The Elders speak out against the Govt of SL

August 11, 2010 Comments Off on The Elders speak out against the Govt of SL

Elders member Lakhdar Brahimi is a member of the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice

The Elders – Sri Lanka’s disturbing actions met by ‘deafening global silence’

No real progress on reconciliation
Persecution of critics is ‘terrifying’
See quotes from Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan, Martti Ahtisaari, Lakhdar Brahimi and Mary Robinson below

SL war criminals better watch out…

April 29, 2010 Comments Off on SL war criminals better watch out…

ABC Radio Australia Connect Asia : UN calls for war crimes tribunal into Sri Lanka

More than a year after Sri Lanka launched its final offensive against the Tamil Tiger rebels, pressure continues to mount for an international tribunal into alleged war crimes. U-N Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon plans to appoint a panel of experts to look into a tribunal something the Sri Lankan government says is unwarranted and uncalled for. Now Australian lawyers are joining forces with the International Commission of Jurists to take witness statements and prepare evidence for any war crimes tribunal. They say they hope it will help demonstrate the need for a full investigation and help protect those who might be subject to further human rights abuses.

Presenter: Joanna McCarthy
Speaker: John Dowd, President of the International Commission of Jurists Australia; Anne Marie Doueihy, co-chair of the Sri Lanka project on behalf of the NSW Young Lawyers Committee

Click here to download audio and read transcript

Verdict – SL committed crimes against humanity

January 23, 2010 § 1 Comment

Official Press Release – Dublin Tribunal finds against Sri Lanka on charges of War Crimes

In Dublin today, 16th January, at 2.00pm the Peoples’ Tribunal Chairman Francois Houtart read the preliminary findings of the Peoples’ Tribunal on the war in Sri Lanka and its aftermath. There were four findings:
1: That the Sri Lankan Government and its military are guilty of War Crimes;
2: That the Sri Lankan Government is military are guilty of crimes against humanity;
3: That the charge of genocide requires further investigation;
4: That the international community, particularly the UK and USA, share responsibility for the breakdown of the peace process.
More

BBC – Sri Lanka ‘guilty’ of war crimes

The Sri Lanka government was found guilty of war crimes, a peoples tribunal in Ireland has said.

In its preliminary findings, the People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka (PTSL) that conducted hearings from 14 to 16 January in Dublin has also concluded that the Sri Lanka government is also guilty of crimes against humanity. More

However, the-pro Tamil Tiger groups’ accusation that the government carried out Tamil genocide at the last phase of war between the security forces and the LTTE needs to be investigated.

“Harrowing evidence, including video footage, was submitted by eye-witnesses of the use of heavy artillery and phosphorous munitions, and of the continuous violation of human rights by military activity to a panel of ten international jurors over two days,” the PTSL said in a statement.

Tamilnet – Dublin verdict: Sri Lanka guilty of War Crimes

Dublin war-crimes tribunal, conducted by Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) based in Milan, which held hearings on Thursday and Friday on war-crime charges on Sri Lanka from eye-witnesses and other material evidence, in the preliminary findings issued Saturday said, Sri Lanka Government is “guilty of War-Crimes” and “guilty of Crimes Against Humanity.” The tribunal also concluded that the charge of Genocide requires further investigations. Eye witnesses included several escapees from the final week of Sri Lanka offensive in the Mullaitivu “No Fire Zone” where more than 20,000 Tamil civilians were allegedly slaughtered by Sri Lanka Army (SLA) training heavy weapons on them.

Another eyewitness account to the horrors of the last days

September 30, 2009 § 1 Comment

Source: Articles published in a Tamil bi-weekly Nakkheeran (17/8/09, 20/8/09 and 24/8/09) by Father Jagat Casper from excerpts of a letter sent to him by Sivaruben

The genocide of Ceylon Tamils, was facilitated by India providing military assistance (including the Indira Radar and satellite intelligence), China contributing rockets and chemical weapons, Russia supplying tanks, cannon and armoured vehicles as well as on-field consultations and Pakistan providing missiles and weaponry worth several millions of Rupees. With the military force of all these countries against us, how could the armed Tamils forces alone resist this assault?

This is how the final assault of 17 May 2009 took place in front of our own eyes. We weren’t sure if we could believe what we were seeing was real. Missiles were falling amongst us coming from all directions.  Chemical weapons were also being fired at us from unknown locations. There was also continuous gun fire. I got out of the bunker cautiously, when there was a little pause in the shelling. The devastation and destruction of Mullivaaikkal unfolded in front of my own eyes.

My kith and kin whom I saw before I ran and hid under the bunker were later discovered to be in pieces in a wilderness of corpses. I could not distinguish between those who were young and old. Body parts covered the entire area. A mother was in tears, screaming out aloud holding on to a headless body that appeared to be her child. “My lord, why does it have to be us! I’m unable to see my son’s face! Demon Rajapakse why don’t you come and take me as well!” she screamed.  Following this, a bullet, which was fired, struck her head spraying its contents, making a mess of it. She fell to the ground, kissing the Mother Eelam.

Click here to read article

From a civilian in the former conflict zone

September 29, 2009 § 3 Comments

Dear Ban Ki Moon, 

I write this as a plea to the United Nations. This is a voice for the voiceless people who are being held in the internment camps in Northern Sri Lanka. I was one of the many people who was in the so-called “Safe Zone” as the Sri Lanka Military advanced against us, who believed and hoped that the United Nations would come to protect us during the final stages of the war. Many of those are now dead. Some are still alive and asking for your support. I am one of the lucky ones to be alive. 
 
I was one of those who went tent by tent in the final few square kilometres of the safety zone to get letters signed by families affected in the shelling. I explained to them that these will be sent to the United Nations, who will help them if it gets to the United Nations before their Security Council meeting on the 29th of April. April 29th was one of the dates that the people waited for, holding on to their life with the hope that some change will occur in their lives. It didn’t and the death continued. 
 
To be frank, I risked my life to get those letters signed for you. So did many other volunteers who did the same. We went tent by tent, explaining to them that we are sending letters to the United Nations. We gave them hope that there is a world body to represent the voiceless. Our hope was all wasted. Their hope was all wasted. If you don’t act now, you will never be forgiven. A small child, as young as 2 years old, will remember what happened and and hate the international community for years to come. You can be assured.
 
As the chaos hit its peak, I decided to go and help out at the hospital. It was better to die doing something helpful to others than die for nothing. There wasn’t a day when a child will be carried to the hospital by the child’s relative. They would cry and beg for the child to be treated and given life but it would be too late by then. The child was already dead. This was a daily occurrence at the hospital. Were these children “terrorists”, to be subject to such a horrific fate, only because they were born Tamil in Sri Lanka? 
 
Click here to read letter

A life in history to always remember

September 24, 2009 Comments Off on A life in history to always remember

transCurrents – Keeping memories alive 20th anniversary of Rajani’s assassination

One night in 1983, soon after midnight Rajani woke me up and whispered to me that she had been asked to treat an injured boy from the Iyakkam (movement). For her, this was an act of compassion by a doctor towards her patient. For me it was a political act. I was frozen. I turned back and slept. I was caught up in the agony of belonging to the oppressor and the woman I dearly and unconditionally loved trying to ‘liberate’ her own community by undertaking her bit in the struggle. This whisper and the brief political argument that followed opened cracks in our relationship which grew wider and wider.

………………..

The Tamil democratic struggle needs peoples structures in every sphere of life that would guarantee their rights and freedom and these structures should be strengthened against corrupt politicians and the rule of the gun.

To commemorate Rajani’s life and her contribution to human rights a commemoration meeting will be held on 25th September 2009 at 6.00pm at BMICH in Colombo by the Rajani Thiranagama Commemoration Committee.

Click here to read whole article

In aid of the forgotten 300 000

September 20, 2009 Comments Off on In aid of the forgotten 300 000

curry_night

Tamil medic describes camp conditions

September 17, 2009 Comments Off on Tamil medic describes camp conditions

Channel 4 : Tamil medic describes camp conditions

Watch video here.

Read article from source here.

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.”

Guardian Series : Chingford medic Damilvany Gnanakumar is released from Sri Lanka back to UK

Stephen Smith's speech in Parliament on 14th of September

September 15, 2009 Comments Off on Stephen Smith's speech in Parliament on 14th of September

I wish to update the House on the situation in Sri Lanka, in particular the situation confronting internally displaced people, the need for their resettlement, and the need for political reconciliation.

Australia recognises and acknowledges the profound sufferings of the past in Sri Lanka, including the many civilian casualties caused by decades of war.

In the face of the long-standing, terrible costs of war, it is often hard to look to the future.

While acknowledging past suffering, today I outline how Australia will continue to assist the Sri Lankan people in the rebuilding of their country.

As members might recall, I presented an earlier Ministerial Statement to the House on Sri Lanka on 12 May.

At that time, I said that a military victory by the Sri Lankan Government was imminent, irrevocably changing the situation on the ground after decades of conflict.

That military victory came to pass on 18 May, some four months ago.

Australia welcomed the end of this decades-long conflict.  It cost tens of thousands lives, uprooted hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans, and left an economic divide between north and south, east and west.

No Sri Lankan has been untouched by the conflict.

Australia has consistently stated that the solution to the conflict was never going to be by military means alone.

The time is here for the Sri Lankan Government to win the peace and to forge an enduring political settlement for all Sri Lankans.

This will require political reform and rapprochement between all parties and communities.

Sri Lanka faces the tremendous task of resettling hundreds of thousands of displaced citizens.  This process has started, but since the fighting stopped four months ago at least 250,000 people remain in camps for internally displaced people.

Civilians in northern Sri Lanka have lived under difficult conditions for many years and suffered greatly, especially in the last months of the conflict.

It is now vital to move quickly, more quickly than has been the case to this point, to create the conditions for them to rebuild their lives.

Australia and the international community continue to watch closely to see how the Sri Lankan authorities treat people in camps for internally displaced people; how they manage their resettlement; and how they institute political reform and reconciliation.

Success in these areas is vital to the Sri Lankan Government creating a peaceful, stable and prosperous future for Sri Lanka and all of its people.

I have spoken directly to Sri Lanka’s President and, on a number of occasions, to Foreign Minister, Rohitha Bogollagama, about these matters.

Australian officials at the Australian High Commission in Colombo also continue to make the same points.

I have also outlined Australia’s views on Sri Lanka in discussions with the United Nations and with my Foreign Ministerial counterparts, including those representing the Tokyo Co-Chairs, the United States, the European Union, Norway and Japan.

Australia has consistently stated both during the conflict and since that the welfare and protection of civilians must be the absolute priority.

Australia will continue to respond to the humanitarian challenges facing Sri Lanka through our aid program, especially the needs of internally displaced people and their resettlement.

Last financial year, 2008-09, Australia devoted $24.5 million to meet humanitarian needs in Sri Lanka.

Australian aid was delivered through international humanitarian organisations, such as the World Food Program, UNICEF, the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as Australian non government organisations working on the ground in Sri Lanka.

Through this assistance Australia has provided:

shelter, water, sanitation, health and nutrition for internally displaced people security and coordination for relief efforts social and educational services for children adversely affected by conflict, and trauma support, particulary for mothers and children.

This financial year, 2009-10, Australia will provide more than $35 million in development assistance to Sri Lanka.

Supporting resettlement is a major focus for the coming months.

Yesterday I said publicly that recently I had approved $2 million to support the resettlement of displaced people in Sri Lanka.

Today I announce a further $3 million for this vital work.

This assistance will be delivered through international organisations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration.

This funding will include assistance for continuing the process of documenting internally displaced people to facilitate their return, their assistance with essential items, including food and water for travel and reintegration, and assistance to families hosting displaced people.

Australia welcomes the Sri Lankan Government’s commitment to resettling over 80 per cent of civilians from camps for internally displaced people by the end of this year, 2009, and looks forward to the resettlement of all civilians as soon as possible.

Freedom of movement for the civilians in the north is essential.

The start of the monsoon season this month has increased the urgency for voluntary resettlement and other solutions that provide freedom of movement.

Australia’s call applies especially to children, the sick and the elderly, but it extends to all those citizens of Sri Lanka currently in the camps for internally displaced people.

Australian officials visited the camps in Sri Lanka late last month with the aim of identifying priority needs for Australian aid.

Our next steps will focus on support for release and resettlement of these internally displaced people.

As well, a prerequisite for the revival of northern Sri Lanka is the demining of former conflict areas.

It is the case that the demining challenge will affect the resettlement of displaced people from the camps.

That is why in June, Australia provided over $1 million to non-government organisations for demining and why we responded in August to a further request by the Government of Sri Lanka to provide a further $1 million through the International Organisation for Migration for demining efforts.

The voluntary resettlement process requires full access by international humanitarian agencies to areas of return and to information to ensure effective coordination.

Australia has consistently called upon the Sri Lankan Government to ensure that such access is afforded and such information provided.

It is important that the Sri Lankan Government, UN agencies and other non government organisations work together in a constructive partnership to address these challenges.

Mr Deputy Speaker, members will have seen reports about an Australian UNICEF official Mr James Elder.  I have looked at Mr Elder’s reported remarks and they do not cause me any difficulty.  Indeed he has been making the point, as has the Australian Government, that we need to see unimpeded access by international agencies to the camps for internally displaced people.

I take this opportunity to commend the work of UNICEF, with which Australia works closely and which does vitally important work in Sri Lanka and around the world.

Australian resettlement assistance is not only focussed in northeast Sri Lanka.

In northwest Sri Lanka, where the conflict ended in 2008, Australia has helped to resettle internally displaced people by funding the construction of housing and providing support for basic services and the revival of income generating activities.

Our aid in the coming year to Sri Lanka will also support development across the country.

We will deliver aid to help communities to recover from the adverse effects of conflict and to lead safe and productive lives, including peace-building, basic education and natural resource development.

Mr Speaker, earlier today in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, I met about 20 representatives of the Australian Tamil community from across the country.

I hope this process of dialogue will continue between members of the Sri Lankan diaspora and Australian officials.

I outlined to them the steps that the Australian Government is taking – both in terms of advocacy and of practical assistance – to help Sri Lanka and its citizens.

I recognised the suffering that many among that group have experienced and the depth of concern they feel for members of their community in Sri Lanka, particularly those still in camps for internally displaced people.

Some community members advised of their view of the need to address war crimes that were allegedly committed by both sides during the conflict.

I responded that, in the interests of reconciliation, it was important that allegations of human rights abuses be dealt with through a credible and independent process.

It was clear to me from our positive and productive discussion of the important role that diaspora groups will play in Sri Lanka’s future.

I encourage all members of the diaspora to look for ways to engage constructively to promote the well-being and future prosperity of all Sri Lankans.

Reconciliation will take time and will require sustained effort by Sri Lanka, its diaspora and the international community to overcome the grief, resentment and anger, and the lack of confidence and trust that is the inevitable consequence of decades of armed conflict.

Australia’s belief is that Sri Lankan democracy, rule of law and security would be enhanced by a strong civil society and an independent and free media.

The Sri Lankan Government must seize the opportunity to promote the political freedoms that enable all citizens to have a stake in Sri Lanka’s success.

Australia’s historic links to Sri Lanka provide the potential for greater bilateral engagement, including through increased trade and investment.

Australia values its long-standing relationship with Sri Lanka, reinforced by strong people-to-people links.

Mr Deputy Speaker, Sri Lanka has an opportunity, an historic opportunity to forge a new beginning for all its citizens.

As a friend of Sri Lanka, Australia is committed to helping Sri Lanka to address these challenges after years of conflict and to help Sri Lanka win the peace.

We were harassed day and night and the men were hit with rifles

September 14, 2009 Comments Off on We were harassed day and night and the men were hit with rifles

guardian.co.uk home

Living by a palm-fringed golden beach on the edge of the Indian Ocean, Suganthinhi Thesamanikam considers herself lucky to be alive after living through the hell of war.

Caught between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan army, she dodged bullets and shells for two years before ending up on the sandy littoral where the rebel leadership was routed in May, in a bloody ending to a 25-year-old civil war. Three of her cousins were killed during the last days of heavy aerial bombardment.

Herded by the army, the 22-year-old then lived for four months under a tin roof, surviving on dry rations and going days without clean water in a vast, overcrowded camp behind barbed wire and armed soldiers.

“We were harassed day and night and the men were hit with rifles if they talked back to the soldiers. I don’t know why, we were not LTTE, we are ordinary poor people,” she said.

She was one of the first Tamils to be resettled from the camps last month, and says she has found some solace in her mother’s shack on the seashore near the harbour town of Trincomalee. But her husband remains inside one of the camps. “He is not [a member of] the rebel LTTE. But the army says he cannot go home because his home village is near [the north Sri Lankan city of] Jaffna, where the LTTE were strong. We met during the war ‑ but now that is over I cannot have peace.”

With less than 5% of the 300,000 Tamils released from what the United Nations describes as “internment camps”, tales such as Thesamanikam’s have only just begun to be told.

The 22-year-old was kept in Manik Farm, 160 miles north of Colombo, where 280,000 people were initially housed – more than double the number the camp was intended to cope with.

The camp, say former inhabitants, is packed, with two or three families sharing a tent or tin shack. There are complaints of stinking, overflowing toilets, water shortages and inadequate healthcare. Journalists are rarely given access and those inside Manik Farm are not allowed to cross its fortified perimeter. The government says it has to use extreme measures because hiding in the civilian population are LTTE soldiers.

Speaking on a phone that had been smuggled into the camp, one civilian being held in Manik Farm, who did not want to be named, said two families had “been taken away and not seen again after saying some wrong things” to a reporter last month.

“People are scared to tell anyone of the problems we are facing. But it is a prison here. There are not enough health facilities for the problems in the camp and we don’t have enough water.”

The Sri Lankan authorities recently allowed humanitarian relief workers into Manik Farm. The immediate criticism was that there were persistent water shortages. Then heavy rains sent rivers of sewage cascading through tents and tin sheds.

Now there are growing fears that with monsoon rains due in October, the camps could become a sea of thick mud and slop.

Doctors in the main hospital in Vavuniya, the largest town near the camp, say that more 1,000 people have died since May, mainly due to “malnutrition-related complications”, and warn of an impending disaster if conditions do not improve.

“Things have improved in the camps as aid workers have come. But we will have to face a big disaster when the monsoon arrives here,” said Muthulingam Lavan, the judicial medical officer in Vavuniya.

“The problem is that the camp lies on a flood-prone area. We’ll have malaria, sewage and dengue fever. It will be very bad unless [people] are moved.”

On Friday, nearly 10,000 refugees were sent back to their villages and the government has said it will move 100,000 people back to their homes in October. But ministers have yet to give detailed plans.

Attempts so far to send back people to their “native places” have also been criticised for being chaotic and underfunded.

A number of elderly people who had lived in LTTE territory for decades were taken back to towns they had not seen since they were children.

“I was left on the road with just the clothes I had carried from that prison,” said Elizabeth Sarvanamuttu, who was “returned” to Trincomalee. “That is all I had with me. I was only saved because a local family adopted me. I am 68 and look, I had to be adopted like a baby.”

Others, whose families were torn apart by the war, are waiting to be reunited. Ravi Ravidharan, living in the eastern city of Batticaloa, said he had been ferried out of the war zone in February after his wife was killed by an army bomb – an attack which shattered his baby son’s leg. He left his two other children with his in-laws and has not seen them since.

Once his son was released from hospital the government provided no further assistance and he has eked out a living doing odd jobs while looking after his disabled two-year-old son.

“I traced my other children to Manik Farm,” the 42-year-old said. “Because I lived in LTTE territory and all my possessions are lost I have no record to say my children are mine. Their mother is dead. How do I get them out?”

Jehan Perera, of Sri Lanka‘s National Peace Council, said tales such as these “evoke such sorrow, and stem from the government focus on security as its first priority. “We need some measure of assistance for innocent civilians.”

There is growing pressure on the government to free the tens of thousands of Tamils still being kept in camps. The UN, which has provided funding of $188m (about £113m), says it cannot pay for the camps indefinitely. “We need not only for the government to let people go but also to allow freedom of movement,” said a UN spokesman in Colombo.

But Sri Lanka insists it must screen everyone to weed out any rebels.

Authorities also fear that once the civilian population is returned, the Tamil Tigers will be able to regroup, despite claims that the organisation is all but finished.

“The military wing is dead,” said a former fighter who was a commander with the Tigers’ navy. “For now we have to live under the occupation of the army in our historic homeland. An uprising failed, that is all.”

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