Government will not listen to UN orders – Minister

The Minister for Irrigation and Water Management Nimal Sripala de Silva has said that the UN High Commisisoner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, could not give orders to Sri Lanka, and even if she did, the government would not comply. Talking to reporters at the office of Mahinda Rajapakse’s SLFP, the minister said Navi Pillay was able to visit any place on the island as the country had nothing to hide. " She now has the opportunity to see for herself the ground situation and reach a conclusion accordingly... Ms Pillay could release a good or bad report on Sri Lanka after her visit," de Silva...

SL minister questions UN Human Rights Chief's impartiality

A Sri Lankan minister accused the visiting United Nations Human Rights Chief, Navi Pillay, of acting without impartiality whilst assessing the country. The Housing Minister Wimal Weerawansa, the leader of the National Freedom Front, a party in President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s ruling coalition, criticised Pillay of not sticking to the agreed upon itinerary. Weerawansa determined that Pillay would produce an “extremist and unjust report” suggesting that “ she looks at problems in a partial manner, with a preconceived judgement.” Weerawansa argued the case of impartiality stating , “She is also...

Soldiers return to streets after Pillay visit

Soldiers that were said to have been withdrawn to their army camps returned to the streets of the North straight after Navi Pillay's visit on Wednesday, reports BBC Tamil . Troops were reportedly concealed and some removed from the streets of villages which formed the route of Pillay's visit in Jaffna, Kilinochi and Mullaithivu. The Elephant Pass check point which had been closed during the visit also reopened, with vehicles on the A9 road being subjected to checks again.

Tamils implore visiting UN Human Rights chief to find their disappeared loved ones

Hundreds of families of those who disappeared in Sri Lanka gathered in front of the Jaffna Public Library to voice their grievances to the visiting United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay. Sources reported that Navi Pillay who attended a meeting in Jaffna Library, was forced, by government officials, to leave through the back exit of the library, in what was seen as an attempt to nullify the voice of the protestors. Protestors wielded placards that called on Pillay to intervene and make sure that that Tamils were resettled into their own lands, whilst brandishing pictures of missing loved ones.

Navi Pillay briefed on 'development' in Northern Province

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, was given a lavish welcome from Sri Lankan officials in the Northern province on Tuesday. Attending a meeting arranged at the Jaffna Pubilc Library, local district governors briefed Pillay on the resettlement, rehabilitation and development carried out in the war torn provinces since 2009. The briefing given to Pillay was in stark contrast with the demonstrations that occurred outside the library as she spoke to government officials.

RSF and JDS call on Navi Pillay evaluate media freedom

In an open letter published yesterday to the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Navi Pillay, who is currently visiting Sri Lanka, Reporters Without Borders and Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) said, “The apparent unwillingness of the Sri Lankan authorities to address threats to media freedom has to be seen as an extension of the same repressive policy adopted during the war. The high handed manner that the Sri Lankan government handled rights activists and organisations during the war is still being continued to restrict the public from having access to independent information...

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...