Who is Maithripala Sirisena?

Updated 03 Jan 2015 Last month the former secretary general of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and minister of health, Maithripala Sirisena, who was also sworn in as the acting defence minister in May 2009, was announced as the common opposition candidate for the upcoming presidential elections. See our editorial: No Choice (22 Dec 2014) Sirisena and Rajapaksa embrace during Sri Lankan government celebrations on May 19 2009 Photo: lkwebnews.com Sirisena has had a busy lead in to the elections since first announcing his intention to run as the common opposition candidate against the Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa. Reaches out to BBS for support The Bodu Bala Sena, allegedly responsible for violence against ethnic communities in Sri Lanka, shortly after the announcement of Sirisena's decision to run as opposition candidate, confirmed that he had reached out to the BBS to garner their support. Immediate guarantees to protect Mahinda Rajapaksa and army from potential international war crimes prosecution Within a week of assuming the role as the common opposition candidate, Sirisena stressed that he would not allow Mahinda Rajapaksa or armed forces to be tried for war crimes. “I will not allow President Rajapaksa, his family or any member of our armed forces to be taken before any international war crimes tribunal,” Sirisena said to reporters. Coalition forming with nationalist Buddhist political parties Less than 14 days after, launching the opposition campaign, Sirisena signed an MOU with the Buddhist monk led political party, the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU). The JHU broke away from the ruling party coalition warning Rajapaksa that the Sinhalese were becoming a ' minority community ' whilst calling on the president to follow 'Buddhist teachings.' Rejections of Tamil demands based on elected TNA mandate, alongside pledges for Buddhist prominence On 02 Dec 2014, Sirisena, at an election rally, said that he rejects calls from Tamil leaders for a federal constitution that granted greater powers of autonomy to the predominantly Tamil speaking North-East. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) was elected to the Northern Provincial Council last year under a mandate calling for a federal solution that devolved powers to a merged Northern and Eastern province and acknowledged the Tamil people's right to self-determination. At the same rally Sirisena pledged further to preserve constitutional prominence given to Buddhism in any newly drafted constitution. Reiterated rejection of international inquiry into Sri Lankan atrocities At a joint election rally with the new opposition partner, the JHU, Sirisena reiterated his commitment to opposing any international investigation into Sri Lankan atrocities and prosecution of military authorities including current President Rajapaksa. Categorical rejections of all rumours alleging promises to meet 'extremist' Tamil demands Responding to rumours of the common opposition candidate party joining a pact with the ' extremist ' Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to meet Tamil demands, Sirisena rejected that any pact had been made with the TNA. Sirisena's opposition party made further rejections of the UN inquiry into Sri Lankan atrocities in an interview with the Hindu. Official Maithripala manifesto rejects international investigation into Sri Lankan atrocities Maithripala Sirisena's official manifesto , released on 19 Dec 2014, further reiterated, that "No international power will be allowed to ill-treat or touch a single citizen of this country." In response to violations of human rights allegations, Sirisena's manifesto said that such allegations would be combated by "disseminating among the learned Western society Buddhism and its vision of impermanence and denial of soul that expressed non-violence, equality and great compassion for all." Maithripala Sirisena hailed as only way to defeat foreign intervention Sri Lanka's main opposition on 23 Dec 2014, stated that only Sirisena could settle the 'crisis' faced by Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The opposition UNP blamed the current regime for "earning the wrath" of the international community. Buddhist nationalists call on army to vote Sirisena for international protection The ultra-nationalist Buddhist party, National Bhikku Front, called on the Sri Lankan army to vote for Sirisena, as the opposition candidate would never allow for an international investigation into Sri Lankan atrocities. Reminds voters of 'patriotic' assumption of defence minister role during height of war against LTTE In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Maithri assured readers he is a “patriot” saying, “I was the Minister in Charge of Defence during the last two weeks of the war in which most of the leaders of the LTTE were killed with General Fonseka at the helm of the Army.” “Prior to that I have acted as the Minister of Defence five times during the height of the war.” Whilst serving his tenure as the Minister of Health, Sirisena has been one of the more vocal SLFP politicians in past years.

UK Ministers and MPs rally behind Tamil calls for justice

MP Nick De Bois addressing the event The Chairman of the Conservative party, British government ministers and Members of Parliament voiced their support for the Tamil community in the United Kingdom and backed calls for justice for the Tamil people at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham this week.

#GetThePicture campaign maps Sri Lankan state massacres of Tamils

The United States Tamil Political Action Council released an updated version of their #GetThePicture campaign map this week, detailing the long history of massacres that took place across the Tamil North-East, at the hands of the Sri Lankan state. Announcing the updated maps, Dr. Karunyan Arulanantham, President of USTPAC said, "The Tamils have suffered massacres and violence at the hands of the mono-ethnic Sinhala military since 1958 with increasing frequency and barbarity." "This unchecked and systematic decades-long violence culminated in a genocidal onslaught in 2009 in which 146,000 Tamils are unaccounted for, and the continuing military occupation of Tamils in the North-East and forced land grabs all point to the intention and designs of Sri Lankan state to marginalize the Tamils and reduce them into a submissive minority."

Call for submissions as 'OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka' begins

The terms of reference for the UN inquiry on mass atrocities in Sri Lanka - ' OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) ', which begins work this week, were published on Tuesday, detailing the legal and time framework to be applied and how to submit evidence. Based on the resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in March this year, the OISL, led by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is to investigate the period covered by the LLRC, looking in to " alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties to the conflict ". The...

US should push prosecution of individuals in Sri Lanka - Congressional Caucus hears

The US has the opportunity to prosecute Sri Lankan war criminals and place sanctions on Sri Lanka, the Congressional Caucus on Ethnic and Religious Freedom in Sri Lanka heard at a discussion last week. The caucus held its second such event on Capitol Hill last Wednesday. Speaking from the discussion panel, Co-Editor-in-Chief of Just Security and Professor of Law at New York University School of Law, Ryan Goodman, urged the US to take concrete actions in working towards prosecutions of individuals and placing sanctions on Sri Lanka. Professor Goodman said the U.S. should further promote...

Human rights lawyer speaks on systemic persecution of Tamils at ESVC Summit

A human rights lawyer representing victims of rape and torture in Sri Lank, Kulasegaram Geetharthanan, outlined the ongoing sexual violence and systemic persecution of Tamils in the North-East of Sri Lanka, speaking at a fringe event held by Widows for Peace through Democracy (WPD). Geetharthanan spoke on several Topics including, the Situation of Tamil Widows and Women in Sri Lanka, the Lack of Safety and Culture of Impunity, Witness and Victim Intimidation, Social Stigma and Cultural Taboo, The Lack of Mental Health Treatments and Psychological Support, Poverty levels, Forced Marriage and...

Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict concludes with declaration

The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict concluded in London last week, with 155 states endorsing a joint declaration pledging to work to prevent and punish sexual violence. The four-day summit saw countries from across the globe pledge to improve the response and support to victims of sexual violence and their access to justice, as well as exclude such crimes from amnesty provisions. See the full declaration here . As public exhibitions, theatre productions and discussions took place, ministers from around the world gathered to discuss the issue of sexual violence in conflict and measures that could to taken to prevent rape, protect the victims and punish the perpetrators. The key initiative launched by the British government was the 'International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict’.

Kerry: ‘we will not tolerate peace agreements that provide amnesty to rape’

US Secretary of State John Kerry concludes global summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. Photograph: Tamil Guardian

M.I.A calls for justice for Tamils raped by Sri Lankan military

Updated: 13 Jun 2014, 1500 BST Photographs: Timothy Anderson The world renowned songwriter and hip hop artist, M.I.A (Mathangi Arulpragasam) and the human rights advocate, Bianca Jagger, called for justice for Tamils who had been raped by the Sri Lankan military.

Sexual Violence in Conflict: Sri Lanka

In the run up to the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict,due to take place in London tomorrow, we revisit the evidence documenting the use of sexual violence by Sri Lanka's military against Tamils in the island's ethnic conflict. Photograph - UK Foreign Secretary William Hague calls for perpetrators of sexual violence in Sri Lanka's conflict to be brought to account, speaking in Colombo, Nov 2013