Release of Commonwealth report blocked by Sri Lanka

An internal report by a panel on the Commonwealth, due to be presented at the summit in Perth next week, has slammed the ‘failure’ of the 54-member organisation to address human rights issues of its members and said only prompt action will save the Commonwealth from irrelevance and its eventual demise. Several Commonwealth members have blocked the publication of the report, titled ‘Time for Urgent Reform’, with Sri Lanka signalling it will reject the recommendation by the report to appoint a ‘Commissioner for Democracy’ who would recommend ‘remedial action’ against persistent human rights...

TNA outlines basic requirements for future talks

The TNA (Tamil National Alliance) called on the government to stop all registration of lands in the North-East, reverse the inclusion of the Sinhala region of Welioya into Mullaitivu District and stop the deployment of a Sinhala government agent to Mannar, during talks with government delegates on Thursday. TNA MP Suresh Premachandran, stated that such measures, were the very basic requirement in order for future talks with the Sri Lankan government to take place. “If the President is willing, he can stop these moves within a matter of a few hours,” Premachandran added. The meeting on...

Status: Not Free

In their annual report entitled “Freedom of the Press” released this week, advocacy group Freedom House have declared that media freedom in Sri Lanka is severely restricted with journalists facing constant harassment and intimidation. The Washington-based group have ranked Sri Lanka one place above Afghanistan in their Asia rankings and behind countries such as Pakistan, Côte d’Ivoire and Iraq in the Global rankings. Sri Lanka has also been designated a country where the level of press freedom is “Not Free”, joining states such as North Korea, Iran and Somalia. See the full table here . The...

Indigenous Vedda protest in Trinco over land grabs

A group of Vedda, indigenous people on the island of Sri Lanka, have protested outside the residence of the Trincomalee governor, the BBC Sinhala service reports. The group, hailing from a remote village in the district, claimed their ancestral land was being appropriated by a Buddhist monk, with government officials in the district ignoring their plight. “Uppuveli Hamuduruvo (the monk) grabbed an agricultural tank earlier and we kept quiet but now he is going to go for another one. This can not be allowed” said P.M. Appuhamy, the president of the village’s farmers association. The Tamil-...

Fox to face further investigation

The parliamentary standards watchdog will be conducted a fresh investigation into the Fox's dealings with Werritty, the watchdog's commissioner announced today. The watchdog was asked by the Labour MP, John Mann, to investigate allegations that Fox allowed Werritty to live rent-free in his London flat, paid for by parliamentary allowances. The police are also considering a criminal investigation.

A cunning evasion of admission of guilt

Carefully skirting around a direct admission of guilt, the British former defence secretary, Liam Fox, whilst addressing parliament on Wednesday, said, " The ministerial code has been found to be breached . For this I am sorry." "I accept it is not only the substance but [also] perception that matters. That is why I chose to resign. I accept the consequences for me without bitterness or rancour. I do not blame anyone else, and I believe that you do not turn your back on your friends or family in times of trouble." "With hindsight, I should have been more willing to listen to concerns of those...

Cross-party Tamil outrage at Sinhala colonisation in Vavuniya

Tamil politicians across the political spectrum protested in Vavuniya on Monday, against the on-going settlement of Sinhala citizens into Tamil areas, whilst Tamil refugees remain homeless and face increasing obstacle to land registration. The protest included TNA parliamentarians Mavai Senathirajah, Suresh Premachandran, S. Adaikalanathan, E. Sarawanabawan, MP Sivasakthi Anandan, TULF Leader V. Anandasangaree, PLOT Leader S. Siddharthan and TELO Political Wing leader M. K. Sivajilingam. See here for photographs.

TNA invited to US for talks with Clinton

The Tamil National Alliance will be sending a four-member delegation to Washington on October 25th to meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other State Department officials for talks, following an invitation from the US government, according to the Sunday Times. The Tamil delegation has also reportedly planned to meet with US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake, who visited Sri Lanka and met with the TNA last month. During his visit Blake reiterated the “need for a credible process of accountability” and expressed concern about human...

Why Sri Lanka should not host CHOGM

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, an independent organisation created to support human rights in Commonwealth countries, have released a press statement detailing why the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting should not be held in Sri Lanka. The press release answers “Frequently Asked Questions” on Sri Lanka’s planned CHOGM and argues that allowing the meeting to be held there would infringe on the Commonwealth’s fundamental principles. Extracts have been reproduced below: Q: Sri Lanka has already formed a domestic inquiry into allegations; why not wait for the outcomes of that process before acting on Sri Lanka? A: Sri Lanka’s domestic mechanism, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) has been found by international and UN experts (such as the Panel of Experts) as well as civil society groups to lack both an adequate mandate and the impartiality necessary for credible investigations. The mechanism will submit its report in November 2011. CHOGM venues are usually decided at the preceding CHOGM and CHOGM 2011 in October is the last chance to decide against Sri Lanka hosting the event. By November when the LLRC report comes out, it will be too late to prevent Sri Lanka from hosting CHOGM. Pinning hopes on an internationally discredited mechanism at the risk of losing the Commonwealth’s legitimacy is dangerous. Q: Why target Sri Lanka when all countries within the Commonwealth are not perfect. Why block a developing island state’s first chance to host CHOGM when a large and developed Western player like Australia has held CHOGM thrice? A: Sri Lanka’s human rights situation is one of the most acute cases within the Commonwealth. The nature of entrenched impunity and a long history of unaccounted for human rights violations coupled with allegations of egregious human rights violation at the end of Sri Lanka’s long running civil war makes it a special concern. The next CHOGM could be granted to another small developing country such as Mauritius which offered in 2009 to host CHOGM in 2011 as an alternative to Sri Lanka and is to host CHOGM in 2015. Q: What will happen if CHOGM 2013 is held in Sri Lanka? A: Endorsement of Sri Lanka as the host of 2013 CHOGM and the visit of 54 Heads of governments to the country will potentially amount to political apathy towards the human rights allegations Sri Lanka faces and may result in the condoning of such violations. The political clout Sri Lanka derives from hosting the meeting may be used to fend off all other international calls for accountability at forums such as the UN Human Rights Council. Hosting CHOGM 2013 will also allow Sri Lanka to preside over the Commonwealth as its Chair till 2015. The risks and potential consequences of having a country that has been implicated in gross human rights violations Chair the organisation outweighs bleak possibilities of positive engagement. See the full release here .

Sri Lanka increases military spending

The Sri Lankan government confirmed on Tuesday it would raise defence spending by over 5% in 2012, over 2 years since the end of the conflict. The total expenditure on military expenses in 2012 will be $2.1 billion, up from $1.92 in 2011. According to figures released in parliament, nearly half of the defence budget will be spent on maintaining the nearly 300,000 strong forces. Sri Lanka, which maintains one of the largest armies in the world, spend over 3.5% of their GDP on their military in 2010, a higher percentage spend than China’s or the United Kingdom’s. The Sri Lankan military is...

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