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
October 9, 2009 Comments Off on More on SL Camps: "Deeply Distressing"
Rapidly built up for the Tamil refugee influx last spring, Menik Farm has pylons, banks, even cash machines – and thousands upon thousands of tents in the cleared arid lands west of Vavuniya in northern Sri Lanka.
Since my earlier visit in April, the camp has swollen to cover some 10 zones, the number of camp-dwellers has ballooned to a quarter of a million, while over 20,000 have been resettled or more informally released, the government says.
This was the BBC’s first chance to view all this infrastructure close-up.
A government intensely sensitive to outside criticism or suggestions, and wary of any outsider’s intentions in wanting to visit the camps, was now giving the BBC admittance, alongside the UK’s Development Minister, Mike Foster. That in itself seemed like notable progress.
And yet, just five minutes of conversation with the camp-dwellers was deeply distressing.
This article appeared in Sri Lankan media. Please note we cannot verify the independence of the information in this report.
Lanka News Web – Tamils make history at the UK Labour Party Conference
October 8, 2009 § 1 Comment
The UK says it will soon withdraw all but emergency funding for the camps where about 250,000 displaced Tamils are confined in northern Sri Lanka.
The announcement came after the UK Development Minister Mike Foster visited the biggest camp at Menik Farm.
He said 70% of people should be able to leave and stay with host families.
Britain urged Sri Lanka yesterday to free 250,000 Tamils detained in camps since the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in May, warning that an outbreak of disease triggered by imminent monsoon rains could claim dozens of lives.
Mike Foster, the Minister for International Development who is visiting Sri Lanka, also said that Britain would no longer provide any funding for the controversial barbed wire enclosures once the monsoon was over in two months.
He added that many other donor countries were taking a similar position to put pressure on the Government to release the 250,000 Tamils who were detained after fleeing the frontline in the last stages of the 26-year-civil war.
Vatican Radio – Calls for Sri Lankan Government to release Tamil refugees
Religious leaders in Sri Lanka committed to helping Tamil refugees have demanded that President Mahinda Rajapaksa release the over 200 thousand internally displaced people from refugee camps where they continue to suffer hardship and isolation.
Bishop Thomas Savandaryanagam of the Jaffna Diocese says that the government’s efforts are slow, but priests and sisters are able to offer some hope to refugees living in the camps suffering from a isolation and idleness.
More than 2,000 temporary shelters for civilians displaced in Sri Lanka’s recently-ended ethnic war were destroyed by gale force winds, a press report said Sunday.
The damaged shelters were part of camps where 250,000 people remain detained after government troops defeated the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in May, the Sunday Times here said.
The storm damage increased concern for the welfare of the Tamil civilians who have endured primitive conditions in the state-run camps, the newspaper said.
In Sri Lanka, local media are reporting that more than 2,000 temporary shelters for civilians displaced in Sri Lanka’s ethnic war have been destroyed by gale force winds.
Sri Lankan army spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara says however, there’s no evidence of widespread destruction to temporary shelters, he says the reports emerged as a result of exaggerations and lies.
The reports are difficult to verify, because reporters have been barred from entering the camps and the army has granted only limited access to aid organisations. An estimated 250-thousand people have been living in government-run camps and not allowed to leave, since Sri Lanka’s army defeated the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in May.
A quarter of million displaced Tamils are in dire humanitarian need of being allowed out of internment camps which face flash floods in Sri Lanka‘s monsoons, a British minister said after visiting refugees.
Mike Foster, a British international development minister, said he had been allowed unfettered access to the Manik Farm camp in the country’s northern Vavuniya district, which Tamil war refugees cannot freely leave.
“There’s a pressing humanitarian need for the civilians to be allowed to leave the camps,” said Foster. “Although conditions have improved the tents are basically disintegrating. With the monsoons we will have sewage floating around – water-borne diseases will be rife.
“We will not be prepared to fund closed camps after the monsoons.”
Western governments have finally discovered what remains of their backbone over Sri Lanka.
Britain told the Sri Lankan Government today that it would no longer fund routine services inside the camps where more than a quarter of a million ethnic Tamils have been detained since the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in May.
Mike Foster, the Minister for International Development, who is visiting Sri Lanka, said that many other donor nations were taking a similar stand to put pressure on the Government to release the inmates before the imminent monsoon rains, which could cause a massive outbreak of disease in the overcrowded conditions.
October 3, 2009 Comments Off on SL what have you got to hide?
GMB union leader Paul Kenny has urged the government to help the Tamil people as the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka continues to grow.
Moving a motion in support of the National Union of Journalists’ call for reporters to be allowed to enter Sri Lanka, Mr Kenny said that following the end of the war it was now time “to bring the peace.”
“Men, women and children have been placed in camps and nobody has seen them,” he said.
“The Sri Lankan government has turned away foreign journalists and the camps are tightly guarded.
“They call the camps villages but history has a different name.”
Mr Kenny added: “Open your doors, let the journalists in – what have you got to hide?
“Let these people free. Let the message go out from Labour that you can trust us to help the Tamil people.”
Conference welcomed the recent EU decision to reconsider Sri Lanka’s favoured trading status but agreed the status should now be withdrawn until Sri Lanka’s government allows aid charities and journalists in.
October 3, 2009 Comments Off on EU to keep SL's trade concessions
The European Union is likely to let Sri Lanka keep a trade concession crucial to its apparel industry, while recommending it be revoked if the country does not improve its human rights record, diplomats said on Tuesday. The European Commission by mid-October is due to decide whether to recommend the Indian Ocean island nation retain the Generalised System of Preferences Plus (GSP Plus) trade concession, which would then be voted upon by the EU Council.
“It is likely to be extended with a negative recommendation,” a diplomat briefed on the EU’s internal discussions told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “There would then be some targets for Sri Lanka to meet.”
GSP Plus gives Sri Lanka the right to export more than 7,200 products duty-free to the EU, which last year accounted for 36 percent of Sri Lanka’s $8.1 billion in total exports.
Lat year, Sri Lanka’s garment and textile industry earned $3.5 billion in total, 43 percent of which came from EU markets.
The EU decision will be the culmination of a year-long rights probe launched in October, when the government was fighting to crush the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and win a 25-year war. Sri Lanka declared total victory in mid-May.
The government refused to cooperate with the probe or let the EU-contracted investigators enter the country, and said doing so was tantamount to betraying its sovereignty.
Since July 2008, the EU has warned Sri Lanka may not meet the human rights standards required to retain GSP Plus, mainly because of allegations security forces either carried out or failed to crack down on abductions and killings during the war.
Sri Lanka has been wary of criticism from Western nations, particularly those with large Tamil populations that supported the LTTE, and flatly rejected any interference or criticism as it battled to finish off the Tigers over the past year.
They were billed as “garments without guilt” — cheap, good-quality lingerie, casual clothes and sportswear made in Sri Lanka and sold in stores such as Next, Tesco and Marks & Spencer.
For the past four years, such clothes worth billions of pounds have been imported, tax-free, to the European Union under a trade scheme intended to help Sri Lanka’s recovery from the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.
Within months, however, clothes from the country could disappear from British shops.
Although conditions in Sri Lanka’s factories are beyond reproach, the EU looks set to punish the Government’s alleged human rights abuses in the recent civil war by withdrawing the trade benefits.
September 17, 2009 Comments Off on Sri Lankan war: the disappeared (16 pictures)
September 17, 2009 Comments Off on Tamil medic describes camp conditions
Channel 4 : Tamil medic describes camp conditions
British medic Damilvany Gnanakumar, detained for four months in one of Sri Lanka’s Tamil internment camps, describes to Jonathan Miller the bleakness of the conditions she found there.
A senior UN official has arrived in Sri Lanka to put pressure on the government over the detention of tens of thousands of Tamil refugees in camps following the 25-year civil war.
The Sri Lankan government says it need to weed out Tamil Tiger fighters at the camps before most of the inmates can be released.
Our foreign affairs correspondent Jonathan Miller has talked to a British Tamil who knows how bleak conditions are in the camps, after being detained in one of them for four months.
“Dead bodies everywhere,” recalls Damilvany Gnanakumar. “Wherever you turn round, it’s dead bodies.”
She estimates that 20,000 civilians may have died in the final five-day onslaught by Sri Lankan government forces – a figure also cited by some relief agencies, but one dismissed as unsubstantiated by Sri Lanka.
And she says many people inside the camps are dismayed that the world has done so little to help. “After all this happened, they lost their trust… They don’t feel safe to speak out.
“They don’t trust the international (community) now because they think OK, all this happened – nothing happened, the international (community) didn’t come and help us.”