“Exploring International and Domestic Modalities for Truth and Justice in Sri Lanka” by Bhavani Fonseka

The ‘Declaration of Peace’ by the Government of Sri Lanka at the 67th Independence Day Celebrations held on 4th February 2015 is a notable shift in its recognition of the past and the need for healing and unity. The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) made a similar recommendation, as did the United Nations Secretary General’s Panel of Experts (PoE). Recognizing the past is the first in a process needed to address past violations, provide answers regarding missing persons, initiate independent mechanisms to hold alleged perpetrators to account and end the culture of impunity.

via: http://groundviews.org/2015/02/09/exploring-international-and-domestic-modalities-for-truth-and-justice-in-sri-lanka/

“Home Is Elsewhere” by Shahnaz Habib for The New Yorker’s ‘Briefly Noted’)

Shahnaz Habib writes for The New Yorker’s ‘Briefly Noted’ a review of the last book of Shobasakti “The MGR Murder Trial “.


Again and again, the stories in this exciting new collection from Sri Lankan writer Shobasakthi grapple with the question of who a character really is. The writer, who now lives in France as a refugee and has worked as a dishwasher, construction worker and street sweeper over the last 20 years…

via: http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/books/home-is-elsewhere

“Ayya’s Accounts: A Ledger of Hope in Modern India” by Anand Pandian and M.P. Mariappan

We would like to signal the publication of an interesting book of Anand Pandian and M.P. Mariappan “Ayya’s Accounts: A Ledger of Hope in Modern India”



Ayya’s Accounts explores the life of an ordinary man—orphan, refugee, shopkeeper, and grandfather—during a century of tremendous hope and upheaval. Born in colonial India into a despised caste of former tree climbers, Ayya lost his mother as a child and came of age in a small town in lowland Burma. Forced to flee at the outbreak of World War II, he made a treacherous 1,700-mile journey by foot, boat, bullock cart, and rail back to southern India. Becoming a successful fruit merchant, Ayya educated and eventually settled many of his descendants in the United States. Luck, nerve, subterfuge, and sorrow all have their place along the precarious route of his advancement. Emerging out of tales told to his American grandson, Ayya’s Accounts embodies a simple faith—that the story of a place as large and complex as modern India can be told through the life of a single individual.

You could read an insightful interview with the author on the book: IndiaAbroadS

For more informations: http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/product_info.php?cPath=1037_6118_6161&products_id=807225

About the Authors

Anand Pandian is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. He is author of Crooked Stalks: Cultivating Virtue in South India, co-editor of Ethical Life in South Asia (IUP, 2011) and Race, Nature, and the Politics of Difference, and a contributor toEveryday Life in South Asia (IUP, 2010).

M. P. Mariappan (1919-2014) was a retired fruit merchant living in the south Indian city of Madurai at the time he co-authored Ayya’s Accounts.

“Action required for promoting openness in the 100-day reform process and the consolidation of constitutional democracy” by CPA

The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) welcomes the general direction of the government’s 100-day reforms programme that is currently underway. After decades of intolerable battering, Sri Lanka’s democratic procedures and institutions are badly in need of reform and rejuvenation. In terms of broad principles, we unhesitatingly support the abolition of the executive presidential system, the re-establishment of the Constitutional Council and the independent commissions, freedom of information legislation, and the reform of the parliamentary committee system. We are also of the view that further reforms must follow in the next Parliament to consolidate democracy and pluralism, including major changes to our framework of devolution and power-sharing, and the protection of fundamental human rights.

However, as the new government reaches the completion of its first full month in office, we are increasingly concerned that there is virtually no detailed information available in the public domain with regard to how the reform process is being conducted within the government, or about how substantive proposals are evolving within Cabinet, Parliament, and the National Executive Council. Constitutional reform is not a matter exclusively for government and political parties especially in a long-standing democracy like Sri Lanka, and it is crucial that the public are kept fully informed about how the form and substance of the reforms are negotiated among parliamentary parties.

While conscious of the pressures of time and resources in rapidly enacting the programme for which President Sirisena obtained a clear mandate, we feel that more can be done to share and disseminate information, to encourage public participation and consultation, and to ensure the transparency of decision-making in regard to the reform process. We note that the full potential of information and communication technologies in particular, very removed from how they were creatively leveraged to stimulate public debate during the election campaign, are not being exploited as well as they could towards these ends, and more broadly, the nature and form of the current process does not meet even basic standards in respect of transparency andparticipation established by international constitution-making best practice.

Following best practice ensures the necessary balance between the orderliness of the process and the critical need for democratic participation. At the absolute minimum, we insist the government must publish the final Nineteenth Amendment Bill and provide at least two weeks for public debate before presentation to Parliament.

The reform proposals would undoubtedly be qualitatively improved by being subjected to open discussion, critique, and review. We also strongly believe that the durability and legitimacy of the reforms would be enhanced if the public are not only consulted on the way their governing arrangements are being changed, but if their views are seen to be actively taken into account. This will moreover lessen the scope for self-interested political opposition to the reforms, and it is in the interests of the people of Sri Lanka that the reform process is not derailed in any way.

In this regard, it is important to stress that it is government’s primary responsibility to reach out to the substantial part of the electorate that voted for the losing candidate in the presidential election. Without compromising the integrity of President Sirisena’s mandate, or diluting the need and desire of the majority of Sri Lankans for good governance reforms, all sections of public opinion must be engaged and included in building the new Sri Lankan political culture and its structures of constitutional democracy. In addition to the mandate for constitutional reform, the last presidential election engendered a rich public discourse about democracy and good governance. This must not only continue, but in the true spirit of the mandate, the government must ensure respect for the views of the public by taking immediate measures to improve the transparency of the process and public participation in it.

Beyond the 100-day process, there have also been a number of other developments that are potentially of cause for concern from the perspective of the fundamental democratic and constitutional principles that the new government was elected to re-establish. While there was no doubt whatsoever about the illegality and the illegitimacy of Mohan Peiris occupying the office of Chief Justice, we are concerned that the manner of his removal has given rise to apprehensions about its consequences for the appropriate relationship between the executive and the judiciary. This precedent may be used for less justifiable ends in the future. But more immediately, there is an air of technical artifice adhering to the course of action adopted by the government and the Bar Association. While no doubt strictly legal, it must be remembered that public perceptions about the legitimacy of decisions and procedures are equally important in a democracy. These doubts could have been avoided had the government at least secured a parliamentary resolution in favour prior to removing Peiris from office, even if a more rigorous procedure was considered impracticable. Securing such consensus within Parliament would have paid rich dividends by conferring an unassailable legitimacy upon the removal beyond technical legal rectitude, and eliminating any ground for doubt to arise about the role of the executive and the Bar Association in the process.

Likewise, the investigation of corruption and other malpractices as well as the removal of officials appointed by the previous regime – such as the head of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption – must be done in accordance with the law, and not through street agitation and politicians arrogating to themselves functions reserved for the law enforcement and judicial authorities. Strict procedural and substantive legality must be followed in the investigation and prosecution of all these alleged wrongs. We reiterate the general principle that in the constitutional democracy that the people of Sri Lanka voted to establish in the January election, injustices and grievances must invariably be addressed through appropriate institutional channels and not through methods that can be regarded as little better than mob justice.

While welcoming the several symbolic gestures towards reconciliation that the government has made, including in the Independence Day celebrations, CPA is nevertheless concerned that other measures and practices that have become entrenched during the period of conflict are still being continued. In particular, we believe that there is no justification whatsoever to gazette the mobilisation of the armed forces for law and order functions that should be performed exclusively by the police in peacetime. As domestic constitutional and statutory provisions and Sri Lanka’s international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) envisage it, the calling out of the armed forces in aid of the civil power is only legal, necessary, and proportionate when there is a clear and present danger to the life of the community. CPA cannot see any such necessity in Sri Lanka today.

In this connection, we reiterate our long-standing and consistent call for the repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), for its replacement where necessary with legislation consistent with applicable international standards, and call upon the government to take the most expeditious steps possible to release the scores of Sri Lankan citizens who have suffered deprivations of liberty for long periods of time, and in most cases torture and ill-treatment, under its unconscionable provisions. CPA also notes that the regulations promulgated under the PTA in lieu of Emergency Regulations continue in force. These are unconstitutional and ultra vires and in violation of our ICCPR commitments. They have to be withdrawn forthwith.

CPA hopes that the government will consider these constructive critiques in the spirit in which they are made, and will take steps to address them. Responding meaningfully to these concerns will contribute immensely to the prospects and quality of the reform process, and ensure the irreversibility of substantive reforms in the interests of a peaceful, democratic, plural and united Sri Lanka.


Download this press release as a PDF here.

source: CPA

NYU Global South Asia Conference, 27–28 February

Please note that New York University (NYU) is holding is holding a conference on “Global South Asia: Publics and Politics” on 27–28 February.  Full details and online registration information is available at http://southasianyu.org/

Also note the Sri Lanka panel from 1:00 to 3:00 on Friday 27th:

“The Future of Left Politics in Sri Lanka”

  • V.V. Ganeshananthan (Bunting Fellow, Radcliffe/Harvard Univ.), “What Kind of Democracy? Rebuilding Citizenry”
  • Fathima Cader (Law, Univ. of Windsor), “How the Light Gets In: Canvasing Muslim Politics in Contemporary Sri Lanka”
  • Thushara Hewage (International Affairs, New School), “Anti-Corruption and the Left: Reflections on a Democratic Idiom”
  • Kanishka Goonewardena (Geography, Univ. of Toronto), “A Note on the Sri Lankan Conjuncture: Electoral Politics, Social Movements, and Left Political Prospects”
  • Moderator: Vasuki Nesiah, (Gallatin, NYU)

John Rogers

Visit the AISLS web site at: http://www.aisls.org/

“Life Beyond Survival Social Forms of Coping After the Tsunami in War-affected Eastern Sri Lanka” by Katharina Thurnheer

At the heart of this in-depth ethnographic study lie the daily life situations of tsunami survivors in war-torn, eastern Sri Lanka. Each chapter is built around the empirical themes derived from the stories and recollections of Tamil women and their families during their stay in relief camps, anticipating relocation. The specifics of the socio-cultural context are firmly embedded in the discussions. Ten years after the tsunami, this publication offers a timely contribution to a better understanding of what it means to cope with the combined effects of disaster, war, and international aid in this matri-focal region of the island.

via: http://www.transcript-verlag.de/978-3-8376-2601-8/life-beyond-survival


44th Annual Conference on South Asia (Madison): CFP and new website

Dear Past participants, Attendees, and all interested in the conference:

Yesterday, we launched the new Annual Conference on South Asia website, and as can be expected with new endeavors, glitches arise quickly. Some have contacted the conference organizers about login issues, and we thank you all for your patience and cooperation in helping us get the website running smoothly. Working with our tech support contacts, we have resolved some of the issues.

If you have bookmarked the Annual Conference on South Asia website, your internet browser may not show you the updated site, so you either need to clear your cache or history or press SHIFT and Refresh page. Please keep in mind, we are still developing parts of the site, so you will notice changes frequently to content, but not to the general layout or user profile system.

To log in to the new system, please read the instructions below:

  • If you have registered for the Annual Conference on South Asia in the past, your email address should already be in the user database system, so all you need to do is RESET your password. A link will be emailed to you to reset. If your email is already in the system, when you choose to reset your password, it should recognize your email. If it does not recognize your email, you are not yet in the system.
  • If you have never registered for the Annual Conference on South Asia, you should CREATE a new account.
  • Once you have logged in, either by resetting your password or creating a new account, you can update your profile information. If you have an existing account because of past participation, you still need to update your profile information once you log in.

PLEASE REVIEW NEW SUBMISSION POLICIES: We have detailed the new policies for individual and panel submissions on the website here. Reminder: Preconference proposals are now decided on a competitive basis. The site is open to preconference submissions at this time.

CALL FOR PAPERS: A reminder that the call for papers was also sent yesterday:

The theme of this year’s conference is trust.

Intangible yet essential, trust helps scholars gain insight into the lived experience of others. From anthropology to journalism and oral history to religious studies, trust sits at the heart of scholars’ interpretive work and credibility. More broadly, its absence between individuals and communities–ethnic or religious, linguistic or gendered–permeates the literature, economics, politics, and history of South Asia.

We welcome panels that explore the theme and its opposite in relation to a wide variety of methodologies, locations, texts and practices. We also encourage proposal submissions that do not address the conference theme.

Again, we thank you all for your patience as the conference continues to grow, and as always, we appreciate the support of all participants and attendees each year.

If any major changes to system occur, we will send an email with instructions to help troubleshoot any errors you might encounter. Please distribute this message to relevant email lists.

Visit the AISLS web site at: http://www.aisls.org/
Unsubscribe or change your email address: dkeller@bu.edu
Post to the AISLS list-serve: aisls-l@lists.pdx.edu

“cinémas sud-asiatiques et Festival du Film d’ Asie du Sud Transgressif (FFAST)” sur South Asia’s Hub



Le Podcast de la deuxième émission de South Asia’s Hub, qui est dédiée aux cinémas sud-asiatiques et notamment au Festival du Film d’ Asie du Sud Transgressif (FFAST), est en ligne. Les deux Directrices artistiques de ce festival, Hélène Kessous et Némésis Srour, sont nos invités. Nous revenons avec elles sur les industries du cinéma mainstream du sous-continent indien (Bollywood, Kollywood, Lollywood, etc.) et surtout sur le cinéma transgressif sud-asiatique. Nous avons profité de la présence de nos deux invités pour présenter la troisième édition du FFAST qui va se tenir du 3 au 10 février 2015 à Paris.

Au programme

Partie 1 : Présentation des deux invités et des origines du FFAST
Partie 2 : Le cinéma sud-asiatique mainstream (Bollywood, Kollywood, etc.)
Partie 3 : Le cinéma sud-asiatique transgressif
Partie 4 : Présentation de la 3ème édition du FFAST


“Sri Lanka: Hope for Minorities?” by Neha Sinha

However, the key question remains: Does Sirisena have the political will and capability to actually resolve the fundamental problems that drove the country to almost three decades of civil war?

via: http://thediplomat.com/2015/02/sri-lanka-hope-for-minorities/

“Radical Buddhists, the violent face of a peaceful religion” by Global Post

According to Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives and co-convener of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence, the existence of BBS is intrinsically linked to the Rajapaksa government and in particular to ex-Defense Minister Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the former president’s brother.

“They were sponsored by the former defense minister. They were generating an internal conflict to provoke clashes between religious groups, which would mobilize Buddhists around the government,” Saravanamuttu explained to Efe.


“3 Maps to understand Sri Lanka’s Minority-Majority divide in today’s vote” by The Republic Square

Trois cartes qui donnent à comprendre un peu de la complexité ethno-religieuse du Sri Lanka.

As personalities, both President Mahinda Rajapaksa and common candidate Maithripala Sirisena appeals to the same rural Sinhala vote base. Their political coalitions however means that candidate Maithripala will draw in the majority of the votes from the minority communities, while President Rajapska is expected to win in bulk of the areas where there is a Sinhala-Buddhist Majority.

The South Asia blog has helpfully developed three maps that visualizes the geographic ethnic distribution which may resemble their vote when Sri Lankans go to the polls today.

via: http://www.therepublicsquare.com/…/3-maps-to-understand-ma…/

” 16,000 SL refugee kids born in India stateless” by The Times of India

“About16,000 children born to Sri Lankan refugees in India are stateless since they do not have Sri Lankan citizenship and enjoy a mere refugee status.”

Many of us who never physically crossed any borders were yet born as refugees, asylum seekers and stateless people in foreign countries, as was I. Unlike me, however, most of these children will remain stateless for much of their life, if not all of it. For some it may take ten years, for others it may take a whole life to become ‘human’.

via: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/16000-SL-refugee-kids-born-in-India-stateless/articleshow/46094412.cms

“Bala Tampoe (1922-2014) and the history of the Sri Lankan labour movement” by Jan Malewski

“Death of a legend”, “hero of trade-union movement”, “quintessence of trade-unionism” – the Sri Lankan press and trade-union movement were unanimous in the comments that followed our comrade and friend Bala Tampoe’s death on 1st September 2014. As the former Volvo trade-union leader Göte Kilden said, “had Tampoe carried out his work in one of Europe’s former colonial powers, such as France or Great Britain, his death and remembrance of his life would have been front-page news in all the main media.

As one of Sri Lanka’s main trade-union leaders over the past 60 years, Bala Tampoe negotiated on behalf of workers and made all governments tremble. During 1970 negotiations that Bala had secured through public protest, government minister and former party comrade Colvin R. de Silva (Bala had broken with him in 1964 when de Silva chose to take his party into a bourgeois government) said of him that he was “one of the finest minds not only in trade-union circles but in the whole country.” I personally had occasion to meet Bala in the 1980s and 1990s. During his visits to Europe, he came to me with questions about the rebirth of the workers movement in Poland. I remember him as a very respectful leader who listened closely to the young activist that I was at the time.

via: http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article3849

#icanChangeSL & #wecanChangeSL: Shaping a new Sri Lanka

The Presidential poll of 8 January 2015 inspired the largest number of voters in Sri Lanka’s history to turn out to elect a new president. The‪#‎IVotedSL‬ campaign, which went viral in the lead up to and on the day of the election, was an unprecedented effort over social media to enhance voter turnout. Thousands of Sri Lankans participated.

This new campaign seeks to build on and sustain this interest in reframing our country.

More details are http://www.cpalanka.org/icanchangesl-wecanchangesl-shaping…/

“67 Years of Independence, Nation Building and the Future of Tamils in Sri Lanka” by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

“Sri Lanka will Celebrate its Sixty-seventh Anniversary of Independence from the United Kingdom this Wednesday. The country then known as Ceylon obtained full freedom from the British on February 4th 1948.Independent Ceylon/Sri Lanka / has faced many challenges and problems in the past 67 years. We have had military coup attempts, communal riots, pogroms, armed revolts, external military intervention, assassinations of heads of state, terrorist violence and above all a long secessionist war that threatened to tear apart the country.”

via: http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/38077