August 30, 2009 Comments Off on Sunday August 30th 2009:26th Anniversary of enforced disappearances
The bishop of Jaffna believes the chance that a priest who disappeared three years ago might still be alive is “remote.”
Father Damian Fernando, director of Caritas Sri Lanka,
Bishop Thomas Savundaranayagam made this assessment in his message on the third anniversary of the disappearance of Father Thiruchelvam Nihal Jim Brown and layman Wenceslaus Vincent Vimalathas.
The Tamil prelate’s message was read at a gathering that included the parents of Father Jim Brown, as he is known, priests and about 30 rights activists on Aug. 20 at the Caritas Sri Lanka auditorium in Colombo.
Father Jim Brown of St. Philip Neri Church in Allaipiddy, Jaffna, and his assistant, a father of five, went missing on Aug. 20, 2006, on the Jaffna peninsula, then a main center of the former Tamil separatist insurgency.
The two men were last seen traveling by motorcycle to celebrate Mass. Three years later, their fate remains unknown. Police say they tried to investigate the disappearance but were hampered by the civil war situation at the time.
Catholics remember the priest as a peacemaker who tried to secure the safety of local Catholics during the civil war.
Church officials criticized the police investigation in the war-torn, Tamil-majority area. In December 2007, Bishop Savundaranayagam told UCA News that “a police officer who had no working knowledge of Tamil (language) came from Colombo to collect evidence from the Tamil people on the disappearance.”
“The state is not conducting the inquiry with sincerity,” the prelate complained.
The recent commemoration for Father Jim Brown and Vimalathas was organized by Christian Alliance For Social action (CASA), a private body that engages in legal research and advocacy for human rights.
Ainsley Joseph, on behalf of CASA, said there has been “no news, but we should not forget priests who saved lives.”
The parents and brother of the missing priest
During the commemoration, participants lit candles in memory of the two missing men. “Let us continue what Father Jim had given to us,” said Father Damian Fernando, director of Caritas Sri Lanka, the Catholic Church’s social-service organization.
Jesuit Father Lasantha De Abrew, who is involved in humanitarian work, spoke of the need to go beyond simply remembering Father Jim Brown. He asserted the search for a political solution needs to be “enhanced” for “national reconciliation.”
The 25-year-long civil war that ended when the government overran the rebels’ last holdout in May claimed almost 100,000 lives, including those of six priests and Church workers. Catholic and other religious buildings were also destroyed.
Rosalin Thiruchelvam, mother of the missing priest, is struggling to keep her hopes up. “He is alive,” she cried to UCA News.
Father A.F.X. Jayasegaram, president of the justice and peace commission of Jaffna diocese, said by phone that all parishes in the diocese held a remembrance Mass for the missing Church workers.
From the start of the civil war in 1983 through the end of 2007, the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations recorded 5,516 cases of enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka.
August 30, 2009 Comments Off on International Day of the Dissapeared
August 29, 2009 Comments Off on UN expert urges Sri Lanka to probe execution video
GENEVA — A United Nations expert on Friday urged the Sri Lankan government to set up an independent probe into the authenticity of a video clip aired in Britain allegedly showing Sri Lankan troops executing prisoners.
… “There is no justification for not moving ahead with such an investigation in view of the government’s confidence that such atrocities were never perpetrated by its armed forces,” he added.
The images, which he described as “horrendous,” indicate a serious violation of international law if found to be authentic, he said.
Alston also pointed out that he had asked permission to visit Sri Lanka on several occasions in recent years, but Colombo had not given him the green light.
…Widespread international concern was voiced over the number of civilians killed during the last leg of the fighting, while aid groups now fear for the welfare of 300,000 Tamils held in the state-run camps.
August 29, 2009 Comments Off on Execution Video Shows Need for International Inquiry – HRW
Human Rights Watch : Sri Lanka: Execution Video Shows Need for International Inquiry
No Action on Government Promises of Investigations to United Nations
The blood, blindfolds, and mud of this apparent atrocity makes nonsense of President Rajapaksa’s claims of a clean war against the Tamil Tigers. An international inquiry needs to get to the bottom of this and other war crimes committed during the past year’s fighting.
August 29, 2009 Comments Off on News about the camps
Noting the specific risks faced by children amongst the hundreds of thousands of people confined in Sri Lanka’s militarized concentration camps, ChildFund Australia on Wednesday launched a fundraising appeal to protect the youngsters. “Children who have been orphaned or separated from their families are particularly vulnerable, facing an increased risk of malnutrition, disease, sexual exploitation, abduction and trafficking,” ChildFund Australia CEO Nigel Spence said. The money raised by ChildFund Australia’s Sri Lanka appeal will be used, among other things, to provide children with “survival skills”, the NGO said: “Children will be taught survival and safety skills to help protect themselves from sexual abuse, violence and life-threatening diseases.”
The full text of the ChildFund Australia’s press release follows:
ChildFund Australia has today launched a fundraising appeal for children trapped in Sri Lanka’s internally displaced persons (IDP) camps. The money raised will be used to assist at least 3,000 children in Vavuniya in the country’s north, where the majority of the displaced are located.
Currently, more than 300,000 people are confined to the camps, with no clear plans to resettle them. Children and their families are living in overcrowded conditions with little or no access to basic necessities or effective protection.
ChildFund Australia CEO Nigel Spence says: “These children are already traumatised by what they’ve endured in the conflict – hiding in trenches to escape shelling, seeing family members killed and witnessing the destruction of their homes. Now they are having to adjust to life in the camps where there is a severe lack of food, water, healthcare and sanitation, and little or no access to education.
“Children who have been orphaned or separated from their families are particularly vulnerable, facing an increased risk of malnutrition, disease, sexual exploitation, abduction and trafficking.”
ChildFund Australia’s affiliate in Sri Lanka was one of the first NGOs to gain access to the camps. Local staff have been distributing emergency relief items, such as water, clothing and hygiene kits, and have also begun implementing education, play, sports and trauma recovery activities for children.
The money raised by ChildFund Australia’s Sri Lanka appeal will be used to provide:
Emergency Relief – Five Child Relief Centres will be established where children will receive meals, vaccinations, protection, safety and stability.
Survival Skills – Children will be taught survival and safety skills to help protect themselves from sexual abuse, violence and life-threatening diseases.
Education and Training – Children will be provided with resources to resume their secondary school education, including notebooks, school supplies and two libraries. Another 300 youths will be provided with income-generation skills to prepare them for when they return home.
August 29, 2009 § 2 Comments
Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies
With the support of Amnesty International
Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Emergency
• How and why it is being hidden
• And what we can do about it
Monday 31 August 2009, 6.30 – 8.30 pm
Footbridge Lecture Theatre, University of Sydney
Entry by gold coin donation
Bruce Haigh Political commentator and author; former Australian diplomat and Deputy High Commissioner to Sri
Dr John Whitehall Paediatrician and Associate Professor in Public Health at James Cook University; volunteer
medical worker in Sri Lanka; finalist, Senior Australian of the Year, for raising relief funds for Tsunami victims.
Dr Sam Pari Tamil Human Rights Advocate; volunteer worker, post-war and post-tsunami regions of Sri Lanka.
We will also hear eyewitness accounts from government-run internment camps where 300,000
people are being held, away from the scrutiny of international humanitarian agencies and media.
Moderated by: Associate Professor Jake Lynch, Director, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney.
A Joint Initiative of CPACS and the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, UTS, supported by Amnesty International.
For further information contact: Keryn Scott or Lyn Dickens, CPACS, 9351 7686 firstname.lastname@example.org
August 29, 2009 Comments Off on In other news…