All Photographs:Naangal A local civil society group called ‘Naangal,' which operates in the North-East of Sri Lanka, over past weeks has carried out a series of welfare activities across North-Eastern districts. On the 28th of February, activists in Jaffna handed out school stationary and shoes to students from families that were detrimentallly affected by the ethnic conflict.
(All photos: Sri Lanka Army) The Sri Lankan military continues to involve itself in activities involving school children and their education, across the Tamil regions in the North-East of the island. Soldiers from regiments which stand accused of commiting mass atrocities, stationed in Batticaloa, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu, organised several activities in the last few weeks, involving young school children, despite Sri Lanka's foreign minister, Mangala Samaraweera, telling delegates gathered at a conference in Washington last week that "involvement of the military in civilian activities has ceased". Troops from the Special Forces Regiment, based in Kilinochchi organised a trip to Colombo from February 11-12, for 37 children from Kanagapuram Central School to visit a photographic exhibition about the military, also taking them to a Buddhist stupa in the Viharamahadevi Park, named after Sinhala king Dutugamenu’s mother.
15:24 GMT, last updated 17 Feb 14:14 GMT The UN Human Rights Council on Monday decided to give the new Sri Lankan government six months to cooperate with the UN inquiry into mass atrocities against the Tamil people, in order to ensure the submission of further information, stressing however, that the extension of time would be "for one time only". In a written letter to the Council, which was holding a preliminary meeting on Monday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, requested member states to defer their consideration of the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) report, till the 30th session in September, to allow for cooperation from the Sri Lankan government in order to gather more information and ensure a "stronger and more comprehensive report". “There should be no misunderstanding,” Mr Zeid stressed, in a letter read to the Council, "I give my personal, absolute and unshakable commitment that the report will be published by September." "Like my predecessors, I believe that one of the most important duties of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is to act as a strong voice on behalf of victims. I want this report to have the maximum possible impact in ensuring a genuine and credible process of accountability and reconciliation in which the rights of victims to truth, justice and reparations are finally respected.”
08:32 GMT The Northern Provincial Council passed a resolution today calling on the UN inquiry to investigate the genocide of the Tamil people by the Sri Lankan government and recommend appropriate measures for the International Criminal Court, stating that the Tamil people have no faith in domestic commission. The resolution, tabled by the chief minister of the province, Justice C V Wigneswaran, was passed with an overwhelming majority around 9.30am local time. "This resolution provides as overview of the evidence demonstrating successive Sri Lankan governments' genocide against Tamils, and respectfully requests the ongoing United Nations Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) to investigate the claim of genocide and recommend appropriate investigations and prosecutions by the International Criminal Court (ICC)," the resolution read. Stating that the "Tamils have no hope for justice in any domestic Sri Lankan mechanism, whether conducted by the Rajapaksa regime, Sirisena regime, or its successor" the resolution called for justice and accountability for the Tamil genocide "to be driven and carried out by the international community".
British MPs from the 3 main parties gathered at the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (APPG-T) annual dinner, organised by British Tamils Forum on Thursday, to celebrate the contribution of the Tamil community to the UK and reaffirm their commitment to seeking justice and normalcy for Tamils in Sri Lanka. Speakers at the event, which was attended by members of the British Tamil community, representatives from overseas Tamil diaspora organisations, British ministers, MPs, international journalists, human rights activists and local councillors, reaffirmed their resolve towards pressuring the new Sri Lankan government to co-operate with the United Nations inquiry into Sri Lankan atrocities and de-militarising the North-East. Representatives of Tamil community organisations from the UK and abroad were present, including the British Tamils Forum, Tamils for Labour, British Tamil Conservatives, Tamil Information Centre and the United States Political Action Group (USTPAC).
British MPs, highlighting the need for the new government of Sri Lanka to take concrete steps to reconcile with Tamils, called for increased pressure on Sri Lanka to cooperate with the UN inquiry into mass atrocities, whikst debating the issue of ‘ Tamils in Sri Lanka ’ at the House of Commons on Wednesday morning. Noting concerns about the new Sri Lankan government’s demeanour towards the Tamil community, and later highlighting that “ only a political solution that recognises the rights of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka, including that to self-determination, can address the root cause of the conflict ”, the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (APPGT), MP Lee Scott, said, “I am concerned, however, that the new Government of Sri Lanka have stated that they will not change the policy towards the Tamil community in Sri Lanka or demilitarise the areas in which Tamil people live. ” Mr Scott added that further pressure on Sri Lanka, through action such as “ vetoing future loans from the international Monetary Fund (IMF) ” may be an avenue to encourage change for Tamils in Sri Lanka. Expressing concern at the make-up of the new Sirisena government, Mr Scott added, “The new president was a member of the same party as his predecessor.”
Sri Lanka’s new president, Maithripala Sirisena, has promised to break from the Rajapaksa regime's rule with a 100 day plan of widely welcomed reforms that will ensure good governance, rule of law and judicial independence. However the new government is yet to address the country’s most significant issue in Sri Lanka – that of accountability and justice for wartime mass atrocities in which tens of thousands of Tamils died in the cataclysmic end of the war, and the rights abuses during and after the war.
Sri Lanka's new president, Maithiripala Sirisena, faced calls from heads of states and international rights groups to address accountability for mass atrocities committed against the Tamil people, along side calls to demilitarise the North-East and address devolution of power, as he took office on Friday. President Sirisena, who was endorsed by a coalition of parties, including the UNP, JVP, TNA and SLMC, won 51.28% (6,217,162 votes), beating incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa, who won 47.58% (5,768,090 votes).
Kumar Ponnamabalam, assassinated 5 Jan 2000. Fifteen years after Kumar Ponnambalam, a prominent human rights lawyer and leader of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) was assassinated in a busy Colombo suburb during Chandrika Kumaratunge's government, his killers have not been brought to justice. Mr Ponnambalam, who was renowned for his pro bono work in defending Tamil and Sinhala youths detained under Sri Lanka's draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act, had filed reports in important human rights cases that incriminated the Chandrika government, including the gang rape and murder of the Tamil girl, Krishanthi Kumaraswamy and mass graves in Chemmani. He was shot dead by unidentified gunman on January 5th, 2000, whilst in his car on Ramakrishna Lane, in the Tamil area of Colombo, Wellawatte.
Photograph TamilNet This week marks 9 years since the murder of five Tamils students, who were executed by Sri Lanka's Special Task Force, whilst they spent an afternoon on the beach in Trincomalee. The 'Trinco 5' case has been one of the highest profile killings in Sri Lanka to receive international attention, listed in 2014 by the then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights' report on the island as one of four ‘emblematic cases’ of the government's failure to ensure accountability.