October 4, 2009 Comments Off on More news this week…
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is deeply concerned about reports of security incidents taking place inside camps accommodating internally displaced persons (IDPs) in northern Sri Lanka.
The most recent incident took place on Saturday, September 26th in the Menik Farm camp, in the district of Vavuniya, when security forces reportedly attempted to stop a group of IDPs from moving between two zones of the camp. This angered the IDPs who subsequently attacked the sentries.
Security personnel then reportedly opened fire to disperse the mob. Several people are said to have been injured, including a child who was hit by a stray bullet and is now paralyzed. There are also reports of several people being detained following the disturbance. UNHCR calls upon the government to ensure the protection and physical security of the IDPs and to undertake a swift investigation into the event.
“Restoration of freedom of movement for more than 250,000 internally displaced persons held in closed camps in Northern Sri Lanka is becoming a matter of urgency, and I remain very concerned about the very slow pace of releases,” the Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Walter Kaelin, highlighted at the end of a three-day return visit to Sri Lanka.
The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has warned that Sri Lanka risks creating “bitterness” if it fails to rapidly resettle Tamil refugees.
He conveyed this during talks with Sri Lankan Prime minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake at the UN in New York.
Mr Ban said further suffering under harsh conditions in the camps could lead to growing discontent in the government-run camps in the north.
Three hundred seventy four IDP families out of three hundred eight nine families brought to Trincomalee district from Vavuniyaa internment camps three weeks ago to be resettled in their villages are still held under detention in transit centres located in four schools under heavy security of the Sri Lanka Army (SLA), sources in Trincomalee said.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins press freedom defenders in Sri Lanka in calling on President Mahinda Rajapakse and the Government of Sri Lanka to put an immediate end to the climate of impunity that has allowed a long campaign of intimidation and violence against independent journalism in Sri Lanka.
The IFJ stands in solidarity with the movement of press freedom organisations and Sri Lankan civil society in demanding that the Government allow space for free public debate, for plurality of opinions and open discussion in Sri Lanka. These conditions are essential for Sri Lanka’s return to peace and democracy.
The IFJ urges Sri Lanka’s Government to revoke its decision in June to reactivate the 1973 Press Council Act and calls for the immediate release from jail of senior journalist J.S. Tissainayagam, who was convicted on August 31 on charges accusing him of terrorism for the content of his reporting on human rights issues.
DailyMirror: S.L. Govt uses Israel to soften American Pressure
The report on Sri Lanka’s (SL) war that was to be forwarded to the US Congress has been postponed indefinitely . According to sources in America , this postponement is engendered by the need to garner more information in connection with the report . However , some sources say ,this is the result of a successful ‘Diplomatic operation’ of SL. It is Israel which is being employed to execute this operation . Israel is playing a major role in the operation to soften the American pressure.
Use of Israel by the SL Govt. to ward off the pressures of America is not something new. According to knowledgeable sources , Israel helped SL to stave off the pressures brought to bear on SL by America to halt the war to protect the civil population during the final phase of the war.
The Bottom Line: Media unite against re-establishment of Press Council
Re-establishing the Press Council will render the public blind, deaf and dumb, was the message sent out by a collective force of media organisations yesterday as they implemented a petition against the move.
The Conference organised by members of the Sri Lanka Editors Guild, Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, Free Media Movement, Sri Lanka Muslim Journalists Guild, Sri Lanka Tamil Journalists Guild, Association of Media Workers Unions and National Guild of Journalists brought together journalists, politicians and civilians concerned about media freedom to the Jayawardene Centre yesterday.
October 3, 2009 Comments Off on Jailed Tissainayagam awarded
J.S. Tissainayagam, a Tamil reporter and editor serving a 20-year prison sentence in Sri Lanka, was awarded the first Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism on Friday.
His wife, Ronnate Tissainayagam, accepted the award, named for a 30-year veteran of Agence France-Presse who died last year, at a ceremony at the National Press Club.
Tissainayagam was honored by the US branch of Paris-based media rights group Reporters Without Borders and Global Media Forum, a company founded by Mackler to train journalists and non-profit organizations to use the media as a tool for social change.
“For the last 20 years my husband has endeavoured to pursue the goals that Mr. Mackler believed in as a journalist,” Tissainayagam’s wife said.
“Like Peter, my husband was never too busy to encourage those who wanted to learn to write and has helped many in journalism,” she said. “Today my husband is continuing to teach me courage and grace in difficult times.
“For him, no matter what the circumstances are, there is no excuse for unkindness,” Ronnate Tissainayagam said. “No matter what the circumstance, fellow human beings must be treated with dignity.”
October 3, 2009 Comments Off on SL: Evidence of reconciliation is hard to find
KANCHANA asks to go by a false name, but seems self-assured for a teenager. And no wonder. Her experience of Sri Lanka’s civil war, which ended in May after a seaside slaughter of the leaders of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and at least 8,000 people taken hostage by them, would put years on anyone.
For five years she was marooned in the Tigers’ northern fief. Kanchana and her sister had left their village in Thampalagama, an area in the east more loosely controlled by the LTTE, for a holiday with a brother living there. But their travel passes were lost and without these the Tigers let no children of fighting age leave them. In 2007, as the army advanced, the Tigers recruited her brother and sister.
The advancing troops reached Kanchana last April. All belonged to Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority. Yet they did not rape her as she had been led to expect. Instead they shared their thin rations with her. But then came three-and-half months interned in Vavuniya. Over 260,000 Tamil refugees were crammed into 16 camps there, with poor food, overflowing toilets and, last month, flooding in which at least five drowned. One sibling was imprisoned among 11,000 former Tiger cadres. The other is probably dead.
A cousin of Kanchana’s, his wife and three children were killed, with about 20 others, when an army shell hit their makeshift bunker. That was the main cause of the civilian slaughter, though the Tigers also killed refugees, both in crossfire and deliberately, to stop them escaping. Her best friend, of the same age, and really called Kanchana, was killed after the LTTE gave her a gun and sent her to the front.
Now back in her village in Thampalagama, the surviving “Kanchana” was among the first refugees to be released, in August. With them the truth of the bloody end to Sri Lanka’s 26-year war, which the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has tried to hide by bullying journalists and reporting “zero civilian casualties”, is coming out—at an awkward moment. The government faces human-rights probes from both America and the European Union. The EU’s, to inform a decision on whether to reissue a valuable trade concession to Sri Lanka, said human-rights violations made it ineligible.
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.
June 23, 2009 Comments Off on Abuses in Sri Lanka Worry Human Rights Groups
National Public Radio : Abuses in Sri Lanka Worry Human Rights Groups
Human rights activists say they’re worried about the future of democracy in Sri Lanka.
April 22, 2009 Comments Off on The Guardian, UK reports of Tamil civilian plight
Tamil civilians slaughtered as army shells ‘no-fire zone’
…Horrific stories of limbs ripped off by shellfire and bodies buried where they fell are emerging, despite the government’s efforts to hide the scale of the killing by confining the injured to hospitals in a military area around the government-declared no-fire zone, from which the media are strictly excluded…The doctor said the accounts of the evacuees appeared to support previous claims from doctors in the no-fire zone that the shelling had not come from Tamil Tiger positions in the zone…
Civilians held in Sri Lanka camps face disease threat
Thousands of civilians fleeing fighting in Sri Lanka have been interned by the government in cramped, makeshift camps with overflowing drains, water shortages and the threat of disease looming large in the sweltering, unsanitary conditions. The government allowed a small group of international journalists into Menik Farm camp, which is regarded by aid agencies as by far the best-equipped of the camps. But even here, people complain bitterly about their treatment and the lack of freedom of movement.