August 31, 2010 § 1 Comment
Asked about Sri Lanka on his final day as UN Humanitarian Coordinator, John Holmes offered a defense of his department’s funding of the government’s internment camps while admitting the government may have “deliberately shelled” civilians and hospitals.
Inner City Press asked Holmes about criticism of his and the UN’s actions in Sri Lanka, for example pulling out of Kilinochchi, funding the internment camps and failing even now to get to the bottom of the murder of the Action Contre La Faim humanitarian workers.
Holmes called this the “ACF massacre,” and said it has still not been explained or even investigated. He did not explain the Kilinochchi pull out, which has been criticized including the International Crisis Group.
He said there’s a need to know how many civilians were killed, when it was his OCHA unit which stopped reporting on civilians casualties when one of their reports was leaked to and published by Inner City Press.
Holmes began his answer by referring to the “heavy propaganda claims on both sides.” It was not clear if, beyond side of the the government and “Sinhalese extremists” — to use Singapore’s Lee Kwan Yew’s description of Mahinda Rajapaksa — Holmes meant the LTTE Tamil Tigers, or the Tamil diaspora.
As Inner City Press reported at the time, during Ban Ki-moon’s trip to Sri Lanka in May 2009, Holmes during an on the record briefing on the UN plane said that he got lots of email from the Tamil diaspora alleging for example bias by Ban’s chief of staff Vijay Nambiar. I just delete it, Holmes said of the e-mail.
Later after complaints, Inner City Press tried to soften the story. But that is what he said. And since he said it, information has emerged about Nambair’s still unexplained role in telling LTTE leaders who wanted to surrender to come out with white flags. They were killed, and the leader of the unit which did the killing is now reportedly coming to the UN as Sri Lanka’s Deputy Permanent Representative.
Holmes is headed to a think tank of sorts, Ditchley Hall. Perhaps he will write a book — and perhaps it will address these issues. We’ll be watching.
August 31, 2010 § 1 Comment
BBC Sinhala – Mannar – Tamil misery continues
By a special correspondent
Exclusive to BBC Sinhala service
Broken, torn buildings tower over the tiny UNHCR tents on the gardens and court yards. Hanging clothes, pots and pans and carry bags scattered around the land show signs of civilian life.
Thirty years of war has taken a lot from the lives of the Mannar farmers and they still await a sense of security.
“Be careful and watch your mouth. The government security forces are vigilant and they do not like us talking to outsiders,” my hosts warned.
The alert and watchful eyes of weary soldiers scanned every vehicle passing through the checkpoints.
They are tired but seem to be friendly. Especially after the moment they identify someone as a Sinhalese visitor from the south.
They are eager to share their war stories, explain the fighting and hardship they have undergone in the area. They see themselves still as victors. More
August 29, 2010 Comments Off on Former UN spokesman calls SL gov bluff
The Globe and Mail – Tamils of a different stripe
The Tigers are history and Sri Lanka’s ethnic minority remains under the government’s thumb. Think about it – who wants to portray the boat people as a security threat?
As the debate about Tamil boat people plays out, Canadians might ask themselves, “In whose interest?” Who has muddied the debate with suggestions that the boats are filled with criminals and terrorists, and why? Again, why all the fuss over an insignificant number of people, when Canada does not have a boat-people problem of the magnitude of Australia’s? Government of Sri Lanka warnings that Tamil boat people are a threat to Canada’s interests are calculated to provoke the kind of public response seen in recent weeks.
Canadians are right to be concerned about the security of their borders. Globalized terrorism is a threat to Canadians, as it is to Australians. And national identities are a precious commodity. In an unsteady world, and with a rising backlash in Europe directed at Muslim immigration, both Canadian and Australian governments are obliged to soothe these concerns, with measured immigration and refugee intakes. Both countries need strong border protection policies that deter human smuggling and provide a sense of security to their citizens. Somehow a balance must be struck with our international obligations. That is all the more reason why Canadians must resist letting the debate become confused by wild claims.
Sri Lankan government officials and self-proclaimed experts played the understandable worries of Australians like a fiddle as boats neared their shores. Australians were told that these were economic migrants, taking advantage of their country’s generosity and slack intake laws – in fact, among the toughest in the world. Sri Lankan diplomatic representatives asserted that those on board had terrorist links. Finally, the plainly unfounded claim was made that fully half were terrorists and criminals. Actually, nobody knew who was on board, why they were there or who was behind these voyages. More
August 29, 2010 Comments Off on SL appoints alleged war criminal as UN rep
Inner City Press – At UN, Sri Lanka Move to Place Alleged War Criminal As Ambassador Questioned
Sri Lanka’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN post, vacant following Bandula Jayasekera’s department triggered by a sexual harassment scandal, is now reportedly slated to be filled by Major General Shavendra Silva, who “was allegedly among those mentioned by MP Sarath Fonseka in a media interview where he had said that the former 58 Division Commander had received orders to shoot at sight LTTE suspects who came with white flags to surrender to the army during the final stage of war.”
At the UN on Wednesday, Inner City Press asked Martin Nesirky, the spokesman for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, about this reported appointment and that of General G.A. Chandrasiri to replace Palitha Kohona as Permanent Representative.
While Nesirky said he wouldn’t comment on hypotheticals, when Inner City Press asked if Ban would have some discretion to not accept credentials when presented, Nesirky said he would look into it.
Shavendra Silva is clearly a witness to the war crime events about which Ban has appointed a (stalled) three member panel to advise him. Would appointing him an ambassador give him de facto or de jure diplomatic immunity?
Inner City Press also asked Nesirky if the four month “clock” of Ban’s panel of experts had finally begun. No, Nesirky said, the clock has not started but it is being wound. But why so slowly? Watch this site.
Later on Wednesday Inner City Press asked a Sri Lankan diplomat about the reported new Deputy Perm Rep and Perm Rep. “It’s not yet confirmed,” he answered, adding that the entire staff of the mission in New York might be replaced.
August 29, 2010 Comments Off on More stories surface of Tamils' suffering and torture
August 29, 2010 § 1 Comment
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday secured the two-thirds parliamentary majority he needs to change the constitution after an opposition party with eight legislators pledged its support.
…Rajapaksa has already struck a tentative deal to return Sri Lanka to rule by an executive prime minister. That would allow him to by-pass the existing two-term limit as head of state and run the country as prime minister.
…Critics blame the president’s strong executive powers under the present constitution for political interference in the judiciary, public service and police, allowing the head of state to manipulate the system as he or she wishes. More
August 29, 2010 § 1 Comment
Sri Lankan Guardian – The Scope of Canadian Conscience
by Roy Ratnavel
As my flight descended into Charleston, South Carolina, I could see Fort Sumpter in the horizon through my sunny window of the aged United Airlines CRJ aircraft. Fort Sumter is best known as the site upon which the first shots initiated the American Civil War — subsequently bringing on unimaginable suffering of the people during and after that gruesome period in American history.
This inspired me to write about the people I left behind almost 22 years ago and their unimaginable, still ongoing suffering due to the longest civil war in Asian history. Leading up to the finale of Sri Lankan Civil War, many military strategists, politicians and terror experts in the West have either failed to recognize the deeper issues in Sri Lanka or they have deliberately applied a methodology to cause one of the greatest humanitarian tragedies of the century.
The murder of many thousands of Tamils last year by the Sri Lankan government is one more proof of lack of common sense of Western countries intervention in Sri Lanka. The listing of the Tigers, and not condemning the atrocities of Sri Lanka on Tamils severed to only strengthen Sri Lanka’s ‘racial’ tendencies, fanaticism and sheer brutality.
We are now witnessing the outcome of such one-sided Western meddling with Tamil freedom struggle. Proud people of 2000 year old rich culture of Indus Valley are now risking the high seas and their lives, including the lives of many orphans, begging for another chance at life, and all we Canadians can say is, “send them back.” Ironically, we call ourselves a nation of ‘civilized’ people. One has to question if the mankind has already lost it’s sanity. More
August 29, 2010 § 1 Comment
The Supreme Court of New Zealand Friday dismissed the appeal of the government seeking rejection of the refugee status of an Eezham Tamil who was captaining a ship carrying arms to the LTTE. The court in its judgement said: “At all relevant times the Tamil Tigers was an organisation having the goals of self-determination for Tamils and securing an independent Tamil state in northeast Sri Lanka. The principal objective was to induce the government of Sri Lanka to concede such political change. These characteristics made the Tamil Tigers a political organisation notwithstanding its use, at times, of proscribed methods of advancing its cause. That much is not in dispute”.
“The appeal is dismissed. The respondent’s application for recognition of refugee status is remitted to the Refugee Status Appeals Authority for consideration in accordance with the Court of Appeal’s order. Costs are reserved and counsel may submit memoranda if necessary,” said the judgment of the court Friday. More
For full text of the judgment and reasons click here.
August 28, 2010 Comments Off on UN verdict – Aust practices discrimination
The United Nations human rights panel has rebuked the Australian government over its treatment of Aboriginals.
At the release of a report from the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in Geneva, one of the authors said discrimination has become “embedded” in the Australian way of life.
August 27, 2010 Comments Off on Amnesty ups its activisim on war crimes probe
Email received from Amnesty International
The amazing response from Congress really put a fire under us!
Within the first 24 hours of asking Representatives to sign on to a letter calling for an international investigation into war crimes in Sri Lanka, we got one new co-signer every hour!
In just 8 days total, we won the support of 58 members of Congress. One by one, they added their name to a powerful letter addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. One by one, they spoke out against Sri Lanka’s weak stance on alleged war crimes.
But if we’re truly going to make war criminals pay for the abuses they Committed against masses of innocent people over a quarter century of ethnic conflict, then we’ve got to ignite that same fire under the rest of the international community – starting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Help us light a fire so bright that we can finally stop impunity for war crimes in Sri Lanka.
In the coming months, Amnesty representatives will be meeting with UN officials.
Our goal has been to collect and hand-deliver 50,000 signed petitions to UN offices from our supporters. But once again, the response has been staggering – nearly 40,000 of you have already taken action for Sri Lanka. Keep that momentum going!
Sri Lanka has a 20-year history of setting up flawed commissions that get us nowhere – lacking credibility and derailing criminal investigations.
If this time is going to be any different, then we need to build as much pressure as we can.
Please make a tax-deductible donation today and help finally bring justice to the people of Sri Lanka.
Thank you for standing up against injustice,
Christoph, Jim and the rest of the Crisis Response Team Amnesty International USA