October 26, 2009 Comments Off on UN says investigate the war crimes in SL
Lisa Schlein, 25 October 2009
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is calling for an independent, international investigation of possible war crimes committed during the last few months of the war in Sri Lanka. The UN agency says there should be a full inquiry into what did or did not happen during the final stages of the country’s long-lasting civil war.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights says too many questions related to the last stages of the war between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels remain unanswered.
UN Human Rights Spokesman Rupert Colville says something like the Gaza Fact-Finding Mission is warranted, given the wide spread concerns about the conduct of the war between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels. More
October 26, 2009 Comments Off on More SL news this week
Le Monde diplomatique: Rehabilitating the tigers
Padraig Colman, 22 October 2009
Five months on since the defeat of the Tamil Tigers, Sri Lanka is trying to come to terms with its post-war problems. Despite ongoing international concern over the plight of Tamil civilians in government-run camps, there are new signs of reconciliation. These are apparent in the way the authorities are dealing with former LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) rank and file members.
Measures have been taken to rehabilitate some 10,000 LTTE fighters – many of whom were forcibly conscripted by the separatist rebels. On 20 September the Justice and Law Reforms ministry announced a $23m programme called Reintegrating ex-LTTE Cadres into Civilian Life, in association with the International Organisation for Migration. The United States, Japan, Britain and India have promised financial assistance to the programme; Unicef and INGOs will be helping; and many big Sri Lankan companies have offered their support.
The concern over the situation of Tamil civilians still living in government-run camps for internally displaced people (IDPs), expressed by foreign governments, the UN and international NGOs, is genuine and justified. Some of it has been fuelled by Tamils living in the West, Malaysia and India – mainly in the state of Tamil Nadu where people take a keen interest in the welfare of Sri Lankan Tamils, especially conditions in the IDP camps, and have demanded that the Sri Lankan government speed up the process of releasing the inmates. More
Sky News: Greens urge sanctions against Sri Lanka,
25 October 2009
Greens Leader Bob Brown has urged the federal government to consider sanctions against Sri Lanka amid concerns about the treatment of the nation’s Tamil population.
More than 250,000 people remain in camps in Sri Lanka after being displaced as a result of a long-standing civil war, which came to an end earlier this year.
Australia should be helping to stem the flow of asylum seekers by ramping up pressure on Sri Lankan authorities, Senator Brown said.
‘There should be a lot more pressure on the Sri Lankan authorities to be treating the Tamil populations with a great deal more decency than what we’re seeing at the moment,’ Senator Brown told the Nine Network. More
B. Muralidhar Reddy, 25 October 2009
The office of the United Nations human rights chief has said that an inquiry is needed to find out whether war crimes were committed in the final stages of the war between the security forces and the LTTE in Sri Lanka.
The suggestion came two days after the release of the U.S. State Department’s report that detailed alleged war crimes. Colombo rejected the report as “unsubstantiated and devoid of corroborative evidence”.
The BBC quoted a spokesperson for the U.N. Human Rights Commissioner, Navi Pillay, as saying that the allegations of war crimes were so serious that the fighting in Sri Lanka required an inquiry similar to that recently carried out into the Gaza conflict. More
Sutirtho Patranobis, October 24, 2009
The United Nations wants an inquiry similar to the one that looked into fighting in Gaza to determine if war crimes were committed in Sri Lanka in the final months of its 26-year war between government troops and the LTTE, which ended in May this year.
“There hasn’t been a full inquiry into what did or did not happen in the last months of the war,” Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner of Human Rights, was quoted by Reuters as having said in Geneva. More
Krishnan Francis, 24 October 2009
Vinojan’s boyhood ended when Sri Lanka’s civil war reignited.
Fifteen at the time, he says he joined the separatist Tamil Tigers to save his older brother from forcible conscription, and became a reluctant fighter as the rebels fought their last, desperate battles for survival.
Now, having won the war, Sri Lanka is trying to make patriotic citizens out of child soldiers like Vinojan and others who just months ago were fighting against the nation.
Meanwhile, the government is working to ensure they don’t pick up arms again. But it has done little to fulfill its pledge to tackle the Tamils’ long-standing grievances by sharing some power with them.
The ex-fighters’ treatment stands in stark contrast to the plight of nearly 300,000 displaced Tamil civilians who are held in overcrowded government camps in the north. U.N. officials have pressed for their release and aid workers fear coming rains could lead to outbreaks of disease. More
25 October 2009
Son of Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa, Namal Rajapakse, who is presently staying in Jaffna along with the 250 youths he brought from the South will be officially hoisting the Sri Lanka Lion Flag Sunday in Jaffna Fort, sources in Jaffna said. In 1996 when Sri Lanka Army (SLA) occupied Jaffna, the then Deputy Defence Minister, Anurathe Rathwathe had ceremoniously hoisted the Sri Lankan Flag in the esplanade in front of Jaffna Fort. Tamils protested vehemently when Sinhala parties adopted the lion flag as the national flag soon after British left the island. Opposition to the flag, since then, has been part of the Tamil national movement. More
25 October 2009
More than 300 families from Jaffna district, now detained in Sri Lanka Army (SLA) internment camps in Vavuniyaa, who had applied to return to their original places are held back as Jaffna SLA high command has refused clearance to them, sources in Vavuniya said. The clearance is denied as they are under suspicion and considered a threat to security, SLA authorities claimed. More
25 October 2009
The US government has withdrawn the invitation earlier extended to Major General Sarath Fonseka, former Commander of the Sri Lanka Army and currently holding the post of Chief of Defence Staff, to attend a farewill event to US Pacific Command (PACOM) Commander Admiral Timothy J.Keating at PACOM headquarters in Hawaii, Colombo’s English weekly, the Sunday Times reported in its political column quoting diplomatic sources. More
25 October 2009
Tamil Diaspora in Germany gathered Thursday in Berlin to stage a protest march in an effort to draw the attention of the international community to the pathetic plight of Tamils interned in Sri Lanka Army (SLA) camps. Two youths, representing students in Tamil Nadu, T. Sreenivasa Rao and Iraa. Gnanasekaran, on their journey in Europe to take part in the UN conference on Global Warming Awareness in Denmark on 7 December, took part in the march and rally. They have made it their duty to raise their voices for the interned Tamils, in all the countries they pass through, sources in Berlin said. More
Mainstream: Behind Sri Lankan Bloodbath
24 October 2009
Colombo’s victory over the Tamils shows India’s power is on the wane.
Thousands of non-combatants, according to the United Nations, were killed in the final phase of the Sri Lankan war this year as government forces overran the Tamil Tiger guerrillas. Nearly five months after Colombo’s stunning military triumph, the peace dividend remains elusive, with President Mahinda Rajapaksa setting out—in the name of “eternal vigilance”—to expand by 50 per cent an already-large military. Little effort has been made to reach out to the Tamil minority and begin a process of national reconciliation. More
26 October 2009
FEARS over declining media freedoms in Sri Lanka have intensified after a newspaper editor was held by police and questioned about a report alleging tension between military officials and the Government.
Chandana Srimalwtte, editor of the popular Sinhalese-language newspaper Lanka Irida Sangrahaya, was detained by armed police and questioned for publishing a report detailing tensions between military chief General Sarath Fonseka and the Government.
Srimalwtte was in custody for more than three hours and investigators have made two subsequent visits to his office to question him. More
The Times of India: Tamil scholar hesitant to attend classical Tamil meet
M Gunasekaran, 25 October 2009
A renowned Sri Lankan Tamil scholar chosen to head the main research session in the Tamil Nadu government’s World Classical Tamil
Conference due to be held in June 2010, on Saturday expressed reservations about participating in the meet, as he feels the Tamils in the island nation are not satisfied with chief minister M Karunanidhi’s response to the plight of their community.
Karthigesu Sivathamby, 77, emeritus professor in Jaffna university and secretary general of the International Association of Tamil Research (IATR), told the Times of India over telephone from Colombo that he had written to the Thanjavur Tamil University vice chancellor M Rajendran, who is coordinator for the international event, that Tamils in his country felt that “the chief minister has not responded well enough to the Sri Lankan Tamil crisis, and that Tamils expect a favourable response from him”. More
October 22, 2009 Comments Off on UK Parliament during question time
UK Parliamentary Questions Wednesday 21 October 2009 Sri Lanka
1. Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South) (Lab): What his most recent assessment is of the humanitarian situation of refugees in Sri Lanka; and if he will make a statement. 
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Michael Foster): Two weeks ago, I visited Sri Lanka to see for myself the situation of the 250,000 internally displaced people detained in camps. Conditions have improved there compared with my previous visit in April, with basic needs such as food and shelter being met. However, health care and humanitarian access remain inadequate and we are concerned about military oversight of the camps and family separations. We also believe that conditions will deteriorate during the monsoon season, which is about to start. While I was in Sri Lanka, I repeated the United Kingdom’s call for freedom of movement for all the IDPs so that they can go back to host families, relatives or their places of origin.
Mr. Cunningham: May I ask my hon. Friend whether he has been able to get a time scale for the Tamils to go back to their homes in Sri Lanka? Also, how has the aid been distributed?
Mr. Foster: The Government of Sri Lanka were committed to having 80 per cent. of those detained in camps going back to their places of origin by the end of the year. To facilitate that process, I am pleased to announce today an allocation of £500,000 to the HALO Trust for mine surveillance and de-mining in the Mullaitivu area. That work has started and will make the area safe for homes and for land use for the people who were put in the camps.
Mr. Lee Scott (Ilford, North) (Con): Will the Minister look into whether further pressure can be put on Sri Lanka by the Commonwealth? If Sri Lanka continues not to let people return or go home from the camps, perhaps it should be suspended from the Commonwealth.
21 Oct 2009 : Column 894
Mr. Foster: It is important that the international community makes clear its position with regard to the number of people still in the camps and the importance of freedom of movement. We believe that that is happening, but, as far as the Commonwealth’s position is concerned, I know that the Government of Sri Lanka are keen to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in a couple of years’ time. That might have some bearing on their response to the developments for people who are in the camps.
Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden) (Lab): May I thank the Minister for his statements and for his visit to Sri Lanka on behalf of my Tamil constituents? May I also ask his Department to support the EU Trade Commissioner’s GSP— or generalised system of preferences— plus report, which was issued on Monday, to ensure that preferred status will be withdrawn from Sri Lanka should things continue as they are?
Mr. Foster: My hon. Friend has long been an advocate for her Tamil constituents and I applaud her for her commitment. As regards the GSP plus and the announcement made this week by the European Commission, there is a process that should be followed to maintain the integrity of the GSP plus system. We believe that in the meantime the Government of Sri Lanka should look at the findings and act on them swiftly.
Malcolm Bruce (Gordon) (LD): As someone who visited the camps earlier this year, along with you, Mr. Speaker, I welcome the Minister’s report on the basic conditions in the camps. Does he agree with me, however, that the Sri Lankan Government would better serve their interests if they gave full unrestricted access to the camp to the media and all the agencies and fulfilled their promise to allow people to return home before Christmas? What are the chances of that happening?
Mr. Foster: The right hon. Gentleman knows the situation well from his own experience and from his experience as Chairman of the Select Committee. I agree entirely with his assessment that it is in the Government of Sri Lanka’s interest to allow open access to the media. During the visit that I undertook two weeks ago, I had people from the BBC with me. It had full access to camps and individuals within those camps to do whatever reporting it felt necessary. Let me give the right hon. Gentleman an indication of the scale of the transfer that is needed. We have had a request from the International Organisation for Migration for transport assistance to help 41,000 people from the camps go back to Mannar, Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi, in addition to the 32,000 whom we know left the camps in September.
Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down) (SDLP): I had the very distressing experience with the all-party group of visiting the camps at Menik farms zones 2 and 3 at Vavuniya. In spite of that distressing aspect, there was an uplifting side to the visit because of the attitude of the people and their hope for the future. Will the Minister ensure that any aid that is forthcoming from the Government is directed primarily at the welfare of the people in the camps and their displacement back to their own homes, which have been out of reach, to be joined with their families? Secondly—
21 Oct 2009 : Column 895
Mr. Speaker: Order. I do not wish to be discourteous to the hon. Gentleman, but I think that one question will do.
Mr. Foster: When I was in Sri Lanka, I made it clear to the Government that from the end of this year, when the monsoon season was brought to a conclusion, we would no longer be funding aid for closed camps and that our aid would be directed towards facilitating movement from the camps. That includes the de-mining to which I have referred and means that I can announce £250,000 for predictable, safe and dignified transport for people from the camps back to host communities, as well as a further £220,000 to the Food and Agriculture Organisation to provide bushels of rice seeds to enable people to have a decent livelihood when they get back to their homes.
Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold) (Con): The Minister has confirmed this morning that a package of rehabilitation measures is being put in place by the Department. That is welcome, but he has also confirmed that emergency aid will be redirected away from the camps. The Government also voted against the $2.5 billion International Monetary Fund package in July and are now considering ending the EU’s special trade privileges that the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) mentioned. Is that really the most constructive way to persuade the Sri Lankan Government to promote a long-term reconciliation process, and to meet their stated pledge that 80 per cent. of displaced people should be returned by Christmas? That is what members of the Sri Lankan diaspora, and all Sri Lankan people in the UK, desperately want.
Mr. Foster: We were speaking up for all the people I saw in the camps two weeks ago. It was clear that they wanted to be returned to their homes as quickly as possible, but the nature of the closed camps, with their restrictions and military oversight, is wholly wrong. That is why our assistance will be geared to the de-mining, transport and livelihood programmes, as they will enable people to move safely and securely from the camps back to their homes, where they will be able to get on with their lives. I think that that is what the diaspora community here in the UK wants to hear.
October 9, 2009 Comments Off on More on SL Boat People
Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Australia has alleged that large numbers of Sri Lankans seeking asylum in Australia are former members of the Tamil Tiger rebel movement. His claim comes as Australia launches a regional campaign aimed at curbing the rising numbers of people attempting to enter Australia by boat in search of residency.
The Australian – Asylum deportee held in Sri Lanka
SRI Lankan boatperson who was among the first batch of failed asylum-seekers to be forcibly deported by the Rudd government has been arrested by Sri Lankan authorities.
Australian Immigration Department officials confirmed yesterday that two brothers deported from Perth on Sunday were detained by Sri Lankan police when they arrived at Colombo.
A spokesman for the department, Sandi Logan, said one was charged with people-smuggling.
However, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre campaign co-ordinator Pamela Curr said both men had been detained, charged and sent to Negombo prison. One of them claimed to have been beaten by police.
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October 8, 2009 Comments Off on SL Boat People
SBS Dateline – Malaysia crackdown: Click here to see transcript & video
SECURITY officials may move to expel some of the Sri Lankan boatpeople detained at Christmas Island over concerns they are Tamil Tiger fighters and could pose a risk to the community.
Some young men are believed to have raised suspicions because they have injuries consistent with warfare, such as shrapnel wounds. Officials are concerned they could be Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam fighters trying to pass themselves off as asylum-seekers.
While not proscribed in Australia, the LTTE has been listed as a terrorist organisation here since 2001.
Brisbane Times – Tamil Tigers not among boat people: govt
Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor has rejected claims some Sri Lankan boat people detained on Christmas Island are former Tamil Tigers who could pose a security risk.
Sri Lanka’s high commissioner to Australia, Senaka Walgampaya, has spoken of his suspicions that former Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels are among recent illegal boat arrivals.
It has been claimed some of the recent arrivals raised suspicions because they had injuries consistent with having been involved in conflict, including shrapnel wounds.
The Age – Deported Sri Lankan on smuggling charge
A SRI Lankan asylum seeker deported at the weekend has been arrested and charged with people smuggling in Colombo.
Indika Mendis, 28, was among nine men flagged for forced deportation last week as the Government began returning people from Christmas Island to countries of origin against their will.
He failed to meet criteria for protection in Australia.
October 3, 2009 Comments Off on SL pledges to address UN camp report
Sri Lanka on Thursday said it accepted much of the United Nations’ recent criticism over its handling of 250,000 Tamils detained in camps since the end of the island’s ethnic conflict six months ago.
Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe pledged the government would address recommendations made by Walter Kaelin, a representative of the United Nations secretary-general, who last week toured the detention facilities.
“He (Kaelin) said a lot of factual things like getting the sewer and sanitation right on an urgent basis and to make things comfortable for those living inside the camps,” Samarasinghe told AFP.
“It is a very positive statement. We take these things in the right spirit.”
The government has vowed to re-settle all people displaced during the decades of war by January, but international aid and human rights groups have questioned its commitment to the welfare of Tamil civilians.
Kaelin spent five days visiting the overcrowded camps and holding talks with officials.
He asked Sri Lanka to comply with its international obligations and said a clash at the weekend between troops and detainees raised serious human rights issues.
Sri Lanka has resisted repeated calls to close the camps, saying it needed more time to weed out former Tamil Tiger rebel fighters.
October 3, 2009 Comments Off on Watchdog finds SBS breached during tamil radio program
THE communications watchdog has found SBS breached broadcasting rules when it aired a radio program biased in favour of Tamil Tiger rebels.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) said SBS breached its code of practice during two episodes of the Tamil Language Program.
Both dealt with the conflict between the Sri Lankan government and rebel group the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
The first broadcast, on October 26, 2008, included an interview with a critic of the Sri Lankan government.
ACMA found no other views were offered during the program and the requirement for balance in the SBS code had been breached.
The second broadcast, on January 18, 2009, included comments on an atrocity allegedly committed by members of the Sri Lankan army, sourced from an online video.
ACMA found SBS had not confirmed the video’s authenticity and that the code’s requirement for accurate factual content was breached.
SBS has already counselled the presenters involved in the broadcasts and ACMA said it would not be taking any further action.