'Buddhism & Violence' - academics discuss Sri Lanka and Burma

Discussing 'Buddhism & Violence' in a recent episode of the BBC Radio 4 program 'Beyond Belief', academics and human rights activists discussed the nature of Buddhist violence, including the texts used the justify war in the defence of Buddhism, in Sri Lanka and Burma. See here (first broadcast on 19th August 2013). Guests included Michael Jerryson, an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies in Youngstown State University in Ohio and co-author of the book 'Buddhist warfare', and Rupert Gethin, professor of Buddhist Studies in the University of Bristol and author of the 'Foundation of Buddhism'. Outlining the two main streams of Buddhism, Rupert Gethin explained: "Theravada Buddhism is a form of Buddhism that takes as its authority of set of texts written in Paali, which go back many many centuries to two millennia. This is the kind of Buddhism that is followed by Buddhists in Sri Lanka, South East, Thailand, Cambodia and Lao. Mahayana Buddhism which is the other main stream of Buddhism, to simplify things, is the kind of Buddhism followed in Tibet and China. They have scriptures that correspond in some way to the Pali cannon but they also have additional texts that they take as authoritative." Discussing the use of Buddhist scriptures to justify violence, which on the surface appears diametrically opposed to Buddhist teachings of non-violence, Michael Jerryson said, "There are texts that have been used in recent years to justify violence." "For example there are texts, the Buddha once spoke with a mercenary. The mercenary asked the Buddha for example, 'Look I'm not an aahat [enlightened being], I'm not enlightened, what I'm doing though is my job, will I have repurcussions for it?' And the Buddha said 'yes, you'll have repurcussions for it. Not for the act of killing, but for holding debase thoughts and bad intentions whilst doing the killing'. This text has been used sometimes, by for example by Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka right now, by Buddhist monks in Thailand, to give sermons to soldiers to cool their minds, in order for them to clear thoughts whilst doing the killing."

Despite end of conflict, SL heading in an 'increasingly authoritarian direction' - Navi Pillay

Addressing press in Colombo at the end of her seven day visit to Sri Lanka and the North-East, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay said, "I am deeply concerned that Sri Lanka, despite the opportunity provided by the end of the war to construct a new vibrant, all-embracing state, is showing signs of heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction ," In an far reaching statement, which will be followed by an oral report at the UN Human Rights Council during the September session, Pillay began by saying: " It is important everyone realizes that, although the fighting is over, the suffering is not ." In what she described as a " disturbing aspect of the visit ", Pillay described " the harassment and intimidation of a number of human rights defenders, at least two priests, journalists, and many ordinary citizens " who had planned to meet, or met with her. She said that she had "received reports that people in villages and settlements in the Mullaitivu area were visited by police or military officers both before and after I arrived there" whilst in Trincomalee "several people I met were subsequently questioned about the content of our conversation. " Condemning this as " utterly unacceptable at any time ", Pillay commented, " it is particularly extraordinary for such treatment to be meted out during a visit by a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights ," and stated that " th is type of surveillance and harassment appears to be getting worse in Sri Lanka ." Expressing concern over the " degree to which the military appears to be putting down roots and becoming involved in what should be civilian activities, for instance education, agriculture and even tourism ", Pillay highlighted the reports of land grab in order to build military camps and installations. Calling on the government to "speed up its efforts to demilitarize" the Northern and Eastern provinces, Pillay said " the continued large-scale presence of the military and other security forces is seen by many as oppressive and intrusive, with the continuing high level of surveillance of former combatants and returnees at times verging on harassment ." She also drew attention to the " vulnerability of women and girls, especially in female-headed households, to sexual harassment and abuse ", on-going detention of Tamils under the Prevention of Terrorism Act suggesting a repeal of the PTA , and the "urgent need" to resolve the issue of disappearances .

Reliving Black July 1983

As Eelam Tamils around the world mark thirty years from the horrors of the anti-Tamil pogrom of 1983, we remember the events of that infamous month of 'Black July' via a collection of excerpts from international newspapers published at the time... As well as news stories from the last two years...

30 years on from Black July 1983

Editorial and feature marking 30th anniversary of the anti-Tamil pogrom of Black July.

'Matter for humanity that justice is done' - interview with Callum Macrae

Tamil Guardian's correspondent based in Toronto, Canada, caught up with the director of the documentaries 'Sri Lanka's Killing Fields' and ' No Fire Zone - the killing fields of Sri Lanka ', Callum Macrae, at the sidelines of FETNA 2013 , to find out how he viewed Sri Lanka's reaction to the documentaries, himself and others who are speaking out against the massacre of tens of thousands of Tamils. TAMIL GUARDIAN : On Wednesday July 3rd a screening of ‘No Fire Zone’ at the Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall organised by the Malaysian human rights organisation, Pusat Komas, was raided...

Protesters disrupt Sri Lanka's last match with pitch invasions

Photograph from uktamilnews.com Tamil protesters brought the Champions Trophy semi-final India vs Sri Lanka to a halt yesterday after the pitch was invaded on two occasions by protesters carrying Tamil Eelam flags and placards. Photograph NDTV Sports The first protester ran on, carrying a placard reading '40,000 Commonwealth Citizens massacred by Rajapaksa' with a Tamil Eelam flag draped around his shoulders, and dodged stewards for quite some time before he was rugby tackled to the floor. Later in the afternoon, up to 6 protesters carrying the Tamil Eelam flag invaded the pitch, suspending play once again. The pitch invasions took place as hundreds of Tamils joined activists from the 'Boycott Sri Lankan Cricket' campaign to stage a demonstration outside Swalec stadium in Cardiff calling on countries to suspend sporting ties with Sri Lanka, and support a call for an international, independent investigation into the mass atrocities of 2009.

The nation remembers four years on

Coverage of remembrance events worldwide. Photograph - Tamils in the USA light flames of remembrance

Sri Lanka faces another resolution at UNHRC

Sri Lanka seethes at the UN Human Rights Council's adoption of another resolution. (Updated 25/03/2013). Photograph Jean-Marc Ferré - UN. Results of the voting on UN HRC resolution entitled 'Promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka'.

British Parliament debates ‘Justice for Tamils’

The British House of Commons held an adjournment debate on the subject of “Justice for Tamils” last week, where the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Tamils urged the British government to push for an international investigation into allegations of war crimes. Speaking at the House of Commons last week, MP Lee Scott also called for a strengthening of the proposed UNHRC resolution, “to send a clear message to the Sri Lankan Government”. The resolution was passed the next day with 25 member states voting in favour of the resolution, 13 against and 8 abstaining. In response, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Alistair Burt, said, “All international resolutions of this kind are composites, and are put together in a manner designed to create the greatest possible support for them. That sometimes means a degree of compromise on language. The United Kingdom felt that the most important thing was that the demonstration of a significant number of countries with concern about Sri Lanka was better than having a motion that some might have felt unable to support. We wanted to give a clear indication, as we gave last year, of the importance of these issues to many nations, which is why the resolution is drafted in the terms it is. We think it is still firm and meaningful.” “The text reflects widespread concern that, in simple terms, the Sri Lankan Government, having won a brutal war, are not winning the peace.” Burt faced serious criticism from Diaspora groups after recording a video interview on the beaches of Mullivaikkal, where tens of thousands of Tamils were massacred in the final few days of the armed conflict in 2009. The Minister was also slammed after visiting Vanni earlier this year, accompanied by a heavy Sri Lankan security presence, who recorded Tamil civilians talking to the Minister. Burt responded, "When I was in Sri Lanka, in the northern area, it was noted that I was not alone. I was accompanied not only by UK officials and officials from the high commission, but by a significant military presence, some uniformed and some non-uniformed. It is not uncommon for a Minister visiting someone else’s country to be protected and supported by the military in those areas, and I raise no issue about that. I felt safe, and it was only appropriate for the Government to do that. However, the extent of military involvement was noticed by others, who were keen to pick out the non-uniformed individuals who were there, which raises a significant matter."