Ezhuka Tamil – A Conversation about Democracy

Dharsha Jegatheeswaran and Gajen Mahendra On Saturday September 24th, Ezhuka Tamil, organized by the Tamil People’s Council, became the largest rally to happen since the end of the war in the North-East of Sri Lanka. Over 10,000 people took to the streets to demand an end to ongoing human rights violations, particularly militarization and Sinhala-Buddhisization of the North-East, reiterate their demand for genuine accountability and justice and voice their expectations regarding the ongoing political processes. The political elite in Colombo and their supporters elsewhere have however chosen...

Ezhuga Tamil is ‘expression of frustration at Sinhala hegemony’

The Ezhuga Tamil rally which drew thousands of Tamils in Jaffna last week, is “the expression of Tamil frustration witnessing the bases of their political power being compromised in favour of perpetuating Sinhala hegemony,” said exiled journalist J S Tissainayagam in the Asian Correspondent this week. “In its list of demands, the ‘Eluga Thamil’ (Tamils Arise!) rally in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, on Sept 24 included phrases that form the bedrock of Tamil nationalism – ‘Tamil nation,’ ‘sovereignty’ and the ‘right to self-determination’,” he wrote, adding that the present Sri Lankan government’s pledges...

‘Encouragement and pressure’ needed to sustain transformation in Sri Lanka

UN member states and Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon must ensure the Sri Lankan government feels the “right combination of encouragement and pressure needed to deepen and sustain the potentially historic transformation,” said Alan Keenan in a piece for Inside Story. “UN agencies are actively supporting the Sirisena government’s reform agenda, but government efforts have been under-resourced and weakened by mixed messages and confused lines of authority,” said Mr Keenan, senior Sri Lankan analyst at the ICG. “Clear direction from the president and from prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has...

Sri Lankan justice has no place for ‘accountable amnesties’ - HRW

The proposal by a Sri Lankan presidential commission for “accountable amnesties” for those guilty of violating international humanitarian law is “not a real way forward” said James Ross, Legal and Policy Director at Human Rights Watch. Mr Ross said the idea of “accountable amnesties” for such grave crimes was an oxymoron, as he criticised the commission’s recommendations of running contrary to an earlier UN Human Rights Council resolution, co-sponsored by Sri Lanka. “Were the Sri Lankan government to adopt this approach, a military commander or government official may be able to buy their way...

USAF strengthens historic American ties to Jaffna - Atul Keshap

US Ambasador to Sri Lanka Atul Keshap writes on his country's deep connections with Jaffna, ahead of the US Air Force’s Operation Pacific Angel visit to the the region. The first American missionaries arrived in Jaffna in 1813, when the Rev. Samuel Newell founded the first American schools in Thellipalai. Those schools were the first of hundreds of schools and medical centers that provided for the people of northern Sri Lanka. Continuing this deep connection between our two nations, this week Jaffna is welcoming the U.S. Air Force’s Operation Pacific Angel, which will renovate schools and provide medical services for nearby communities.

A long way in a short time, but more needs to be done - Hugo Swire

Writing in the Tamil Guardian today, the UK Minister of State for Asia, Hugo Swire recognised progress made by the Sri Lankan government but said "much more remains to be done" in the country. Expressing agreement with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights' oral update on Sri Lanka, Mr Swire highlighted the need for further land releases, repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and the development of credible justice processes, in consultation with victims and families in Sri Lanka and the diaspora. The full text of Mr Swire's op-ed follows: A long way in a short time, but more needs to be done Sri Lanka has come a long way since President Sirisena’s election in January 2015. I have been struck by the progress made. No one should underestimate the challenge of dealing with the legacy of a 30 year conflict. Sri Lanka is in a far better place now than even the most optimistic could have imagined, only 18 months ago. Yet much remains to be done.

"Sri Lanka wants the world to forget about justice for war victims. Please don't" - Guardian

"With the Sri Lankan government winding back commitments to reconciliation and justice measures, it’s up to the international community to hold them to account," writes Tamil activist Nirmanusan Balasundaram in the Guardian. "For Tamil war victims and survivors, the statements by the Sri Lankan president and prime minister are indeed disheartening. Apart from a few symbolic returns of occupied Tamil lands and the release of some political prisoners, unsurprisingly, there have been no constructive actions to address wartime accountability or end the culture of impunity." Read the full article...

‘Blaming Rajapaksa demons for lack of progress is a false pretence’ – GTF spokesperson

The Sri Lankan government cannot continue to blame members of the former regime for the lack of progress in furthering accountability said the Global Tamil Forum’s spokesperson Suren Surendiran, in a piece published in Colombo Telegraph on Saturday. “Barely four months since [the] Government of Sri Lanka internationally committing by co-sponsoring Resolution A/HRC/30/L.29 in Geneva, the U-turn came in spectacular fashion from the highest authority in the country, the President himself,” said Mr Surendiran. “As if there wasn’t enough trust deficit between communities in Sri Lanka, this major let down, haemorrhaged the trust of Tamils in the new President and in his new coalition government.”

Sri Lanka: Broken Promises again at the UN? - JS Tissainayagam

The international community should insist on course correction by Colombo through strong statements and continued monitoring after the high commissioner submits his final report in March 2017, writes JS Tissainayagam in the Asian Correspndent. Highlighting several instances of Sri Lanka reneging on its commitments to the United Nations Human Rights Cuncil JS Tissainayagam warns that “There is no doubt that this year too Sri Lanka’s UN delegation will embellish the sordid performance of its government with conciliatory words and artful phrases.” Full opinion produced below.

UN Human Rights Council should press Sri Lanka on international participation – Alan Keenan

Members of the UN Human Rights Council and the UN Human Rights Chief “should press the (Sri Lankan) government to follow through on its commitment to meaningful forms of international participation on the proposed special court for war crimes,” said the International Crisis Group's Sri Lanka Senior Analyst Alan Keenan. In a piece entitled “Impunity and Justice: Why the UN Human Rights Council Must Stay Engaged in Sri Lanka” Mr Keenan stated that despite committing to a UN resolution last year, “Sri Lanka today is not yet the success story that many in the international community claim it to be”. “Progress on implementing the Council resolution has been slow and often grudging, and there are growing doubts about the government’s political will and ability to see the complex process through,” he added. “For Sri Lanka to stay on the path toward recovery, it needs sustained international support and engagement.” Since the UN resolution was passed in September, Sri Lankan leaders have repeatedly backtracked from commitments made, in particular the inclusion of foreign judges in an accountability mechanism for mass atrocities. Mr Keenan noted that “under domestic pressure, the president and prime minister backed away from promises to the UN and announced there will be no foreign judges”. “Given the decades-long failures of government commissions and judicial processes, international participation is essential to the credibility and effectiveness of the special court,” he continued.