Australian Tamil Congress raises money for breast cancer research

October 28, 2010 Comments Off on Australian Tamil Congress raises money for breast cancer research

"We need…independent investigation" – UK PM

October 28, 2010 § 3 Comments

27th October 2010, House of Commons Debate, United Kingdom

Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden) (Lab): As a former PR man, does the Prime Minister agree that no matter how much Bell Pottinger tries to spin the Sri Lankan Government, the demands for an international independent war crimes tribunal intensify as more evidence of alleged assassination and civil rights abuses comes out?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Lady makes a fair point. We need to see an independent investigation of what happened. Everyone has read the papers and seen the TV footage, but we need an independent investigation to work out whether what she suggests is right.

Click here to read from UK Parliament Hansard.

BBC Sinhala – Cameron supports Sri Lanka investigation call

Breaking News – British PM calls for war crimes investigation

October 28, 2010 Comments Off on Breaking News – British PM calls for war crimes investigation

Global Tamil Forum – British Prime Minister calls for an independent war crimes inquiry in Sri Lanka 

David Cameron made clear today that given the serious allegations and alleged evidence that continues to surface in relation to war crimes during the closing weeks of the civil war in Sri Lanka an independent investigation was necessary.

The issue was raised with him by Siobhain McDonagh MP during Prime Ministers Questions. Photos which emerged last week are said to show a massacre of Tamils. The Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister, G.L. Peiris, rejected this evidence as fraudulent. Previously a video, apparently showing government troops summarily executing Tamil men, was examined by the UN Special Rapporteur on summary and extra-judicial executions. His analysis found the evidence credible and strongly suggests the video is authentic.
Ms McDonagh MP also raised concerns over the role of the British PR firm Bell Pottinger, who have been employed by the government of Sri Lanka to rehabilitate their image. They are paying Bell Pottinger in the region of £3million per year – this does not sit well with the fact that the British government have provided Sri Lanka with £13.5m over the past 2 years in humanitarian funding. The Prime Minister has previously spoken of the ‘urgent need to shine the light of transparency on lobbying.’

SL Govt has 4.4m of Tamil jewels

October 26, 2010 § 1 Comment

BBC (22/10)  –  Sri Lankan government urged to return gold and jewels 

A Sri Lankan politician has demanded that the government return gold and jewels seized during the final stages of the war against Tamil Tiger rebels last year.

Mano Ganesan’s demand comes after the government reportedly disclosed details about gold jewels “collected” by the army in the Wanni region.

Reports say the jewels weighed 110kg and were valued at about $4.4m.

They have been handed over to the country’s central bank, reports say.

Mr Ganesan, who also leads a civil rights group, has demanded return of the jewels to the rightful owners, after proper verification.

Tissa speaks at prestigious awards ceremony

October 26, 2010 Comments Off on Tissa speaks at prestigious awards ceremony

Tamilnet (23/10) – Tissainayagam speaks at 2010 Mackler Award ceremony

2009 recipient of the prestigious Peter Mackler Award, Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagma, who was incarcerated in Sri Lanka prison for his writing, and was unable to receive the award in 2009, spoke at the 2010 Award ceremony held Friday at 6:00 p.m. at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. Tissainayagam was announced as the Award’s first recipient on August 31, 2009, the same day he was convicted on terrorism charges relating to his work as a journalist. 2010 Mackler award winner is a 24-year old Russian, Ilya Barabanov, the deputy editor of the New Times, an opposition magazine in Russia. Tissainayagam was previously hailed by US President Barack Obama as an “emblematic example” of journalists who are persecuted for their craft.

AFP (23/10) – Russian journalist receives Peter Mackler award

Russian journalist Ilya Barabanov praised the dozens of colleagues who have lost their lives over the past decade as he accepted the Peter Mackler Award for courageous journalism.

“Today standing here at this podium I would like to call upon you to pay attention to all of these cases,” Barabanov, deputy editor of Novoye Vremya (New Times), said in an acceptance speech at the National Press Club.

Ancient Tamil script missing from records

October 26, 2010 § 1 Comment

Tamilnet (21/10) –  Tissamaharama Tamil Brahmi inscription ‘missing’

The third century BCE potsherd inscription in Tamil language and in Tamil Brahmi script found at Tissamaharama in Hambantota district by German excavators is now missing in Sri Lanka’s Archaeology Department, informed sources said. The inscription found sometimes back was not included in the excavation reports of the Archaeology Department. Photo and decipherment of the inscription was brought out by Iravatam Mahadevan in The Hindu in June this year, followed by TamilNet. Meanwhile, accusing TamilNet for false publications, Dr. Susantha Goonatilleke in an article posted by and published by Daily Mirror said that TamilNet had recently published inscriptions claimed to be from the South of Sri Lanka, which nobody in the Archaeology Department had seen.

On a related but different note:

Tamilnet (23/10) – Millennium old Tamil inscription found in Trincomalee

A stone slab having a Tamil inscription, clearly in the alphabet of the Chola times, was found in Trincomalee while digging for cricket stadium construction work recently. The land where it was found is a part of the esplanade, on the right side of the Koa’neasvaram Road leading to the Siva temple inside Fort Frederick and is adjacent to the bay where the temple’s Theerththam (water cutting) ritual is held. Sometimes back, a Buddhist Vihara and another structure called Sanghamitta Buddhist Rest were constructed at this place. The inscribed slab was taken into possession by the Trincomalee police and was sent to the Department of Archaeology in Colombo.

UK PR firm hired to fix SL's reputation

October 25, 2010 § 1 Comment

BBC (22/10) – Sri Lanka ‘pays PR firm £3m to boost post-war image’

SL Guardian (16/10) – Sri Lanka award multi million pounds contract to image building consultants

The government of Sri Lanka, through its High Commission in London has appointed Bell Pottinger, a public relations company to carryout image building consultancy work for the government in the United Kingdom.

The undisclosed, multi-million pounds contract is said to cover pro-active engagement of the consultancy to counter the Tamil Diaspora campaign work in the United Kingdom.

Bell Pottinger, Public Affairs and image building consultancy is based at 5th Floor, Holborn Gate, 26 Southampton Buildings, London WC2A 1QB and is said have been given a open ended contract to reach all the forums in the UK to counter the campaign of the Tamils in the UK. They have been even instructed to penetrate into Tamil organisations and their campaign work and be a step ahead in their campaign work.

The present High Commissioner the retired Justice Nihal Jayasinge’s term is coming to an end and he will be replaced by a senior military commander who had served in the final assault against the LTTE last year. The government has appointed Bell Pottinger well in advance to counter any negative publicity and campaign against the military commander.

According to sources, Bell Pottinger is already tapping the doors of the House of Commons and the media with its proactive engagement. They are also expected to reach the Amnesty International.

Bell Pottinger’s consultancy services is graphically illustrated in its website:

The website under its introductory heading ‘Today, more than ever, your reputation will determine whether you succeed or fail’ states: ‘At Bell Pottinger, we understand how to create, build and protect reputations in the modern age. We serve more than 600 clients – including UK and global brands, service firms and charities. We also work with governments, government departments and public sector bodies. We operate in a wide range of sectors, disciplines and geographies. Our great strength is the experience we have drawn from serving such a wide client base. It enables us to bring you the communication solutions you need, so you can achieve better results.’

The dangers of being seduced by an alleged war criminal

October 22, 2010 Comments Off on The dangers of being seduced by an alleged war criminal

The Drum (ABC) –  A one-eyed view of Sri Lanka

by Antony Loewenstein

A Western journalist visits the Sudanese capital Khartoum to interview President Omar al-Bashir. The reporter, after calling him “controversial” due to his “bloody” record in fighting terrorism, gives the leader a platform to explain his views and tactics. The only other voice featured in the piece is a commentator who backs the government wholeheartedly. The fact that Bashir has been charged in 2010 by the International Criminal Court for genocide in Darfur is glossed over in the story.

This piece would be rightly called propaganda, the lack of enquiry revealing an inability to understand the reasons Bashir wanted to speak to a Westerner. Bashir is undoubtedly a legitimate person to interview but the skill is painting an entire picture of the people suffering under his rule, not least the minorities and those in Darfur.

Sadly, The Australian’s Rowan Callick was easily seduced by the allure of an exclusive chat with Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and this week published a number of articles from his lightning visit. His trip was “not paid for by the Sri Lanka government or by anybody in any way associated with Sri Lanka”, Callick told me but it appears he engaged with nobody other than officials while in the country.

Amazingly, Callick didn’t even mention that Gotabaya has consistently said that no civilians were killed by the Sri Lankan government in the final phases of its brutal war against the Tamil Tigers despite every major human rights group in the world detailing a litany of war crimes against the top echelons of the Colombo regime. Up to 40,000 Tamil civilians were murdered, according to former UN official in Colombo, Gordon Weiss. Britain is now calling for a fully independent war crimes investigation into the serious allegations.

Callick published a story that claimed Sri Lanka was again safe for all its citizens and Australia should “get tough” on Tamil asylum seekers. Singapore based terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna, a Sinhalese like Sri Lanka’s leadership, claimed without evidence that “70 per cent of Tamils granted asylum in Australia and Canada had returned to Sri Lanka for a visit.”

The article concluded with this curious paragraph:

“The government has invited opinion leaders of that Diaspora to visit Sri Lanka as it emerges from the war, and to visit centres of past conflict. Those who had gone, including some from Australia, had ‘returned pleased.'”

In other words, Callick was happy to be shown around parts of Sri Lanka the government wanted him to see.

This fit perfectly with the regime’s enthusiasm to restore its battered image. In the UK, public relations firm Bell Pottinger has been hired to “counter the Tamil Diaspora campaign work” and white-wash alleged crimes committed by the Rajapaksa authorities.

I asked Callick by email about his trip and he said that he was “briefly in Colombo” to “interview the country’s second most powerful figure… His views [Gotabaya] are clearly of considerable interest.” The Murdoch journalist told me that his paper “has covered a range of views on Sri Lanka issues” over time and this is certainly true.  More

Reconciliation not possible without justice

October 22, 2010 Comments Off on Reconciliation not possible without justice

The Deccan Herald – Abandoned cause?

‘Rajapaksa seems averse to devolution of power.’

There has been little forward movement in the quest for a political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It is 17 months since the Sri Lankan government defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, removing an important obstacle in the way to a negotiated settlement to the conflict. However, the government has not come up with a clear plan for a political solution yet. Neither has it done much towards reconciliation with its Tamil people. While the government claims that rehabilitation is going well — Sri Lanka’s external affairs minister G L Peiris has claimed that the number of displaced Tamils who need to be rehabilitated has come down from 2,80,000 to 20,000 — the situation on the ground is not that rosy. While India has contributed in a big way to the reconstruction of infrastructure in the North, it has done little to push President Mahinda Rajapaksa to find a political solution. Colombo has blamed divisions among the Tamils for the lack of progress in finding a political solution. While there are indeed differences on details between various Tamil parties, they are one in the perception that a solution lies in substantial devolution of power to the Tamils. However, the Rajapaksa government seems averse to devolution of power and is increasingly talking of sharing of power at the centre. It remains reluctant to move away from a unitary system of government.

The guns have been silent for over 17 months in Sri Lanka and peace has taken hold. However, this peace is a negative one as it is not a just peace. Rights organisations have charged several in the Rajapaksa government with war crimes and demanded greater accountability on the part of the government. The government has responded by instituting an eye-wash of a probe.

Reconciliation will not be possible unless justice is done and a political solution found. Rajapaksa is dragging his feet on both fronts. He has the mandate and the support in parliament to resolve the ethnic conflict. His reluctance indicates the lack of political will. Rajapaksa is undeserving of the honour that India bestowed on him by inviting him as a guest of honour to the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony. In doing so, India has sent out a message that it has abandoned its long-standing commitment to a just settlement of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.

Tamil refugees tell of horror of boat journey

October 22, 2010 Comments Off on Tamil refugees tell of horror of boat journey

The Daily Telegraph – Asylum seekers tell of their journey of death

A GROUP OF 85 Sri Lankan asylum seekers has told of a horror 45-day journey at sea trying to reach Australia and during which their boat broke down, they ran out of food, water and fuel and three people died.

The group, all Tamils, believes they had almost reached Christmas Island – their destination – when the boat’s GPS system broke down, the engine failed and they ran out of fuel.

They then drifted aimlessly for what they say was a dreadful 30 days with no food and water only the rain water they caught from the boat when it rained and fish they managed to catch. They believe they drifted back into Indonesian waters, before running aground on Panaitan Island near Krakatau Volcano, from where they were eventually rescued.

Two young men died during this time – drowning as they tried to swim from their vessel to nearby fishing boat to get help. Another woman died when the boat ran aground and she was crushed on the rocks…

…The group of minority Tamils says they wanted to escape persecution in their homeland and that they feared for their lives and that their children had no future unless they left. Australia, they said, offered all this to them.

Sridevi showed us her awfully scarred arm – a result of a bombing. She came with her husband, son and daughter on the boat. She has no idea what will happen to them now, but vows she will “never go back” to Sri Lanka… More

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