"…Sri Lanka is not safe for Tamils"

September 30, 2010 § 1 Comment

The Seoul Times – UN Blatantly Turns Blind Eye As Sri Lanka Becomes Nation of Totalitarianism

Special Contribution by Heike Winnig

With the 18th amendment in his pocket and control of the Election Commission assured, President Mahinda Rajapaksa will remain president of Sri Lanka for life.

With the Sri Lankan parliament’s passing of the 18th amendment empowering this man with utter and complete command of the small island nation, Sri Lanka’s tyranny and domination is unstoppable. Sri Lanka’s future is sealed.

“Rajapaksa Looks to His New Era,” published on Sept. 11, 2010 by Sudha Ramachandran on Asia Times Online, exemplifies that:

“By its very definition, an executive presidency is anti-democratic. In Sri Lanka, it has been more so, as checks and balances have been steadily whittled away, enabling successive presidents to function in an authoritarian manner. This has prompted calls for abolition of the executive presidency.”

In September 2006, an opinion on The Hindu reported that Mumbai based think-tank, Strategic Foresight Group (SFG), has confirmed what many long feared: Sri Lanka has emerged as one of the most militarized society in South Asia.

The study, “Cost of conflict in Sri Lanka,” says the island nation has 8,000 military personnel per one million population. Even Pakistan, of which it is said that while every country has an army the Pakistan army has a country, has only half that number, 4,000 military personnel per one million capita. The figures for other South Asian countries are: Nepal 2,700; India 1,300; and Bangladesh 1,000. Sri Lanka also had the greatest military expenditure of gross domestic product (GDP).

“Even among the conflict-afflicted countries there could be very few that have witnessed the level of militarization seen in Sri Lanka. The study has established a direct linkage between the ongoing ethnic conflict and the steep rise in defense spending.”

Foreign Minister G. L. Peiris visits the U.S. in May 2010

Foreign Minister G. L. Peiris allegedly met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon while visiting New York on May 23-24, 2010. This meeting evidently also comprised a range of senior UN officials, including Chef de Cabinet Vijay Nambiar and Under Secretary General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe. The meeting’s priority of discussion mandated the Sri Lankan Government’s appointment of a reconciliation commission, dubbed by Pres. Rajapaksa, “Commission on Lessons Learned and Reconciliation (CLLR)”, to confront the accountability of war crimes specifically during the final phase of Sri Lanka’s civil war.

Since Mr. Peiris determinedly sidestepped the unequivocal importance of the UN’s involvement in the panel of ‘independent’ investigators participating in this “reconciliation commission”, the outcome of his meeting with the UN Secretary General and other UN officials remains to be seen. As a matter of fact, to this day, it’s not clear what exactly was achieved, if anything. The UN Advisory War Crimes Panel was handpicked by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on June 22, 2010, and was adamantly refused entry into Sri Lanka by its government. Since their one meeting on July 19, 2010 in New York City, the UN War Crimes Panel seems to be in limbo.

On Friday, May 28, 2010, Mr. Peiris met with U.S. Secretary Hillary Clinton, who firmly held to her precise statement of an “independent, impartial and competent panel” to tackle the investigation of Sri Lankan war crimes, as was published (by BBC News on Saturday, May 29, 2010). She clearly stated that the Foreign Minister assured her that “that’s exactly the kind of people that are being appointed to this commission.” Mrs. Clinton also reiterated the fact that they discussed her insistence of the “continuing role of the UN, who intends to have an independent oversight role.”

Sri Lanka’s Impunities and War Crimes

Obviously, today we all know this was a bunch of malarkey as far as the Sri Lankan government is concerned. It was never their intent to carry out an unbiased, transparent war crimes investigation. They are an inhumane government who has no compassion for its people. The fact is they are well aware of their evil guilt, and they will never admit to the atrocious crimes of genocide they committed upon the Tamils during the final phase of the almost 30-year long civil war in May 2009.

This government will never be held accountable for the horror and brutally violent murders they carried out against tens of thousands of innocent, unarmed civilians in the NFZ of the Vanni, where the bloodbath of defeat against the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) afforded them their gruesome victory and ended the war. The United Nations will never insist on a war crimes investigation. Ban Ki-moon is a grave disappointment as leader of the United Nations.

The Rajapaksa regime publically upholds its “sovereignty” as the foundation to deal with its “own” problems without outside intervention. “Sri Lanka is the only country that defeated terrorism on its own without the presence of foreign military or intervention of other countries”, is stated in an article on the SL Ministry of Defence website. However, they did receive enormous financial support and heavy artillery from other nations, without which help they may not be celebrating the fiercely bloody defeat of the LTTE.

Unceasing Suffering of Tamils in Sri Lanka

It’s been established that Sri Lanka is not safe for Tamils; as a matter of fact, it hasn’t been safe for a great number of years. Abductions and murders have been rampant for a long time, though they may be covert these days, of those bravely criticizing the Sri Lankan regime. For reporters and journalists, it still is one of the most dangerous places in the world.

One only has to read UnitingWorld Rev. John Barr’s personal account, “Tamils in Sri Lanka seeking asylum: A need no more?”, describing his visit to Sri Lanka, including several of the IDP camps, this past June, a year after the war ended, to know that thousands of Tamils are still detained in IDP camps, and NGOs are limited in the aid they are permitted to provide. Many of the Tamils returning to their home villages are being driven off their lands, which they’ve occupied since 2nd century BC, in order for the government to build military housing, military bases and industrial complexes. Where are these desperate people to go? They are homeless and jobless, receiving little aid from NGOs.

Approximately 15,000 Tamil children who are able to be schooled are receiving their education outside beneath a bunch of trees while armed security forces are planted firmly behind them. Instead of providing schools and healthy environments for the future generations of Sri Lanka, this government obviously has more important projects in mind. However, most Sinhala children are not denied nor neglected in receiving their education in secure and wholesome environments.

It is a fact that in the name of “national security”, Sri Lanka’s citizens, be they Tamils, Sinhala or Muslim, were evicted within their cities and/or villages even during the war. The Rajapaksa regime’s witch hunt for alleged LTTE supporters reemphasizes their demand to “secure” the country. Being Tamil in the eyes of this regime is undesirable and unwelcome at best. However, at worst Tamils are labeled as LTTE supporters guilty by association.

To this day, no one has had contact with the alleged 11,000 LTTE cadres who have been completely hidden from the world since the end of the war. Only the government assures that they are being rehabilitated to reenter Sri Lankan society, allowing no outside interference. No one is certain if the detained are in fact all LTTE cadres. The regime has refused the ICRC’s participation in the rehabilitation process, which is standard international procedure. The ICRC objectively partakes and assists in massive rehabilitation such as these to assure transparency of the process and the wellbeing of the participants.

The Tamils demand justice for the war crimes committed by both the LTTE and the SL security forces, i.e. the attempted genocide in a “no fighting zone” of the Vanni, which was deliberate and calculated. Of course, Sri Lanka is always on the defensive about the accusations and passionately denies the allegations of war crimes, as a recent article on the SL Ministry of Defence website strongly asserts, “War crimes allegations based on lies – Attorney-at-law”.

It’s also becoming clear that the politics of nations are as complex as ever, and Sri Lanka’s vow to side with Israel against Palestine in its “war on terror” is far from comforting. Add to that the fact that President Obama has sworn that the U.S. will always back Israel in its hostile endeavors, there’s not much room left to the imagination, that those countries, who need the world’s support more than ever, will be left out in the cold to continue their suffering and death of the innocent. It is an endless domino effect that will not serve to achieve democracy and freedom for those who seek it and who are subjected to the iron control of totalitarian regimes.

The fact is that Sri Lanka has become one of the most militarized nations in the world. Sri Lanka is a nation of oppression and domination. How can anyone question why the Tamils fought for an independent, sovereign state? Yet, the government won’t take credit for literally helping create the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), courtesy their blindness and self-serving interests, and causing the war. They won’t admit that they covet the lands and valuable resources owned by the Tamils, and that this is the reason they’d rather carry out genocide against the Tamils than agree to a separate state. How can anyone question why the Tamils flee for their lives and seek sanctuary in other countries?

For the most part, the international community and, most importantly, the United Nations are turning a blind eye on the past and current crisis of human rights abuses occurring in Sri Lanka, which have obviously become the standard. This regime’s complete disregard for the integrity of law and justice is frightening and only too evident, as outlined in a 177-page report, “Post-War Justice In Sri Lanka: Rule Of Law, The Criminal Justice System, And Commissions Of Inquiry”, composed and written by Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena, dated January 2010, through the International Commission of Jurists – The Rule of Law for Human Rights organization.

Ms. Heike Winnig is German, born in Bad Kreuznach, Rheinlandpfalz, Deutschland, and has lived in the United States since she was a child. Writing is her opportunity for expression on Human Rights, Freedom of Speech, world societies and cultures. She has written several op-eds, news- and historical articles on Helium, Digital Journal, Suite 101 and Examiner.com.

Immigration motions moved by Greens

September 30, 2010 § 1 Comment

— Email received yesterday (29/09) from Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young’s office

Hi all,

Today in the Senate, Senator Hanson-Young moved three motions in relation to immigration, two of which were supported by the Opposition.

That the Senate

(a) Notes the continued suspension of processing asylum claims from Afghan nationals, which is due to end on October 9;

(b) Calls on the Government to immediately lift its suspension of Afghan asylum applications, restoring the right of people seeking protection from persecution to have their claims assessed in a fair and timely manner.

SUPPORTED BY THE COALITION AND THE GREENS
GOVERNMENT VOTED AGAINST (NO DIVISION)

That the Senate

(a) Calls on the Government to immediately respond to the three detailed reports into immigration detention in Australia: Criteria for release from detention; Community-based alternatives to detention; and Facilities, services and transparency tabled more than a year ago, by the Joint Standing Committee on Migration.

SUPPORTED BY THE COALITION AND THE GREENS
GOVERNMENT VOTED AGAINST (NO DIVISION)

That the Senate

(a) Calls on the Government to immediately reverse its current practice of detaining children and their families in immigration detention facilities.

VOTED DOWN (DIVISION)
ONLY THE GREENS AND SENATOR XENOPHON SUPPORTED

Boycott SL Campaign goes global

September 30, 2010 § 1 Comment

Boycott Sri Lanka Campaign launched by US Tamil Political Action Council (USTPAC) held simultaneous protests in 16 US cities and half-a-dozen locations in the UK. Stanford University students join rally in San Francisco in front of GAP and Victoria’s Secret stores.

San Francisco, September 29, 2010 –  Another successful nationwide boycott campaign against clothing made in Sri Lanka was conducted Saturday, September 25, 2010 between 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM local time in several US cities and in London, UK.  The United States Tamil Political Action Council (USTPAC) has been conducting Sri Lanka Boycott Campaign in 16 major cities across the US, with the aim of informing the consumers how they can make a difference in a far-away country to end oppression of people based on ethnicity and promote equality. ACT NOW, a human rights group based in London held simultaneous protests in front of GAP stores in six locations to high-light continuing oppression of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka.

The Boycott Sri Lanka rally was joined by hundreds of members, activists and supporters in major cities in California, Florida, Ohio, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Washington DC. The rally gained significant momentum in California from the students from the Stanford University joining the rally in San Francisco in front of GAP and Victoria’s Secret stores. An activist who joined with the Stanford University students said, “as long as the oppression of the Tamil people and the occupation of their land continue, we will carry on with our anti-apartheid style campaign against the 21st century apartheid regime in Sri Lanka.”  He added “We call upon all the US companies that do business in Sri Lanka to pull out, as we see, it is an un-ethical business practice.”

The protesters held signs depicting the genocidal situation in Sri Lanka and calling to check the label and not to buy if it were made in Sri Lanka. The vice-president of USTPAC Dr. Ellyn Shander, leading the protest in New York city stated “It is imperative that consumers all over the world fight genocide and war crimes by boycotting companies doing business in countries with immoral human rights records and blood stained polices of genocide.” The activists passed out hundreds of flyers making the consumers aware of their unintended contribution to an oppressive regime. “We are asking Victoria’s Secret, GAP and other garment companies to get out of Sri Lanka and stop supporting genocide of the Tamil people,” said Dr. Shander, adding “We the consumers can make a difference! We walk in the shoes of those who broke apartheid in South Africa with the boycott of that oppressive government.”

The government of Sri Lanka, having been elected by the ethnic majoritarian-democracy, has been oppressing the Tamil population for about 60 years. The USTPAC has been in the forefront to bring awareness to this continuing ethnic based oppression and lends a voice to the voiceless Tamil population living in Sri Lanka. It is promoting global action against the government of Sri Lanka along the same way the international community used the economic sanction against the apartheid regime of South Africa to successfully end the racist policy of the then government of South Africa.

Global Tamil Forum mentioned in Aust State Parliament

September 30, 2010 Comments Off on Global Tamil Forum mentioned in Aust State Parliament

Amanda Bresnan is a member of the Greens in the Australian Legislative Assembly for the Australian Capital Territory

International affairs—Sri Lanka

MS BRESNAN (Brindabella) (4.40): I have spoken in this place before about the situation of the Tamils in Sri Lanka and overseas and I did think it was worth noting that on 22 June this year the UN Secretary-General announced the formation of a three-member panel to advise on whether any crimes were committed in Sri Lanka during the final months of its war against Tamil Tiger rebels. The panel will advise the UN Secretary-General on the issue of accountability with regard to any alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka.

Peggy Hicks of the New York-based Human Rights Watch group said that the panel was necessary since “the Sri Lankan government is unwilling to seriously investigate war-time human rights abuses”. She added that she hoped the panel would produce a roadmap of international investigation. She also urged the UN that, because of the delays already in terms of any action on what is happening in Sri Lanka and in terms of any action looking into the human rights abuses that have happened there, it is important that there be no further delays and that the panel be assisted in their investigations.

I did also want to refer to a group which has been formed, the Global Tamil Forum. They held their inaugural conference on Wednesday, 24 February this year. It was attended by the then Foreign Secretary of State, the Rt Hon David Miliband MP. He was joined by the then shadow foreign secretary, the Hon William Hague MP, along with many other national and international parliamentarians, civil leaders and academics in a show of support for the Tamil diaspora congregation.

The Global Tamil Forum has a membership of Tamil groups from across the world, including Australia, and they will be working to promote and further the interests of Tamil diaspora and the situation of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka.

Click here to read speech from hansard (page 105)

EU centre analyses SL gov's criminal behaviour

September 27, 2010 Comments Off on EU centre analyses SL gov's criminal behaviour

European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights – Study on Criminal Accountability in Sri Lanka as of January 2009, June 2010

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The decades-long conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) greatly intensified in early 2009. In the last few months of this conflict there have been widespread allegations of massive human rights and international humanitarian law violations.Numbers and reports of violations widely vary. As of May 2009 more than 40,000 civilians were reported dead and almost 300,000 were reported as being interned in camps. By not sparing any civilian, both the Sri Lankan government‘s military strategy to fight the LTTE in northern Sri Lanka as well as the LTTE‘s counterstrategy, constitutes not only a violation of international law and standards, but also amounts to criminal conduct.

Many attacks on civilians show a specific pattern. Hospitals were continuously shelled in the conflict zone. Human Rights Watch lists thirty hospitals as being shelled during a period of less than four months. Other shelling hit declared no-fire-zones, where women, children and the elderly gathered for shelter. On the 9th and 10th of May 2009, a small beach area near Mullaitivu, a declared no-fire-zone,was attacked while 50,000 residence gathered, leaving hundreds of civilians dead in a single attack.

Prisoners, surrendered as well as captured persons were shot on the spot or simple disappeared. The infamous white-van-syndrome stands as a symbol of disappearances, in many instances, a white arrived, a person was forced to enter and was never seen again. Around a dozen senior LTTE-leaders were killed between 16th and 18th of May 2009, despite security guarantees at their surrender.

The populations of entire villages were forced to move to camps with harshly restricted exit, devastating conditions and no access for international observers. Civilians in such camps are routinely subjected to: sexual violence against women and girls, mistreatment as well as refusal of humanitarian aid, food, water, means of sanitation and medical supplies. Around forty camps were constructed in the northern region, Manik Farm being the largest. Here at Manik Farm, the shortage of water and sanitation are especially dire causing the deaths of many weak and elderly people.

These acts amount to numerous crimes under international law, which is applicable to the conflict in Sri Lanka. Severe human rights violations amount to crimes against humanity, including: murder, extermination, deportation, severe deprivation of physical liberty, sexual violence, persecution and enforced disappearances. Grave breaches of international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions constitute war crimes. War crimes are defined inter alia as violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture, outrages upon personal dignity, the taking of hostages, executions, gender crimes and displacement of the civilian population, as well as attacks intentionally directed against the civilian population, humanitarian aid workers and operations, hospitals and churches.

Criminal accountability is not only established by the direct perpetrator of the crime, but also by persons commanding, planning and overseeing attacks as well as those who fail to investigate and prosecute war crimes. The entire military chain of command, as well as the role of the civil administration must be investigated. The crimes listed above are some of the most serious crimes under international law and sentences can amount to life-long imprisonment.

International observers still do not have access to large portions of northern Sri Lanka. The former conflict zone is completely under control of the Sri Lankan military. The displacement of the civilian population is inappropriate. Homes are being destroyed, people from other regions are resettling the evacuated villages, cultural heritage, as well as, religious symbols are intentionally being destroyed,while the Tamil language is disappearing.

Within Sri Lanka numerous commissions of inquiry failed to investigate these findings during the last decade. At this time there are no genuine (independent, effective, prompt, gender- sensitive and impartial) investigations or fact-finding missions established. There is no sign of improvement regarding national efforts to investigate these facts. Moreover, there have been attempts to destroy important evidence of these conditions.

International investigations or fact-finding missions need to be mandated by a competent international body. The International Criminal Court lacks jurisdiction, but could be activated if the United Nations Security Council refers the situation of Sri Lanka. The United Nations Human Rights Council was blocked by many states supporting the Sri Lankan government in its decision on Sri Lanka in May 2009. Positions of governments might slightly change, depending on new facts on crimes committed and public pressure. The United Nations Security Council failed to address the conflict in early 2009.

Today, the Security Council does not regard the situation as a threat to peace, thus it is not a matter of concern. The on-going devastation in northern Sri Lanka might lead to a change in the Security Council‘s view, because of the lack of a transition process, from war to peace after the conclusion of a conflict, constitutes a further threat to future peace.

The United Nations Secretary General established a three person expert panel to advise him regarding possible further steps to curtail the violence. The panel needs all of the support available to enact further steps. Both the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture are already concerned with single issues in this conflict, and would therefore provide an ideal mechanism to focus on specific patterns of incidents. Further, other Special Rapporteurs as well as the Special Representative on sexual violence in conflicts should take up single issues of the conflict Only a few months after the conflict, important evidence has been lost and the international community and public forgets the countless civilian whose deaths spot the northern Sri Lankan region after one of the most merciless military campaigns in the new century. The Sri Lankan government attempts to install their regime without the fear of being brought to justice. Repression against the opposition and free media occur on a daily basis. More than a hundred thousand, of mostly Tamil civilians, are spread around the globe or left behind, without a home in their own country.

The few steps taken by the UN Secretary General as well as by UN Special Rapporteurs need to be supported to move towards an independent fact-finding commission. Victims and witnesses who were able to leave the country can give their account of what has happened. Fearless human rights workers and journalists in Sri Lanka need the international support to be able to report from this region. Thus,evidence can be secured step by step. As is the case in many other countries, even many years after a conflict, perpetrators of the most serious crimes are held accountable.

What can SL teach the rest of the world about counter-insurgency?

September 27, 2010 Comments Off on What can SL teach the rest of the world about counter-insurgency?

Writes Prof. Jake Lynch, Director, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney:

Given the well-attested allegations of war crimes against the country’s government, you might think, ‘not much’. And yet a major ‘security’ conference in Australia gave top billing to a speaker who promised to reveal exactly that.

Time, surely, for the press to pitch in, drawing our attention to the inherent absurdity of this situation with the time-honoured tools of newspapering: cheek, wit, irony and sarcasm. But that is to reckon without the humourless tendency in some Australian newsrooms, dedicated not so much to “dumbing down” as “dulling down”.

Read my original column, and the story of how it nearly – but not quite – failed to see light of day, here:
http://www.transcend.org/tms/2010/09/puncturing-pomposity/

'Reconciliation' is a mask to continue discrimination

September 27, 2010 Comments Off on 'Reconciliation' is a mask to continue discrimination

Groundviews – Reconciliation in Sri Lanka: Breaking the Myth and Bringing the Truth

“There cannot be reconciliation without justice. Justice and equity are at the core of reconciliation” – Professor Hizkias Assefa

The platform for an “genuine reconciliation” should be rooted via the democratic exercises, rights and participation of all citizens throughout a country. But, if people are under fear to express their grievances and aspirations, including opposition political parties, dissident voices, independent media and even some ruling party government ministers how can a national minority discriminated and oppressed for more than five decades practice their rights in Sri Lanka?

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