Channel 4 reporter Jon Snow blogs about the cocktail party co-hosted in New York near the United Nations by British Foreign officials along with Sri Lanka and Australia. See here for full post. Extracts reproduced below: Last night, in a dimly lit side street a stone’s throw from the towering UN headquarters here in New York, Britain co-hosted a drinks party with Sri Lanka - a country led by regime accused of the worst war crimes committed this century. Australia joined the fray to render it a tripartite affair. This was an early taster of what is to come. An institution – the British Commonwealth – is to play a macabre role in securing the re-entry into the family of nations of a country which has unaddressed blood on its hands on an horrific scale. Commonwealth countries will be greeted and facilitated by a president, and a government, against whom evidence exists of war crimes and crimes against humanity, which we have screened and which the UN itself has substantiated. The reform programme underway inside the Commonwealth is centred on human rights. On the basis of the prickly charm offensive conducted last night, a terrible pact has perhaps been entered into not to mention Sri Lanka’s war crimes.
Writing in the UK's The Guardian, Callum Macraw, the director of the documentaries 'No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka', said that the UN "was given its first real test by the last few months of the war in Sri Lanka; it failed, shamefully and catastrophically." See here for full opinion piece, extract reproduced below: "Two years ago the Commonwealth of Nations pledged a renewed commitment to its core principles of "democracy, the rule of law and human rights". If Sri Lanka hosts the next meeting of Chogm, normal practice decrees that its president will assume the chairmanship of...
The recent appointment of retired Supreme Court Judge, C.V Wigneswaran, as the Tamil National Alliance's Chief Ministerial candidate for the Northern Provincial Council election, has been widely welcomed by many within the Tamil nation, the Sinhala nation and the international community. Even those that argue the Northern Provincial Council or the 13 th Amendment is futile – as it will not be able to halt the Sinhala colonisation or land grab under way present, let alone tangibly contribute towards the Tamil nation's demand for accountability, justice and the right to self-determination – are supportive of the TNA's decision to field a candidate of Wigneswaran's calibre. However in the weeks that have passed, what was almost unanimous support, is now a slightly apprehensive one. In amongst an array of contentious remarks, Wigneswaran's comments regarding the diaspora and its role within the long-standing conflict and Tamil struggle against oppression, are cause for concern. Endorsing the labelling of the diaspora as “inflexible and dogmatic” in an interview, Wigneswaran recently commented, "They [diaspora] would like me also to take up their cause and the rest of it. These don't concern me whether it is self-determination, separation, this or that This is a long term plan. I am talking about short term plans.." "My point is, look, you keep your views to yourself. So let me do a service to the people that are suffering. So let me do my work. You go on talking what you want to talk. I am not concerned." Such views, emblematic of his recent comments regarding the diaspora, made in his capacity within the TNA, are deeply troubling. Not only does it seek to alienate the diaspora from Tamils in the North-East as 'disconnected' and thereby ignorant, but by telling the diaspora to "keep your views to yourselves" and labelling their work as "their own cause," the TNA effectively disembodies the diaspora from their family and the Eelam Tamil nation.
Writing in the Global Post on August 28th, J. S. Tissainayagam, questions what the UN and the international community will do in reponse to on-going militarisation. "The question is whether the UNHRC and the international community will recognize that vacating private land is a façade by the military to persuade the UN that it is demilitarizing. What will the UN do? Will it impose strictures on the government for wriggling out of its commitments, or will they say sweet nothings and turn a blind eye?" See here for full article. Extract reproduced below: "An important instrument of conflict resolution, or so the international community seemed to believe, was holding elections to the NPC. As de-militarization was a prerequisite for elections, two resolutions — in 2012 and 2013 — moved by the United States at the UN Human Rights Council included such measures. However, the military has continued to govern areas where the Tamil are the majority, inserting itself into aspects of life usually serviced by civilians, and forcibly taking over and controlling land. Residents of northern Sri Lanka complain that the presence of the military is not confined to uniformed personnel patrolling the streets, guns in hand. “[The military] are in our schools supervising public examinations, in our homes [forcibly inviting themselves even to puberty ceremonies] ... It was better when they were only on the streets; now the penetration is directed internally — into the core of community life,” says Kumaravadivel Guruparan, lecturer in law at the University of Jaffna. The military involvement in the life of the community also has repercussions for the electoral process. As campaigning gets underway, the military is accused of supporting the government party against the popular Tamil National Alliance (TNA). “When TNA candidates address public meetings you can be sure four or five military personnel will be hovering around in civvies,” said Suresh Premachandran, a leader of the Alliance party.
Writing on Crisis Groups Blogs, the International Crisis Group's project director for Sri Lanka, Alan Keenan, said that the Sri Lankan government's "latest gestures fit an established pattern of promises made for international consumption but unsupported by political will." See here for full post. Extracts reproduced below: "The value of the steps announced by the government was always questionable, given the active efforts of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family to remove all independent checks on their power, as detailed in Crisis Group’s February report on Sri Lanka’s Authoritarian Turn: The Need for International Action. The recent events in Weliweriya and Grandpass reveal more clearly than ever that what Sri Lanka needs is not more commissions, or even arrests. The country needs legal and institutional changes to the system of policing and justice designed to reverse the militarisation and concentration of power that has deepened so dangerously under the Rajapaksas. These changes would include many of the reforms recommended by the LLRC, as well as others outlined in Sri Lanka’s Authoritarian Turn. At a minimum, the president should end his grant (renewed monthly) of police powers to the army and return soldiers to barracks in north and south, remove the police from the control of the ministry of defence and Secretary of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and restore the independence of the attorney general’s department by removing it from presidential control. The president should also agree to re-establish the independence of commissions that control the police, the judiciary, elections, and the civil service by reinstating the constitutional council. Unfortunately, without increased international pressure, there is little chance the government will take these or any of the other necessary steps to restore the rule of law. Fed by the Rajapaksas’ attachment to centralised and militarised rule, Sri Lanka’s decades-long problem of impunity is getting worse, not better. While the government may have stepped up its public relations game in response to international pressure, the recent events at home show the risk of more serious violence, especially along religious and communal lines, is increasing.
Writing a blog for the campaign ' Women Under Siege ', a project which documents and advocates sexualised violence in conflict, Alex Zucker, a director of the Auschwitz Institute, and a director of the Program in Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Studies at Cardozo Law School, asks whether tracking rape in conflict can prevent genocide. Arguing that " one of the basic tenets for preventing genocide, after all, is the understanding that it is a process, not an event ", Zucker drew attention to the example of Rwanda in 1994: "Tutsi women were often raped with objects such as sharpened sticks, destroying their internal organs so they couldn’t bear any more children. This assault on bodily and reproductive functions, on a group’s life force, reveals the perpetrators’ aim of destroying the group as a whole ." Highlighting conflicts in Burma, Sri Lanka and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zucker added, "Looking through this lens, we may recognize genocide, or the risk of it, in a number of conflicts around the world that most observers have yet to consider “genocidal .” " Sri Lanka: Although armed conflict between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ended in 2009— a conflict that saw many instances of state security forces raping Tamil women in reprisal for rebel attacks —Human Rights Watch has reported that “politically motivated sexual violence by the military and police continues to the present.” Here, too, in addition to systematic rape of Tamil men and women in custody by members of the army, police, and pro-government paramilitary groups, life force atrocities have occurred .
Writing in The Hindu, Kumaravadivel Guruparan, a lecturer in law at the University of Jaffna and civil society activist, argues that " Sinhala nationalists and Tamil political parties are engaged in a wholly nonsensical and misleading debate over the 13th Amendment ", whilst " the Tamil people have been reduced to mere spectators ". See here for full article. Extract reproduced below: "The TNA is under pressure from India to accept a solution based on the 13th amendment, and does not want to be seen as rejecting something that President Rajapaksa is reluctant to offer. As a result, Tamil...
Marking the 30 year anniversary of the anti-Tamil pogrom of Black July, Tamils Against Genocide (TAG) released the following statement. Extracts reproduced below, full statement can be found here . " Impunity keeps the scars of 1983 fresh . Wholesale lack of accountability set the conditions for continued abuses, on greater scales, to the present. There has never been accountability nor adequate reparations for Black July . Today in place of Justice, the Sri Lankan State offers countless denials and parades in triumphal fashion, emboldened by decades of international misunderstanding and...
Writing in The Guardian, John Pilger, a war correspondent and film-maker, slammed Australia's policy on stopping boats carrying asylum seekers as "cynical and lawless". See here for full opinion. Extract reproduced below: "If a thousand Australians drowned in sinking boats in Sydney harbour, it would be a national tragedy. The prime minister would lead the nation in mourning; the world would offer condolences. By one measure, 1,376 refugees have drowned trying to reach Australia since 1998, many within range of rescue. The policy in Canberra, known as "stop the boats", evokes the hysteria and cynicism of more than a century ago when the "yellow peril" was said to be about to fall down on Australia as if by the force of gravity. Last week the prime minister, Kevin Rudd, reached back to this era when he declared that no refugees in boats would be permitted to land in Australia. Instead, they are to be sent to concentration camps in impoverished Papua New Guinea, whose government has been suitably bribed.
Writing in the Guardian's 'Comment is free' section, Emily Howie - a lawyer with the Human Rights Law Centre and a leebron fellow at Columbia university - said the new 'enhanced screening' is jeopardising Sri Lankan asylum claims, and described Australia's deportation of asylum seekers from Sri Lanka as "reckless". See here for full opinion. Extract published below: "Australia's practice of returning Sri Lankans is reckless. Not only does the country turn a blind eye to the harm that the they may face on return, it does so on the basis of a diminished understanding of individuals' claims for asylum and without adequate monitoring back in Sri Lanka."