JHU's Sri Lanka

Speaking at the JHU's 8th party convention, general secretary Champika Ranawaka urged the party to develop a Sri Lanka that will 'suit our culture [and] people'. Referring to 'certain forces' attempting to take Sri Lanka into a 'dark future' through forceful constitutional changes and a 'mental operation' against the government, he rallied JHU members to 'protect the peace we gained'. Extracts from Ranawaka's address : “ We have to protect the peace we gained and protect dignity while developing and leading the country into the future. We should develop the country that will suit our culture...

On justice for war crimes

“As long as [war crimes perpetrators] are alive – however old they are, however long ago their crimes were committed – justice would seem to be served by punishment. “ Reconciliations and amnesties are a postponement of justice in the hope that the victims' relatives will die off and their descendants will lose all interest in the outrages of the past. Unlikely. Who now remembers the Armenians, Hitler asked? Millions of people, is my reply.” - Robert Fisk , senior foreign correspondent. See his comment in The Independent. Dr. Fisk holds more British and International Journalism awards than...

How commuting death sentences is in Tamil Nadu's power

The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, J. Jayalalitha, recently stated that she does not have the power to commute the death sentences on three people for their alleged roles in the assassination of former Premier Rajiv Gandhi. Technically, it is the Governor of Tamil Nadu who has this power. But the Tamil Nadu council of ministers can so advice the Governor. On April 25, 2000, then Governor, Fathima Beevi, ordered the commutation to life of the death sentence given to Nalini, also in the Rajiv Gandhi case. (She rejected the mercy petitions of the other three.) It was the advice of the Tamil Nadu...

US believed China bribed way to Hambantota contract

A cable from the US embassy in Colombo last year, revealed how officials believed China bribed senior Sri Lankan government figures, possibly including President Mahinda Rajapakse himself, to win building contracts in Hambantota. The leaked cable went on to cast doubts on the long term viability of the city to attract investment. See full text from Wikileaks here . Sent by Deputy Chief of Mission Valerie Fowler, entitled “Hambantota Port Complex: Will Sri Lanka realize the dream?” the cable said, " It is likely that corruption and political patronage are significant factors playing into the focus on Hambantota. Often when Chinese companies win contracts, their success is due in part on their widespread distribution of graft to senior Sri Lankan government officials ." " While it is currently unknown to what extent President Mahinda Rajapaksa is involved in Hambantota development, it seems logical that his hand is also out when commercial enterprises, especially the Chinese, jockey for contracts and projects." Hambantota, President Rajapakse’s hometown, is currently bidding to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games. The bid is being led by the President's son, Namal Rajapakse.

Sri Lanka-India venture in $200m hotel-apartment build

Sri Lanka’s Rank Holdings, a group which has interests in gaming, power and logistics, is planning a $200 million hotel and residential complex in Colombo with an Indian partner. See SANA’s report here . A 5-star hotel and 171 apartments would be part of the mixed development on a 2.5 acre property leased from the state. The area has been earmarked for leisure and entertainment development by Sri Lanka’s urban development authority ( UDA ), part of the Ministry of Defence. Construction is expected to begin in November. Funding would be borrowed from foreign banks and put in by Rank Holdings...

Sri Lankan Army war criminal apprehended in Florida

A Sri Lankan Army sergeant involved in the torture and murder of civilians, as well as the construction of mass graves, has been apprehended by US authorities after being named by the Canada's Border Services as a suspected war criminal. Illandaridevage Kulatunga was named in a list of 30 suspected war criminals that were thought to have entered Canada illegally. The National Post said in a 2004 article that Kulatunga was directly involved in the arrest, torture and murder of innocent civilians as part of the Sri Lankan Army in the 1990s . It was also noted that Kulatunga and his fellow soldiers then dug mass graves in order to destroy evidence of their crimes. He is now set to be deported back to Sri Lanka, a decision that has been criticised by human rights group Amnesty International , who have called for all those on the list to face prosecution rather than deportation. Amnesty spokesman John Tackaberry said: “Serious human rights violators should be brought to justice, w e should ensure they face the consequences of their actions. These are very serious charges." "You can’t get worse than war crimes or crimes against humanity.”

US warns again on international action

Commenting on Sri Lanka's planned lifting of emergency laws, US State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, warned Sri Lanka to make further progress on human rights and humanitarian law: " We continue to urge the government of Sri Lanka to meet its international humanitarian law and international human rights law obligations ." "And we continue to say that if they cannot do this nationally, then the international community will have to step in. Bob Blake will be talking about all these issues on his visit." Robert Blake, US assistance secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs, will be visiting Sri Lanka from 29-31 August. Nuland confirmed that as part of his visit, he will be travelling to Jaffna.

On the economy

Comments to The Island newspaper (see reports on Friday here and here ): "The economy is being driven by the government. The state is a major player in the economy and as a result the country is accumulating debt, mainly from China who are funding major development projects in the face of low foreign direct investment. " Having economic freedom means that there should be more private sector involvement in development activities." - Dr. Harsha De Silva , economist and opposition MP. "Our FDI performance has not been all that great, at US$ 413 million for the first six months, and lifting...

Date set for hanging of 3 Tamils

Following the rejection of the clemency pleas of the 3 Tamils convicted for their alleged part in the assassination of the Rajiv Gandhi, a final date of execution has been confirmed: Friday 9th September 2011. The confirmation on date comes amidst increasing public outrage at India's decision to uphold capital punishment in this case. Three city advocates began a fast unto death today, in front of the Madras High Court, demanding clemency for the 3 Tamils. The advocates Kayalvizhi, Vadivambal and Sujatha also seek the abolition of capital punishment in India.

Sri Lanka lifts emergency laws, but terror law has same powers

Sri Lanka lifted draconian emergency laws imposed nearly 30 years on Thursday - but similarly tough powers remain available to authorities under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). See reports by AFP , AP and Reuters . Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced the lifting of the emergency regulations in Parliament. The laws, which give security forces sweeping powers of arrest and detention, have been renewed on a monthly basis - with only brief breaks - since they were first imposed 28 years ago. The government move comes ahead of next month's United Nations Human Rights Council...