Pages

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Constitutional changes not for the SLFP only – SLMC

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) has criticised the government for keeping the constitutional changes as a top secret.

The SLMC has pointed out to the media it is not a healthy affair to function in a manner that the constitutional changes is a matter only for the SLMC forgetting that it belongs to all the people of the country.

‘Though the government has announced that the activities on the constitutional changes have commenced, the activities are going on within closed door in a way preventing the government parties coming to know the contents included in it’ the SLMC criticised.

It is important for the government to obtain the advices and opinions of other parties in this matter which affects the people of the entire country but the government without doing this, is trying to include changes beneficial for its party.

Looking at the information leaking out from the government party politicians it makes to think that the changes will affect mostly the minority communities. The government in order to prevent this kind of suspicions and criticism arising should come forward to talk with all the other parties and the SLMC will give all its support if invited. (Muslim Guardian)

Home           Sri Lanka Think Tank-UK (Main Link)                      

Sri Lanka is 25th among ‘failed states’

Sri Lanka has been ranked 25th most failed state in the world, improving from the 2009 rank of 22nd, in a US survey released on Monday. Somalia tops the 2010 Failed States Index followed by Zimbabwe, Sudan, and Chad.

The index issued by the prestigious Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace, a Washington-NGO, ranks India87th in a list of 177 countries.

Burmahas been placed at 13. Sri Lankais ranked 22 and Nepal25. China is at 57th place.

Norwayis ranked the world’s most stable country and is at the bottom of the list.The Untied States is ranked 158 but is not among the 10 most stable countries.

The report notes that Pakistanhas more than once been described as the world’s most dangerous country. Its wild northern reaches remain host to various branches of the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda.

More than three million Pakistani civilians were displaced by “counterinsurgency” operations in 2009 — the largest single movement of people since the Rwandan genocide.

“President Asif Ali Zardari’s democratically elected government looks hapless — unable to gain any measure of civilian control over a nuclear-armed military … or an intelligence service that stands accused of abetting the Afghan Taliban,” observes the Foreign Policy magazine.

Social Indicators

Pakistanis the world’s seventh-most populous country, with a population density of over 226 people per kilometre. The country has a moderate youth bulge; the average age is 21 and over 37 per cent of Pakistanis are under 15 years of age.

Pakistanhas historically been home to vicious political battles between rival parties, as well as consistent conflicts within the tribal regions and in Balochistan. Pakistansuffers from a significant brain drain.

The instability of the country has pressured many students to seek education abroad; many scientists, doctors, and businesspeople who can afford to leave the country altogether.

Economic Indicators

The poorest 10 per cent of Pakistanis account for four per cent of the national income, while the richest 10 per cent account for over 26 per cent of the income.

“Billionaire President Asif Ali Zardari is one of Pakistan’s wealthiest men.”

The official unemployment rate is 7.4 per cent but it could be higher.

The country had a trade deficit of nearly $15 billion in 2008 and has an inflation rate of 20.8 per cent. The inflation rate increased dramatically due to devaluation of the Pakistani rupee under Pervez Musharraf and the rising costs of production stemming from social and political instability.

Political/Military Indicators

While presidential elections in Pakistanare indirect, President Zardari’s election nevertheless represents a shift towards legitimate democratic governance.

The continuing violence in Pakistan’s poorest and most remote regions makes it extremely difficult for food and medical supplies to reach the areas that need it most. Many parts of the country go without electricity and clean water; conditions are notoriously poor in the refugee camps in northern Pakistan.

The human rights situation has improved significantly since 2008.

The security apparatus indicator has also improved. In Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan local militias exercise significant control over their communities. In the tribal areas, the government’s authority is barely recognized.

The 2008 parliamentary elections brought tensions within the political elite to a peak. However, the conclusion of the elections and the restoration of civilian government have since eased tensions.

The indicator for external intervention has worsened since 2008. Pakistan is the second-largest recipient of US foreign aid. The US is also using drone aircraft to attack Taliban and Al Qaeda sites within Pakistan. (Muslim Guardian)

Home      Sri Lanka Think Tank-UK (Main Link)

Monday, 30 August 2010

Sri Lanka: One year after the LTTE’s defeat

One year ago today, the Sri Lankan military completed its seizure of the last scrap of land held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, with the massacre of all the top LTTE leaders—some of whom were attempting to surrender. It was the final act of a criminal war that had been prosecuted ruthlessly by successive Colombo governments for a quarter century to suppress the democratic rights of the island’s Tamil minority and divide the working class.

In the last months of the war, the army drove the LTTE fighters and more than 300,000 civilians into a tiny pocket of land on the north-east coast and pounded it relentlessly with artillery and from the air. At the time, the UN put the civilian death toll inside the government-proclaimed “no fire zone” at 7,000. A report released yesterday by the International Crisis Group estimated the figure at “tens of thousands of Tamil civilian men, women and children and the elderly killed, countless more wounded, and hundreds of thousands deprived of adequate food and medical care, resulting in more deaths”.

The survivors were herded into “welfare villages”—military-run prison camps surrounded by barbed wire and heavily armed soldiers. Thousands of young Tamils—men and women—were picked out by military interrogators and informants as “terrorist suspects” and dispatched to “retraining centres,” where most are still being held. Tens of thousands of civilians also remain in the detention camps. Those who have been released have been returned to a bigger prison—the permanent military occupation of the North and East of the island.
President Mahinda Rajapakse and his ministers flatly deny that any war crimes took place and denounce any, even limited, criticism as being part of an “international conspiracy”. The government has given over this week to elaborate “victory” celebrations, culminating on Thursday with a massive military parade. It is a regime built on lies and communalism enforced by a huge police-state apparatus aimed at intimidating and suppressing any opposition.

The end of fighting has not brought the “peace and prosperity” that President Rajapakse promised in the days following the LTTE’s defeat. The war itself was always primarily directed against the working class—it erupted in 1983 after decades of official anti-Tamil discrimination aimed at pitting Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala workers against each other. After defeating the LTTE, Rajapakse proclaimed a new “economic war” to “build the nation” that is likewise aimed against the working class.

Notwithstanding Rajapakse’s pipedream of transforming the island into a new Asian miracle, Sri Lanka is in deep economic crisis. The end of the war coincided with the worst global financial turmoil since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The huge public debt resulting from years of massive military spending came together with a sharp downturn in all exports. Like a man quenching his thirst with salt water, the government took out an International Monetary Fund loan of $US2.6 billion to ward off a balance of payments crisis.

Now as the second stage of the global economic breakdown erupts in the form of a sovereign debt crisis centred in Greece and Europe, governments around the world are imposing the burden onto working people by slashing public spending, selling off state assets and increasing taxes. The IMF is insisting that Sri Lanka halve its budget deficit to 5 percent of GDP by the end of next year. Rajapakse’s “economic war” against the working class will be waged with the same repressive methods that were used against the Tamil minority.

This week’s celebration of the military and militarism serves as an ominous warning to working people. Far from being demobilised, the armed forces are being boosted in size. The government continues to maintain a state of emergency that gives the president extraordinary powers, including to ban virtually all industrial action. Rajapakse has not hesitated to use such measures against workers who have fought to defend their living standards against rising prices and unemployment. Last November he outlawed industrial action by port, petroleum, water and power workers seeking pay rises.

Now that the presidential election in January and last month’s parliamentary election are out of the way, the Rajapakse government is preparing to escalate its economic assault. The first target has been the most vulnerable layers of the urban poor—shanty dwellers and hawkers in central Colombo. Two weekends ago, police and soldiers forced 45 families out of their homes, which were destroyed to clear the way for property developers to make their profits. This, however, is just a preliminary skirmish in the class battles that are certain to erupt in the months ahead.

Definite conclusions should be drawn. The government that carried out mass murder of Tamil civilians last year will not hesitate to use the full force of the state apparatus against the working class. While opposition politicians and journalists have been arrested and in some cases murdered, the opposition parties—the United National Party (UNP) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)—have failed to defend democratic rights. These parties have no fundamental differences with the government. The right-wing UNP started and prosecuted the war for over a decade while the Sinhala chauvinist JVP was one of its most ferocious advocates. Both parties agree with Rajapakse’s pro-market economic agenda. As for the trade unions, all of them—government and opposition alike—have helped to contain and suppress the opposition and anger of workers.

The past year has also confirmed the bankruptcy of Tamil separatism. The LTTE’s defeat stemmed from its political program, based on the communal demand for a separate capitalist state of Eelam in the North and East of the island. Organically incapable of making any appeal to the working class, either in Sri Lanka or internationally, the LTTE leadership spent its final days making impotent calls for help from the “international community” that had backed Rajapakse’s war. Since last May, the LTTE’s mouthpiece—the Tamil National Alliance (TNA)—has spent its time ingratiating itself to one or other section of the Colombo political establishment. One faction joined the Rajapakse government, while the remainder of the TNA backed opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka—the general responsible for ruthlessly waging Rajapakse’s war—in January’s president election.

There are broad lessons for the working class in Sri Lanka and internationally. The savage austerity measures being demanded of governments around the world by global finance capital cannot be imposed peacefully or democratically. As resistance and opposition grow, the police-state methods on display in Sri Lanka will become increasingly common. The working class can defeat these attacks only by mobilising independently of all factions of the ruling elite on the basis of a socialist program to meet the needs of working people, not the profits of the wealthy few. Such a movement can be built only through the rejection of all forms of nationalism and communalism. In Sri Lanka that means the unification of Tamil, Sinhala and Muslim workers in the common struggle for a Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and Eelam as part of a union of socialist republics of South Asia and internationally. That is the program fought for by the Socialist Equality Party, the Sri Lankan section of the International Committee of the Fourth International. (SEPLK)

Home          Sri Lanka Think Tank-UK (Main Link)

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Sri Lanka: UN Rights Council Fails Victims

The United Nations Human Rights Council on May 27 passed a deeply flawed resolution on Sri Lanka that ignores calls for an international investigation into alleged abuses during recent fighting and other pressing human rights concerns, Human Rights Watch said today. The council held a special session on May 26 and 27, 2009, on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, a week after the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) by government forces.

"The Human Rights Council did not even express its concern for the hundreds of thousands of people facing indefinite detention in government camps," said Juliette de Rivero, Geneva advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. "The council ignored urgent needs and wasted an important chance to promote human rights."

The resolution passed with 29 votes in favor, 12 against, and 6 abstentions. It largely commends the Sri Lankan government for its current policies and fails to address serious allegations of violations of human rights and humanitarian law by government forces, focusing only on the abuses committed by the LTTE.

"It is deeply disappointing that a majority of the Human Rights Council decided to focus on praising a government whose forces have been responsible for the repeated indiscriminate shelling of civilians," said de Rivero. "These states blocked a message to the government that it needs to hear, to ensure access to displaced civilians and uphold human rights standards. They undermined the very purpose of the council."

A majority of council members - including China, South Africa, and Uruguay - ignored the call for accountability and justice for victims by the UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay. Instead, the resolution adopted reaffirms the principle of non-interference in the domestic jurisdiction of states, a step backward for the Human Rights Council, Human Rights Watch said.

During the special session, Pillay called for an independent international investigation into violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the recent fighting, including those specifically responsible. UN estimates say that more than 7,000 civilians have been killed in the fighting in Sri Lanka since late January 2009.

"The images of terrified and emaciated women, men, and children fleeing the battle zone ought to be etched in our collective memory," Pillay said. "They must spur us into action."

The rejected resolution deplored abuses by both government forces and the LTTE, urged the government to cooperate fully with humanitarian organizations and to provide protection to civilians and displaced persons, and made an appeal to the Sri Lankan government to respect media freedom and investigate attacks against journalists and human rights defenders. It also called on the UN high commissioner for human rights to keep the council informed about the situation on the ground.

Human Rights Watch said that Brazil, Cuba, India, and Pakistan led efforts to prevent the passage of a stronger resolution that was put forward by the 17 members of the council that convened the Special Session: Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, Mauritius, Mexico, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Slovakia, South Korea, Switzerland, Ukraine, Uruguay, and the United Kingdom.

Human Rights Watch in particular commended Argentina, Chile, the Czech Republic, Mauritius, Mexico, and Switzerland for their efforts on behalf of a stronger resolution.

"These nations negotiated hard to uphold the council's mandate to respond effectively to human rights emergencies," de Rivero said. "It is regrettable that they were not supported by the majority."

Human Rights Watch said that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had regrettably undercut efforts to produce a strong resolution with his recent comments in Sri Lanka. Ban publicly praised the government for "doing its utmost" and for its "tremendous efforts," while accepting government assurances, repeatedly broken in the past, that it would ensure humanitarian access to civilians in need.

Ban also distanced himself from strong language used in April by the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, John Holmes, who warned that the fighting in Sri Lanka could result in a "bloodbath." Unlike Pillay, Ban also failed to press for an international inquiry.

"Secretary-General Ban shares the blame for the Human Rights Council's poor showing on Sri Lanka," de Rivero said. "This adds to a crisis in confidence in UN bodies to speak out clearly on pressing human rights issues." (HRW)

Home        Sri Lanka Think Tank-UK (Main Link)

Sri Lanka: World Leaders Should Demand End to Detention Camps

World leaders in New York for the United Nations General Assembly and the G-20 economic summit in Pittsburgh should call on the Sri Lankan government to immediately release more than 260,000 displaced persons illegally confined in detention camps, Human Rights Watch said today.

Human Rights Watch said it was concerned about a lack of protection mechanisms in the camps and the secret, incommunicado detention - and possible enforced disappearance - of suspected combatants. Poor conditions, overcrowding, and inadequate medical care increases the risk of serious health problems during the coming monsoon season. Human Rights Watch also said that the authorities are not being open and honest with camp residents about when they may go home, keeping them in a state of uncertainty and anxiety.

Last week, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to European Union states outlining problems and urging governments to intervene forcefully with the Sri Lankan government.
"The civilians locked up in these detention camps have a right to liberty now, not when the government gets around to it," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "World leaders should support calls from the UN to restore full freedom of movement to these people, who already have suffered mightily from war and displacement."

Since March 2008, the Sri Lankan government has confined virtually everyone displaced by the war between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to detention camps, depriving them of their liberty and freedom of movement in violation of international law. As of September 15, 2009, the government was holding 264,583 internally displaced persons in detention camps and hospitals, according to the UN, while fewer than 12,000 have been released or returned home.

Human Rights Watch said that recent government claims that a large number of camp residents had been released were false. A statement published on the website of the Ministry of Defence on September 12, claimed that the government released nearly 10,000 persons from the camps to their hometowns the previous day. However, it later emerged that they had been transferred to camps in their home districts, where they are undergoing further screening by the authorities. The Sri Lankan armed forces have indicated that the additional screening could take from several days to up to six months, even though each individual had already been registered and screened several times and cleared for release.

Sri Lanka has repeatedly promised to release the displaced persons from the camps as early as possible, including in a joint statement on May 23 by the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, and President Mahinda Rajapaksa. But four months after the end of the fighting, there has been little progress.

During a visit to Sri Lanka last week, the UN under-secretary-general for political affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, issued a strong statement calling on the government to allow internally displaced persons who have completed the screening process to leave the camps and to allow those who choose to remain to go out during the day and to meet freely with family and friends elsewhere. In response, Rajapaksa said that arrangements would be made to complete the return of the displaced civilians by the end of January, but that the return depended on the progress of demining in areas to which some would return.

"Demining is crucial, but the presence of landmines is not a valid basis for keeping people locked up," said Adams. "Many of the displaced can stay with relatives and host families far from any mined areas."

A delegation of high-level Sri Lankan officials will be in New York this week to attend the high-level segment of the UN General Assembly. Prime Minister Rathnasiri Wickramanayake will address the General Assembly on September 26 on, "Strengthening of Multilateralism and Dialogue among Civilizations for International Peace, Security and Development."

Human Rights Watch called upon world leaders to keep the plight of Sri Lanka's displaced persons at the forefront of discussions with the Sri Lankan delegation and to raise the following additional issues:

Arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance
The government has announced that it has detained more than 10,000 displaced persons on suspicion of having been involved with the LTTE. The government has separated them from their families and transferred them to separate camps and regular prisons. Human Rights Watch documented several cases in which individuals were taken into custody without regard to the protections provided under Sri Lankan law. In many cases, the authorities have not informed family members about the whereabouts of the detained, leaving them in secret, incommunicado detention or possible enforced disappearance, and, as a result, especially vulnerable to abuse.

Inability to trace missing relatives

Families in the detention camps have no access to mechanisms for finding missing relatives who might be in other camps or in unofficial detention centers. Individuals with access to the camps report that a significant number of people still do not know the whereabouts of their detained relatives, weeks and months later. Although the authorities have reportedly finished registering camp residents, the authorities are not making the lists available to people with missing relatives or organizations that do tracing. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which often traces family members, has been barred from the main camps since mid-July.

Lack of protection mechanisms in the camps

The military camp administration is preventing humanitarian organizations, including the UN and the ICRC, from undertaking effective monitoring and protection in the camps. In most cases, the military insists on being present during conversations with camp residents, preventing confidential exchanges of information about camp conditions. Even the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission, a government entity, can only gain access to the camps with military permission.

Conditions in the camps and expected deterioration during the monsoon

The camps are severely overcrowded, exacerbated by the government's refusal to release civilians. Conditions will continue to deteriorate with the onset of the monsoon season, causing additional hardship and suffering. Heavy rains in mid-August caused serious flooding, as water destroyed tents and other shelter, made cooking impossible for many, and caused roads to collapse, preventing delivery of crucial aid, such as drinking water. Water also flooded latrine pits, causing raw sewage to flow among the tents. Aid agencies are particularly concerned about the threat of disease due to flooding during the monsoon season.

Lack of access to proper medical care
Camp residents do not have access to adequate medical care. Health facilities are rudimentary, understaffed, and under-resourced. Residents have reported that they have to wait in line for hours to see a doctor and, when they do, language barriers between Sinhalese-speaking doctors and Tamil-speaking patients often prevent effective communication. Many camps have no doctors at night, leaving residents without access to medical care in emergencies. Camp doctors' referrals to hospitals outside the camp are subject to approval by the military. On several occasions documented by Human Rights Watch, the military has rejected doctors' referrals, leading to a worsening of a patient's condition.

Lack of transparency and information

The authorities are keeping the camp residents in a state of uncertainty by failing to provide them with information about the reason for their continued detention, the whereabouts of their relatives, or the criteria and procedure for their return home. In some cases the authorities seem to have misled the displaced deliberately, such as on September 11, when they told several hundred camp residents that they would release them, when in fact they just transferred them to other detention camps for further screening.

"Sadly, the Sri Lankan government has a track record of lying, deceiving and breaking promises to civilians displaced by the conflict," said Adams. "The UN, donors, and bilateral partners should demand immediate, concrete progress and not let themselves be fooled again by empty government promises." (HRW)

Home       Sri Lanka Think Tank-UK (Main Link)           

Sri Lanka: Government Breaks Promises That Displaced Can Go Home

The Sri Lankan government's recent statements that it aims to return only 100,000 of the original 273,000 displaced civilians confined to camps by the end of 2009 breaks a promise to camp residents and the international community, Human Rights Watch said today. In May, the government announced that 80 percent of the displaced people would be able to return home by the end of the year.

Since the end of the fighting in May, the government has released or returned fewer than 27,000 people, leaving about 245,000 civilians in the camps.

"Enough is enough," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "It is well past time to release civilians detained in the camps. Sri Lanka's international friends should tell the government that they will not accept any more broken promises."

The Sri Lankan government has used its promises of rapid return (usually called "resettlement" by the government) to stave off international criticism over its treatment of ethnic Tamil civilians displaced by war. The displaced Tamils have been held in detention camps, which the government euphemistically calls "welfare centers," where they are deprived of their liberty and freedom of movement, in violation of international law.

Human Rights Watch has repeatedly called for all civilians in the camps to be allowed to leave, even if security conditions do not permit them to return home immediately. Most could live with relatives or host families. Those who have nowhere to go could choose to stay in the camps, but this should be voluntary. For those who did stay, conditions would be improved because the camps would be less crowded. The United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and India have all called on the government to release civilians detained in camps as soon as possible.

The government has in its most recent statements dramatically decreased the number of people it says will be allowed to leave the detention camps by the end of 2009:

On May 7, the official government news portal of Sri Lanka, http://www.news.lk/, announced that "[t]he Government plans to resettle over 80 percent of the displaced families in the North before the end of this year."

Meeting with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on May 23, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said, "The Government was already working on a plan to resettle most of the IDPs [internally displaced persons] within 180 days."

In a July 16 letter of intent to the International Monetary Fund, which awarded Sri Lanka a US$2.6 billion loan, the government said that it "aims to resettle 70-80 percent of IDPs by the end of the year."

On October 6, however, Deputy Finance Minister Sarath Amunugama, attending the annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Istanbul, said that, "Sri Lanka may resettle 100,000 people from camps by the end of the year."

On October 16, Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services Minister Rishard Bathiudeen said, "Our plan is to resettle around 100,000 persons by the end of this year."

These recent statements suggest that only about 37 percent of the original camp population would be freed from the camps by the end of 2009.

The Sri Lankan government has also made a number of statements about imminent releases of displaced persons from camps that proved to be untrue:

On August 29, the government news portal announced: "Plans are afoot to resettle nearly fifty thousand persons now living in welfare camps shortly in their homes in Jaffna."

In an official statement released on September 3, Northern Province Governor G.A Chandrasiri said: "All arrangements are in place to resettle 30,000 Internal Displaced Persons (IDPs) in 35 villages in Vavuniya District."

On September 24, Minister of Mass Media and Information Anura Priryadarshana Yapa said: "The resettlement process of persons temporary [sic] accommodated at welfare camps in Vavuniya is in full swing and as of today, the Government has resettled 40,000 civilians in their place of origin."

On September 25, the Ministry of Defense announced that active preparation is under way for "resettlement of an estimated number of one lakh [100,000] of displayed [sic] civilians by mid-October."

According to the UN, the government had returned only 13,502 displaced persons to their place of origin and released another 13,336 to host families and elders' homes as of October 9.

The media reported that on October 14, the Sri Lankan government promised a delegation of local parliamentarians from India that it will release 58,000 internally displaced persons from camps in the next two weeks.

"The Sri Lankan government is playing games with the lives and hopes of those displaced by the country's armed conflict," said Adams. "Its failure to address the genuine grievances of the Tamil community is disastrous for the country." (HRW)

Home         Sri Lanka Think Tank-UK (Main Link) 

Sri Lanka: End Indefinite Detention of Tamil Tiger Suspects

The Sri Lankan government should end its indefinite arbitrary detention of more than 11,000 people held in so-called rehabilitation centers and release those not being prosecuted, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 30-page report, "Legal Limbo: The Uncertain Fate of Detained LTTE Suspects in Sri Lanka," is based on interviews with the detainees' relatives, humanitarian workers, and human rights advocates, among others. The Sri Lankan government has routinely violated the fundamental rights of the detainees, Human Rights Watch found. The government contends that the 11,000 detainees are former fighters or supporters of the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

"The government has been keeping 11,000 people in a legal limbo for months," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "It's time to identify who presents a genuine security threat and to release the rest."

The government has denied detainees the right to be informed of specific reasons for their arrest, to challenge the lawfulness of the detention before an independent judicial authority, and to have access to legal counsel and family members, Human Rights Watch said. It is unclear whether any have been formally charged with crimes or what acts they are accused of committing that led the government to detain them.

While the government has the right and responsibility to protect public safety, it also has to do so in a lawful manner that respects basics rights, Human Rights Watch said.

During the final months of the 26-year-long conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, which ended with the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009, the government confined nearly 300,000 people displaced by the conflict in what the government called "welfare camps" in the north. Since early 2008 virtually all civilians fleeing the fighting had been confined in these camps. At checkpoints and in the camps, the authorities separated the more than 11,000 individuals with suspected ties to the LTTE and sent them to "rehabilitation centers." More than 550 children were among those transferred to these centers.

While the government contends that many of those being held have surrendered to rehabilitation voluntarily, the lack of access to the detainees by humanitarian agencies and other independent monitors makes it difficult to know how many surrendered, how many of this group did so voluntarily, and how many were arrested.

The lack of transparency in the process and of information about the fate and whereabouts of some of the detainees raises concerns about possible torture or mistreatment in custody, and the possibility that some may have been forcibly disappeared, Human Rights Watch said. As documented by Human Rights Watch in a 2008 report, "Recurring Nightmare: State Responsibility for 'Disappearances' and Abductions in Sri Lanka," enforced disappearances have been a longstanding problem in Sri Lanka, and thousands of people remain unaccounted for.

In an illustrative case, the army detained 32-year-old Jeganathan on May 15, 2009, after he crossed into government-controlled areas with his wife, Aanathi, and their one-year-old son. The military insisted that Aanathi continue to the camp and she heard nothing about her husband for several weeks. "I lost all hope," Aanathi told Human Rights Watch. "I thought that I would never see him again."

A relative of Aanathi eventually located Jeganathan in one of the rehabilitation centers, and Aanathi has been able to visit him on occasion. Months after he was detained, the government has not informed him how long he is supposed to stay in the center. He has not had access to a lawyer and he has not been able to contest his detention before a court. During Aanathi's last visit to see her husband he told her that the authorities continue to interrogate him and that they had started beating some of the other "surrendees."

The Sri Lankan government has asked international donors to provide financial support for the "rehabilitation centers." Human Rights Watch said that donors should not support the centers unless and until the rights of the detainees are fully respected.

"In the absence of due process guarantees, support for these centers is support for the government's illegal detention policy," said Adams. "No donor should be associated with that." (HRW)

Download Full Report from here

Home        Sri Lanka Think Tank-UK (Main Link)           

Joint statement by un Secretary-General & Government of Sri Lanka

Following is the joint statement by the Government of Sri Lanka and the United Nations at the conclusion of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Sri Lanka on 23 May:

At the invitation of Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, paid a visit to Sri Lanka. During the course of his visit, he held talks with the President, Foreign Minister as well as other senior leaders of Sri Lanka. During his stay, he also consulted other relevant stakeholders, members of international humanitarian agencies and civil society. The Secretary-General visited the internally displaced persons (IDP) sites at Vavuniya and overflew the conflict area, near Mullaitivu that was the scene of the conflict.

President Rajapaksa welcomed the Secretary-General as the highest dignitary to visit Sri Lanka in the post-conflict phase. This was a reflection of the close cooperation between Sri Lanka and the United Nations as well as Sri Lanka’s commitment to work with the United Nations in the future.

President Rajapaksa and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon agreed that following the end of operations against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Sri Lanka had entered a new post-conflict beginning. In this context, the Government of Sri Lanka faced many immediate and long-term challenges relating to issues of relief, rehabilitation, resettlement and reconciliation. While addressing these critical issues, it was agreed that the new situation offered opportunities for long-term development of the north and for re-establishing democratic institutions and electoral politics after 2 ½ decades. The Government expressed its commitment to ensure the economic and political empowerment of the people of the north through its programmes.

President Rajapaksa and the Secretary-General agreed that addressing the aspirations and grievances of all communities and working towards a lasting political solution was fundamental to ensuring long-term socio-economic development. The Secretary-General welcomed the assurance of the President of Sri Lanka contained in his statement in Parliament on 19 May 2009 that a national solution acceptable to all sections of people will be evolved. President Rajapaksa expressed his firm resolve to proceed with the implementation of the 13th Amendment, as well as to begin a broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil parties in the new circumstances, to further enhance this process and to bring about lasting peace and development in Sri Lanka.

President Rajapaksa and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon discussed a series of areas in which the United Nations will assist the ongoing efforts of the Government of Sri Lanka in addressing the future challenges and opportunities.
With regard to IDPs, the United Nations will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the IDPs now in Vavuniya and Jaffna. The Government will continue to provide access to humanitarian agencies. The Government will expedite the necessary basic and civil infrastructure as well as means of livelihood necessary for the IDPs to resume their normal lives at the earliest. The Secretary-General welcomed the announcement by the Government expressing its intention to dismantle the welfare villages at the earliest, as outlined in the Plan to resettle the bulk of IDPs and call for its early implementation.
The Government seeks the cooperation of the international community in mine clearing, which is an essential prerequisite to expediting the early return of IDPs.

The Secretary-General called for donor assistance towards the Common Humanitarian Action Plan (CHAP) jointly launched by the Government of Sri Lanka and the United Nations, which supports the relief, shelter and humanitarian needs of those in IDP sites.

President Rajapaksa and the Secretary-General recognized the large number of former child soldiers forcibly recruited by the LTTE as an important issue in the post-conflict context. President Rajapaksa reiterated his firm policy of zero tolerance in relation to child recruitment. In cooperation with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), child-friendly procedures have been established for their “release and surrender” and rehabilitation in Protective Accommodation Centres. The objective of the rehabilitation process presently underway is to reintegrate former child soldiers into society as productive citizens. The Secretary-General expressed satisfaction on the progress already made by the Government in cooperation with UNICEF and encouraged Sri Lanka to adopt similar policies and procedures relating to former child soldiers in the north.

President Rajapaksa informed the Secretary-General regarding ongoing initiatives relating to rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-combatants. In addition to the ongoing work by the Office of the Commissioner General for Rehabilitation, a National Framework for the Integration of Ex-combatants into Civilian Life is under preparation, with the assistance of the United Nations and other international organizations.

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 will take measures to address those grievances. (UNO)

Home           Sri Lanka Think Tank-UK (Main Link)

Sri Lanka: New Evidence of Wartime Abuses

New evidence of wartime abuses by Sri Lankan government forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during the armed conflict that ended one year ago demonstrates the need for an independent international investigation into violations of the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said today. Recently Human Rights Watch research gathered photographic evidence and accounts by witnesses of atrocities by both sides during the final months of fighting.

On May 23, 2009, President Mahinda Rajapaksa promised United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the government would investigate allegations of laws-of-war violations. One year later, the government has still not undertaken any meaningful investigatory steps, Human Rights Watch said.

Last week, the government created a Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission with a mandate to examine the failure of the 2002 ceasefire and the "sequence of events" thereafter. It is not empowered to investigate allegations of violations of the laws of war such as those documented by Human Rights Watch.

"Yet another feckless commission is a grossly inadequate response to the numerous credible allegations of war crimes," said Elaine Pearson, acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Damning new evidence of abuses shows why the UN should not let Sri Lanka sweep these abuses under the carpet."

Human Rights Watch called on Secretary-General Ban to promptly establish an international investigation to examine allegations of wartime abuse by both sides to the conflict.

New Evidence of Wartime Violations

Human Rights Watch has examined more than 200 photos taken on the front lines in early 2009 by a soldier from the Sri Lankan Air Mobile Brigade. Among these are a series of five photos showing a man who appears to have been captured by the Sri Lankan army. An independent source identified the man by name and told Human Rights Watch that he was a long-term member of the LTTE's political wing from Jaffna.

The first two photos show the man alive, with blood on his face and torso, tied to a palm tree. He is surrounded by several men wearing military fatigues, one brandishing a knife close to his face. In the next three photos, the man is lying - apparently dead - against a rock. His head is being held up, he is partly covered in the flag of Tamil Eelam, and there is more blood on his face and upper body.

A forensic expert who reviewed the photos told Human Rights Watch that the latter three photos show material on the man's neck consistent in color with brain matter, "which would indicate an injury to the back of his head, as nothing is visible which would cause this on his face. This would indicate severe trauma to the back of the head consistent with something like a gunshot wound or massive blows to the back of the head with something such as a machete or ax."

While Human Rights Watch cannot conclusively determine that the man was summarily executed in custody, the available evidence indicates that a full investigation is warranted.

Several of the photos also show what appear to be dead women in LTTE uniforms with their shirts pulled up and their pants pulled down, raising concerns that they might have been sexually abused or their corpses mutilated. Again, such evidence is not conclusive but shows the need for an investigation.

The new accounts by witnesses described indiscriminate shelling of large gatherings of civilians during the last weeks of fighting, apparently by government forces. In addition to an incident on April 8, 2009, previously reported, witnesses told Human Rights Watch about three other incidents in late April and early May 2009 of government forces shelling civilians, mainly women and children, who were standing in food distribution lines. The witnesses also described LTTE recruitment of children and LTTE attacks on civilians attempting to escape the war zone.

Government's Failure to Investigate Abuses

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission created on May 17, 2010 is the latest in a long line of ad hoc bodies in Sri Lanka that seem designed to deflect international criticism rather than to uncover the facts. The mandated focus of the commission ­- on the failure of the 2002 ceasefire - is largely unrelated to the massive abuses by both government forces and the LTTE in the last months of hostilities. Nor does the commission appear to have been designed to uncover new information: the commission's terms of reference do not provide for adequate victim and witness protection.

The government-appointed chairman of the commission, Chitta Ranjan de Silva, is a former attorney general who came under serious criticism for his office's alleged interference in the work of the 2006 Presidential Commission of Inquiry. The attorney general's role was one of the main reasons why a group of 10 international experts, the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP), withdrew from monitoring the commission's work. The IIGEP stated that it had "not been able to conclude...that the proceedings of the Commission have been transparent or have satisfied basic international norms and standards."

"De Silva was the architect and enforcer of the attorney general's conflict of interest role with respect to the 2006 commission," said Arthur Dewey, former US assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and member of the IIGEP. "Nothing good for human rights or reconciliation is likely to come from anything in which De Silva is involved."

The government has also yet to publish the findings from a committee established in November 2009 to examine allegations of laws-of-war violations set out in a report produced last year by the US State Department, despite an April 2010 deadline.

Sri Lanka has a long history of establishing ad hoc commissions to deflect international criticism over its poor human rights record and widespread impunity, Human Rights Watch said. Since independence in 1948, Sri Lanka has established at least nine such commissions, none of which have produced any significant results.

On March 5, Secretary-General Ban told President Rajapaksa that he had decided to appoint a UN panel of experts to advise him on next steps for accountability in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government responded by attacking Ban for interfering in domestic affairs, calling the panel "unwarranted" and "uncalled for." Two months later, Ban has yet to appoint any members to his panel.

"Ban's inaction is sending a signal to abusers that simply announcing meaningless commissions and making loud noises can block all efforts for real justice," Pearson said. "The only way to ensure accountability in Sri Lanka is to establish an independent international investigation." (HRW)

Home      Sri Lanka Think Tank-UK (Main Link)

Sri Lanka: Execution Video Shows Need for International Inquiry



A disturbing video recently provided to the media showing the apparent summary execution of prisoners by Sri Lankan soldiers underscores the need for an international commission of inquiry into possible war crimes committed by both sides during the armed conflict in Sri Lanka, Human Rights Watch said today.

The video shows men in Sri Lankan army uniforms firing assault rifles point-blank at two naked, blindfolded, and bound men sitting on the ground. Eight other bodies are visible on the ground nearby, all but one unclothed. According to Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka, a multiethnic exile organization, the video was taken by a soldier with a cell phone in January 2009. While Human Rights Watch could not confirm the video's authenticity, an independent expert consulted found nothing in the video that would dispute its authenticity. The summary execution of prisoners is a violation of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and a war crime.

"The blood, blindfolds, and mud of this apparent atrocity makes nonsense of President Rajapaksa's claims of a clean war against the Tamil Tigers," said Steve Crawshaw, UN director at Human Rights Watch. "An international inquiry needs to get to the bottom of this and other war crimes committed during the past year's fighting."

Human Rights Watch reported numerous violations of the laws of war by both the Sri Lankan armed forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam during the 25-year-long armed conflict, which ended with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in May. Because independent observers, including the media and human rights organizations, were prevented from operating near the war zone, the information available on the fighting and potential laws of war violations by both sides has been limited.

Before the government could launch an investigation, a Sri Lankan army spokesman already labeled the video a "fabrication."

Human Rights Watch has long criticized the government's failure to carry out impartial investigations and prosecutions of those responsible for the numerous human rights abuses committed by both sides during the conflict. There have been serious ongoing violations of human rights, and the backlog of cases of enforced disappearances and unlawful killings runs to the tens of thousands. Only a small number of cases have ended in prosecutions. Past efforts to address violations through the establishment of ad hoc mechanisms in Sri Lanka, such as presidential commissions of inquiry, have produced little information and few prosecutions.

Human Rights Watch called for the United Nations secretary-general or other UN body to create an independent international commission of inquiry to investigate violations of the laws of war by all parties to the armed conflict in Sri Lanka, and to make recommendations for the prosecution of those responsible. On May 23, President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, issued a joint statement from Sri Lanka in which the government said it "will take measures to address" the need for an accountability process for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

In a July interview with Time magazine, Rajapaksa said that during the war, "[t]here was no violation of human rights. There were no civilian casualties."

"Since telling the UN secretary-general three months ago that he'd conduct investigations, Rajapaksa has sat on his hands," said Crawshaw. "Ban should stop relying on the president's promises of domestic action and make it clear that an international commission is needed if the victims of Sri Lanka's bloody war are to find justice." (HRW)

Home          Sri Lanka Think Tank-UK (Main Link)           

Sri Lanka: Government Proposal Won’t Address War Crimes

The Sri Lankan government's suggestion that a newly announced commission will provide accountability for laws-of-war violations during the armed conflict with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is yet another attempt to deflect an independent international investigation, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch urged United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to take steps to ensure accountability through an independent international investigation into the alleged laws-of-war violations.

The announcement of a commission on "lessons learnt and reconciliation" came after a months-long campaign by the Sri Lankan government to prevent Ban from establishing a panel of experts to advise him on accountability in Sri Lanka. In May 2009, after the war ended, President Mahinda Rajapaksa signed a joint communiqué with Ban promising that "the government will take measures to address allegations related to violations of international humanitarian and human-rights law." But no substantive steps have been taken.

"Every time the international community raises the issue of accountability, Sri Lanka establishes a commission that takes a long time to achieve nothing," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Ban should put an end to this game of smoke and mirrors and begin a process that would ensure justice for all the victims of Sri Lanka's war."

The government has yet to publish the findings from a committee established in November 2009 to examine allegations of laws-of-war violations, despite an April 2010 deadline. When the committee was announced, Human Rights Watch warned that it was just a smokescreen to avoid accountability.

According to conservative UN estimates, 7,000 civilians were killed and more than 13,000 injured from January to May, 2009. Other estimates suggest that as many as 20,000 were killed. Government officials, including the president, have repeatedly insisted that no violations by government forces took place, and the government has taken no meaningful steps to ensure accountability.

On May 6, 2010, the Sri Lankan government announced that it will establish a commission to report on the lessons learned from the conflict and reconciliation efforts. In a statement posted on the government's website, the government announced that "there will be the [sic] search for any violations of internationally accepted norms of conduct in such conflict situations, and the circumstances that may have led to such actions, and identify any persons or groups responsible for such acts." The statement said nothing about holding such persons accountable under Sri Lankan criminal law or what other steps would be taken against those found to have been acting in violation of Sri Lankan or international law.
According to the government statement, the committee will consist of seven Sri Lankans, located in Sri Lanka and abroad, but will have no international involvement.

"Genuine government efforts with broad participation to promote reconciliation should be supported," Adams said. "But this cannot succeed without genuine and good faith efforts at accountability."

Sri Lanka has a long history of establishing ad hoc commissions to deflect international criticism over its poor human rights record and widespread impunity, Human Rights Watch said. Since independence in 1948, Sri Lanka has established at least 10 such commissions, none of which have produced any significant results.

The Presidential Commission of Inquiry appointed in November 2006 to investigate serious cases of alleged human rights abuses by both sides was a complete failure. A group of international experts, appointed to ensure the investigation was being conducted according to international norms and standards, resigned in 2008 because it had "not been able to conclude...that the proceedings of the Commission have been transparent or have satisfied basic international norms and standards."

In June 2009, Rajapaksa dissolved the Presidential Commission of Inquiry, even though it had conducted investigations in just 7 of its 16 mandated major human rights cases. The president has not published its report.

This week's announcement of a new commission came after weeks of attempts by the Sri Lankan government to prevent Ban from establishing a panel of experts. After Ban informed Rajapaksa on March 5 that the secretary-general intended to establish an expert panel to advise him on accountability in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan government fiercely protested the decision, denouncing it as "uncalled for" and "unwarranted."

Ban has yet to appoint any members to the panel or announce its terms of reference.
"Secretary-General Ban should not let Sri Lanka bully and manipulate him into abandoning justice for Sri Lanka's war victims," Adams said. "It is time for him to demonstrate that he is squarely on the side of the victims of Sri Lanka's long war." (HRW)

Home           Sri Lanka Think Tank-UK (Main Link)

Human Rights Accountability in Sri Lanka

The issue of accountability for past human rights abuses gained considerable prominence in the 1980s as unprecedented global political change focused attention on the crimes of ousted regimes. Unlike most of the nations experiencing radical political change and facing accountability issues, however, Sri Lanka’s political system remains intact. It has enjoyed regular elections since it gained independence in 1948, but Sri Lanka has been torn by a decade-long civil war, several militant insurgencies and brutal government anti-insurgency campaigns. Demands for accountability for past abuses are aimed squarely at perpetrators within the current administration and emanate from an angry citizenry, from human rights groups, and from Sri Lanka’s donor nations. This report from Asia Watch examines this volatile issue in the context of the Sri Lankan conflict and concludes that despite a good faith effort by the government to address human rights abuses, it will be some time before the principle of accountability takes root in Sri Lanka. (HRW)

Download Full Report from here

Home        Sri Lanka Think Tank-UK (Main Link)

Sri Lanka: US War Crimes Report Details Extensive Abuses

A US State Department report on possible violations of the laws of war in Sri Lanka made public on October 22, 2009 shows the need for an independent international investigation, Human Rights Watch said today. The report details violations of the laws of war committed by both government forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) from January through May 2009.

"The US State Department report should dispel any doubts that serious abuses were committed during the conflict's final months," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Given Sri Lanka's complete failure to investigate possible war crimes, the only hope for justice is an independent, international investigation."

The Office of War Crimes Issues of the State Department prepared the report on possible war crimes committed during the final months of the 26-year-long civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, which ended in May with the LTTE's defeat. The report details alleged incidents of LTTE child recruitment, government and LTTE attacks on civilians and civilian objects, killings of captives or combatants by government forces, enforced disappearances by government forces and government-supported paramilitaries, and severe shortages of food, medicine, and clean water for civilians trapped in the war zone.

The report was presented to Congress on October 21 and was released today on the US State Department website.

The report was mandated by the 2009 Supplemental Appropriations Act. The act directed the secretary of state to submit a report "detailing incidents during the recent conflict in Sri Lanka that may constitute violations of international humanitarian law or crimes against humanity, and, to the extent practicable, identifying the parties responsible."

The act further instructed the US government to withhold financial support from Sri Lanka, except for basic human needs, unless the Sri Lankan government respects the rights of internally displaced persons, accounts for persons detained in the conflict, provides access to affected areas and populations for humanitarian organizations and the media, and implements policies to promote reconciliation and justice.

Human Rights Watch's own research into the fighting found that both sides repeatedly violated the laws of war. The LTTE used civilians as human shields, employed lethal force to prevent civilians from fleeing to safety, and deployed their forces in densely populated civilian areas. Government forces indiscriminately shelled densely populated areas, including hospitals. Both parties' disregard for civilian life resulted in thousands of civilian casualties. Because independent observers, including the media and human rights organizations, were denied access to the war zone, detailed information on violations of the laws of war by both sides has been limited.

Human Rights Watch has repeatedly called upon the United Nations and member nations of the Security Council and the Human Rights Council to establish an independent international investigation into allegations of laws-of-war violations. The Sri Lankan government has promised to ensure accountability through domestic inquiries. For example, in a joint May statement, President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, underlined the importance of an accountability process for addressing violations of international law and stated that "[t]he Government will take measures to address those grievances." In the five months since the war ended, however, no investigations have taken place.

"Concerned governments should use the US State Department report as a clarion call for an international investigation," said Adams. "There are no more excuses for inaction." (HRW)

Download Full Report from here

Home         Sri Lanka Think Tank-UK (Main Link)

Sri Lanka: US Report Shows No Progress on Accountability

A US State Department report released on August 11, 2010, shows that Sri Lanka has not yet conducted an effective investigation into laws-of-war violations by government forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the final months of the war that ended in May 2009, Human Rights Watch said today. The report states that one post-war government inquiry was "ineffective" and that a second inquiry, just under way, raises concerns about its mandate and composition.

"The US State Department report shows that nearly 15 months after the war, the Sri Lankan government has accomplished nothing for the victims of war crimes," said James Ross, legal and policy director at Human Rights Watch. "Real progress on justice demands an international investigation."

The 18-page State Department report, mandated by the 2010 Appropriations Act and prepared by the Office of War Crimes Issues, examines two ad hoc bodies that the Sri Lankan government established after the 26-year armed conflict ended in 2009.

The State Department report concludes that the "Group of Eminent Persons," a committee created to examine more than 300 alleged laws-of-war violations detailed in an October 2009 US State Department report, was "ineffective" and "did not produce any discernible results."
The report states: "The Department of State is not aware of any findings or reports of the Group. The Group did not appear to investigate allegations or to make any recommendations pursuant to its mandate." The Group of Eminent Persons missed several deadlines for its report, the last in July, and now has been subsumed into the new commission.

The State Department report expresses concerns about the mandate and composition of the second panel, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, which has just started its work. The report notes that "the terms of reference are ambiguous as to what types of harms they cover and whether the investigation is linked to violations of international law."

The report also says that there are "questions concerning the independence and impartiality of some members of the commission," including the chairman, C.R. De Silva. It noted that De Silva's "relationship to the government" and "his involvement in the failure" of a previous commission "could compromise the independence and impartiality" of the commission.

The report also concludes that several experts commissioned by the government to examine a video of alleged extrajudicial executions by army soldiers were government and army experts and that such an inquiry "should have been undertaken by individuals without an interest in the outcome of the forensic analysis."

The report notes "the history of failings of a series of past [Commissions of Inquiry] established in Sri Lanka." Sri Lanka has a long history of establishing ad hoc inquiries to deflect international criticism over its poor human rights record and widespread impunity, Human Rights Watch said. Since independence in 1948, Sri Lanka has established more than 10 such commissions, none of which have produced any significant results.

On June 22, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed a three-person Panel of Experts to advise him on next steps on accountability in Sri Lanka. The US and other governments have supported the panel, which follows up on the commitment to investigate abuses made by the Sri Lankan president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, to Ban in May 2009. Sri Lankan officials have called the panel "an unwarranted and unnecessary interference with a sovereign nation." In July, demonstrations against the panel led by a Sri Lankan government minister blocked access to the UN compound in Colombo, prompting Ban to recall the UN's ranking official in Sri Lanka temporarily and to close one of its offices. The Panel of Experts is to present its findings in four months.

"The State Department report shows that countries should be looking toward the UN to see justice done in Sri Lanka," Ross said. "The support of the US and other governments for the UN Panel of Experts and the implementation of its recommendations is crucial." (HRW)

Home          Sri Lanka Think Tank-UK (Main Link) 

Sri Lanka: New Evidence of Wartime Abuses

New evidence of wartime abuses by Sri Lankan government forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during the armed conflict that ended one year ago demonstrates the need for an independent international investigation into violations of the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said today. Recently Human Rights Watch research gathered photographic evidence and accounts by witnesses of atrocities by both sides during the final months of fighting.

On May 23, 2009, President Mahinda Rajapaksa promised United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the government would investigate allegations of laws-of-war violations. One year later, the government has still not undertaken any meaningful investigatory steps, Human Rights Watch said.

Last week, the government created a Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission with a mandate to examine the failure of the 2002 ceasefire and the "sequence of events" thereafter. It is not empowered to investigate allegations of violations of the laws of war such as those documented by Human Rights Watch.

"Yet another feckless commission is a grossly inadequate response to the numerous credible allegations of war crimes," said Elaine Pearson, acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Damning new evidence of abuses shows why the UN should not let Sri Lanka sweep these abuses under the carpet."

Human Rights Watch called on Secretary-General Ban to promptly establish an international investigation to examine allegations of wartime abuse by both sides to the conflict.

New Evidence of Wartime Violations

Human Rights Watch has examined more than 200 photos taken on the front lines in early 2009 by a soldier from the Sri Lankan Air Mobile Brigade. Among these are a series of five photos showing a man who appears to have been captured by the Sri Lankan army. An independent source identified the man by name and told Human Rights Watch that he was a long-term member of the LTTE's political wing from Jaffna.

The first two photos show the man alive, with blood on his face and torso, tied to a palm tree. He is surrounded by several men wearing military fatigues, one brandishing a knife close to his face. In the next three photos, the man is lying - apparently dead - against a rock. His head is being held up, he is partly covered in the flag of Tamil Eelam, and there is more blood on his face and upper body.

A forensic expert who reviewed the photos told Human Rights Watch that the latter three photos show material on the man's neck consistent in color with brain matter, "which would indicate an injury to the back of his head, as nothing is visible which would cause this on his face. This would indicate severe trauma to the back of the head consistent with something like a gunshot wound or massive blows to the back of the head with something such as a machete or ax."

While Human Rights Watch cannot conclusively determine that the man was summarily executed in custody, the available evidence indicates that a full investigation is warranted.

Several of the photos also show what appear to be dead women in LTTE uniforms with their shirts pulled up and their pants pulled down, raising concerns that they might have been sexually abused or their corpses mutilated. Again, such evidence is not conclusive but shows the need for an investigation.

The new accounts by witnesses described indiscriminate shelling of large gatherings of civilians during the last weeks of fighting, apparently by government forces. In addition to an incident on April 8, 2009, previously reported, witnesses told Human Rights Watch about three other incidents in late April and early May 2009 of government forces shelling civilians, mainly women and children, who were standing in food distribution lines. The witnesses also described LTTE recruitment of children and LTTE attacks on civilians attempting to escape the war zone.

Government's Failure to Investigate Abuses

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission created on May 17, 2010 is the latest in a long line of ad hoc bodies in Sri Lanka that seem designed to deflect international criticism rather than to uncover the facts. The mandated focus of the commission ¬- on the failure of the 2002 ceasefire - is largely unrelated to the massive abuses by both government forces and the LTTE in the last months of hostilities. Nor does the commission appear to have been designed to uncover new information: the commission's terms of reference do not provide for adequate victim and witness protection.

The government-appointed chairman of the commission, Chitta Ranjan de Silva, is a former attorney general who came under serious criticism for his office's alleged interference in the work of the 2006 Presidential Commission of Inquiry. The attorney general's role was one of the main reasons why a group of 10 international experts, the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP), withdrew from monitoring the commission's work. The IIGEP stated that it had "not been able to conclude...that the proceedings of the Commission have been transparent or have satisfied basic international norms and standards."

"De Silva was the architect and enforcer of the attorney general's conflict of interest role with respect to the 2006 commission," said Arthur Dewey, former US assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and member of the IIGEP. "Nothing good for human rights or reconciliation is likely to come from anything in which De Silva is involved."

The government has also yet to publish the findings from a committee established in November 2009 to examine allegations of laws-of-war violations set out in a report produced last year by the US State Department, despite an April 2010 deadline.

Sri Lanka has a long history of establishing ad hoc commissions to deflect international criticism over its poor human rights record and widespread impunity, Human Rights Watch said. Since independence in 1948, Sri Lanka has established at least nine such commissions, none of which have produced any significant results.

On March 5, Secretary-General Ban told President Rajapaksa that he had decided to appoint a UN panel of experts to advise him on next steps for accountability in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government responded by attacking Ban for interfering in domestic affairs, calling the panel "unwarranted" and "uncalled for." Two months later, Ban has yet to appoint any members to his panel.

"Ban's inaction is sending a signal to abusers that simply announcing meaningless commissions and making loud noises can block all efforts for real justice," Pearson said. "The only way to ensure accountability in Sri Lanka is to establish an independent international investigation." (HRW)

Home          Sri Lanka Think Tank-UK (Main Link)

Monday, 23 August 2010

Britain is failing Sri Lanka's Muslims

British foreign policy offends Muslims not only because of Tony Blair's pro-American stance on Iraq and the Middle East, but also because of Britain's thorough indifference to crises faced by smaller Muslim populations outside of Europe. In the past month, as the world focused on Lebanon, with a cursory glance at Iraq and Afghanistan, conflicts erupting elsewhere went unnoticed.

One of the worst of these was in Sri Lanka. As Sri Lankan government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels clashed after nearly four years of relative peace, some of the worst affected were the country's Muslim population.

Sri Lanka has nearly two million Muslims, amounting to 8% of the population. The fighting that broke out earlier this month was in Muttur, a Muslim-populous town, in eastern Sri Lanka. Like in Lebanon, as air force planes bombed Tamil Tiger attackers, Muttur turned into a ghost town - some 50,000 fled the area. The battle for Muttur left several dead though an official count was never made, and reports of Tamil Tigers executing fleeing Muslim villagers only remain as reports. Muslims are being sheltered in make shift camps and despite the magnanimous effort of aid agencies, local NGOs and activists conditions remain despicable. Overcrowded camps, hungry children and poor sanitation are daily realities for these Muslims with future prospect of returning to bombed out homes.

The tragedy of this story lies in its lack of novelty. The Muslims have been the forgotten minority in the Sri Lankan conflict, harshly affected although they are not protagonists. In the early 90s, the Tamil Tigers committed ethnic cleansing in the areas they controlled, evicting nearly 100,000 Muslims in a two-day period. To this day most Muslims continue to live in camps for internally displaced persons. Through the two decades of conflict Muslims have been victims of continuous abductions, extortions and attacks conducted by the Tigers. One of the most notorious was the 1990 massacre of more than 300 people, including children, hemmed in while worshiping in a mosque in eastern Sri Lanka.

The Muslim population has had its share of burden from the Sri Lankan forces as well. Muslim villages have been used to shield military posts and government forces have used Muslims as pawns by setting up small security units from within the community, making them more vulnerable to attack.

Through all the years of fighting, Britain's response to the conflict - or lack of it - was hardly appreciated by many Sri Lankans. Britain is seen as partially, or some would argue, mainly, responsible for starting the conflict because of the "divide and rule" policy implemented in its colonies. After independence, the ethnic divisions in Sri Lanka became entrenched, and as the majority Sinhalese community led by nationalist sentiments became discriminatory and the Tamils took to militancy, the British conveniently turned a blind eye.

In the late 90s, as Tamil Tigers turned terrorists and were gaining a reputation as global leaders in suicide bombings, Britain saw them as freedom fighters and permitted fund raising and propaganda to take place here. It was not until 2001 that the British decided to ban the Tamil Tigers from operating, but the ban is not always strictly implemented. While fundamentalists who propagate terrorism in the UK are immediately tried and deported, Tamils Tigers who promote their cause seem to be allowed to do so freely.

But the Sri Lankan Muslims' experience with the British has been quite different. Trapped between two majority communities, the British as colonial rulers were supportive of the Muslims and encouraged their economic progress. Though few Muslims even realise it, their distinct sense of identity in Sri Lanka became a reality only because the British sanctioned it. In the late 19th century, Muslim identity was thrown into chaos as the Tamil leadership claimed Muslims were Tamil converts to Islam in a bid to gain more representation in the legislature. The Muslims, devoid of any visionary leadership at the time, struggled to counter the Tamils and eventually used Islam and an imagined Arab ancestry to distinguish themselves. The British accepted it.

Now, a century later, Sri Lankan Muslims are under attack because of their distinct identity and no one seems to care. Though the Muslims have been so severely affected in the conflict and consider the contentious north and east as their homeland they were excluded from the peace process. The international community hailed the talks and ignored their exclusionary nature. This exclusion not only makes Sri Lanka's long term peace prospects unrealistic but it creates another disgruntled community that can turn to violence - and in this case, religious fundamentalism - if it loses confidence in a negotiated process. It is disappointing that countries like Britain overlook the grievances of smaller minorities.

It certainly would be too simplistic to imagine that if the British government championed the causes of these communities they could win the hearts and minds of the UK's own Muslim minority population. But it would at least show that they aren't at war with the whole of the Muslim world. by, Farah Mihlar (Ends)


Farah Mihlar works as media officer at Minority Rights Group Int. She is a Sri Lankan Muslim journalist and academic. She has reported on the country's ethnic conflict for over a decade and is currently doing a PhD on Islamic fundamentalism in Muslim minority contexts.


Home

இலங்கை முஸ்லிம்களின் அரசியல் பரிணாமம் - கல்முனையூரான்பதீ

தூது வரும் தேர்தல்; தீர்வைத் தேடும் பார்வை - III -


இலங்கை முஸ்லிம்களின் அரசியல் பரிணாமம்

'பொதுப்பணி செய்வதற்குரிய ஏதேனுமொரு பதவிக்கு அல்லது நிறுவனத்துக்கு வேட்பாளர்களாக நிற்கும் பலருள் ஒருவரை அப்பதவிக்கு அல்லது நிறுவன உறுப்பினர் பதவிக்குத் தகுதியுடையவரென்று வாக்காளர்களால் இரகசிய முறையில் தெரிவு செய்தல்' தேர்தல் எனப்படும்.

அரசியலில் 'தேர்தல்' என்ற பதம் நாட்டின் தலைவரை, நாட்டின் அதியுயர் சபையான பாராளுமன்றம், மாகாண சபை மற்றும் உள்ளுராட்சி மன்றங்களுக்கு மக்கள் தமது பிரதிநிதிகளை அனுப்புவதற்காக நடாத்தப்படுகின்ற தெரிவு 'தேர்தல்' எனப் பொருள் கொள்ளப்படுகின்றது.

அந்த வகையில் இக்கட்டுரையின் இத்தொடர் நாட்டின் அதியுயர் சபையாகக் கொள்ளப்படுகின்ற சட்ட சபை – பாராளுமன்ற - தேர்தல்கள் பற்றி அலசுகிறது.

இலங்கையின் அதியுயர் சபையான பாராளுமன்றத்தின் பிரதான பணி நாட்டுக்குத் தேவையான சட்டங்களை வகுப்பதாகும். இந்த அடிப்படையில் இலங்கையில் சட்டங்களை வகுத்தளிக்கும் மன்றம் ஆரம்பத்தில் சட்டசபை (Legislative Council) எனவும், பின்னர் அரசுப் பேரவை (State Council) என்றும், பிரதிநிதிகள் சபை, பாராளுமன்றம் என்றெல்லாம் நாமமிட்டு அழைக்கப்பட்டு வந்துள்ளது.

சட்டசபையில் முஸ்லிம் பிரதிநிதித்துவம்

இலங்கை பிரத்தானியாவின் குடியேற்ற நாடாக விளங்கிய காலத்தில் 1833-ம் ஆண்டில் சட்ட சபை (Legislative Council) ஸ்தாபிக்கப்பட்டது. இச்சபையில் அப்போது இந்நாட்டில் வாழ்ந்த தமிழ், முஸ்லிம் மக்களின் பிரதிநிதியாக ஸர் பொன்னம்பலம் இராமநாதன் நியமிக்கப்பட்டார்.

1833-ம் ஆண்டிலிருந்து சுமார் 56 ஆண்டுகள் முஸ்லிம் பிரதிநிதி எவரும் சட்டசபையில் அங்கம் பெற்றிருக்கவில்லை.

1889-ம் ஆண்டு ஒக்டோபர் 29-ம் திகதி முதன் முதலாக கௌரவ எம்.ஸீ. அப்துல் ரஹ்மான் அவர்கள் சட்ட சபைக்கு நியமிக்கப்பட்டார்கள். இலங்கை முஸ்லிம்களின் வரலாற்றில் சட்ட சபைக்கான முலாவது முஸ்லிம் பிரதிநிதித்துவ நியமனம் இதுவேயாகும்.

அப்துல் ரஹ்மான் அவர்களின் தந்தை முஹம்மத் காஸிம் போய் இந்தியாவின் சூரத் எனுமிடத்திலிருந்து வந்த ஒரு வர்த்தகராவார். அப்துல் ரஹ்மான் அவர்களும் இறக்குமதி, ஏற்றுமதி வர்த்தகத்தில் ஈடுபட்ட ஒரு பெரு வர்த்தகராவும், சரக்குக் கப்பல்;கள் பலவற்றின் சொந்தக்காரராகவும் விளங்கினார்.

கௌரவ அப்துல் ரஹ்மான் அவர்களே கொழும்பு மாநகர சபைக்கு நியமிக்கப்பட்ட முலாவது (1876 – 1879) முஸ்லிம் அங்கத்தவர் என்பதும் இங்கு குறிப்பிடத்தக்கது.

இவரைத் தொடர்ந்து கிழக்கு மாகாணத்திலிருந்து காத்தான்குடியைச் சேர்ந்த ஏ.எம். ஷரீப் (ஷரீப் புறக்டர்) சட்டவாக்க சபைக்கு நியமிக்கப்பட்டார். 1900-ம் ஆண்டு ஷரீப் புறக்டர் பதவியிலிருந்து விலகவே டபிள்யூ.எம். அப்துல் ரஹ்மான் அவ்விடத்துக்கு நியமிக்கப்பட்டார். பின்னர் 1917-ம் ஆண்டில் என்.எச்.எம். அப்துல் காதர் அவர்கள் சட்டவாக்க சபைக்கு நியமிக்கப்பட்டு 1923ம் ஆண்டு வரை பதவியிலிருந்தார். இது காலம் வரை சட்டசபைக்கு முஸ்லிம் உறுப்பினர்கள் நியமன அங்கத்தவர்களாகப் பிரிதிநிதித்துவம் செய்தார்களேயன்றிஇ முஸ்லிம்களால் வாக்களிப்பின் மூலம் தெரிவுசெய்யப்படவில்லை.

முஸ்லிம்களின் வாக்குரிமை

1924-ம் ஆண்டு பெப்ரவரி 24-ம் திகதி அதிவிஷேட வர்த்தமானி அறிவித்தல் மூலம் முஸ்லிம்கள் தேர்தலில் வாக்களிப்பின் மூலம் 03 பிரதிநிதிகளைத் தெரிவுசெய்வதற்கான உரிமை அரசாங்கத்தினால் அதிகார பூர்வமாக வெளியிடப்பட்டது.

முஸ்லிம்களில் அவர்களின் வருமானம்இ பொதுவான படிப்பறிவு தகைமைகளைத் தகுதியாகக் கொண்ட ஆண்கள் மாத்திரம் வாக்களிப்பதற்கான உரிமை பெற்றார்கள்.

1924-ம் ஆண்டில் நடைபெற்ற தேர்தலில் 04 முஸ்லிம்கள் போட்டியிட்டு, அவர்களில் மூவர் வெற்றிபெற்றனர். எச்.எம். மாக்கான் மாக்கார், டாக்டர் ரீ.பி. ஜாயா, என்.எச்.எம். அப்துல் காதர் ஆகியோரே வெற்றி பெற்றோராவர்.

1931-ம் ஆண்டு சட்ட சபை, அரசுப் பேரவை எனப் பெயர் மாற்றமடைந்து முதலாவது அரசுப் பேரவைக்கான தேர்தல் நடைபெற்றது.

இந்தத் தேர்தலில் மட்டக்களப்பு தெற்குத் தொகுதியில் போட்டியிட்ட ஸர் முஹம்மத் மாக்கான் மாக்கார் மாத்திரமே வெற்றி பெற்றார். காலித் சுல்தான் அவர்கள் நியமன உறுப்பினராக அரசுப் பேரவைக்கு நியமிக்கப்பட்டார்.

கிழக்கு மாகாணத்தில் தேர்தலின் மூலம் முதன் முதலாகத் தேர்ந்தெடுக்கப்பட்ட ஸர் மாக்கான் மாக்கார் முதலாவது அரசுப் பேரவையில் தொடர்பாடல் மற்றும் மராமத்து அமைச்சராகவும் நியமிக்கப்பட்டமை குறிப்பிடத்தக்கது.

இவ்வாறாக ஆரம்பித்த முஸ்லிம்களின் அரசியல் பிரதிநிதித்துவமானது காலத்துக்குக் காலம் வளர்ச்சி கண்டு வந்தது.

இலங்கை முஸ்லிம்களின் அரசியல் - பாராளுமன்றப் - பிரதிநிதித்துவம் பற்றி நாம் ஆய்வு செய்யும்போது, இலங்கை முஸ்லிம்களின் சனத்தொகைப் பரம்பல் தொடர்பாகவும் கருத்திற் கொள்ள வேண்டியது அவசியமாகின்றது.

முஸ்லிம்களின் அரசியல் பலம்

2001-ம் ஆண்டின் குடிசன மதிப்பீட்டின் பிரகாரம், இலங்கையின் கிழக்கு மாகாண முஸ்லிம் சனத்தொகையானது 454,580 எனவும், வடமாகாணம் தவிர்ந்த ஏனைய ஏழு மாகாணங்களிலும் சுமார் 1,106,345 எனவும் அண்ணளவாகக் கணிப்பிடப்பட்டுள்ளது.

இந்த சனத்தொகைப் பரம்பலின் அடிப்படையில் கிழக்கு மாகாணத்தில் செறிவான வாக்காளர் பரம்பல் காணப்படுவதனால், முஸ்லிம் பாராளுமன்றப் பிரதிநிதித்துவத்தை உறுதியாகத் தக்கவைத்துக்கொள்ளக்கூடிய வாய்ப்பு கிழக்கு மாகாணத்திலேயே காணப்படுகின்றமை புலனாகின்றது.

இலங்கை முஸ்லிம்களின் மொத்த சனத்தொகையில் மூன்றில் இரண்டு பங்கினர் கிழக்கு மாகாணத்திற்கு வெளியில் வாழ்கின்றபோதிலும், அவர்கள் நாட்டின் 08 மாகாணங்களிலும் 19 தேர்தல் மாவட்டங்களில் பரந்து வாழ்கின்றமையால் ஒரு நிலையான, செறிந்த வாக்கு வங்கியைத் தொடர்ச்சியாகப் பேண முடியாதுள்ளமை கண்கூடு.

உதாரணத்திற்கு, மேல் மாகாணத்தில் மாத்திரம் 378,173 முஸ்லிம்கள் வாழ்கின்றபோதிலும், தேசியக் கட்சிகளுடனும், ஜே.வி.பி.யுடனும் இணைந்து தேர்தல் மூலம் 04 பாராளுமன்றப் பிரதிநிதிகளை மாத்திரமே பெறமுடிந்துள்ளது.

இந்நிலையில் கிழக்கு மாகாணத்தில் ஏற்படுத்தப்படுகின்ற - தேசிய நலநன நோக்காகக் கொண்ட - சகவாழ்வுடனான - தனித்துவ அரசியல் வழிமுறைகளினூடாகக் கட்டியெழுப்பப்படும் ஒற்றுமைப் பலத்தின் மூலம் இந்நாட்டில் வாழும் முழு முஸ்லிம்களினதும் விவகாரங்களுக்குத் தீர்வு காணக்கூடிய – முஸ்லிம்களின் அரசியல் பொருளாதார, சமூக, சமய மறுமலர்ச்சிக்கு வித்திடக் கூடிய – அரசியல் பலம் கட்டியெழுப்பப்பட வேண்டும் என்பது மறுப்புக்கிடமின்றி ஏற்றுக் கொள்ளக் கூடிய தீர்மானமாகும்.

எனவே, கிழக்குமாகாண அரசியல் களம் மீது, நாம் நுட்பமாக எமது பார்வையைச் செலுத்துவது பொருத்தமாகும் எனக் கருதுகின்றோம்.

கிழக்கின் முஸ்லிம் அரசியல் யுகம்

கிழக்கு மாகாண அரசியலை நாம் நான்கு காலகட்டங்களாக விரித்து ஆராயலாம்.

1. 1931 இலிருந்து 1988 வரையிலான காலம்

2. 1989 இலிருந்து 2000 வரையிலான காலம்

3. 2001 இலிருந்து 2010 வரையிலான காலம்

4. 2010 இற்குப் பின்னர்..

கிழக்கு மாகாண அரசியலில் தென்றலும் புயலும் - பனியும், பெருமழையும் - குளிர் நிலவும், இடி மின்னலும் - கலந்த விறுவிறுப்பான கதை அடுத்து வருகிறது...கல்முனையூரான்பதீ  (Muslimguardian)
Home

Saturday, 21 August 2010

உயர்தரப் பரீட்சை எழுதாத மேர்வின் கலாநிதியாவார் : பௌத்த தேரர்

நாடாளுமன்ற உறுப்பினர் மேர்வின் சில்வா, கல்விப்பொதுத்தராதர உயர்தரப்பரீட்சையில் சித்தியெய்தவில்லை. எனினும் அவர் கலாநிதி பட்டத்தை பெற்றுக்கொண்டார் என பௌத்த பிக்கு ஒருவர் தெரிவித்துள்ளார்.


மேர்வின் சில்வாவை மீண்டும் பிரதியமைச்சராக ஏற்றுக்கொள்ளவேண்டும் எனக் கோரி, நேற்று பௌத்த பிக்குகளின் சம்மேளனம் ஒன்று நடத்தப்பட்டது.

இதன் போது உரையாற்றிய பௌத்த பிக்குவான தேவாலகம தம்மசேன தேரர் இதனை குறிப்பிட்டுள்ளார்.

மேர்வின் சில்வா,கலாநிதி என்றாலும் அவர் துட்டகைமுனுவைப் போன்றவர் என தேரர் தெரிவித்துள்ளார்.

மேர்வின் சில்வா எஸ்.எஸ்.சி. பரீட்சை எழுதிக்கொண்டிருந்தபோது அதனை விட்டுவிட்டு விண்வெளிக்கு சென்ற முதல் ரஷ்யர் யூரி ககாரின் வந்த ஹெலிகொப்டரை பார்க்கச் சென்றுவிட்டார்.

அதன் காரணமாக பரீட்சையை எழுதாமல் சிறப்பான சித்தியை பெறத்தவறி விட்டார் என்றும் தேரர் மேலும் குறிப்பிட்டார். (lamkasiri)

Home          Sri Lanka Think Tank-UK (Main Link)