eelamview

March 2, 2012

Srilanka Minister Samarasinghe deliberately misleads international community Here is the evidence

Filed under: genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: — எல்லாளன் @ 11:00 pm

It is learnt that Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe who addressed the Geneva Human rights conference on the 27th has premeditatedly and deliberately deluded the international community .(Lanka-e-News-01,March.2012, 5.30PM)

The Minister had in his address at the conference on the 27th stated , the LLRC Commission which was appointed by the President has acknowledged that during the war , the Army had committed unlawful acts , and a court of inquiry is to be appointed by the Army to make preliminary investigations ; and another inquiry is to be held by the Navy.

These statements are deliberately aimed at misleading the international community.

The Army ought to have appointed the court on the 26th of February. That is three months after the LLRC report was published , and just ten days prior to the Geneva conference. It is very clear to anyone that Samarasinghe ‘s statement is a calculated attempt to escape from the grave embarrassment the country is plunged into.

What we are herein revealing is a more grave and serious issue ……..

It is Major General A W J Krishantha De Silva the present Kilinochchi Commanding chief who is appointed as the chief or the President of the military court of inquiry to conduct preliminary inquiries. He was during the final phase of the Wanni war, in charge of the Forward Maintenance Area operations under the present Army Commander Jagath Jayasooriya. At that time De Silva was a Brigadier.

During a war ,in addition to food , medicines, weapons and vehicles which come under the officer in charge of the Forward Maintenance Area , the military police too comes under him. Hence , those enemies who surrender during the war and arrested come under the responsibility of the officer in charge of the Forward Maintenance Area.

One of the charges mounted against the Army in the last war is the killing of LTTE cadres who surrendered as well as those who were arrested.
During that final phase of the war , the Army Commander at that time , Gen. Sarath Fonseka was on a brief visit to China. Accusations have been leveled against the defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse for issuing unlawful orders during that period. One such person to whom Gotabaya gave unlawful instructions was Jagath Jayasooriya who was the Commanding chief of Wanni at that time. Jayasooriya transferred this directive to Brigadier Chrishantha De Silva who was the officer in charge of the Forward Maintenance Area . The officer who is the central figure in the criminal issues which have cropped up today is De Silva.

Now , to investigate whether such crimes did occur has been entrusted to Major Gen. A W J Chrishantha De Silva who was a Brigadier at that time responsible and answerable to those occurrences. The Wanni Commanding chief at that time who gave orders to him was Jagatha Jayasooriya , the present Army Commander.

This scenario is therefore worse than a crime scene where the mother of the criminal is being asked whether her son committed the crime – in this instance, it is the criminal himself being asked to investigate the crime .

Moreover , this Chrishantha De Silva was a so called ‘war hero’ who during the Jayasikuru operations deserted his soldiers and weapons , and fled for dear life (reminiscent of Gota’s fleeing) . At the preliminary inquiries conducted by the Army court of inquiry during that period , he was declared as ‘ a panic officer who goes ‘mad’ without assessing the war situation duly’. For this very reason , the great war hero General Sarath Fonseka who could evaluate his subordinates accurately and won the war for the country did not give De Silva any responsible duties during the final war operations. De Silva was only entrusted with logistic tasks. From what has come to light now , it is clearly confirmed further he had muddled up that sphere of duties too.

No matter what , our Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe of the moronic regime has made a ‘power loaded’ speech at the Geneva conference about a grandiose impending investigation only depending on these deplorable characters , facts and factors. In other words , the representative of the regime chief following in the footsteps of his ‘ boss’ (who is cheating the countrymen wholesale) , has calculatedly and deliberately sought to deceive the international community. But , may they be warned that by trying to cheat the world , they may be cheating themselves, for, some day the truth will declare itself. Sadly for the country , it might be too late when this truism dawns on these schemers and deceivers.

By -Soldadu Unnehe – (A Soldier)

Time slipping away US warns to Lanka

Filed under: genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: — எல்லாளன் @ 10:55 pm

Expressing concern that time was slipping away in Sri Lanka, the US said yesterday (Mar. 02) that action now in the UN Human Rights Council would sow the seeds of lasting peace on the ground.

Maria Otero, US under secretary of state for civilian security, democracy, and human rights, made the remark in her address to the 19th Session of the UNHRC in Geneva, Switzerland.

“We know from experience that there can be no lasting peace without reconciliation and accountability, but the United States is concerned that, in Sri Lanka, time is slipping away.”

“The international community has waited nearly three years for action, and while we welcome the release of the LLRC report, the recommendations of the report should be implemented.”

“We have engaged Sri Lanka bilaterally on these issues since the conflict ended in 2009, and stand ready to continue to work with them. Action now in this Council will sow the seeds of lasting peace on the ground,” she said.

Full text of her speech:

When the United States joined the UN Human Rights Council two years ago, we set forth four values that would guide our work in this body: universality, dialogue, principle, and truth. We knew then, as we know now, that the honest dialogue and dedicated effort of this Council will help all of our nations on the path to international peace and security.

In the two years since, we have stayed true to those values. But our global challenges remain—among them, threats to freedoms of assembly, association, expression and religion and to vulnerable populations. As we seek a second term on the Council, the United States stands ready to build on the Council’s successes to pursue solutions to these pressing challenges. This session provides several opportunities to do so.

Last week in Tunisia, we partnered with the Friends of Syria in a unified commitment to help end the suffering of the Syrian people. We joined Council members this week to condemn the Asad regime’s ongoing brutal crackdown.

We must extend the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry launched by the Council, which has effectively performed its intensely difficult mandate with great commitment, so that it can continue to document the atrocities being committed and lay the groundwork for accountability.

Recent efforts on Syria are not the first time the Council has provided an important platform for action. Last year, this Council created a special rapporteur to monitor the human rights situation in Iran. Special Rapporteur Shaheed has conducted his work in a spirit of openness and dialogue. His important work must continue, and I encourage the Council to continue his mandate.

Tomorrow, Iranians will go to the polls for the first time since the 2009 disputed election—a moment when tens of thousands of Iranians took to the streets to demand their civil rights. Since then, the regime’s repression and persecution of all who stand up for their universal human rights has only intensified. The United States stands with religious and political leaders around the world in condemning the conviction of Youcef Nadarkhani’s (NA-dar-KHAN-ee) and calling for his immediate release.

In Burma, the government has taken substantial and serious steps to improve the human rights situation for its citizens. We must continue to support this progress by extending the mandate of the special rapporteur. We commend the government for its recent efforts and encourage it to continue discussions with ethnic minority groups—armed or otherwise—on the path to national reconciliation.

The United States will also support renewal of the mandate of the special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. We share the Republic of Korea’s deep concerns regarding the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers from the DPRK in third countries.

We know from experience that there can be no lasting peace without reconciliation and accountability, but the United States is concerned that, in Sri Lanka, time is slipping away. The international community has waited nearly three years for action, and while we welcome the release of the LLRC report, the recommendations of the report should be implemented. We have engaged Sri Lanka bilaterally on these issues since the conflict ended in 2009, and stand ready to continue to work with them. Action now in this Council will sow the seeds of lasting peace on the ground.

The United States has worked through this Council to assist countries in transition with their human rights challenges. We have supported human rights protection and promotion in Kyrgyzstan, Guinea, Haiti and Cote d’ Ívoire, among others. In our UPR presentation, we addressed our own incomplete journey toward universal human rights, and we admire those countries that speak about their shortcomings as well as their strengths. We stand ready to help countries ready to address their human rights challenges, and during this session we hope to reach agreement to provide additional assistance to Yemen and Libya. With the support of this Council, these countries can consolidate democracy and become new beacons of leadership on human rights.

The United States has also worked through this Council to address significant cross-cutting issues that affect all of us, including combating discrimination on the basis of religion or belief. We were pleased to host the first meeting that seeks to implement Human Rights Council resolution 16/18, and we look forward to adopting a resolution this session that recognizes the important progress we have made.

Resolution 16/18 has proven that this Council can discuss and act upon difficult issues where consensus seems impossible. We also look forward to the upcoming discussion on the human rights of LGBT persons, underscoring that being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender does not make you less human.

As States increase pressure on rights and freedoms online, the United States must reiterate that the universal freedoms of expression, assembly and association are as applicable on the Internet and mobile technologies as they are to traditional modes of expression. We are concerned that some States are using new technologies to block content and suppress political dissent, and we encourage States to fulfill their human rights commitments and obligations in the context of new technologies.

The Council has done a great deal to focus on pressing human rights situations but there are still challenges to address. The United States was disappointed that the Human Rights Council review process did not address the unfair singling out of one country for a permanent agenda item. The Council will improve its credibility when it eliminates Item 7 and addresses all states under a common rubric.

Lastly, the United States remains gravely concerned about recent violence and continuing tensions in Tibetan areas of China. We call on all governments including China to respect the fundamental freedoms of religion and expression of all of its citizens including members of ethnic minorities.

Human rights have universal application. All governments, including mine, must respect the human rights of individuals, protect the ability of individuals to exercise their rights, and create mechanisms for transparent and accountable governance. As we participate in this session and seek a second term on the Human Rights Council, the United States will continue to bridge differences and build consensus with all members. We believe the Council continues to make a significant impact on the world, and we look forward to being a part of its ongoing progress.

Demonstrating were organized by the Lankan Government US

Filed under: genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: — எல்லாளன் @ 10:48 pm

I think that the people who were demonstrating were organized by the Government – and that’s fine – those were politically aware supporters out there. But I do think that it did reflect the anger and the reaction of the Government against what was happening in Geneva. I did not take it as repudiation by the population of Sri Lanka against human rights issues, US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives Patricia Butenis exclusively told to the Colombo media yesterday morning.

Interview:

In a week when anti-American protests in Colombo and scathing statements by the Sri Lanka Delegation in Geneva dominated the headlines, US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Patricia Butenis spoke out exclusively to Ceylon Today about the timing and rationale of the US backed resolution at the council and why the US continues to be a true friend of Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan Government and protestors are calling this international pressure, a western conspiracy for regime change. Is it?

The protest that was coming towards our embassy was very orderly, very disciplined and we took the petition and I read it. And of course, peaceful protest is a key element of American political culture so I felt that people have a right to express their views that way. In terms of the objective of the protest, there is no Western conspiracy – and of course I can only speak for my country but from a bilateral perspective, we see this resolution as an effort to move the Sri Lankan Government towards implementing what are some very good recommendations coming out of a Government of Sri Lanka commission.

It’s the Sri Lankan Governments own commission, with some excellent recommendations. I have to say that on accountability we find that it is disappointing, and really fell short of things we think need to be addressed. But by and large it’s a good report. So what we would like to know is – where is the Government’s action plan? Which of these recommendations has the Government embraced and which do they feel they can’t? That information is not publicly available. This was the substance of our discussions with the Government on these issues. We really are not an enemy of Sri Lanka. And once whatever happens in Geneva happens, the bilateral relationship will still be here. I hope to continue the good working relationship I have with key people in the Government. No doubt about it, we are going through a tough time now, but by no means is this any sort of conspiracy.

As a DPL mission how do you react to a host Government mobilizing forces of people against you?

That was clear, they did. At the same time, I have to say I reached out to security officials and thanked them for the excellent protection we have always received. We were ready – we took precautions. We remembered the UN situation where one of the Ministers blockaded the building for a while. But by and large I knew we could count on the Government to fulfill its diplomatic obligations.

Thousands have rallied in Colombo against this resolution. What message does the US take from the protests?

I am not sure how aware the Sinhalese community – the rural community – not the Colombo folks are of these issues frankly. I think that people have day-to-day issues – bread and butter issues. So I don’t know how villagers in Hambantota for instance feel about the LLRC recommendations. I do know that all over, people are concerned about particular issues raised in the LLRC. Rule of law issues — people are disappearing, they are being picked up or they go to a police station and are not charged and their families can’t find them. These are recommendations I thought that would serve and benefit everybody in Sri Lanka even though they are in the context of aftermath of the war and addressing largely the needs of the Tamil population. When I looked at the recommendations, I think they would make this society, stronger. I don’t think the majority community pays much attention to it at this point. I think that the people who were demonstrating were organized by the Government – and that’s fine – those were politically aware supporters out there. But I do think that it did reflect the anger and the reaction of the Government against what was happening in Geneva. I did not take it as repudiation by the population of Sri Lanka against human rights issues.

Secretary of State Clinton in a letter to Minister GL Peiris mentioned that the US Government was disappointed that you s were not given a preview of the report. Did you expect this?

This goes back to this long conversation that we have had with the Sri Lankan Government. And my approach to managing the relationship here, is to try not to surprise the Government with anything. If something’s coming I do my best to communicate it to the Government. They may not like what’s coming, they may disagree with it, but they know it’s coming.

So we have had this dialogue for a long time – with the Ministry of External Affairs, with Temple Trees, in Washington with the Sri Lankan Embassy there. So these are all familiar issues and because Secretary Clinton had decided that we would not prejudge the situation and gave the Government the “time and space” to address it, we wanted to know ahead of time, what the action plan was going to be, so that we could be prepared ourselves. The report comes out, it has recommendations and what is our response? We were looking for a little bit of a head’s up. And we did get it. I was given a bit of a preview – and then early that week Minister Peiris briefed the entire diplomatic corps which he does from time to time. So that way I do feel we were allowed to share in this as the secretary had asked.

Were you provided a road map about how Sri Lanka would proceed? 

No, and again these were diplomatic conversations. I was given just a sense of what the Government’s plan would be, some of the recommendations that they thought were going to be accepted immediately. And it reflected the statement that Minister NimalSiripala De Silva made in parliament when he presented the LLRC report. So I am not claiming I got any insider information – it was more like courtesy. And then the minister followed up by briefing the diplomatic corps.

It has been just two months since the LLRC report was released. After the US gave Sri Lanka this much time why a resolution now?

From my point of view, the clock did not start ticking in December 2011. It started in May 2009. When the fighting ended, there was tremendous relief. I think everyone would agree to that. But in the way of human events, when one issue is over, other things crop up. There are all these issues being raised immediately after the end of the fighting – particularly very human issues like the missing or people not knowing where their family members are.

People wanting death certificates for family members they knew were dead, people wanting to go back to their villages. I understand that the Government had huge challenges. They had 280,000 IDPs for whom they were responsible and we were working with them to get those folks resettled. But at the same time, there were these other issues I am sorry they didn’t begin to address. And those issues began to fester with really not much being done. From our perspective, yes, the report came out but everyone knew what it was going to contain because the LLRC was very open, it took testimony. So there was not much surprise about what it was that people cared about. So it’s not really accurate to just view this as a two month time frame – the Government has known for a long time what some of the key problems were. The LLRC articulated them and put them into one document and the Government has started working on some of these things. They started trying to resolve the land claims issue and another area where I think the Government has done well is the rehabilitation of ex-combatants – I think everybody even Tamil political parties here recognize that was a very good programme. So there has been this progress but not on all the issues. I think now is the time to ask the Government to commit publicly in an international forum – ‘this is our plan and we commit to doing it’ – and that is what we’re asking for.

Assistant Secretary Blake just made a statement that the resolution was being discussed. Is that to be interpreted as the resolution may not be tabled in Geneva after all?

I think for the record we would say that it is still under discussion, we are still consulting with members of the human rights council. I know Sri Lanka continues to consult and lobby. We were pretty clear about what we think needed to be done but until we actually get to the point where the resolution is introduced, I would not want to commit to it. Neither do we want to give anyone the expectation that there is still a chance.

What we have is a really good dialogue now – a back and forth with the Government – and that was what we were lacking before. That was part of our frustration.

If the resolution goes through – and Sri Lanka does not stick to the time frame, what next?

I don’t know whether there is a time frame. This is part of a process. We have been talking with the Government since before May 2009 about these issues. Up to a point I think some in the Government felt that these were foreign issues. Or that we were meddling, that we were the only ones that cared about certain issues. And yet the LLRC disproved that. These are Sri Lankan issues. Every day people who had suffered from all communities – and they made these points. I have a lot of respect for those folks on the LLRC. I think that they had a tough job and they never expected to have to serve for so long – they gave up everything to serve. They travelled, they took a lot of verbal abuse in the press, a lot of questioning of their patriotism and yet, they delivered. And again I have to make the exception for accountability but it’s a very good report. I don’t think anybody intends to make a threat to Sri Lanka, but we feel that the more attention that is paid to these issues in an international setting, the more pressure they will feel to meet their obligations and deliver. But at this point I don’t think anybody is talking about a year from now, what do we do. We are waiting to see how this develops. I think there is considerable sentiment in Sri Lanka for progress on these issues. It’s a little frustrating that the Government does not share that sense of urgency.

Has the US Government run out of patience?

I wouldn’t say that. I would say that we expect to see certain progress within a reasonable period of time and I think that Secretary Clinton and the US Government has been very patient and given the LLRC process time to work. It had to be extended a couple of times but these are complicated issues. So I think that we would continue to expect to see progress. If we don’t see it we will comment on it, we will call attention to it. But I think we are in this for the long haul. I don’t see us walking away and throwing up our hands and saying ‘you’re on your own, we’re going to take whatever action we feel is necessary.’ That’s not how you make progress. I think even this run up to the session in Geneva seems to have generated activity on the part of the Government. It seems to have stimulated them to take new steps and maybe facilitate ongoing ones. I know they don’t talk about everything they are doing – they probably feel they don’t have to answer to people. But the thing is with so much international attention on the LLRC report and the good things in it, I think we will maintain our focus and always be ready to work with the Government. I don’t see us throwing down an ultimatum.

The draft resolution calls for an independent credible investigative mechanism. Does the military court of inquiry satisfy?

I don’t want to prejudge any court of inquiry. I think though that the burden of proof would be on the Government to explain how a military court of inquiry would be seen as independent. I think that would be a tough one. I think these are good steps that any military takes – they have their own internal processes, but the point is ‘independent’ and ‘objective’ and I think that it would be a hard sell for the Government to convince people, that this was an independent one.

The US Government expects something different? 

We are waiting for Sri Lanka on that. They did not produce that mechanism in the LLRC report. It doesn’t mean that still can’t come up with another mechanism. I think we and the rest of the international community have offered technical support, advice, expertise on how to do this. Other countries have done it – and are willing to provide advice and support. The Government has not so far chosen to take advantage of those offers. Those offers will be there. I can’t say that we have a particular model in mind, but we will be looking to the Government here for the next step. You feel you can do something that’s credible and internationally accepted, okay, if not, then we are looking at some sort of international mechanism. But all along, the whole purpose is to partner with the Government here and I hope that message gets through.

The US State Department calls SarathFonseka a political prisoner. How does that reflect on the judicial system in Sri Lanka?

We do consider SarathFonseka a political prisoner and it is in our annual human rights report. That is not a comment on any charges pending against him, but just the manner in which he was chosen and prosecuted. All in all, that does not reflect well on the judicial process here. I do think rule of law institutions are under stress in this country – that is by no means categorizing all the courts or all the judges. But I think there is a lot of pressure brought on civil society and the judiciary. Political influence sometimes plays a large role. And any accountability mechanism that the Sri Lankan Government chooses to set up, even outside the military court, to address these issues would have to make a persuasive case that it will be independent and will follow procedures. It’s a tough case to make – I am not saying I don’t think they can, but we would be waiting to see what they offer.

Secretary Clinton invited Minister Peiris to Washington DC in March. Was that aimed at getting some assurances from Sri Lanka that could lead to a dilution of the resolution? Is he going?

Again it’s all part of the dialogue. The US Government had already made its decision that it would support a resolution at this session of the UNHRC. But we are still reaching out to the Government, to Prof.Peiris, come and talk to the Secretary. Tell her what your plans are. What’s the way forward even beyond Geneva? That is what a partnership is. You can’t pick a country that doesn’t have an issue we’re working on. So the idea is to continue the dialogue, we hope he still will come to Washington — dates to be determined. We still have a robust relationship with Sri Lanka and the only way you maintain that is to talk. Sometimes i think it is good to go to Washington because if they just listen to me here, they think I am out of touch or I have been here too long. But you go to Washington and you hear from our political bosses that this is what the US Government considers a concern and that can be a sobering experience, but also an opportunity for clarity. That is what this invitation is and we hope he will accept.

How do you respond to Minister Samarasinghe’s statement in Geneva that the loudest human rights advocates also contribute least to Sri Lanka’s recovery effort?

MahindaSamarasinghe claimed that countries who are complaining aren’t helping – and that is not true. He didn’t mention us specifically but we have given a lot of assistance to the people of Sri Lanka – the IDPs and now to the people who have been resettled. We have been a real supporter of Sri Lanka here, for a long time. So I think that really was unfair. He did not mention the US but if he meant us, it was an unfair and inaccurate comment.

What does the US Government see as the way forward for Sri Lanka?

I think Sri Lanka has a democratically elected Government, and it ended a nasty war. Everyone was relieved it was over, ourselves included. But there’s the aftermath that they need to deal with and I think that if they keep their focus and at least accept international assistance and support, they can work through this. Because one of the things we recognize is that President Rajapaksa is very popular. He has a lot of support and we understand that. Therefore that has been our focus – that he has the support and the leadership that could implement changes. He could deploy his considerable leadership skills and popularity and majority in parliament to implement the LLRC recommendations and make the case to the Sri Lankan population. We respect his position and we have been encouraging the Government to use it, to make some of the hard decisions that the LLRC is recommending.

Pillay tells UNHRC to address Lanka

Filed under: genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: — எல்லாளன் @ 10:46 pm

UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay says she hopes the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) will address reports on Sri Lanka.

Addressing the council a short while ago, Pillay welcomed the release of the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) but added that it falls short of addressing issues mention in the UN Experts panel report.

Pillay said that the LLRC report contained several important recommendations and she hopes the government will engage with her office in implementing the recommendations.

“I welcome the publication by the Government of Sri Lanka last December of its Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission. While the report falls short of the comprehensive accountability process recommended by the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts, it does make important recommendations. I encourage the Government to engage with the Special Procedures and with my Office on follow up to the report. I also hope the Council will discuss these important reports.

States have an obligation to protect their citizens from threats to their security in a manner that respects human rights. My Office has assisted States develop and implement security policies, including counter-terrorism measures in accordance with international human rights law. We have seen the lifting of long-standing emergency measures in Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Fiji, although some provisions restricting fundamental rights remained or have been reintroduced. Over the past year, I have also expressed concerns about the rights of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, and my deep disappointment at the failure to close this detention
facility,” she said.

US demand on Sri Lanka is not enough UNSG Panel of Experts

Filed under: genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: — எல்லாளன் @ 10:40 pm

Recalling the 2009 blunder by UN Human Rights Council of praising Sri Lanka for its bloody finish to the civil war and stating that the war in its final days had cost as many as 40,000 deaths, the three UN Secretary General’s Expert Panel Members, Marzuki Darusman, Steven Ratner and Yasmin Sooka, on Friday said “it is time for the council to correct its embarrassing decision from 2009.” While crediting US for its efforts, the experts of UN panel said: “Yet such a demand is not enough.” Given Sri Lanka’s unwillingness to take concrete steps, the best way to get to the truth is for the council to “create an independent investigative body to determine the facts and identify those responsible, as we recommended in our report,” the trio said in an Op-Ed article published in the New York Times.

Comparing the slaughtering figure of Vanni war as “many multiples more than caused by the strife in Libya or Syria,” they also said that “the lack of much outside interest in the bloodshed while it happened cannot be an excuse for continuing to ignore the situation.

The experts were firm in stating that the bulk of the slaughter was attributable to “deliberate, indiscriminate, or disproportionate governmental attacks on civilians, through massive shelling and aerial bombardment, including on clearly marked hospitals.”

However, the very paradigm of reducing the genocide into mere war-crimes, as had been presented in the UNSG panel report is the fundamental flaw that paved way for more failures to come, Eezham Tamil political circles in the island observed.

At least at this stage, the international community has to stop looking at the whole scenario through the prism of ‘war-crimes and reconciliation’ and should open its eyes to the historical reality of a nation affected by genocide needing its right to self-determination, the Tamil political circles further said.

Full text of the Op-Ed article by the UNSG experts follows:

Revisiting Sri Lanka’s Bloody War
By MARZUKI DARUSMAN, STEVEN RATNER and YASMIN SOOKA

Published: March 03, 2012

Even as attention is riveted on the bloodshed in Syria, another conflict, far more deadly, is belatedly attracting the notice it deserves.

Beginning this week, the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva has returned to an issue that has haunted it since 2009 – the bloody finish to Sri Lanka’s civil war. That conflict ended on a stretch of beach in the country’s northeast, as the remaining fighters of the Tamil Tigers and tens of thousands of traumatized civilians were surrounded by and surrendered to the Sri Lankan Army.

Sri Lankans and many abroad rejoiced at the defeat of a force that had routinely deployed terrorist tactics. But even as the government’s military campaign was under way, it became clear that the cost in civilian lives from its attacks on the Tigers was enormous. Right after the war, the Human Rights Council, to the shock of many observers, passed a resolution praising Sri Lanka’s conduct of the war. Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, promised Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the time that he would address the question of accountability for violations against civilians.

When, a year later, the government had done nothing to carry out Rajapaksa’s commitment, the secretary general asked the three of us to study the allegations of atrocities during the last stages of the war and Sri Lanka’s response. In our report, we found credible evidence that both sides had systematically flouted the laws of war, leading to as many as 40,000 deaths – many multiples more than caused by the strife in Libya or Syria.

The bulk of that total was attributable to deliberate, indiscriminate, or disproportionate governmental attacks on civilians, through massive shelling and aerial bombardment, including on clearly marked hospitals.

Rather than tackling these allegations head-on through a truth commission or criminal investigations, Sri Lanka created a “Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission,” whose mandate, composition and methods all cast serious doubt on its willingness to uncover what really happened in those fateful months.

When the commission issued its final report last November, it ignored or played down our report’s conclusions and characterized civilian deaths as stemming from the army’s response to Tamil Tiger shelling or cross-fire – as sporadic, exceptional and mostly inevitable in the heat of battle.

When it came time to proposing next steps for the government, it called for investigations by the same entities – the army and the attorney general – who have a track record of ignoring governmental abuses for decades.

The report had some welcome elements, too. It recognized some of the root causes of the war, as well as the responsibility of both the government and Tigers for civilian casualties. And it endorsed our view that Sri Lanka had a duty to provide truth, justice and reparations to victims; release detainees; and protect the state’s besieged journalists.

Yet the fact is that numerous recommendations of prior commissions of inquiry have not been implemented by the government.

The Human Rights Council’s members are currently looking at a draft resolution, circulating at the initiative of the United States, to demand action from Sri Lanka on uncovering the truth and achieving some real accountability. The United States deserves a great deal of credit for trying to get the council to move on this issue. It is time for the council to correct its embarrassing decision from 2009.

Yet such a demand is not enough. Given Sri Lanka’s unwillingness to take concrete steps, the best way to get to the truth is for the council to create an independent investigative body to determine the facts and identify those responsible, as we recommended in our report.

For Sri Lanka to experience a true peace, rather than simply the peace of the victor, truth and accountability are essential. This is the lesson from states as varied as South Africa, Sierra Leone and Argentina. The lack of much outside interest in the bloodshed while it happened cannot be an excuse for continuing to ignore the situation. The international community must now assume its duty to ensure that Sri Lanka fulfills its responsibilities to all its people and to the rest of the world.

Marzuki Darusman is a former attorney-general of Indonesia. Steven Ratner is a law professor at the University of Michigan. Yasmin Sooka is the executive director of the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa.

Chronology:

02.03.12  US demand on Sri Lanka is not enough: UNSG Panel o..
01.03.12  US, Sri Lanka squabble whether hang or slaughter E..
29.02.12  Enragement over US-India stand results in Sumanthi..
18.02.12  TNA tries to sell Indo-US pre-emption to Eezham Ta..
22.01.12  TNA should use its Tamil national mandate: Bishop ..
01.01.12  Majority ITAK members welcome civil society report..
13.12.11  TNA leadership faces admonition from civil society..


 

External Links:

NYT: Revisiting Sri Lanka’s Bloody War

US, Sri Lanka squabble whether hang or slaughter Eelam Tamil Nation

Filed under: genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: — எல்லாளன் @ 10:37 pm

The LLRC recommendation of the majoritarian and genocidal state of Sri Lanka is clear on the point that ethnic territories cannot exist in the island, and ‘trilingual’ society (ostensibly paving way for total Sinhalcisation) should be achieved by 2020. While Sri Lanka in Geneva sessions wants implementation of its agenda left completely to itself, the US-backed resolution seeks international endorsement to the LLRC recommendations and international commitment from Sri Lanka in the implementation and phases. In an exclusive interview to Ceylon Today on Thursday, the US ambassador in Colombo, Patricia Butanis praising the LLRC for coming out with “some excellent recommendations,” argued why then the qualms in publicly committing to implementation. The squabble is just on whether publicly hang or secretly slaughter the Tamil nation, commented an Eezham Tamil politician.

Patricia Butenis

Patricia Butenis

“It’s the Sri Lankan Governments own commission, with some excellent recommendations. I have to say that on accountability we find that it is disappointing, and really fell short of things we think need to be addressed. But by and large it’s a good report. So what we would like to know is – where is the Government’s action plan? Which of these recommendations has the Government embraced and which do they feel they can’t? That information is not publicly available. This was the substance of our discussions with the Government on these issues,” the US ambassador in Colombo said.

According to the US ambassador, “When the fighting ended, there was tremendous relief.” She added, “I think everyone would agree to that.”

The way the war was brought to an end caused jubilance in the Sinhala South, apprehension to Tamils all over the world, but of course an air of relief in the New Delhi Establishment too.

“The Indian External Affairs establishment in fact seems to consider its handling of the end of Sri Lanka’s war a relative success,” said, Norway’s report on the failed peace process (p79).

The US ambassador in her interview worried about a variety of individual human rights in the island, but not collective rights of Eezham Tamils as a nation. Political outlook, coming from new nations like the US, aimed at bulldozing realities in the old world for its monopoly, is jaundiced, is the feeling in the Eezham Tamil circles.

The US ambassador was also commenting that the demonstrations in the island were orchestrated by the Colombo government and were not spontaneously coming from the people [she implied the Sinhalese].

“But I do think that it [demonstrations] did reflect the anger and the reaction of the Government against what was happening in Geneva. I did not take it as repudiation by the population of Sri Lanka against human rights issues,” Ms Butanis said, adding, “I think that people have day-to-day issues – bread and butter issues.”

“When I looked at the recommendations [LLRC], I think they would make this society, stronger,” Ms. Butanis said, lamenting over the majority Sinhalese not understanding it.

Ms. Butanis has totally forgotten that it is not bread and butter for Eezham Tamils but life and death of a genocide-affected nation, the Tamil politician responded, citing professionals commenting on the point of collective consciousness of the genocidal victims of the Tamil nation, and said that this reality is never taken into account in any of the international or diplomatic deliberations. Even the professionals who identified the collective consciousness are now lured to do no justice to it in their recent statements, the Tamil politician added.

Answering a question, whether the US-backed resolution may not be tabled at all in Geneva, the ambassador said, “I think for the record we would say that it is still under discussion,” adding, “We were pretty clear about what we think needed to be done but until we actually get to the point where the resolution is introduced, I would not want to commit to it. Neither do we want to give anyone the expectation that there is still a chance.”

Ms. Butanis specified that the USA is not aiming for any ultimatum on the Colombo regime. “We are in this for the long haul. I don’t see us walking away and throwing up our hands and saying ‘you’re on your own, we’re going to take whatever action we feel is necessary,” she said.

Commenting on Sri Lanka’s military court on war crimes as it is for “the Government to explain how a military court of inquiry would be seen as independent, ” the US ambassador said, ”We and the rest of the international community have offered technical support, advice, expertise on how to do this,” adding “The Government has not so far chosen to take advantage of those offers.”

Prodding Rajapaksa to make some “hard decisions” in patching up the international blunder committed in the island is the US agenda in proving its success of the ‘counterinsurgency’ and ‘war on terror’ paradigms, as Rajapaksa, convinced by the US and India, has already made a ‘hard decision’ in committing genocide in the island, the Tamil politician commented.

The US deliberations, supporting genocide and annihilation of the nation of Eezham Tamils through architecting war and through the post war LLRC recommendations, but worrying only about international endorsement of them and a mechanism for the war crimes accountability targeting small fry, remind us of certain hypocrisies of the Roman Empire, was the comment of an academic in Jaffna.

When the early Christians were persecuted by the Roman Empire, a regional governor in Eastern Europe arrested a number of them secretly practicing Christianity, based on anonymous petitions, and executed all those who didn’t regret practicing Christianity and refused to come out of it.

When the governor reported that matter to the Roman Emperor, the emperor in a reply letter told the governor that he was perfectly right in executing the Christians when they were insisting on the faith, but he was illegal according to Roman law in arresting them based on anonymous petitions.

The end of that Roman Empire paving way for Holy Roman Empire of Christian faith and even that becoming “neither holy nor Roman, nor an empire” are matters of history, the academic in Jaffna commented.

* * *

Unfortunately, the ultimate thrust of the intentions of the US is not comprehended properly by the Tamil polity in the island, in the diaspora and regrettably in the mainstream polity of Tamil Nadu too, commented, a new generation Eezham Tamil politician in the island.

Both the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jeyalalithaa and the DMK chief Karunanidhi have come out with statements supporting the US-backed resolution in Geneva upholding the LLRC recommendations. Do they endorse the annihilation of the nation of Eezham Tamils in the island as envisaged by the LLRC recommendations is the question.

The Communist Party of India (CPI) has come out with an announcement welcoming the statements of Jeyalalithaa and Karunanidhi and has urged New Delhi not to shield Rajapaksa anymore, but to declare him in Geneva as responsible for the genocide.

The CPI has also announced that it would undertake a fasting campaign next week, demanding war crimes investigation, removal of the occupying Sinhala military from the North and East, reparations to Tamils, closure of internment camps, release of Tamil prisoners not involved in crimes, end of Indian military and monetary help to Sri Lanka, pledge from Sri Lanka on the nature of political solutions it envisages for the ethnic question, severance of diplomatic relations if Sri Lanka is not coming out with satisfactory answers, and placing Indian Coast Guard at the maritime boundary to save the life and property of Indian fishermen.

There was no reference that the genocide-affected Eezham Tamils should be vested with their right to self-determination to decide about their existence.

The Catholic clergy in the North of the island, in a statement signed by a host of parish priests and submitted to the UNHRC in Geneva on Thursday, rightly pointed out how previous commission recommendations in the island, including LLRC’s own interim recommendations were not implemented.

“We believe it is an independent international body that could best address concerns of truth seeking, accountability and reparations for victims in a way that victims, survivors and their families will have confidence. It is only by addressing these that we believe we can move towards genuine reconciliation,” the statement of the Catholic clergy said.

However in its concluding envision the signatories believed that it is imperative for the UNHCR to call upon Sri Lanka to implement the LLRC recommendations, present a time-schedule about it to the next session of the UNHCR, report progress to the 22nd session next year and accept supervision by an international mechanism.

Even though harping on the LLRC recommendations, the statement of the Catholic church of Eezham Tamils is in contrast to the regime-sympathetic stand of the Sinhala Archbishop in Colombo and to the publicly articulated stand of certain families of the American and Anglican Churches, political observers said.

The stand of the TNA that harps on Cambodian analogy, undefined political solution and unqualified support to the US move and to its ‘pressures,’ is well known.

While veteran Eezham Tamil political workers worry about illusions created, sections of campaigning media projecting the US plan as something to get Sri Lanka publicly committed to international order say that Ms. Butanis in her interview was “candid” and “extremely revelatory” in enlightening readers.

* * *

Excerpts of what the LLRC recommendations actually aim on the annihilation of the identity of Eezham Tamils as a nation of its territory in the island:

The following excerpts brought out here for the benefit of the gullible arguing in favour of implementation of the LLRC recommendations, show how unambiguous the recommendations are in the structural genocide of Eezham Tamils.

On language identity of the nation of Eezham Tamils:
No district or province should be categorized in terms of language (LLRC 8.240)

The Commission also recommends that the government should have a pro-active of policy to encourage mixed schools serving children from different ethnic and religious background. In this regard the Government should develop a carefully conceived policy facilitating the admission of children from different ethnic and religious groups to these schools (LLRC: 8.250)

The Commission therefore welcomes the Government initiative for a trilingual nation by the year 2020 (LLRC: 8.239)

On power-sharing:
While the distribution of meaningful powers to the periphery is essential, there are powers which form the core responsibilities of the State and which cannot be so devolved, and need to be retained and exercised by the Government at the centre. It is also important to ensure that any power sharing arrangement has inbuilt mechanisms that would effectively address and discourage secessionist tendencies and safeguard the sovereignty and integrity of the State. (LLRC: 8.224)

On land and homeland of Eezham Tamils:
The view was also expressed that no part of Sri Lanka belonged to any ethnic group. It was stated that due to terrorist activities, Sinhalese people from the North and East had been chased away, and that these people should be taken and resettled in the North (LLRC: 8.107)

The Commission is of view that the Government should expedite action on the establishment of a National Land Commission (NLC) in order to propose appropriate future national land policy guidelines (LLRC 6.104.12)

On the war and reputation of Sinhala Army:
In evaluating the Sri Lanka experience in the context of allegations of violations of IHL, the Commission is satisfied that the military strategy that was adopted to secure the LTTE held areas was one that was carefully conceived, in which the protection of the civilian population was given the highest priority (LLRC 4.262)

The Commission finds that there are troubling technical and forensic questions of a serious nature that cast significant doubts about the authenticity of this video and the credibility and reliability of its content. It is also observed that trauma evident on the bodies of victims does not appear to be consistent with the type of weapon used and the close range at which the firing is seen to have taken place (LLRC 4.374 e)

It is also the obligation of the Government to clear the good name and protect the honour and professional reputation of soldiers who defended the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka and particularly the many thousands of soldiers who perished carrying out their combat duties cleanly and professionally against a widely condemned terrorist group who used most inhumane tactics in combat (LLRC 4.376)

Chronology:

02.03.12  US demand on Sri Lanka is not enough: UNSG Panel o..
01.03.12  US, Sri Lanka squabble whether hang or slaughter E..
29.02.12  Enragement over US-India stand results in Sumanthi..
18.02.12  TNA tries to sell Indo-US pre-emption to Eezham Ta..
22.01.12  TNA should use its Tamil national mandate: Bishop ..
01.01.12  Majority ITAK members welcome civil society report..
13.12.11  TNA leadership faces admonition from civil society..

Related Articles:
26.02.12   Peace academic denounces US-LLRC formula, urges alternative ..
16.11.11   India emerges as main designer of ‘Asian Model’ in Norway re..

External Links:

Ceylon Today: We are not Sri Lanka’s enemy: Butenis

The Great Game: Geo-politics drowns Sri Lanka's Tamils

Filed under: genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: — எல்லாளன் @ 10:33 pm

The strange line-up of the member countries of the United Human Rights Council (HRC) for or against Sri Lanka at the special session of the body scheduled to take place in Geneva on Tuesday underscores the maritime Great Game unfolding in the Indian Ocean.

The special session is being convened at the request of 17 of the 47 members of the HRC, including Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Britain. Hovering in the background is the United States. It aims at forcing Sri Lanka to face charges of gross human rights violations in its war against the Tamil insurgents. An HRC recommendation to set up an international commission of inquiry would put Colombo in the docks. An HRC special session has been called only on 10 previous occasions.

But Colombo is not browbeaten. The seasoned poker player has tabled a counter resolution titled “Assistance to Sri Lanka in the promotion and Protection of Human Rights” commending Colombo for its victory over terrorism and soliciting funds for reconstruction. The 12 co-sponsors of the resolution include China, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Egypt, Cuba, Nicaragua and Bolivia. India finds itself in the strange company but is justified in estimating that the HRC move against Sri Lanka is a non-starter. China and Russia will anyhow ensure that the ‘international community’ doesn’t torment Colombo. They have invited Sri Lanka to come close to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. In essence, Sri Lanka is the theatre where Russia and China are frontally challenging the US’s incremental global strategy to establish NATO presence in the Indian Ocean region. The US has succeeded in bringing the NATO upto the Persian Gulf region. The NATO is swiftly expanding its relationship with Pakistan. But it is Sri Lanka that will be the jewel in the NATO’s Indian Ocean crown. Russia and China (and Iran) are determined to frustrate the US geo-strategy. The hard reality, therefore, is that geopolitics is sidetracking Sri Lanka’s Tamil problem. Sri Lanka snubbed Washington by rejecting the US offer to dispatch a naval force to evacuate or provide humanitarian assistance to the Tamil civilians trapped in the war zone. China, Russia and Iran encouraged Colombo to reject the US ‘humanitarian intervention’ in yet another strategically vital region.

There is moral muddiness all around. Simply put, a ‘containment strategy’ on the part of the US towards Sri Lanka becomes unworkable. By helping Sri Lanka to withstand the US pressure, China has secured the status of a ‘steadfast ally.’ Apart from arms supplies totalling $100 million, China has overtaken Japan as Sri Lanka’s number one foreign donor. China gave $ 1 billion assistance last year as compared to $ 7.4 million and 1.25 million pounds by the US and UK respectively.

India views with unease the Chinese inroads into Sri Lanka as part of a broad move into the Indian Ocean. But India faces acute dilemma. Its capacity to cajole the diehard Sinhalese nationalists to compromise with the Tamils for an enduring settlement suffers so long as China extends such no-holds-barred political backing to the Colombo establishment.

But Delhi cannot roll back its substantial political, military and economic support to Sri Lanka, either. The interlocking interests of the two neighbouring countries are self-evident. The lure of Sri Lanka cannot be overestimated. The US would like us to believe that India-China rivalry is the sum total of the geopolitics of Sri Lanka. But this is a dissimulation of the actual great game.

It is very obvious that there is a huge geopolitical backdrop of power plays in the Indian Ocean. The US’s naval dominance is declining and it is “leveraging the growing sea power of allies such as India and Japan to balance against China,” to quote Robert Kaplan, well-known strategic thinker and author.

China’s ascendance feared

Arguably, the US volte face on Colombo’s war (after having been its staunch supporter until recently) stems from the strategic setback it suffered through miscalculation insofar as while American admirals were scared away by Sri Lanka’s civil war, China simply moved in. The West fears China’s ascendance. On China’s part, however, the fuelling station in Hambantota becomes vital for optimally using the series of port facilities it has lined up in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar connecting the southern Chinese province of Yunnan to the world market.

The naval presence in Sri Lanka becomes invaluable for China if the planned canal across the Isthmus of Kra in Thailand materialises connecting Indian Ocean with China’s Pacific coast, a project that could dramatically shift the balance of power in Asia in China’s favour. Therefore, no matter what it takes, the West and China (with Russian backing) will compete for gaining the upper hand in Sri Lanka.

Having said that, the US also has a need for greater cooperation with China. This in turn creates a compulsion for the US to act as a ‘broker’ between India and China. During his visit to Delhi on May 14, the US Pacific Command chief Admiral Timothy J Keating revealed that he declined an offer recently from a top-ranking Chinese naval official regarding a US-Chinese understanding to split the seas East of Hawaii and West of Hawaii between the two navies, while on his part he said he invited China to join the annual US-India naval exercises codenamed ‘Malabar Exercises,’ but China declined and preferred to remain as an observer.

By M.K.Bhadrakumar  © Deccan Herald

Sri Lanka's Killing Fields 2 War crimes unpunished

Filed under: genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: — எல்லாளன் @ 10:31 pm

Last year Channel 4 broadcast Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields, a critically-acclaimed and RTS Award winning forensic investigation into the events of the last few weeks of the decades-long war between the government of Sri Lanka and the rebel forces of the Tamil Tigers (LTTE), presented by Jon Snow. It featured devastating video evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity captured on mobile phones by both victims and perpetrators – some of the most horrific footage Channel 4 has ever broadcast.

This footage featured atrocities committed on both sides but its most disturbing finding was of a series of war crimes perpetrated by victorious Sri Lankan government forces including evidence of sexual assaults on female fighters, the execution of bound prisoners and the shelling of civilians in what were supposed to be safe ‘No Fire Zones’.

Screened at the UN in Geneva and New York and also shown to politicians at the House of Commons, the European Parliament and key figures in the US Senate, Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields prompted comment from leading political figures around the world, including Prime Minister David Cameron. Yet these war crimes still have yet to be properly investigated or those responsible brought to account – despite UN sources suggesting the Sri Lankan government forces killed up to 40 thousand civilians – perhaps many more in this period.

This powerful follow-up film, also presented by Jon Snow, presents damning new video evidence of war crimes including contemporaneous documents, eye-witness accounts, photographic stills and videos relating to how exactly events unfolded during the final days of the civil war. It investigates who was responsible – the results point to the highest levels of the Sri Lankan government and complicity at the top of the army.

Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished forensically examines four specific cases and investigates who was responsible. The cases are: the deliberate heavy shelling of civilians and a hospital in the ‘No Fire Zone'; the strategic denial of food and medicine to hundreds and thousands of trapped civilians – defying the legal obligation to allow humanitarian aid into a war zone; the killing of civilians during the ‘rescue mission’ and the systematic execution of naked and bound LTTE prisoners – featuring new chilling video footage of a 12-year-old boy who has been brutally executed.

Despite pressure from human rights groups and the report by a UN-appointed panel of experts which called for a thorough international investigation into alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, the Sri Lankan government’s internal inquiry, ‘The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’ published in December last year, failed to conduct any kind of rigorous investigation into the allegations of war crimes. It specifically denied that any civilians were knowingly targeted with heavy artillery. Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished explores the reasons behind the apparent international inaction at the time, in calling the government of Sri Lanka to account.

Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished presents shocking new video footage and evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity which trace ultimate responsibility up the highest echelons of the chain of command. This film asks questions of those who still hold the reins of power in Sri Lanka – President Rajapaksa, commander in chief and his brother Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaska – and two former army chiefs who have landed prime diplomatic posts since the war ended and immunity from prosecution.

With the England cricket team set to tour Sri Lanka once again this month and Sri Lanka now confirmed as the venue for the next commonwealth heads of government meeting in 2013, this film is a stark reminder of the terrible suffering of a people who have been failed and forgotten by the international community.

Director: Callum Macrae
Exec Prod: Chris Shaw
Prod Co: ITN Productions
Comm Ed: Dorothy Byrne

Channel 4 News © Channel 4

Sri lanka A plot to kill or otherwise harm the human rights defender Herman Kumara

Filed under: genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: — எல்லாளன் @ 10:23 pm

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that Mr. Herman Kumara, a well-respected Sri Lankan human rights defender has received a number of death threats after he helped organize fishermen in protest of rising fuel prices. Soon after, he was followed by a group of people in a white van who visited his hometown and inquired about his family’s residence and whereabouts.

Mr. Kumara fears for his life and has entered into hiding. Although his organization, the NFSM (National Fisheries Solidarity Movement) has filed an official complaint with the Pannala Police Station, the police have not taken any steps to investigate the complaint. This case is yet another illustration of the exceptional collapse of the rule of law in the country.

According to information that the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received Mr. Wijetunga Appuhamilage Herman Kumara of Sandalankawa, Irabadagama In Kurunegalle District, the Secretary General of the World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP) and head of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NFSM) of Sri Lanka, a widely known human rights organization, is facing a potential threat to his life as he fears an imminent abduction. Mr. Kumara has helped organize protests by local fisherman who demonstrated in response to the government’s fuel increases, and received death threats for this work. The NFSM has filed an official request to the Sri Lankan authorities to assure Mr. Kumara’s safety but they have not responded to his request; the officers of the Pannala Police Station have yet to take any steps to investigate the complaint. The complaint made on this regard to the Pannala Police Station and it was recorded with reference as, CIB (1)/241/490, by the wife of the Herman Kumara, Ms. Shrini Kumuduni Pradeepika Adihettie.

Herman Kumara was one of the founding members of the Platform for Freedom in Sri Lanka. He collaborated with more than 160 civil society organizations and trade unions across the country to create an organization which would respond to the needs of the people. The Platform for Freedom gave voice to those who wanted to express disagreement against oppressive government policies. Mr. Kumara is also on the Board of Directors for the Women for Development Alternatives of Sri Lanka (SASTHRI) and participates in the development of a number of other civil society organizations in Sri Lanka. He is a well-respected human rights defender, activist and civil society moderator who has been operating in these spheres of Sri Lankan society for over 30 years. During this time, he has made a number of significant contributions to international human rights campaigns and the overall wellbeing of Sri Lanka.

Mr. Kumara arrived in Sri Lanka several days ago following an international conference in Rome, Italy. Shortly after his arrival, he noticed that he was being followed by a group of people in a van with the registration 301-2865. The suspicious behavior of the group of people led him to believe that he was in danger of being abducted. He is currently in hiding. He suspects that they were looking to abduct him as he said “if I had actually done anything wrong, I would have been arrested at the airport.” He added that if he had committed a legal offence, he was ready and willing to face legal action. Shortly after he entered into hiding, members of the group in the van visited his hometown and asked where Mr. Kumara and his family resided.

In February 2012, the Sri Lankan government increased fuel prices; a decision which caused public protest. Soon after, electricity prices were increased by 40% and public transportation fees by 20%. This led to violent protests across Sri Lanka. In one protest, a fishermen was killed by police officers in a town on the west coast. There were protests and road blockades in the western fishing town of Chilaw where large boats depend on the fuel whose price has dramatically increased.

Shortly after the protests, two senior government ministers, Rajitha Senarathna, Cabinet Minister of Fisheries & Aquatic Resources Development, and Wimal Weerawansa, Cabinet Minister of Construction, Engineering Services, Housing and Common Amenities, critiqued Mr. Kumara and the work of the organizations he is involved with in Parliament and on state-sponsored media outlets. They accused civil society organizations (presumably the NFFSM) for mobilizing the general public in protest.

Mr. Herman has emphasized that he will continue his work as a human rights defender and civil society activist. He calls on the government of Sri Lanka to uphold his rights enshrined in the Constitution and immediately ensure his protection.

The Asian Human Rights Commission has reported innumerable cases of abduction and disappearance in Sri Lanka, which are illegal under international and local law. In a large number of cases that the AHRC has observed, individuals were abducted by people in white vans. The fate of these victims remains unknown. Two weeks ago, an individual was abducted at the Colombo High Court while he was under the custody of the Prison Department.

The Inspector General of Police and his Department is supposed to initiate prompt investigations into every complaint of a crime. The Attorney General of Sri Lanka is supposed to file indictments in cases where credible evidence has been found against perpetrators.

The Asian Human Rights Commission has urged the government of Sri Lanka on several occasions to carry out prompt, efficient and accountable investigations against reported cases of serious human rights violations. These suggestions appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

Asian Human Rights Commission © AHRC
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please send a letter to the authorities listed below expressing your concern about this case and requesting an immediate investigation into the allegations of imminent threat of life and abduction by the unknown group of people, and the prosecution of those proven to be responsible under the criminal law of the country. Further, please also request the NPC and the IGP to have a special investigation into the complaints made by the victim.

Please note that the AHRC has also written a separate letter to the Special Rapporteur on Special Rapporteure on Situation of Human Rights Defenders and Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions on this regard.

To support this appeal please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ________,

SRI LANKA: A plot to kill or otherwise harm the human rights defender Herman Kumara

Name of the victim: Mr. Wijetunga Appuhamilage Herman Kumara the Secretary General of the World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP) and the head of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NFSM) of Sri Lanka
Alleged perpetrator: Unidentified group of people
Date of incident: 29 February 2012
Place of incident: Chilaw, Sri Lanka

I am writing to express my serious concern over the case of Mr. Wijetunga Appuhamilage Herman Kumara of Sandalankawa, Irabadagama In Kurunegalle District. He is the Secretary General of the World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP) and head of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NFSM) of Sri Lanka, a widely known human rights organization, is facing a potential threat to his life as he fears an imminent abduction. Mr. Kumara has helped organize protests by local fisherman who demonstrated in response to the government’s fuel increases, and received death threats for this work. The NFSM has filed an official request to the Sri Lankan authorities to assure Mr. Kumara’s safety but they have not responded to his request; the officers of the Pannala Police Station have yet to take any steps to investigate the complaint. The complaint made on this regard to the Pannala Police Station and it was recorded with reference as, CIB(1)/241/490, by the wife of the Herman Kumara, Ms. Shrini Kumuduni Pradeepika Adihettie.

Herman Kumara was one of the founding members of the Platform for Freedom in Sri Lanka. He collaborated with more than 160 civil society organizations and trade unions across the country to create an organization which would respond to the needs of the people. The Platform for Freedom gave voice to those who wanted to express disagreement against oppressive government policies. Mr. Kumara is also on the Board of Directors for the Women for Development Alternatives of Sri Lanka (SASTHRI) and participates in the development of a number of other civil society organizations in Sri Lanka. He is a well-respected human rights defender, activist and civil society moderator who has been operating in these spheres of Sri Lankan society for over 30 years. During this time, he has made a number of significant contributions to international human rights campaigns and the overall wellbeing of Sri Lanka.

Mr. Kumara arrived in Sri Lanka several days ago following an international conference in Rome, Italy. Shortly after his arrival, he noticed that he was being followed by a group of people in a van with the registration 301-2865. The suspicious behavior of the group of people led him to believe that he was in danger of being abducted. He is currently in hiding. He suspects that they were looking to abduct him as he said “if I had actually done anything wrong, I would have been arrested at the airport.” He added that if he had committed a legal offence, he was ready and willing to face legal action. Shortly after he entered into hiding, members of the group in the van visited his hometown and asked where Mr. Kumara and his family resided.

In February 2012, the Sri Lankan government increased fuel prices; a decision which caused public protest. Soon after, electricity prices were increased by 40% and public transportation fees by 20%. This led to violent protests across Sri Lanka. In one protest, a fishermen was killed by police officers in a town on the west coast. There were protests and road blockades in the western fishing town of Chilaw where large boats depend on the fuel whose price has dramatically increased.

Shortly after the protests, two senior government ministers, Rajitha Senarathna, Cabinet Minister of Fisheries & Aquatic Resources Development, and Wimal Weerawansa, Cabinet Minister of Construction, Engineering Services, Housing and Common Amenities, critiqued Mr. Kumara and the work of the organizations he is involved with in Parliament and on state-sponsored media outlets. They accused civil society organizations (presumably the NFFSM) for mobilizing the general public in protest.

Mr. Herman has emphasized that he will continue his work as a human rights defender and civil society activist. He calls on the government of Sri Lanka to uphold his rights enshrined in the Constitution and immediately ensure his protection.

I request your urgent intervention to ensure that the authorities listed below instigate an immediate investigation into the allegations of imminent threat to life and abduction by the group of unknown people, and the prosecution of those proven to be responsible under the criminal law of the country.

Yours sincerely,

———————
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. N K Illangakoon
Inspector General of Police
New Secretariat
Colombo 1
SRI LANKA
Fax: +94 11 2 440440 / 327877
E-mail: igp@police.lk

2. Ms. Eva Wanasundara
Attorney General
Attorney General’s Department
Colombo 12
SRI LANKA
Fax: +94 11 2 436421
E-mail: ag@attorneygeneral.gov.lk

3. Secretary
National Police Commission
3rd Floor, Rotunda Towers
109 Galle Road
Colombo 03
SRI LANKA
Tel: +94 11 2 395310
Fax: +94 11 2 395867
E-mail: npcgen@sltnet.lk or polcom@sltnet.lk

4. Secretary
Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission
No. 108
Barnes Place
Colombo 07
SRI LANKA
Tel: +9411 2694925, +9411 2685980, +9411 2685981
Fax: +9411 2694924 (General) +94112696470 (Chairman)
E-mail: sechrc@sltnet.lk

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

Sri Lanka A two-act drama unfolding in Colombo

Filed under: genocide srilanka, tamil eelam — Tags: — எல்லாளன் @ 10:18 pm

The large and quite unexpected (by the ordinary person) hike in all prices that Sri Lanka woke up to in the first week of February set off protest movements that are growing and could swell into something very serious within weeks or months. Then, apart from, or some say as an attempt to divert attention there from, the government unleashed a wave of street protests against “the imperialist plot to destabilise Sri Lanka and undermine its sovereignty” at the UNHCR sessions which opened in Geneva on 27 February. People in knowledgeable places say the diversion theory and the panic theory are both true. Hence the startled, jerky, anti-West campaign the regime has instigated.

It is clear that the government is very frightened. I do not know what Maria Otero and Robert Blake did or said to Lanka’s political leaders but they seem to have pressed on all the panic buttons; the behaviour of GoSL has changed dramatically since this January visit. What has been publicly said by the Americans is that they will move a resolution at the UNHRC calling on Sri Lanka to implement the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’s (LLRC) recommendations and follow up on the accountability issues that the LLRC pussyfooted around with. (Accountability is a euphemism for alleged human-rights violations and alleged war crimes by the Lankan military).

Is there more than meets the eye?

True, if such a resolution is carried by the assembly (it is by no means clear whether this will happen) it will be a slap in the face for the Rajapakse siblings, but not for the country. What’s wrong with implementing excellent LLRC recommendations or probing the bloodletting in the Vanni in the final stages of the war? There could be other reasons for the government to get into a funk; perhaps incriminating personal evidence, perhaps broad economic threats. There are two ways in which the West can cripple Lanka’s economy; enforcing an embargo on imports of Iranian oil and imposing trade sanctions. The EU and US are our biggest export markets accounting for 50% between them.

An oil embargo is quite frightening because 93% of Lanka’s petrol, diesel and kerosene are derived from Iranian crude and our only refinery (Sapugaskanda) is designed for that type only. Alternative supply lines for similar crude have proved difficult to source and Lanka has a line of credit with Iran which it can forego only at a cost. Newspapers are talking of petrol rationing, but fuel supply disruption will be curtains for the haulage fleet, public and private transport, industry and tea factories. It is unlikely to come to this since Lanka’s leaders will capitulate before the precipice unless they intend to set off on a xenophobic, isolationist and militarist strategy in the belief that it will stir waves of mass support. But this is a very dangerous option. Washington and Delhi are unlikely to countenance military rule by an erstwhile China embracing Lankan regime.

An interesting side show is that the US State Department has brushed New Delhi aside and taken control of the international ‘Sri Lanka desk’. Priority is now reversed; Delhi is number two and follows at a respectful distance. The US had no option, given Delhi’s monumental blunders in handling the Sri Lanka issue in recent years when it was assigned the lead role. The latest gaffe was when Indian External Affairs Minister Krishna pranced on the Colombo stage six weeks ago attributing various promises to President Rajapakse ; four days after he waltzed away the President all but called him, in effect, a downright liar. From Delhi since then: Dead silence!

The Delhi-Colombo relationship has become a Jack and the beanstalk story. Brave Jack has felled the beanstalk with a mighty made in China axe and the giant is splayed in a thin paste all sputtering on the ground. Obviously Indian policy makers are foxed by what to do in Geneva; not even a hint of a leak creeps out. A tough line backing Washington will reassert authority but the current Indian Administration has timidity stamped all over it. Hence I am not taking bets.

The panic in Colombo is objectively justified. Even a best case scenario: Defeat of the US resolution and an Indian abstention (can India vote against a pro-LLRC, pro internal accountability resolution without making itself irrelevant to Lanka once and for all?) will only buy time. Old father clock is grinding forward with determination and the Rajapakses are with their backs to the wall. Its do or die time, so will they swallow the bitter medicine and ‘do’? The alternatives are suicidal.

Empty pocket goes to market

The way in which the Sri Lankan government mishandled the February price hikes is incomprehensible folly. It removed a fuel subsidy that had been in place for years, raising prices of diesel and kerosene by nearly 37% and 49%, respectively; it let the rupee float (fallen 5% already, probably settling 10-15% lower next month); imposed an 18% annual credit growth curb on banks (credit growth has been bounding along at nearly 40%); raised domestic electricity prices by 25% to 40% depending on consumer category, and upped central bank benchmark interest rates by 0.5%.

Justification or otherwise of these steps apart, isn’t this all-in-a-day big-bang a manifestation of suicidal inclinations? And there was an IMF team in town with euthanasia kit ready to hand. I cannot see how the government can avoid mass confrontation when inflation will soon soar to high double digits (despite manipulation of statistics). Has it decided it is ready for a show down and will crush unrest? The military in Sri Lanka is ruthless, so is the hegemonic core at the centre of state power; on the other hand the SLFP, the ruling party, is known for its populism and enduring soft relationship with a large mass base. It’s not that I can’t predict what will happen between the options of retreat and repression; this time it is inherently unpredictable. At times there is a Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle in politics as well; intrinsic unknowability.

There was much pressure on the exchange rate of the Lankan rupee (LKR) but only because of gross mismanagement by the Central Bank (CB). The country’s foreign reserves have fallen from $8.3 billion in August 2011 to about $5.2 billion at the time of writing. Why? Because CB depleted the reserves desperately fighting to shore up the LKR (sell dollars and buy LKR) and hold it at 114 to the dollar. But why such a big demand for dollars? Because the government relaxed import controls on luxury items, especially cars, which came flooding in (Colombo’s streets have become a driver’s nightmare), the trade deficit rose to the sky ($10 billion in 2011), and the tottering LKR rapidly lost value concealed by the CB pumping in dollars to buy it.

Now to continue in layman’s terms- this turned into a witch’s brew of recycling nightmares. The credit boom of the last two years was not because industry was borrowing for productive investment; no the chattering classes were borrowing and importing everything from luxury SUVs to simple Nanos by the boatload, not to mention stacks of consumer durables. Borrow and eat; recipe for disaster. When the CB soaked up LKR selling dollars, it had to find ways of getting LKR back into the market for circulation and economic activity, hence the low interest rate regime. “Come on banks, borrow from me and re-lend” said uncle CB. This is the story of Sri Lanka’s self-inflicted devaluation.

The petrol price story is another tragic-comedy. It is true that fuel prices have been subsidised for some years and the situation was not permanently sustainable. Well this is not quite true, petrol was marked above cost price to cross-subsidise kerosene (used for lighting and cooking in the tea plantations and some rural areas where firewood is short) and diesel (because of the haulage fleet and public buses). The subsidy was also spread over electricity prices and the Ceylon Electricity Board is a permanently loss making institution due to no fault of its own. The CEB does not pay its fuel bills, therefore the Petroleum Corporation is permanently ill-liquid, and somewhere along the line the government (the citizenry) picks up the tab. Oil prices have been hovering in the $100 per barrel region for a long time now and the government should have gradually adjusted the prices to market levels over the years. No, it did nothing for three years and then the Big-Bang; it removes in one fell sweep a subsidy so that the price of the fuels that most affects the subaltern classes rise by 40% to 50%! This is why I said suicidal tendencies.

Devaluation, jacked up fuel prices, rising interest rates and a credit squeeze all at once, all together, will mean not only high inflation (and visible instant anger on the street) but also a decline in GDP growth rates. The government claimed that real annual GDP growth in 2012 would be 8.3%, but that was before these fireworks. My personal estimate now is that it will be more like 6.5%; still not bad, but not enough to hold back anger because of great inequity of distribution, complicated, much more than in India, by corruption, because of a greater lack of transparency. This in turn is a consequence of much lower public civic consciousness.

I will close my story of the second drama in Colombo with some remarks about how the opposition to the government’s economic policies may develop. First I must remark, however, that the effort to divert attention by turning xenophobic anger in 150 orchestrated demonstrations starting 27 February to be sustained for the duration of the Geneva sessions did not get off to an impressive start. On the first day public servants (my friends) were told that they can depart from office, without taking leave, and join demonstrations. Marine Drive Colpetty, near the US Embassy, was a vast parking lot for vans in which protesters were bussed in. The Colombo demonstrations were moderately large but friends who had driven in from Tangalle in the deep south had seen nothing and the suburbs of Colombo stayed sleepy. I think there isn’t much enthusiasm and interest seems to be flagging from day-one. Turning attention away from economic concerns is not working.

The mood against price increases is building up in three sectors; fishermen from Chilaw (one life has been lost there in police firing) to Moratuwa and in Colombo City, in the trade unions, and more slowly but more ominously in the upcountry plantations. There is a possibility of Tamil fishermen in the north and east throwing in their lot. There is visible activity but it is not possible to say for sure whether a natural groundswell, apart from mobilisation by trade unions and the political opposition, is building in a big way. The next few weeks will show the shape of things to come.

By Dr Kumar David | South Asian Analysis Group © SAAG

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