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April 30, 2011

Why did the the Rajapaksas lie to the people of Sri Lanka?

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

The state has a right under international law to ensure its national security and to defend itself against armed attacks…. Those ends do not however justify all means to achieve them; all actions for those legitimate purposes must comply with the requirements of international law…”— The Darusman Report

Ne plus ultra (Not further beyond): the inscription believed to have been carved on the Pillars of Heracles (Straits of Gibraltar), warning seafarers against venturing any further. In politics there is a ‘Ne plus ultra’ line which cannot be crossed with impunity.

The LTTE, by attacking civilians, conscripting children and murdering political-opponents, ventured far beyond this line, time and again. The revulsion caused by these excesses caused an international backlash; according to the Darusman Report, “By 2006, 32 countries had listed the LTTE as a terrorist organisation…. LTTE fundraising and arms procurement abilities were severely constrained thereafter.”

Remarkably, of these 32 countries, many were Western nations home to large Lankan-Tamil communities. Though sympathetic to the Tamil cause, most either helped Colombo or remained neutral, as the Tiger sank under the deadweight of its colossal crimes and errors. As the Report points out, “Many Sri Lankans and others round the world were relieved that the….LTTE renowned for its brutality was defeated……. However many people in Sri Lanka and elsewhere were deeply disturbed about the means used to achieve the victory…”

That is the crux of the matter: the Lankan regime is being faulted in the Darusman Report not for battling and defeating the LTTE, but for being blasé about the safety and wellbeing of civilian Tamils during and after the war. Contrary to the regime’s assertions, the Report accepts Sri Lanka’s right to defend herself militarily: “International law….respects the legitimate interests of a state like Sri Lanka facing a threat like the LTTE.” Thus the Report is not anti-war. It critiques the regime for causing avoidable civilian casualties; for example, it alleges that the UN hub in the No-Fire-Zone was shelled on January 24, 2009: “The United Nations security officer, a highly experienced military officer….discerned that the shelling was coming from the south, from SLA positions…. When United Nations staff emerged from the bunker…. mangled bodies and body parts were strewn all around them, including those of women and children. Remains of babies had been blasted upwards into the trees…. Although LTTE cadres were present in the NFZ, there was no LTTE presence inside the United Nations hub….”

The Report also alleges that the Army shelled civilian groupings even where UAV identification was possible: “On 8th April 2009, a large group of women and children, who were queued up at a milk powder distribution line…..were shelled…… Some of the dead mothers still clutched cards which entitled them to milk powder for their children.”

The Report severely critiques the regime for treating civilian Tamils with brutal insensitivity, post-war. For instance, it argues that “by keeping Menik Farm and other farms closed, and failing to release the IDPs, it did not allow the IDPs to seek shelter with relatives.” Since the camps lacked even basic facilities, this closed-door policy caused avoidable sufferings and preventable deaths. The Report also faults the Lankan regime for its failure to offer Tamils a New Deal: “Nearly two years after the end of fighting the root causes of the ethno-nationalist conflict between the Sinhalese and Tamil populations of Sri Lanka remain largely unaddressed and human rights violations continue”. (In fact, the regime is planning to turn the 13th Amendment into a dead-letter by transferring the powers of elected provincial councils into non-elected Jana Sabhas controlled by Presidential-sibling Basil Rajapaksa).

The regime accuses the Darusman Report of creating national-disunity. Sadly it is the Rajapaksas who wantonly wasted an ideal opportunity to create a genuine Sri Lankan identity, post-war. In its death throes, the Tiger abandoned all pretexts, and demonstrated that it did not care an iota for Tamils. For instance, according to the Darusman Report, “…in mid-April, LTTE cadres….forcibly recruited hundreds of young people from Valayanmadam Church….. Parents begged and cried for them not to be taken away to fight and to an almost certain death, but to no avail.”

The psychological conditions for weaning Tamils away from the LTTE/Eelam and winning them for a Lankan future were thus very much present, post-war. This potential could have been realised had the Rajapaksas not depicted and treated all civilian Tamils as actual/potential Tigers, had they appealed to impulses of kindness and generosity in the South rather than encouraging triumphalism and cultivating a fear-psychosis. Post-war, the Rajapaksas opted not for mercy and reconciliation, but for collective punishments and revengeful justice. This choice, rather than the Darusman Report, is responsible for Sri Lanka’s current condition as a psychologically-divided country.

When the UN Secretary General appointed his Advisory Panel, the regime enacted a tragicomedy and declared that it will neither recognise the Panel nor deal with it. And yet, as the Darusman Report reveals, the regime, while thundering insults at the Panel publicly, did engage with it secretly, behind the back of the nation: “The Government of Sri Lanka provided an explanation of the philosophy that frames its approach to accountability both in written responses to questions from the Panel and in a meeting on 22 February 2011 in New York….”

Why did the Rajapaksas lie to the people? Was it because they wanted to persuade the Panel not to come up with an adversarial report while using the Panel’s existence to ignite patriotic-hysteria locally? Mahinda Rajapaksa’s outburst of juvenile-euphoria about being voted No. 4 on the Time magazine’s list of influential persons demonstrates, yet again, that underneath his anti-Western bluster our President yearns to shine, not in Beijing and Tehran, but in Washington and London. Was this why the regime secretly cultivated a moderate image in New York while maintaining an anti-UN and anti-West façade in Colombo?

Having painted itself into a corner, Colombo is hoping that Delhi will come to its rescue. To achieve this purpose the Rajapaksas will make economic concessions to India and promise political concessions to Tamils. Will Delhi fall for it, again, ignoring the welter of emotions in Chennai on this issue? Can Delhi afford international intervention on its doorstep, given the Kashmiri factor?

On May 1st, the Rajapaksas are expected to launch their anti-UN Pada/Rath Yathra. According to the regime, it is the patriotic duty of all Lankans to dismiss the Report in toto. Anyone who thinks the Report should be read and analysed, let alone investigated by an independent body, is thus deemed an anti-patriot.

The Tiger creed demanded that Tamils cultivate an unconditional and unquestioning faith in the Leader, if they did not want to be castigated as traitors. As the Darusman Report pointed out “Vellupillai Pirapaharan demanded absolute loyalty and sacrifice and cultivated a cult-like following. Internal dissent was not tolerated….” This meant maintaining a ‘patriotic’ silence, as the Tiger went from excess to execrable excess. That path of total-submission to the Leader’ ended not in Eelam but in utter and total defeat. If we give the Rajapaksas a carte blanche in the name of patriotism, an equally unpalatable end will await us, someday.

April 29, 2011

NDP Statement on UN Panel Report on Accountability for War Crimes in Sri Lanka

On April 28, 2011, New Democratic Leader Jack Layton issued this statement on the United Nation’s report on Sri Lanka:

“The New Democratic Party fully supports the recommendations made in the recently released independent UN Panel Report on accountability during and after the war in Sri Lanka.

“The UN Report reveals that “there are credible allegations, which if proven, indicate that a wide range of serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law were committed both by the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, some of which amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

“We believe those responsible must be prosecuted and urges the UN to launch an immediate and independent investigation.

“The NDP has proposed a motion in the House of Commons to form an all-party committee to support an independent inquiry into human rights violations in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately the motion was defeated by the Conservative Party.

“Our motion demanded the Government of Sri Lanka and the United Nations to work together with the international community to establish an international investigative body.”

New Democrat candidate Rathika Sitsabaiesan (Scarborough-Rouge River) and special advisor on Tamil issues, added:
“During this war atrocities took place while media and international bodies were not allowed in, or to report out. The NDP has always supported an independent inquiry into human rights violations in Sri Lanka and will continue to work towards this. We will work toward a Parliamentary study on the human rights violations in Sri Lanka.”

(Wikipedia on NDP: The New Democratic Party (French: Nouveau Parti démocratique), commonly referred to as the NDP, is a social-democratic federal political party in Canada. The party is regarded as falling on the left in the Canadian political spectrum)

'Media's role and responsibility towards building a strong democratic nation'

Seminar in Colombo by FMM

The Free Media Movement will host a seminar titled ‘Media’s Role and Responsibility Towards Building a Strong Democratic Nation’ and launch the book ‘Martyrs of the Freedom of Expression’ in Sinhala, Tamil and English, compiled by Seetha Ranjanee on behalf of the Free Media Movement, to mark World Press Freedom Day.

The event is being held at the Mahaweli Centre auditorium at 3.30 p.m. on May 3 and will have Ariyananda Dombagahawattha chairing the seminar, with Gamini Viyangoda, K. W Janaranjana and Lakshman Gunasekara as guest speakers.

The Free Media Movement invites all those who value democracy to attend the event.

Assistant Secretary of State Robert O. Blake, Jr. Travels to Maldives and Sri Lanka

Media Note
Office of the Spokesman, US Dept. of State
Washington, DC

April 29, 2011

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert O. Blake, Jr. will travel to Maldives and Sri Lanka April 30-May 5, 2011. He will meet with government officials, civil society representatives, and political leaders in both countries.

In Sri Lanka, Assistant Secretary Blake will also visit USAID-supported programs and meet with local leaders in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu.

Multi-partisan approach to address UN Panel report is desirable

By National Peace Council

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has released to the public the report of the Expert Panel he appointed to advise him on human rights issues in relation to the last phase of Sri Lanka's war. The panel of experts has called on the UN Secretary General to immediately set up an independent international mechanism to investigate credible allegations that both the Sri Lankan government and LTTE committed serious human rights violations, including some that could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, in the months before the decades old civil war ended in 2009.

The National Peace Council is of the view that there are a number of constructive options available to the Sri Lankan government that could address international and domestic concerns. The Government could set up its own investigating mechanism that meets international standards as an alternative to the UN report's recommendation of an international investigative mechanism. The creation of such a national mechanism would need to be inclusive of opposition and ethnic minority participation in its design and implementation.

In addition, the Government can quickly carry out the measures suggested by the Expert Panel which could bring immediate relief to victims and advance normalisation in the country, including repealing the Emergency Regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act; resolving outstanding disappearance cases; ensuring due process for remaining LTTE detainees; and providing relief measures for victims and survivors of the conflict, including by publicly accounting for civilian deaths and facilitating the recovery and return of human remains to their families.

The Government can also make several policy changes addressing the root causes of the war by cooperating with minority and opposition parties to devise a just and mutually acceptable political solution. The Government should express its willingness to compensate financially those who have suffered owing to excesses in the war. .Perhaps the body should function like the former South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. All these should be discussed with the Tamil political parties and the Opposition and consensus reached.
Sri Lankan society needs its own space to negotiate and foster its own approach to peace. We are concerned that changes sought to be imposed from the outside will make ethnic relations even worse and hamper seriously the reconciliation process. We welcome the government response that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission it has appointed can look into issues raised in the Expert Panel report and make its own assessment.

NPC believes that the most sustainable path forward in the country will have to be constructed within the country and in a manner that will ensure that all of the Sri Lankan people make their own investment in the processes of democratization and peace with justice.

April 28, 2011

CPJ urges UN to intervene and investigate the apparent targeting of LankaeNews

Committee to Protect Journalists, NY, NY
cpj.org

A Pugoda magistrate's court ordered the country's Telecommunications Regulatory Commission to suspend Lanka eNews within Sri Lanka while it tries the site's detained journalist Shantha Wijeysooria for contempt of court, according to local and international news reports. Wijeysooria was detained Monday and remanded into custody during a hearing today until May 12, the reports said. The charge, which related to an article about a magistrate of the court, Aravinda Perera, was upheld despite the website's apology for publishing it, according to the reports. The website said it would appeal the decision.

CPJ has called on the United Nations and the diplomatic community to intervene and investigate the apparent targeting of the website.

"We call on the appeals court to overturn this order and allow Lanka eNews to continue to publish in Sri Lanka" said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. "This suspension is the Sri Lankan authorities' latest effort to silence an independent news outlet."

Lanka eNews editor Sandaruwan Senadheera fled Sri Lanka in 2010 after receiving threats during presidential elections. Two days before the elections took place, the site's columnist and cartoonist Prageeth Eknelygoda was abducted; his whereabouts are still unknown.

News Editor Bennet Rupasinghe was arrested March 31 for allegedly threatening another man, and the website's Colombo offices were targeted by an apparent arson attack in January, according to CPJ research.

Sri Lanka appeared fourth on CPJ's 2010 Impunity Index, a list of countries where journalists are killed regularly and governments fail to solve the crimes. It calculates unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of each country's population.

Nationalistic fury is good for the government, terrible for Sri Lanka

from THE ECONOMIST

IN RECENT years the default mode for Sri Lankan diplomats has been a posture of affronted national dignity beneath a mask of outraged, sanctimonious innocence. This week, after the publication of a report by a panel of experts for the United Nations on the final stages of Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war, some were recalled to Colombo for “consultations”. Maybe they are brushing up their indignant-repudiation skills.

The war culminated in May 2009 with the army’s crushing of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Its climax was marked by ruthlessness and callous disregard for human life. The panel concluded that “there is a reasonable basis to believe that large-scale violations of international humanitarian and human-rights law were committed by both sides”. Since hardly any of the Tigers’ leaders outlived the war, it is the government of Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s president, that is in the dock.

It is probably too much to hope the government might adopt a fresh approach to these familiar allegations. There were always at least three ways to tackle them. It could, early on, have argued brazenly that the benefits of ending the war outweighed the cost in human life. The Tigers were as vicious and totalitarian a bunch of thugs as ever adopted terrorism as a national-liberation strategy. Or the government could have insisted that its army’s behaviour was largely honourable, but that some regrettable abuses may have occurred, which would be thoroughly investigated.

Instead, it chose a third path: to lie, and to lie big. It insisted that it pursued a policy of “zero civilian casualties”. Even as its forces shelled the shrinking “no-fire zone” in which the Tigers held some 330,000 civilians as human shields, it either denied it was doing so, or promised to stop and did not. It kept foreign observers out and bullied the local press into silence. The UN report found that “tens of thousands” were killed in January-May 2009, with most civilian casualties caused by government shelling.

The report relates little that has not appeared in accounts by human-rights groups. But it is unusually blunt, perhaps reflecting exasperation at the Sri Lankan government’s obstructive, aggressive tactics. The three-member panel is distinguished enough to shrug off Sri Lanka’s accusations of bias. The chair, Marzuki Darusman, is a former attorney-general of Indonesia. The report calls the conduct of the war “a grave assault on the entire regime of international law designed to protect individual dignity during both war and peace”.

The government, however, is now too deeply wedded to its strategy of denial to back down even an inch. It lobbied hard against the publication of the UN report, arguing it would damage efforts at national reconciliation. Now that Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, has ignored its objections, it has whipped up a frenzy of national resentment against the perceived calumnies. This goes down well at home. Standing up to foreign bullying only enhances Mr Rajapaksa’s popularity among the ethnic-Sinhalese majority. Responding to the report, the president has said he would be happy to sit in the electric chair on behalf of his country. A huge turnout is expected for May Day rallies at which he has asked for a show of support for his government.

If the report has brought Mr Rajapaksa short-term political benefits at home, he may also conclude that the diplomatic fallout is easily manageable. Sri Lanka is not without supporters. Just days after the end of the war in 2009, the UN’s Human Rights Council passed a resolution praising its victory, condemning Tiger war crimes and overlooking altogether allegations against the Sri Lankan army. Of its diplomatic allies back then, India is now less staunch. But China and Russia remain firm defenders of the rights of sovereign governments to quell secessionist movements, and do not seem squeamish about the means.

They may be even keener, after the UN-authorised intervention in Libya, to show that was the exception to a rule of non-interference. So Sri Lanka will continue to resist calls for any formal inquiry into the war beyond the “Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission” (LLRC) it established. Though due to report soon, the commission has failed to earn credibility.

In the long run, however, the semi-official status the UN report gives allegations of war crimes will haunt this government. The well-organised, far-flung Tamil diaspora will hound Sri Lanka’s leaders when they go abroad, and put pressure on foreign governments to demand accountability. Skilled at exploiting the rivalry between India and China, whose arms supplies helped win the war, Sri Lanka’s diplomats may argue that they no longer need the West. But, proud of Sri Lanka’s democratic traditions, they will smart at being seen as front men for a shoddy dictatorship, engaged in what now looks like a desperate cover-up.

After such knowledge, what forgiveness?

Though perceived foreign slights may enhance the government’s standing at home, it is there that the concealment of the truth about the war’s end will do most damage. It is not as if there were no witnesses. Some 300,000 people know first-hand parts of what happened. When the LLRC held hearings in the north, scene of the fighting, survivors told harrowing tales of loss and asked where missing loved ones were. Without answers, it is hard to see how they can be “reconciled”.

Nor does the government show any sign of moving towards a political settlement, to meet the grievances of the Tamil minority that fuelled the conflict. Gordon Weiss, the UN’s spokesman in Colombo during the end of the war, predicts in a forthcoming book (“The Cage”) that Tamil emigration will continue, “encouraged by political stagnation, a lack of rights and rule by fear”. And also by the government’s continued refusal to countenance any serious investigation into how it won the war. ~ courtesy: Banyan ~ The Economist ~

Minister G.L. Peiris to diplomats: 'Government of Sri Lanka does not consider the Darusman Report as a UN document'

Minister of External Affairs briefs diplomatic community on Darusman Report

via www.mea.gov.lk

The Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris addressed the Colombo-based diplomatic corps at the Ministry of External Affairs in Colombo today to convey the response of the Government of Sri Lanka on the substantive aspects of the Darusman Report. The Minister stated that the Government of Sri Lanka was no longer constrained to comment substantively as the Report is now in the public domain.

The Minister went on to highlight some of the fundamental deficiencies, inherent prejudices and malicious intentions that characterize the Darusman Report. These flaws pertain not only to the contents of the Report, but also to the methodology followed in arriving at its conclusions. The Minister stated categorically that the Report is legally, morally and substantively flawed.

The Minister of External Affairs made the following points during his briefing :

The Government of Sri Lanka does not consider the Darusman Report as a UN document, as it has not been mandated by any inter-governmental or multilateral forum. The document is the product of a personal initiative taken by the Secretary-General. Furthermore, the mandate of the Panel is purely advisory in nature, as stated in its Terms of Reference.

The Minister explained that since the end of conflict, the Government of Sri Lanka is engaged in the delicate task of forging national unity and progress through reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction. After almost three decades, the Government has been successful in restoring peace, stability and security in all parts of the country. The Government is dealing with critical post-conflict issues, with a view to erasing the pain and anguish of the past, while at the same time consolidating national unity and future progress. We have made significant progress relating to resettlement of internally displaced persons, restoring livelihood in conflict- affected areas, reintegration of former child soldiers as productive citizens, rehabilitation of detainees, de-mining, restoring democratic processes in the North and East as well as reconstruction of housing and infrastructure. We are moving gradually and confidently forward. The Minister noted that none of these positive developments have been reflected in the Report.

Furthermore, the controversial contents of the Darusman Report and its public release at this stage obstruct and retard this positive momentum, and it creates divisions. At the same time, the Report will feed into the political agendas of those who wish to destabilize the country.

The Minister stated that the Government questions the fundamental legal basis of the conclusions arrived at by the Panel. The Report itself states that it is not a fact-finding or an investigative body. Notwithstanding this, the Panel comes to the preposterous conclusion that violations of international humanitarian law have occurred in Sri Lanka, and that “credible” evidence of violations is available to them. The Panel has also decided that these “sources” and the “Panel’s substantive records will be classified as strictly confidential…..”. In other words, Minister Peiris pointed out that none of the so-called sources and material according to which the Panel claims to substantiate their conclusions, can be examined or verified by the public at large, or the Government of Sri Lanka. This is in flagrant violation of procedural fairness and principles of natural justice known to all civilized society. Therefore, the Government of Sri Lanka seriously questions the credibility and basic fairness of the so-called “process” outlined by the Panel, which has led to its conclusions. Consequently, the Minister emphasized that the Government is strongly opposed to any recommendations for further action arising from such a flawed basis.

Minister Peiris noted that the Darusman Panel on its own accord, expands its mandate to compile what amounts to their unique and flawed version of the contemporary socio-political history of Sri Lanka. The entire conflict with the LTTE is erroneously and dangerously characterized as a “struggle for the existence of the Sinhalese and Tamil peoples”. This creates no doubt as to the Panel’s ultimate intentions, particularly when the Panel proceeds to characterize the LTTE as “the most disciplined and most nationalist of the Tamil militant groups”. This is despite the reality that the LTTE killed more Tamil leaders than Sinhalese leaders, and perpetrated the worst imaginable atrocities on the Tamil people for almost thirty years. The bias of the experts is also evidenced when they state that the conflict ended “tragically”. The end of terrorism was a moment of great joy for the people of Sri Lanka, while it no doubt ended “tragically” for the LTTE’s ambitions to impose their rule by force over the people of the North and East of Sri Lanka.

Such inherent prejudices and ethnically contrived language is further evidenced in the Report’s account of “individual soldiers” helping Tamil civilians escape the clutches of the LTTE at the end of the conflict. The Sri Lanka Government had very explicitly instructed its military to provide all possible assistance to the people crossing over to the cleared areas.

The Minister stated that in this regard the Government of Sri Lanka is concerned about current developments arising from the Panel Report. Inflamed by the biased contents of the Report, some Tamil groups have expressed the view that given the treatment described in the Report, there is no alternative to a separate State of Tamil Eelam. It is also most regrettable that a respected personality such as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Navi Pillai has questioned the very nature of the conflict in Sri Lanka by stating that violations have occurred “under the guise of combating terrorism”. Minister Peiris recalled that over thirty democracies worldwide have designated the LTTE as a “terrorist” group.

The Minister noted that the allegations in the Darusman Report are presented as a narrative account of events during the last stages of the humanitarian operation, instead of under their legal classification. The events are therefore recounted as a true “horror story” aimed at arousing emotion and causing revulsion and contempt. Strangely, it is also stated that “this account should not be taken as proven fact”. This begs the question as to whether the account is fact or fiction, Minister Peiris stated.

Minister Peiris noted that the political motivations of the Panel are further reflected in their comments on the family of H.E. President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The Panel makes allegations of nepotism against the President of Sri Lanka, citing as examples that Hon. Basil Rajapaksa is the Minister of Economic Development and Hon. Chamal Rajapaksa is the Speaker of Parliament. Minister Peiris highlighted to the diplomatic community that Hon. Basil Rajapaksa had been elected with the highest number of preferential votes from the District of Gampaha, and was therefore a democratically elected representative of the people. Minister Peiris pointed out that Hon. Chamal Rajapaksa, the Speaker of the Parliament of Sri Lanka, has been an elected Member of Parliament for over twenty years and furthermore, his appointment in the capacity of the Speaker of the Parliament was seconded by the Chief Opposition Whip of Parliament, reflecting bipartisan consensus.

Minister Peiris also regretted that the Panel demonstrates their pre-determined bias against the domestically constituted mechanism to deal with a range of issues relevant to the conflict with a view to promoting reconciliation and confidence among people – the LLRC. The LLRC consists of persons of high integrity and independence and with significant experience. In the process of their work, the LLRC had obtained testimony from civilians affected by the conflict in all parts of the country, including in the North and the East. With a view to providing urgent relief, the LLRC submitted their interim recommendations to the Government of Sri Lanka. The Government of Sri Lanka has already commenced implementation of the LLRC recommendations through the Inter-Agency Administrative Committee (IAAC). While the Government is awaiting the outcome of the LLRC, the Panel has arrived at the conclusion that the LLRC lacks credibility even before its work has been completed. This exposes the fact that the ultimate pre-determined motive of the Panel is to hasten their objective of establishing an “international mechanism”. This is in blatant violation of all accepted legal norms that domestic processes need to be exhausted prior to resorting to external judicial proceedings.

In summary, the Government of Sri Lanka finds that the processes adopted by the Darusman Report and the conclusions arrived at are biased and fundamentally flawed from every conceivable point of view. The Report is divisive and unhelpful at a time when Sri Lanka is engaged in the delicate task of dealing with post-conflict issues, reconciliation and progress.

Nevertheless, Minister Peiris reiterated that the Government of Sri Lanka is clearly resolved to continue its cooperation with the United Nations. As correctly pointed out by the UN Secretary-General, primacy should be accorded to the domestic process underway. The Darusman Report refers to many issues which are alleged to have occurred in Sri Lanka and which are currently subject to a domestic process. The conclusions of the externally constituted Darusman Panel working from New York should not take precedence over the conclusions, still awaited, of the domestic process.

In a parallel process, Minister Peiris said that the Government has also initiated discussions with elected representatives of the Tamil community with a view to arriving at a long-term political solution. The fifth round of these talks is scheduled this week. This process will address both the immediate post-conflict humanitarian issues, as well as the need to evolve appropriate political and constitutional arrangements.

Minister Peiris requested Sri Lanka’s friends in the international community to assess these facts fairly and in a balanced manner and to give the people of Sri Lanka the opportunity to reach their full potential in a peaceful, stable, prosperous and united country. Based on the mandate of the people at local, provincial, national and Presidential levels, the Government is working confidently towards achieving these objectives.

Minister Peiris concluded by stating that it is not the Government’s intention to create any “mass protests” and agitation relating to the Darusman Report as alleged by some. We are not instigating hysteria nor violence or embarrassment to the UN community and to foreign Missions. Such allegations have been levelled by those with political agendas to blacken the image of the country at this sensitive moment.


Ministry of External Affairs
Colombo 1

28th April 2011

April 27, 2011

UK Foreign Office welcomes UN Panel of Experts report on Sri Lanka

Statement by UK Mission to the UN

The Foreign Office welcomed the UN Panel of Experts report on the alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the military conflict in Sri Lanka.

The UK has consistently called for an independent and credible investigation to address these allegations which is why we fully supported the decision of the Secretary-General to establish the Panel of Experts.

The report sets out the importance of a genuine and independent investigation, so that allegations of abuses are seen to have been addressed. We encourage Sri Lanka to use its response to the UN report and the report’s recommendations to strengthen the process of accountability and support lasting peace and security.

The serious nature of the allegations in the report underline that these allegations, and the issue of accountability for them, must be resolved before lasting reconciliation can be achieved in Sri Lanka.

"Darusman Report" is fundamentally flawed in many respects

Statement by Ministry of External Affairs, Sri Lanka

The Government of Sri Lanka refers to the release by the UN Secretary-General of the “Darusman Report” on accountability in Sri Lanka. The Government of Sri Lanka reiterates its position that the “Darusman Report” is fundamentally flawed in many respects and that among other deficiencies, the Report is based on biased material, which is presented without any verification.

Following the end of conflict, the Government of Sri Lanka, has given the highest priority to post-conflict reconciliation, rehabilitation, reconstruction and development. The Government is in the process of addressing these challenges and has recorded significant success on many fronts, including in the resettlement of internally displaced persons, restoring livelihood in conflict affected areas, release of former child soldiers recruited by terrorists, rehabilitation of detainees, de-mining, restoring democratic processes in the North and East as well as in the reconstruction of housing and infrastructure. We are moving gradually and confidently forward along a process that will consolidate national unity and progress.

The public release of the Report at this stage is divisive, and disrupts our efforts to reinforce peace, security and stability in Sri Lanka. It feeds into the political agendas of interested parties.

The Government of Sri Lanka however notes that the Secretary-General has correctly acknowledged the primacy of domestic responsibility in this regard. The Government has put in place of its own accord a domestic mechanism dealing with a range of issues relevant to the conflict with a view to promoting reconciliation and confidence among people. UN Member States have welcomed this measure. Furthermore, the Government has established an Inter-Agency Committee consisting of seven key Ministries in order to proceed with the interim recommendations of the domestic mechanism, the LLRC. The objective of the Government is to provide urgent relief and to engender a sense of confidence among the people affected by the conflict and give impetus to the reconciliation process. The areas in which action has already commenced relate to land issues, law and order, administration and language issues as well as socio-economic and livelihood issues. These actions have been initiated as a follow-up to the matters identified through the LLRC, deriving from testimony received from affected civilians in the country including from former conflict areas. The conclusions of the externally constituted “Darusman Panel” working from New York should not take precedence over the conclusions, still awaited, of the domestic process.

The “Darusman Report” refers to many issues which are alleged to have occurred in Sri Lanka and which are currently subject to a domestic process. This material can be looked at by the LLRC should it wish to do so, depending on its own assessment of the contents.


Ministry of External Affairs
Colombo

United States welcomes public release of the UN Panel of Experts’ report on Sri Lanka

Statement by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on the Release of the UN Panel of Experts' Report on Sri Lanka

Susan E. Rice
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations

(Apr 25, 2011) The United States welcomes today’s public release of the UN Panel of Experts’ report on Sri Lanka. We appreciate the detailed and extensive work of the panel and believe it makes a valuable contribution to next steps that should be taken in support of justice, accountability, human rights, and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. We commend the Secretary General for his decision to release the report publicly.

The United States has been at the forefront of efforts to support an effective, transparent post-conflict reconciliation process in Sri Lanka that includes accountability for violations by all parties. The report highlights the need for an independent and full accounting of the facts in order to ensure that allegations of abuse are addressed and impunity for human rights violations is avoided. We strongly support the Secretary General’s call for the Sri Lankan authorities to respond constructively to the report and underscore our belief that accountability and reconciliation are inextricably linked.

'One country's ability to bury the evidence of war crimes endangers how civilians are treated in all other conflicts' - Guardian UK

No-inquiry zone: Truth and accountability are not divisible, and a single failure of international justice is also a collective one

Guardian UK Editorial, Jun 27, 2011

When Richard Goldstone, the judge who headed a UN fact-finding mission to Gaza, partially recanted last month – an act that was disowned by fellow members of the mission – the saga was used as Exhibit A in the case against the UN. The organisation, it was claimed, was so inherently biased against Israel that it lacked the moral authority to investigate it. Where was the Goldstone report about Sri Lanka, some asked?

A UN panel has just produced such a report about the carnage of civilians which took place two years ago when government forces crushed the Tamil Tigers. It is as hard-hitting as anything Goldstone produced, and therefore is just as likely to be shelved. The point is that truth and accountability, let alone international justice, are not divisible. One country's ability to bury the evidence of war crimes endangers how civilians are treated in all other conflicts. A single failure of international justice is also a collective one.

That there is credible evidence that government soldiers targeted civilians, shelled hospitals and attacked aid workers in the final months of the war against the Tamil Tigers is indisputable. That the Tigers used civilians as human shields and shot those attempting to flee the carnage at point-blank range is equally true. Tens of thousands died as a result of these twin brutalities. The zone that the government established in the north-east of the country in the final months of its civil war was an area where savagery was organised on a daily basis. Civilians queueing at a food distribution centre would be shelled while President Mahinda Rajapaksa's office instructed the army to stop what it claimed it had not been doing. It was a no-journalist, no-aid-worker zone, but it was anything but a no-fire zone.

Two years on, the goal has to be to establish an independent inquiry into these events. The Sri Lankan government has consistently opposed the UN, and at one point organised demonstrations against UN staff in Colombo. It has established two ad hoc bodies, but no one has been held accountable. Its supporters claim that anything more trenchant would endanger the peace that has reigned on the island since. All of these arguments are self-serving.

That leaves the UN itself. The secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, claims he lacks the authority to order an inquiry into the mass killings without the consent of the Sri Lankan government, which is not a member of the international criminal court, or a decision by an appropriate international forum of member states. Human Rights Watch is right to disagree. Having fought to establish the panel, the UN secretary general has a responsibility to finish what he started. ~ courtesy: The Guardian UK ~

Wall Street Journal calls on 'leaders abroad to tread carefully' on SG's Panel report on Sri Lanka

Focus on fixing the democracy before investigating the past, as "there's a real danger that an international war-crimes investigation would do more harm than good", Wall Street Journal says in an Editorial, April 27, 2011:

Sri Lanka and human rights activists around the world are in an uproar over a report released by a United Nations panel this week on the final months of the island nation's bloody civil war. The survey may prove illuminating, so far as it goes, in terms of understanding what happened during those violent six months in 2009. The greater risk is that the international response will tip Sri Lanka closer to losing the peace.

Colombo's final military push through the Northern Province between January and June 2009 displaced hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians. As the fighting neared its conclusion, the terrorist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam used thousands of civilians as human shields to try to thwart the army's advance. A three-man panel assembled by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has investigated allegations of atrocities at that time. The bulk of the U.N. report concerns charges that the government didn't do enough to avoid killing civilians and may even have targeted them.

These are serious allegations that deserve an airing. It's hard to see how Sri Lanka can build a stable multi-ethnic society as long as members of its Tamil minority believe they were victims of crimes that have been shoved under a carpet.

But that is where the U.N. and other international parties are in danger of running off the rails. The report calls for a more formal U.N. investigation, perhaps culminating in a war crimes tribunal. That call has been echoed by various human rights groups and may find a sympathetic hearing among some governments. It could prove to be the wrong approach for Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka's problem is not a lack of interest in getting at the truth of the war's final days. On the contrary, opposition presidential candidate and one-time war hero Gen. Sarath Fonseka made waves during his campaign last year by suggesting a willingness to blow the lid on alleged human-rights abuses while he was head of the war effort. Courageous journalists have tried to write about those events, too. Whether politically or morally motivated, such public discussion will be critical moving forward.

Tamil civilians fled the war zone in northern Sri Lanka in April 2009. Rather, the problem is the measures President Mahinda Rajapaksa has taken to stifle that discussion. Gen. Fonseka was arrested and court-martialed after he lost the election. Journalists have repeatedly come under attack, including one war critic, Lasantha Wickrematunge, who was killed by unknown assailants as the final offensive ramped up in 2009.

Cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda, also a critic of the government, has been missing for nearly a year and a half. Earlier this year, the offices of opposition news website Lanka eNews were burned in an apparent arson attack, and its editor Bennette Rupasinghe was briefly jailed on questionable charges late last month before being let out on bail.

Against this backdrop, there's a real danger that an international war-crimes investigation would do more harm than good. The "international community" already is deeply discredited in many Sri Lankan eyes for its failure to stand against the neo-Marxist Tigers as they waged bloody battle on Sinhalese and Tamil civilians alike. As the war neared its conclusion, foreign powers criticized the military effort without ever offering a plausible alternative.

For the U.N. or some other institution to launch a formal tribunal now would only allow Mr. Rajapaksa to bolster domestic support among the ethnic majority Sinhalese by playing the nationalism card. His government already is trying to dismiss this week's U.N. report on exactly those grounds, suggesting the process has been unfair and politicized. Given the U.N.'s track record, it will be easy for Mr. Rajapaksa's supporters to credit such arguments, undermining his domestic opposition.

The international community would do better to focus on building the institutions that will eventually allow Sri Lankans to grapple with their own war history. That might mean, for now, focusing less on the end of the war and more on issues such as demanding greater press freedom and a more open political process.

Leaders could also press Colombo to revisit last year's constitutional amendment eliminating presidential term limits, which cleared the way for Mr. Rajapaksa to entrench himself in power. The U.N. report raises such issues, but the report's focus on war crimes has distracted from these points. These issues don't cut across nationalist lines and could lead to a more stable Sri Lanka with more justice for all of its citizens.

Sri Lanka is at a critical moment as it emerges from a decades-long war and rebuilds its politics and economy. There are worrying signs the Rajapaksa government already is heading in the wrong direction. That makes it even more important for leaders abroad to tread carefully, lest they inadvertently push the country back into sectarian strife. (courtesy: Wall Street Journal)

April 26, 2011

A lasting political solution through power sharing

by M A Sumanthiran

(text of SJV Chelvanayakam Memorial lecture 2011)

I consider it a great honour to have been asked to deliver the Thanthai Chelva memorial oration this year. Last year too I had the honour of delivering the key-note address at the annual commemoration ceremony held in Jaffna on the 26th of April. Today, I am doubly delighted since Thanthai Chelva’s true disciple Mr Sampanthan presides over this event. I am truly humbled by this singular honour bestowed on me.

Some years ago, at a ceremony to unveil the bust of Dr Colvin R de Silva at the Colombo Law Library, Colvin’s junior-most junior, Ms Chamantha Weerakoon Unamboowe recounted an anecdote. One day Colvin was greatly worried about a criminal appeal that he was going to argue before the Supreme Court that day. Chamantha had told him, “Sir, why are you so worried; half the criminal law of this country was made by you”, to which Colvin is supposed to have replied: “And the other half was made because they did not listen to me”!

I think it would be right to say that the state of our country is what it is today, because they did not listen to Thanthai Chelva. Ironically, it was Colvin who eventually did not listen in the Constituent Assembly in the early 1970s, after having himself prophesied in 1956: “Two languages – one country; one language – two countries”.

The first Republican Constitution of 1972 gave the last rites to the slow death for ethnic co-existence in this country that started when a unitary constitution was handed to us by the departing British. Having earned the distinction of being the first Asian country to enjoy universal suffrage, we buried all the benefits of democracy to this island by ignoring the rich diversity of its Peoples and their different heritages, and treating it like a homogenous society. In my view, fundamentally what really suffered was democracy itself, since the system of government that was enacted in 1948, undermined the very essence of it.

Wikipedia has the following definition for Democracy:

“Democracy is a form of government in which all citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal (and more or less direct) participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law. It can also encompass social, economic and cultural conditions that enable the free and equal practice of political self-determination.”

It continues later,

“[M]ajority rule is often listed as a characteristic of democracy. However, it is also possible for a minority to be oppressed by a "tyranny of the majority" in the absence of governmental or constitutional protections of individual and/or group rights… It has also been suggested that a basic feature of democracy is the capacity of individuals to participate freely and fully in the life of their society.”

This is perhaps why, Thomas Jefferson, in his inaugural address, on 4th March 1801, stated that,

“Though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; the minority possess their equal right which equal laws must protect, and to violate would be oppression”

This is also the reason why when Britain granted Dominion Status to the island of Ceylon, a prohibition was placed on the legislature on passage of any bill that disadvantaged one community or granted a privilege to one community over the others. According to Section 29(2) of the Ceylon (Constitution) Order in Council, Parliament was not competent to pass laws that,

a) Prohibit or restrict the free exercise of any religion;

b) or make provisions of any community or religion; or make provisions of any community or religion liable to disabilities or restrictions to which persons or other communities or religions are not made liable; or

c) confer on persons of any community or religion any privilege or advantage which is not conferred on persons of other communities or religions; or

d) alter the constitution of any religious body except with the consent of the governing authority of that body.
Any law that might be passed which conflicted with these four provisions was expressly declared to be null and void and of no legal effect.

Lord Pearce on behalf of the Privy Council described this prohibition in the case of The Bribery Commissioner v. Ranasinghe in this way:

“[Article 29(2)] represents the solemn balance of rights between the citizens of Ceylon, the fundamental conditions on which inter se they accepted the Constitution: and these are therefore unalterable under the Constitution.”

Professor Lakshman Marasinghe says that the Privy Council may have had the benefit of a plethora of background material to have been able to come to the conclusion that Section 29(2) was an unalterable, entrenched feature of the Soulbury Constitution. These may include the following:

During the debate on the Ceylon Independence Bill in the House of Commons in November 1947, the then Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr. Creech Jones declared:

“I should perhaps also mention that the Government of Ceylon, while able in the future to amend their own Constitution, has felt that the provisions of the existing Constitution safeguarding minorities should be retained.

“(The Government of Ceylon) would obviously not wish to provoke any controversy on these issues in Ceylon.

Thus… the provision barring discriminatory legislation will be retained by the Ceylon Government.”
This was in reply to the concern raised by Mr Gammans, from the Conservative opposition when he said:

“The Second danger which Ceylon faces is one which the right Hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State for the Colonies has not mentioned except very shortly today. It is that Ceylon is not a single racial unit. There were two races in Ceylon, the Sinhalese and the Jaffna Tamils, who are in the northern part of the Island, and number 1,500,000, out of a total of 6,500,000. They differ from the Sinhalese race, language, religion, and to a large extent, in background. They are extremely capable and intelligent people. I have had a lot to do with them because they played a very large part in development of Malaya. It was the Jaffna Tamils who came over in large numbers and started the railways and Government services. Where there is a racial minority in the country the danger is that it may become a permanent political minority, Ceylon’s evolution on a democratic basis is bound to fail.”

Many years later, in 1963, Lord Soulbury, writing the foreword to B H Farmer’s Ceylon: A Divided Nation, himself regretted that his Commission did not recommend the entrenchment of guarantees of fundamental rights, on the lines enacted in the constitutions of India, Pakistan, Malaya, Nigeria and elsewhere.

Around the same time the founding father of Singapore, and former Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew commented as follows:

“When Ceylon gained independence in 1948, it was the classic model of gradual evolution to independence. Alas, it did not work out. One-man-one vote did not solve a basic problem. The majority of some 8 million Sinhalese could always outvote the 2 million Jaffna Tamils who had been disadvantaged by the switch from English to Sinhalese as the official language.”

This then was the real ‘ethnic’ problem that has besieged this country – the problem being that a significant section of the citizenry was excluded from exercising any meaningful democratic choice in respect of all matters in which they rivaled the major community. The problem was that of a permanent minority that could not have a say in respect of their political destiny in this island. This did not only afflict the Tamils; a very important section of the country – the Burghers – left Sri Lanka in great numbers. The safety-valve in the form of Section 29(2) did not work; it was a failed experiment by the British who thought that an entrenched prohibition to safeguard the People who were inferior in number would solve the issue of ensuring full and inclusive citizenship to all the Peoples who inhabited the island. Full and equal access to political power for all citizens could not be achieved within the unitary model constitution that was granted to us.

Instead of such a unitary model, the British Government utilized the model of the linguistic States and other different forms of federations, in countries where different linguistic and ethnic communities live. Those models have largely contributed to neutralizing ethnic tensions and rivalries. Unfortunately, however, in Ceylon the call for a federal structure of governance by the Ceylon Federal Party (ITAK) fell on deaf ears. Within two years of independence, on 18-12-1949, Thanthai Chelva made this call at the inaugural meeting of the ITAK held at the Government Clerical Services Union building in Maradana.

It is pertinent to state here that although the All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) did not make such a demand prior to independence the Kandyan League and notably S.W.R.D. Bandaranayake mooted the federal idea. Bandaranayake wrote six letters to the Ceylon Morning Leader in 1926 seeking to introduce the idea of federation. In his famous Jaffna lecture on 17th July 1926 he openly advocated a federal system of government for Ceylon and stated that the model of federation obtaining in Switzerland afforded a better example for Ceylon.

The Kandyan League advocated a federal Ceylon with three provinces, one of which to be the Northeast province, in their submissions before the Donoughmore Commission. Thus, it was the Kandyan Singhalese who first advocated for the merger of the North and the East. Later the Communist Party of Ceylon and other left allies sought a federal constitution before the Soulbury commission.

Although the ACTC did not specifically choose between a federal or a unitary form of government, it nevertheless was stridently opposed to the Soulbury Commission report. The issue was not a choice between two theories, but a practical one where the fruits of democracy eluded the Tamil People and the other minority communities on account of their inferior numbers. G G Ponnambalam travelled to London and argued that in a country like Ceylon where communal divisions were so wide and deep-seated, the major community should not be given an absolute majority. He sought at least 33% representation in the legislature for Ceylon and Indian Tamils who constituted more than 25% of the population.

Once independence was granted under the Soulbury Constitution and after the passage of the Citizenship Act, which the ACTC opposed, Ponnambalam joined the Government in an attempt to try out ‘the consensual model’ of politics. However, five years later saw him disillusioned and resigning his cabinet portfolio on 2nd November 1954, stating,

“… [a]fter five years of co-operation, I yet see unmistakable signs of the desire for the establishment of racial hegemony under the guise of majority rule…I now find myself a more determined advocate of Tamil nationalism…”

Thanthai Chelva though, realised within two years of independence that simple majoritarian rule will not benefit the Peoples who were minorities in Ceylon; not even with the seemingly entrenched provision contained in Section 29(2) of the Soulbury Constitution. That this constitutional experiment had failed was clear from the passage of the Citizenship Act in 1948, the Indian and Pakistani Citizenship Act in 1949 and finally the Official Language Act in 1956. The structure of governance needed to be radically altered to ensure the full and inclusive citizenship of all the Peoples of this country and for democracy to have any meaning at all, particularly to the permanent minorities on account of their inferior numbers. Within the next ten years two agreements were made with two Prime Ministers representing the two major political parties and both were unilaterally abrogated – even when neither of those Agreements would have converted the country into a ‘federation’ in the classical sense of the word. The defeat of the resolutions proposed by the ITAK to the Constituent Assembly, one by one, by simple majority votes, is a clear demonstration of the malady, but it also then ushered in a Constitution, ironically said to be ‘autochthonous’, leaving out the Tamil People from the very exercise of constitution-making of the ‘Republic’. This then is the central point I would like to make: it is not the descriptive terms one can give to the governance structure of the country [‘unitary’, federal’, etc.] that maters, but the actual realisation of the fruits of democracy and consequently of full and inclusive citizenship to all the Peoples.

A government BY the governed would necessarily entail granting access to political powers to the people. It is axiomatic that the two – the governor and the governed – are one and the same. But if by the composition and size of different Peoples, one People continuously govern the other People that would not only be a negation of democracy, but a clear case of political oppression as well. Such a scenario is antithetic to all forms of democratic rule.

How does one then redress the situation in cases where the country concerned is composed of different Peoples or of different ethnic, religious and linguistic backgrounds? There is no one model that is the panacea for all. But whatever the model, it must ensure that all citizens of the country have full and equal access to the political powers they can exercise as the realisation of the democratic ideal. And in my humble view, one does not have to re-invent the wheel or propound an altogether new theory. There are many tried and tested models of such power-sharing arrangements in many countries around the world today. The important thing is that it must achieve the objectives of democracy – and all the Peoples of the country will have full and inclusive access to their citizenship. There are many theories that are very attractive, but if they are not useful or practical, they don’t mean anything. We will do well to learn from ancient Chinese wisdom that “a knife must cut; if not it is not a knife”. Mr Sampanthan has recounted to us many times his reply to the late Lakshman Kadirgamar on protecting the sovereignty of Sri Lanka. He says that sovereignty is not a brittle object to be contained in a glass box and protected. It is something that is vibrant and useful. Thus it is not just enough to state in the constitution that sovereignty vests in the people, but it must be ensured that all citizens share in that sovereignty fully and inclusively.

One of the ways in which political power can be shared among the different Peoples of a country is by devolving those powers to smaller units at provincial or regional levels. This model is particularly effective if the permanent minority in a country is actually a majority in certain provinces or regions. There are many examples of this, but the best is nearest to us in India where the lines of division between States are on linguistic or ethnic lines.

In Sri Lanka , the Tamil speaking people have historically inhabited the North and East provinces, while the Singhalese have lived in the other parts. As we all know, this is not exclusive occupation of different regions, but predominantly that is how they have shared this island. Therefore, any meaningful power-sharing arrangement between the Tamils and Singhalese must necessarily take advantage of this historic geographic fact.

It is true that people can have emotional attachment to land. But it must be remembered that land cannot ever be more important than the people who inhabit it. This truth was brought home to me about five years ago when I attended a peace seminar in India, at which conflicts in different parts of the world were examined. At the session on Kashmir, a peace-activist from there asked the audience whether Kashmir belonged to India or Pakistan. The participants, almost all of them young Indians, in unison cried out “India”. Then he asked them this tricky question: “When you say Kashmir belongs to India, do you mean the people of Kashmir or that valley - that land?” Eager to give a politically correct answer those young people said that they meant the people of Kashmir. Then that peace-activist accusingly told them, “No, you did not mean the people; you meant that land only, because the Kashmiris are saying, “Well if you say we belong to you, where were you when our sons were killed on the streets? Where were you when our sisters were raped? Where were you when our fathers were abducted and taken away? If you thought we belonged to you, you would have spoken up for us at those times. You are only interested in the land, not in us, the people!”

We are yet to recover from the dreadful war that was fought on our soil two years ago, said to be a humanitarian operation to liberate the Tamil people. The question that must be answered honestly is whether it was to liberate the people or to re-take the land. If it is the people, then certainly the rights of those people will take precedence over all apparent attraction towards the lands. This is not a novel attraction. Systematic state-sponsored colonization was carried out since Independence in 1948 with a view to changing the demographic pattern of the North and East. According to a religious census of 1827, the Sinhalese population in the Eastern province was around ½ %; according to the official census of 1881 and 1921 the Sinhala population in the Eastern province was around 4 %, when the country attained independence in 1947 the Sinhala population in the Eastern province was around 9 %, at the time of the B.C pact the Sinhala population in the Eastern province was around 13 %, at the time of the D.C pact the Sinhala population in the Eastern province was around 19 %, as per the 1981 census the Sinhala population in the Eastern province was around 25 %. Between 1947 the year of independence and 1981, the last available census for the North and East, the increase in the Sinhala population island wide was 238 %, approximately two and a half times; while the increase in the Sinhala population in the Eastern province in the same period, 1947 – 1981, was 888 %, approximately nine times.

These facts were placed before the Supreme Court and acknowledged in the judgment which declared that the manner in which the merger of the North and East was brought about in 1987 was ultra vires.

The problem with a People whose political aspirations are not met and whose intrinsic dignity is offended is that they can make a huge nuisance of themselves! As a distinguished visitor from Rwanda a couple of years ago said: if we do not let our minorities live in peace, their brethren who have fled the country will make sure that we cannot live in peace! The outworking of this nuisance value can either be cyclic or mutations in form over time or both. That is why short fixes like the offer of development will not work in the long-term. The basic problem is one of access to powers of governance and not one of improvement in the quality of life. Therefore, for any solution to be a lasting one, it must directly address the root cause, which is full and equal access to powers of governance as an embodiment of their full and inclusive citizenship of the country.

In order to achieve a model of effective power-sharing we can perhaps look at various models that have been successful in many countries that grapple with the issues of plural societies. The following are some examples:

Basque

Basque Country is an autonomous community of Spain located on the Spanish and French boarder along the coast of the Bay of Biscay. In 1979, Basque became Spain’s first autonomous region with the passing of the Guernica Statute, which granted the Basque region autonomy over finances and local police forces, and provided that Basque language would be the official language of the region. The Basque government is the only regional government in Spain to have authority over all taxes. It also retains authority over internal security, industry, economic planning, banking, transport, energy resources, rural and urban development, agriculture and fisheries, social services, culture and public works. The Spanish central government has authority over the Basque judicial system and services such as water ports, airports and immigration.

Belgium

Belgium is an independent, sovereign state divided into two three Cultural Communities and three territorial Regions. The three Communities and Regions are organized according to the three official language communities in Belgium: the French, Dutch, and German-speaking communities. Belgium first initiated the concept of separate Communities in 1970 with the establishment of two Cultural Communities and territorial Regions for the French and Dutch-speaking populations. A German Community was established in 1973. The Community/Region structure is enshrined in the 1993 Coordinated Constitution of Belgium.

Chittagong Hill Tracts

The Chittagong Hill Tracts making up an autonomous region in eastern Bangladesh are comprised of hill districts home to 13 distinct tribes collectively referred to as the Jumma people. Of Sino-Tibetan descent and predominantly Buddhist, the tribes differ greatly from the rest of the Bangladeshi population, who are Bengali and Muslim. In the 19th century, when the region was under British rule, the British gave the Hill Tracts a degree of self-rule. In 1955 the Hill Tracts were under the absolute control of Pakistan as part of East Pakistan. They then came under control of the newly established Bangladesh government, following independence from Pakistan in 1971. In 1997, a Peace Accord established the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council (CHTRC) with responsibility over issues including vocational training, primary education and secondary education, land and land management, local police, tribal law and social justice, youth welfare, environmental preservation and management, local tourism, improvement trust and other local government organizations, licensing for local trade and business, water resources, money lending and trade, and taxation.

Jammu and Kashmir

Jammu and Kashmir is an autonomous entity within India. India’s claim of sovereignty over Jammu and Kashmir is contested by Pakistan, and the region has been at the center of conflict between India and Pakistan since 1947. Of the region’s inhabitants 64% are Muslim and 32% are Hindu. Autonomy status for Jammu and Kashmir is enshrined in the Indian Constitution of 1957 and the Kashmir Constitution of the same year. The Indian Constitution identifies Jammu and Kashmir as a unique state within India. The local government has exclusive authority over police, gas, education, hospitals, unemployment, land tenure and the running of local government. The government of Jammu and Kashmir also has the power to regulate movement of peoples to and from Jammu and Kashmir.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland was the only region in Ireland that did not gain independence following the 1916 Easter Uprising and the establishment of an Irish Free State in 1921. Violence between separatist Catholics and unionist Protestants has plagued the region. Attempts at reconciliation and accommodation intensified in the mid-1980s and continued with little result until 1996. The negotiations culminated in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which established a complex governance system whereby different matters affecting the region are dealt with by different governing institutions.

Palestine

Present-day Palestine is comprised of the Gaza Strip, on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea, and the West Bank, west of the Jordan River. The joint Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-government Arrangements was announced in Oslo, Norway in 1993. The Palestinians–Israeli Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was announced in 1995. The 1993 Declaration provided for a Palestinian interim government comprised of a Palestinian Council and Executive Authority, which would handle governmental affairs for the Palestinians for five years, at which time the two parties would meet to negotiate the establishment of a separate Palestinian state. The 1995 Agreement transferred governing powers to the Palestinian Council and the Executive Authority. It also established a Palestinian police force and other organs for public security.

Quebec

Quebec is a province of Canada. It is located between the Canadian province Ontario to the west and the Canadian Maritime provinces to the east. Originally a French colony founded in 1534, Quebec has a culture rooted in French language and tradition. There is a significant percentage of the population who believe that Quebec can only preserve its unique culture through independence from Canada. Two referenda on Quebec’s political status were held, first in 1980 and again in 1995. Neither received the required majority to trigger secession from Canada. In 1987, the Canadian government amended the Canadian constitution to give greater powers to the Quebec provincial government. No concessions were made to Quebec following the 1995 referendum, though it was narrowly defeated by a vote of 50.6% against to 49.4% in favor of independence.

Scotland

Scotland is a distinct state within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Scotland has been united with England and Wales in the United Kingdom since the 1707 Act of Union. The Act of the Union provided that Scotland would retain a separate legal system, church, national bank, currency and flag. Additionally, Scotland was reserved a fixed percentage of representation in the British Parliament and home rule in local government, education and social functions. Following a 1997 Scottish referendum, the Scotland Act was passed in 1998, establishing a separate Scottish Parliament, the first since 1707. Under the Act, the United Kingdom retained responsibility over foreign policy with Europe, defense and national security, economic stability, common markets for goods, employment legislation, social security and transport safety regulations. Scotland has authority in all other areas.

For a power-sharing arrangement to be successful, people in their provinces and regions must have a say in their own political destiny. But their participation and exercise of the powers of governance must be real and not fanciful.

So far no real attempt has been made to change that flawed structure of government and make it real and accessible to the Tamil People. The present Constitution with all its amendments needs to undergo a radical change if it is to provide the Tamil People full and equal access to government as an expression of their citizenship. The pseudo devolution of powers one finds in the present Constitution is not real and not entrenched and does more to exacerbate the conflict than address its causes.

Thus, we will do well to re-visit the vision of Thanthai Chelva, of a country in which every citizen has the space to exercise his or her full and equal right to citizenship and by that contribute to the lasting advancement and flourishing of all her Peoples.

The Sri Lankan sapphire from Pelmadulla in Kate Middleton's engagement ring

By M.S.Shah Jahan

Super slim Kate-Catherine Elizabeth Middleton, 29, the princess-to-be has a worry over her engagement ring with Ratnapura sapphire. Kate has slimmed down so much that she had to shrink her famous engagement ring to fit her finger as the dazzling sapphire and diamond band is too big for her size H finger. Princess Diana too wore it on the same finger.

PWKMTC426.jpg

Prince William & Kate-Catherine Elizabeth Middleton ~ pic: http://www.officialroyalwedding2011.org/

A Royal source said: “The band was turning. Kate absolutely adores it and didn’t want to cause fuss. The bride asked Royal jewellers G Collins and Sons to make it smaller attaching two tiny platinum beads to the inside of the bottom of the Sri Lankan sapphire ring from slipping. That will make it a size I, one notch up from Kate’s finger width to ensure it remains comfortable. She was terrified it will fall off during the wedding. A bride’s worst nightmare is looking down and seeing her ring has fallen off. One can only imagine how this will be magnified when you are marrying the future King of England.”

William said he had given his mother’s famous engagement ring to his fiancée so that his late mother would “not miss out” on the royal wedding. In February 1981, when Diana Spencer was placed in the spotlight right after the wedding proposal of Prince Charles, the same spotlight focussed on her wedding ring too. Garrard Jewelers who is the British’s royal family’s official crown jeweller, created a lovely ring out of a magnificent 12 carat oval Sri Lankan blue sapphire of the bluish hue with 14 solitaire cut diamonds on the side, and set in 18-carat white gold forming an elegant and very elaborate setting.

Garrard Jewellers who is responsible to maintain, keep, and secure the jewellery, crown, and treasures of the British monarch, has been serving the monarchy from 1843 up to the present and they supply all the jewellery needs of the Queen and everybody else in the family.

Sri Lankan gem

This 12 carat blue sapphire was born [mined] in Pelmadulla, Ratnapura district. The Queen Elizabeth II selected it out of the array of 50 fine gems displayed at the President’s House by the Sri Lankan gem community for her choice as a gift, when she visited Sri Lanka in 1980.The owner was young Ansar Jabir, scion of Beruwala’s Jabir family. The cost of the gem stone was shared by a few frontline gem dealers of that day.

A diamond may be a girl’s best friend, but a sapphire represents the woman itself. EDB has sponsored a website http:// www.ceylonsapphire.co.uk at a cost of Rs. 3.4 million to promote Sri Lanka as a gem hub and propagate that Diana’s/Kate’s engagement ring sapphire is from Ceylon/Sri Lanka.

Diana’s engagement ring started the trend for other couples to choose colour stones for their jewellery instead of limiting themselves to diamonds. Chief beneficiaries were Sri Lanka, Burma, Madagascar and Kashmir. The latter’s blue sapphires fetch few times more than that of the rest in the international market for its rarity and beauty.

Western media has been wrongly circulating news that the sapphire was purchased from Garrads. Further London’s The SUN newspaper last week quoted the sapphire ring is of £ 32 million value. This is an irresponsible reporting, totally wrong and grossly exaggerated. On November 29, in Christies’ auction in Hong Kong, a fine quality Kashmir Sapphire of 11.24 carats fetched US$ 1,273,823 that is £ 781,500. Presently a 42 carats Kashmir sapphire in New York with a price tag of US$ 10 million is the highest in the market, still far away from £ 32 [taipan@sltnet.lk]. Therefore, £ 32 million value is mere imagination.

A slew of cut-price imitations too hit stores across the world like in 1981 and, with the wedding on April 29 the demand is still high that jewellers all over the world continue to make money even as they struggle to meet the customer demand.

Diana’s engagement ring

The National Sapphire Company based in New York that witnessed surge in business back in 1981 after Diana’s engagement to Prince Charles, witnessed its website crash as online visitors rushed to place orders for the Diana engagement ring replicas immediately after the announcement of the Williams-Kate Middleton wedding. The company has so far sold engagement rings most priced around $2,500. Princess Diana had many fabulous pieces of jewellery and her jewellery collection was estimated to be worth over 30 million dollars.

William used his mother’s dazzling engagement ring to pop the question while the pair was on holiday in Kenya. “I had been planning it for a while and carrying it around with me in my rucksack for about three weeks before the proposal. Any guy out there will know; it takes a certain amount of motivation to get you going. I literally would not let it go, everywhere I went I was keeping hold of it because I knew this thing, if it disappeared I would be in a lot of trouble. It just felt really right out and it was beautiful at the time. I had done a little bit of planning to show my romantic side. It went fine,” said William.

Kate admitted that the proposal had come as a shock. “We were out with friends and things so I really didn’t expect it all. I thought he might have thought about it. It was a total shock when it came,” she said. Asked about the daunting prospect of marrying into the royal family, Kate said: “I know that if I’m working hard and pulling my weight, working hard and playing hard at the same time, then everyone I work with can see that I’m there and pulling my weight”

Wills and Kate first met each other while they were both studying history of art at St Andrews University in Fife, Scotland. Their romance didn’t go public until a skiing holiday in Switzerland in 2004, but the prince scotched rumours of an early engagement, saying: “I don’t want to get married until I am at least 28 or maybe 30.” They split up in 2007 as the demands of the prince’s career in the Armed Forces increased but they were secretly united within weeks. As their long courtship progressed, Britain’s tabloid press dubbed her “Waity Katie.”

The wedding will be the biggest royal event since Prince Charles married Diana 30 years ago. Previous big royal occasions, such as that of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953 or the jubilees of 1977 and 2002, have seen huge celebrations across Britain. Such events also generate greater interest in the royals.

Even though Prince William lobbied for a relatively low-key wedding, suggesting the guest list be stripped of Commonwealth officials, politicians, European royals and newspaper editors, in favour of friends and family, the wedding is still shaping up to be quite a big affair. While Diana/Charles wedding was watched by 750 million people, Kate/William is estimated to be viewed by 2.5 billion all over the world, not only on television but also on Internet, iPad, mobile phone, etc.

The wedding is not technically a state event that somewhat limits the protocol requirements applied to the guest list, but royal obligations still dictate that a large number of the 1,900 or so seats go to guests from the world of politics. Queen Elizabeth II has invited 50 guests, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla chose another 250, the same number as William and Kate invited, while Kate’s family made another 100 invitations. Europe’s royal families, long close to the Windsor’s are expected to be well represented.

Guest list

William and Kate have showed their modern side by inviting a number of close friends, guests from the charities they work with. Kate has used her influence to invite the butcher, shopkeeper and pub owner from her home village of Bucklebury. Though guest list is still kept secret details have begun to leak out. Soccer star David Beckham will be there with his pop star wife Victoria. Elton John who has been invited because of his friendship with the late Princess Diana, is attending with his gay partner David Furnish.

Some leading religious figures are invited. The Venerable Bogoda Seelawimala, the head priest at the London Buddhist Vihara monastery has been invited primarily to show the royal family and the British government’s respect for Buddhist tradition. Probably he will be one of the few guests at the wedding of the year wearing orange and burgundy Buddhist robes. The list will include Islamic and Hindu leaders as well as those from other faiths.

President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle were not invited and many other international leaders will be watching on TV.

The wedding ceremony is expected to give Britain a much-needed boost, with most of the countries in Europe suffering from crippling spending cuts. In a kingdom forced to tighten its belt, a showpiece royal wedding could lift the national mood, giving subjects a glittering event to focus on rather than the Coalition Government’s spending cuts.

Meanwhile Prime Minister David Cameron, who is holding a street party in Downing Street with his wife Samantha, has urged Britons to follow his lead and hold street parties to celebrate the wedding. “It’s a special day for everyone in Britain. It’s a chance for all of us to come together and celebrate the great things about our country.”

Sandie Dawe, chief executive of tourism agency VisitBritain, said the wedding would be “an enormous boost for the British tourism industry” as the Royals are one of the biggest draws for foreign tourists visiting Britain, and the money that comes into England from tourists will be more than the money put out for the wedding

Wedding dress

Details of the wedding dress and the gown’s designer also remain secret. But the bride’s gown will cost 30,000 pounds and Pippi’s [Kate’s 27-year-old sister Philippa Middleton] dress will cost 20,000 pounds. Kate’s make-up will be natural and fuss-free. James Pryce of Chelsea’s Richard Ward Salon, who did Kate’s hair style when she announced her engagement is tasked with creating the royal bride’s hair style. Rumour has it that Kate is considering wearing her hair half-up, half-down and she might opt for flowers in her hair instead of a tiara.

People are anxious to know what jewellery she will wear for her big day. Is that Princess Diana’s Cambridge emerald choker, which is her wedding gift from the queen? Or the necklace presented by King Khalid of Saudi Arabia or a drop diamond necklace from Harry Winston given to the queen in 1979 and loaned to Diana on numerous occasions?

The wedding cake is created by British designer Fiona Cairns of a multi-tiered traditional fruit cake with cream and white icing. The matrimonial dessert will also feature a strong British floral theme, using the intricate piping elements of the Joseph Lambeth method. For the reception at Buckingham Palace, the couple has also asked McVitie’s Cake Company to create a chocolate biscuit cake especially from a Royal Family recipe as per Prince William’s request. To add more icing to the chocolate cake, celebrated Indian choreographer and entertainer Sandip Soparrkar and his dancer wife, Jesse Randhawa, will perform Ballroom dance for guests at the Buckingham Palace.

Besides, Kate Middleton was voted more beautiful than Princess Diana by an online poll conducted by the social networking site BeautifulPeople.com which is headquartered in Copenhagen. “That was a big surprise - that she surpassed [fourth-ranked] Princess Diana,” said Greg Hodge, the managing director of the site. “Kate Middleton comes in very fashion-forward. She’s living this fairy tale and is about to become the most famous princess in the world.”

Bigger fashion icon

Kate was also hailed as a bigger fashion icon in a poll of 2,000 women across the UK. The salute follows her stylish public appearance. Sales of “high-gloss” shampoos and hair lotions have leaped by 27 per cent in the past month as girls rush to copy her shimmering look. Well, after Jacqueline Kennedy Princess Diana romped the world and now it is Princess Catherine’s turn.

Though Kate Middleton wows the crowds, she admits to feeling stressed out about her big day. When she was asked, if she was nervous ahead of the big day, Kate replied: “Yes, of course I am. I can’t believe it’s coming so soon now.” Prince William also recently revealed he was hit by apprehension ahead of the big day and said his knees were “tapping” at the wedding rehearsal.

She will spend her last night as a single woman with her family at the Goring Hotel, not far from Buckingham Palace.

Following the marriage, the couple will live in north Wales, where the second-in-line to the British throne will continue to serve with the Royal Air Force.

William said they were “hugely excited” and “looking forward to spending the rest of our lives together”. Kate said she and the prince would start a family. William while echoing his fiancée’s sentiments said that they would “get over the marriage thing first and then look at the kids”. Oh yes this is the ultimate goal of every couple and the Royals cannot be an exception.

Honeymoon? Well that is also an important subject in this celebrity wedding. It could be in Eastern Europe, Africa or an island in Indian Ocean. On the day Wills & Kate, say “I do”; we people from the Pearl of the Orient, Wish You Both a Happy Married Life!

Sri Lanka must be concerned how Russia and China let down Sudan at the UN

by Upul Joseph Fernando

UN Organization sources say that there are a number of similarities between the report of the panel appointed by Ban Ki-moon to investigate war crime charges in Sudan where there was a conflict, and that of the panel of experts on war crimes pertaining to Sri Lanka (SL) . The UN report on the war crime charges against Sudan was released in November 2009. Sudans Ambassador to the UN Abdel Mahmoud reacted angrily to the panel’s report saying , ‘ Khartoum will demand that the Security Council terminates the panel’s mandate. They are just representatives of Western Intelligence agencies’. He told Reuters, ‘we are fed up with this Committee .Our position is a total rejection of this report

Sudan too like the SL Govt. reposed immense confidence in Russia and China at the UN security council: China was taking 10 per cent of its oil requirements from Sudan. Besides, China was the largest supplier of arms to Sudan, and the leading foreign investor with annual trade value of roughly one billion dollars. Russia also had modest weapon sales and oil deals with Sudan. Russian Companies are even sub- contractors to the Chinese - the pipeline that will be built by Russians will be built out of Chinese money.

Sudan therefore anticipated Russia and China to oppose any proposals brought to the UN security Council to impose sanctions against it. When a resolution to impose sanctions on Sudan was once brought before the UN security Council, Russia delivered 12 MiG 29 jet fighters to Sudan. ‘Russia is against sanctions primarily because those sanctions make some people happy, and they hurt Russian trade’ , a Russian military expert declared.

Russia and China always insisted that, as there was a peace process in progress in Sudan, sanctions will militate against the peace process, while also adding that the UN must contribute towards reconciliation within the country rather than obstructing it. Yet, in 2006 when the Security Council imposed financial and travel sanctions on Sudan - Russia and China instead of using their veto powers only abstained from voting. Consequently, the resolution was passed. Even when resolutions were brought against Libya - Russia and China just abstained allowing the resolutions to be passed.

This was not what Sudans President Omar Al Bashir expected. His hopes to teach a lesson or two to the Western countries including America by enlisting Russia, China and Arab countries (the Arab league) began to wane only from that point of time. He carried on a one party rule after jailing the country’s opposition leaders, stifling and suppressing the media, and driving out the foreign NGOs. In 2010, he contested the Presidential elections and won polling 68 per cent of the votes amidst allegations of the International community that the elections were corrupt and ridden with malpractices, frauds and vote ‘plundering’.

When the International community began sidelining Sudan, sanctions were imposed on it and an international arrest warrant was issued by the Int. Criminal court (ICC) against him in 2009, Bashir loudly proclaimed that 68 per cent of his people are with him .

Bashir won the Presidential election on 15th April 2010, but on 12th July 2010, an arrest warrant was issued against him based on genocide charges by the ICC. This was apart from the warrant issued for his arrest in 2009. Interestingly, such a warrant was issued while Rome treaty was not yet ratified although Sudan had joined it and was a signatory to the Rome statute governed by the ICC . Incidentally, SL has not signed the Rome treaty. When the ICC was on the trail of Sudan’s President, the latter hired a British Lawyer to advise them on setting up some type of internal procedure of investigation to satisfy the International community. But that did not bear him fruit as the ICC issued an arrest warrant against him.

Sudans President similarly made attempts to lobby the Non aligned movement (NAM) countries to halt the UN from proceeding with the war crime investigations. But that also failed. In the end , the Sudanese President who went into hiding in fear of the ICC arrest warrant had to yield to the intense pressures brought to bear on him by the Western countries including America. Finally, he had to hold a fair and free people’s referendum in respect of South Sudan where the conflict was raging.

At the people’s referendum, the South Sudanese overwhelmingly voted in favor of independence from Sudan. The region is set to become independent on 9th July 2011. Some interpret the report of the panel appointed by Ban ki Moon to investigate SL war crimes as akin to an attempt to draw a parallel between SL and Sudan.

It is however impossible to think that this view is correct. In all probability India will never allow that to happen. India is now in the Security Council , and America has as a matter of policy declared it will never allow SL to be divided. Hence the SL Govt. ought to take precautions against following the tactics of Sudan in respect of the UN report. Sudan is more important than SL to Russia and China. Yet, they permitted America to do what it wished against Sudan.

In the circumstances ,it is well for the SL Govt. to bear these facts in mind and avert the disaster that can result by lobbying the NAM countries , enlisting the support of Russia and China , paying heed to the advice of British PR Firms , deluding the International community and colliding with the Western countries including America .

It should on the contrary, win over the Western countries including America via India and defeat the war crime charges ~ courtesy: Daily Mirror ~

An international inquiry, especially into the violations committed by the LTTE, will greatly help process of reconciliation in Sri Lanka - Amnesty

UN must act now on war crimes report

Amnesty.org

26 April 2011

A United Nations report on war crimes committed during the final stages of Sri Lanka’s civil war underscores the need for international accountability for those responsible, Amnesty International said today.

The report, which was made public today, concluded that tens of thousands of civilians were killed in northern Sri Lanka from January to May 2009 and that the Sri Lankan Government knowingly shelled areas where it had encouraged civilians to gather.

AITC26a.jpg

Sri Lanka's military held many of those who escaped the conflict in miserable conditions

The report gives credibility to allegations that both the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) committed serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

“Almost two years after the end of the conflict, this UN report finally exposes the Sri Lankan government’s whitewash in its efforts to deny justice to the war’s victims,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.

“UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon must ensure that the UN established a commission of inquiry to collect evidence on the alleged crimes by both sides, to determine who did what to whom, and to recommend next steps for bringing suspected perpetrators to justice in a transparent and timely manner.”

Dr Manoharan's fight for justice for his son, killed during Sri Lanka's civil war

The report also adds weight to other allegations made since the conflict ended.

These include claims that the Sri Lankan government deliberately underestimated the number of civilians remaining in the conflict zone and systematically deprived them of humanitarian aid, including food and medical supplies.

The LTTE recruited child soldiers, held civilians hostage, using them as human shields, and shot people who attempted to escape, the UN panel found.

“Eyewitness accounts by survivors of the final months of fighting paint a very grim picture,” said Sam Zarifi.

“They lived in profound fear, suffering injuries and loss of life, and were deprived of food, water and medical care. Many of those who finally escaped the conflict zone were detained by the army in miserable conditions; some remain in detention without trial two years later. How can we deny them justice now?”

In a statement posted on a state news agency website on 21 April, the Sri Lankan government called on the UN not to release the report and rejected its findings.

China, Russia and other states that supported the Sri Lankan government’s campaign against the LTTE have blocked moves at the UN to consider alleged war crimes during the conflict, and joined Sri Lanka in opposing the establishment in June 2010 of the Panel of Experts that produced the report.

These states have looked to a Sri Lankan government-established Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission as a possible substitute for an international commission of inquiry into war crimes.

The UN report bolsters Amnesty International’s position that the national Commission is not impartial and has no mandate or will to investigate and prosecute the alleged crimes.

“It is time for the governments that have obstructed international scrutiny of the crimes to step aside now. The many other governments who have remained disturbingly silent must now come forward and demand justice for the conflict’s victims,” said Sam Zarifi.

Amnesty International also calls on the national authorities of other countries to exercise universal jurisdiction to investigate crimes identified in the report and to prosecute them in their national courts, where appropriate.

“An international inquiry, especially into the violations committed by the LTTE, will greatly help the process of reconciliation in Sri Lanka,” added Sam Zarifi.

UN human rights chief welcomes Sri Lanka report, urges further investigation into conduct of final stages of the war

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

GENEVA (26 April 2011) -- The High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Tuesday welcomed the public release of the report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on accountability issues related to the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka, and supported the report’s call for further international investigation.

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High Commissioner Navi Pillay

“The way this conflict was conducted, under the guise of fighting terrorism, challenged the very foundations of the rules of war and cost the lives of tens of thousands of civilians,” the High Commissioner said. “I hope the disturbing new information contained in this report will shock the conscience of the international community into finally taking serious action. As the report itself says, addressing violations of international humanitarian or human rights law is not a matter of choice or policy; it is a duty under domestic and international law,” she added.

The Panel reported credible allegations which, if proven, indicate that a wide range of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law was committed by the Sri Lankan military and the LTTE (often referred to as the Tamil Tigers), some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Military commanders and senior leaders on both sides could bear individual criminal responsibility.

The alleged crimes include the repeated and systematic shelling by Government forces of hospitals and spaces where IDPs were crowded, despite ample warnings and knowledge of the risk to civilians. Testimony and visual images also indicate LTTE cadres or suspects were executed, disappeared and possibly subjected to rape and sexual violence by Sri Lankan military forces. The LTTE is also reported to have shown a callous disregard for civilians, using them as a “human buffer,” forcibly recruiting them for military purposes, and preventing them from fleeing.

“The eyewitness accounts and credible information contained in this report demand a full, impartial, independent and transparent investigation,” the High Commissioner said. “Unless there is a sea-change in the Government’s response, which has so far been one of total denial and blanket impunity, a full-fledged international inquiry will clearly be needed.”

The Panel concluded that the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission established by the Government is deeply flawed and cannot satisfy the joint commitment of the President of Sri Lanka and the Secretary-General to an accountability process.

The High Commissioner noted the recent initiatives taken by the Human Rights Council to combat impunity and address accountability issues in different parts of the world, and encouraged its members to reflect on the new information and findings contained in the report on Sri Lanka.

She also urged the Sri Lankan Government “to quickly carry out the measures suggested by the Panel which could bring immediate relief to victims.”

These include repealing the Emergency Regulations and modifying provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act; resolving outstanding disappearance cases; ensuring due process for remaining LTTE detainees; and providing relief measures for victims and survivors of the conflict, including by publicly accounting for civilian deaths and facilitating the recovery and return of human remains to their families.

“In the longer term, however, justice will be essential if there is to be true reconciliation after this terrible and divisive conflict,” Pillay said.

The High Commissioner said she remained very concerned for the protection of witnesses and civil society activists in Sri Lanka, including journalists, and urged the Government to counter calls from certain elements for reprisals in light of the Panel's report.

Unlawful attacks on civilians and civilian objects in the Wanni during the Govt-LTTE war

Extracts from the report on Sri Lanka by the advisory panel appointed by the UN secretary -general Ban Ki moon

2. Shelling of hospitals and humanitarian objects

(a) Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions

206. The credible allegations of attacks on hospitals and humanitarian objects discussed above, in spite of their distinctive emblems and locations known by the Government, would give rise to a violation of the duty to "provide care for the sick and the wounded", as enunciated in Common Article 3.

They also point to murder in breach of Common Article 3, in that the targeting - whether direct or reckless - of known, populated hospital sites and humanitarian objects suggests that the perpetrators had the requisite knowledge of the probability that the attack would cause death.

(b) Requirement of special protection to medical and humanitarian personnel and objects

207. International humanitarian law requires parties to respect and protect all medical personnel, medical units, medical transports, humanitarian relief personnel and humanitarian relief objects (Rules 25, 28, 31 and 32, ICRC Study). Parties may not attack medical personnel and objectives displaying the distinctive emblem of the Geneva Conventions, which, in the case of Sri Lanka, was the Red Cross or the ICRC flag (Rule 30, ICRC Study). Credible allegations of the shelling of numerous hospitals and humanitarian objects with visible emblems or whose coordinates had been clearly communicated well in advance to the Government of Sri Lanka would point to a violation of this rule. Likewise, attacks on United Nations premises, such as in the first NFZ, where the United Nations flag was clearly hoisted, points to the same conclusion.

(c) Ban on attacks on civilians or civilian objects

208. The attacks on hospitals and humanitarian objects also constitute unlawful attack on civilian objects. The fact that certain hospitals (PTK, Putmuattalan and Mullivaikkal) may have had a wing to treat wounded LTTE cadres does not change the civilian nature of the object. Nonetheless, these hospitals were shelled repeatedly, raising the inference that they were targeted.

(d) Denial of humanitarian assistance

209. With respect to the obligation to "provide care for the sick and the wounded", in the final stages of the war, the Government increasingly placed restrictions on basic medical supplies, in particular surgical materials, entering the conflict zone through humanitarian convoys organized by the United Nations, or ICRC ships. It did not heed calls from the Regional District Health Secretary, in various communications for medical supplies needed for life-saving surgery. Despite its internationally recognized role as an independent, impartial provider of humanitarian assistance, the ICRC was seriously impeded in its ability to aid wounded civilians, through limitations on the medical supplies it was allowed to deliver on ships, as well as firing or shelling near ships sent to evacuate the wounded.

(b) Requirements of special protection to medical and humanitarians personnel and objects

210. In addition to the shelling of hospitals discussed under 2 above, credible allegations point to a violation of this provision insofar as several humanitarian relief objects experienced SLA shelling, in particular Convoy 11, the United Nations presence near Putumattalan, food distribution lines in the first NFZ and Ampalavanpokkanai, and shelling near the ICRC ships.

(c) Ban on starvation of the civilian population and denial of humanitarian relief

211. International humanitarian law prohibits starvation as a method of warfare. It also requires the parties to "allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for civilians in need, which is impartial in character and conducted without any adverse distinction, subject to their right of control" (Rules 53 and 55, ICRC Study).

212. Credible allegations point to a violation of this provision insofar in that the Government (i) deliberated and publicly underestimated the number of civilians in the Vanni, in order to justify a reduced amount of food relief; (ii) impeded humanitarian convoys and ships from entering the conflict zone; and (iii) knowingly shelled in the vicinity of humanitarian actors. As a result, the civilian population was deprived of essential food and medicine, in particular in the second NFZ. The Government’s knowledge of these consequences is imputable from reports it received, notably from its AGA.

4. Human rights violations suffered by victims and survivors or the conflict

213. Because the Government’s actions in this category took place both during and after the armed conflict, the Panel addresses them under both international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

(a) Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions

214. With respect to the ban on "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment", credible allegations point to a possible violation of this provision insofar as members of the SLA may have raped or committed sexual assault against women or girls in particular suspected LTTE in military custody or in detention facilities. The panel notes in particular the Chanel 4 photographs of what appear to be dead female cadre including video footage in which naked bodies of women are deliberately exposed accompanied by lurid comments by SLA soldiers raising a strong inference that rape or sexual assault may have occurred prior to execution. Credible allegations also point to degrading treatment of females in the screening process.

(b) Ban on enforced disappearances

215. International humanitarian law prohibits enforced disappearances. Credible allegations point to a violation of this provision. Findings indicate that SLA and paramilitary groups removed individuals at various points during the screening process and at points of surrender, who have not been seen or heard from since that time. This issue has also been raised during the LLRC hearings.

(c) Requirements of minimal level of treatment for those deprived of liberty

216. International humanitarian law requires parties to provide those detained with adequate food, water, clothing, shelter and medical attention (Rule 118, ICRC Study). Credible allegations points to a violation of these provisions during the armed conflict insofar as they indicate that the Government of Sri Lanka detained IDPs at facilities where minimal conditions were not met.

(d) Requirements regarding the dead and the missing

217. International humanitarian law requires parties to search for the dead, treat them with respect, record the location of graves and take all feasible measures to notify families of the missing of their fate (Rules 112, 113, 115, 116 and 117, ICRC Study).

218. Credible allegations point to a violation of these provisions insofar as they indicate that the Government has not undertaken all practicable efforts to search for dead civilians or combatants. Many of these people were buried in unmarked graves in the Vanni; some may have gone missing during the process of screening surrendering persons, as also alleged before the LLRC. It also kept significant numbers of former combatants and civilians interned in closed camps without notifying family members of their fate or setting up a timely tracing system for family reunification. The Panel further recalls the international humanitarian law rule that "the dead must be disposed of in a respectful manner, and their graves respected and properly maintained" (Rule 115, ICRC Study). It has seen video footage and photographs of persons who appear to be SLA soldiers treating bodies in a highly disrespectful manner, including the bodies of naked women.

(e) Rights to life and physical security and integrity of the person

219. International human rights law protects against arbitrary deprivation of the right to life and guarantees the right to physical security of the person (ICCPR, articles 6 and 9). Closely connected is the protection afforded against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (ICCPR article 7, and the Convention against Torture). These rights include protection against sexual and gender-based violence and abuse.

220. Credible allegations point to a violation of this provision insofar as they indicate preventable deaths in Menik Farm of individuals within the power and control of the Government, as a result of its failure to provided adequate food, water and health care in the initial phases of reception and detention. The Government did not guarantee the physical security of IDPs in camps insofar as it gave paramilitary Groups access to camps with a broad writ to continue the removal of persons. Practices such as the use of cruel or degrading treatment, rape or torture may have been used during interrogations by the CID or TID.

Asking the UN not publish the report was as silly as asking Ban-Ki-moon not to wear any underwear

By Gomin Dayasri

Sri Lanka can crush the Ban Kin moon-ies (includes Tamil Diaspora, International NGO community, remnants of the UN system, ‘white’ western nations and Sri Lanka’s elite civil society) comfortably but not by living in isolation like a Robinson Crusoe on an island. We need a helping hand from friendly countries, as on the last occasion when an effort to stricture was made before the Human Rights Council during the war.

This time too, the action station could be the Human Rights Council, in an effort to revisit the benevolent resolution passed in our favour. It could be triggered on by an application made by state/s supplicant to the West, HR idealism and the Tamil Diaspora based on the Moon Report at the instigation of the INGOs. An inquiry by the Human Rights Council is a concern as it is a body created by the UN.

Our friends abroad may find it more difficult to rescue with the air polluted with weird allegations of war crimes, if an inquiry is requested?

Humanitarian laws have developed to an extent it is now a prime part of international law and order. True, powerful nations tailor Human Rights selectively to fashion it according to their requirements, but it is a reality we have to learn to live with and Sri Lanka has to manoeuver within this framework. If Al Quida were vanquished would the West want the achievement devalued? Sri Lankas pride lies in ridding terrorism.

Our foreign friends will require cogent reasons to oppose an application if there is a strong case made for an inquiry by the Human Rights Council. We must provide the build blocks to enable friendly governments to construct the moat to halt a foreign crossing into Sri Lanka.

The ball is in the government’s court but the Foreign Ministry is living in cuckoo land. They were deceived by false intelligence reports originating from their UN sources that the Moon report will be tepid until they read the fine print and then acted crass stupidly in demanding it should not be published.

Any simpleton at home knew, from the named appointees to the panel, as inquirers heavily weighted with bias, no cordial report was forthcoming. We should have treated their bluff by attacking the partiality of the Moon panel on being biased at the commencement and alerted the foreign legions on the trash, the panelist would unveil in a report, without waiting till the bomb fell. Instead, we furtively accessed them. To call the UN, to desist publishing the report, is as silly as asking Ban kin Moon not to wear underwear.

The President wisely appointed the LLRC to inquire but the restricted mandate made LLRC’s task onerous and their navigational chart showed a voyage without direction from a reliable compass.

The LLRC members are no moppets; with a few outstanding men in their ranks, they must task the government to hold inquiries into allegations of humanitarian violations, even if such are not reported to the LLRC. They are late in failing to publicly confront the government; in acting swifly on some of they’re worthy recommendations. LLRC must show the world they are men not mice to earn international respectability, the prime need of the hour.

The government is laid back, unlike during the war. Government would have done the country proud had they created the mechanism to inquire into human rights violations before being told to do so. If the LLRC does recommend, it should be implemented forthwith. The bottom line is, we must open a window soon. If we delay, as we often do, the curtain will fall on our head.

Speed is of essence. The cases filed against the TRO on terrorist funding have dragged on with adjournments for two years without a single date of trial. The State with a trump in hand has let a moment of glory slip due to the lackadaisical attitude of the Attorney Generals department.

A credible impartial inquiry at home by competent judges, in a special tribunal to eliminate delays, established as against the JVP insurgents, is the best tool to provide our sponsors in the international circuit, a shield to protect foreign interventio into Sri Lanka on war crimes. Any wrongdoer, after a proper inquiry with all available defenses provided, if proved beyond reasonable doubt guilty, calls for punishment. The road show must be in Sri Lanka according to our laws by our judges so that we do not barter our sovereignty.

Notwithstanding the nexus, China and Russia has to Libya, they did not launder the UN decision to declare a no fly zone over Libyan air space as the human violations were grave and Libyans were not taking any meaningful preventive measures except indulging in loose talk?

A lesson we must learn.

Russia and China need to earn the respect of the West for commercial and strategic purposes. Russia erred on human rights that led to the boycott of the Moscow Olympics and made China cautiously tread the road to the Peking Olympics. Russia and China will fight for us but they will not die for us.

The Human Rights Council appointed judge Goldberg to report on human rights violations on the part of the Israeli military in the Gaza strip. His report highlighted war crimes of Israel. The Telviv government did not resort to rhetoric and rallies instead responded by holding and faulting the military guilty on proved wrong doings by domestic tribunals and made smithereens of the Goldberg Report in a worthy response.

Judge Goldberg, a South African Jew, accepted erring and America in view of the internal findings against the military exercised their veto. That was the end of the Gaza fiasco, notwithstanding merits.

Moon has given us a gift with a goon report that can be made pulp. Instead we keep mum with the Foreign Ministry talking rot by relying on technicalities.

Instead the Minister should instruct his selected team of wise men- some with enriched experience in navigating foreign affairs, ironically, during the times of Chandrika Bandaranaike and Ranil Wickremesinghe, that led to a political package, tsunami structure, Cease Fire Agreement, peace resolutions condemning war - all monumental failures with the Minister at the helm; to utilize their inherent talent to write in good English, an exposure on the fragilities of the Moon Report. This document could be a pocket missile to fire at the Moon report.

Foreign Ministry’s stupid attempt to co-opt a member of the LLRC, to this committee, was a near fatal error that was repaired fortunately by a vigorous refusal. If left untouched it would have buried the LLRC alive on partiality. In the enemy camp, a game is on to discredit the valued LLRC.

It is time we wake up to a foreign trap laid by such as Roberto Blake who never wanted us to overcome terrorism. Yet, America has correctly advised us, to hold domestic inquiries. We must help to be helped.

April 25, 2011

The impunity afforded to those making allegations of rape in Sri Lanka

By Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha

The last extract from the Report of the Darusman Panel that I read referred to rape. The panel begins its discussion of this factor by stating that ‘Rape and sexual violence against Tamil women during the final stages of the armed conflict and, in its aftermath, are greatly under-reported’.

They go on to indicate that their Report is based on ‘indirect accounts’ and explains this by talking about many ‘photos and video footage, in particular the footage provided by Channel 4’. If this is their principal evidence, one wonders about their standards, given the questions raised about the authenticity of what Channel 4 showed, the discrepancies in the dates Channel 4 put forward, the shifty segments (such as the shifting leg, which even Alston’s bunch of experts could not explain).

Anyone with a modicum of intelligence combined with objectivity would have thought about previous allegations with regard to sexual violence made against our forces. The most famous of these is the pronouncement by Hillary Clinton about our forces using rape as a weapon of war, for which Ambassador Butenis apologized. While I can see that we were correct to accept her apology graciously, it is astonishing that she herself did not see fit to examine and explain how Hillary Clinton was fooled into making that particular blunder.

Then there was the famous case of I think fourteen women found with their throats cut near Menik Farm, reported with complete fraudulence by the ‘Guardian’, though not I hasten to add by its regular correspondent. The article was written by a callow young man named Gethin Chamberlain, who later confessed to me that he realized later the story was false. He claimed that he had written it up because he thought he had a reliable source, which I think he indicated in response to a question from me, though never directly admitting it, was a UN official. He told me that after that he had realized he should not trust that particular source, but surely a good journalist would have tried to find out why such an outrageous lie was thrust upon him.

I do not think Mr Chamberlain was quite as innocent as he pretended to be, for in his article he claimed that he had tried to contact the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, but they did not respond. The day this happened was a holiday, but since he had the number of my mobile phone, it is clear he did not even try to get hold of me. It was typical however that he wanted to both have his cake and eat it, which is why he tried to suggest that we were avoiding him, when in fact, with the usual pusillanimity of such creatures when dealing with us, he did not dare to even try to talk to us, given the enormity of the whopper he was perpetrating.

By then I had a pretty shrewd idea of what was going on, confirmed indeed by Jeremy Paige of the Sunday Times, whom I also met in Delhi around the same time. When I asked him why he was perpetrating lies, having denied that he had anything to do with the massive figures as to deaths that his colleagues were advancing, he claimed that he had UN authority for some of the things he wrote. When I pointed out that the UN had refuted these, he claimed that there were junior people in the UN who disagreed with the position of their superiors, and were therefore leaking information to journalists.

What is sad is that the various UN Heads affected by this knew what was going on, but were too nervous to deal with this firmly. I had had a woeful instance of this just recently, when Amin Awad, the generally amiable head of UNHCR, responded aggressively when my Minister called him in to ask why UNHCR had released a report replete with falsehoods, without first discussing it with the Ministry as it was required to do.

Amin evidently decided that attack was the best form of defence, and claimed that details had been shared with government in Vavuniya. This was not enough, and we told him so, but I found out later that that claim was false, though doubtless Amin believed it was true. On my next visit to Vavuniya, I questioned the informants (clearly part of Chris du Toit’s ‘network’) who had been responsible for the lies. They claimed they had spoken to the military officials responsible, but when I brought the two groups together, they confessed that this had not been the case. It turned out indeed that they had made general requests for better protection, but had not mentioned what they had trumpeted to the world, about dead bodies of women being found near the river. The reality was that one old woman had died while near the river, but this had been turned into efforts to suggest systematic rape.

Unfortunately one of the women was called Pelosi. She looked like a witch and behaved like one, but I was told, I think by Amin, that she was connected with Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, and therefore had to be treated with care. This may explain why she was allowed to get away with lies.

Her belief was that protection was nothing to do with the Sri Lankan government, so nothing should be reported to us. This indicated that remedial action was not what she wanted, she saw her role rather as that of raising issues to embarrass the government, and doubtless contributing to the War Crimes Project that was being planned at the time.

It was with great difficulty that I changed this mindset, at least as far as the UN official responsible for protection issues went. This was Elizabeth Tan, who I thought was basically decent the first time I met her, and perhaps indeed her failure to work with government earlier was because we had no structures in place to deal with the problems she needed to raise. By 2009 however we had regular committees to investigate problems, and I had established very close relations with the Military Officers responsible for Civil Affairs in all the Districts. I should pay tribute in this regard to the Coordinator I was finally able to appoint for the Confidence Building and Stabilization Measures Project, which had been in abeyance until I took over.

I was also able to deal direct with the Special Forces Commander in the Vanni. I had promptly contacted him when the report Amin tried to defend came before us, to check on its allegations of harassment and sexual harassment of IDPs coming through checkpoints. He said there were strict instructions against both, but it was possible that there had been some rough handling, which he said he would look into and stop. With regard to sexual harassment, he said bluntly that it was impossible, because there were stringent measures to deal with this.

I realized he was right, and we had come a long way from what might be termed the Krishanthi Kumaraswamy days – which we must ensure are never repeated – when I read through the reports of all the agencies handling protection issues. Previously UNHCR had simply kept these reports without sharing them with the Ministry.

I found that the problems they dealt with were not major ones, certainly not ones for which government could be faulted, though we needed better mechanisms to address them. With regard to sexual violence, almost all allegations referred to the IDPs taking advantage of each other in the crowded conditions in which they found themselves – a factor we had pointed out to UNHCR in January, in asking for better preparations.

With regard to the military, in the several months in which I monitored these reports, there was only one allegation. It concerned a soldier going into the tent of a female IDP at night, and not coming out for several hours. They were joined in between by another female IDP. I have no idea what Ms Pelosi’s fertile imagination made of that one, but as I told a journalist, they might well have been discussing Greek Philosophy.

Is the report of the UNSG’s panel of experts a conspiracy and obstacle to reconciliation?

Group of concerned Christians

25th April 2011

In the past weeks, we as Christians have been reflecting on the torture, killing of Jesus by the rulers of that time, with complicity of high priests of the time, due to Jesus’s efforts to stand by the poor and oppressed and bring them good news of liberation. Our reflections had been taking into account the situation in our country today and we had noted the controversy surrounding the report of the panel of experts of the UN Secretary General related to the war in Sri Lanka.

But our reflections have been hampered by the fact that the Sri Lankan government and the UNSG is not allowing us, Sri Lankan citizens to read the full report that deals with a critical and tragic part of our history. We are disappointed that after almost two weeks, and after several promises being made, the UNSG had not extended the same courtesy that he had deemed fit to extend to the Sri Lankan government (one of the parties implicated in the horrific crimes mentioned in the report) to victims whose stories are told, their families and those who risked their lives and shared their stories and information. We regret that the Sri Lankan government has even resorted to requesting the UNSG to withhold the report from Sri Lankan people. Thus, our reflections are based on the parts of the report that is claimed to have been “leaked” and published in the media.

During the last phase of the war, particularly from Jan. – May 2009, and till today, religious leaders, government servants, humanitarian workers, doctors, farmers, fisherfolk, housewives, teachers, traders, students etc. from the North, particularly the Vanni have been telling us about shelling, artillery fire, multi barrel rocket launchers etc. that had killed close family members and friends, others they didn’t know, caused people to lose hands, legs and caused other serious injuries. We had met in hospitals, detention camps and in their homes, those who survived with injuries and many who still have pieces of shells in their bodies. These people had told us about a Catholic priest and LTTE members who had surrendered to the Sri Lankan Army and were never seen again and how they saw some such surrendees shot in cold blood by the Army. We had received desperate calls, emails and messages about how the government repeatedly shelled the no fire zones that it asked civilians to take shelter, how hospitals and food distribution centers were attacked when their locations were known and clearly marked and about people being killed and injured in these places and in bunkers they had dug with bare hands. We had been told about surgeries done without anesthesia, amputations with ordinary knives, refusal by the government to send in much needed medical supplies and food despite repeated requests. We have been told about how the LTTE took cover behind civilians to fire at the advancing Army. How the LTTE had tried to prevent civilians from fleeing the war zone and how they had shot at people when they defied the LTTE and tried to flee in desperation. We had met people including children, who had been forcibly conscripted by the LTTE and tried hard to escape and we had met parents who had their young children conscripted and tried hard to hide them. We were also told about the disappointment and frustration when international staff of humanitarian agencies left the Vanni on orders of the government despite desperate pleas and protests from the people of Vanni and how the LTTE refused to give permission for Sri Lankan staff of humanitarian agencies to leave the war zone with their families when their international counter parts left on orders of the government.

We had heard words of appreciation for the courage and dedication of the doctors that served to the end in war zone and made desperate appeals on behalf of suffering people, humanitarian workers and government officials that provided life saving assistance, ICRC staff that evacuated thousands of people who were sick and injured and ferried much needed food supplies, religious leaders that remained with people to the end and individual soldiers of the Sri Lankan Army who had cared and helped some of the injured, sick and hungry when they escaped the LTTE and came to government controlled areas.

After the end of the war, we met families of people who disappeared from closely guarded hospitals and detention camps where internally displaced persons were detained by the government. Many people we had met have told us how they themselves or their family members were kept in detention without access to lawyers and ICRC, on allegations of being part of the LTTE. Some of them had indeed been in the LTTE, some forcibly conscripted, and others had joined voluntarily. Some had been involved in varying degrees in armed combat while others had been performing administrative and civil functions in the LTTE administration such as cooking, driving. Some of these people have told us how they were tortured, showed us scars and how they continue to suffer from these. Some complained about their family members who continue to be in detention without any charges. Others who we had met after being released, have narrated how they have been told to get permission to leave their village, had been photographed, are being visited often in their homes, had been summoned to camps and interrogated etc. Mothers recounted threats from the Army to bring back children who had gone to India after being formally released. Religious leaders have told us how the Army had prevented and even threatened them when they tried to organize religious events for civilians killed and disappeared, how monuments for dead Tamil militants were destroyed by the Army and how they were threatened when they tried to put up a simple memorial for those killed and had no burial place. Community leaders and humanitarian workers have told us about the restrictions on humanitarian assistance, freedom of assembly, freedom of association and freedom of expression in the North.

Many such stories have been shared by Vanni people, particularly families of those directly affected, during hearings of the government appointed Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) in the North. Such stories are also reflected in the submissions to the LLRC by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Sri Lanka and Church of Ceylon and Church leaders from the North such as the Catholic Bishop of Mannar and the Jaffna Diocesan Laity Council. But it is our regret that with a few exceptions such as above, almost two years since the end of the war, we Sri Lankans have failed to tell and listen to these stories of our brothers and sisters and that most of our media have refused to publish these stories. Despite our own efforts to retell the stories people had narrated to us, it is our regret that we ourselves have not been able to do so to the extent we would have liked to. We also recognize that many who would have liked to retell these stories have refrained from doing so out of fear of reprisals. And we salute the few individuals, groups and media that have had the courage to share some of these stories.

We also know that some concerned individuals and groups submitted their testimonies, eye witness accounts etc. to the panel of experts of the UNSG. Now, we find that these are the stories reflected and retold in the parts of the report by the panel of experts of the UNSG that had been leaked and published in the media. We fail to understand how retelling the stories of our brothers and sisters, Sri Lankan citizens, who had suffered so much and lost so much, can be a conspiracy against Sri Lanka.

We recognize that different opinions exist about the motivation for this report and that there are similar or more horrific crimes that have been committed during military operations in other countries where no such reports have been issued. We also recognize that the stories told in this report appears to ignore several other stories of suffering in the context of our ethnic conflict and war, such as the Muslim community that was evicted from the North by the LTTE, those killed and injured by claymore attacks and suicide bombings in Colombo and other cities outside the North and East, those killed in riots and in carpet bombings, those in “border” villages that had been massacred etc. However, we do not see above and any other limitations or weaknesses of the report as a reason for us to reject the stories that are told. On the contrary, we hope that this will be a motivation for us to share more and more such stories. We reject the argument that such a process of truth telling is a harassment of our country or destabilizing our country’s post war recovery and on the contrary, we feel that truth telling is an essential element of post war recovery and progress.

We believe that it is left to us Sri Lankans to establish and acknowledge the truth, apologize for wrongs done, ensure justice and accountability, and through measures such as reparations, show our care and support towards those who have suffered such as families of those killed and disappeared, those who have been injured during war and due to torture, those who continue to be detained without charges and without due process, those who had been displaced and lost properties etc. It is our contention that truth, justice, accountability together with care and reparation for victims are essential ingredients for progress, development of a post war Sri Lanka, along with a longer term political solution that addresses grievances of Tamil community that led to the birth of the LTTE and full scale war.

But it is our assessment that we have been unable to make significant progress on any of the above fronts within Sri Lanka, particularly in the last two years since the end of the war. The process of LLRC had not given us much confidence though we still hope for positive outcomes from the LLRC, particularly the publication of it’s final report, conclusions and recommendations as soon as possible, which would have the potential to serve as a valuable resource for our reconciliation efforts. In this context we believe international assistance can also be crucial in our post war rebuilding and reconciliation efforts. Thus, we find it encouraging that establishment of the truth, apology for wrongs done, justice, accountability and reparation for victims is reflected in the conclusions and recommendations of the panel of experts appointed by the UNSG.

We call on the UNSG and the government of Sri Lanka to immediately make available the report of the UNSG’s panel of experts to all Sri Lankan citizens, including translations in Sinhalese and Tamil. We call on all Sri Lankans and particularly religious leaders and the government to take into serious consideration the stories of our brothers and sisters contained in the report of the panel of experts of the UNSG, along with conclusions and recommendations. Instead of denial and rejection that seems to be happening now, we believe all of us Sri Lankans should treat this report as a resource and tool in our own efforts towards a process of reconciliation that is based on truth, justice, accountability and reparation to victims.

1. Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe
2. Rev. Sr. Deepa Fernando, H.F.
3. Rev. Sr. Helen Fernando, H.F.
4. Rev. Sr. Jesmin Fernando, H.F.
5. Rev. Fr. Ashok Stephen, omi
6. Rev. Fr. M. Sathivel
7. Rev. Fr. Nandana Manatunga
8. Rev. Fr. Jeyabalan Croos
9. Rev. Fr. Praveen Mahesan, omi
10. Rev. Fr. Rayappu Augustin
11. Rev. Fr. Rohan Dominic, cfm
12. Rev. Fr. Rohan Silva, omi
13. Rev. Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda
14. Rev. Fr. Sherad Jayawardena
15. Rev. Fr. Terence Fernando
16. Rev. Fr. Thangarasa Jeevaraj, sj
17. Jovita Arulanantham
18. Juliana Arulanantham
19. Tirzah Suares
20. Ainslie Joseph
21. Britto Motha
22. Jude Preman
23. Nimal Perera
24. Philip Sethunga
25. Rukshan (Ruki) Fernando

UN Chief Should Establish International Inquiry - HRW

Russia and China Should Stop Blocking Justice for Victims

HRW.org

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should act on a UN Panel of Experts' recommendations to establish an international independent investigation into abuses during Sri Lanka's armed conflict that ended in May 2009, Human Rights Watch said today. Ban's statement on April 25, 2011, indicating the need for Sri Lankan government consent or action by an intergovernmental body should not place an unnecessary obstacle to establishing a justice mechanism, Human Rights Watch said.

The panel's report, published on April 25, 2011, concluded that both government forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) conducted military operations "with flagrant disregard for the protection, rights, welfare and lives of civilians and failed to respect the norms of international law" during the final months of Sri Lanka's 26-year-long war. The panel also concluded that "Sri Lanka's efforts, nearly two years after the end of the war, fall dramatically short of international standards on accountability and fail to satisfy either the joint commitment of the President of Sri Lanka and the Secretary-General, or Sri Lanka's legal duties."

"The Expert Panel's finding that the government and Tamil Tigers committed abuses and that the government has failed to hold its forces accountable shows the need for an international investigation," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Russia and China should stop blocking efforts to find justice for victims in Sri Lanka and support the panel's recommendations."

Russia and China have previously opposed UN Security Council discussion of alleged violations in Sri Lanka and signaled again on April 18 their reluctance to have Ban take further action on this issue. Human Rights Watch called on all UN member states to support carrying out the panel's recommendations.

Ban established the three-member Panel of Experts in May 2010 to advise him on the next steps he should take for accountability in Sri Lanka after President Mahinda Rajapaksa failed to honor a commitment that he made shortly after the war to investigate alleged abuses.

The Panel of Experts, consisting of three internationally recognized experts in international law, examined "reports, documents and other written accounts by the various agencies, departments, funds, offices and programmes of the United Nations and other inter-governmental organizations, [nongovernmental organizations] and individuals, such as journalists and experts on Sri Lanka," as well as satellite imagery, photographs, and video materials. It reviewed submissions received in response to notifications on the UN website, and it consulted a number of individuals with expertise or experience related to the armed conflict. The panel included allegations as credible "when based on primary sources that the Panel deemed relevant and trustworthy. These primary sources were corroborated by other kinds of information, both direct and indirect."

Panel attempts to engage with the Sri Lankan government were rejected. The government responded in writing to questions, but did not permit the panel to visit the country and meet with government officials and witnesses to abuses.

The panel found that the LTTE used civilians as "human shields" and as a buffer against attack, killed civilians as they tried to flee LTTE control, used military equipment in the proximity of civilians, forcibly recruited children, used forced labor, and killed civilians through suicide attacks.

The panel also concluded that government forces killed civilians through widespread and indiscriminate shelling, attacked hospitals and humanitarian objects, and deprived people in the war-zone of humanitarian aid. The report states: "The Government shelled on a large scale in three consecutive No Fire Zones, where it had encouraged the civilian population to concentrate, even after indicating that it would cease the use of heavy weapons.... The Government systematically shelled hospitals on the frontlines. All hospitals in the [war-zone] were hit by mortars and artillery, some of them were hit repeatedly, despite the fact that their locations were well-known to the Government."

The panel also found that some people whom the government separated out from displaced civilians during screening were summarily executed, some women may have been raped, and others may have been subjected to enforced disappearance. All residents of the region who were displaced in the final months of the conflict were detained in closed camps, where some were interrogated and subjected to torture.

The panel said that its finding "stands in stark contrast to the position of the Government, which continues to hold that it conducted a ‘humanitarian rescue operation' with a policy of ‘zero civilian casualties.'" The report concludes:
"Most civilian casualties in the final phases of the war were caused by Government shelling." High-ranking government officials, including President Rajapaksa and Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, have repeatedly denied that government forces caused civilian casualties.

The report includes 16 satellite images, which show that hospitals were repeatedly hit by artillery fire and that government artillery batteries were constantly redirected to target the three government-declared No Fire Zones.

The panel found that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, a government-created body frequently touted by the government as its accountability mechanism, is "deeply flawed, does not meet international standards for an effective accountability mechanism and, therefore, does not and cannot satisfy the joint commitment of the President of Sri Lanka and the Secretary-General to an accountability process." The panel noted that the government's approach to accountability, which focuses exclusively on abuses by the LTTE, lacks "any notion of accountability for its own conduct in the prosecution of the war."

The panel recommended that the Sri Lankan government open "genuine investigations" and that the secretary-general immediately proceed to establish an independent international mechanism to conduct investigations into the alleged violations.

The Sri Lankan government, on its official news portal, stated that it "strongly rejected" the report, calling it "illegal," "biased, baseless and unilateral." President Rajapaksa has called for demonstrations on May 1 to show solidarity with the armed forces. The government has begun a diplomatic campaign to put pressure on the UN not to act on the panel's recommendations.

"Sadly, the Sri Lankan government's immediate dismissal of the report as biased demonstrates that there is no chance of a serious domestic justice process," Adams said. "The only hope for victims of the conflict is an international investigation leading to prosecutions. Ban should lose no time in setting one up."

Report of the Secretary General's Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka

via UN News Centre

The United Nations has today made public the advisory report of the Secretary-General's Panel of Experts on accountability with respect to the final stages of the decades-long armed conflict in Sri Lanka, which was submitted to him on 12 April 2011. The decision to release the report was made as a matter of transparency and in the broader public interest.

The report was shared in its entirety with the Government of Sri Lanka on 12 April. The Secretary-General has indicated his willingness to publicize the Government's response alongside the report. This invitation was extended to the Sri Lanka Government throughout the week, including again on Saturday by the Secretary-General to the External Affairs Minister of Sri Lanka. The Government has not responded to this offer which nonetheless still stands.

The Secretary-General expresses his appreciation to the advisory Panel of Experts who have provided their advice on how the undertaking on accountability in the joint communiqué that he had made with the President at the conclusion of Sri Lanka's war can be fulfilled.

The Secretary-General is carefully reviewing the report's conclusions and recommendations with regard to events that took place during the final stages of the conflict, including its assessment that there are a number of allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law committed by both the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Government of Sri Lanka, some of which could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Panel's first recommendation is that the Government of Sri Lanka should respond to the serious allegations by initiating an effective accountability process beginning with genuine investigations. The Secretary-General has consistently held the view that Sri Lanka should, first and foremost, assume responsibility for ensuring accountability for the alleged violations. This and a number of other short and medium-term recommendations that the Panel proposed in regard to steps that could be undertaken by the Government of Sri Lanka, have now been shared with the Government. He encourages the Sri Lankan authorities to respond constructively.

The Secretary-General has decided that he will respond positively to the Panel's recommendation for a review of the United Nations' actions regarding the implementation of its humanitarian and protection mandates during the war in Sri Lanka – particularly in the last stages. The exact modality of such a review will be determined after consultations with relevant agencies, funds and programmes.

In regard to the recommendation that he establish an international investigation mechanism, the Secretary-General is advised that this will require host country consent or a decision from Member States through an appropriate intergovernmental forum. The monitoring and repository functions it was suggested this mechanism undertake will continue to be performed by the United Nations Secretariat.

The Secretary-General trusts that the Government of Sri Lanka will continue to respect the work of the UN and its agencies as well as its obligations to the safety of UN staff in Colombo. He regrets the inflammatory tone of some of the recent public statements emanating from Sri Lanka.

The Secretary-General sincerely hopes that this advisory report will make a contribution to full accountability and justice so that the Sri Lankan Government and people will be able to proceed towards national reconciliation and peace.

Full Report: http://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/Sri_Lanka/POE_Report_Full.pdf

http://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/Sri_Lanka/POE_Report_Full.pdf

Also on UN.org:

[ Click here to read full 216 pg report and exhibits ~ on UN.org ]

Why the Ban Ki moon Advisory panel Report should not be Published - Prof.G.L.Peiris

by Ravi Ladduwahetty

The question of publishing the panel report authorized by the United Nations Secretary General does not arise since the UNSG, in appointing the panel, 'was motivated exclusively by a desire to gather information, and insights for his own views', External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris told the Daily News in an exclusive interview.

'Sri Lanka cannot be singled out for discriminatory treatment because this would be tantamount to cynical violation of the doctrine of sovereign equality of states, which is one of the core values embedded in the UN Charter. If this is allowed to happen, it would have distressing implications for the UN as well', the External Affairs Minister said.
The observations of the Minister:

The position of the Government of Sri Lanka on matters connected with the report submitted by the United Nations Secretary General's panel is very clear. This position has been articulated to the diplomatic corps in Colombo as well as to the local and international media.

We believe strongly that the publication of the report is basically wrong and contrary to the principles underpinning the United Nations Charter.

It must be remembered that the panel comprising three persons - Marzuki Dharusman, Yasmin Sooka and Stephen Ratner was never appointed by any United Nations organ, such as the United Nations Security Council.

The Secretary- General repeatedly assured the Government of Sri Lanka, both orally and in writing, that the panel that he was appointing was entirely of an advisory character. This was stated to us both orally and in writing.

Probe allegations

The Secretary-General maintained consistently that the sole purpose for which the panel which was appointed was to advise him on international best practices and process related issues.

He further stated categorically that the panel was not a fact finding body and not invested with an investigative role, specifically, he insisted that the panel will not have authority to probe allegations against any persons at all.

These assurances were given in explicit terms not only to the government of Sri Lanka but to other governments as well. It is therefore wrong for the panel to unilaterally convert it self from an advisory role to an investigative body. This is a total distortion of its mandate derived from the United Nations Secretary General.
LLRC

It follows that the panel had no authority whatsoever to examine the allegations made in respect of the conduct of the war, or indeed in regard to any other matter, credible or not.
If the panel was to examine the evidence with the view to determining the credibility of the allegations, it is perfectly clear that it is performing an investigative function.

What is more, grave potential consequences could follow from findings of this nature which the panel purports to arrive at. This is entirely contrary to the principle and altogether unacceptable.

Two things are clear from what I have said so far:

The United Nations Secretary General, in appointing the panel, was motivated exclusively by a desire to gather further information and insights for his own views from a panel of persons in whom he reposed confidence. Since that is the case, the question of the publication of the report, does not arise.

The panel has clearly acted in ways beyond its mandate by refusing to confine itself to offering advise to the United Nations Secretary General and assuming for itself a function which involves the adjudication of a kind, suggestive of a quasi-judicial role. This was never contemplated as a part of its mandate.

It is indeed astonishing that the panel thought that it was deemed fit and proper to reach conclusions on a wide range of matters currently being examined by the Lessons Leant and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) appointed under the provisions of Sri Lankan Statue Law.

The appointment of the committee was universally acclaimed. Foreign governments expressed confidence in the Commission and conferred their good wishes and felicitations on the Commission's good work.

The Commission had held its sittings in not only in Colombo, but in the Northern and the Eastern Provinces and has already submitted a series of interim recommendations of the LLRC.

This committee is headed by the Attorney General and comprises Secretaries to seven ministries which are actively involved in the implementation of the recommendations.

In these circumstances, it is quite bizarre that the Secretary General's panel should take upon itself to treat the Sri Lankan statutory body as through it did not exist, to dismiss it in the most cavalier fashion imaginable and to formulate its won recommendations while the Sri Lankan Commission is continuing its work.

Representatives of western governments have had no difficulty in accepting that the position of the Government of Sri Lanka that they should await the publication of the report of the Sri Lankan Commission and assess it objectively and dispassionately.

When I recently visited a western capital, the representatives of the Government in question, clearly articulated this position and that no prejudgment was permissible.

However, the attitude of the panel has been the opposite. There has been absolutely no justification for the insensitivity and arrogance with which the Sri Lankan Commission has been ignored.

It is indeed our view that this approach is totally indefensible.

National reconciliation

International mechanisms are no means a substitute of local justifications which are engaged in deriving solutions in keeping with national culture, values and traditions.

It is indeed most distressing that the work of the panel, and the manner in which it has approached the task allotted to it present great obstacles to the central objectives of the Government of Sri Lanka in working towards national reconciliation in the post conflict phase. This is, without, question, the need of the hour.

The Government is trying with all its energy to engender an environment in which all communities who regard Sri Lanka as their home, are able to develop a concept of mature nationhood irrespective of any distinctions as to language, religion and cultural background.

It is much to be regretted that the panel, far from helping to accomplish this aim, has chosen to hinder the progress towards this goal by aggregating the tensions and accentuating divisions.

It is also unacceptable that the panel should take the liberty of traveling far beyond the mandate by seeking to offer the gratuitous advice to the Government of Sri Lanka on a cluster of issues relating to its internal, constitutional, legal and administrative structures

The functions attached to certain public offices, including that of the Attorney General and other matters, which are indisputably the matters of domestic policy to be determined by the Government and the people of Sri Lanka.

It is for these reasons that the Government has declared its opposition to the publication of this report and to any form of action intended to give effect to the findings and recommendations contained in the report.

This report consists of advise given to the Secretary General by his nominees. This is a matter between the Secretary General and his advisors.

If this document is published, it would constitute a very unsound and indeed dangerous precedent.

United Nations system

It would also mean that any advise given to the Secretary General of any other official within the United Nations system in the contexts of the fiduciary relationships can be published as a result of the pressures exerted by third parties.

This represents nothing less than a complete subversion of the proper procedures within the United Nations system.

What is sought to be done in respect of Sri Lanka, on this occasion, will have to be done in future in other situations as well.

Sri Lanka cannot be singled out for discriminatory treatment because this would tantamount to cynical violation of the doctrine of sovereign equality of states, which is one of the core values embedded in the United Nations Charter.

If this is allowed to happen, it would have distressing implications for the United Nations as well. ~ courtesy: Daily News ~

April 24, 2011

Credible allegations against Sri Lankan Armed Forces in conducting war against LTTE in Wanni

(Extracts from the report on Sri Lanka by the advisory panel appointed by UN secretary -General Ban Ki moon)

D. Alleged violations by the Government of Sri Lanka

192. Chapter III identified five categories of credible allegations concerning conduct by the Sri Lankan Government. This section lays out the Panel’s assessment of each category of allegation for the underlying legal violation.

1. Killing of civilians through widespread shelling

(a) Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions

193. In terms of paragraph (1)(a) of Common Article 3, i.e. violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture, credible allegations point to the murder of civilians in widespread shelling of an indiscriminate nature by the SLA.

These include attacks in the three No Fire Zones. In terms of whether indiscriminate shelling may amount to murder, international jurisprudence accepts that "where a civilian population is subject to an attack such as an artillery attack, which results in civilian deaths, such deaths may appropriately be characterized as murder, when the perpetrators had knowledge of the probability that the attack would cause death." The credible allegations also point to murder insofar as information, such as the Channel 4 videos, indicates that the SLA executed unarmed LTTE cadre who were taken into custody, particularly during the final days of the war.

(b) Requirement of distinction between combatants and civilians

194. International humanitarian law provides that "the parties to the conflict must at all times distinguish between civilians and combatants. Attacks may be directed only against combatants and must not be directed against civilians" (Rule 1, ICRC Study). Civilians are defined as "anyone who is not a member of the armed forces or of an organized military group belonging to a party to the conflict". In cases of doubt as to the status of a person, that person shall be considered a civilian.

195. The credible allegations indicate that the Government of Sri Lanka did not respect the fundamental principle of distinction. The Government stated that its military operations in the Vanni yielded zero civilian casualties, when credible estimates of civilian casualties are in the tens of thousands; it also provided vastly low estimates of civilians trapped in the conflict zone. Together these indicate that it associated many or most people inside the conflict zone with the LTTE and thereby failed to take account of this bedrock principle.

(c) Ban on attacks on civilians or civilian objects

196. International humanitarian law prohibits attacks on civilians and civilian objects. Attacks may be directed only against military objects and combatants (Rule 7, ICRC Study). There is an "unconditional and absolute prohibition on the targeting of civilians in customary international law". This norm is the most fundamental of those flowing from the principle of distinction. In addition, parties may not direct an attack against a zone established to shelter the wounded, the sick and civilians from the effects of hostilities (Rule 35, ICRC Study). In regard to the presence of the LTTE in the proximity of civilians in the NFZs, international tribunals, including the ICTY, have clarified that the ban on attacks against civilians protects a population that is "predominantly civilian", and "the presence within the civilian population of individuals who do not come within the definition of civilian [i.e. combatants] does not deprive the population of its civilian character.

197. In the case of Sri Lanka, it is important to consider the mental element of this prohibition from the context of the law on individual responsibility. Most significantly, the law does not prohibit only attacks in which the attacking party’s sole intent is to kill civilians deliberately. Reasoning by analogy from the First Additional Protocol, which defines the war crime of making civilians the object of attack in international armed conflict, requires that such a prohibited attack on civilians must be undertaken "willfully". According to the ICRC’s official commentary on the Protocol, "the accused must have acted consciously and with intent, i.e., with his mind on the act and its consequences, and willing them (criminal intent’ or malice aforethought’)," The ICRC’s authoritative jurisprudence has interpreted a "willful" attack to also encompass an attack that is reckless regarding the impact on civilians.

198. With respect to the determination of such intent to attack civilians, whether deliberately or recklessly, the ICTY has stated that: "the intent to target civilians can be proved... from direct or circumstantial evidence. There is no requirement of the intent to attack particular victims; rather it is prohibited to make the civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, the object of an attack. Whether the attack was directed against civilians can be inferred on a case-by-case basis from numerous factors, including the methods used in the attack, the distance between the victims and the source of fire and the number and appearance of the victims. Moreover, the ICTY has held that "indiscriminate attacks, that is to say, attacks that strike civilians or civilian objects and military objectives without distinction, may qualify as direct attacks against civilians." In the same way, "certain apparently disproportionate attacks may give rise to the inference that civilians were actually the object of attack".

199. As for any argument that the SLA did not intend to make the civilian population the object of attack, but that its attacks were aimed at the LTTE, an attack remains unlawful if it is conducted simultaneously at a lawful military object and an unlawfully-targeted civilian population. The SLA possessed and operated weapons and intelligence systems, in particular UAVs, that enabled lawful targeting, and the Vanni Commander and other Government officials received numerous communications to notify them when the SLA was striking civilian targets. In addition, with respect to hospitals, the law is clear that the possible presence of wounded LTTE in some hospitals does not transform those hospitals into legitimate military targets - they remain protected civilian objects,

200. It is thus clear to the Panel that credible allegations point to a violation of the ban on attacks directed against civilians insofar as the SLA, whether deliberately or recklessly, attacked civilians situated in the NFZs, as well as other civilian objects, such as hospitals and other humanitarian objects, including food distribution lines. In addition, the widespread shelling that is credibly alleged, notably across the succession of NFZs where the civilian population went at the Government’s urging, also points to a violation of the customary law rule that prohibits attacks, the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among civilians (Rule 2, ICRC Study).

(d) Ban on Indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks against civilians

201. International humanitarian law prohibits indiscriminate attacks, generally considered to be those:

"...which am not directed at a specific military objective; (b) which employ a method or means of combat which cannot be directed at a specific military objective; or (c) which employ a method or means of combat the effects of which cannot be limited as required by international humanitarian law; and consequently, in each such case, are of a nature to strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction (Rules 11-13, ICRC Study)".

202. Credible allegations point to a violation insofar as the SLA employed artillery in a manner that did not target specific military objectives but struck civilians without distinction, including within the self-declared NFZs and civilian objects such as hospitals and food distribution lines. The alleged use of heavy weapons in respect of target areas heavily populated by civilians, or the widespread use of artillery in those areas, might itself be indiscriminate.

203. The law also prohibits "launching an attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated" (Rule 14, ICRC Study). This norm prohibits the disproportionate use of force defined in terms of anticipated excessive civilian casualties. While the Panel does not have information on all incidents, credible allegations suggest numerous violations of this provision insofar as the attacks on the NFZs were broadly disproportionate to the military advantage anticipated from such attacks. The Government’s repeated declaration that it had ceased using heavy weapons in these NFZs points to awareness that such usage could be considered disproportionate. Broadly speaking, once both the civilian population and the LTTE were confined to the very limited spaces of the second and third NFZs, the LTTE was no longer mobile as an armed force, and more precise means to defeat the LTTE than barrages of widely-spread artillery and mortar attacks could and should have been employed in order to ensure respect for international humanitarian law.

(e) Requirement of precautions before and during attacks

204. International humanitarian law requires parties to take all feasible precautions to avoid or minimize civilian casualties, including through verification that targets are military objectives, choice of means and methods of warfare to minimize civilian casualties, and if circumstances permit, through effective advance warning (Rules 15-20, ICRC Study).

205. Credible allegations point to a violation of this provision insofar as they indicate that the Armed Forces did not provide any or sufficient advance warning of attacks to the civilian population, including attacks on military targets that would have an impact on civilians. The leaflets that were periodically distributed in the Vanni did not constitute sufficient precautions for specific attacks. In addition, the Government’s instructions for civilians to move into the NFZs, only to be subsequently shelled by the SLA, disregarded this rule and in fact amounted to a cynical manipulation of it.

As Sri Lankan citizens we must resolve the Tamil National question amicably

By Sumanasiri Liyanage

So many things have been written on the Report of the Expert Panel appointed by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon. Should I litter the already crowded discourse space with another piece?

I thought I should not do so unless I had a peculiar dream in which a small vendor friend of mine on the Kandy pavement who passed away about six months ago posed me an apt question. His question read like this: "Had the war against the LTTE reached its last phase in May 2011 rather than in May 2009, what kind of response would Sri Lanka have expected from the US, UK and France?"

This counterfactual question tries to situate Sri Lanka in the current world political context that is characterized by the simmering Arab revolution and imperialist intervention. With the expert report, the spokespersons of the Sri Lankan government have come forward to add two nice words into their usually barren political discourse, namely, anti-imperialism and national reconciliation.

On the other hand, the TNA leader has expressed that he and the TNA welcome the expert report and agree with its content. However, he has not explicitly stated that he and the TNA agree with the comment of the report on the LTTE position, though politically incorrect is understandable and I will come to that issue later.

War is a crime, a crime against humanity. This general rule is universally applied to every war that was waged by states, political groups etc. In this sense, war crime is a misnomer as there has been no war without criminal acts executed by the contenders. When I was writing this note, the Associated Press has reported that the U.S. drones fired five missiles at a house in a Pakistani tribal region near the Afghan border today, killing at least 22 people. Does the UN and human right vocabulary include this in the category of war crime?

In the last phase of the Sri Lankan conflict, we all know many people, naturally many of them are civilians were killed. Of course, it would have been better if the two parties in Sri Lanka would have resolved their conflict without killing or harming people, civilians or combatants. That is the kind of world that we should build. However, many, including states and political groups believe that wars are unavoidable. Wars, like nationalism, have pragmatic value and may be justified by instrumental rational logic of nation-state. I cannot envision a crime-less war. Hence, the whole logic underlining the UN expert panel report is absolutely incorrect and the attempt reflects internationally accepted hypocrisy.

I do not subscribe to conspiracy theory. However, one thing is clear. Since the beginning of the last stage of war, there has been a conspiracy by the West led by USA, UK and France against Sri Lanka. Do Anglo-American imperialists engage in conspiracy?

The newspaper, The Independent, has recently revealed the conspiracy between the British government of Tony Blair and the major oil companies prior to the Iraqi invasion. However, this is what Blair said just before the invasion: "Let me just deal with the oil thing because... the oil conspiracy theory is honestly one of the most absurd when you analyze it. The fact is that, if the oil that Iraq has were our concern, I mean we could probably cut a deal with Saddam tomorrow in relation to the oil. It’s not the oil that is the issue, it is the weapons..." (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/secret-memos-expose-link-between-oil-firms-and-invasion-of-iraq-2269610.html) Since the Sri Lankan government refused to obey the ‘orders’ of the West during the last phase of the war, these government seemed to be determined to ‘punish’ Sri Lanka by other means. The US and UK blocked the Sri Lankan government’s request for a 1. 9 billion dollar loan from the IMF. Finally, it was granted after sometime, as I heard, because of Indian intervention. Hence, there is no doubt that the real cat’s paw behind the report is Western imperialism.

We have seen that in the event of Egyptian Revolution, Ban Ki Moon acted just as puppet of the US government, reiterating what Secretary Hilary Clinton said the previous day. So, the report should be rejected not only on the ethical ground I outlined above, but also as a measure of resistance against Western hegemony, Negri and Hardt’s argument notwithstanding.

Does it mean that there is no issue here to be reckoned with?

Minister G. L. Peiris’s argument that the report would disturb the process of reconciliation that has been unleashed after the termination of war is absurd. The government has begun to talk about reconciliation and all other goodies to Tamils when it cannot withstand the pressure. The government has done nothing substantial to resolve the Tamil national question that cannot be reduced to the construction of roads and other infra-structure facilities.

The Minister must be well aware that there is no process to be disturbed. That is why I said although the decision of the TNA is politically incorrect (even from the Tamil nationalist perspective), it is understandable why the TNA took such a decision. Talk to any Tamil person either in Sri Lanka or the Tamil diaspora, they might welcome the report not just because they are keen to know the truth about what had happened in May 2009, but because the Government of Sri Lanka has not done anything meaningful to address the root causes of the conflict.

We have now reached a critical moment. Irrespective of the pressure coming from Western powers, as Sri Lankan citizens we should be determined to resolve the Tamil national question amicably. Such an effort needs concrete measures that cannot be reduced to diplomatic ball rolling. As far as the report is concerned, Sri Lanka can handle that issue aligning with India and getting the support of China and Russia and other developing countries.

As the responses to the Expert Panel Report have shown, Sri Lanka is still a divided country. In order to address this deep rooted issue, in my opinion, the political elite should immediately take four steps. No delays! No rhetoric, but concrete actions. The steps include:

(1) Establishment of Northern Provincial Council with full powers given in the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and handing over all development and reconstruction projects in the province to the provincial council;

(2) Enactment of a Bill or Rights prepared by the Ministry of Justice;

(3) Lifting emergency regulations and restoration of elementary rights of people and

(4) release of political prisoners, including SarathFonseka.

On the basis of that, Sri Lanka could develop a new political culture and that would provide a basis for a just society. This is how we can defeat the subjugating attempts of the ‘empire’.

UNSG Panel-Report on Sri Lanka: Revisiting 'Accountability'

By Kalana Senaratne

Ensuring ‘accountability’ is important, but doing so is a complex task. Who is to ensure accountability, when, where, how? - are questions which have always aroused serious debate, and will do, in the future. While there may be no ‘independent/internal’ investigations, one need not be starry-eyed about ‘independent/international’ investigations

For example, ‘Nuremburg’ was an important start, but was never a suitable model. What, for instance, is ‘international’ and who decides the form and nature of this mechanism? Can we go with Chinese/Russian investigators, and if so, would they be independent? Can we go with US/UK investigators, and would they be independent? Also, can we simply investigate the ‘last stages’ of the armed conflict? What about India’s role in the conflict, and are we to forget the manner in which India nurtured armed groups hostile to Sri Lanka? Are we to investigate only the leaders (of the present regime) who defeated the LTTE, but not those of previous regimes who may have contributed to the prolongation of the armed conflict for so long?

‘Accountability’, yes: but when and why? When ‘peace-talks’ took place, wasn’t ‘accountability’ necessary? Were we not asked to forget ‘accountability’ in the name of peace? Had there been a serious ‘accountability’ process which prosecuted those alleged to have committed serious crimes, would the LTTE’s top leaders been able to discuss ‘peace’, unless negotiations were to be held inside prison? Wasn’t that why peace-facilitators ignored the importance of ‘accountability’? But suddenly, when one party is eliminated, there emerges the need for ‘accountability’. And then, the government states what the peace-facilitators stated then: forget ‘accountability’, let’s move on.

The manner in which this ‘accountability’ issue was approached by past regimes and the peace-facilitators has been disturbing. The true intentions of all these actors are questionable. Yet, ‘ground realities’ need to be acknowledged - but, not to the extent of saying that ‘accountability’ is totally unnecessary.

In short: a serious internal or international accountability mechanism will not succeed in the present context, and that needs to be accepted and acknowledged. The more suitable (and under current circumstances, the most practical) option available is the establishment of a credible truth and reconciliation process, with maximum legal protection afforded to those who are willing to come before such a commission (i.e. victim/witness protection), with the so established commission having no powers to prosecute. Opportunity should be provided to all those affected by the armed conflict, especially the Tamil people in the North and the East, as well as the Sinhala and Muslim people in those areas and elsewhere, to come before such a commission, without fear, and point out to all in the country the immense suffering they underwent due to a bloody conflict for nearly 30 long years. This seems to be the least divisive compromise that many people within the country would wish to arrive at, given recent developments.

What then of the report of the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts? How has the Government reacted, how has the UNP responded? What now: will everything end up at the International Criminal Court (ICC), or the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC)?

UNSG and the Panel Report

The role of the UNSG Ban Ki-Moon has been a truly unfortunate one. Prodded, pushed and pressured by certain Western powers, and with hopes of being re-elected for another term, UNSG Moon established a Panel of Experts, thereby setting a serious precedent. The Panel was supposed to “advice him [the UNSG] on the issue of accountability” and to “look into modalities, applicable international standards and comparative experience with regard to accountability processes, taking into account the nature and scope of any alleged violations in Sri Lanka” (as per the Statement attributable to the UNSG’s spokesperson, 22 June, 2010).

But, of course, didn’t the Secretary General of the UN really know what had to be done? Did he really need a Panel of Experts to tell him what he [the UNSG] should do about accountability, and that too, only in Sri Lanka? No. And if the intention was not to ‘investigate’, then why another Panel which only corroborates what is already stated by other organizations?

Therefore, it seems that the sole intention of establishing the Panel was not simply to receive ‘advice’, but to open up space for a more detailed report to be prepared which, in the eyes of certain influential members of the ‘international’ community, would have some persuasive authority since the report comes now in the form of ‘advice’ given to the UNSG. So, while the UNSG’s spokesperson stated that the panel’s advice (report) “will be available as a resource to Sri Lankan authorities should they wish to avail themselves of its expertise in implementing its commitment” and while many argued that the Panel’s report will complement the work of the LLRC for example, the UNSG-Panel’s Report complements more the work of the human rights organizations.

The Panel consisted of eminent persons. The only concern about the composition was that there still was that ‘appearance of bias’, given the inclusion of Mr. M. Darusman (even though he is undoubtedly a respected and eminent individual). And it needs to be noted here that this ‘appearance of bias’ taints even the LLRC. Critics of the Panel conveniently ignore this fact.

But of course, the most unfortunate aspect of the Panel is that it seems to have engaged in an exercise of simply re-writing the material they may have received from different sources, known and unknown. If the sources were the already known sources (e.g. AI, HRW, etc.), then why a new, detailed, report? If there are other additional sources, what are those sources? And were these latter sources the sources which helped the Panel determine “a very different version of the final stages of the war”? But then again, wasn’t that the version of other human rights groups as well? So we return to the question of ‘intention’ (not of the Panel, but rather of the UNSG): what was the real intention of establishing this Panel? The answer seems to be all too clear.

The Government

From the very beginning, the manner in which the government approached the issue of ‘accountability’ was deeply disappointing. One main argument raised by the government is: ‘accountability’ is unnecessary as no civilians were killed during the final stages of the war. An absurd assertion, given the fact that the group which the Armed Forces had to confront was a most ruthless terrorist organization in the world, which, during the course of its terror campaign, did its utmost, intentionally and deliberately, to blur the distinction between LTTE combatants and ordinary civilians. So it doesn’t make any sense, and is indeed illogical, if the government still states that however difficult the task was, not a single civilian was harmed. This argument raises serious questions about the true intentions of the government, and if any truth and reconciliation process is to succeed, the government needs to stop making such unbelievable, incredulous and absurd statements.

Also, the government has been unable to respond effectively and comprehensively to the numerous allegations leveled against the Armed Forces. It had enough time, since May 2009, to issue a detailed report on the allegations leveled against it (note, for instance, that even Israel issued a somewhat detailed report titled Gaza Operation Investigations: An Update, in January 2010 in response to the Goldstone-Report, highlighting, inter alia, that 150 investigations had been launched by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), pointing out that by the time the Goldstone Report was published, Israel was already investigating 22 of the 34 incidents contained therein.

Yet, the manner in which the government has handled many of the issues concerning ‘accountability’ and especially foreign policy has ceased to cause alarm. That is perhaps all that needs to be said, since much of this is stale news to any observer or follower of Sri Lankan politics.

ICC and the UNP

With the release of the UNSG-Panel report, debate on Sri Lanka and the ICC seems to be intensifying in certain quarters. The report does have, in the eyes of the Western powers, some persuasive authority, but whether Russia and China would think so is still very questionable (going by the statements already made by Russia, in particular). One reason why these two veto powers might not yet be ready to do a Sudan or Libya may be due to the fact that doing so would be an implicit acknowledgment, even endorsement, of the precedent set by the UNSG in convening a Panel, getting its ‘advice’, and making the ensuing report a tool which allows Western powers to exert pressure on small and less-powerful States.

Since Sri Lanka is not a Party to the Rome Statute, it cannot be brought before the ICC. Sri Lanka should either be a State Party, or the situation in Sri Lanka should be referred to the ICC by the Security Council. Even the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC cannot successfully launch an investigation proprio motu (as per Article 15 of the Statute), since Sri Lanka is not a State Party, and therefore does not fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC. It was the Chief prosecutor himself, Mr. Luis Moreno Ocampo, who stated somewhere in 2009 that he cannot do anything since Sri Lanka is not a State Party, and that one would have to convince the UNSC (see, video on YouTube, titled: ‘prosecutor for the International Criminal Court discusses the situation in Sri Lanka’).

Here, then, comes the United National Party (UNP), which has been quite fascinated by the Rome Statute. For quite some time, ever since 2009, the UNP (especially MP Mangala Samaraweera) has been tossing around an interesting claim. The recent version is contained in the UNP’s statement (The Island, 20 April 2011): “The people of a country can be subjected to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court only if the said country is a signatory to the Rome Convention … During the tenure of Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe’s premiership in 2002, there was international pressure for Sri Lanka to be a signatory to this convention. However Mr. Wickremasinghe steadfastly refused” to sign.

The flaws contained in the statement above are obvious to anyone familiar with the fundamentals of treaty law, and the Rome Statute. For instance, a signatory is not a Party (a State becomes a Party only upon ratification or accession), and cannot be strictly bound by the provisions of the Statute. Also, this does not say anything about the power of the Executive President. Moreover, Mr. Wickremasinghe’s signature would have been immaterial had the UNSC decided to refer the matter to the ICC. Also, in any case, the crimes that the ICC could investigate are crimes committed after the Statute enters into force, i.e. 1 July, 2002, so obviously, the situation in 2002 was not so serious as to move the ICC (or the UNSC) to initiate an investigation in Sri Lanka.

Furthermore, the UNP does not state the following: that like in the case of Cote d’Ivoire, any government could, through a Declaration, accept the jurisdiction of the ICC (as per Article 12(3) of the Statute). Would, for instance, ‘President Ranil Wickremasinghe’ (note: this is a purely hypothetical case), under pressure from Western or other powers, accept the jurisdiction of the ICC, and enable the ICC to investigate the situation during the last stages of the armed conflict? If the intention of the UNP is to show that it is truly ‘patriotic’, or that its current leader is the great saviour of Sri Lanka, then it might be necessary for the UNP to state clearly that under no circumstances will it accept the jurisdiction of the ICC, anytime in the future too, through signature, ratification, accession or declaration.

Revisiting UNHRC?

Are we to return, then, to the UNHRC? Recommendation 4A of the UNSG-Panel Report is explicit: “the Human Rights Council should be invited to reconsider its May 2009 Special Session Resolution (A/HRC/S-11/1.1/Rev.2) regarding Sri Lanka, in light of this report.”

It seems that the UNHRC will be the forum that decides the true impact of the UNSG-Panel Report, at the geopolitical level. The recommendation shows how critical Sri Lanka’s ‘victory’ in May 2009 was, how strong an impact it had on the direction in which the debate on ‘accountability’ went. Is Sri Lanka ready to re-open, to revisit, the old debate? How confident is Sri Lanka of securing a ‘victory’, as she did in May 2009? What, for instance, does this tell us about the importance of the UNHRC, about the manner in which the Government of Sri Lanka acted soon after the ‘victory’ in 2009? In any case, if the UNHRC decides to revisit the matter, it will emerge as one of the most significant foreign policy challenges for the Government.

Conclusion

At present, the problem of ‘accountability’ seems to be set to be ‘resolved’, temporarily, at the UNHRC. It ought to have been ideally resolved in Sri Lanka, through a proper inquiry, through domestic mechanisms.

However, what remains to be done, at best, given the nature of the domestic situation, is the establishment of a credible truth and reconciliation process. Furthermore, serious measures need to be taken to ‘advance accountability’ in the short term. In this regard, the government would do well to implement the measures referred to in ‘Recommendation 2’ of the Executive Summary of the UNSG-Panel report. The short-term measures contained in ‘Recommendation 2’ are measures that can and should be adopted, irrespective of the serious concerns one may have with regard to the veracity of some of the accusations contained therein.

The Dramatic Return of Duleep Mendis

by Nirgunan Tiruchelvam

When Duleep Mendis was a boy in Moratuwa, his family employed a servant boy. The servant boy’s duties were not restricted to serving the drinks. He used to bowl to the podi mahathaya (little master) Duleep Mendis.

DMTC424.jpg

Duleep Mendis ~ pic: sundaytimes.lk

The servant boy was a fearsome fast bowler. He was known as the Andy Roberts of Moratuwa. Mendis’s reflexes were sharpened at a young age.

Some years later, Duleep Mendis blasted 32 against Australia at the Oval in the 1975 World Cup. Jeff Thompson and Dennis Lillle were bowling at the speed of light. But, the tiny Mendis batted with just a cloth cap and pads. He hooked and cut with astonishing power. Much of his skill was mastered in the many hours of practice in his garden. He never forgot his sarong-clad domestic worker.

The Andy Roberts of Moratuwa is now unheard of. Even Mendis’s heroic deeds on the pitch are a faint memory. None of the current players have ever watched him. But, Mendis’s memory will live long as a fine manipulator.

As a player, his somersaults off the pitch were better than on the pitch. In 1982, Mendis shamed the country. He signed a contract to join the rebel tour to South Africa.

South Africa was then under the grip of Apartheid. Coloureds had third class status. Having signed the contract, he reneged on the tour in the last minute. His employer talked him out of it. As a carrot, he was offered the captaincy of what was left of the Sri Lankan team by the board.

But, Mendis was a captain only in name. The manager Abu Fuard ran the team as an absolute dictator. Field placements were directed from the dressing room. Mendis had no say in selections. Journalists used to know the eleven before he did.

Even the umpires were said to be under Fuard’s thumb. It was rumoured that during the 1985 series against India that the umpires used to attend team meetings. There was one particularly shocking incident which symbolized the tour. The Indian opener K Srikkanth was ruled LBW by the head Umpire. Seconds later, the leg Umpire raised his finger ruling him run out.

After Mendis lost the captaincy in 1987, he hung around in the team for a long time. He extended his career till the public were sick of him. Not many people remember that he retired after Ranjan Madugalle. By the late 80s, Mendis’s hand eye coordination was in terminal decline. The savage square cut deserted him. Overweight and unloved, the great man cut a sorry figure.

In the last 20 years, Mendis has held the posts of CEO, Manager and Chairman of Selectors. He has been able to convince many Boards of his unwavering loyalty. He has survived countless changes in Board administration.

His latest return as the Chairman of Selectors is particularly dramatic. Having been dismissed as the Board CEO two years ago, he has kissed and made up with the DS de Silva administration.

His first move was to appoint Dilshan captain. This must be applauded. Frankly, it was the only choice. Dilshan is an outstanding athlete, who favors instinct over reason. Sangakkara was far too defensive. His successor will be attacking. In his brief spells as captain, Dilshan was constantly in the ear of his bowlers. He belongs to the Shahid Afridi school of leadership.

But, Dilshan will not sing for his supper like Mendis in the 1980s. He will not be a figurehead. The new captain will lead from the front.

Sri Lanka’s ascent is a remarkable achievement for a small island. The success has come despite the Board’s incompetence. The Board can’t even ensure that the players turn up for the England tour. They are powerless in the face of BCCI’s clout.

The island has talent, but the selectors must go that extra mile to find it. Perhaps, Mendis should go back to where he started. His hometown has produced outstanding players like Ajantha Mendis, Romesh Kaluwitharana and Prasanna Jayawardene. The next Lasith Malinga may lurking in some garden in Moratuwa

April 23, 2011

Darusman panel report criticizes Sri Lankan administration for the way in which the war against the LTTE was conducted

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

"….too many people desire to suppress criticism simply because they think that it will give some comfort to the enemy to know that there is such criticism. If that comfort makes the enemy feel better for a few moments, they are welcome to it as far as I am concerned because the maintenance of the right of criticism in the long run will do the country maintaining it a great deal more good than it will do the enemy, and will prevent mistakes which might otherwise occur.” US Senator Robert A Taft (The Papers of Robert A Taft: 1939-1944)

RMTC423.JPG

Rajihar Manoharan

On a dark January night in 2006, five students were killed in the town of Trincomalee. The authorities initially claimed that the victims were Tiger cadres who died when the explosives they were carrying went off prematurely.

The Sinhala Judicial Medical Officer who examined the bodies contested this claim, pointing out that the victims had been shot to death. Subsequent inquiries proved that the victims were indeed shot dead. Though judicial proceedings commenced, they went nowhere because the police, predictably, failed to uncover any evidence.

The father of one of the victims, Kasipillai Manoharan, a 70 year old medical doctor, witnessed the murder of his son. His refusal to give into intimidation and abandon the quest to bring his son’s killers to justice eventually compelled him to flee his motherland. Five years later Dr. Manoharan is still fighting for justice: “My son was killed by security forces. I lost my son. It was a really cruel murder. I know I can't get back to my son but I am now fighting for justice for Tamils and for Sinhalese, for all communities” (Channel 4 – 15.4.2011).

The case of young Manoharan and his friends, like that of the 17 murdered workers, became a cause celebre nationally and internationally. There were many other cases besides, in the North, the East and the South: a Vice Chancellor who disappeared from a Colombo high security zone, an editor who was gunned down in broad daylight close to another high security zone, a parliamentarian who was shot dead in a church full of worshippers on Christmas eve, another parliamentarian who was murdered near his home in Colombo, other men and women, famous and unknown, who died or disappeared.

If at least one of these cases was resolved satisfactorily, the argument for an internal process of justice would have sounded credible. But from the murder of five students in Trincomalee to the killing of Lasantha Wickramatunga, from the aid workers massacre to the gunning down of parliamentarians Joseph Pararajasingham and R Raviraj, justice was not done, despite innumerable and repeated promises from the President downwards,

As the Fourth Eelam War progressed towards its bloody conclusion, impunity became as much of a hallmark of the Rajapaksa regime as it was of the Tigers. It was as if the Rajapaksas had taken a leaf from the Tiger’s book. The LTTE had turned the practice total and unequivocal denial into an art form. Now the Rajapaksas took it one step further by creating the myth of a humanitarian operation which did not kill or harm a single civilian. This absurdly dangerous first premise created its own deadly logic: if no civilian can be killed, then all the dead and the injured must be Tigers, per se. The zero-civilian casualty myth created a humanitarian façade, behind which the regime could act with impunity.

The Darusman Report stems from the reality of the war, from the wanton brutality with which both sides treated the unarmed civilians. The Report does not question the Lankan state’s right to defend itself militarily in the face of an armed separatist challenge. Its critique is limited to the errors and excesses committed by both sides during the war. The Report does not criticise the Lankan administration for waging war against the LTTE but for acting in contravention of its own national laws and international obligations in the conduct of that war. The Darusman Report is the Final Eelam War as seen by an uninvolved, impartial entity, with no axe to grind and no favourites to shield.

Minister Maithripala Sirisena has described the Darusman Report as an attack on Sri Lanka by ‘LTTE friendly foreign elements’. Minister Keheliya Rambukwella has said that the Report ‘has ingredients of the LTTE rump and the Tamil Diaspora’ and is ‘extremely biased, flawed, one-sided and is unacceptable’. Minister after minister has rejected ‘all allegations’ contained in the Report, many of them probably unaware that the report contains five allegations against the Lankan state and six allegations against the LTTE! Therefore when the regime rejects ‘all allegations’, it absolves not just itself but also the LTTE of blame; by rejecting the Report in toto, instead of analysing it logically and responding to it rationally, the regime is inadvertently turning itself into an apologist for the LTTE!

According to the leaked excerpts, the Report spares neither the Rajapaksa regime nor the LTTE, levelling a series of scathing criticism against both sides. Its criticism of the LTTE’s modus operandi is comprehensive and unambiguous: “Despite grave danger in the conflict zone, the LTTE refused civilians permission to leave, using them as hostages, at times even using their presence as a strategic human buffer… It implemented a policy of forced recruitment throughout the war, but in the final stages greatly intensified its recruitment of people of all ages, including children as young as fourteen.

The LTTE forced civilians to dig trenches for its own defenses, thereby contributing to blurring the distinction between combatants and civilians…. From February 2009 onwards, the LTTE started point-blank shooting of civilians who attempted to escape the conflict zone, significantly adding to the death toll in the final stages of the war. It also fired artillery in proximity to large groups of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and fired from, or stored military equipment near IDPs or civilian installations such as hospitals. Throughout the final stages of the war, the LTTE continued its policy of suicide attacks outside the conflict zone”.

Thus the Darusman Report is not a pro-Tiger document. If it is biased, the bias is in the favour not of the LTTE but of the hundreds of thousands of civilian Tamils (Sri Lankan citizens) caught between the two warring forces, one determined to win at any cost and the other equally intent on postponing total defeat, even by an hour, at any cost.

The Darusman Reports contains five allegations against the regime: “(i) killing of civilians through widespread shelling; (ii) shelling of hospitals and humanitarian objects; (iii) denial of humanitarian assistance; (iv) human rights violations suffered by victims and survivors of the conflict, including both IDPs and suspected LTTE cadre; and (v) human rights violations outside the conflict zone, including against the media and other critics of the Government.”

These charges are too serious to be dismissed out of hand, especially since the alleged victims are our own people. Even if time and pragmatic political considerations render accountability impossible, it is necessary to examine each of these charges sincerely, and, at the least, apologise to the victims (or their families) for the wrong done to them. A lasting peace based on genuine reconciliation may be possible without accountability; but it is impossible if the regime clings to its policy of denial. Infallibility is a myth, and the Rajapaksas cannot claim it for themselves with any credibility.

At least one allegation against the government need not be investigated because it was factually proven long before the UN Secretary General even thought of appointing an Advisory Panel. According to the Darusman Report, “All IDPs were detained in closed camps. Massive overcrowding led to terrible conditions, breaching the basic social and economic rights of the detainees, and many lives were lost unnecessarily”.

The government and its supporters called these camps welfare villages, but if a prison is a place where a person is kept in captivity, these camps were prisons, because their inmates could not leave them and outsiders (including closest relations) could not go in, without official permission. More than 300,000 people, almost the entire population of the Killinochchi and Mullaitivu districts were thus subjected to unlawful de facto detention, behind barbed wire fences and guarded by armed soldiers. According to UN estimates about 43% of camp inmates are children, many of them deprived of their natural caregivers cum protectors by the war.

Even apologists for the regime did not deny that the camp inmates were deprived of the freedom of movement, the right that defines a free man. They merely justified it by arguing that these restrictions are necessary to catch Tiger cadres masquerading as civilians. Had Vellupillai Pirapaharan survived to fight another day, such harsh security measures may have had some justification. But given the demise of Mr. Pirapaharan and other top Tiger leaders, this treatment of civilian Tamils violated Lankan and international laws as well as all civilised norms.

The confirmation about the lack of basic facilities in these camps came from many non/anti-LTTE sources. For instance, V. Anandasangaree, the leader of the TULF and an outspoken critic of the LTTE, said the conditions are ‘good’ in some camps and ‘horrible’ in many others: “Health, water and sanitation situation is horrible. Many people have skin diseases as they don’t get a chance to have a shower for days because of water shortage… Pregnant mothers and newborn babies go through a harrowing time in the camps due to scorching heat” (Tamilweek – 3.6.2009).

The then Chief Justice Sarath N Silva, subsequent to a visit to some of the camps, made forthright criticisms about the abysmal conditions in the ‘welfare camp’ he visited (ten people to a tent in which standing up is impossible except at the middle, yards long queue to the single ‘toilet’) and stated that the “inmates of these camps do not have any recourse in law as they exist outside the law” (Sirasa News First– 3.6.2009)

Handled correctly, the Darusman Report can become an opportunity for Sri Lanka to make a fresh start, nationally and internationally. This is particularly so because many of the short term recommendations contained in the Report are sensible and necessary. For instance, the Report urges the Lankan state to “End all violence by the State, its organs and all paramilitary….; Facilitate the recovery and return of human remains to their families and allow for the performance of cultural rites for the dead; Provide death certificates…; Provide or facilities psycho-social support for all survivors….; Release all displaced persons and facilitate their return to their former homes or provide for resettlement, according to their wishes; Continue to provide interim relief to assist the return of all survivors to normal life;…. Investigate and disclose the fate and location of persons reported to have been forcibly disappeared;

…..Undertake an immediate repeal of the Emergency Regulations, modify all those provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act that are inconsistent with Sri Lanka’s international obligations…. End state violence and other practices that limit freedoms of movement, assembly and expression, or otherwise contribute to a climate of fear.

The Tamil people paid the heftiest price for the LTTE’s crimes, a fate they could have avoided had they resisted the Tiger before it became omnipotent. Similarly, the Sinhala South may have to pay an astronomical wage, if it permits the Rajapaksas to abuse patriotism and national sovereignty to entrench Familial Rule.

Implementing some of the recommendations made in the Darusman Report is important in this regard, because they can help impede Rajapaksa efforts to subvert democracy from within and turn the Lankan state into a Familial autocracy.

Tamil National Alliance on old path of confrontation again

by Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha

I was deeply saddened to see the statement issued earlier this week in the name of Mr Sambandan following the leaking of some of the report of the UN panel. The statement seems to hark back to the confrontational approach the TNA had repeatedly adopted when opportunities for reconciliation were available.

I was reminded then of my efforts, as Head of the Peace Secretariat, to meet Mr Sambandan, as discussed with His Excellency the President, shortly after the defeat of the LTTE. Mr Sambandan, while never refusing outright, kept saying he was too busy, because he had to meet with several foreign dignitaries. Clearly, he felt that peace was better achieved by requesting foreign pressure rather than by discussions with mandated Sri Lankans.

Subsequently, the TNA decided to support the candidature of Sarath Fonseka for the Presidency. Given the pronouncements of General Fonseka both before and after the victory over the LTTE, and his efforts to slow down resettlement of the displaced, I cannot believe that Mr Sambandan and his colleagues seriously felt that Mr Fonseka’s candidacy was the best option for the Tamil people.

At the time I expressed my suspicions of a meeting I saw take place at the home of the Political Affairs Officer of the American Embassy, Paul Carter. While enjoying his hospitality and listening to accounts of interactions between his office and the JVP, I saw Mr Sambandan come in, and thought I should pay my respects before I left. I found him in the garden with the European Union Representative and the American Ambassador, and they looked so bemused that I realized I was probably interrupting something confidential. I offered to leave, but Mr Savage recovered himself and was reasonably polite. The other two stayed silent, so I soon took myself off. I began to think then that I was going to be persona non grata with the Americans, which was a pity considering the regard I had had for Bob Blake, but indeed subsequently the new Ambassador has also proved charming.

But I felt then that the TNA was being encouraged to succumb to Sarath Fonseka’s charms, and I was not surprised thereafter when he received a string of endorsements from both the TNA and people like Jehan Perera, who did not deny it when I asked if that was what his paymasters wanted. And I felt that my view was endorsed also by several European envoys, who subsequently expressed surprise at the games that had been played with Fonseka, including Bernard Savage’s strange defence of military men in politics.

Be that as it may, I had the impression subsequently that most persons settled down to reality, after the elections proved conclusively that Colombo elite perceptions were absurd. So I was optimistic about recent talks with the TNA, as well as what seemed efforts by certainly the Americans to promote reconciliation. However the report of the Panel has again allowed old emotions to flourish, and it seems that the TNA is once again going to embark on a policy of confrontation, expecting foreign friends to pull their chestnuts out of the fire.

Over a year ago I pointed out to the British, at a meeting in their Foreign Office, the damage they could cause to Tamils by continuing to support the leftover rump of the LTTE, and by urging discussions with elements like the Transnational Government. My point was that the government wanted to work positively with the Tamils, but it could not trust the LTTE or its by-blows, and that continuing support for these would only serve to polarize.

Unfortunately I begin to suspect that polarization is part of the agenda of some of those who wish to interfere in Sri Lanka, though I had hoped that at least current envoys in Sri Lanka were wiser. My advice to the British was to follow the example of the Indians, who had never swerved from support for the Tamil people, while consistently evincing strong hostility to the LTTE. My argument was that that was the position of the decision makers in government, and foreign friends should affirm and support this position without trying to satisfy their own electorates.

Now sadly yet another opportunity seems to have arisen for what seems triumphalism on the part of those fundamentally opposed to the Sri Lankan state. Some of them simply will not accept that we have an elected government which is moving forward under difficult circumstances, though conscious of possible threats. Surely it cannot be triumphalism that has led to much more concerted efforts to implement Tamil as an official language than before, to more recruitment of Tamil policemen than done by any previous government in decades, to swifter resettlement and rehabilitation than in any comparable situation.

But people believe what they want to believe. In the process they contribute to hostilities which pave the way for extremist reactions, and sanctimonious self-justification based on similar behavior by their opponents. And meanwhile those who do not want reconciliation are cynically laughing.

Ban-Ki-moon is against us but the UN is with us – Vasudeva Nanayakkara

by Steve A. Morrell

The United Nations (UN) is being used by Western imperialist powers which have been acting in an acrimonious manner against Sri Lanka, National Languages and Social Integration Minister, Vasudeva Nanayakkara charged last week. "They are scheming to put Sri Lanka and the Government into difficulty by making baseless war crimes allegations", he said.

These Western imperialist powers want the Sri Lankan Government to be submissive so that they could unduly influence a country so strategically situated in the Indian Ocean, the Minister said in an interview with The Sunday Island.

The following are excerpts of the interview:

Q. What is the actual reason for the Sri Lankan Government to be so antagonistic towards the UN?

A: Let me put it the other way. What is the reason for the UN Secretary General to be so antagonistic towards the Sri Lankan Government? The only reason is that since this Government came into power in 2005, it tried to maintain cordial relations with all countries; but strictly adhered to a non-aligned policy unlike any other Government in the previous 30 years. The Government of Mahinda Rajapaksa took a very clear stand on Palestine — the Statehood of Palestine, and also on Iran. This irked the Western powers and they have manipulated, contrived and engineered in every way to corner the Sri Lankan government.

Q: Why would they want to do that?

Because of the non-aligned position the Government has been taking since 2005. Our Government also did recognize Iran’s right to use nuclear energy.

Q: But, we have been constantly in the Non-Aligned movement?

A: But it had been betrayed and compromised by the UNP Government and former President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

Q: Even when Indira Gandhi was in power, Sri lanka was in the NAM. At that stage, the West did not oppose nor was it antagonistic towards this country?

A: That was then. This is a new phase. We had governments here — the UNP and Chandrika’s — who were prepared to toe their line. This government was not prepared to do that. There were many other issues where ever it became a conflict between imperialist aggression or their aggressive interests and rights of a country. President Rajapaksa took up the position in a committed way in favour of those who were the victims of such aggressive policy.

There are many other things we should be able to think out. We had a running conflict with the Western Powers, who are Imperialists, as a government during the final one or two months of the war. These have contributed to cumulatively develop antagonism on their part towards us.

Q: But why specifically at this point in time?

A: I don’t know the point of time, they have been doing it all the way. So, this point of time is only another dramatic move by using the UN Secretary General.

Q: Is there any reason why we cannot be more open in our dealings with the UN?

A: We are very open with the UN. I don’t think there are many countries like us who have been very open with the UN. We have allowed, asked and invited their representatives to be here whenever they want. How much more open can anyone be?

Q: What was their response at that point?

A: Their response has been comment and critique. Both. So we have taken note of their critique and considered our security interests and taken our decisions accordingly.

Q: Would it not have been prudent on our part if we had looked inwards and found if we had made a mistake at any given time?

A: We don’t have to. They have to ask themselves whether they have made a mistake. Not us.

Q: The United Nations as it stands…

Not the United Nations. This is Ban Ki-moon. The UN is with us. The Security Council is with us. United Nations Human Rights Council is with us.

Q: So what’s the problem?

A: This Ban Ki-moon and his cronies.

Q: But, the UN Secretary General cannot act on his own?

A: Why not? He can act on his own.

Q: But he needs to have the go-ahead from his council?

A: No, no. That is his choice. When the resolution was to be moved during the last phase of the war, it was totally rejected by the Security Council using veto powers. The UN Secretary General seemed to be acting behind the back of the Security Council.

Q: The main signatories to the UN Charter - they would not allow that, would they?

A: Ban Ki-moon has been given certain powers to advice himself and to present such information to the UN system which he is supposedly doing; but to the contrary, he is on a hunting trip.

Q: Is he not held responsible for what he has said so far?

A: Of course, there will be numerous countries which would raise this matter. Already Russia has. India should take leadership in this matter. Without India’s support and its leadership, we will not be able to have justice. India should assume leadership in the South Asian region.

Q: Is it that India is now looking at us in a more positive way?

A: Yes they have always been our friend. According to our President, "India is our relative". India has been very effective in supporting us in this instance.

Q: What have they done?

A: They have taken up the position that Sri Lanka’s internal war cannot be a subject of discussion in the Security Council for any contemplated action.

Q: But we always turn to the Western world for help?

A: We go to them as much as we go to every other country. They have the money. Take Libya, that is exactly what they want.

Q: What is the catch that the UN wants us to fall in line and be more open in this particular instance? There has to be a catch somewhere.

A: The only catch is they would like a person who is not Mahinda Rajapaksa, but Chandrika Kumaratunga who will toe their line. The LTTE rump has their own agenda. It will want the LTTE present at future discussions.

Q: You haven’t started talking to the Tamil people?

Tamil people have been part of our government. They are a part of our alliance. Talks have begun and will continue.

Q: You have not placed a time-frame for these talks?

A: No. You cannot place a time-frame. Eventual outcome is that we would reach a solution. Autonomy. Don’t misquote me, but that would be in keeping with the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. This would mean that those living in other areas, like the Muslims, can have their own representatives to manage territories or entities within the frame-work of the Constitution.

Q: What is the actual reason for Government to be so antagonistic towards the UN?

A: Let me put it the other way. What is the Reason for the United nations Secretary General to be so antagonistic towards the Sri Lankan Government? I’ll put it that way. The only reason is that since this Government came into power in 2005 it tried to maintain cordial relations with all countries; but adhered to a non aligned policy strictly. Unlike any other Government in the previous 30 years. And the Government of Mahinda Rajapakse took a very clear stand regarding Palestine. The Statehood of Palestine, and also in respect of Iran. These irked the Western powers And they have manipulated, machinated, engineered in every way to corner the Sri Lankan government.

Q: Why would they want to do that?

A: Because of the Non-Aligned position the Government has been taking since 2005 when our Government did recognize Iran’s right to use nuclear energy.

Q: The Non-Aligned movement; we have been constantly in the Non-Aligned movement.?

A: But it had been betrayed and compromised by the UNP Government and Chandrika.

Q: Even when Indira Gandhi was in power we were affiliated to the Non-Aligned movement at that stage the West did not like us being in the non-aligned movement…

A: That was then. This is a new phase. We had our governments here the UNP and Chandrika’s who were prepared to tow their line. Which Mahinda was not prepared to do. There were many other issues where ever it became a conflict between imperialist aggression or their aggressive interests and rights of a country, Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa took up the position in a committed way in favour of those who were the victims of such aggressive policy.

Q: The point we want to raise here is that the report from the United Nations is supposedly antagonistic towards the Sri Lankan Government..

A: And why? I have answered why. There are many other things we should be able to think out. We had a running conflict with the Western Powers who are Imperialists as a government during the last one or two months of the war. They have contributed to cumulatively develop antagonism on their part against us.

Q: But why specifically at this point in time?

A: I don’t know the point of time, They have been doing it all the way. So, this point of time is only another dramatic move by using the UN Secretary General.

Q: Is there any reason why we cannot be more open in our dealings with the United Nations?

A: We are very open with the UN. I don’t think there are many countries like us who have been very open with the UN. We have allowed, asked and invited their representatives to be here whenever they want. How more open can anyone be?

Q: What was their response at that point?

A: Their response has been comment and critique. So, we have taken note of their critique and considered our security interests and taken our decisions accordingly.

Q: Would it not have been prudent on our part if we had looked inwards and found out if we had made a mistake at any given time?

A: We don’t have to. They have to ask whether they have made a mistake. Not us.

Q: The United Nations as it stands…

A: Not the United Nations. This is Ban Ki Moon. The UN is with us. The Security Council, the United Nation’s Human Rights Commission are with us..

Q: So what’s the problem?

A: This is Ban Ki-moon and his cronies.

Q: Ban Ki Moon being Secretary General cannot act on his own?

A: Why not ? He can act on his own.

Q: But he needs to have some advice from his council?

A: No. No. That is his choice. When the resolution was to be moved during the last phase of the war, it was totally rejected by the Security Council using veto powers. The UN Secretary General seems to be acting behind the back of the Security Council.

Q: The main signatories of the UN Charter they would not allow that would they?

A: Ban Ki Moon has been given certain powers to advice himself and to present such information to the UN system which he is supposedly doing, but to the contrary he is hunting.

Q: Is he not held responsible for what he has said so far?

A: Of course. There will be numerous countries who would raise this matter. Already Russia has. India should take leadership in this matter. Without India’s role and its leadership we will not be able to have justice meted out. India should assume leadership in the South Asian region.

Q: Is it that India is now looking at us in a more positive trend?

A: Yes, they have always been our friend. According to our President, "India is our relative". India has been very effective in supporting us in this instance.

Q: What have they done?

A: They have taken up the position that Sri Lanka’s internal war cannot be a subject of discussion in the Security Council for any contemplated action.

Q: But we always turn for help to the West?

A: We go to them as much as we go to every other country. They have the money. Take Libya, that is exactly what they want.

Q: What is the catch that the UN wants us to fall in line and be more open in this particular instance? There has to be a catch somewhere.

A: The only catch is they would like a person who is not Mahinda Rajapaksa, but Chandrika Kumaratunga who will tow their line. The LTTE rump has their own agenda. They will want the LTTE remnants to be present at future discussions.

Q: You haven’t started talking to the Tamil people?

A: The Tamil people have been part of our government and a part of our alliance. Talks have begun and will continue.

Q: You have not set a timeframe for these talks?

A: No. You cannot place a timeframe. The eventual outcome is that we will reach a solution. Autonomy. Don’t misquote me, but that would be in keeping with the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. This would mean that people living in those areas, like the Muslims, can have their own representatives to manage territories or entities within the framework of our Constitution.

Q: You had earlier declined ministerial positions. Why did you change your mind now and accept it?

A: Yes, at one stage I did not want to accept. That was under Chandrika. Her alignments and position were entirely contrary to what I had in my mind regarding the question of economic policies and alignments in the international scene. So, therefore I did not want to be collectively responsible. I had my own view, said what I wanted to say and voted as I wished. I am in concurrence with Mahinda’s line of thinking.

Q: What’s the role of your Ministry?

A: We have a newly developed vision that all people must know both languages in this country. English optional, but we must encourage English so that it becomes a life skill. My vision is a harmonious Sri Lanka united in diversity. The mission statement is formulating policies, providing guidance and facilitating full implementation of the official languages policy and the building of a strong inclusive Sri Lanka. ~ courtesy: Sunday Island ~

Instead of releasing officially Ban-Ki-moon got the help of Mahinda to leak the report

by Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne

Mahinda regime claims that the economy is expanding at a rate of 8%. In the context of economies world over struggling to keep even 1 % expansion, Lankan performance is considered to be a miracle. Recent IMF reports claim that they are highly impressed by the performance of Mahinda regime. They have pledged to support the regime continuously

However the plantation workers, who are mostly Tamil, live with a daily wage less than 400 rupees. This has affected the minimum wage of all agricultural workers throughout the country. Even wages of fishers and other rural workers are affected by this minimum wage.For the entire period of Mahinda regime, the wages of urban proletariat did not increase to compensate for the increase of cost of living.

Thus while the so-called economic miracle made the rich prosperous, the poor became poorer. That is also a miracle! Mahinda managed that, with the consolidation of his authority through the chauvinist war against the Tamil people. The war decimated the Tamil society with over one lakh of people killed. With emergency powers there is a virtual dictatorship in the country while there is a military rule in Tamil areas. Entire burden of war expenses were passed on to the shoulders of workers while trade unions and social organizations were made inactive by chauvinist campaigns and state terror.

Global powers were aware of all that. In fact they supported the war and the repression and also provided all resources for the war including arms and ammunition. In fact it was global powers including India who insisted that Tamil rebellion should be eliminated totally. However, they never exerted such pressure on the government to grant autonomy to the Tamil people.

Having done all that, now they have come out with a report condemning the war efforts of the government. Have they forgotten that this criminal war brought the political stability to create their “economic miracle”? A chauvinist dictatorial regime is necessary because this ‘economic miracle’ is based on plunder and super exploitation. I find it funny that a pro government paper was first to publish the UN panel executive summary.

Obviously they wanted Sinhala chauvinist organizations to start protesting. However paper report said “Panel’s determination of credible allegations reveals a very different version of the final stages of the war than that maintained to this day by the Government of Sri Lanka.

The Government says it pursued a”humanitarian rescue operation” with a policy of “zero civiliancasualties”. In stark contrast, the Panel found credible allegations,which if proven, indicate that a wide range of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law were committed both by the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Indeed, the conduct of the war represented a grave assault on the entire regime of international law designed to protect individual dignity during both war and peace. Reading the report one has to cry and laugh at the same time.

Yes, many of the crimes of the Sinhala chauvinist war are exposed. This exposure may help the ignorant to understand what we said about the war and what is going on in Lanka to some extent. But it will be ridiculous to expect any justice from the world powers who are involved in crimes committed in Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan. In addition they are the masters who guided the war of Mahinda.

The report was not officially released by Ban. Instead he got the help of Mahinda to leak the Report! The game of the global masters is very clear. They do not want to take any action, but want Mahinda take action according to their guidelines. What is more important is the fact that the report has refused to accept the liberation struggle of the Tamil people. Instead, the war is depicted as a war between two states equally involved in war crimes.

Thus they have washed out the difference between aggressor and the oppressed. This report proves that it is futile for Tamil people to expect any solution from the “liberal democracy” of the global powers. Only way out is!

President Rajapaksa is an authoritarian leader but not a dictatorial ruler

by Victor Ivan

The dispute that has arisen between the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the UNO over the alleged human rights violations presumed to have been committed during the military operations launched by the GoSL against the LTTE appears to be growing out of proportion. Even personal factors seem to have influenced to an extent which is highly unnecessary in exacerbating the problem. As a member country, the manner in which the Government of Sri Lanka responded to the UN when it sought clarifications on alleged violations cannot be deemed correct or reasonable.

In clarifying its position, the Government of Sri Lanka should have adopted a more restrained approach without giving way to feelings of hatred and emotion. Similarly, the policy adopted by the UN on this issue cannot be considered fair and reasonable. The rigid stand taken by the UN with the intent of strangulating a member country of the organisation over an alleged offence is not the kind of treatment expected of an organisation of the caliber of the United Nations.

There are three main factors which the General Secretary of the UN and the Advisory Committee that he appointed to investigate into the alleged offences should have taken into consideration but not taken note of.

1. Terrorism, all major powers of the world and the UN have unequivocally recognised as a serious menace that the modern world has encountered today. It has become a vicious plague fast spreading all over the world. The LTTE had earned a unique place in the global terrorist networks. It was considered the most ruthless terrorist outfit in the world. In the circumstances, had the LTTE been successful in preserving its existence in the wake of the battle against the Government of Sri Lanka, it would not only have created a veritable source of great delight for the international terrorist organisations but also offered a strong impetus, a moral boost in energising global terrorism, its growth and expansion.

Yet, the defeat that the LTTE suffered dealt a heavy blow on global terrorism.

Undoubtedly, it led to deplete the enchantment of terrorist organisations and weaken their growth and expansion. The defeat of the LTTE became a hot topic and a subject of serious discussion in global terrorist circles. In that sense, we can safely claim that little Sri Lanka has made an outstanding contribution to the global effort of eradicating the menace of terrorism from the face of the world. In the circumstances, it is rather unfortunate and pathetic that the UN and some great powers have not been magnanimous enough to grant due credit to Sri Lanka which it rightly deserves.

The stand taken by the UN in the aftermath of the eradication of the LTTE would no doubt deter other countries afflicted with the menace of terrorism taking any aggressive action and stringent measures as they might fear that military confrontation between legitimate governments and terrorist outfits could entail the horrifying risk of being answerable to the UN with the eventual threat of being punished for violation of human rights. On the other hand, this will be an added impetus for terrorist organisations which are rendered weak to resuscitate and re-emerge with renewed vigour.

The main strength of terrorist outfits lies in the fact that they do not pursue military operations in accordance with rule book theories and principles. It is therefore, not easy for a conventional army which acts on conventional warfare to defeat a terrorist outfit. The rules applied for a war between two conventional armies cannot be applied in an identical manner when it is engaged in a war against terrorism. The UN has defined policies to be adopted in the sphere of conventional warfare. But the policies to be adopted when countering terrorism have not been defined yet.

In the war against terrorism a civilian may suddenly storm in the form of a lethal human bomb. Conventional rule books or art of war have not defined how to deal with a suicide bomber. The LTTE often employed their cadres in civilian clothes in launching suicide attacks outside the areas of their control. Dhanu, the suicide bomber who killed Rajiv Gandhi came in civilian clothing and not in her uniform. Yet, it is customary that all those who die while in civilian clothes are counted as civilians.

This, however, must not be misconstrued that the legal armies should be vested with powers to destroy any person whom they suspect to be a terrorist when engaged in a war against terrorism. But they should have power to go beyond the rules which are usually applicable in conventional warfare. The law should be enforced against military only if this power is abused consciously and deliberately. It is my view that Sri Lanka was successful in defeating the LTTE because the army moved away from conventional tactics themselves forming into small guerilla type groups and launched surprise attacks on selected terrorist targets. That I believe is the main secret behind the success of the war against the LTTE.

This in fact bewildered Prabhakaran, consequently depleting his confidence and courage.

Sri Lankan security forces have successfully suppressed two terrorist uprisings on two occasions. One was in the Sinhalese South. The other in the Tamil North. Both these uprisings were defeated at a time they had emerged victorious to a great extent. The policy adopted in the suppression of the Sinhalese JVP insurrection and the Tamil LTTE uprising was the same. There was no discrimination in this policy just because the JVP was an insurrection of Sinhalese youth and the LTTE was that of Tamil youth. This shows that the security forces have not adopted different policies based on ethnicity. It was a common policy that was adopted in suppressing both uprisings irrespective of who has initiated them.

The JVP did not have artillery guns. They did not have ships and aircraft. They had only light weapons. Despite the drastic difference between the two uprisings, the country had to pay a bigger price when the JVP uprising was suppressed. The loss incurred in terms of human lives in the suppression of the JVP insurrection which lasted for about three years was relatively higher than that of the suppression of the LTTE which lasted 25 years. Had the security forces adhered strictly to the rule book in suppressing these uprisings, the length of both uprisings would have been much longer with a corresponding increase in the loss of lives and destruction caused to property.

Perhaps, the quantum of loss would have gone up by two to three times more. Assuming that the alleged human rights violations had in fact taken place which to a certain extent is unavoidable in any kind of warfare pursued against terrorist uprisings anywhere in the world, it is important to note that in Sri Lanka, there were no post war sprees of repression in both these uprisings. The security forces were restrained enough not to take revenge against the families of the rebels. This is a unique quality inherent in the security forces of Sri Lanka.

2. The LTTE was a divisive terrorist outfit that posed a critical challenge to the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. It was not a terrorist movement that took arms for their security only. They killed not only the members of the security forces who fought against them. They killed thousands of innocent civilians mercilessly who were in no way connected to the war. They destroyed public property worth billions of rupees. They assassinated not only Sinhalese; there were thousands of Tamil civilians among those whom they killed.

They killed the bulk of the celebrated Tamil politicians who were acknowledged to be their leaders by the Tamil community. The LTTE did not stop at killing Tamil political leaders only; its deadly hand fell on the undisputed front line leader Rajiv Gandhi of neighbouring India. The LTTE was not prepared for a negotiated settlement. They fought for a separate state. They were not ready to accept anything short of a separate state. They assassinated Rajiv Gandhi because he forced the LTTE to accept a solution which fell far short of a separate state.

The armed struggle launched by the LTTE critically challenged the very existence of Sri Lanka. So, eradication of the LTTE was an essential prerequisite to ensure the legal existence of Sri Lanka and its territorial integrity. The power that the LTTE had developed and wielded was based on violence and it required a more violent force surpassing that power to suppress it. In the circumstances, when force is unleashed to suppress an equally strong force it is not possible to avoid the occurrence of a considerable number of deaths and casualties. In the process, it was not only the members of the LTTE who became victims of the war. Equally, a large number of government security forces personnel too, were killed.

Both parties may have committed offences going beyond the rule book. But there were no attempts of vengeance against the defeated. After the eradication of the LTTE the doors of liberty which were closed for civilians for almost three decades were opened wide though there were some snags in the rehabilitation process and reorganisation measures introduced by the government to restore the lives of civilians to normalcy. Soon after the war a substantial number of people in the refugee camps were resettled in their respective villages. A bulk of strong LTTE sympathizers were rehabilitated and released. A massive campaign was launched to improve infrastructure facilities in the areas which were devastated by the war. A special campaign was launched to address the grievances of the people connected with the language issue.

Necessary conditions were created in all police stations in the areas where Tamils live, enabling them to deal with their needs in the Tamil language. A policy increasing the participation of Tamils in public service was implemented. Restoring their democratic rights, the Tamils in the North and the East were given the opportunity to select their representatives to the Northern Province Provincial Council and the local government institutions in the North and the Eastern Provinces. Now, the district and provincial level development council meetings are held in these areas on a regular basis with the participation of Tamil Council Members elected by the people. This was a situation which did not exist for nearly 30 years. Moreover, a special condition has been imposed that 70% of the people employed in the construction work and other developmental activities in the North and the East should be recruited from the area itself.

We can safely claim that the people of the North and the East are leading a better life now than under the domination of Prabhakaran though the problems of the Tamil people have not been settled in full. Now they are not sandwiched between two regimes. There is no need for them to pay taxes to two rulers. They can live without any threat of their children being forcibly recruited for military service. Despite these positive developments still there are people who mourn for those who disappeared. Even after the second uprising of the JVP in the Sinhalese South there were families crying for their dear ones who had disappeared.

It is not a good thing for a situation to occur which leads to the disappearance of people. Yet, of those who disappeared in the South all were not innocent. The bulk of them had their hands smeared with blood. This situation is equally true for the Tamils of the North and the East as well. Excessive acts alleged to have been committed during the suppression of the JVP uprising in the South was investigated only after six years of its suppression. By that time the pains had subsided; wounds healed. Society had matured enough to distinguish between the good and the bad. Even the JVP had abandoned its violent path and entered the democratic parliamentary system. There were no obstructions preventing them entering the main stream of politics.

What needs to be done for the defeated Tamil insurgency should be the same as what had been done after the suppression of the JVP insurrection. It is important to investigate into the excesses if any. Yet, it is too early to initiate such investigations. First, we must allow wounds to heal and psychological pains to assuage. Obviously, anything rushed to expedite the process may invariably upset the ethnic harmony which is gradually developing. It is common sense that no government in power would act against the security forces that had contributed to suppress a terrorist uprising launched against the government. It is not in keeping with the political culture that operates in Sri Lanka.

After the second JVP insurrection was suppressed, special legislation was enacted exonerating security forces and the police from all liabilities of excesses committed in the process of suppressing the rebellion. It was only after the change of government that some issues and allegations were investigated into at least to a certain extent. This reality is equally applicable to the Rajapaksa regime too.

If the Rajapaksa government is to be defeated, it should be done by the people of this country and not with any outside intervention. Like all the presidents who came to power after 1977, President Rajapaksa also seems to be an authoritarian leader, but he cannot be considered a dictatorial ruler. Though his appearance demonstrates a greater affinity to and inclination towards Sinhalese cultural milieu, he could be considered a leader who is pragmatic and exceptionally sensitive to the ethnic issue.

Yet, except for his dedication to the rapid progress and the economic development of the country, he does not seem to have displayed exceptional commitment or sensitivity towards promoting democracy, good governance, freedom of expression and thwarting corruption. Of the leaders who came to power after independence, Mahinda Rajapaksa could be described as the leader who had performed a greater volume of work for the development of the country. He is the most charismatic leader of the people of the country.

Consequences of any attempt to pound such a leader, pushing his back to the wall will not augur well particularly for Sri Lanka and the world in general as it might lead to crystallise his domineering spirit with Sri Lanka being pushed to an extreme end in the global political scenario.

(Victor Ivan is Editor-in-Chief of the Ravaya newspaper and author of 15 books.)

Will our diplomatic guerillas like Weerawansa and Ranawaka stage death fasts opposite the UN?

by Gamini Weerakoon

World Cup hysteria is over and now the Moon hysteria is in full swing in our resplendent isle. The mass media is letting go its full throated cry against the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon who handed over to our government the report of the three member panel appointed by him on alleged war crimes committed by Sri Lanka’s armed forces on civilians during the final phases of the war against LTTE terrorism.

People do not seem to be as intensively provoked as our politicians and the mass media — both state controlled and privately owned. Hysteria is being whipped up not only against the docile moon-faced Secretary General but also against the United Nations and Western leaders like President Barack Obama, Prime Minister David Cameron and Nicholas Sarkozy. The climax is being plotted to reach a frenzy on May Day at a massive rally where ‘patriotic’ Sri Lankans are expected to gather in massive numbers and give vent to their anger and patriotism.

Many phases of Moon

Certainly a great majority of Sri Lankans are justifiably furious with Ban Ki Moon and most Western leaders at the partisan manner in which they conducted themselves on vital occasions during the three decade period of terrorism.

But will our collective fury help us to clear the name of our country from the ignominious accusations heaped upon us? As claimed by the protestors even the sovereignty of the nation is being called into question.

What is our immediate objective in continuing with this hysteria? It is very unlikely that neither Ban Ki Moon nor the world leaders supporting him will be made to shelve the report of this panel on alleged abuses.

The recommendations made by this three member panel have grave implications.
Two of the main recommendations are:

* The Government of Sri Lanka immediately commences investigations into alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights committed by both sides involved in the armed conflict.

* Secretary General establishes an independent international mechanism, which will have a mandate to monitor and assess the extent to which Sri Lanka is carrying out an effective domestic accountability process including genuine investigations of the alleged violations and inform the Secretary General of its findings.

There are many other recommendations which would make Sri Lanka appear to be a client state with the Secretary General and his cohorts directing how this country should govern itself. The challenge is to get ourselves out of this mess without having the UN and its bureaucrats to be our overlords.

Lanka Centric

A primary challenge for Sri Lankans is to rid themselves of the newly acquired Sri Lanka centric mentality. In recent years we have been coming round to the view that the universe revolves around Sri Lanka, more particularly around the celestial abode, Temple Trees. The hard fact must be conceded that we are a part of a global system where international laws as well as domestic laws of civilized states have to be followed.

Even though President Mahinda Rajapaksa says ‘we are not small’ and wants us to think ‘big’ we are still a dot on planet Earth and are treated along with countries of similar size and power as Fiji, Rwanda, Dominican Republic, El Salvador. Thus, when the UN Secretary General wants the violation of human rights here investigated it is most likely to happen even though we once successfully met the challenge at Geneva. Our only hope is that Russia and China exercise their veto powers against Western sponsored moves for reasons of their own.

But the thinking on the streets of Colombo is that we are a mighty power. The other day we heard a radio blasting away: ‘Sri Lankawa puduma ratak. Api thrasthawadaya thaniyama sunn kala. Samahara loka balawathunta ewa karanda thawamath baa (Sri Lanka is a unique country. We defeated terrorism on our own. Some world powers are still unable to do so). A man on the street added: Ban Ki Moon ova danne nehe wage (As if Ban Ki Moon doesn’t know such things).

But what the Pavement Gemunus are unaware is that, when Moon first wanted to appoint a panel of inquiry, our Lankan greats told him to go jump off the topmost floor of the UN tower, but later sent a secret delegation to negotiate with him on the panel. Having accepted the appointment of the panel in an official way by meeting them in secret, can Sri Lanka, however ‘great’ it thinks it is, now reject the panel’s recommendations if they are accepted by Moon?

It has been argued that the appointment of the panel in question is invalid because it has not been sanctioned by the Security Council, the General Assembly nor the UN Human Rights Commission. We are not UN experts but we are told that that issue should have been sorted out at the very beginning and not after the panel has submitted its report.

However as the old adage goes, ‘Every cloud has a silver lining’. Cynics say ‘every coffin too has a silver lining’. The silver lining of this Ban Ki Moon hysteria is that all other crises that have peaked in the country now are forgotten much to the benefit of the Rajapaksa clique: Be it the Rs. 3 hike in bread or the right royal mess in the cricket. And every citizen has been told that it is his patriotic duty to oppose the imposition of human rights panel on Sri Lanka and stand by the Rajapaksa government. Some local government elections are due soon, according to sources.

But what of the recommendations of the human rights panel of Ban Ki Moon?

Will they disappear over the Galle Face horizon after the May Day rally?

Or will Sri Lanka’s diplomatic guerillas like Wimal Weerawansa and Champika Ranawaka stage fasts unto death opposite the UN headquarters?

In the alternative will Sri Lanka resort to old fashioned diplomacy by using respected personalities in the UN such as former Under Secretary General Jayantha Dhanapala and Justice C.G. Weeramantry?

COURTESY:THE SUNDAY LEADER

'Allegations against LTTE Must also be investigated' - Fr.Emmanuel

(The Sunday Leader’s Faraz Shauketaly spoke to Head of the Global Tamil Forum, Father Emmanuel, asking him to comment on the UN Advisory Panel Report. Excerpts:)

Q: What is your reaction to the UN Advisory Panel’s report to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon?

A: We have seen a leaked report. We are at the first stage. It is an opportunity to find out the truth and to start a process of true reconciliation. The Report advises that an enquiry be held to hold both the Sri Lankan Government and the Tigers accountable. There has been a lot of emotional reaction from both sides – the Sri Lanka government and the Tamils. We Tamils of course welcome the report as being an objective one. It is an attempt to find out and bring out the truth so that justice can be done and a true reconciliation process can begin.

Q: Do you think that a report such as this could be detrimental to the reconciliation process?

A: A true reconciliation process begins with finding out the truth. The Sri Lankan government has also said that it can be detrimental. Knowing the truth as far as we can is the start so that a real reconciliation process can start. Justice includes accountability on both sides and we are all for reconciliation that’s what we all want.

Q: Some say that by asking for this type of enquiry and reports, it is a case of sour grapes because the Tigers lost the battle. What do you say about that?

A: It is true that the battle was lost but that is not the end. Despite signs of victory euphoria there has been no signs of a real reconciliation process that includes justice and accountability. The people in the war zones are still suffering, the names of those under incarceration have not been released, there is colonisation going on – so the real reconciliation is not there.

Q: What can the government do to assuage the fears of these people and what exactly can they do?

A: For the last two years we have been watching closely what is happening at the ground level. The displaced have been promised many things but the delivery is not there. The displaced have not yet found their homes. Some are still in camps, surrendees are still inside without their names being released. There is small development taking place by the form of colonisation taking place.

Q: You are talking of colonisation in terms of the homes that are being built to house the Army?

A: Yes, there is an increased militarisation, they are making special permanent military camps even though they say the war is over.

Q: Have you yourself been back to Sri Lanka since the war ended?

A: No, the last time was soon after the tsunami of 2004. It is my home and I hope to be able to visit again soon.

Q: Do you really and truly believe not just from this Report but from first hand knowledge that there were war crimes committed by perhaps both the SL Army and the LTTE?

A: Yes, there is more and more evidence surfacing. We also have evidence. We are talking of credible allegations. The evidence must come out.

Q: Your evidence is of crimes committed by the armed forces? What about the claim made by the former MP from Mullaitivu who says that over 600 persons were killed by the LTTE?

A: Such allegations must be investigated. Justice demands that. We must find the whole truth, not just one side. It is wrong for the government to react from the one side, they must think of the Tamil side too. The LTTE too must be investigated.

Q: Is all this designed to discredit and to remove the President of Sri Lanka?

A: Not at all, this is not a personal issue, it is to do with the reconciliation process of the whole country. Justice and accountability and finding out the real truth from all sides.

COURTESY:THE SUNDAY LEADER

The Darusman (UN) Report was inevitable due to colossal failure by the Rajapaksas

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“The illusion of destiny extracts a remarkably heavy price”. — Amartya Sen (Identity and Violence)

The mysterious leaking in Colombo of the Darusman (UN) Report was accompanied by a carefully choreographed outbreak of patriotic-hysteria. The President, in a hyperbolic-excess, declared his willingness to brave the electric chair (unaware that capital punishment is rejected by the International Criminal Court!). He also indicated his desire to turn the UPFA May Day demonstration into an anti-UN melee (does this explain the timing of the leak?).

His brother, in a warning to India and the West, announced Sri Lanka’s willingness to seek protection by entering Chinese and Russian orbits. The various Rajapaksas acolytes are competing with each other in fear-mongering, as if the UN is amassing a mammoth-force to invade Sri Lanka, tomorrow.

This atmosphere of unreason and nonsense has obfuscated an important reality about the Darusman Report. While extremely critical of the conduct of the Rajapaksa regime, the Report also contains a scathing criticism of the LTTE. It charges the LTTE with “six core categories of potential serious violations: i) using civilians as a human buffer; (ii) killing civilians attempting to flee LTTE control; (iii) using military equipment in the proximity of civilians; (iv) forced recruitment of children; (v) forced labour; and (vi) killing of civilians through suicide attacks.”

Given this unequivocal critique of the LTTE, the Report cannot, logically, be called pro-Tiger. But, as the antithetical treatments meted out to war-hero Fonseka and Tiger-leader KP demonstrate, there is no limit to the illogical heights Rajapaksa-logic can scale, when in need. Exacerbating economic woes (flour and bread price-hikes are the latest) is eroding the feel-good factor created by the victorious conclusion of the war.

The regime needs new coagulants to prevent its Southern base from fissuring and the Darusman Report will play this cementing-role for a while. The Rajapaksas will use the Report to ignite a tidal-wave of phobic-patriotism in the Sinhala South, submerging dissent and drowning opponents. Thus the pretence that the Report is a conspiracy by ‘LTTE friendly foreign elements’ to destroy Sinhala-Buddhist Sri Lanka by persecuting its ‘sole’ defenders: the Rajapaksa Brothers.

Ironically, the TNA is assisting the Rajapaksa efforts to conceal the true nature of the Darusman Report. The TNA’s own response to the Report makes no mention of its severe critique of the LTTE. By tacitly consenting to the Tiger’s inhumane treatment of Tamils, the TNA failed its own people in an hour of desperate need. Therefore, acknowledging the Tiger abuses listed in the Darusman Report is, for the TNA, akin to a self-indictment.

Tamil politics cannot embark on a journey of democratic rejuvenation until a frank criticism/self-criticism is made of its Tiger past; the Darusman Report, an objective analysis by an impartial entity, is an ideal starting-point for such a journey. Unfortunately the TNA (and most of the Tamil Diaspora) seems to lack the courage to seize this opportunity. And in this failure, the TNA is, inadvertently, helping the Rajapaksas to falsely depict the Darusman Report as a pro-Tiger conspiracy and use it to further stifle dissent in the South and deny basic rights to the North.

The Darusman Report was made inevitable by a diabolical lie and a colossal failure on the part of the Rajapaksas. Wars, all wars, kill civilians. The only realistic solution is to take every conceivable measure to minimise civilian casualties and to apologise for them whenever they occur. But the Rajapaksas opted for a cynical policy of total denial; their zero-casualty lie was too preposterously absurd to be even marginally credible.

This was accompanied by a horrendous failure to credibly investigate even a single case of human rights violations; everywhere the regime repeatedly promised justice and accountability and delivered the opposite. Even these sins of omission and commission may have been overlooked by the world, had the regime not embarked on a Sinhala-supremacist course, post-war. But with the incarceration of more than 300,000 civilian Tamils in open prison camps, non-removal of the Emergency, non-implementation of the 17th Amendment and non-appearance of a political solution to the ethnic problem, international interest rekindled, paving the way to Darusman Report.

Two recent miscarriages of justice indicate that impunity is in the lifeblood of the Rajapaksas. The Attorney General famously withdrew charges against former parliamentarian Chandana Kathriarachchi for murder and current parliamentarian (and Monitoring MP for Defence Ministry) Duminda Silva for raping a minor; both are UPFA politicos. As the Chief Justice told the BBC, “it is wrong for the Attorney General to withdraw criminal charges filed against a suspect”. If this is the way justice is being dispensed in the Sinhala South, what hope is there that the Rajapaksas will deliver justice to the Tamil North?

The fate of the APRC, a domestic mechanism created by President Rajapaksa to design a political solution to the ethnic problem is relevant here. Whenever the APRC came up with a report, the President rejected it on some pretext. This charade was maintained until the war ended, after which the APRC was euthanized. Under Rajapaksa Rule, domestic mechanisms for justice do not work because the Family is addicted to impunity and obsessed with absolute, eternal power.

The regime’s melodramatic posturing about preventing war heroes from being dragged before international tribunals (is that different from incarcerating the pre-eminent war-hero and threatening to hang him?) are meant to hide another reality about the Darusman Report. Most of the recommendations it makes to the Lankan government (protecting Wanni civilians, investigating disappearances, removing Emergency and ensuring freedom etc) are not just unexceptionable; these are necessary for a for a consensual peace, a democratic future and to prevent the birth of a proto-Tiger entity. Moreover, by implementing some of these recommendations, immediately and dialoguing with the UN about the residue, Sri Lanka can evade the impending slippery-slope into a pariah-state, in the company of North Korea, Myanmar and Zimbabwe.

After listing the allegations against the LTTE, the Darusman Report opines: “All of this was done in a quest to pursue a war that was clearly lost; many civilians were sacrificed on the altar of the LTTE cause and its efforts to preserve its senior leadership.” The Tiger devoured Tamils to prolong the death-throes of its Eelam War by a few devastating days. Though a conciliatory response to the Darusman Report is possible, it will not happen, because the Rajapaksas are willing to ignite an unnecessary conflict with a powerful segment of the international community just to protect and strengthen their Familial Rule. The latest indication of the Rajapaksa determination to tighten their stranglehold on Lankan society is contained in an announcement by the Secretary to the Ministry of Higher Education: “Students who qualify for university education will have to undergo leadership training at a military establishment… (This) would come into effect from May 23….and it would be compulsory” (The Island – 21.4.2011).

Pirapaharan waged the Eelam War not to liberate Tamils but to enthrone himself. The Rajapaksas are committing Sri Lanka to a dangerous course of conflict to protect not national-sovereignty but Rajapaksa-sovereignty. Will we recover from the Rajapaksa-induced miasma of faux-patriotism in time to save Sri Lanka from the looming international-wilderness?

UN SG appointed panel call for a reversal if the 2009 Geneva resolution is in bad faith

By Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha

Perhaps the most startling revelation of bad faith in the report of the Panel appointed by the UN Secretary General is its repeated call for a reversal of the motion regarding Sri Lanka carried at the Human Rights Council in May 2009.

At one point the Report criticises the UN team in Colombo, in saying that ‘the public use of casualty figures would have strengthened the call for the protection of civilians while those events in the Wanni were unfolding’. The rationale for this claim follows immediately, when the panelists declare that following the end of war, the Human Rights Council may have been ‘acting on incomplete information when it passed its May 2009 resolution on Sri Lanka’.

In short, the main agenda of the panelists is to overturn that resolution, which rankled deeply with some countries accustomed to always having their own way in United Nations bodies. When a vast majority votes against them, they must have been wrong, so now the case has to be reopened with information provided when it cannot properly be checked.

What is more preposterous about this claim here is that the Report itself declares that ‘the High Commissioner for Human Rights publicly stated that 2,800 civilians may have been killed and more than 7,000 injured since 20 January’. What this means is that those with a particular mindset in the UN did use loaded information. Since this did not lead to the desired result, the UN in Colombo is blamed for not shouting louder. Those elements in the UN that were acting on a particular agenda did do their worst, and had a willing tool in Ms Pillay but, since her clarion call for blood was ignored at the Special Session, they now have to pretend that the member states were kept in ignorance.

I should add that I do not include Neil Buhne and several of his senior colleagues in the list of those with devious agendas, though we all understood the pressures they were under. When I had to discuss frankly with the OCHA head the efforts of the British to smuggle in a British military man for a position for which terms of reference were hastily changed, on the assumption I suppose that I would not notice, she was delightfully entertaining in trying to respond to my various objections. But when I asked her frankly whether she did not realise what I meant, she simply nodded sadly.

I say loaded information advisedly about what had been supplied to Ms Pillay, since the UN made it clear to us that they had doubts about the figures. This was I believe publicly expressed in New York too. That diffidence was because of the possibility that the figure given was too high, but now the Panel brazenly claims that the calculation could have been too low because it only ‘accounts for the casualties that were actually observed by the networks of observers who were operational in LTTE-controlled areas’.

I am not sure the government was aware of these networks, reporting direct it seems to the shady South African Chris du Toit. It would be good if our Ministry of External Affairs now called in the UN in Colombo and asked about these networks, and indeed found out more about du Toit himself. Meanwhile we are aware that the Panel’s current position is belied by the methodology du Toit laid out to Nishan Muthukrishna and me when the Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights called him in to explain the first extravagant figure that he began floating at the beginning of February.

He said then, with regard to the figure of I think 1000 in early February, doubled shortly afterwards, that he had put forward (and which was duly leaked), that there were three categories: direct observation by UN staff (which he admitted had led to a count of about 39 if I recollect right), eyewitness reports by others, though there was uncertainty about whether these were reliable sources, and finally what was described as extrapolation, which was assessments based on reports of incidents.

The methodology was never changed as far as we were informed, which is doubtless why the UN in Sri Lanka was wary about the figures. Given the financial improprieties discovered in the Security section of the UN, which swallowed up funds supposedly for humanitarian assistance, perhaps the UN in Colombo was wary of du Toit too

Interestingly enough, after I had first identified du Toit as the source of the initial figures that had been so swiftly put into the public domain, I was sent some items from a website called the Banking Forum one of which stated

‘I am Looking for any information on the following Persons , who are linked to a fraud committed in 2000….. DR Maarten Adriaan Schalekamp. Chris Du Toit.

Peter Filippinetti’ with a list of Directors and web sites to which they were linked..Web Sites:www.filippinetti.com

Another said

Peter Wolfgang Filippinetti is a co-director along with Paul Fraefel, Stephan Frischknecht in a registered company PETRALUS AG……In 1998 in South Africa AUSTRIAN Mr Peter Wolfgang Filippinetti operated in a similar International Scam / fraud with Mr J.H.LE ROUX an ex CCB Officer, Yunis Moosajee Mayet, Petrus Van Der Westhuizen and his known partners,NICO SHEFER, Dr Maarten Adriaan Schalekamp and ex RSA Diplomatic Intelligence officer Chris Du Toit a.k.a. Christoffel Petrus Du Toit, identified as a Current UNITED NATIONS EMPLOYEE as the UNDSS Country Advisor SRI LANKA. In 1998 Filippinetti and their group used the fraud / SCAM structured as the HIDDEN FORTUNES in GOLD, GEMSTONES and CURRENCY…..

All this may well have been investigated by the UN before they offered him a job in Sri Lanka (though again not, depending on what they wanted from him), but I believe we certainly should have been wary of allowing an ex-RSA Diplomatic Intelligence Officer from the bad old days to take charge of security in Sri Lanka. But those alas were days in which the Ministry of External Affairs was not very careful, and subsequently too I found that queries I raised were not followed up.

Anyway, du Toit did what he was expected to here. It was suggested that he was part of a group trying to build up a case against Sri Lanka, and this seems confirmed by the strange use of the word ‘networks’ with regard to the observers who reported to him. However, the excuse offered for his staying on in Mullaitivu was that he was trying to negotiate the release of the local UN staff and their families whom the LTTE was holding hostage. Needless to say, he was not successful.

Worse, his return was delayed day after day, with the LTTE seeming to agree to stop firing to let him and his colleague move, and then welshing on the agreement. This meant that, the Sri Lankan army having been asked to suspend hostilities, found that this had been in vain (and doubtless the LTTE had taken advantage of any lull to strengthen their own positions).

When this happened for the umpteenth time while he was with us (at a meeting at the Ministry of Rehabilitation and Disaster Relief Services, on January 28th), I asked Neil Buhne, the UNDP Head, whom I rather liked and trusted, though I felt he was in some awe of Du Toit, why they did not make public the double dealing of the LTTE. They would certainly make a song and dance if we did anything even remotely similar, to which his reply was, ‘But you guys wouldn’t…’ He paused, and I finished the sentence for him, ‘kill you’, which he seemed to grant though he did not say it himself.

Du Toit then, while ensuring that our progress was slowed down, was busy counting. However, under close questioning, he had to admit that, while there had been firing on areas near where he had been sleeping, he could not say with any certainty from which direction the firing had come. He had brought with him large pictures of craters caused by shells, and he took out one and said that was the only shot the direction of which they could be certain of, and that had come from the direction of the LTTE forces.

I think our close questioning held him at bay during the crucial period. But now it seems he is, at a safe distance, fulfilling his original purpose, in making claims as to his calculations of a very different sort to those he placed before us, when he could be subjected to close questioning.

Since obviously the figures were being conveyed to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2009, as her statement that March makes clear, it is bizarre that the Panel, while revealing this, makes contrary claims in what purports to be an executive summary.

But such intellectual dishonesty for political purposes is what sadly we have to expect from persons seeking excuses for the inexcusable.

April 22, 2011

Human rights violations in IDP camps after conflict ended

Extracts from report on Sri Lanka by advisory panel appointed by Ban Ki moon

2. Violations in the IDP Camps

(a) Arbitrary detention of IDPs in closed camps

154. Civilians emerging from the conflicts zone were initially housed in a network of 21 IDP sites spread across Jaffna, Mannar, Trincomalee and Vavuniya districts. Most were eventually sent to Menik Farm near Vavuniya, which at its peak, housed around 250,000 IDPs, making it one of the largest IDP sites in the world and one of the largest population centres in Sri Lanka.

155. Menik Farm and other IDP sites were closed camps, guarded by the military and surrounded by barbed wire. Essentially, the entire Vanni IDP population was detained and not allowed to leave. The Government held that the detention of the entire IDP population was necessary until the screening could be completed and the Vanni sufficiently cleared of landmines. Screening continued inside Menik Farm. Paramilitaries from former Tamil militant groups often wearing balaclavas, roamed around, often at night, outside the scrutiny of humanitarian organizations, to select and remove people they claimed had links to the LTTE.

156. At Menik Farm, severe restrictions prevented international organizations from doing protection work or speaking to the IDPs in private. ICRC initially had access to Menik Farm for a short period, but was soon excluded. The restrictions suggest an attempt by the Government to prevent those who came out of the conflict zone from relaying their experiences to international agencies and NGOs. The absence of external and independent monitoring also increased the vulnerability of IDPs to violations in the camp, including exposure of women without male relatives and unaccompanied children to sexual and other forms of violence.

157. Prior to the establishment of Menik Farm, international agencies, including the International Organization for Migration (IOM), UNHCR, UNICEF and others, debated amongst themselves about conditioning their provision of humanitarian assistance on the Government’s meeting international standards with regard to the camps. Several communications on the applicable standards were sent to the Sri Lankan Government by agencies, such as UNHCR, and by NGOs. However, when IDPs came out in larger numbers, the international agencies failed to take a common position on the pre-conditions. Many international agencies continued to provide assistance, in spite of the dramatically substandard conditions that prevailed at Menik Farm.

158. The detention of the IDP population lasted for months or in some cases, years. By December 2009, around 149,000 IDPs had been released, with another 135,000 remaining in the camps. By September 2010, the Government said it had released 242,741 IDPs, with 25,795 still waiting to be released.

(b) Inhumane camp conditions

159. While the Government referred to Menik Farm as a "welfare village" for IDPs, it was located in the middle of the jungle, without its own water source. After the large influx of IDPs in April and May 2009, conditions in Menik Farm were far below international standards. These conditions imposed additional unnecessary suffering and humiliation on civilians. New arrivals often had not eaten for days. While many persons suffered from depression, psychological support was not allowed by the Ministry of Social Services, and some IDPs committed suicide. Some died while awaiting passes to get basic medical treatment or died from preventable diseases.

160. Extreme overcrowding in the camps forced some people into unsafe living conditions. Provision for food, water, shelter and sanitation at Menik Farm was highly inadequate to cope with the large numbers of people who arrived in April and May. The shelters consisted of tarpaulins, which became very hot under the blazing sun. People had to wait many hours or sometimes an entire day for food and water. Food was of very poor quality and sometimes was served into bare hands, without plates.

161. Families were often grouped into tents with other families, to whom they were not related. In cases of families headed by women whose husbands were missing or dead, such practice made them vulnerable to abuse by unrelated men living in the same tent. The poor conditions provoked violence by IDPs against other IDPs, including sexual violence and exploitation, particularly considering the high number of women without male relatives and unaccompanied children. Women were not given sufficient privacy, and soldiers infringed on their privacy and dignity by watching them while they used the toilet or bathed. Some women were forced to perform sexual acts in exchange for food, shelter or assistance in camps.

162. While basic conditions at Menik Farm were inhumane, a Western Union (money transfer facility) soon opened, and thousands of people, many of them LTTE with connections among the Diaspora, were able to buy their way out of the camps by bribing the military. Conditions in Menik Farm did improve over time after much protest from the international community and threats from donors to cut off funding.

(c) Torture in detention

163. The CID and TID maintained units inside the camps in Menik Farm and conducted regular interrogations. Other individuals were also detained and interrogated for potential links to the LTTE, including the doctors, the AGA and two United Nations staff members. Some of them were tortured as well. The sounds of beating and screams could be heard from the interrogation tents. The UNHCR recorded at least nine cases of torture in detention. Some detainees were taken away and not returned.

3. Arbitrary detention of suspected LTTE

164. During the screening process, the SLA removed those suspected of being LTTE members to separate detention facilities at Boossa and Omanthai, generally under the Prevention of Terrorism Act or the Emergency Regulations. In many cases the SLA did not provide family members with notification for the detention of their relatives; neither did it identify the criteria by which it was identifying suspected LTTE. According to Government figures provided to the Panel, as of September 2010, a total of 11,696 persons who "initially surrendered… are accounted for and are being processed", although this number cannot be independently verified, as the Government has refused to allow independent oversight by the United Nations, ICRC or the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission. The tally includes people who did not take part in fighting or who were only recruited in the final weeks or days. Among them, according to the Government’s figures, were 594 children. Initially children were housed with the adults, but were registered by UNICEF; later they were moved to separate child rehabilitation centres. However, many of these were in the south of Sri Lanka, which made family visits difficult.

165. Detainees would be questioned in detail about their links with the LTTE. Some would then be transferred to "Protective Accommodation and Rehabilitation Centres" (PARCs), under the authority of the Commissioner-General for Rehabilitation. This office, established in 2006 under Emergency Regulations, exercises power to detain a "surrendee" upon order of the Defence Secretary for up to two years, for the purpose of "rehabilitation". The Commissioner-General decides the nature of the rehabilitation in individual cases, and the programme does not comply with international frameworks for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration. While it is known to include vocational training (as selected by the Government), official rehabilitation also includes a psychological component where "surrendees" are "reformed". According to the September 2010 figures provided to the Panel by the Government, "approximately 6,500" alleged ex-combatants were undergoing "short term" rehabilitation, "around 3,500" were undergoing term rehabilitation", and "less than 1,500" were identified as "hard core" LTTE and designated for prosecution.

166. The Government submitted documents to the Panel which stated that 5,809 "rehabilitees" had been "reintegrated", that is, released as of 8 February 2011, with a further 4,581 undergoing "rehabilitation" under the authority of the Commissioner-General for Rehabilitation in nine different PARC detention facilities. This suggests 1,306 alleged LTTE suspects are still retained in closed detention facilities for criminal investigation and prosecution.

167. There is virtually no information about the conditions at these separate LTTE "surrendee" sites, due to a deliberate lack of transparency by the Government. The fact that interrogations and investigations as well as "rehabilitation" activities have been ongoing, without any external scrutiny for almost two years, rendered alleged LTTE cadre highly vulnerable to violations such as rape, torture or disappearance, which could be committed with impunity.

G. Other allegations

168. In addition to the credible allegations discussed above, the Panel has been presented with a number of other allegations, about which it was unable to reach a conclusion regarding their credibility. Due to their potentially serious nature, these allegations should also be investigated.

1. Allegations of the use of cluster munitions or white phosphorus

169. There are allegations that the SLA used cluster bomb munitions or white phosphorus or other chemical substances against civilians, particularly around PTK and in the second NFZ. Accounts refer to large explosions, followed by numerous smaller explosions consistent with the sound of a cluster bomb. Some wounds in the various hospitals are alleged to have been caused by cluster munitions or white phosphorus. The Government of Sri Lanka denies the use of these weapons and, instead, accuses the LTTE of using white phosphorus.

2. The "White Flag" incident

170. Various reports have alleged that the political leadership of the LTTE and their dependents were executed when they surrendered to the SLA. In the very final days of the war, the head of the LTTE political wing, Nadesan, and the head of the Tiger Peace Secretariat Pulidevan, were in regular communication with various interlocutors to negotiate surrender. They were reportedly with a group of around 300 civilians. The LTTE political leadership was initially reluctant to agree to an unconditional surrender, but as the SLA closed in on the group in their final hideout, Nadesan and Pulidevan, and possibly Colonel Ramesh, were prepared to surrender unconditionally. This intention was communicated to officials of the United Nations and of the Governments of Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as to representatives of the ICRC and others. It was also conveyed through intermediaries to Mahinda, Gotabaya and Basil Rajapaksa, former Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona and senior officers in the SLA.

171. Both President Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Basil Rajapaksa provided assurances that their surrender would be accepted. These were conveyed by intermediaries to the LTTE leaders, who were advised to raise a white flag and walk slowly towards the army, following a particular route indicated by Basil Rajapaksa. Requests by the LTTE for a third party to be present at the point of surrender were not granted. Around 6.30 a.m. on 18 May 2009. Nadesan and Pulidevan left their hide-out to walk towards the area held by the 58th Division, accompanied by a large group, including their families. Colonel Ramesh followed behind them, with another group. Shortly afterwards, the BBC and other television stations reported that Nadesan and Pulidevan had been shot dead. Subsequently, the Government gave several different accounts of the incident. While there is little information on the circumstances of their death, the Panel believes that the LTTE leadership intended to surrender.

(The above extracts are from pages 44-48 of the report on Sri Lanka by the advisory panel appointed by UN Secretary -General Ban Ki moon)

The “See-Saw” battle between the UN SG and the SL Govt

Report on Sri Lanka by the Ban-Ki-moon advisory Panel – 2

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Continued from last week

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A diplomatic tussle is going on at present between the United Nations Secretary –General (UNSG) and the Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa over the release of the report compiled by the three-member advisory panel appointed by Ban Ki moon. This is not a fresh development but only an extension of the “cold war” that has been continuing ever since Ban Ki moon visited Sri Lanka in May 2009 after the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was concluded. [click to read in full ~ on dbsjeyaraj.com]

Report release put on hold pending discussion between Ban-Ki-moon and G.L. Peiris scheduled for April 23rd

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

A one to one discussion has been scheduled for Saturday April 23rd between United Nations Secretary – General(UN SG) Ban KI moon and Sri Lankan External affairs minister Prof.Gamini Lakshman Peiris.

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It is learnt that the release of the report on Sri Lanka by the three member advisory panel appointed by Ban Ki moon has been put on hold pending the outcome of the pow –wow between the UNSG and Prof.Peiris.

Earlier the report was to be formally released on Thursday April 21st. It has now been delayed.

Informed sources in Colombo said that Ban Ki moon had agreed to put the report release on hold due to a specific request made by Prof.GL Peiris. The external affairs minister had urged the UNSG not to release the report until the issue is discussed in depth with him. [click here to read in full ~ dbsjeyaraj.com]

April 21, 2011

Sri Lankan Govt had no hand in leaking UN advisory panel report to media says GL Peiris

By Dianne Silva

The government yesterday said that the publishing of the report by the United Nations Panel of Experts would seriously harm the UN system. "The consequences to the UN by publishing the report are far from fortunate. The publishing of the report will inflict even greater damage on the UN system than for Sri Lanka. The UN is based on principles and this action compromises on these core values," External Affairs Minister G.L Peries said.

Speaking to the media the Minister said the publishing of the report was fundamentally wrong. "It is wrong to publish this report or take any steps based on the findings or recommendations of this report," he said.

The Minister questioned the purpose of publishing a report that was sanctioned for an advisory purpose alone.

If this Panel was set up to advise the Secretary General then what need is there to make it public?" he questioned.

He further charged that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was "transforming" the mandate of the body from an advisory one to an investigative one. "It was stated on six different occasions by the Secretary General that this Panel was a purely advisory one, why is it now being twisted to take on a role outside its mandate," the Minister said.

The Minister also reiterated the government stance that the Panel was not one sanctioned by the UN but rather a personal appointment by the Secretary General for advisory purposes. "The panel has overstepped its mandate and is not a formal UN body," he said. He also refuted claims that the report had been forwarded to the Security Council.

When asked whether the UN had granted the government an opportunity to reply the Minister said that formulating a reply was an arduous task. "This report has been seven months in the making, how are we to reply to a 200 page document in a matter of days," he asked. The Minister said a panel comprising of three former Secretaries of the Ministry of External Affairs had been appointed to look into the matter.

He informed the media that a briefing of the diplomatic community had been held last morning to inform them of the government's stance.

The Minister refused to comment on contents of the report or to clarify whether four members of the government had met with members of the UN Panel of Experts in New York.

Prof. Peries also claimed that the Sri Lankan government had no hand in leaking the report to the media. "This would be contrary to our self-interest. I am here asking them not to publish the report so what purpose would it serve us to have it made public" he questioned.

He further reiterated that the UN should allow for the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission to be allowed to fulfil its mandate by May this year.

"Will the release of this report build national unity in the country and further our process of reconciliation? These are the needs of the hour and the report will not serve any of these purposes, rather it will work contrary to these aims," he said.

Peries said the report such as the Goldstone report on Gaza had been retracted by the author himself for being erroneous and drew parallels between this occurrence and Sri Lanka. ~ courtesy: The Daily Mirror ~

Act with restraint in responding to UN SG advisory panel report - Friday Forum

Former Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala on behalf of 'Friday Forum', a collective of concerned citizens calls upon all parties to act with restraint in responding to the Secretary General of the United Nations over the UN advisory committee report.

Full text of the statement:

The Friday Forum is deeply concerned over the initial reactions to the leaked sections of the report of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon's Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka both within Sri Lanka and abroad.

A full and fair assessment of the report has necessarily to await the official release of the entire report. This will indicate whether the Panel has exceeded its mandate of advising the UN Secretary General "on the issue of accountability with regard to any alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka". It may also help clarify how state sovereignty and the applicability of international norms on human rights and humanitarian law can be reconciled in this instance. There may be substance of the report we disagree with but also substance that will be worth engaging, and we as citizens of Sri Lanka need to engage in a constructive manner with the report in the best interest of our fellow citizens.

We call upon all parties to exercise restraint and refrain from violent speech and action. The durability of the hard won peace in Sri Lanka after three decades of bitter conflict and the enormous task of reconciliation, rehabilitation and development can only be set back by a confrontational situation involving the Government of Sri Lanka, the UN Secretary General, various groups within Sri Lanka and within the International community.

Emotional wounds suffered during the conflict can be exacerbated by extreme nationalist reactions on the one hand and clumsy external intervention on the other. We urge the government to exercise maximum restraint and effective diplomacy and dialogue in responding to the Secretary General of the United Nations.

The Government of Sri Lanka appointed the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission last year and the Friday Forum, collectively and through individual members, has been pleased to co-operate with it in fulfilling its tasks.

We earnestly appeal to all concerned to await the final report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission so that all possibilities are kept open for national processes for reconciliation, truth and justice to unfold consistent with the highest standards of human rights and international humanitarian law.

Let us challenge reactionary Mahinda regime on May Day

By Dr.Vickramabahu Karunaratne

We are happy to see that this May Day has become a day to challenge the Oppression of Mahinda state. Many strong trade unions have come together to challenge the chauvinist pro global capitalist government.

Government is implementing IMF dictates. Salaries are cut while taxes have increased. Under the pretext of giving a pension to the private sector, the government is planning to rob from EPF and ETF accumulations.

While people are thrown out from urban houses land is given to the rich.

People are driven away from their traditional land made destitute. Even after two years Tamil people are displaced and miserable. Political prisoners are many a time not allowed even to see their kith and kin.

Without what happened to the disappeared not even religious rites could be completed. Tradition and culture has become a prohibited subject. Autonomy for Tamil homeland is still a dream.

All these are done making use of emergency powers and the dictatorial presidential powers. In the mean time the government is using the Ban Ki Moon Report exposer of war crimes to arouse chauvinist feelings. Mahinda is preparing to make the May Day a blood thirsty chauvinist campaign day.

Attempt is to blanket the real issues faced by the workers.

In that context the decision of powerful array of trade unions, to come out to challenge the government on workers and democratic issues is remarkable.

We have decided to participate in this May Day and support it to make it massive success. We appeal to all our members and supporters and all progressive working people to rally round to defeat the attempt of the IMF led government to make the May Day, a chauvinist black day. All should come with respective trade union banners to Fort railway premises at 1 pm on May Day to march to Hyde Park to attend the rally at 4 pm.

Rape, execution, detention and disappearances in the Wanni during the Govt - LTTE war

Extracts from the report on Sri Lanka by the advisory panel appointed by Ban Ki moon

F. Credible allegations relating to events outside the conflict zone and in the aftermath

138. The plight of civilians who had survived the conflict in the Vanni did not end when they entered Government-controlled areas.

In spite of Government pronouncements that it was ready to receive a mass exodus of civilians from the Vanni as early as January 2009, the Government failed to prepare adequately for the time when large numbers did emerge and then had trouble coping. In general, the Government gave priority to security considerations over the humanitarian needs and well-being of the IDPs.

139. When they emerged from the conflict zone, many civilians were fearful of the reception they would receive. They were severely traumatized and exhausted as a consequence of their recent experience. Many of them were newly widowed, orphaned or disabled. Tens of thousands of IDPs had conflict-related injuries with at least 2,000 amputees among them. The situation, as large numbers exited was chaotic and many family members were separated from each other. In the process, many families were divided and placed in separate camps; provision for family tracing and reunification was inadequate, and the ICRC was not authorised to play a role in this regard.

140. Family separation left many women on their own and vulnerable to sexual violence. Pregnant or lactating women had suffered from lack of adequate nutrition, medical care, and enormous psychological strain while in the conflict zone. Forced recruitment of children also took a heavy toll on mothers.

141. The conflict took a particular toll on the young. Children as young as 14 had been the target of forced recruitment by the LTTE. Measures to avoid recruitment, including early marriages, had a detrimental impact on the health of young girls. In addition, thousands of children suffered violations such as killing and maiming due to the shelling. Some were killed because they had ventured out of the bunker to play. Children were particularly vulnerable to horrific injuries as shrapnel ripped at their small limbs. A Rapid Nutrition Assessment showed that around 25 per cent of children suffered from acute malnutrition.

142. Many children suffered from the adverse psychological impact of multiple displacements. Many had lost their parents, emerging unaccompanied and were not registered. Most children were malnourished, and many babies suffered from dehydration or diarrhea.

143. Likewise, the elderly were particularly affected by the conflict. In the multiple displacements, the elderly and others who could no longer walk, were often left behind. Some were abandoned when their relatives fled. Others had nobody to care for them in the IDP camps and died of neglect, exhaustion and preventable diseases.

1. Violations during the screening process

144. On leaving the Vanni and arriving in the Government-controlled areas at Vadduvahal Bridge and other locations, survivors of the armed conflict surrendered to the SLA. Incoming civilians were separated into different groups. First, the SLA generally strip-searched and checked them for weapons and explosives. Laptops and cameras (for the few that had them) were confiscated by security forces, leading to the loss of valuable information. People were then transferred, often by foot, to initial screening sites set up in places such as Kilinochchi Pulmoddai and Padaviya. At these sites, the SLA called those who had been associated with the LTTE, even for a day, to identify themselves and surrender, and promised vocational training and employment abroad for those who did. Instead, those identified as LTTE were taken to separate camps. A significant number of suspected LTTE were women and children.

145. In addition, the Government used former LTTE cadres from the Karuna faction or People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) to identify suspected LTTE cadre who were separated and taken to other locations. The Government purposefully prevented international humanitarian agencies from accessing the initial screenings sites.

146. After this initial screening, surviving civilians were transported to a further screening site at Omanthai. Although men and women were screened separately, as part of the screening process, people were generally forced to strip naked causing humiliation and increased vulnerability, particularly among women and girls. Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and ICRC had some access to Omanthai, but were not allowed to interview people in private. After July 2009, the ICRC was excluded altogether.

147. Civilians in need of medical attention were transferred to hospitals in Vavuniya or the clinic staffed by Indian doctors at Pulmoddai. Vavuniya Hospital was overflowing with patients, leading to early discharges, and all patients were closely guarded by the SLA and subject to interrogation by police investigators (Criminal Investigation Department, CID, or Terrorist Investigation Department, TID). Some patients disappeared from the hospitals.

148. In particular, the screening process resulted in cases of executions, disappearances, and rape and sexual violence.

(a) Execution

149. Authenticated footage and numerous photographs indicate that certain LTTE cadres were executed after being taken into custody by the SLA. Photographs available to the Panel show many dead bodies of cadres (or possibly civilians), some with their hands tied behind their back. On 25 August 2009, the UK-based Channel 4 News released video footage, which showed the summary execution by Sri Lankan soldiers of several prisoners with their hands tied behind their backs. The prisoners in the footage are naked and blindfolded. They are kicked and forced to cower in the mud before being shot in the head at close range. The film shows several other prisoners who appear to have been killed earlier. A second film of the same scene, also released by Channel 4, on 2 December 2010. pans out over the landscape, showing the bodies of a number of other naked and executed prisoners, male and female. Among them are a young boy and a woman, the woman has been identified as a well-known LTTE- media anchor known as "Isaipriya". Notably, lsaipriya is listed on the Defence Ministry website as killed on 18 May 2009 in a "hostile operation" by the 53rd Division. The extended video shows the faces of some of the soldiers and shows persons filming the scene with cell phones.

150. Photographs that appear to be taken before the executions show what appears to be the boy, sitting in a group of prisoners, who were alive, with their hands tied behind their back. The persons in the photograph are clearly terrified. When first detained by the SLA, some suspected LTTE cadre were also tortured. Photographs show bodies with signs of torture; a video shows a young man who has been tied to a tree and is covered in blood. He later appears dead, lying in a grave covered by a Tiger flag.

(b) Disappearances

151. The Government has not provided a public registration of persons at screening sites or Omanthai, neither did it allow international organisations to monitor the process. This makes it difficult to trace persons. During hearings by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), a number of women gave accounts of how their husbands or relatives were taken from them when they first entered the Government-controlled area and that they have not been seen since and to date, the Government has not confirmed their whereabouts.

At least 32 submissions made to the Panel alleged disappearances in May 2009, some of them dealing with groups of persons rather than individuals. Many of these were persons who had surrendered to the SLA.

(c) Rape and sexual violence

152. Rape and sexual violence against Tamil women during the final stages of the armed conflict and, in its aftermath, are greatly under-reported. Cultural sensitivities and associated stigma often prevented victims from reporting such crimes, even to their relatives.

Nonetheless, there are many indirect accounts reported by women of sexual violence and rape by members of Government forces and their Tamil-surrogate forces, during and in the aftermath of the final phases of the armed conflict.

153. Many photos and video footage, in particular the footage provided by Channel 4, depict dead female cadre. In these, women are reportedly shown naked or with underwear withdrawn to expose breasts and genitalia. The Channel 4 images, with accompanying commentary in Sinhala by SLA soldiers, raise a strong inference that rape or sexual violence may have occurred, either prior to or after execution. One video shows SLA soldiers loading the naked bodies of dead (or nearly dead) women onto a truck in a highly disrespectful manner, in one case, stomping on the leg of a woman who appears to be moving. Rapes of suspected LTTE cadre are also reported to have occurred, when they were in the custody of the Sri Lankan police (CID and TID) or the SLA. International agencies also recorded instances of rape in the IDP camps, but the military warned IDPs not to report cases of rape to the police or to humanitarian actors.

(The above extracts are from pages 41 -44 of the report on Sri Lanka by the advisory panel appointed by UN Secretary - General Ban Ki moon)

The three stooges of Ban-Ki-moon and character certificate by the Tamil National Alliance

By S.L. Gunasekara

IF Mahinda Rajapaksa had heeded the ‘demands’ (couched as requests) made by Moon, Clinton, Miliband and Kouchner etc and declared a ceasefire while we were on the point of victory, the terrorist Prabhakaran would still have been alive and terrorism would have thrived in the country.


IF Mahinda Rajapaksa had heeded those demands:-

i. civilians of all races, ages and genders would have continued to be dismembered by bombs and explosive devices placed in buses, trains and crowded city centres;

ii. little Tamil children resident in the North and East would have continued to be kidnapped by the Tigers for use, inter alia, as canon fodder;

iii. those Tamil and Muslim civilians resident in the North and East who displayed any kind of dissent to or in respect of the LTTE would have been continued to be murdered;

iv. the hard earned money of Tamil civilians resident in the North and East would have continued to be extorted from them by the Tigers;

v. Tamil civilians resident in the Northern and Eastern Provinces would have had no freedom of movement, of speech or any other freedom to which they and all other citizens of the Country are by law entitled;

vi. the Tamil and Muslim civilians living in areas controlled by the LTTE would have continued to be subjected to a rule more repressive than any experienced by any segment of our populace in any part of our Country at any point of time in our history;

vii. the Tamil National Alliance, and in particular its leadership, which sought and continues to seek to distance itself from the Tigers ever since their defeat, would have continued to praise the Tigers to curry favour with them and to hail them as being the sole representatives of the Tamils thereby representing to one and all that Tamils are and can only be represented by a gang of ruthless murderers and thugs.

FORTUNATELY, Mahinda Rajapaksa did not heed those unconscionable demands of the West but only the best interests of the People of this Country of all races, ages and genders. In short, he snubbed the West and their puppet Moon and continued to combat terrorism and restored peace in our land. Hence, the appointment by Moon of his panel of his own "Three Stooges".

IF Mahinda Rajapaksa had been so stupid and/or so timorous as to heed those demands as his pusillanimous predecessors would have done, terrorism would have continued to thrive in this country and civilians as well as unarmed solders, sailors and airmen on their way home on leave and while returning from leave would have continued to be slaughtered willy nilly according to the whims and fancies of the terrorists for an open ended period, as they are being slaughtered in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Gaza, Libya, Syria and Yemen which were all ‘blessed’ with the ‘bounties’ of Western interference.

Had terrorism continued to thrive in this country and civilians and unarmed soldiers, sailors and airmen continued to be slaughtered, the puppet Moon would not have appointed his panel of "Three Stooges". The West would have been satisfied that Sri Lanka was no better than any of those countries where they had interfered resulting in endless loss.

Moon’s panel was clearly and indisputably a first step in the revenge of the West against Sri Lanka for the well deserved snub they got from Mahinda Rajapaksa as well as from the Human Rights Commission of the United Nation at a later stage. It is the revenge of the West against Sri Lanka for having been successful in ridding this country of terrorism when they have failed in every such endeavour.

It is the revenge of the West for their successive failures which were shown up by our magnificent success. It is no doubt the desire of the West to further this revenge by using some stratagem to persecute the President and the Commanders and other Senior Officers of the Armed Forces for having been successful in defeating terrorism. It is the duty of one and all to stand behind and defend those targeted by the scheming West and their puppet Moon. Let us not forget that the TNA did support the candidacy of General Sarath Fonseka for the post of President.

Despite having so extended its support to General Fonseka, in the immediate wake of the issue of the report of Moon’s "Three Stooges", the one time lackey and stooge of the LTTE, the Tamil National Alliance lost no time in according to the report of the ‘Three Stooges’ a character certificate full and overflowing with the use of the hyperbole and the type of filthy insults to Sri Lanka that their former masters, the LTTE, were accustomed to hurling at us.

It is pertinent at this stage to delve, albeit briefly, into the history of the TNA, when assessing the value of those accolades. While the LTTE kept kidnapping Tamil children, extorting the hard earned money of Tamil civilians and committing theft and burglary of food, drugs and medicines sent by the government for the civilians of the Northern and Eastern Provinces, the TNA breathed not one word against them or on behalf of the affected Tamil civilians. They only attacked the government for fighting those oppressors of the Tamil civilians, while protecting and praising the Tigers who oppressed those civilians and robbed them of what was being sent for them.

When the Tigers murdered members of other Tamil groups such as the EPDP and the EPRLF in cold blood, the TNA sought to justify those murders. They never breathed a whimper of protest when the Tigers suppressed all the democratic rights of the Tamil people living under their thrall and even refused to permit the veteran Tamil politician V Anandasangary to cast his vote.

The TNA though posing and claiming to be the elected representatives of the Tamil civilians in parliament, were in fact only the representatives of the Tiger terrorists who oppressed the Tamil civilians and not of those civilians. In short, they represented the oppressors of the Tamils and not the oppressed.

The TNA was well "rewarded" for their treachery. Many of them became quite at home in foreign capitals wherein they got free board and lodging in return for defaming Sri Lanka in foreign climes. Indeed, there was a time when more Members of Parliament of the TNA were out of the country than in.

Despite many of their leaders including A. Amirthalingam, Neelan Thiruchelvam and A Thangadorai having been murdered in cold blood by the Tigers, they never ever had a single commemorative meeting for any of those past leaders or even mentioned their names in any connection. While those leaders were alive they fawned on them and tried to get what they could out of them.

Getting a "character certificate" from the TNA can only be a likened unto a person applying for a job armed with a character certificate from the synthetic ‘doctor’ Mervin Silva - for such a certificate would only damn the bearer thereof irretrievably rather than enhance his chances of acceptance. There can be no doubt that if there be any person whomsoever who was so obtuse as to think that there was some modicum of substance, bona fides or merit in the report of "Three Stooges", he would have had his mind completely disabused of such a fantasy upon reading the character certificate given to that report by the vermin called the TNA.

For that much we must thank the TNA. But at the same time, the character certificate given by the TNA to the rantings of Moon’s "Three Stooges" places beyond all manner of doubt the fact that they are not for this Country but against this Country as they have been all these years. This raises the question why does the government continue to engage with them and have discussions with them ???

The TNA and its leaders in particular, should be ostracised not only by the leaders of the country and by all political forces in it but by all civilians as well. – for they never ever had the interests of the Tamil, Sinhala or Muslim people at heart. All they wanted was to feather their own nests as they have done in the past, and to gain political power for the sake of enjoying the perceived fruits of that power. Let the government and political parties even at this stage take heed of this fact and avoid the TNA like the plague in all matters.

Proceeding from that garbage dump to another, let us now consider for a moment the validity of report of the three stooges. I will content myself in this instance with two matters. Firstly we must remember that Ban Ki-moon had and has no authority whatsoever over Sri Lanka which is governed by those elected by the people of this Country to do so. Ban Ki-moon is not a member of that government. He is simply a foreigner who holds a big job temporarily in an international organisation. He had no power or authority whatsoever to appoint his stooges to inquire into any matter pertaining to Sri Lanka.

The so called "war" with the LTTE" was in fact an operation by which the government sought, successfully, as was its duty, to suppress and overcome a gang of underworld criminals called the Tigers. It was a ‘crime busting’ operation to save the lives of civilians now living and to be born in future. That was entirely an internal matter. It was not a matter for Moon, for Miliband, for Kouchener, for Clinton, for Cameron, for Carl Bildt, for Obama, for Sarkozy or any other person/persons whomsoever. It was solely a matter for us. Hence, Moon, who never thought of appointing any panel whatsoever to inquire into the horrendous breaches of all kinds of humanitarian laws by the United States of America at, inter alia, Guantanamo Bay, had not the remotest semblance of a fraction of a right to appoint any body to inquire into our affairs which are our business and ours alone.

The appointing authority of these "Three Stooges" having been without power to appoint such a panel, the panel itself was wholly illegitimate and nothing whatsoever can in law flow from the purported findings of those "Three Stooges".

The second factor of importance is that while there is peace in Sri Lanka which snubbed the West, there are daily terrorist bombings and other murders of civilians in those countries where the West did actually interfere, such as Iraq, Afganistan, Gaza, Syria, Yemen and Libya.

Had we been unsuccessful, nobody would have cared, but since we were successful they who have suffered failure upon failure are jealous and want their revenge. Hence, the panel of "Three Stooges" and their report.

The report of the "Three Stooges" have made manifest the fact that we are today faced with hostile foreign foes from the West. The TNA has characteristically thrown in its lot with those foreign foes. It behooves the rest of the populace of this Country to unite as we have never been united before to defeat the intentions of those foes. It behooves all political parties and civilians to forget our differences and throw in their weight behind the Government.

The Government including Mahinda Rajapaksa is by no means perfect – no, not by a `long shot’. The faults of our leader Mahinda Rajapakse and his Government are legion, and would take too long to catalogue. However, those are as nothing compared to the dangers faced by us from foreign interference. To combat that we must be together and speak with one voice and one alone, condemning out of hand the interference of foreigners in our internal affairs and their impertinence in getting Moon’s "Three Stooges" to submit their purported report.

Sri Lankan Government requests UN not to release the panel of experts report

Department of Government Information, Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan Government has requested the UN not to make its panel of experts report public as it is wrong and unacceptable, External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris told the media in Colombo today.

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Schoolchildren in Sri Lanka have been signing petitions against the public release of the UN's report [Reuters] via ALJazeera

Mr. Peiris also rejected the allegation of Sri Lanka leaked the UN Panel of Expert report to a local media. The minister queried as to why Sri Lanka should leak it when the Government of Sri Lanka had already requested the UN not to make it (the Panel Report) public.

The Government of Sri Lanka had already rejected the report when it was handed to it as fundamentally flawed and patently biased.


“The report is flawed in his entirety” reiterated Mr Peiris

AlJazeera Video ~ People & Power: 'Both the government and Tamil Tigers are to blame'

A UN panel has found that the allegations against both sides - the Govt of Sri Lanka & LTTE are credible saying they may have committed serious violations of humanitarian law.

As Juliana Ruhfus and Dom Rotheroe have been finding out, unless and until the truth is established, a final reconciliation in Sri Lanka may prove impossible.

Some of the images in their film are deeply disturbing.

This episode of People & Power can be seen from Wednesday, April 20, at the following times GMT: Wednesday: 2230; Thursday: 0930; Friday: 0330; Saturday: 1630; Sunday: 2230; Monday: 0930.

The charge against the Govt of reducing number of Wanni civilians in estimates

Extracts from report on Sri Lanka by advisory panel appointed by Ban Ki moon

D. Disputing IDP figures as a basis to deny humanitarian assistance

124. Throughout the final stages of the armed conflict, particularly from January to May 2009, the Government downplayed the number of civilians present in the LTTE controlled area, using the low estimates to restrict the amount of humanitarian assistance that could be provided, especially food and medicine.

125. At the outset of the final phase, on 13 January 2009, the Government website reported that, according to independent verifications, the number of civilians in the Vanni was between 150,000 and 250,000. The United Nations estimate at the time was 250,000 (although its subsequent estimates were higher). Later in January 2009, the Ministry of Defence said that the number of civilians present in the Vanni was between 75,000 and 100,000, "on a high estimate", However, the Government had more than sufficient information at its disposal during the final stages of the armed conflict to accurately estimate the actual number of civilians in the Vanni. Each month the GAs continued to collate data on IDPs in order to make requests for dry rations from WFP. Prior to September 2008, numbers compiled by the GAs of Mullaittivu and Kilinochchi indicated that there were around 420,000 people in the LTTE-controlled areas at that time. While these numbers may have been inflated, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates of school children registered in the Vanni were 70,000, which was approximately the same as to the Government’s estimate for the IDP population.

126. The subsequent numbers given by the Ministry of Defence varied, but in general they were deliberately kept low, and some Government employees working in the zone were reprimanded, when they provided other figures or different calculations of need. For instance, on 2 February 2009, the AGA based in the second NFZ sent a situation report to the Ministry of Public Administration and Home Affairs stating that there were about 81,000 families present in Mullaitivu District at that time, totaling some 330,000 persons. However, on 18 March, the AGA received a response from the Secretary of the Ministry of National Building and Estate Infrastructure Development, stating that the figure of 330,000 was "arbitrary and baseless" and that the Government would be "reluctantly compelled" to take disciplinary action against him for providing "wrong information to any source especially in regard to IDP figures".

127. At the end of February 2009, the United Nations Country Team informed the Government that, in its view, there were 267,618 civilians present in the LTTE controlled area, basing the estimate, in part, on UNOSAT Quickbind and Worldview satellite images, used to count the number of IDP shelters. At the end of April, United Nations estimates were that 127,177 civilians still remained trapped, whereas the Government said there were only 10,000 persons left at the time. The number of IDPs who eventually emerged from the area and were housed at Menik Farm and in other camps was approximately 290,000. The discrepancy in these figures has not been adequately explained by the Government.

128. As a result of the Government’s low estimates, the food delivered by WFP to the Vanni was a fraction of what was actually needed, Resulting in widespread malnutrition, including cases of starvation. Similarly, the medical supplies allowed into the Vanni were grossly inadequate to treat the number of injuries incurred by the shelling. Given the types of injuries sustained in the second NFZ, the doctors requested medical supplies such as anaesthetics, blood bags for transfusion, antibiotic, surgical items, gloves and disinfectant. Only a small quantity of these items was allowed into the Vanni. Instead, they received items such as Panadol, allergy tablets and vitamins.

As the casualty figures rose in March 2010, the absence of the needed medical supplies imposed enormous suffering and unnecessarily cost many lives. The RDHS doctors repeatedly spoke out about the inadequacy of medical supplies, in letters and televised interviews. They also compiled and communicated photographs and lists of the names of the injured and dead. They were warned by the Ministry of Health to stop speaking to the media and stop complaining, or be punished." Drs Sathyamoothy and Varatharajah forwarded a report, "Undue Deaths due to Non-Availability of Essential Drugs at Mullaittivu", to the Government on 16 March, stating:

"Most of the hospital deaths could have been prevented if basic infrastructure facilities and essentials medicines were made available. We have been supplied with no antibiotics. no anaesthetics and not even a single bottle of IV fluid, leaving us in a desperate situation of not being able to provide even lifesaving emergency surgery."

129. On 19 March 2009, the Secretary of the Ministry of Healthcare and Nutrition replied that only strong painkillers and intravenous fluids could be dispatched, since Mullivaikkal Hospital did not have trained anaesthesiologists. The letter also warned the doctors not to violate protocols, by addressing copies of their letters to the Indian High Commission or the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, or else disciplinary action would be taken "for violating procedures and embarrassing the Government".

130. When the doctors exited the conflict zone on 16 May, they were detained and interrogated for several months. In early July 2009, the doctors gave a press conference, in which they said that there were, in fact, very few civilian deaths and injuries during the war and that they had been forced to lie about it by the LTTE This retraction contradicts what they had said in interviews, e-mails and public statements while they were still in the Vanni. The Panel believes they were put under pressure by the Government, and that these retractions do not affect the veracity of their earlier statements.

130. Despite Its access to first-hand information regarding the size of the civilian population and its needs, the Government of Sri Lanka deliberately used greatly reduced estimates, as part of a strategy to limit the supplies going into the Vanni, thereby putting ever-greater pressure on the civilian population. A senior Government official subsequently admitted that the estimates were reduced to this end. The low numbers also indicate that the Government conflated civilian with LTTE in the final stages of the war.(ENDS)

(The above extracts are from pages 36 - 39 of the report on Sri Lanka by the advisory panel appointed by UN Secretary -General Ban Ki moon)

April 20, 2011

India must take position on Lanka's war crimes: HRW

United Nations, Apr 20, (PTI):

"India will have to take a public position," Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, told PTI. Ganguly added that if India wanted to emerge as a leader on the global stage then the country's leadership would have to show its intention of "protecting the rights of people over government."

An independent panel of experts, which submitted its report to the UN, has found "credible allegations" of crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Sri Lankan government and the rebel Tamil Tigers.

The excerpts leaked to Sri Lanka's 'Island' newspaper, said that "the panel found credible allegations, which if proven, indicate that a wide range of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law were committed both by the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity".

The Sri Lankan government has rejected the report as "fundamentally flawed" and "based on patently biased material, which is presented without any verification".

If calls for accountability grow, observers have noted that the Indian government would probably discuss the issue privately with the Sri Lankan government. India's position on human rights has come under increasing scrutiny as New Delhi hopes to get a permanent seat in the Security Council.

Recently India, which is currently a non-permanent member on the Council, voted for the first round of sanctions against Muammar Gaddafi but it abstained on the resolution authorising use of force.

Ganguly noted that India had played a positive role in dealing with the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East but said it wasn't enough to address human rights situations in a "middle ground way".

"There are people in Tamil Nadu who also care about it (India's position on the Lankan war crimes)," she said.

April 19, 2011

Easter and its traditions

By Saba-Thambi

An egg painted red given at the end of a Sunday school session was my first ever memory of Easter Sunday. I was highly excited and vividly remember taking extreme care of this possession on the half -hour walk back home. I don’t remember how I cooked the egg, but I remember to this day when my mother told me that the egg represents new life and hope for Christians indicating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. My mother also mentioned the western custom of exchanging chocolate Easter eggs on Easter Sundays. At the age of nine and living in Jaffna, I was amazed by the thought of a chocolate egg being the size of a chicken egg!

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the focal point of the Christian faith and is the oldest and most important festival of the Christian church. It is celebrated on a Sunday and is referred to as Easter Sunday. Easter Sunday is also called Resurrection Sunday and it translates to “uyirtheluntha Gnayiru” or “uyirtheluntha thiru-naal” in the Tamil Language.

The English word “Easter” (in old English, “ēastre”) is believed to be borrowed from the German origin, “ostern” and from a goddess named “Ēastre” associated with spring or dawn. It is noted that in the olden days it was customary to worship goddesses around the world particularly associated with spring & harvest. Hinduism also has female idols (pathini thevangal), Thurgai, Kali, Kannagi etc. Most of these ‘amman kovils’ are situated in the middle of a paddy field or in close proximity to fields indicating these kovils may well have been erected to celebrate the festivals of harvest.

Easter Sunday does not have a fixed day and falls on different dates each year thus referred to as the movable feast. Jewish Passover and Islamic Ramadan celebrations are also classified as movable feasts.

According to the New Testament1 Jesus was crucified on the cross and rose again on the third day around the time of Jewish Passover. Jewish Passover is calculated according to the phases of the moon (lunar Hebrew calendar). Muslims also follow the lunar phase waiting for the first sighting of the moon in the month of Ramadan. In contrast, Egyptians have a calendar following the Sun (a solar calendar). When the Romans became the ‘powerhouse’ of the world they followed the Egyptian calendar.

Early Jewish Christians followed a “Christian Passover” remembering the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus by linking it to the Hebrew Calendar. The non-Jewish Christians did not like this idea and they followed according to the solar calendar. This confused many among the early churches and each one was celebrating the resurrection of Jesus at various times of the year. The confusion was unified by the first Christian Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (AD 285 – 337) who was the founder of Constantinople currently known as Istanbul. The Emperor formally recognised Christianity in AD 313.

Equinox is a time when the sun is directly over the earth’s equator and as a result divides equal lengths of day and night at all latitudes. In Tamil it’s called as “sama iravu kaalangal”. This event occurs twice a year, on the 21st March (spring or vernal) and 23rd of September (autumn). Emperor Constantine presided over the inaugural Christian council at Nicea (Turkey) in 325 AD and decreed that the Easter would be celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon appears after the 21st of March each year. Therefore it’s calculated that Easter Sunday could fall at any time between March 21 and April 25 of each year. The system was slowly followed by western churches throughout the middle ages and is currently used in the standard calendar. This explains that some of the Easter celebration is overlapped with Tamil & Sinhala New year in April. However, the Eastern European orthodox churches follow the Julian calendar and have their Easter in a different week than the norm but it closely follows the current standard calendar by a week.

In recent years both governments and churches have tried to validate a fixed date for Easter Sunday. Secularists have suggested the second Sunday of April each year and the World Council of Churches suggested replacing the current equation-based system with direct astronomical observation. So Far nothing has eventuated.

Even though Easter is a joyous observance, it is a season celebrated after the gloomy darkness of lent followed by a holy week comprising Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. The lent season indicates the fasting of Jesus and is the time for sacrifice and reflection. It starts on a Wednesday known as Ash Wednesday where the previous year’s palm crosses were burnt and the ashes worn as a cross on the forehead. Ash Wednesday is the day where Christian houses start their fasting period. Lenten sacrifices are personal choices. The most popular ones are, refraining from eating meat or breakfast and giving up alcohol for the season. Western custom is to eat fish on Fridays during the Lenten days. Children are also encouraged to sacrifice some activities or food dear to them such as chocolates, fizzy drinks or even to give up viewing television or movies. Nowadays some have gone to the length of giving up time on social networking sites (face book or twitter). Some denominations conduct Lenten bible studies to reflect the life of Jesus Christ. Christian weddings are overlooked during this solemn season.

Holy week follows the 40 days of lent starting on Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday celebrates the majestic entrance of Jesus to Jerusalem on a Donkey. He was welcomed by the young and old waving palm branches and chanting “Hosanna! Hosanna!” Palm Sunday service is an exciting service for the children as they join the church procession waving the palm leaves. In Jaffna, the young creamy coconut palm leaves, not yet exposed to the sun (kurutholai) are used to make the palm crosses thus referred to as “Kurutholai Gnayiru” in Tamil. The palm crosses are blessed at the service and distributed to the members. The members keep these crosses in special places in their homes or distribute them to their relatives, especially to the sick and the elderly. A well known Tamil lyric taught to Sunday school children during the Palm Sunday service includes “osanna paaduvom yesuvin thasare”, “thavithin kumaranukku unnathathil ossanah”.

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Palm crosses, photos: JJ

Churches organise activities depicting the passion of the Christ leading up to his crucifixion. The Catholic churches around the world organise A Passion Play in open air parks and theatres. A passion play is a dramatic presentation illustrating the Passion of Christ: his trial, suffering and death.

The St. Patrick’s college grounds are a well known venue in Jaffna for passion plays and people gather in droves to watch the play irrespective of their faith or religion. Forty years ago in April 1971 a passion play was held at the foreground of the Jaffna fort. The Pageants were cleverly created between the fortresses. This was the year JVP were plotting a coup against the government and were forcibly taking over the police stations around the Island. The Jaffna police station and a Prison were also situated on the grounds of the fort and due to the passion play; the plans of the insurgency were foiled.

The internationally renowned “Passion play of Oberammergau” is performed every ten years in the German Alps. It has been continued for more than 360 years to date and has become a multimillion dollar enterprise which originally started with a miracle and a vow taken by the villagers during the black Plague.

In 2004 Mel Gibson directed a film “The Passion of the Christ” and was released during the Lenten season. The film depicted the last 12 hours of Jesus’ life beginning with the agony of Jesus at the garden. This film was viewed by many and Gibson pocketed more than 600 millions. A Tamil Catholic song ‘Kelungal tharapadum, thattungal thirakapadum...” 3describes the life story of Jesus and is a favourite number for this season among Tamils.

Maundy Thursday institutes the ceremony of the washing of the feet indicating Jesus’ humility of washing his disciples’ feet. This is the night where Jesus held his final meal with his 12 disciples described as the Last supper.

This feast initiated the Holy Communion service where bread & wine are shared. The last supper has been a
favourite theme for the Christian art. A popular 15th century mural4 of Leonardo da Vinci is a precious possession of the world. It is at Santa-Maria-grazie church in Milan, Italy and represents the scene according to one of the Gospel 2 in the New Testament. A decade ago this mural was a “hot-topic” relating to a fiction “The Davinci Code.” written by Dan Brown.

Good Friday reflects the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross by the Roman army. This is the most solemn day of the Christian calendar. Most of the church sanctuaries (altar) look empty with a single cross. No flowers will be seen on the sanctuary. The day provides an opportunity for the reflection and contemplation of his life. Each denomination has a different way of reflecting the sombre day. Methodist Churches in Jaffna conduct 3 hour services consisting of two sermons. Some denominations do not share the Holy Communion on this day. Church goers tend to wear black or white attire to mark the mourning. Good Friday has become a public holiday in the entire Christian countries calendar and most of the shops, pubs and the casinos are closed as a mark of respect.

Different cultures have different meals on this day. Fish is cooked for the family meal in Western cultures whereas a vegetarian meal, sambar or egg based meal is served in Jaffna Christian households. Hot cross buns are served on the mornings of Good Fridays, a tradition which originated in England. They are eaten hot or toasted with the cross standing as the symbol of crucifixion. The Nursery Rhyme “Hot cross bun” initially was used as a street cry by the vendors in England and has become a popular rhyme around the world. The commercialisation of Easter festivities means that the buns are marketed well before the Lenten period. Business entrepreneurs have taken the “buns” to a higher notch by making it with chocolates nowadays.

The Nursery Rhyme:

Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!
One a penny two a penny - Hot cross buns
If you have no daughters, give them to your sons
One a penny two a penny - Hot cross buns

During the season a rough cut wooden cross is often kept at the altar or outside the churches. Various sizes of crosses are used for this purpose and some are 6 to 7 feet high. Three metal nails are driven into wood at the palms & feet of the cross and a crown is made of thorny vines and an inscription “INRI” is written at the top of the cross. The cross is draped in purple during Lenten followed by red on Palm Sunday; black on Good Friday provides a graphic visual sign of the Lenten journey.

Easter vigil was observed by the early Christians on Easter Sunday. Catholic churches observe the midnight mass and the protestants observe as Easter Sun rise service to reflect the expression of hope and new life. Easter carries the colour white with gold/yellow symbolising hope of the new life and the altars are decorated with flowers especially with white Easter lilies. Depending on the weather some dawn services are conducted outdoors.

The traditional way of celebrating Easter among the Protestants and evangelicals is the Easter musical Cantata or Bajanai consisting of special music and songs. Easter Bajans are a popular session among the Tamil Christians. Many traditional Tamil lyrics are sung in the Bajans at the churches and in the open-air theatres. The Easter service marks the end of the fasting period. Families gather together in their homes to celebrate an Easter feast after the Service. Every year a traditional Easter blessing is delivered by the Pope, the head of Catholicism to a packed St Peter’s Square in Rome and to all Catholics around the world.

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Sanctuary at the Noranda Anglican Church, WA, Australia. Palm Sunday ~ Apr 17, 2011 (photo by JJ)

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Easter eggs and Easter bunnies are the other features relating to Easter. These symbols have spawned extensive debate in relation to the origin of some customs used in Easter celebrations. Some argue that Easter is a little more than an adaptation of a pagan fertility festival and has little to do with Christian tradition. There is no doubt that many signs and symbols have been adopted from various cultures. Egg represents new life and the rabbit is reminder of spring and is believed to be the favourite animal of goddess Eastre. Early Easter eggs originated from Germany as goose or duck eggs. Hard-boiled eggs are also used as gifts and nowadays artificial chocolate eggs are popular.

Intricately patterned Easter eggs (pysanky) are popular among the Ukrainian populations. Children eagerly anticipate an Easter egg hunt on Easter Mornings. Nowadays Easter eggs and its clones are a big market in affluent society similar to the hot cross buns.

An unexpected surprise product attached to the computer software or DVD in Microsoft’s early products is also referred to as hidden Easter eggs. However, Microsoft formally stopped including the Easter eggs in 2002.

An Island is also named after the Easter. Admiral Roggeveen who discovered the Island on an Easter day in 1722 named it Easter Island. Is also known as Rapa nui in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Easter Island is well known for its monolithic stone statues of human form..

References

1 Gospel of Luke Chapters 22-24

2 Gospel of John 13:21

3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OQ54MRkdcU

4 http://milan.arounder.com/en/churches/santa-maria-delle-grazie-church/the-last-supper-leonardo-da-vinci.html

UN "Expert" report is an illegal one based on fudged assumptions

by Dr.Susantha Goonatilake

The UN expert team report on alleged "war crimes" castigates Sri Lanka, lightly raps the knuckles of the LTTE, ignores vital history, intrudes into contemporary issues outside its mandate, castigates the very UN that appointed it, off-handishly interprets Sri Lankan social reality which even professional social scientists would shun from, uses terminology straight from NGOs like "triumphalism" and "ethno nationalism", and praises Sri Lankan "civil society" (read foreign funded NGOs and not real civil society like political parties, trade unions and professional organisations).

Perhaps a sign of guilt at providing this misinformation, NGOs themselves have been spewing out statements during the last few days that they are being unfairly targeted for attack in the newspapers. Curious. And not so curious. We should begin with the war's context (and also put into context the Time magazine poll on Mahinda Rajapaksa which was announced almost on the day of the UN expert report). Let us begin with ground facts on war.

Wars are messy and bloody, especially long-lasting wars for national sovereignty. Our concluded war is perhaps the longest war in the world of the 20th and 21st centuries began when 20,000 detonators for 20,000 explosions were found in 1973 smuggled into Jaffna from South India. It was fuelled ideologically by pan-Tamil chauvinism emerging from around the 1920s in South India. It predated the tragic riots in 1978 and 1983. It was dramatically helped by the Indian proxy invasion beginning in the early 1980s when all the separatist groups were trained, armed and sent to Sri Lanka as a foreign policy act of the Indians.

Contrary to calls for transparency, democracy and accountability implicit in the UN expert report we have had over the decades attempts, some successful some not, to subvert the will of the country's people by foreign powers and their NGO proxies. First was the so-called Indian Accord imposed with Indian gunboats which forced Sri Lanka to change its Constitution. This was cheered heartily by NGOs including the current one which is bleating publicly. It then said gleefully that Indian forces would not leave unless Sri Lanka bends to Indian views. Perhaps the worst leader of Sri Lanka as far as our sovereignty was concerned; Chandrika Kumaratunga was hoisted on us over her nationalist mother through machinations of NGOs.

Chandrika wanted to hand over the North and East for 10 years to the LTTE. In her time, the traitorous CFA was signed and there were also attempts at the ISGA and P-Toms. All of this was meant to strengthen the LTTE and whittle away our sovereignty. All were cheered by NGOs; the currently bleating one even wanting the constitution changed after P-TOMS was suspended by the courts. The NGOs acting as paid proxies for foreign powers also questioned the need for sovereignty and had called for “shared sovereignty” and two near-states. Not surprisingly, almost all leaders of the NGO’s were from sections of society that lost colonial privileges after our Independence. Amidst all these machinations against the country, we finally had the guts to take the LTTE on.

The last few weeks were very bloody as Prabhakaran dragged "his people" under duress to an ever shrinking part of his invented homeland and co-opted many of them as unwilling fighters. He had already wanted one member of each family, but now in the dying days of the LTTE he wanted almost every family member to serve in his army. Such an act of mass herding had not been done by his predecessors Hitler or Mussolini as they faced defeat in World War II. Hitler committed suicide with family and friends in his bunker not surrounded by German masses as a human shield. Our Hitler who had distributed suicide pills forgot to take his. Finally surrounded by pincer movements of the Sri Lankan Army, Prabhakaran forced the innocents into a sliver of land preventing them from leaving. The last few days indeed would have been bloody, very bloody.

It would not however have been bloodier than the West's wars for sovereignty like the American Civil War, World War I and World War II. Many of these had policies of "taking no prisoners" and consequent mass summary executions. Nandikadal had no parallel to the mass murder in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and mass bombing of German cities like Dresden. And hidden from the western World War II triumphalist propaganda were the large-scale massacres and rapes of Germans after World War II.

The West’s colonial wars were all genocidal including that of the Portuguese on Sri Lanka. Post World War II western wars of intervention such as in Vietnam (millions killed) and Iraq (the respected journal Lancet estimating nearly 700,000 killed) and Afghanistan are a continuing saga. And as Sri Lanka with an over 30-year-old war, with memories of nearly 500 years of Western colonialism and 2500 years of historical memory struggled to regain sovereignty, many indeed would have died in the last few confused weeks in that sliver of Nandikadal land.

Towards the end of the war on May 13 2009, the UN Security Council in a Press Statement, had condemned the LTTE for “its acts of terrorism over many years, and for its continued use of civilians as human shields”. It reaffirmed “the legitimate right of the Government of Sri Lanka to combat terrorism” and demanded that the LTTE “lay down its arms and allow tens of thousands of civilians still in the conflict zone to leave”.

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on May 27 declared “respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Sri Lanka and its sovereign rights to protect its citizens and to combat terrorism”. It denounced “all attacks the LTTE launched on the civilian population and the practice of using civilians as human shields”. It greeted positively “the conclusion of hostilities and the liberation by the GOSL of tens of thousands of its citizens that were kept by the LTTE against their will as hostages, as well as the efforts by the Government to ensure the safety and security of all Sri Lankans and bring permanent peace to the country”. It wanted the government “to continue to persevere in its efforts towards the disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation of former child soldiers recruited by [the LTTE] in cooperation with relevant United Nations organizations”. (These facts pointed out by veteran diplomat Nihal Rodrigo).

The same crowd that brought in the EU restrictions on our garment exports was now trying hard to reverse the above UN words said at the heat of the battle. In fact, the current report was criticizing these earlier actions of the UN itself. The report's narrative mischievously put the cart before the horse. It describes (falsely) government forces' actions first - which were only a reaction to LTTE attacks - while mentioning LTTE actions only as an afterthought. It was denouncing the feeling in the country of triumph over adversity.

We in the older generation must indeed be triumphalist that the younger generation can now enjoy the peace that we had when we were young. We must indeed be triumphalist that the LTTE was defeated. Sri Lanka triumphalism is nowhere near Western triumphalism after World War II. NGO doublespeak was easy to spot in the report. Where did the country go wrong after the war's end and what was the remedy that we missed?

On close examination, the UN "Expert" Report is seen as an illegal one based on fudged assumptions, reminiscent of similar false concepts such as the "Traditional Homelands of the Tamils". It also has, in the spirit of missionaries of earlier colonialism, implicit timelines and false data on our history similar to those put out by foreign funded NGOs.

UN circles have maintained that the expert panel had legitimacy and was at the request of a joint statement on May 23, 2009 by Ban Ki -moon and Mahinda Rajapaksa. D.B.S. Jeyaraj, after his "in depth perusal" of the Joint Statement finds no such joint pledge. So at the beginning itself, the mandate of the Panel was non-existent, rigged to please interested parties.

While the tone of the report is one of castigation of the government, the report itself is revealing of ground LTTE facts which the panel does not properly place with adequate emphasis.

Tucked away in the tail end, the Report mentions “Despite grave danger in the conflict zone, the L.T.T.E. refused civilians permission to leave, using them as hostages, at times, even using their presence as a strategic human buffer between themselves and the advancing Sri Lanka Army,” and adds “from February 2009 onwards, the L.T.T.E. started point-blank shooting of civilians who attempted to escape the conflict zone, significantly adding to the death toll in the final stages of the war.”

This is echoed by Gordon Weiss, the former UN spokesperson who left Sri Lanka under a cloud in an interview on the Report with Radio Australia. Weiss says that the “The Tamil Tigers held essentially hundreds-of-thousands of people hostage. As the siege intensified, they refused to let people go and as people tried to escape, they shot them. They were also guilty of the mass conscription of people and certainly in my book … the Tamil Tigers are responsible for the deaths of thousands of teenagers, who were forcibly conscripted."

The question is if Tamils were held under hostage, what would a legitimate government do at the tail end of a 37-year war? Indeed, what are the western guidelines in the taking of only a few hostages by terrorists, not the hundreds of thousands of the LTTE? Many popular films have been produced on such freeing of a few hostages using lethal force in different theatres from the US heartland, to the Iranian Embassy in London, to Somali pirates in the sea to Afghanistan. When the hostages are not just a few, but hundreds of thousands and had been kept without democratic rights and freedoms under a Hitler type regime now on its last legs, the humanitarian route is obvious. Use all means for rescue to prevent future greater suffering.

The Report claims that at the tail end of the war, the government did not provide food and humanitarian aid. Sri Lankan governments (of all shades) were perhaps the only state in the world that although its writ in other matters was denied by the LTTE kept the Tamil population under enemy control continuously fed, educated and provided with free medical care. And many of these humanitarian efforts ended up with the LTTE. Sri Lanka state humanitarianism went to feed the enemy. Even during the last stages of the war, the World Food Programme and UN agencies were delivering provisions. Yet, the local UN officialdom was hardly neutral in the war, as was seen in the large quantities of food items and medicines with the UN emblem clearly marked found after the war in LTTE stores and war bunkers.

The present UN "experts" Panel Report denies these already well documented UN efforts. It mentions that "during the final stages of the war, the United Nations political organs and bodies failed to take action that might have protected civilians". It also now wants to reconsider UN decisions taken when the facts were current and well-known. The hidden implication possibly is that the UN should have intervened to stop fighting to allow Prabhakaran safe passage, a position that hardly would have been allowed to Osama bin Laden and his crew if they were surrounded.

A Report presumably looking at the last days of the war has some telling recommendations beyond its mandate which reveal its hidden hands. It wants "the root causes of the long-running ethno-nationalist conflict" and removal of "on-going exclusionary policies, which are particularly deleterious as political, social and economic exclusion based on ethnicity, perceived or real, have been at the heart of the conflict" and "the full and inclusive citizenship of all its people, including Tamils as the foundation for the country’s future."

Comparing Sri Lanka with India, the US, and many Western countries, I had shown in an article in the OPA Journal as well as in my submissions to the LLRC that in formal legal terms, there are no such exclusionary policies. In fact, Sri Lanka has better legal provisions for minorities than Tamil Nadu. (But legal provision and ground reality can of course be very different.)

The Panel also wants "a process, with strong civil society participation [read foreign funded NGOs], to examine in a critical manner: the root causes of the conflict, including ethno-nationalist extremism on both sides; the conduct of the war and patterns of violations; and the corresponding institutional responsibilities." This is in the spirit of NGO hogwash and half truths which I had detailed in my book on NGOs. With hundreds of millions of rupees of foreign money, the local NGOs undertook careful processes of brain washing (I use the term literally) the local population. However, this was to no avail as the locals took the money but welcomed the end of the war.

These recommendations of the Panel immediately recall those of the Berghof Foundation in its carefully laid out plan of governance of the country through NGOs, downsizing the military, and giving NGOs a veto power on the military. Berghof was tightly linked to all other NGOs, and during the war its head was deported as a security risk.

Again going outside its mandate, the Report has some recommendations on removal of Emergency Regulations, the validity of the justice system, independence of the judiciary and concentration of power in the Presidency. Emergency regulations have been in force for several decades and indeed should be removed when it is no longer needed for national security. The justice system should be improved and power should be spread throughout the country. Democracy in Sri Lanka as in the US is a work in progress. I can make several recommendations for improving US democracy (as I had done in international journals). But, these are for the local population to undertake, for the local national level political parties - the UNP, the JVP and of course the UPFA. We citizens while resisting foreign interference and attacks on sovereignty must and should make our country better. That is our duty, not that of foreign colonial missionaries.

How Ban-Ki-moon trapped Mahendra Percival Rajapaksa

by Upul Joseph Fernando

Some foreign media were of the view that the Sri Lanka (SL) Government had trapped Ban Ki moon in relation to the UN war crime panel. They presumed, like how the SL Govt. which is very adept at manipulating International politics, it had won over moon too via the RR Company. It was their belief that, as there existed a cordial and close relationship between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and moon, these ties may have been availed of to soft pedal anything obnoxious against the Govt. contained in the Panel report. Ban Ki moon was of course pursuing a very flexible policy towards the SL Govt. as regards the panel appointed by him.

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UN SG Ban-Ki-moon (file pic)

At the UN General assembly last year , Mahinda met Ban Ki moon and held discussions . Lalith Weeratunge, the President’s Secretary referring to the discussion said, it was successful. He also told the ‘Sunday Observer’ newspaper that President Rajapaksa agreed to permit the panel members to visit SL , and meet with the LLRC ( Lessons learnt reconciliation Commission) Committee . Some foreign media construed this as another of SL Govt.’s manipulative ploy to make moon dance to its tune. But what truly had been taking place was, since the launching of the Committee , it was the SL Govt. which had been straying into moon’s snare . Whether this trap was set by moon or by America and its Western powers is yet unknown.

When moon’s special representative was in readiness to visit SL prior to the appointment of the Committee, the SL Govt. declared that no permission will be granted to him to come to SL. But later, the SL Govt. relented and allowed Lynn Pascoe , the special representative of moon to visit SL. After his arrival in SL, he addressed a news conference in Colombo following his tour of SL’s North and East , where he stated that moon has decided to appoint the Committee. This dumbfounded the SL govt.

After moon had appointed the Committee and obtained the permission to send the Committee members to SL, he said , Mahinda Rajapaksa is flexible. The SL Govt. however, after granting permission to moon’s Committee members to arrive in SL, changed its decision, and sent its representatives including Attorney General to have secret meetings with the members of moon’s Committee. It is to be noted that the Govt. itself asserted earlier that if Moons’ Committee members are allowed to meet the SL Govt. representatives and hold discussions , it will be tantamount to the SL Govt. having accepted the Committee . Despite this assertion, the Govt. sent its delegation to New York to hold discussions with moon’s Committee. Perhaps the Govt. must have taken this decision entertaining the view that via these discussions it might be able to turn the Committee’s report in its favor , or even moon might disallow the Committee to furnish an adverse report on SL.

It is now the general consensus that the SL Govt. has tripped and fallen into the trap of Ban Ki moon. After reading the foreign media reports pertaining to Ban Ki moon’s second term in office , it has become a very pertinent question , whether this trap was contrived by Ban Ki moon or America and the Western powers. Last August, the foreign media relying on a UN Organization leaked memo reported as follows:

‘The memo alleged that the spineless and charmless Ban had failed to stand up in the face of massive human rights abuses in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and elsewhere, instead issuing irresolute appeals that fall on deaf ears, that the UN was largely absent from the world’s great crises and that Ban had lost the faith and respect of both , member states and his own staff.’

Following the appearance of this report , the foreign media concluded that it is unlikely that America and Western powers will endorse the second term of Ban Ki moon. But , as soon as the report on SL war crimes was handed over to moon by the panel appointed by him , the Foreign media under the caption ‘Ban gains US backing for second term’ reported, “ Ban Ki moon appears to have secured a commitment from the administration of US President Barak Obama and other key Security Council members to serve . Obama had overcome some of his initial misgivings about Ban’s leadership and recognized him as a reliable ally on some of its most important goals including the international effort to drive Gaddafi from power. Ban has already received preliminary shows of support from Obama and the leaders of Britain and France .A Diplomat told ,Russia and China wont oppose him. I think it is safe to say that he will keep his job”.

In the circumstances, it has now become crystal clear as to who had trapped whom ~ courtesy: Daily Mirror ~

Instances of hospitals in the Wanni being shelled during the Govt – LTTE war

Extracts from the report on Sri Lanka of the advisory panel appointed by Ban Ki Moon

Shelling hospitals

The following are extracts from the Ban Ki Moon report pertaining to instances where hospitals were allegedly shelled:

On or around 19 to 21 January, SLA shells hit Vallipuram hospital, located in the first NFZ killing patients. Throughout the final stages of the war, virtually every hospital in the Vanni, whether permanent or makeshift, was hit by artillery. Particularly those which contained wounded LTTE were hit repeatedly.

87. Heavy shelling continued unabated. On 24 January, the Udayaarkaddu Hospital, also located in the NFZ and clearly marked with emblems, was hit by several shells.

4. SLA shelling of PTK (Puthukudiirippu) Hospital

90. Fighting in the area intensified as part of the expressed efforts by the 55th and 58 Divisions to capture PTK by 4 February, the day commemorating Sri Lanka’s independence. PTK hospital was the only permanent hospital left in the Vanni, and its neutrality was recognized by the Government and the LTTE. The medical staff, including five doctors, was stretched beyond its capacity, and medical supplies were very limited. The shelling in the first NFZ had marked a turning point in the conflict, and civilian casualties were rising. PTK hospital was packed with hundreds of injured civilians from the NFZ. More than 100 new patients were arriving each day, many from the NFZ. Many had severe or life-threatening injuries caused by artillery fire or burns. The casualties, many of them babies, young children and the elderly, were packed in every conceivable space – on beds, under tables, in hallways and outside in the driveway.

91. ON 29 January 2009, the two remaining United Nations international staff left for Vavuniya, without the national staff members, who were still not allowed to leave by the LTTE. The ICRC dispatched a separate convoy, which evacuated about 200 wounded patients. Immediately thereafter, in the week between 29 January and 4 February, PTK hospital was hit every day by MBRLs and other artillery, taking at least nine direct hits. A number of patients inside the hospital, most of them already injured, were killed, as were several staff members. Even the operating theatre was hit. Two ICRC international delegates were in the hospital when it was shelled on 4 February 2009. The shelling was coming from SLA positions.

92. The GPS coordinates of PTK hospital were well known to the SLA, and the hospital was clearly marked with emblems easily visible to UAVs. On 1 February 2009, the ICRC issued a public statement emphasizing that "wounded and sick people, medical personnel and medical facilities are all protected by international humanitarian law. Under no circumstance may they be directly attacked."

Sri Lankan defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa tells Sky's Alex Crawfod a hospital hit by artillery fire in the rebel-controlled north was a legitimate target, after 12 were killed. This report contains images of injured people you may find distressing. [Sky News]

93. The Ministry of Human Rights and Disaster Management responded by accusing the ICRC of "either willful ignorance or naiveté." Initially, the Government denied shelling the hospital, but on 2 February 2009, the Defence Secretary gave the following statement in an interview on Skynews:

"If they (reports) are referring to the (PTK) hospital, now there shouldn’t be a hospital or anything because we withdrew that. We got all the patients to Vavuniya, out of there. So nothing should exist beyond the No Fire Zone… No hospital should operate in the area, nothing should operate. That is why we clearly gave these No Fire Zones… For the LTTE… to crush the terrorists, there is nothing called un-proportionate.

94. After the fall of Kilinochchi, PTK was a strategic stronghold in the LTTE’s fight against the SLA. As a result, the LTTE had a sizable presence in the PTK area and maintained a separate ward for wounded cadres in PTK hospital, but they were not armed. The frontline was nearby, and as the fighting in the PTK area increased, more LTTE wounded started to come into the hospital. The LTTE also fired mobile artillery from the vicinity of the hospital, but did not use the hospital for military purposes until after it was evacuated. Yet, in its eagerness to capture the area, the SLA repeatedly shelled the hospital and surrounding areas. Due to the incessant shelling, the Regional Directors of Health Services (RDHS), the United Nations, the AGA and the ICRC decided to evacuate some 300 patients in PTK hospital to Putumattalan, around 6 to 8 kilometres away, on the coastal strip next to the Nanthikadal lagoon. Ponnambalm Hospital, a private hospital used in part by the LTTE, was shelled on 6 February 2009, causing part of it to collapse.

103. When the PTK hospital relocated to Putumattalan, the Government stated that "there are now no hospitals functioning in uncleared areas in the Vanni". Nonetheless, the second NFZ had three makeshift hospitals, including Putumattalan, a small clinic at Valayanmadam and a hospital in Mullivaikkal. All of their coordinates were known to the Government, and they were clearly marked with emblems. Government doctors continued providing their services there. Putumattalan hospital was severely overcrowded with hundreds of newly injured civilians. As the Government did not allow basic medical supplies into the Vanni, conditions in Putumattalan hospital were so poor that a large number of amputations were performed without anesthetic, using butcher knives rather than scalpels. Sanitary pads and cotton cloths were used as bandages, and intravenous drips were hung from the trees, with the severely-injured patients lying on the ground under them. In spite of the significant efforts of the few available doctors, many patients died due to lack of access to proper medical care, and scores of bodies were deposited in front of the hospital each day.

104. On 9 February 2009, shells fell on Putumattalan hospital, killing at least 16 patients. The shells came from SLA bases in Chalai, but subsequently shells were also fired from SLA positions across the lagoon (even though the hospital was clearly visible to the SLA based there). While some wounded LTTE cadre were treated at Putumattalan hospital, they were few in number and were kept in a separate ward. Putumattalan hospital was shelled on several occasions after that, in February and March. RPGs were fired at the hospital around 27 March killing several civilians. In addition to civilian casualties, the operating theatre, makeshift ward and roof all sustained damage.

106. The ICRC continued to play a leading role in alleviating the plight of the civilian population in the Vanni, by evacuating wounded civilians from the coastal strip by ship, starting on 10 February 2009. In total, 16 ICRC ships came to the conflict zone in the final months. The international ICRC staff that had remained in Putumattalan left on the first ship, but they returned and stayed onshore for a few hours each time the ships came back. The Government did not allow United Nations staff on the ships.

107. The LTTE issued passes for injured civilians and some of their dependents to leave the area on ICRC ships, but the wounded had to be ferried on small boats, as the ship was not allowed to come closer than a kilometer offshore. The wounded were lined up on the beach, but several times came under fire. Shells fired by the SLA sometimes fell in the sea near the ICRC ships. Around 22 April, shelling near a ship forced the captain to return to deeper waters.

110. After the SLA captured the north of the NFZ, Mullivaikkal Hospital was the only remaining hospital in the conflict zone. There were no LTTE cadre in uniform in the hospital, nor did anyone bring weapons inside. Conditions were extremely poor. The hospital had four doctors and ran two improvised operating theatres. Some of the patients, including those with serious head injuries and other obvious fatal injuries, were merely made comfortable, but no attempt could be made to save them. With few beds available, wounded patients often remained in front of the hospital, some on mats and others lying on dust and gravel, under sheets set up for shelter, cradled by their loved ones or alone. With a severe shortage of gauze or other sterile bandages, old clothes or saris were used as bandages. No gloves were available, and the conditions were grossly unhygienic, giving rise to a high risk of infections. In this hospital, amputations were also performed with butcher knives, due to the lack of surgical equipment, and amputated limbs were collected in piles. On many occasions amputations were performed to save the life of the patient, as there was simply no other way to treat wounds. Due to the severe shortage of anesthetics, the little that remained was mixed with distilled water, but many amputations were performed without anesthesia. In spite of widespread malnutrition, some people continued to donate blood, but a general shortage of blood meant that a patient’s own blood was often used, caught in a plastic bag, to be filtered through a cloth and re-transfused back into the same patient.

111. Due to the heavy shelling that hit the hospital on numerous occasions, the RDHS moved to a second location at Vellamullivaikkal. On 11 or 12 May, the second hospital was also hit by SLA shells, killing many people, although it, too, was prominently marked. The conditions in the second hospital were as poor as the first, and some of the hospital staff members were killed by SLA shelling.

119. In spite of many desperate telephone calls by the AGA and doctors to stop the shelling to allow them to attend to the wounded and dead, no reprieve was forthcoming from the SLA. After 14 May 2009, the doctors could no longer go to the hospital due to the intensity of the shelling, and it had to be closed. Dozens of patients who could not be moved were left behind. All survivors huddled together in rudimentary shelters. Cooking was impossible and leaving the shelter even for sanitary purposes meant risking one’s life. Some civilians tried to stage a mass breakout, but were shot at and shelled by the LTTE. Those who managed to escape were helped across by individual SLA soldiers.

(The above extracts are from pages 23 -26 ,pages 30 -32 , page 34 and page 36 of the report on Sri Lanka compiled by the advisory panel appointed by UN Secretary -General Ban Ki Moon)

Tamils: What Price the Moral High Ground?

by Dravidan

“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” - John 8: 7

Christians all over the world are observing holy week of the lent season. The holy season will end with the Good Friday and Easter Celebrations. One of the more famous stories in the Holy Bible relates to the woman who had been caught in adultery. The Scribes and the Pharisees brought the woman and made her stand before Jesus Christ. They said to him, 'Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.

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Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?' Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”

This story came to mind when I read the statements issued by the Tamil Diaspora organisations welcoming the UNSG Panel report on Sri Lanka. For example, the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) urged United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to refer the ruling class and the armed forces officers of Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor.

Interestingly the former UN spokesman in Sri Lanka Gordon Weiss told Channel 4 News that "I bare my portion of the responsibility and blame for that.", when asked about why UN didn’t divulge the casualty figures during the last phase of the war, which could have brought sufficient international pressure to stop the war.

In my view the partially leaked executive summary of the UNSG Panel report has captured the last phase of the war accurately and without bias. The report was based on eye witnesses’accounts and representations made by NGO’s. The contents of the leaked report are consistent with the reports issued by ICG, UTHR (J), HRW and Amnesty.

Whilst emphasising that the UN and the International community need to act on the recommendations of the Panel to investigate and prosecute the culprits, the purpose of this article is to urge the Tamil community to use this historic opportunity to critically self-assess itself, with the motive of moving forward and not to be bogged down in the past.

According to the leaked report which was published in The Island, the Panel found credible allegations that comprise five core categories of potential serious violations committed by the Government of Sri Lanka:

(i) killing of civilians through widespread shelling;
(ii) shelling of hospitals and humanitarian objects;
(iii) denial of humanitarian assistance;
(iv) human rights violations suffered by victims and survivors of the conflict, including both IDPs and suspected LTTE cadre; and
(v) human rights violations outside the conflict zone, including against the media and other critics of the Government.
The above segment of the report has been given wide publicity in the Tamil media and highlighted in the statements released by various Tamil Diaspora organisations.

However, the following segment of the Panel’s report has been blacked out in many Tamil organs and the Diaspora organisations have turned a blind eye to its contents. The Panel’s determination of credible allegations against the LTTE associated with the final stages of the war reveal six core categories of potential serious violations:

i) using civilians as a human buffer;
(ii) killing civilians attempting to flee LTTE control;
(iii) using military equipment in the proximity of civilians;
(iv) forced recruitment of children;
(v) forced labour; and
(vi) killing of civilians through suicide attacks.

Tamils in Sri Lanka waged an armed liberation struggle for their legitimate political rights. That armed struggle was termed as “Terrorism” by the international community with the LTTE being banned in many countries. The Tamil diaspora supported the struggle financially and through political lobbying believing that the armed liberation struggle will restore peace, prosperity and justice to their brethren who live in their traditional home lands in Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka. The Tamil Tigers were fondly called “our boys” in the early stages of the struggle and that affinity continued until the end.

The leaders and cadres of the LTTE were Tamils. They were our brothers and sisters, friends and class mates, neighbours and relatives. Tamil Tigers waged a war for the Tamils, with Tamil soldiers and with arms bought from Tamil diaspora funds. The Tamil Tigers and the cause of the Tamils were not supported by a single country in the world. The Tamils were all alone in their struggle for independence.

The victims of the atrocities committed by both the Government and the Tamil Tigers are our fellow brethren, Tamils. The wound, death and destruction inflicted on our people, Tamil people, didn’t differentiate between the bullets fired from a Liberation fighter to that of the Government soldier. Acts committed by the warring parties caused loss of lives, limbs, mental trauma and destruction of an entire society. UNSG report clearly articulates that both parties have not conformed to the norms of the civilised world. It doesn’t matter that one party’s non-conformance is greater than the other, the fact remains that both parties committed crimes against humanity. At the end of the day the victims were Tamils, for whose betterment a liberation struggle was waged.

In my view, the Tamil community at large needs to seek reconciliation with itself. The Tamil community, particularly the Diaspora, need to come to terms with the current reality and the events of the past. The Tamil community need to acknowledge that members of its community have committed crimes against humanity and as a community we take moral responsibility for those actions. I do not foresee any member of the Tamil community being prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) formaking the above statement and taking a moral high ground for the betterment of the community.

This act of solidarity with the Tamil Tigers and their leadership will be a genuine tribute the Tamil community could offer to more than 30,000 young lives, who sacrificed their life for the liberation struggle. The collective ownership by the Tamil community will also allow us to take the moral high ground compared to the Government of Sri Lanka which has rejected the report. The act of collective responsibility will also generate the sympathy we lost in the International community.

The victims of the war needs reconciliation, they need healing. Before expecting reconciliation from our enemy it is prudent that the Tamil community seeks reconciliation within itself and heals the wounds created within. This process of intra community reconciliation and healing will unite the community both in Sri Lanka and abroad.Holding the moral high ground can be used to legitimise Tamil’s political aspirations as well.It will allow the Tamil leadership in Sri Lanka and in the Diaspora to take the struggle for peace with justice, forward with renewed vigour.

"Forgiving is not forgetting; its actually remembering--
remembering and not using your right to hit back.
Its a second chance for a new beginning.
And the remembering part is particularly important.
Especially if you don’t want to repeat what happened."
— Desmond Tutu

GTF President Fr. Emmanuel wants peace, truth and justice in Sri Lanka

by Paul Dobbyn

EMINENT Tamil theologian and academic Father S.J. Emmanuel can count five bishops among those he has educated in his distinguished career - but he is much prouder of five special priests who attended his lectures in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

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Father S.J. Emmanuel

President of the Global Tamil Forum, Fr Emmanuel once told the State Department in Washington that he was "father" to these priests.

The five were among 10 priests killed in the final bloody battle between Government and rebel forces in Sri Lanka's north in May 2009.

Once called the "Archbishop Tutu" of the Tamil struggle by United States human rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson, the 77-year-old priest was recently in Brisbane to spread the message that his people are suffering widespread human-rights abuses in the aftermath of the country's 30-year civil war.

Fr Emmanuel can also count Cardinal George Pell and then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) as classmates and associates.

Fr Emmanuel and Cardinal Pell were ordained as priests at St Peter's Basilica in 1966.

For the past 14 years he's been in exile and he is Vicarius Co-operator in St Nikolaus' parish, Darfeld, in Munster diocese, Germany.

In his interview with The Catholic Leader while visiting Brisbane in February, Fr Emmanuel explained the reasons for his self-imposed exile.

The priest of 44 years told of narrowly escaping death on at least one occasion before being forced out, along with about 500,000 other Tamils from civil war-torn Sri Lanka.

"From 1986 onwards I lived through the ethnic conflict and war in Jaffna in the country's north," Fr Emmanuel said.

"The first part of this war I spent in the city with no electricity, telephone, postage or fuel.

"I was ten years rector and lecturer at St Francis Xavier's Major Seminary in Jaffna.

"During this time, the Government imposed an economic embargo on the region and we lived on dried fish and rice for years."

Of far more concern was the constant threat of aerial bombardment.

"We were always looking up - hearing helicopter gunships overhead," Fr Emmanuel said.

"One day in 1995 I was nearly finished off when a bomb was dropped outside Francis Xavier Seminary.

"It was a very close call ... there was a hole in the bedroom wall above my bed where I had been sleeping."

Finally in 1995 on October 30, Fr Emmanuel and about 500,000 inhabitants of Jaffna Peninsula were forced out by the military and all headed south, crossing Kilali Lagoon and finding refuge in the jungles of the Wanni region.

Thus had begun the great Tamil Diaspora - but far worse was to come for those who remained.

Born in Jaffna in 1934, Fr Emmanuel had his early education there, later graduating in physical sciences at the University of Ceylon, Colombo in 1958.

After a short period as teacher and journalist, he did his studies for priesthood in Rome, graduating in philosophy and theology at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome and was ordained in 1966.

In Sri Lanka, he was pastor and diocesan director for lay apostolate.

During his second sojourn in Rome (1973-76), he researched lay ministries and obtained a doctorate in theology.

From 1976 till 1986, he was Professor and Dean of theology at the National Seminary in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

Other roles included eight years as a member of the first Theological Advisory Committee of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences (FABC).

Books he has written on the plight of the Tamil people include Let My People Go which has been translated into English, French, German and Tamil.

Fr Emmanuel said he had been radicalised by his experiences in Sri Lanka.

"Coming into touch with people's suffering started me thinking from grassroots upwards," he said.

The Tamil priest's social activism moved into overdrive with the events of May 2009.

"Something horrific happened in Sri Lanka's north then," he said.

"With international support, some 40,000 people were massacred by shelling and bombing and chemical weapons.

"Many died including priests - even recently I met a priest in Rome who had lost a leg in this action.

"For a long period some 300,000 Tamil people were incarcerated in concentration camps.

"The 11,000 LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam) who surrendered are still kept in camps ... It should be remembered the Tamil people took up arms against state terrorism only after 30 years of suffering.

"The West is allowing much of this to continue happening behind closed doors."

As head of the Global Tamil Forum, which met in London for the first time in February last year, Fr Emmanuel is determined not to permit this situation to continue.

His speaking tour of Brisbane and other parts of Australia is part of a campaign to focus awareness on the situation of his people.

In his interview, he spoke of the Singhalese government's campaign of oppression and what he described as a policy of "state-aided colonisation".

"The whole area in Sri Lanka's north is heavily militarised with frequent army checkpoints," he said.

"There are upwards of 40,000 military personnel in the region and housing is being built for military families so there will be a permanent armed presence.

"The Government is also settling Singhalese people from the south into Tamil areas.

"Numbers of Buddhist temples are being built in the north and east in an area which, being mainly populated by Tamils, is mainly Hindu.

"Street signs are being changed to the Singhalese language.

"The Government is hellbent on creating a single Buddhist Singhalese culture on the island - naturally all hope for peace and reconciliation is shattered by these moves."

Fr Emmanuel said there were no signs of reconciliation occurring in Sri Lanka since the final battle between Government troops and the rebels in 2009

"People who speak out against the current injustice - journalists especially - are disappearing," he said.

"Living in Jaffna means living in fear.

"And this is not only the case in Jaffna but the middle part of Sri Lanka where the camps were established.

"People - including children and the elderly - were released to be left under trees and are still no closer to having houses after seven months.

"Organisations such as the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) are not being allowed to visit the 11,000 Tamils still detained.

"And Tamils abroad are always concerned if they speak up in the outside world that authorities will take revenge on their relatives living in Sri Lanka."

Fr Emmanuel said Catholics were in a unique position in Sri Lanka.

"The majority of Tamils are Hindu while the Singhalese are Buddhist.

"However, Catholics come from both ethnic groups, so potentially have a strategic role to play in communication between both sides."

But, the situation is complex.

Catholics, at only seven per cent of the population, are very much in a minority, although Fr Emmanuel said this was no excuse for not speaking the truth.

He accused Sri Lankan Catholics and bishops of "failing to exercise their prophetic voice".

"The international community and Australia in particular also have an obligation to find out the truth," he said.

"If we rely on the news being dished out by Sri Lankan embassy we won't find out.

"I'd like Australian Government officials to be allowed to move around freely to find out the truth and not just go on guided tours organised by the Sri Lankan Government.

"I especially appeal to Catholics in Australia to find out the truth and demand justice for the Tamil people.

"We can't go on like this ... we must find a way to reconciliation and peace through accountability, truth, justice in Sri Lanka." ~ courtesy: Catholic Leader ~

April 18, 2011

Video ~ Syracuse University Event: Removing Barriers to Peace and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka

By Dr. Karunyan Arulanantham
Director Tamil American Peace Initiative
Member USTPAC

Peace and Reconciliation

• Understanding multiethnic challenges with empathy

• Truth telling and honest confrontation of the ugly past

• Identification of the root causes of the conflict

• Willingness to change

The following is presentation by Dr. K. Arulanantham at the Maxwell School - South Asia Center of the prestigious Syracuse University, NY on April 12, 2011:

Removing Barriers to Peace and Reconciliation (Between Tamils and Sinhalese?)

Professor Lou Kriesberg, Maxwell Professor of Social Conflict Studies moderated the dialogue between Dr. K. Arulanantham and the other participant Dr. Palitha Kohona, the Sri Lankan Ambassador to the United Nations.


Peace Building in Sri Lanka—A Dialogue Between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Tamils of America Participants: Dr. P. Kohona, UN Ambassador of Sri Lanka Dr. K. Arulanantham, United States Tamil Political Action Council Discussant: Dr. L. Kriesberg, Maxwell Professor Emeritus of Social Conflict Studies, and Founding Director of the Program on the Analysis and Resolution of Conflicts.

The Chinese movie “Detective Dee” and the Ban-Ki-moon advisory panel report

by Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

The most ubiquitous and striking poster along the boulevards of Paris these Spring days is of a movie called ‘Detective Dee’, the full title of which is ‘Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame’. It was made in China, directed by Tsui Hark and starring Andy Lau, with fight sequences by Sammo Hung. I saw and loved it as it came out in Singapore last year. Between then and its appearance in Paris cinemas it has picked up critical acclaim and awards at Western film festivals.

The movie belongs to a genre which I am a convert to: wuxia, which denotes Chinese historical martial romances with central characters who are either scholar-officials/scholar-monk who are pushed to deal with or deploy violence or warriors who evolve into scholars/scholar-monks. The best known film of this genre was of course, ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’, but several others of high quality followed, including another personal favourite, ‘Hero’, starring Jet Li.

Detective Dee is solidly within the tradition. The hero actually existed: the legendary magistrate (or minister of state) and intellectual Di Ren Jie who lived during the Tang Dynasty. He could solve the most complicated cases with the use of what would be known centuries later as forensic psychology. In the 1930s he was reworked as the hero of the ‘Judge Dee’ series of detective novels set in ancient China, by the Dutch diplomat Robert Van Gulik, and later became the central character of films made in Hollywood and Hong Kong.

In the current movie he has spent eight years in prison on the orders of Empress Wu Ze Tian, (again a real historical figure) whose late husband, the Emperor, he faithfully served as an advisor. Judge Dee had been exiled and jailed after the Emperor’s death for dissenting against his spouse’s succession to the throne as China’s first Empress and questioning her unethical methods. As the lavish coronation of the Empress nears, the arrangements and procedures are interrupted by a series of mysterious, violent deaths, which involve the spontaneous combustion of a number of officials.

In a wise move, the Empress orders the release from prison of Detective Dee and his re-instatement as an Imperial Judge. He accepts not only because it gets him out of custody, but because he is drawn to the challenge, and also because his attitude to the Machiavellian yet charming Empress in distress is ambivalently dualistic, as is hers to him.

Detective Dee uncovers a plot which is being hatched to topple the gigantic Bodhisattva statue bearing the face of the soon-to-be Empress that is being cast in bronze for the coronation, onto the royal stage. The plot and the series of strange deaths is the work of his former right hand man and friend, who cannot understand why Detective Dee, having advised against the coronation eight years before and been jailed by the Empress, would want to derail the plan to destroy her and her project of rule.

In the pivotally defining line of the movie Detective Dee admonishes his former colleague, saying: "It is not only the Empress that would be destroyed". This is why he sides, not with his former co-thinker who is taking to the next level of intensity the views they once shared, but with his former persecutor, the ruler whom he does not trust or fully agree with even while he assists her. When Detective Dee says "but it is not just her that would be destroyed" he means that the act would go beyond harming the ruler to damaging the state itself.

His broadness of vision is able to see the Empress against the backdrop of the interests of China; to assess her objective role in the context of China’s need at the time; to weigh her rule against the alternative, which is a weaker China. What would be the impact on China? Would it strengthen China or help the domestic forces of division and dissolution, and aid the external forces that wish to break in? That is Judge Dee’s broader criterion. The hero’s loyalty to China outweighs his misgivings and opposition to the immediate experiment in rulership. His need to avoid the weakening of China outweighs his objections to the further entrenchment and exaltation of the ruler.

Having helped defeat the conspiracy, Detective Dee declines the offer of the Empress to remain at the palace as her Counsellor. With his task accomplished, his duty by his country done, his body infected by the same potentially deadly poison used for the killings by internal combustion, he walks away from the salvaged power centre of the kingdom, inner equilibrium and integrity intact, to self-exile in a watery netherworld of light and shadow.

What in the world does a magistrate who lived in China around 690 AD have to do with Sri Lanka’s collective response to the adversarial report of the UN SG’s Advisory Panel (going by its executive summary which appeared in the media)? Quite a bit, actually.

For those who think that the external trends and forces which gather threateningly on the far horizon will target and weaken only the incumbent administration, the best reminder comes from the Chinese magistrate-detective of 690 AD: it is not only the administration that is being threatened; it is our collective victory over decades of secessionist terrorism, and the Sri Lankan state itself, that stand in danger of being de-legitimised, undermined and dismantled. If the effort succeeds, we would as a nation, all of us, be defeated and diminished in some essential or existential sense.

As a society, as conscious citizens, our attitude and response must transcend the issues of domestic governance. It should not be partisan or ideological. It is gratifying that some younger personalities of the democratic opposition have shown signs of thinking along broader patriotic lines. In political theory, ‘high politics’ classically pertains to state and national sovereignty. In exceptional times and extreme situations, ‘high politics’ must be the higher criterion, and on issues of high politics, we must stand together.

Theatre of the absurd that passes for governance in Sri Lanka

By Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu

The Secretary General’s Advisory Panel Report on Allegations of War Crimes by the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE in the last phase of the war has been handed over to the Government of Sri Lanka. The Ministry of External Affairs has declared that the Report is fundamentally flawed and that it contains baseless accusations. A leaked version of the executive summary has appeared in the local media and the UN is on record regretting the leak. The UN has also announced that it will make public the full report along with the full response of the Government of Sri Lanka. There is speculation that in any event the UN will make the full report public in the course of this week.

On the basis of the leaked executive summary it is clear that the Report comes down hard on the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE. Among the recommendations made is for an international mechanism to be set up to monitor local efforts towards accountability and to conduct independent investigations, for a public apology by the Government of Sri Lanka and for the return of the remains of the dead to their families. It is also strongly critical of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and the regime’s approach to reconciliation.

It remains to be seen as to what the full report contains and as to what the Secretary General will do with it. It will probably be the case that he will first want to ascertain the views of the permanent members of the Security Council and the Council as a body before initiating any action if indeed further action is what he will conclude as necessary.

It remains to be seen as well as to what the Rajapaksa regime’s response to the Report will be apart from the preliminary comments issued through the ministry of external affairs. Media reports state that three former foreign secretaries are working on this and that the president has called for a major demonstration of support on May Day focusing on the report. In an interview with the Sunday Times, the Defence Secretary is quoted as saying that “ if the United Nations cannot protect one of its member states, Sri Lanka will be forced to look for protection from Russia and China. No doubt there will be statements by political parties and a parliamentary debate on the full report.

The simple point about the report is that it is now a fact. It exists and even if left to languish in the short or medium term, it can be resurrected for action thereafter. The challenge to the regime lies in its willingness and ability to respond to the report in a manner that will lay the matter to rest, once and for all and thereby create the conditions and environment for the country to move on, take off. That it can and will do so is by no means certain. The priorities of the regime, the competence it commands and the vision it projects are instructive of its overall mindset and that of its leading lights. Take the following that also make up the public profile of regime, which now stands in effect accused of war crimes by the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Panel.

It was reported that there will be a further six chapters of the Mahavamsa written by a panel of experts. Three of the chapters are to be devoted to the Rajapaksa presidency, the ancient chronicle having not recorded anything of the likes of the defeat of the LTTE. Who these experts are is unknown. No doubt there is a lengthy queue of sycophants parading as scholars to write His Excellency into the great chronicle and no doubt generations of Sri Lankans will be fed on this diet of praise and propaganda. Is this an illustration of what the Panel report refers to as “triumphalism”? Given the “Mahavamsa mind-set” and its association with the ethnic conflict, what of reconciliation? What does this do to what the LLRC is supposed to do?

A leading light of the regime, Professor Rajiva Wijesinha MP claims that the military attaché at the British High Commission handed him a typed note “suggesting” that Sarath Fonseka “ had squads engaged in illicit activities reporting to him “. Professor Wijesinha claims that he cannot remember where he put the note – “ I chucked it away somewhere and now cannot find it” he is reported as telling the Sunday Leader. Asked as to what action he took on receiving the note, he is reported as responding -“None”.

What is clear is that the Professor Wijesinha – it is not clear as to whether this occurred when he was Secretary to the Ministry of Human Rights, the professor’s memory being such - did nothing with the note, which on the basis of what it contained one would have thought demanded immediate and urgent action either in his official capacity or indeed as a responsible citizen, which surely the learned professor is. Apart from this media report establishing that one should not pass notes to him, especially noteworthy ones, it provides a sad reflection on the political appointees.

It is perhaps fortunate that the professor’s note- taking competence let him down in terms of further advancement within the regime and yet let him off from even being appointed monitor of the external affairs ministry. This singular honour has gone to Sajin Vaas Gunewardene.

Finally, who ever has heard of Rain, the South Korean songster who takes precedence over our great leader in the Time Poll of the 100 most influential personalities in the world? An official government release on this stresses that the president is the leading politician in the poll. Now at number 2, he has seen off another songster – this time from Taiwan.

Who needs the Chinese made Colossus of an Arts Centre – there is theatre –tragedy and farce, farce and tragedy all around us. No wonder the polity behaves as if by casting its vote it has bought a ticket to the theatre of the absurd that passes for governance.

Just wait for Weerawansa to tread the boards again. Oops! hit the streets, I mean.

Shelling of civilian targets and hindering humanitarian assistance of ICRC

Extracts from the Ban Ki Moon advisory panel report on Sri Lanka

6. SLA shelling in the second No Fire Zone

100. From as early as 6 February 2009, the SLA continuously shelled within the area that become the second NFZ, from all directions, including land, air and sea. It is estimated that there were between 300,000 and 330,000 civilians in that small area. The SLA assault employed aerial bombardment, long-range artillery, howitzers and MBRLs as well as small mortars, RPGs and small arms fire, some of it fired from a close range. MBRLs are unguided missile systems designed to shell large areas, but if used in densely populated areas, are indiscriminate in their effect and likely to cause large number of casualties.

101. At the time, the Defence Secretary stated: "We are taking casualties to prevent civilians getting hurt. This is a factor we are very concerned about. Otherwise we could have used so much artillery and just moved on. The Government announced on 25 February, and again on 27 April, that the SLA was no longer using heavy weapons in the second and third No Fire Zones. But what was happening on the ground indicated the opposite. Intensive artillery fire had been a core tactic in the SLA’s military campaign from the outset. As victory neared, this tactic was not abandoned, but rather its use was intensified, even though the LTTE was now immobilized and surrounded in an area of high civilian density. The intensive shelling also caused many civilians to attempt to flee the area, meeting another of the Government’s objectives, to put pressure on civilians to get out of the way. Despite Government pronouncements, satellite images in Annex 3 show that SLA artillery batteries were constantly adjusted to increasingly target the NFZs. The LTTE had fewer heavy weapons left and less space to fire them from.

102. The coastal strip became increasingly crowded, and liveable spaces were in short supply. Much of the land where IDPs set up shelters was beach territory, with sandy, waterlogged land unsuitable for human habitation, and it was difficult for IDPs to construct makeshift bunkers to protect themselves. Daily life for the IDPs at that time took place mostly inside the bunker, although some IDPs hoisted white flags over their shelters in an attempt to protect themselves. Fresh water was scarce and food was in such short supply that a few people died of starvation. When the seasonal rains came, many bunkers were flooded, adding to the general misery of the people.

7. Shelling of Putumattalan Hospital

103. When the PTK hospital relocated to Putumattalan, the Government stated that "there are now no hospitals functioning in uncleared areas in the Vanni". Nonetheless, the second NFZ had three makeshift hospitals, including Putumattalan, a small clinic at Valayanmadam and a hospital in Mullivaikkal. All of their coordinates were known to the Government, and they were clearly marked with emblems. Government doctors continued providing their services there. Putumattalan hospital was severely overcrowded with hundreds of newly injured civilians. As the Government did not allow basic medical supplies into the Vanni, conditions in Putumattalan hospital were so poor that a large number of amputations were performed without anesthetic, using butcher knives rather than scalpels. Sanitary pads and cotton cloths were used as bandages, and intravenous drips were hung from the trees, with the severely-injured patients lying on the ground under them. In spite of the significant efforts of the few available doctors, many patients died due to lack of access to proper medical care, and scores of bodies were deposited in front of the hospital each day.

104. On 9 February 2009, shells fell on Putumattalan hospital, killing at least 16 patients. The shells came from SLA bases in Chalai, but subsequently shells were also fired from SLA positions across the lagoon (even though the hospital was clearly visible to the SLA based there). While some wounded LTTE cadre were treated at Putumattalan hospital, they were few in number and were kept in a separate ward. Putumattalan hospital was shelled on several occasions after that, in February and March. RPGs were fired at the hospital around 27 March killing several civilians. In addition to civilian casualties, the operating theatre, makeshift ward and roof all sustained damage.

105. While individual incidents of shelling and shooting took place on a daily basis, destroying the lives of many individuals of families, the SLA also shelled large gatherings of civilians capable of being identified by UVAs. ON 25th March, an MBRL attack on Ambalavanpokkanai killed around 140 people, including many children. On 8 April 2009, a large group of women and children, who were queued up at a milk powder distribution line organized by the RDHS, were shelled at Ambalavanpokkanai. Some of the dead mothers still clutched cards which entitled them to milk powder for their children.

8. Hindrance of humanitarian assistance via the ICRC ships

106. The ICRC continued to play a leading role in alleviating the plight of the civilian population in the Vanni, by evacuating wounded civilians from the coastal strip by ship, starting on 10 February 2009. In total, 16 ICRC ships came to the conflict zone in the final months. The international ICRC staff that had remained the Putumattalan left on the first ship, but they returned and stayed onshore for a few hours each time the ships came back. The Government did not allow United Nations staff on the ships.

107. The LTTE issued passes for injured civilians and some of their dependents to leave the area on ICRC ships, but the wounded had to be ferried on small boats, as the ship was not allowed to come closer than a kilometer offshore. The wounded were lined up on the beach, but several times came under fire. Shells fired by the SLA sometimes fell in the sea near the ICRC ships. Around 22 April, shelling near a ship forced the captain to return to deeper waters.

108. The ICRC’s ships were also the only means for delivering food, but the supplies they were allowed to bring by the Government were inadequate. As conditions in the NFZ became more desperate, on 17 March, a large crowd of IDPs surrounded an international ICRC staff member who came ashore, begging him to save their lives by taking them out of the Vanni. The LTTE forcibly dispersed the crowd. The final ICRC ship came to the Vanni on 9 May 2009. ON 15 May 2009, a ship approached, but had to turn back due to the intensity of the fighting. In all, ICRC evacuated 14,000 wounded persons and their relatives from the second and third NFZs and delivered around 2,350 metric tons of food to Mullivaikkal. Those evacuated were all civilians, as the LTTE did not permit its cadre to leave the conflict area for treatment.

(The above extracts are from pages 28 to 32 of the Advisory panel on Sri Lanka appointed by N Secretary - General Ban Ki Moon)

Civilian deaths and injuries in the Govt-LTTE conflict in the Wanni

Extracts from the report on Sri Lanka by the advisory panel appointed by Ban Ki Moon

E.The Number of Civilian Deaths

132. There is no authoritative figure for civilian deaths or injuries in the Vanni in the final phases of the war. Several actors make it very difficult to calculate a reliable casualty figure: (a) the number of persons in the conflict area remains uncertain, although it was likely to have been as many as 330,000; (b) the lack of an accurate count of the number of persons who emerged from the Vanni, due to the lack of transparency in the screening process; (c) lack of certainty on the numbers of LTTE combatants, complicated further by the increase in forced recruitment in the final phase; and (d) the fact that many civilians were buried where they fell, without their deaths being registered, in some cases, unobserved.

133. Some have developed estimates based on the statistics of the injured and dead collected by the doctors, which were collated by the hospitals and the District Disaster Management Unit. One estimate is that there were approximately 40,000 surgical procedures and 5,000 amputations performed during the final phase. Depending on the ratio of injuries to deaths, estimated at various times to be 1:2 or 1:3, this could point to a much higher casualty figure. Others have put the estimate at 75,000, a figure obtained by subtracting the number of people who emerged from the conflict zone (approximately 290,000) from the estimate of the number thought to have been in the conflict zone (approximately 330,000 in the NFZ from January, plus approximately the 35,000, who emerged from the LTTE-held areas before that time).

134. The United Nations Country Team is one source of information; in a document that was never released publicly, it estimated a total figure of 7,721 killed and 18,479 injured from August 2008 up to 13 May 2009, after which it became too difficult to count. In early February 2009, the United Nations started a process of compiling casualty figures, although efforts were hindered by lack of access. An internal "Crisis Operations Group" was formed to collect reliable information regarding civilian casualties and other humanitarian concerns. In order to calculate a total casualty figure, the Group took figures from RDHS as the baseline, using reports from national staff of the United Nations and NGOs, inside the Vanni, the ICRC, religious authorities and other sources to cross-check and verify the baseline. The methodology was quite conservative: if an incident could not be verified by three sources or could have been double-counted, it was dismissed. Figures emanating from sources that could be perceived as biased, such as Tamil Net, were dismissed, as were Government sources outside the Vanni.

135. The number calculated by the United Nations Country Team provides a starting point, but is likely to be too low, for several reasons. First, it only accounts for the casualties that were actually observed by the networks of observers who were operational in LTTE-controlled areas. Many casualties may not have been observed at all. Second, after the United Nations stopped counting on 13 May, the number of civilian casualties likely grew rapidly. Due to the intensity of the shelling, many civilians were left where they died and were never registered, brought to a hospital or even buried. This means that, in reality, the total numbers could easily be several times that of the United Nations figure.

136. It is worth noting that the United Nations raised casualty figures in private entreaties with the Government, but never publicized its specific estimates. Government officials strongly refuted the figures provided by the United Nations, stating that the numbers were fabricated and that this was not the business of the United Nations. Publicly the United Nations referred to the "heavy toll" of the fighting on civilians, or that the casualty figures were "unacceptably high", but that the actual figures were not verifiable. The decision not to provide specific figures made the issue of civilian casualties less newsworthy. However, this position was maintained by senior United Nations officials until 13 March 2009, when the High Commissioner for Human Rights publicly stated that 2,800 civilians may have been killed and more than 7,000 injured since 20 January, many of them inside the NFZs. Pressure from the Government of Sri Lanka and fears of losing access may have resulted in a general under-reporting of violations by United Nations agencies. Some have criticized the failure of the United Nations to present figures publicly as events were unfolding, citing it as excessively cautious in comparison with other conflict situations.

137. In the limited surveys that have been carried out in the aftermath of the conflict, the percentage of people reporting dead relatives is high. A number of credible sources have estimated that there could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths. Two years after the end of the war, there is still no reliable figure for civilian deaths, but multiple sources of information indicate that a range of up to 40,000 civilian deaths cannot be ruled out at this stage. Only a proper investigation can lead to the identification of all of the victims and to the formulation of an accurate figure for the total number of civilian deaths.

(The above extracts are from pages 39 to 41 of the report on Sri Lanka compiled by the advisory panel appointed by UN Secretary - General Ban Ki Moon)

US Gov urged to influence the implementation of UN panel recommendations

TAPI Welcomes the Recommendations of the UN Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka

The Tamil American Peace Initiative (TAPI) welcomes the recommendations laid out in the executive summary of the panel of experts report commissioned by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

"I am extremely relieved to learn the report calls into question the integrity of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, along with that of the Sri Lankan government,” said TAPI spokesman Dr. Karunyan Arulanantham.

“Due to the government’s failure to act in earnest towards healing the deep wounds of its people, the only way for Sri Lanka to achieve meaningful, lasting reconciliation is through the establishment of an independent, international mechanism to oversee the accountability process. I am thankful to the panel of experts for seeing through the myriad of misinformation put forth by the Sri Lankan government and their diligence in providing Secretary General Ban with this critical recommendation.”

While welcoming the recommendation to create an international investigative mechanism, TAPI urges the United States government to use its influence in the Security Council to implement the UN panel's recommendations.

About TAPI

The Tamil American Peace Initiative was formed by a group of Tamil Americans to help bring lasting peace, justice, democracy, good governance and economic development to Sri Lanka; to focus attention on the destruction of Tamil communities and culture caused by almost three decades of war; and to demand an end to the continuing oppression of Tamils on the island.

Govt must face UN and international community by having Tamil people on its side - Mano Ganesan

Government should face UN and international community taking the Tamil people on its side. Choosing the line of triumphalism based on the victory against LTTE to counter UN censure on accountability will be a political error. It is time to leave the war victory to history and start addressing the political aspirations of the Tamil speaking people. It is the only way to win Tamils to the government side says DPF leader Mano Ganesan. Ganesan said further in the brief statement issued by DPF media office,

Tamil aspiration for political autonomy has been identified as the root cause in the UN report. This is no news to us. We have been campaigning on this line seeking the future for Tamils in an undivided Sri Lanka.

War devastation is one and the post war activity is another. Political solution is the key to new positive post war era. But the efforts amounting to use the war victory to deny political solution is hurting and alienating the Tamil speaking people. Government should now use the talks with TNA to overcome the international censure. It needs agreeing on political autonomy within the undivided Sri Lanka. TNA has already publicly declared that they respect the territorial integrity of the country and seek the political power devolution within the united Sri Lanka. This is the finest hour of opening for the government to carry the Tamil speaking people along with them and face the UN.

TNA statement on UNSG Advisory Panel Report

(This is the full text of a statement by the Tamil National Alliance)

We have read the disclosure made by the media, said to be the Executive Summary of the Report submitted by the Advisory Panel to the United Nations Secretary General (UNSG).

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), as the democratically elected representatives of the Tamil People of the North East, who have been the worst affected victims of the recently concluded war, we consider it our duty to respond to same, while reserving a fuller response to the full Report after it becomes available to us.

We recall here with deep anguish, that for over the past half a century, we have consistently urged an acceptable and reasonable political solution to address the root causes of the ethno-nationalist conflict in the country and the exclusion of the Tamil People from meaningful powers of governance. It is the failure on the part of successive governments of the Sri Lankan State to deliver on such a political solution that has been the primary cause for the exacerbation of the conflict and the consequences thereof. The Sri Lankan State has over the years, systematically and continuously unleashed violence against unarmed Tamil civilians in order to suppress and subjugate them and to deny and deprive them of the realization of any legitimate power-sharing.

We have consistently emphasized that the Sri Lankan government had a duty to ensure that unarmed Tamil civilians are protected and not harmed in the course of whatever military operations the Government conducts against armed combatants. However, the Sri Lankan government has persistently bombed civilian populated areas, used heavy artillery and multi-barrel rocket launchers in such areas, carried out attacks by deep penetration units resulting in the death of and serious injury to tens of thousands of unarmed Tamil civilians, displaced hundreds of thousands of such Tamil civilians from their homes, destroyed their homes and all their occupational equipment and other assets, reducing them to a state of destitution, deprived such unarmed Tamil civilians of shelter, food, medicines, drinking water and other essentials, shelled hospitals and relief centers and prosecuted their military operations with scant regard for the safety, well-being and dignity of the unarmed Tamil civilians in conflict areas. The extra-judicial execution and enforced disappearance of unarmed Tamil civilians and the scourge of the white vans has continued unabated. These and other accounts of horrendous incidents were contemporaneously placed on record in Parliament by the TNA and brought to the notice of all concerned.

We observe that the Report of the Advisory Panel to the UNSG confirms the truth of what happened to the unarmed Tamil civilians in the course of the conduct of the recently concluded war and is an irrefutable confirmation of the accounts of the events as reported by us to Parliament as and when they occurred. We welcome the finding by the panel that “credible allegations, which if proven, indicate that a wide range of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law were committed both by the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Indeed, the conduct of the war represented a grave assault on the entire regime of international law designed to protect individual dignity during both war and peace.”Especially the Panel has also found credible allegations associated with the final stages of the war and that the Sri Lankan Army’s military campaign into the Vanni using large scale and widespread shelling caused large numbers of civilian deaths. The Panel states that this campaign constituted persecution of the population of the Vanni, of around 330,000 civilians. The Government’s estimate of the population in the Vanni at this time was only 70,000. The Panel also asserts that these credibly alleged violations demand a serious investigation and the prosecution of those responsible. The Panel also notes that “the Government’s notion of accountability is not in accordance with international standards.” The Panel also requires that the Government genuinely addresses the allegations of violations committed by both sides and to place the rights and dignity of the victims of the conflict at the centre of its approach to accountability, if its measures are not to fall dramatically short of international expectations. In this context, the Panel has recommended certain measures, which as a whole, it hopes will serve as a framework for an ongoing and constructive engagement between the Secretary-General and the Government of Sri Lanka on accountability. We welcome the recommendations made by the Panel and trust that they will be honestly implemented.

Most importantly, the Panel has observed that an environment conducive to accountability which would permit a candid appraisal of the broad patterns of the past, including the root causes of the long-running ethno-nationalist conflict, does not exist at present. It would require concrete steps towards building an open society in which human rights are respected, as well as a fundamental shift away from triumphalism and denial towards a genuine commitment to a political solution that recognizes Sri Lanka’s ethnic diversity and a full and inclusive citizenship of all its people, including Tamils as a foundation for the country’s future.

The TNA on its part has always been committed and continues to be committed towards achieving a genuine political solution that recognizes Sri Lanka’s ethnic diversity and a full and inclusive citizenship of all its Peoples, including Tamils as a foundation for permanent peace and stability in the country.

We therefore urge the Government of Sri Lanka not to miss this opportunity and to constructively engage in a process which would result in all the Peoples of Sri Lanka being the beneficiaries of genuine democracy, equality and justice.

R Sampanthan

Parliamentary Group Leader
Tamil National Alliance

18th April, 2011

Political objective of UN Secretary – General to interfere in internal affairs of Sri Lanka should be rejected - JVP

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) has issued a statement on the report on Sri Lanka by the advisory panel appointed by UN Secretary - General Ban Ki Moon. The text of JVP statement is as follows -

The report of the ‘Panel of Experts’ appointed by Secretary General of the UN Ban Ki-moon to advise him on the alleged human rights violations committed during the final phase of the war in Sri Lanka has been released. The political objective of the UN Secretary General to interfere in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka, on the pretext of any issue that crops up, should be rejected.

When considering the manner the Secretary General and the UNO acted in issues that cropped in many countries, it is evident that instead of the honest interest of protecting human rights or democracy in those countries, they make use of these issues for entirely deferent political objectives. The undemocratic, arbitrary and oppressive administration of President Mahinda Rajapakse should be held responsible for this as it is this administration that paved the way for the UN Secretary General to intervene in internal affairs of Sri Lanka.

It is the present regime that has allowed the UN Secretary General to act in this manner using human rights issues in Sri Lanka. During the two years since the end of the war the present regime totally failed not only to establish democracy in the country but also to protect human rights. The regime that carries out a concealed, unofficial suppression in the country against its opponents carries out a complete oppressive administration in the North of the country. The government has still not made any attempt to provide basic rights of the people living in the North and the East. The government has arbitrarily neglected establishing a civil administration for the people in these areas to live without fear or suspicion displaying to the whole world that it has no regard for human rights.

On the other hand the government has failed in diplomacy as well. While displaying a pseudo patriotism to deceive Sri Lankans by making various statements and carrying out bogus ‘deadly fasting’ feasts, the government carries out various dealings and discussions with the Secretary General and other officials of the UNO and imperialist countries without the knowledge of the people in the country. What is being targeted is the result of the idiotic acts of the government.

While rejecting the attempt to make use of the report of the ‘Panel of Experts’ of the Secretary General to intervene in internal affairs of Sri Lanka for various political interests, we emphasize that the imperialist intervention against Sri Lanka should be defeated and also the anti-social and undemocratic role of the present regime that paves the way for such interventions too should be defeated. We emphasize that the government should be forced to protect human rights of all people living in Sri Lanka and to establish democracy. We call upon all masses to rally to achieve this goal.

Political Bureau,
Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna.

CH 4: 'It will be very difficult for any of the great powers to ignore now what went on in Sri Lanka'

The former UN spokesman in Sri Lanka Gordon Weiss tells Channel 4 News that a leaked UN report into "credible allegations" of war crimes represent Sri Lanka's "Srebrenica moment".

Weiss told Channel 4 News they were at the "hard edge of humanitarian work" and were prevented from reaching the area by the Sri Lankan government. There "no foreign observers there to observe what was happening", Weiss said.

Weiss, who left the UN to write a book on Sri Lanka's civil war said he was "part of that structure" and "I bare my portion of the responsibility and blame for that."

He said that culpability rested on a "a fairly narrow range of senior leaders in Sri Lanka".

The Sri Lankan government, who received a copy of the report, said they found the report "fundamentally flawed in many respects" and that it was based on biased material.

In a statement on their website the Sri Lankan government said that it will respond in due course.

Weiss said however that he thinks ultimately there will be a war crimes tribunal:

"I think it will be very difficult for any of the great powers to ignore now what went on in Sri Lanka.

"It may well have been swept under the carpet, but this panel report has reversed the tide and I think we will see action.

"I believe we will eventually see a war crime process."

"This is Sri Lanka's Srebrenica moment, in fact it's a Srebrenica moment for the rest of the world."

April 17, 2011

Malicious muckraking is killing Sri Lankan cricket by rumour

by Prof Michael Roberts

Many Sri Lankan fans expected the cricket team to win the World Cup and even stocked up with firecrackers to mark the celebratory moment. The disappointment has been commensurate with this high expectation. It has generated immense disappointment in many minds.

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Sanga and DS de Silva– Pic by AFP

Though some foreign reports and some Lankans have congratulated the people and officials in the island for the manner in which they formally feted the returning cricket squad, there has been a dark side to the story: muckraking fabrications and rumours of the most vicious character – by mouth, email and newsline.

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Namal Rajapaksa speaking

The foundation for this awful phenomenon, of course, is emotional turmoil. One can place a twist on a well-known aphorism by saying that “before they render persons mad, the gods generate emotional turmoil.” Since 2nd April night the disturbed sentiments in some Lankan hearts has stimulated a range of vicious tales. Before taking up these details I venture on a measured juxtaposition that illustrates the power of rumour in another context so as to bring out the implications of retailing rumour to those who have indulged in this pastime in such a cavalier fashion over the last week.

PMR4173.jpg

Rumour and incitement in ethnic riot and pogrom

The study of riots and pogroms is one of my research areas. Though the pogrom directed against Muslim Moors (as distinct from the Ja, or Malays) in mid-1915 is the topic I know best, I have anecdotal material on the anti-Tamil pogroms of 1958, 1977 and 1983 as well as considerable (albeit unused) material about “communal riots” in late twentieth century India. On this subject, moreover, I direct readers to an excellent article by AP Kannangara which elaborates upon the role of rumour in stimulating assemblages of Sinhalese people who then went in search of Moor persons and property to beat up …. and sometimes to kill/burn. This essay is called “The Riots of 1915 in Sri Lanka: A Study in the Roots of Communal Violence,” and appeared in Past and Present, no.102:130-65.

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Assaults on Tamils, 1958,, from Ivan, Paradise in Tears

From my own findings let me indicate that in May 1915 the context for Anti-Moor animosity had been set by a Supreme Court decision that overturned the original decision of Paul Peiris in the District Court that had decidec in favour of the Buddhist temple authorities who were the plaintiffs against the Crown (and, indirectly, the Moor personnel of a new mosque in Gampola town). As Vesak celebrations commenced in the island, trouble was anticipated and, indeed, a clash occurred outside a mosque inCastle Street,Kandy.

There is a suggestion that some temperance associations in parts of the country had been primed to prepare themselves for action. Be that as it may, after this incident one pattern of reaction was for rumours to spread among the Sinhalese in a locality – no email of course those days, but word-of-mouth sufficed – to the effect that the Muslims were preparing to attack a specific temple. Crowds would assemble at the temple. Speeches were made and, then, at twilight mobs would sail forth to attack mosques and Moor properties in the region. Yes, at twilight in some instances. There was instrumentalist strategizing amidst all the emotional turmoil that rendered these Sinhala Buddhists feverish.Not many people are aware that mass action was a significant aspect of the attacks on the Moors in mid-1915. Mobs of over a thousand were reported at Matale, Wattegama, Kadugannawa, Gampola, Rambukkana, Panadura, Godapitiya, and Akuressa; while the crowd at Gewilipitiya-Aranayake was variously estimated at 800 to 4,000.[i] At Gampola and Panadura the police and British officials were forced to retreat. On at least five occasions, by sheer weight of intimidation or by storming (at Pasyala) a police station, the crowds engineered a release of individuals who had been arrested.[ii]

Such facets of the pogrom have been neglected because scholars have seen this incident as a “communal riot.” While that description is certainly valid, it is significant that many perpetrators felt that “the Tambies are insulting our nationality and our religion.”[iii] Furthermore, some assailants in some localities shouted slogans in Sinhala claiming that “there is no English Government — This is the day of the Buddhists –This is our flag” and stating unequivocally that

The Western Province belongs to the Sinhalese.
There is no more British Government.
There is no more British flag.
Sinhala Nation.[iv]

Thus, one can suggest that the line between that which is “communal” and that which is “national” has always been blurred inSri Lanka, especially when the thinking is in the Sinhala vernacular. Sinhala prejudices against those considered alien and Sinhala Buddhist ire at the symbolic victory accorded to the Muslim Moor claims during the court case created a climate which gave currency and weigh to rumour. In their anger and ferment people were ready to believe many a tale.

Anti-Tamil pogroms

Tales describing alleged Tamil atrocities were also a factor in the processes that inspired the attacks on Tamils in Sinhala-majority areas in 1958, 1977 and 1983, doubtless in various degrees. Stories about the murder of one Seneviratne in the Eastern Province featured in 1958; while other tales claimed that Sinhala babies had been dropped into boiling tar barrels. Tudor Silva was engaged in research in the Kandy locality in 1977 and picked up stories of Sinhalese corpses being packed among the fish in lorries coming from Trincomalee.

I believe this particular rumour may also have circulated in 1983, though it was the LTTE ambush of 13 soldiers in late July 1983 and the active stoking of communal sentiment by government functionaries and some service personnel that provided the main impetus for the horrendous assault on Tamils in the south-central regions ofSri Lanka.

Note the simple strategems at play here. Lorries do regularly bring fish from Trincomalee to the markets in Dambulla,Kandy, Kurunegala et cetera. By attaching a fabrication about a Tamil killing to this everyday event, the stirrers secured conviction among those Sinhalese with anti-Tamil prejudices in the immediate context of that moment. The readiness to accept such tales was rooted in a combination of credulity and prejudice.

As with bush fires in dry forest country, rumour thrives in tinder-box conditions. In circumstances of heightened emotion aroused by a status struggle such as the Gampola Perahera Case in 1915, in conditions of ethnic struggle for political space or nationalisms in confrontation, or sporting contests with bragging rights, a few malicious persons can spin their yarns with disastrous impact. Rumour in such conditions is arson. Remember that some Tamils were burnt alive in 1958, 1977 and 1983.

Reflections

The Sri Lankan cricketers and cricket administration are not being burnt alive after their loss in the final. However, their minds are being burnt. Take some of the rumours that are circulating.

1. It is claimed that the Indian multi -millionaire Mukesh Ambani had paid 3 or 4 Sri Lankan cricketers a million rupees to perform badly.

2. Exploiting the fact that Muralis’ wife is Indian, some rumours contended that Murali planned to settle down in Chennai and therefore favoured India by not exerting himself to the full.

3. The body language of the Sri Lankan XI as they came out to field indicated that they were depressed and this was because someone had entered their dressing room and asked them to lose the game because that would help Sri Lanka politically. The door is thus left open for gullible believers to insert “Namal” for “someone.”

4. In a media briefing prior to a motion in Parliament opposition MP Mangala Samaraweera claimed that “the national selectors were not the ones selecting the national team, but the family members of the country’s rulers” (as reported in the Island, 9 April 2011).

5. The Lankannewsweb reported that “The ICC is faced with a reasonable doubt on whether the World Cup final was politically set up”[and therefore the] ICC Executive Committee [would] meet next week to decide on appointing a special team to re-observe the World Cup final match.” Further that the ICC doubts have been based on two confidential reports handed to the Council by an English and Australian commentator about several instances in the match that did not seem proper.”[v]

6. The same source indicated that Namal Rajapaksa was sponsoring a Sri Lankan cricket philanthropist fromEnglandfor the Chairmanship of the Sri Lanka Cricket Board, with DS de Silva; while Mathivanan was being favoured for the post of Secretary and Pramodya Wickramasinghe, Sanath Jayasuriya and Asoka Pathirana were in line for spots on the Board.

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Kumar Sangakkara, at the Wankhede Stadium on April 2, 2011 in Mumbai, India

It will be noticed that the claims 3, 4 and 6 dovetail towards the same point of focus. Needless to say, such tales got further oxygen by the coincidental resignation of Kumar Sangakkara and the Selection Committee. Though I do not agree with Sangakkara’s explicit reasoning or timing, I can state categorically on the authority provided by Charlie Austin (personal chat) that Sangakkara had decided on resigning several months back. The Aravinda Selection Committee’s term was to end on 31 April so it was quite rational for them to disband earlier so that selections for the tour of England would be made by personnel who remained in place over the coming year.

The Lankannewsweb stories landed in my email box via several sources from the 7th April onwards. It remains to be seen whether there is any veracity in these purported facts, though prima facie evidence and internal contradictions raise serious doubts about their validity. The authority and motivation of this web site are both subject to serious doubt because it also carried a tale about Jayantha Dharmadasa’s intentions of competing for the post of Chairman when elections are held with Ranjan Paranavithana earmarked as his point man. I now have an email from Paranavithana (night, 9 April 2011) which rubbished the tale categorically and laughed at the idea of Dharmadasa distributing 500,000Rs each to 75 clubs. So, one can conclude that this web newspaper is out and out muckraker, a vicious muckraker at that.

Likewise, from conversations with Ranjit Fernando I can assure readers that President Rajapaksa explicitly told the Selection committee way back in January to choose the best XVI. Indeed, anyone with a nose to the ground would know that if Namal Rajapaksa chose the XV, Jayasuriya would have been there. If Samaraweera’s claim refers to the XI chosen for the World Cup Final, I can assure readers that young Rajapaksa had no influence whatever. This I say in the light of several argumentative conversations with Ranjit Fernando regarding Lanka’s needs after the semi-final and after a brief chat with Anura Tennkoon when he returned from Mumbai. After I drafted this text, Mahela Jayawardena has categorically stated that “there was no political interference” and that “there was excellent rapport” between team and selectors “in the past four months” (see his regular review column in the Sunday Times, 10 April 2009). In brief, Mangala Samaraweera’s hypothesis is pure malice in wonderland guided by political opportunism!

What interests me is the readiness with which so many cricket enthusiasts have considered such tales newsworthy and a cause for concern. It is the activity of circulating these tales by email or word-of-mouth gossip that I wish to focus on. Implicit in such acts is the acceptance of the tales.

What, then, encourages such retailing networks of gossip and defamation? I surmise here in a multi-factor hypothesis. One explanation would be to mark a widespread cultural trait among Sri Lankans to spin gossip, canard and even anonymous letters, sometimes instrumentally in search of a job or as denigration of a person one dislikes. Another explanation is that which I outlined earlier: disappointment and turmoil after the World Cup final among some cricket enthusiasts who then searched for reasons for the defeat (sometimes without any cricketing sense).

This thread of mental confusion has been bolstered by another pool of ferment and another body of personnel, namely, those hostile to the widespread tentacles, the patronage networks and the circuits of nepotism and alleged corruption that are such a pronounced feature of the Rajapaksa Regime. While Mahinda Rajapaksa has wide popularity, there are strong bands of hostility not only in UNP circles, but also among sections of the middle class.

Patronage networks and top-down flows of largesse have been an integral aspect of Sri Lankan politics for decades.[vi] But these processes have taken more ramifying proportions under the Rajapaksa and become high profile because there are so many Rajapaksas here, there and everywhere. In any event, patronage towards the favoured few invariably creates dissatisfaction from those aspirants left out, so the political system in Sri Lanka has always contained inbuilt disaffection within its pores.

Under the Rajapaksas the pools and rivers of hostility to their domination have also been fostered by (a) the intimidation of journalists that has occurred over the years and the phenomenon of white vans that have abducted critics of the ruling powers, especially during the war years; and (b) state campaigns of vilification and defamation directed against NGOs devoted to human rights and popular welfare.

Visiting from abroad I am struck by the visceral character of the hate evoked by the Rajapakas. In liberal moderate circles this profound hostility has been generated by their reasoned opposition to the intimidation of the press as well as the nepotism and corruption that is said to be rife. It is nevertheless visceral and conducive to wholesale negativity.

In some individual instances, I also conjecture that this animosity towards the Rajapaksas promotes the practices that one associates with “the feud.” Those in feud often cannot see beyond their immediate enemy. Worse still, a resort to vengeance dominates their thinking. Morality is discarded. Defaming or destroying the OTHER becomes an overwhelming goal.

For observers of the muckraking rumours around the Sri Lanka cricket board and the team, therefore, the issue is whether journalists who have been hurt in some way by the present government have promoted some of the tales that are being circulated. To my mind the news items posted by Lankannewsweb reeked of defamatory concoction as soon as I saw them as a cluster. Ranjan Paranavithana’s response reveals one to be a laughable canard. The question one has to ask now is whether the anonymous journalists behind this site are linked to those who sponsored the attempted boycott of the Galle Literary Festival.

The political order surrounding the Rajapaksa government is marked by ferment. It has set up a stream of animosity that has in its turn encouraged individuals to wreak revenge by taking up the defeat at the World Cup final and utilizing that moment to disparage Namal Rajapaksa.

However, as we saw, some rumours embrace the players and selectors as well and defame their character. An ethical stand against the regime does not justify mischievous fabrications that plant anguish in the minds of cricketing men and spawn chaos in their future preparations. Rumours and muckraking can burn minds.
________________________________________

[i] PVJ Jayasekera, Social and political change inCeylon, 1900-1919,University ofLondon: unpub. Ph.D dissertation in History. 1970, p. 275; Diary entries byCumberland (G.A., NWP) 11 August and 10 Sept. 1915, at Dept of National Archives, 38/21; and Diary entries by Browning (A.G.A., Matara), 4 and 5 June 1915, DNA 26/173.

[ii] Roberts, “Mentalities,” in Exploring Confrontation,Reading, Harwood, 1994, pp. 185-89, 205-08.

[iii] Administration Reports 1915, Police, by H Dowbiggin, 20 May 1916, Part III, B6. For the full quotation and supporting evidence, see Roberts, “Mentalities,” Exploring Confrontation, 1994, p. 204.

[iv] Evidence from MLM. Sameem, ML Saldeen and KM Ali at the court-martial of Girigoris et al., encl. in Chalmers to Sec. of State, 7 Oct. 1915, CO 54/785; Also see Roberts, “Mentalities,” 1994: 205-07 and K. M. de Silva, A history of Sri Lanka, London, Hurst $ Co.,1981, pp. 381-85.

[v] http://www.lankanewsweb.com/news/EN_2011_04_07_005.html.

[vi] See my chapters on the “Asokan Persona” in Roberts, Exploring confrontation,Reading, Harwood, 1994.

(This article published earlier in The Nation, 17 April 2011, with different title)

Ch 4: Despite the UN Panel's tough words, will anyone be held to account?

Version of the long-awaited report by the United Nations Secretary General (UNSG) panel reveals "credible allegations" of war crimes which - if proven - suggest a "grave assault on the entire regime of international law".

Despite the UN Panel's tough words, will anyone be held to account?

The report estimates that tens of thousands of civilians were killed in the final four months of Sri Lanka's civil war in 2009.

It indicates that actions by both the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity:

'Crimes against humanity'

April 16, 2011

"If UN wont protect us then we will have to seek protection from countries like Russia and China" - Gotabhaya Rajapaksa

Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday lashed out at the UN experts panel report on the conduct of the Sri Lanka government and armed forces during the last stages of the war against the LTTE in 2009, saying there was an agenda behind the report and if the United Nations cannot protect one of its member states, Sri Lanka will be forced to look for protection from Russia and China.

He said the UN seemed to have been "hi-jacked by some countries" and that Sri Lanka as a member-state of the UN needs its protection. "This will push us to other countries to protect us. The UN should not be a pawn of some countries,” he added.

Mr. Rajapaksa said the experts panel was "white-washing the LTTE" and had failed to recognise that the LTTE was a terrorist organisation which, at one time, had control of one third of the country.

"The LTTE had an air wing and a sea wing in addition to cadres fighting on land. It sent suicide bombers to the south and bombed civilian buses and buildings and targeted politicians. It overran army camps and killed thousands in one night. This was not an organisation that could be neutralised by the police. The UN, the US, Norway and others, told us we can’t fight such a ferocious enemy. We had to send in our armed forces and use superior fire-power to overcome them".

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Defence Secretary Rajapaksa said the UN report seemed to have ignored reports of UN agencies like the World Food programme (WFP) or the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

"Had they asked the WFP or the ICRC, they would have been told how humanitarian aid including food was distributed to civilians caught up in the fighting during the last stages of the war. It was the LTTE that held these civilians as human shields. In the final days, the LTTE had forced them into a lagoon area. When food convoys could not reach them because of the water that surrounded them, we allowed the LTTE to even pick up the food from the sea and hand it over to the civilians".

He said there was a Consultative Committee on Humanitarian Assistance (CCHA), a high level government body that included several foreign ambassadors, UN agencies and NGOs that over-looked humanitarian aid during the height of the fighting.

"We have a legal process in Sri Lanka with a democratically elected President. When fathers and mothers can’t send their children to school, or they are abducted by the LTTE to fight for them, and when two parents don’t travel in the same bus because of the fear of LTTE bombs, or when people praying in mosques and student monks are killed, it is the duty and the responsibility of the government towards the people who elect it to protect them by eliminating the scourge of terrorism.

Answering some specific issues raised in the UN report, Secretary Rajapaksa said one of the issues raised was about disappearances or missing persons. He pointed out that 6,000 government soldiers were killed during the last four years of fighting and 20,000 injured of whom 10,000 were critically wounded.

He said the the LTTE's casualty rate had to be greater because the military had superior firepower. "When people complain that someone is missing it could well mean that he was killed in action fighting for the LTTE, but they don’t say that. They only say he is missing.” He estimated the number of LTTE cadres who died in battle to be close to 30,000.

Referring to a passage in the report that states that the Army fired on hospitals during the last stages of the war, the Defence Secretary said he had it "in writing" that the hospital had been vacated before the firing had started. "The LTTE moved its heavy guns close to the hospital and started firing at us. We retaliated only after the patients and doctors had left. We dropped leaflets, announced on loud-speakers, declared no-fire zones and had restrictions (on the use of heavy artillery). The report should have taken into account the amount of heavy artillery used by the LTTE. We had a clear justification for the use of force".

Describing the report as an unreasonable analysis, the Defence Secretary admitted that the government should have better engaged the UN on this entire issue. He said there was an argument that the report was orchestrated by "certain western powers" and therefore Sri Lanka should challenge its legitimacy and the procedures adopted.

"We will now engage with the UN provided it has no hidden agendas,” he said. "The UN must see the benefits that have accrued to the people as a result of the end of terrorism. It takes time to bring in changes and change the mind-set of the people who have been under the influence of the LTTE for a quarter of a century, but normalcy is quietly returning to the once war-ravaged north and east and the people will benefit in time to come with the return of peace,” he added. ~ courtesy: Sunday Times.lk ~

Sri Lanka’s relations with United Nations still remain warm despite Ban Ki moon report

By Nihal Rodrigo

On June 22 2010, the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon appointed a three-member Panel of Experts to examine, and advise him of “the modalities, applicable international standards, and comparative experiences with regard to accountability processes” that related to any alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, during “the final stages” of the conflict in Sri Lanka. Last Tuesday (April 12), Ban Ki-moon received the so-called “Report of the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka”.

The Secretary General, “as a matter of courtesy”, made a copy available to the Sri Lanka Government through its Permanent Mission to the UN in New York, in advance of it being made public “in the coming days”.

The Government, after a quick preliminary examination of the Report, has declared it to be “fundamentally flawed in many respects”, in addition to it being based, without proper verification, on dubious “patently biased” sources. More comment is expected to follow upon closer scrutiny of the near 200 page report by the Ministry of External Affairs.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group and other agencies, as well as re-branded members and supporters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have called for the early release and public circulation of the Report and have already commenced their respective campaigns towards this end.

I thought it appropriate in the circumstances to repeat some relevant observations I made last month in a presentation at the National University of Singapore that organized a Conference of South Asian Countries on their respective relations with the United Nations Organisation.

I described, in my presentation the situation operating in the closing stages of Sri Lanka’s battle against ethno-separatist terrorism, when thousands of civilians, may have lost their lives having been ruthlessly clustered, trapped and held against their will to serve as human shields for the LTTE. Sri Lanka had to contend with much censure, criticism and condemnation by some countries and many agencies while the LTTE, as “a non-state actor” received relatively less condemnation. Some external initiatives to provide safe refuge overseas for Prabhakaran were also being planned but were aborted by the trend of events and second thoughts.

Sri Lanka went before the larger international community, as represented in the United Nations, to present the true picture of developments in the war against terrorism, including in its concluding months. Three major reviews and assessments of the conflict were undertaken, in close succession, and with a degree of connectivity, all in May 2009, to place the complex developments in proper perspective.

First, following detailed clarifications of the true situation by Sri Lanka, the UN Security Council issued a Press Statement, not a resolution nor a President’s statement, on May 13 2009 (reference UN document SC 9659) which, inter alia, strongly condemned the LTTE for “its acts of terrorism over many years, and for its continued use of civilians as human shields”. The Statement acknowledged “the legitimate right of the Government of Sri Lanka to combat terrorism”. Members of the Council demanded that the LTTE “lay down its arms and allow tens of thousands of civilians still in the conflict zone to leave” and that the Government “take further necessary steps to facilitate the evacuation of the trapped civilians and the urgent delivery of humanitarian assistance to them”.

Secondly, the Government invited the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon himself to personally visit Sri Lanka, including its conflict affected areas to experience for himself the true reality of the ground situation. At the conclusion of the visit, on May 23, a Joint Statement by the Secretary General and the Government (ref document SG/2151) was issued. It was based on frank, focused discussions the Secretary General had with the Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Ministers, briefings he received from his own United Nations officials based in Colombo, as well as what the Joint Statement described as consultations with “other relevant stakeholders, members of the international humanitarian agencies and civil society”.

The visit was projected in the consensual Joint Statement as a “reflection of the close cooperation between Sri Lanka and the United Nations”, with the President and the Secretary General agreeing that, following the end of operations against the LTTE, Sri Lanka “had entered a new post-conflict beginning”, though facing “many immediate and long term challenges relating to issues of relief, rehabilitation, resettlement and reconciliation”. They agreed that “the new situation” offered opportunities for “re-establishing democratic institutions and electoral politics after two and a half decades” in the North.

They both recognized further “the large number of child soldiers forcibly recruited by the LTTE as an important issue in the post-conflict context” to be dealt with in cooperation with the United Nations Children’s Fund” (UNICEF). The UN Secretary General “expressed satisfaction on the progress already made by the Government”. One objective of the rehabilitation process presently under way has been to re-integrate former child soldiers into society as productive citizens.

The concluding paragraph of the Joint Statement is important particularly in relation to the Report of the Panel of Experts. The three concluding sentences in it read as follows: “Sri Lanka reiterated its strongest commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights in keeping with international human rights standards and Sri Lanka’s international obligations. The Secretary General underlined the importance of an accountability process for addressing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. The Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) will take measures to address those grievances”. The onus, as agreed, was therefore clearly on the GOSL to address grievances and not for any outside influences, including the United Nations to stipulate measures.

The third multilateral assessment on Sri Lanka was at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) which held a Special Session in Geneva. It was held partly to contend with some human rights lobbyists and pro-LTTE elements abroad, seeking by then, to sanitize and re-brand themselves into respectability and global acceptance. The resolution adopted by the Council on May 27 was guided, as its opening paragraph indicated, by the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Human Rights and other relevant human rights instruments. The resolution in other preambular paragraphs reaffirmed “respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Sri Lanka and its sovereign rights to protect its citizens and to combat terrorism”.

It also condemned “all attacks that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) launched on the civilian population and the practice of using civilians as human shields” in the closing stages of the conflict. The UNHRC resolution also clearly welcomed “the conclusion of hostilities and the liberation by the GOSL of tens of thousands of its citizens that were kept by the LTTE against their will as hostages, as well as the efforts by the Government to ensure the safety and security of all Sri Lankans and bring permanent peace to the country”.

The Government was encouraged “to continue to persevere in its efforts towards the disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation of former child soldiers recruited by non-state armed actors in the conflict in Sri Lanka, their physical and psychological recovery and reintegration into society, in particular, through educational measures taking into account the rights and specific needs and capacities of girls, in cooperation with relevant United Nations organizations”. The specific reference to girls was because the LTTE had even resorted to forced pregnancies of girls who subsequently had been commandeered to serve the LTTE.

Significantly, the resolution also welcomed the visit of the Secretary General to Sri Lanka and indeed endorsed the Joint Communiqué issued on May 23 2009 at the conclusion of the visit and the understandings contained therein.

The three foregoing United Nations documents that were all adopted in May 2009, in the close context of the controversial, much debated conclusion of the conflict between Sri Lanka and the LTTE, together present a balanced perspective of the situation as accepted by the international community which now seems to be called into question by the Panel’s Report. Admittedly, 12 countries, some of them hosts to large groups of pro-LTTE re-branded migrants (who also constituted significantly useful vote-banks for some local politicians), had voted against the UN Human Rights Council resolution.

In May 2010, the Sri Lanka President, on a deeper perception and comprehensive time frame, appointed the Commission on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation (LLRC). Its mandate has been to inquire into the nature, causes and consequences of developments in Sri Lanka between February 2002 (when the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) with the LTTE came into operation), and May 2009 (when the LTTE was defeated following its repeated violations and eventual abrogation of the ceasefire).

The mandate of the LLRC clearly includes its responsibility to consider and report any evidence indicating violations of international humanitarian or human rights law that have occurred in the entire period concerned. The LLRC has been open to receive oral or written representations from any quarter including Opposition Parties, or indeed any one hostile to the Government. It has held hundreds of hearings throughout the island, gathering frank views, negative and positive, as well as complaints including in areas of the final conflict, places of detention, welfare centres and camps of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Final recommendations of the LLRC are expected shortly.

It is curious therefore, that the UN Secretary-General, one year after the end of the conflict, had established a Panel of Experts to advise him on the issues of accountability with regard to alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, specifically focusing only on “final stages” of the conflict in Sri Lanka. This is, basically the very period on which the UN Secretary-General himself in association with the Sri Lanka President, the Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council has already pronounced. The narrow focus on the “final stages” virtually ignores the atrocities of the LTTE such as the deliberate mass slaughter of innocent civilians including Buddhist monks at worship and Muslims at prayer and other inhuman acts of violence too numerous to retell.

Of course, a significant explanatory sentence in the official press release issued in June 2010 did state that the Panel only “advises the Secretary-General and is not an investigative or fact-finding body”. The Panel has not been based on any consensual or voted decision stemming from any wide representative multilateral discussion in plenary sessions of the United Nations or any of its subsidiary bodies or committees. The Panel is narrow in its focus and limited in approach focusing on “the final stages” alone. The Panel apparently gathered information in secrecy and has not published the evidence it received.

This is in striking contrast to the open procedures of the LLRC where all public testimony is available on its website, except in circumstances where confidentiality/secrecy was requested by those appearing before it.

On July 9 2010, the spokesman for the Secretary-General also conceded that the Panel had been set up to advise the Secretary-General with regard to taking forward the objectives of the Joint Statement of May 23 2009 he had agreed with the GOSL. The spokesman also asserted that “the United Nations recognizes that the responsibility in this regard (including on the accountability issue) is that of the Government of Sri Lanka” as had been clear in the concluding paragraph in the Joint Statement between the GOSL and the Secretary-General of May 23 2009 quoted earlier.

Despite the controversy about the mandate of the Panel of Experts, in practical terms there is no major conflict between the United Nations and Sri Lanka despite the complex issues before them. For example, the role of the United Nations in assisting the post-conflict recovery process in the country is considerable. An inclusive consultative mechanism coordinated, in situ, between the UN and the GOSL through a Presidential Task Force, has engaged UN agencies including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as well as select national and international non-government organizations.

It has resulted eventually in a Joint Plan for Assistance (JPA) for the Northern Province which has been the Province in the country most seriously affected by its occupation by the LTTE. The UN Report of the Plan states that “the Northern Province was held back in development for nearly 30 years. The LTTE controlled these areas with the objective of creating a separate state and that resources allocated to the Province by the Government for development were used for the LTTE objective”. The Report states the Government of Sri Lanka with partners’ support, “achieved substantial results since May 2009 in the provision of basic assistance, rebuilding of infrastructure and restoration of the administration across the Northern Province”.

The UN Report also describes the resettlement of nearly 350,000 people within the first year of the conflict’s end as “the biggest achievement of the GOSL”. It also pragmatically acknowledges the role of the Sri Lanka Army in “extensively assisting the resettlement process from its commencement”. The clarity of the UN acknowledgment on the Army’s role is important in dealing with criticisms in some quarters about the Army’s assumption of certain former civilian development functions.

The areas being covered in consultation with the Government in the JPA include food security, water and sanitation, demining, humanitarian assistance, shelter provision, management of the welfare centres for the internally displaced persons (IDPs), programmes for rapid resettlement, agriculture and in-situ livelihood security. Sri Lanka has participated actively and contributed to the multilateral activities of the United Nations as a considered practical aspect of her foreign policy. Sri Lanka presided over the 31st Session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1976 and has chaired vital UN Committees and Conferences, including that which led to the eventual adoption of the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Sri Lanka was, about the same time, Chairman of the Nonaligned Movement (1976-1979) which negotiated with other political groups to reach consensus on several sensitive UN resolutions and decisions. Such engagements by Sri Lanka’s diplomats continue, with wide acceptance by the international community notwithstanding the complexity of, for example the ongoing negotiations on the UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. The Committee has already successfully negotiated three related Conventions, respectively on Nuclear Terrorism, Terrorist Financing, and Terrorist Bombings. Sri Lanka also currently chairs the UN Committee on Migrant Workers. Sri Lankan diplomats have also been chairing UN Committees on the Indian Ocean as a Zone of Peace, and the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories.

Sri Lankan officials have also held office in the UN Secretariat and system, including at the senior level of Undersecretary General, in respect of the Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE); the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); and Disarmament Affairs. The current Undersecretary General dealing with Children and Armed Conflict is also Sri Lankan.

(The writer is Former Foreign Secretary; former Ambassador to the Sri Lanka Permanent Missions to the United Nations, respectively in New York, Geneva and Vienna)

Ruling family's determination to have a "Rajapaksa security state" is costing Sri Lanka dear

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

To take the wrong road is to arrive at snow” — Federico Garcia Lorca (Little Infinite Poem)

They had to stand in a sweltering-queue, in the baking-hot April sun, for hours, they who, ensconced in their public-funded air-conditioned offices and mansions, rarely experience the gruelling tropical heat. They were body-searched, they who zoom through traffic and life, pausing not for laws or norms. And they had no choice but to submit to these humiliations, they who humiliate their fellow citizens as a matter of course.

In a Grimm’s Fairy Tale, a discontented princess is compelled to experience the bitterness of poverty and powerlessness, when she is magically transposed into a life of servitude. Similarly, several Lankan ministers experienced a pinch of the powerlessness, indignity and injustice that is the daily fare of ordinary Lankans (especially Tamils) when they went to Mumbai to watch the Cricket World Cup. According to an outraged Sports Minister, his colleagues were forced to “buy their own tickets…and stand in queues for nearly two hours in the scorching sun and be subjected to body searches by Indian security personnel” (The Sunday Times – 10.4.2011).

The Sports Minister is equally ‘displeased’ at the treatment accorded to President Rajapaksa by Indian authorities. The President was given just 10 free tickets and not the 30 (or 40) he asked for (a large fawning entourage is a must for any Rajapaksa-sojourn abroad). He was not ceremoniously introduced to the two teams nor accorded a role in the award ceremony.

The President (and his advisors) should have expected a somewhat arctic reception in India for three very obvious reasons. Firstly, President Rajapaksa was not invited by the Indian government but by cricketing authorities. Since he was not a state visitor, he should not have expected to be honoured as one. (This was analogous to the situation he found himself in, when he made an unofficial visit to the UK to address the Oxford Union).

Secondly, Indo-Lanka relations are not in a very happy state currently. Thirdly, with Tamil Nadu elections in the offing, Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh cannot afford to be seen hobnobbing with President Rajapaksa; the plight of Lankan Tamils is a major election issue in the state.

In five years, the Rajapaksas have managed to manoeuvre India into a position of relative optionlessness vis-à-vis Sri Lanka. While the war raged, the fear of another Indian intervention (though remote) coloured Colombo’s perceptions and compelled the Rajapaksas to treat India with kid-gloves. But this fear-factor evaporated, with the victorious end of the war; today India is ‘up a creek without a paddle’ vis-à-vis Sri Lanka. Delhi is suspicious of Colombo’s closeness to Beijing and Islamabad, but avoids stridency for fear of driving the Rajapaksas even more into the Sino-Pak embrace.

Sonia Gandhi may wax eloquent about ensuring justice for Lankan Tamils; but this is just election-rhetoric. In reality Delhi has failed to get the Rajapaksas to honour their (repeated) promises to implement a political solution to the ethnic problem. Lacking the capacity to influence Sri Lanka strategically, India would grab any opportunity to administer a discreet slap-on-the-wrist to the Rajapaksas. When the officially uninvited President Rajapaksa arrived in India with an unwieldy delegation and demanded head-of-state treatment, he gave Delhi a superb opportunity to assuage its irritation by delivering him a well-targeted snub.

President Rajapaksa has excellent relations with China, Iran, Burma and Pakistan; therefore he can expect every honour and indulgence when he visits Beijing, Tehran, Rangoon or Islamabad. His relations with the West and India are chillier and raddled with problems; thus he cannot expect to be treated as a welcome guest, when he invites himself to these countries to watch matches or deliver lectures. When we go, uninvited, to houses of people with whom we have ‘issues’, we invite snubs and cold-shoulders; had President Rajapaksa remembered this rule of thumb, he could have avoided the Oxford Fiasco and the Mumbai Fiasco.

Every action has a reaction; some are instantaneous while others have shorter or longer gestation periods. The Rajapaksas may think they are immune from this universal reality because they have got away with so much, but it is an illusory impunity. The illusion will last longer nationally (years, perhaps decades) but internationally, Sri Lanka is already paying for the misdeeds of her rulers.

According to media reports, the OECD has refused to amend the low-ranking accorded to Sri Lanka, despite persistent lobbying by the Sri Lanka Central Bank. In consequence, “European businesses will have to pay higher risk premiums in obtaining credit insurance if they are to trade with Sri Lanka” (ibid). Rajapaksa loyalists may argue that the OECD is punishing us. Perhaps; if so, by maintaining the Emergency, the PTA and other repressive laws, almost two years after the war, the Rajapaksas have presented the EU with a clincher to justify its punitive policy.

During the April Emergency Debate, PM Jayaratne invoked the Tiger bogey, predictably, saying that some former Tigers are lapsing into Tigerism! The Rajapaksas are maintaining repressive laws as a protective-shield not for Sri Lanka but for themselves. But by invoking the Tiger bogey to justify the prolongation of the Emergency, they are damning Sri Lanka internationally, as an unstable and a not-very-safe place. After all, when the Lankan Prime Minister repeatedly warns the Lankan Parliament that the Tigers are still alive, the world cannot be faulted for regarding Sri Lanka as a risky prospect for trade and investment. The regime needs to understand that it cannot keep on invoking the Tiger bogey, maintain repressive laws, tolerate human rights violations (disappearances are continuing in Jaffna, reportedly) and expect the world to see Sri Lanka as a stable democracy.

The Ruling Family’s determination to create a ‘Rajapaksa Security State’, by maintaining repressive laws and high levels of military spending, post-war, is costing Sri Lanka dear, not just in international goodwill, trade and investment but also in national development and popular advancement. According to the Minister of Education, “budgetary allocations for the upgrading of schools that lacked libraries, laboratory facilities and even common facilities like water and sanitation, were insufficient” (The Island – 3.3.2011). As US President Dwight Eisenhower warned, with great prescience, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed” (Speech to American Society of Newspaper Editors – 16.4.1953).

When Sri Lanka maintains defence costs at astronomical levels, she is wasting on Rajapaksa-security, the resources she should have spent on education, health and in assisting the war-affected, Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims, civilians and soldiers. If the regime removes the Emergency (and the PTA), it can, with one stroke, confound its critics and counter a possible adverse report by the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Panel.

In Stendhal’s The Charterhouse Of Parma, despotic-prince, Ranuccio-Ernesto IV, would get his security chief look under his bed, nightly, for enemies. A despot’s universe is coloured by fear. The Rajapaksas will maintain repressive laws and military spending, at enormous cost, for that future-day they lose their popularity and need protection from the wrath of their people.

April 15, 2011

Govt must show more sincerity and purpose in t alks - Sumanthiran

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

The issues faced by the Tamil community and finding a political settlement will have to be done through discussions, says TNA Parliamentarian and Attorney at Law, M.A. Sumanthiran.

In an e-mail interview with The Sunday Leader, Sumanthiran observed that the TNA was engaged in discussions honestly and sincerely with a view to resolving all issues. “There is no other way. We wish that the government too would show more sincerity and purpose in this matter,” he said. Speaking of looking for a political settlement beyond the 13th Amendment, Sumanthiran observed there was no need to discuss anything further than the 13th Amendment if it is the solution to the issue.

Excerpts:

Q: What has been the outcome of the four rounds of discussions the TNA has had with the government?

A: Our discussions have been on two fronts. One, on immediate issues faced by our people and the other on a long-term political settlement. The first three rounds were on both matters, with the meetings being divided into two parts. The fourth meeting was only on the immediate issues. The next, on the 29th of April, will be on the political settlement.

We have an agreement not to divulge the details of the discussions regarding the political solution to the public at this stage, except through a joint statement which we issue after each meeting.

On the immediate issues, we placed three matters — long term detainees, resettlement in ‘high security zones’ and illegal armed groups. The government delegation responded with regard to the armed groups issue by undertaking to amend the Criminal Procedure Code and making the possession of illegal arms, a non-bailable offence.

No proper response has emerged with regard to the other two matters. The ‘surrendees’ after the war ended, are said to number around 4,500. Their identities are not known. The result is that many thousands of parents don’t know whether their children are yet living or not! The government delegation assured us in writing that there was a computer data base that was already made accessible for the next of kin to check. However no such facility was made available. People who went there consequent to our publicity were chased away by the police.

At the subsequent meeting the government delegation apologized but to date the situation has not changed. At the last meeting it was agreed that on the 16th of April both parties would go there and check that data base and then announce the date on which this will become operable.

Another example of the government delegation’s information being inaccurate is with regard to resettlement in Thirumurigandy. When we inquired last June, we were told that the roofing sheets were getting delayed and that within a month the people could be resettled there. At the last meeting we were told that demining is not over there!

We have pointed out that we ourselves have walked around in that area and that there were no mines there. Now we find that bull dozers are being employed there to even close all the wells.

Q: How confidant is the TNA of being able to resolve the issues faced by the Tamil communities through discussions with the government?

A: We are engaged in the discussions honestly and sincerely with a view to resolving all issues. There is no other way. We wish that the government too would show more sincerity and purpose in this matter.

Q: Sections of the Tamil community are displeased with the TNA’s decision to discuss with the government. How do you respond?

A: Past experiences and even the fact that presently also there doesn’t seem to be any intent in the government, perhaps makes them think so. But we will have to resolve all the issues through discussions.

Q: The government has nominated External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris and MP Sajin Vass Gunawardena to represent the state. Do you think these officials hold the authority to help resolve issues faced by the Tamil people?

A: That is not a matter for us to comment. The President has nominated the government delegation. So they have his confidence. Similarly the TNA delegation was nominated by our Leader, Mr. Sampanthan.

Q: The TNA was preparing a set of proposals on finding a political solution to the ethnic issue. What is the TNA looking at proposing and when will they be presented to the government?

A: We are only placing points for discussion so that the proposal can emerge from this committee. As I said earlier we are not free to make public those discussions yet.

Q: India has reportedly asked the TNA to request for a political solution that goes beyond the 13th Amendment. Do you think the government would agree to such a request?

A: That news item is not accurate. What was stated was that India says that the solution must go beyond the 13th Amendment. Foreign Minister Krishna said so in his speech in Jaffna. If the 13th Amendment is the answer, there is no need for any further discussion now. That is the law at present. The worst part of the violence also took place after 1987. That is why the President has now appointed a committee to come up with a solution.

Q: What option would the TNA have in the event the government rejects its proposals including the request for a solution beyond the 13th Amendment?

A: Well, I don’t think we should speculate on that now, while we are engaged in a sincere dialogue. But I can say that if the Tamil people’s repeated democratic verdict is ignored a different scenario will definitely emerge.

International Law has also developed over the last 60 years.

Q: How effective has the TNA been in addressing the issues faced by the Tamil people, especially the detainees?

A: Not effective at all. I have already given an example. The government must sincerely engage with us as the elected representatives of the Tamil people.

Q: What is your comment on the move to add three chapters on President Mahinda Rajapaksa to the new volume of the Mahavamsa?

A: I have no comment since the accuracy of the existing chapters are also in serious doubt. ~ courtesy: The Sunday Leader ~

Harper brushes off questions over Tamil candidate Paranchothy who praised terrorist group LTTE

by Anthony Reinhart and John Ibbitson

Stephen Harper insists the Conservatives maintain “a strong position against the Tamil Tigers” despite a party candidate’s role in hosting a televised tribute to the banned terrorist group in November.

“Our position on the Tamil Tigers has been strong and unequivocal,” Mr. Harper told reporters Thursday in Beaupré, Que. “This is the party that listed the Tamil Tigers [as a terrorist group]; previous governments have refused to do so, and our position on that is not going to change.”

Mr. Harper was responding to questions raised in a Globe and Mail story about Gavan Paranchothy, a Tamil broadcaster running for the Conservatives in the Toronto riding of Scarborough-Southwest.

The candidate, who changed his first name to Gavan after he was nominated last month, was known as Ragavan Paranchothy when he hosted a sombre TV special to mark Heroes Day, an annual commemoration of dead Tiger fighters. He referred to the militants as “strong and faithful people who stood guard for the Tamils, fought for freedom and peace.”

Mr. Harper’s party designated the Tamil Tigers an illegal terrorist group in 2006, and shut down their key Canadian support group, the World Tamil Movement, in 2008.

The Conservative Leader did not answer directly when asked how Mr. Paranchothy became a candidate and whether he would be dumped.

Mr. Paranchothy has told The Globe that he supports the ban on the Tigers, but has yet to elaborate on his opinion of the militant group. The Tigers used suicide bombings, child soldiers and political killings in their failed 26-year war for a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka, which ended in 2009.

Dimitri Soudas, spokesman for Mr. Harper, said Mr. Paranchothy “was asked, and confirmed with the Conservative Party, that he in no way, shape or form was a sympathizer or supporter of the Tamil Tigers” before he was nominated. “If that had been the case ... he would not have been a candidate,” Mr. Soudas said.

As of early Thursday afternoon, Mr. Paranchothy remained the party’s nominee in Scarborough-Southwest. ~ courtesy: The Globe and Mail ~

Muralitharan slams SLC for calling back players from IPL

via PTI

Delhi: Retired spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan on Friday slammed Sri Lankan Cricket Board for asking its players to return home midway through the Indian Premier League for a tour to England, saying the No Objection Certificate had permitted them to play till May 20.

"I think the board (SLC) has given them permission till May 20. I don't know what happened suddenly. The players were told to come on May 5. It is the fault of SLC because they signed the NOC till May 20 so if they change it to May 5 it is something wrong," Muralitharan, who quit international cricket after Sri Lanka's defeat to India in the World Cup final early this month, said.

"Players will get demoralised because if they go back on May 5 they play half of the IPL and they are going to miss a lot. SLC should have informed the players earlier, then the IPL franchises would understand and everyone would understand," he said.

Muralitharan said that the incident could spark "friction" between cricket boards of the two countries and SLC would lose a lot financially if it antagonises the Indian Cricket Board (BCCI).

"There'll be a little bit of friction between the board (SLC) and the players and even the Indian Cricket Board. If the SLC is not going to support they are going to miss a lot from India, because when India tours Sri Lanka it is very important and if we are not playing in the Champions League Twenty20 we are going to lose some money. Friendship between India and Sri Lanka will be negative," he said.

"We have 25 million dollars of debt after World Cup. You don't have to antagonise India because when India comes only we make money and survive, so I don't know what's going to happen.

"It might get sorted. These things happen between countries but in the end financially we depend on India, whatever said and done. SLC will have to be careful," he told a TV channel. ~ courtesy: PTI ~

Executive Summary: Report of the Advisory panel of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka

Allegations found credible by the Panel

The Panel’s determination of credible allegations reveals a very different version of the final stages of the war than that maintained to this day by the Government of Sri Lanka. The Government says it pursued a "humanitarian rescue operation" with a policy of "zero civilian casualties". In stark contrast, the Panel found credible allegations, which if proven, indicate that a wide range of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law were committed both by the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Indeed, the conduct of the war represented a grave assault on the entire regime of international law designed to protect individual dignity during both war and peace.

Specially the Panel found credible allegations associated with the final stages of the war. Between September 2008 and 19 May 2009, the Sri Lanka Army advanced its military campaign into the Vanni using large-scale and widespread shelling causing large numbers of civilian deaths. This campaign constituted persecution of the population of the Vanni. Around 330,000 civilians were trapped into an ever decreasing area, fleeing the shelling but kept hostage by the LTTE. The Government sought to intimidate and silence the media and other critics of the war through a variety of threats and actions, including the use of white vans to abduct and to make people disappear.

The Government shelled on a large scale in three consecutive No Fire Zones, where it had encouraged the civilian population to concentrate, even after indicating that it would cease the use of heavy weapons. It shelled the United Nations hub, food distribution lines and near the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) ships that were coming to pick up the wounded and their relatives from the beaches. It shelled in spite of its knowledge of the impact, provided by its own intelligence systems and through notification by the United Nations, the ICRC and others. Most civilian casualties in the final phases of the war were caused by Government shelling.

The Government systematically shelled hospitals on the frontlines. All hospitals in the Vanni were hit by mortars and artillery, some of them were hit repeatedly, despite the fact that their locations were well-known to the Government. The Government also systematically deprived people in the conflict zone of humanitarian aid, in the form of food and medical supplies, particularly surgical supplies, adding to their suffering. To this end, it purposely underestimated the number of civilians who remained in the conflict zone. Tens of thousands lost their lives from January to May 2009, many of whom died anonymously in the carnage of the final few days.

The Government subjected victims and survivours of the conflict to further deprivation and suffering after they left the conflict zone. Screening for suspected LTTE took place without any transparency or external scrutiny. Some of those who were separated were summarily executed, and some of the women may have been raped. Others disappeared, as recounted by their wives and relatives during the LLRC hearings. All IDPs were detained in closed camps. Massive overcrowding led to terrible conditions, breaching the basic social and economic rights of the detainees, and many lives were lost unnecessarily. Some persons in the camps were interrogated and subjected to torture. Suspected LTTE cadres were removed to other facilities, with no contact with the outside world, under conditions that made them vulnerable of further abuses.

Despite grave danger in the conflict zone, the LTTE refused civilians permission to leave, using them as hostages, at times even using their presence as a strategic human buffer between themselves and the advancing Sri Lanka Army. It implemented a policy of forced recruitment throughout the war, but in the final stages greatly intensified its recruitment of people of all ages, including children as young as fourteen. The LTTE forced civilians to dig trenches for its own defenses, thereby contributing to blurring the distinction between combatants and civilians and exposing civilians to additional harm. All of this was done in a quest to pursue a war that was clearly lost; many civilians were sacrificed on the altar of the LTTE cause and its efforts to preserve its senior leadership.

From February 2009 onwards, the LTTE started point-blank shooting of civilians who attempted to escape the conflict zone, significantly adding to the death toll in the final stages of the war. It also fired artillery in proximity to large groups of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and fired from, or stored military equipment near IDPs or civilian installations such as hospitals. Throughout the final stages of the war, the LTTE continued its policy of suicide attacks outside the conflict zone. Even though its ability to perpetrate such attacks was diminished compared to previous phases of the conflict, it perpetrated a number of attacks against civilians outside the conflict zone.

Thus, in conclusion, the Panel found credible allegations that comprise five core categories of potential serious violations committed by the Government of Sri Lanka: (i) killing of civilians through widespread shelling; (ii) shelling of hospitals and humanitarian objects; (iii) denial of humanitarian assistance; (iv) human rights violations suffered by victims and survivors of the conflict, including both IDPs and suspected LTTE cadre; and (v) human rights violations outside the conflict zone, including against the media and other critics of the Government.

The Panel’s determination of credible allegations against the LTTE associated with the final stages of the war reveal six core categories of potential serious violations: Ii) using civilians as a human buffer; (ii) killing civilians attempting to flee LTTE control; (iii) using military equipment in the proximity of civilians; (iv) forced recruitment of children; (v) forced labour; and (vi) killing of civilians through suicide attacks.

Accountability

Accountability for serious violations of international humanitarian or human rights law is not a matter of choice or policy; it is a duty under domestic and international law. These credibly alleged violations demand a serious investigation and the prosecution of those responsible. If proven, those most responsible, including Sri Lanka Army commanders and senior Government officials, as well as military and civilian LTTE leaders, would bear criminal liability for international crimes.

At the same time, accountability goes beyond the investigation and prosecution of serious crimes that have been committed; rather it is a broad process that addressed the political, legal and moral responsibility of individuals and institutions for past violations of human rights and dignity. Consistent with the international standards mentioned above, accountability necessarily includes the achievement of truth, justice and reparations for victims. Accountability also requires an official acknowledgment by the State of its role and responsibility in violating the rights of its citizens, when that has occurred. In keeping with United Nations policy, the Panel does not advocate a "one-size-fits-all" formula or the importation of foreign models for accountability; rather it recognizes the need for accountability processes to be defined based on national assessments, involving broad citizen participation, needs and aspirations.

Nonetheless, any national process must still meet international standards. Sri Lankaapproach to accountability should, thus, be assessed against those standards and comparative experiences to discern how effectively it allows victims of the final stages of the war to realize their rights to truth, justice and reparations.

The Government has stated that it is seeking to balance reconciliation and accountability, with an emphasis on restorative justice. The assertion of a choice between restorative and retributive justice presents a false dichotomy. Both are required. Moreover, in the Panel’s view, the Government’s notion of restorative justice is flawed because it substitutes a vague notion of the political responsibility of past Government policies and their failure to protect citizens from terrorism for genuine, victim-centred accountability focused on truth, justice and reparations. A further emphasis is clearly on the culpability of certain LTTE cadre; the Government’s plan, in this regard, contemplates rehabilitation for the majority and lenient sentences for the "hardcore" among surviving LTTE cadre. The Government’s two-pronged notion of accountability, as explained to the Panel, focusing on the responsibility of past Governments and of the LTTE, does not envisage a serious examination of the Government’s decisions and conduct in prosecuting the final stages of the war or the aftermath, nor of the violations of law that may have occurred as a result.

The Panel has concluded that the Government’s notion of accountability is not in accordance with international standards. Unless the Government genuinely addresses the allegations of violations committed by both sides and places the rights and dignity of the victims of the conflict at the centre of its approach to accountability, its measures will fall dramatically short of international expectations.

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission

The Government has established the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission as the cornerstone of its policy to address the past, from the ceasefire agreement in 2002 to the end of the conflict in May 2009. The LLRC represents a potentially useful opportunity to begin a national dialogue on Sri Lanka’s conflict; the need for such a dialogue is illustrated by the large numbers of people, particularly victims, who have come forward on their own initiative and brought to speak with the Commission.

Nonetheless, the LLRC fails to satisfy key international standards of independence and impartiality, as it is compromised by its composition and deep-seated conflicts of Interests of some of its members. The mandate of LLRC, as well as its work and methodology to date, are not tailored to investigating allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, or to examining the root causes of the decades-long ethnic conflict; instead these focus strongly on the wide notion of political responsibility mentioned above, which forms part of the flawed and partial concept of accountability put forth by the Government. The work to date demonstrates that the LLRC has not conducted genuine truth-seeking about what happened in the final stages of the armed conflict, not sought to investigate systematically and impartially the allegations of serious violations on both sides of the war, not employed an approach that treats victims with full respect for their dignity and their suffering, and not provided the necessary protection for witnesses, even in circumstances of actual personal risk.

In sum, the LLRC is deeply flawed, does not meet International standards for an effective accountability mechanism and, therefore, does not and cannot satisfy the joint commitment of the President of Sri Lanka and the Secretary-General to an accountability process.

Other domestic mechanisms

The justice system should play a leading role in the pursuit of accountability, irrespective of functioning or outcomes of the LLRC. However, based on a review of the system’s past performance and current structure, the Panel has little confidence that it will serve justice in the present political environment. This is due more to a lack of political will than to lack of ability. In particular, the independence of the Attorney-General has been weakened in recent past, as power has been more concentrated in the Presidency. Moreover, the continuing constitution of Emergency Regulations, combined with the Prevention of Terrorism Act in its present form, present a significant obstacle for the judicial system to be able to address official wrongdoing while upholding human rights guarantees. Equally, the Panel has seen no evidence that the military courts system has operated as an effective accountability mechanism in respect of the credible allegations it has identified or other crimes committed in the final stages of the war.

Other domestic institutions that could play a role in achieving accountability also demonstrate serious weaknesses. Over three decades, commissions of inquiry have been established to examine a number of serious human rights issues. While some have served important fact-finding goals, overwhelmingly these commissions have failed to result in comprehensive accountability for the violations identified. Many commissions have failed to produce a public report and recommendations have rarely been implemented. The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka could also potentially contribute to advancing certain aspects of accountability, but the Panel still has serious reservations and believes that the Commission will need to demonstrate political will and resourcefulness in following up on cases of missing persons and in monitoring the welfare of detained persons.

Other obstacles to accountability

During the course of its work, the Panel observed that there were several other contemporary issues in Sri Lanka, which if left un-addressed, will deter efforts towards genuine accountability and may undermine prospects for durable peace in consequence. Most notably, these include:

(i) triumphalism on the part of the Government, expressed through its discourse on having developed the means and will to defeat "terrorism", thus ending Tamil aspirations for political, autonomy and recognition, and its denial regarding the human cost of its military strategy;

(ii) on-going exclusionary policies, which are particularly deleterious as political, social and economic exclusion exclusion based on ethnicity, perceived or real, have been at the heart of the conflict

(iii) the continuation of wartime measures, including not only the Emergency Regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act, mentioned above, but also the continued militiarisation of the former conflict zone and the use of paramilitary proxies, all of which perpetuate a climate of fear, intimidation and violence;

(iv) restrictions on the media, which are contrary to democratic governance and limit basic citizens’ rights; and (v) the role of the Tamil Diaspora, which provided vital moral and material support to the LTTE over decades, and some of whom refuse to acknowledge the LTTE’s role in the humanitarian disaster in the Vanni, creating a further obstacle to accountability and sustainable peace.

An environment conducive to accountability, which would permit a candid appraisal of the broad patterns of the past, including the root causes of the long-running ethno-nationalist conflict, does not exist at present. It would require concrete steps towards building an open society in which human rights are respected, as well as a fundamental shift away from triumphalism and denial towards a genuine commitment to a political solution that recognizes Sri Lanka’s ethnic diversity and the full and inclusive citizenship of all of its people, including Tamils as the foundation for the country’s future.

International role in the protection of civilians

During the final stages of the war, the United Nations political organs and bodies failed to take actions that might have protected civilians. Moreover, although senior international officials advocated in public and in private with the Government that it protect civilians and stop the shelling of hospitals and United Nations or ICRC locations, in the Panel’s view, the public use of casualty figures would have strengthened the call for the protection of civilians while those events in the Vanni were unfolding. In addition, following the end of war, the Human Rights Council may have been acting on incomplete information when it passed its May 2009 resolution on Sri Lanka.

Recommendations

In this context, the Panel recommends the following measures, which it hopes as a whole, will serve as the framework for an ongoing and constructive engagement between the Secretary-General and the Government of Sri Lanka on accountability. They address the various dimensions of accountability that the Panel considers essential and which will require complementary action by the Government of Sri Lanka, the United Nations and other parties.

Recommendation 1: Investigations

A. In light of the allegations found credible by the Panel, the Government of Sri Lanka, in compliance with its international obligations and with a view of initiating an effective domestic accountability process, should immediately commence genuine investigations into these and other alleged violations of international humanitarians and human rights law committed by both sides involved in the armed conflict.

B. The Secretary-General should immediately proceed to establish in independent international mechanism, whose mandate should include the following concurrent functions:

(i) Monitor and assess the extent to which the Government of Sri Lanka is carrying out an effective domestic accountability process, including genuine investigations of the alleged violations, and periodically advise the Secretary-General on its findings;
(ii) Conduct investigations independently into the alleged violations, having regard to genuine and effective domestic investigations; and

(iii) Collect and safeguard for appropriate future use information provided to it that is relevant to accountability for the final stages of the war, including the information gathered by the Panel and other bodies in the United Nations system.

Recommendation 2: Other immediate measures to advance accountability

In order to address the immediate plight of those whose rights were and continue to be violated, and to demonstrate the Government’s commitment to accountability, the following measures should be undertaken immediately:

A. The Government of Sri Lanka should implement the following short-term measures, with a focus on acknowledging the rights and dignity of all of the victims and survivors in the Vanni:

(i) End all violence by the State, its organs and all paramilitary and other groups acting as surrogates of, or tolerated by the State;

(ii) Facilitate the recovery and return of human remains to their families and allow for the performance of cultural rites for the dead;

(iii) Provide death certificates for the dead and missing, expeditiously and respectfully, without charge, when requested by family members, without compromising the right to further investigation and civil claims;

(iv) Provide or facilities psycho-social support for all survivors, respecting their cultural values and traditional practices;

(v) Release all displaced persons and facilitate their return to their former homes or provide for resettlement, according to their wishes; and

(vi) Continue to provide interim relief to assist the return of all survivors to normal life.

B. The Government of Sri Lanka should investigate and disclose the fate and location of persons reported to have been forcibly disappeared. In this regard, the Government of Sri Lanka should invite the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances to visit Sri Lanka.

C. In light of the political situation in the country, the Government of Sri Lanka should undertake an immediate repeal of the Emergency Regulations, modify all those provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act that are inconsistent with Sri Lanka’s international obligations, and take the following measures regarding suspected LTTE members and all other persons held under these or any other provisions:

(i) Publish the names of all of those currently detained, whatever the location of their detention, and notify them of the legal basis of their detention;

(ii) Allow all detainees regular access to family members and to legal counsel;

(iii) Allow all detainees to contest the substantive justification of their detention in court;

(iv) Charge those for whom there is sufficient evidence of serious crimes and release all others, allowing them to reintegrate into society without further hindrance.

D. the Government of Sri Lanka should end state violence and other practices that limit freedoms of movement, assembly and expression, or otherwise contribute to a climates of fear.

Recommendation 3: Longer term accountability measures

While the current climate of triumphalism and denialism is not conducive to an honest examination of the past, in the longer term, as political spaces are allowed to open, the following measures are needed to move towards full accountability for action taken during the war:

A. Taking into account, but distinct from, the work of the LLRC, Sri Lanka should initiate a process, with strong civil society participation, to examine in a critical manner: the root causes of the conflict, including ethno-nationalist extremism on both sides; the conduct of the war and patterns of violations; and the corresponding institutional responsibilities.

B. The Government of Sri Lanka should issue a public, formal acknowledgement of its role in and responsibility for extensive civilian casualties in the final stages of the war.

C. The Government of Sri Lanka should institute a reparations programme, in accordance with international standards, for all victims of serious violations committed during the final stages of the war, with special attention to women, children and particularly vulnerable groups.

Recommendation 4: United Nations

Considering the response of the United Nations to the plight of civilians in the Vanni during the final stages of the war in Sri Lanka and the aftermath:

A. the Human rights Council should be invited to reconsider its May 2009 Special Session Resolution (A/HRC/S-11/l.1/Rev.2) regarding Sri Lanka, in light of this report.

B. The Secretary-General should conduct a comprehensive review of actions by the United Nations system during the war in Sri Lanka and the aftermath, regarding the implementation of its humanitarian and protection mandates

Report on Sri Lanka by the Ban-Ki-moon Advisory panel

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

The three-member panel appointed by UN secretary –general Ban Ki moon to advise him on alleged human rights violations and accountability issues in Sri Lanka during the last phase of the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam organization handed over its report on April 12th. It is expected that the UN Secy –Gen will publicise the contents in due course. At the time of this article being written the report was yet to be made public.

Sections of the media notably some wire services have gone to town describing the report as the "UN Report" and as the "UN War crimes report". Wittingly or unwittingly this media "spin" has bestowed upon the report a degree of importance which it may not deserve in the final analysis. It has to be pointed out in this respect that the report in question is neither a UN report nor a war crimes report.

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[ Click here to read in full ~ dbsjeyaraj.com ]

April 14, 2011

In Pictures: “Kara” New Year dawns with Chariot Festival in Thaavady, Jaffna

Pictures from the festival:
By Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai:

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[Click to read & See more]

"Sri Lanka’s progress on demining activities should be welcomed" – British High Commissioner

via British High Commission, Sri Lanka

The British High Commissioner made this remarks on the occasion of the International Day for Mine Awareness. The United Nations observes the International Day for Mine Awareness every year.

This year theme was “A landmine-free world within reach”.

The British High Commission (BHC) in Colombo invited The Halo Trust (a leading UK-based demining agency working in Sri Lanka) to make a presentation on demining activities in Sri Lanka and demining work internationally to mark this significant day. The talk was held on Friday, 8 April and attended by the staff from the BHC and several other foreign missions.

In his interesting and educational presentation, the Country Manager of The HALO Trust, Adam Jasinski, said there are approximately 4,000 demining personnel currently working in Sri Lanka – probably the second largest number globally.

The UK has allocated £13.5 million for humanitarian assistance in Sri Lanka thorough its development agency DFID, since September 2008. Of these funds, over £ 1 million has been spent on demining activities. In February 2011, visiting UK Minister Alistair Burt announced further £3 million funding towards demining in Sri Lanka.

Commenting on the importance of this day, British High Commissioner H E John Rankin said, “In its humanitarian assistance to Sri Lanka, the UK government has given full attention to demining activities from the outset. Sri Lanka has achieved commendable results in its demining activities. We welcome the fact that displaced Sri Lankans will be able to return to their homes and rebuild their lives and communities.“

About International Day for Mine Awareness

On 8 December 2005, the General Assembly declared that 4 April of each year shall be officially proclaimed and observed as the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. It called for continued efforts by States, with the assistance of the United Nations and relevant organizations, to foster the establishment and development of national mine-action capacities in countries where mines and explosive remnants of war constitute a serious threat to the safety, health and lives of the civilian population, or an impediment to social and economic development at the national and local levels.

April 13, 2011

SL bracing for showdown with cricket powerhouse India

Sri Lankan sports ministry's decision to call back its cricketers from the IPL could lead to "a potentially explosive situation" as far as the board's ties with the BCCI - world cricket's financial powerhouse - is concerned, a leading newspaper said.

The ministry had on Tuesday asked the Sri Lankan cricketers participating in the hugely popular Twenty20 league to return home early to prepare for the national team's tour of England that gets underway on May 14.

"The latest development is almost certain to create a tense situation in Sri Lanka's ties with the world cricket's financial power house, the BCCI which more or less dictates terms to the ICC and world cricket as a whole," the Daily Mirror opined on Wednesday.

The newspaper further said that the decision was taken after sports minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage's criticism of India's alleged shabby treatment of Sri Lankan politicians at the World Cup final in Mumbai.

In line with Aluthgamage's policy of 'country before IPL', the ministry said a circular would soon be released by the minister that will make national duty mandatory for all Sri Lankan sportsmen above any other commitments.

Ten Sri Lankan cricketers are contracted to various franchises, of which two of them are being led by Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, the islanders' two senior most players.

Besides Deccan Chargers skipper Sangakkara and Kochi Tuskers Kerala captain Jayawardene, Suraj Randiv, Nuwan Kulasekara, Muttiah Muralitharan, Thisara Perera, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando, Tilakaratne Dilshan and Nuwan Pradeep are some of the Sri Lankan players involved in the fourth season of the IPL.

"On a recommendation made by the national selection committee I have instructed the secretary of the board to inform the players to return by at least the 5th of May to prepare for the tour," Aluthgamage said.

"When contracted players of Sri Lanka Cricket represent other tournaments, they should make sure that their priority lies with the national team and this will be strictly adhered to in the future," Aluthgamage had added.

Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Malinga, Dilshan and Kulasekera look certain to be picked for the tour of England. The Sri Lankans are scheduled to leave for the tour on May 10.

The move by the Sri Lankan government is in complete contrast to the one that was taken three years ago when it cancelled a tour of England in 2009 to allow the players participate in the T20 league. ~ Courtesy: PTI ~

Sri Lanka gov finds UNSG Panel report 'fundamentally flawed in many respects'

Full Text of Statement by Ministry of External Affairs, Sri Lanka

The Government of Sri Lanka has received a copy of the report of the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on accountability in Sri Lanka.

The Government finds this report fundamentally flawed in many respects.

Among other deficiencies, the report is based on patently biased material which is presented without any verification.

The Government will, in due course, comment in detail on the contents of the report.

Ministry of External Affairs,

13 April 2011

April 12, 2011

Appeal to media on critiques about NGOs

by National Peace Council

In recent months there has been a systematic campaign in sections of the media to bring a few NGOs that work in the areas of human rights, governance, peace and reconciliation into public disrepute. At the core of these charges is the allegation that NGOs are accountable to no one but to themselves, do not have independent audits of their accounts and are not registered with the government. The National Peace Council (NPC) is one of the NGOs that have been singled out for this unfavourable commentary.

NPC was one of the first civic organisations to campaign for peaceful negotiations to end the war which became part of the then government’s strategy, and from time to time its views have been sought by the international community. NPC continues to affirm the need for a political solution to the ethnic conflict and for a reconciliation process between the communities and the government. Furthermore most, if not all projects, have an impact on political education and building civil society and social capital.

NPC is legally registered under two sets of laws; under the Voluntary Social Service Organisations Act and also the Companies Act as a Not-for-Profit Company. This means that it is accountable to two sets of government authorities, one being the NGO Secretariat and the other the Registrar of Companies. Due to the government's concern about national security, the NGO Secretariat is today under the Defence Ministry, although in the past it was under the Social Services Ministry. NPC is required to file its financial statements, audited reports and work plans on a regular basis with these government departments.

When raising funds, NGOs also have to satisfy the donor agencies that they have a plan of action that merits support. They have to prepare project proposals and action plans with budgets. Significant changes in achieving targets or in spending need to be approved by the donor agency. Donor agencies frequently commission independent evaluators of NGOs they fund, as they in turn are accountable to their own tax payers and members who give them the funds. If donor agencies find that the organization they have supported has violated its promises, it is liable to be blacklisted.

Whatever the motives behind attacks on directed at NPC , we appeal to the media not to repeatedly publish critiques that contain false and misleading and mischievous allegations that NGOs such as NPC are not duly registered with the government, are not subject to audit and are misusing their funds. Some media commentators appear to believe that if a lie is repeated a sufficient number of times it will be believed by the general public. Whatever information the government has requested of NPC we have done our best to provide it in the shortest possible time.

We are also pleased to cooperate with the government and any other institution to create a more just society in which there is reconciliation and inter ethnic harmony.

'Ban-Ki-moon must stick to his word' - Amnesty Int'l

'Ban-Ki-moon must stick to his word - accounting for violations committed in the recent conflict is first step to future reconciliation' - Amnesty Int'l

Amnesty International Media Release

United Nations Report on Sri Lanka Conflict Must be Made Public, Says Amnesty International

(Washington, D.C.) -- A United Nations (U.N.) report on accountability for war crimes committed in the Sri Lankan armed conflict must be made public, Amnesty International said today as a panel of experts submits their findings to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

"Sri Lankans must be allowed to see the panel's findings. The report concerns a critical period in their recent history and they deserve to read it in full," said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director. "Ban Ki-moon said that 'accountability is an essential foundation for durable peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.' He must stick to his word - accounting for violations committed in the recent conflict is the first step to future reconciliation."

The U.N. Panel of Experts was appointed in June 2010 to advise the Secretary General on accountability issues relating to violations of international human rights and humanitarian law alleged in the final stages of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka, which ended in May 2009.

Sri Lanka - Tell the Truth

The panel was also asked to recommend a course of action that would ensure accountability, in line with a joint commitment made by President Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka and Ban Ki-moon on his visit to Sri Lanka in May 2009.

Amnesty International has called on the United Nations to launch an independent international investigation into alleged crimes, which include the killing of more than 10,000 civilians; the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s use of civilians as human shields and conscription of child soldiers; Sri Lankan army shelling of areas densely populated by civilians; and severe deprivation of food, water and medical care for people trapped by fighting.

The Sri Lankan government protested appointment of the U.N. panel as "uncalled for and unwarranted" and refused to fully cooperate.

"The panel’s work on accountability issues in Sri Lanka should mark the beginning, not the end, of a process of accounting for violations," said Zarifi.

For decades, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE or Tamil Tigers) systematically targeted civilians, launched suicide attacks at buses and railway stations, assassinated politicians and critics and recruited child soldiers.

Sri Lankan government forces and their armed affiliates also acted with impunity, engaging in extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and torturing those suspected of links to the LTTE.

"Impunity for violations has been the rule throughout Sri Lanka’s long civil war. The way to turn a new page in the country’s history and restore public confidence is to deliver truth and justice," said Zarifi. "By publicizing the panel of expert’s report, and moving toward an independent, international accountability mechanism, the UN would send a strong message that international law is relevant, and would reinforce trends of accountability for human rights violations globally."

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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For more information, please visit: www.amnestyusa.org

Secretary-General Should Use Findings to Press for Justice - HRW

HRW Media Release

(New York) - The report by a panel of experts to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on April 12, 2011, about laws-of-war violations in Sri Lanka should be used to pave the way for justice, Human Rights Watch said today. Ban commissioned the report in May 2010 after the Sri Lankan government failed to investigate violations committed in the final months of its decades-long conflict with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Ban's office said today that he will make the report public after he shares it with the Sri Lankan government. "Secretary-General Ban's creation of a panel of experts and his decision to make the report public show that the UN has not forgotten Sri Lanka's war victims," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "In the face of two years of stonewalling by the government, the public release of this report will help move justice forward in Sri Lanka."

Serious abuses by both government and LTTE forces, which may have amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity, escalated in the last five months of the war, during which tens of thousands of civilians were killed and injured. On May 23, 2009, shortly after the end of the war, President Mahinda Rajapaksa endorsed a statement promising Ban that the government would investigate alleged laws-of-war violations.

Almost two years later, however, the government has taken no steps to hold anyone on either side of the conflict accountable for serious violations of international law, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. Two ad hoc bodies established by the government after the conflict have failed to lead to any criminal investigations, let alone prosecutions, Human Rights Watch said.

The government opposed Ban's appointment of the panel, calling it an "unwarranted and unnecessary interference with a sovereign nation." Shortly after the panel was appointed, a government minister staged a disruptive demonstration outside the UN headquarters in Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo, which eventually led the UN to recall its resident coordinator temporarily and to close one of its offices. The government has refused to cooperate with the panel or to allow its members to visit Sri Lanka on acceptable conditions, contending that its own domestic mechanisms are capable of ensuring accountability.

However, a committee of experts created by the Sri Lankan government in November 2009 in response to a United States State Department report on wartime abuses never finished its work or published any report.

A second body, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, was only empowered to hold hearings - not to conduct serious investigations. It had no program to protect victims or witnesses who testified before it, and it demonstrated a strong government bias in the conduct of its hearings. Its interim recommendations in September 2010 did not contain a single recommendation related to justice or accountability. It is slated to submit its report to the government in May, but there is no requirement to make the report public, either in full or in part. The government has not released the report of a previous commission set up by Rajapaksa, the 2006 Presidential Commission of Inquiry.

"The government has opposed the panel of experts from the beginning and has done nothing to suggest its position has changed," Adams said. "UN members that care about justice for grave crimes should now make sure that they show all possible support for Ban's efforts."

Sri Lankan officials continue to insist, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, that the Sri Lankan armed forces committed no violations during the conflict's final months. In response to the release of the latest US annual human rights report on April 8, which among other allegations said that extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances continued to be a problem in Sri Lanka, a military spokesman said that "all these allegations are baseless." Referring to the last months of the war, he continued, "The humanitarian operation was carried out under the law of war and we know that there have been no such acts committed by the armed forces."

On April 7, however, Human Rights Watch released new information about enforced disappearance by the Sri Lanka military during the final days of the war, including video footage of government soldiers interrogating one of the LTTE officers, who later "disappeared." A military spokesman said that all those taken into custody have been accounted for and their relatives notified. But several women have testified before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and filed complaints with the police claiming that the military detained their husbands and that their wives have had no news about them since.

"The lack of a single known criminal investigation of any of the numerous serious war crimes allegations in two years speaks for itself," Adams said. "The government has demonstrated that accountability and justice in Sri Lanka will only come about through international action."

UN Sec Gen Ban-Ki-moon shares panel report with Sri Lanka govt 'prior to making it public'

UN chief receives report of panel of experts on Sri Lanka human rights issues

Via UN News Centre

The panel of experts set up to advise Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on accountability issues with respect to the conflict in Sri Lanka today delivered its report to the United Nations chief, who is sharing a copy with the Government prior to making it public.

The three-member panel was set up following the Joint Statement made by Mr. Ban and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa after the Secretary-General visited the South Asian nation shortly after the end of the conflict in May 2009.

During their meeting today at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Ban expressed his sincere appreciation to the members of the panel for having completed their assignment, and said he would study the report carefully and will determine his next steps in the coming days.

The panel was tasked with examining “the modalities, applicable international standards and comparative experience with regard to accountability processes,” taking into account the nature and scope of any alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law during the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka.

Government forces declared victory over the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009 after a conflict that had raged on and off for nearly three decades and killed thousands of people. The conflict ended with large numbers of Sri Lankans living as internally displaced persons (IDPs), especially in the north of the island country.

The members of the panel are: Marzuki Darusman of Indonesia (chair), Yasmin Sooka of South Africa and Steven Ratner of the United States. They began their work in September 2010.

April 11, 2011

Without accountability there cannot be reconciliation: Is the argument correct?

by Dayan Jayatilleka

One must re-scrutinise the emphatic assertion that post-war accountability, democracy, good governance and post-conflict reconciliation are integral parts of a single package or located on a continuum. It is argued that greater democratisation and fuller accountability regarding the war are indispensable complementarities.

The argument is put forward that without accountability there will be no reconciliation, and the question is therefore raised as to what the international standards and best practices of accountability are. Opinion divides between those who advocate or support an ‘independent international inquiry’ and an independent domestic inquiry.

What if the wrong question is being asked, to wit, what are the best practices with regards to post-war accountability?

The discussion today takes place against dual frameworks, those of democracy and post conflict reconciliation. What does the overwhelming evidence show, in both these realms?

In the first place, let us examine the evidence with regard to democratisation. Even if one were to adhere to the notion of a worldwide trend towards democracy, I would remind the reader that there is no single worldwide or universal trend, there are universal trends (plural), some of which tend to cancel the other out, or combine in a fashion that modifies the outcome. Thus the ‘End of History’ meets ‘the Clash of Civilisations’, with unforeseeable results. Authentic adherence to pluralism has not only a domestic but also a global dimension; recognising that there is a plurality of global trends, such as democratisation as well as multi-polarity propelled by newly emerging powers, and the Asian resurgence.

This being said, I think the late Prof Huntington was onto something when he wrote of the Third Wave. He was referring to the great waves of democratisation, the first being in Southern Europe in the 1970s, when the long lasting dictatorships in Spain, Portugal and the ‘younger’ ones in Greece and Turkey collapsed. The second wave swept Latin America. The Third wave (or was it the fourth?) took down the Soviet bloc. I would say the fourth (or was it the third?) wave was in East Asia: the Philippines, South Korea and Indonesia. My slight confusion is because the Philippines restored democracy in 1986 and Indonesia in 1998, with the events of 1989 in Eastern Europe and Russia ’91 falling in-between. The Arab world is experiencing the fifth wave.

Now it must be emphasised that in the overwhelming number of these democratic transitions (with the GDR case being a short-lived exception), openings or re-openings, there were no accountability hearings with regard to the conduct of the militaries of those countries. More: an amnesty, or the pledge not to rake up accountability issues, was part of a compact which underpinned democratisation and guaranteed stability and forestalled further polarisation.

So accountability probes were not part of the great waves of democratisation, and were perceived to be counterproductive to the grand bargain that underpinned the project. More starkly, democracy and accountability did not go together. It was, more often than not, a question of democracy OR accountability.

The picture is no different with regard to post conflict reconciliation. From the Spanish civil war to the Philippines and Indonesia, the post conflict reconciliation process did not involve accountability probes. These were regarded as dangerously lacerating and polarising. Here again, accountability was not understood as a precondition for reconciliation but as a potential threat, and it was often a choice of reconciliation OR accountability.

In some cases, accountability issues have been allowed to surface only after decades have passed. Chile is about to probe the death of President Salvador Allende not only almost forty years after the event but a few decades after the restoration of democracy. Bangladesh is opening an inquiry into atrocities committed by militia during its war of independence in 1971, forty years ago.

Most societies settle accounts with their violent pasts by classically cathartic means such as artistic expression and public debate. Thus, some accounts are better balanced by History and left to what the French called la longue durée, the long term -- and to future generations.

Reconciliation is more readily achieved and more rooted through a negotiated compact between all democratic stakeholders. Such a process has already been initiated in Sri Lanka.

No external claim of accountability is more important than the accountability of a government to its own citizens; its own people. That is the corollary and concomitant of popular sovereignty.

(An expanded version of remarks made at the discussion that followed a paper presented by invitation by the author, at the Workshop on Global Leadership, Yale University, USA)

Improprieties in the Sri Lanka section of US State Dept report

By Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha

The 2010 Human Rights Report on Sri Lanka issued by the BUREAU OF DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND LABOR of the US Department of State is potentially a useful document for Sri Lanka, since it brings together several cases which need to be pursued. Seven cases are cited of deaths in police custody, one involving four persons in Trincomalee, and another two in Moratuwa. These are disgraceful, and they should not only be investigated thoroughly, but action should be taken against the perpetrators if unnecesssry violence was used. In only three of the instances are there even allegations of provocation, and those too do not seem entirely plausible.

We know that all over the world police can sometimes react violently to what they perceive as criminality. It is not excuse however to cite precedent. We all know for instance of the Rodney King incident in the United States, and that the perpetrators were acquitted, despite clear visual evidence. However they were brought to trial, which at least provides a deterrent against further such abuses. We in Sri Lanka must ensure that action is taken, and it is sad that it is left to the Americans to continue to maintain records of such cases. This also shows up the selectivity of journalists and others who claim to be defenders of Human Rights. Though there was dramatic reporting of, for instance, the case of the two youngsters killed in Angulana, there has been little follow up. I believe some action was taken at the time, but there has been little attention to follow up. Equally appalling is the lack of concern about what is reported as ‘the March 2009 deaths of four persons in the Trincomalee area who were in police custody in connection with the killing of a schoolgirl.’

Unfortunately the reality is that most so-called Defenders of Human Rights are more concerned with the political mileage they can get from their pronouncements than with the victims. Though it should not blind us to the real concerns raised by the US report, the same seems to be true of its American authors. In addition to clearly being dependent on local observers they will not identify, though they anxiously assert several times that these are independent, they engage in some sleight of hand that reveals their predilections. Two of the instances they note with regard to what they call ‘Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life’ (and six of the eleven individuals killed) relate to 2009 rather than 2010.

Equally significantly, mixed in with these are assertions about alleged killings by government supporters. A long paragraph points fingers at Pillaiyan and Karuna, erroneously lumping them together in the TMVP, as well as at Douglas Devananda. Only one example is cited for all of this, the death on December 31st 2010 of ‘Ketheeswaran Thevarajah’. The paragraph that is used for justification of the vicious attack on government ministers who repudiated terrorism and entered the democratic process is worth citing in full – ‘On December 31, unidentified armed men entered the home of Ketheeswaran Thevarajah near Jaffna and killed him. He recently had posted photos of illegal sand excavation on his Facebook profile. Many local Jaffna residents suspect EPDP subsidiaries were illegally mining sand in the Jaffna region, causing environmental damage.’

That this paragraph is the sole justification for denigration of the most solid opponents of LTTE terrorism makes clear what is obviously a forceful element in the inspiration behind the report. It is desirable therefore that our Ministry of External Affairs call in the American Ambassador and formally but politely raise questions about the methodology involved. She herself is not I believe a supporter of terrorists, even those masquerading as recent converts to democratic practice, but what I hope is her less prejudiced approach has been set aside in such paragraphs.

What is particularly outrageous about the manner in which the report is written is that it unequivocally associates Pillaiyan and Karuna and Devananda with criminal characteristics. Though the paragraph notes that the number of what is termed extra-judicial killings dropped significantly, the manner in which, with a twisting of language which would have impressed Orwell, government ministers are likened to criminals is vicious, and should be taken up by the Ministry of External Affairs.

Again, with what seems a political agenda, the report moves straight from the death in Jaffna on December 31st 2010 to the killing of the ACF workers in Mutur in 2006. It notes that there has been no public report of the Commission of Inquiry, but refers to reports that that report blames ‘ACF for allowing its workers to be in an unsafe location, at the same time exonerating all government security forces from any possible involvement in the killing of the aid workers.’

I have no idea what the report says, but this is a highly simplified version of what I hope makes clear the strange behavior of ACF not in ‘allowing its workers to be in an unsafe location’ but in sending them in to what other humanitarian agencies knew was a highly dangerous situation from which they all – with the exception of ACF – were withdrawing their workers. The failure of ACF to follow international guidelines of procedures (which then UN Under-Secretary Sir John Holmes kindly sent me), their refusal to testify properly before the Commission (indeed their hasty flight when hard questions were being asked) suggests a conspiratorial element too in the effort to stampede the world into believing Sri Lankan security forces were responsible. It is noteworthy that the contribution of the then Head of the SLMM involved breaching the provisions of his contract, as was granted by his successor, General Lars Solvberg, whom I found admirably conscientious.

It is sad then to find the US Department of State falling in with this strange conspiracy, and not rather using its moral authority to get ACF to pay proper compensation to the relations of the victims it had sent into danger. But, at the same time, we must realize that this sort of attack is made easier by our failure to make public the findings of the Commission. It is true that, from the perspective of an informed but inexpert observer, I believe that in one of the cases considered by the Commission, individuals behaved improperly. If this is the case, it needs to be addressed. However, in most if not all of the other cases, I believe no blame can be attached to government forces, and that position will be less contentious if we do admit to errors where they have occurred, and that internal mechanisms are perfectly capable of addressing such problems.

Similarly, we should ensure that there is proper closure on the Mahanama Tillekeratne Commission to look into disappearances etc, and we need to pursue more carefully the investigation into the murder of Lasantha Wickramatunga. I have pointed out previously that those who immediately found Defence forces guilty were in fact inhibiting investigation, and that the approach of the Civil Rights Movement was much more positive: that made it clear, if I recollect aright, that investigation was important, and that if such investigation led nowhere, it suggested a lack of professionalism on the part of the police. If this is the case, we cannot continue complacent, but must ensure remedial action. Similarly, there must be more concerted effort with regard to investigation of a killing which the US Report links to Member of Parliament Duminda Silva. Naming him here, and adding a reference to a rape case, again seems to indicate the political purpose of the report, though in this case too Government should ensure a more professional approach on the part of the police.

Just before that final paragraph, the US report makes reference to the 2009 Channel 4 video, and refers to Philip Alston’s argument that this was authentic. Though the report notes contradictions that have emerged with regard to the video and what was claimed to be its continuation, shown in November 2010, and also the Government evidence that the video was a fabrication, it makes no reference to our arguments against Alston’s conclusions based on his own chosen experts. This is possibly because we have not put down our refutations in writing officially. I have made a detailed critique, but unfortunately I have no official status, and indeed my capacity to respond to Alston was vitiated by officials of the Ministry of External Affairs way back in 2009. Had they substituted someone more effective, I would have been delighted, but it seems that this matter has only been dealt with verbally, which is what permits continuing authority to Alston’s highly prejudiced approach – including his belittling of the findings of his experts, that throw doubt on the video. I hope that, since this along with the White Flag story are the main components of allegations against our forces, we will show how riddled they are with contradictions and malice.

"Attacked for Words", Journalist Poddala Jayantha at Iowa State University

First Amendment Day 2011 of The Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University was held on April 7, 2011 featuring a presentation by journalist Poddala Jayantha: "Attacked for Words: A Terror Campaign Against Sri Lankan Journalists."

The following is a report of the event, appearing on the student run the Iowa State Daily. The newspaper was first established in 1890.

By Kaleb Warnock

"They threw my unconscious body in a ditch and left me to die."

Poddala Jayantha is a Sri Lankan journalist who was nearly killed because of his investigative reporting with regard to alleged human rights violations executed by the Sri Lankan government. He spoke of his experience last Thursday as part of the First Amendment Day celebration in the Cardinal Room of the Memorial Union.

"I stand here today as a political asylum as a Sri Lankan journalist," said Jayantha through a translator. "I was forced to leave Sri Lanka to save my life. There are so many other journalists who live there in fear. Most of them are living in exile."

In his presentation, Jayantha told a room full of future journalists of the role and influence of media in Sri Lanka and how the struggle has caused extreme censorship of the media. He speaks primarily on behalf of the Tamil minority against the human rights violations enacted during the civil war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Sri Lankan government.

The government tightened restrictions on the media following the end of the civil war in 2009, according to the Human Rights Watch report of 2010.

"As pressure mounted for an independent investigation into alleged laws of war violations," the report said, "the government responded by threatening journalists and civil society activists, effectively curtailing public debate and establishing its own commission of inquiry with a severely limited mandate."

Many of the threats were realized, Jayantha said.

"The first shots after the war was over were fired at the journalists and free media," Jayantha said. "They virtually crushed the free media institutions, and they only have the pro-government media to assassinate the character of the people who oppose them, or they actually use death squads to kill them."

As a matter of fact, Jayantha was the victim of a death squad, and he suspects they were motivated to silence him for speaking out against human rights violations.

"I was tortured and my left leg was broken," he said. "And today I'm walking with the assistance of steel rod that has been placed there. They poured acid on me. They also cut my beard and hair and put it in my mouth and forced me to inhale, which caused severe problems in my lungs subsequently. They thew my unconscious body in a ditch and left me to die."

Following the June 2009 attack, he was in the hospital for nearly a month and was unable to walk for six more. His case is not an exception, as many other journalists have been attacked and several have paid the ultimate price.
Jayantha said since this administration took over in 2005, five leading media institutions have been burned down, 35 media employees have been murdered and six journalists have been kidnapped. Five have been released due to public opposition, but one is still missing and has been since January of 2010.

There has been no ensuing investigation to many of these cases, including Jayantha's, and his attack remains unsolved.

"Every atrocity committed against a journalist and the media since April 20, 2005, to Dec. 8, 2009, the day that an editor of a newspaper was murdered, is being gradually covered by the dust that invaded through time," Jayantha said.

However, he continues to speak out against the Sri Lankan government and hopes to continue to fight for human rights in his home country. He called on journalists and the international community to fight for free speech and seek the truth and hold the government accountable for its actions.

"That's why I'm appealing to journalists. ... Don't let this freedom die." ~ courtesy: iowastatedaily.com/ ~

Our old enemies the secessionists seek to resume the struggle by other means and win

by Dayan Jayatilleka

Behind its splendid stone facade, the Acadamie Diplomatique Internationale has been in existence from the early decades of the last century, and according to its head, was discussing Western military intervention in the Middle East then as it was that very day last week when a team from the National University of Singapore’s Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), on a Paris-London visit, presented on ‘Developments in the Arab World and the Impact on Asia: an Asian Perspective’. I attended eagerly, not only because of the subject’s salience but because these were my recent colleagues and friends.

The team’s presentation bracketed out the domestically driven developments, most importantly but not exclusively in Tunisia and Egypt, from external military intervention in Libya’s armed civil conflict or civil war. Prof Tan Tai Yong, the Vice Provost of the National University of Singapore (with which Yale has just signed a deal to establish a liberal arts college) and Executive Director of the Institute pointed out that while Asian opinion agreed that the intentional killing of unarmed civilian protestors de-legitimised any regime and constituted a new ‘red line’ for the international community which if crossed would trigger R2P, Asia with its organically evolved societies and states of long historicity (contrasting with many an Arab state such as Libya carved out as a patchwork of tribes, clans and ethnicities mere decades ago by colonial fiat, with Egypt a monumental exception), its functioning political parties and use of universal suffrage, its familiarity with and history of street protests, and its better shared prosperity in an era of economic upswing, has states of an entirely different formation and type from those of the Arab world, and does not suffer the same structural vulnerabilities of legitimacy. Having made much the same point in the Sri Lankan press prior to events in Libya, I was gratified to hear such expert scholarly confirmation.

Having made much the same point in the Sri Lankan press prior to events in Libya, I was gratified to hear such expert scholarly confirmation.

By contrast, the dramatic external dimension of the developments in Libya and the resultant deflection/distortion of domestic struggles of democratisation and reform were seen by the delegation to have a marked impact on Asia.

The team pointed to the role played by the most dogmatic adherents of the doctrine of ‘liberal humanitarian interventionism’ and their distortion of the Responsibility to Protect endorsed by the UN Security Council. I had discovered on a recent visit to the USA to present a paper by invitation at a Workshop on Global Leadership at Yale (at which the keynote speaker was Marwan Muasher, Jordan’s former deputy Prime Minister), that these were the same trinity of personalities who had been pushing the case of Sri Lanka’s ‘accountability’ for the closing stages of the war.

The most incisive comments at the Paris dialogue were by the former Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, Dr Ifthikar Ahmed Chowdhury, who had been among those in the Security Council who negotiated the consensus on R2P. Quipping that R2P should not be used in a manner that made for its interpretation not as the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ but the ‘Rush to Plunder’ he cautioned that the most important impact of the intervention in Libya was that it would halt progress in efforts at nuclear non-proliferation. States would note that Libya had given up its nuclear programme and was being bombed, while that would not have been the case had it still possessed a nuclear capacity. Thus, those states that had ongoing nuclear programmes would be even more reluctant than before to give them up, while others would seek to embark on such programmes. On this point, Dr Chowdhury was supported by Emeritus Professor SD Muni of the JNU.

While the most stridently unambiguous criticism of external military invention in Libya has come from the leftwing leaderships, governments and movements of Latin America, which know a thing or two about revolution, counterrevolution, imperialism and national sovereignty, Prof Muni drew attention to the abstention by the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and the dissenting remarks by India during the Security Council debate on Libya. Echoing the more recent criticisms made by the BRICs, he ventured the suggestion that these would emerge as the moral, ethical and Realist centre of the world community, not engaged in warlike activism and risking overstretch, but in peaceful economic expansion and cooperation.

The most direct impact of the events in the Arab world on Asia were seen to be economic: the hike in oil prices and the possible diminution of remittances from migrant labour, which could constitute a shock effect on Asian economies and living standards, thereby triggering social unrest.

It is against the backdrop of these developments that the current commentary on the external challenges to Sri Lanka must be embedded.

Governments the world over certainly do point to external threats to shore up domestic power and legitimacy. Sometimes these threats are real, sometimes not. Sometimes they are real but exaggerated. Sometimes the threats could have been better met with a different government or existing governments could themselves have better met the threats had they conducted themselves differently.

One would expect oppositional or dissenting political discourse to differentiate between real and unreal threat, accurately depicted and exaggerated threat, and treated and untreated external problems. That, however, is not the case in Sri Lanka.

Here, criticism of the government with regard to external challenges falls into two equally absurd categories. One is that there is no such threat and that all mention of such external foes or challenges is but a ploy of the Rajapaksa regime which must be exposed and rejected as fake by all brave and discerning souls. Another argument is that yes, there are challenges looming but those external forces are not a threat to Sri Lanka and its people -- only to the ruling elite, and liberation through ‘regime termination’ will someday be at hand by the blessed intercession of these external factors and forces.

Taken together, the anti-government discourse is that there is no external threat to Sri Lanka as a country, a state, and if there is, it is to be welcomed as a lever to prise out the incumbent administration.

A dissenting discourse less irrational than this would have yielded a different line of argument, namely that there is an external threat which should be combated but that there are better and worse ways of so doing; choices between projects of defending national sovereignty and defeating the secessionist and pro-secessionist forces in the Cold war being waged against Sri Lanka.

Yet, this is not the case made by the local oppositional ideologues. The decisive and virtually complete decimation of the military apparatus of the LTTE is used as argument that there cannot be any external threat because there is no LTTE to constitute that threat. This argument is absurd on two counts. Firstly, it is manifestly the case that while the Tiger armed force was wiped out, or to put it differently, the Tigers were wiped out as an armed force, the Tiger movement or network based overseas could not be wiped out and remained intact, simply because it was out of the physical reach of the Sri Lankan state. Secondly, winning a hot war in no way precludes a Cold war.

Recent developments in the global arena demonstrate the truth of the old cliché that lies at the heart of the Realist discourse from Thucydides onwards: the world is a dangerous place. In such a dangerous environment, states must be watchful of their independence, interests and power.

Our old enemies, the secessionists, seek to resume the struggle by other means, and win by them. These enemies are manipulating the dangerous trends in the world arena which threaten national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. The overseas-based secessionists hope to leverage these external trends and factors so as to isolate Sri Lanka.

While the Rajapakse administration may be accused of many a sin of omission and commission, it did not create the Global Tamil Forum, the British Tamil Forum, the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam and the pro-Tamil secessionist tendency in Tamil Nadu. Nor is it responsible for Tamil nationalism’s imprudent refusal to regard the existing Constitutional provisions for Provincial autonomy and power sharing as the point of departure for political dialogue.

There is an inherent contradiction between the call for a so-called independent international inquiry into the conduct of the legitimate Sri Lankan armed forces in the closing months of the war, and the imperative to defend a popular war of national liberation and reunification and the armed forces that waged it on behalf of the nation.

There is also an inherent contradiction between those who claim to stand for greater democratisation and post-war ethnic reconciliation, and the call for an inquiry, with its inevitably attendant lacerating and polarising implications. Developments in the Middle east highlight the crucial role of the armed forces, and those with the armed forces ‘on side’, enjoyed a peaceful denouement or development. It is an impossibility to retain the support or neutrality of the armed forces, itself a bulwark of peaceful democratisation, and simultaneously advocate an external or externally induced wide-ranging inquiry into its conduct in recently concluded, necessary and nationally popular war.

April 10, 2011

LankaeNews editor freed on bail, authorities still have him in their sights

by rsf.org

Bennet Rupesinghe, one of the editors of the Colombo-based online newspaper LankaeNews, was released on bail today after a week in pre-trial detention for allegedly making threats.

Arrested when he reported to police in the Colombo suburb of Wellampitiya on 31 March, Rupesinghe was freed on payment of 310,000 rupees (2,000 euros) in bail at Colombo’s Kaduwela court. A peaceful demonstration in support of Rupesinghe was held outside the court this morning.

Another hearing has been set for 7 July. In an open letter to Sri Lanka’s justice minister, Reporters Without Borders has urged the judicial authorities to give Rupesinghe a fair trial and to stop hounding LankaeNews and its staff.

__________________________________________________

Hon. Rauff Hakeem
Minister of Justice
Colombo
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

7 April 2011

Dear Minister,

Reporters Without Borders, an organization that defends media freedom, would like to draw your attention to the serious judicial problems that Bennet Rupesinghe, an editor and reporter for the online newspaper LankaeNews, is currently facing.

Mr. Rupesinghe has been accused of threatening the family of the leading suspects in the 31 January arson attack on the LankaeNews office. The charge sheet also accuses him of withholding essential information from the police who are investigating the attack. Although aged 68 and diabetic, Mr. Rupesinghe already spent a week in prison as a result of these charges, from 31 March until today, where he was released on payment of 310,000 rupees in bail.

While we welcome the decision not to prolong Mr. Rupesinghe’s detention, we are worried about the conduct of the hearing scheduled for 7 July, at which the allegations that have been made against him are to be examined.

We would like to express our concern about the lack of rigour and credibility in the way the police have investigated both the fire at the LankaeNews office and the phone calls and death threats Mr. Rupesinghe is alleged to have made.

We fear that, as with the investigation into the disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda, the LankaeNews cartoonist and political analyst who went missing in Colombo on 24 January 2010, the authorities have no desire to solve the case. Mr. Rupesinghe’s right to be presumed innocent has not been respected.

Meanwhile, according to the information obtained by Reporters Without Borders and various other organizations, Mr. Rupesinghe and the rest of the LankaeNews staff have been the victims of a smear campaign waged by the newspaper Dinamina and others. The attacks on LankaeNews have intensified since January 2010 and we fear for its security and the security of its employees.

We therefore urge you, as Minister of Justice, to ensure Mr. Rupesinghe’s safety until the 7 July hearing and to ensure that the judicial system functions in an entirely transparent and even-handed manner.

We are confident that you will appreciate the importance of our appeal.

Sincerely,

Jean-François Julliard

Secretary-General
Reporters sans frontières

April 09, 2011

Rajapaksas are adept at using an amalgam of sticks and carrots

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“You follow a halter, being enthralled by a picture of authority” — Adelard of Bath (Quoted in The House Of Wisdom: How The Arabs Transformed Western Civilization’ — Jonathan Lyons)

A new volume is to be added to the Mahavamsa covering the period of 1978-2010. According to the Ministry of Cultural Affairs three of its chapters will be dedicated to the four years of Rajapaksa-rule (his predecessors will get two chapters or less) because the President’s “achievement in ending the island’s 30-year separatist war has no parallels in the chronicle” (PTI – 6.4.2011).

The state-sponsored Rajapaksa-panegyric ‘Jaya Jayawe’ contained a ‘lullaby of the 22nd Century’ which depicted the Eelam War as the ‘heroic saga’ of ‘King Mihindu’ and his ‘Chief General Gotabaya’ who defeated the ‘demons’ threatening the motherland. Since Rajapaksa-veneration is de rigueur, the new volume cannot but be littered with paeans of praise to ‘Vishva Keerthi Three-Sinhaladipathi’ (who may even be placed above the warrior-kings Dutugemunu, Vijayabahu I and Rajasinghe I). There would be no mention of Gen. Sarath Fonseka, or of the ethnic problem; the ‘Sinhala Only’ would be hailed as an achievement and the Black July dismissed in a few dismissive paragraphs.

The purpose of the new volume will be to write a Sinhala-supremacist, Rajapaksa-supremacist version of the history of contemporary Sri Lanka. This racist-hagiography can then be included in the history syllabus, and the habits of racism and Rajapaksa-veneration inculcated in the young via the school system.

Despots need laws and guns; they also need populaces complicit in their own subjugation. People must be willing to accept their unfreedom as normal and necessary, and regard their rulers as their betters and not equals.

Despotism breeds rich rulers and poor people; powerful rulers and powerless people. Despots need to make their people feel good about their circumstances, even when these circumstances are far from good. Such illusions help keep the populace in politico-psychological suspended animation, unable and unwilling to face reality (let alone try to change it). Illusory sense of wellbeing and false hopes of future prosperity coupled with real fears about the consequences of dissent would suffice to keep a populace paralysed for decades.

As Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif said, “We look like people who’ve woken up from a spell, a nightmare” (The Guardian – 4.2.1011).

The Rajapaksas would like us to internalise their worldview, so that we regard their long-term rule as inevitable (even desirable), the natural-destiny of Sri Lanka and the sole-bulwark against chaos.

The Rajapaksas are adept at using an amalgam of sticks and carrots to retain disgruntled allies and co-opt or silence opponents/critics. But this policy cannot be used vis-à-vis the populace at large. The regime lacks the financial wherewithal necessary to sustain economic give-aways and the time is not yet apposite for generalised repression (in the South; the North knows it well).

So the regime is spewing lies and playing with facts and figures, to make people disbelieve the evidence of their own experiences, suppress their innate sense of justice, kindness and decency and ignore the promptings of their consciences. A state of being in the world identical to the one advocated in Brian’s song on the Monty Python show:

“Some things in life are bad.
They can really make you mad.
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you are chewing on life’s gristle
Don’t grumble, give a whistle…..
Always look on the bright side of life…
Always look on the light side of life”

The manipulative manner in which the Rajapaksas made use of the populace’s eager absorption in the Cricket World Cup finals to increase the prices of several essential commodities demonstrates that they regard the public as an unintelligent, unthinking, gullible mass which can be won with false promises, placated by lies and led by the nose.

Selective acts of persecution are an important component of the Rajapaksa modus operandi, well-targeted attacks aimed at incapacitating the intended victim and creating a ripple-effect of dread. The fate of the victim is a warning to society about the prohibitive-cost of dissent. Thus one act of persecution can neutralise not just the intended victim but many others of the same profession/mindset.

If the killing of Lasantha Wickrematunge and the arrest of Gen. Fonseka demonstrated that no one is big enough to be immune from Rajapaksa-wrath, the disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda and the attacks on LankaeNews website demonstrate that nothing is too small to escape the Rajapaksa-radar. Big or small, the Rajapaksas will come for us all; the only question is when (and how).

The end result is the creation of a dichotomous-world which is a nightmare for a small minority of dissenters but permits the majority of non-dissenters to dream their dreams.

This will give rise to two types of responses: denial (‘the Rajapaksas are no better or worse than their predecessors’) and resignation (‘what can we do?’).

As Rajapaksa rule progresses, the mood of resignation will spread across society because it is the sole refuge available to those who abhor the Ruling-Family but see no point in banging their heads against the Rajapaksa-leviathan. Especially given the absence of a viable opposition and considering the fates of Lasantha Wickrematunge and Gen. Sarath Fonseka; the recent jailing of senior journalist Bennett Rupesinghe, the 68 year old news editor of LankaeNews, would strengthen this tendency.

Political resignation (not actively opposing or publicly critiquing the Rajapaksas) need not mean succumbing to their lies and deceptions. Political resignation can coexist with psychological resistance i.e. rejecting the Rajapaksa worldview and endeavouring to penetrate their multiple-layers of illusion into the reality beyond.

For instance, instead of accepting the Rajapaksa-worldview which equates opposition to the Emergency/PTA with anti-patriotism, should we not question why these repressive laws are being retained two years after the war? After all, the Tiger is dead, as Sri Lanka’s Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN, Gen. Shavendra Silva maintained: “Had the LTTE retained at least one per cent of its military capability, it would have certainly staged an attack …. The bottom line was that the LTTE military machine had been wiped …….” (The Island - 5.4.2011).

The Rajapaksas are master-dissimulators. They want us to accept as democratic the de-empowering of elected provincial and local authorities (and vesting their powers in unelected Jana Sabhas/Colombo Metropolitan Corporation under Rajapaksa-control).

They want us to regard as patriotic necessities astronomical defence spending, continued military occupation of Northern schools and the perpetuation of draconian security measures targeting Tamils. They want us to back the Hambantota bid for 2018 Commonwealth Games, without questioning the wisdom of spending billions of dollars on a sports-circus or of displacing humans and elephants by using forest and farm lands to build sports facilities.

So long as the Rajapaksas can maintain their psychological-yoke on us, we will not be able to look at the world with our own eyes and comprehend it with our own minds. Retaining our capacity to think independently and judge for ourselves are necessary antidotes to the Rajapaksa-malaise. Such individual acts of psychological-resistance are possible and viable, the seedlings which will enable a harvest of political-resistance, someday.

International hypocrisy and double standards over Sri Lanka in 2009 and Libya in 2011

By S. V. Kirubaharan
France

Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of American President Franklin Roosevelt once said, “Justice cannot be for one side alone, but must be for both.” The majority of today’s international media speaks about Libya – some talk about coalition air raids and civilian casualities; some talk about rebels recapturing cities and the subsequent celebrations; others say NATO forces in Libya intend to enforce a UN resolution to protect civilians.

The Sri Lankan President and his ministers say that “Protection of the civilian population in Libya remains a concern for Sri Lanka” and government media say that “Air strikes on Libya unacceptable,” well and good — fair point.

On the other hand a Minister from the breakaway JVP group is staging his periodical fast and demonstration to satisfy the President. Other JVP members who went to Jaffna shed crocodile tears. All these political dramas are staged once more to take the people of North and East for a ride.

Is what happens today in Libya worse than what happened in Mullivaghzal in 2009? Is what the President of Libya says any different to what was said by the President of Sri Lanka?

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, responding to questions with regard to attacks on Libya by the coalition, said on March 28, “I always believe that the people are right, but no one should harm innocent citizens... We are not with anyone killing civilians and cannot accept the violation of the sovereignty of any country.” (Excerpt from the official website of the Government of Sri Lanka:

http://www.priu.gov.lk/news_update/Current_Affairs/ca201103/20110328killing_civilians_violating_nations_sovereignty_unacceptable.htm)

The Sri Lankan President, who criticised the Western Coalition’s air attacks on Libya, should realise that the coalition forces went into Libya with a UN resolution to protect civilians. Whereas he had an illegal coalition to kill the civilians in Mullivaghzal

The President does not realise that his lies, bogus promises and duping of the international community in the past can be considered the reason for today’s quick response to Libya by the international community! The way Sri Lanka took the international community for a ride during the final days of the war in 2009, primed the international community into neither listening nor trusting the Libyan President.

During the peak hours of the war in Mullivaghzhal, when the Foreign Ministers of France and United Kingdom travelled to Sri Lanka with the aim of bringing about a cease-fire to prevent civilians casualties, the Sri Lankan government told utter lies that there were only 40-60,000 civilians in Mullivaghzhal, but claimed at the end of the war that there were 300,000 civilians.

The Sri Lankan President also gave a lecture about “sovereignty and integrity” to the visiting Foreign Ministers and told them not to interfere in internal affairs.

Today the Libyan President Col. Gaddafi is saying the same thing that the Sri Lankan President said in 2009. In an interview to a French newspaper released on March 6, 2011, Col. Gaddafi said, “I am surprised that nobody understands that this is a fight against terrorism, our security services cooperate. We have helped you a lot these past few years. So why is it that when we are in a fight against terrorism here in Libya, no one helps us in return?” (Excerpts from Col. Gaddafi interview to Journal du Dimanche)

Here we can clearly see the double standards of international justice and the hypocrisy of the Sri Lankan government.

On the one hand the United Nations and powerful states were maintaining a policy of non interference with regard to Sri Lanka and on the other hand some countries were directly involved in helping the final stages of the war.

During the final days of Mullivaghzhal, neither the majority of the local human rights activists nor the political parties protested against the killing of civilians. They were silently watching and some were even enjoying the cold-blooded killings of civilians.

Can the international community, the United Nations, powerful states, Sri Lankan government and some members of civil society explain why they maintained a deafening silence while the people of the North and East, especially civilians in the Mullivaghzhal were being killed in aerial bombing and artillery fire?

Sri Lanka should not forget that if today’s stand of the international community had been applied in Sri Lanka in 2009, by now the 193rd member state in the United Nations would have been born.

The most shameful thing is that as usual some local NGOs have once again started to use the suffering of the people in the North and East for their own financial benefits. These NGOs believe that development is more important to the people of the North and East than accountability and proper reconciliation. These NGOs want democracy to be restored without realising that since independence, the island has never enjoyed democracy, other than periodically voting in elections.

Every grandiose noun and flowery adjective in Sinhala will be used to describe the Rajapaksas and their exploits in the “new” Mahavamsa

by Tisaranee Gunasekara

"Though everyone bowed down before you,
Saying virtue and wisdom lit your way,
Striking gold medals in your honour,
Glad to have survived another day,
Do not feel safe…” Czeslaw Milosz (You who Wronged)

Another emergency debate brought forth another apocryphal tale, to justify the unjustifiable. During the previous Emergency debate, the Prime Minister perorated portentously about Tiger training camps in Tamil Nadu, only to retract his words ignominiously, 24 hours later, in the face of strong Indian protests and denials. His colleagues, with barely concealed sniggers, indicated that the Prime Minister’s pronouncements need not be taken all that seriously!

For the month of April, the Prime Minister had a different tale, about former Tigers reverting back to Tigerhood. Wisely, this time around, he – or rather his puppet-masters - picked a target incapable of answering back – rehabilitated Tiger cadres: “Some LTTE cadres who were reintegrated into society after rehabilitation had been re-arrested on charges of attempting to carry out terrorist activities, Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratane told Parliament yesterday. However, he did not elaborate on it” (Daily Mirror – 8.4.2011).

The paucity of details is inevitable. These are just tales, fabricated monthly by the power-wielders and delivered dutifully by the PM, to justify the retention of the Emergency, almost two years after the victorious end of the war. Tales which are not meant to be taken seriously beyond that moment and outside that place, tales delivered with a wink and a nod, tales which will be forgotten the moment the Emergency is passed.

The regime’s serial-story about the recrudescent Tiger was debunked last week, by no less a personage than Sri Lanka’s Deputy Representative to the UN. Shavendra Silva is the antithesis of Sarath Fonseka; he is the obedient general par excellence who was rewarded for his services to the Rajapaksas with a top diplomatic posting. According to Gen. Silva, “Had the LTTE retained at least one per cent of its military capability, it would have certainly staged an attack …. The bottom line was that the LTTE military machine had been wiped …….” (The Island - 5.4.2011).

The Tiger is dead; the regime uses the spectre of the LTTE because it knows it cannot justify the extension of the Emergency any other way. Post-war, ordinary Sri Lankans do not need the Emergency to be safe; nor does Sri Lanka. The Emergency is needed for no other reason than for the protection of the Rajapaksas. The Emergency is being renewed, month after month, not for a national purpose but for a Rajapaksa purpose – to provide the Ruling Family with some excellent legal means to discourage dissent and punish opposition. The real purpose of the Emergency is not national security but ensuring the safety, security and longevity of Rajapaksa Rule by eradicating even the most insignificant challenge to Rajapaksa power.

Despots will do anything to stay in power, even by one extra hour. This is a timeless and a universal truth. In Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh warns that sans him as the President anarchy will engulf the land, even as he encourages tribal rivalries (and thus a civil war) to prolong his hold on power. After having accused pro-democracy rebels of trying to divide the country, Muammar Gaddafi has proposed dividing Libya along East-West, anti and pro-Gaddafi lines; all the Brother Leader wants is to stay in power, even in a truncated half-country (Tripolitania?).

Such is the way of despots. They may come in various guises mouthing a wide variety of slogans in different languages, but their real aim, behind all that glitter and bluster, is absolute and lifelong power, for themselves and often their families. They want to turn republics into de facto monarchies, with themselves as kings in all but name. They dream of ruling for a long time and dying in power, and probably of grand state funerals and handsome final resting places, at public expense of course. Quite a few of them aspire to be succeeded by sons.

The Rajapaksas are of the same ilk. The Family is gathering all power into its hands and is aiming for a dynastic succession (brother or son: that is the only unresolved question). That is why the regime is keeping the Emergency, the PTA and a host of other repressive laws and practices intact, despite the harm these anti-democratic measures are doing to the image and the prospects of Sri Lanka internationally.

Currently the Rajapaksa brothers are popular. But popularity is a capricious mistress of undependable fidelity. As economic pressures increase, this popularity will erode, slowly at first, and then in leaps and bounds. (Despotism is not without its spring of hope and very few despots are hated in their infancy and their youth; in fact quite a few of them are loved by the populace in the early delusionary years). By keeping the Emergency and other repressive laws and practices intact, the far-thinking Rajapaksas are preparing for that day in the future when their popularity is a distant memory and the public has to be compelled and rather than lulled into quiescence.

Rajapaksas do not need to fear an outbreak of popular discontent in the near future because Sri Lanka is just commencing a journey into tyranny which many Arab states, from Tunisia and Egypt to Yemen and Libya have already ended or are in the process of ending. Still, the revolutionary upsurge in the Arab World seems to be causing the Ruling Family considerable unease in the here and now, for two very comprehensible reasons. Firstly the sight of a citizenry revolting against a country’s long term ruler cannot be particularly reassuring to the Rajapaksas, with their project of long-term familial rule and dynastic succession.

Despots across the Third World (the crowned and the uncrowned ones) are regarding the Arab democratic wave with the same sort of fear and loathing the crowned heads of Europe and England regarded the French Revolution or the capitalist leaders on both sides of the Atlantic regarded the Great October Revolution – as an existential threat, a dangerous example which needs to be effaced before it becomes rooted in the imaginations of their own subjects.

Secondly, the Rajapaksas are unnerved by the inauguration of the ‘Right to Protect’ principle over the skies of Libya. There is very likelihood of any direct Western intervention in Sri Lanka, now or in the future. But for the Rajapaksas, who equate national sovereignty with the sovereignty of the leader, a ruler’s right to guide the destiny of his country and dispense with the lives of his people is sacrosanct. It is this right that is being called into question over Libyan skies – a development which cannot but be unpalatable to Sri Lanka’s Ruling Family.

The most recent manifestation of this Rajapaksa nervousness came from the Prime Minister during last week’s Emergency Debate: “We kindly ask the opposition not to raise internal issues with foreign authorities. It is harmful for the entire country. Whenever there is a problem in our family, we will not take it up with outsiders. If you do it, it will tantamount to something like spitting on your own face” (Daily Mirror – 8.4.2011).

The PM – or rather his puppet masters – seems to be particularly nervous about equating Libya with Sri Lanka: “If there are problems, we can resolve them here through peaceful negotiations. We have now initiated a dialogue with the Tamil National Alliance….” (ibid).

The message to the Opposition is diabolically simple and is identical to the message sent by other despots to other opponents: we have the right to attack you and imprison and hound you out of the country; that is our inalienable right as the rulers; but you do not have the right to complain about it outside these shores; if you do, you will be deemed a traitor and treated as such. The fear of being labelled a traitor was one of the factors which prevented segments of the opposition from voting against the Emergency even after it became manifest that the real purpose of this and other repressive laws is not to protect the country or the people but to protect the Ruling Family.

Thankfully, time and too many transgressions by the regime seem to have blunted the efficacy of this Rajapaksas weapon and the three main opposition parties, the UNP, the DNA and the TNA have begun to vote against the Emergency, instead of abstaining. This is an excellent development but more needs to be done. The Opposition needs to explain to the people the truth behind the regime’s determination to hang on to the Emergency and the PTA and why this retention is not in either popular or national interest.

A nation-wide campaign demanding the immediate removal of both the PTA and the Emergency is an urgent necessity, especially since both laws will be used against the opposition (plus any group of citizenry protesting against an injustice) with increasing frequency, as the economic conditions continue deteriorate. The fact that on this issue the North, the East and the South can stand together is an important added bonus.

According to a PTI report, the Rajapaksas are planning to add a new volume to the Mahawamsa, covering the period from 1978 to 2010. In this, three chapters will be dedicated to Rajapaksa rule while two or less will cover all his predecessors.

The new volume is bound to attribute to the Rajapaksas all the qualities, characteristics and achievements they attribute to themselves and their fawning acolytes attribute to them. Every grandiose noun and flowery adjective in the Sinhala language will be used to the full and beyond, to denote and describe the Rajapaksas and their exploits. It will be one endless panegyric to the Vishwa-Keerthi Three-Sinhaladipathy and his Family (Universally Renowned Lord of the Three-Sinhala Lands).

The new volume will have some critical absences: the ethnic problem and Sarath Fonseka being the foremost. The history of contemporary Sri Lanka will be written from a Sinhala supremacist and Rajapaksa supremacist perspective.

Equating themselves with the nation is a key premise of the Rajapaksa worldview. The Ruling Family needs us to accept this dangerous fallacy, internalise it and make it our own. The new Mahawamsa volume will be a critically important instrument in the effort to psychologically engineer Sinhala perceptions and outlooks.

The new history will teach us to equate patriotism with supporting the Rajapaksas and treachery with opposing the Rajapaksas – the basis on which Gen. Sarath Fonseka is being incarcerated and Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP is being honoured.

The new history will inculcate in us the belief that the Rajapaksas always know and do the best, even when their deeds seem harmful or hypocritical or deceptive. We will be trained to disbelieve the evidence of our eyes and ears, submit our will and our intellect, our reason and our perception to theirs and allow the blinding, deafening and stupefying mantle of Rajapaksas Chinthanaya to protect us from reality.

These fallacious ideas, together with the common human fear of the unknown (which translates into a disinclination for change until the status quo becomes absolutely unbearable) would constitute a key politico-psychological weapon in the Rajapaksa arsenal, enabling the Rajapaksas to build and maintain Southern consent to their rule for many years to come.

April 08, 2011

Ban Ki-moon supports regine change in Libya and Ivory Coast

By Colum Lynch

At U.N. headquarters, regime change has long been viewed as a toxic phrase.

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Under former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, the U.N. brass cringed when American politicians and diplomats, both Republican and Democratic, revealed that their true aim in pursuing U.N. arms inspections and sanctions in Iraq was the downfall of Saddam Hussein.

But in the past two months, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki moon has reversed course, fully embracing the toppling of governments in Ivory Coast and Libya. On Monday, Ban authorized a U.N. military operation, backed by French military power, to strike at key military bases, and installations under the control of Ivorian strongman Laurent Gbabgo.

The operation -- which included helicopter gunship attacks against army camps by blue-helmeted Ukrainian pilots -- was ostensibly aimed at preventing Gbagbo's forces from using their heavy weapons against civilians and U.N. personnel. But its impact on the conflict was decisive: The U.N. and French attacks had degraded Gbagbo's last line of defense, clearing the way for a final offensive by followers of Ivory Coast's president-elect Alassane Ouattara.

Within 24 hours, Gbagbo's top generals had written to the United Nations with an offer to halt the fighting and surrender their weapons, together with a request that their fighters be protected. Gbagbo remained holed up in a bunker underneath the presidential residence, under attack by Ouattara's forces.

The U.N. chief's action in Ivory Coast is all the more surprising given his readiness throughout most of his term to accommodate some of the world's most noxious governments, notably Burma, Sri Lanka and Sudan. Ban had bet much of his political capital upon his capacity to use personal, quiet diplomacy, to nudge the likes of Burmese junta leader Than Shwe, Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sudanese leader Omar Hassan al-Bashir, to moderate their mistreatment of their own people.

Ban was lambasted by human rights advocates for providing political cover for those governments by engaging in long drawn out personal discussions with those leaders without delivering sufficient political results. "He has placed undue faith in his professed ability to convince by private persuasion," Ken Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch wrote in the introduction to his organization's annual report in January. "Worse, far from condemning repression, Ban sometimes went out of his way to portray oppressive governments in a positive light."

Roth cited Ban's handling of Burma during the run-up to elections last year. "In the days before Burma's sham elections in November, Ban contended that it was 'not too late' to 'make this election more inclusive and participatory' by releasing political detainees -- an unlikely eventuality that, even if realized, would not have leveled the severely uneven electoral playing field."

Critics say Ban has applied a double standard in applying the principle on human rights, reserving his toughest criticism for countries like Iran, while sparing his criticism of the permanent five members of the Security Council whose support he needs in his reelection campaign for secretary general. His first term expires at the end of 2011

Ban failed to pres for the release of Chinese dissident, Liu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11- year sentence and his wife, who is under house arrest, during a meeting in Beijing with President Hu Jintao. In an official statement on the Nobel Award committee's decision to honor Liu with its prestigious peace prize, Ban failed to congratulate Liu and praised China for improving its human rights record, a remark that seems increasingly discordant with the Chinese government currently intensifying crackdown on dissident writers, artists and human rights advocates in the wake of popular uprisings in the Arab world.

A supporter of Gbagbo said it was clear that Ban was carrying out the wishes of France, Ivory Coast's former colonial power, in deciding to escalate operations there. Zakaria Fellah, a special advisor to Gbagbo who was once accredited to the Ivory Coast mission to the United Nations, said Ban's ultimate goal was to procure France's vote for his re-election bid.

"I have never seen the U.N. playing a role so far beyond the principles of neutrality and impartiality enshrined in the U.N. charter," Fella told Turtle Bay. "I would say part of it is explained by the fact that Ban Ki-moon is in the midst of an election campaign. He would do anything to please the French."

But Ban's outspoken advocacy of regime change carries risks. While most U.N. diplomats believe Ban has secured support for a second term, China, Russia and other influential council members have been unsettled by his promotion of democratic change in North Africa and the Middle East, where he has spoken out forcefully against some autocratic governments, including Hosni Mubarak's Egypt, Bashar al-Asad's Syria and Moammar Qaddafi's Libya, for repressing civilian protesters.

In Libya, Ban has echoed U.S. and European statements indicating that Qaddafi lost the legitimacy to rule when he launched a violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators. He has appointed a former Jordanian Foreign Minister to oversee the U.N. humanitarian response to the crisis, and, more significantly, to help lay the ground work for a political transition. Ban has also been a cheerleader for U.N. backed airstrikes. "Qaddafi has lost all legitimacy," Ban told the Spanish daily El Mundo last month. "He cannot stay in power in Libya. Whatever happens, he has to go."

In an interview with journalist Raghida Dergham, Ban gave a biographical rationale for his tougher line on the Arab popular uprisings. "I believe this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity," he told her in an interview that ran in Huffington Post. "I was one of the students who went out to the streets in Korea when I was young, asking for more freedom and bold reforms and changes. Then Korea achieved democratic development as well economic prosperity." ~ courtesy: Foreign Policy ~

Mavilaru Today: The shadows of war

By Amantha Perera

It was a name-board that caught my eye. Hanging at the entrance, it read ‘Mavilaru Cafe’. The cafe was clean and the food was all right, but not really anything to write home about. Having lunch at the Mavilaru Cafe however, was quite something… for reasons other than the food.

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The café is run by a middle-aged couple; the woman cooks, while the man does everything else – serving, cleaning and taking orders. “So is Mavilaru nearby?” someone asked.

“It is just over there,” the man said, pointing towards a house over a ridge of trees, as if to say it was just a short walk away. It wasn’t that close, someone who had gone there informed us. The man shrugged and went about his business.

It was surreal having lunch at the Mavilaru Cafe.

Here we are, enjoying fried fish and red rice at the same location where five years ago we were ducking artillery.

Back then, armoured trucks, troop carriers and other machinery were parked on the side of the road, the soldiers looked on nervously at passing vehicles and officers warned us not to take any photos. The head priest at the Somapura temple was the best person to go to, if one needed lodging for the night.

That was back in July-August 2006, when the Tigers closed the Mavilaru sluice gates and forced the hand of the Mahinda Rajapaksa Govern­­ment.

To get to Mavilaru, one takes the turn from Kantale from the main Dambulla-Trincomalee road. When I travelled on this road in 2006, there were hundreds of people streaming in the opposite direction. They moved on foot, in big open Canter trucks, three-wheelers and cycles.

The artillery exchanges had sent the villagers in Mavilaru scurrying. The Tamils, or at least most of them, moved deeper into areas held by the Tigers. The Sinha­lese and the Muslims moved into areas where the Govern­ment was in full control.

As I reached the junction where Somapura Road leads to Kantale town, my first citing was a police officer check­ing the ID cards of occupants of a three-wheeler that had a white flag strung to its radio antenna. Those who were on the road that day looked weary; the women covered their heads with cotton cloth, as the heat beat down on all of us.

Kantale was bursting at the seams with the first wave of displaced people, as the conflict entered its final stage. People bathed in the channel that flowed past the road. I watched a young girl washing her face, using a small stream to wash her mouth. Only a couple of feet away, a large cow defecated into the stream. The young woman was obviously embarrassed, more so when she saw the camera slung across my shoulder. She quickly ran into her tent, which was among hundreds, pole-to-pole, dotting the flat landscape.

The only vehicles that appeared to be moving towards Somapura and Mavilaru were those used by the media, medical services, the military and the occasional villager. Back then, there were no restrictions – they came after Mavilaru, when the war moved into areas further south of the sluice gates.

As we came closer to Mavilaru, the road became deserted – except for the military presence. But at Somapura, we found that not all villagers had abandoned their homes and fields. Farmers had stayed behind, tending their fields that were dying because the LTTE had closed the sluice gates.

The biggest media stopover point was the small bridge over the Mavilaru stream, at Kalaru. It was parched dry and ideal for good images. One aspect that stood out in 2006 was the condition of the roads – they were pretty good. We could get to Somapura and even Muttur in about 90 minutes from Kantale.

The war may have ended more than 20 months ago, but early this year the roads were deplorable. Heavy rains, very heavy rains in fact (the region, including Mavilaru, received a year’s rainfall between December 2010 and February 2011), had washed the roads away.

There were large craters filled with three feet of water even two weeks after the rains had stopped.

And the Mahaweli River (it falls to the sea just north-east of Mavilaru) had flooded the plains. Abandoned military lookout posts stood in the middle of lakes. This was in areas that we could get to.

But some areas had been cut off completely. Verugal (it was once a major Tiger base) was cut off for five days in January and for over 10 days in February. Muttur (which is indelibly linked to alleged war atrocities, due to the unresolved massacre of the 17 local aid workers) had suffered a similar fate.

A new bridge was being built in Verugal, on the main Batticaloa-Muttur Road. The engineers had renovated the old bridge to ease travel. But the rains had washed both away, and the villagers were using old canoes to cross the river.

For those living in Verugal, life appeared to be most unfair. They had been caught in a bloody war that erupted again, jeopardising reconstruction that was taking place post-ceasefire… and worse, the post-tsunami work.

Their plight was worsened by the twin floods. Government officials in Verugal told me that expectations were for a solid harvest this year. In 2010, the rains had been good, they said. But no one expected the rains to come crashing down just two months before harvest time.

There are three main sources of income in these areas: farming, cattle and fishing. Two of them were badly hit by the floods. When the fields are nearing harvest, the cattle are usually moved to other areas, to prevent them from crashing into paddy land. When the rains came, most of Verugal’s cattle were roaming near the coast – and most of them got washed away.

Apart from suffering one tragedy after another, the Mavilaru-Verugal-Lankapatuna region is one of the most picturesque and least-travelled in the island. The Mavilaru Cafe is an anomaly on this road, trying to reap business from the few who travel on the road. There are dozens of Mavilaru cafe equivalents on the roadside between Meda­wachchiya and Vavuniya.

The Mavilaru Café’s owner told us that not many travel on the road. The occasional busload of pilgrims or curious local travellers is what he looks forward to. He has hardly seen any foreigners. I ask him whether any of the few who stop by want to visit the infamous sluice gates. He says some say they want to, but few do. Why?

Well, other than for the cafe which shares the name, no one seems to have hit on the idea of marketing Mavilaru. There are no arrows pointing to the sluice gates from the main road.

If we didn’t know it, we would have driven past Kalaru, which has changed completely and is lush green.

This is completely different from what one finds on the A9, where ‘war tourism’ is thriving.

Like the narrow jungle path that leads to the few metal sheets, that is what remains of the Yal Devi or the road to

Iranamadu, where parts of a helicopter lie on the side of the road.

Or in Valvettithurai, the home of the Tiger leader was razed to the ground in March last year when it became too much to handle – visitors didn’t stop at writing graffiti on the wall, they started taking pieces of the wall or sand from the garden.

But when the man’s mother fell ill, visitors from the south trooped to the hospital to have a look and take a peek at the underground operating facilities once used by the LTTE.

Mavilaru is not for the brash traveller… it is for the more subtle types – those who want to discover, rather than read guidebooks and take a tour. Mavilaru is a living example of what the war took away from us.

The cafe sits on the side of the road. You will not miss it. If you get there, have a cup of tea, ask the gentleman where Mavilaru is and take that walk – it is a fair walk. While you walk, you can muse over why the war didn’t achieve anything… it simply took away the hopes of a generation. ~ courtesy: LMD.lk ~

Sri Lanka Government and agents continued to be serious human rights violators in 2010 - US State Dept Report

2010 Human Rights Report: Sri Lanka
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

April 8, 2011

Sri Lanka is a constitutional, multiparty republic with a population estimated at 21 million. President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was reelected to a second six-year term in January, and the parliament, which was elected in April, share constitutional power. The government is dominated by the president's family; two of the president's brothers hold key executive branch posts as defense secretary and minister of economic development, while a third brother is the speaker of parliament. Independent observers generally characterized the presidential and parliamentary elections as problematic. Both elections were fraught with violations of the election law by all major parties and were influenced by the governing coalition's massive use of state resources. There were instances in which elements of the security forces acted independently of civilian control.

The government and its agents continued to be responsible for serious human rights problems. Security forces committed arbitrary and unlawful killings, although the number of extrajudicial killings declined. Disappearances continued to be a problem, although the total also declined. Many independent observers cited a continued climate of fear among minority populations, in large part based on past incidents. Security forces tortured and abused detainees; poor prison conditions remained a problem; and authorities arbitrarily arrested and detained citizens. Repercussions of the nearly 30-year war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) continued to have an effect on human rights, despite the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009. In an effort to prevent any violent separatist resurgence, the government continued to search for and detain persons it suspected of being LTTE sympathizers or operatives. Official impunity was a problem; there were no public indications or reports that civilian or military courts convicted any military or police members for human rights abuses. The government established a post-war Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). Denial of fair public trial remained a problem; the judiciary was subject to executive influence; and the government infringed on citizens' privacy rights.

There were instances when the government restricted freedom of speech and of the press, and there were incidents of restrictions on freedom of assembly and association. Authorities harassed journalists critical of the government. Infringement on freedom of movement was lower than in the previous year, and citizens were able to travel almost anywhere in the island; in practice police and military checkpoints were still a frequent sight in Colombo and elsewhere, and numerous High Security Zones (HSZs) and other areas remained off limits to citizens. Election law violations and government influence created doubts about the fairness of both the presidential and the parliamentary elections. Official corruption, with impunity, and lack of transparency were serious problems, and the government hampered the work of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

With the passage of the 18th amendment in September, the mechanism by which the seats on the Constitutional Council and its subsidiary councils are filled was changed. The president now holds the authority to name all members to each of these councils, with only the requirement to "seek advice," but not approval, of the parliament. Violence and discrimination against women were problems, as were abuse of children and trafficking in persons. Discrimination against persons with disabilities, persons with HIV/AIDS, and the ethnic Tamil minority continued, and a disproportionate number of victims of human rights violations were Tamils. Discrimination and violence against persons based on their sexual orientation were problems. Trafficking in persons, limits on workers' rights, and child labor remained problems, although the parliament implemented new regulations on child labor at the end of the year.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

There were reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, but reliable statistics on such killings by the government or its paramilitary allies were difficult to obtain because past complainants were killed and families feared reprisals if they filed complaints.

Among these arbitrary and unlawful killings, a number of suspects detained by police or other security forces died under questionable circumstances.

On May 23, police arrested Pattiyage Komako Lalan Peiris in what observers stated later was a case of mistaken identity. The next morning he was found dead handcuffed to a table in a police station cell. Police officials explained the cause of death as a heart attack, but an autopsy carried out later at the insistence of the family revealed signs of torture.

On August 25, Jayasekara Arachchige Roshan Jayasekara was arrested near Kiribathgoda for stealing a mobile phone. One day later his body was brought to the local hospital by police. A post mortem examination showed multiple blunt-force trauma injuries.

According to official accounts, some deaths occurred when security forces took the suspects to the scenes of their alleged crimes, shot, and killed them while they allegedly were trying to escape. On August 31, police officers attached to the Special Task Force (STF) arrested Jayakody Arachchilage Oman Perera. During the journey by jeep to Colombo, one of the officers shot Perera because he allegedly tried to escape. He died in the hospital that same day.

On September 4, Suresh Kumar was arrested by police officers and taken to show them a hidden cache of weapons. The police claimed that he attempted to throw a hand grenade at the officers while they traveled to the location. His body later was found on the roadside.

On September 18, police shot and killed Ranmukage Ajith Prasanna as they transported him to show them the location of a hidden stash of weapons. Police claimed Prasanna attempted to grab a firearm from one of the police while being transported, but there was no explanation why he was not properly restrained. Prasanna was arrested the day before, and family members insisted he was not involved in any criminal activity.

The overall number of extrajudicial killings dropped significantly from the previous year. Nevertheless, during the year unknown actors suspected of association with progovernment paramilitary groups committed killings and assaults of civilians. These included the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), led by breakaway LTTE eastern commanders Vinayagamurthi Muralitharan, alias "Karuna," and Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan, alias "Pillaiyan," in the east, as well as the Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP), led by Minister of Social Services and Social Welfare Douglas Devananda, in Jaffna. These and other progovernment paramilitaries also were active in Mannar and Vavuniya. All of these groups endeavored to operate political organizations, some with more success than others, and there were persistent reports of close, ground-level ties between paramilitaries and government security forces. Whereas these groups served more of a military function during the war, often working in coordination with security forces, the paramilitaries now took on increasingly criminal characteristics as they sought to solidify their territory and revenue sources in the postwar environment.

On December 31, unidentified armed men entered the home of Ketheeswaran Thevarajah near Jaffna and killed him. He recently had posted photos of illegal sand excavation on his Facebook profile. Many local Jaffna residents suspect EPDP subsidiaries were illegally mining sand in the Jaffna region, causing environmental damage.

The government did not conduct any further inquiries into the high profile cases investigated by the Commission of Inquiry (COI), including the 2006 killing of 17 local staff of the French NGO Action Against Hunger (ACF) in Mutur. The COI was disbanded in June 2009 without issuing a public report, and with reports that the commission had blamed ACF for allowing its workers to be in an unsafe location, at the same time exonerating all government security forces from any possible involvement in the killing of the aid workers.

A separate commission set up under retired Supreme Court justice Mahanama Tillekeratne to investigate abductions, disappearances, killings, and unidentified bodies was to submit a final report to the president early in the year. Although the commission gave an interim report to President Rajapaksa in February, and the commission's mandate ended on March 16, there was no indication that a final report was given to the president.

There was no progress on the January 2009 killing of the chief editor of the Sunday Leader and Morning Leader newspapers, Lasantha Wickrematunga, by four assailants.

There were no updates on the March 2009 deaths of four persons in the Trincomalee area who were in police custody in connection with the killing of a schoolgirl.

There were no new developments in the case of M.B. Dinesh Tharanga Fernando and Dhanushka Udayanga Aponsu, who were arrested by local police in Angulana in August 2009 and then found dead the following morning with gunshot wounds.

The government commissioned four experts to evaluate the authenticity of the footage broadcast in August 2009 on a UK Channel 4 News video that purported to show army soldiers executing two bound and nude Tamil captives. Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka, the original source of the video, claimed that the killings had been filmed in January 2009 by a soldier using a mobile phone camera. Channel 4 broadcast a longer version allegedly of the same video on November 30 and concluded that the footage was shot May 18, 2009 rather than in January 2009. In September 2009, the government reported to the UN Human Rights Council that four separate investigations scientifically determined that the video was “fake.” However, Philip Alston--the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions--based on the report of a separate independent group of forensic experts concluded in January that there was strong evidence to suggest the video was authentic.

There was no progress on the investigation into the killing of a young man at a polling station in a Colombo suburb in April 2009, which was tied to Duminda Silva, a member of the Western Provincial Council from the president's United Peoples Freedom Alliance. Incidentally, Silva also was acquitted in November by the Colombo High Court on charges of rape, after the attorney for the victim told the court that the victim was suffering from depression because of the incident and did not want to take part in any further legal proceedings.

b. Disappearance

Disappearances continued to be a problem, but at a lower rate than during the war. While disappearances in previous years often appeared related to the conflict, during the year they most often appeared connected with extortion and other criminal activity, sometimes involving government actors. Reliable statistics on the number of disappearances were difficult to obtain, with one estimate of 77 persons missing during the year. Most observers concurred that the majority of disappearances occurred in the north and east, while some took place in Colombo. Government reports on disappearances often claimed that most cases actually involved persons who had left the country for foreign employment and had not informed family members; however, civil society and human rights organizations strongly disputed this interpretation.

Prageeth Eknaliagoda, a journalist and cartoonist for Lanka-e-news, disappeared on January 24, just before the presidential election. Police launched an investigation, and government statements promised imminent progress on the case several times, but by year's end there were no announced suspects or visible progress on the case.

During the year the government did not publish any investigations into past disappearances, nor did it publish information on any indictments or convictions of anyone involved in cases related to disappearances.

On July 21, a group of unknown persons abducted Thirimadura Upali Mendis in Tangalle. His family stated he had been in a business dispute with a prominent local businessman over a plot of land. Police in Tangalle took a missing persons report but made no progress in the case at year's end.

There was no progress in solving the May 2009 disappearance of Stephen Sunthararaj, project manager at the Center for Human Rights and Development. Sunthararaj had been held by police without charges since February of that year and was abducted by four persons in a white van wearing army uniforms shortly after he was released on a court order.

There was no progress in the investigation of the October 2009 disappearance of Sankarapillai Shantha Kumar, a member of the NGO consortium in Akkaraipattu, Ampara District. Credible sources had linked the incident to the TMVP.

Reports of abductions for extortion and ransom increased during the year, particularly in the north and east. Local residents blamed such abductions in the Jaffna Peninsula on armed members of the EPDP, led by government ally and Member of Parliament Douglas Devananda. In other areas of the north and east, however, it was difficult to identify the perpetrators. Whereas in the past local citizens often reported they were reasonably certain which paramilitary groups were behind abductions and killings, during the year they more often stated that they were unsure of which group was involved in a particular incident.

Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law makes torture a punishable offense and mandates a sentence of not less than seven years' imprisonment; however, security forces tortured and abused citizens. Human rights groups alleged that some security forces believed torture to be allowed under specific circumstances. Following a 2007 visit, UN Special Rapporteur (UNSR) on Torture Manfred Nowak concluded that "torture is widely practiced in Sri Lanka." There was no indication that such practices had subsided. No accurate, publicly released statistics on reported torture cases were available.

Civil society groups and former prisoners reported on several torture cases. For example, former detainees of the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) at Boosa Prison in Galle confirmed reports of torture methods used there. These included beatings, often with cricket bats, iron bars, or rubber hoses filled with sand; electric shock; suspending individuals by the wrists or feet in contorted positions; abrading knees across rough cement; burning with metal objects and cigarettes; genital abuse; blows to the ears; asphyxiation with plastic bags containing chili pepper mixed with gasoline; and near-drowning. Detainees reported broken bones and other serious injuries as a result of their mistreatment.

In the east and the north, military intelligence and other security personnel, sometimes working with armed paramilitaries, carried out documented and undocumented detentions of civilians suspected of LTTE connections. The detentions reportedly were followed by interrogations that frequently included torture. There were reported cases of detainees being released with a warning not to reveal information about their arrests under the threat of rearrest or death if they divulged information about their detention. There were also previous reports of secret government facilities where suspected LTTE sympathizers were taken, tortured, and often killed.

Human rights groups estimated that approximately 2,400 LTTE suspects were in regular detention centers. An unknown additional number of unidentified detainees, estimated by some organizations to be as high as 1,200, were thought to be held in police stations, the Criminal Investigation Division (CID), the TID, army or paramilitary camps, or other informal detention facilities. At the beginning of the year the government held approximately 11,700 former LTTE combatants in detention centers near Vavuniya. Some observers were concerned that these ex-combatants were subjected to abuse or torture, since independent observers had only limited access to these detainees and there was no formal legal framework for their detention. Due to limited access to these detainees, details about their treatment and whether such treatment met international standards were unavailable. However, independent observers who met with those released saw no evidence of systematic torture or abuse. By the end of the year the government formally charged approximately 1,400 of these detainees and released approximately half of the remaining 10,000 after rehabilitation.

On May 26, police officers in Ahangama arrested Ganegoda Sinhage Haritha Lakmal and severely beat him. His injuries required surgery and reportedly almost caused his death.

According to the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), on August 23, police officers arrested Jesu Andrew in the district of Kandy for allegedly stealing jewelry from a woman's handbag and took him to the Panwila Police Station, where they tortured him. He was allegedly stripped naked, forced to lie down on a bench, and beaten severely with a pole over various parts of his body. The officers also rubbed chili powder on his genitalia. While torturing him, the officers tried to force him to confess that he had stolen the jewelry. When he refused to plead guilty, he was allegedly thrown into a police cell and beaten again.

On November 10, S.I. Udayange of the CID from Beruwella detained Samarasinhage Psupakumara on suspicion of involvement with robberies in the area. Psupakumara was beaten and threatened with death. Udayange held him for several days before releasing him without any formal charges.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions did not meet international standards due to overcrowding and the lack of sanitary facilities. According to prison officials and civil society sources, prisons designed for approximately 10,000 inmates held an estimated 26,000 prisoners. Approximately 1,400 of these were women. Some 12,000 of these total prisoners were convicted, while the remaining 14,000 were in detention either awaiting or undergoing trial. In some cases juveniles were not held separately from adults. Pretrial detainees often were not held separately from those convicted. In many cases prisoners were reported to be sleeping on concrete floors and often without natural light or sufficient ventilation. Female prisoners were held separately from male prisoners and in generally better conditions, but some human rights groups alleged that isolated incidents of degrading treatment occurred, including corporal punishment, overcrowding, maltreatment, or abuse. According to the assessment by UNSR Nowak, "the combination of severe overcrowding and antiquated infrastructure of certain prison facilities places unbearable strains on services and resources, which for detainees in certain prisons, such as the Colombo Remand Prison, amounts to degrading treatment." Nowak also noted the absence of an independent institution responsible for monitoring conditions in detention facilities, holding private interviews, and conducting medical evaluations of detainees.

There appeared to be no formal procedure without going through prison officials by which prisoners and detainees could submit complaints of poor conditions or abusive treatment to judicial authorities.

The government permitted independent human rights observers and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to visit to regular and remand prisons, but not those facilities holding LTTE ex-combatants yet to be formally charged. The government did not provide access to any detention facilities operated by military intelligence, stating that none existed. The ICRC was not allowed to visit suspected illegal detention facilities operated by paramilitaries. In December, the Government requested the ICRC to close their offices in the North.

Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, in practice such incidents occurred. Under the arrest and detention standards imposed by the Emergency Regulations, the law does not clearly define what constitutes an arbitrary arrest. Data concerning arrests made during the year under the Emergency Regulations were fragmentary and unreliable. The government detained an unknown number of individuals at least temporarily. Observers stated that, although many were released within two days if no official detention order was produced, others were known to be detained for much longer. Although in May the government relaxed a portion of the Emergency Regulations, including provisions that previously had allowed security forces wide latitude in conducting searches without judicial warrants, the remaining portions of the regulations allowed detentions without charges or warrants.

According to Amnesty International, on March 26, more than 300 persons, most of them Tamil, were arrested in a search operation conducted between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. in the town of Gampaha 24 kilometers (15 miles) northwest of Colombo.

According to AHRC, on June 17, two officers from Balagolla Police Station violently arrested Alhaj Farook Mohomad Ikram close to his home. The victim was not told the reason for his arrest. He was released on the same evening without being charged, although his eardrum was damaged in the assault and he was hospitalized for a number of days. He received no replies from the authorities regarding his requests for redress and compensation.

Some arrests appeared arbitrary. In September several university students were detained for hooting at the Minister of Education during a public event. These arrests contributed to a wave of student protests in September and October, resulting in additional arrests and detentions of students. By year's end 76 university students were banned from attending lectures because of participation in protests and related incidents. The government blamed the protests and incidents on left-wing opposition parties.

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus

The inspector general of police (IGP) is responsible for the 86,000-member Sri Lanka Police Service (SLPS). The SLPS conducts civilian police functions, such as enforcing criminal and traffic laws, enhancing public safety, and maintaining order. The IGP reports to the secretary of the Ministry of Defense (in a separate chain of command from that of the armed forces and other military units). The 5,850-member paramilitary STF is within the structure of the SLPS, although joint operations with military units in the recent defeat of the LTTE led to questions among observers about who actually was directing the STF. Bureaucratic adjustments during the year placed the police more firmly under the control of the Ministry of Defense. There was no independent authority to investigate complaints. Senior officials in the police force handled complaints against the police.

Few police officers serving in Tamil majority areas were Tamil, and most did not speak Tamil or English, although the government began hiring and training ethnic Tamils in an effort to improve this situation. Estimates of ethnic Tamils and Muslims in the police numbered several thousand. Since late in 2009 the government recruited approximately 500 new Tamil-speaking police from the Jaffna region to serve in the North Jaffna Peninsula, and these officers underwent training for most of the year. There had been concern that many of these newly hired officers were members of Tamil paramilitary groups, but whether that concern was warranted was unclear. At year's end more than 300 of these Tamil officers were within a week of graduating from training and were scheduled to be posted in Tamil-speaking areas in the north. Among this group were 20 women.

Impunity, particularly for cases of alleged police torture and corruption, was a serious problem. A 2007 AHRC assessment cited the government's tolerance of pervasive corruption as a major reason for the police force's incapacity to investigate and prosecute cases effectively.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention

Under the law authorities are required to inform an arrested person of the reason for arrest and bring that person before a magistrate within 24 hours, but in practice often several days and sometimes weeks or months elapsed before detained persons appeared before a magistrate. A magistrate could authorize bail or continued pretrial detention for up to three months or longer. Police do not need an arrest warrant for certain offenses, such as murder, theft, robbery, and rape. In the case of murder, the magistrate is required to remand the suspect, and only the High Court can grant bail. In all cases suspects have the right to legal representation. Counsel is provided for indigent defendants in criminal cases before the High Court and the Courts of Appeal, but not in other cases. Outside of alleged secret, and therefore incommunicado, detentions and prisons, detainees were allowed access to family members.

A number of observers complained about the slow pace of the judicial process, with some estimates claiming that more than half those in prison were either awaiting or undergoing trial.

Under the Emergency Regulations, the armed forces have the legal authority to arrest persons, but they are required to transfer suspects to the police within 24 hours. Police could detain a person for a period of not more than one year under detention orders issued by a deputy inspector general of police or by the secretary of defense. The defense secretary extended some detentions beyond one year under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Numerous NGOs and individuals complained that the armed forces and their paramilitary allies arrested suspected LTTE sympathizers and did not surrender them to the police, blurring the line between arrests and abductions. Credible reports alleged that security forces and paramilitaries often tortured and killed those arrested rather than follow legal safeguards, although this appeared to diminish after the end of the war.

In cases in which security force personnel allegedly committed human rights abuses, the government generally did not seek to identify those responsible or bring them to justice. Case law generally failed to uphold the doctrine of command responsibility for human rights abuses.

According to human rights organizations, obtaining medical evidence of torture in the country was difficult, since there were fewer than 25 forensic specialists, equipment was lacking, and medical practitioners untrained in the field of torture assessment examined most torture victims. In some cases police intimidated doctors responsible for collecting evidence, and any potential victim receiving a medical examination usually was accompanied by the person holding him or her in detention, often the person who allegedly had committed the torture. At year's end there was no functioning witness protection program.

Persons convicted and undergoing appeal did not receive credit towards their original sentence for time served in prison while the appeal continued. Appeals often took several years to resolve.

Amnesty

The president granted amnesty to a number of prisoners throughout the year, sometimes for national holidays or other occasions. The criteria for determining who benefitted from such releases were not clear. One report stated 1,312 prisoners were given a presidential pardon in September, with unsubstantiated reports of payments to government officials in return.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

With the passage of the 18th amendment in September, the mechanism by which the seats on the Constitutional Council and its subsidiary councils are filled, including the Judicial Service Commission, was changed. The president now holds the authority to name all members to each of these councils, with the requirement only to "seek advice," but not approval, of the parliament. In spite of this new power, the president had not appointed any of these councils by the end of the year. With the passage of the 18th amendment, executive influence over the judiciary significantly increased. The president appoints judges to the Supreme Court, the High Court, and the courts of appeal. A judicial service commission, composed of the chief justice and two Supreme Court judges, appoints and transfers lower court judges. Although there were allegations of instances when the president may have intervened to assign judges favorable to his position in high-profile cases, there were other instances where judicial decisions clearly went against what the president might have preferred. During the year the government again failed to appoint the Constitutional Council, whose function is to ensure the independence of such constitutional bodies as the Judicial Service Commission. As a result a series of important checks on executive power were absent. Judges may be removed for misbehavior or incapacity but only after an investigation followed by joint action of the president and the parliament.

For much of the year there was no procedure in place to address the legal status of the majority of the approximately 11,700 former LTTE combatants held in detention centers since the end of the war. Approximately 5,000 were released throughout the year, while an additional 1,400 were transferred into the regular prison system and charged with various crimes related to LTTE activity.

Lawyers who defended human rights cases sometimes were under physical and verbal threats. There was no progress in the investigation of a 2008 grenade attack on the home of J.C. Weliamuna, a local human rights lawyer and the then director of Transparency International in the country.

Trial Procedures

In criminal cases juries try defendants in public. Defendants are informed of the charges and evidence against them, and they have the right to counsel and the right to appeal. There are no formal procedures for ensuring how quickly an arrested person may contact family or a lawyer; in practice they are allowed to make calls on their mobile phone to such persons. The government provides counsel for indigent persons tried on criminal charges in the High Court and the courts of appeal but not in cases before lower courts. Private legal aid organizations assisted some defendants. Juries were not used in cases brought under the PTA, but defendants in such cases had the right to appeal.

Defendants are presumed innocent. Confessions obtained by coercive means, including torture, are inadmissible in criminal courts, except in PTA cases. The case of journalist J.S. Tissainayagam was one such example, as he had testified in court that his alleged confession was the result of torture by members of the TID (see section 1.e., Political Prisoners and Detainees). The alleged confession nonetheless was allowed as evidence in his trial in 2009. Defendants bear the burden of proof, however, to show that their confessions were obtained by coercion.

Defendants have the right to question prosecution witnesses during their trials and are allowed access to the prosecution's evidence. Subject to judicial review, in certain cases defendants may spend up to 18 months in prison on administrative order waiting for their cases to be heard. Once their cases came to trial, decisions usually were made relatively quickly.

The law requires court proceedings and other legislation to be available in English, Sinhala, and Tamil. In practice most courts outside of Jaffna and the northern parts of the country conducted business in English or Sinhala. A shortage of court-appointed interpreters restricted the ability of Tamil-speaking defendants to receive a fair hearing in many locations, but trials and hearings in the north were in Tamil and English. Few legal textbooks existed in Tamil.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

During the year the government detained and imprisoned a small number of persons for political reasons. However, the government permitted access to such persons on a regular basis by international humanitarian organizations.

Most prominent among these political prisoners was main opposition presidential candidate and former army commander Sarath Fonseka, who was detained on February 8 by the military, held in detention for the rest of the year, brought before several military courts martial and civil courts on various charges, and ultimately sentenced to 30 months in prison at hard labor, which he was serving at the Welikada Prison at year's end. He also was stripped of his rank and pension, and all references to Fonseka on military plaques, etc., were ordered expunged. The accusations made against Fonseka after he initially was detained were vague, with suggestions by government officials that he had been plotting a coup. After more than a month, formal charges were brought under two courts martial on corruption in military procurement and violating military regulations by engaging in politics as a serving military officer. No charges were ever brought on the coup allegations. Later, he also was charged in civil court under the PTA for allegedly fomenting civil unrest by making statements in December 2009 to the press about Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa's alleged order that surrendering LTTE cadres be shot (the "white flag" incident). Fonseka later denied making these claims. In August the two courts martial found Fonseka guilty of the corruption charges and of engaging in politics while still in the military. At the end of the year the Supreme Court was considering whether the court martial verdict qualified as a civilian verdict for purposes of removing him from his parliamentary seat. At year's end Fonseka remained on trial for several charges, including revealing state secrets, for the "white-flag" case.

Despite his incarceration Fonseka ran successfully for a parliamentary seat on the ticket of the opposition Democratic National Alliance in the April elections and until his sentencing to prison in September was allowed out of detention to attend sittings of parliament. A number of human rights organizations accused Fonseka of being involved in a wide range of human rights abuses during the war, including extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and indiscriminate firing on civilians in the war zone. Nevertheless, many independent observers concluded that Fonseka was detained, prosecuted, and sentenced for political reasons, because of the initial lack of clarity in the allegations against Fonseka, the fact that no formal charges were brought against him for more than a month after his detention, the selective way in which laws were ultimately applied (some progovernment military officers spoke publicly in favor of the president during the campaign and were not similarly charged or punished), and the disproportionate nature of the sentences in the courts martial, which appeared to be designed to humiliate Fonseka and to deprive him of his seat in parliament.

Twenty-two other individuals involved with Fonseka's campaign were arrested, most in connection with the allegations of a coup attempt. By November, however, all 22 were released from detention with no charges pending, leaving only Fonseka in prison.

There were other cases in which persons were detained for what appeared to be simply their opposition to the government and its top leaders. There were numerous cases of police arresting persons for putting up or simply possessing posters critical of the government. Police arrested Jayampathi Bulathsinhala, a local printer, in September for printing posters critical of President Rajapaksa and the 18th amendment.

Journalist J.S. Tissainayagam, convicted under the PTA in 2009 and sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment at hard labor for what appeared to be purely political reasons (see section 1.e., Trial Procedures), was released on bail on January 15. He was formally pardoned by President Rajapaksa in May.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

Citizens were allowed to file fundamental rights cases to seek redress of human rights violations. The judiciary exhibited some independence and impartiality in adjudicating these types of cases, and plaintiffs were awarded damages in a number of instances. Observers cited bureaucratic inefficiencies in this system, leading to delays in the resolution of many cases; cases filed by persons suspected of having ties to the LTTE appeared to be subject to delays much more frequently. Where damages were awarded, there were relatively few problems in enforcing the court orders.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The law provides for the right to privacy; however, the government infringed on these rights, particularly when conducting cordon and search operations in Tamil neighborhoods. The Emergency Regulations allowed security forces to conduct searches of property and to engage in wiretapping and surveillance of private citizens with little judicial oversight.

Seizure of private lands by various actors remained a problem across the country. Disputes over land ownership in war-torn areas of the north and east increased significantly as many former residents began returning to areas they had left many years before. The military seized significant amounts of land during the war to create security buffer zones around military bases and other high-value targets, which the government called HSZs. The declaration of HSZs displaced a number of persons, particularly in the Jaffna Peninsula, and rendered inactive approximately 24 square miles of agricultural lands. A degree of progress was made in reducing the size of the HSZs during the year, with some lands being returned to their owners, in the area surrounding the Palaly Air Base in the Jaffna Peninsula, for example. Many of those affected by the HSZs continued to complain, however, that the pace of these returns was too slow and that the government was holding back on the return of lands it might see as economically valuable. The government cited the need to conduct careful demining prior to the handover of these lands, but questions persisted about whether land cleared of mines was always immediately returned to its original owners.

Paramilitary actors were often cited as being responsible for other land seizures. While a legal process exists for private landowners to contest such seizures, in practice it proved very slow, and many victims did not take advantage of it for fear of violent reprisals by those who had seized the property in question.

Land ownership disputes between private individuals in former war zones also escalated during the year. Multiple displacements occurred in the northern and eastern areas over the many years of war, and land often changed hands several times. Documentation of land claims was difficult for a number of reasons. Many persons who had been displaced multiple times were not able to preserve original land deeds as they moved and some official government land records were damaged or destroyed during intense fighting between government and LTTE troops. Through the LLRC, the government was seeking to address these issues.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press, but in practice this was not always supported. Government officials criticized, pressured, and harassed the media, and most journalists practiced self-censorship.

The government owned the country's largest newspaper chain, two major television stations, and a radio station. However, private owners operated a variety of independent newspapers, journals, and radio and television stations. The government imposed no political restrictions on the establishment of new media enterprises. While foreign media outlets operated in the country, foreign journalists were required to obtain clearance from the Ministry of Defense to travel to the north. There were occasions when foreign journalists were not granted this permission and thus were unable to report on key events in the north. On several occasions the Ministry of Defense prevented foreign journalists from the BBC from attending public sessions held by the LLRC in the north. This appeared to have been resolved by year's end, however, and a BBC reporter was granted ministry permission to attend an upcoming LLRC session in Mannar.

Media freedom suffered from severe government pressure throughout the island, and most journalists practiced self-censorship, particularly on problems critical of top government officials. National and international media freedom organizations and journalists' associations expressed concern over media freedom and were sharply critical of the government's role in harassing and intimidating journalists. The police, under the authority of the Ministry of Defense, reportedly maintained a special unit to monitor and control all references in the media to members of the Rajapaksa family.

Senior government officials repeatedly accused critical journalists of treason and often pressured editors and publishers to print stories that portrayed the government in a positive light. This pressure reportedly was exerted sometimes directly through threats and intimidation and sometimes through orders to government and private firms to cease advertising in critical newspapers. Threats led some journalists to choose self-exile (see section 2.d.).

In addition to the high-profile disappearance of Prageeth Eknaliyagoda in January, (see section 1.b.), media personnel often were subject to threats and harassment during the year. Statements by government and military officials contributed to an environment in which journalists who published articles critical of the government felt under threat.

Masked assailants attacked the premises of Siyatha television on July 30, burning the studios and injuring two employees. Witnesses reported similarities in the manner in which this attack was carried out and the January 2009 attack on MTV/MBC studios, and some local groups suspected Ministry of Defense personnel were behind the attack.

The government made no progress in the investigation into the January 2009 attack on the broadcasting station of MTV/MBC in Pannipitiya.

There was no further investigation into the June 2009 abduction and severe beating of journalist Poddala Jayantha, head of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association. Jayantha was attacked shortly after photographs of him and several other journalists were shown on state-run television during comments by the Inspector General of Police Jayantha Wickramaratne, in which he called journalists traitors who should be "dealt with."

On several occasions during the year government authorities at the international airport confiscated copies of The Economist magazine, preventing their release to the magazine′s local distributor. This occurred when articles in the issue were critical of the government. The government stated that the confiscations were merely temporary and only occurred when there was a legitimate security concern. The issues containing the critical articles were not seen on newsstands once the government released them, however, since a new issue had already arrived to replace them.

In November persons with suspected affiliation with the EPDP paramilitary group made threatening gestures to local journalists attending a public session of the LLRC in Kayts, off the Jaffna Peninsula. The journalists were attempting to photograph the men as the latter wrote down names and other identifying details of local residents describing abductions that occurred in the area during the war.

In July 2009 the government officially reactivated the Press Council Act of 1973. This act, which includes power to impose punitive measures including fines and lengthy prison terms, proscribed the publishing of articles that discussed internal communications of the government, decisions of the cabinet, matters relating to the military that could affect national security, and details of economic policy that could lead to artificial shortages or speculative price increases. Several demonstrations by journalists took place throughout the latter part of 2009 against the resurrection of this council.

Internet Freedom

There appeared to be some limited government restrictions on access to the Internet, including government blocking of Web sites it deemed pornographic. There were suspicions that the government was behind the blocking of Internet access to several Tamil news Web sites, including the pro-LTTE TamilNet.

High-speed Internet was available in major cities and towns, including Jaffna, with more widespread use among younger and urban populations. Cell-phone use, including text messaging, was high across a broad spectrum of society without government restriction. The Ministry of Defense attempted to impose regulations requiring the registration of all SIM card purchases, but there appeared to be sizable gaps in the implementation and enforcement of these regulations.

According to International Telecommunication Union statistics for 2009, approximately 8.8 percent of the country's inhabitants used the Internet.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were reports that government officials occasionally informally inhibited cultural productions originating from ethnic minorities. Theater productions written by Tamils were not performed at a festival, allegedly because the government did not have a Tamil translator available to approve the content. There were allegations that university officials, in many cases from the ranks of academia, prevented professors from criticizing government officials, and the administration of a university in Colombo prevented the UN from holding an event on school premises that highlighted a number of human rights defenders as part of a celebration of International Human Rights Day in December. Academics were intimidated into practicing self-censorship.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of Assembly

The law provides for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right in practice; however, some restrictions existed. For example, the 2005 Emergency Regulations gives the president the power to restrict meetings, assemblies, and processions. The law states that rallies and demonstrations of a political nature may not be held when a referendum is scheduled, but the government generally granted permits for demonstrations, including those by opposition parties and minority groups. A number of university students were detained in October following demonstrations at several universities in protest of plans to develop private universities in the country. The government alleged that these demonstrations were unauthorized and deliberately set up with the help of leftist political parties to disrupt classes and clash with police.

Freedom of Association

The law provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right in practice; however, some restrictions existed, such as those under the Emergency Regulations. The government often used informants to target individuals for arrests and interrogation based on their association.

c. Freedom of Religion

For a complete description of religious freedom, please see the 2010 International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/g/drl/irf/rpt/.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law grants every citizen "freedom of movement and of choosing his residence" and "freedom to return to the country." In practice, however, the government restricted this right on multiple occasions. The additional police and military checkpoints on travelers from the north and the east and on movement to and in Colombo remained in effect. The number of formal, stationary checkpoints declined from the previous year, in particular in Colombo. Many observers noted an increase in temporary, roving checkpoints, however, especially at night in Colombo.

Ethnic Tamils' national identification cards were the only cards printed in both Sinhala and Tamil.

Security forces at army checkpoints in Colombo frequently harassed Tamils. Both the government and the TMVP continued to operate checkpoints in the east that impeded the free movement of residents, especially Tamils.

The government no longer restricted travel by Sri Lankan citizens on the A-9 highway leading north from Vavuniya to Jaffna. Foreigners, however, were required to get permission from the Ministry of Defense before traveling to northern areas. The government continued security checks on movements in all directions north of a key junction near Medawachiya, although they were less stringent than during the war.

Limited access continued near military bases and the HSZs where civilians could not enter. The HSZs extended in an approximately 2.5-mile radius from the fences of most military camps. Some observers claimed that the HSZs were excessive and unfairly affected Tamil agricultural lands, particularly in Jaffna. There were allegations after the war ended that the government was allowing non-Tamil businesses to locate inside HSZs, taking over valuable land before local citizens were allowed to return.

The government did not expel citizens from one part of the country to another, nor did it forcibly exile any citizens abroad, but it allowed citizens to leave the country under self-exile unless they were accused of breaking the law. More than a dozen journalists, having received physical threats, were in self-exile due to safety fears.

In July the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released updated eligibility guidelines for assessing the international protection needs of asylum seekers from the country. The report noted that due to the cessation of hostilities, Sri Lankans originating from the northern part of the country were no longer in need of international protection under broader refugee criteria or complementary forms of protection solely on the basis of risk of indiscriminate harm and that, in light of the improved human rights and security situation in the country, there was no longer a need for group-based protection mechanisms or for a presumption of eligibility for Sri Lankans of Tamil ethnicity originating from northern part of the country.

The report noted that refugee status determinations of Sri Lankan asylum seekers of Tamil ethnicity should be assessed upon five potential risk profiles: (1) persons suspected of links to the LTTE (in these cases, exclusion criteria would also apply); (2) journalists and other media professionals; (3) civil society and human rights activists; (4) women and children with certain profiles; and (5) lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals. As of November 1, the number of Tamil refugees from the country living in southern India included slightly more than 70,000 in refugee camps and an additional 32,000 living outside of camps among the Indian population. This represented the vast majority of approximately 146,000 total Sri Lankan refugees registered with the UNHCR in 64 different countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and other countries. Some Tamil refugees returned to the country, with 2,054 returning during the year via UNHCR assistance, up from 843 in 2009, and an additional 2,742 refugees returned on their own during the year.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

The country had a significant population of IDPs. Almost all IDPs were ethnically Tamil, although approximately 80,000 of the total displaced population were Tamil-speaking Muslims who were displaced from Jaffna by the LTTE in 1990. Although approximately 108,000 more recent IDPs remained in government-run camps at the beginning of the year, most of these had returned to their home districts by year's end, with approximately 20,200 still in camps at that time. An estimated 66,000 individuals remained displaced in host communities, primarily in Jaffna, Mannar, and Vavuniya districts. At the Manik Farm camp near Vavuniya, 19,000 of the 20,200 were housed, and an additional 1,200 at the Ramavil camp in the Jaffna Peninsula. Of those at the Manik Farm camp, approximately 97 percent came from heavily mined areas in the Mullaitivu District. Many IDPs who were able to return to their home districts were nevertheless unable to move back onto their own property due to uncleared land mines, restrictions that have designated their home areas as HSZs, and other war-related destruction. Living conditions for these persons were often difficult.

In addition to this group of newer IDPs, there were an estimated 200,000 displaced Tamils, most of whom were displaced prior to the last major offensive by the military in 2008 and were living with either relatives or friends. It was unclear at year's end how or when they might return to their places of origin, or whether some would prefer to settle permanently at their current location after being displaced for many years. Some returns of pre-2008 IDPs occurred throughout the year.

For the IDP camps the government accepted assistance from and provided access to NGOs and international actors. Management of the camps and control of assistance was under the military rather than civilian authorities, but civilian government agencies provided services to IDPs in the camps while working in concert with the military.

The government released IDPs throughout the year for return to their areas of origin, but in some cases the government did not effectively coordinate with local or international aid agencies that were asked to provide assistance on short notice. The government sometimes failed to coordinate consistently with military personnel in the IDPs' home locations.

Among the long-term displaced were approximately 73,000 Muslims evicted from Jaffna in 1990 by the LTTE, many of whom spent nearly 20 years in IDP camps in and around Puttalam. A number of these, one estimate suggesting as many as 43,000, returned to Jaffna throughout the year, but this was difficult to verify. How many of those remaining in Puttalam would return home also was unclear, as many had younger family members who felt more at home in Puttalam. The government did not permit some other IDPs, primarily Tamils, to return home because their places of origin remained inside HSZs, despite announcements during the year that these HSZs would soon be reduced or eliminated.

The government generally cooperated with the UNHCR and some other humanitarian organizations in assisting IDPs; however, it restricted access to the north by NGOs and some international organizations, requiring them to obtain authorization for projects and access from the Presidential Task Force. While the UN and its organizations were given fairly effective access, other international NGOs had difficulty in operating projects they saw as needed, and permission for some humanitarian organizations to operate was denied or rescinded.

Protection of Refugees

The country is not a party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees or its 1967 Protocol. The country's laws do not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government had not established a system for providing protection to refugees. In practice the government provided protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Stateless Persons

The 2003 Grant of Citizenship to Persons of Indian Origin Act recognized the country's nationality of previously stateless persons, particularly hill-country Tamils. The government made limited progress towards naturalizing and providing citizenship documentation to stateless persons. By December approximately 20,000 hill-country Tamils in the country lacked identity cards and citizenship documents, compared with 30,000 at the beginning of 2009 and 70,000 in 2008. Those lacking identity cards were at higher risk of arbitrary arrest and detention, but there were no reports of such incidents during the year.

The government passed laws in 2009 to grant citizenship to hill-country Tamils living among other Sri Lankan ethnic Tamils in refugee camps in India's Tamil Nadu, but progress on finding and registering these persons and granting them citizenship was slow.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

The law provides citizens the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercised this right in practice through periodic elections held on the basis of universal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

The president, who was reelected in January for a second six-year term, holds executive power, while the 225-member parliament, elected in April, exercises legislative power.

The government invited the Commonwealth of Nations and other international organizations to send election observers, but few international observers agreed to be present for the January presidential election. Several local elections observer organizations monitored the campaign and election day. This was the first island-wide election since the end of the war, and although participation in some northern areas was low compared with the rest of the island, it was significantly higher than during the 2005 presidential election, when the LTTE enforced a boycott of the polls in areas under its control.

A number of violent incidents occurred during the campaign period, with five deaths connected to election-related violence, but there were few reported incidents of election-related violence or election law violations on election day. However, independent observers reported countless violations of election law by the president's ruling coalition and, to a lesser extent, by the main opposition parties during the weeks leading up to election day. The president's ruling coalition was accused of massive use of state resources in support of the president's campaign, including the repeated use of official vehicles, offices, and personnel to hold campaign events and to conduct voter education efforts that favored the president.

The final vote count gave President Rajapaksa approximately 58 percent of the vote, with the main opposition candidate, retired general Sarath Fonseka, receiving just over 40 percent. There were no reliable public opinion polls conducted during the election campaign with which to compare these results. There were allegations of possible fraud occurring at counting centers, as ballots were tallied and totals reported to the elections commissioner. In several counting centers opposition party observers were chased away by government supporters. While many observers questioned the size of Rajapaksa's margin of victory, most believed that the results represented the will of the electorate. There were calls for a recount of ballots, but the elections commissioner refused to do so.

By law election ballots are retained for one year following an election in case of a dispute. The elections commissioner has the power to release them, but he refused to allow any independent inspection of the ballots, even after a formal request by local election monitoring organizations to do so. Imprisoned opposition candidate Fonseka filed a petition in court to overturn the results of the election, based on the allegations of elections law violations and counting fraud, but on October 29 the Supreme Court dismissed the case on technical grounds without rendering a decision on the merits of the case, stating that it would be impossible to prove in court whether the alleged fraud and violations occurred to the point of justifying the disqualification of Rajapaksa as a candidate.

There were reports that several thousand IDPs housed at the Manik Farm camp in Vavuniya were not able to vote because buses arranged for transporting them to local polling sites were late.

Several small explosions occurred in the area around Jaffna early on the morning of the election, but no injuries were reported as a result. However, some local observers reported that these may have dissuaded voters from going to the polls in those areas.

The parliamentary elections in April experienced some violence as well, but it was based largely on intraparty squabbles, as local candidates competed for preference votes within their own party constituencies.

There were reports of complications in the registration of some IDPs in the north later in the year as elections officials prepared for a full round of local and provincial elections expected in early 2011. The numbers of voters reportedly affected by these complications were relatively small.

Political parties largely were free to operate and name candidates as they wished.

There were 10 women in the 225-member parliament, two female ministers, and two women out of 11 justices on the Supreme Court. There were 28 Tamils and 17 Muslims in the parliament. There was no provision for, or allocation of, a set number or percentage of political party positions for women or minorities. Women's participation in politics was approximately 5 percent in the parliament and the provincial councils.

Section 4 Official Corruption and Government Transparency

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials in all three branches of the government frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

The mandate of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption expired during the year and had not been renewed by year's end.

The tendering and procurement process for government contracts was not transparent, leading to allegations of corruption by the losing bidders. Senior officials served as corporate officers of several quasi-public corporations, including Lanka Logistics and Technologies, which the government established in 2007 and designated as the sole procurement agency for all military equipment. Critics alleged that large kickbacks were paid during the awarding of certain defense contracts. In 2007 the government used state pension funds to set up a new budget airline, Mihin Air, with many of the same officials serving as corporate officers. In May 2009 Mihin Air went bankrupt, but the 2009 budget allocated several million dollars to restart operations and continue leasing planes for the airline. Parliamentarians from the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (People's Liberation Front) complained in session that the airline's officials did not follow proper tender procedures in acquiring the planes.

In 2008 the Supreme Court found then treasury secretary P.B. Jayasundera guilty of a violation of procedure in the awarding of a large contract for the expansion of the Port of Colombo. The court barred him from holding the treasury position. In June 2009, after President Rajapaksa named a new Supreme Court chief justice, the Supreme Court allowed Jayasundera to proceed with a fundamental rights case protesting the original decision. The Supreme Court then overturned the previous decision and allowed Jayasundera to be reinstated as secretary of the treasury.

Although members of parliament are asked to complete financial disclosure reports upon their election, there was no follow-up to ensure compliance, and little or no reporting ultimately was done.

There was no law providing for public access to government information.

Section 5 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups continued to investigate and publish their findings on human rights cases, despite increasing government restrictions and physical threats to their work. The government often criticized local NGOs critical of government actions, failed to respond to requests for assistance, and put pressure on those who sought such assistance. For example, the government failed to investigate a death threat in August 2009 against one prominent civil society leader and instead opened an investigation of those who signed a public petition calling for an investigation.

NGOs which proposed undertaking projects in northern and eastern areas address such matters as psychosocial counseling, good governance training for local citizens, and legal aid often had difficulty in obtaining government work permits. Government officials sometimes made generic criticisms of local NGOs that accepted funding from international sources.

Although the ICRC did not have an overall operating mandate since July 2009, and the government told ICRC in December to close its offices in Jaffna and Vavuniya, it was able nonetheless to conduct a number of its functions including prison visits and other monitoring.

International personnel of NGOs often had trouble getting visa renewals to continue working in the country.

The government continued to refuse the request by the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for an expanded mission and an independent presence in the country.

The UN Secretary-General established an advisory panel of experts in June to advise him on the country’s accountability mechanisms with regard to alleged violation of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the war in 2009. The government responded by stating the panel was an "unwarranted and unnecessary interference," and that the secretary-general did not have the authority to establish such a panel. Shortly after the secretary-general's announcement, Wimal Weerawansa, minister of housing and construction, led a protest that surrounded the entrance to the main UN compound in Colombo, preventing staff inside from leaving for several hours. The secretary general called upon the government to live up to its responsibilities as a host country to ensure the continuation of the UN’s work. The protest continued for several days, with Weerawansa threatening to fast to the death unless the panel of experts was disbanded. The president asked Weerawansa to end the protest four days after it began. Although there were reports that the government had agreed to allow members of the panel to visit the country as part of its research, at year's end the visit had not yet occurred.

By statute the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission (SLHRC) had wide powers and resources and could not be called as a witness in any court of law or be sued for matters relating to its official duties. However, in practice the SLHRC rarely used its powers, and there were reports of a large backlog of cases with virtually no action by the commission during the year. Rather than taking an investigative approach to determining the facts and details of human rights cases, the SLHRC instead took a more tribunal-like approach, weighing only the evidence brought to it in deciding whether to pursue a case. In 2007 the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions downgraded the SLHRC to observer status, citing governmental interference in the work of the SLHRC.

In May the government established the LLRC, a presidential commission with a six-month mandate to investigate the reasons for the breakdown of the Cease-Fire Agreement and the subsequent resumption of conflict until the end of the war. An eight-member panel of commissioners, including one Tamil and one Muslim, was appointed to collect evidence and testimony and to present a report to the president. Some international observers criticized the country’s lack of witness protection, the limited scope of the LLRC--which did not have an explicit mandate to investigate alleged war crimes--as well as the impartiality of its Chairman, C.R. de Silva, whom they believe was responsible in part for the failure of a previous commission of inquiry. The government extended the LLRC’s mandate for another six months in November, a move criticized by some international observers as a tactic to delay addressing accountability. The time extension, however, did allow the LLRC additional time to gather testimony from hundreds of civilians, largely ethnic Tamils in the war-torn north and east, to provide the commission with testimony about missing family members and other war-related strife.

A significant number of witnesses were heard at LLRC sessions in Colombo, including historians, religious leaders, military officials, academics, and political figures. A wide variety of opinions were expressed at these sessions, including discussions on the origins of the conflict, the role of language, devolution, and the successes or failures of past political leadership.

The LLRC also held a large number of field sessions in towns and villages throughout the former conflict areas in the north and east, where it accepted oral and written testimony from civilians who were affected by the war. Missing persons reports were accepted from hundreds of persons who had lost close relatives either during the fighting or in the mass exodus of Tamil civilians from the final conflict zone in the immediate aftermath of the end of the war. Many of these reports cited forced recruitment tactics by the LTTE, but others blamed government military and police for arresting their relatives, with no word from them since. Others told of the deaths of relatives from shelling and indiscriminate firing by both the LTTE and the government in civilian areas and so-called no-fire zones.

On September 13, the LLRC made a number of interim recommendations to the president on steps to help alleviate continued ethnic tensions and respond to individuals' most pressing requests but made no mention of investigation of allegations of war crimes. The government created an interagency committee in late October to implement these interim recommendations, which addressed detentions, land-ownership concerns, law and order, language problems, and economic and livelihood development. At year's end the interagency committee was working on implementation of the recommendations. The LLRC also created a website on which it published testimony from a number of individuals who appeared before the commission, including some from individuals whose family members disappeared during the war.

Section 6 Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, and the government generally respected these rights in practice; however, there were instances wherein which gender and ethnic-based discrimination occurred.

Women

The law prohibits rape and domestic violence but it was not effectively enforced. Sexual assault, rape, and spousal abuse were pervasive societal problems. The law specifically addresses sexual abuse and exploitation, and it contains provisions in rape cases for an equitable burden of proof and stringent punishments. Marital rape is considered an offense only in cases of spouses legally separated. While in theory the law could address some of the problems of sexual assault, many women's organizations believed that greater sensitization of police and the judiciary was necessary to see progress in combating these crimes. The Bureau for the Protection of Children and Women (BPCW) within the police conducted awareness programs in schools and at the grassroots level, prompting women to file complaints. The BPCW received 714 complaints of grave violent crimes and 2,391 minor crimes against women during 2009.

There were reports that individual cases of gender-based violence perpetrated by members of the security forces occurred in areas with heavy security force presence, but others stated that military officials were responsive to reports of such incidents and showed a willingness to prosecute the offenders. The government did not release any details about prosecutions or punishments for such offenses, and some observers suggested that there was reluctance by victims to report such incidents in northern and eastern areas where security forces were much more prevalent. Statistics on numbers of such cases also were unavailable because few victims reported such incidents. Human rights groups in northern districts alleged that the wives of men who were killed as a result of the conflict often fell victim to prostitution because of their economic vulnerability.

According to the BPCW 175 reported incidents of rape occurred through August 2009 throughout the island, but reported incidences of rape were unreliable indicators of the degree of this problem, as most victims were unwilling to file reports. Services to assist victims of rape and domestic violence, such as crisis centers, legal aid, and counseling, were generally scarce due to a lack of funding.

Sexual harassment was a criminal offense carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Some observers acknowledged sexual harassment to be widespread; however, enforcement of the law was not effective. Domestic violence was also thought to be widespread, although, as with sexual harassment, discussion of these problems was not common.

Couples and individuals were generally free to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children. An estimated 40 percent of the population used modern contraceptives, and skilled attendance during childbirth was estimated at approximately 97 percent. According to 2008 UN estimates, the maternal mortality rate in the country was 39 deaths per 100,000 live births. Women appeared to be equally diagnosed and treated for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. The UN and World Health Organization estimated approximately 4,000 persons were infected with HIV in 2007.

The law provides for equal employment opportunity in the public sector. In practice women had no legal protection against discrimination in the private sector, where they sometimes were paid less than men for equal work and experienced difficulty in rising to supervisory positions. Although women constituted approximately half of the formal workforce, according to the Asian Development Bank, the quality of employment available to women was less than that available to men. The demand for female labor was mainly for casual and low-paid, low-skill jobs.

Women had equal rights under civil and criminal law. However, adjudication according to the customary law of each ethnic or religious group of questions related to family law, including divorce, child custody, and inheritance, resulted in de facto discrimination.

Children

Citizenship was obtained by birth within the territory of the country and from a child's parents if born to citizen parents overseas. The law requires children between the ages of five and 14 to attend school. The government provided extensive systems of public education and medical care. Education was free through the university level.

Under the law the definition of child abuse includes all acts of sexual violence against, trafficking in, and cruelty to children. The law also prohibits the use of children in exploitative labor or illegal activities, or in any way contrary to compulsory education regulations. It also defines child abuse to include the involvement of children in war.

NGOs attributed the problem of exploitation of children to the lack of enforcement, rather than inadequate legislation. The BPCW conducted investigations into crimes against children and women, and the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) included representatives from the education, medical, police, and legal professions and reported directly to the president. During 2009 the BPCW received 1,974 complaints of grave violent crimes and 986 of minor crimes against children.

The government advocated greater international cooperation to bring those guilty of sexual exploitation of children to justice. Although the government did not keep records of particular types of violations, the law prohibits sexual violations against children, defined as persons less than 18 years of age, particularly in regard to child pornography, child prostitution, and the trafficking of children. Penalties for violations related to pornography and prostitution range from two to five years' imprisonment. The penalties for sexual assault of children range from five to 20 years' imprisonment and an unspecified fine. By the end of 2009 the government opened 1,575 files, of which 497 resulted in indictments for sexual assault and exploitation of children, including kidnapping, cruelty to children, rape, and statutory rape; 299 cases were dismissed, and 303 cases were referred to the police for further investigation. The remaining were pending at the end of 2009, and no further details were available at year's end.

Commercial sexual exploitation of children remained a problem in coastal resort areas. Private groups estimated that approximately 6,000 children were exploited for commercial sex in the country and that local citizens were responsible for much of the exploitation. Other groups believed foreign tourists were more frequently the exploiters of thousands of children, especially boys, for commercial sex, most of whom were reportedly forced into prostitution by traffickers. There was little solid data to elucidate these reports, and some observers stated the problem was much less prevalent than approximately 10 years ago. The Department of Probation and Child Care Services provided protection to child victims of abuse and sexual exploitation and worked with local NGOs that provided shelter. The tourist bureau halted programs to raise awareness for at-risk children in resort regions prone to sex tourism due to a lack of funding.

Children in the IDP camps and resettled areas were exposed to the same difficult conditions as adult IDPs and returnees in these areas. School facilities were being demined and reconstructed, but many were in poor condition and lacked basic supplies. Medical care in these areas was limited, but improvements continued throughout the year.

The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. For information on international parental child abduction, please see the Department of State's annual report on compliance at http://travel.state.gov/abduction/resources/congressreport/congressreport_4308.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish population remained very small, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

For information on trafficking in persons, please see the Department of State's annual Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/g/tip.

Persons with Disabilities

The law forbids discrimination against any person with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities; however, in practice discrimination occurred in employment, education, and provision of state services. The Department of Social Services operated eight vocational training schools for persons with physical and mental disabilities and sponsored a program of job training and placement for graduates. The government provided financial support to NGOs that assisted persons with disabilities, including subsidizing prosthetic devices, making purchases from suppliers with disabilities, and registering 74 NGO-run schools and training institutions for persons with disabilities. Due to a lack of funding, the Department of Social Services reportedly discontinued a program that allowed job placement officers to help the estimated 200,000 work-eligible persons with disabilities find jobs. This program assisted 147 persons with disabilities in finding jobs in 2008. Persons with disabilities faced difficulties due to negative attitudes and societal discrimination. In some rural areas the belief of many residents that physical and mental disabilities were contagious led to long-term isolation of such persons who in some cases rarely or never left their homes.

In October 2009 the Supreme Court directed that steps be taken to provide easy access for persons with disabilities to public buildings, but little progress occurred. There were regulations on accessibility, but in practice accommodation for access to buildings for persons with disabilities was rare. The Department of Social Services provided housing grants, self-employment grants, and medical assistance to persons with disabilities. During the year the department provided a monthly allowance grant of approximately 3,200 rupees ($29) to approximately 2,100 families of persons with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Both local and Indian-origin Tamils maintained that they suffered long-standing, systematic discrimination in university education, government employment, and other matters controlled by the government. According to the SLHRC, Tamils also experienced discrimination in housing. Landlords were required to register any Tamil tenants and to report their presence to the police, although in practice many landlords did not comply.

Tamils throughout the country, but especially in the conflict-affected north and east, reported frequent harassment of young and middle-age Tamil men by security forces and paramilitary groups.

A small ethnic group known as Kaffari or Kaffirs existed in very small numbers, mostly in the coastal areas of Negombo, Trincomalee, and Batticaloa. They were thought to be the descendants of African slaves originally brought to the country by the Portuguese sometime in the 16th century. They numbered approximately 1,000 and had dwindled in number largely due to many years of intermarriage. They did not appear to suffer from any overt discrimination, but because of their small number they struggled to maintain any distinct cultural identity.

Indigenous People

The country's indigenous people, known as Veddas, by some estimates numbered fewer than 1,000. Some preferred to maintain their traditional way of life and were nominally protected by the law. There were no legal restrictions on their participation in political or economic life. However, the lack of legal documents was a problem for many. Vedda communities complained that they were pushed off their lands by the creation of protected forest areas, which deprived them of traditional livelihoods.

Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law criminalizes homosexual activity but was not officially enforced. Some NGOs working on LGBT problems did not register with the government. In recent years human rights organizations reported that, while not actively arresting and prosecuting those who engaged in LGBT activity, police harassed and extorted money or sexual favors from those persons and assaulted gays and lesbians in Colombo and other areas. This led to many incidents of crimes against members of the LGBT community going unreported. There were LGBT organizations, and several events were held throughout the year. In addition to pressure, harassment, and assaults by police, there remained significant societal pressure against members and organizations of the LGBT community. There were no legal safeguards to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. There were reports that persons undergoing gender reassignment procedures had difficulty in amending government documents to reflect those changes.

Other Societal violence or Discrimination

There was no official discrimination against those who provided HIV prevention services or against high-risk groups likely to spread HIV/AIDS, although there were reports of societal discrimination against these groups.

Section 7 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The law allows workers to form and join unions of their choice without previous authorization, with the exception of members of the armed forces and police officers, who may not unionize. Seven workers may form a union, adopt a charter, elect leaders, and publicize their views; however, a union must represent 40 percent of workers at a given enterprise before the employer is legally obligated to bargain with it. By law public sector unions are not allowed to form federations or represent workers from more than one branch or department of government, although the law was not generally enforced.

Approximately 10 percent of the national workforce of 7.5 million and more than 70 percent of the plantation workforce was unionized. Approximately 11 percent of the nonagricultural workforce in the private sector was unionized. Unions represented workers in large private firms, but workers in small-scale agriculture and small businesses usually did not belong to unions. Public sector employees were unionized at very high rates.

In practice the right of association was impeded by the management of individual factories and by administrative delays by the government in registering unions.

Approximately 122,000 persons were employed within the country's 12 export processing zones (EPZs), where the Board of Investment (BOI) set minimum wages and working conditions. Although EPZ employees have the same rights to join unions as other workers, forming trade unions was more difficult in the zones. The BOI controlled access to the EPZs; union representatives seeking to organize workers and other outsiders could enter only at the invitation of factory owners or the BOI. Unions claimed their lack of access to the zones drove the EPZs' low rate of unionization. They also reported that some employers actively undermined the formation of EPZ unions. Many employers claimed that low unionization was due to higher relative wages in the EPZs and to a relatively transient workforce.

To address concerns about working conditions and freedom of association, the Labor Ministry set up offices, also known as mediation centers, in the three largest EPZs. For the first time, the ministry began conducting its own unannounced inspections in the EPZs and placed labor inspectors on-site in several of the largest EPZs.

Most large unions were affiliated with political parties and played a prominent role in the political process, although some unions in the public sector were politically independent. The Department of Labor is authorized to cancel a union's registration if the union fails to submit an annual report for three years.

By law all workers, other than police, armed forces, prison service, and those in essential services, have the right to strike, but the government did not enforce this law uniformly. The president has broad discretion to declare sectors "essential," as these can include "any service which is of public utility or is essential for national security or for the preservation of public order or to the life of the community and includes any Department of the Government or branch thereof." The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) claimed the government misused its power to declare an industry "of public utility" in order to make strikes illegal.

The law prohibits retribution against strikers in nonessential sectors; in practice, however, employees sometimes were fired for striking.

The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference, but the government enforced the law unevenly. Union activists and officials remained subject to harassment, intimidation, and other retaliatory practices. There were reports that employers arbitrarily transferred union members, and there were numerous reports of unfair dismissals of union members.

On November 28, two trade unionists were arrested and charged with causing incitement for rioting by distributing pamphlets that raised concerns over the possible economic and environmental affect of a proposed development project.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The law provides for the right to collective bargaining; however, the government did not effectively enforce it in all instances. All collective agreements are required to be registered with the Department of Labor. Collective agreements normally were for three years.

Employers found guilty of antiunion discrimination were required to reinstate workers fired for union activities but could transfer them to different locations. Antiunion discrimination was a punishable offense liable for a fine of 20,000 rupees ($177).

According to the government only the Department of Labor, a division under the Ministry of Labor, has standing to pursue an unfair labor practice case, including for antiunion discrimination. Citing routine government inaction on alleged violations of labor rights, unions have long pressed for standing. Since 1999 the Department of Labor filed two cases against companies for unfair labor practices under the Industrial Disputes Act, in 2009 and 2010. Those cases continued at the end of the year. Workers brought some labor violations to court under various other labor laws instead, such as the Wages Board or Employees Provident Fund Acts. Several employers were under investigation under these statutes.

In practice employers often indefinitely delayed recognition of unions for collective bargaining. The ITUC and other organizations reported that employers used these delays to delay or prevent the formation of a union, to decrease support for unionization, and to identify, terminate, and sometimes assault or threaten union activists.

There were credible reports that employers in the EPZs financed and supported employees' councils which then engaged in some labor and management negotiations. Labor organizations asserted these councils were a means of discouraging organization of and participation in traditional unions, and that they significantly weakened the bargaining positions of employees. The government disputed these allegations and stated the higher number of worker councils reflected employee preferences to resolve disputes at the company level rather than via large unions.

Unions argued that restricted access to the EPZs for union and NGO representatives hindered efforts to organize workers. According to the BOI, as of December there were 14 trade unions active in 39 of the EPZs' 267 factories; worker councils were active in 144.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibited forced or bonded labor; however, there were reports that such practices occurred. The country's men and women emigrated to many countries, where some found themselves in conditions of forced labor. The risk of forced labor was increased by indebtedness and fraud from recruitment fees incurred in the country before departure. There were unconfirmed reports that children were subjected to bonded labor in dry-zone farming areas, on plantations, and to a lesser extent, in the fireworks and fish-drying industries. Bonded labor reportedly occurred in the agriculture, mining, and rope-making sectors, although those allegations were not confirmed.

Also see the Department of State's annual Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/g/tip.

d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The minimum age for employment was 14, although the law permitted the employment of younger children by their parents or guardians in limited family agriculture work or in technical training. Persons under age 18 could not be employed in any public enterprise in which the work was considered dangerous.

The largest sector for child labor, both legal and illegal, was agriculture, where children under 18 sometimes were employed in the plantation sectors and in nonplantation agriculture during harvest periods. Children were engaged in hazardous and exploitative child labor as street and mobile vendors, and domestic helpers. They also worked in agriculture, mining, construction, manufacturing, and transport services. There were also reports that children performed dangerous work in the tile, fishing, construction, and mining industries. Children displaced by the war had a higher risk of being employed in hazardous labor.

Sources indicated many thousands of children between 14 years and 18 years of age were employed in domestic service in urban households, although this situation was not regulated or documented. Some child domestics reportedly were subjected to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, and there were also reports of rural children in debt bondage in urban households. Employment of children commonly occurred in family enterprises such as family farms, crafts, small trade establishments, restaurants, and repair shops.

There were no reports of children employed in the EPZs, the garment industry, or any other export industry.

The NCPA was the central agency for coordinating and monitoring the protection of children, with the specific mandate to enforce laws on child labor and hazardous child labor. The Department of Labor, the Department of Probation and Child Care Services, and the police, which operated a specially designated Children's and Women's Bureau to enforce child labor laws, were also responsible for the enforcement of child labor laws. The NCPA received approximately 154 complaints of child employment during the year, compared with 79 in 2009. Other agencies also collected reports of child labor, however, and it was difficult to tell when there were multiple reports of the same instance. The police's Children's and Women's Desk had received 211 complaints by June, compared with 247 during the same period in 2009. The Department of Labor received 150 complaints by October, compared with 149 during the same period in 2009. Information on litigation during the year was not available. Penalties for employing minors are 10,000 rupees ($89) or 12 months' imprisonment. From January to October, the Department of Labor carried out 150 inspections on child labor and found 11 cases of child labor violations.

During the year the government published a road map for the elimination of worst forms of child labor by 2016. This plan was developed with assistance from workers representatives, the International Labor Organization, and UN Children's Fund. In December the parliament named 51 occupations as hazardous and prohibited for children.

Also see the Department of State's annual Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/g/tip.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

While there was no national minimum wage, 43 wage boards established by the Ministry of Labor Relations and Manpower set minimum wages and working conditions by sector and industry in consultation with unions and employers. The minimum monthly wage in the private sectors covered by wage boards was 6,900 ($62) rupees plus an extra allowance of 1,000 rupees ($9), for a total of 7,900 rupees ($71). The minimum wage in the public sector was 11,730 rupees ($105). Workers in sectors not covered by wage boards, including informal sector workers, were not covered by any minimum wage.

The law prohibits most full-time workers from regularly working more than 45 hours per week (a five-and-a-half-day workweek). In addition the law stipulates a rest period of one hour per day. Regulations limit the maximum overtime hours to 15 per week. Overtime pay is 1.5 times the wage and is paid for work done on either Sundays or holidays.

According to labor organizations, employers in EPZs frequently failed to pay wages owed when downsizing or closing factories.

Several laws protect the safety and health of industrial workers, but the Ministry of Labor Relations and Manpower's efforts were inadequate to enforce compliance. Health and safety regulations do not fully meet international standards. Workers have the statutory right to remove themselves from dangerous situations, but many workers were unaware of such rights or feared they would lose their jobs if they removed themselves from the work situation.

Emigrant laborers also faced abuse. There were cases in which recruitment agencies promised one type of job to a Sri Lankan migrant but changed the job, employer, or salary after the employee arrived in the other country.

Source: US State Dept.

Sri Lanka has not violated international law - Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa

www.news.lk
Department of Government Information, Sri Lanka

The government has already relaxed several Emergency Regulations and certain regulations are still required to ensure peace and harmony in the country.

However, the International Groups and the local politicians who demand for relaxation of emergency regulations were silent about violation of human rights by the terrorist outfit LTTE, when they terrorized the innocent people of the country, when they denied human rights to people living in areas which were under their control, and when they denied human rights to the academics living in that area. He said that the behavior of International groups in the activities of certain countries were totally different from what they did in the case of Sri Lanka when the terrorist outfit LTTE was making blatant and gross violation of human rights in this country.

This was stated by the Minister of Environment Mr. Anura Priyadarshana Yapa in response to questions raised by media personnel at the end of the Media Conference held today at the Department of Government Information to announce Cabinet Decisions taken yesterday.

He said that the baseless allegations being made by these groups about human rights violations in the country cannot be accepted. He pointed out that the people of this country can now freely enjoy their life in any part of this country, whether it is North, East, South or West and the value and the strength of this freedom will be more evident in the forthcoming New Year season which will be celebrated in all parts of the country.

The Minister further said that Sri Lanka has not done anything contrary to the international law and everything is being done to safeguard the sovereignty of this country. He said that the country has its own laws and regulations and neither these laws and regulations nor the international laws have been violated at any time.

Referring to a question on a statement that had been made by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi on Sri Lanka, the Minister said that she has made this statement at an Election Rally, and the Ministry of External Affairs will take appropriate measures to obtain a clarification on this matter.

In response to a question about the incident that had taken place at the Peliyagoda Fish Market Complex, the Minister said that law and order agencies have taken appropriate measures on the incident, people involved in the incident have been taken into custody and legal action has been instituted. Minister Yapa strongly refuted the allegation of involvement of a Minister of the area and said that it is highly unethical to level such allegations merely because a Minister represents that area and just because a person taken into custody happened to be a politician.

Commenting on the threatened bus fare hike by the private bus owners, the Minister said that the Minister of Transport has already made a statement in the Parliament clarifying that there is no justification for a price hike, and it cannot be allowed. (niz)

The Businesses Boosted by Cricket World Cup

By M.S.Shah Jahan

Betting

No doubt the 10th Cricket World Cup gave financial gains not only to the cricketers and those associated with it, but also to various in business sectors. Look how the CWC craze benefited everybody. Nowadays in any sports competition what comes running first is the betting business. That way one can imagine the bookies would have had a good time throughout the Cricket World Cup, and the best time in the final game between India and Sri Lanka.

According to the media, with everything looked good for the Indian team in the in the home soil, punters favoured the hosts. Major betting sites like Ladbrokes, Betfair and Bet365 offered average odds of around 60 cents per rupee for an Indian victory while Sri Lanka was available at an average odds of rupees 1.50 for every one rupee. The bookies offered lucrative odds against Sri Lanka when doubts prevailed over the participation of Muthiah Muralitharan.

However, these odds were changed drastically when it became clear that Murali was sure to play and the odds on India's win came down to 50 cents and odds for a Sri Lankan victory went up to rupees 1.60. According to early betting patterns, the prospect of Sachin Tendulkar scoring his 100th international century looked great with a lot of bets being placed on him. The maestro scoring a 100 and India lifting the Cup was available at a combined odds of 8/1 on Betfair. Betting was also heavy on Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag scoring a century, with odds of 6-to-1.

Betting options & odds on offer

Indian win: Ladbrokes (8/13); Betfair (8/13); (60 cents in the Indian market); SL win: Ladbrokes (5/4); Betfair (13/8); (14/10 in Indian market); Sachin Tendulkar:Scoring 50 (2.68/1); scoring 100 (6/1); scoring 100 and Indian winning (8/1) and MoM (7/1) - all from Betfair; Leading scorer in tournament: Tendulkar (10/11); T Dilshan (11/10); K Sangakkara (9/1) - all from Ladbrokes.

Television

Notable beneficiaries in the world cup were television broadcasters, sponsors and advertisers. The world cup final will go down in history as one of the greatest and the most viewed sporting event on television. An unprecedented 67.6 million people watched the gripping final that had the viewers at the edge of their seats in India, Sri Lanka and rest of the world.

The number of viewers on the final day, according to the data collated by audience measurement agency aMap surpassed the Indo-Pak semi-final that was perhaps the most anticipated match of the tournament for the subcontinent audience. The number of viewers for the semi-final was 67.3 million while the other semifinal—Sri Lanka vs New Zealand had 32 million viewers as the host team was favoured to win this game.

Incidentally, TRP viewership for India matches leaped from 3.7 before the quarterfinals to 6.4. About 53 million watched the India vs Australia clash in the quarter-finals. aMap vice-president Jinita Shah said, "Final day viewership broke all records. Every Indian was glued on to TV [so as the Lankans too] to see the big win. Viewership increased almost four times on Saturday.'' According to aMap, 64% of cable and satellite homes watched the game. The average viewership rating for the final was 13.6, which peaked at 21.4 during the end of the match—higher than the high-voltage Indo-Pak encounter at Mohali.

The aMap data, though, is an indication of the unprecedented viewership that the final clocked, the average time spent recorded on the match was an impressive 187 minutes. "The World Cup finals will break all records possible as far as cricket viewership or any other programme in recent times is concerned. Peaks could touch ratings of 40 and average would be higher than 30. Considering India won and it happened in India while the contests were well fought, this World Cup has given the sponsors the biggest returns compared to other years," said Ajit Varghese, MD of Maxus, which bought media for brands like Vodafone, Fiat, Nokia and Hero Honda among others.

TV advertising rates for the semi final and the final went high rocketing. A 10 seconds ad that was initially charged Indian rupees 300,000 and gradually went up according to the matches and finally it reached for 2.4 million for the India- Sri Lanka battle. Yet many multi nationals repeated their ads for every 5 or 10 minutes. No doubt for them the rates were cheap with over 67 million viewers.

Home deliveries up, beer sales soared in Chennai

In Chennai all through Saturday's World cup final the city roads were practically empty. But restaurant delivery boys were out on the roads zipping across from one place to another. The number of home deliveries showed a meteoric rise. With almost the entire city glued to the television screen, there was very little cooking done at home. Dining out was also not favoured much. Consequently, home delivery joints in the city found business booming.

A primary craving during a nail-biting match is for crispy and greasy fast food. Most pizza and burger outlets found themselves working at a frenetic pace to keep up with the schedules. Pizza chain Dominos found that the number of home delivery orders nearly tripled. Karthik, manager of a Dominos outlet said, "Normally our home delivery orders are around 120. On Saturday, we had around 295 orders, that too mostly in the evening. Fortunately, we have our full staff working on weekends. So that came in handy."

Business boomed in Biryani outlets with home delivery options. Among the most popular was the chain of restaurants of Chennai Rawther Thalapakattu Biryani. Syed Ibrahim, the manager of a branch said, “ home delivery orders tripled. On regular days, we average around 25 home delivery orders a day. On Saturday, we received at least 70-75 orders."

In contrast, many dine-in restaurants had a rather dull day. "Sales were low for us on Saturday," said P Yuvaraj of Kabul restaurant in Alwarpet. "Normally we have around 80 people in a day, but on Saturday, it was only 40."

Popular fast food joint McDonalds, which is usually packed to bursting on weekends, also found the pace a little slow on Saturday as it does not do home deliveries. "Usually we have around 500-600 customers a day," said Ajay Tiwari, manager of Mc Donalds, Anna Nagar. "But on Saturday, only 300-odd people walked in."

With the boost of food business the liquor business too went along. Liquor outlets in the city saw roaring sales. The demand for beer particularly went up and by afternoon most of the reputed and foreign brands had disappeared from most outlets. A youth said he had a particularly trying time visiting several shops before he could find beer. "I visited four shops before I finally found beer in the fifth," he said. "Even the beer that I finally got was a local brand of bad quality. But I was lucky to get even that!"

Mumbai chilled with beer after Mohali win

Let us see how Mumbai guzzlers fared during the Indo Pak semi final in Mohali, since we have no statistics about liquor sale during the final match.

Mumbaikars downed [or drowned in] an unbelievably huge amount of beer. According to liquor industry sources, the spirit of cricket seemed no less than the New Year Eve revelry. An estimated 70,000 liters of liquor were gulped down, with 60% of it being beer. "Cricket seems to be no less important than Holi and New Year's Eve. Maharashtra Wine Merchants' Association (MWMA) sources said normally, nearly 1 lakh liters of booze are consumed on New Year's Eve and on Holi in the island city.

Sources in Ahar, an association of over 7,000 hotels, bars and restaurant owners in Mumbai said "Normally, bars keep a stock for a week, but that had already been gulped down and fresh stocks had to be arranged for. The reason for people choosing beer over Indian-made foreign liquor is due to the increasingly hot weather. Had this been winter, more foreign liquor would have been sold at bars and pubs." A dealer said the consumption of liquor recorded on the semi final was "mind-blowing".

Ludhiana high on chicken, beer

During the semi final, residents of Ludhiana enjoyed the adrenaline rush with pitchers of beer and generous helpings of chicken. Parwinder Singh, employee of Central Punjab, a liquor wholesale company, said the sale of beer in city restaurants- bars increased by 35 per cent as Ludhianvis preferred a drink while enjoying the match. Harman Singh, owner of Seven Seas Paradise, said people had been buying boxes of beer to enjoy at home with the matches.

City wholesalers said the sale of chicken increased by 40 per cent while the sale of beer went up by 30-35 per cent. Having gained a high profit during the semi-final match, all major restaurant-bars raised the cover charges for entry on the final match day. Restaurants also stocked up on the chicken and beer for the final match. Wholesalers, who had no marriage parties or big parties to cater for, also minted money by supplying almost double of the usual quantity in the city.

Bhupinder Singh, president of Non-Veg Association, Ludhiana, said “on the semi final day, approximately 90,000 kg of chicken was supplied across the city to wholesalers, retailers, restaurants and food streets whereas on other days only around 50,000 kg of chicken is supplied. The CWC craze has benefited everybody and as residents love to eat non-vegetarian food the business of supplying chicken has particularly gained momentum,'' he said.

Poonam Pandey committed to strip if India won the final against SL

While chicken business was romping all over India, in Mumbai a 20 year old chick became the cynosure of the whole country. Ms. Poonam Pandey, a young model who had already given controversial semi nude poses to Kigfisher Airline’s 2011 calendar, shocked everyone with her announcement that she would strip herself before the Team India if they won the Cup. ‘‘Of course, I am going to do it. But where? I can bare all wherever they want. It can be inside the players’ dressing room or even in the stadium.’’

Poonam said “I have got overwhelming support from the people of India. They are encouraging me. Even my parents are proud of me because I am doing something for Team India. They have no issues with my going nude.’’ When told that nudity is considered an offence and that she may get into trouble, she said: ‘‘I am going to take permission from BCCI. I really don’t want to do anything that is against the law."

Poonam said daring to bare is the best way to cheer team India after their win. Her Facebook said: “I am a New Generation Girl!!! Anything for my country to get home the World Cup. So INDIA cheer with me that we need 1983 World Cup back.” Poonam became the most searched persons on the internet. Her friends and colleagues on Facebook requested that she must strip with or without BCCI’s permission. Fellow model Shweta Sharma posted: “Poonam has to bare all even if BCCI says no. Please don’t give an excuse saying I will go nude only if they agree”.

Has she done it? Oh no Dhoni’s boys are not that lucky. Poonam now says Paris is the right place to strip as Indian law does not permit. One commented she could invite the players one per night and fulfill her commitment. As an alternative she has given couple of juicy photo shoots. If interested check http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/.

Another interesting news is, lady luck has smiled on Malinga too. Ameesha Patel, a Bollywood actress, has expressed her desire in a blog called ‘Mid-Day’ to hug and kiss Malinga who will spend next few weeks in Mumbai as a player of Mumbai Indians. That way Aneesha, unlike Poonam, is sure to fulfill her desire. Good luck Malinga.

No doubt these are mere publicity stunt to boost their profession. Any way, see what wonders this World Cup has done!

Finally a word to the Lankan cricketers. Don’t be dispirited. You played well in the tournament. I had the opportunity to see the 2007 World Cup too when Lanka was in the dark. It was your turn. But the trickiest organizers favoured the white team. Therefore stay or stand proud boys.

April 07, 2011

Sri Lankan government should account for everyone taken into custody at the end of conflict in May 2009 - HRW

Account for War time Disappearances
More than 20 people last seen in Army custody remain missing

By Human Rights Watch

The Sri Lankan government should account for everyone who was taken into custody at the end of Sri Lanka's 26-year-long armed conflict in May 2009 and are feared to have been "disappeared," Human Rights Watch said today. Despite numerous requests from families for information about their relatives, the authorities do not appear to have conducted any serious investigations, Human Rights Watch said.

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Screengrab of a video obtained by Human Rights Watch shows LTTE leader Colonel Ramesh in Sri Lankan army custody

Human Rights Watch said unresolved enforced disappearances should be part of the mandate of a proposed United Nations investigation into laws-of-war violations by both government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). A Panel of Experts appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to advise him on steps for ensuring accountability for laws-of-war violations in Sri Lanka is expected to hand over its report later in April 2011.

"The Sri Lankan government needs to respond to all allegations of disappearances with more than a ritual blanket denial," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Family members of the disappeared have the right to know if their loved ones are alive or dead."

Through interviews with relatives of the missing and witnesses, published testimony, and media reports, Human Rights Watch found that more than 20 people who were taken into army custody between May 16 and 18, 2009, appear to have been forcibly disappeared. Most of them are known to have been detained in the Vadduvaakal area, just south of the strip of land in northeastern Sri Lanka where the final battle between the LTTE and government forces occurred. At the time, the area was controlled by the Sri Lankan army's 59 Division.

Under international law, an enforced disappearance occurs when the authorities take an individual into custody but refuse to acknowledge doing so or do not provide information about the person's whereabouts or fate. Among the rights an enforced disappearance may violate are those to life, liberty, and security of the person, including protection from torture and other ill-treatment.

The people believed to have been forcibly disappeared were detained at various times. About half the people involved in the cases documented by Human Rights Watch were detained when dozens of LTTE members surrendered to the army together with the Rev. Francis Joseph, a Catholic priest, south of the Vadduvaakal bridge on May 18. "Aananthi" (not her real name), the wife of one of the disappeared, told Human Rights Watch that she saw the army load the priest and the LTTE members onto a bus and drive them away. Human Rights Watch interviews with other witnesses and numerous media reports confirm her account. The wife and two children, ages 3 and 5, of an LTTE member were also taken away on the bus. The family members and Joseph remain missing.

Aananthi told Human Rights Watch that she has had no news about her husband since:

I have searched in all the camps. I went to the Defense Ministry. I filed a complaint with the police in January 2010. But I have received no information about my husband. The police only told me that it would be difficult for them to find him since the area where he went missing is under military control. I want the government to tell me what happened to him. Whether he is dead or alive, I want an answer.

Asked specifically about Yogiratnam Yogi, one of the men taken away on the bus, the Sri Lankan commissioner general for rehabilitation said in July 2010 that he was not among more than 11,600 LTTE cadres in custody. Human Rights Watch has established the names of several other people who were taken away on the same bus, but it has not been possible to confirm whether they remain missing.

In another disappearance case, a witness told Human Rights Watch that two former LTTE members helped government soldiers identify Colonel Ramesh, an LTTE leader, among the fleeing population and took him and three others away to a small hut nearby. Ramesh's family has not received any news about him since he was detained. In December 2010 several media outlets broadcast a video clip obtained by the Global Tamil Forum that allegedly showed Ramesh in custody.

Human Rights Watch has obtained several additional, longer videos of Ramesh, providing further evidence that he was in army custody.

In one of the videos, Ramesh is seen lying on a bench in civilian clothes.

In four other videos, several soldiers stand around Ramesh while one of the soldiers questions him about where he is from, the whereabouts of the wife of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, and how he received an injury on his back. At one point it seems that the soldiers are telling Ramesh that the date is the 22nd, suggesting that the video may have been filmed on May 22, 2009. A sixth video shows only Ramesh answering questions about when he joined the LTTE, what his position is, and his family members.

A Sri Lankan military spokesperson dismissed the December video as fake and claimed that Ramesh had been killed during the last days of the war.

On May 17, army soldiers detained Paramnantham Kokulakrishnan and two other men just north of the Vadduvaakal bridge. Kokulakrishnan's wife told Human Rights Watch that the soldiers did not allow her to accompany her husband even though he was blind from an injury that he had received in 1996. The soldiers told her that they would interrogate the men and then release them, but she has not had any news of her husband since. Kokulakrishnan's family filed a complaint with the police in October 2010. The police replied in a letter that they would investigate the disappearance, but the family has received no information.

Another witness told Human Rights Watch that five people are still missing after they were separated from the rest on May 17 just south of the Vadduvaakal bridge. Among the missing is Sudarsani Krishnakumar. Her family has filed complaints with the national human rights commission and the police, but has received no information about her whereabouts.

In several cases, family members also testified before or filed written complaints with the government Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), which was created by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in May 2010. While the commission has published testimony of government officials and others on its website, it has not published many of the testimonies alleging enforced disappearances by government forces.

The enforced disappearances took place as tens of thousands of people fled the war zone during the last days of the conflict. Government forces registered and screened the fleeing population, separating suspected LTTE members from the others. While family members have been able to locate many of the detainees in prisons or in so-called rehabilitation centers, some are still missing. In its February 2010 report "Legal Limbo: The Uncertain Fate of Detained LTTE Suspects in Sri Lanka," Human Rights Watch documented the government's lack of transparency in the screening and registration process.

Human Rights Watch called on the Sri Lankan government to investigate each reported case of enforced disappearances until the fate or whereabouts of the person is clearly and publicly established. The government should prosecute all those implicated in enforced disappearances, including civilian officials and military officers responsible as a matter of command responsibility.

The government should promptly extend an invitation and schedule a visit for the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances. The government should also sign and ratify the International Convention against Enforced Disappearance and enact national legislation that gives force to its provisions.

"The Sri Lankan government's stonewalling on accountability since the end of the war may be most tragic for those whose relatives are missing and feared disappeared," Adams said. "The government needs to say what has happened to these people and ensure that there are no more cases."

Journalist Bennett Rupasinghe released on bail

BBC News

A court in Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka has granted bail to the editor of a news website critical of the government who was arrested last month.

Police said that Bennett Rupasinghe, editor of LankaeNews.com, was arrested for allegedly threatening another man.

But independent journalists and rights groups said that the move was intended to intimidate the free media.

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Bennett Rupasinghe ~ (file pic)

The case against diabetic Mr Rupasinghe, 68, will be taken up again on 7 July. He denies the charge.

Lankaenews has been subjected to a number of threats and attacks in recent years.

A columnist for the website is still missing more than a year since he disappeared and its office was set on fire in January.

Mr Rupasinghe said at the time he suspected "a government hand" in the arson attack.

He told the BBC that LankaeNews had written many stories critical of what he said was corruption, wastage and cheating "especially on the part of the government".

Last year, the chief editor of Lankaenews editor fled the country after receiving threatening phone calls. ~ courtesy: BBC News ~

Cricket in Sri Lanka is increasingly a political affair

Cricket and politics in Sri Lanka

By Namini Wijedasa

The Sri Lankan team lost the 2011 Cricket World Cup to India but were welcomed home like winners. Was this politics or the true Sri Lankan spirit of embracing losers as equally as they would victors?

Cricket in Sri Lanka is increasingly a political affair. While sports ministers are known to dabble freely in the affairs of Sri Lanka Cricket, it is the country’s president who recommends members to the interim board of this administrative body.

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Sri Lankan cricketers speak with President Mahinda Rajapaksa during a tea party at the Presidential residency in Colombo ~ pic: HindustanTimes

Why interim? Not since 2004 have elections been held to Sri Lanka Cricket, earlier called the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka. A small clause in the law allows the relevant minister to appoint an interim committee to administer the sport but he takes recommendations from the president. Since elections cannot guarantee members whose sympathies lie with the regime, an interim committee has become the norm rather than the exception.

In the run-up to the April 2 final with India, this was much debated within Sri Lanka’s acrimonious, divisive political arena. The row started with a comment made by Arjuna Ranatunga, who captained the team that won the 1996 World Cup. Now an outspoken opposition MP, Ranatunga was asked by an Indian TV channel what advice he would offer the Sri Lankan team. He replied that he no longer counsels the cricket team as President Mahinda Rajapaksa has assumed that role.

If Ranatunga had meant to goad the government- and the president - into a backlash, he succeeded. The state media honed in on the remark, accusing him of destroying team morale and discrediting Sri Lanka internationally. This continues even after the Cricket World Cup in what seems to be an attempt to somehow link Sri Lanka’s defeat with Ranatunga’s ill-advised, politically motivated statement.

That is politics in Sri Lanka. And that is cricket. On the one hand, there is a clear nexus between the two in the presence of former cricketers in parliament. Ranatunga is one while Sanath Jayasuriya, called the “Master Blaster” for his batting prowess, is another. The out-of-form Jayasuriya had aspired to be included in the 2011 team but was dropped from the side. Had he got his wish, Sri
Lanka would have had a parliamentarian on the team.

There is also indirect political involvement in cricketing matters, apparently prompted by a keenness to be associated with a rich and powerful sport that has enormous public following. It is not unusual now to find a sports minister summoning or chairing press conferences related to cricket or its administrative body. And a Cricket World Cup, particularly one at which Sri Lanka performs well, is a windfall for politicians.

On the day of the final, Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror newspaper wrote in an editorial: “Even before the winner of today’s match is known, the politicians in true Sri Lankan style will be sharpening their spurs to ride on the Sri Lankan team.”

After the event, the same newspaper questioned whether Sri Lanka will now change “a corruption-ridden cricketing establishment” and prepare for the 2015 World Cup by, among other things, earmarking a captain. “Who will be the next set of administrators we don’t know,” its editorial read. “But kissing goes by favor and to expect changes in a country like Sri Lanka is also like expecting the sun to rise from the West.”

When Sangakkara’s men lost to India, Sri Lankan politicians were constrained to forego the rich personal benefits accruing from a victory. Many had waited in the wings to take the credit for or to (at least) bask in the glory. With defeat came the realization that runners-up status could only bring them limited mileage.

The team returned on April 3, the day after the match. Bizarrely, they were welcomed at the airport by the minister of labor and labor relations. They were garlanded, escorted a short distance by dancers and drummers and taken to Independence Square in a government-organized motorcade that was originally to have been a victory parade. The only other ministers and officials present at the airport were those who returned from watching the match on the same chartered flight the team took.

At Independence Square, the players were treated to a brief, government-organized reception during which they were praised as runners-up. In attendance was the minister of foreign employment promotion and welfare. Indeed, a larger number of cabinet members were present at Temple Trees on Monday when President Rajapaksa felicitated the cricketers on reaching the final. Had Sri Lanka won the cup, ministers and officials would have been jostling to be in the picture wherever - and whenever – the opportunity presented itself.

Contrast this, however, with the generous response of the public. On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people turned up at various venues where giant screens were installed, cheering the boys on. Their exuberance suffered as victory slipped away, replaced by a twisting, gut-wrenching disappointment. By Sunday morning, however, they had recovered. By Sunday morning, they were once again proud of their team.

Sure, there are recriminations. The question is being asked why four changes were made to the team that played the final. Fielding was sloppy, a crucial catch was dropped, a run-out was fumbled and bowling was abysmal. And who shoved Chamara Kapugedara into the team? There are even rumblings of “match-fixing”.

But for the most part, the team remain heroes. “Absolutely nothing wrong in welcoming the team back with a bash, in my view,” said Kanchana Peiris, a lawyer and cricket fan. “Heck, they did us proud so it’s the least we can do to show them our support and appreciation.”

“Needless to say, however, I abhor the mileage politicians would have tried to make of this victory,” he added, “and deeply wish that Sri Lankans would see our politicians for the shallow, transparent, power-hungry leeches that they (mostly) are. In a perfect world the welcoming party would be done for the right reasons, but who are we kidding? We don’t live in that world.”

Sri Lankans love their cricket. Cricket does not unite everyone in this fractured nation. Many Tamils are still deeply hurt after thirty years of war and feel there are vastly more important issues to focus on than cricket. Many others do not appreciate the dominant, sword-brandishing lion symbol in the national flag that represents the Sinhalese and find it offensive to see it waved at cricket matches.

But cricket does unite more people in Sri Lanka -Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese - than anything else has ever done.

And so, men, women and children stood on either side of the road on Sunday, flourishing Sri Lanka flags and gazing adoringly as the team passed by. Many more gathered at Independence Square to express solidarity with the tired, red-eyed cricketers. They gained nothing from being present. They just wanted to be there.

Politicians clearly gained nothing from being present either; that’s why they didn’t turn up. courtesy: The Saudi Gazette

April 06, 2011

Motley group of toxic hacks destroying journalism in Sri Lanka

by Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu

Over the last so many weeks and still continuing, there have been a number of critical reports on the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA)- the election monitoring body of which CPA serves as the Secretariat, the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (MEV), in particular - the National Peace Council (NPC), and Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL). There have also been personal attacks on me. Consequently, I am taking the liberty to clarify and comment on a number of aspects of this reportage and personal attacks.

At the heart of the matter is an investigation, which is reportedly being conducted by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) into the funds received by CPA, the NPC and TISL since the end of the war. That this is underway is confirmed by statements attributed to the Director General of the Media Centre for National Security, and also to remarks attributed to the President with regard to the right of the state to investigate funds received by non-governmental organizations.

In connection with this, the Executive Director of NPC was questioned by the CID. Neither CPA nor, as far as I know, TISL has been formally notified of any such investigation. Both these organizations were the subject of questions raised in respect of their finances by MP Rajiva Wijesinha in Parliament last year. All financial reports requested by the CID at that time were given to them, even though the government was in possession of all the information required on account of the two organizations registered as companies reporting as required to the Registrar of Companies with their audited accounts. In some recent media reports the Sri Lanka Press Institute was also mentioned but its name has been dropped in subsequent reports.

Questions arise as to why such an investigation is being conducted at all, at this time, and by the CID. Are these organizations guilty of a crime or crimes, breaking the law of the land in any way, and what has prompted this investigation into these particular organizations at this time? They do have in common a critique of the regime from the perspective of governance and human rights and at various times, including the present, the heads of these organizations including myself have been accused of being supportive of the LTTE and terrorism.

No hard evidence has been produced to substantiate these allegations. We have been branded as traitors, the public exhorted to spit on us and expose us. We have been detained at the airport, called to the CID, received death threats, and in the case of Mr. Weliamuna, the former head of TISL, there was a grenade attack on his home when he and his family were in residence. No doubt the authorities charged with the present investigation will inform the subjects of it in due course, the grounds for it, and the nature of the investigation.

Questions have been raised yet again about CMEV funding. This has been a constant refrain ever since the Wayamba election in 1999, which CMEV called upon the Election Commissioner to annul in the early afternoon of the polls and before any other organization. Interestingly the government of Sri Lanka and private media houses used to give CMEV free advertising space for its media campaign against election violence, before that infamous assault on the electoral process. CMEV has nevertheless survived to be recognized by the Election Commissioner’s office as one of two national election monitoring organizations – the other being PAFFREL. Both organizations have been authorized to station monitors in polling centres on the day of elections.

CMEV is made up of CPA, the Free Media Movement, and INFORM – Human Rights Documentation Centre, and is activated at the time of elections. It has engaged in public interest litigation to strengthen the electoral process, called for the annulment of elections on the basis of evidence supplied by its monitors in the field, including in the Northern Province when the LTTE engaged in major ballot stuffing. Its methodology has influenced the way in which the Police now treat and report on election related violence and its reports contributed to the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment, the gutting of which, some of these individuals who question CMEV finances have taken time off to lament.

It deploys monitors in the field in every polling division during the campaign and on polling day at polling centres and in mobile teams. It has a headquarters in Colombo staffed by provincial coordinators, financial and administrative staff. CMEV monitoring also includes a component of international observers to work with national monitors – the full component of international monitors has never been deployed due to the lack of funds.

The methodology of CMEV monitoring and its audited accounts are electronically available on CPA’s as well as CMEV’s websites and the final reports containing this information and reportage of the incidence of election violence are also available as hard copy reports in Sinhala, Tamil and English.

The foreign donors who fund CMEV, PAFFREL and more recently CAFFE are well aware of the methodology of each monitoring organization and of the work of each organization. It has been their practice to ascertain the funding needs of these organizations at meetings at which all three organizations have been present, and all three organizations have jointly reported on their monitoring to funders at meetings convened by funders.

The barrage of attacks by reporters and columnists, and not restricted to any one publishing house or media organ, raises a number of questions.

Are these individuals acting on their own accord and devotion to governance, or are they an integral part of the investigative process that passes for investigation by the state of Sri Lanka today?

Interestingly, although these reports and columns allege lack of transparency and accountability, they contain specific information about who signed agreements with funders and the sums of money received. Did they obtain this information from intrepid and ingenious investigative reporting or from the recipients, the funders or the regime? In a number of these reports, there is a constant reference to government sources saying this or that, begging the question that if it is transparency and accountability that is at issue with organizations accused of supporting terrorism, why is there a reluctance, even reticence, to name the government source?

Is this excluded from the public interest? In one instance one of these individuals did phone me to clarify a typographical error he had encountered in a document. Interesting that he did not seek clarification in respect of the issues he raised in his subsequent articles.

Are these individuals acting alone or are they acting on instruction? Were it to be the former, it appears to be a case of devotees straining to be more Catholic than the Pope, and in the process bringing the Pope and the faith into disrepute!

Given the hate and the harm that is their stock in trade, it would seem that a motley crew of toxic hacks are destroying journalism in this country.

April 05, 2011

Sri Lanka 'capable partner to ensure maritime security of the region' but rights concern strain ties with US - Asst. Sec. Robert O. Blake, Jr

'Sri Lanka govt conduct during final months of conflict hamper US ability to fully engage'

Testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia

Excerpts from Testimony ~ by Robert O. Blake, Jr.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
Washington, DC, April 5, 2011

Off the coast of southern India sits Sri Lanka, still recovering from the 26-year conflict with the LTTE.

Positioned directly on the shipping routes that carry petroleum products and other trade from the Gulf to East Asia, Sri Lanka remains of strategic interest to the U.S. An important contributor to global peacekeeping operations, Sri Lanka stands poised to be a capable and willing partner to effectively combat violent extremism, trafficking and piracy, and thereby help to ensure the maritime security of the region.

But the Government’s worrisome record on human rights, weakening of democratic institutions and practices, and the way in which it conducted the final months of its conflict against the Tamil Tigers hamper our ability to fully engage.

The Administration believes – and Congressional Appropriations language specifies – that our security cooperation, in many forms, should remain limited until progress has been made on fundamental human rights, democracy and governance issues, and the concrete steps necessary for a true and lasting national reconciliation.

The United States welcomed Sri Lanka’s establishment of their Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and its implementing body – the Inter Agency Advisory Committee. Sri Lanka also has taken some steps forward on reconciliation such as resettling the vast majority of the nearly 300,000 internally displaced persons at the end of the conflict, demining 5 million square meters, reducing the reach of High Security Zones, and hiring 335 Tamil-speaking police, and beginning a dialogue with the Tamil National Alliance but more needs to be done. We have urged Sri Lanka to take credible and meaningful steps towards accountability and have warned that a failure to do so is likely to generate pressure for an international commission.

Our assistance programs aim to increase post-conflict stability in the North of Sri Lanka by promoting reconciliation, enhancing local governance, building civil society capacity, increasing economic opportunities to those affected by conflict, and assisting the continued resettlement and reintegration of displaced persons.

Mr. Chairman, in conclusion, South Asia is one of the most vital regions in the world for the United States and its importance will only grow. The recent histories of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and Maldives show that they are joining India in consolidating democracy, on a path towards full human rights, and contributing to the peace and security of the larger world. They may seem small, but they understand the need to think big and the importance of working with the United States. ~ courtesy: US Dept. of State ~

Sport has historically offered a profound avenue to rally and serve as the arena for reconciliation

Nationalism, Cricket and the Religio-Politics of Sport

On social networking sites, such as Facebook, debates about the usefulness of the boycott were pervasive. Some members of the diaspora argued that supporting the Sri Lankan cricket team against India in the finals could foster a sense of unity in the country following a highly divisive ethnic conflict.

by Amarnath Amarasingam

In 1968, Avery Brundage, President of the International Olympic Committee, declared that sports, "like music and the other fine arts, transcends politics." The statement came out of a sentiment of hope rather than fact, and was, of course, incredibly naive. If Claude von Clausewitz is correct that war is merely "politics by other means," then the same can be said about sports.

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(President Mahinda Rajapaksa hosted a reception to Sri Lankan cricketers at Temple Trees on April 4 (pic: president.gov.lk/)

In 1968, the Mexican government killed several students protesting the Olympics in Mexico City. In 1972, Arab terrorists kidnapped and killed Israeli athletes in Munich. Dozens of countries boycotted the 1976 Olympics in Montreal because New Zealand insisted on maintaining "sports relations" with apartheid South Africa. Countries like Honduras and El Salvador have gone to war over soccer, and when East German athletes wanted to compete in the United States, they were denied visas for two decades. The list goes on and on, but points to one thing: sport has never transcended politics and never will.

The deep interplay between politics and sport was again prevalent throughout the 2011 Cricket World Cup. As Sri Lanka inched its way into the finals, the Tamil diaspora around the world was divided about whether to support the team. During the final months of the protracted civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which saw its bloody conclusion in May 2009, many Tamil civilian lives were lost (due to the actions of both the government and the rebels). The Tamil diaspora now attempts to lead the charge against the Sri Lankan government for real and perceived injustices committed during the final months of the war.

On the streets of London, England, members of the Tamil Youth Organization (TYO) handed out pamphlets and raised awareness of the boycott. As one protester told Tamil Guardian, "Sport is not just a pastime. We cannot protest about war crimes against civilians one minute and cheer for sports teams from that state next. Is it right to welcome sports teams representing Libya to international sports fora today?" On social networking sites, such as Facebook, debates about the usefulness of the boycott were pervasive. Some members of the diaspora argued that supporting the Sri Lankan cricket team against India in the finals could foster a sense of unity in the country following a highly divisive ethnic conflict.

As many scholars have argued, international sporting events like cricket serve not only as a form of national recreation, but also national re-creation. As Rob Nixon has noted, sporting events are "exhibitionist events imbued with the authority to recreate or simulate the nation, offering a vigorous display of a proxy body politic." It is a high-energy display of synchronicity and discipline, one dedicated to sacrificing the self for the collective. It is, in other words, one of the most important rituals of a state's civil religion. Sport may be a pastime, but it has transcendental importance. As Nixon writes, "Indeed, sporting idiom is shot through with a religious register: fanatical fans adore their sporting idols or gods, and the crowd mood builds toward a state of rapture, ecstasy, or frenzy."

International sporting events have always been a tool used by states to solidify their image abroad. The Soviet Union, for example, used sport to strengthen the image of communism among its neighboring countries. As Soviet writers Yuri Kotov and Ivan Yudovich stated in 1978, "The increasing number of successes achieved by Soviet sportsmen in sport has particular significance today. Each new victory is a victory for the Soviet form of society and the socialist sports system; it provides irrefutable proof of the superiority of socialist culture over the decaying culture of capitalist states." The self-image of the state as well as processes of national myth-making becomes deeply embedded in sporting competitions. Boycotts as well as the excluding of countries from competition become ways in which the international community or ethnic minorities deny or problematize the national myth of a particular state. It is a way of communicating to the country that its image of itself is not legitimate.

In the 1970s and 1980s, for example, South Africa's system of apartheid (whereby the black majority were denied political rights as well as social and economic opportunities) caused the regime to become an international pariah. South Africa was banned from a host of sporting competitions such as golf, cricket, tennis and rugby. The profound cold shoulder received by the international community cut so deep that in a 1977 survey, white South Africans ranked the lack of international sport as one of the most damaging consequences of apartheid. According to Rob Nixon, "White South Africans were vulnerable to a boycott not because sport transcends politics, but because sport's quasi-theological rites are wholly integral to the politics of nationalism."

In countries like Sri Lanka, where minority populations have long nursed socio-political, religious, and linguistic grievances with the state, boycotts should come as no surprise. While the contexts of apartheid South Africa is wholly different from Sri Lanka, similarities exist in that marginalized populations insist that they cannot participate in the national myth. They do not believe in their state's sporting idols, and feel left out of what Emile Durkheim termed the "collective effervescence". This is unfortunate, as sport has historically offered a profound avenue through which to rally populations around a unified civil religion and could serve as the arena for reconciliation.

Amarnath Amarasingam is a doctoral candidate at Wilfrid Laurier University, and is currently completing his dissertation entitled, Pain, Pride, and Politics: Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism in Canada. He can be reached at: amarnath0330@gmail.com On Twitter: http://twitter.com/amaramarasingam ~ This Article first appeared in The Huffington Post ~

India wants equal rights and equl status for Sri Lankan Tamils says Sonia Gandhi in Chennai

by G.Sathyamoorthi

Chennai: India is pressing Sri Lanka to amend the Constitution to “guarantee and ensure equal rights and equal status” to Sri Lankan Tamils, Congress president and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi said here on Tuesday.

Significant progress

“In our neighbourhood, there is no issue closer to our heart than the rights of the Sri Lankan Tamil people. There has been significant progress last year and India had committed and provided large sums of money for the relief and rehabilitation of the affected people. We will do everything in our power to rehabilitate them,” she said, addressing an election rally on Island Ground along with Dravida Munetra Kazhagam president and Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi.

She said the Union government was spending substantial amount on rehabilitation of Sri Lankan Tamils and “we will continue our efforts at rehabilitation” [of the Tamils displaced in the war between the Sri Lankan Army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam].

She also spoke of the firing on Tamil fishermen in the international waters which claimed a few lives.

“We are deeply pained that some lives of fishermen have been lost. We have been assured that there would be no firing in the future and we will continue to work to ensure this commitment is met,” she said.

Nationalisation of rivers

Mr. Karunanidhi, who utilised this opportunity to seek the support of the Centre on various issues pertaining to Tamil Nadu, pleaded for the nationalisation of rivers, as that alone could be a “long-term solution” to disputes over sharing river water.

“As the first phase, steps should be taken to link all the rivers in the south and funds for the same should be provided to State governments”, he added. ~ courtesy: The Hindu ~

'Why I'm glad we didn't win the World Cup'

(This piece, posted on facbook by a Sri Lankan youth is reproduced here)

First: It was a great game and India were the better team at the final, and during the tournament. I mean to take nothing away from such an epic victory, which I believe is something the entire subcontinent can be proud of. My gladness for Sri Lanka’s loss stems not from anything to do with India or their win.

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Before and during the game I supported Sri Lanka and hoped for a victory. Being an unsinkable optimist down to the very last ball I continued to believe that there was hope. But then we lost. We clapped for Dhoni, Gambhir, Zaheer and most of all for Tendulkar (Few Sri Lankans like Yuvraj or Harbajan).

It was only when I was on my way home that I understood the full implications of what a World Cup victory would have turned Sri Lanka into. Perhaps I should have known this all along. Perhaps I was just blinded by a possible World Cup victory. Perhaps I’m not always as aware of what’s going on around me as I would like to think.

As we drove past the offices of Sri Lanka Cricket we saw them with the gates wide open for the first time in a long time, ready for an all-night party. Their walls and gate decorated and their officials dressed to the nines. I felt sorry for them not getting to throw their big bash. But then I remembered… this is the same Sri Lanka Cricket who ****ed fans who queued up overnight to buy tickets for the games in Sri Lanka by selling almost all the tickets to scalpers.

This is the same Sri Lanka Cricket who orchestrated a vicious smear campaign against former captain Arjuna Ranatunge through the vernacular electronic media in the days leading up to the final. This is a governing body that does not care about the fans or the players. And I’m glad they didn’t get to party all night with my money.

Then we drove past Independence Square where giant awnings had been erected in preparation for a national celebration. This was to be an event that was to be attended by the president where he would confer special honors upon the players.

This was to be an event where the President and his sons basked in the glow of a victorious cricket team and used the team’s win to add further veneer to the regime’s pseudo nation-building program.

This is the same President that ****ed the whole country by raising fuel prices on the eve of the World Cup final, when they knew everyone would be distracted.

This is the same President who’s pork-barreled almost all of Sri Lanka’s development funding into a semi-arid sparsely populated district in the South-East, and then built a cricket stadium there to please his son.

This is the same President who’s responsible for the deaths of over three dozen journalists and media people, and the exile of many more. A win last night would have been very easily interpreted/hijacked as a
validation of his rule.

It was only when I woke up this morning and heard of all the other state sponsored events in Colombo which have been cancelled because of the loss that I fully understood why I must’ve been bat-shit crazy to hope for a win.
This would’ve been an unprecedented public relations coup for the regime. All the glory of winning something awesome, minus the having-to-kill-your-own-civilians part.

Have no fear. Sri Lanka will win the World Cup again someday. But I hope it’s in a time when we have a leader we can all stand behind, a government that we all trust, a flag that we can unite under, an anthem we can sing in whatever language we want to sing in and a nation that we can all be proud of.

That victory will be epic, and it will be ours.

April 04, 2011

AI Urgent action: Law student D.M. Thushara Jayaratne fears for safety after death threats

Urgent Amnesty International Action

Student fears for safety after deaths threats

A Sri Lankan student who complained that his law school's final exams were being managed unfairly was abducted, interrogated and threatened with death before being released.

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On the morning of 4 March law student D.M. Thushara Jayaratne was waiting at a bus stop in the Colombo suburb of Kohuwala when two men approached him, saying they wanted to record a statement. Thushara was afraid and tried to escape by boarding a bus leaving town. The two men followed him onto the bus and left it with him in the suburb of Pillawa. The men forced him into a waiting van and took him to an unknown location where he was held for nearly 12 hours; he was released in another suburb, Nugegoda. He was questioned about complaints he had made against the Law College Registrar and his statements to international organisations.

On 7 March, Thushara filed a complaint about his abduction and threats with the Inspector General of police and the Human Rights Commission (HRC), but the HRC refused to pursue the case.

A final-year law student, Thushara had filed a police report in December 2010 regarding a leaked test paper for the Commercial Law II exam, after having complaints rejected by the Law College and Sri Lanka’s Bribery and Corruption Commission. He has also complained that Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa's eldest son, also a student at the state-run Sri Lanka Law College and Member of Parliament, had received preferential treatment during final exams.

After filing the report, Thushara told the police that he had received threatening calls to his mobile phone from the Office Manager of the Law College, who threatened him repeatedly with death or abduction if he did not withdraw his complaint. As a result of the threats, Thushara went into hiding and did not complete his last two exam papers.

On 15 December he lodged complaints with the Chief Justice; the Ombudsman and National Human Rights Commission expressing fears for his safety. Thushara’s complaints and subsequent threats he received were featured in numerous press reports, after which the number of threats decreased.

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in English or your own language:

- Expressing concern for law student Thushara Jayaratne, and calling on the authorities to provide him with effective protection immediately;

- Calling on the authorities to put an immediate stop to all harassment and intimidation of Thushara Jayaratne for alleging irregularities in Sri Lanka Law College examination procedures;

- Calling for a full and impartial investigation into the harassment and death threats against Thushara Jayaratne, with the results to be published and all those responsible brought to justice.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 6 MAY 2011 TO:

His Excellency the President
Mahinda Rajapaksa
Presidential Secretariat
Colombo 1
Sri Lanka
Fax: +94 11 2446657

Email: priu@presidentsoffice.lk or lalith@icta.lk
Salutation: Your Excellency

Inspector General of Police
Mahinda Balasuriya
New Secretariat
Colombo 1
Sri Lanka

Fax: +94 11 2 440440 / 327877
Email: igp@police.lk
Salutation: Dear Inspector General

Secretary,
Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission
No. 108 Barnes Place
Colombo 07
Sri Lanka

Fax: +9411 2694924
Email: sechrc@sltnet.lk

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.

URGENT ACTION

STUDENT fears for safety after death THREATs

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Thushara complained publicly in November 2010 that Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa's eldest son, also a student at the state-run Sri Lanka Law College and Member of Parliament, had received preferential treatment during final exams. This included being seated in an air conditioned room with access to a computer. On 3 December, Thushara alerted officials at the Law College that the question paper for the Commercial Law II exam had been leaked, and was being discussed by students before the examination. When the Law College officials rejected his complaint, Thushara attempted to report this to Sri Lanka's Bribery and Corruption Commission. Here too he was rejected, and was warned by an official that "the nature of the world is that big creatures will swallow small creatures." Thushara then filed a police report regarding the leaked test paper, and officials at the Law College were questioned by police about his allegations.

In January 2011, Thushara was ordered to testify before an internal inquiry at the Law College or face disciplinary action for making a false complaint against Law College officials. He appeared and repeated his allegations, but questioned the independence of the inquiry, which was supervised by officials he had accused of misconduct.

Harassment, intimidation and attacks against human rights defenders, journalists and other peaceful critics who expose past or present abuses in Sri Lanka continues. The Sri Lankan authorities have failed to take measures to stop these reprisals which has the chilling effect of silencing dissent.

UA: 85/11 Index: ASA 37/003/2011 Issue Date: 25 March 2011

Defence Secretary reveals details of Colombo City development plan

About 70,000 families identified as shanty or slum dwellers in the city of Colombo would be relocated within the next two years in high-rise community housing units that are to be developed for them within the city, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa said.

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Mr. Rajapaksa revealed this and several other development plans that are underway in Colombo, while addressing the American Chamber of Commerce last Monday on “Development Plans for the City of Colombo.”
He said a major problem facing the city was the presence of shanties or slum dwellings –home to some 70,000 families amounting to over half the population of the metropolis. “Uplifting the quality of life of this section of the population is one of the Government’s major concerns,” he said.

Land for new community housing complexes have already been identified within Colombo and discussions with a number of interested companies have commenced,” he said. The Defence Secretary said such a programme would be costly, with each unit or apartment costing approximately rupees two million. But, he said it would possible to raise the needed funds through allocating the freed land for development activities.

Mr. Rajapaksa added while Colombo was the largest city in the country and contributed to over 50% of the national GDP, compared to other Asian cities, Colombo had much more room to grow. “The economic density of Colombo is approximately only US$ 15 million per square kilometre.

“In comparison, the economic density of Ho Chi Minh City is US$ 73 million; Bangkok is US$ 88 million and Singapore is US$ 269 million. “This indicates the growth Colombo should aim for, especially in the current context,” he said.
He added, after many decades with the country at peace, it was finally possible to realize its true potential.

Colombo he said had a great role to play in unlocking this potential. However before this rejuvenation could succeed, there were many problems that needed to be addressed, one of which was the prevention of floods. The Secretary Defence said it was to face this problem; unauthorized structures which blocked the drainage systems were being removed.

He added “It is not only low-income segments of society who have erected unauthorized structures on reservation land, but industrialists, the middle-class and high-income segments as well. All these structures are being demolished and would greatly improve the efficiency of the drainage system,” he said. He said the Sri Lanka Navy, the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation Board and the Development Corporation had been engaged in dredging and developing the canal system in the city. “Medium term plans are being prepared to improve the entire drainage system in the metro Colombo region.

“Under a project funded by the World Bank, the Beira Lake and other vital water retention areas are to be completely dredged, de-silted and fully rehabilitated alongside significant improvements to the existing canal network”, he added.

The rehabilitation of old and the creation of new lakes in the greater metropolitan region, improvements to existing drainage channels, gates and pumping houses will be carried out as part of this endeavour.

The Secretary said relocation of government buildings to Sri Jayewardenepura was being implemented in parallel with the community-housing programme.

“Shifting these offices to the administrative capital is a necessary step in rationalising land use in Colombo. As a first step towards speeding up relocation, the offices of the Defence Ministry, Chief of Defence Staff and the headquarters of the armed services are being moved out of Colombo while the land released from the relocation is being allocated for development activities. This will effectively fund the relocation process while also generating vital economic activity within the city” he said.

“The Shangri La group has agreed to construct a luxury hotel and residential complex on 10 acres of land that was allocated to the Army near Galle Face. A Chinese company, CATIC, has undertaken to establish a skyline hotel on an adjacent block of land. These agreements have already generated a large influx of funds, which has been allocated for the combined Defence Headquarters Complex currently being constructed at Battaramulla. Another project being expedited is the second phase of the Sethsiripaya complex.

This high-rise building, once completed, will house many of the remaining Government offices in Colombo. A thirty-storey building will be constructed as the third stage of Sethsiripaya to accommodate the rest.The Secretary said improvements to the Colombo Fort area were also underway. “The area around Fort is the oldest part of the city and has several historic landmarks and buildings. Unfortunately, due to its organic growth through the years, the full potential of this area has not been realised. That is why the Government is putting in place several measures to develop this historic part of the city."

Instead of being a restricted high security area, the Fort will be opened up for businesses, restaurants, museums and other public facilities. Work is in progress to make this a shaded, pedestrian only area that will restore the historic city centre to its original beauty.

He said historic buildings like the Dutch Hospital and the Cargills building are being redeveloped to cater to modern day business requirements. “While the exteriors of the buildings will retain their character, an internal clean up and redevelopment will enable high-end businesses to be set up inside. “

Efforts are underway to develop the Independence Square area and other parts of the city as pedestrian friendly, scenic locales. This will do a great deal to uplift the character of the city as a green, clean, urban environment. While urban regeneration is the common theme of all the projects mentioned so far, the Government also intends to further develop Colombo by creating new city space.

Along with the Colombo South Harbour Development project, plans are in place to create a new city on land reclaimed from the sea. This project will see the creation of a brand new city area nearly 400 acres in extent. He added in terms of road development, a lot of work was being done to improve the infrastructure within the city limits. Examples of these include the upgrading of Galle Road, the completion of the Marine Drive, and the expansion of the one-way system.

The introduction of bus lanes, the creation of more dedicated parking spaces, better facilities for pedestrian crossings including disabled crossings and overhead bridges, and stricter enforcement of road rules will help improve road discipline. The Defence Secretary said that Colombo could not be considered in isolation, but the Dehiwala-Mt. Lavinia, Kotte and Kolonnawa municipalities should all function collectively.

Development at a glance

- Provision of alternate dwellings for aprox. 70,000 families living in city slums within city.

- Freeing land for development via clearance of unauthorized structures and shifting govt. offices out of Colombo.

- Restoration and redevelopment of historic buildings.

- Creation of pedestrian-friendly locales.

- Changing the character of city into a green urban environment.

- Reclaiming 400 acres of land from the sea and creating of a new city on the reclaimed land.

- Upgrading of the Galle Road, the Marine Drive and expansion of the one-way system.

- Introducing dedicated parking spaces, disabled crossings and strict enforcement of road rules

- Introduction of an alternative transport system via development of waterways and a ferry service

~ courtesy: The Sunday Times ~

72 Hour feast of music, song and dance at Jaffna festival

by Marisa de Silva

Three days and three nights of flamboyant colour, exhilarating music and pulsating dance, showcased by an array of multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, national and international folk artistes and performers made the Jaffna Music Festival (JMF) last weekend everything it was billed to be.

No two groups were similar in sound or performance, but all were entertaining to varied degrees

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(L) to (R) A member of Sibikwa playing the djun-djuns and Barta Gandharva from the Nepal Music Centre, playing the Sarangi. Prof. Durga Prasad on Bansuri in the background ~ pix by: Supun Weerasinghe

The selection of a cross section of foreign groups in particular was noteworthy, and though I’m no expert on traditional folklore and cannot affirm if the groups that performed (local and international) were in fact authentic folk musicians, with the exception of one or two performances that seemed, at best, badly choreographed and under rehearsed, it was an enjoyable weekend, all in all. I particularly loved the seating arrangements - a few chairs under temporary sheds, for the VIPs and the elderly, whilst the rest of us got to sprawl out on straw mats strewn on the sandy grounds!

The Kaffer Manja group, comprising Sri Lankan Kaffirs (Afro-Sinhalese), said to have originally come from Mozambique, Africa, were quite clearly one of the highlights of the Festival. They stood out not just for their catchy tunes and unique language, but more so, for their sheer spirit, energy and highly contagious merry making on stage.

When the 12 member troupe walked on stage, rather serious-faced and sporting all the colours of the rainbow, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Once they were through part of their first song though, it didn’t come as too big a surprise that they were instrumental in introducing Baila to Sri Lanka. The performance was further fuelled by South African group – Sibikwa, armed with dun-duns (tom-toms), jembes and maracas, joining in. The result was nothing short of a chaotic riot of dance and song!

Sibikwa – the African Indigenous orchestra, was next on my favourites list, with their raw, tribal vocal arrangements and instrumentation. Faces painted and clad in tribal costumes, Sibikwa captivated the audience with their tribal chants and rhythms resonating from authentic African instruments like the marimba, uhadhi, umhupe, rain-stick, and kalimba. This being their first visit to Asia, Sibikwa were quite excited about performing at the Festival. “The music and culture here is very different to what we’re used to at home. We also love the different costumes everyone’s wearing,” they said enthusiastically.

The youthful, all female dance troupe from Vavuniya performed the Ulavar Nadanam, a folk dance that depicts the life of the typical paddy farmer in the Wanni. Vibrant and animated, their seemingly spontaneous reactions and gestures were well received by the audience.

Prof. Maunaguru and Troupe from Batticaloa too, were quite impressive in their enactment of the modern epic story Ravanesan, based on the Vadamody Koothu style of folk theatre specific to Batticaloa. This style of narrative theatre proved to be quite poignant and dramatic, and was depicted expertly by the Professor, who has contributed immensely to Tamil Theatre in Sri Lanka, and his troupe.

The Sabreen Association from Palestine, a three-member group never got off their seats, but had the audience clapping and singing along with them to one particularly catchy tune. Their music, promptly shifted the audience to a relaxed mode, leaving us with little option but to simply “chill out” and soak up the calm ambience created around us.

Composer, lyricist, singer, actor and musician Rohana Beddage and his group, performed three popular folk classics Sasanda Sasanda, Kande Lande and Raja o Mangaliya and had many singing along to these much loved old favourites.

The Podi Singjoo clan from Mirissa, who have been preserving and passing on the Kolam art form and low country folk dance, added a bit of fire (quite literally) to the evening’s performances. Their distinct dance moves and elaborate masks and costumes kept the audience both enthralled and entertained.

Having performed all three nights of the Festival due to popular demand, the Manganiar Group from Rajasthan, India, who come from a family of seven generations rich in folk culture, are famous for their Indian folk music. The unusual bowed instrument kamayacha, the dholak, harmonium and khartal together create their unique sound. Their rhythmic instrumentation combined with the extraordinary vocal range of the lead vocalist, who shifted from bass to falsetto with such ease, it was no wonder they drove the crowd wild!

Barta, Dangol & Durga who represent the Nepal Music Centre, are all masters of music in their own right. Prof. N. Dangol, a professor of drums at the University of Nepal is known for his 22-piece folk drum set, which comprises madals (drums) tuned to various pitches. Having performed his invention for Queen Elizabeth at the Royal Albert Hall, it's hard to imagine that behind this man who wears a constant smile, lies such a great musician. The Professor, along with Prof. Durga Prasad on bansuri and Barta Gandharva on Sarangi created some of the most lyrical music of the evening, often accompanied by Barta's beautifully pure voice. For all of the above, this group stood out as quite different to the rest.

Last but, not least of the international groups was, Tindra, from Norway, all three graduates from the Norwegian Academy of Music. These three young women strive to re-arrange Norwegian folk songs, whilst maintaining the basics of the traditional songs. By only using the accordion, violin, Norwegian fiddle and vocals, they kept the audience attentive and entertained.

“Traditional arts have always been very much a part of Jaffna people’s lives. Also traditionally, folk arts across the country are performed in the nights, as people work during the day, and can only attend such outings at night. However, due to the war, the people here had no nights, as they could not go out after dark. And so, folk arts lost the time and space previously allocated to them. Now in Jaffna, we have nights once more, but unfortunately over the years people have found alternative means of recreation and entertainment.

Therefore, having this type of festival in Jaffna could help reignite, what some would claim to be a dying tradition. It could also act as a catalyst of sorts, in restoring normalcy to the lives of the people of the North,” said Lecturer, Department of Fine Arts, University of Jaffna, T. Tharmalingam.

“Exposure to, and interaction with international and local Southern artists and their music too, was quite welcome. Especially since many arts students from both school and university are required to follow a component on folk art as part of their syllabus, this sort of festival is ideal, as they never had the opportunity to meet with and learn from artists directly. So, this was a good experience for them,” he elaborated.

“One of the main reasons I came back to Sri Lanka was because I wanted to do some work in the music scene, in the North. The idea first came to me when I did some work in the North in 2003 during the ceasefire.

Although we had quite a bit of criticism when we initially discussed having it here, saying that this wasn’t the right time to embark on a project like this in the North, and that there were still so much more important things left to address, a rough estimate of approximately 10,000 people, mostly from the North, attended the Festival over the three days,” said the coordinator of the Jaffna Music Festival of the Sewa Lanka Foundation Jan Ramesh de Saram.

“Initially, we wanted to hold all night acapella sessions in the huts, so that people could just relax and listen to music etc., but, due to transport issues in the night, we decided that it wouldn’t be feasible. As the first Music Festival was held in Galle in 2009, we hope to alternate the Festival venues between Galle and Jaffna every year,” he added.

The JMF 2011, funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy and United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and implemented by Sewalanka Foundation, Rikskonsertene Concerts Norway and Aru Sri Art Theatre, was held on from March 25-27, at the Jaffna Municipal Grounds. ~ courtesy: The Sunday Times ~

April 03, 2011

Democratic verdicts of Tamil people should be recognised in a country which claims to function on democratic governance - R. Sampanthan MP

Statement made by R. Sampanthan MP, parliamentary group leader Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and President Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) on the results of the local authorities elections held in the North East

The Tamil National Alliance (T.N.A) –The Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (I.T.A.K) has been elected to power in every one of the predominantly Tamil populated Local Authority areas to which elections were held recently in the North East. In the predominantly Tamil speaking Local Authority areas in the North East, with a sizeable Tamil population, the T.N.A – I.T.A.K has performed creditably.

The Tamil people have thereby continued to endorse clearly the political goal of the T.N.A – the I.T.A. K, that there should be an acceptable durable and reasonable political solution to the Tamil question, based upon the sharing of powers of governance, which will ensure that the Tamil speaking people can live in security and with dignity, in the areas they have historically inhabited, and which will also ensure the fulfillment of their legitimate political social economic and cultural aspirations and rights, through their own initiatives, and without depending upon the mercy of others.

The Local Authorities election results affirm the results of the Parliamentary elections held in April 2010 and puts the democratic verdict of the Tamil people in favour of an acceptable durable and reasonable political solution beyond any semblance of doubt.

The democratic verdicts of the Tamil people should be respected and recognised in a country which claims to function on the principle of democratic governance.

These democratic verdicts of the Tamil people, are in consonance with the verdicts they have continuously delivered at all elections since 1956 – for over half a century. The failure to give due recognition to these democratic verdicts delivered by the Tamil people since 1956, was the primary reason, for the commencement of violence and the outbreak of an armed struggle. This armed struggle has come to an end but the whole country – the Tamil people in particular, have paid a big price. It is widely believed that in the final stages of the war concluded in May 2009, innocent non-combatant Tamil civilians in large numbers paid a very heavy price. This issue is now in the public domain.

The Tamil people do not want a return to violence in any form.

Continuous and callous disrespect and disregard of the democratic verdicts of the Tamil people, would only demonstrate that the Tamil people continue to be governed without their consent, and against their free will, and without being granted any access to powers of governance, in an authoritarian and dictatorial manner. Such authoritarian and dictatorial rule, in violation of the democratic, political, fundamental, and the human rights of the Tamil people, must necessarily come to an end, and we do think that the time has arrived for this end to be brought about.

The T.N.A on behalf of the Tamil people is currently engaged in a process through which it is hoped that an acceptable durable and reasonable political solution can be evolved. The T.N.A has pledged to work with commitment to achieve such an acceptable durable and reasonable political solution.

We appeal to the Tamil people and to all political forces within the Tamil polity, to firmly resolve to be united in the achievement of this objective. The strength of the democratic verdicts of the Tamil people should be accepted by everyone

We extend our sincere appreciation to the people and to all party workers who contributed towards the achievement of these results. We convey our warm congratulations and best wishes to all who have been elected to the several local authorities, and appreciate their cooperation and unity.

R.SAMPANTHAN M.P

Parliamentary Group Leader
Tamil National Alliance (T.N.A)
President
Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (I.T.A.K)

'Mob attacked Tamils of Indian origin in Hatton after India beat Sri Lanka to the cricket world cup' - Minister Thondaman

BBC Sandeshaya

Police in Sri Lanka say that they have arrested four people suspected on an attack following a the protest threat by a cabinet minister.

Superintendent of Police Prishantha Jayakody told BBC Sandeshaya that the suspects were remanded until the 15th of March.

"This was a clash between two groups and the situation is under control," he said.

CWCSLHA.jpgHowever, a government minister maintained that they have provided names of four people 'who were among a mob that attacked Tamil community in Up Country".

The leader of the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC), Arumugam Thondaman, had earlier threatened to stage a Hartal if police do not arrest those who were involved in the attack.

He told journalists that a mob attacked Tamils of Indian origin in Hatton after India beat Sri Lanka to the cricket world cup on Saturday.

CWCSLHB.jpgThree people with injuries have been admitted to the Dickoya hospital.

Minister Thondaman said that the mob who first threw fireworks into houses later attacked them.

Several houses in Samanalagama and Hijrapura have been damaged.

The attackers were reportedly disappointed that Pakistan, whom they first supported were out of the World Cup.

"Police must arrest the unruly people who are trying to undermine the communal harmony in Hatton," said S Muttu Sivalingam, the leader of the CWC.

The minister said that no Sinhala nationals were among the attackers 'although there were efforts to incite them'. ~ courtesy: BBC Sandeshaya ~

'Sangakkara was right when he said, "Both Sri Lanka and India can be very proud."'

Cricket may be, as the sociologist Ashis Nandy wrote in 1983, “an Indian game accidentally discovered by the English,” but India took a long time to take control of it.

by Huw Richards

For Sachin Tendulkar, it was “the proudest moment of my life.” For his India teammates, it was a chance to pay back the sport’s living legend for all the other times he has had to carry his team.

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India's Yuvraj Singh hugs captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni after they beat Sri Lanka in the ICC Cricket World Cup final match in Mumbai on Staurday ~ pic courtesy: Vivek Prakash/Reuters ~ via NYTimes.com ~

But most important for India, the six-wicket victory Saturday in the World Cup final confirmed that it, incontestably, has become cricket’s dominant nation, on and off the field.

The triumph over Sri Lanka in Mumbai was very different from India’s previous victory in 1983. That was a bolt out the blue, when India killed the giant that was the West Indies team, one that was among the greatest in the game’s history.

This, by contrast, caps off India’s climb to the top of cricket’s geopolitics. India has for some time been the game’s economic powerhouse.

Now it sits atop the sport as the top-ranked team in five-day tests and as the holder of the Cup, which is played under the one-day format.

It was a triumph richly deserved.

“The way they played they deserved the title of favorites,” said Sri Lanka’s captain, Kumar Sangakkara. “Congratulations to India — you were the better side.”

India is not as complete a team as Australia was when it won the previous three World Cups, but that is no criticism — few teams ever have been.

But India’s frailties meant that its progress was genuinely exciting, unlike when Australia won, which felt like a procession.

No team before Saturday had successfully chased as many as 275 to win a World Cup final, or emerged victorious after an opposing batsman has scored a century, as Mahela Jayawardene of Sri Lanka did. India lost not only Tendulkar but his flamboyant opening partner, Virender Sehwag, but it was taken home by Gautam Gambhir, who scored a superbly composed 97, and its captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who promoted himself in the order and justified it with a ferocious 91 not out, including the final six that brought victory.

“Tendulkar has carried the burden of nation for 21 years,” said Virat Kohli, a rookie teammate. “It was time we carried him.” They did exactly that, carrying Tendulkar on a victory lap around Wankhede Stadium as the crowd cheered on India, the first home team ever to win in 10 World Cup finals.

Perhaps, though, it was as well we did not get the full fairy-tale ending of a Tendulkar century, which would have been his 100th in all international cricket. That would have overshadowed India’s long climb to the top.

Cricket may be, as the sociologist Ashis Nandy wrote in 1983, “an Indian game accidentally discovered by the English,” but India took a long time to take control of it. It played its first international matches in 1932, but its all-time record in five-day test matches remains well below .500, and its all-time one-day record is not far above that.

In spite of its massive population, for many years it suffered from a lack of effective pace bowling and a failure to develop talent outside the big cities. Tendulkar — the teenage prodigy who not only exceeds expectation but plays on into middle age and handles ridiculous celebrity with ego-free equanimity — has been the face of India’s transformation, but its truer symbols may well be the admirable left-arm paceman Zaheer Khan and the small-town boy Virender Sehwag. The rise of the one-day game after 1983 produced players who added aggression to the traditional technical strengths of Indian cricket, and in recent years coach Gary Kirsten, who now returns to South Africa, brought focus and consistency to the team.

Tendulkar said of the coaches, “They worked on the mental side to deal with the expectations, and that really helped.”

The self-belief, he said, had always been there, “but in the last year we have been consistent as well.”

The loss Saturday was tough on Sri Lanka, the runner-up for the second tournament in a row, and on its bowling genius, Muttiah Muralitharan, who in his last international match before retirement went wicketless.

Maybe Sri Lanka did not help itself. To leave out spin bowler Ajantha Mendis, the most economical bowler in the tournament, was baffling.

But Sangakkara was right when he said, “Both Sri Lanka and India can be very proud.”

This was not just India’s World Cup, but Asia’s. The continent did not just play host to the tournament, it dominated it.

All six players on the shortlist for the best player of the tournament played for Asian teams. (India’s flamboyant all-rounder, Yuvraj Singh, won it.) So did seven of the eight highest run-scorers and five of the eight top wicket-takers, while another, South Africa spin bowler Imran Tahir, was born in Pakistan.

The historically great Australian team that won the previous three World Cups delayed the rise of Asia, but it could not stop its culmination. Australia’s opponents in those three finals had been — in sequence — Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka. That trio also made up the final three in the 2011 tournament once the last non-Asian contender, New Zealand, was eliminated in the first semifinal last Tuesday.

That Bangladesh — a co-host along with India and Sri Lanka — could not convert home-field advantage and recent improvements into a spot in the playoffs was deeply disappointing, but hardly an injustice. That was in keeping with a tournament where justice was generally achieved, with more right than wrong being accomplished.

But it was played in front of large, passionate crowds — not least in Bangladesh — and on playing surfaces that generally gave both batsmen and bowlers a chance. “We need more of that elsewhere, with pitches that do enough to keep bowlers interested,” England’s former captain, Geoff Boycott, said in an interview with BBC.

The system of umpiring reviews prevented the occasional howler, but more often it showed how good the top umpires are by confirming their correct calls.

There were more shocks and cliffhangers than in recent World Cups, with a disproportionate degree involving England, which to its own bafflement found itself reincarnated as the tournament’s great entertainer.

Matches like India’s three playoff matches contained enough ups and downs to suggest that the 50-over, one-day game still is a happy compromise of the sport’s other two formats, the five-day test and the shorter Twenty20, which can be completed in an evening’s worth of play. And while this was overwhelmingly Asia’s tournament, there were other teams with reasons to be cheerful. New Zealand lived up to its tradition as a feisty overachiever. Ireland continued its advance and served up the most spectacular single display of batting pyrotechnics, by Kevin O’Brien against England.

Saturday, though, was India’s day, with the promise of more Indian days to come. ~ courtesy: NYTimes.com ~

April 02, 2011

Colombo Metropolitan Corporation is an archetypal Rajapaksa-solution to the problem that is the Colombo Municipal Council

The Rajapaksas have a grand developmental plan for Colombo — selling innumerable acres of prime real estate to foreign companies for uncountable dollars. Unfortunately, much of this land is occupied by Lankan citizens, who must be forcibly evicted from their homes, before their land can be occupied, ‘developed’ and sold. This mass-eviction would become easier, if the Rajapaksas (not the UNP) control the CMC.

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“….doing violence to the spirit of thousands of laws without actually running afoul of so much as a city ordinance.” — Kurt Vonnegut (The Sirens Of Titan)

The campaign to replace popular sovereignty with Rajapaksa sovereignty swung into top-gear last week. The regime announced that the Colombo Municipal Council and four other local authorities will be placed under the control of a new, unelected, entity: the Colombo Metropolitan Corporation.

The new CMC (selecting a title with the identical acronym is quintessential Rajapaksa; this way the new CMC can replace the old CMC effortlessly, initially on official documents and assets and eventually in the public mind) is to be vested with the powers enjoyed by the existing CMC et al, via a Parliamentary Act. While the unelected Corporation is thus empowered, the elected CMC et al will be left with trivia, such as authorising (or not) the “construction of a parapet wall, drainage line” etc. (The Sunday Observer – 27.3.2011).

Colombo Metropolitan Corporation will do to the CMC, Kotte MC, Dehiwala-Mt.Lavinia MC, Kolonnawa UC and Kotikawatta-Mulleriyawa PS (and Jana Sabhas will do to other local authorities and provincial councils) what the 18th Amendment did to the Independent Commissions – submit them to presidential control. This is how the Rajapaksas pursue absolute power – not by abolishing existing constitutional arrangements or institutions but by hollowing them out, rendering them impotent and void.

Under Rajapaksa Rule, Lankan democracy is becoming like a Hollywood film-set: all razzle-dazzle outside, empty inside; a massive edifice fronting for nothingness, a convincing illusion created to please the eye and deceive the mind, for a time. Sri Lanka will have regular elections for powerless entities; Sri Lankans will vote regularly to elect powerless representatives. This is democracy as ‘a stage’ with voters and elected representatives as actors. A ‘democracy’ which is democratic in the same way a ghost town is a town.

But even as they render Lankan democracy hollow and meaningless, the Rajapaksas will assiduously maintain its shell, caring for it attentively, so that the myth of a democratic Sri Lanka can be retained, and the odium of anti-democracy evaded, for a while.

Colombo Metropolitan Corporation is an archetypal Rajapaksa-solution to the problem that is the Colombo Municipal Council. The Rajapaksas know that they cannot win in Colombo city, without unleashing a tidal-wave of violence and malpractice – too gargantuan to be invisible, too blatant to be denied. Such an electoral fraud will cause far more bad publicity internationally than even the most expensive lobbying firm can wash away. It may also seriously impede the Rajapaksa desiderata of hosting the 2013 Commonwealth Summit and the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the family bastion of Hambantota.

And yet, the Rajapaksas cannot afford to let the UNP win the CMC at the next election — not only because of the symbolic value of the CMC. Losing its last politico-electoral bastion will make it almost impossible for the UNP to return to life from its current state of political-somnambulance. After all, the UNP’s long march from the humiliating defeat of 1970 to the historic victory of 1977 began in the CMC. A by-election was held for Suduwella ward in 1971. As B. Sirisena Cooray, who was the UNP’s candidate, reminisced, “Since this was to be the first by-election after the UNP’s massive defeat, the party was very keen to win it… I went house to house canvassing in the entire ward four times….. I also came up with a slogan for my poster which became very popular in the county later: ‘Unta Choon, Apata Chaan’ – ‘For them, all the fun; for us, the simple life’” (President Premadasa And I: Our Story).

The UNP won that election, proving that it was not dead, politico-electorally, as a triumphant UF government had claimed. The hard work and the enthusiasm of Colombo’s poor and underprivileged played a key role in many of the UNP’s subsequent campaigns of resistance. Depriving the UNP of this unfailing source of electoral support and political energy would be vital to the Rajapaksa project of Dynastic Rule.

Since its leadership woes are over, will the UNP focus on saving its final politico-electoral stronghold? Or will it get embroiled in another ludicrous controversy about who should be the new National Organiser? Incidentally, this confounding lack of interest in the fate of the UNP’s last stronghold is proof-positive that Ranil Wickremesinghe and Sajith Premadasa are but two sides of the same counterfeit-coin. Neither can save the UNP because neither is interested in saving the UNP. That task may take many years and a new generation of leaders – if at all.

The Rajapaksas have a grand developmental plan for Colombo — selling innumerable acres of prime real estate to foreign companies for uncountable dollars. Unfortunately, much of this land is occupied by Lankan citizens, who must be forcibly evicted from their homes, before their land can be occupied, ‘developed’ and sold. This mass-eviction would become easier, if the Rajapaksas (not the UNP) control the CMC. Incidentally the inhabitants of Mews Street, who were forcibly evicted on May 5, 2010, are still homeless, and have had to go to courts, seeking the promised alternate accommodation. “The Attorney General…informed the Supreme Court that houses are being constructed…” (Daily Mirror – 30.3.2011).

Colombo Metropolitan Corporation will enable the Rajapaksas to grab the powers of the CMC without having to win power in the CMC. An unelected governor appointed by the President will head the Corporation. A legislative council with an oppositional presence will be maintained to keep the myth of electoral sovereignty alive.

Under the new system, local authorities will exist without administrative decentralisation and provincial councils will exist without devolution of power. Plus parliamentarians will lose the power over their own decentralised budgets. Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims, SLFPers and anti-SLFPers – all will be rendered powerless and placed at the mercy of the Rajapaksas.

The Ruling Family’s real aim is Rajapaksas supremacism; even Sinhala supremacism is a means to and a mantle for this ultimate end.

Currently the regime is making much of its continuing dialogue with the TNA about a political solution to the ethnic problem. This piece of cynical-theatre is identical to the ruse the government perpetrated prior to the 18th Amendment. Highly touted discussions were commenced with the UNP about a new constitution, while, surreptitiously, the 18th Amendment was being readied. Similarly, the Rajapaksas will string the TNA – and India – along, until time is apposite to unveil the new legislations.

The new system will marry developmental despotism to political autocracy, behind the façade of populism and direct democracy. This is the model of Sarath Fonseka and Kumaran Pathmanathan (KP) enlarged to a national-scale — a new reward-punishment system, in which pro-Rajapaksaism is the greatest merit and anti-Rajapaksaism the ultimate sin. Lankans willing to submit to Rajapaksa-rule will prosper while those who refuse will suffer. Obey the Rajapaksas and live your life in peace: that will be the unexpressed but ubiquitous Faustian bargain premising normal everyday existence in this new Sri Lanka.

Such disempowerment will (further) alienate the minorities, immediately, and the majority eventually, but repressive laws and military might are there to take care of such malaises – in the name of patriotism!

Mannar Bishop donates land to families displaced after Sri Lankan navy takes possession of village "for security reasons"

by Melani Manel Perera

Mullikkulam village has been transformed into a Navy outpost. In exchange families have been offered the Kayakuli area in the middle of the jungle. But for its deforestation, all borne by the population, no help has come from government and non-profit organizations.

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Mgr Rayappu Joseph, bishop of Mannar, has donated a piece of land to 52 Tamil Catholic families who were displaced from their village of Mullikkulam (Mannar district), so that they can build homes and start a new life there . The Sri Lankan navy has in fact taken possession of the village "for security reasons", without providing further explanation to the expelled inhabitants.

Fr. Victor Soosai, vicar general of the diocese, said in the northwest of the Naval Commando Navy was erected in Mullikkulam. The 287 families living there, were offered in exchange the Kayakuli area: a piece of land in the jungle, eight kilometres from the Chilawathurai junction. Of these, 125 families have accepted the offer, because of difficulties related to living with the host families.