Samantha Power, Sri Lanka and another opportunity

US President Joe Biden announced that Samantha Power, the former ambassador to the United Nations who has visited Sri Lanka on at least three occasions, will be his pick to lead the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in a bid to confront “climate change, global poverty and democratic backsliding”. Under the Obama administration, she served as a White House national security staffer from 2009 to 2013, before going on to become the US ambassador to the UN until 2017. During her tenure, however, she came under both praise and criticism, particularly for the way in which the administration handled Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka’s frenzied response to UN report

The Sri Lankan government lambasted a report from the United Nations human rights chief last week, as it sent a response which defended accused war criminals, denied reports of rights abuses and slammed accusations of ongoing discrimination. In an almost 20-page response sent to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, a draft version of which has been seen by the Tamil Guardian , the Sri Lankan government called her report “speculative, presumptive and unsubstantiated opinions”. The response was sent to the United Nations on Wednesday, just hours before it was publicly released, following...

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau commends Tamil Frontline workers at virtual Thai Pongal Event

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, alongside the Federal Liberal Caucus, held a virtual Thai Pongal and Tamil Heritage month celebration, showing their gratitude for Tamil frontline and essential workers on Thursday. The Facebook live event included a joint speech from several Canadian MPs, dance and singing performances and a sombre moment of silence for the lives lost due to COVID-19. The event’s host, Radheyan Simonpillai, highlighted that Tamil Canadians are highly represented on the frontlines, from doctors and nurses to working in restaurants and public services. “The flip side to...

UN report warns of ‘seeds of future violence’ in Sri Lanka

A report by the United Nations human rights chief warns of the “seeds of future violence and conflict” in Sri Lanka, as she called for member states to consider “asset freezes and travel bans” on Sri Lankan officials accused of human rights abuses.

Victoria Nuland on Sri Lanka, accountability and justice

As US President Joe Biden looks to take up duties this week, Victoria Nuland is set to serve as his Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs – a figure who in her previous role as State Department spokesperson commented extensively on Sri Lanka and calls for an internationalised accountability process. Nuland is set to become the State Department’s third highest ranking official, serving under Antony Blinken and Wendy Sherman, both of whom have also commented on Sri Lanka in the past. Read more: Antony Blinken and Sri Lanka – A look at the new US Secretary of State A familiar face...

Sri Lankan minister leads Buddhist landgrab of Tamil temple

Vidura Wickramanayaka, Sri Lanka's state minister for 'national heritage', accompanied by army soldiers and archaeology department officers, led an event on Monday at Kurunthoormalai in which a new Buddha statue was placed and consecrated at the site of the Athi Aiyanar temple. The temple site, on a hilltop in the Kumulamunai area of Mullaitivu, has been the target of intense landgrab efforts by Sinhala Buddhist monks, met with fierce resistance from locals which in 2018 led to a court order decreeing that no changes could be made to the site. The court also stated that the archaeology department had abused its power in allowing Buddhist monks to survey the area. While Tamils have been resisting several attempts at landgrabs and Sinhalisation across the North-East, and particularly in Mullaitivu, fronted by state agencies such as the archaeology department and forest department, the minister's presence in Monday's landgrab represents the first time the Sri Lankan government has openly demonstrated its involvement in the colonisation.

Wendy Sherman - A familiar face tipped for US Deputy Secretary of State 

Wendy Sherman, a former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and a lead negotiator on the US-Iran nuclear deal, has been widely reported to have been appointed as the next United States Deputy Secretary of State. The situation in Sri Lanka and Tamil politics will not be entirely unfamiliar to Sherman, as she looks to take up the role later this month. In 2011, Sherman met with a Tamil National Alliance (TNA) delegation made up of R Sampanthan, Mavai Senathirajah, Suresh Premachandran and M A Sumanthiran, as it visited Washington on the invitation of the US State Department.

Tamil parties unite behind call for Sri Lanka to face international accountability

In an unprecedented show of unity, major Tamil political leaders, Tamil civil society actors and Tamil victim community representatives have signed a statement declaring that there is "no scope" for a domestic accountability mechanism within Sri Lanka and jointly called for an international accountability process, including a referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The joint statement, which was released ahead of a United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session in March, calls for member states to pass a "final resolution" on Sri Lanka that "must declare that Sri Lanka has...

Remembering Major Sothiya

Today marks 31 years since the passing of Major Sothiya, the commander of the LTTE's first female unit. Maria Vasanthi Michael, known by her nomme de guerre ‘Sothiya’, was born on 20 September 1963. She first joined the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 1984. A formidable fighter, Sothiya took part in many battles, as female cadres began to take part in combat operations from 1986 onwards.

Jaffna University VC promises rebuilding of destroyed Mullivaikkal memorial monument

The Jaffna University Vice Chancellor has given assurances that the destroyed Mullivaikkal memorial monument will be rebuilt “with proper approval” in its previous place and placed a foundation stone today morning, to symbolise that he has “accepted the demands” of the students. Vice Chancellor (VC), Sivakolundu Srisatkunarajah, met the students who were carrying out a hunger strike in front of Jaffna university, at 3am today and promised to start the process of rebuilding the Mullivaikkal memorial at its original location. He gave each of the students protesting a cup of Kanji (porridge) to...

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