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Tamils: why we get on the boats
Published Date: 21/07/2012 (Saturday)
Tamils: why we get on the boats

http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/political-news/tamils-why-we-get-on-the-boats-20120720-22fuj.html

SRI LANKA: Donor interest in north waning
Published Date: 06/07/2012 (Friday)
SRI LANKA: Donor interest in north waning

http://www.irinnews.org/report/95814/sri-lanka-donor-interest-in-north-waning

 

Sri Lanka blocks five Tamil news portals, arrests journalists
Published Date: 29/06/2012 (Friday)
Sri Lanka blocks five Tamil news portals, arrests journalists

http://www.theweekendleader.com/Causes/1211/right-to-%28op%29press.html

Buddhist Nationalism and Religious Violence in Sri Lanka
Published Date: 18/06/2012 (Monday)
Buddhist Nationalism and Religious Violence in Sri Lanka

http://www.home.roadrunner.com/~nickgier/slrv.htm

Sri Lanka: The meaning of victory
Published Date: 17/06/2012 (Sunday)
Sri Lanka: The meaning of victory

http://www.hindustantimes.com/editorial-views-on/Opeds/The-meaning-of-victory/Article1-873918.aspx

The meaning of victory
Published Date: 17/06/2012 (Sunday)
The meaning of victory

'After 30 years we now see the dawn that will take us to a golden age of the future,' declared Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa as he presided over the third Victory Day celebration on May 20. Over 12,000 personnel participated in the parade of military and police equipment used to defeat the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009 after a three-decade long war.

A golden future will need more than triumphalist statements of victory. The cost of the war to Sri Lankan society was huge. More than 100,000 civilians died in the long conflict and nearly 40,000 in the final months. According to the government, over 24,000 Sri Lankan soldiers lost their lives and many more were wounded or maimed. Over half a million Sri Lankans were forced to flee their homes, either because of the fighting or ethnic cleansing. Many more moved to other countries, including India.

Both government forces and the LTTE were responsible for countless abuses for which virtually no one has been punished. Targeted killings and LTTE suicide bombs were frequent. The authorities arbitrarily arrested thousands of men and women. Many suffered torture, including sexual assault, and often languished for years in prisons across the country, detained without trial under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act. Thousands more disappeared in what may have been enforced, and this happens even now. Recently, hundreds of Sri Lankans, mostly women, turned up to search for their missing or detained relatives at the places listed by the government that could provide information. Most of them were turned away, disappointed.

The government refuses to face up to the human consequences of its military operations in the war's final months. Sri Lankan forces committed indiscriminate shelling into populated areas, summary executions of prisoners, and other war crimes.

India has been encouraging Sri Lanka to address this disturbing legacy. Its role in Sri Lanka has been difficult, having intervened with an unsuccessful peacekeeping force in 1987-90, and enduring the LTTE's assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi 20 years ago. All these led India to back Sri Lanka's military efforts against the LTTE.

With the end of the war, New Delhi pushed for reconciliation among ethnic communities, the rebuilding of shattered lives, and a government investigation into allegations of war crimes. As a result of international pressure, Sri Lanka has grudgingly made some cosmetic gestures towards these ends, but justice and reconciliation still remain a pipe dream, particularly for families who suffered abuses from both sides.

Those that expected India, as an emerging global leader with a seat in both the UN Security Council and the Human Rights Council, to demand greater accountability in Sri Lanka, were disappointed when it provided development assistance for reconstruction efforts without insisting that the government take credible steps to address these concerns.

Colombo was taken aback when India chose to support a resolution at the Human Rights Council calling for Sri Lanka to act on the recommendations of its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. The Rajapaksa government responded by criticising political parties in Tamil Nadu and other opposition members who had called for support for the US-led resolution and even threatened India over its own domestic human rights record.

Sri Lanka would do better if it would understand why even its closest supporters are expressing disapproval. The Sri Lankan military, which has retained a large presence in the northern areas formerly held by the LTTE, continues its abusive behaviour towards ethnic Tamil civilians, as well as former combatants and their families. Disappearances are reported even now. Women, who approach soldiers seeking news of loved ones, who have vanished, or to protect those in custody, have been known to be coerced into providing sexual favours.

Local activists, who have been the target of government harassment, threats and worse, bravely carry out their work and report about the grim situation.

India has continued its efforts at encouraging reconciliation. A 12-member parliamentary delegation was recently in Sri Lanka and emphasised yet again the need to ensure that Tamils, after decades of war, can enjoy peace that provides "equality, dignity, justice and self-respect". However, the government has persisted in its suspicion and has been demonising the Tamil community.

India retains a major influence in Sri Lanka. It should insist that the government takes steps to ensure justice for all Sri Lankans from all communities. Two years ago, a UN panel of experts called for an independent international mechanism to monitor the government's accountability process and investigate allegations of war crimes from all sides - and India should support this. For a golden future, every Sri Lankan must believe that there will be a fair society in which there is justice and accountability for all.

Meenakshi Ganguly is director (South Asia), Human Rights Watch. The views expressed by the author are personal.

Leaked photos reveal fate of Tamil prisoners
Published Date: 16/06/2012 (Saturday)
Leaked photos reveal fate of Tamil prisoners

They are the faces of the vanquished. The captured Tamil rebels are young and barefoot. They are handcuffed to bus seats. Some are bandaged. All have the downcast faces of prisoners awaiting an uncertain fate.

Photos and videos recently smuggled out of Sri Lanka offer a rare glimpse of what happened at the end of the bloody civil war between government forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels.

Recorded on the cellphone of a Sri Lankan soldier, the images show wounded rebel captives and rows of bodies in paramilitary and civilian clothing. Inexplicably, many of the women’s bodies have been stripped naked.

“Possibly they could have been sexually assaulted and shot and killed,” said Vasuki Muruhathas, the British lawyer who obtained the images. “But this is clearly showing the ill treatment and the violence on women, and it’s not acceptable.”

Ms. Muruhathas said the client who gave her the digital files had worked at an Internet café during the war.

A female soldier was a customer and at some point the phone’s memory was backed up onto a computer hard drive.

The café owner initially deleted the files out of fear, but he recovered them at the urging of Ms. Muruhathas, who thought they were an important record of the decisive last weeks of the war.

A lobby group seeking an international investigation into whether war crimes were committed during the closing months of the conflict said it would distribute the images to Canadian MPs and media outlets next week.

Copies were obtained in advance by the National Post. There are two dozen photographs and 32 video clips — all recorded on the same Sony Ericsson phone between April 6 and May 19, 2009.

“These images have a great amount of significance in adding further validity to the evidences that have already been documented,” said Roy Gardiner Wignarajah, spokesman for the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE), which wants independence for Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority.

The LTTE fought a long war for Tamil statehood. The fighting concluded in 2009, when the Sri Lanka Army captured the last rebel stronghold. The Tigers’ top commanders were killed, including their leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. About 10,000 combatants were captured. The number of civilian dead is not known and hotly disputed.

Three years later, the images show what a war looks like when it ends. There are scenes of feral-looking children in LTTE uniforms, and rebels sitting cross-legged on the jungle floor with their hands bound behind them. There are bodies wrapped in plastic in the aisle of a bus. One clip shows soldiers celebrating on the day of Prabhakaran’s death.

In the last videos and photos, dozens of dead are lying face up in a field. Almost all the women’s breasts and genitals have been deliberately exposed. They include Charles Anthony, a rebel commander and Prabhakaran’s eldest son. A few are clearly toddlers.

“There are some people with the uniform, but there are other people in civilian clothes so there may be a mixture of them, but definitely there are a few LTTE and it looks like small children,” Ms. Muruhathas said.

A Sri Lankan official has dismissed the images as a “fairy tale” and an attempt to discredit the government.

Their release comes as Colombo is under United Nations’ pressure to co-operate with an international war crimes investigation.

Ms. Muruhathas, who is the British secretary of the TGTE, denied the files were fabricated and said two families had already identified their relatives from the footage.

She intends to send the materials to the UN as evidence of war crimes, or at a minimum mistreatment. She also wants the UN to ask Sri Lanka to disclose the whereabouts of the captured combatants shown in the images.

“After three years the parents are still looking for them,” she said.

National Post
sbell@nationalpost.com

Once bitten; not twice shy
Published Date: 10/06/2012 (Sunday)
Once bitten; not twice shy

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/120610/Editorial.html

Fragrant memories of Jaffna Youth Congress
Published Date: 05/06/2012 (Tuesday)
Fragrant memories of Jaffna Youth Congress

http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=53628

UN 'deeply disturbed' by Sri Lankan shooting
Published Date: 05/06/2012 (Tuesday)
UN 'deeply disturbed' by Sri Lankan shooting

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay tells Channel 4 News that she is "deeply disturbed" by the shooting of a Sri Lankan journalist and calls on the Sri Lankan government to protect him.

In an exclusive interview with Channel 4 News, Navi Pillay urged the Sri Lankan government to "provide immediate protection" for Faraz Shaukatally, who is currently in intensive care after being shot by three unidentified gunmen on Friday night.

Ms Pillay said: "It's an act of attempted assassination so he needs to be protected immediately."

Mr Shauketaly, 52, who holds joint British and Sri Lankan citizenship, is a reporter for the Sri Lankan newspaper The Sunday Leader.

Ms Pillay said "I'm deeply disturbed by this particular shooting because it's a journalist and he's attached to a newspaper that's known to be critical of the government - particularly on accountability and in justice issues - which are issues that I cover. And I will be reporting to the Human Rights Council my concern over extra judicial killings, abductions and this kind of treatment and suppression of freedom of expression."

Watch on 4OD: Sri Lanka's Killing Fields

The newspaper's editor Sakunthala Perera said the journalist was shot while he was on the telephone discussing a story due to appear in this week's edition.

Police said three men broke into his house and opened fire on him while he was in his bedroom. The journalist, whose family live in Colywn Bay in Wales, was rushed to hospital with bullet wounds in his neck.

UN's Navi Pillar talks to Channel 4 News about the shooting of British/Sri Lankan journalist Faraz Shaukatally (Image: Reuters)

Time to 'demonstrate' integrity

Though he has miraculously survived, Mr Shaukatally is undergoing further tests in intensive care ahead of surgery. In 2009 an editor from the same newspaper was killed and other members of staff have also been attcked. No arrests have been made to date.

Today the Sunday Leader's website reported that Sri Lanka's Presdient Mahinda Rajapaksa has ordered a special investigation into the shooting incident.

However, when asked about suggestions that the government could have been involved in the shooting, Ms Pillay told Channel 4 News: "That's why there has to be a proper investigation before we can conclude that. In the meantime it's law enforcement that has to provide him protection. And it would demonstrate on the part of the government that they care if one of their citizens is fired upon. Everybody should care (about) who are the people who are going around shooting other people. This is what law enforcement is about.

"The Sri Lankan government swears by the integrity of their army and their police, well it's time they demonstrated that. These institutions built into the democracy must now begin to work properly and this is an immediate instance where they can demonstrate that. "

She said Sri Lanka must provide a credible investigation involving the civil society, because "if it is done by the government or the police themselves they do not enjoy the confidence of the people at this stage."

Human rights record

Sri Lanka's rights record has been subject to criticsim over alleged excesses during the military's final phase in defeating Tamil Tiger seperatists. Rights groups say the military killed thousands of minority ethnic Tamil civilians in the final weeks of the conflict.

Ms Pillay praised Channel 4's investigative report, Sri Lanka's Killing Fields, on the last few weeks of the Sri Lankan civil war, broadcast in 2011.

She said: "Let me say how much Channel 4's information is appreciated because you have brought this to the fore. I myself mandated by the Human Rights Council have been filing reports on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka - we will be reviewing that again in March, but I have consistently called for a credible international investigation particularly of the occurrences in the last few days of the conflict."

She added that she was frustrated by the Sri Lankan government's lack of investigation, with offers of UN help, to establish what happened at the end of the country's civil conflict.

The Sri Lankan government has rejected allegations of mass killings and has been dismissive of Ms Pillay's calls for investigation, alongside her calls for the demilitarisation of the Vanni region.

Jonathan Miller blog: Sri Lanka - skeletons in the cupboard?

But Ms Pillay insists: "We want to provide them with expert investigative assistance, we are ready to provide this kind of assistance and I'm really disappointed it has not been taken up."

She added: "It's particularly bad because this was government forces firing on civilians indiscriminately - they were shelled and the normal responsibility of governments is to protect people - not to kill them."

Criticism was also levelled at the UN which was in Sri Lanka at the time of the alleged atrocities and whose people were withdrawn.

She said: "I think that is deeply disturbing because it's a repetition of the criticism that was levelled against the United Nations during the Rwandan genocide and there was a report done after that with recommendations.

"Now, to the credit of the secretary general he set up the Petrie Commission to look at the UN's failures in handling the Sri Lankan conflict and I very much encouraged that, I've read the report and I'm urging now the United Nations to take steps to come up with action plans to implement those recommendations so that the United Nations doesn't repeat these kind of failures."

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