If Sri Lanka really could be good, then why has it been so bad?

As Sri Lanka struggles to fend off a critical resolution at the UN Human Rights Commission, international pressure on Sri Lanka is coalescing on three key demands. International actors are demanding that Sri Lanka implements reforms to usher in good governance, credibly investigates and prosecutes those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity and finally meets Tamil demands for meaningful self government. While the substance of these demands is entirely reasonable and plausible, the presumption that Sri Lanka might somehow meet these expectations is not. For if Sri Lanka really was capable of such enlightened behaviour then why has its post independence history been one of relentlessly escalating ethnic antagonism and brutality, culminating in the bloodbath of May 2009? What explains the ongoing militarised repression of the Tamil speaking regions? The very need for such overt international insistence on measures that are patently necessary reveals precisely why all such pressure is futile.

UN Rapporteur criticises Sri Lanka’s national media

Speaking at the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders sharply criticised Sri Lanka’s national media for campaigning against and endangering human rights defenders on the island. Addressing the session, Margaret Sekaggya stated, "Regarding other parts of the world, I have once again been alerted that should human rights defenders in Sri Lanka seek the protection of my mandate, they, their families and colleagues may be subject to reprisals. This ongoing situation, combined with smear campaigns against defenders in...

Ruling party calls for Tamil Bishop’s arrest

One of the parties of Sri Lanka’s ruling coalition has called for the prosecution of the Bishop of Mannar, Rayappu Joseph, and 30 other members of the clergy who have signed a letter critical of the government. The JHU, a Buddhist nationalist party, accused the Bishop of sympathising with Tamil separatism, for his letter that criticised the LLRC and called on the UN Human Rights Commission to pass a resolution to put pressure on Sri Lanka. The letter reveals a growing rift along ethnic lines within the Catholic clergy on the island. "At least now, we urge the Council to act decisively in...

Tamil NGO delegates intimidated at UN Human Rights Council

Tamil NGO delegates were subject to intimidation tactics by members of the Sri Lankan delegation reported the news agency, Agence France-Presse (AFP) , on Thursday. Delegates were targeted with photography and video inside the main plenary room at the UN, and during side line event hosted by Sri Lanka. A formal complaint has been lodged with security officers, AFP reported. A Tamil delegation, including members of the British Tamil Forum (BTF), Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC), Tamil Youth Organisation UK (TYO UK) and US Tamil Political Action Council (USTPAC) were attending the 19th session of...

MSF confirm denial of access to war zone

Médecins Sans Frontières have refuted comments made by Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa that the organisation was allowed access in the final war zone in 2009, stating that despite repeated reuqests, access was denied. Following comments made by the Defence Secretary to the Deccan Chronicle , MSF stated that in September 2008 they were issued a government directive asking them and other international organisations to leave Kilinochchi. They went on to state, "Permission was sought from numerous ministries, including the Ministries of Health as well as Defense, but at no point...

UN panel of experts urge UNHRC to take action

Writing in the New York Times, the panel of experts appointed by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon to examine the final stages of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka - Marzuki Darusman, the former attorney-general of Indonesia, Steven Ratner, a professor of law at the University of Michigan, and Yasmin Sooka, the executive director of the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa - urged the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council to ensure that "Sri Lanka fulfills its responsibilities to all its people and to the rest of the world". See here for text in full, extracts reproduced below...

Canadian Lawyers' rights NGO urges action at UNHRC

Addressing the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council, Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada (LRWC), an NGO that advocates the rights of human rights activists internationally, highlighted Sri Lanka's failure to make meaningful progress on peace and reconciliation, whilst increasing its intimidation and harrassment of those campaigning for human rights. See here for full statement, including LRWC's concerns regarding the situation in Syria. Extracts reproduced below: "Since winning the war in 2009, Sri Lanka has failed in attaining peace ." " Sri Lanka has enjoyed the support of this Council. Sri...

US says 'time slipping away' for Sri Lanka

The US Under Secretary of State, Maria Otero, warned Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of the LLRC without delay. Speaking at the 19th UN Human Rights Session on Friday, Otero said that there can be no lasting peace without reconciliaton and accountability. The Under Secretary reiterated the need for action at this session to 'sow the seeds of lasting peace'. Full comment on Sri Lanka by Maria Otero: "We know from experience that there can be no lasting peace without reconciliation and accountability, but the United States is concerned that, in Sri Lanka, time is slipping away. "The...

Jaffna uni students call on TNA to represent the people

Condemning the TNA's boycott of the 19th UN Human Rights Council session currently underway in Geneva, the Jaffna University Students Union (JUSU), called on the TNA to represent the views of the people they were elected to represent. In a statement published Thursday, the JUSU urged the TNA to bring the aspirations of the Tamils to a global forum. See here for letter in full. The TNA's Suresh Premachandran said the decision to boycott did not reflect the overall stance of the TNA, but that of certain individuals, reported Tamilnet.

Reporters Sans Frontières urge UNHRC to condemn violation of press freedom

Reporters San Frontieres called on member states at the 19th UN Human Rights Council to pass a resolution condemning the Sri Lankan government's "violations of freedom of information and to demand an end to threats and violence against news media and human rights defenders in Sri Lanka". In a statement released Tuesday, RSF condemned the Distributed Denial of Service Attacks (DDoS) on Tamilnet.com , as well as a number of Sri Lankan news organisations. RSF said: “For more than a year we have been seeing new forms of censorship and a deterioration in journalists’ ability to work although the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) officially ended in 2009,” “Rather than wait until the Universal Periodic Review to make recommendations, the Human Rights Council’s members should adopt a resolution now urging the government to take measures to improve freedom of information.

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