyankoodal, Velanai on 16.02.2007 around 3.00pm. The complainant has pointed out that some people had seen her husband Mr. Kirishnan Pathmasritharan when he was interrogated by Navy. She further mentioned that before this incident also several times her husband was interrogated by Navy. Thereafter no message about him.

68. Mr.Thangarasa Sivasubramaniyam Atchuvely South, Atchuvely, Jaffna was taken by three men who were wearing army uniform while they were staying at the complainant’s sister’s house at Avarangal Centre, Avarangal on 20.02.2007 around 10.45pm. Thereafter no message about him.

69. Mr. Emmanuvel Kenthira Viviyan 842 Hospital Road Jaffna and his friend Mr. David Arulnesan were taken by army personnel at Pannai Army checkpoint in front of Thuraiyappah stadium on 21.02.2007 around 10.15am, while they were on the way to Jaffna MPCS. Thereafter they were missing.

70. Mr. Visuvasam Amalan Raviraj St. Reetammal Church, Navatkiri Puththur, Jaffna was taken by the army personnel who were wearing army uniform came on motorbike while he was traveling on a bicycle along Rasa Veethy at Navatkiri in Atchuvely area on 20.02.2007 around 4.30pm. Thereafter no message about him.

71. Mr. Thiyagarajah Saran Avarangal East, Puththur Jaffna was arrested by the army personnel who came on four motorbikes to their house on 20.02.2007 around 8.45pm. Complainant has mentioned that initially army personnel came on two motorbikes and interrogated them later they talked to some other people in Sinhala over the phone thereafter some other army personnel came on two motorbikes. The army personnel came their house were wearing army uniform and they were talking in Sinhala and some time in irregular Tamil. The army personnel also assaulted her husband Mr. Thiyagarajah Saran while he was taken by them. Thereafter no message about him.

72. Mr. David Arulnesan Rasavinthoddam, Jaffna and his friend Mr. Emmanuvel Kenthira Viviyan were taken by army personnel at Pannai Army checkpoint in front of Thuraiyappah stadium on 21.02.2007 around 10.15am, while they were on the way to Jaffna MPCS. Thereafter they were missing.

73. Mr. Kesavan Jeyakumar Jamuna Road, Saddanathar Kovilady, Jaffna was taken by army personnel from his uncle’s house which is closer to his house on 23.02.2007 around 11.30pm. Thereafter army personnel brought him to their house and searched the promises. The army personnel were in army uniform and were talking in Sinhala among them and also were talking in irregular Tamil with the inmates.

74. Mr. Iyathurai Rathakrishnan Suthumalai South, Manipay Jaffna was abducted by a group of gunmen who came to their house on 24.02.2007 early morning 1 o’clock. The gunmen were covering their faces with black colour cloths leaving their eyes. While they took him it was told that he would be released after the interrogation.

75. Mr. Vijayaratnam Ahilraj 83/2, Arasady Road, Jaffna is working as a security guard at Commercial Bank in Jaffna Town. On 25.02.2007 he went to the bank, thereafter he has not returned home. Complainant came to know that he left the bank in order to buy the dinner from a hotel at Main Street, Jaffna. Thereafter he did not return to the bank.

76. Mr. Arulvasaham Sasikumar No. 23, Racca Road, Jaffna and complainant and their child went to Jaffna Teaching Hospital on 27.02.2007 around 10.30am. The complainant and her child entered in to the hospital at that time her husband was waiting for them outside the hospital. When complainant came outside the hospital after taking medicine for child her husband Mr. A. Sasikumar was not there and still he is missing.

77. Mr. Vithilingam Mahendran Kachchai South, Kodikamam was taken by army personnel who came there by troop’s carrier while he and his brother – in – law were collecting firewood at bushes in Vembirai area on 02.03.2007 around 11.00am. Now no message about him. According to the brother – in – law Mahendran’s motorbike also was taken by army.

78. Mr. Selvanayagam Rajan Alexsander 42, Somasundaram Avenue, Jaffna left home to buy some provisions at the groceries on 02.03.2007 around 4.00pm, thereafter he was missing. The complainant came to know that he was seen by some known persons, Rajan Alexsander was interrogated by the army at Mulavai Junction (At hospital road) point.

79. Mr. Balakrishnan Isaivaanan In front of Bank of Ceylon, Nelliyady, Karaveddy left home to attend the Tuition class on 01.03.2007, thereafter he was missing. His bicycle was found nearby Luxmi Mini Theatre.

80. Mr. Rasenthiram Meristelin Neervely South, Neervely, Jaffna left home for his work thereafter he did not return. When the complainant was seeking her son Mr. R. Meristelin it was told that he was arrested by the army personnel at Navatkiri and his bicycle also was at Navatkiri St. Treasa’s Church on 20.02.2007.

81. Mr. Eichithar Krishthopar No. 15/7, Eachchamooddai, Beach Road, Jaffna was abducted by a group of gunmen who came to their house by white colour van on 06.03.2007 about 12.30 am. Thereafter no message about him.

82. Mr. Sellamuthu Manokaran Kalvalai Road, Sandilipay, Jaffna was abducted by a group of gunmen who came to their house by white colour van on 05.03.2007 about 9.00 pm. Thereafter no message about him.

83. Mr. Velautham Krishnamohan, Viyaparimoolai, School Road, Point Pedro, Jaffna was taken by the army personnel from vegetable garden at Kamparmalai in Valvettithurai while he was working on 04.03.2007 around 7.00am. Thereafter no message about him.

84. Mr. Kandiah Selvakumar, Vaththanai, Puloly West, Puloly, Point Pedro, Jaffna was taken by the army personnel from vegetable garden at Kamparmalai in Valvettithurai while he was working on 04.03.2007 around 7.00am. Thereafter no message about him.

85. Mr. Kovintharasa Kirupaharan, Vaththanai, Puloly West, Puloly, Point Pedro, Jaffna was taken by the army personnel from vegetable garden at Kamparmalai in Valvettithurai while he was working on 04.03.2007 around 7.00am. Thereafter no message about him.

86. Mr. Thalayasingam Sutharsan, Alvai North, Viyaparimoolai, Point Pedro, Jaffna left home as usual on 04.03.2007 in the evening. Thereafter he has not returned home. On the following day morning one Mr. S. Kanagalingam came to the complainant’s house and gave all the identification documents of Mr. Thalayasingam Sutharsan and told that complainant’s husband was taken by the army personnel from his house on 04.03.2007 around 11.00pm. When the army personnel took him it was told to the Kanagalingam that to ask the complainant to visit the Point Pedro army camp with all the documents. Accordingly complainant went to the Point Pedro army camp and the army personnel at the camp refused the arrest of the complainant’s husband

87. Mr. Navaratnam Sivatharsan, Poovakkarai Puloly West, Point Pedro, Jaffna left home as usual on 04.03.2007 in the evening. Thereafter he has not returned home. On the following day morning one Mr. S. Kanagalingam came to the complainant’s house and gave all the identification documents of Mr. Navaratnam Sivatharsan and told that complainant’s son was taken by the army personnel from his house on 04.03.2007 around 11.00pm. When the army personnel took him it was told to the Kanagalingam that to ask the complainant to visit the Point Pedro army camp with all the documents. Accordingly complainant went to the Point Pedro army camp and the army personnel at the camp refused the arrest of the complainant’s son.

88. Mr. Thankavadivel Kajan, Near the Ranjana Theatre, Valvettithurai, Jaffna was arrested by army personnel at Kerudavil Road in Valvettithurai on 06.03.2007 around 10.00pm and he was taken by troops carrier. Thereafter no message about him. Already he was arrested by the army personnel on 04.02.2007 and was released on a condition to report the Valvettithurai army camp once in a week. Accordingly he was reporting to the camp.

89. Mr. Nadanasigamani Vasantharasan Aalady Welfare Centre, Uduvil, Jaffna was abducted by a group of gunmen who came by a white colour van while he was at his mother’s house at Sinthu Welfare Centre in Manipay on 08.03.2007 around 2.00 pm when complainant try to prevent the abduction she was assaulted by the gunmen.

90. Mr. Nadarajah Thayarupan, No. 10, Killar Lane, Jaffna is working as a ticket collector at a cycle park in Jaffna Town on 08.03.2007. After the work he went to his friend’s house to attend the birthday party around 5.00pm. According to the friend he left from the birthday house around 7.00pm. But he did not reach to the house on the same day. On the following day when complainant was searching him, complainant saw that the bicycle, which was used by Nadarajah Thayarupan, was parked at the Thaddartheru Junction army point. Therefore the complainant is convinced that her son was arrested by the army personnel who was attached the particular point.

91. Mr. Natkunam Navaneethan, Nariyiddan, Mallakam, Jaffna went to the Bank at Chunnakam Junction on 08.03.2007 around 11.00am. Thereafter he has not returned home.

92. Mr. Sinnarasa Mayooran, Kanthijee Community Centre, Kokkuvil West, Kokkuvil, Jaffna went to Navaly to collect the firewood on 06.03.2007 around 10.00am, thereafter he was missing.

93. Mr. Mayalaku Kumutharaj, No. 460, Kandy Road, Ariyalai, Jaffna was abducted by a group of gunmen who broke in to their house on 10.03.2007 at 12.10am. Further the complainant also was assaulted by the gunmen.

94. Mr. Amirthalingam Alaheswaran No. 119, Nedunkulam, Ariyalai, Jaffna was abducted by a group of gunmen broke in to their house and took Mr. Amirthalingam Alaheswaran on 10.03.2007 about 1.40am. Thereafter no message about him.

95. Mr. Jesuthasan Jeyasuthan, Mathar Lane, Manipay, Jaffna was abducted by group of gunmen from his house on 11.03.2007 early morning at 4.30am. Thereafter no message about him. Complainant further pointed out that on 11.03.2007 around 4.30am, army personal came to their house and checked all the documents and left home.

96. Mr. Paramasamy Vivaharan, Annankai, Urumpirai West, Urumpirai, Jaffna was abducted by a group of gunmen who came to their house by white colour van on 11.03.2007 about 4.30 am. Thereafter no message about him.

97. Mr. Thevathas Kristipirasanna, No. 132, Temple Road, Nallur, Jaffna went to Jaffna town on 10.03.2007around 11.00am. Thereafter he was missing.

98. Mr. Balasingam Thusiyendran, No. 65, Sivan Road, Thirunelvely, Jaffna went to Jaffna town to give an amount of money to one of his known persons on 10.03.2007 around 11.00 am. Thereafter he was missing.

99. Mr. Apthulsalam Suvaiptheen, Kulamangal, Mallakam, Jaffna went to Jaffna Teaching Hospital on 12.03.2007 around 9.00am. Thereafter he was missing. 100. Mr. Sivagnanam Sabeesan No. 336, Kasthuriyar Road, Jaffna went to Jaffna town on 14.03.2007 around 8.30am. Thereafter he was missing. One of the known persons to the complainant informed her, that her brother was interrogated by the army at Stanely Road, Check Point (in front of the Petrol shed) on the same day morning around 8.30am. Thereafter no message about him.

101. Mr. Thiraviyam Susikumar Muththumariamman Kovilady, Alvai North, Alvai, Jaffna went to small hotel to buy breakfast on 14.03.2007 around 7.00am. Thereafter he was missing. The complainant further mentioned that Navalady army camp is closer to the hotel and while he was searching her husband she saw that one army soldier was taking her husband’s motorbike in to the Navalady army camp. Therefore she is convinced that her husband was taken by the army.

102. Mr. Muthulingam Malaravan, No. 29, Thuraiyappah Lane, Eachamooddai, Jaffna was taken by army personnel who came to their house on 17.03.2007 early morning 12.20am. The complainant specially pointed out that she was able to identify one of the army soldiers who were on duty on the road regularly. Further complainant mentioned that on the same day morning around 7.15 four soldiers came to their house and took the mobile phone of Mr. M. Malaravan. Now no message about him.

103. Mr. Kopalappillai Rameshthasan, 3rd Mile Post, Anaikkoddai, Jaffna went to his mother’s house in Velanai on 18.03.2007 around 11.00am and he left his mother’s house around 4.00pm on the same day but he has not reached to his house. Now he is missing.

104. Mr. Vicneswararasa Suthasharan, Veerakodiyar, went to Jaffna Town on his motorbike (No. NP HH 9468) on 18.03.2007, thereafter he was missing. Complainant came to know that he was interrogated by the army personnel and was arrested at Punkankulam vegetable market.

105. Mr. Thavarasa Nivarsan, 2nd Lane, Madduvil South, Chavakachcheri, Jaffna went to Jaffna Town on his motorbike (No. NP HH 9468) on 18.03.2007, thereafter he was missing. Complainant came to know that he was interrogated by the army personnel and was arrested at Punkankulam vegetable market. He is a student of Chavakachcheri Hindu College and he sat the O/L examination in last year and he is waiting for the result.

106. Mr. Anantharasa Anton Mariya Gnanarasa Nadukkudaththanai North, Kudaththanai, Jaffna is a fisherman and he is fishing with his known person at Point Pedro. Normally he is staying at Point Pedro for his work and going to home once in a week. On 14.03.2007 around 4.00pm he left Point Pedro to go to his house but he has not reached to home. Complainant came to know that he was arrested by army personnel in Point Pedro on 14.03.2007 and was taken by troop’s carrier. Now no message about him.

107. Mr. Makalingam Baskaran Tholpuram West, Kalaivany Road, Chulipuram, Jaffna was abducted by a group of gunmen came to their house and abducted Mr. Makalingam Baskaran on 20.03.2007 around 11.00pm, thereafter the gunmen brought him to his house around 1.00am on the following day and checked the house and returned. Now no message about  him.

108. Mr. Joseph Manivannan, St. Mary’s Road, Navanthurai North, Jaffna went to Colombo on 12.07.2006 and he contacted with his family over the phone. At last he talked to his family on 29.12.2006 and told that he will come to the Jaffna on 31.12.2006 by flight. Thereafter he did not return to Jaffna and he did not contact with his family. Later on 02.01.2007 the complainant was informed by their known person over the phone that her husband was abducted by some unknown persons in Colombo. Now no message about him.

109. Mr. Nirmalanathan Mayooran 134, Bankshall Road, Jaffna, was abducted by Four gunmen came on two motorbikes to their house and abducted him on 23.03.2007 around 12.10 afternoon, thereafter he was brought by the same group to their village several times. At the same time on the following day one of the known persons to the complainant had seen Mr. Nirmalanathan Mayooran was taken by four gunmen on two motorbikes towards to Mandaithevu through Pannai Checkpoint. Now no message about him.

110. Mr. Sinnathurai Theivendrarajah, Puloly South, Puloly Point Pedro was missing since 09.09.2006 in Colombo 13. According to the complainant her husband was abducted by unknown gunmen at his residence (Colombo – 13) 0n 09.09.2006. On the same day They lodged a complainant at Kottanchenai Police Station regarding his missing but up to date no message about him.

111. Mr. Sivanathan Mathivathanan, Ward No. 6, Punguduthevu, Jaffna and his friend Mr. Nadarasa Vimaleswaran (27) went on a motorbike (No. NP MR 2098) to his relative’s house in Punguduthevu on 22.03.2007 and both of them left from Punguduthevu but they have not reached to their house. Complainant went to Punguduthevu and asked the Navy personnel who were on duty at the Punguduthevu entrance point about her husband and was told that her husband and his friend passed that checkpoint on 22.03.2007 around 5.30pm. Now both them are reported missing.

112. Mr. Nadarasa Vimaleswaran , Ward No. 8, Madaththuvely, Punguduthevu, Jaffna and his friend Mr. Nadarasa Vimaleswaran (27) went on a motorbike (No. NP MR 2098) to his relative’s house in Punguduthevu on 22.03.2007 and both of them left from Punguduthevu but they have not reached to their house. Complainant went to Punguduthevu and asked the Navy personnel who were on duty at the Punguduthevu entrance point about her husband and was told that her husband and his friend passed that checkpoint on 22.03.2007 around 5.30 pm. Now both them are reported missing.

113. Mr. Ludchumanan Nishanthan , 204, Navalar Road, Jaffna left home to go to his friend’s house at Nallur on 27.03.2007. Then the complainant came to know that her son was interrogated by army at Arasady checkpoint and was taken by them on his van. Immediately the complainant went to the camp and asked about her son and was told by the army personnel that he was released after the investigation. Thereafter he was missing.

114. Mr. Sinnathurai Rajendra,30/8, Ilanthaikkulam Road, Columbuthurai, Jaffna left from home to Madathady shop at 6.00 am on 25.03.2007 thereafter he has not returned home. Still he is missing.

115. Mr. Sivalingam Indran, Annasilaiyady, Karanavai South, Karaveddy, Jaffna left home at 9.00am on 21.03.2007 by mine bus from Karanavai to Jaffna. He has promised her wife that he would return home within two days. But up to date he has not returned home.

116. Mr. Jeya Jeyathileepan, 981, Valanpuram, Columbuthurai, Jaffna, was missing since 30.03.2007. On the same day her daughter Miss. J. Mythili (18) has seen her brother Jeya Jeyathileepan at Eachchamoddai Street, Maravankulam Junction army checkpoint. They expected Mr. Jeya Jegaseelan to be returned home on the same day from that checkpoint. But thereafter he has not returned home.

117. Mr. Sinnakkandu Jegaseelan, 162, Main Road, Jaffna, left home at 8.00 am on 31.03.2007 to obtain clearance from the army camp Colombuthurai has not returned home up to date. On the same day the complainant originated a telephone call to her husband but he did not answer the telephone and somebody else answered. Again complainant telephoned to her husband and he told her that he could return home within another half an hour. The persons whom talked to her over the phone told her that her husband was in the custody of police due a fight between some boys. Again that person told her that her husband was in a shop at the Town. Due to the contradiction statements of the unknown person the complainant is fully upset over this case.

118. Mr. Francis Sekar Kamiltan, 43, 1st lane, New Street Koiyathoddam, Jaffana has been abducted by unknown militants who came to his house in a white van on 02.04.2007 in early morning 2.45am.

119. Mr. Balaiyah Balachandran No.10, Sebastian Lane, Pasaiyoor, Jaffna has been abducted by unknown militant at 11.30pm on 01.04.2007. Thereafter no message about him.

120. Mr. Gnanaseelan Ravi 78 Gurusolt Road Chundikuli, Jaffna has left for work at 7.00 am on 09/04/2007 and has not returned to home yet.

121. Mr. Perera Priyanthan, Ward No 10, Delft Centre, Delft is missing from 24.03.2007. Complainant further states that her husband left home on 24/03/2007 and traveled by Kumuthini Boat to Jaffna. He used to travel to Jaffna for Dry fish Business.

122. Mr.Rajendram Uthayakumar No. 300, Housing Scheme Navatkuli Junction, Kaithady, Jaffna was abducted by unknown persons on 09.04.2007 midnight 12.00. He has not been released up to date.

123. Mr. Rajendran Uthayakumar25/2, Old Park Road, Koiyathoddam, Jaffna was arrested by army on 09.04.2007 midnight 12 O’ clock and not yet released by the army concerned. Complainant confirms that the persons arrested his son Mr. Rajendran Uthayakumar was in the military uniform.

124. Mr. Selvarajah Muhunthan Potpathy Kudathanai, Point Pedro was arrested by army at Kottawattai, Point Pedro on 03.04.2007 and not yet released. Now no message about him.

125. Mr. Gopalasamy Kosalan, No. 40, Suwamiyar Veethy, Columbuthurai, Jaffna has been abducted by three unknown militants who came in a motorbike on 13.04.2007 at 5.30 pm. Further complainant states that she has seen her son at about 9.00am on 20.04.2007 at Chundikuli check point. Now no message about him.

126. Mr. Pathinathar Christin Gnanaruban, Gnaneswaram, Alavetti, Jaffna was arrested by army at Kantharodai, Chunnakam on 10.04.2007 at 5.00pm. Now no message about him.

127. Mr. Vinayagamoorthy Nimalathasan, Meesalai East, Meesalai, Jaffna is missing since 10.04.2007. Complainant further states her son Mr. V. Nimalathasan. went to the shop near her house at 8.00am and he has not returned home thereafter.

128. Mr. Balasubramaniam. Thinarupan Vaddukoddai East, Sithankerny has been abducted by unknown persons who came in white colour van to his carpentry shop on 07.04.2007 at 11.00 am.

129. Mr. Sivapalendran Sivaruban ,Mathakovilady, Alvai Presently Kurumankadu, Vavuniay is working as a lorry driver in Kurumankadu, Vavuniya. He is missing from 20.04.2007. Further the complainant states that her son Mr. S. Sivaruban was abducted by EPDP members on 20.04.2007 in Vavuniya.

130. Mr. Kanthasamy Purusoththaman, Poovatkarai, Puloly West, Point Pedro is a Technical College student. He left home to go to Technical College on 23.04.2007 around 6.00 am. Thereafter he has not returned back.

131. Mr. Theivendran Piratheepan ,Kulappiddi Lane, Kokkuvil East, Kokkuvil has been arrested by army at Saththira Junction – Jaffna on 27.04.2007 and he has not been released yet. The motor bicycle of the missing person has been taken away by the Jaffna Police.

132. Mr. Rasalingam Rasaratnam , No. 76, Palaly Road, Jaffna He has been arrested by army at Saththira Junction at Jaffna on 27.04.2007. Complainant further states her husband went to Jaffna by motor bicycle owned by her husband no. HN NP – 5994.

133. Mr. Sellar Thuraisingam Saravanai West, Velanai was abducted by unknown

persons wearing black uniform on 30.05.2007 at 11.00 pm.

134. Mr. Masilamany Raveendran Satkoddai, Alvai North, Alvai left for Ilavalai on 27.05.2007 has not yet returned home. Complainant further states that her son Mr. Masilamany Raveendran left to Ilavalai to see his relations.

135. Mr. Sebastiampillai Jeyaseelan 19/2 Park Road, Gurunagar, Jaffna left for Alaveddi on 05.06.2007 has not returned to home yet.

136. Mr. Mathiyaparanam Pradeepan 5/1, A. V. Road, Columbuthurai, Jaffna is a conductor attached to CTB Jaffna Branch went for official work on 07.06.2007 around 8.00 am thereafter he has not returned to home up to date. At last, he and Mr. Sivapathasuntharam Sivakumar is a Postman left to Jaffna from Kurikadduvan in Punkuduthevu. At Punkuduthevu – Jaffna Road in a place nearly 1km distance either side people were stopped and told that there was a cordon and search operation was taken place but these two were allowed to enter in to this 1km area. Thereafter both are missing. Therefore, it is alleged that he was arrested by Navy in Punkuduthevu.

137. Mr. Sivapathasuntharam Sivakumar, Ward 7, Keerathevu, Punkuduthevu is a Postman attached to Punkuduthevu Post Office who went for official work on 07.06.2007 has not returned to home up to date. At last, he and M. Pradeepan is a CTB bus contactor left to Jaffna from Kurikadduvan in Punkuduthevu. At Punkuduthevu – Jaffna Road in a place nearly 1km distance either side people were stopped and told that there was a cordon and search operation was taken place but these two were allowed to enter in to this 1km area. Thereafter both are missing. Therefore, it is alleged that he was arrested by Navy in Punkuduthevu.

138. Mr. Sivagurunathan Majuran, Meesalai North, Meesalai left home on 11.06.2007 at 5.15 pm has not returned to home.

139. Mr. Rabial Nicholas Ward No. 3, Naranthanai South, Kayts went to Velanai for work on 10.06.2007 has not yet returned to home.

140. Mr. Rasenthiram Thavarasa Sempadu, Manthuvil West, Kodikamam has been arrested by army on 13.06.2007 at 10.00am. This has been reported already to Army Head Quarters. Altogether five persons were arrested on the same day.

141. Mr. Nagaratnam Mohanan, Manthuvil West Kodikamam was arrested by army patrol troop on 13.06.2007.Thereafter he did not return.

142. Mr. Kumarakulasingam Tharshikan, Manthuvil West Kodikamam was arrested by army in front of his house on 13.06.2007

143. Mr. Selvarasa Sathees , Sarasalai North, Sarasalai left home to go to shop on 13.06.2007 has not returned to home. According to the complainant he was arrested by army.

144. Mr. Varnakulasingam Varnakanthan , Sarasalai North Konavalai was arrested by army on 13.06.2007.

145. Mr. Amirthanan Rock Frankilin 18, St. Patrick’s Road, Gurunagar, Jaffna was missing since 16.06.2007.

146. Mr. Paththalomis John Jim Brown 32, Gurunagar Flats, Beach Road, Jaffna went to the General Hospital, Jaffna at 2.00pm on 16.06.2007 has not yet returned to home.

147. Mr. Francis Prakash 14/1, Addappan Veethy, Jaffna was missing since 10.06.2007

148. Mr. Subramaniam Thiyagarajah,Urumpirai North,Urumpirai was missing in Vavuniya since 11.05.2007

149. Mr. Sivalingam IndralingamSakkoddai, Alvai North Centre, Alvai was arrested by police in Colombo (Ramanathan Lodge, Kottahena) on 28.05.2007.

150. Mr. Kasipilla i Thayaparan 10/10, Sivan Temple Road, Thirunelvely South, Jaffna went to take photograph for a Birthday celebration on 15.12.2006 has not yet returned to home.

151. Mr. Nadarasa Jegatheeswaran Inuvil West, Inuvil left home for work on 21.06.2007 has not yet returned to home.

152. Mr. Navaradnarasa Ketheeswaran Manthuvil West Manthuvil, Kodikamam went to army camp in order to report, as he was ordered by Army, on 16.06.2007 around 7.00 am. He has not yet retuned to home.

153. Mr. Vadivel Raveenthiran Solaiamman Kovil, Meesalai North, Chavakachchery went for work on 23.06.2007 has not returned to home. Complainant further states that her husband Mr. V. Raveenthiran was ordered by Chavakachchery post office camp army to visit daily and sign at their camp.

154. Mr. Sinnathamby Sivanthan Solaiamman Kovil, Meesalai North, Chavakachchery went for work on 23.06.2007 has not returned to home. Complainant further states that her husband Mr. Sinnathamby Sivanthan used to go to Chavakachchery post office army camp to sign on Saturday.

155. Mr. Krishnapillai Kannathasan,Kantha Udaiyar Lane,Puloly Centre,Puloly Presently : Kottahena, Colombo – 12 was abducted by unknown persons in a white van at his residence (Kottahena, Colombo- 12) on 08.09.2006.

156. Mr. Appiah Mahendrarajah Kopay Centre, Mariyamman Veethy, Kopay has been abducted by unknown armed person on 26.06.2007 at 7.00pm.

157. Subramanium Ramachandran has been missing since 15 February 2007, Vadamarachchi reporter for Tamil language dailies Yal Thinakkural and Valampuri;– ‘Army said to be holding Tamil journalist who went missing five weeks ago’, 23 March 2007,http://www.rsf.org/print.php3?id_ article=21420

158. Ms. Anjani Robert Lessia from Naaranthanai in Kyats disappeared in Tricomalee on 13 April 2007; Sivasami Raku from Velanai disappeared on 19 April 2007;– Woman missing in Trincomalee, The Tamil Net, 14 May 2007

159. Rasenthiram Thavarasa disappeared from Manthuvil area in Thenmaraadchi on 13 June 2007 and Kumarasamy Sivanesan from Arasady disappeared after he reported to Sri Lanka Army (SLA) camp 29 July 2007;– Missing civilian reported detained in SLA Varani camp, The Tamil Net, 23 June 2007

160. Vadivel Nirmalarajan, a proofreader with the Uthayan newspaper has been reported missing since 17 November 2007; and Denis from Rajasingham Veethi who went missing from Kurunakar in Jaffna town on 18 September 2007.—2 civilians seek HRC protection, One missing in Jaffna, The Tamil Net, 21 September 2007

161. On 5 May 2007, four students identified as R. Ramanendran (18), Suntharalingam Yasotharan (17) and Nagarajah Venukanthan (18), all students of Jaffna Hindu College, and Kugarajan Kannan (17) of St. John’s College were reportedly abducted by armed men in Jaffna district:– Number of Jaffna students abducted Friday rises to four, TamilNet, 7 May 2007

Torture

1. On 21 July 2007, fisherman Thadallage Chamil Weerasena, resident of No. 25, Katupolwatte, Panwila, Ratgama, was tortured to death in custody of the Ratgama police after arrest:- Asian Human Rights Commission: Urgent Appeal, available with:

http://www.ahrchk. net/ua/mainfile.php/2007/2519/

2.On 27 May 2007, two alleged suspects identified as E. A. Amaradasa and his brother E.A. Upasena were shot dead by a police team after they were allegedly taken to a house in Delgoda where the police claimed that the suspects had hidden weapons;- Cops and killers: Who reigns? The Sunday Times, 27 May 2007

3.Rev. Nallathamby Gnanaseelan, (38, pastor of Tamil Mission Church in Jaffna) was allegedly shot dead by Sri Lankan security forces at the road block at Library junction, Wembedy School Road, Jaffna on 13 January 2007;- Asian Human Rights Commission, Sri Lanka: A brutal killing of a pastor by the security forces in Jaffna, available at: http://www. ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2007/2179/

4. Sinnathurai Sujijeyanthiran who was allegedly killed by Sri Lanka Army (SLA) when he entered the SLA Front Defence Line area at Senthaankulam after losing his way on 29 May 2007;- SLA shoots dead youth in Palaali, Tamil Net, 1 May 2007

5. Fishermen Gnanaruban Rutson and Robert Thevathas who were shot dead by the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) in Kayts on 18 May 2007 as alleged LTTE suspects;- SLN shoots dead two fishermen in Kayts, TamilNet, 19 May 2007

6. Sakathevan Dilaxsan (24) who was allegedly shot dead by the army intelligence at Kokuvil in Jaffna on 1 August 2007;- Asian Human Rights Commission, Further list of victims of extrajudicial killings, disappearance, available at: http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2007/2581/

7. Thanikasalam Sasiruban, (24) who was allegedly followed by Army intelligence and shot dead at Thirunelvely Tharankavil Pillaiyar Muhamavady Junction in Jaffna on 2 August 2007;- Asian Human Rights Commission, Further list of victims of extrajudicial killings, disappearance, available at: http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2007/2581/

8. S.Sasikaran (26) who was allegedly shot dead by the army at Maddu in Kalavai Batticaloa on 4 August 2007;- Asian Human Rights Commission, Further list of victims of extrajudicial killings, disappearance, available at: http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2007/2581/

9. On 29 May 2007, 56-year-old woman Meyyaappillai Alaku was killed when two SLAF aircraft bombed Puthukkudiyiruppu in Mullaiththeevu;- Civilian killed, 2 wounded in SLAF air strike, TamilNet, 30 May 2007

10.On13August2007,Ariyaratnam Subajini (21, resident of Karumpulliyan Mallavi, Mullaitivu) was allegedly killed during an air strike by the air force while in a passenger bus

at Nedunkerny Katkulam in Vavuniya;- Asian Human Rights Commission, Further list of victims of extrajudicial killings, disappearance, available at: http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2007/2581/

(Conclusion)

[1st initiative – open appeal to President Rajapaksa, below]

Platform of Concerned South Asians

An Open Appeal from Concerned South Asians to the President of Sri Lanka

13 April 2009

 

To

Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa

His Excellency the President

of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka,

Presidential Secretariat,

Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Fax – 0094 11 2333703

E-mail – priu@presidentsoffice.lk

 

Your Excellency,

Sub.: Declaration of a Humanitarian Truce in the Vanni region of Sri Lanka – Offer of South Asian Concerned Citizens of support by monitoring truce and building confidence

We, representing a large collective of concerned citizens from South Asia have time and again voiced our serious concerns on the evolving humanitarian tragedy in the Vanni due to the raging conflict between the Sri Lankan security forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). We wish to first record our appreciation and support to the offer of a humanitarian truce in the conflict during the two days 13– 14 April, 2009 as declared by Your Excellency.

We firmly believe the LTTE who previously said they would welcome a respite in the conflict, would accept and adhere to Your Excellency’s present call for a truce. The humanitarian truce as called by Your Government needs to be utilised as an opportunity to develop confidence among the innocent civilians caught in the conflict to feel they are truly the main concern in this truce. They need to feel they have some independent persons to whom they could turn to for assistance, outside the two contenders to the conflict. This was not given due importance in the previous suspensions of hostilities by your security forces and thus there was no trust that the suspensions were in fact to allow civilians to move to places of their choice, away from the conflict.

We therefore firmly believe and propose that Your Excellency would this time,

1. make this declared truce a worthy effort in developing trust and confidence among the Tamil civilians

2. allow for independent supervision of the truce, so that no side would be able to blame each other for violating the truce and obstruct civilians of safe passage from moving out of the conflict zones.

We do believe, as noted by both the UN Secretary General and the British Foreign

Secretary that this truce declared by Your Excellency would need a longer period of time to have the desired effect of opening up opportunities for a sustainable and enduring peace.

Nonetheless, now that your government has taken the first step in declaring a truce

on the eve of the Sinhala and Hindu New Year, which is symbolic of peace and well

being for all the citizens of Sri Lanka, we as South Asians who have many common

historical bonds between us and Sri Lanka, wish to offer our resources in supervising

the truce to make it a truly humanitarian effort.

As Your Excellency would note, we have listed below a group of eminent South

Asian personalities who endorse both the truce and the offer of mediating the truce to

effect confidence building and making it a practical reality for the affected civilians.

The victims of the war are in dire need of food, medicine, sanitary facilities, shelter

and other basic humanitarian facilities and need to recover from the tragic ordeal they have been pushed into.

In order to request the support of all Members of the SAARC for this truce declared by Your Excellency, we take this opportunity to copy the same to all Heads of State in South Asia.

We would also copy same to the South Asian media so as to give Your Excellency’s declaration of a humanitarian truce its required recognition.

Meanwhile, accepting the importance of this matter, we would expect Your

Excellency to respond positively and with urgency, so that we could immediately

name our members and arrange for logistics required to take over responsibility of overseeing the truce.

We firmly believe and wish Your Excellency would not let this opportunity pass.

 

Appeal is jointly issued on behalf of:

K.G. Kannabiran, National President, PUCL, Hyderabad;

Justice Rajinder Sachar, former chief Justice, Delhi High Court,

Arundhati Roy, Writer & Author, New Delhi,

Pushkar Raj, General Secretary, PUCL;

Pamela Philipose, Women’s Feature Service;

Swami Agnivesh, New Delhi,

Prof. Amit Bhaduri, Professor Emeritus, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi,

Rt Rev. P J Lawrence, Bishop of Church of South India, Diocese of Nandyal,

Praful Bidwai, Columnist, New Delhi,

Sumit Chakravorty, Editor, Mainstream Weekly, New Delhi;

Tapan Bose, New Delhi;

Rita Manchanda, South Asia Forum for Human Rights, Nepal;

Prof Kamal Mitra Chenoy, School of International Studies and President, JNU Teachers Association, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi;

Ernest Deenadayalan, Bangalore;

Pradip Prabhu, Kashtakari Sanghatana, Dahanu/Mumbai;

Prashant Bhushan Advocate, Supreme Court, New Delhi,

M.G. Devasahayam IAS (Retd), Chennai,

Sukumar Murlidharan, Journalist, New Delhi,

Rev. Dhyanchand Carr, Madurai,

Henri Tiphagne, People’s Watch, Madurai,

MSS Pandian, Chennai,

V. Suresh, President, PUCL-Tamil Nadu & Pondicherry.

D. Nagasaila, Advocate, Chennai,

Sushil Pyakurel, Former Commissioner, Human Rights Commission of Nepal, Kathmandu,

Mubashir Hasan, Lahore, Pakistan, and others

 

Copy of the Appeal endorsed to:

Office of Prime Minister of India: manmohan@sansad.nic.in

President’s Secretariat, Pakistan; secretary.general@president.gov.pk

PM’s office – Bangladesh ; info@pmo.gov.bd

PM’s office – Nepal ; info@opmcm.gov.np

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanetham Pillay; press-info@ohchr.org

SAARC Information Centre; info@saarc-sic.org

UN Secretary General’s Office; petit@un.org

Platform of Concerned South Asians

Contact Persons

Dr. V. Suresh, Hussaina Manzil, 255, Angappa Naicken Street, Chennai 600 001

Phone: 0091-44-25352459; +91-44-42621386; +91-94442-31497.

Ravi Hemadri, The Other Media, B5/136, I Floor, Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi.

Tel: 91-11-26195534/35/ 26105472 Fax: 91-11-26195536, +91-9871415186.

Channel 4 Video: Fresh claims over Tamil casualties

By Jonathan Miller

A doctor working with injured and displaced Tamils in northern Sri Lanka tells Channel 4 News that there may be as many as 20,000 amputees among those who fled last month's routing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Eyewitnesses interviewed during a week-long undercover investigation for Channel 4 News, told of thousands of civilian deaths as government forces advanced on the Tigers' final stronghold.

The deaths, they said, were the result of government shelling.

The Sri Lankan president and senior government ministers have repeatedly denied causing a single civilian death in what the government had desginated a "no-fire zone."

International aid agencies believe as many as 100,000 civilians may have been trapped inside, under a fierce bombardment.

"I think every day a thousand people were killed," one of the very last to escape the tiny enclave told us. He was referring to the final two weeks of the conflict, during which the Sri Lankan government claimed not to have used heavy artillery.

"There were continuous shelling attacks," said the eyewitness. We have verified his identity as a man in a position of authority, but we are unable to reveal it.

Members of Sri Lanka's ethnic Sinhalese majority also expressed deep misgivings about the fate of the island's Tamil minority now that the Tamil Tigers have been so decisively defeated. Despite severe restrictions on access to camps for displaced civilians, evidence is emerging of maltreatment, despite a promise made by President Mahinda Rajapakse in his "victory speech" to Sri Lanka's parliament.

Speaking in the Tamil language, the president promised equal rights for Tamils and took "personal responsibility" for protecting them.

"Our heroic forces," he said, "have sacrificed their lives to protect Tamil civilians." A senior Roman Catholic priest, who has worked with the displaced in the heavily militarised northern town of Vavuniya, said the triumphalism of Sinhalese was "very sad" to witness.

"There is no one to represent the aspirations of the Tamil community," he said. "They have a very uncertain future. It means they will live as a subjugated community, like under a foreign ruler."

One of the few senior members of the Tamil Tigers to have survived, Selvarasa Pathmanathan, its head of international relations, said yesterday that the rebels' struggle for a separate Tamil homeland would now continue from exile.

"The legitimate campaign of the Tamils to realise their right to self-determination has been brutally crushed through military aggression," said a statement, released from an unspecified location. Sri Lankans expressing concerns about the welfare and treatment of Tamil civilians -- or questioning the army's version of its final assault on the Tamil Tigers -- are branded unpatriotic, even traitorous.

Dr Wickramabahu Karunarathne, a left-wing politician and one of the few dissident voices in the Sinhalese community said: "The state media, every day, radio, papers, they classify us as traitors and they are rousing people against us."

Dr Karunarathne was the only interviewee prepared to talk openly on camera without having his face obscured and voice changed. One prominent Sinhalese journalist, Podala Jayantha, who had campaigned for greater media freedom, was abducted and severely beaten by unknown assailants, two weeks ago.

Amnesty International says that since 2006, 16 Sri Lankan journalists have been murdered, 26 assaulted, and many more detained. Foreign journalists have had their movements severely restricted and last month, our own accredited Asia Correspondent Nick Paton Walsh was deported.

Journalists and all independent observers were banned from the no-fire zone, during and after the fighting, so no independent assessments have been made of government claims not to have killed civilians. It has blamed any deaths on the rebels.

Journalists have also been unable to enter the hospital in Vavuniya, where thousands of wounded civilians are being treated. Channel 4 News successfully smuggled a small camera into Vavuniya and interviewed a Tamil doctor there.

"It is most sure that the numbers without limbs are over 20,000. Most of the injuries causing loss of limbs were from shelling," he said. The doctor alleged that conditions in the camps for displaced people around Vavuniya, are poor and that malnutrition and disease are rife.

"We were all gathered together recently by the government and we were told that if we told the figures of the sick and why people are dying to the foreign NGOs that we will be killed for doing this." [courtesy: Channel 4 UK]

June 16, 2009

International Commission of Jurists urges Sri Lanka to comply with laws and treaties

The International Commission of Jurists says the Sri Lanka Government is in breach of the Geneva Convention in its treatment of displaced Tamils held in government-run camps.

Almost 300-thousand Tamils have been displaced since the Sri Lankan military defeated the rebel Tamil Tigers in May. Thousands of former fighters are thought to be held but their whereabouts and fate is unknown. Foreign governments are being urged to pressure Colombo to allow independent aid agencies into the camps and observe the Geneva Conventions that relate to prisoners of war.

"If Sri Lanka wants to be treated seriously internationally and in the former British Commonwealth. It needs to comply with the laws and treaties."

[click here to listen mp3 audio]

[Presenter: Karon Snowdon
Speaker: John Dowd, President of the Australian section of the International Commission of Jurists, a former Attorney General and Supreme Court judge]

DOWD: As a member of the Commonwealth, it has a very high obligation to ensure that it speaks very loudly about the present crisis. It's not speaking loudly enough, it did in the UN and it's got to speak up now to make sure the Australian public understand the seriousness of what's happening today.

SNOWDON: Why isn't it speaking up?

DOWD: There is a tendency for Commonwealth countries and internationally for governments to go quietly when dealing with other governments. We have done this over the last decade of so. We've gone far too quietly and taken the Sri Lankan line, that time is over. The war is over. The LTTE has been defeated in combat. Now there is 300,000 humanitarian crisis that needs to be dealt with.

SNOWDON: Isn't this better left to the United Nations?

DOWD: The United Nations through the Security Council is impotent because of Chinese and Russian vetoes. The Human Rights Council is no longer of any use in dealing with totalitarian regimes. The agencies can help, but the Sri Lankan Government has to be forced to let them in.

SNOWDON: So the UN is useless?

DOWD: The UN in its primary issues of the Security Council and the Human Rights Council are useless and against any humanitarian work. What is necessary, is for ordinary nations and ordinary people to force their governments to pressure the Sri Lankan Government to do something.

SNOWDON: At the moment, there might be a problem in Australia in that the image of Sri Lanka and the problems there pretty much equate with the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist organisation. It's changing the whole mind set and that's a pretty big problem, isn't it?

DOWD: That's right. The Sri Lankan Government by suppressing news within and outside about Sri Lanka and only putting the government line has meant that the adverse publicity against LTTE has built up a prejudice. People have to get behind that prejudice. Most of these people are simply civilians with a massive humanitarian need and we've got to forget what the LTTE did and get on with helping them now, including the prisoners-of-war that many of whom I suspect are being tortured.

SNOWDON: There is an estimated 10,000 prisoners-of-war that we don't know where they are. We've heard nothing of them since the cessation of the conflict, a breach if nothing else of the Geneva Convention?

DOWD: That's right. These are protected by the laws we created, the treaties we created after World War Two. They apply to Sri Lanka and to us and we must demand that the be complied with. If Sri Lanka wants to be treated seriously internationally and in the former British Commonwealth. It needs to comply with the laws and treaties.

SNOWDON: So what is it in concrete terms that the Australian Government can and should do?

DOWD: It needs to speak out very loudly now about getting international NGOs, the Red Cross and the UN into Sri Lanka. So it's got to be an international move and we've got to encourage other members of the Commonwealth to treat the Sri Lankan Government like lepers if they do not allow in the international aid agencies to stop a humanitarian crisis. [courtesy: Radio Australia]

Sri Lankan camps breach convention against genocide

By National security correspondent Matt Brown - abc.net.au

The Australian Government has sent a team of officials to northern Sri Lanka to look at the camps where hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians are being held by the Sri Lankan government.

More than 280,000 Tamils have been held in camps guarded by the Sri Lankan military ever since the military smashed the Tamil Tigers more than a month ago.


[click for ~ mp 3 audio-courtesy : abc.net.au]

Among the detainees are three Australian Tamils who the Sri Lankan government says must be screened like everybody else to see if they are members of the Tamil Tigers.

The Australian detainees are a 62-year old man and two women aged 26 and 29.

According to a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Australian diplomats based in Sri Lanka have been trying to "obtain urgent access" to these people.

Weeks have gone by, but they still have not managed to get to them.

DFAT says it has heard nothing to suggest Australians are not safe and it is helping their families in Australia, but there is also puzzling uncertainty about their fate.

'Worrying nightmare'

Sri Lanka's High Commissioner to Canberra, Senaka Walgampaya, says his government does not even know who they are or where they are.

"They have so far not identified the persons and when they are identified and if in fact they are there, then they will have to be questioned as to what they were doing," he said.

The Australian head of the International Commission of Jurists, former New South Wales Supreme Court Judge and Attorney-General John Dowd, says the Australians are caught up in an increasingly worrying nightmare.

"We can't wait for an interminable delay while the Sri Lankan Government works out who it says are combatants and who it says aren't," he said.

Several staff members from the Australian High Commission in the capital Colombo are visiting Sri Lanka's north to look at camp conditions, talk to the United Nations, aid groups and Sri Lankan government agencies.

But the Sri Lankan government has banned independent observers who want regular access to the camps.

"What's going on, why can't the world be allowed in? There can only be things that the Sri Lankan Government doesn't want us to see and that's a real concern," Justice Dowd said.

The International Commission of Jurists says the conditions there are not the only worry.

Justice Dowd says the purpose of the camps may breach the convention against genocide.

"The convention covers forced movement of people. These people are being forcibly moved from the areas where they surrendered to other parts of Sri Lanka," he said.

"The real concern is that they're not going to be returned, that in fact they're going to move them, transfer the population, and put other people in."

The Government has raised the plight of Tamil civilians several times but its other business with the Sri Lankan government goes on.

Yesterday the deputy chief of Australia's Navy, Rear Admiral David Thomas, made an unannounced visit to Colombo to meet the chief of Sri Lanka's defence staff.

The Defence Department says it was a goodwill visit to meet senior Sri Lankan defence officials to exchange views on regional security.

The Department of Foreign Affairs was more explicit. It says the two men discussed people smuggling.

A Tamil Reflection

A young Sri Lankan wonders if there were any true victors.

by M. Junaid Levesque-Alam

Critics bemoan the United States and its allies' failure to decisively defeat Islamist militant movements, casting a pall over the policy debate and ceaseless invoking the ghosts of Vietnam. Meanwhile, a fierce insurgency that has haunted Asia for decades conceded defeat last month to the Sri Lankan government, which trumpeted its apparent victory over the Tamil Tigers by holding celebrations in the capital.

But is this a victory for peace, or merely a victor's peace?

Brintha Jeyalingam is skeptical of the Sri Lankan government's claims and intentions. A 29-year-old American activist with the organization People for Equality and Relief in Sri Lanka (PEARL), her family is of Tamil origin.

Tamils comprise about 12 percent of the population of Sri Lanka; historically oppressed by the Sinhalese majority, they've sought an independent homeland since the nation won independence from England in 1948.

In her youth Jeyalingam didn't witness the conflict first-hand, nor did she jump headlong into the advocacy fray based on political preconceptions. Though in her childhood days she helped prepare advocacy letters that her father sent to congressmen and senators, her knowledge of the conflict was minimal.

"I had heard my parents saying that they came to the U.S. with expectations to return to Sri Lanka one day," she says, "but it never happened and I never questioned why — I grew up living a comfortable life, ignorant to the Tamil issues."

When Jeyalingam visited Sri Lanka to see extended family, her itinerary was confined to the capital Colombo. What ultimately impelled her to broaden her scope was not political interest, but humanitarian catastrophe.

"In December 2004 I went to Sri Lanka to visit my relatives. It turned out that I landed there the day after the [Indian Ocean] Tsunami hit, killing about 40,000 people mostly on the Northeastern coast," she says, adding that she remained in the capital, "[glued] to the television like everyone else while my relatives were making phone calls to find out who survived." It was not until she returned to the U.S. a week later that she questioned why she didn't visit the destroyed villages or the surviving orphans in outlying areas. "At that point I knew I wanted to offer assistance to those affected, but I wasn't sure what it would be."

Jeyalingam researched tsunami relief efforts and, in 2005, quit her job to begin volunteering with the Colombo-based Tamils Rehabilitation Organization (which two years later was blacklisted by the U.S. government for allegedly funneling money to the Tamil Tigers). She spent time in Colombo and then in Kilinochi, to the northeast, absorbing information about reconstruction projects, relief efforts and funding opportunities.

But that's not all she learned.

"As I met more people living in the Northeast," she says, "I saw a clearer picture of the human rights abuses the Tamil population faced for the last 60 years." She learned of and soon joined a local human rights organization, the Northeast Secretariat on Human Rights, and heard people relate the horrors of life in government-held areas, "where sons were abducted by armed men in white vans within military high security zones; where daughters were raped and killed when walking nearby military bases; where families were massacred in their own homes."

Locals reported human rights violations including assassinations and kidnappings targeting key civil society members, as well as young women and children. The binding theme? "All were Tamil," Jeyalingam says.

She remembers a particularly striking experience from August 2006, when government forces bombarded an area approximately 20 miles away from where she was volunteering. "[P]eople were used to daily bombings; sometimes we would not know where it hit, but could feel the ground shake and hear the fighter jets scraping the sky," she observes. Jeyalingam learned only hours later that the bombs fell on a residential camp where high school girls were being trained in disaster relief; 53 died and hundreds were wounded.

Her touching account deserves to be quoted at length:

"Our organization started to immediately piece together a report with these accounts and collect information about the girls. We were able to get individual school photos of all the girls over the next few days and were preparing the report. My mind was racing, I was trying to comprehend what just happened, and write the report at the same time.

At one point I looked at my desk, which was covered with small 1" x 1" photos of these beautiful girls, hair tied neatly back, hope in their eyes. I wondered what each one of their dreams were, what they wished for and whether or not they were able to laugh enough in the last days before their death. In the middle of these thoughts, I picked up one photo and on the back, the name 'Brintha' was written. A Brintha with such a different and cruel fate. That forced me to think about what my role was going to be in the Tamil cause, so that the next time I see someone named Brintha, she is alive."

Jeyalingam's experiences on the ground doubtlessly inform her assessment of the government's claim to total victory. "I do not believe that the Sri Lankan government has achieved any kind of 'victory' as reported in the mainstream media," she says, adding that only genuine recognition of Tamil grievances would prove meaningful.

Is the national government committed to accommodating the Tamil minority's concerns and aspirations? Present and past indications inspire little confidence. As noted in a New York Times editorial titled "No Victory in Sri Lanka," President Mahinda Rajapaksa "callously rejected international pleas for a cease-fire to let civilians escape the war zone, while his troops shelled the area" in the waning months of the war, and his vague statements about reconciliation so far lack specifics.

While acknowledging that allegations leveled at the Tamil Tigers (as well as the army) of using civilians as human shields should be investigated, Jeyalingam points out that it was the army that refused several ceasefire offers in April and May. Citing massacres committed against Tamils in the past several decades, she believes that reconciliation will not come easily.

UN officials place the Tamil civilian death toll since January 2009 at 20,000, and, she says, the government is still preventing international aid in some camps ("every Tamil is suspected of being a 'terrorist' and has no protection"). Jeyalingam therefore believes that the government's actions thus far amount to a sort of slow-motion genocide.

She is resolved to continue to struggle for Tamil rights from wherever she happens to be, forming part of an extensive Tamil diaspora that, as one Times blog headline announced, is "not ready to surrender."

"Some analysts have claimed that a younger generation of Tamils could be 'radicalized' leading to new forms of terrorism, which I find completely absurd," Jeyalingam says. Highlighting the value of action alerts and outreach efforts, Jeyalingam says, "If one looks at the efforts of the younger generation, you will see that they are using grassroots advocacy to engage with their elected officials and human rights organizations."

Such activism, she says, offers a distinct advantage: "This is a movement that the Sri Lankan government cannot defeat militarily." [courtesy: wiretapmag]

Levesque-Alam blogs about America and Islam at Crossing the Crescent. Co-founder of Left Hook, he's also a journalism graduate of Northeastern University and has worked for the daily press in suburban Massachusetts and weeklies in Queens, New York. He now works as a communications coordinator for an anti-domestic violence agency in the NYC area.

LTTE forming "provisional transnational government" to pursue self-rule for the Tamils

By Charles Haviland [Related interview with D.B.S. Jeyaraj ~ Aired on BBC Thamilosai, June 15th, 2009]

Sri Lankan rebel group the Tamil Tigers say they are forming a "provisional transnational government" to pursue self-rule for the Tamil minority.

In a statement released from an unknown location, a Tigers' spokesman said the new body would advance what he said was the next phase of the struggle.

The move comes almost a month after the government declared it had finally defeated the Tamil Tigers, or LTTE.

Rebels had fought for decades for a Tamil homeland in the island's north.

At the end of the conflict, most of the group's leaders were dead and many of its supporters in the Tamil diaspora confused and humiliated.

The announcement came in a statement by Selvarasa Pathmanathan, one of the few senior Tigers still alive and the movement's head of international relations.

He announced plans to set up what he called a provisional transnational government of Tamil Eelam, or the Tamil homeland.

'Necessary move'

Mr Pathmanathan said it was a necessary move to advance "the struggle", saying people wanted such a homeland and self-rule.

He said a committee was being formed to help the process, headed by an exiled Tamil lawyer, Rudrakumar Viswanathan.

Late last month, Mr Pathmanathan acknowledged that the Tamil Tigers' main leader, Prabhakaran, was dead and he said the LTTE had given up violence.

But this statement suggests it hasn't given up a separatist agenda.

That is not likely to go down well with the international community or with the Sri Lankan government, which is still celebrating its military victory.

"We have removed the word 'minorities' from our vocabulary," President Mahinda Rajapaksa said recently, and one of his ministers said that anyone espousing the ideals of the LTTE was violating the law. [courtesy: BBC]

June 15, 2009

Why international observers are needed in Sri Lanka

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Comment~Editorial - Edmonton Sun, June 15, 2009

by Lorrie Goldstein

Sri Lanka is a sovereign nation. It had the right to bar Liberal MP Bob Rae and Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai, parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs, from entering the country.

Canada, after all, recently barred British MP George Galloway for the same reason Sri Lanka says it did Rae -- security concerns. Which just goes to show countries can act within their rights and still be wrong.

Canada argued Galloway gave "material support" to Hamas.

Sri Lanka banned Rae because of his alleged sympathy for the terrorist Tamil Tigers.

In the real world, Galloway may be a self-aggrandizing buffoon with a one-sided view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but he has never been charged with aiding terrorists, was allowed into Canada in 2006 and wasn't barred by the U.S.

Rae has been publicly critical of Sri Lanka's often brutal treatment of its Tamil minority, as have many human rights groups. He has a longstanding interest in the country and has met in the past with Tiger members in a bid to kickstart the peace process. But it's absurd to suggest he's a security risk or endorses terrorism.

What's worrisome, as Rae noted, is that if Sri Lanka is this paranoid about letting in Canadian observers following the end of its 26-year civil war with the now-defeated Tigers, what is it planning for 200,000 Tamil civilians rendered homeless by the war after thousands were killed in the fighting?

Sri Lanka has been bizarrely suspicious of Canada, presumably because we've accepted hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians as refugees.

But Prime Minister Stephen Harper also declared the Tigers a terrorist organization. He has rightly protested the barring of Rae and Obhrai and the recent attempted trashing of Canada's embassy in Sri Lanka by government supporters while police stood by.

With Sri Lanka this paranoid about even an ally in the war on terror, how can it be trusted to respect the rights of Tamil civilians following its military victory?

That's why international observers are needed. To see that it does.

lorrie.goldstein@sunmedia.ca

June 14, 2009

In Pictures: Displaced Afghans in Khan Colony, Lahore

By Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

"Displaced societies are of value. Their issues are our issues." - Cynthia Basinet - (b. 1971-)- American Singer, Social Change Activist (1,000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize-2005)

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A kid at play in Khan Colony

Pakistan's estimated population was 172,800,000 in July 2008. It's the World's sixth most populous country. By the end of this decade it is expected to be nearly 180 million according to wikipedia. Pakistan has hosted one of the world's largest refugee populations since 1978. Almost two million Afghan refugees remain there according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The refugees who fled the fighting in Afghnaistitan are scatted in the cities of Islamabad, Lahore, Quetta, Rawalpindi, and other cities.

There are 500 families (4,500 persons) living in Khan Colony, Gulberg in the city of Lahore. Lahore is the second largest city in Pakistan.They left from their homes in 1996, and came to Lahore. Most of them here feel frustrated and disappaointed. They have to walk for a few kilometers to fetch water. They are not rich, and find it difficult to meet the daily needs in life. Men go for labourer job, and earn Pakistan Rupees 100/= or less per day. The women go to houses for cleaning, and earn Pakistan Rupees 50/= to Pakistan Rupees 100/=. They say it's not enough to meet the needs. But they are left with nothing.

Their mother tongue is Darwi. They speak fluently in Pashto and Urdu. Most of the children do not go to school, as their parents cannot afford to send them to school.

The people in Khan Colony languish, and have no hopes for their future.

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A view of the mosque in the colony

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Almost every household has a goat or more goats

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Most of the refugees like to return to Afghanistan

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Farhanda Ali (10) carries her younger brother Ali Khan (1)

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Children began to pose for the camera as soon as they saw the foreign journalists visiting them

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They have been living in this colony for more than a decade, and they feel that they are neglected

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Afghanistan looks as a distant dream for those who left their homes as children

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Goats in Khan Colony are being fed with Carrot

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Most of the Afghan people managed to blend with the culture in Lahore

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The second and third generation born in Pakistan do not know their mother tongue-Dari

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They have to compete with the host community for resources

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The kids in Khan Colony do not know what the future holds for them

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Their childhood is spent in this colony. They do not have money for recreation

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The do not know their ancestor's place

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The responsibilities lie on their shoulders, but they do not know how to carry it out

courtesy: HumanityAshore.org ~ dushi.pillai@gmail.com

The disappearing act in Sri Lanka

Sharmini Peries speaks to Sunila Abeysekera award-winning human rights defender and the Executive Director of INFORM, an organization working to spread the word on Sri Lankan human rights violations.

The speak about the history of the ongoing torture allegations in Sri Lanka and the so-called "internment camps" where roughly 300,000 refugees of the recent conflict linger.

Abeysekera says, "Forget the torture; just overcrowding, lack of access to medical attention, and then including on top of that the beatings and the waterboarding. You know, you name it, we hear stories about it."

Sunila Abeysekera is the Executive Director of INFORM, an organization working to inform the world about human rights violations in Sri Lanka. The major themes of Sunila Abeysekera's work include issues of equality and difference in understanding women's human rights, problems of re-conceptualising the nation-state and principles of good governance from a feminist perspective; problems of representation of women in art and culture; and feminist film criticism. In 1998, Abeysekera was honoured by the United Nations for her contribution to the protection and promotion of human rights along with Jimmy Carter. [courtesy: The Real News Network]

June 13, 2009

Price of peace for the innocent Tamils

The disappeared

Murdered, missing, imprisoned in camps...The guns may be silent in Sri Lanka for the first time in 26 years, but the price of peace for the innocent Tamils caught up in the fighting could not be higher ... Dan McDougall travels from the Tamils' UK protest in Parliament Square to the killing fields of Sri Lanka

by Dan McDougall

A foul-smelling monsoon closes in from the north, carrying dark clouds of ash from the Hindu funeral pyres burning along the "Highway for Peace and Unity". At the roadside, translucent glasswing butterflies flutter and dance in the charred iron shell of an old British Leyland bus, its undercarriage ripped apart and shredded like paper by a Claymore landmine.

Little more than a cratered strip of asphalt running 100 miles due north from the ancient city of Anuradhapura to Jaffna, the road's grandiose Marxist title is typically deceptive: today it bisects a dramatically transformed landscape - the broken heart of Sri Lanka's former Tamil Tiger country, a battle-scarred route lined with thousands of shallow graves, unexploded landmines and the rotting stumps of palmyra trees blackened by the rain.

Here, sheltering from the darkening skies at a remote army checkpoint, a group of weary teenage soldiers gather around an old Russian television impassively watching the capital, Colombo, celebrate the end of the war.

Dressed in messianic white, the Sri Lankan president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, is walking through the streets of the capital as followers shower him with pink flower petals. At each street corner he is offered traditional kiribath (milk rice) and kavung (oil cakes). Crudely dubbed over the footage, hastily assembled songs declare "Our King Rajapaksa", wishing him "Ayubowewa" - a long life.

"We won the war, we won, OK!" shouts an army NCO in coarse Sinhalese, breaking the silence and ordering the young soldiers on to a personnel carrier heading north. "Now get back to work."

At their journey's end, no more than 30 miles north along the single-track road, the conscripts will be brutally confronted with more than a quarter of a million personal hells - Tamil refugees who have fled the Sri Lankan civil war in recent days and weeks, as the secessionist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fought and lost a brutal endgame for a separate Tamil state in the country's northeast. Malnourished and traumatised, the displaced stare out from behind the barbed wire of internment camps erected by the Sri Lankan government.

Elderly grandmothers, infants, pregnant women, wounded fathers, their faces as twisted and contorted as the razorwire that imprisons them, trapped in a state of incarceration the Colombo authorities claim is necessary for the refugees' own "safety". Further into the bush are the field hospitals, hidden from the eyes of the world yet overflowing with civilian victims of the war. Beyond the medical camps, according to eyewitnesses, are thousands of freshly dug graves. Six thousand miles away in London, a growing body of UK-based campaigners are calling it quite simply "The War Without Witness".

"The British government doesn't give a fuck about Sri Lanka, they just don't give a fuck, nobody here does." The British Tamil student's anger peaks as he is marched across Parliament Square in central London by his girlfriend, his fists, his entire body shaking with grief and loss as he waves a photograph of a bloodied child, much of her stomach missing. "Is it a relative?" I ask. Nobody seems to know. In his fury the young man lets go of the deathly image, and is forced to chase it down in the breeze.

Another Tamil woman, middle-aged, an NHS nurse in faux ruby earrings, holds up a photocopied print of her missing sister for the photographer, pauses, and breaks down, lost in chest-racking sobs. Nobody consoles her. Everyone stands back. Blinking in the sunshine, the others are drowning in their own private grief. Most of them wait patiently, portraits of their loved ones in their hands, their own stories of horror at the forefront of their minds. Behind them a crowd is gathering, their number is growing. To reach our impromptu studio, each has passed by a wooden hut erected in the heart of the square where hundreds of passport photographs of the dead and the missing have been posted. Some are gory. Bodies decapitated, dead eyes staring out. Beneath each photograph are contact numbers for concerned relatives.

It had started as a simple idea in the dreary hotel room in Colombo that I was sharing with photographer Robin Hammond. As the lights of the old port twinkled below and Sri Lanka heralded a new beginning, I read an Amnesty report that ranked Sri Lanka second in terms of numbers seeking asylum in the UK. Tamils in Britain, largely thanks to a mass exodus in the 1980s, now number approximately 200,000, mostly in south and west London.

So I sent an email home, asking a few London-based Tamils I knew had been affected by the war if they would pose for portraits when we returned. The replies, within 24 hours, were staggering. "We have 50 and can get you 500 more," said one source. "More can come at short notice," said another campaigner. "How many do you need? We have thousands of photographs, missing, dead, children, grandmothers, this is a genocide, what do you expect?"

I shouldn't have been surprised. An organised and galvanised diaspora, who haven't slept in two months, as the battle to end all battles raged on the island that bore them - all of the UK's Tamils have been affected by the war.

While the expenses scandal has gripped British political life in recent weeks, Britain's Tamils have taken over Parliament Square. Over a month ago, one of the protestors, Prarameswaran Subramaniam, lay down on a fetid mattress opposite parliament and went on hunger strike. His ultimatum was simple:

"I will stay here until either my body can continue no longer or the British government persuades the Sri Lankan government to stop shelling my people," he said. Subramaniam began his protest at the end of April after discovering that his mother and several siblings had been killed in Sri Lankan military attacks. He is now recovering in hospital.

Other UK-based Tamils threatened to throw themselves off the top of Big Ben or drown themselves in the Thames; two actually made it into the water but were rescued by a police boat patrol. In response to the Tamil takeover of Parliament Square, Westminster council complained about their numbers and moved to protect the grass, which they claimed was going through an "urgent reseeding". The Times accused the Tamils of turning Parliament Square into a "shanty town", a banner headline that particularly irked the Tamil diaspora - professors, doctors, school teachers, engineers and architects among their number.

In the Commons, the Speaker of the House, Michael Martin, condemned the actions of some Tamil protesters, who, he claimed, put young children "in the way" of police officers. Conservative MP Gerald Howarth raised a point of order to ask what powers the Speaker had to order the Metropolitan Police to secure "free access to Parliament" for MPs. He said: "It is completely outrageous that members of this House have been subjected to this inconvenience, that the people of London have been subjected to this inconvenience. The situation in Sri Lanka is nothing to do with this House. Surely law and order has broken down outside the Houses of Parliament." Not surprisingly, Howarth's stance provoked fury among the new occupants of Parliament Square.

As he unfurled a peace banner in Parliament Square, Tamil campaigner Prakesh Mano, 36, told me: "Britain is to blame for this; like Palestine, like Zimbabwe, your history has a hand in the death of innocents in 2009, and the British government should stand up and take ownership of it - and you are more worried about some overpaid politicians not being able to get to work?" It is a view of history held by most Tamils, who believe that Sri Lanka's substantial Tamil minority once had their own autonomy in the north before the British Empire turned the whole island into the colony of Ceylon. Britain, they claim, then handed Ceylon's Sinhalese majority rule and independence in 1948 as a single entity, without enshrining the rights of the Tamils to their own land and language.

Krishna Ruban, another protester, said: "This is a war without witness. The media is cut off from what is really happening in Sri Lanka. A genocide is being hidden from the world." He then added: "London-born teenagers who have never even been to Sri Lanka are marching with their grandparents. This is about brothers and fathers and sisters being killed. I know people who have lost 15 members of their family. It is not just here - there are demonstrations in France, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, America and Canada. It is literally everywhere."

According to the UN, more than 8,000 civilian refugees were killed on the Sri Lankan battlefield this year, mostly in the past three months in a government-designated "no-fire zone". There is also mounting evidence, including testimony from those who escaped it, to suggest that army bombardments were mostly to blame for this. Some, although fewer in number, have also accused the LTTE of shooting at them to try to prevent their escape.

On 25 May, the United Nations Human Rights Council convened a special session on Sri Lanka, following a request submitted by Germany on behalf of 17 mostly European countries. Its members proceeded to vote down a proposed resolution decrying the Sri Lankan government's disregard for civilian life. But another draft resolution tabled by the Sri Lankan government itself, praising its own commitment to human rights, was passed by a vote of 29 to 16. Its supporters included China, Cuba, India, Russia, Pakistan and Egypt.

By effectively welcoming the "liberation" of tens of thousands of the island's citizens from the grip of the Tamil Tigers, the UN made no mention of the shelling of civilians and kept silent on the desperate need to allow the Red Cross and other humanitarian groups into the camps where some 300,000 Tamil civilians have been interned.

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, insisted that there still needed to be an inquiry into "very serious abuses", yet Sureen Surendiram, of the British Tamils Forum, said that the UN was paying lip service to the civilised world, again. Human Rights Watch and leaked UN documents recently suggested the death toll was closer to 20,000, with many of the dead women and children, he said. "And now the Sri Lankan government is holding our loved ones in massive internment camps, the likes of which we haven't seen since the Second World War." He added: "The fighting may be over, but retribution killings are being carried out in the camps. Our people are also starving and dying from lack of medical help."

The Lonely Planet guidebook says the beach at Uppuveli is the most beautiful on Sri Lanka's east coast. As the sun sets it certainly looks like an island paradise, a curve of white sand with palm trees and deep emerald water. If you drive through the jungle in the east, you can see errant herds of wild elephants crossing the road. Long-tailed monkeys watch nervously from the trees. At night, fireflies hang by the roadside. This is the Sri Lanka tourists flock from around the world to see, but along the road to the town, hundreds of soldiers line the road, looking nervously into the jungle. Despite the war coming to an end, fear of last-gasp Tamil Tiger suicide attacks cuts to the core of every soldier here in the northeast. On closer inspection, Uppuveli's beach is littered with sewage and rubbish, its hotels boarded up. No tourists come here any more. The jungle, long burned by government soldiers trying to clear the roads of hiding places for Tamil Tiger guerrillas, is a twisted and charred wasteland.

Here in the Sivananda Thaovanam Orphanage, more than 100 children huddle together against the pounding rain outside. The children's eyes betray the tragedies they could not easily put into words. Each child has his or her own story, but they all have one thing in common: their parents were killed in the war. Four-year-old Mohanapriya's eyes light up as she speaks about her parents, telling us how she is waiting for them to come and take her home. "She is too young to understand they are gone," says one of the orphanage directors. "What can we say to her?"

The orphanage is threadbare, like its inhabitants. The room which serves as their bedroom, a communal hall with peeling paint and a few lockers with broken locks, overflows with second-hand clothes and toys that have seen better days. The only bed is piled high with mats, sheets and pillows. Despite its woeful lack of facilities, Sivananda Thaovanam has been a safe haven for 240 children for four years. Twelve-year-old Theverajah Kajenthini cries as she remembers the day she lost her mother. Trapped on the frontline of the war, a Sri Lankan government shell ripped through their home, killing her sister, her aunt and her mother. Several months later her father, accused of being a Tamil Tiger sympathiser, was executed by "unknown forces". "I don't understand what has happened to me," she says. "Like the other children in here we don't talk about the past. I am old enough to know my parents are gone but the younger children laugh and play and tell us their mums and dads are coming back. Many of the children in my village became orphans during the fighting. I can't deny what happened to me. I saw my mother's body. She was on fire after the shelling and died of burns to her face and neck. Her head was black, it was the last I saw of her."

Across the north of Sri Lanka, hundreds of orphanages such as this house are the legacy of Sri Lanka's 30-year civil war, the orphans cast adrift like flotsam. Most remain traumatised. With no funding for rehabilitation or counselling, their fates seem to be sealed at a tragically young age. Most are introverted and prone to intense periods of grief and depression. They all live a bleak and meagre existence.

"The camps to the north of here are full of children like me, I am told," says 11-year-old Mahetevan Suganya. "Tamil boys and girls like me who cannot escape. At least I have my friends here in the orphanage and I can walk in the garden and play with my toys. The director tells us all we are fortunate to be here and to be protected from the war. I don't feel particularly lucky. I feel angry and upset at what is happening to me."

In the corridors of power in Colombo, the hard-won victory over the Tamil Tigers would have been savoured by one family above all: that of the Sri Lankan president, Percy Mahinda Rajapaksa, who carved out victory with the help of his brothers, Gotabaya, the defence secretary, and Basil, who largely masterminded the political and diplomatic strategies that accompanied the war effort. The brothers, members of a prominent political family of Sri Lanka's Buddhist Sinhalese majority, won through utter ruthlessness. In contrast to previous Oxbridge-educated leaders, they had no links to the English-speaking elite of Colombo and showed few qualms in severing Sri Lanka's ties with the west in favour of strengthening relations with China and Russia - countries that supplied sophisticated military hardware and diplomatic muscle.

In giving the cold shoulder to Britain and the United States, the president also won the approval of ultra-nationalist Buddhist monk MPs, who had demanded victory at any cost over the Tigers and on whom Rajapaksa depends for his parliamentary majority. In 2006, a year after he became president, air, sea and ground assaults were launched against rebel strongholds in the north and east. The army nearly doubled in size to 180,000 men in two years and began to adopt guerrilla tactics, using the Tigers' own methods - sending in death squads to kill rebel leaders. Now the president, a lawyer who worked as a film actor and library clerk before entering politics, enjoys messianic-like status in the country he rules with an iron fist. Many Sri Lankans feel he has deliberately blurred the genuine grievances of the Tamil minority - a community that has been oppressed since it lost its favoured status with the end of British rule - with the atrocities carried out by the terrorist Tigers over 26 years. They also suspect that a new period of persecution and oppression of the Tamils will emerge with a victorious Sinhalese government.

As I travelled across Sri Lanka, President Rajapaksa, basking in victory, declared the final defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in a speech to his parliament on 19 May. But more than 30 opposition chairs in the 225-seat chamber were vacant. Members of the Tamil National Alliance, the largest group of parties representing the Tamil minority in the north and east of the island, had refused to take their seats. It was a reminder of an unhappy and uncomfortable truth: the Tamil Tigers may be finished as a fighting force, but the bitter ethnic divisions that fuelled the 26-year war live on.

Some hours later, as I walked the streets of the Sri Lankan capital, state television aired footage of the dead Tamil Tiger supremo, Velupillai Prabhakaran, the back of his head missing from what was undeniably a summary execution, a cloth covering the top of his skull, which appeared to have been blown off. Prabhakaran's Tamil Eelam once existed as an unofficial nation within a nation, a state that ran on a different time zone (Indian time), had its own police force, jails, judicial system, and semi-extortionate system of tax collection. Everywhere across Tamil Elam flew the Tamil Tiger flag: a roaring tiger backed by a pair of crossed Kalashnikovs, pouncing with claws bared from a cartoonish explosion. Walking through Wellawetta, a predominately Tamil district of Colombo, nationalist Sinhalese flags flutter from every Tamil home for fear of Government reprisals. In a dark corner of the slum suburb a scrawl of graffiti quotes an adapted Indian proverb: "Do not blame God for having created the tiger, thank him for not giving it wings."

"You can't go down that road. You shouldn't have come this way," the soldier bellows, first in Sinhalese and then in English, his hand menacingly stroking the nuzzle of the rifle splayed across his chest. I look at his bony black fingers - he is pointing east towards the coastal town of Pulmoddai and the road we have just travelled down.

"How did you get here from there? It is a dangerous route and you are a target for terrorists." Behind our interrogator I recognise a parked Alvis Saracen personnel carrier, its adapted gun turret trained on our minivan. As we speak three other soldiers come out of a small hut. The tallest flourishes a revolver and demands we hand over our passports. He then disappears to make a call. I'm convinced after a series of close shaves we will finally be arrested, possibly beaten, certainly deported.

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[An elderly Tamil woman sits in front of a row of tents in a refugee camp located on the outskirts of the town of Vavuniya in northern Sri Lanka May 8, 2009-Reuters pic]

"We are tourists and we are lost," I explain, without prompting. In the back of the van, in the stitching of the carpet, we have hidden digital memory cards and a small notebook, the only record we have of a refugee camp we stumbled across 20 miles to the north. Our presence there, to witness the incarceration of around 6,000 Sri Lankan refugees, had sent the camp directors running for their satellite phones. On Sri Lankan radio, government-sponsored adverts have called on the nation to effectively "finger" foreigners trying to head north.

Behind the barbed-wire fence at the Pulmoddai camp, tiny children had stared out at us, open-mouthed, their eyes sunken and hollow, the first signs of malnutrition. Around the camps, scarcely functioning mothers and grandmothers waited patiently for brown trickles of water to emerge from the earth. The inmates were surrounded by a cordon of steel: dozens of Sri Lankan soldiers sitting at 10-yard intervals around the perimeter of the compound, their weapons cocked and trained on their captives.

It had taken a 13-hour drive along dangerous roads and past a dozen heavily militarised checkpoints to get this far. At every corner the Sri Lankan military, which has effectively created a border across the entire country, cutting off the north of the island to foreigners, tried to intimidate and stop us, brandishing weapons and forcing us back at each turn.

Brought down by ship from the frontline 50 miles to the north, the Pulmoddai refugees before us are effectively prisoners of war - their plight among the first evidence of an attempt by the Sri Lankan authorities to inter stricken refugees in dozens of camps across the north of the island. To the north, hundreds of thousands more share a similar fate, and the looming threat of deadly disease and malnutrition.

Along the hard road to the Pulmoddai refugee camp is heard the sound of hammering and the clink of metal. Before our eyes Sri Lankan soldiers hammer huge wooden stakes into the ground to create another perimeter fence to "imprison more refugees". Beside the road lies thousands of yards of razorwire fencing. "More are coming," says a locally recruited engineer drafted in to help build an access road. "They are coming from the front, perhaps tens of thousands more, for the long term. Each hole in the ground stretching into the far distance over there is another stake to imprison them."

It is closing in on midnight. A police siren breaks the stillness of the summer evening as a handful of weary Tamil protesters begin packing up for the night, folding banners and neatly packing flyers and posters with red elastic bands. Their organisation and attention to detail is meticulous; there is little money for more flyers, and those they have left over for another day are precious - each thin piece of paper a witness statement from their families and loved ones.

A young Tamil student returns to the square after scouring the bins in the streets around Westminster, retrieving the crumpled and folded flyers nonchalantly discarded by passers-by. "Did they stop to look at these?" he cries, pointing to a crudely photocopied photograph of a dead child cradled in his father's arms.

Some of the protesters will take the trundling night bus to Neasden and Wembley, and home to their extended families. Others, who have come down from the Midlands, will share hostel rooms or sleep rough in the backstreets sweeping down towards the Embankment, avoiding CCTV cameras and police patrols, before returning to their placards and rainbow banners at dawn, tramping bleary-eyed over the grassy heart of democratic Britain.

Many of the Tamils here have abandoned their jobs to make their stand. Karunakaran, 28, files through a shoe box of belongings and pulls out a dog-eared passport photo of his younger brother. He nervously fingers the Kavala, the sacred Hindu red string wrapped twice around his wrist.

"He is dead, my brother; this is what my head says, but there is still hope in me that he is lying in a hospital somewhere, fighting for his life, making it through for me and my mother. There are so many trapped in the camps and they are unable to get messages to the outside world. People are scouring websites and the news for a glimpse of their parents or their brothers. It's the uncertainty that kills you slowly. You see their faces in your sleep, you wake up at night and cry, wondering where they are, if they are suffering, if they are starving to death, if they are in prison being tortured or cast out to sea in a boat."

As he speaks Karunakaran produces a pile of paperwork from a file. At the head of the most recent document from Eaton House Immigration Service in London the words "Liability to Detention" glare out bleakly from the page. "I've been in Britain for 10 years but the immigration authorities are now telling me it is safe for me to go back to Sri Lanka," he says. "My sister was killed, my brother and cousin are missing. They are telling me to go back, and I'm not the only one. Your country gives me the right to protest here on Parliament Square, but your government is also intent on sending me back to a land where those same protests will lead to my death." [courtesy: The Observer.uk]

June 12, 2009

The aftermaths of the war

by Rajan Philips

In the beginning, the Rajapakse government characterized its war against the LTTE as part of the global war on terrorism. In the middle, and muddle, it became the war to liberate the Tamil civilians from the clutches of the LTTE. In the end, the war morphed into a despotic assertion of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty against Western interference. In the aftermath of the war, the plight of the Tamil civilians in the Vanni has not improved in spite of their liberation, and the controversies between the Sri Lankan government and the Western world show no sign of abating.

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[Tamil civilians stand in line to collect water in the Manik Farm refugee camp located on the outskirts of northern Sri Lankan town of Vavuniya Tuesday, May 26, 2009]

The war itself ended in a crescendo of violence amidst far flung controversy over the middle (16-17) weekend in May. The bloody finale had been politico-astrologically charted, auspiciously for the government and fatally for the LTTE, to occur after the Tamil Nadu vote on Wednesday, 13 May, and before the formation of the new Indian government the following week.

For the Sri Lankan government, the war euphoria, the anti-West rhetoric, and victory celebrations have been much needed detractions from its mismanagement of the economy, allegations of corruption, administrative collapse and concerns over attacks on journalists and anti-war critics. What began as spontaneous celebrations in the south after the defeat of the LTTE and the elimination of its entire leadership is now being state-managed to continue as a show of Sri Lanka’s independence against Western busybodies.

In an inexplicably ham fisted decision, the government even denied entry to the distinguished Canadian political leader, Bob Rae, when he arrived last week at the Colombo airport with a valid visa from the Sri Lankan High Commission in Ottawa. Mr. Rae had been to Sri Lanka many times before, was a key advisor during the peace process and a forthright critic of the LTTE. A Rhodes Scholar like G. L. Peiris, Bob Rae had worked on peace and constitutional initiatives with the late Lakshman Kadirgamar, the late Kethish Loganathan, and Peiris himself. At one time, Mr. Rae headed the Forum of Federation, an international organization sponsored by the Canadian government that included in its ranks N. Ram of Chennai, the editor of The Hinduand a close friend of the present and previous Sri Lankan governments. As a Canadian politician, Mr. Rae counts thousands of Canadian Sinhalese and Tamils among his constituents and has helped many of them without partiality. The LTTE supporters have tried to discredit him and used to disrupt meetings in Toronto where he spoke critically of the LTTE. Now the Sri Lankan government has denied him entry into Colombo even though he landed there with a visa. The visa issued by the Foreign Ministry was apparently countermanded by the Defense Executive. Be that as it may.

Forebodings of defeat

The end of the war and the manner of its ending has left the Tamils in a state of “stunned emptiness” (to borrow Canadian journalist Doug Saunders’s apt description). Even those who did not support separatism and who abhorred the LTTE’s methods feel sunken by the ferocity of the government’s victory and the totality of the LTTE’s defeat. The Tamil diaspora, that has been staging street protests against the war in Toronto, Ottawa, New York, London and other Western cities, is finding it difficult to accept the end of the militaristic LTTE and the death of its despotic leader. The macabre details of the war’s climactic ending now revealed under the imprimatur of UTHR will confirm to many what the title of its latest report suggests - that the victory is marred and the defeat has forebodings

The biggest foreboding involves the Tamil civilians caught in the war – thousands of them have been killed without witnesses and about 300,000 survivors including 30,000 disabled are interned in camps under appalling conditions. The ministering of the 300,000 displaced people is the first test of how the government is going to deal with the Tamils after ‘liberating’ them from the LTTE. Already, there is something cruelly ironic about the internment and encampment of internally displaced Tamils: the irony that they are not free to return to their homes in spite of their liberation and in spite of their rights, and the cruelty that even after their liberation they are treated as LTTE accomplices until they prove otherwise. Not even elderly Tamils could be trusted, according to the Secretary to the Foreign Ministry, because they could still be mentally under the LTTE spell.

The only expression of outrage from anyone of consequence has come from Sri Lanka’s outgoing Chief Justice, Sarath Silva, who publicly spoke against the internment of the displaced Tamils under subhuman conditions, in denial of their rights and without the protection of the law. Predictably, the government is treating his concerns as those of a man no more of any consequence. An otherwise intelligent government Minister, Mahinda Samarasinghe, has not only contradicted the retired Chief Justice but also blamed UNICEF for not providing adequate toilet facilities in the internment camps!

On 10 June a petition was filed before the Supreme Court on behalf of an extended family of grandparents, parents and children, old and injured young, and separately held in two detention camps, unlawfully and in violation of their rights, asking the Court to direct the state functionaries to allow the petitioners to leave the camps and return to their homes. A two-member Bench of the Court has directed the petition to be supported on 17 June.

The government minister who contradicted the former Chief Justice might now express vindication, but he should know that it is only a hollow vindication for it says something of the state of the country when its ‘citizens’ have to go to Court to be allowed to live in their homes. And the decision of the Supreme Court in this case would go a long way in demonstrating whether Sri Lanka is hopelessly under a rampant Defense Executive, or there are constitutional checks and balances still left in the country.

The petitioners in this case have poignantly pointed out that they are not homeless people but have three homes of their own and that they also have relatives in Jaffna and Colombo who would welcome them if they choose to move out of the Vanni. This is the situation with a majority of the displaced persons in detention camps. They are not looking for charitable handouts from Colombo’s chattering classes, but freedom to reunite with their families and return to their homes. The bleeding hearts collecting food and clothing in Colombo for the poor Tamils liberated from the LTTE are missing the point. They must, like Chief Justice Sarath Silva, express moral outrage. Anything less is moral copout.

The script according to N.Q. Dias

The government’s arguments for keeping the displaced Tamils in camps are sinister in intent and pathetic in their rationale. That they cannot be sent home before clearing the landmines is insult to injury for they have been living for decades in the midst of LTTE landmines and adjacent to military high-security-zones. The announcement that they would be allowed to vote in the meaningless municipal elections while remaining in the camps is an even bigger insult. Worse, allowing them to vote is not so much some innocently misplaced enthusiasm for Tamil democracy and franchise but a crude scheme for stuffing ballot boxes in the camps to boost the majority of the already anointed election winners.

A majority of the displaced people could not care less about voting but desperately want to return to their battered homes and start rebuilding. Their rebuilding could be supplemented by public infrastructure works. That is the only moral and efficient way to rebuilding the former war zone. That would also reduce the burden of ministering those who cannot look after themselves – especially those who are old and those who are injured, and there are plenty of agencies who are willing to look after them, including their own families in Sri Lanka and in the diaspora. If only the government would let them.

But according to UN staffers familiar with the situation, the government appears to be creating new towns out of the established camps, starting with the huge Manik farm in Vavuniya. Forest areas are reportedly being cleared, which in itself is environmentally criminal, and new infrastructure is being built, which is money spent unwisely, presumably to establish permanent colonies where the displaced people could live in new homes under perpetual surveillance. After obliterating the LTTE with a 200,000 strong army, the military leaders have announced the expansion of the army by another 100,000 new enlistments. The expanded army will ensure that the displaced Tamils are kept in their place. The script is according to N.Q. Dias.

The signs on the political front are no less depressing. The President’s three public speeches after the war have offered little hope for positive constitutional changes to devolve power to the northern and eastern provinces of the country where Tamils have historically formed the majority population. The hardliners in the government are arguing that these provinces no longer need special treatment because more Tamils are now living outside these provinces – in the south of Sri Lanka and in the diaspora, even though many of them left their natal homes because of the fighting and they have not forfeited their right to return to their roots.

The Sri Lankan President has added credence to this view by declaring that there are no minorities in Sri Lanka and that all Sri Lankans are citizens with equal rights to live anywhere they want. The only distinction would be, he has ominously stated, between those who love their motherland and those who don’t. The latter disqualification targets the Sinhalese critics of the government more than it targets the remaining Tamil dissidents. Particularly vulnerable are journalists, media agencies and human rights NGOs. The threats against them appear to have increased dramatically after the war. The threats and their execution are not necessarily the work of the security forces or state operators but are carried out by the government’s political supporters who require no specific instructions but are encouraged by the prevailing culture of impunity.

Compounding this culture is the government’s decision to keep in force the Emergency Regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act even though the principal reason for their usage, the LTTE, is no longer there. The notorious regulations and the law have been and will be used against all Sri Lankans who politically disagree with the government, not just the Tamils.

Our Post-War Relationship With India Depends on Implementation of 13th Amendment

by Dayan Jayatilleka

The warning about the risk of triumphalism came days before the 65th anniversary celebration of D Day, by the leaders of the US , UK and France . In the USA there are annual re-enactments of the battles of the American Revolution – the War of Independence against Britain —and of the Civil War against the Secessionist Confederacy. While the risk of triumphalism does indeed exist and must be cautioned against, I think there is yet another risk, an opposite one, which we must avoid. The USSR which triumphed over the bulk of the Nazi fascist army, collapsed without a shot being fired, and that collapse was preceded by an ideological surrender in which everything positive in its history was turned upside down and held up for derision. In the recovery of its self-respect under President Putin, one of the first steps was to restore pride in the wartime achievements of the Red Army. Sri Lanka must learn this lesson.

We have nothing to be ashamed of in our martial feats throughout our long history, whether successful (Dutugemunu) or valiant failures against stupendous odds (Puran Appu). All we have to be ashamed of are periods of division, appeasement, surrender and occupation such as the Kandyan Convention of 1815, 450 years of colonialism in parts of the island, a century without armed resistance after the uprising of 1848, or the period of the CFA during which Prabhakaran built up a state within a state with the support or tacit approval of our elected government.

My own view is that we should not only declare 2009 The Year of Victory and have celebrations at a provincial level, since every province (including Jaffna) contributed to the victory and benefited from the liberation from fascist terror and tyranny, but that we should also declare May 19th as Victory Day, to be commemorated by future generations down the ages.

External, extra-regional pressure, channeled through the international system and its multilateral institutions, is focusing on two issues: “full, rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access” to the IDPs, accountability and an independent/impartial international inquiry and a UN role (“a central role” in the words of some dignitaries) domestic political reconciliation between the communities. The agenda is clear: while access is desirable, unimpeded, i.e. unregulated access would allow a swarm of international personnel who would encyst the IDP camps and turn into a semi-colonial antibody within Sri Lankan territory, reporting to their international headquarters which themselves are penetrated by covert metropolitan agencies of one sort or another.

It is not paranoid to speculate that some would entice the IDPs with promises of refugee status in the West in exchange for false testimony of so-called war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan military, many of whom lie dead or disabled because we deliberately and rightly desisted from using airpower extensively in the final offensive against an deadly enemy entrenched among civilians. Having eliminated one separatist political entity that was not under the control of the Sri Lankan state, we would be permitting yet another space which is not subject to Sri Lanka ’s sovereignty.

This does not mean that the IDPs must not be treated as decently, humanely, equitably and generously as possible and processed out as fast as possible. Even from a counter-terrorism perspective, it is unwise to have large numbers concentrated in any one place under difficult circumstances. Under the US military’s new counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine designed mainly by warrior-scholar Gen David Petraeus, PhD, the policy of “clear, hold and build” eschews long term internment or resettlement in fortified villages of large numbers, in favor of early re-settlement in their original domains. Our IDPs must be relocated in their own homes or villages, and the joint communiqué of Governments of Sri Lanka and India as well as that of the Govt of Sri Lanka and the UN Secy Gen commits us to so resettling the bulk of the IDPs within 180 days. But this must be by primarily local efforts, involving the state, the local government authorities, the private sector, the civic associations and NGOs.

Ours is not a stalemated war with a negotiated outcome, still less an internationally mediated outcome – which is the endgame that was sought by some Western sources as the war drew to a close. We warded off such attempts at abortion. Ours was an outright victory for the democratic forces against the tyrannical and totalitarian; the forces of national re-unification against the forces of secessionism and dismemberment. Whether and when accountability and transitional justice issues will be addressed, and how, with what combination of local and foreign expertise, must and can only be a sovereign decision.

While we are on the subject of independent impartial international inquiries, why not appoint one into the activities of the Tamil Tigers, which includes how they succeeded in building a state within a state, with the help of which collaborationist personalities and agencies, elected and unelected, local and foreign? Now that we are besieged by calls for rapid, full and unimpeded access, the Sri Lankan people surely deserve to know what took place -- and especially the degree of international involvement with the Tigers, naming the external agencies and personalities involved in buttressing the LTTE.

It is absurd and unthinkable that there should be any role for the UN in domestic political reconciliation. We know what happened in Kosovo with UN involvement, and in any case the Serbian army lost the Kosovo war, we did not. Elements in the West, allied with the pro-Tiger Tamil Diaspora seek a role for the UN in political reconciliation in order to secure for the Diaspora based Tiger political network (though they would claim it is for the Tamil minority) the kind of political role in the postwar settlement that is ruled out by the outcome of the war.

Some could not obtain for the Tigers or rather the Tamil Diaspora, or for the Tigers on behalf of the Tamil Diaspora, a stalemate on the battlefield. They are now trying to obtain a stalemate at the negotiating table. This will not work either. We have nothing to negotiate with the pro-Tiger Diaspora. Any negotiations will be with the Tamil democrats, i.e. the non Tiger Tamils. This too will probably be fuelled by the new parliamentary balance that results from the holding of elections. None of this provides political space or a political role for any extra-regional entity or elements.

I for one am for a General Fonseka’s idea of 300,000 strong military, though it should be as balanced between the three services and as multiethnic as possible. Sri Lanka is being subject to intense external pressure and these could turn coercive in one form or another. We must have a capacity to deter them from which ever quarter they emanate, and the sole way of doing this is to have a trained military which is capable of imposing unacceptably heavy casualties on any hostile force that steps on our soil, whatever its technological advantages.

We must, if needed, merge our own successful strategy, tactics and weapons systems with those that are valuable of the defeated Tigers, creating a deadly Sri Lankan military synthesis. Of course, the cost of maintaining a 300,000 strong military must not be at the expense of investment in education and social services, or else we’ll doom ourselves to stagnation as a nation that simply cannot compete in the world, not least with its enemy, Tamil separatism.

Does this mean that the Tamil people will be under the Sinhala jackboot? This is the scenario that is painted in order to justify the slogan of “unfettered access”, “international inquiry” and a “central role for the UN in political reconciliation”. There are only two types who think that this is a likely scenario: the bloc of Tamil separatists/ultranationalist, the UNP leaders, the Sinhala liberals and their Western allies on the one hand, who fear this outcome or thrive on it, and on the other hand the Sinhala chauvinists and supremacists who fantasize along the same lines; one person’s nightmare being another’s fantasy.

The Tamil ultra-nationalists think that the 13th amendment is too little, too late and in any case will never be implemented by the Rajapakse administration due to its own ideological predispositions as well as the pressure of the Sinhala chauvinists. For their part the Sinhala chauvinists think that the 13th amendment is too much, and in any case they can prevail over the Rajapakse administration not to implement it. In their dark fantasies both these extremist camps have forgotten one “tiny” factor: India .

The full, if reasonably graduated implementation of the 13th amendment is the cornerstone of our postwar relationship with India , the relationship with which is the cornerstone of our international relations. As the paradigmatic victory in Geneva showed, we can win against the Tiger Diaspora and the Western European bloc influenced by it, when we are supported by our neighbors, our continent and our natural constituency the developing world plus Russia . In this strategy the support of India is critical. Without India ’s support, the rest will distance itself from us, leaving us wide open to Western pressure and coercion. China alone cannot carry the weight: it is too far away and cannot be expected to risk its relationships with important powers for the sake of Sri Lanka .

Contrary to the nonsense of Sinhala racist propaganda, the implementation of the 13th amendment is not the tithe or “protection money” (kappan) paid by the Sri Lankan state to Tamil separatism and/or our Western critics and adversaries. It is the minimum cost of accommodation between the Sinhalese who are the majority on the island and the Tamils who dwarf the Sinhalese outside it. It is the only way to balance the two aspects of Sinhala collective existence: a majority on the island and minority worldwide, as well as the dual character of Tamil collective existence- a majority outside the island and a minority within it.

The implementation of the 13th amendment, and the equitable expeditious treatment of the IDPs, constitutes the minimum requirement for Sri Lanka to retain its friends and allies in the face of a hostile Western project. It is also the sole realistic option by which the Sri Lankan state, the Government, the Sri Lankan military and the Sinhalese can retain the support of the anti-Tiger Tamil democrats and through them the moderate Tamils on the island with whom coexistence and partnership are imperative.

(These are the strictly personal views of the writer)

June 11, 2009

LSSP Did Not Promote Separatism-Upali Cooray: a reply to Channa

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

The thoughtful letter on the rise of triumphalism in Sri Lanka written by “podi seeya” Upali Cooray to his grand nephew was posted on this blog under the heading “Chauvinist fever following military defeat of LTTE”.

The piece was well-received and evoked a wide range of responses.

Most of them if not all appreciated the analytical advice proffered by Upali Cooray a veteran leftist with a Trotskyite background.

Though I had to edit some comments and respond personally to a few all comments were released with the exception of one that viciously attacked Upali Cooray personally while expressing a contrary viewpoint. [click here to read the article in full~in dbsjeyaraj.com]

End Illegal Detention of Displaced Population - HRW

Nearly 300,000 Tamils Enduring Poor Conditions in Camps

The Sri Lankan government should end the illegal detention of nearly 300,000 ethnic Tamils displaced by the recently ended conflict in Sri Lanka, Human Rights Watch said today.

For more than a year, the Sri Lankan government has detained virtually everyone - including entire families - displaced by the fighting in the north in military-run camps, in violation of international law. While the government has said that most would be able to return home by the end of the year, past government practice and the absence of any concrete plans for their release raises serious concerns about indefinite confinement, said Human Rights Watch.

"Treating all these men, women, and children as if they were Tamil Tiger fighters is a national disgrace," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Displaced Tamil civilians have the same rights to liberty and freedom of movement as other Sri Lankans."

While the Sri Lankan authorities are expected to screen persons leaving the war zone to identify Tamil Tiger combatants, international law prohibits arbitrary detention and unnecessary restrictions on freedom of movement. This means that anyone taken into custody must be promptly brought before a judge and charged with a criminal offense or released. Although human rights law permits restrictions on freedom of movement for security reasons, the restrictions must have a clear legal basis, be limited to what is necessary, and be proportionate to the threat.

Since March 2008, the government of Sri Lanka has detained virtually all civilians fleeing areas controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam at so-called "welfare centers" and "transitional relief villages." A small number of camp residents, mainly the elderly, have been released to host families and institutions for the elderly. The vast majority, however, remain in detention. As of June 5, the United Nations reported that the authorities were keeping 278,263 people in detention in 40 camps in the four northern districts of Vavuniya, Mannar, Jaffna, and Trincomalee.

A significant number of the detainees have close relatives in the region, with whom they could stay if they were allowed to leave.

"Many people are in the camps not because they have no other place to go," said Adams. "They are in the camps because the government does not allow them to leave."

Before the recent massive influx of displaced persons, the government proposed holding the displaced in camps for up to three years. According to the plan, those with relatives inside would be allowed to come and go after initial screening, but young or single people would not be allowed to leave. After international protests, the government said that it would resettle 80 percent of the displaced by the end of 2009. But the government's history of restricting the rights of displaced persons through rigid pass systems and strict restrictions on leaving the camps heightens concerns that they will be confined in camps much longer, possibly for years.

More than 2,000 people displaced from their homes in northwestern Mannar district by the fighting two years ago were released from the camps only in May, when the government said they could return to their homes.

Conditions in the camps are inadequate. Virtually all camps are overcrowded, some holding twice the number recommended by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Food distribution is chaotic, there are shortages of water, and sanitation facilities are inadequate. Camp residents do not have access to proper medical services and communicable diseases have broken out in the camps.

Since May 16, the military camp administration has imposed numerous restrictions on humanitarian organizations working in the camps, such as limiting the number of vehicles and staff members that can enter the camps, which has delayed the provision of much-needed aid. The military does not allow organizations into the camps to conduct protection activities, and a ban on talking to the camp residents leaves them further isolated. The military has also barred journalists from entering the camps except on organized and supervised tours.

"The poor conditions in the camps may worsen with the monsoon rains," said Adams. "Holding civilians who wish to move in with relatives and friends is irresponsible as well as unlawful."

The Globe and Mail: Sri Lanka discredits itself

Turning away Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Bob Rae is more than an insult to a distinguished Canadian, it is an affront to Canada itself

Editorial, From Globe and Mail, Thursday, Jun. 11, 2009:

The decision by Sri Lanka to turn away Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Bob Rae is more than an insult to a distinguished Canadian who has worked at some personal risk to end violence in that country, but is an affront to Canada itself, a Commonwealth friend that has supported Sri Lankan peace efforts and which in 2006 strengthened the Sri Lankan government's hand by listing, correctly if belatedly, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as a terrorist organization.

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[Editorial page cartoon on Globe and Mail, June 11, 2009]

Mr. Rae was refused entry on Tuesday at the airport in Colombo, and yesterday was placed on a flight out of the country. This, though he had a valid visa and had consulted with Sri Lanka's High Commissioner in Ottawa before making the trip. The actions of Sri Lankan authorities are worrying evidence of a weakening of the country's civil infrastructure and its government's determined and continuing failure to reach out to the Tamil minority.

Canada lodged a formal protest with Sri Lanka, expressing “dismay and displeasure” over Mr. Rae's “unacceptable treatment.” It needs to go further, and heed the call of those who are asking this country to step up pressure on Sri Lanka, which moved yesterday to extend a state of emergency giving the police and army sweeping powers to arrest and detain suspects indefinitely without charge. Sri Lanka has been an example of democracy in the developing world, but the militarization of the country continues, despite the crushing of the Tamil Tigers.

Some Liberal MPs in the past attended functions at which the LTTE were prominent, and Liberal governments resisted efforts to designate the Tigers a terrorist organization. Historically, Sri Lanka had cause to be frustrated by the actions of certain Canadian politicians. But Mr. Rae's involvement in Sri Lanka has been benevolent. He has briefed government and rebel negotiators on Canadian federalism and helped oversee constitutional discussions, and he has consistently opposed violence by either side. In 2008, writing in The Globe, he called the LTTE “a merciless armed group ... engaged in brutal attacks against civilians as well as assassinations of their opponents.”

Mr. Rae is no threat to Sri Lanka's security, and he is manifestly not, as an army spokesman reportedly claimed, “an LTTE supporter.” The authorities plainly fear that he will draw attention to a humanitarian and human-rights crisis, and to the failure of Sri Lanka's government to pursue reconciliation with its Tamil minority.

It is estimated that more than a quarter of a million displaced Sri Lankans are being confined in internment camps by the military. Efforts by international human-rights groups to monitor conditions facing Tamils, and to probe allegations of serious violations of international human-rights and humanitarian law by Sri Lankan forces (as well as by the defeated LTTE) have also been stymied. Amnesty International says it has received reports of “enforced disappearance, extrajudicial executions, torture and other ill-treatment, forced recruitment by paramilitary groups and sexual violence.”

Sri Lanka needs Mr. Rae, and distinguished voices like his, as much now as at any time in its recent history of conflict. It should have rolled out the red carpet for him, and thanked him for his interest in its peace and long-term stability. [courtesy: The Globe and Mail]

The uncertain future of Tamils in Sri Lanka

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From ~ The Economist Magazine

With the government's defeat of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, or Tamil Tigers) and the end of the civil war, attention in Sri Lanka is turning to the future. Beyond the need for economic development in former war zones, and humanitarian support for civilians displaced by the conflict, the peacetime political role of the country's large Tamil minority is of key importance. Devolving powers to the provinces may go some way toward addressing Tamil grievances, though separatist violence—albeit on a much smaller scale than during the war—will remain a threat.

TET0611.jpgThe major surprise in the last stage of the Sri Lankan army's campaign against the LTTE, in mid-May, was its unexpected success in wiping out virtually the entirety of the rebel group's leadership. The credibility of the government's declaration of victory on May 19th was strengthened by the death of the rebel leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, in the final bout of fighting. Although conflicting accounts of his death emerged, images of the corpse and identification by senior former Tamil rebels backed up the veracity of the claim. Apart from Prabhakaran, other senior LTTE leaders were also reportedly killed. They included the leader of the group's intelligence wing, Sivershankar Pottu Amman, the commander of its naval force, Thillaiyampalam Sivanesan (known as Soosai), and its political chief, Balasingham Nadesan. Prabhakaran's son and head of the rebels' small air force, Charles Anthony, was also killed in a separate encounter. The fact that so many in the senior leadership are dead, and that the LTTE has no land base left, suggests that the Tigers are finished as a political and military force.

Tamil separatism is nevertheless likely to continue as a movement, and other terrorist organisations may arise to take the LTTE's place. It is doubtful, however, that these will be able to tap the financial and organisational networks that were available to the LTTE, especially in the Tamil diaspora. Generational gaps and disillusionment with the Tigers had in any case been making it tougher for the rebels to generate the same level of support recently as in previous years; a new insurgency would find motivating donors even tougher.

Meanwhile, much of the stock of arms and ammunition available to the Tigers was lost in the recent war, so a new group would have to start from a poorly supplied base. If separatist incidents occur in the coming months, they are thus likely to be unsophisticated attacks—although they may still be bloody.

With the prospects for the armed struggle looking poor, new attention is likely to turn to the political sphere. The government has ruled out allowing what remnants, if any, exist of the LTTE to return to the political mainstream. Still, despite the LTTE's past efforts to kill off moderate Tamils, the Tamil community is not lacking in political parties or leaders. Although these groups are fragmented, prominent individuals include Douglas Devananda, the social welfare minister and leader of the Eelam People's Democratic Party; and Veerasingham Anandasangaree, the head of the Tamil United Liberation Front. Both distanced themselves from the Tigers many years ago. Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan (also known as Karuna), a former head of the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) and now a member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (the main component of the ruling United People's Freedom Alliance government), may also become more prominent, although his main base of support is in the east. Before joining the political mainstream, Karuna had created the TMVP as a breakaway faction of the LTTE.

The government has already promised that elections will be held soon—in August, the latest reports indicate—for local authority positions in Jaffna and Vavuniya in the north, the first in a decade. It is possible that provincial elections could follow in the north, possibly in late 2010 or 2011. What is not yet clear is how much the government and security forces will interfere with the results. (Militants and thugs associated with Tamil political groups may also intimidate voters.) If the government actively discriminates against certain Tamil politicians, for example those associated with the Tamil National Alliance coalition (which won 22 seats in the 2004 general election but has been closely associated with the LTTE), the election result may lack legitimacy and underlying ethnic tensions may rise.

Moreover, despite the end of the civil war, resolving the grievances of the minority Tamil community will remain a major challenge for the government. The government's strategy is to address this problem by fuller implementation of existing measures that devolve power to the island's provinces. However, a lack of fiscal resources will limit funds available to the regions. In addition, the president, Mahinda Rajapakse, has a personality-centred style of leadership that does not seem suited to ceding power to provincial authorities. Many therefore doubt that devolution will occur in practice. Nevertheless, if the government can promote economic development in the east and north, this may help to lessen resentment in the wider Tamil community in the long term. But there is unlikely to be a substantial reduction in anti-Tamil discrimination at national level in 2009-10. [courtesy: The Economist]
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MEDIA FREEDOM IN SRILANKA
Freedom of Expression news from Sri Lanka
"Economist" banned for article on post war Sri Lanka

MFSL note 2 12th May 2009:

12th June 2009 issue of Economist magazine has been held up for security reasons (!) by Sri Lanka customs. Subscribers who pay SLR 11,000 a year to Vijitha Yapa book shop in Colombo have not received their copies yet. The reason for this censorship could well be an article on Sri Lanka, which is pasted below this note. According to informed sources this is the 4th Economist issue that has been banned by customs in recent past.

Sri Lanka Customs has banned several South Indian magazines in the recent past, including Ananda Vikadam. Owner of the well known Tamil bookshop, Poobalasingham, Mr. Sritharasing was detained for importing Ananda Vikadam on 5th March 2009. A few days later student who was going to Jaffna was arrested at the Rathmalana domestic airport when air port security found a copy of the magazine with him (see MFSL monthly report March 2009).

On 29th April controller of Immigration and Emigration, P.B. Abeykoon, stated that his Department has deported or denied visas to a large number of foreign journalists, on the basis of a belief that these journalists are not capable of ‘balanced reporting’. (see MFSL special report No 2) According to our information no journalist will be allowed to Sri Lanka on visitor visa which can be obtained on arrival form now on.

Government of Sri Lanka has repeatedly assured international community that there will be no media censorship in Sri Lanka especially in the post war period. But the reality speaks otherwise.

The Wanni IDPs-The path to reconciliation and reintegration

by Nirmala Chandrahasan

Today we are told that there are 300,000 internally displaced persons from what is called the Vanni regions of the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, who are in camps which are surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. The Government has stated that they will be kept in these camps and resettled in their original towns and villages after a period of six months and that security concerns i. e. screening and registration, together with the need for demining tracts of land in the Vanni, are the factors which make it necessary to keep them in these camps.

Lest we should forget the Vanni inhabitants are not aliens but citizens of Sri Lanka and the fundamental rights in the Constitution applicable to all the citizens of the country are applicable to them as well. In addition the UN Guiding Principles on Displacement specifically sets out the rights of IDP’s and the obligations of Governments. The London Declaration of international law principles on IDPs extends to this category the rights applicable to refugees, on the basis that they are de facto refugees. International Humanitarian law i. e. the Laws of War also covers the situation of persons affected during armed conflicts and the protections to which they are entitled. Hence on this basis they would inter alia be entitled to move freely to any part of the country or to return to their original places of habitation if they so wish. They would also be entitled to compensation for loss of property and livelihood, just as for example the Mahavilaru farmers of the Eastern Province who were accorded compensation for loss of their crops due to the stoppage of water in the course of the war in the Eastern Province.

Relocation

However, in the light of the security concerns adduced by the Government and keeping in mind that a time frame has been given for their release from these camps and relocation to their villages and homes, I will not be considering the legal implications but discuss how best this period of incarceration may be used to foster reconciliation and reintegration rather than feelings of bitterness and alienation.

It must be kept in mind that the majority of these people are farmers, fisher folk and small businessmen such as shopkeepers. Some of them are government servants, teachers and medical officers. Members of some of these families could have joined the insurgents and some especially in the recent past were forcibly conscripted. During the insurgency in the South many families particularly in the Southern province faced the same situation. After the insurgency was crushed and an amnesty granted, the families were not collectively punished, peace was restored and the process of reconciliation took place.

Of course, we have to keep in mind the differences between the two insurgencies. In the case of the war in the Vanni region of the Northern Province, the scale of the conflict, the weaponry used, the numbers engaged and the scale of the devastation were unprecedented in our country. However, this apart the point I wish to make is that the treatment meted out to the IDPs in the camps will determine whether the process of reconciliation and reintegration takes place.

These Tamil inhabitants of the Northern province have owned farms, homesteads, fishing boats and small businesses and should be treated with respect, not as beggars or destitute but as equal citizens of the country and their dignity and self respect maintained while in the camps. To this end, I would like to make the following suggestions:

Firstly, the conditions in the camps will have to be improved. Prisoners who are receiving the hospitality of the government in different jails in the country are provided with three square meals, sufficient drinking water and bathing and toilet facilities. They are also provided with prison clothing and facilities for washing their clothes. The cells in the jails though not luxurious have sufficient space to enable them to stand upright when they so wish.

The prisoners in the jails also receive adequate medical attention and care. The IDPs are not legally prisoners and are being held for the screening/registration processes to be completed. They are entitled to be treated according to the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. If this is not possible they should at least be treated on par with the prisoners who are being ostensibly punished for their crimes after trial in the courts of law. It has been argued that in camps containing such large numbers of people it is not possible to provide these basic facilities, particularly at short notice. However, having put them in such camps the duty to provide adequate facilities is incumbent on the authorities concerned.

Alternatives could also be found such as breaking up the numbers and housing them in a number of smaller camps. Certain categories who are themselves at risk i.e. Senior citizens, pregnant women and nursing mothers as well as minor children without parents or guardians, could be allowed to relocate and stay with host families i.e. relatives or friends who may be willing to keep them. In Pakistan in the ongoing military campaign in the Swat valley it is estimated that the displaced could be approaching three millions, but a good number have found refuge with host families while only about 250,000 according to news reports as of date, are in IDP camps. In India, the approximately 85,000 Sri Lankan refugees are housed in 117 camps spread out in different districts of Tamil Nadu.

Special attention

Another matter which requires special consideration is the treatment of the displaced women in the camps. They are more vulnerable and more disadvantaged because not only do they share the same problems as the other IDP’s but have also gender related issues. The UN Guiding Principles on Internal displacement provide that special attention should be paid to the health needs of displaced women including access to female health care services and appropriate counseling for victims of sexual and other abuse.

The authorities must address these problems and try to provide health care and counseling. This is an important issue as many of the women suffer from the trauma of the terrible events which they have had to see and undergo. In the matter of sexual abuse within the camps there must be female police personnel to whom complaints can be made and the women IDPs must be encouraged to come forward with their problems to help centres, or designated authorities. Another matter that requires consideration is that privacy should also be provided for women in the use of bathing and toilet facilities. These areas should be screened off and if it is felt necessary for guards to stand around, the security should be provided by female guards.

Furthermore, where women have to be screened for security purposes a civilian presence, i.e. other women should be present preferably those who speak the same language. This could help allay the fears and anxieties of the women IDPs facing interrogation. In this context it may be mentioned that in Tamil Nadu a number of Police stations manned entirely by police women have been set up so that women could make complaints often relating to violence against women within the family and other sexual offences, without feeling intimidated. The presence of members of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission to monitor such proceedings would be desirable in the case of screenings of both men and women. Where as a result of the screening it is thought necessary to detain individuals, authorities should ensure that this is done in keeping with the Presidential Directives including the provision of receipts to the next of kin.

A further suggestion I would like to make is that the IDPs should also be encouraged to organize themselves into committees which would help in the administration of the camps and in looking after some of their own needs the way it is being done in the camps in India for Sri Lankan refugees. Hence camp committees, mothers’ fronts and women’s groups, students’ forums etc should be introduced. Counselors while working with the people to overcome the mental suffering and trauma could also train others in the same work. The UN Guiding Principles provide that special efforts should be made to ensure the full participation of women in the planning and distribution of basic supplies because in the distribution of food the IDP women are often excluded.

Women’s committees in the camps could assist in the distribution of the food and also assess the nutritional needs of pregnant women and nursing mothers and the requirements of the little children so that additional nutritional meals and milk food are distributed among this category. Teachers among the IDPs can be encouraged to help students resume their studies. Other skills can also be taught which will be useful when the people go back to their homes and have to start the process of reconstructing their lives from scratch.

Participation by the refugees in such committees rather than being passive spectators in the administration of the camps will help them win back their self respect and confidence and adopt democratic norms when they return home.

Finally, the Government should actively encourage groups from the South and all parts of the country to visit the camps and interact with the displace people. It must be kept in mind that these village folk of the Vanni have for many years been segregated from the rest of the country and now find themselves once again segregated behind barbed wire fences.

Representatives of farmers associations, fisherman’s associations, trade unions, business men, religious leaders, mothers’ fronts etc from the South should meet and interact with the IDPs. It will be an enlightening experience for both parties as they will mutually perceive that the people they have looked at as the "enemy" are for the most part kindly peace loving people. Furthermore the people in the camps who have thus far been meeting only armed military personnel, or officials can now meet the people of the country not as guards or camp authorities, but as fellow farmers fisher folk etc. Mothers who have lost sons and daughters in the conflict will meet mothers in the South who have similarly lost their children, some of them maimed for life, and will realise that they are not alone in their predicament and have many things in common.

Forging bonds

Now is the time to forge bonds among different communities in the country based on religious and cultural links. The Nallur Kandasamy temple, one of the most famous temples in Jaffna, was built by a Sinhalese King of the Kotte Kingdom, Bhuvanekabahu VI, while the famed temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy as it presently stands (there were earlier structures too) was built by the Tamil Nayakker King of Kandy Kirti Sri Rajasinghe. In an island off the Northern Jaffna Peninsular is the famous Nagadeepa shrine which according to legend was visited by the Buddha, while in Dondra stood the thousand pillared Vishnu temple (destroyed by the Portuguese) which is described in the Sandesaya poem of the Sinhalese poet Alagiavanna. From Dondra to Point Pedro the customs, food habits, and festivals of the people are largely the same. Strangely, while the four Dravidian states of South India do not share a common New Year festival, the Sinhalese and the Tamils in Sri Lanka share a common New Year festival.

The Muslims of Sri Lanka are the greatest votaries of the Tamil language. The sacred Koran has been translated into Tamil and the Muslims of the Northern and Eastern provinces are among the most erudite and fluent speakers of the Tamil language. The shrine of the Virgin Mary in the jungles of the Vanni, venerated by the people of the Vanni as the Madhu Matha is no less venerated by the Sinhalese Christians of the South. In the South eastern most point of Sri Lanka stands the Kataragama (Kathirgamam) shrine, sacred to both the Tamils and the Sinhalese alike who worship the God Murugan / Skanda. These are but a few examples and they remind me of an article I read recently by the Ven Walpola Piyananda (Chief Sangha Nayaka of America) where referring to the different communities in Sri Lanka he writes, "We are all connected at deeper levels than we ever suspect …"

Conclusion

In conclusion I would like to say that when truth and justice prevail and all the people of the Island including the IDPs are treated with human dignity and all communities share in the governance of the country, then the guardians deities of Sri Lanka, Vishnu, Saman, Skanda and Ganadeviyo (Ganapathi) whom the people of the Vanni pray, will shower their blessings on this island nation, bringing about reconciliation, peace and prosperity.

* Nirmala Chandrahasan. LL.B, LL.M, Ph.D, Attorney- at-Law. Formerly of the faculty of Law,University of Colombo, member of the Committee of Experts on legal and Constitutional affairs, appointed by the President to advise the APRC, in 2006.She is also the daughter of former Nallur MP Dr.EMV Naganathan and daughter in law of former Kankesanthurai MP SJV Chelvanayagam QC

Toronto Star: "Harper government should pick up where Rae was rebuffed"

Toronto Star Editorial, June 11, 2009:

Sri Lanka chooses wrong target in Rae

Bob Rae is no starry-eyed apologist for Sri Lanka's defeated Tamil Tiger guerrillas. Writing in the Star a few months ago, he described them as "ruthless at killing their opponents," undemocratic, suicide bombers and recruiters of child soldiers.

Yet in the eyes of Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa's regime, the Liberal foreign affairs critic and former Ontario premier is a Tiger supporter who must be barred from the country.

Rae is a familiar face in Colombo for his past efforts to broker peace in the 26-year civil war that cost 80,000 lives. But when he arrived on Tuesday to "discuss the humanitarian situation and the future of reconciliation," officials denied him entry on security grounds and sent him packing, even though he had the required visa.

This is outrageous, from a country that got almost $30 million in Canadian aid in 2007 and that hailed Ottawa's decision to deem the Tigers terrorists despite the large Tamil community here in Canada.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's officials called the decision to bar Rae "unacceptable" and absurd. It is that, and more. It also follows an incident in which a Colombo mob vandalized Canada's high commission office while police stood by.

Now a distinguished Canadian parliamentarian is unwelcome because he criticized Colombo's fierce drive to crush the Tigers, amid shockingly high civilian casualties. And who has been, in his words, "a champion of moderate Tamil opinion and Tamil dissent."

This is no way for the Rajapaksa government to obtain the understanding it seeks from the international community, as the United Nations fields claims of war crimes on both sides.

As Rae says, this looks like Sri Lanka is "afraid of dialogue, afraid of discussion, afraid of engagement." Or worse, has something to hide.

The UN reports that 7,000 people died in the relentless final assault on Tiger-held areas. The Red Cross says some 300,000 Tamils are now interned in camps. And Colombo has yet to say how it intends to heal the wounds, and redress longstanding Tamil grievances.

The Harper government should pick up where Rae was rebuffed and press Colombo to move Tamils out of camps back into their homes and to respect their rights.

Canada rips Sri Lanka for deporting 'security threat' Rae

The federal government has formally registered its "dismay and displeasure" with the Sri Lankan government over the deportation of Liberal foreign affairs critic, Bob Rae.

During the dispute, Rae called a Sri Lankan government spokesman a liar for branding him a supporter of the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels.

The diplomatic incident comes shortly after Sri Lankan protesters caused disruptions in Ottawa and Toronto that have attempted to draw attention to the violence in their homeland, but have only angered many Canadians.

"It is absurd to suggest that Mr. Rae represents a threat to Sri Lankan national security, or is a supporter of LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam)," said Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Emma Welford.

"We have registered to the Sri Lankan government our dismay and displeasure concerning this unacceptable treatment of a Canadian parliamentarian. Mr. Rae received consular assistance throughout this ordeal." [National Post]

UN "worried" over Govt. plans to replace tents with permanent structures

Internally displaced Sri Lankan people wait during a visit by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at Manik Farm refugee camp in Cheddikulam on May 23, 2009.
People are not being released from camps until they have been screened

Most of Sri Lanka's displaced people could still be kept in government-run camps in one year's time, a UN official has told the BBC quoting army sources.

But the government rejected the suggestion, saying that it aimed to resettle most by the end of this year.

About 250,000 people fled the final bloody phase of the civil war between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels.

Meanwhile, a human rights group accused the government of failing to probe rights abuses during the conflict.

It was in the final weeks of the war that hundreds of thousands of civilians streamed out of rapidly-diminishing rebel-held territory.

They were ultimately housed in government-run camps in the district of Vavuniya.

The UN expressed concern about the permanent nature of the shelters being put up in these camps.

The official, Mark Cutts, said that nothing less than a new city had been created at Manik Farm, the massive complex of camps where he worked for the past month as a senior co-ordinator.

He said bulldozers were working constantly to clear jungle and that phone lines, schools, banks and even a cash machine had been built. He said this was "phenomenal" but described government plans to replace tents with more permanent structures as a "big worry".

"Senior military officials have also told us that they don't expect to see any significant returns in the next six months, On the contrary, some senior officials told us just yesterday that they expect probably not more than 20% of these people will have returned in the next year," Mr Cutts said.

But Sri Lanka's human rights minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said it was "absolutely false" to suggest that it would take so long. He said it was not the military but the government who took such decisions and that it aimed to resettle most people by the end of this year.

In the past week, the government says about 2,000 displaced people have been resettled in their villages in the north-west. These people fled their homes about two-and-a-half years ago.

It says that the refugees living in the camps are being strictly vetted to ensure they have no links with the rebels. Only after that process can their return home be considered.

International standards

But the UN said that even those who have been through the screening process have not yet been released from the camps and that no one apart from those under 10 or over 60 years of age were being allowed out.

"We need to look into this issue of how long are they going to be kept in these places, will they be given proper freedom of movement - and that is going to be a big concern if these camps are going to be there for longer than the three to six months we initially assumed," Mr Cutts said.

He said that humanitarian access to the camps had improved in recent days, but this was not unconditional. While understanding the government's security concerns, he said the UN had to ensure international standards were met when dealing with the displaced.

Mr Samarasinghe confirmed that those being screened must wait for the process to be completed but said they needed somewhere to stay in the meantime.

In a separate development, human rights group Amnesty International accused the Sri Lankan government of never seriously investigating the human rights abuses allegedly committed during the 26-year civil war.

It has called on the government to take advantage of the end of the conflict to seriously investigate all these allegations.

It says the issue is even more pressing in the wake of the controversies that arose during the final weeks of the conflict, when international human rights groups accused both the Tamil Tiger rebels and the government of committing war crimes.

The government was accused of subjecting areas of rebel-held territory to indiscriminate shelling, while the rebels were accused of using civilians as human shields.

Sri Lanka has previously dismissed calls for an independent inquiry into claims of human rights abuses by the military, saying its own courts will investigate. [bbc.co.uk]

CBC Audio: Bob Rae on "As it happens" from London, Heathrow

Bob Rae on CBC As it Happens, Wed, Jun 10 ~ hosted by Barbara Budd and Carol Off

Sri Lanka is a hot country. The weather's hot. The food's hot. And the country has just seen the bloody end of a terrifyingly hot civil war. But there was no warmth in the reception Bob Rae received when his flight touched down in Colombo yesterday.

[ "If you say sorry, we'll let you in" ~ Click here for mp3 audio~ 10 mts]

The Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic had flown to Sri Lanka to observe the aftermath of the war that saw the Sri Lankan Army defeat the separatist Tamil Tigers, or LTTE. But he didn't make it past the airport. Mr. Rae was detained for questioning -- and then sent home on the next available flight.

We reached Mr. Rae as he transferred planes at London's Heathrow Airport.

June 10, 2009

Injustice fuels Sri Lanka's cycle of abuse and impunity

by Amnesty International

Amnesty International has accused the Sri Lankan government of trapping the country in a vicious cycle of abuse and impunity. A new report published on Thursday by the organization details the Sri Lankan government’s failure to deliver justice for serious human rights violations over the past twenty years.

[Dr. Manoharan's son Rajihar was killed in Sri Lanka in January 2006, but he is still waiting for justice-video: Amnesty International]

"Twenty Years of Make-Believe: Sri Lanka’s Commissions of Inquiry", documents the failure of successive Sri Lankan governments to provide accountability for violations, including enforced disappearances, killings, and torture.

Since 1991, the Sri Lankan government has formed nine ad hoc Commissions of Inquiry to investigate enforced disappearances and a number of other human rights-related inquiries.

These commissions of inquiry have lacked credibility and have delayed criminal investigations, according to Amnesty International, who accused the government of failing to protect victims and witnesses. While most, if not all, of these Commissions of Inquiry identified alleged perpetrators, very few prosecutions for human rights violations have resulted.

From the outbreak of anti-Tamil rioting in July 1983, which led to full-scale armed conflict between the state and the Tamil Tigers (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam – LTTE), increasing numbers of people were victims of gross human rights violations in Sri Lanka. By the late 1980s, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions had reached vast proportions.

These violations occurred in the context of two major conflicts in the country: the government’s war with the LTTE in the north and east of the country, and a second confrontation between government forces and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (People’s Liberation Front, JVP), a southern-based Sinhalese party that sought to overthrow the government.


By 1991, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances had received almost 15,000 reports of enforced disappearances and had transmitted 4,932 cases to the government of Sri Lanka.

President Ranasinghe Premadasa created Sri Lanka’s first Commission of Inquiry into "involuntary removals of persons" in January 1991. Its mandate was extremely limited, dealing only with new enforced disappearances that occurred after the establishment of the CoI (the vast majority of Sri Lanka’s tens of thousands of reported enforced disappearances from the period occurred between 1988 and 1990).

Since 1991, there have been nine Commissions of Inquiry to investigate enforced disappearances and a number of other human rights-related inquiries. While most, if not all, of these Commissions of Inquiry identified alleged perpetrators, very few prosecutions for human rights violations have resulted.

The Sri Lankan government has brushed off requests for an independent investigation into violations in the context of the recent military conflict, in spite of a 23 May joint statement by the Sri Lankan President and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stating that: "The Government will take measures to address those grievances".

"There is strong ground to question the Sri Lankan government’s sincerity about its most recent promise to provide accountability for the war crimes and human rights violations that occurred in the past few months, given the extremely poor track record documented in Amnesty International’s most recent report," said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director.

Amnesty International has called on the government to use the opportunity created by the end of military operations against the LTTE to provide accountability for serious violations and abuses committed by both sides during the last months of fighting which cost thousands of lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

"As the Sri Lankan people contend with the most recent abuses committed by both sides of the recent conflict, particularly during the last few months of the fighting, the reality is that they have been haunted by injustice and impunity for years," said Sam Zarifi.

"If communities that have been torn apart by decades of violence and impunity are to be reconciled, the Sri Lankan government should initiate internal reforms and seek international assistance to prevent ongoing violations and ensure real accountability for past abuses."

As an immediate priority, Amnesty International is calling for the establishment of an independent international commission to investigate allegations of serious violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law by both the Sri Lankan forces and the Tamil Tigers in the recent military hostilities.

"The Sri Lankan authorities have had little success in providing accountability for abuses against civilians committed by the LTTE; they are even less likely to effectively investigate and prosecute their own forces for violations of human rights and humanitarian law," Sam Zarifi said.

"Given the scale of the problem of impunity in Sri Lanka, accountability can only be achieved with the active commitment of the Sri Lankan government, supported by systematic and sustained international human rights monitoring and technical assistance."

To address the need for broader human rights protection and reform, Amnesty International has called for the establishment of a UN human rights monitoring presence under the auspices of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate reported abuses and assist Sri Lanka’s national institutions to deliver justice.

Amnesty International is holding a public panel discussion on Friday at a side event at the UN Human Rights Council session. The panel will be discussing the finding of the report in detail and include:

Gene Dewey, a member of the last International Commission of Inquiry on Sri Lanka
Dr Manoharan, whose son was killed in the ‘Trico 5’ incident, one of the high profile human rights cases where the family are still waiting for justice. [amnestyinternational.org]

The task of reconciling a divided people is not insurmountable

by Shanie

After over fifty years of worsening ethnic relations and an insurgency that has lasted for more than half that period, the task of reconciling a divided people is a monumental but not insurmountable one. Over the years, the people have been polarised by pseudo-nationalists and self-seeking politicians who have succeeded in creating a mind-set that demonised the ‘other’. This mind-set, unfortunately, is not confined to those who have had no opportunity of interacting with those on the other side of the ethnic divide.

One can understand the suspicion and distrust of such isolated people. But it is surprising how many, despite growing up in a multi-ethnic environment and sometimes even having close family relationships across the ethnic divide, adopt an ultra-nationalist or even a chauvinistic line. The psychologist probably has an explanation for this kind of mind-set but that is not the line to analyse in this column.

The kind of triumphalist celebrations and the personality cult that is being promoted after the defeat of the LTTE may have political motives. But it is also providing nourishment for an ugly and narrow nationalism that is hurting our country and our people. It needs to be checked before it is too late. The newspaper opinion pages, websites and the blogs give an indication of how our mind-sets have been corrupted over the years. It is a blame-game that seeks to show that all the troubles being faced by our country are caused by the ‘other’. It was therefore refreshing to note some comments recently from individuals who have tried to break away from this mind-set.

Mohan Sekeram, a Tamil, had sent out a private letter to friends which was picked up and published, with the author’s permission, in D B S Jeyaraj’s website. Nazeeya Faarooq, a Muslim, wrote in the Groundviews website, and Kshama Ranawana’s posting was also in the Trans-Currents web page.

There have been several other well-thoughtout postings but we have selected these three, not just because they represent the three major communities in our country, but because all three were prepared to engage in self-examination and self-criticism about the failures of their respective communities. In the newspaper opinion pages, one hardly finds anyone who acknowledges the hurt that ‘our community’ has caused the ‘other’ and seeks to right the wrong done in a mood of forgiveness or repentence.

Mohan Sekeram is a former Trinity ruggerite whose family owned a tea plantation in the Maskeliya area – hardly the type who would have supported the LTTE. But he writes as one who is proud to be a Tamil. And the posting on the dbsjeyaraj.com website has attracted several comments from across the ethnic divide. Many of them have picked up Sekeram’s line of thinking, acknowledge the failings of their own community, and want to move into the future by overcoming the past. This is a positive outcome of well edited web blogs like Trans-Currents and Groundviews, unlike many other websites from outside Sri Lanka that spew out partisan venom.

Us and Them

Somapala Gunadheera, a member of the once prestigious Ceylon Civil Service, has been making some excellent contributions recently on the need for understanding the ‘other’ and moving towards reconciliation, to which we have referred in this column on earlier occasions. One of Gunadheera’s colleagues, Dr Devanesan Nesiah wrote a couple of years ago an excellent piece on the ‘us’ and ‘them’ mind-set which we quoted in this column. In our country’s present state of mind, it is worth recalling that article. Nesiah wrote:

"Among the many excellent offerings at Harvard in my time was one focused on group behaviour. Typically, the class was given a brief description of a development project with two options. The relative advantages and disadvantages, and the costs and benefits of the two options may be discerned from that description.

"The project may, for example, be a harbour to be constructed by the Ports Authority at either site A or site B. Lots are drawn to divide the class into groups of equal size. Group A is prescribed the task of lobbying for site A through written submissions and structured debates. Group B is prescribed the corresponding task in respect of site B. The outcome is assessed a few days later.

"As any statistician will tell us, if the class size is sufficiently large, since the assignments are on the basis of lots drawn and not by choice, it could be assumed that the two groups were initially indistinguishable in respect of social and economic policy orientation. However, almost immediately, differences emerge and quickly escalate. Passions are roused and increasing inter-group hostility is evident, even extending to social relationships. Within each group, the growing consensus is not only that the site advocated by it is superior to the other, but also that the group itself is superior to the other.

"The objective of the course was not to develop cost benefit skills but to understand how easy it is for a group to become insular or sub-divided and polarised between "us" and "them". Intra-group loyalties are very important for many purposes, but inter-group hostilities could be destructive. We are familiar with quarrels sustained over an extended period between neighbours, relatives, etc; we see fights between children of different schools, supporters of rival sports clubs, etc; we witness violent conflict based on rival political loyalties and ideologies.

The wide prevalence of acute hostilities between groups based on ethnicity, language, religion, caste, citizenship, etc. suggest that the instincts dominant in our society remain tribal. Within a group sub-groups may emerge, generating more conflict. We should be ashamed that our tribal instincts are so strong, so easily aroused and so quickly displace our capacity for sound judgment and humane conduct. Cannot we overcome such destructive tribal instincts that make all of us losers?’’

This tribal instinct is there in all of us and it is good for us to recognise it. Group loyalties and solidarity can be constructive and used to pursue common positive goals. But, when group solidarity is pushed to arouse passions that seek to diminish or hurt other groups, then it becomes self-destructive. It is in such circumstances, where tribal instincts are used to arouse self-destructive passions, that individuals within groups must stand up and steer the group along constructive lines, even if it means that such individuals are branded as ‘traitors’ to the group.

Sadly, this is what our country has lacked in the past. This can be put right if we have more Sekerams, Faarooqs and Ranawanas, who are prepared to overcome tribalism by reaching out to the ’, by acknowledging that which is wrong in ‘us’ and that which is right in ‘them’.

Nesiah is correct when he says that we should be ashamed that we allow our tribal instincts to arouse irrational passions. We allow tribalism to enter into our foreign relations as well. We accuse the West of double standards when we ourselves are guilty of double standards. We cannot remain in a cocoon and wallow in the mud of tribalism. We get nowhere by abusing and striking the West with one hand and appealing to them for financial aid with the other. If our record is clean and no civilians died from firing by the state forces during the recent offensive as now claimed, then we need have no fears of an inquiry by any independent panel. Indeed, it will show the world that we were justified in our claims.

We must not follow that line adopted by Idi Amin and Robert Mugabe. The former took his country to the depth of decadence and the latter, who began as an admired political warrior, led his country to virtual political and economic collapse. Both began as popular national heroes but it did not take long for them to emerge as fascist despots. They then tried to shift the blame for their own mismanagement by appealing to the tribal instincts of their people.

President Rajapakse must not lose the opportunity he now has of reaching out to the minorities and offering them justice and equality. He has said so but he needs to give effect to those words without delay. He now has sufficient popular backing to stand up to extremists of all types and to forge ahead with what is right by all people of this country.

Somapala Gunadheera in The Island said much the same thing when he wrote: 'This is the time the iron of public opinion is at the hottest. It has to be struck forthwith, if we are keen to forge a consensus for national unity. ... Good governance calls for hard decisions. A good leader should have the guts to take them at the proper time. Populism is short-lived.

'Solving the ethnic problem would not call for half the valour and determination that went into the fight against the LTTE. Even if the President has to fight a battle at home to honour his word, it is worth fighting it because that battle can put an end to all wars that would inevitably follow otherwise.' [courtesy: The Island]

Military Victory over LTTE Provides Twelve Lessons for Business

By Rohantha Athukorala

In my tenure of fifteen years of business experience in some of the leading multinationals in the world and managing some of the most powerful brands globally like Dettol could not even come close to the excitement that I have experienced in the last 3 years of working in the largest team for the country in its war against the LTTE.

LTTE on the work table

Coming from a business background, I suddenly found that the daily agenda included countering the LTTE strategies. Traveling on military aircrafts became a way of life; Chartering vessels to carry essential goods to Jaffna after the closure of the A9 due to LTTE attacks, Staging the business exhibitions and trade visits in Jaffna to defy that the LTTE cannot stop the economy functioning, convincing the private sector in the south that business is possible with Jaffna even with a war in the North, moving from the Palaly camp to the Jaffna town in armored cars, sometimes as late as 8.30pm became part of daily routine.

The adrenaline flow was so strong that I used to pen articles on anti-terrorism that got quoted in pro-LTTE websites and subsequently a blanket death threat surfaced. Even this did not deter any of us in our efforts at work as we believed in the motto ‘Country before self’. The fact of the matter was that the LTTE is a banned terrorist organization in over thirty five countries in the world and is branded as the most ruthless and brutal force that invented the worlds 1st human suicide bomb. Beating this organization by the Sri Lankan security forces on their own turf, can give many powerful lessons to the world. I felt it my duty to capture some of them and I will be using the data that has been published in interviews and my own analysis.

Lesson 1 – Stay in the game on ground

The Defense Secretary and the Army Commander are proven battle hardy soldiers. Both had survived a suicide attack by the LTTE. The Army commander has been wounded twice in the field which explains the experience he has to direct the troops if required. For instance when the forces were up against earth bunds that the LTTE had erected, he personally instructed the ground forces where to breach it and how to hold territory there after. This earned him the respect to lead not only at the strategic end but operationally too.

The implication to business is that a CEO of today must be in constant contact with those on the field whilst managing the financial aspects like working capital management and new product development. Especially in todays economic down turn, a CEO must keep moving down to the field level for decision making whilst working at the top on strategy. This is a new dual skill which I believe is required to survive in today’s environment. I know of a particular CEO of a large apparel company where the top six accounts are personally managed by the CEO. This, to my mind is a new age CEO of the world.

Lesson 2 – Attack the strengths

The great Tsun Tszu advocates ‘attack the vulnerable points’, however Sri Lanka’s strategy was to attack the most difficult points. For instance it took the Army 8 months to take Thambapanni which was just 4 km from the front lines and many were wondering at that time if the Army can actually win an unconventional war that the LTTE was waging. The Army leadership did not change course but kept its focus on the bigger plan. The troops finally broke through the lines and created a psychological advantage. The enemy on the other hand became weaker due to this strategic loss.

The implication to business is that if you declare war on a competitor, then attack the key strengths but ensure sure you have the adequate resources. I yet remember when Cloguard toothpaste challenged ‘Signal’ that red and white stripes has no link to the fluoride that a toothpaste has, was one such instance that war was declared on a competitors strengths and the challenger brand went on to capture almost a thirty percent plus market share.

Lesson 3 – Manage the different actors

Whilst the war on the LTTE was in progress in absolute focus and the nation as a whole behind the efforts, the President personally managed the key stakeholders such as India, China and Japan so that global support was garnered. This, to my mind was the key pivot to the overall victory as between 1987-1990 twice, the Sri Lanka Army was just closing its net on the LTTE head when their was foreign intervention and the LTTE got away.

The lesson for business is that whilst the aggressive thrust on the sales front is in play, the key stakeholders like lobby groups, internal public, the government and the media has to be managed. If this is not done it can lead to many issues like when a story leaked some time back that a particular brand of Milk Powder had been exposed to radio activity and it was not fit for consumption. I was working on the field at that time and there was chaos at the retail end. Different actors need to be managed very carefully.

Lesson 4 – Pick your men, though unpopular

When the Army commander was recently asked by a reporter what was the key to the success on ground his answer was, “I selected the task force and Brigade commander’s not on seniority but on past capabilities on the battle field because when I was at the battle front I had the opportunity to observe the performances of the officers. I also selected those officers who had confidence in me.:

The business implication is the same. Pick your team on merit and culture fit. DO NOT LET GO OF A GOOD MAN which is where the problem is when it comes to Voluntary retirement schemes(VRS)- the best people leave. A company must be careful when announcing VRS schemes in today’s environment.

Lesson 5 – Single command concept

The Army leadership practiced a clear single command leadership of all Divisions and Task Forces that was created so that there was synergy. Separately it was mentioned by the leadership that ‘No Brigade, Battalion or a Divison can win a war in isolation and the back up facilities were carefully planned under one leadership.

The implication to business is that total leadership must be on the mantle of a CEO. Especially in today’s business environment, where chaos is the order of the day, even a ‘Demand Forecast’ must be personally checked by a CEO. This is a best practice coming from successful companies today. Having a charged up sales force is not enough if the other departments are equally not charged.

Lesson 6 – Ruthless power

In 1983 Prabhakaran apparently had only 12 cadres with just twenty shot guns but by 2006 the LTTE had air crafts, tanks, submarines, missiles and a brigade of more than 20,000. In 2006 after the Marvil Aru anicut issue which the LTTE created, the government decided to go after the LTTE and eradicate the menace of terrorism from the face of the country. The army first sharpened its human capital, bolstered the necessary machine power and developed an effective supply chain efficiency that helped outsmart the enemy on all fronts.

The lesson for business is that before engaging competition check your resources as against that of the competitors. The best case in point was when ‘Walls’ ice cream was launched in Sri Lanka, I remember Elephant House went off media and allowed the bombardment to finish. Then it attacked strategically with ruthless fire power on media and below the line activity focusing on the ‘home consumption’ segment. Within two years ‘Walls’ ice cream was ‘history’ in the business landscape.

Lesson 7 – Get the media behind you

When the war became intense with the LTTE, we saw the strategic move of where all media rallied round the security forces and got the nations support. It’s called building a visionary community that came from the President downwards.

The implication to business in my view is that the conventional advertising will not get you anywhere when you are in war with a competitor unless you mobilise Public Relations. If strong PR can be generated to in addition to, the formal communication like what Sri Lanka saw in the ‘Api Wenuven Api’ campaign, you cannot actually make an impact on the consumer. In the business world when the mosquito brand Ninja launched the first ‘10 hour mosquito coil’, Sri Lanka saw how PR was used strategically to create a new wave in communication.

Lesson 8 - Strong Intelligence gathering

It is a fact that one of the key pivots of success in the war was the accurate intelligence that the key decisions makers received. The Navy was able to sink almost 10 LTTE arms ships due to the information provided by the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI). The aerial attack by the Sri Lanka Air Force that killed S.P. Thamilselvan is another classic example of the importance of intelligence.

The business implication is that an effective intelligence mechanism must be in operation with the sales force at its core. Separately the department for registration, price lists of competitors and the printer used by the competitor can also be a source of getting solid insights to competitor activity.

Lesson 9 – Finish to the kill

The final battle started in Villamulvaikkal at 2.57am with 250 LTTE cadres who had formed a ring around prabhakaran and its top LTTE leaders. The Sri Lankan troops completed its task during that day and completed an initiative that started 2 years and 10 months back.

The lesson for business is that if you decide to fight competition then fight to the end. It has to be fought at the sales end, advertising end and at the Managing Directors table too. One such initiative that I personally know of is Munchee. The company engaged war at all ends and today it is the market leader even though the competitor resorted to many negotiations just like what the LTTE did in the last day of battle.

Lesson 10 – Lead a simple Life

At a recent interview General, Fonseka said that in the last 3 years he has been in the same place where he was and the only satisfaction was the duties he performed. He was not into eating in five star hotels or living in large houses and he wants to continue to live life like he did three years back.

The implication to business to my mind is that its not the cufflinks one wears or the flashy car one drives but it’s the sheer performance in what you are committed to do that counts. Especially in todays environment where there is an economic downturn and cost cutting is mandatory.

Lesson 11 – Get the top behind

In my view one of the key reasons to defeating the LTTE was that the security force commanders had the backing of the head of state and the defense secretary with a strong common understanding. This was the edge that tilted the coin, and the whole nation coming together. It was one voice from the top.

The implication to business is that it is very important to get the Chairman and the Senior Management on your side not only in trust but in a deep understanding of what one is doing to beat the competitor. Mistakes will be made and if the top does not understand that there can be a loss of confidence that ultimately affects your performance in the future, especially when it comes to mobilising funding.

Lesson 12 – Political stability

Another pivot that helped the country achieve freedom from terrorism is the management of political stability when there was so much pressure externally. This was very cleverly managed by the President so that it will not have an impact of the thrust by the security forces.

The implication to business is that in reality all organisations be it small or big have politicking and this has to be managed. If the CEO of today does not do that, you cannot get the best off ones employees and separately drive aggressive business strategies which are required especially in an economic down turn where the pie is getting smaller.

Conclusion

Hence we see that there are many lessons for the corporate world from the war against terrorism. Since the war has come to a close in Sri Lanka now the challenge is how we can make each company that we work for competitive so that as nation we become strong. After all eighty percent of Sri Lanka’s economy is driven by the private sector.

On the other hand the public sector must focus on developing the North and East for livelihood development than just Infrastructure development so that in 3-4 years a day will dawn where some one can conceptualize the 12 lessons that Sri Lanka taught the world on how an economy can be build post a conflict!

(Rohantha Athukorala is the Economics Director of the Secretariat for co-ordinating the peace process (SCOPP).The opinions expressed are those of the author, and does not reflect the positions he held in the Public or Private sector.)

Bob Rae: "If this is how they treat me, imagine how they treat people who can't speak out"

"...after thirty years of public service at home and abroad I have to say this decision reflects on them, and not on me."

Personal statement by Hon. Bob Rae PC, MP, on being refused entry into Sri Lanka at the Colombo Airport:

On the evening of Tuesday, June 9, 2009, I arrived on a flight from Delhi to Colombo, Sri Lanka. I had successfully applied to the Sri Lankan High Commission for a visa and had discussed my visit with the Sri Lankan Commissioner, the Canadian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, and with officials from DFAIT.

bobraetc0610.jpg

[Liberal MP Bob Rae is seen in this December 2008 photo-TorontoStar]

When I arrived at immigration in the company of two Canadian High Commission officials, I was, after some delay, told that I was being refused entry "on the grounds of national intelligence."

Since that time I have spent over twelve hours at the airport trying to find a reason for this decision. I have had the full support of officials here and in Ottawa. The Government of Sri Lanka is sticking to its position, and I am being put on a plane to London at 1:15 p.m. Sri Lankan time. I shall be back in Canada some time Thursday.

I have been involved in Sri Lanka for over a decade, first as Chairman of the Forum of Federations, and later as a Member of Parliament. I have travelled extensively throughout the country, and have met many times with its political leaders, of all parties. During the peace process I obviously met with LTTE officials who were involved in those discussions.

I also met with all political parties, with a wide spectrum of opinions. My many trips to Sri Lanka, and my work in Canada as well as the peace process post 2001 were intended to work to a peaceful solution. To that end I have met with people of all views. I have never in any way felt that the violent tactics of the LTTE were in any way the right course, and I have made that view known on many occasions, including debates in parliament. To describe me as "an LTTE supporter," as an Army spokesman has done today, is a lie, pure and simple.

A review of my record would also show that I have been a champion of moderate Tamil opinion and Tamil dissent. I have been a steady critic of the abuses of human rights that were part of the LTTE's tactics, and have spoken about this unhesitatingly in Canada and abroad. I spoke at memorial services for both Lakshman Kadirgarmar, the former Foreign Minister, and Ketesh Loganathan, who worked at the Sri Lankan peace secretariat, both of whom were personal friends.

I am clearly not welcome here to discuss the humanitarian situation and the future of reconciliation in this country. But the government of Sri Lanka knew my views, and granted me a visa. I have flown a very long way only to be told the door is firmly shut.

The Sri Lankan government has made this decision because they have apparently reached some ill-conceived and defamatory conclusions about me. But after thirty years of public service at home and abroad I have to say this decision reflects on them, and not on me. I have fought against violence and extremism all my life. Everyone knows that, and the record of my actions, speeches and reports is there for all to see.

What they now also know is that the government of Sri Lanka is afraid of dialogue, afraid of discussion, afraid of engagement. All I can say is shame on them. If this is how they treat me, imagine how they treat people who can't speak out and who can't make public statements.

I shall have more to say on my return to Canada.

Related: Feds register 'dismay' over Rae's deportation

Bob Rae: "I have flown a very long way only to be told the door is firmly shut."

Sri Lanka on Wednesday, June 10th deported Bob Rae MP from Colombo. He was briefly detained at the airport.

"The government of Sri Lanka knew my views, and granted me a visa," Rae said in an emailed statement. "I have flown a very long way only to be told the door is firmly shut."

BRTC0610.jpg

[Bobrae.ca]

Following is a Recent op-ed by Bob Rae MP:

If there is no magnanimity in victory, there is no victory
An article by MP Bob Rae, Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic

We are told that celebrations have broken out in the Sinhala community in Colombo. That is understandable, but it should be a celebration marked with sadness as well. "The war is over", the crowds will shout. But there is a difference between a war ended by agreement and a war ended by death and destruction.

The tens of thousands of deaths, towns and villages destroyed and hundreds of thousands of people made homeless in this long conflict have not, until recently, dominated the airwaves and televisions of the Western world. Seven years ago there was a window in this terrible tragedy, a ceasefire brokered by Norway in the wake of unprecedented bombings in the South and a dramatic toughening of world opinion after 9/11. As Chairman of the Forum of Federations, I attended most of the negotiating sessions of the so-called peace talks, and met with the leaders of government, opposition, civil society and the LTTE, known as the Tamil Tigers. I have been back many times since. I think of the possibilities of peace in the years after 2000 and I weep at the lost opportunity, the lost lives. So many dead now that were once alive, debating the possibilities and prospects for peace.

It is impossible to say anything about what is happening without enraging opinion on both sides. But some things must be said. The Sinhala community - the majority population - took power after the departure of the British in 1949 and over a long period made a series of disastrous decisions: imposing their language and religion (Buddhism) as the only official expression of the country, limiting access to universities and the civil service by the Tamil community, and refusing to broaden the country's politics to allow an effective expression of Tamil opinion. Repeated attempts by moderate Tamils to effect change were met by a stone wall of resistance. What had been a parliamentary issue turned violent in the 1970's, with the Tamil Tigers emerging as the most powerful guerrilla force after that time. The Tigers were ruthless at killing their opponents and insisting that they and they alone would represent the Tamil people. Their goal was an independent Tamil state in the north and northeast controlled by the Tamil Tigers.

We are always looking for "good guys and bad guys" in a dispute. The Sri Lankan government, for example, insists that the only way to understand what is happening is that the Tigers are thugs and terrorists and so have to be eliminated. The Tigers and their apologists will point to the evil of a corrupt government that they say wants to eliminate the Tamils entirely.

The Tigers are ruthless and have never made the transition from a guerrilla army to a democratic force. They use suicide bombers against civilians and recruit children into their army. But their support around the world is partly based on the sense of the Tamil people that they have never been able to find justice inside a failed state. The Tigers appear as the only public voice for the many grievances of the Tamil population inside Sri Lanka. That does not justify or excuse suicide bombings and the recruitment of children. But it does mean that the narrative of "they're terrorists and that explains everything" is simply inadequate.

The collapse of the peace talks in 2003, the tsunami, the escalation of killings and assassinations, and the official termination of the ceasefire by the government in 2008 meant that the advocates of a "military solution" on both sides won out. In recent months, we witnessed an escalation of the violence as the Sri Lankan government defeated their opponents once and for all. Hundreds of thousands have been affected by this conflict, with thousands still remaining in internal displacement camps at the hands of their Sri Lankan adversaries. While the fighting seems to have stopped for now, the hard work only begins.

The north of the country has been devastated by this war - there will be no pictures on state controlled television of the dead and wounded, the villages destroyed and the lives shattered. I can remember some years ago a senior government official expressing shock at the physical destruction in and around Jaffna when he paid a visit after the ceasefire. "I had no idea it was that bad". I expressed deep surprise that he didn't know, the hospitals and schools destroyed, the homes wiped out, the sheer scale of the physical destruction. The same holds true today.

These hundreds of thousands are not terrorists. The world cannot stand by and do nothing while they attempt to rebuild their lives. The international community can't allow the Sri Lankan government to say "it's an internal matter" and stay away. Nor can Canada, with its long history of engagement in this issue and it hosting the largest population of Tamils outside of South Asia, stay silent any longer. Political accommodation and reconciliation must emerge if this conflict is to be resolved. The Tamil community of Sri Lanka cannot be ignored, but must be brought into the fold if the Sri Lanka has any chance of securing long term peace and stability.

The many and widely attended demonstrations over the past several weeks throughout the world have proven just how powerful these grievances remain in the Tamil community both within and outside Sri Lanka. A military victory is not enough.

If there is no magnanimity in victory, there is no victory. I shall go back to the Vanni, because the effort must still be made. But it is hard not to cry at what has been lost, how much life has been destroyed. And what must still be done to bring justice to the peace that is being proclaimed so loudly.

MP Bob Rae is Liberal Party of Canada's Foreign Affairs critic

Statement of Group of Concerned Tamils of Sri Lanka

We appeal to all concerned to attend to the pressing needs of the time. We appeal to the government of Sri Lanka and all other concerned parties to allay the fears of the Tamil people and to address the dire needs of all those affected by the recent onslaught of war. The end of the war is most welcome, but the enormous death toll is a cause for great concern, as also the condition of very many survivors. The immediate and most pressing needs in relation to close to 300,000 recent IDPs include the following:

1) Emergency relief in the form of food, water, medical services, shelter etc

2) Information and contact with family members and other loved ones

3) Escape from isolation through freedom of movement and communication

4) Expediting the transfer of all IDP camps from military to civil administration with lead roles for the relevant Provincial, District and Divisional level administrative officers

5) Assurance of a short time frame (the 180 days announced by the state after the meeting with the Indian delegation on May 21, 2009 is too long a period) within which IDPs will be assisted to resettle in their original homesteads

6) Any screening, to identify those against whom the state may wish to frame charges, needs to be done speedily and transparently in the presence of ICRC and UN agencies; family members need to be promptly informed of any arrest, detention or release

We ask for a quick and effective delivery on all these above issues as this would help alleviate the plight of the people who have already undergone extreme hardship.

The administration of the entire region has become highly militarised. While a measure of militarization might have been unavoidable in war time, the restoration and strengthening of civil administration throughout the region is now due. This would be a major step towards normalcy and securing the cooperation of the local population in reconciliation and peace building activities.

The Resettlement and Rehabilitation programme should cover not only the new IDPs of the past few months but all those displaced in earlier years, of all ethnic communities, whether in the course of war or in acts of ethnic cleansing.

De-mining is of the highest priority. The next priority is restoration of damaged infrastructure (roads, public transport, public utilities, health services, educational services, commercial institutions etc). Returning IDPs need to be assisted to rebuild their homes and livelihoods, with due compensation paid in respect of injuries and deaths on account of war / terrorism, as in the case of citizens elsewhere.

The IDPs and the elected leaders of the region, assisted by a team of serving and recently retired public servants familiar with the area and to the local population, should participate in the planning and implementation of programmes to Resettle, Rehabilitate and Reconstruct.

Many state, non-state and private sector institutions involved in Resettlement, Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and other Development activities in the region would need to recruit very large numbers of personnel with a range of skills as required. Since the bulk of the IDPs and other local population have become unemployed and impoverished in the course of the war, they are entitled to priority consideration in such recruitment. An official statement proclaiming such a policy would be appropriate.

The resettlement of IDPs should precede the holding of Local Government, Provincial and National elections so as to enable IDPs to participate in electing their political representation.

Every citizen, wherever resident, is entitled to protection from any harassment on account of ethnicity or political orientation. But even from Colombo there are disturbing reports such as of Tamils, “ being ridiculed after the LTTE defeat was announced and harassed for money by groups of thugs. Even in government departments this had happened… if these conditions continue, before long a neo- LTTE group will spring up”. The situation is such that the problem needs to be urgently addressed, even though victims may not take the initiative for fear of further harassment.

To avoid further conflict erupting and to assist in nation building, the causes of the war need to be addressed effectively and without delay. We welcome the reference in the Human Rights Council Resolution adopted on May 27,2009 to the commitment of the President of Sri Lanka “ to a political solution with the implementation of the 13th Amendment[ and ] to a broader dialogue with all parties in order to enhance the process of political settlement and to bring about lasting peace and development in Sri Lanka based on consensus among and respect for the rights of all ethnic and religious group inhabiting it “.

A political package acceptable to all ethnic groups does need to be worked out and implemented without delay, drawing inspiration from but going beyond the various earlier proposals developed over the decades. That political package would provide for the equality of all the citizens, for regional autonomy and for the integrity of Sri Lanka.

Dr. Devanesan Nesiah * S. Malavayar

Prof. Karthigesu Sivathambi * S. Nanthikesan

Subramaniam Sivathasan * Dr. Anita Nesiah

Thangarajah Biriyanthan * Lanka Nesiah

S. Chinniah * Dr. Vasuki Nesiah

S. Ganesan * V. Ponnambalam

Kirupa Hoole * Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu

Prof. S. Ratnajeevan Hoole * Dr. Muttukrishna Sarvanandan

Dr. M. Ratnarajan Hoole * Nagendra Subramaniam

Leela Isaac * Dr. S. Sumathy

Dr. T. Jayasingam * S.V. Thambar

D.B.S. Jeyaraj * R. Visagaperumal

C. Kanagasabai * Ehambaram Vivegananthan

Dr. S. V. Kasynathan *

Bhawani Loganathan

June 09, 2009

"Api" (us)-"Owun" (them): A pictorial tugging at heartstrings

by. D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Hello Friends,

Several people both known and unknown have been forwarding a particular e-mail to me the last few days.

It consists of some moving pictorial images contrasting the pathetic existence of internally displaced Tamils on the one hand and the comfortable lifestyle of some Sinhala people on the other.

The pictures have Sinhala captions.

[click here to read the article in full~in dbs jeyaraj.com]

Can Tamils Seize a new opportunity ?

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Hello Friends

Ajith Ratnarajah is one of the enthusiastic readers of this blog. Apart from posting some pertinent comments under pseudonyms Ajith also sends me e-mails frequently

I discovered to my delight that he and I had similar thoughts on matters concerning the long term future of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

I have gone on record that the destiny of Sri Lankan Tamils is inextractably inter-twined with that of the Sinhalese.

After reading a few of his recent comments I asked Ajith to write up his thoughts about the future of Sri Lankan Tamils as an article and send it for posting. [click here to continue reading on D.B.S. Jeyaraj.com]

Grief and despondency in Sri Lanka's camps

Written by: A writer in Sri Lanka

She stood in the door frame of a former clothing factory in northern Sri Lanka. A tiny little woman with long, slightly grey hair pulled back in a ponytail. In her hand she held a small plastic photo album. She showed it to everyone who passed. There was no way I could understand what she said in Tamil but as I looked at the photos of three children, I understood the tone. It was one of absolute grief.

Her story was slowly revealed through a translator. In the last months of the Sri Lankan conflict her daughter, two sons and husband were killed. One son is still alive but he had been moved from the hospital. She doesn't know where he is or if he was ok, and she's not allowed to go and find him.

The army guard in the clothing factory says this woman is depressed. Maybe. But really, she is just human.

And in the government-run camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) scattered around northern Sri Lanka, there are thousands of stories like hers.

Hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans were displaced across the island due to the country's 25-year-long conflict between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels fighting for a separate homeland. The military declared victory over the rebels last month but tens of thousands of civilians who were until recently trapped between troops and rebels in the final war zone in the northeast of the island are now living in the camps.

The camps are largely closed to the outside world. Only a few aid agencies are allowed in and even then, the groups regularly face the risk of being thrown out. But I was able to enter two.

I visited the Sahanagama Welfare Centre and the Kanijaveli Sinhala Maha Vidyalaya Welfare Centre, both near Pulmoddai. I was also able to gain access to the local hospital satellite site set up in an old factory.

What I saw was bad. Out of the two camps only one looked like it might reach Sphere minimum humanitarian standards - providing basic human needs. But just barely.

In one camp, Vidyalaya Welfare Centre, there is one toilet to roughly every 190 IDPs - 20 toilets for the 4000 plus held there.

A pharmacist and IDP from the northern city of Jaffna voices serious concerns. She says it is only a matter of time before diseases like typhoid spread unchecked through the camp. She also worries about the heat. It is so hot between 8 am and 5 pm that everyone is forced out of their tents. Water is hard to access during this time, putting the IDPs in a no-win situation.

But as I said, this is the good camp. There are five roughly built kitchens. The IDPs are arranged in working parties to cook and serve the meals. There is room for the children to run around and play. They also had books to study and makeshift classrooms to use.

The 2300 IDPs housed just down the road at the Sahanagama Welfare Centre are not so lucky. Housed in a small school, these Tamils overflow into hallways and sleep in the school courtyard under sheets of plastic.

Children use the small space not covered by sleeping adults to play, but there is barely any room. When it's mealtime and people line up for the food, the free space is reduced even further. Food is prepared off site by a local charity and shipped in. The school smells of human waste and sweat.

In one small classroom there are over 15 families - 60 people in all. Lying amongst all these people is a little boy wrapped in white fabric with his arms pinned to his side on a thin mat and green leaves. I'm told he has chicken pox. The leaves are a natural remedy.

There is a new-born baby sleeping barely a metre away. The families are worried the chicken pox might spread, with fatal consequences. But what choice do they have? There is nowhere to quarantine him.

The worst of all is the satellite site of the local hospital, housed in the former clothing factory, where I met the grieving widow. An elderly naked woman is dying on the floor, her mouth and eyes covered in flies. When I ask why the old woman is given no help, the military guard simply shrug their shoulders.

Inside this large hollow factory, the smell of too many people hits me like a wall. The injured and the IDPs are separated by a screen of balsam wood. The floors walls and beds are dirty.

While walking amongst the people, I meet two children lying on a bed - a brother and a sister. In the midst of the army's final push to conquer the Tamil Tigers their parents were killed.

The little girl lost four fingers on her right hand. All she has left is a thumb. As the war raged a priest grabbed these two children and pushed them into the arms of a stranger, a woman who brought the siblings to safety and stayed with them through surgery. She is still with the two when I meet them, but she isn't their mother. When these children are allowed to leave the camps, maybe in six months, a year or even two, their future will be uncertain.

The camps I saw are just the small ones. If the military and their resources are being overwhelmed here, with less then 8,000 displaced people in all, there is no imagining what the larger camp in Vavuniya is like. There, the charities and the government are trying to deal with an estimated more than 180,000 IDPs.

In all the places I visited the healthy children ran up to me and grabbed my arms. Despite everything they had seen, these children could smile, laugh and have hope. But with locks keeping them in the camps and the Western world out, hope is the one thing I struggle to give in return.

This artilce first appeared on Reutres-Alertnet.org

June 07, 2009

Chauvinist fever following military defeat of LTTE

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

U.N.Secretary-General Ban Ki moon has warned of the risk of rising triumphalism in Sri Lanka following the military defeat inflicted upon the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) by the Sri Lankan armed forces..

It is quite understandable that people suffering from what they perceived as terrorism would be relieved at the prospect of such acts ceasing and would celebrate what they think is an “end to terrorism”.

At the same time the Rajapakse regime is deriving maximum political mileage out of this victory and is therefore whipping up thinly guised triumphalist fervour to enhance its popularity.

Meanwhile the chauvinist, neo-fascist elements within the majority community are also climbing the pseudo-patriotic bandwagon to bolster its own fortunes and implement its sinister supremacist hidden agenda. [Click here to read in full ~ in dbsjeyaraj.com]

June 06, 2009

The Ten Great Myths of Modern Sri Lanka

By Satya Sagar

In the ancient Indian epic Ramayana the Aryan Prince Rama goes all the way from north India to vanquish Ravana, the King of Lanka. Following a massive battle in which thousands are slaughtered Rama, with the help of the monkey god Hanuman, finally rescues his kidnapped wife Sita in a grand victory of ‘good' over ‘evil'.

The Ramayana of the 21 st Century may need a little modification.

In the modern version the Indian Rama and the Lankan Ravana, who turn out to be long lost brothers, together stage the abduction of Sita and accuse the ‘terrorist' Hanuman of the crime. Finally with international support they use every means possible to kill him along with thousands of innocent bystanders.

In the modern version the Indian Rama and the Lankan Ravana, who turn out to be long lost brothers, together stage the abduction of Sita and accuse the ‘terrorist' Hanuman of the crime. Finally with international support they use every means possible to kill him along with thousands of innocent bystanders.

Adding insult to injury the council of Gods supposed to safeguard the world's conscience not only absolves Rama and Ravana but perversely even applauds them for ‘saving' Sita and winning the ‘War on Terror ‘.

Alas, if this were really the only wonky myth about Sri Lanka in our times! The truth is that over the years and decades dozens of myths have been floated about this island nation's history, politics and conflict.

Many of these myths were created by colonial administrators and ‘scholars' in the period when the British ruled the island. Many more were created by the chauvinist Sinhala elite- of different shades- who have run Sri Lanka for the past sixty years. Some others were born in the fertile minds of the armchair warriors who sit in New Delhi and a few created by the various champions of the Sri Lankan Tamils themselves.

Given below is a list of the top ten myths (in my opinion) about contemporary Sri Lanka , the dispelling of each of which is indispensable to finding a lasting solution to the seemingly perpetual tragedy of its diverse population.

Myth One: The Sri Lankan government is/was at war with the LTTE:

This has been the single biggest myth about the Sri Lankan conflict in our time and used as an excuse by many outside to keep quiet about what has been happening all these years in this island country. The LTTE is/was after all a ‘terrorist' organisation banned by the international community and so what as wrong if the Sri Lankan government went to war against them?

The simple truth is that the Sri Lankan conflict is much older than the LTTE itself, which emerged as a force only in the early eighties. The systematic conversion of Sri Lankan Tamils into second-class citizens in their own country or state-sponsored violence against them however dates back to the time of Sri Lankan independence in the late-forties itself.

The recent offensive in the north of Sri Lanka was just a new and more brutal phase of the war that Sri Lankan Sinhala elite have been waging for a long time against Sri Lankan Tamils and indeed all the minorities in the country. And I must add that these minorities are not just linguistic or religious ones but also political as over the decades successive Sri Lankan regimes have also killed – and continue to kill- a very large number of Sinhala people opposed to their policies.

In their quest for power there has been no human norm left unviolated by the Sri Lankan elite, which has managed to murder over 20,000 or more of the country's Tamil citizens in its final assault on the LTTE in May this year. If the LTTE has used terrorist methods to further its cause there is no doubt that the Sri Lankan government has used genocidal methods to put them down.

Myth Two: The Mahinda Rajapakse government has ‘won' the ‘civil war' and successfully prevented the division of Sri Lanka :

There is of course nothing ‘civil' about any war but this term implies that the conflict in Sri Lanka is between two groups that belong to the same nation. Maybe this was true upon a time long ago but is certainly not the case any longer.

How many countries around the world do you have governments bombing their own citizens using air power, mobilising tanks, heavy artillery, thousands of ground forces, sophisticated military equipment supplied by foreign governments? How many governments herd all citizens of a linguistic minority into concentration camps to be treated as terrorists simply because of their identity? And after doing all this what right do they have to call themselves ‘one nation'?

What we are today witnessing in Sri Lanka is indeed a war between two separate nations. Whether the regime in Colombo realizes this or not by their own actions over the years they have made Tamil Eelam a reality today. The defeat of the LTTE is not the defeat of the Tamil people of Sri Lanka . Nor is it the end of their quest for dignity, against racist discrimination and the right to self-determination.

There comes a point in every relationship when divorce becomes inevitable and the only alternative to separation is gross murder. That time has arrived in Sri Lanka today. The future of the Tamil people should be urgently decided by a internationally monitored referendum on whether or not they want to be part of a united Sri Lanka .

Myth Three: The creation of a Tamil Eelam will damage the interests of the rest of Sri Lanka :

In fact the opposite is likely to happen if Sri Lanka 's Tamils are given the right to self-determination and form their own country. Either they will fail miserably and clamour to become part of a future Sri Lankan federation on their own accord or succeed brilliantly and create a prosperous neighbourhood that benefits everyone. If a group of Tamil guerillas could make fighter aircraft while hiding in the forests of Vanni imagine what they can achieve in peacetime.

At the same time the proponents of Tamil Eelam will also have to remember that independence does not mean all their problems will be solved automatically. They will have to deal with the divisions of caste, religion, class within the Tamil population and also demonstrate to the world that they treat all minorities in their midst as equal citizens unlike the Sri Lankan state they have opposed so bitterly all these years.

Also any Tamil Eelam will geographically forever remain on the same island- after all Eelam can't be physically carried away to Australia or Canada . In the long run the Tamil and Sinhala people, along with every other community on the island of what is currently called ‘Sri Lanka' today will have to come to terms with each other and live in harmony - as perpetual war can only mean collective suicide.

Myth Four: The Sri Lankan Tamils will gang up with Indian Tamils and create a ‘Greater Tamil' nation:

For all the light and sound produced in the Indian province of Tamil Nadu about the fate of their ‘Tamil brothers and sisters' in Sri Lanka the fact remains – beyond the usual rhetoric- they have not really done much for them. Over the past twenty years there are thousands of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees languishing in Tamil Nadu without proper shelters, livelihood, education for their children or even safety from arbitrary arrest by local police. The Indian government has repeatedly turned down calls to sign international treaties on rights of refugees and the politicians of Tamil Nadu – busy bargaining for their place in the Indian cabinet- don't care a damn.

Similarly, soon after independence from British rule when the then Sri Lankan government, in one of its first vile acts, disenfranchised over a million Indian Tamils working in the country's tea plantations there was not a murmur of protest from the then leaders of the Sri Lanka 's Tamils. They were ‘Indian Tamils' after all and that too poor workers to boot.

The point I am trying to make is that Sri Lankan and Indian Tamils have different histories, outlooks and priorities and cannot be simplistically conflated into one phrase ‘Tamil people'. The fact is that the problem of the Sri Lankan Tamils is not a ‘Tamil' issue at all- it is a problem common to many linguistic, ethnic, religious and other minorities around the world. While indeed the people who are suffering today in Sri Lanka are the Tamil speaking population of that country their primary identity is that of an oppressed people fighting for their rightful place under the sun and not as Tamil speakers alone.

In that sense what is being murdered in Sri Lanka is not just the Tamil population but the very concept of humanity itself, an issue that should agitate the entire world. To make my stand clear I would say that if the Sinhala people had been a minority in Sri Lanka and the Tamils had been the racist oppressors I would have appealed to the world to fight for the rights of the Sinhalese.

Myth Five: Sri Lanka has a special place in world Buddhism and its territorial integrity needs to be protected by the Sinhala people:

From whatever little I know, the Buddha became what he did only by giving up his entire kingdom in the search for truth and the salvation of humankind. In the process he in fact conquered the entire world. What the current day proponents of religious nationalism in Sri Lanka are promoting is a crude kind of ‘landlordism' and certainly not ‘Buddhism', which has nothing to do with ownership of property.

The idea of the Sinhala elite being champions of Buddhism – a religion of compassion, peace and tolerance - is also simply laughable given their historical record of taking so many lives. Ultimately you are a Buddhist only by what you do in practice and not by wearing saffron robes, chanting a few mantras in Pali or Sanskrit or building large and expensive monuments to the Buddha.

Two thousand years ago the great Emperor Ashoka became a Buddhist when he repented for the massacres he committed in the war on the Kingdom of Kalinga . Today the Sinahala chauvinists, many of whom claim their ancestry back to the very same Kalinga, are exiting from Buddhism through the genocide they have committed against the Tamil people. These champions of Buddhism have no doubt become its greatest destroyers.

Myth Six: Sri Lanka is a sovereign country and outsiders should not interfere:

Sri Lanka used to be a sovereign country once upon a time when they were not at war with their own people. The fact is that whenever the Sri Lankan regimes have been in deep trouble they have always violated their own sovereignty to seek help from other countries to help prop up their rule.

In 1971 the Sirimavo Bandaranaike government sought and obtained the help of the Indian navy together with the Pakistani air force to put down the JVP rebellion- mainly consisting of Sinhala youth fighting for revolutionary change in their country. Today in their war against the Tamils the Sri Lankan regime is supported by the governments of India , Pakistan , China , Russia and Israel while the entire Lankan economy depends on regular infusions of aid and cash from the IMF, World Bank, Japan or the European Union. It is also worth mentioning that the conflict on this island over the decades has sent thousands of Tamil citizens fleeing the country into exile all over the globe. So for all the touchiness of its leaders against ‘foreign interference' what is happening in Sri Lanka is really an international conflict and the people of the world have as much right to interfere there as their governments.

Myth Seven: A majority of the Sinhalese people are racists and chauvinists:

Sinhala chauvinism was inevitable in a country where the Sinhala population is in a majority and every politician has to stoke nationalist, ethnic or religious passions to win his/her election. So whether you were a practicing Buddhist or not or knew even how to speak Sinhala properly or really loved your motherland you had to be a ‘Sinhala Buddhist nationalist' in order to succeed in politics.

There is no real history of Sinhala-Tamil conflict before the formation of the Sri Lankan ‘nation' artificially carved out of their ‘Raj' by the hastily departing British colonialists in 1948. For most ordinary Sinhalese, like ordinary folk everywhere, the main concern is livelihood or love and the quest for a better life denied to them by their own elites.

But so venal have been the feudal Sri Lankan families that inherited power from the British that they chose to divide and destroy their motherland rather than give up power- political, economic or social- to the ordinary men and women of their land.

If one looks at the results of the 2005 presidential election in Sri Lanka the hawkish Mahinda Rajapakse won only by a slender margin of 50.29% of the overall votes against 48.43% for former Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe, who had signed a peace deal with the LTTE in 2002. Since the Tamil population largely boycotted the election what this clearly shows that close to half the Sinhala voters preferred peace over war when they voted for Ranil.

Today most of these Sinhala people are also being held hostage by the fascist Rajapakse regime, which has turned Sri Lankan nationalism into a family-run dictatorship guarded by guns purchased with the people's own hard earned money. The fact that there are still enough Sri Lankan journalists and human rights activists willing to die to preserve democracy in their country is evidence that human decency is still not dead everywhere on this troubled island. The entire world should come to the support of these brave people fighting one of the most murderous regimes in recent history.

Myth Eight- The Tamil and Sinhala people have always been pitted against each historically and always will be:

Projecting the very idea of a ‘Tamil’ or ‘Sinhala’ race or people back to ancient times is problematic as the consciousness of such an identity is modern and can be traced back to the nineteenth or eighteenth century at the very earliest. Before that there were really no ‘Tamil’ or ‘Sinhala’ Kings – they were simply ‘Kings’ who used anyone from anywhere who suited their quest for control and power.

The earliest people to inhabit Sri Lanka were neither the Tamils or the Sinhalas but the ancient Veddas, of whom just a few thousand families now remain. The rest of the population of this island came from different parts of India in different periods and intermixed freely with the Veddas as also each other and so it is difficult to talk of any ‘pure’ race anymore. It is well established that the royal families of past- both Tamil and Sinhala- freely intermarried with royalty across southern India in what are today the provinces of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. There are cultural, linguistic and other differences between Tamils and Sinhalese today of course but not ‘racial’ differences.

Much of the modern conflict in Sri Lanka has to do with the rigid framework of the unitary ‘nation state’ imposed on the fluid realities of the island’s people by European colonialists – particularly the British. This together with the notion of ‘separate histories’ of each linguistic or religious group – as if such separation into neat identities is possible at all- has hardened attitudes on both sides unfortunately.

Even then I remember clearly – despite years of conflict- when the Asian tsunami wrought untold tragedy on the people of Sri Lanka in December 2004 both ordinary Tamils and Sinhalese showed phenomenal solidarity and compassion to each other. There were Tamils involved deeply in the rescue of tsunami survivors in southern Sri Lanka while the people of the south rushed aid voluntarily to those affected in the north and north-east. All this of course lasted for a fortnight or more till international donors got together to pledge over US$3 billion towards ‘rehabilitation’ and sparked off a fresh round of intrigue and bad blood between Colombo and Jaffna- the latter still under LTTE control at that time as part of the peace accord.

Today- after all that has happened in the past few months- all this talk of solidarity between Tamils and Sinhalese may sound needless detail, but it is important to remember this to disprove the notion that there is something ‘permanent’ about their antagonism and also to remind ourselves that many conflicts around identity around the world are part of real conspiracies by power elites to keep ordinary folk slaughtering each other so that they don’t turn against their real enemies.

Myth Nine - The Indian government, once supportive of the Sri Lankan Tamils, has turned against them:

The truth is that the Indian government does not really care for either the Sri Lankan Tamils or the Sinhalese for that matter. Like in most countries of South Asia successive Indian regimes too have only been bothered about preserving the power of the corporate or feudal elites and care little for their ordinary citizens.

New Delhi in that sense is not the capital of India but the seat of the Indian Empire inherited from the Mughals and the British by the ‘Brown Sahibs' of today. And among the nefarious things these Johnnies have been up to all these years is bullying neighbouring governments and playing games with the lives of their people - especially those that don't ‘stand up and obey'.

So the Indian regimes in the past supported the Tamil struggle, including through military assistance and training, when they wanted to put the then Sri Lankan government in ‘its place'. Later on when their priorities changed – for various reasons chief among which was the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi- they dumped the Tamils and started cultivating the Sinhala elite.

The lip sympathy for Tamils across the Palk Straits that still emanates now and then from New Delhi is solely because of the compulsions of electoral politics in Tamil Nadu- where politicians routinely play political football with the hopes and aspirations of the Sri Lankan Tamils. Once elections are over it is back to the usual indifference to the fate of thousands of people being pulverised by the genocidal Sri Lankan state.

Myth Ten – Governments around the world do not care what happens to the Sri Lankan Tamils:

Many of them actually they care so much that they will not do anything to help the Tamils form their own nation. For many governments – from India to Israel and China to Russia- Tamil Eelam becoming a reality would set a ‘bad example' to their own restive minorities. Hence their all out support to the ruthless Sri Lankan government, who they believe is showing them ‘the way' how to deal with dissent of all kinds within their borders.

Western nations, that themselves have the blood of innocent civilians on their hands in Iraq , Afghanistan and elsewhere, also care- but only about their own global image. Making noise about upholding human rights after the genocide has been carried out allows to them to appear to be ‘civilised' without having to take any meaningful action.

After all it was quite clear that a colossal human tragedy was in the offing for the past three months. If the UK , EU and the US had put their combined might together to warn the Rajapakse government properly the Sri Lankan lion- for all its bravado- would have squeaked like a trapped mouse.

The fact is that the Sri Lankan Tamils today can expect genuine support for their cause only from other people around the world facing similar racist discrimination or fighting for autonomy and self-determination. That is not such a bad thing, as looking across the globe such people probably constitute well over half the planet's population.

There are the Palestinians, the Tibetans, the Burmese, the Kashmiris and people of the Indian North-East, the Baluchis, the Pashtuns, the Chechens, the Basques, the Puerto Ricans, the Scots—and lots more. If Sri Lanka 's Tamils can join hands with all these struggles for dignity and equality it would be a good start indeed to make a fresh bid for Tamil Eelam!

(Satya Sagar is a journalist, writer, video maker based in New Delhi ) ~ (courtesy: Countercurrents.org)

Media in Sri Lanka: Battered, bruised, cowed and polarised

By Kshama Ranawana

A battered, bruised, cowed and polarized media is all that is left of the profession in Sri Lanka.

That is the result of three years of relentless attacks on reporters and media institutions that dared to uphold professional standards and protect the “publics' right to know”.

Since 2006, Sri Lanka's media and rights activists have been braving a ruthless campaign to silence them. As the battle against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam intensified, so did the governments bid to silence any reportage of the war, unless it toed the official version. While legislation introduced in December of that year effectively narrowed the space within which the war could be reported, those who dared highlight human rights abuses, criticized or commented on the war and protested the intimidation of the media were labeled “Kotiya” (Tigers) as the LTTE is referred to. Journalists and media institutions partisan to the government jumped on the bandwagon of tarnishing their colleagues with the “Koti” brush. Abductions and assault of journalists became commonplace, with no action taken by the government to arrest the trend.

The oft' repeated phrase of the media minister, Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, after each atrocity committed against a media person, was that the matter was being investigated and that action would be taken once all details were in. To date, however, no perpetrator has been brought to book. And, as attacks on the media heightened, so did the fear and need for self-censorship. It was left to a small coterie of journalists and civil society activists to continue the protests until the final nail was hammered in with the brutal killing of Sunday Leader Editor, Lasantha Wickrematunge, in January this year. Many who feared for their lives, including Poddala Jayantha, veteran journalist and General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, left the country soon after that. He was the only one who had returned a few weeks ago.

The recent “revelations” by the Inspector General of Police on the government controlled Independent Television Network that several journalists , mostly Sinhalese, were in the payroll of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is nothing new. Poddala Jayantha's face was used in the report.

The allegation of allegiance with the Tigers has been made time and time again , since mid-2006. Last year, in virulent attacks on the media, the Defence Ministry website claimed it would take "all necessary measures to stop this journalistic treachery against the country," adding ,"Those who commit such treachery should identify themselves with the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) rather than showing themselves as crusaders of media freedom" .

In May last year, both Poddala and the President of the SLWJA, journalist Sanath Balasooriya were summoned before Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse and warned against criticizing the government. The ominous message he had for them was reported in the Sunday Times on-line of June 1, 2008:

“Don’t you understand what I am trying to say? If you don’t agree and continue with what you are doing, what has to happen to you will happen. There is no necessity to have defence columns to discuss military matters. Laws will be introduced to restrict reporting on the conduct of military or on Commanders of the Armed Forces. The military will campaign for such laws. We can see whether the voice of the military is stronger than the campaign of the journalists.

Journalists: You are making a serious threat on our lives.

Defence Secretary: No, No. I am not doing it. I am definitely not threatening your lives. I am not. It will happen from where it happens. Our services are appreciated by 99 per cent of the people. They love the Army Commander (Lt. Gen. Fonseka) and the Army. Those who love us do what is required. We cannot help that”.

Just a year later, on Monday, June 1, Poddala, who was returning home from work was abducted in the suburban town of Nugegoda. He was later dumped in an adjacent town, brutally wounded with parts of his head and beard shaved off. In hindsight the attack comes as no surprise. Days before the incident, the State owned “Dinamina” newspaper for which Poddala worked published an editorial calling for the stoning of bearded journalists who were in the pay of the Tigers. The privately owned “Divaina” newspaper, meanwhile, had called for the death penalty for Sinhala journalists who received money from the LTTE.

While the IGP is busy making these accusation, he and the men under him have not yet solved a single attack on media persons. Interestingly, Media Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa has denied any knowledge of the IGP's allegations.

If the accusations that journalists were in the pay of the LTTE are to be believed, then one must also question the roles played by successive Sri Lankan governments and the many deals that have been made with the LTTE. The Premadasa regime which governed the country in late 1980's is alleged to have re-armed the LTTE to fight the Indian Peace Keeping Force, that was in the North of Sri Lanka to fight the Tigers under the Indo-Sri Lanka accord signed by President J R Jayawardena.

Mangala Samaraweera, a one time Minister of the Rajapakse government is on record stating that the LTTE was paid off by a mediator to prevent the Tamils of the North from voting in the 2005 Presidential elections that brought Mahinda Rajapakse to power.

If, as alleged, journalists are traitors, then the question must also be asked; is not the fattening of the war chests of the LTTE in a bid to win power not a betrayal of the country? If such monies were paid, we can be rest assured that the cash would have been spent on ammunition to blow up civilians and soldiers, just as Premadasa re-arming the LTTE resulted in the latter turning the guns back on the hands that fed them, as it were.

And yes, investigations must be carried out, not only against journalists but also the arms dealers and scores of others who became millionaires through the war, the governments that paid the tigers, and a probe into human rights abuses by the LTTE and the government should be allowed and the findings made public. The government must also arrest and charge every single person involved in the intimidation of media persons, and name and charge those through whose blessings these dastardly acts have been carried out.

For its part, the police force has not remained inactive this time around, as they have been over the past cases of intimidation. Instead, the two journalists who informed Poddala's family and alerted the IGP of the abduction were arrested by the Police on charges of compliance with the crime. They are now on bail and have been ordered to appear in Court in August. Their arrest rears yet another danger; no civilian would take the risk of reporting any crime for fear of being charged as a party to the violence.

While the country celebrates the apparent end of the Tigers military prowess, it has also reached the the lowest point for democracy and free-speech in the country's sixty one years of independence.

June 05, 2009

Sri Lanka After the War – Part II

by Col R Hariharan

[This article is in continuation of ‘Sri Lanka after the war –Part I’ published on 2 June 2009. Extracts of this article were included in a presentation the author had made at a panel discussion on “Sri Lanka after LTTE reverses” organised by the Centre for Asian Studies, Chennai and the Dept. of Political Science, Madras University, Chennai on May 26, 2009.]

Tamil politics of the North and East

Tamil speaking politicians are there in almost all parties including the two major political parties of Sri Lanka. Though most of the Tamil politicians talk of equitable rights for Tamils, they have never managed to make a united pitch for Tamil rights in recent times. That is how successive governments have continued to drag their feet on the issue of devolution of powers to Tamils. In this context, the emerging north-eastern Tamil political spectrum becomes important in the post war scene. They may be broadly divided into three types:

I. Former anti-LTTE militant entities who became political parties (i.e., Eelam Peoples Democratic Party). They had always supported the war against the LTTE as it related to their survival. They also had been reminding now and then about the unfinished devolution agenda of Tamil minorities. They actively participated in Rajapaksa’s war against the LTTE and would strongly oppose its entry into politics. They are pragmatists who understand the limitations of Indian support and have depended more upon the ruling party in Sri Lanka. Their stars will be on the rise in the coming years and President Rajapaksa is likely to increasingly use them to ensure the LTTE does not stage a comeback under the cloak of democracy.

II. The Tamil National Alliance, a collection of splintered Tamil parties, who had accepted Prabhakaran’s leadership. They won handsomely in the last parliamentary elections with the LTTE’s benevolent support. They have abundant political talent that was never put to good use for fear of offending Thalaivar Prabhakaran. The government and the people of Sri Lanka generally view them as the political front of LTTE. To some extent this is true; though TNA members were always eloquent on propagating the Tamil cause within the parliament, they neither took any political initiative on their own nor could influence LTTE policies (i.e., boycott of presidential poll) that affected the future of Tamils. Though they criticise India often for not baling out Tamils from their problems, they keep their old links in India alive. After the elimination of LTTE as a power centre their credibility and influence in India is as suspect as it is in Sri Lanka. Their influence on politics will probably be minimal in the coming years and different component party leaders are likely to find ways to survive on their own. Some of their supporters might return to their parent party from which they broke away over the issue of support to the LTTE.

III. Then there are former LTTE cadres like the Batticaloa LTTE leader Karuna (Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, now an MP, minister and vice president of the SLFP) and Pillaiyan (Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan, chief minister of Eastern Provincial Council) who have stood by President Rajapaksa during the war. Former LTTE cadres, cleared after screening, are likely to gravitate to them in the coming months. They can form a strong political base for Karuna and Pillaiyan, though there might be a scramble between the two on this count. As easterners both the leaders have some limitations in motivating them.

There are two national developments that could affect the future of Tamil politics. All political parties have been split in their support to President Rajapaksa. And the military victory is edging out the opposition from their legitimate political space. Much would depend upon how Tamil leaders these two politically turbulent issues.

Though LTTE would never be allowed to contest as a political party, pro-LTTE sections of the public particularly in the north could be an important factor to swing election results. Similarly, at least some element of Tamil expatriates who had supported the LTTE are also likely to be roped in to support political activity in the coming months. The proposed local body elections in the north would perhaps act as a barometer to indicate the effect of these pulls and pressures.

India-Tamil Nadu-Sri Lanka triangular relations

The strong support for the Congress led coalition in the recent general elections in India is likely to be used to vindicate India’s ambivalent Sri Lanka policy. The success of the Congress - Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (DMK) combine only reinforces the assessment that the Sri Lanka Tamil issue is not a “vote-catching” issue in Tamil Nadu, despite widespread sympathy for their plight. So by and large Indian policy is likely to continue to be reactive rather than proactive.

Given this setting, India-Sri Lanka relations are likely to improve. President Rajapaksa is likely to play the China card effectively to garner maximum advantage. And this might be reflected in favourable trade and investment policies towards Sri Lanka.

However, the Tamil Nadu assembly elections will be due in two years. The DMK, if it goes under new leadership to contest the polls, will have a tough time to regain its mandate. And the failure of India’s Sri Lanka policy could be resurrected once again as an election issue. So the DMK will continue to maintain pressure on Sri Lanka on the twin issues of devolution and rehabilitation of Tamil population in Sri Lanka. So India is likely to press for speedy implementation of the 13th amendment (the only tangible thing at present) and provide large scale support for the rehabilitation kitty.

On the strategic security front, increased Chinese and Pakistani influence will continue to be a matter of concern for India. However, India appears to have taken it in the stride as part of the growing reach of Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean region. Ideally, India should up the development of Trincomalee port as a counterpoise to Hambantota where China is building a port complex. However, India might drag its feet on this issue and probably wait to gauge the impact of possible Sino-US economic convergence on South Asian security.

International perspectives

During the course of the war, Sri Lanka has demonstrated the limitations of international influence in its decision making process. President Rajapaksa has cleverly used the inherent differences among the permanent members of the UN Security Council to deflect criticism of Sri Lanka for its poor human rights and humanitarian record. Sri Lanka’s crude handling of the dissenting media at home, restrictions on NGOs, and delaying of visas for entry of foreign media men and NGOs, have kindled the ire of international community (i.e., EU and the US) by the casual way Sri Lanka treated their objections on human rights and human rights issues. Western nations have strong human rights lobbies and some of them like Britain and Canada have in addition large Sri Lanka Tamil expatriate and immigrant population.

President Rajapaksa managed to ward off a Western effort to condemn Sri Lanka in the UN Human Rights Council for its gross humanitarian violations during the war, when it met in Geneva on April 26. On the contrary, he managed with the help of India, China, Pakistan, Russia, Cuba and other countries, to get the majority votes in the UNHRC to pass Sri Lanka’s resolution congratulating the country for defeating terrorism. Emboldened by this success, Sri Lanka is likely to harden its stand on allowing international watchdogs to probe its human rights record.

It could work against Sri Lanka’s interests as human rights lobbies in the EU and the US are working for strong action, including economic sanctions, against the country. This could affect the renewal of the EU’s duty free GSP plus tariff concessions extended to Sri Lanka (already on one year extension), as well as delay the approval of IMF loan of $1.9 billion dollars.

Despite economic aid from China, India and Iran, SriLanka will need large scale economic assistance to get back on its feet as the war has rendered large populations unproductive and inflation had been galloping. So we can expect the country to come to terms with the West, particularly the US, to find some face saving method on the human rights question. Ultimately President Rajapaksa is likely to implement the 13th amendment to satisfy international community including India to improve Sri Lanka’s international image.

Sri Lanka-UK relations have been strained for sometime for a number of reasons. The UK has a large Tamil expatriate population and politically it would like to soft pedal the Sri Lanka objections over questionable anti Sri Lanka activity of the expatriates. This had been the major source of irritation for Sri Lanka. The kid glove treatment of the massive anti-Sri Lanka demonstrations of expatriate population taken over by LTTE acolytes are case in point. Given its complexity, it is doubtful whether the relations between the two countries would mend in the near future.

Future portends

A few trends are emerging in the aftermath of the war that could affect Sri Lanka’s future. Their impact would depend upon how the President handles these issues to take the country forward.

I. Rise of monolithic power: With the opposition weakened as never before, the rise of monolithic power with its attendant weaknesses of lack of accountability, absence of rule of law, increase in bureaucratic power and crushing of dissent are likely to stay for sometime. Coupled with the heady mixture of Sinhala chauvinism it could become an explosive mixture for ethnic amity.

II. Military as a power centre: As discussed earlier, rise of militarism and emergence of military as a power centre is a distinct possibility. With a large army continuing to control a major chunk of minority population, minorities will continue to feel insecure. This will be detrimental to restoring normal life in the war affected areas.

III. Dissipation of Tamil influence: In the absence of a strong united Tamil lobby to parley with the government, the Tamils might have to be satisfied with what the President offers as devolution package, as and when he chooses to do so. Inevitably, it is likely to be tied to the next parliamentary poll.

IV. Indian influence: India is likely to play a progressively diminishing role in Sri Lanka politics. However, its economic footprint will probably enlarge.

V. Strategic implications for the region: The LTTE might find it difficult to re-emerge as a powerful force in Sri Lanka. This will strengthen Sri Lanka’s ability to handle its internal problems better. At the same time Sri Lanka is likely to be courted by the major powers – China, and the US - for stabilising their strategic influence in the Indian Ocean region. Sri Lanka has a far more important place in India’s overall strategic security map than the two major powers. So development of strategic relations between India and Sri Lanka is going to become a crucial issue.

Video and full transcript: Ban calls for accountability and transparency in Sri Lanka

Video and full Text of transcript, Secerteary General (SG) Ban-Ki-moon speaking to journalists in NY, Jun 5, 2009:

SG: I have just briefed the members of the Security Council on my visit to Sri Lanka. As you know, and as I have already briefed the members of the General Assembly, I had three objectives in my visit two weeks ago. First and foremost, to provide all necessary humanitarian assistance to more than 300,000 displaced persons and also urging the Sri Lankan Government to allow unimpeded access by the international humanitarian workers, including the United Nations agencies. I am told by Sri Lankan Government that the situation has improved since my visit, and the restrictions have been eased.

Secondly, to help those displaced persons and the Sri Lankan Government in their efforts to re-settle them to their original home provinces, and including the de-mining activities.

And thirdly, more fundamentally, to help the Sri Lankan Government to reach out to minority authorities, including Tamils and Muslims. This will be much more important in the longer term. And also I would like to ask the Sri Lankan Government to recognize the international call for accountability and full transparency. And whenever and wherever there are credible allegations of violations of humanitarian law, there should be a proper investigation.

And, again, I would like to take this opportunity to warn against the risk of triumphalism in the wake of victory, after this military conflict. This will really hinder the ongoing efforts by Sri Lankan Government and people, and international community, in helping heal the wounds. It is very important at this time to unite and heal the wounds, rather than enjoy all this triumphalism in the wake of the end of conflict.

I am very grateful for all the very kind support and comments made by the members of Security Council for the continuing role at my level, as well as the United Nations humanitarian agencies. The challenges still remain huge and enormous. This requires international assistance and help. And the United Nations stands ready to continue providing humanitarian assistance and we also remain ready to facilitate ongoing efforts by the Sri Lankan Government in healing the wounds through national reconciliation and through inclusive political dialogue. Thank you very much.

Q: The three doctors that were taken by the Government, that were in the conflict zone – they have now said that they are all going to be put on trial - there was a BBC report. And also, that some people are being taken from the camps. What's the UN going to do about those two issues?

SG: I would like to urge, again, to the Sri Lankan Government to follow-up [on] the agreement which had been made during my visit, which was stated in the joint statement. I raised this issue to President [Mahinda] Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister [Rohitha]Bogollagama separately, and also at a joint meeting, to look after these three government doctors who are detained while they were engaged in humanitarian activities. The Foreign Minister assured me that he would look into this matter. I will continue to follow-up this issue.

Q: [inaudible]

SG: It is crucially important that the Sri Lankan Government follow-up on all the promises that they have made. Any inquiry, to be meaningful, should be supported by the members of the United Nations, and also should be very impartial and objective. I have been urging the Sri Lankan President on this matter. He assured me that he will institute the necessary procedures to ensure the transparency and accountability of this [process].

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, does this show a level of impudence on the United Nations part, that you are continually going to the Sri Lankan Government as a petitioner? There doesn't seem to be any 'right to protect' being asserted here – you are coming late to the conflict – there are allegations that there may be excesses of 20,000 people who died. If the other side of triumphalism is impudence, what is the lesson about the United Nations that we have learned from your experience in Sri Lanka?

SG: First of all, I do not agree with your point that the United Nations came late. From the beginning of this crisis, I have been constantly in contact with the Sri Lankan Government leadership, including at the level of President Rajapaksa . I have been making many telephone calls, all the time, even until just right before and after this conflict. And this is important that the Sri Lankan Government should take the necessary follow-up measures. And he committed to me that he would take all necessary procedures to follow-up on all this and to address all the remaining challenges. As I said, challenges still remain huge, and they can not do it themselves. Therefore, that is why the United Nations will continue to provide the necessary assistance, humanitarian and in other areas. It is also important that they should do their own work in reaching out, in healing the wounds which happened during the military confrontation.

Q: How is the UN going to follow-up, I guess, on the joint statement, and the commitments that the Government made?

SG: At this time, I am asking the Sri Lankan Government to take the necessary measures. And there are some areas which the United Nations and I, as the Secretary-General, have to do, as I said. And all these issues, political facilitation and accountability, I hope that the Sri Lankan Government will follow-up to implement the promises they made. Thank you very much.

Poddala Jayantha: Latest Journalist victim in Sri Lanka

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

The witch hunt against journalists depicted as enemies of the State continues unabated in Sri Lanka.

The latest victim in this "officially sanctioned unofficial campaign" is Poddala Jayantha, a senior Journalist and prominent media rights activist.

[Poddala Jayantha was always at the forefront]

Jayantha, a senior journalist at "Dinamina" the Sinhala daily run by Lake House , is also the General Secretary of Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) and a key activist of the Free media movement (FMM) in Sri Lanka. [click here to read the article in full ~ in dbsjeyaraj.com]

June 04, 2009

War-Wounded Patients Receive Post-Operative Care and Rehabilitation

by MSF

Ramachandra* was wounded in January during fighting in the Vanni, the former conflict zone in northeastern Sri Lanka. The 18-year-old underwent amputations at a hospital there, and eight days later, was evacuated by an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) ambulance to the main hospital in Vavuniya, about 50 miles south. The young woman is missing her left hand and left leg, and half of her right foot. Without post-operative care and physiotherapy she would remain bedridden for the rest of her life.

Currently, Ramachandra is hospitalized in the Pompaimadhu Ayurvedic Hospital close to the northern Sri Lankan town of Vavuniya. Unlike other hospitals in the area, which are flooded with patients, the Pompaimadhu Hospital appears like a small haven: no wounded patients lying on mats on the floor, no ambulance traffic jams at the hospital entrance. Lots of wheelchairs and crutches donated by non-profit organization Handicap International are placed alongside the beds. At least 30 patients in the hospital have one or more amputations, while another 25 people are paralyzed. Up to 200 patients receive post-operative care here, which can include small surgeries and physiotherapy.

“As the Vavuniya hospital was overcrowded, the Ministry of Health established a post-operative care unit in the Ayurvedic Hospital, which MSF has been supporting since the beginning of May,” said a Sri Lankan doctor* who is part of the MSF emergency team. “It’s a separate space where war-wounded patients receive the complete medical care they need, from small surgery or daily dressings, up to rehabilitation.”

The MSF physiotherapist* attaches Ramachandra’s wrist to a crutch with bandages and she slowly stands up and begins to walk. MSF, Ministry of Health doctors and nurses, and Red Cross Society volunteers quietly move from patient to patient housed under six temporary structures. Most of the patients have several dressings that need to be changed regularly. In a small room in the hospital, MSF surgeons and anesthetists carry out surgical procedures such as skin grafts and wound closures.

An old woman tries to stand up with crutches by herself and falls down, breaking into tears. Emotionally exhausted, the patients have to mobilize enormous energy just to try to walk again. On the next bed, chatter has begun between teenage girls. Among them is a 17-year-old who has had both legs amputated above the knee

Another patient, a 14-year-old girl, smiles as the physiotherapist urges her to walk. “In one month she will walk,” announces the physiotherapist, pushing on frail girl’s knees to help her get on her feet from a wheelchair. She keeps her smile throughout the exercise, but after the physiotherapist has gone she cries and complains about the pain, her distraught mother looking on. “It’s the first time she’s standing up in five months," explains the physiotherapist. "There are thousands of patients like her, in the hospitals and in the camps, who need post-operative care and physiotherapy.” [msf.org]

* Patient's name has been changed and MSF staff names are withheld for security reasons

Sky News Video: MIA Hits Out At 'Concentration Camps'

[Singer M.I.A. has called on European governments to do more to help the Tamil people and has given her backing to Jan Jananayagam, an independent British candidate in the current Euro elections.]

MIA, who used to live in Sri Lanka and experienced the war, told Sky News: "Three hundred thousand people have been put into concentration camps and they (the authorities)have taken all the rights away from these people.

"They have no food and access to the media and aid. No freedom of speech or freedom of press."

She said the European council has been "undecided on the issue" and she said Britain and other international governments should step in and help.

"We're still getting stories from the Sri Lankan governent fed to us. We're not celebrating, we're not in the streets setting off firecrackers and having a great time and celebrating the end of a war.

"We still don't have answers about these people that are stuck in the barbed wire fences. They're dying of diseases. Some 60% of the population in these camps are wounded and have no medical attention." [Sky News]

IDPs in Vavunia: "We are doing a great wrong to these people" - CJ Sarath Nanda Silva

CJ1218.jpgBBC Sandeshaya reports CJ Sarath Nanda Silva has said that the war displaced are living under appalling conditions in camps in Vavuniya.

Full report from BBCSinhla.com as follows:

Over two hundred thousand people in refugee camps are not treated according to the law of the land, says the Chief Justice (CJ) of Sri Lanka.

CJ Sarath Nanda Silva says that the war displaced are living under appalling conditions.

The chief justice was speaking at the ceremonial opening of the new court complex in Marawila.

IDPVTC0605.jpg

[Civilians are seen near tents in an internally displaced person (IDP) camp which are seen through a plane window in the northern Sri Lankan town of Vavuniya Tuesday, May 26, 200-gettyimages]

"While we build new courts, ten people live in one tent in these camps. They could stand straight only in the centre of these tents. Their necks will break if they move to a side of the tent".

The CJ who visited the refugee camps in Vavunia on the 14th of May spent a whole day in a camp talking to the refugees.

Not protected by law

He said that he could not explain the pathetic situation the people undergo.

He said, "IDPs are seen waiting in queues, extending for 100 yards to take their turn to use a toilet where there is only one pot hole at the end of it".

The Chief Justice say the refugees does not the jurisdiction of the courts. "They live outside the protection of the law of the country. I am saying this in public, and ready to face any consequences. We are doing a great wrong to these people" says CJ Sarath Nanda Silva.

The Chief Justice is to retire from his post at the end June. He was attending to one of his last official events.

June 03, 2009

Healing and reconciliation: Three more responses

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

When I posted Mohan Sekaram’s mail with his permission on this blog little did I realize it would have such impact.

My original intention was simply that of presenting a different refreshing point of view. Needless to say I shared his opinion to a great extent too.

What I thought would be a mere ripple has made quite a splash and acquired a momentum of its own at least on this site.

Many of the responses have quite a lot of substance and well-reasoned arguments though the underlying mood is essentially emotional. [click here to read the article in full~in dbsjeyaraj.com]

Government Threats, ‘Disappearances’ After Past Military Victories Are Cause for Concern-HRW

Avoid a Postwar Witch Hunt

By HRW

The Sri Lankan government should ensure that military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam does not result in new "disappearances," unlawful killings or the jailing of government critics, Human Rights Watch said today.

The Sri Lankan government appears from its statements to be preparing to take action against individuals and organizations that criticized it during the war, Human Rights Watch said. On June 3, 2009, the media minister, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardana, said the Defense Ministry was preparing to bring charges against journalists, politicians, armed forces personnel and businessmen who have assisted the LTTE.

"The last thing Sri Lankans need right now is a witch hunt," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The country desperately needs healing. The government should make clear to everyone, especially Tamils, that it will respect their rights."

In addition to the media minister's statement, in late May, the Army commander, Gen. Sarath Fonseka, said in a televised interview that the government would take action against journalists whose reporting benefited the LTTE, saying that they would be prevented from leaving the country and prosecuted for treason. Inspector General of Police Jayantha Wickremeratne accused unnamed Sinhalese media-freedom activists of being paid by the LTTE to generate false reporting intended to implicate the army in war crimes.

Sri Lankan security forces have long been implicated in enforced disappearances and unlawful killings following the capture of LTTE strongholds. In the 12 months after government forces captured the northern town of Jaffna from the LTTE in December 1995, more than 600 people, mostly young men suspected of having LTTE links, "disappeared." Although several mass graves have since been uncovered, the fate of most of them has never been determined, and successful prosecutions of security forces personnel have been few.

Enforced disappearances and killings of people suspected of being LTTE supporters also occurred in association with the government's taking of LTTE-controlled territory in eastern Sri Lanka in late 2006 and early 2007. Government security forces were implicated in the mafia-style killing of 17 humanitarian aid workers shortly after government forces retook the northeastern town of Mutur from the LTTE in August 2006. Human Rights Watch reported on numerous serious human rights violations in the east in late 2008.

"Disappearances" of ethnic Tamils in the north and east and in the capital, Colombo, allegedly by members of the security forces or Tamil armed groups remain a serious problem.

"The Sri Lankan government needs to ensure that the abuses that occurred when LTTE strongholds fell in the past don't recur," said Adams. "This is crucial for building trust between communities."

The government announced victory over the LTTE on May 18 after a devastating 25-year conflict. The last months of fighting came at a terrible cost in civilian lives, estimated at more than 7,000 civilian dead and 14,000 wounded. Human Rights Watch reported on serious violations of international humanitarian law by both sides. However, a full accounting of abuses is not yet possible because of government restrictions on access to the conflict zone by the media and human rights organizations.

Since 2008, virtually all civilians who managed to flee the fighting to government-controlled areas have been sent to government detention camps in northern Sri Lanka. Almost 300,000 persons, including entire families, are currently in these camps, where they are denied their liberty and freedom of movement, either for work or to move in with other families.

In recent months, the government has also detained more than 9,000 alleged LTTE fighters and persons with suspected LTTE connections. The United Nations and other international agencies have had little or no access to the screening process, and the government has in many cases failed to provide families of the detained with any information. Many families still do not know the fate and whereabouts of their relatives.

Human Rights Watch urged the Sri Lankan government to take steps to ensure the safety of both civilians and LTTE fighters taken into custody. This includes registering and providing public information about all persons who have been in LTTE-controlled areas, and allowing international humanitarian agencies to participate in processing them. Those detained should have prompt access to family members and legal counsel.

The Sri Lankan government has rejected calls from opposition politicians to end Sri Lanka's state of emergency and to repeal the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act, which has been used to arrest and indefinitely detain suspected LTTE supporters and government critics.

Human Rights Watch called upon the Sri Lankan government to treat internally displaced persons in accordance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and respect their basic human rights.

"The government should recognize that respecting the rights of all its citizens, including political opponents and critics, displaced civilians and captured combatants, will have important long-term implications for Sri Lanka's future," Adams said.

End Incitement to Violence Against Journalists

Statement by IFJ

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) appeals to the international community to take urgent action to demand that Sri Lanka’s Government end immediately its campaign of accusing journalists of treason and association with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE), after a prominent media rights defender was abducted and brutally assaulted yesterday.

Poddala Jayantha, a journalist and general secretary of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association (SLWJA), an IFJ affiliate, was abducted by at least six unknown people. He was bashed repeatedly with wooden and metal poles and his beard and hair were shaved off.

Local media reported that witnesses saw Jayantha pushed into a white van at Ambuldeniya junction, Nungegoda, in Colombo, about 5pm. He was then blindfolded before being assaulted and later dumped by a roadside.

The assailants crushed Jayantha’s fingers with a heavy wooden block, saying they would make sure he could not write again. His left leg is broken and he is suffering head injuries.

The IFJ firmly believes the Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa must accept responsibility for the violence against Jayantha and other journalists and media workers in Sri Lanka.

Leading government figures and officers have consistently accused journalists of treason and have conducted a systematic campaign to vilify any media personnel who dares to question the Government’s conduct of its war with the LTTE.

“Highly inflammatory public statements by government officials and the failure to investigate attacks on media personnel and to arrest perpetrators makes the Government implicitly responsible for the continuing violence against media in Sri Lanka,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

The most recently recorded hate-inciting speech by a government authority was on May 28, when Inspector General of Police Jayantha Wickramaratne was reported as telling state-owned Independent Television Network (ITN) that several journalists who reported on Sri Lanka’s conflict were reportedly on the LTTE payroll.

The local Daily Mirror reported that Wickramaratne said in the TV interview that many of the unnamed journalists were “connected with international organisations and had been always clamouring for media freedom and democratic and human rights of the people”.

ITN also reportedly aired images of Jayantha in another program, while repeating the Inspector General’s accusations.

On May 22, an editorial in the state-controlled Sinhala language daily called for stoning and expelling of professional journalists who grow beards. Jayantha is known for his beard.

While a vicious trend of violence against media personnel has been in play for several years, the murder of Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickrematunge on January 8 heightened the climate of fear among the local media community. In an editorial published posthumously on January 11, Lasantha predicted his murder and attributed blame to the highest levels of the Government.

Abduction and assault of media personnel is commonplace in Sri Lanka. In none of the cases below has anyone been arrested or charged.

On March 11, Dammika Ganganath Dissanayake, media adviser to Sri Lanka’s principal opposition party and a former chairman of the state-owned broadcast agency, was abducted by armed men. He later said he had been blindfolded and questioned at length about a book criticising the President.

On February 26, N. Vidyatharan, editor of Colombo-based Tamil language newspaper Sudaroli and Jaffna-based Uthayan, was taken in a white van and believed abducted. It emerged he had been arrested by police. A Defence spokesman said the arrest and the manner in which it was conducted were justified because Vidyatharan was a “wanted person”.

On March 11, in an interview aired on an Australian news channel, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the brother of the President, accused Vithyatharan of being a “terrorist”. However, Vidyatharan was released on April 27 without charge.

On May 22, 2008, Keith Noyahr, a defence reporter for The Nation, was abducted and violently assaulted. He was released the next day and spent several days in intensive care.

The IFJ and other press freedom organisations are deeply concerned for the safety of journalists and media workers in Sri Lanka amid the climate of fear and retribution prevailing as the Government declares its war with the LTTE at an end.

National governments and the international community must call the Government of Sri Lanka to account, and demand it take action to end its own representatives’ hate campaign against media personnel and that it order high-level investigations into all attacks on media personnel.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

Treating the wounded and medical emergencies remains a priority-MSF

"The current restrictions on access to the camps is limiting and slowing are ability to respond to the medical needs of the internally displaced persons,” said Severine Ramon, MSF coordinator in the MSF field hospital

Over the last few weeks, while tens of thousands of people have emerged from the Vanni, the former conflict zone in northern Sri Lanka, MSF teams have been working alongside Sri Lankan Ministry of Health staff providing surgical and medical care to people who were caught up in the fighting. The situation remains extremely worrying inside the hospitals and among the 269,000 displaced people in Vavuniya District.

More than 500 wounded patients are receiving daily medical care in the three hospitals where MSF teams are working together with the Ministry of Health staff.

MSF opened a field hospital close to the Menik Farm camps on May 22. It is the closest referral hospital for the 226,000 displaced people living in Menik Farm. The temporary structure will provide 24 hour surgical and medical care during the current emergency phase. Surgical activities began on Tuesday, May 26. The surgical team is carrying out between six and 10 procedures per day, mainly wound debridements.

“Patients are mainly referred to our hospital by the Ministry of Health medical facilities in Menik Farm camp”, explained Severine Ramon, MSF coordinator for the field hospital. “We received more than 100 patients during the first week, mostly with wound infections, severe respiratory infections among children and dehydration because of diarrhea. But the current restrictions on access to the camps is limiting and slowing are ability to respond to the medical needs of the internally displaced persons.”

MSF continues to support the Ministry of Health surgical and medical activities in Vavuniya Hospital where the number of patients remains at least three times more than the 450-bed capacity. MSF has set up a dressing clinic close to the wards and the team is applying and changing approximately 60 dressings per day. There are 100 care takers who tend to the patients in the hospital, feeding and assisting them.

Dozens of people have been referred from Vavuniya Hospital to the nearby Pampaimadu Ayurvedic Hospital to receive post-operative care, including physiotherapy. A small operating theatre has been set up in the hospital for minor surgical procedures.



Remarks by MSF Emergency Coordinator Lauren Cooney

"We were working at the site where people were first arriving into the Vavuniya area, so we were working sixteen hours a day, seeing about 150 to 200 patients during that time. And that wasn’t all of them, but that was the ones that we triaged out, as being the ones that we could get done.

It was very distressing, really, to see people with these wounds, to see people coming out that have been really living in a terrible situation, having experienced terrible events. Just to see the look on the faces of all of these people arriving and scared, not knowing what’s going to happen to them now. Seeing really terrible wounds, very big wounds, fractures—one girl who’d had the bottom part of her leg blown off—a 16-year-old girl—after stepping on a land mine. It’s really quite indescribable actually: the situation’s been quite overwhelming and for all of us—in fact many of us are very experienced in emergencies and it’s really, for us, some of the worst things that we’ve seen really, to see this big movement of people and to see the level of distress that they feel.

For the teams working in the hospital: really they were working around the clock: the Ministry of Health teams and the MSF teams were working all hours to try to get through the caseload of the most urgent cases. That’s not to mention all the other ones that are still waiting because it was not immediately life-saving but they still need, so in the hospital that’s still going on, the teams are really working very long hours.

There’re multiple priorities at once and I think that the immediate priority is to deal with the emergency needs at all levels. So at the hospital level the hospitals need to be able to cope with this huge increase in the population in the area so that’s being helped of course by having additional hospitals such as the MSF field hospital, but it still means that the Ministry of Health hospitals—like the Vavuniya hospital—have to cope with a much-increased population number so that’s a real priority to be able to provide the level of secondary health care services that’s needed for this big population who have a lot of wounds especially—which need hospital-level care. And at the camp level for the primary health care services there’s a real need to have emergency-level primary health care services so there are Ministry of Health camps in the clinics and lots of doctors and nurses are working but there’s really a need to increase those services as rapidly as possible.

There is a very good plan that exists, to have health posts and to have referral centres and some of that plan is already in place but there has to be emergency services to deal with the immediate needs as well. And that includes basic health care, medical services as well as basic wound care services as well.

At the very base of everything is to ensure the level of water and sanitation and the hygiene within the camps is good, because it’s an overcrowded situation—you have many people living together—so the risks for communicable diseases are very high so that’s a real priority as well.

But, importantly, there’s an immediate need for mental health care services as well. This is a large, traumatized population and there’s a need to be able to deal, not just with the individual cases who perhaps need a high level of psychiatric care or counseling care, but also to be able to deal with people on a group basis—on a psycho-education level—to just to be able to discuss to people what’s happened to them." [msf.org]

June 02, 2009

Bloggingheads video: Sri Lanka Aftermath

Frightening parallels to Rwanda

Mark Leon Goldberg, left, of UN Dispatch and Matthew Lee of Inner City Press discuss post-conflict Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka after the War - Part I

by Col R Hariharan

[Extracts of this article were included in a presentation the author had made at a panel discussion on ?Sri Lanka after LTTE reverses? organised by the Centre for Asian Studies, Chennai and the Dept. of Political Science, Madras University, Chennai on May 26, 2009.]

Macro issues

Undoubtedly Sri Lanka, under the leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, has scored an unprecedented military victory in the Eelam War IV with the near total elimination of the entire leadership of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). After that the LTTE?s military struggle has been turned into an existential struggle. It will be a long haul for the LTTE to get back into some shape as the Sri Lanka war machine grinds on relentlessly in the name of taming the Tamil Tigers.

The Sri Lankan victory, tarnished by the death of 20,000 civilians, has thrown afresh the question ?what happens after the war?? Many analysts have focused on issues like devolution of powers to Tamils, rehabilitation of displaced population, and development of north and east as some of the instruments to ?resolve? the vexing ethnic issue.

The fundamental truth is Sri Lanka society is divided along ethnic lines between Sinhalas and Tamils as never before. The Sinhala-Tamil divide took over 50 years to become a fact of life from the Tamil point of view. In the last three decades or so, Tamil militancy and the state?s response to it had frustrated the chances of healing processes attempted by well meaning souls. The huge show of power in the aftermath of military victory has made minority Tamils confident of their future as their past experience tells them not to expect the rulers to keep their promises.

There are no magic potions that would erase overnight the sense of mistrust and insecurity pervading all sections of Tamil society in Sri Lanka. No amount of speeches in parliament or promises in international podiums is going to convince Tamils unless deeds match the words. As it is a state of mind, it requires much more than the statistical figures of number of Tamil ministers and members in parliament unless they produce worthwhile actions to restore confidence among the minorities. Unfortunately, such actions, beyond political expediency, have not been paid adequate attention by the stakeholders including Sinhala and Tamil intelligentsia.

The situation has become more complex now than ever before because the LTTE is no more there as an extra legal power centre. There is a strong external constituency now as the world is increasingly networked than it was in 1983 when Tamil militancy blossomed.. So old solutions, including military actions, by either side are not going to resolve the issues. Any process to succeed now will have to be inclusive rather than exclusive or ?home grown? as President Rajapaksa likes to call it.

To make Sri Lanka?s path to permanent peace a smooth one, the people and rulers of Sri Lanka as well as India and the international community should address a cluster of issues that may be grouped under five heads. These are: the LTTE and its future, rise of Rajapaksa and its impact, Tamil minority politics, the India-Tamil Nadu-Sri Lanka triangular relations, and international response to Sri Lanka.

Future of LTTE

Prabhakaran was the life and soul of the LTTE. Prabhakaran had the ability to control the two vital segments of the organisation ? the external resources segment and the internal operational segment. Like many other insurgent groups, LTTE was an autocracy and Prabhakaran?s writ ran the LTTE and decided the life and death of its rank and file. So the leadership hierarchy was in the form of pecking order based on a crony system. The wiping out of the entire leadership has not left a leader of proven ability or remnant of a central leadership that can marshal the cadres scurrying within Sri Lanka to save their lives from the security forces, and motivate them to continue the struggle.

On the other hand, the LTTE?s huge overseas assets, held under cover names of front men and organisations, are under the control of minutemen. Selvarasa Pathmanathan, the LTTE international affairs representative and only senior leader left alive, has sufficient experience in handling the links of LTTE?s external segment. He is a smooth and wily operator who could manage gain control of most of the overseas tentacles. However, the ambitions of some local satraps guarding the LTTE pie with their muscle power might interfere with Pahmanathan?s moves. Moreover, Pathmanathan?s financial integrity in handling party funds was suspect even in Prabhakaran?s time. So even if he controls the external segment, it is doubtful whether he can control and motivate the operational segment inside Sri Lanka. Considering these issues, it might take sometime before a new leadership with control over both the external and internal segments emerges.

President Rajapaksa's ascendancy

President Rajapaksa has delivered what he promised the voters in the run up to the election ? victory over the LTTE. LTTE has been given a body blow from which it would be difficult to regain its former glory. Thus Rajapksa has become the unchallenged leader of the country ? a modern day Dutta Gamunu; if all goes well he would be victorious in his quest for presidency for a second term as well. Thus he is likely to be in power till 2028. If he could plan and eliminate LTTE from a position of political and military power in three years, he has the potential to resolve the ethnic divide between the two major communities. But can he and will he do it?

Rajapaksa?s military success has swept lot shortcomings in his style of governance under the carpet. There has been scant respect for rule of law in the high handed conduct of senior officials and ministers; well meaning measures that would improve governance (like the 17th amendment of the Constitution) have been deferred; free media has been hounded by both legal and extra legal methods; NGOs have come under pressure to toe the government line, indirect measures are being adopted to control INGOs, and many Tamils are uncertain of their security as the ?while van? syndrome has not vanished.

The devolution of powers to Tamils has been used as a political ploy to keep the Tamil lobbies at bay as the Tissa Vitharana commission?s recommendations have not seen the light of the day. Similarly the much heralded ushering in of 13th amendment of the Constitution to devolve powers to the provincial council still remains a cruel joke than a reality.

The President appears to be ruling the country with the assistance of a triumvirate of his two brothers Basil and Gotabaya along with the Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka. In fact he is more dependent upon them to carry out his agenda than his unwieldy cabinet of ministers. This style of personalised governance focuses on results rather than accountability and suits war situations. However, the style comes with a cost because it inevitably gives rise to many acts of omission and commission. This is what is happening in Sri Lanka.

Though the war is over, the Army Commander General Fonseka has said that armed forces strength would be increased by 50 percent to 300,000 (nearly one fourth the size of Indian armed forces? strength of 1.13 million). This is ostensibly to eliminate the last vestige of LTTE from the Sri Lanka soil. While the intentions appear logical, the question arises whether such a huge army is required for counter insurgency after armed forces of a much smaller strength had defeated the LTTE and regained territorial control of insurgent-controlled territory.

Oversized armies tend to grow into power centres that influence political decision making either indirectly or directly for decades. Turkey and Indonesia are good examples of this phenomenon. Big armies usually find issues and rationale to justify their existence. Pakistan is a shining example of this home truth. And in counter insurgency operations they tend to cloud political judgement because military option is more easily exercised than protracted peace parleys. Though Sri Lanka armed forces have excelled in warfare, they and the civil society will have to ensure that militarism does not become part of national life.

On the current line of thinking the counter insurgency operations in the coming years in Sri Lanka would probably be based on a network of garrison towns established in major communication centres and towns in north and east. They would probably make endless forays of patrols on search and destroy missions in the interior. There are two problems with this process. Sri Lanka armed forces are manned by the Sinhala community. Unless the armed forces take pains to induct sufficient Tamil speaking recruits and employ them for operations in north and east it will not gain the trust and confidence of demoralised Tamil people. If Sri Lanka attempts to rush through the operation, without undergoing the painful process of turning the armed forces truly national in character and composition, it would only hasten the birth and growth of another Prabhakaran. Secondly, does the Sri Lanka government expect Tamil militancy as a permanent feature of Sri Lanka life? (To be continued)

(Col. R Hariharan, a retired Military Intelligence specialist on South Asia, served as the head of intelligence of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka 1987-90.He is associated with the South Asia Analysis Group and the Chennai Centre for China Studies. Blog: www.colhariharan.org E-mail:colhari@yahoo.com)

Let’s get together and reconcile: Two Sinhala responses

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Hello Friends,

Mohan Sekaram’s private e-mail to some of his friends that I posted on this blog with his permission has evoked a tremendous response.

I am extremely happy about posting it because of the very positive vibes from people of Sri Lanka and of Sri Lankan origin.

For too long we the silent majority have kept quiet while extremists on either side of the ethnic divide have hogged the megaphone. [click here to read in full ~ in dbsjeyaraj.com]

CPA receives threatening letter

The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) in Colombo has received a letter at its office titled "Notice to the Traitors".

Full Text translation of the letter as follows:

NOTICE TO THE TRAITORS (DESHADROHIS)

The wretched war that lasted throughout 30 years has now come to an end. Blood thirsty wicked terrorists were finished from this country. That happened in such a way that even their carcass didn’t mix with the Sri Lankan ( Lak Polawa ) soil. That is through the dedication of the present government, fearless military commanders and heroic warriors born in our motherland. And also, through the sacrifice of their bones, flesh and streams of blood. Furthermore, this was achieved by defeating the activities of the wretched traitors like you who commit evil things against “Mother Lanka”.

Even though the terrorism is now over we have been observing the behaviour of people like you who were dependent on them, and who appeared for them. We know that you have got furious of this marvelous victory of our motherland. And also we know about the conspiracies you engage in, even at the moment, in alliance with the International. When the entire country was enjoying the bliss of liberating the motherland you did not even hoist the National flag.

-Now you (Thopa) also must get together for bestowing the honor for the warriors.

-Parallel to “Ranaviru Upahara” (Honoring the Warriors) celebration you must,

Throughout that week you should close down all the places of your institute, which has become a bane to the entire country, and should display the National flag and also display a banner bestowing your honor to the warriors (Ranaviru).

You should donate One Million rupees to the “Api Venuven Api” account as an honor to those Warriors who were lost to the motherland and who got disabled due to your traitorous course of action.

Furthermore, you should certainly stop all the programmes conducted by your institute which are detrimental to the Sovereignty, Unitary nature, and Dignity of this country.

-Stop abetting Terrorism and Separatism.

-We are carefully watching your course of action in the future as well.

-Let us destroy the conspirators. Let us march forward fearlessly. Let us protect Mother Lanka.

Sri Lankans affectionate towards the Motherland
~~
[The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) was formed in 1996 in the firm belief that the vital contribution of civil society to the public policy debate is in need of strengthening. CPA is committed to programs of research and advocacy through which public policy is critiqued, alternatives identified and disseminated. CPA is an independent, non-partisan organization which receives funds from international and bilateral funding agencies and foundations.]