India tries to charm its neighbours

Extracts from The Economist article on India's strategy in the region and China's role: Memories in Sri Lanka of India’s troubled role in the long and bitter civil war appear to be fading. Meanwhile, India, officially, does not worry about signs of its neighbour’s dalliance with China. That is despite the news last month that Chinese investors took 85% control of the project extending Colombo’s main commercial port, which handles goods traded almost entirely with India. “Sri Lanka is sensitive to the security concerns of India,” says the foreign minister, reassured. But regardless, Mr Krishna...

Sri Lanka dismisses HRW statement as 'propaganda'

The Director General of the Media Centre for National Security, Lakshman Hulugalle, dismissed the statement made by Human Rights Watch as "part of promoting pro-LTTE propaganda". Hulugalle added, “Even when the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) was established to look in to these allegations, they had a negative approach and criticised it.” HRW denounced the Sri Lankan army’s own inquiry into alleged rights violations as yet another delaying tactic, aimed at stalling international pressure and action.

NGOs call on US to estabalish international accountability mechanism at UNHRC

In a joint statement released Friday, 14 non-governmental organisation have called on the US to "press for action" at the UN Human Rights Council's March session. The organisations include, Amnesty International, Human Rights Program at The Carter Center, Citizens for Global Solutions, Democracy Coalition Project, Enough Project, Feminist Majority Foundation, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, Leadership Council for Human Rights, Open Society Foundations, Physicians for Human Rights, United to End Genocide and the U.S. Campaign...

Prices rise as Mahinda Economics unwinds

Electricity and fuel prices have shot up as Sri Lanka’s economy adjusts to the sudden drop in the value of the rupee after the Central Bank acceded to IMF pressure and abandoned – for now - its long standing policy of artificially propping up the local currency. Diesel and kerosene prices rose 36 and 49 per cent respectively whilst electricity rates for domestic consumers are to rise by 40 per cent. Bakeries are threatening to increase the price of bread , a staple - especially for the working poor. In the past two weeks the rupee has lost 5.7 per cent of its value against the US dollar. Consequently the prices of fuel and other imported commodities have risen. At the same, the Central Bank is finally signalling an end to cheap credit from Sri Lanka’s increasingly state controlled banks – another key demand of the IMF. Cheap state directed credit was an important factor in fuelling import demand - see our earlier post here . These changes will hit hard President Mahinda Rajapakse’s support base – namely the middle and lower middle class, urban and rural voters in the Sinhala majority areas. The UNP is already talking of an anti UPFA alliance with the TNA and JVP. However, economic difficulties may strengthen rather than undermine Rajapakse’s impeccable Sinhala nationalist credentials.

HRW condemns SL Army inquiry as ‘Delaying Tactic’

New York based Human Rights Watch have denounced the Sri Lankan Army’s own inquiry into alleged rights violations as a delaying tactic, attempting to ward off international pressure. “The Sri Lankan army’s announced inquiry appears to be a transparent ploy to deflect a global push for a genuine international investigation, not a sudden inspiration nearly three years after the war ,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “This inquiry, coming on the eve of a possible Sri Lanka resolution at the Human Rights Council, looks like yet another cynical and meaningless move.” HRW...

Virginia University student documents internment testimonies

After having visited Sri Lanka in January 2012, as part of a group of students from the University of Virginia’s School of Law , Calleigh McRaith has written a brief summary of testimonies that he gathered from IDPs and others interned by Sri Lanka. Focusing on IDP settlements, former LTTE members and those trapped in Sri Lanka’s prison system, McRaith concludes, “The program of rehabilitation and on-going detention without charge of surrenderees continues to breed distrust among Tamil populations in the North , and many are still struggling to rebuild their lives after they were severely disrupted by the IDP internment.” Extracts have been reproduced below. See the full piece here . "Upon arriving in the camp she and the other IDPs were placed under close surveillance while the Army questioned people and attempted to screen out LTTE members – she was subjected to a strip search and was forced to go to the bathroom in front of the Army men, as they would not allow the IDPs to leave the presence of the guards even for these private acts . She began crying while telling this part of her story, saying that she felt shame because of this degrading treatment. She said that no matter what the government did now to try to win her trust, she could not give it because of how she was treated in Menik Farm ." " Petty theft and rape of young girls, by both the Army and camp residents, remain problems even now for those still living in Menik Farm, and the current residents expressed concern that life in the camps was destroying their culture and morality. Furthermore, it was reported that when s ome members of Menik Farm met with workers from an Indian NGO to discuss the camp conditions, the drinking water in the camp was shut off for five days afterwards – with the camp authorities explicitly saying that the water was withheld as punishment for talking to the NGO. " "This internment, particularly the harsh conditions and extreme surveillance, was not justified as necessary to national security , and IDPs who were detained deserve some sort of remedy for this violation of their rights. The government should also be sharply criticized for this policy, and further investigation should be conducted into the IDPs claims that the internment was a cover for maintaining control over the Tamil population. Furthermore, some IDPs are still living in Menik Farm, and their concerns about rape in the camps and the government-created obstacles to resettlement on their lands should be addressed." " The bright vision painted by the government was a far cry from the reports I heard from people who had gone through rehabilitation. "

EU Parliament pushes for UN investigation into Sri Lankan war crimes

The European Union Parliament has agreed a resolution to continue to push the UN to establish a commission to investigate crimes committed by all sides during the military conflict in Sri Lanka, as recommended by the Panel of Experts’ report last year. The resolution, which outlined the EU’s position on the upcoming UNHRC session, also pledged EU support of efforts to strengthen accountability processes on the island. The EU requested the Sri Lankan Government to invite an UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression to the island...

Sri Lankan Army to investigate itself

The Sri Lankan Army has announced that they would commence an inquiry into “alleged civilian casualties during the final phase of the humanitarian operations”, by appointing its own five member panel of Army officers. The announcement from the Army comes just two days after the United States warned that they would support a resolution against Sri Lanka at the upcoming UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva. Human Rights Watch treated the latest move with caution with the groups Asian Director Brad Adams saying that any inquiry must be "meaningful and not just a stunt to prevent a...

Australian Tamils criticise Rudd's statement on LLRC

Tamils in Australia have expressed disappointed and concern at the Australian prime minister's response to LLRC report. In a statement, the Australasian Federation of Tamil Association (AFTA) said, "[The statement by Prime Minister Rudd] lacks either the persuasive language or open caution to Sri Lanka for its failure to address alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights". See here for full AFTA statement, The Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) said in its statement, "[it is] concerned that Mr Rudd has continued to call on Sri Lanka to investigate itself. The Tamil...

Government body to approve all song lyrics after singer distorts Buddhist hymn

The minister of cultural affairs, T.B. Ekanayake, announced that the government intends to amend the Public Performance Act, so that a body, entitled the Public Performance Board (PPB), would in future approve the lyrics and context of songs for public release. The proposals were made after a young Sinhalese singer, Gayan Perara was accused to distorting a a Buddhist hymn or Gatha, in his latest release, 'Tiken Tika'. Ven. Mahamega Pagnaratne thera of Sunethra Devi International Buddhist Centre, has reported filed a complaint with the Mirihana police force.