Gotabhaya comments on Pillay visit

Defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa reportedly told the UN Human Rights Commissioner that the US had no moral right to lead a resolution against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), according to the Island newspaper. Alleging that the US itself was responsible for atrocities around the world, Gotabhaya deduced that US action was therefore irrational. He further sympathised with the apparent difficulty that human rights officials face when dealing with western atrocities. Gotabhaya said: "During our meeting at the Defence Ministry, the UN Human Rights commissioner alleged that...

Rajapaksa preaches tolerance

Speaking at a ceremony held in a recently reconstructed church that was damaged by the 2004 Tsunami, Mahinda Rajapaksa reiterated that his government was committed to protect the rights of all religions. Rajapaksa also noted that the clergy of all religions were responsible for establishing a righteous future generation that showed tolerance and was devoid of hate. Rajapaksa went on to remind the people of the North-Eastern province, Batticaloa, that the areas battered by the ethnic conflict had seen rapid development since the end of the war.

'Buddhism & Violence' - academics discuss Sri Lanka and Burma

Discussing 'Buddhism & Violence' in a recent episode of the BBC Radio 4 program 'Beyond Belief', academics and human rights activists discussed the nature of Buddhist violence, including the texts used the justify war in the defence of Buddhism, in Sri Lanka and Burma. See here (first broadcast on 19th August 2013). Guests included Michael Jerryson, an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies in Youngstown State University in Ohio and co-author of the book 'Buddhist warfare', and Rupert Gethin, professor of Buddhist Studies in the University of Bristol and author of the 'Foundation of Buddhism'. Outlining the two main streams of Buddhism, Rupert Gethin explained: "Theravada Buddhism is a form of Buddhism that takes as its authority of set of texts written in Paali, which go back many many centuries to two millennia. This is the kind of Buddhism that is followed by Buddhists in Sri Lanka, South East, Thailand, Cambodia and Lao. Mahayana Buddhism which is the other main stream of Buddhism, to simplify things, is the kind of Buddhism followed in Tibet and China. They have scriptures that correspond in some way to the Pali cannon but they also have additional texts that they take as authoritative." Discussing the use of Buddhist scriptures to justify violence, which on the surface appears diametrically opposed to Buddhist teachings of non-violence, Michael Jerryson said, "There are texts that have been used in recent years to justify violence." "For example there are texts, the Buddha once spoke with a mercenary. The mercenary asked the Buddha for example, 'Look I'm not an aahat [enlightened being], I'm not enlightened, what I'm doing though is my job, will I have repurcussions for it?' And the Buddha said 'yes, you'll have repurcussions for it. Not for the act of killing, but for holding debase thoughts and bad intentions whilst doing the killing'. This text has been used sometimes, by for example by Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka right now, by Buddhist monks in Thailand, to give sermons to soldiers to cool their minds, in order for them to clear thoughts whilst doing the killing."

Despite end of conflict, SL heading in an 'increasingly authoritarian direction' - Navi Pillay

Addressing press in Colombo at the end of her seven day visit to Sri Lanka and the North-East, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay said, "I am deeply concerned that Sri Lanka, despite the opportunity provided by the end of the war to construct a new vibrant, all-embracing state, is showing signs of heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction ," In an far reaching statement, which will be followed by an oral report at the UN Human Rights Council during the September session, Pillay began by saying: " It is important everyone realizes that, although the fighting is over, the suffering is not ." In what she described as a " disturbing aspect of the visit ", Pillay described " the harassment and intimidation of a number of human rights defenders, at least two priests, journalists, and many ordinary citizens " who had planned to meet, or met with her. She said that she had "received reports that people in villages and settlements in the Mullaitivu area were visited by police or military officers both before and after I arrived there" whilst in Trincomalee "several people I met were subsequently questioned about the content of our conversation. " Condemning this as " utterly unacceptable at any time ", Pillay commented, " it is particularly extraordinary for such treatment to be meted out during a visit by a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights ," and stated that " th is type of surveillance and harassment appears to be getting worse in Sri Lanka ." Expressing concern over the " degree to which the military appears to be putting down roots and becoming involved in what should be civilian activities, for instance education, agriculture and even tourism ", Pillay highlighted the reports of land grab in order to build military camps and installations. Calling on the government to "speed up its efforts to demilitarize" the Northern and Eastern provinces, Pillay said " the continued large-scale presence of the military and other security forces is seen by many as oppressive and intrusive, with the continuing high level of surveillance of former combatants and returnees at times verging on harassment ." She also drew attention to the " vulnerability of women and girls, especially in female-headed households, to sexual harassment and abuse ", on-going detention of Tamils under the Prevention of Terrorism Act suggesting a repeal of the PTA , and the "urgent need" to resolve the issue of disappearances .

LTTE bribes western politicians – Mahinda

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse has claimed that the LTTE uses “money to bribe western politicians” in order to make them take an anti-Sri Lanka line, in an interview with The Australian . Rajapakse said that the LTTE was still active in the diaspora and blamed the network for people smuggling activities. "The LTTE sympathiser networks have been in this business for a long time. It was their big money-raiser. They are still doing it today. I don't know whether the money they make goes to the LTTE today or to propaganda efforts. "It's easy money for them. Sometimes they even rent a...

UN must respond to concerns raised by Pillay – Amnesty International

Amnesty International has called on the UN and the Commonwealth to respond effectively to the concerns raised by UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay after her visit to Sri Lanka. “Navi Pillay’s take on the human rights situation during her visit very muchechoes our own findings. Being critical of government policy in Sri Lanka is highly risky, and the extent to which people are being harassed into silence is shocking”, said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director in a statement released on Saturday. “We’re glad that Navi Pillay got a chance to meet some victims and families of the disappeared. But the reprisals against those she met, doesn’t bode well for the Commonwealth Summit set for November in Colombo.”

SL launches tourism campaign in Beijing

A new media campaign aimed at attracting Chinese travellers to Sri Lanka was launched in Beijing today. The “ Sri Lanka Shines in Beijing” campaign, set up under the guidance of Mahinda Rajapaksa, and his brother Basil, is being organised by the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and the Sri Lanka Embassy in China. As part of the campaign, billboards showcasing attractions related to Sri Lankan history, culture beaches wildlife and festivals, will be placed in strategic locations across the city of Beijing. The media campaign commenced with a ‘Sri Lankan night’, featuring an array of...

Threats to delegates meeting Pillay

The harassment of two priests who had met Navi Pillay in Trincomalee has been brought to the attention of the UN Human Rights Commissioner, TNA MP Suresh Premachandran told BBC Tamil . Premachandran said he expected Pillay to bring up the issue with the Defence Secretary and other state representatives. Minister Keheliya Rambukwella has denied that any threats were made, saying that Pillay has been free to meet whomever she wishes to. Members of the TNA met with Navi Pillay in Colombo today. Civil society activist and TNA candidate for the NPC, Ananthy Sasitharan was not included in the...

Rajapakse tells Navi Pillay about ‘UN bias’

During a meeting with the UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, Mahinda Rajapakse said that Sri Lankans believe that the body is biased in the manner it deals with countries, according to a statement released by the president’s media office. The statement further says that Pillay acknowledged that many achievements had been made by the government and that she was pleased by the establishment of the LLRC. See full statement released by the government here . External Affairs Minister GL Peiris also met with the High Commissioner on Thursday and "ticked her off", according to the DailyMirror...

SL military urges press to report 'true facts'

The Sri Lankan Army urged the country’s press corporations to secure invitations to the press briefing by visiting the United Nations Human Rights Chief, Navi Pillay and relay the ‘true facts’ to the public. In an email to local journalists and international correspondents, the Military Spokesman Ruwan Wanigasooriya, urged press to act responsibly, stating , “I am sure you will exercise your right to media freedom and attend this event and report true facts to the public as the whole country is keenly awaiting to know the outcome of the visit.”