May 31, 2009 Comments Off on Al Jazeera: Riz Khan – Sri Lanka's humanitarian crisis
May 31, 2009 Comments Off on The night Jaffna library burned
On 31 May 1981, the Sri Lankan government burned down the famous Jaffna library. An act of cultural genocide of the Tamils, the burning down of the Jaffna library, one of the biggest and finest in Asia saw the loss of some 97,000 volumes of books, including rare and important Ola manuscripts.
The Pioneer – The night Jaffna library burned
SBS Dateline – Culture Clash
May 31, 2009 Comments Off on Journalists trying to cover fate of Tamils are threatened, obstructed
Reporters Without Borders – Journalists trying to cover fate of Tamils are threatened, obstructed
Reporters Without Borders is extremely worried by statements by Sri Lankan officials, including army commander Gen. Sarath Fonseka, that journalists who visited areas formerly controlled by the Tamil Tiger rebels will be prosecuted.
At the same time, access to refugee camps and Tamil areas in general is still severely regulated, preventing the press from obtaining information about the fate of the Tamil population. Journalists and witnesses who dared to speak out have been intimidated and arrested.
“The war is over,” Reporters Without Borders said. “There is no longer any reason for the army to impose so many restrictions on media working in the Tamil areas, including restrictions on access to refugee camps. The United Nations – which deliberately minimised the suffering of Tamil civilians, according to the French newspaper Le Monde – should make an effort to obtain unrestricted access to refugee camps for the press and humanitarian aid workers.”
A humanitarian aid worker said: “At the checkpoints installed on the roads leading to Tamil areas, soldiers always ask the same question: ‘What are you going to do there?’.” Journalists are turned back if they lack official authorisation. The few foreign journalists who have covered the Tamil camps have been targeted by the government. A TV crew working for Britain’s Channel 4 was expelled.
Most of the Sri Lankan media have not sent reporters to the Tamil areas. The press have only managed to get into these areas when there have been visits by Sri Lankan and international official such as UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has not been allowed to visit some detention camps.
Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for the release of three Tamil doctors – Thangamuttu Sathiyamorthi, Thurairaja Varatharajan and V. Sunmugarajah – who have been held since 18 may for providing the international media with information about the humanitarian situation in the Vanni district. ICRC representatives were allowed to see them in Colombo.
The army is trying to identify Tamils who provided information to the foreign press. A humanitarian aid worker who visited a camp near Vavuniya told Reporters Without Borders that members of Tamil paramilitary groups have been infiltrated into some camps with the aim of identifying those who are trying to get their stories to the media.
The army recently blocked the arrival of several dozen nuns who had obtained health ministry permission to visit camps to help refugees, especially those who have been psychologically traumatised.
Reporters Without Borders condemns the way Vavuniya-based journalist Mahamuni Subramaniam, a stringer for various news media including Reuters, has been treated. He was arrested on 14 May while covering the justice minister’s visit to the Ramanathan refugee camp.
Claiming that only journalists with the ITN and RupavahiniTV stations were allowed to film or take pictures of the minister’s meeting with a general, the police confiscated his expensive camera and still have not returned it to him, although he has petitioned the High Court for its return.
“During these inquiries once Major General Chandrasiri came out and verbally abused me saying I am a LTTE suspect and ordered the military to check me thoroughly.” Subramaniam said in a letter. “When I claimed that I am a reporter for Reuters, he vehemently said all foreign journalists are working against his homeland.”
A report in Le Monde yesterday accused the United Nations, especially the secretary-general’s chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, of deliberately playing down the number of Tamil casualties during the fighting so as not to anger the government and thereby jeopardise the UN’s ability to continue operating in the country. An estimated 20,000 Tamils died in the fighting.
A resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 27 May praising the Sri Lankan government was an insult to the Tamil victims, Reporters Without Borders added.
May 31, 2009 § 4 Comments
Daily Times – Sri Lanka cancel Oxford visit over security concerns
Daily Telegraph – Security fears for Kumar Sangakkara and Muttiah Muralitharan
May 31, 2009 Comments Off on Melbourne nightly vigils against Genocide of Tamils
May 30, 2009 Comments Off on Rights Groups comment on SL's abuse of human rights and UN's deafening silence
Times of India – UN chief, top aide knew of Tamil massacre, claims report
The Associated Press – UN urged to release Sri Lankan civilian death toll
Voice of America – Rights Group Asks UN to Speak Out on Sri Lanka ‘Bloodbath’
Swiss Info –UN under fire over Sri Lanka response
Human Rights Watch : Sri Lanka: UN Rights Council Fails Victims
Member States Ignore Need for Inquiry Into Wartime Violations. The Human Rights Council did not even express its concern for the hundreds of thousands of people facing indefinite detention in government camps. The council ignored urgent needs and wasted an important chance to promote human rights.
– Juliette de Rivero, Geneva advocacy director
Sky News – Jokes About Human Rights
May 30, 2009 § 1 Comment
The Dissenter – Investigating War Crimes in Sri Lanka
Illusion and Reality
The European Union (EU) did not need a crystal ball to predict that its resolution at the special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) convened on 28 May 2009 to discuss the human rights situation in Sri Lanka had as much chance of success as the cow had of jumping over the moon.
A few hopeful Tamils across the world, clueless about the Byzantine ways of the UN, thought the world’s premier human rights body would soon send in the blue helmets to save Tamils in distress. In fact, the UN cannot, on its own, send even its independent experts, the Special Procedures, to Sri Lanka since Colombo has not issued a standing invitation to any of them.
If the EU and its allies failed, the non-governmental community did no better. In view of the fact that all the dirty dozen countries in the regional blocs of Asia, Africa and Latin America were expected to gang up and shout down calls for accountability, NGOs should have sent a clear, forthright signal and proposed a sound strategy for the road ahead. But all they had to show for was non-representative discussions. Certain Asian NGOs, even those that call themselves ‘regional’ organisations, on the other hand opted for profound silence.
The road to hell…
The EU resolution failed, as the EU might have expected. It was not even a moral victory, as the EU might have been hoping. The Czech opening statement in the debate on behalf of the EU was indifferently drafted and delivered, and was not about to stir a leaf, let alone the consciences of the majority of the diplomats, most of whom have long smothered any altruistic stirrings in their individual hearts at the altar of their nations’ geopolitical priorities.
The debate started with a forceful statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay. It was rebutted with a stout but disingenuous statement by Mr. Mahinda Samarasinghe who heads Sri Lanka’s aptly named Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights. The Cubans speaking on behalf of that cold war relic that they have appropriated, the Non Aligned Movement (NAM), launched their usual diatribe. The Indian statement did little credit to a country that is democratic. This once again underscores the need for the Indian Parliament and citizens to exercise scrutiny over what Indian diplomats get away with at forums like the UN, purporting to interpret the sovereign will of the Indian people.
The statement by Canada was uplifting. It made specific demands of the Sri Lankan government. It sought to emphasise international scrutiny and the need to strengthen key national protection mechanisms in Sri Lanka. Also, the US would have taken its place as a member of the Human Rights Council in another fortnight. Why did the EU not wait until the US brought its force multiplier effect to the Council? Old Europe has much to learn from the world across the Atlantic.
It would also have been a quantum leap if the EU resolution had sought an adequately staffed and resourced field presence of the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Jaffna and Colombo. The current presence in Colombo consists of a solitary UN Human Right advisor to the UN system in that country assisted by two junior colleagues.
May 30, 2009 Comments Off on Sri Lanka photographs: The home-made civilian bunkers
Times Online – Sri Lanka photographs: The home-made civilian bunkers
This photograph of wrecked civilian areas inside the no-fire zone was taken by an Agence France-Presse photographer on board the same helicopter flight as The Times on May 23. It shows how trapped civilians built improvised bunkers out of sand, sacks, pillowcases and other household goods to protect themselves against mortar and artillery shells.
The lack of fuel or any military equipment as well as the improvised nature of the camp and its facilities makes it clear that this is a civilian base.
Father Amalraj, a Roman Catholic priest who escaped the no-fire zone on May 16, told The Times how civilians had barely ventured from the camp for two months, except to find food. “The heavy shelling was from the army side,” he said.
The bunkers did not always protect them. A priest and a teacher were killed by shelling in Father Amalraj’s bunker, and buried on the beach.
When he and his parishioners fled, the shelling had become so intense they had little choice.
May 30, 2009 § 1 Comment
The Guardian – Call to free British medic held in Sri Lanka war zone
Yahoo – British medic ‘held in Sri Lanka‘
Scotsman.com News – British medic detained in Sri Lanka
The Canadian Press – Britain seeks release of doctor held in Sri Lankan camp
The Press Association – British medic ‘held in Sri Lanka’
May 30, 2009 Comments Off on In other news …
Times of India – Tamils rally against attack on Canadian mission
AlJazeera – Sri Lanka toll ‘may never be known’
Jakarta Post – Issues: `West’s double standards on Sri Lanka’
ABC Online – UN backs calls for Sri Lanka probe
New York Times – Aid Slowly Reaching Sri Lanka’s War Refugees
Voice of America – Rights Group Asks UN to Speak Out on Sri Lanka ‘Bloodbath’
Arab News – Sri Lanka: Days of reckoning