Armitage and Solheim on Sri Lanka's conduct, war crimes and the Tamil question

Expressing dismay at the “ chauvinistic attitude ” of the Sri Lankan state, former US Deputy Secretary of State said on Friday the international community was united in its criticism of Sri Lanka’s conduct in the north and east and that President Mahinda Rajapaksa would not be welcomed internationally unless conditions there improved. Speaking alongside Mr. Armitage at the launch of the Norwegian evaluation of Oslo’s peace process in Sri Lanka, and echoing his message, Norwegian minister for Environment and International Development, and former peace envoy, Erik Solheim also said the question of accountability for the mass killings of civilians in last phase of the war “will not go away ”, and that “ the only way the Sri Lankan state can reduce the impact of this is to reach out to Tamils and find a way of resolving the Tamil issue .” They were speaking in Oslo at the formal launch of the evaluation report on Norway’s protracted peace role in Sri Lanka, at which the question of Sri Lanka’s future was also discussed. Mr Armitage told the audience, “ I don’t think anyone disagrees that the Tamil people have been mistreated and are continuing to lack – across the board – fundamental freedoms, dignity , etc,” “Much to my dismay the government of Sri Lanka is still caught up in a chauvinistic attitude ,” “ I don’t think they’ve been far sighted enough in their approach to the north and east. There has been a somewhat lessening of violence there, somewhat lessening of the abductions and things of this nature, but not sufficient .” “From the US point of view we are quite dismayed at the lack of progress in human freedoms, human rights , etc, and I made that view known [to President Rajapaksa ].” “But what to do about it is the question." "[Firstly] the international community is generally coalesced around the fact that the north and the east particularly need protections , and the government of Sri Lanka has to move in that direction. … That is the united message the international community gives .

TNA delegation in Washington

A delegation of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) comprising parliamentarians (l-r) Suresh Premachandran, M.A. Sumanthiran, Rajavarothayam Sampanthan and Maavai Senathirajah held two days of talks with US State Department officials and US Congresspersons this week. Photo TamilNet.

Australian detention centre suicide sparks outrage

A 27-year old Tamil man died last night after committing suicide in Sydney's Villawood detention centre, drawing the ire of many refugee advocacy groups who blame the Australian immigration system. The man was deemed to be a genuine refugee and was awaiting security clearance from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). He had been held in detention by Australian authorities for over 2 years after fleeing Sri Lanka, first at Christmas Island before being transferred to Villawood. Australia's Immigration Minister Chris Bowen confirmed that the man had recently requested to leave the centre to visit friends for the Hindu festival of Deepavali. The request was denied yesterday. The young man was found dead in his room at approximately 3am after a suspected overdose of sleeping tablets. It marks the sixth suicide of a refugee in Australian detention since last year, with four of them having occured at Villawood. The death has led to anger from many refugee advocacy groups who blame government policies of mandatory detention of having a profound detrimental effect on the lives of genuine refugees. Ian Rintoul, spokesman for Refugee Action Coalition told reporters, "How many more lives will it take before the government acts to end mandatory detention? "How absolutely tragic, but how telling, that an accepted refugee could feel despair enough to take their own life in a detention centre."

'Liam Fox is gone, Sri Lanka’s lost a friend'

From UK media on the resignation Friday of UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox: " Even though [Dr. Fox] has resigned, there are questions yet to be answered about his links to the Sri Lankan government . We have to make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen again." - Emma Reynolds MP (Labour) "For Britain's Defence Secretary to have repeatedly visited Sri Lanka, at the regime's expense, and in the company of Werritty, a known lobbyist, sends completely the wrong signal about the need to investigate atrocities which took place there." - Alan Keenan , International Crisis Group See their comments to...

Fox resigns, but the questions remain

Following days of revelations, the British defence secretary Liam Fox resigned, admitting he had allowed the line between personal and government interests to "become blurred". Questions regarding the defence and military support extended to the Sri Lankan government during the Fox-Werritty era remain unanswered however.

US hails dramatic change in Burma as Kachin complain of atrocities

Recent developments in Burma have been cautiously welcomed by western diplomats, while NGO’s accuse the Burmese government of war crimes. Burma has seen a shift in policy since the first elections in 20 years and the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in November last year. Talks between the Nobel Peace laureate and the government are thought to be behind positive steps taken by the government to address concerns of the Burmese population.

Fox, a friend and the Sri Lanka connection

British Defence Secretary Liam Fox (l) has long been a supporter of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, especially after accusations of mass killings by the latter's regime. Dr Fox is at the centre of a political storm in Britain over his working relationship with a close friend, Mr. Adam Werritty (pictured at the back (circled) on a visit to Sri Lanka in July) .

Mahinda Economics

Sri Lanka’s trade, currency and debt quandary The International Monetary Fund suspended its programme of supplying Colombo with credit in exchange for reform on Monday after Sri Lanka refused to follow advice and abandon a policy of actively intervening in foreign exchange markets to support the value of the Rupee. Earlier this month Brian Aitken, the IMF’s head of mission in Colombo, warned that Sri Lanka’s policy of selling dollars to maintain the value of the rupee “does not seem to be in line with the fundamentals in the economy”’ and that the policy was rapidly depleting foreign currency reserves. He pointed out that Colombo’s “non-borrowed reserves.. have steadily declined, reflecting foreign exchange sales by the central bank.”

Advancing U.S. Interests at the United Nations

The White House has released a document outlining US policy at the United Nations. The Obama Administration hails the current “era of engagement” as successful in advancing US foreign policy objectives. The US claims “concrete results” at the UN are due to US leadership, including the stiffest sanctions against Iran and North Korea, the mandate to intervene in Libya, the independence of South Sudan and initial progress in “improving the flawed UN Human Rights Council”.

British MPs turn up the heat on Sri Lanka

In a debate held Thursday in the British House of Commons, several British MPs once again called for a full international investigation into war crimes in Sri Lanka, stating that Britain must take the lead in pushing for accountability. MPs from across the political spectrum united in expressing concern at the Sri Lankan government’s conduct since the end of the war. Robert Halfon, MP for Harlow, stated, “We must be clear about the fact that Sri Lanka is a rogue nation. It has carried out genocide against the Tamil people, and we must do all that we can to stop the persecution of the Tamils once and for all.” He further elaborated that, “We must make a distinction between murder and genocide— genocide is scientific, organised killing ”. Watch the full debate on the BBC below. Siobhain Mcdonagh, MP for Mitcham and Morden also said, “ Britain must take a brave and principled lead —just as we did in Kosovo and, with France, in Libya—and do all that it can to ensure that a full independent international investigation of war crimes takes place. Those of us who believe in justice want the people responsible to be held to account, just as all of us would agree about Colonel Gaddafi, Radovan Karadzic and Charles Taylor. We cannot allow the international community to slip back to the cosy days of 2009, when the UN disgracefully ignored calls for a war crimes investigation, or when the Secretary-General spoke of Sri Lanka’s ‘tremendous efforts’.” Read the Hansard transcripts here . Requested by MPs Lee Scott and Steve Baker, the debate tackled the issue of “Human Rights in the Indian Subcontinent”, looking in particular at human rights abuses in Kashmir and Sri Lanka. Concluding the debate, Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Alistair Burt said, “The allegations of war crimes and other human rights violations committed by both sides in the military conflict are of great concern to us. The UK has consistently made its position clear: Sri Lanka needs to address accountability through an independent, thorough and credible process that meets international standards and allows the people of Sri Lanka to move towards reconciliation and lasting peace and security.” Excerpts from the debate have been reproduced below.