US: Cooperation hampered by human rights record

Below is an extract from the testimony of Robert O. Blake, Jr., Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. The full text of his prepared speech can be found here . Sri Lanka stands poised to be a capable and willing partner to effectively combat violent extremism, trafficking and piracy, and thereby help to ensure the maritime security of the region. But the Government’s worrisome record on human rights, weakening of democratic institutions and practices, and the way in which it...

Which nation’s team?

It is no accident that Sri Lanka’s cricket team has long been made up mainly of Sinhalese. Ahead of the World Cup final Saturday, Mel Gunasekera writes for AFP : While [world record wicket-taker Muttiah] Muralitharan is the only Tamil in Sri Lanka’s team, the Muslim minority is partially represented by opening batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan. Dilshan, who has a Muslim father and Sinhalese mother, was born Tuwan Mohamed Dilshan but converted from Islam to Buddhism and changed his name. His manager, Roshan Abeysinghe, said he did it "for personal reasons," adding that Dilshan "wanted a Sinhala...

Indian engines no longer ‘spurious imports’

On March 14 Sri Lanka abruptly suspended acceptance of Indian-manufactured train power sets. Each reportedly costs $3.5m, the engines are manufactured by Indian state-owned firm RITES Ltd. The reason given by Sri Lanka for the suspension was that one of three already delivered had ‘stopped’ on a run on March 11 due to unspecified defects. An electrical short was later reported. Minister of Transport Kumar Welgama told reporters that defects had been identified and reported to President Mahinda Rajapaksa. “We have already initiated an investigation into the suitability of these Indian...

Why is it perplexing?

Two months after what has been described as Sri Lanka’s worst natural disaster since the 2004 tsunami, the lives of those in the most affected districts of Batticoloa, Amparai and Trincomalee remain devastated. The state’s much hyped rhetoric of aid has not materialized into tangible relief. Quite the reverse. In a predictable repeat of the post-tsunami situation, the state’s efforts to hamper flood relief for Tamil areas are part of a wider determination to block re-development there.

TYO extends 'Boycott Sri Lanka' to cricket

Using as context the quarter final of the Cricket World Cup between co-hosts Sri Lanka and England, the TYO-UK (Tamil Youth Organisation) on Saturday conducted an awareness campaign on Sri Lanka in London, on a day marked by huge protest by the TUC (Trade Union Congress) against public spending cuts.

True to Sri Lankan form ...

As ever in Sri Lanka, after the initial blaze of publicity … the state ensures that nothing that might benefit Tamils can proceed. Last June, the Indian government’s declared intention to build 50,000 houses in the war shattered Northeast sparked much media interest, hope (in the Northeast), and controversy (in South). Then nothing happened. A foundation stone was finally laid in November. But then Sri Lanka suddenly announced that most of the houses would not be new builds, but repairs. India rebutted this promptly. Now, three months later, it’s clear Sri Lanka has again managed to stall the...

Fishy relations

With Tamil Nadu due to go to the polls within weeks, the issue of Indian fishermen being attacked in the waters between India and Sri Lanka has once again made the news. The oceanic border between India and Sri Lanka has no visible demarcations and fishermen often find themselves on the wrong side. While Sinhala fishermen (often seeking tuna) have been arrested in Indian waters and later released, there has also long been a history of the Sri Lankan navy attacking and killing Indian fishermen.

Truth, impunity and future security

" A people’s knowledge of the history of its oppression is part of its heritage. Knowing the truth allows victims and relatives to gain a sense of closure, some restoration of dignity and receive acknowledgement of their suffering. " The truth is a tool to combat impunity. It is a tool for justice. And it is a vital step in preventing a recurrence of the events that led to the violations. " - Navi Pillay , UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. See her full statement here .

Beware, beware

“In February, [Sri Lanka] Prime Minister DM Jayaratne argued in Parliament that it was important to extend the Emergency partly because remnants of the LTTE were active among the Tamil diaspora. This month, he brought LTTE cadres to Tamil Nadu, a lot closer. What could be the argument next month? ” - Sutirtho Patranobis , writer with Hindustan Times. See his comment here “ The emergency laws grant state authorities sweeping powers of detention and permit the use of secret prisons, a practice that encourages human rights abuses like enforced disappearances, torture and death in custody, which...

‘Territorial integrity’

Sri Lanka’s government Wednesday denounced the US-led air operation against the Libyan regime with a familiar refrain. “These strikes are harming civilians and are also a violation of the territorial integrity of an independent country ,” External Affairs Minister G.L.Peiris told Parliament. The air strikes were contrary to the United Nations resolution 1973, he claimed. Prof. Peiris was speaking in an adjournment motion moved by ruling SLFP (Sri Lanka Freedom Party) parliamentarian, A.H.M.Azwar. The motion condemned the attacks on Libya and called on other governments to do so as well...

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