UK ‘concerned at military involvement in civilian activities’

The United Kingdom has expressed concern at the Sri Lankan military’s involvement in civilian activities in the North and noted the British Prime Minister David Cameron has called for demilitarisation, stated Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Hugo Swire earlier this week. Responding to a question raised in parliament, Hugo Swire, stated, “We continue to monitor closely civil and political rights as well as land issues in Sri Lanka.” “We have expressed concerns at military involvement in civilian activities in the north and are aware of reports that the military are...

Desperate search for disappeared continues

Thousands of desperate relatives of the disappeared have testified before a disappearances commission this week, in vain hope of discovering the fate of those who have been missing for years, reported the BBC. The commission, declared open by the government just weeks before it faces a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council, has been dismissed as a farce by NPC member Ananthy Sasitharan and NPC Deputy Chairman Antony Jeganathan . For the anguished thousands who continue to search for their loved ones, however, few alternative avenues exist. A few months ago, as British Prime Minister David...

Tomas Stangeland mourned

Tomas Stangeland (centre) and Jon Westborg (to Mr. Stangeland's left) talking to LTTE political heads Anton Balasingham and S.P. Thamilselvan. News that Norwegian diplomat Tomas Stangeland passed away last week on February 12th, aged 43, from cancer caused widespread dismay amongst those who interacted with him during the Oslo-facilitated peace process in Sri Lanka. The main Norwegian point of contact for local and international media and many others at the time, Tomas is remembered as unassuming, intelligent and deeply engaged with a sophisticated grasp of the complexities of Sri Lanka. A Second Secretary the Norwegian embassy in Colombo during the negotiation period, he later rose to lead Norway’s global peace efforts as head of the Peace and Reconciliation section of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry. In a joint statement, the two most senior Norwegian figures during the peace process, Vidar Helgesen and Erik Solheim, said: “He was a pillar of the Norwegian peace efforts in Sri Lanka. He was one of our most able diplomats destined to do great things and carry even bigger responsibilities, though Tomas’ humility could mask the breadth of his ability to those who had not seen him in action.” See full statement here , published on the Foreign Correspondents' Association of Sri Lanka website yesterday. The leader of the TNPF, Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, who was one of the five leaders of the TNA at the time of the peace talks, told Tamil Guardian: “For those of us who were working on the Norwegian brokered process, Tomas became the daily point of contact. Even though he was Second Secretary at the Embassy at the time, it was clear to all that his knowledge and ability to grasp very complex situations far exceeded his official rank." "One can safely say, he will go down in Tamil history as being synonymous with the few good memories that peace process had to offer. But for all his knowledge, Tomas was one of the most down-to-earth and unassuming individuals I've ever known." "He will be dearly missed not just by his family but by all those who knew him. Surely that has to be the mark of the success of being born a human being. " Apart from being the main external liaison for the Norwegians, Tomas was also deeply involved in Oslo’s shuttle diplomacy between Colombo, Kilinochchi and London, where LTTE chief negotiator Anton Balasingham was based. “Given how highly charged and acrimonious the peace process was, it is notable that Tomas was highly respected and much liked by everyone involved. I know the LTTE’s senior political figures had the highest regard for him,” said former Tamil Guardian editor, Sutha Nadarajah. “Invariably good humoured and easygoing, with a keen intellect, Tomas was the archetypal diplomat.”

DMK calls for UN observed referendum for political solution in North-East

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party, on Sunday urged the Indian government to move a resolution at the upcoming United Nations Human Rights Council that sought a referendum that facilitated a political solution favoured by the Tamils in the North-East. Meeting at the 10th state conference of the DMK party, members passed a resolution that called for the Indian government to call for a United Nations monitored referendum on a political solution for the North-East and an international inquiry into alleged war crimes in the last phase of the conflict between the Sri Lankan Army and the...

SL needs international inquiry concludes UN Human Rights Chief

An international inquiry to investigate rights violations in Sri Lanka is needed deemed the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, whilst highlighting the lack of political will in Sri Lanka to work towards truth and justice. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report which was leaked by a Sri Lankan paper today , outlined that the lack of truth and justice in Sri Lanka was not question of time or capacity but rather " political will " and called for an “ international inquiry mechanism to further investigate alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law and monitor any domestic accountability process. ” Along with 12 recommendations for Sri Lanka, the UN human rights commissioner, Navi Pillay, in her report concluded , “New- evidence including witness testimony, video and photographic material – continues to emerge on what took place in the final stages of the armed conflict. Human remains also continue to be discovered, for instance in Matale in November 2012 and Mannar in December 2013.” “As the emblematic cases highlighted above show, national mechanisms have consistently failed to establish the truth and achieve justice. The High Commissioner believes this can no longer be explained as a function of time or technical capacity, but that it is fundamentally a question of political will. ” Pillay also reiterated her concern over Sri Lanka’s failure to implement previous UNHRC recommendations and the continuing “trend of attacks on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, particularly against human rights defenders, journalists and families of victims; the rising levels of religious intolerances; and continued militarisation which continues to undermine the environment where accountability and reconciliation can be achieved.”

British Tamils help in UK flood relief

British Tamils have assisted in flood relief efforts in the United Kingdom, after major storms struck the country this week. Organised by the TCC UK, Tamils from London collected donations of blankets, clothes, food and water to distribute to those affected by the floods, with one London temple donating £1,000 towards relief efforts. UK Parliamentarian Gareth Thomas joined the Tamil community in their efforts, with the storms leaving almost 6,000 homes completely flooded and a further 15,900 without power .

TNA say no to PSC after repeated failed promises

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) outlined today that it would not engage in the government Parliament Select Committee (PSC) on the National issue as the Sri Lankan government had failed to fulfill previous promises. Responding to recommendations from the Indian Foreign Secretary, Sujatha Singh, who told the Sir Lankan government to engage with the TNA and reach a political settlement through the 13th Amendment and the PSC, the TNA MP, MA Sumanthiran, reiterated that the Government failed to allow the current Northern Provincial Council to function fully, let alone implement the promise of...

SL prepares to face UNHRC

A Sri Lankan daily reported, today , that the Sri Lankan government had prepared a counter-proposal to combat the resolution to be tabled against Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in March. A high-level delegation led by External Affairs Minister, G.L Peiris and Secretary to the President, Lalith Weeratunga, is expected to travel to the UNHRC with a counter-proposal whilst presenting efforts taken by the government to address accountability and reach reconciliation. News of Sri Lanka's strong preparations for the UNHRC sessions comes as the UN Human Rights Chief,...

Australian government commends SL commitment to reconciliation

The Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, speaking at a ceremony at the Sri Lankan High Commission, reiterated the Australian government’s support for Sri Lanka’s reconciliation progress since the end of the armed conflict with the LTTE and commended Sri Lanka’s ‘political will and commitment’ to the process. Drawing upon an Australian parliamentary delegation visit to Sri Lanka, she said , “Yes you can criticise, yes you can judge but you must also recognise that much has been achieved in resettlement and reconstruction.” “The path for reconciliation will be long, but with...

Wigneswaran calls for safety of diaspora to be ensured

The Chief Minister of the Northern Province CV Wigneswaran has called for assurances to be made on the “security” and “safety” of the diaspora, stating that the Tamil areas of the island wrecked by war need their participation to recover. Lamenting the lack of progress in developing the livelihood of the Tamils war torn areas of the island, Wigneswaran called the diaspora a “competitive resource” adding, “They have the technical know how, along with resources to contribute towards post-war rebuilding. They have the socio-cultural links with their motherland and also genuine interest, which are important ingredients to foster transfer of knowledge and technical know-how.” He stated "the Government of Sri Lanka does not have the financial resources and professional technical input or knowledge capital to contribute towards an effective post war recovery” and said, “For the diaspora professionals to come over and participate in the post war recovery processes we need to have pragmatic, meaningful structures and modalities in place to ensure their security, safety, motivation and participation .” Canadian Tamil businessman Anthonypillai Mahendrarajah was murdered when he returned to Vanni in 2012, after a reported conflict with the military over occupied property.