Sri Lanka replaces lifted powers for military

Sri Lanka's military dominates life in the Tamil areas of the island. The government on Wednesday restored draconian powers lifted amid much publicity last week. Photo AFP. Sri Lanka put in place tough new regulations under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, even as the near identitical Emergency Regulations ended. The new laws have been introduced under the PTA, allowing the authorities to maintain the militarised high-security zones in the Tamil parts of island. High security zones (HSZ) are swathes of residential areas occupied by the military during past offensives and converted into...

Execution stayed

The Madras High Court stayed the execution of the three Tamils sentenced to death for their alleged part in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi on Tuesday. The execution was due to take place on the 9th September. The interim stay of 8 weeks was announced in order to give time for consideration of petitions submitted by the three accused - Perarivalan, Santhan and Murugan. The petitioners' main contention was that the 11 year and 4 months delay as well as the 20 year incarceration, made a subsequent death sentence “unduly harsh and excessive" and "unjust and inhuman". Further it amounted to a...

Only President can grant clemency

Tamil Nadu chief minister, Jayalalithaa, stated Monday that India's President alone had the power to grant clemency to the 3 Tamils, sentenced to death for their alleged part in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Responding to the growing calls from across the political spectrum urging the chief minister to intervene, Jayalalithaa rejected the notion that Article 161 of the Indian constitution gave any such powers to the State government or chief minister. " I don't have any power to alter the Presidential order rejecting the mercy petitions of the three -- Murugan, Perarivalan and Santhan, " she told the Tamil Nadu Assembly. Quoting directly from a Home Ministry directive, Jayalalithaa stated: "However, if there is a change of circumstances or if any new material is available, the condemned person himself or anyone on his behalf may make a fresh application to the President for reconsideration of the earlier order." " Once the President has rejected a mercy petition, all future applications in this behalf should be addressed to and would be dealt with by the President ."

JHU's Sri Lanka

Speaking at the JHU's 8th party convention, general secretary Champika Ranawaka urged the party to develop a Sri Lanka that will 'suit our culture [and] people'. Referring to 'certain forces' attempting to take Sri Lanka into a 'dark future' through forceful constitutional changes and a 'mental operation' against the government, he rallied JHU members to 'protect the peace we gained'. Extracts from Ranawaka's address : “ We have to protect the peace we gained and protect dignity while developing and leading the country into the future. We should develop the country that will suit our culture...

On justice for war crimes

“As long as [war crimes perpetrators] are alive – however old they are, however long ago their crimes were committed – justice would seem to be served by punishment. “ Reconciliations and amnesties are a postponement of justice in the hope that the victims' relatives will die off and their descendants will lose all interest in the outrages of the past. Unlikely. Who now remembers the Armenians, Hitler asked? Millions of people, is my reply.” - Robert Fisk , senior foreign correspondent. See his comment in The Independent. Dr. Fisk holds more British and International Journalism awards than...

How commuting death sentences is in Tamil Nadu's power

The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, J. Jayalalitha, recently stated that she does not have the power to commute the death sentences on three people for their alleged roles in the assassination of former Premier Rajiv Gandhi. Technically, it is the Governor of Tamil Nadu who has this power. But the Tamil Nadu council of ministers can so advice the Governor. On April 25, 2000, then Governor, Fathima Beevi, ordered the commutation to life of the death sentence given to Nalini, also in the Rajiv Gandhi case. (She rejected the mercy petitions of the other three.) It was the advice of the Tamil Nadu...

US believed China bribed way to Hambantota contract

A cable from the US embassy in Colombo last year, revealed how officials believed China bribed senior Sri Lankan government figures, possibly including President Mahinda Rajapakse himself, to win building contracts in Hambantota. The leaked cable went on to cast doubts on the long term viability of the city to attract investment. See full text from Wikileaks here . Sent by Deputy Chief of Mission Valerie Fowler, entitled “Hambantota Port Complex: Will Sri Lanka realize the dream?” the cable said, " It is likely that corruption and political patronage are significant factors playing into the focus on Hambantota. Often when Chinese companies win contracts, their success is due in part on their widespread distribution of graft to senior Sri Lankan government officials ." " While it is currently unknown to what extent President Mahinda Rajapaksa is involved in Hambantota development, it seems logical that his hand is also out when commercial enterprises, especially the Chinese, jockey for contracts and projects." Hambantota, President Rajapakse’s hometown, is currently bidding to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games. The bid is being led by the President's son, Namal Rajapakse.

Sri Lanka-India venture in $200m hotel-apartment build

Sri Lanka’s Rank Holdings, a group which has interests in gaming, power and logistics, is planning a $200 million hotel and residential complex in Colombo with an Indian partner. See SANA’s report here . A 5-star hotel and 171 apartments would be part of the mixed development on a 2.5 acre property leased from the state. The area has been earmarked for leisure and entertainment development by Sri Lanka’s urban development authority ( UDA ), part of the Ministry of Defence. Construction is expected to begin in November. Funding would be borrowed from foreign banks and put in by Rank Holdings...

Sri Lankan Army war criminal apprehended in Florida

A Sri Lankan Army sergeant involved in the torture and murder of civilians, as well as the construction of mass graves, has been apprehended by US authorities after being named by the Canada's Border Services as a suspected war criminal. Illandaridevage Kulatunga was named in a list of 30 suspected war criminals that were thought to have entered Canada illegally. The National Post said in a 2004 article that Kulatunga was directly involved in the arrest, torture and murder of innocent civilians as part of the Sri Lankan Army in the 1990s . It was also noted that Kulatunga and his fellow soldiers then dug mass graves in order to destroy evidence of their crimes. He is now set to be deported back to Sri Lanka, a decision that has been criticised by human rights group Amnesty International , who have called for all those on the list to face prosecution rather than deportation. Amnesty spokesman John Tackaberry said: “Serious human rights violators should be brought to justice, w e should ensure they face the consequences of their actions. These are very serious charges." "You can’t get worse than war crimes or crimes against humanity.”

US warns again on international action

Commenting on Sri Lanka's planned lifting of emergency laws, US State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, warned Sri Lanka to make further progress on human rights and humanitarian law: " We continue to urge the government of Sri Lanka to meet its international humanitarian law and international human rights law obligations ." "And we continue to say that if they cannot do this nationally, then the international community will have to step in. Bob Blake will be talking about all these issues on his visit." Robert Blake, US assistance secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs, will be visiting Sri Lanka from 29-31 August. Nuland confirmed that as part of his visit, he will be travelling to Jaffna.