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.

On the economy

Comments to The Island newspaper (see reports on Friday here and here ): "The economy is being driven by the government. The state is a major player in the economy and as a result the country is accumulating debt, mainly from China who are funding major development projects in the face of low foreign direct investment. " Having economic freedom means that there should be more private sector involvement in development activities." - Dr. Harsha De Silva , economist and opposition MP. "Our FDI performance has not been all that great, at US$ 413 million for the first six months, and lifting...

Date set for hanging of 3 Tamils

Following the rejection of the clemency pleas of the 3 Tamils convicted for their alleged part in the assassination of the Rajiv Gandhi, a final date of execution has been confirmed: Friday 9th September 2011. The confirmation on date comes amidst increasing public outrage at India's decision to uphold capital punishment in this case. Three city advocates began a fast unto death today, in front of the Madras High Court, demanding clemency for the 3 Tamils. The advocates Kayalvizhi, Vadivambal and Sujatha also seek the abolition of capital punishment in India.

Sri Lanka lifts emergency laws, but terror law has same powers

Sri Lanka lifted draconian emergency laws imposed nearly 30 years on Thursday - but similarly tough powers remain available to authorities under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). See reports by AFP , AP and Reuters . Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced the lifting of the emergency regulations in Parliament. The laws, which give security forces sweeping powers of arrest and detention, have been renewed on a monthly basis - with only brief breaks - since they were first imposed 28 years ago. The government move comes ahead of next month's United Nations Human Rights Council...

Sri Lanka military to keep draconian powers

Sri Lanka will not repeal its draconian security legislation to satisfy demands by India, the United States or Britain or keep them ‘happy,’ Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa was quoted as saying. Only his brother, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, knows what is best for the country, he reportedly asserted. See reports by The Sunday Leader and ColomboPage . Since the end of the armed conflict, Sri Lanka has been under pressure from the international community to repeal the Emergency Regulations, which give sweeping powers to its military and police. Along with the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), the Emergency Regulations have long been criticised by international human rights groups for the immunity they grant to security forces who commit rights abuses. Amnesty International says of the ER and PTA: "Successive governments have used national security as an excuse to introduce a range of broad of emergency regulations." "This has led to the erosion and even suspension of people’s rights to freedom of thought, conscience and expression, as well as their right to live free from arbitrary arrest and detention ." "The national security laws grant state authorities sweeping powers of detention and permit people to be held in secret locations . "Security agents, often without proper uniforms or identification, can detain and hold suspects for months or years without a warrant or being produced before a magistrate." See the statement, and find a link to the briefing paper 'Forgotten prisoners: Sri Lanka uses anti-terrorism laws to detain thousands ', here .

Terror on cue

Sri Lankan security forces have an overbearing presence in many Tamil-speaking areas where 'grease devils' - night prowlers - are terrorising villages. Until very recently, the term ‘grease devil’ had not appeared in international reportage on Sri Lanka. However in the past few weeks it has been associated with an epidemic of terrifying attacks and attempted attacks by night prowlers on women, largely in Tamil-speaking areas. Wearing masks or face paint, they either break into female-only houses and residences, or loiter in areas frequented by women. The incidents have not only caused panic amongst residents in Tamil, Muslim and Upcountry Tamil villages (mainly, but not exclusively), but also anger - which has been directed, tellingly, at the security forces who are seen to be protecting the prowlers. Sri Lanka has been making much of supposed local superstitions. But people are terrorised by the attacks themselves, not paranormal readings of the perpetrators. Indeed, they have often chased after - and sometimes apprehended - the prowlers when they encounter them. It is no coincidence the wave of attacks comes as Sri Lanka’s authorities are under international pressure to repeal draconian Emergency Regulations and reduce the overbearing military presence in the war-shattered Tamil areas. In short, the ‘grease devil’ phenomenon has emerged as an all too convenient justification for Sri Lanka’s security establishment to continue its massive deployment in Tamil areas.

Karu Jayasuriya calls for UNP unity to save Sri Lanka

In a statement , UNP deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya, called upon fellow UNP members to unite with haste in order to rescue Sri Lanka from this 'strange and dangerous juncture'. See extracts below: " Sri Lanka stands poised at a strange and dangerous juncture of her history, this has now become glaringly apparent to all those of us who live here. There is a serious absence of accountability and transparency in matters of governance that have effectively sidelined the vast majority of the citizens in the decision-making process." " We live in a country where the state apparatus uses its defeat...

Who is to blame? The evil Diaspora, of course.

Over recent weeks, several parts of Sri Lanka have experienced a spate of sexual assaults against women. The attacks are alleged to have been carried out by masked men, known as 'grease devils'. Curiously, the incidents are occurring despite a heavy police and military presence. DIG Pujith Jayasundara, of Batticaloa police, addressing a crowd of angry Batticaloa residents, shared his professional opinion: “The evil forces of the Tamil diaspora, resentful of the President’s development programme in the North and the East, are deliberately spreading malicious rumours about a grease yaka ,” he...

Renewed calls against death sentences in Rajiv Gandhi case

Human rights groups and others are again calling for the death sentences passed on three Tamils for their alleged involvement in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi to be commuted. The renewed calls come after Indian President Pratibja Patil's recent rejection of their clemency pleas paved the way for their executions. Rajiv Ghandi was assassinated in 1991 by a female suicide bomber said to be from the LTTE. The three Tamils currently facing execution - Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan (known by single names) - were amongst 26 people sentenced to death by a special court in 1998 for their alleged involvement. Following an appeal the Supreme Court ruled that 19 were freed, having served their sentence, three were commuted to life sentences and only four of the death sentences were to be upheld - the three afore mentioned and Nalini, Murugan's wife. The sentencing occurred under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987 (TADA). Amnesty International argues the law “ contained provisions that were incompatible with international standards for fair trial .” Human rights groups and activists have long also criticised the original trial and investigation as deeply flawed , highlighting the use of torture to elicit confessions. This week Amnesty International called for the death sentences to be commuted and urged fellow activists and supporters to take urgent action. (See statement here ). “ Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases as the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. “ The eleven-year delay in announcing the verdict of the mercy petition and the resultant stay on death row may further amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. “ The Supreme Court of India has itself commuted death sentences in a number of cases due to prolonged delay in deciding mercy petitions. ” Last week The Hindu newspaper, a strident critic of the LTTE, also joined the protests. In an editorial titled 'No to Death Penalty', the paper argued (see full text here ): " India must make a clean break with a savage tradition by abolishing capital punishment. An immediate moratorium on executions should be the first step. " "Internationally, there is an increasing trend towards abolition, with 96 countries doing away with it and 34 countries being abolitionist in practice by observing official or unofficial moratoria on executions. Each of the three UN resolutions calling for a moratorium has seen more countries backing it ". Several parties in Tamil Nadu have also called for the commuting of the death sentences issued.

What does the Global Tamil Forum want?

In an interview with The Sunday Leader newspaper, the Global Tamil Forum’s spokesman, Suren Surendiran, set out the organisation’s goals in Sri Lanka :

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