Too close for British comfort

On Wednesday we highlighted British Defence Secretary Liam Fox’s links with President Mahinda Rajapakse's government, and the minister's insistence on meeting the Sri Lankan leader this week despite the growing chorus of demands he be investigated for war crimes. It seems the much-publicised, yet supposedly 'private', meeting has also made the British government uncomfortable: The Times newspaper reported Thursday that Dr. Fox has been warned by Foreign Office officials.

What’s so surprising?

The leaked cable to the US State Department from US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Patricia Butenis has this week added to growing calls for international investigations into the Rajapakse administration’s culpability for war crimes. However, it is worth remembering that the cable's contents can only be a ‘revelation’ about Washington’s awareness, if relatively recent history is ignored. For example, this is what President Obama said on May 13, 2009 : “First, the government should stop the indiscriminate shelling that has taken hundreds of innocent lives, including several hospitals, and the...

Thank you anyway, Miliband

“Any mention of my island home (no matter what British political scandal it may involve), is most welcome. For here is a chance for the world to stop its hurried turning, pause a moment, and remember that savage kingdom in the Indian Ocean. To read once more of the 100,000 Tamils thought to have died in a few balmy days last May. “Memory, that dignified defender of all human life, will not simply disappear. It is the archaeological remains of our collective existence. Those who bear witness can never forget until closure is achieved .” Roma Tearne, a scholar with Brookes University, discusses...

Japan failing leadership test in Sri Lanka

“Japan's studied refusal to add to the international pressure on the Sri Lankan government, while it continues to pour money into infrastructure development, could be construed as not simply more ineffectual checkbook diplomacy, but in fact a cynical investment in the regime. “The failure of Sri Lanka's most significant development assistance partner to lend weight to the widespread international pressure upon the Sri Lankan government to address the many significant humanitarian and human rights issues, and respond meaningfully to Tamil grievances, provides the Sri Lankan government with the...

Doubts over Sri Lanka's pledges

“Most of [Sri Lanka’s] deficit reduction plans hinge on turning around loss-making state ventures hampered by subsidy schemes, mismanagement and an infamously intractable corps of bureaucrats.” Public sector resistance to the government’s proposed economic reforms, and poor government follow-through, “could put the [proposed] changes at risk, and leave potential foreign investors still wary of Sri Lanka as a destination," Reuters reports. Sri Lanka's 1.3 million public employees are not pleased with what they see as an insufficient wage hike, which President Rajapaksa has been promising since...

Loyal defender of Sri Lanka’s realm

It isn’t surprising that the only British politician who will be meeting Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse during his controversial visit to the UK this week is Defence Secretary Liam Fox . Amid a storm of outrage and calls this week by Amnesty International for Britain to pursue war crimes prosecutions against Sri Lankan leaders, the Defence Secretary is going to meet President Rajapakse “in a private capacity”. "This reflects Dr Fox's longstanding interest in Sri Lanka and his interest in, and commitment to peace and reconciliation there," a spokesman for Fox told The Guardian newspaper. A closer look at Dr. Fox's long-standing engagement with Sri Lanka suggests otherwise.

More video of Sri Lanka war crimes

Britain's Channel 4 News has obtained an extended video of war crimes, including sexual abuse, by Sri Lankan soldiers committed in the last days of the war. Since then, one of the murdered women seen naked and bound in the video has been identified: a journalist well known on to Tamil television viewers during the war. Amnesty International has called on Britain to examine the gathering evidence of war crimes to see if Sri Lankan officials, including President Mahinda Rajapakse, can be indicted on universal jurisdiction laws. See the shorter version of the video, first broadcast last year by...

US embassy cables: Rajapaksa shares responsibility for 2009 massacres

“There are no examples we know of a regime undertaking wholesale investigations of its own troops or senior officials for war crimes while that regime or government remained in power. In Sri Lanka this is further complicated by the fact that responsibility for many of the alleged crimes rests with the country's senior civilian and military leadership, including President Rajapaksa and his brothers and opposition candidate General Fonseka .” See the full text of a US Embassy cable of January 2010, released by Wikileaks to The Guardian newspaper here . The US cable also says Tamil political...

Sri Lanka’s fishy story

After 32 consecutive years of losses, Sri Lanka 's state-owned Fisheries Corporation announced this July it had made a profit . The explanation, inevitably, was ‘the end of the war’. But a close look suggests much more than that: a militarized and ethnicised monopoly in the making.

Why Rajapakse’s case is different

“The Oxford Union has in the past faced criticism for inviting other controversial speakers also known for their racist views. However, President Rajapakse is in a different position from [far right leader] Nick Griffin or [Holocaust denier] David Irving. “ These previous speakers live in countries with a free and independent media and the rule of law. They could not therefore use the Oxford Union as a means of propagating unchallenged, noxious views or indeed as a platform for a campaign of concealment. “ However, President Rajapakse has crushed free speech in his own country and done his...

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