Ensuring insecurity and instability in Tamil areas

Disappearances and extrajudicial killings of Tamils are once again on the rise in Sri Lanka. In Jaffna a simmering terror campaign by government-backed paramilitaries has escalated with several people going missing and the bodies of others, bearing horrific wounds, being dumped in public spaces. The victims include business people and prominent members of the community. And it is no coincidence this is happening amidst international efforts, led now by India , to restore normalcy in the Tamil areas and kickstart the economy there.

The logic in Sri Lanka's disappearances

When people are abducted and never seen again – ‘disappeared’ – or their bodies are later found dumped, and when they are gunned down in public or in front of their families, these acts are often described as ‘senseless’. Senseless because nothing these people might have done - or are suspected to have done - is seen to justify such horrific ends. But there is a purpose to disappearances and extra-judicial killings: terror. These acts are not just about the individual, but the rest of society. They constitute a specific form of violence aiming to define the relationship between the state and the community concerned, between fear and submission.

Strict criteria ...

Of the 135 individuals recently accepted into the Sri Lanka Administrative Service (SLAS), described as the apex of the government’s bureaucracy, all but one (a Muslim) were Sinhalese. Unsurprisingy - there weren’t any Tamils amongst the 257 people short listed. See the full report by LakbimaNews here . Secretary of the Ministry of Public Administration and Home Affairs, P.B. Abeykoon, says the intake of Tamils in the civil service was dwindling even in the early 80s , when he joined the civil service. There were only four to five Tamil recruits even then, he recalls. The government's...

The state is the main obstacle to developing Tamil areas

Sri Lanka’s rhetoric on the urgent need for development in the Northeast belies its systematic efforts to disrupt the Tamil people’s recovery and subvert international assistance towards further consolidation of Sinhala dominance over them. The state’s cynical calls for the international community and the Diaspora to contribute to development of the Northeast must be viewed against its actual practices and past record.

Curbing humanitarianism

"There is a definite trend to reduce aid agencies to [mere] service providers where the government says where, what, when and how. Therefore, it might be more difficult for NGOs to operate in the future according to humanitarian principles or their mandate" "The main question is whether the government will take care of the Tamil population, as much as it does with Sinhalese population in the south." - comments by aid workers. See AlertNet’s report on Sri Lanka’s restrictions on international aid agencies helping Tamils.

After the tsunami: remembering the minutes

Sri Lanka observed two minutes silence Sunday for the victims of the devastating Boxing Day tsunami of 2004. One detail of that catastrophe worth remembering is how President Mahinda Rajapaksa (then Prime Minister) and the Colombo government responded. The day after the waves struck, Prime Minister Rajapaksa convened the government's 'urgent disaster management' meeting which all major political parties attended. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) was represented by Joseph Pararajasingham, MP. Here’s the telling detail: "The devastation and destruction in the northeast was discussed for not...

World Bank to raise Sri Lanka’s cost of borrowing

The World Bank will phase out grants and interest-free loans to Sri Lanka over the next three years, and will instead provide loans at near commercial interest rates for Colombo’s development projects. Dr. Okonjo Iweala, the Managing Director of the World Bank made the announcement during a visit to Colombo this month, the LBO reported . Soft loans are interest free or low-interest loans, sometimes with extended grace periods in which only interest or service charges are due. The World Bank arm that provides countries with these, as well as non-repayable grants, is the International...

Sri Lanka’s leaders complicit in forced prostitution and child sex trafficking

The categories of war crimes for which Sri Lanka’s top civilian and military leadership are responsible expanded this week to include rape , forced prostitution and trafficking into sexual slavery , based on a Wikileaked US embassy cable of May 18, 2007. (See the full text of the cable here , and a summary of the sex-related crimes it outlines here .) Tamil paramilitaries ran prostitution rings for Sri Lankan troops in government-controlled parts of the Northeast, and child sex trafficking rings using their networks in India and Malaysia, and they did so with the knowledge and support of the Sri Lankan government , the US cable revealed. Article 7, para (g), of the Rome Statute lists “rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity" as crimes against humanity "when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population." The US cable leak comes on the tenth anniversary of the landmark UN Security Council Resolution 1325 , which specifically addresses the impact of conflict, particularly sexual violence, on women and girls. The below report looks at the international legal context of the sexual crimes described in the US cable, Colombo's response, and some of the past documentation of rape by the Sri Lanka's armed forces.

UN panel: what will Ban's deal sacrifice?

No sooner had Sri Lanka’s supposed change of heart on allowing the UN panel of experts on war crimes convened by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon been announced, the Colombo regime made clear the circumscribed space it will accord the panel and, more importantly, the dangerous reciprocity it is demanding.

Pressure on Sri Lanka begins to work

Sri Lanka’s new preparedness to allow a three-member expert panel on war crimes appointed by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to visit the country is clearly linked to international economic pressure and the diplomatic embarrassments recently suffered by President Mahinda Rajapakse’s regime, proving that - as we argued last week - only direct pressure can bring about Colombo's compliance with international norms, and that ‘quiet diplomacy’ is utterly ineffective.