Former UK Prime Minister urges protection of religious minorities from Sri Lankan state

Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, writing in the UK Guardian on Friday, urged the world to protect the religious freedoms of minorities in Sri Lanka, including Hindus, from religious extremism by the Sri Lankan state. Integral to the Sri Lankan constitution is the state's responsibility to 'protect and foster' Buddhism. Extracts from Blair's article : "It is not only the acts of terror that should alarm us. It is the extremism that promotes persecution of religious minorities, too . " The challenge is that much greater where human dignity is not respected and freedom of religion denied . This results in a general oppression of people of faith. " It means we must support Muslims in Gujarat, India; non-Orthodox Christians in Moldova; Bahai's in Iran; Ahmadis in Pakistan; all Christians in north Africa; Hindus in Sri Lanka ; Shia in several Sunni majority countries, and other places. " The essence of democracy is that it is pluralistic. It is inherently secular , even if rooted in cultures that are profoundly religious. This is where democracy-friendly religion really means something very important in the way society is governed. " It is about free media; freedom of expression; and about freedom of religion. It is also about an independent judiciary and the rule of law and even about free markets albeit with appropriate government intervention and regulation."

Volumes down as bourse reacts to expropriation bill

Sri Lanka’s stock market reacted to the uncertainty caused by the expropriation bill with plummeting numbers of trades. After a holiday on Thursday, turnover on Friday was 393.7 million Sri Lanka rupees, a fraction of this year’s average of 2.5 billion per day. The total volume of shares traded was just 13.6 million shares, against a five-day average of 28.3 million and a 90-day average of 102.4 million reported Reuters . "Nobody knows what they are taking over, whether it's just the land or the shares of the company," a bourse official told Reuters on condition of anonymity, referring to the...

US official - Sri Lanka must be prepared to prosecute military

Speaking to Reuters news agency, on condition of anonymity, a senior Obama administration official is reported to have said, "These domestic mechanisms must also be credible and must result in credible action being taken by the Sri Lankans that will show that they are determined to pursue serious reconciliation and accountability ," " It's important that they've measures on the accountability side that show they are prepared to bring members of the military that may have been responsible for war crimes to book ." See US has 'high expectations' from LLRC (Nov 2011) The LLRC said on Friday its...

‘Do not let Sri Lanka off the hook’ – Freedom from Torture

The British Charity Freedom from Torture, has stated that the Sri Lankan government’s commitment to eradicate torture cannot be trusted and call upon the international community to ensure that it is held accountable for any breach of the UN Convention Against Torture. In a statement released on Friday, the group said, “It is clear as day under international law that torture is wrong in all circumstances , whoever the victim – be they combatant or civilian, man or woman. Allegations must be investigated; torturers must be held to account. " " Let us hope that governments around the world do not let Sri Lanka off the hook if the government fails to achieve the justice it has promised through its own means." "Given the shocking cases of torture we have documented – survivors arriving at our door in the UK with the resulting mental and physical scars still fresh – the government's word on torture is not something we can hold in any regard. ” It comes after the UN Committee Against Torture meeting concluded this week, where Sri Lanka’s abuses were once again under the spotlight.

Parliament passes expropriation bill

Sri Lanka’s parliament has passed the controversial nationalisation bill, clearing the way for the government to take over 37 companies. The "Revival of Under-performing Enterprises and Under-utilised Assets Act" allows the takeover of companies that are deemed to be underperforming by the government. Opposition leader Ranil Wikremesinghe and the influential Buddhist clergy have spoken out against the new bill. The 37 companies to be nationalised include several companies with foreign capital and businesses owned by supporters of the main opposition. See our previous articles: Supreme Court...

India raises fishing issue with Rajapakse

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse on Thursday, where he raised the issue of the Sri Lankan Navy’s frequent attacks on Tamil Nadu fishermen. The 45-minute meeting took place on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in the Maldives, and comes as Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai ended a three-day trip to Sri Lanka, where he also discussed the issue with the Sri Lankan President. Last week, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa wrote to Manmohan Singh, urging him to “take a strong stand” against Colombo and "convey its serious apprehension through tough words and action", after a recent spate of attacks by the Sri Lankan Navy. The letter read , “I am constrained to point out that all the concerns of the Centre and Government of Tamil Nadu in this regard have only fallen on deaf ears where the Sri Lankan authorities are concerned .”

Free press campaigners condemn Sri Lanka's proposed media regulation

The Committee to Protect Journalists has criticised the Sri Lankan government's announcement to enforce regulation of the media, in a statement released on Thursday. CPJ said, "The CPJ is concerned by the Sri Lankan government's announcement of an upcoming set of guidelines and code of conduct for journalists and media organizations, and believes these regulations will only increase the government's control of the media ." Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator, said, "Website registration rules, the blocking of websites, and now talk of media guidelines are indicators that the pressure on...

'Sri Lanka's Killing Fields' - More evidence to be aired

Channel 4 has confirmed that they are working on a follow up to their critically acclaimed documentary “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields" which will reveal new evidence of war crimes committed by Sri Lankan Government forces. The film, entitled “Sri Lanka's Killing Fields : War Crimes Unpunished”, will contain contemporaneous documents, eye-witness accounts, as well as photographs and videos revealing the final events of the war, and will be screened in the new year. Jon Snow, who presented the first documentary said , 'I'm very proud that the new year will see a follow up to our widely-acclaimed...

UN: Secret detention centres in Sri Lanka

The UN Committee against Torture (CAT) has said that several secret detention centres exist in Sri Lanka, with torture and killings widespread. Vice Chair of the CAT, Felice Gaer, said an independent investigation is needed to look into the allegations. "Sri Lanka Army and affiliated Para military groups have run and made possible to run secret facilities which torture and extra judicial killings, have it is claimed, perpetrated" she said She informed the session that the UN Working Gropup on Disappearances holds Sri Lanka as haing the second highest number of disappearances in the world. "While many of these cases have been clarified there are more than 5,000 that haven't been" said Miss Felice Gaer.

International human rights groups urge UN to act on Silva

Ten international human rights organisations have urged the UN to suspend the diplomatic credentials of Sri Lanka's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN and former army commander, Shavendra Silva, following the overwhelming evidence of war crimes made against him. The organisations consist of SPEAK Human Rights and Environmental Initiative, UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic at American University Washington College of Law, Center for Constitutional Rights, Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School, Human Rights USA, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, TRIAL, Campaign Against Criminalising Communities, Society for Threatened Peoples Writing in a joint letter to the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, the ten organisations said, “ Overwhelming evidence showing that the Government of Sri Lanka perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity compels the suspension of General Silva’s credentials ,” “Permitting General Silva to retain his credentials would send a message to lawbreaking governments around the world that the United Nations will not defend the cause of justice and that it will shelter war criminals and perpetrators of mass atrocities.” "Sri Lanka should not be rewarded with unlimited immunity for war crimes for militarizing its diplomatic positions . "I urge you to encourage the Credentials Committee to recommend to the General Assembly that General Silva’s credentials be suspended, and thereby ensure that the victims of torture and war crimes have their day in court ." Silva is facing a lawsuit in a New York federal court for war crimes, including torture, extrajudicial killing and the intentional shelling of civilians during Sri Lanka’s armed conflict. On Tuesday, attorneys filed a response to the Sri Lankan General, Shavendra Silva’s motion to dismiss the war crimes indictment made against him arguing diplomatic immunity. The lead counsel in the lawsuit against Silva, Ali Beydoun, who is also, director at American University Washington College of Law’s UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic and a Senior Partner at SPEAK Human Rights & Environmental Initiative said, “ The United Nations has a war criminal within its ranks. This is a moral and legal offense ,” " Silva should not be allowed to manipulate diplomatic immunity to use it as a shield for his crimes. ” “As the largest international body protecting peace and justice, the United Nations has a duty to allow a full investigation into General Silva’s war crimes.