TNA invited to US for talks with Clinton

The Tamil National Alliance will be sending a four-member delegation to Washington on October 25th to meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other State Department officials for talks, following an invitation from the US government, according to the Sunday Times. The Tamil delegation has also reportedly planned to meet with US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake, who visited Sri Lanka and met with the TNA last month. During his visit Blake reiterated the “need for a credible process of accountability” and expressed concern about human...

Why Sri Lanka should not host CHOGM

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, an independent organisation created to support human rights in Commonwealth countries, have released a press statement detailing why the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting should not be held in Sri Lanka. The press release answers “Frequently Asked Questions” on Sri Lanka’s planned CHOGM and argues that allowing the meeting to be held there would infringe on the Commonwealth’s fundamental principles. Extracts have been reproduced below: Q: Sri Lanka has already formed a domestic inquiry into allegations; why not wait for the outcomes of that process before acting on Sri Lanka? A: Sri Lanka’s domestic mechanism, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) has been found by international and UN experts (such as the Panel of Experts) as well as civil society groups to lack both an adequate mandate and the impartiality necessary for credible investigations. The mechanism will submit its report in November 2011. CHOGM venues are usually decided at the preceding CHOGM and CHOGM 2011 in October is the last chance to decide against Sri Lanka hosting the event. By November when the LLRC report comes out, it will be too late to prevent Sri Lanka from hosting CHOGM. Pinning hopes on an internationally discredited mechanism at the risk of losing the Commonwealth’s legitimacy is dangerous. Q: Why target Sri Lanka when all countries within the Commonwealth are not perfect. Why block a developing island state’s first chance to host CHOGM when a large and developed Western player like Australia has held CHOGM thrice? A: Sri Lanka’s human rights situation is one of the most acute cases within the Commonwealth. The nature of entrenched impunity and a long history of unaccounted for human rights violations coupled with allegations of egregious human rights violation at the end of Sri Lanka’s long running civil war makes it a special concern. The next CHOGM could be granted to another small developing country such as Mauritius which offered in 2009 to host CHOGM in 2011 as an alternative to Sri Lanka and is to host CHOGM in 2015. Q: What will happen if CHOGM 2013 is held in Sri Lanka? A: Endorsement of Sri Lanka as the host of 2013 CHOGM and the visit of 54 Heads of governments to the country will potentially amount to political apathy towards the human rights allegations Sri Lanka faces and may result in the condoning of such violations. The political clout Sri Lanka derives from hosting the meeting may be used to fend off all other international calls for accountability at forums such as the UN Human Rights Council. Hosting CHOGM 2013 will also allow Sri Lanka to preside over the Commonwealth as its Chair till 2015. The risks and potential consequences of having a country that has been implicated in gross human rights violations Chair the organisation outweighs bleak possibilities of positive engagement. See the full release here .

Sri Lanka increases military spending

The Sri Lankan government confirmed on Tuesday it would raise defence spending by over 5% in 2012, over 2 years since the end of the conflict. The total expenditure on military expenses in 2012 will be $2.1 billion, up from $1.92 in 2011. According to figures released in parliament, nearly half of the defence budget will be spent on maintaining the nearly 300,000 strong forces. Sri Lanka, which maintains one of the largest armies in the world, spend over 3.5% of their GDP on their military in 2010, a higher percentage spend than China’s or the United Kingdom’s. The Sri Lankan military is...

Report concludes Fox breached ministerial code

A report into the former defence secretary, Liam Fox's conduct has concluded that he did 'breach the ministerial code' and displayed a 'failure of judgment'. The report was undertaken by the cabinet secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell. In it, he writes, "Dr Fox's actions clearly constitute a breach of the ministerial code which Dr Fox has already acknowledged. This was a failure of judgment on his part for which he has taken the ultimate responsibility in resigning office." Officials at Number 10, have remarked that the report findings would have made Fox's role as secretary of defence untenable, had...

Australian police investigate Rajapakse ahead of CHOGM

The Australian Federal Police have confirmed that they are “urgently reviewing” war crimes allegations made against Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, as he prepares to visit Australia for next weeks’ Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. The investigation will also look at two other Sri Lankan officials; Sri Lanka's former naval chief and current High Commissioner to Australia Thisara Samarasinghe and dual Australian-Sri Lankan citizen Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Secretary during the final years of the war. The International Commission of Jurists, Australia (ICJA) and the...

“In the North and East, police brutality is a way of life”

Speaking to Parliament earlier this month, Tamil National Alliance MP M.A. Sumanthiran raised the issue of policing in the North-East and the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Extracts have been reproduced below: “ In the North and East, police brutality is a way of life. Public protests that have erupted all over the North and East in response to the widely believed involvement of the police and the armed forces in the ‘grease devils’ saga have been met with violent retaliation from the authorities. A number of people have died, and scores more badly injured. Some of the assaults were not only...

Private intelligence firm ‘donated money for Sri Lanka development’ – at Fox’s behest.

A key donor to Pargav Ltd, the company run by Mr. Adam Werritty, the close friend and styled advisor to UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox who resigned on Friday, said its contribution was meant for development activities in Sri Lanka. See reports by The Daily Telegraph , The Guardian , the Financial Times and the Daily Mail . G3 (or the ‘Good Governance Group’), which donated Pargav £15,000 in June 2011 , is a private intelligence company staffed by former MI6 officers, The Guardian reports. Dr. Fox visited Sri Lanka in July 2011 to deliver a public lecture. Mr. Werritty was also in the country...

Just Desserts

The resignation of British Defence Secretary Liam Fox following revelations about his unauthorised and dubious foreign policy-related activities will be welcomed by all those committed to a just and lasting peace in Sri Lanka. However the serious questions raised – once again – by last week’s media reports about Dr. Fox’s activities must also be answered. Dr. Fox resigned because, in his own words, “I mistakenly allowed the distinction between my personal interest and my government activities to become blurred.” Nowhere is this more true than in the case of Sri Lanka.

Jaffna Students: Sri Lankan Government responsible for assault

Following Monday’s attack on Mr Thavapalasingam, President of the Jaffna University Student Union (JUSU), students from the University gathered in protest against the serious assault and the continued intimidation of Tamil students in Jaffna.

Growing calls for prosecution of Sri Lankan envoy to Australia

The International Commission of Jurists, Australia (ICJA), urged the Australian government to ensure accountability and justice, i n a statement released on Monday, The president of the ICJA, John Dowd QC, called for the suspension of Sri Lankan from the Commonwealth and the prosecution of former navy commander, and current Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Australia, Thisara Samarasinghe, for alleged war crimes. Dowd said, “ Those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity at the end of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009 must not be allowed to go unpunished .” “In continuing violation of international human rights law , there are thousands of former combatants and civilians in Sri Lankan detention camps still not identified or accounted for.” “The International Commission of Jurists, Australia has furnished the Australian Federal Police with a brief of evidence that corroborates and substantiates the findings of the UN Secretary-General’s Expert Panel. Since October 2009, such evidence has been taken from witnesses in Australia and overseas." “ It is clear that Australia has an obligation to investigate and, where appropriate, to prosecute those responsible ." “Australia owes this much to the Australian citizens and residents who are victims of the Sri Lankan civil war.” " If the Commonwealth is to mean anything at all on issues like human rights, it has to look to the actions of its members. This is one of its members who's the putative next host in 2013," Former Sri Lankan navy admiral Samarasinghe was the North-East commander during 2009. Several eye witnesses statements state that naval ships fired on civilians as they fled the conflict. Australia's shadow foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, has raised concerns over whether the government knew of Samarasinghe's highly questionable past before accepting him as Sri Lanka's High Commissioner. Speaking to the Australian press, Bishop said, " The allegations against the Sri Lankan high commissioner are extremely serious. Kevin Rudd should review whether the government was aware of the allegations prior to accepting his appointment as high commissioner, and whether the government undertook any inquiries or investigations into the appointment ." Samarasinghe has refuted all allegations: "I specifically reject, totally reject such allegations. Such allegations are baseless."