Witness testimonies from the front line

The Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice has released a series of witness stories from the final war zone in Sri Lanka during the past week, marking the run up to a vote on a resolution regarding Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council. The stories have been released under the pseudonym "The Social Architects", who compose of a group of writers that have collected witness testimonies. Extracts from the stories have been reproduced below. See all eight stories on their blog here . Rasadurai’s story: “They used phosphorous bombs in Udaiyarkaddu... It melted tarpaulins and the pieces fell onto the people below and burned them. It keeps burning once it gets on the skin. I saw one man badly burned by phosphorous lying on banana leaves.” “They used a variety of types of cluster bombs . The main bomb explodes in the air and splits into many pieces. One kind of cluster bomb, used in Iranaipalai, produced colorful ribbons . Children were attracted and picked pieces up; as they handled the pieces they exploded .” “The Army soldiers were throwing grenades into the bunkers and killing the people all night.” “One soldier said in Sinhala, “The commander has given the order to kill everyone.” They ordered us to remove our upper clothes. Then we argued, “We are priests. These are children.”... They had black cloths tied around their faces and they were like animals ready to kill .” “We walked on the road past burning vehicles with charred corpses under them. It was a scene like hell. The soldiers were laughing, saying, “We have killed Pirapakaran, Pottu Amman, and all the leaders, and now you are our slaves.” ” “There were about fifty soldiers who had piled up about three hundred naked corpses. They had placed tube lights to show off all the bodies, and they were laughing and taking photos of them. It was like a celebration. “ “The first week of internment at Menik Farm we had no food or water and no toilet... We felt our lives were in danger there... They treated us like animals. ” Shamanthi's story: “ I don’t know if my husband was killed or if he is alive. This is why for two years I have refused to go to Canada where my father is living. Until I know more about my husband, I don’t want to go there. On Maveera Nal (Heroes Day), my daughter wished to light the lamp of her own accord. I didn’t stop her because she is used to this culture as a Tamil. She can follow our traditions. I should raise my children with good education, then they can decide for themselves. We will support the Tamil people.”

In defence of impunity

Hundreds of Sinhala Buddhist monks protested against the resolution tabled at the UN Human Rights Council urging Sri Lanka to investigate the allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In a statement, read out at the end of the protest, the protesters said, “evil forces both local and international, have joined hands to deprive Sri Lanka of the present environment of peace...and take this blessed island back to an era of darkness.” “We therefore pledge with national determination that the Sri Lankan government and people will be able to defeat the resolution and the evil forces...

India ‘inclined’ to back resolution

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced on Monday that India was ‘inclined’ to back the resolution on Sri Lanka being circulated at the UN Human Rights Council. The Congress party came under strong pressure by parties and organisations from across India, especially from the southern state of Tamil Nadu. “We are inclined to vote in favour of the resolution if the resolution will cover our objectives namely the achievement of a future for the Tamil community in Sri Lanka that is based on equality, dignity, justice and self respect," Singh said during a debate in Parliament.

UK continues to sell arms to Sri Lanka

Despite evidence having emerged suggesting the Sri Lankan Army has violated international humanitarian law Britain has continued to sell weapons to Sri Lanka, continuing after the end of the decades-long ethnic conflict in 2009. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) released a statement challenging the British government to explain why weapons are still being licensed to Sri Lanka despite evidence of serious war crimes. Since the climax of the war in May 2009 over £3 million of military and “dual use” equipment has been licensed for export to Sri Lanka with weapons sales alone comprising over £2...

Head of Army inquiry denies war crimes

The head of a Sri Lankan Army inquiry into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity has denied that any human rights abuses had taken place, while addressing troops earlier this week. Commander of the Army Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasuriya, who has appointed a five member of Army officers to inquire into “alleged civilian casualties”, made the statement in Puthukudirippu, which saw some of the heaviest civilian casualties in the closing stages of the war. He told his troops, "The army is disciplined, they did not abuse human rights during the war ." “I, as the Wanni Commander...

Sri Lanka’s emerging economic crisis

From AFP (see full text here ): Sri Lanka's president Mahinda Rajapaksa began his second term vowing an economic miracle after decades of conflict, but the post-war boom is already fraying. Sri Lankan economist and former central bank deputy governor W. A. Wijewardena believes the economy is in trouble despite an official 7.2 percent growth forecast for 2012. He says the balance of payments problem will have a knock-on effect on Sri Lanka's ability to service its large commercially raised foreign debt, the value of the local currency and domestic prices . The country needs to borrow heavily...

Sri Lanka to stop importing Iran oil

Sri Lanka will stop importing oil from Iran at the end of March, ahead of the US sanctions deadline of June 29, the island’s Sunday Times newspaper said. Sri Lanka has depended almost entirely on Iran for its crude oil supplies, getting 93 percent from there. Sri Lanka has started purchasing Saudi Arabian oil, and Iraq is offering to supply “substantial quantities” of fuel, the paper said. The Times says Sri Lanka’s only refinery at Sapugaskanda is able to process only Iranian crude - though AFP says the refinery, built with Italian technology in 1968, can also handle Saudi light crude. India...

Just as Dutugemunu said!

What is India’s ambition in Sri Lanka? According to the Sunday Times editorial today, “to carve out a powerful autonomous Northern Province which it can use as its base on Sri Lankan soil through its proxy - the Tamil National Alliance.”

Shavendra Silva shunned again in New York

Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Palita Kohona, has boycotted a Commonwealth Day Reception hosted by the UK mission, after his controversial deputy, Major General Shavendra Silva, was refused an invitation, according to the Sunday Times . The latest incident points to further isolation of Silva, who was recently expelled from a UN Peacekeeping Advisory Panel after his appointment was deemed “not appropriate”. Sri Lanka responded angrily to the humiliation, liking it to a "public lynching without trial". Silva is at the focus of controversy at the UN due to his...

Tamil war widows ‘forced into prostitution to feed children’

Women who have lost male members of their households during the war are being forced to turn to prostitution, according to women’s rights activists in Colombo. Geetha Lakmini of World Fisherfolk Solidarity Movement told reporters that, " One village in Madhu area is infamous for prostitution because they have no male family members, no jobs and there is no other way of survival. " " The only way to feed their children is to sell their body. " Speaking after a conference organised by the Women's Movement for Social Justice, the executive director of Viluthu Centre for Human Resource...

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