Military meddling in Sri Lanka elections: What will the UN do?

Writing in the Global Post on August 28th, J. S. Tissainayagam, questions what the UN and the international community will do in reponse to on-going militarisation. "The question is whether the UNHRC and the international community will recognize that vacating private land is a façade by the military to persuade the UN that it is demilitarizing. What will the UN do? Will it impose strictures on the government for wriggling out of its commitments, or will they say sweet nothings and turn a blind eye?" See here for full article. Extract reproduced below: "An important instrument of conflict resolution, or so the international community seemed to believe, was holding elections to the NPC. As de-militarization was a prerequisite for elections, two resolutions — in 2012 and 2013 — moved by the United States at the UN Human Rights Council included such measures. However, the military has continued to govern areas where the Tamil are the majority, inserting itself into aspects of life usually serviced by civilians, and forcibly taking over and controlling land. Residents of northern Sri Lanka complain that the presence of the military is not confined to uniformed personnel patrolling the streets, guns in hand. “[The military] are in our schools supervising public examinations, in our homes [forcibly inviting themselves even to puberty ceremonies] ... It was better when they were only on the streets; now the penetration is directed internally — into the core of community life,” says Kumaravadivel Guruparan, lecturer in law at the University of Jaffna. The military involvement in the life of the community also has repercussions for the electoral process. As campaigning gets underway, the military is accused of supporting the government party against the popular Tamil National Alliance (TNA). “When TNA candidates address public meetings you can be sure four or five military personnel will be hovering around in civvies,” said Suresh Premachandran, a leader of the Alliance party.

When public relations meets militarisation

Writing on Crisis Groups Blogs, the International Crisis Group's project director for Sri Lanka, Alan Keenan, said that the Sri Lankan government's "latest gestures fit an established pattern of promises made for international consumption but unsupported by political will." See here for full post. Extracts reproduced below: "The value of the steps announced by the government was always questionable, given the active efforts of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family to remove all independent checks on their power, as detailed in Crisis Group’s February report on Sri Lanka’s Authoritarian Turn: The Need for International Action. The recent events in Weliweriya and Grandpass reveal more clearly than ever that what Sri Lanka needs is not more commissions, or even arrests. The country needs legal and institutional changes to the system of policing and justice designed to reverse the militarisation and concentration of power that has deepened so dangerously under the Rajapaksas. These changes would include many of the reforms recommended by the LLRC, as well as others outlined in Sri Lanka’s Authoritarian Turn. At a minimum, the president should end his grant (renewed monthly) of police powers to the army and return soldiers to barracks in north and south, remove the police from the control of the ministry of defence and Secretary of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and restore the independence of the attorney general’s department by removing it from presidential control. The president should also agree to re-establish the independence of commissions that control the police, the judiciary, elections, and the civil service by reinstating the constitutional council. Unfortunately, without increased international pressure, there is little chance the government will take these or any of the other necessary steps to restore the rule of law. Fed by the Rajapaksas’ attachment to centralised and militarised rule, Sri Lanka’s decades-long problem of impunity is getting worse, not better. While the government may have stepped up its public relations game in response to international pressure, the recent events at home show the risk of more serious violence, especially along religious and communal lines, is increasing.

More Tamil women recruited into Sri Lankan Army

The controversial recruitment of Tamil women into the Sri Lankan armed forces has continued, with another 45 Tamil women and 10 Tamil-speaking Singhalese women having been enlisted into the army on Monday. The women, from Batticaloa, Vanni, Mullaithivu and Kandy, will be deployed in “war affected developing areas for peace building and reconciliation processes”, reported the Defence Ministry’s website . “Under the patronage of His Excellency the President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Secretary of Defence and Urban Development Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa directed the recruitment. The initiative and the...

Police apologise for Buddhist dog wedding

Sri Lankan police have apologised after they “married” nine sniffer dog pairs in a Buddhist ceremony. Police said the weddings were arranged to promote domestic breeding of sniffer dogs, but apologised for offending cultural sensibilities. The Culture Ministry condemned the ceremony, with minister T B Ekananayake saying the police had "contemptibly devalued" weddings in a devoutly Buddhist country. "This is not acceptable according to our cultural norms," Ekanayake said. "We are people who really value out traditional weddings - which are only done at auspicious times alongside the chanting...

Sudanese military in Sri Lanka to explore cooperation

Members of Sudan’s military are currently in Sri Lanka to explore training opportunities. The delegation, led by former secretary general of defence ministry Gen. (Retd) Abdel- Rahman Mohamed Zein, met with defence secretary Gothabaya Rajapakse and discussed joint military cooperation on Monday. The defence ministry’s website says that the parties discussed areas of mutual interest and bilateral relations at the meeting. Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir is accused of committing genocide and is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Birds of a feather…

President Mahinda Rajapakse has criticised the use of the UN Human Rights Council by certain countries to attack countries like Sri Lanka and Belarus, during an official visit to Minsk. Rajapakse met with President Alexander Lukashenko, described as the “last dictator in Europe”, and briefed him on the current visit by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay. Lukashenko stressed the importance of strengthening military and security cooperation between the two countries, and said it would be committed to enhancing relations in trade and the economy with Sri Lanka. President...

Court orders investigation into disappearances

A Colombo magistrate has reportedly ordered the investigation of over 2500 disappearances in the Northeast. While UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay begins her visit to Sri Lanka, the Terrorism Investigation Department (TID) was ordered to launch a 'broad' investigation into the disappearances of 2550 people in the Northeast, a list of which has been confidentially submitted to the court.

Buddhist monks demonstrate against UN Human Rights Commissioner

Protesters gathered outside the United Nations head office in Colombo

Activists and journalists discuss Eelam Tamil issue in Delhi

The National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) held a meeting in Delhi on 12th August, highlighting the plight of Tamils on the island of Sri Lanka and discussing future plans to campaign for Tamil rights. The meeting, titled " Human Rights Violations: Sri Lanka and the Tamils ", began with a screening of the 'No Fire Zone ' documentary, and was attended by activists and journalists from across the world. It was led by renowned Indian social activist Medha Patkar , at the Indian Social Institute , New Delhi.

Army refute media attack allegations

Dismissing allegations that they were involved in the attack of the Sunday Leader's associate editor, the Sri Lankan army said it "refutes all such allegations". In a statement, the Army's spokesperson Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya said: “Some statements/reports have even attempted to portray this as an attack on the media. This is far from the truth and we refute all such allegations. The Sri Lanka Army does not approve of any crime and particularly we regret this incident in which a senior journalist has suffered at the hands of a gang of thieves" Commenting on one the suspect, who is said to be Private K.P. Chamara Kumara, the Army's spokesperson claimed , "This soldier was arrested whilst in service in September 2009 for theft. After a summary trial according to the Army Act he was awarded 90 days detention on October 6 and whilst being held in detention at his Regimental Centre to be handed over to the Panagoda Detention Barracks (an Army correctional facility administered by the Military Police) he escaped from detention and deserted on October 8, 2009. On May 24, 2010 he surrendered. After due disciplinary procedure he was awarded 90 days detention in July 2010 and was detained at Panagoda Detention Barracks. Upon completion of the period of detention he was handed over to the Regimental Centre on September 9, 2010 and on October 6 2010 he became absent without leave and was later declared a deserter. On June 25, 2013 Hungama Police arrested this deserting soldier and he was handed over to his Regiment on July 9, 2013.