British MPs, highlighting the need for the new government of Sri Lanka to take concrete steps to reconcile with Tamils, called for increased pressure on Sri Lanka to cooperate with the UN inquiry into mass atrocities, whikst debating the issue of ‘ Tamils in Sri Lanka ’ at the House of Commons on Wednesday morning. Noting concerns about the new Sri Lankan government’s demeanour towards the Tamil community, and later highlighting that “ only a political solution that recognises the rights of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka, including that to self-determination, can address the root cause of the conflict ”, the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (APPGT), MP Lee Scott, said, “I am concerned, however, that the new Government of Sri Lanka have stated that they will not change the policy towards the Tamil community in Sri Lanka or demilitarise the areas in which Tamil people live. ” Mr Scott added that further pressure on Sri Lanka, through action such as “ vetoing future loans from the international Monetary Fund (IMF) ” may be an avenue to encourage change for Tamils in Sri Lanka. Expressing concern at the make-up of the new Sirisena government, Mr Scott added, “The new president was a member of the same party as his predecessor.”
Sri Lanka’s new president, Maithripala Sirisena, has promised to break from the Rajapaksa regime's rule with a 100 day plan of widely welcomed reforms that will ensure good governance, rule of law and judicial independence. However the new government is yet to address the country’s most significant issue in Sri Lanka – that of accountability and justice for wartime mass atrocities in which tens of thousands of Tamils died in the cataclysmic end of the war, and the rights abuses during and after the war.
Sri Lanka's new president, Maithiripala Sirisena, faced calls from heads of states and international rights groups to address accountability for mass atrocities committed against the Tamil people, along side calls to demilitarise the North-East and address devolution of power, as he took office on Friday. President Sirisena, who was endorsed by a coalition of parties, including the UNP, JVP, TNA and SLMC, won 51.28% (6,217,162 votes), beating incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa, who won 47.58% (5,768,090 votes).
Kumar Ponnamabalam, assassinated 5 Jan 2000. Fifteen years after Kumar Ponnambalam, a prominent human rights lawyer and leader of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) was assassinated in a busy Colombo suburb during Chandrika Kumaratunge's government, his killers have not been brought to justice. Mr Ponnambalam, who was renowned for his pro bono work in defending Tamil and Sinhala youths detained under Sri Lanka's draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act, had filed reports in important human rights cases that incriminated the Chandrika government, including the gang rape and murder of the Tamil girl, Krishanthi Kumaraswamy and mass graves in Chemmani. He was shot dead by unidentified gunman on January 5th, 2000, whilst in his car on Ramakrishna Lane, in the Tamil area of Colombo, Wellawatte.
Photograph TamilNet This week marks 9 years since the murder of five Tamils students, who were executed by Sri Lanka's Special Task Force, whilst they spent an afternoon on the beach in Trincomalee. The 'Trinco 5' case has been one of the highest profile killings in Sri Lanka to receive international attention, listed in 2014 by the then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights' report on the island as one of four ‘emblematic cases’ of the government's failure to ensure accountability.
Tamil organisations across the world called on the international community to recognise that both candidates in the Sri Lankan presidential election have rejected a United Nations investigation into mass atrocities and offered no political solution to the Tamil people. In a joint New Year message, 63 organisations pledged to work towards “dignity, freedom, justice, and peace” for the Tamil nation, adding they were hopeful the upcoming United Nations investigation into mass atrocities “will lead to accountability and remedial justice for genocide, war-crimes, and crimes against humanity committed against the Tamil people.” The statement went on to add, “As the Sinhala leaders campaign for the next Sri Lankan Presidential election scheduled for January 8th 2015, the International Community should be cognizant of the belligerent declarations by both major Sinhala candidates against the OISL investigation."
Here is our look back at 2014 and some of the year's most significant images: Tamils remember Murugathasan Varnakulasingham, who self-immolated outside the UN Human Rights Council five years ago, protesting against the international community's inaction at the genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka. 5 years since self-immolation of British Tamil in Geneva (12 Feb 2014)
Updated 23:42 GMT The Tamil nation marked Maaveerar Naal - the day of national remembrance, on Thursday, commemorating the nation's fallen heroes in events taking place across the world.
Updated 03 Jan 2015 Last month the former secretary general of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and minister of health, Maithripala Sirisena, who was also sworn in as the acting defence minister in May 2009, was announced as the common opposition candidate for the upcoming presidential elections. See our editorial: No Choice (22 Dec 2014) Sirisena and Rajapaksa embrace during Sri Lankan government celebrations on May 19 2009 Photo: lkwebnews.com Sirisena has had a busy lead in to the elections since first announcing his intention to run as the common opposition candidate against the Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa. Reaches out to BBS for support The Bodu Bala Sena, allegedly responsible for violence against ethnic communities in Sri Lanka, shortly after the announcement of Sirisena's decision to run as opposition candidate, confirmed that he had reached out to the BBS to garner their support. Immediate guarantees to protect Mahinda Rajapaksa and army from potential international war crimes prosecution Within a week of assuming the role as the common opposition candidate, Sirisena stressed that he would not allow Mahinda Rajapaksa or armed forces to be tried for war crimes. “I will not allow President Rajapaksa, his family or any member of our armed forces to be taken before any international war crimes tribunal,” Sirisena said to reporters. Coalition forming with nationalist Buddhist political parties Less than 14 days after, launching the opposition campaign, Sirisena signed an MOU with the Buddhist monk led political party, the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU). The JHU broke away from the ruling party coalition warning Rajapaksa that the Sinhalese were becoming a ' minority community ' whilst calling on the president to follow 'Buddhist teachings.' Rejections of Tamil demands based on elected TNA mandate, alongside pledges for Buddhist prominence On 02 Dec 2014, Sirisena, at an election rally, said that he rejects calls from Tamil leaders for a federal constitution that granted greater powers of autonomy to the predominantly Tamil speaking North-East. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) was elected to the Northern Provincial Council last year under a mandate calling for a federal solution that devolved powers to a merged Northern and Eastern province and acknowledged the Tamil people's right to self-determination. At the same rally Sirisena pledged further to preserve constitutional prominence given to Buddhism in any newly drafted constitution. Reiterated rejection of international inquiry into Sri Lankan atrocities At a joint election rally with the new opposition partner, the JHU, Sirisena reiterated his commitment to opposing any international investigation into Sri Lankan atrocities and prosecution of military authorities including current President Rajapaksa. Categorical rejections of all rumours alleging promises to meet 'extremist' Tamil demands Responding to rumours of the common opposition candidate party joining a pact with the ' extremist ' Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to meet Tamil demands, Sirisena rejected that any pact had been made with the TNA. Sirisena's opposition party made further rejections of the UN inquiry into Sri Lankan atrocities in an interview with the Hindu. Official Maithripala manifesto rejects international investigation into Sri Lankan atrocities Maithripala Sirisena's official manifesto , released on 19 Dec 2014, further reiterated, that "No international power will be allowed to ill-treat or touch a single citizen of this country." In response to violations of human rights allegations, Sirisena's manifesto said that such allegations would be combated by "disseminating among the learned Western society Buddhism and its vision of impermanence and denial of soul that expressed non-violence, equality and great compassion for all." Maithripala Sirisena hailed as only way to defeat foreign intervention Sri Lanka's main opposition on 23 Dec 2014, stated that only Sirisena could settle the 'crisis' faced by Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The opposition UNP blamed the current regime for "earning the wrath" of the international community. Buddhist nationalists call on army to vote Sirisena for international protection The ultra-nationalist Buddhist party, National Bhikku Front, called on the Sri Lankan army to vote for Sirisena, as the opposition candidate would never allow for an international investigation into Sri Lankan atrocities. Reminds voters of 'patriotic' assumption of defence minister role during height of war against LTTE In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Maithri assured readers he is a “patriot” saying, “I was the Minister in Charge of Defence during the last two weeks of the war in which most of the leaders of the LTTE were killed with General Fonseka at the helm of the Army.” “Prior to that I have acted as the Minister of Defence five times during the height of the war.” Whilst serving his tenure as the Minister of Health, Sirisena has been one of the more vocal SLFP politicians in past years.
MP Nick De Bois addressing the event The Chairman of the Conservative party, British government ministers and Members of Parliament voiced their support for the Tamil community in the United Kingdom and backed calls for justice for the Tamil people at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham this week.