Devolution needs ‘a sense of urgency’ – Indian PM

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called for political devolution in Sri Lanka to be addressed with a “sense of urgency”, in his address to the Lok Sabha on Wednesday. Replying to the debate on the President’s Address, Singh stated, "Members have raised the issue of human rights violations during the conflict in Sri Lanka and the lack of progress on reconciliation, accountability and political devolution in Sri Lanka. The Government takes the sentiments expressed by Members very seriously. We are firmly of the view that issues of reconciliation and political devolution in Sri Lanka need to be addressed with a sense of urgency. " " We have consistently called upon the Government of Sri Lanka to fulfil its public commitments for the implementation of the 13th Amendment and for building further on it so as to achieve a meaningful political settlement. We have also urged that elections to the Northern Provincial Council be held at the earliest and have called for effective and time-bound implementation of the constructive recommendations contained in the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission report." "This was also the message, Madam, I conveyed to President Rajapaksa during his visit to India in September 2012. We will continue to remain engaged with the Government of Sri Lanka to implement these steps and take forward the process of reconciliation and settlement." The Prime Minister went on to address the topic of the upcoming UN Human Rights Council and resolution on Sri Lanka stating, “ our decision will depend on the substance of the final text Tabled in the Council. We will, however, be guided by our consistent position that we support proposals that seek to advance the achievement of a future for the Tamil community in Sri Lanka that is marked by equality, dignity, justice and selfrespect . I wish to assure the House that our Government will remain engaged with the Government of Sri Lanka to promote a durable settlement of the Tamil problem that enables the Tamil citizens of Sri Lanka to lead a life of dignity and self-respect with equal rights .”

Caste discrimination requires legal recognition in the UK

In a landmark vote on Monday, the House of Lords voted to outlaw caste-based discrimination amongst South Asian communities in the UK. The bill was fiercely backed by peers from all parties and passed with a majority vote of 225-153. Yesterday’s vote will bring the proposed bill to the House of Commons, where it needs to be voted upon by the end of the March to be passed into law and become the first anti-caste legislative act outside of South Asia. The bill in question, Clause 9(5)(a)of the 2010 Equality Act, has previously been enshrined in the anti-discrimination act but has not been activated yet. The current Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government remains strongly opposed to the bill, having already announced its planned opposition in a forthcoming vote set to take place in the House of Commons. In the eyes of the government, anti-caste discrimination will do little to abolish caste-discrimination amongst British South Asians. Instead, the government relies on widespread educative measures to eradicate caste-discrimination in the UK. However, with twenty-two Liberal Democrat peers and nine Conservative peers voting against their own government’s stance, opposition to the bill remains fractured.

SL security forces block 1000s Tamils travelling to protest march

Sri Lankan security forces have stopped thousands of Tamils from joining a protest march in Colombo to demand justice for disappeared or detained relatives on Wednesday. Protesters, who were travelling mainly from Vavuniya, had boarded buses in order to make the 210 km journey to Colombo when Sri Lankan police stopped the buses. The Sri Lankan Military spokesperson, Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya, claimed that police stopped the buses in order to prevent possible calshes in Vavuniya. However, leader of the Democratic People's Front party, Mano Ganeshan, rejected this and said that security...

US 'alarmed' by detention of Tamil protesters

In a statement published on Wednesday, the US embassy in Sri Lanka expressed alarm at the blocking of 1000s of Tamil protesters travelling to Colombo by Sri Lankan police. See here . Reproduced in full below: The U.S. Embassy is concerned about reports that hundreds of Sri Lankan family members of the disappeared were blocked in Vavuniya by Sri Lankan authorities while traveling to Colomb o. These family members are calling for information about their missing loved ones. The Embassy calls upon Sri Lankan authorities to allow free movement of these citizens. The right to freely express...

Canadian MP Brad Butt - 'not satisfied with what we are hearing today'

In an interview to Phoenix News Media on 1st March 2013 regarding Sri Lanka, the Canadian MP for Mississauga-Streetsville, Brad Butt, reaffirmed Canada's commitment to " continue to put pressure on through international bodies, through the Commonwealth and other agencies that Canada is a partner ", and made clear that whilst quiet diplomacy can work, " sometimes you have to raise the bar, and that's exactly what we are doing ." " As we learn more, we continue to step up, " he added. Extracts of Brad Butt's responses have been transcribed below: "The Prime Minister has spoken out very loudly and clearly on this issue, so has our foreign affairs minister, John Baird. We continue to be concerned about the lack of accountability for the serious allegations of war crimes . We know that there has been work done by the UN, a number of other reports that you've mentioned, that the Canadian government is gravely concerned about ." "From what I heard, the US government is stepping up their comments and their concerns as well on this issue, so we are starting to build a better international voice on this to make sure that these issues are well articulated ."

Investing in the future...

Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa will open a new 'Buddhist Leadership Academy' later this month. The Academy will be located in the Ranchawala region of Galle, reported the Mirror . According to the Bodu Bala Sena ("Buddhist Power Force"), a Buddhist organisation based in Colombo, the purpose of the academy is to develop and improve leadership qualities in the Buddhist clergy, Buddhist leaders and Buddhist youth activists. The Defence Secretary's vindication of the Buddhist Academy comes at a time when the extremist tendencies of the Buddhist clergy and activists are rife .

Sri Lankans protest…against the TNA

Government supporters have held a protest in Colombo, calling on the UN to take action against the “LTTE” in the diaspora and the Tamil National Alliance, for being a “proxy” of the organisation. Around 1,500 people from a group called “Dead and Missing Persons Front” gathered outside the office of the United Nations in the capital and handed over a petition demanding action. "It is only on one side that attention is being focused at the Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva," an organiser told state-run radio. The protest coincided with another demonstration by Tamils, demanding to know...

'No place in Human Rights Council' for SL attack on High Commissioner

A senior official from the British Mission in Geneva at the United Nations Human Rights Council has denounced Sri Lanka's speech which sought to attack UN High Commissioenr for Human Rights Navi Pillay. In his address to the council, Minister of Plantation Industries, Mahinda Samarasinghe said "the bona fides of the High Commissioner's objectives may be called into question" and accused her of a "lack of objectivity". Previously the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence also published articles attacking the High Commissioner's credibility. In a blog post , Senior Human Rights Advisor for the UK...

Sri Lanka snubs Pillay meeting in Geneva

The head of Sri Lanka's delegation at the UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva has reportedly snubbed UN High Commissioner Navi Pillay, by missing a scheduled meeting with her. According to the Island , Plantations Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe caused a stir by skipping a meeting that he was due to have with the HIgh Commissioner. The move follows his address to the council last week, where Sri Lanka attacked the High Commissioner, accusing her of a "lack of objectivity". The address was met with criticism from the UK, with a senior member of mission stating , "the unpleasant verbal...

Chennai police arrest hundreds of protesters

Hundreds of protesters made of DMK party workers along with the leader, MK Stalin, were arrested on Tuesday as they attempted to picket the Sri Lankan High Commission in Chennai. Calling for an an international inquiry into alleged war crimes by the Sri Lankan government, protesters shouted slogans demanding that the Indian government does not "betray" the Tamils. Other Tamil Nadu political figures were also arrested, including Dravidar Kazhagam leader K Veeramani and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi leader Thol Thirumavalavan.