Curbing humanitarianism

"There is a definite trend to reduce aid agencies to [mere] service providers where the government says where, what, when and how. Therefore, it might be more difficult for NGOs to operate in the future according to humanitarian principles or their mandate" "The main question is whether the government will take care of the Tamil population, as much as it does with Sinhalese population in the south." - comments by aid workers. See AlertNet’s report on Sri Lanka’s restrictions on international aid agencies helping Tamils.

After the tsunami: remembering the minutes

Sri Lanka observed two minutes silence Sunday for the victims of the devastating Boxing Day tsunami of 2004. One detail of that catastrophe worth remembering is how President Mahinda Rajapaksa (then Prime Minister) and the Colombo government responded. The day after the waves struck, Prime Minister Rajapaksa convened the government's 'urgent disaster management' meeting which all major political parties attended. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) was represented by Joseph Pararajasingham, MP. Here’s the telling detail: "The devastation and destruction in the northeast was discussed for not...

World Bank to raise Sri Lanka’s cost of borrowing

The World Bank will phase out grants and interest-free loans to Sri Lanka over the next three years, and will instead provide loans at near commercial interest rates for Colombo’s development projects. Dr. Okonjo Iweala, the Managing Director of the World Bank made the announcement during a visit to Colombo this month, the LBO reported . Soft loans are interest free or low-interest loans, sometimes with extended grace periods in which only interest or service charges are due. The World Bank arm that provides countries with these, as well as non-repayable grants, is the International...

Sri Lanka’s leaders complicit in forced prostitution and child sex trafficking

The categories of war crimes for which Sri Lanka’s top civilian and military leadership are responsible expanded this week to include rape , forced prostitution and trafficking into sexual slavery , based on a Wikileaked US embassy cable of May 18, 2007. (See the full text of the cable here , and a summary of the sex-related crimes it outlines here .) Tamil paramilitaries ran prostitution rings for Sri Lankan troops in government-controlled parts of the Northeast, and child sex trafficking rings using their networks in India and Malaysia, and they did so with the knowledge and support of the Sri Lankan government , the US cable revealed. Article 7, para (g), of the Rome Statute lists “rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity" as crimes against humanity "when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population." The US cable leak comes on the tenth anniversary of the landmark UN Security Council Resolution 1325 , which specifically addresses the impact of conflict, particularly sexual violence, on women and girls. The below report looks at the international legal context of the sexual crimes described in the US cable, Colombo's response, and some of the past documentation of rape by the Sri Lanka's armed forces.

UN panel: what will Ban's deal sacrifice?

No sooner had Sri Lanka’s supposed change of heart on allowing the UN panel of experts on war crimes convened by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon been announced, the Colombo regime made clear the circumscribed space it will accord the panel and, more importantly, the dangerous reciprocity it is demanding.

Pressure on Sri Lanka begins to work

Sri Lanka’s new preparedness to allow a three-member expert panel on war crimes appointed by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to visit the country is clearly linked to international economic pressure and the diplomatic embarrassments recently suffered by President Mahinda Rajapakse’s regime, proving that - as we argued last week - only direct pressure can bring about Colombo's compliance with international norms, and that ‘quiet diplomacy’ is utterly ineffective.

Fox single-handedly undermines Britain's authority

By going ahead with his planned visit to Sri Lanka next week, Defence Secretary Liam Fox is irresponsibly undermining Britain's calls for an independent inquiry into war crimes in Sri Lanka and international protection of human rights. It matters little that Britain is not paying his way.

2007 US cable: Sri Lanka killing through Tamil paramilitaries

A secret US embassy cable Wikileaked Thursday outlines in detail how the US was well aware in 2007 of the extent of Sri Lanka’s active use of Tamil paramilitaries as an integral part of its war against the LTTE. Sri Lanka funded paramilitaries directly, then allowed them to extort funds, loot supplies for internally displaced Tamils, and run forced prostitution rings using girls and women from the refugee camps. However, Tamil voices who argued a t the time that the soaring killings, extortion and crime were linked directly to Sri Lanka's paramilitary-led war against the LTTE were largely ignored. For example, compare what one of our columnists wrote on the subject in January 2008, with the US cable of May 2007:

London answers …

Britain’s Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt responded Tuesday to MPs questions on Sri Lanka. See the transcript here . Amongst the issues raised were the British government’s position on Sri Lanka’s closure of ICRC offices in the Tamil areas, Sinhala colonization, investigation of war crimes and British Defence Secretary’s ‘private’ meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa during his controversial visit to UK earlier this month. See also: - Gap between UK’s rhetoric and action - Too close for British comfort - Britain must take the lead

Blood and treasure

One of Scotland's largest companies, the Weir Group, was this week fined £3m for breaching UN sanctions on Iraq by doing business with Saddam Hussein's regime. £13.9m of illegal profits were also confiscated, the BBC reported . Last year four British Parliamentary committees issued a joint report arguing that all arms licenses to Sri Lanka should be investigated, as UK-supplied weapons had been used against Tamil civilians. See these reports by The Times , Daily Telegraph and Channel 4 .