« Tamil doctor ‘was pressured to recant war reports by Sri Lanka' » by Saroj Pathirana

A doctor who worked in Sri Lanka’s combat zone in the final days of the civil war has told the BBC he was forced by the government to recant his claims about casualty figures.

Via http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-26670691?SThisFB

source: www.bbc.com

« Sri Lanka, Admired From Above » by Cain Nunns

“It’s beautiful here on amazing days like this, but during monsoons it can be a nightmare,” he said, noting that landing at the inland city of Kandy can be particularly difficult at that time of year. “You have 3,800 feet of water to land and take off on — trees on one side, a dam on the other, and who knows what’s in the water. It takes a certain feel to fly this way.”

via: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/19/travel/seaplanes-among-transport-choices-in-sri-lanka.html?emc=edit_tnt_20140318&nlid=68542801&tntemail0=y&_r=1

source: www.nytimes.com

« Arresting Performance: Shelling Sri Lanka’s zone in Geneva » by Dayan Jayatilleka

“He who tries to defend everything, defends nothing”– Sun Tzu (‘The Art of War’)

With the arrests of an outspoken middle aged Tamil woman activist with no history of violence, her detention in Boossa under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the handover of her 13 year old daughter to the child protection authorities, the detention without acknowledgement of two human rights activists, Ruki Fernando and Fr Praveen reportedly also under the PTA, the Sri Lankan authorities just torpedoed Sri Lanka’s chances at the ongoing crucial 25th sessions of the UNHRC.

This latest round of arrests in Kilinochchi-Vavuniya is not just outrageous, but also decidedly irrational. Apart from the ethics, the optics are all wrong. Detention under the harsh PTA of Tamil and Christian activists simply makes the case that the regime is targeting minorities. This impression is reinforced by the invective against the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress. When it takes place under the Geneva UNHRC searchlight, the impression is one of arrogant regime impunity masquerading as the defence of sovereignty; an impunity that invites a retaliatory response by Sri Lanka’s powerful and unfair critics while embarrassing and alienating potential friends. Thus the behaviour of elements of the regime actually makes Sri Lanka less defensible internationally. It jeopardises national sovereignty while rendering the security forces less secure.

When the timing is all very wrong because that vote pertains to so poisonous a clause as ‘a comprehensive investigation’ by the OHCHR, one cannot but notice that this is not Mahinda Rajapaksa’s usual style. Who decides? Is the Minister of Defence, who is also the President, really making the decisions? Or in the ultimate irony, has there been a dangerous degree of devolution of power?

Read the article in full here.

Key updates via our Twitter account @groundviews.

source: Groundviews

« Statement on arbitrary detention of Human Rights Defenders » by CPA

18th March 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) is deeply concerned by the arrest and detention last week of several individuals in the North and East, including Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) under the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). CPA condemns these attempts by the Government of Sri Lanka to silence critics and supress legitimate civil society activity. We call for the immediate release of all activists including Balendran Jeyakumari, Ruki Fernando and Fr. Praveen Mahesan.

Balendran Jeyakumari was arrested in Kilinochchi on 13th March 2014, allegedly for aiding and abetting an ex-LTTE cadre who was fleeing after shooting a police officer in Kilinochchi. Ms. Jeyakumari’s 13 year old daughter was also detained although the police media spokesperson later stated that she was handed over to the department of child-care and probation. Ms. Jeyakumari, is reported to be detained in the Boossa detention centre, which is located hundreds of miles away from her family, especially her young daughter. Ms. Jeyakumari has lost two sons to the war and is in search of her third son who allegedly surrendered to the Government forces at the end of the war in 2009. Five years on, she continues her search at the forefront of a large number of families searching for their disappeared family members. CPA is also concerned about the recent detention of several others involved in the search for disappeared family members.

On 16th March 2014, two prominent HRDs were arrested in Kilinochchi. Although the police initially denied arresting Mr Ruki Fernando and Fr. Praveen Mahesan, it was later reported that a special team fromthe Terrorist Investigation Department (TID) had made the arrest. It is also reported that both Mr Fernando and Fr. Praveen Mahesan are now being held at the Colombo office of the TID. CPA is deeply concerned for their safety.

CPA has had a long-standing association with both Ruki Fernando and Fr. Praveen Mahesan. They are peaceful individuals deeply committed to the cause of protecting the basic human rights of vulnerable individuals. CPA is shocked by accusations levelled against them of “terrorists” and of attempting to “incite violence amongst communities”. As recently as last week, an extremist religious group publicly stated that they would organise themselves as an “army” if their demands were not met. Surprisingly, none of these individuals or organisations are being called into question, let alone arrested on charges of causing communal discontent; HRDs on the other hand, continue to be threatened and intimidated through the use of unconscionable anti-terrorism legislation.

These detained activists are prominent campaigners against the large number of past and continuing cases of disappearances in Sri Lanka. In a context where Sri Lankan civil society organisations have challenged the credibility and independence of the investigations being conducted by the recently appointed Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into missing persons in the Northern and Eastern provinces, and where civil society organisations have taken an active role to hold the CoI accountable in order to ensure that it delivers on the promise of justice to victims, attempts to intimidate HRDs working on these issues clearly illustrates the Government’s unwillingness to ensure credible and transparent investigations into serious human rights violations.

These acts are part of a continued effort to stifle criticism of the Government of Sri Lanka and to suppress the flow of information in respect of past and continuing human rights violations. Despite repeated requests by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the harassment, intimidation and detention of HRDs continue unabated. In this instance, it is noteworthy that the harassment and detentions continue during the on-going 25th Session of the UNHRC, and further by immediate and disproportionate recourse to the anti-terrorism law rather than the ordinary law and order processes.

CPA has repeatedly called on the Government to repeal, if not amend the PTA so as to bring its provisions in line with Sri Lanka’s own constitutional standards of fundamental rights as well as its international obligations, especially the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The PTA gives wide discretionary powers to law enforcement authorities on matters relating to detention and admission of confessions, providing little or no safeguards against abuses of power. It also provides for vague and loosely defined offences with heavy penalties that are inconsistent with general principles of criminal liability. The Act was initially conceived as a temporary measure to respond to extraordinary security challenges faced by the State in 1979. However, the draconian provisions of the Act have been regularised over time and have often been used to punish perceived opponents of the Government in power. Furthermore, the PTA’s continued existence in post-war Sri Lanka runs contrary to the narrative of peace and stability the Government projects both within and outside Sri Lanka.

In the context of growing international pressure on its human rights record, we call on the Government to act responsibly and engage with the international community in order to ensure the protection and guarantee of human rights ofall citizens regardless of ethnicity, religion, or political belief. It is also paramount that the Government adheres to its international and national obligations including to the obligations provided by its own National Human Rights Action Plan. Most pressingly, we reiterate our call for the immediate release of the three HRDs currently in detention without charge.

source: CPA

« Sri Lanka: Free Prominent Rights Defenders » by Human Rights Watch

“The Sri Lankan authorities need to release Fernando and Father Praveen, and end the ongoing state harassment of human rights defenders,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Asia Pacific. “How can the international community take Sri Lanka’s claims to respect rights seriously when rights defenders continue to face intimidation and criminal charges for demanding accountability and human rights protection?”

The statement was issued by Amnesty International, Forum Asia, Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group, and the International Commission of Jurists.

via: http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/03/17/sri-lanka-free-prominent-rights-defenders

source: www.hrw.org

« Arrest of Ruki Fernando and Father Praveen » by Groundviews

Last night’s arrest of Ruki Fernando and Fr. Praveen in Kilinochchi on terrorism charges, soon after the arrest of Jeyakumari Balendran and her young daughter on suspicion of harbouring a criminal, is extremely disturbing and an urgent call to action. In stark contrast to what the Government says in Geneva is what it does in Sri Lanka. Human rights activists are being arrested under draconian laws which permit the authorities to interrogate them in isolation for extended periods of time.

It is clear the government wants to go after those who flag human rights abuses. This is happening when deliberations at the Human Rights Council on Sri Lanka are taking place, demonstrating the regimen’s scant regard for international opinion and scrutiny.

It is an urgent call to hold the government accountable and use all means necessary, in Geneva and elsewhere, to secure the safety of Ruki, Fr. Praveen, Jeyakumari, her daughter and others similarly under arrest and detained.

Failure to do suggests that words aside, the international community accepts the democratic deficit in Sri Lanka.

Via http://groundviews.org/2014/03/17/arrest-of-ruki-fernando-and-father-praveen/

« The Curious Case Of Jeyakumari » by Tisaranee Gunasekara

« Similarly, the persecution of Ms. Jeyakumari foretells the future fate of Southern dissidents.

The Tiger leaders betrayed their followers and their community, as the embarrassingly-unheroic dénouement of the Eelam War demonstrated. The Rajapaksas are sacrificing Sri Lanka to their power-hunger. The plight of Jeyakumari Balendran and her little daughter is symbolic of the LTTE’s failed struggle and of the Rajapaksas’ failing peace. »

Via https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-curious-case-of-jeyakumari/

source:Colombo Telegraph

Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu on UNHRC – March 2014.MP3

CPA’s Executive Director Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu on the draft resolution on Sri Lanka tabled at the UN HRC’s 25th session, and its implications for the country.

“This resolution as attested to by the draft also does point to continuing violations for example with regards to religious freedom, the impeachment of the chief justice, the continuing culture of impunity, land grabs, the lack of witness and victim protection, continuing disappearances, self-censorship in themedia, lack of right to information, legislation and host of other continuing violations. Perhaps the most controversial and the key part of the resolution with regard to the issue as to whether there should be a call for independent international commission of inquiry into allegations of war crimes…”

Listen to the short audio interview here –https://soundcloud.com/cpasrilanka/dr-paikiasothy-saravanamuttu-2

Tamil Students Initiative – Unrestricted: Caste and Religion, on 18TH March 2014, with Sinthujan Varatharajah as guest speaker

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UNRESTRICTED is a series of talks created by TSI with a simple aim: to start talking about things that have been brushed under the carpet. It is an opportunity to start conversations on real but all too often avoided or unseen issues impacting countless Tamils today.

In this second instalment of the UNRESTRICTED discussions we will discuss the effects of caste and religion within the Tamil community. It is sponsored by TCHA and TRAG and organised by Imperial College London.

In this discussion, we hope to explore the origins of the caste system and the effects it has had within the Tamil population.

We are proud to announce Sinthujan Varatharajah as our guest speaker: a PhD Candidate in human Geography at UCL. He specialises in migration and refugee studies and has done extensive research into caste. We hope to explore Sinthujan’s research findings and understand what it means to be discriminated based on caste.
Sinthujan is also the the co-founder of the Check Your Caste Privilege tumblr page. More recently, he has founded Roots of Diaspora, a project dedicated to detailing the never told stories and hardships of migrants around the globe.

Here at TSI, we believe that it is important to create a space to talk openly about our thoughts, ideas and opinions in a comfortable environment, in this spirit the discussions are open to students only and are designed to be enjoyable yet thought provoking.

Join us at Imperial College London in South Kensington and enjoy scintillating conversation over some drinks and snacks.

DATE: TUESDAY 18TH MARCH

VENUE: G16, SAF Building, Imperial College London, South Kensingston, SW7 2AZ

TIME: 6pm – 8pm

Free

Students ONLY

source: https://www.facebook.com/events/608263785921833/?ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular

Tamil Students Initiative is a student-led union with the intention of bringing together Tamil Societies in Universities all over the UK.
Description
The purpose of this organisation would be to aid, develop, and unite Tamil students, while also engendering a greater sense of community amongst the youth.

The key goals of this union would be to:

GROWTH – Encourage growth of Tamil culture

SOCIETY DEVELOPMENT – Aid the development of Tamil Societies within all universities

YOUTH DEVELOPMENT – Provide students with a platform to help their progression through higher education

COMMUNICATION – Create a forum for Tamil youth to communicate and develop their personal portfolio

COMMUNITY – Allow the youth to express their individuality amongst their peers and become part of a growing Tamil fraternity

TSI, while a student initiative, also aims to be representative of all Tamil youth, providing opportunities to develop skills needed within the corporate world.

« Sri Lanka: Weak UN resolution will endanger justice » by JS Tissainayagam

« Language in the draft resolution now before the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for an investigation into past and ongoing human rights abuses in Sri Lanka lacks teeth say critics. A resolution that establishes a weak investigating body will only render ineffectual what the international community says it is working for – strengthening human rights to promote reconciliation in a country recovering from war. »

via: http://asiancorrespondent.com/120494/sri-lanka-weak-un-resolution-will-endanger-justice/

source: www.asiancorrespondent.com

« Sri Lanka must uphold democratic values: Chandrika » by Meera Srinivasan

« Sri Lanka should uphold democratic values in order to protect itself from international interference, the former President, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga said. »

via: http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/south-asia/article5774411.ece

source: www.thehindu.com

« Buddhists challenged to respect their religion » by Kusal Perera

In short, this decision by the two Amarapura chapters have thrown out a challenge to the Budhists in Sinhala South. Will they respect their own religion, if they are Buddhists ? If they take up this challenge positively, it would certainly mark a new phase in Sri Lankan politics, not only in the South, but in the whole country as well. For that essentially deforms the Sinhala extremist platform.

Via http://groundviews.org/2014/03/12/buddhists-challenged-to-respect-their-religion/

source: Groundviews

« The Stream : The violent side of Sri Lankan Buddhism » by Aljazeera

We like to share a link to access a stream from Aljazeera about Hardline Buddhists in Sri Lanka and how they are making new enemies of Muslim and Christian minorities.

via: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRB3aS75ZLY

source: Aljazeera

« Cultural Domination and Subordination among the Sinhalese: Colonialism, Resistance, Religion and Critical Discourse » by Dr. Siri Gamage

There is a close nexus between institutional/ceremonial Buddhism and the dominant caste and classes that sustain the state. Each blesses the other, rationalise and sustain. Ceremonial Buddhism –in contrast to spiritual Buddhism – contributes to the maintenance of domination-subordination process as it seemingly tolerates the continuation of the ‘unequal social order’, continued appropriation of labour, land and other resources by the upper classes (supiri classes) to the detriment of lower classes and subordinated masses. Only at the symbolic level through rituals and public ceremonies (such as perahara) that these differing classes and dominating/dominated groups are brought together as one audience. At the relational levels, inequalities and disparities continue, though they do not exist in the eyes of those who are placed at the apex of class and caste hierarchies. One has to wonder whether the lack of any serious and critical discourse about these inequities from the Buddhist clergy is indicative of institutional tolerance for an unequal social order?

Via http://groundviews.org/2014/03/11/cultural-domination-and-subordination-among-the-sinhalese-colonialism-resistance-religion-and-critical-discourse/

source: Groundviews

« Sri Lanka : Bring up the bodies » by The Economist

Meanwhile, northern Sri Lanka continues to feel like a land under occupation, with an all-pervasive military intelligence snooping on Tamils deemed to be suspicious. The government says it is cutting by nearly a third the large numbers of soldiers stationed in the north since the war. A successful provincial election in September produced a local government led by a Tamil opposition party. Though it enjoys only grudging co-operation from Mr Rajapaksa, progress towards reconciliation is still possible. But the country’s bloody past has still to be accounted for.

Via http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21598715-creeping-towards-international-inquiry-war-crimes-bring-up-bodies