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 :

Al Jazeera reports from Tamil areas

Al Jazeera journalist Steve Chao was granted special permission by the Sri Lankan government, allowing him to travel to the Tamil areas in the North of the island. Whilst there he compiled this three-part report examining life for the Tamil people post-conflict. Tamil anger at army's influence in Sri Lanka The first report from Jaffna examines the increased presence of the military in Tamil areas, more than 2 years since the end of the fighting, much to the anger of the Tamil people. Rape and sexual abuse of Tamil women The second report explores the treatment of Tamil women who have found...

Sri Lanka laments

Sri Lanka's defence secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapakse, has again condemned the international community and the Tamil diaspora for insisting on an independent investigation into war time atrocities. Though such remarks are routine, his recents comments were notable for the reason he attributed to the international pressure. " There is a hidden agenda behind these allegations. Their main requirement is to change the president and the government who are not fulfilling their desires, " he said. “They know the credibility of our replies. Yet these forces are not satisfied with our responses ." "No...

Revealing Remarks

Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Ashok K. Kantha’s address to mark his country’s 65th independence anniversary was starkly at odds with international opinion, disconnected from political developments at home, and elided the enduring humanitarian and ethnopolitical crises in Sri Lanka.

Assaulted Uthayan editor remains defiant

Speaking to Groundviews, Gnanasundaram Kuganathan, the editor of the Uthayan newspaper in Jaffna who was severely injured in a beating by pro-government paramilitaries, vowed to continue reporting on 'activities against humanity'. “It’s a miracle that I survived. I was beaten almost to death. Many attempts have been made to kill me, so that my writing will come to an end! I did not think that, I will survive. The God has saved me to serve the people through journalism. I am slowly recovering. Today, I am blessed to be alive. I have highlighted many issues in my writing. I want to continue to...

‘We won’t be rushed!’

Sri Lanka’s much vaunted Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Committee (LLRC) said Thursday it won’t be rushed by anyone into submitting its report. The magnum opus is due on November 15. Amid growing international outrage over war crimes and crimes against humanity in the final stage of Sri Lanka’s conflict, the LLRC’s report has strangely emerged as a central device. The LLRC was set up by Colombo as a delaying tactic to fend off international pressure for both a domestic investigation into the atrocities and a meaningful reconciliation process i.e. a political solution. Unsurprisingly, the...