ELLIPALLAI, 19 June 2015 (IRIN) – As a young girl, Kasthuri Udayakumaran’s grandmother would tell her of a house where birds chirped as the morning sunlight streamed through the thick foliage of a peaceful village. It seemed like a fantasy, a world away from her home in the northern city of Jaffna where soldiers manned checkpoints and claymore mines exploded on dusty streets.
Sri Lankan ruling party coalition today refused to make former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, a prime ministerial candidate, dashing his efforts to return to front line politics.
Conscious of strong opposition to its earlier decision on retaining the size of Parliament at 225 as part of the proposed 20th Constitutional Amendment, the Sri Lankan Cabinet on Friday decided to increase the number of Members of Parliament to 237. Of this figure, 145 members will be elected through the system of First Past The Post (FPTP) whereas the remaining 92 will be under proportional representation (PR). Within the tally of 92, the component of district PR will have 55 members and the national list will have 37.
Jaffna is the capital city of the Northern Province, and it is also the administrative headquarters of the Jaffna District located on a peninsula of the same name. At one time Jaffna’s population exceeded 85,000. However, by today the number has been reduced to 60,030 and the total population in the Northern Province, which once showed as 734,000 (1981) at present stands at 614,428, according to the Jaffna District Secretariat.
After the end of the war against the LTTE in May 2009, the government began its mega development programs in the Northern Province and the Security Forces also left most of the lands which they were using during the operation period.
Sri Lanka’s wartime army chief says his conscience is clear and he would welcome a war crimes investigation to prove his innocence.
“The allegations are there,” Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka said in an interview with the Guardian. “We have to clear our name.”
In May 2009 the then General Fonseka was the head of the Sri Lankan army that defeated the Tamil Tigers, or Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, ending Sri Lanka’s brutal 26-year civil war.
Nearly two years later, a UN secretary general’s panel of experts reported that both government forces and the Tamil Tigers had potentially committed serious human rights violations in the final stages of the war.
Shocking footage of the war’s end emerged shortly after, suggesting widespread crimes had been committed by forces under Fonseka’s command.
The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government is unlikely to hand back large chunks of land back to the Tamils until after the parliamentary elections in September this year, a highly placed official source said.
Land is a sensitive subject in Sri Lanka, which is why power over it is held by the Central government in Colombo, even though it is a Provincial subject under the 13 th. Amendment of the Constitution. Sensitivity is particularly high in the case of lands seized from the Tamil-speaking Northern and Eastern Provinces for strategic reasons during the war.
It is nearly two months since the Sri Lankan army returned V. Yogeswaran’s land and house in Palai Veemankamam, about 15 km from Jaffna. Yet, he just can’t believe it that his property has been restored to him.
As many as 2,175 internally displaced Tamil families in Jaffna and Trincomalee districts are set to receive a financial assistance of Rs. 38,000 per family for resettlement with the Cabinet of the Sri Lankan government sanctioning Rs. 16 crore Lankan.
More than 100 people have been arrested during protests against the gang-rape and murder of a 17-year-old schoolgirl, in the biggest public demonstration recorded in Sri Lanka’s north.
Police fired tear gas and shops, banks and schools were closed on Wednesday as the protests brought Jaffna, the capital of Northern Province, to a standstill.
The protesters demanded that authorities hand over nine men who were arrested and about to face court over the incident.
The victim left for school on Wednesday last week but never arrived.
“Sri Lanka appeared to turn a new leaf with the election in January 2015 of President Maithripala Sirisena. This put an end to rule of this country of 21 million people by Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is closely associated with a brutal 2009 victory over the Tamil Tiger insurgency and authoritarian government. Alan Keenan discusses how much President Sirisena, previously a minor figure in Rajapaksa’s government, has changed politics on the South Asian island.”
Sensing the international pressure on investigation into alleged war crimes during the Eelam War IV, Sri Lankan Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera on Thursday indicated that a domestic accountability mechanism would be in place before the 30 Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council was scheduled to begin in September.
Austin Fernando, Governor of Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province, has strongly refuted criticism made in certain quarters about the Colombo’s decision to resettle internally-displaced people (IDP), mostly Tamils, in Sampur town.
VAVUNIYA, 13 May 2015 (IRIN) – Almost six years after Sri Lanka’s bloody civil conflict came to an end, an underreported legacy of the fighting is finally being acknowledged: the extraordinarily high number of war widows struggling to make ends meet.
John Kerry’s visit to Sri Lanka, the first by a U.S. Secretary of State in 11 years, recognizes country’s geopolitical importance. It also highlights the outcome of the recent tussle over the island state by two emerging global powers. This is a contest in which India has now gained the upper hand over China, offering important lessons for rising powers as they begin a “Great Game” in Asia.