Fear and loathing in the Eastern elections

The results from the recently held Eastern provincial council elections have been brandished by Sri Lanka as a sign of wavering Tamil demand for self rule, and more perversely, that Tamils are now content with Sri Lanka’s rule. However, rather than signal a weakening of Tamil aspirations, the elections clearly revealed the true nature of the Sinhala state’s governance in the Tamil homeland; a mixture of violence, threats, intimidation and colonisation. The elections were a far cry from the free and fair expression of Tamil sentiments that they were trumped up to be. Instead, as became clear through the campaign, they were marked by ongoing incidents of violence against candidates and voters with hundreds of government thugs dispatched to the Tamil homeland for the purpose. The well documented and choking colonisation of the East also served its purpose – providing a reliable Sinhala vote base for Rajapakse’s UPFA. The brazenness of the intimidation during the campaign even prompted R. Sampanthan, the infamously timid leader of the TNA, to appeal to President Rajapaksa for “free and fair” elections to be allowed to take place. The appeal predictably failed and Sampanthan has recently released a statement slamming the “UPFA campaign of terror” and stating that it "violated all norms of democracy and good governance". The purpose of the Sinhala state’s violent electoral campaign was very clear. Tamil voters were warned of “unpleasant consequences” if they opposed the UPFA and told in no uncertain terms that they voted for the TNA at their own risk.

More transparency needed over OCHRC funding – Sri Lanka

The Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council a said that there is a need for increased transparency in the funding and staffing of the Office of the High Comissioner for Human Rights. Speaking on the opening day of the 21st session of the UNHRC in Geneva, Ravinatha Aryasinha said that most of the funding should come from the OCHRC’s own budget. “Sri Lanka is firmly committed to maintaining the independence of the OHCHR, and supports the High Commissioner in her efforts to fulfil her mandate as contained in GA resolution 48/141.# "Towards this end, we see...

South Africa calls for “concrete effort” from Sri Lanka

The South African government has called on Sri Lanka to address the issue of accountability following the end of armed hostilities in May 2009, stating “that there should be demonstrable and concrete effort and movement in that regard”. In a press release issued on Monday, South Africa stated that, “Since the end of the war in May 2009 and the release of the United Nations (UN) Secretary General's Report of the Panel of Experts in April 2011, as well as the Sri Lankan government's own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) Report in December 2011, there has been a heightened demand and urgency in the international community for the Sri Lankan government to implement the outcomes of these Reports and other decisions of the UN Human Rights Council, with specific emphasis on the need to address the accountability issues following the events of May 2009.”

TNA on Eastern PC elections

Condemning the ruling UPFA for having "violated all norms of democracy and good governance" in the lead up to the Eastern Provincial Council elections, the ITAK (Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi) President, Sampanthan, and General Secretary Mavai Senathirajah, issued a statement on Sunday as follows: The elections to the Eastern Provincial Council have concluded and the results have been announced. The ruling UPFA violated all norms of democracy and good governance in a polls campaign that was marked by a well documented pattern of gross abuse of the state apparatus and resources. The UPFA utilized all governmental resources to influence the result. It also intimidated opposition parties’ candidates, bribing, unduly influencing voters and even spreading false propaganda to the effect that the TNA leader had announced the withdrawal of the ITAK from the contest. Despite this UPFA campaign of terror the people of the Eastern province have reiterated their support and confidence in the TNA (ITAK) and we are pleased that we won two of the three districts securing the majority vote in both the Trincomalee and Batticaloa Districts and a substantial vote in the Ampara District. The elections took place in an environment where a large number of Tamils yet continue to be displaced and a larger number of Tamils have fled and continue to flee the country due to the policies of the Rajapakse Administration. We sincerely thank the Tamil speaking people for the support and solidarity that they have demonstrated at this election, despite the ruling UPFA violence and intimidation. The ruling UPFA barely secured 6,200 votes more than TNA in the whole Eastern Province, largely on account of its abuse of state resources.

The shame of being honoured by Douglas

The prominent South Indian Carnatic and Kollywood singer P Unni Krishnan has apologised to his Tamil fans, for being honoured by Douglas Devananda in Jaffna during a music concert last month, reports Uthayan. Unni Krishnan said he was deeply ashamed of the incident, in which Devananda marked the singer with the traditional honour of being draped in a silk cloth or ‘ponnaadai’ during a performance at Nallur Kanthasamy temple in Jaffna on 18th August 2012. Describing the incident as a "black mark" in his musical journey, the singer apologised for hurting Tamil sentiments worldwide. Speaking in an interview, Unni Krishnan said (translated text follows): “I was invited to perform at a musical concert during the Nallur Kanthasamy Temple Festival (Thiruvizha) in Jaffna. Having earned a place in the hearts of Eelam Tamils through songs on liberation, I agreed to go to Jaffna to meet and perform for them.”

Sri Lanka gives itself a pat on the back

Having submitted to its National Report for the upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council, the new ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha, told the 21st session that Sri Lanka was looking forward to the process. Claiming that the government the military was "no longer involved in civil administration in the Northern and the Eastern provinces", and "the Security Forces presence in the Jaffna peninsula has been reduced from 50,000 at the height of the conflict, to 15,000 at present", Aryasinha also claimed that "Sri Lanka's democratic credentials were yet again re-asserted 2 days ago with the successful conduct of Provincial Council elections, including in the previously conflict affected Eastern Province." Civil society groups and rights groups on the island, within the Tamil diaspora and internationally, sumitted rather different reports however.

Prime Minister praises 'answer to international conspiracies'

Sri Lanka's Prime Minister D M Jayaratna has praised the government's recent victory at the Eastern Provincial Council elections, stating that the government had now negated "hostile attempts... against the motherland". Sri Lanka's state-run Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation reported Jayaratna as having said the victory was "an obvious answer for the international conspiracies against the country." He was also reported to have said, "Some conspiratory elements have attempted to discredit the government at the UN Human Rights Council and at the international arena. This victory has annulled...

Army camp construction jeopardises basic needs of locals

The locals of Karainagar have expressed concern of the inconveniences they will face due to the construction of an expansive army camp in Sambalodai area. Sambalodai holds the most fresh water resources in the Karainagar area as well as being a significant location for carrying out funeral rites. Uthayan reports that locals have expressed concern that the camp would cut them off from water supplies and restrict access to the areas many crematoriums. Chairman of the Karainagar regional council S. Thurgeswaran said, “The construction of the Sambalodai army camp will cut off the basic needs of...

US wants to boost trade with SL

The American Chamber of Commerce in Colombo has said it is keen to boost investment and trade in Sri Lanka. "The US has expressed its desire to increase more FDI (foreign direct investment) flows to Sri Lanka and also see an increase in Sri Lankan exports to the US," Vijaya Ratnayake, president of AMCHAM Sri Lanka said, according to LBO . The AMCHAM is planning to hold a trade show in Colombo on September 16 to promote trade and investment between the two countries. "This event provides an excellent opportunity for those who are interested in doing business with USA whether it is imports,...

South Africa to make US $122 million investment

The South African High Commissioner to Colombo, Geoff Doidge has announced that his country will make an initial investment of US$ 122 million, whilst speaking at a dinner hosted by the Export Development Board of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce for a South African business delegation. “The Progressive Business Forum, which is visiting Sri Lanka has realised the potentials in the resurgent Sri Lankan economy as a result of the committed leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. “We are confident that this bold and far-sighted initiative will expand existing opportunities for the South...