Saturday, February 14, 2009

PC polls: UNP cries foul

Describing today’s elections in North Western and Central Provinces as corrupt, the main opposition United National Party (UNP) lodged a complaint with the Elections Commissioner this evening (Feb 14).

In the complaint the UNP said a large number of election violations had taken place in both provinces. Destroying of ballot cards, intimidating voters at polling centres, assaulting voters and setting vehicles ablaze were some of the alleged violations, the UNP said.

According to the opposition party, most of these incidents were reported from Rambadagalla, Anamaduwa and Hettipola in the North Western Province and Nawalapitiya, Theldeniya, Hewaheta, Gampola and Pathadumbara in the Central Province.

The UNP has also complained to the Elections Commissioner that some Samurdhi officers and Gramaseva officers were also involved in these election malpractices.

NOT AGAIN - Tigers hurl grenade and open fire at civilian bus

Some LTTE cadres hurled a hand grenade and opened fire at a bus carrying civilians at Puliyankulam in Vavuniya at around 1.30 am today (Feb. 14), Killing one civilian and injuring thirteen others, five elderly males, two boys, four elderly females and two girls.

The dead and the injured have been taken to the Vavuniya Hospital, defence sources said.

Latest updates on Defence.lk

Washington Post: In Sri Lanka, Tales Of Jungle Terror

By Emily Wax, Washington Post Foreign Service

Trying to quiet her crying infant son, the young mother grabbed her 11-year-old's hand and told him to follow her. Starting out at dusk, they spent hours hiding in the jungle terrain, crouching amid the crossfire between the Sri Lankan army and Tamil Tiger rebels.

Like thousands of other civilians stuck in the epicenter of the seemingly final battles of this civil war, Sashi Kumari Selvarajha's family was struggling to flee through marshlands and across the front lines, hoping for safety, she said through tears. But just as they crossed the line, she said, rebel forces open fire.

"We started running on Monday night. But we didn't think it was safe. So we stopped to sleep in the jungle. As the sun rose, we fled. But my husband and mother-in-law got killed," said a distraught Selvarajha, 31, as she unloaded her bags at a crowded camp for the war-displaced in government-held Vavuniya District, where 2,000 haggard and dehydrated civilians arrived Wednesday. "I'm never going back to that place."

Hers is a rare firsthand account of the harrowing flight of thousands of civilians to this heavily fortified frontier town. It came as the Sri Lankan army said it would end a largely ineffective "safe zone," which health officials and diplomats said had been shelled by both sides. Instead, troops would set up a new safe zone on a 7.5-mile-long strip of land on the northeastern coast where civilians were already seeking refuge, Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara, a military spokesman, said Thursday.

Most civilians who flee the fighting are put into military-run camps that officially do not allow outsiders. Stone-faced and red-eyed relatives line up behind sandbags, coils of barbed wire and machine-gun nests as soldiers check their identity papers before they can find missing loved ones.

A brother and sister stood weeping inside the camp and told how their 41-year-old father was shot dead when they attempted to cross into government-held areas. Their mother and sister are fighting for their lives in Vavuniya's hospital.

"We lost our father. We lost everything," said Rasendran Nitha, 17, who huddled with her brother, Rasendran Radanraj, 20. "We don't know what to do. We desperately need peace in Sri Lanka."

As the army continues its offensive to end the 25-year-long rebel war, the Sri Lankan government has come under increasing international pressure to halt its offensive and allow an estimated 250,000 civilians trapped in the northern Wanni region safe passage.

The government has refused and also says the number of trapped civilians is lower. It argues that the Tigers, known for their frequent use of suicide bombers, are using civilians as human shields, a claim that rebels deny but that diplomats and human rights workers here agree is taking place.

Letting up on the fighting would allow the rebels to escape along with the displaced, President Mahinda Rajapakse's government has said. The United States has labeled the Tigers a terrorist group. The government says tens of thousands of civilians have fled the ever-shrinking coastal strip controlled by the Tigers, now estimated at less than 61 square miles.

Here in Vavuniya, many traumatized civilians said the past few weeks of fighting have left them confused about where to find safety. John Manni, 38, spent a harrowing Monday trying to decide on which side to stay in Vallipunam, a forested area between the army and rebel lines. He believed the government side would be safest, but as his family crossed over the front lines, his 12-year-old niece, two uncles and an aunt were killed. He isn't sure who did the firing.

>> Washington Post

Narayana Murthy appointed Sri Lankan President’s IT advisor

Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday appointed N R Narayana Murthy, chairman of India's Infosys Technologies, as his international advisor on information technology, the president's office said.

Rajapaksa made the appointment after inviting Narayana Murthy as the chief guest to the ceremonial launch of '2009-Year of English and Information Technology' at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo on Friday.

It was launched as a major initiative of the government to meet the demands of the 21st century in skills and capacities, mainly at the rural sector.

Infosys is a global consulting and IT services company based in India. Narayana Murthy, who has stepped down as its CEO but continues as chief mentor and board chairman, has received numerous prestigious awards and honours, including Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award of the Indian government.

Speaking at the event, Rajapaksa said Sri Lanka was "greatly inspired by the dramatic success of India" in the field of IT in recent years.

"It is for this reason that we have turned to India in addition to other countries for technical support to strengthen our own endeavours. We are honoured by the presence today of Narayana Murthy, the 'father of IT in India' and the chairman and mentor of the world famous Infosys," President Rajapaksa said.

He said Narayana Murthy's address at the ceremony had given a wider perspective on empowering rural people with knowledge in IT. Rajapaksa expressed confidence that his association with Sri Lanka's national initiative would continue in the future as well.

The president said his government lays emphasis on the unmistakable need to urgently equip people, especially the youth, with proficiency in the English language and to provide them with access to computers and Internet through rapid development of use of IT.

"With the liberation of our people from the clutches of terrorism which destroyed our country for more than 25 years, year 2009 will also be our country's Year of Peace, our country's Year of Reconciliation, and our Year of true Independence," Rajapaksa said.

"English and IT shall, therefore, be used by our government as instruments of rural empowerment; as powerful tools that could make the villages of our country a meaningful part of the global village," the president said.

Present among the key invitees were Abhai Maurya, vice-chancellor of the English and Foreign Languages University of Hyderabad, which has already launched a re-training programme for Sri Lanka's English teachers with the assistance of the government of India.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Statement by Paul Harris on Past & Present Situation in Sri Lanka

The writer and military analyst Paul Harris, who worked in Sri Lanka between 1996 ad 2002 as correspondent for Jane’s Intelligence Review and the London Daily Telegraph, spoke to SPUR yesterday with his reaction to current events in Sri Lanka. Harris was forced to leave Sri Lanka in November 2002 at 24 hours notice after the government of Ranil Wickremesinghe pulled his journalist visa. Harris was critical of the peace process with the LTTE.

“The government of Sri Lanka and its President are to be congratulated on the prosecution of the war with the LTTE which has been accomplished with resolve and courage. This is in stark contrast to the supine efforts of previous governments who flinched from taking on the LTTE which had, accordingly, been able to engender a myth of invulnerability. Only six or seven years ago, it appeared that Sri Lanka might be terminally divided: a fate which would have doomed this unique and wonderful country as a sovereign entity.

“The loss of any civilian life is a matter for profound regret and, inevitably, many innocents will be victims of this final round of the conflict. However, we must not forget the tens f thousands f civilians who have already died in a war that has gone on far too long. The end of this war and the extermination of a longstanding terrorist threat must now be the priority. It is disingenuous of the British and US governments, supposedly dedicated to the worldwide war on terror, to call for a ceasefire at this vital final stage in the conflict.

“Foreign journalists who have suddenly arrived in Sri Lanka at this late stage in a conflict that has gone on for decades are questioning on channels like the BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera whether real peace can emerge from ‘the military solution’. In daily broadcasts they are claiming there is no other Tamil leadership except the LTTE. Such observations betray their limited understanding of the conflict. If there be no alternative leaders, it is because the LTTE has pursued a specific policy of the eradication of all Tamil politicians who did not adopt their creed of repression and lack of democratic choice. Some of the most brilliant members of the Tamil community have been cut down, men like Lakshman Kadirgamar, who I was privileged to know and work with, and countless others in Jaffna who bravely stood out against the brutality of the Tigers.

“I believe the enormously talented Tamil community of Sri Lanka is fully able to produce leaders of integrity and ability once one man is removed from the scene. I refer, of course, to Velupillai Prabhakaran, one of the most vicious terrorists the world has ever produced. Let us not forget, the LTTE is a one man band representing the views and aspirations of its brutal leader. The LTTE has never offered any sort of a future for the majority of Tamils.

“Hopefully, at an early date we shall see the capture or death of Velupillai Prabhakaran, who has inflicted so much misery on all the peoples of Sri Lanka. To claim him as the representative of the majority of Tamils is a travesty of reality.”

Note: In the autumn of 2004, the LTTE leadership issued a death sentence on Paul Harris for his writings and speeches denouncing them. He has been hunted for the last four years by LTTE death squads and has lived under the protection of the British secret service, shifting locations frequently and restricted in his activities. He now hopes to return to Sri Lanka at an early date.

Sri Lanka rejects British special envoy

COLOMBO (AFP) — Sri Lanka on Thursday rejected the appointment of former defence minister Des Browne as a special envoy to the island, accusing London of interfering in its internal affairs.

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said the government in the former British colony saw Browne's appointment as a unilateral move by London and decided not to accept him.

"It is tantamount to an intrusion into Sri Lanka's internal affairs and is disrespectful to the country's statehood," the minister told AFP, warning "there could be major repercussions" for relations with Britain.

He dubbed Britain's move "extremely unhelpful" but did not specify if any measures would be taken in retaliation.

"There is no further discussions with London on the matter," Bogollagama said, after the British Foreign Office has said talks were ongoing to resolve the dispute.

Earlier in London, Prime Minister Gordon Brown's office said Browne, who left office last October, would work with all sides.

"In this new role, Des Browne will focus on the immediate humanitarian situation in northern Sri Lanka and the government of Sri Lanka's work to set out a political solution to bring about a lasting end to the conflict.

"As special envoy, he will work closely with the Sri Lankan government, leaders from all communities in Sri Lanka, international agencies and the wider international community," it said in a statement.

The statement, also issued by the British High Commission in Colombo, quoted Browne as saying he was "looking forward to contributing to Britain's efforts to improve the serious humanitarian situation and liaising with all parties."

Sri Lanka has resisted calls for a "no-fire period", amid claims from relief agencies that a "humanitarian catastrophe" was unfolding in the island's war zone, where tens of thousands of civilians are trapped.

Downing Street had no comment on Sri Lanka's rejection of Browne.

Senior Sri Lankan government officials said here that London had not consulted with Colombo before making the appointment.

The appointment came two days after nationalists protested outside the British High Commission here, demanding that international officials keep out of Sri Lanka's internal affairs.

Army declares new ‘Safe Area’ for civilians in Mullaitivu

Security Forces Headquarters in Wanni, in response to humanitarian concerns that had been brought to its notice, announced the demarcation of a new 12-km long Safe Zone along the western boundary of the Mullaittivu lagoon, effective Thursday (12th February 2009 - today) afternoon, the Army Headquarters declared.

The 12-km long strip, beginning from the northwest of Vadduvakal (09 17 26.60 N & 080 47 10.60 E) to the west, and north of Vadduvakal (09 18 06.08 N & 080 48 08.30 E) to the eastern coastal boundary, runs up to Palamattalan south (09 22 17.70 N & 080 42 35.60 E) on the western side. On the coastal belt up to the extreme north, the eastern strip ends at the southeast of Palamattalan (09 22 35.60 N & 080 42 53.80 E). The area between the northwest of Vadduvakal to the north of Vadduvakal that touches the eastern sea boundary is about 2 km in width and the extent at the northern end of the strip, touching Palamattalan area is about 1 km in breadth.

The entire un-cleared coastal area from the north of Vadduvakal in the demarcated zone includes tiny villages, Vellamullavaikkal, Karayamullivaikkal, Velayanmadam, Ampelavanpokkanai and Putumattalan in the 12 km-long strip.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has already been informed of this new Safe Zone.

The Sri Lanka Army, fully committed to provide maximum safety for the lives of entrapped or forcibly detained civilians in un-cleared areas in the Mullaittivu district, calls upon the public to move into those specified areas at the earliest.

(Courtesy: Army.lk)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Must Watch: 2002 vs 2009 - Wanni Operation - 11 Feb 2009

Video:

Enough already with the genocide talk

by John Thompson, President - The Mackenzie Institute in Toronto

The accusations of genocide in Sri Lanka are getting annoying… and not in the usual ways. Anybody who takes the charge seriously betrays a highly annoying ignorance about the state of affairs between Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Genocide is not happening in Sri Lanka. Plenty of other nasty things are; but genocide is not one of them.

The LTTE and its supporters in the international Tamil Diaspora they dominate would like us to slap the label of 'genocide' onto the Sri Lankan government. Ignore this campaign.

Forget the 'black hat' vs. 'white hat' morality play. In fact, forget this when looking at any civil war in any country. Where human beings are involved, nothing is ever simple.

It seems that everyone knows that in Sri Lanka, some 75% or so of the population are Sinhalese and therefore mostly Buddhist; some 15% are Tamil and mostly Hindu; and the rest are Muslim, Burghers, Malays, etc. But things still aren't that simple.

The Tamils alone have numerous cleavages based on the antiquity of their community in Sri Lanka, their caste, the main local occupation; etc, etc. Moreover, in many rural communities, telling these Dravidian people apart is impossible, especially as intermarriage and all the other little human connections come into play.

Yet the LTTE claims to represent all Tamils on the Island; and murdered tens of thousands of them to underscore the point. They've killed Tamils from rival insurgent movements, from federalist parties, schoolteachers who wouldn't let them recruit children from their classrooms, people who wouldn't pay extorted 'war taxes', and many more.

When engaged in 'Ethnic Cleansing' (a favorite LTTE activity a few years back), it was hard to segregate Sinhalese from Tamils from Muslims when walloping machetes into panicked villagers in the middle of the night. Grenades tossed in crowded cellars aren't discriminating either. Truck bombs rammed into an office tower and time bombs on crowded buses also couldn't differentiate between Sinhalese and Tamils.

Many observers who pay close attention to the 35 year history of the LTTE believe that the Tigers have killed more Tamils than the government. It's also true that the government has killed more Sinhalese than the Tamil Tigers ever managed: In the past 40 years two uprisings by Maoist Sinhalese were suppressed with extreme ruthlessness and tens of thousands died. Sri Lanka has been far more discriminating in fighting the Tamil Tigers.

The Sri Lankan government is certainly guilty of human rights abuses, and the current government's behaviour can be very troubling. Yet genocide is one crime that they cannot be accused of; no matter how shrill the wailing from Tiger's propaganda outlets.

Lately, those outlets have been shrill indeed. After 25 years of guerrilla warfare and 35 years of terrorism, the Tigers are finally being crushed. Whole regions of the country have been quiet for months, the Tiger air force has vanished, their artillery has been captured, and their founder and leader has apparently deserted his remaining forces.

But like Hitler or Saddam Hussein; Vellupillai Prabhakaran is not above sacrificing anybody his followers can compel into service. As the last guerrilla forces retreated into their final sanctuary, they dragged in every Tamil civilian they could find as a human shield.

Now, the Tigers are screaming that genocide is being perpetrated on their human shields… Well, this could be easily solved by laying down their arms and surrendering; but instead they seem determined to fight to the death.

The Tigers under siege are screaming for food and medical aid to be sent to their hostages. The Sri Lankan Army doesn't share this misplaced compassion.

The Tigers are screaming for a cease-fire. Every ceasefire that occurred in the past 25 years was used as an opportunity to re-arm and re-fit, before the Tigers ended it with a new offensive. The Sri Lankan government can be forgiven for preferring surrender to a cease-fire.

Wars are terrible things, and it is best that they be ended – not be prolonged. The Sri Lankan Civil War, after over 70,000 dead and 25 years of ruin and expense, is finally coming to an end. Let it end.

Canada should retract its call for a ceasefire in Sri Lanka, and instead call on the Tigers to surrender. As for those people busy pressing the 'genocide' button; leave it alone. It won't work if it keeps being misused.

(John C Thompson is the President of The Mackenzie Institute in Toronto Canada. The Institute, cited by several major Canadian newspapers as one of Canada's leading research organizations, prides itself on its objective and independent forays into some of the most contentious issues of the day.

Its work often becomes a catalyst for informed debate and major change. He Directs its research into issues relating to domestic and international political instability and organized violence (e.g. terrorism, warfare, organized crime, conflict, causes of instability, political extremism, etc.) Former Intelligence Officer of the Canadian Army, Thompson was awarded the Canadian Forces Decoration in 1989. He left the service as a Captain. John is a member of Civitas, the Queen's York Rangers Regimental Council, the Royal Canadian Military Institute – and its pistol club, Fair Vote Canada, the International Counter-Terrorism Officers Association)

Press Release from U.S. Department of Treasury - February 11, 2009

February 11, 2009
TG-22

Treasury Targets U.S. Front for Sri Lankan Terrorist Organization

Washington, DC - The U.S. Department of the Treasury today targeted the support network of the Sri Lanka-based designated terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) by designating the U.S.-based Tamil Foundation under Executive Order 13224. Executive Order 13224 targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.

"The LTTE, like other terrorist groups, has relied on so-called charities to raise funds and advance its violent aims," said Adam J. Szubin, Director of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control. "We will continue to aggressively target attempts by any terrorist group to hide behind charities, front companies, or name changes to propagate terror against innocents around the world."

The head of the Tamil Foundation is also president of the Tamils Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) in the United States. The TRO was named a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under Executive Order 13224 on November 15, 2007. Over the course of many years, the Tamil Foundation and the TRO have co-mingled funds and carried out coordinated financial actions. Additional information links the Tamil Foundation to the TRO through a matching gift program. The common leadership of the TRO and the Tamil Foundation has facilitated these activities.

The TRO is a charitable organization that acts as a front to facilitate fundraising and procurement for the LTTE. Prior to its designation, Sri Lanka-based TRO operated offices in seventeen other countries worldwide, including the United States. In the U.S., TRO has raised funds for the LTTE through a network of individual representatives. According to sources within the organization, TRO is the preferred means for sending funds from the United States to the LTTE in Sri Lanka.

The LTTE is a terrorist group that seeks an independent state in northeastern Sri Lanka, where most of Sri Lanka's minority ethnic Tamil population lives. For over two decades, the LTTE has employed conventional, guerrilla, and terror tactics in a civil war that has claimed over 60,000 lives. The U.S. Department of State designated the LTTE a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) on October 8, 1997. On November 2, 2001, the U.S. Department of State named the LTTE an SDGT under E.O. 13224.

Under E.O. 13224, any assets the Tamil Foundation has under U.S. jurisdiction are frozen, and U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in any transactions with the Tamil Foundation.

Identifying Information

TAMIL FOUNDATION
Address:
517 E. Oldtown Road, Cumberland, MD 21502
Tax ID number:

>> http://www.treas.gov/press/releases/tg22.htm

Entrapped Civilians Brave Tamil Tiger Bullets and Human Bombs to Seek Safety - SLUNA

SRI LANKA UNITED NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF CANADA
Box 55292, 300 Borough Drive, Toronto, Ontario, M1P 4Z7 Canada
Website: www.sluna.org
E-mail: sluna@idirect.com

MEDIA RELEASE

February 10, 2009

Entrapped Civilians Brave Tamil Tiger Bullets and Human Bombs to Seek Safety

The Tamil Diaspora and the LTTE’s Propaganda Machine is making a futile attempt to save the Tamil Tigers from certain extinction as the entrapped civilians forming a human shield make a dash to safety into government controlled terrain.

Contrary to manufactured charges of genocide of Tamils which is being bandied by the front organizations of the LTTE in Toronto and other cities in the west, the actual position is becoming clear day by day as the human shield keeps melting away despite the aggressive measures being taken by the LTTE cadres to hold the civilians within the fast disappearing sliver of land in the jungles of Mullativu. The following events give the lie to the propaganda that is being dished out by the Tamil Tiger terrorist network to mislead the public in order to seek international intervention in Sri Lanka to provide a lifeline to the remnant Tiger fighters whose defeat is imminent:

  1. February 9, 2009: A woman suicide bomber attempting to infiltrate into the temporary Rescue and Relief Centre set up by the government in Visuamadu blew herself up killing 29 and injuring 64 persons including 15 soldiers tending to the needs of the Tamil civilians who had sought refuge. Despite the intimidation and threat of harm to the civilians by the LTTE, a total of 6500 IDPs had crossed over to the government controlled areas on this day.

  2. February 10, 2009: The LTTE had opened fire on fleeing Tamil civilians in the Udayarkattukualam area of Mullativu killing 19 including 2 children, 5 women, and 12 men, and further injuring 75 among whom were 28 children, 30 women and 17 men. Despite the armed attacks on the fleeing civilians, a total of 1046 had sought refuge from the government at this location.

The government whilst declaring a ‘No Fire Zone’ for the internally displaced Tamil civilians to congregate have called on the LTTE to allow the IDPs’ to move out of the battle ground, and even offered an amnesty to the Tamil Tiger fighters who would surrender. The LTTE instead have placed their heavy guns midst the civilians whom they are using as a human shield, and are carrying on a worldwide campaign of lies in the hope that the major western powers would pressure the Government of Sri Lanka to halt the military mission and go back to the negotiating table where the Tigers could keep bluffing as they did during the past 25 years to re-arm and resume hostilities in pursuit of their mono-ethnic separate mythical state of “Eelam”. As pointed out by us previously, the civilians were forcibly held back by the LTTE to form a human shield and used as conscripted fighters and labourers.

It is a shame that members of the Liberal Party that has won several seats in the Greater Toronto area with the votes of the Tamil Diaspora thought it was necessary to echo the Tiger propaganda without any regard to the truth, to safeguard their electoral margin in these ridings. The NDP which has been fishing for these votes too are equally guilty as the Liberals when they repeat the Tiger propaganda without verification.

Another group that needs to be exposed are the several INGO and NGO that operated in the Vanni region previously dominated by the LTTE for using their vast funding to prop up this terrorist movement and help them to bolster their defences by building a network of concrete bunkers, releasing heavy machinery for putting up miles of 20 foot high earthen barriers plus 12 foot deep ditches, 7 runways for Tiger aircraft, material for constructing naval craft including submarines, communications and other equipment, to obstruct the democratically elected government from retaking the usurped territory and extending the writ of the state to all parts of the country. These INGO and NGO had diverted aid that was supposed to benefit the tsunami affected civilians to the LTTE, and totally neglected the civilian population that lived under the Tiger’s jackboot.

It was the Government of Sri Lanka that supplied the bulk of the food and other essentials to the civilian population in the areas dominated by the LTTE, maintained the schools, hospitals, roads and other facilities, and paid the salaries for the staff engaged to provide these services, even though a large proportion of the supplies were being pilfered by the LTTE which was waging a war against the government and people of Sri Lanka. Food and essentials continue to be supplied even at the present stage, with buffer stocks earlier provided being sufficient for a three week period. The number of IDPs still remaining within the uncleared areas held by the LTTE should not exceed 50,000, as inflated numbers ranging from 250,000 to 400,000 are nothing but a ruse by the NGO sector to obtain higher funding for their operations. The LTTE needs to be eliminated lock, stock and barrel, to provide the space for the people of all the communities to work out an acceptable and sustainable arrangement that ensures peace, security, equality and better opportunities for all.

Yours very truly,

Mahinda Gunasekera
Honorary President

    Wednesday, February 11, 2009

    UN Experts on Criticism, Impunity and Suicide Bombing

    Media Release
    10 February 2009

    The Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights regrets very much a recent statement of 10 UN Experts that is supposedly about the ‘suppression of criticism, impunity’, but which deals at length with the current situation in the North of the country, in which government forces are engaged in a struggle against a terrorist movement. An advance version of the release spoke of ‘unabated impunity’, and was sent to the Sri Lankan Mission in Geneva shortly after a LTTE suicide bomber killed civilians trying to escape from LTTE held area to the safety of government areas.

    A later version of the release included condemnation of the suicide attack, but seems to have had no impact on the vision the Experts have about what is happening in Sri Lanka. It is particularly unfortunate that the Experts seem to think that conflict in which innocent civilians are killed by LTTE suicide bombers is simply something that deflects attention from ‘the impunity which has been allowed to go unabated throughout Sri Lanka’. They do not seem to realize that death and wanton destruction are serious.

    Impunity also is serious, but the Experts, some of whom are responsible for food and health and housing, may not understand that there may be several reasons for what seems impunity. It is possible that a government is not interested in investigating or prosecuting crimes. It is also possible that investigations – and interrogations – are inadequate, and the same could apply to prosecutions.

    It is also possible that a judiciary could deliver decisions which seem to international experts unfortunate. This is not an area in which governments can interfere, and Sri Lanka has drawn attention to an infelicity in a recent letter of a UN expert which implied that there might be a problem about a particular judge, who had given two judgments acquitting the accused in two government prosecutions relating to cases of alleged torture. Sri Lanka regrets that it cannot go down the path of questioning its own judiciary, in particular when there are no detailed arguments showing judicial inadequacies in any judgment.

    The Expert in question has not replied as yet to our letter in this regard. That letter however confirmed that Sri Lanka too believes that greater professionalism in interrogation, investigation and prosecution would be useful, and has already initiated action in this regard. It is sorry that, despite the ready assistance offered by the Rapporteur on Torture, Prof. Manfred Novak, during his visit to Sri Lanka in 2007, assistance has not as yet been forthcoming due to administrative delays. It took the appointment of a new very helpful United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights to reverse the policy of denying assistance to Sri Lanka in the absence of an office of the High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, and now the first long awaited training programme for police has been delayed mainly because of the requirements of the UN bureaucracy.

    We continue to be grateful, however, to Prof. Nowak for his continuing engagement, and also to Prof. Kalin, who is the Expert on the Human Rights of IDPs (and who has not been associated with this release). We regret the failure of Prof. Philip Alston to continue his engagement with Sri Lanka.

    He should also remember that, while his initial report had a lot of helpful suggestions, it was leaked before being publicly released to various representatives in Geneva, although not given to the Sri Lankan representative. Sri Lanka has accepted that Prof. Alston was not responsible for the leak. The failure to investigate that leak, and the suppression of the UNDP Stocktaking Report on the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission, to which too assistance was denied contrary to the suggestions of that report, are also indicative of an approach not predicated on the principle of “constructive engagement” between the UN and a sovereign member state. The present statement also falls short of that standard of interaction.

    Sri Lanka however has sought to continue with its policy of constructive engagement through its participation in the Universal Periodic Review process in 2008 and its ongoing dialogue with members of the Human Rights Council, regional and cross-regional groupings in Geneva. Sri Lanka took on board several recommendations made during the UPR and also made several voluntary pledges and commitments in the sphere of promotion and protection of human rights. These, together with the recommendations of the various special procedures and mechanisms that we have engaged with, form the core of our National Action Plan for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights that is currently being prepared with UN assistance.

    In this spirit, Sri Lanka is still willing to engage with Professor Alston, and hopes he will reciprocate. Sri Lanka also recognizes the concerns of some other Experts and believes it important to work together with them to reduce what the High Commissioner for Human Rights describes as the corrosive effect of conflict.

    However the UN Experts should also register the horrors of that conflict and the ruthless advantage taken by the LTTE of efforts at humanitarian assistance, as exemplified in the suicide bombing. It is surprising that the Experts do not even reflect the concerns expressed by the Secretary-General who in no uncertain terms identified the LTTE as being responsible for grave violations of human rights when he called on the LTTE to allow civilians in the conflict zone to move to where they feel most secure, including areas controlled by the Government.

    Confusing the two issues of the general human rights situation on the one hand and the military operations to combat terrorism on the other, will not help us to improve the situation, because it raises questions about the objectivity of such statements which seem to pay scant attention to the current tense situation in the North of the country. The Experts should recognize that, where ruthless terrorism may strike at any stage, with massive loss of life to civilians, it makes no sense not to recognize where responsibility for the plight of civilians lies. Sri Lanka regrets the failure of the UN to have asserted long ago (on the grounds that it had to concern itself about possible threats to its own workers) the need for the LTTE to release these civilians, and it trusts that the Experts will remedy this situation, even while helping Sri Lanka with the measures it is trying to take, in the midst of so much difficulty, to improve the Human Rights situation in other respects.


    Professor Rajiva Wijesinha
    Secretary
    Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights

    Video from Wanni Operation - 10 Feb 2009

    Video:

    Police arrest Janaka Perera assassination suspect

    Sri Lanka Police has arrested one of the main suspects in the killing of retired Major General Janaka Perera and others in Anuradhapura last year.

    According to police sources, the suspect identified as Aboosally Jabir of Neshiyakulam, Mankulam had brought the mindless suicide bomber from Chettikulam to Madwachchiya, where he had reportedly handed over the bomber to another handler. The suspect was arrested at a police roadblock at Siyambalagaskada, Neriyakualma around 5.15, last morning (Feb 10).

    Maj. Gen. Janaka Perera his wife and 23 others were killed when the LTTE suicide bomber exploded himself at the United National Party office, Anurdhapura on the 6th of October 2008.

    LTTE Continues Targeting Fleeing Civilians

    Video:

    Tuesday, February 10, 2009

    Suicide bomb attack at IDP rescue centre - Kilinochchi/Vishwamadu - 09 Feb 2009

    At least 30 people including 10 civilians were killed and 64 others including 40 civilians reported injured when an LTTE woman suicide bomber blew herself at an IDP rescue centre, North of Visuamadu in Mullaittivu yesterday morning (Feb 9) at around 11.30 a.m.

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    Ambassador Wickramasuriya appeals to the Pro-LTTE Diaspora

    With more than 1,000 guests in attendance, H.E. Jaliya Wickramasuriya, the Ambassador for Sri Lanka to the United States, called for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) terrorists to release civilians currently held in the war zone in the northern part of Sri Lanka. It was the largest Sri Lankan Independence Day celebration ever in the United States.

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    Monday, February 9, 2009

    World’s most travelled person identifies Lanka as unique destination

    The worlds foremost traveller Prof. Orhan Kural, identified Sri Lanka without conflict, as one of the top destinations for Globe trotters. Kural who hails from Turkey has been to 190 countries travelling over 900,000 km across the Globe.

    He believes that Sri Lanka has all the necessary ingredients to be recognised as one of the foremost destinations in world tourism.

    Addressing the media during his third visit to the country, Prof. Kural admitted that he had a soft spot for Sri Lanka which was influenced by the local culture, diversity of nature, traditional hospitality etc. which made the country a unique destination for travelers.

    As the world’s most travelled person, Kural believes that, when a country loses out on environment, that it would also lose its tourist potential.

    10,000 civilians flee war zone

    COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — More than 10,000 civilians have fled Sri Lanka's northern war zone over the last two days, an official said Sunday as government forces appear poised to crush the separatist Tamil Tigers.

    The military's relentless offensive in recent months has almost routed the rebels, virtually ending their 25-year war for a separate Tamil nation in the Sinhalese-majority country.

    The United Nations and aid agencies have expressed concern for the estimated 250,000 civilians trapped in the shrinking sliver of land still controlled by the Tigers.

    On Sunday, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said 5,000 civilians fled the war zone for government territory Friday while another 5,600 crossed over Saturday.

    International organizations including the Red Cross have urged both sides to let the noncombatants out of the conflict zone.

    The government accuses the rebels of holding civilians as human shields, a charge the rebels deny.

    The Red Cross said Saturday that some 400 patients are stranded in a makeshift hospital in the north. It urged both sides to allow patients to be evacuated.

    The United Nations warned Friday of a food crisis in the conflict zone, saying World Food Program stocks in the area were gone.

    Sri Lanka barred nearly all aid groups from the war zone last year. It does not allow journalists in either, making independent verification of the situation impossible.

    Basil Rajapaksa visits Menikfarm Welfare Camp in Vavuniya

    Senior Presidential Advisor MP Basil Rajapaksa, visited the Menikfarm Welfare Camp village at Settikulam, Vavuniya yesterday (6th).

    Mr. Rajapaksa personally looked into the facilities provided to Tamil civilians arriving in Government controlled areas after escaping from LTTE clutches.

    Basil Rajapaksa also inspected the school set up for children of displaced civilians at the Menikfarm Camp premises. He said that they came there on the instructions of the President.

    The Government treated people of all communities as members of a single family. The Government believed that the sufferings of the people should be ended by building trust and confidence among communities living in the country he further noted.

    Basil Rajapaksa said that quick action would be taken to create the environment for them to return to their original villages according to their wish as soon as demining was accomplished. Infrastructure, education, banking and co-operative facilities will be restored he added.

    He said that the freedom won through the sacrifices made by Security Forces would become meaningful only when the civilians were allowed to return to their original villages.

    The school started for the benefit of the children of civilian returnees was functioning well under the guidance of a qualified staff.

    Facilities at the camp would be improved to cater to more civilians arriving from uncleared areas after escaping LTTE clutches.

    Sunday, February 8, 2009

    Washington Post: Families Hurt by Sri Lanka War View Army Offensive With Hope

    By Emily Wax, Washington Post Foreign Service

    When Margaret Nanayakkara heard Friday that the Sri Lankan military had seized the headquarters of a rebel detention camp, she sent a prayer of thanks to Buddha. Her son, an army major, had been captured by rebels 15 years ago when his tank was ambushed.

    "My heart is saying he's still alive," said the 74-year-old mother of three, who wore a brown, swirl-print house dress and her gray hair in a braided bun.

    For every year that he's been missing, she has donated a bull to her temple. On each of her son's birthdays, she has sponsored breakfast and lunch for disabled children. She hopes her good deeds will bring him home. "I pray every morning and every night," she said. "I don't do anything to hurt others. I believe he will come home."

    Like Nanayakkara, thousands in this busy seaside capital are following the television coverage as the Sri Lankan military destroys the last outposts of the Tamil Tiger rebels, potentially ending a quarter-century of civil war that has killed an estimated 70,000 people. The Tamil Tigers, whose full name is the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, have been fighting for a separate Tamil nation in the northern tip of the Sinhalese-majority country.

    Almost every family in this island nation has been touched by the war: victims of Tamil Tiger suicide bomb attacks, civilians caught in the crossfire, mothers and wives of missing servicemen in a political conflict that suddenly became personal.

    Sudarshinie Fernandopulle and her children look at a photo of her husband, a Sri Lankan highways minister killed in a suicide bombing last spring. The government blamed Tamil Tiger rebels. "I really just want the war to end," she says.

    >> Full story on Washington Post

    Los Angeles Times: Sri Lanka closes in on Tamil Tiger rebels

    By Mark Magnier from New Delhi

    As the Sri Lankan military tightens the noose around Tamil Tiger guerrillas, squeezing them into an increasingly tight pocket on the island's northeast coast, the government appears closer to winning the war than at almost any time since fighting began a quarter-century ago.

    Yet after the battle ends, it may prove nearly as difficult to win the peace, according to some analysts.

    "The risk is that the government will snatch political defeat from the jaws of military victory," said Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, executive director of the Colombo-based think tank the Center for Policy Alternatives. "I'm not particularly optimistic."

    If the Sinhalese-dominated government in Colombo fails to extend a hand to its minority Tamil population, it could spur another guerrilla movement in the Tigers' place, even if long-time rebel leader V. Prabhakaran is captured or killed.

    "If the Tamil people don't get a good political package, if there is triumphalism by the government, another military group with another name will rise up," said N. Manoharan, with the Center for Land Warfare Studies in New Delhi.

    The Tamil campaign for a homeland separate from the Sinhalese majority dates to the 1970s. By the late 1980s, the Tigers had seized control of part of the island's northeast coast. The group, formally named the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, has assassinated several high-ranking Sri Lankan and Indian politicians and is said to have pioneered the use of suicide bombers.

    >> Full story on LA Times

    Grand Independence Day Celebrations at the University of Oxford

    The Sri Lanka Society at the University of Oxford organised a very grand and elaborate event to mark the 61st Independence Day of the country. It was held at the University of Oxford on the 1st of February 2009 (Sunday).

    The celebrations consisted of 3 separate events - a Special Service, a Charity Tea and the Main Ceremony. All were held in the prestigious surroundings of the University of Oxford. Founded in 1249 AD, the University is one of the most hallowed seats of learning in the world and the oldest university in the English-speaking world.

    For the first time in its 900-year history, a Special Service was held at the University of Oxford, to bless the country and the people in celebration of our 61st Independence Day. The service was organised by the Sri Lanka Society at the historic 16th Century Chapel at the University and was be led by Rev. Dr Andrew Gregory (Chaplain, Oxford).

    The guests next attended a charity tea titled “Independence Tea for Charity” in aid of the “Api Wenuwen Api Fund.” Guests were treated to traditional short eats (including kiribath and katta sambol) and legendary “Ceylon Tea”. Foreign guests had their taste buds titillated by the wide array for traditional food and the tea received very high praise.

    The Main Ceremony was the highlight of the evening. It had a cultural themed and showcased the rich diversity, magnificent beauty and cultural heritage of the country.

    Thereafter, blessings of the main religions were invoked on the country, H.E. the President, the armed forces and the people.

    H.E. Justice Nihal Jayasinghe, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to the UK was the Chief Guest. Also present at this event were a galaxy of high-profiled distinguished guests from both Oxford University and the diplomatic community in London. The impressive guest list included:

    Sir Ivor Crewe (Master - University College, Oxford)
    Hon. Nirj Deva, DL (MEP for South East England)
    Her Worship Susanna Pressel (the Lord Mayor of Oxford)
    Dr. Rosa Fernandez (Senior Pro-Proctor, University of Oxford)
    Prof. Edman Tsang (Head of Wolfson Catalysis Laboratory, University of Oxford)
    Dr. Rajaie Batniji (Junior Dean, University of Oxford)
    H.E. Mr. Yuri Octavian Thamrin (Ambassador of Indonesia to the UK)
    H.E. Prof. Manuel Hassassian, (Ambassador of the Palestinian General Delegation to the UK)
    H.E. Murari Raj Sharma (Ambassador of Nepal to the UK) and Lady Sharma.
    H.E. Manzoor Azad (Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK)
    H.E. Mr. Ahmed Sareer (Deputy High Commissioner of the Maldives in the UK)
    Mr. Ahmed Haanee Naeem (Third Secretary – Maldivian High Commission)
    Mr.Tumpal Hutagalung (of the Indonesian Embassy)

    Thousands of civilians flee from LTTE - 7 Feb 2009

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