Government uses lifting of emergency to facilitate land grab

Citing the removal of emergency regulations, the Sri Lankan government has ordered the dismantling of the Ministry of Resettlement and announced the intended aquisition of private lands within High-Security Zones. Rauff-Hakeem, the Justice Minister who made the announcement, explained that if in some areas, the HSZs were needed, the Government would acquire the land legally. He is reported to have said a security assessment would be made before deciding which areas were needed to be retained as HSZs, situated mainly in Vadamarachchi, Valikamam and Thenmarachchi. The dismantling of the Resettlement Ministry, whilst no doubt insignificant in terms of resettlement productivity, serves to undermine the on-going IDP situation over two years after the government declared peace. Moreover, it diminuishes the plight of remaining IDPS, whose right to return to their original lands appears increasingly precarious and their right of appeal, hopeless. In Sampur, where the proposed coal plant will result in over 900 families losing their homes, the Governor Rear Admiral Wijewickrema has threatened that any IDPs who refuse land offered to them by the government will no longer be deemed 'displaced'. See our earlier post 'IDPs branded 'squatters on state land' . These moves are the latest in a draft of measures that expidite the aquisition of private lands in the North-East, with no room for appeal.

Calls for closure of Sri Lankan children’s homes

The National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) of Sri Lanka has called for the closure of all 470 children’s homes in the country due to ‘rampant’ abuse of the inhabitants. Around 20,000 orphans and children from abusive family backgrounds are housed in homes around the country. Anoma Dissanayake, head of the NCPA told BBC Sinhala: “Shocking incidents are happening in children's homes all over the country. Rarely, there are some very good children's homes but this is the situation in most of the homes. Our aim is to fully establish [a] foster care system replacing children's homes within the...

Sri Lanka's "bait and switch"

Human Rights Watch have strongly criticised Sri Lanka’s detention laws and called upon the international community not to be misled by the apparent end of emergency rule. Brad Adams, Asia director of the New York-based body said , “The Sri Lankan government announced that the state of emergency is over, but it is holding on to the same draconian powers it had during the war . Governments that have called for the repeal of the emergency powers should not be fooled by this cynical "bait and switch." The government should repeal all its abusive detention laws and make all laws and regulations related to detention public, instead of engaging in token measures for PR purposes .” 6,000 people will continue to be detained under new legislation, which was passed to replace the lapsed emergency regulations according to the group. They went on to quote Sri Lanka’s previous attorney general, Mohan Peiris who said, “No suspects will be released and there is no change even though the emergency has been allowed to lapse. ” The statement comes ahead of the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on Monday, where Sri Lanka is preparing to defend itself against growing accusations of war crimes committed against Tamil civilians.

2010 elections and the kingmaker who never was

Leaked US embassy cables, created towards the end of 2009, provide an intriguing insight into Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R. Sampanthan's thoughts on then upcoming presidential elections. According to a leaked cable dated December 2009, Sampanthan, convinced, despite the widespread Sinhala triumphalism that the Tamil vote still had considerable value, informed US officials that " the best scenario for the Tamil community would be to extract concessions from the presidential candidates ". Moreover, he hoped that the international and domestic communities could "hold the candidates to their promises after the election." The two main candidates were the Sinhala chauvunists, Mahinda Rajapaksa, the incumbent of the SLFP, and the former Army chief, Sarath Fonseka, backed by the other two main Sinhala parties, the UNP and JVP. Seven months after the mass-killings of 40,000 Tamil civilians supervised by the Rajapakse-Fonseko duo, Sampanthan is quoted as asserting he was "looking for the manner in which each candidate would make promises to the Tamil community " before deciding which candidate to endorse. Gestures Sampanthan considered desirable from the two included a "public declaration" or at a minimum "campaign promises". According to the cable, "Sampanthan divulged that many within the Tamil community had asked him to run as an independent candidate, but he assessed that it made no sense for him to win "a couple of hundred thousand votes and lose."

Of those reported missing ...

File photo: An international ceasefire monitor of the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission (SLMM) examines two bodies dumped by the roadside in then government controlled Vavuniya town on 13 Oct 2006. Apart from thousands of such extra-judicial killings by Sri Lanka's military, tens of thousands more people have vanished after being taken into custody. Click photo for details. Photo TamilNet.

Commonwealth urged to say no to CHOGM Sri Lanka 2013

In an open letter to Commonwealth Foreign Ministers, ten rights groups from across the world condemned the possibility of Sri Lanka hosting the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). The ten international, Diaspora and Sri Lanka-based organisations included Human Rights Watch, Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA). Highlighting the continued human rights violations and pressing need for an international investigation into allegations of war crimes, the authors called the consideration of Sri Lanka as host 'grossly inappropriate '. 'Awarding the next CHOGM to Sri Lanka would not only undermine the fundamental values on which the Commonwealth is based , but also has the potential to render the Commonwealth’s commitment to human rights and the promise of reforms meaningless.' 'The fact that the host country of the CHOGM goes on to hold the chairmanship of the Commonwealth (from 2013 to 2015) is also a serious concern.' ' Handing over leadership of the Commonwealth to a country with a questionable record in terms of human rights and democracy should not be the outcome of an event that will celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Harare Declaration .'

IDPs branded 'squatters on state land'

Any IDPs who refuse to live on land provided by the government are no longer to be considered 'displaced persons' ordered the Governor of the Eastern Province, Rear Admiral Mohan Jayawickrema, Friday. Jayawickrema alleged that under international conventions those provided with land and housing are not 'displaced'. “ The displaced fall into three categories, namely squatters on state land, land permit holders and owners of private land ,” he explained . In November 2010, a number of reports emerged of Jayawickrema allegedly ordering the burning of a predominantly Muslim village, Kandalkadu, and a Muslim mosque in the Kinniya district. Victims reported that local police had identified Jayawickrema as directly issuing orders to carry out the arson attack. Fifty-four families were forced into homelessness. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre reported on 1st July 2011 that more than 220,000 civilians remain displaced.

Jaffna Uni students rise up in protest

Photo TamilNet Over one thousand Jaffna university students walked out of lectures and staged a demonstration on Wednesday, reported Tamilnet. See full article by Tamilnet here . Protesters condemned what they described as the Sri Lankan government's complicity in the spate of sexual attacks on Tamil women by individuals widely believed to be closely associated with Sri Lanka's security forces. Students carried placards openly condemning 'ethnic cleansing' and the security forces for being 'shelters for perpetrators'. Some symbolically tied black cloths over their mouths to protest Sri Lanka's brutal crackdown on freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

Amnesty on Sri Lanka's LLRC

Amnesty International has released a new report criticising Sri Lanka's Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission as "flawed at every level". The report went on to urge the UN to establish a full international independent investigation into war crimes. Sam Zarifi, Amnesty's Asia Pacific Director said, " The Sri Lankan government has, for almost two years, used the LLRC as its trump card in lobbying against an independent international investigation. "Officials described it as a credible accountability mechanism, able to deliver justice and promote reconciliation. In reality it's flawed at every level: in mandate, composition and practice. " In a 69-page report , the human rights group has said, " Amnesty International urges the international community not to be deceived that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission -- the latest in a long line of failed domestic mechanisms in Sri Lanka -- will deliver justice, truth and reparations to the tens of thousands of victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other crimes committed during the conflict by both sides, particularly during its last bloody few months," Entitled “When Will They Get Justice?” the report called on the UN to establish a credible international, independent investigation into war crimes, calling it “crucial” to “protest the global principle of accountability”. " All U.N. member states should fulfill their shared responsibility to investigate and prosecute persons suspected of responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sri Lanka by exercising universal jurisdiction. " Yolanda Foster of Amnesty International said , “ We’re publishing this report now as a wake up call to UN member states that they must act on the … credible evidence of very serious crimes that happened at the end of the war and (the UN) recommended an independent international investigation ”. A previous UN panel report also called for an independent international investigation to take place on Sri Lanka's war crimes. Amnesty's report comes amid increasing pressure on Sri Lanka, as the UN Human Rights Council is expected take up the issue in three-week meeting in Geneva starting Monday.

US watched shelling of civilians hoping it would cease

Puthukurippu hospital was shelled repeatedly by Sri Lankan forces in the final months of the war. The red crosses are clearly marked on the roofs and were visible to circling Sri Lankan drones guiding the shelling. Circles mark some of the shell impacts. Image from March 6, 2009.

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