Ministry of impunity

The Sri Lankan president's advisor on reconciliation, Rajiva Wijesinha, called for a " ministry of reconciliation " to be created and "be charged with fulfilling the recommendations of the commission". Meticulously addressing any false hope raised by the government's latest fallacy, Wijesinha stipulated that it would work " as best as possible ", and would "be given a limited lifespan , of two years perhaps, after which it should be made redundant ."

LLRC report won’t sway CHOGM boycott

The release of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Committee report will not be enough to stop Canada from boycotting the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, due to be held in Sri Lanka. Andrew MacDougall, spokesperson from Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office said that unless “real change” occurred, Canada would remain steadfast in boycotting the summit. He said , "This is a question of words versus deeds and it has to be backed up by action. We do need to see real progress. Unless progress is made, we will not be going to those meetings." Foreign Minister John Baird...

Education minister jeered in Jaffna University

Sri Lanka’s Higher Education Minister, S.B. Dissanayake was jeered by first year students at Jaffna University, reported the Daily Mirror , after he remarked that there were still LTTE members amongst the university. The heckling allegedly began when the Minister started giving a speech in Sinhala to the Jaffna students, with no Tamil interpreter present. An interpreter had to be then hurriedly found for the Minister. Last month the Sri Lankan Army set up extra military checkpoints at the two main entrances to Jaffna University, weeks after students held a remembrance event for Marveerar Naal...

A disrespect to Buddhism

Two men have been arrested and have bonds of Rs. 1 million each issued, after being charged with selling a product that disrespected a religion. The offensive item can be seen below. Photograph: The Sunday Times They were charged breaking section 292 of the penal code, as the ladies T-shirts they were selling were deemed a “disrespect to a religion”. The shirts carried a design which depicts the the Sacred Temple of the Tooth in Kandy and were sold for Rs. 850 each. The defendants have since been to the temple, to apologise to both the chief custodian (Diyawadana Nilame) and to the Mahanayake...

Britain ‘disappointed’ by LLRC

The British Foreign office announced in Parliament on Thursday that they were left “disappointed” by Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Commission report. The statement , which came on the same day that Canada demanded “decisive action”, was released by Minister Alistair Burt, who commented, “The British Government is, on the whole, disappointed by the report’s findings and recommendations on accountability. Like many others, we feel that these leave many gaps and unanswered questions. We welcome the acknowledgement that “considerable civilian casualties” occurred during the final stages of the conflict and the recommendation that specific incidents require further investigation . But we note that many credible allegations of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law , including from the UN Panel of Experts report , are either not addressed or only partially answered. " The Minister went on to say, “We believe that video footage , authenticated by UN Special Rapporteurs, should inform substantive, not just technical, investigations into apparent grave abuses. " Whilst the Minister welcomed some of the recommendations made in the report, he called for their “vigorous” implementation and noted the “success or failure” of the LLRC hinged on this. He carried on to reiterate that Britain “continue(d) to believe it is important that an independent, credible and thorough mechanism is put in place to investigate all allegations of grave abuses. ” See our editorial: No more excuses, it is time to act (18 Dec 2011)

A watchful eye

Four US government officials will be visiting Sri Lanka over the next two weeks, the US embassy confirmed on Thursday. The visitors include two from the US State Department - Thomas O. Melia, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and Dr. Alyssa Ayres, Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia, as well as, Holly Vineyard, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia at the U.S. Department of Commerce, and Ambassador James A. Larocco from the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies at the U.S. Department...

Canada demands 'decisive action' now that LLRC report released

Highlighting the Sri Lankan government's "lack of both accountability and meaningful attempts at reconciliation ", Canada's foreign affairs minister, John Baird, urged Sri Lanka to take " decisive action " following the release of the LLRC report and " demonstrate the principles of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law ." In a statement published Wednesday, Baird expressed concern that, " the report does not fully address the grave accusations of serious human rights violations " and noted that " many of the allegations outlined by the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka have not been adequately addressed ". " We continue to call for an independent investigation into the credible and serious allegations raised by the UN Secretary-General’s Panel that international humanitarian law and human rights were violated by both sides in the conflict," Baird urged. Baird had raised concerns regarding accountability for war crimes , with his Sri Lankan counterpart, GL Peiris, September last year, and criticised the UN's inaction on the issue. Wednesday's statement adds to the on-going calls from a number of Canadian MPs and prime minister, for a credible, independent investigation into the allegations.

Criminalising a nation

Warning that there continued to be a "threat", Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka's Defence Secretary, speaking at a lecture on ‘Future Challenges of National Security in Sri Lanka’ on Tuesday, said, “LTTE front organisations can encourage and facilitate ex LTTE cadres and those who escaped from the military during the war and pave way for a re-emergence. Those who did not surrender are probably following the ideology of the LTTE. Even though 11,000 of them were rehabilitated there must be cadres who are not 100 per cent rehabilitated ." “We cannot forget everything just because we defeated them militarily. Still the threat is there. There are lots of enemies in the international front taking active steps to derail the path the government is taking to achieve economic development.” Despite renewed calls for Sri Lanka to curtail its ever increasing militarisation of the North-East, the Defence Secretary justified the military's sweeping reach, saying, “That is why we still maintain a strong military and that is why a considerable portion of the budget is given to the military. Still it is only two and a half years after defeating the LTTE militarily." “ To establish a camp anywhere in Sri Lanka is a decision and concern of the country as it is a sovereign state."

‘Sri Lanka's woeful January way-points’ - CPJ

“In 2011, Sri Lanka ranked fourth worst in the world in terms of allowing murders of journalists to go unpunished, according to our global Impunity Index. As we noted in our report, " President Mahinda Rajapaksa has presided over a dark era of targeted media killings and complete law-enforcement failure in addressing the crimes. All nine journalist murders in the past decade have gone unsolved, leaving persistent questions as to whether authorities have been complicit in some of the crimes. " “The result of all this mayhem is that Sri Lanka's independent media has been largely restrained,...

Government intelligence has ‘unearthed’ campaign

The Sri Lankan government’s “Intelligence Units” have managed to uncover a campaign from “foreign soils” that they say has threatened to deface the country. What is this sinister threat? A petition. The Department of Government Information declared that the Free Media Movement, has been writing to the European Union attempting to terminate the GSP + concessions to Sri Lanka. They reported 700 petitions have been sent so far. To add to the conspiracy, an opposition UNP politician is also alleged to be involved in the plot. The GSP+ tariff had already been suspended in August 2010, after Sri...