Thursday, September 17, 2009

JDS responds to false accusations!

The Sri Lankan government, instead of facing the evidence of the video clip incriminating its Armed forces and taking action to find the guilty, has started an action against the Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) - to shoot the messenger rather - than examine the evidence. And, now the Sri Lankan government and its various fellow travellers have gone one step further and launched a venomous vilification campaign against other people and organisations that are not party to actions of the JDS.

Because of real danger caused by the continuous stream of articles in the Sinhala press in Sri Lanka to individuals in the INSD (International Network of Sri Lankan Diaspora) we want to clarify that the JDS, on its formation, had requested the INSD to allow us to temporarily use their Berlin mailing address as a 'care of' address for our post - until we secured our own facilities. This they kindly allowed. There is no other relationship between the two organizations.

Executive Committee
Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka


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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sri Lanka's released refugees moved to new camps

By M.S. Krishantha - At least half the 10,000 war refugees the Sri Lankan government said it sent home last week are still being held in transfer camps in their home districts, refugees and the government said on Thursday.

Also on Thursday, the U.N.'s top political official toured several camps including Menik Farm, the largest in Sri Lanka. Most of the 265,000 people who fled fighting at the end of Sri Lanka's quarter-century civil war are being held there.

Lynn Pascoe, head of the U.N. political affairs department, was on the Indian Ocean island to meet with government officials and raise the world body's concern that refugees were not being returned home swiftly enough.

Pascoe saw mine-clearing and rehabilitation work in the northwestern area of Mannar, where some of the first refugees were returned.

"I also met with people in the camps who want to leave and return to their homes, but cannot do so, and are understandably growing impatient and anxious about their future," Pascoe said in a statement.

Last week the government said it had sent home nearly 10,000 war refugees from Menik Farm, located near the town of Vavuniya, to their homes in the eastern districts of Batticaloa and Trincomalee and the northern district of Jaffna. [ID:nCOL445684]

"I'm disappointed to have left Vavuniya thinking that we can go home," M. Shivanandan, 49, said from a government school in Tricomalee where he and 320 others are being held.

A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said about 45 percent of the 10,000 moved from Menik Farm last week had been sent home.

Human Rights and Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe confirmed some of them were still in transfer camps.

"They will be sent home soon, in a few days or weeks. There were rumours of them being kept for six months, which are total rubbish," Samarasinghe told Reuters.

The minister said he discussed the matter with U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres on Wednesday.

Trincomalee District Government Agent Maj-Gen. T.P.R. de Silva told Reuters on Saturday by telephone that transferred refugees must be locally registered before they can be sent home.

Transferred refugees complained of a lack of services in the camps, which has been a steady refrain from refugees, rights groups and Tamil activists.

Over 280,000 people were displaced in the final stage of the war against the Tamil Tiger separatists. The Tigers held many of them by force as a human shield as a military juggernaut marched on the rebels and finally destroyed them.

The government has said it has released 15,000 refugees since the end of the war in mid-May. United Nations data says nearly 12,000 have been sent home, about half of them elderly refugees released either to rest homes or the care of relatives.

Sri Lanka has pledged to resettle 80 percent of the people by the end of the year, but says it must clear thousands of landmines and weed out Tamil Tiger fighters hiding among the civilians before it can do so.

© Reuters

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

UN envoy touring Sri Lanka camps

A top UN envoy is touring camps holding hundreds of thousands of displaced Tamils in northern Sri Lanka.

Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe has visited the camps in Jaffna and is now heading to the biggest camp, Menik Farm.

Mr Pascoe is in Sri Lanka for talks with the government on the post-conflict situation in the country.

He is expected to press the government to speed up the release of about 300,000 Tamils currently held in camps.

Earlier, he said he would also urge the government to address allegations of human rights abuses during the fighting.

Sri Lanka's civil war came to an end earlier this year after government forces defeated Tamil Tiger rebels.

Mr Pascoe is scheduled to meet the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse on Friday.

UN officials say Mr Pascoe will be holding talks on critical issues related to the aftermath of the armed conflict.

The BBC's Charles Haviland in Colombo says there are issues of great sensitivity.

One is the resettlement of the Tamil internal refugees, most of whom are still not allowed to leave government-run camps in the north.

Although the authorities are gradually letting some return to their villages, the UN wants to see faster progress.

Aid agencies have also been warning that shelters may not easily withstand the monsoon.

Another sensitive area is setting up what the UN calls a mechanism of accountability, for alleged human rights violations in the context of the conflict.

Mr Pascoe will also have talks on political reconciliation.


Related Links:
Top UN official in Sri Lanka to push for rights probe - AFP

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tamil medic describes camp conditions

British medic Damilvany Gnanakumar, detained for four months in one of Sri Lanka's Tamil internment camps, describes to Jonathan Miller the bleakness of the conditions she found there.

A senior UN official has arrived in Sri Lanka to put pressure on the government over the detention of tens of thousands of Tamil refugees in camps following the 25-year civil war.

The Sri Lankan government says it need to weed out Tamil Tiger fighters at the camps before most of the inmates can be released.

Our foreign affairs correspondent Jonathan Miller has talked to a British Tamil who knows how bleak conditions are in the camps, after being detained in one of them for four months.

"Dead bodies everywhere," recalls Damilvany Gnanakumar. "Wherever you turn round, it's dead bodies."

She estimates that 20,000 civilians may have died in the final five-day onslaught by Sri Lankan government forces - a figure also cited by some relief agencies, but one dismissed as unsubstantiated by Sri Lanka.

And she says many people inside the camps are dismayed that the world has done so little to help. "After all this happened, they lost their trust... They don't feel safe to speak out.

"They don't trust the international (community) now because they think OK, all this happened - nothing happened, the international (community) didn't come and help us."

© Channel 4

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sri Lanka ceramics industry threatened by loss of EU trade concessions

Sri Lankan ceramic product exporters said they stand to lose heavily if duty free access to European Union markets is withdrawn, due to human rights concerns.

Sri Lanka Ceramics Council president Dayasiri Warnakulasooriya said exports would become uncompetitive as duties of 2.5 - 8.5 percent would have to be paid by buyers if the GSP Plus trade concession is withdrawn.

Exporters are struggling owing to demands for discounts and falling orders because of global recession and intensifying competition from cheaper Asian export nations, he told a news conference.

The EU said earlier this year that it had temporarily extended the GSP Plus scheme to Sri Lanka while it reviews the island's eligibility for the concession.

The EU has expressed concern over alleged human rights abuses by Sri Lankan government forces in the war against Tamil Tiger separatist rebels who were defeated in May 2009.

Sri Lanka maintains the government and industry complies with all GSP Plus eligibility criteria, including labour standards, and has refused to allow a probe by the EU on alleged human rights abuses.

Sunil Wijesinha, a former ceramic council president and chairman of tableware exporter Dankotuwa Porcelain, said the industry was appealing to the EU not to withdraw the GSP Plus trade concession.

"We're not lobbying the government whose position has been clear that it will not compromise the country's sovereignty. We're appealing to the EU."

Warnakulasooriya said the industry exported about 745 million rupees worth of ceramic products to EU markets in the last six months.

Sri Lanka exports ceramic products worth about 42 million dollars (about 4,830 million rupees) a year and accounts for less than one percent of the global market share.

Its main export markets are the United States, the UK, Italy, United Arab Emirates, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Japan, Greece and Belgium.

"The industry is going through serious difficulties owing to falling export orders because of the global economic crisis," said Warnakulasooriya, who is also chairman of ornamental-ware exporter Midaya Ceramics.

"We are also struggling from severe competition from regional producers in China, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, India and Bangladesh."

Sri Lankan products were of higher quality than those of most other rival origins.

But exports from other Asian producers were relatively cheap owing to cheap labour and natural energy resources available in these countries, Warnakulasooriya said.

Energy costs of Sri Lankan manufactures are among the highest in the region.

"With the increase in ceramic manufacturing in several countries, it is today a buyer's market," he said.

"Therefore, if our buyers have to pay more duty for exports from Sri Lanka our products will be more expensive than our regional competitors and we will lose our buyers.

"This is why it is important for Sri Lanka to continue to get the GSP Plus trade concession from the EU."

© Lanka Business Online

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

India to build a coal power plant in the eastern port city of Trincomalee

Sri Lanka is to sign a commercial agreement with India's National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC.BO) to build a $500 million coal power plant in the former war zone, its Power and Energy Ministry said on Wednesday.

The coal power plant, the largest with a capacity of 1,000 MW, will be located in the eastern port city of Trincomalee, a former rebel stronghold until the military captured it in mid 2007 in the final phase of a 25-year war that ended on May 18.

"We are going to sign the commercial and power-purchasing agreements next week with India's National Thermal Power Corporation," John Seneviratne, Minister of Power and Energy told Reuters.

The project will be carried out in two phases and the first is expected to be completed by 2012, the ministry said in a statement. "Initially both parties will invest $75 million each and later $350 million will be invested by both parties."

Seneviratne did not comment on the terms and conditions of the funding arrangement.

China has also offered an $891 million loan for a 900 MW coal power plant on a 20-year, 2 percent interest rate bearing loan to build the second and third phases of the 900 megawatt coal-fired Norochcholai power plant.

The $40 billion economy with 20 million people depends mainly on hydro and thermal power with around 25 power plants.

The island nation's private sector has repeatedly complained about high price and shortage of energy, for which the government has blamed seasonal droughts and expensive global oil prices.

Much of Sri Lanka's infrastructure, from roads to hospitals, has been neglected by successive governments focused on the two-decade civil war that has killed more than 80,000 people.

© Reuters

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Lanka expecting $100-mn FDI from India by end-December - Business Standard
Sri Lanka to Rope in Reliance for Oil Exploration in Mannar -

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sri Lankan Civil society organisations respond to story published on

16th September, Colombo, Sri Lanka: As members of the seven civil society organizations that came forward to assist the proceedings of the Commission of Inquiry established by President Mahinda Rajapakse in 2006 to investigate and inquire into 16 past human rights cases, we were shocked by the story carried on the Defence Ministry website on July 26, 2009 which has maligned our involvement in this process.

Though several media groups have reported on the report, this document and its findings are yet to become public. As a party that had standing before the Commission of Inquiry and participated in its proceedings, we are disappointed that the report has yet to be shared with the affected families, their lawyers and with civil society who had standing before the Commission. Since we have not yet received the report, nor received any intimation of its contents, we are of course unable to make any comment on the story.

We have written to the Presidential Secretariat to seek clarification on the status of the report and future steps, and to find out whether the report has been submitted to the President as dictated in the Terms of Reference which established the Commission of Inquiry. We have urged the Government to table the report in Parliament and make it available to the public, and by doing so, demonstrate the sincerity of the Government to address human rights violations, find the truth and provide justice to the families who have lost their loved ones. We hope that in the event the report is indeed with the President, copies of the said report can be shared with the affected families, their lawyers and civil society organizations that had standing before the Commission of inquiry.

We regret the publication of the misleading story on the Defence Ministry website in a context in which we are unable to defend ourselves against the allegations raised in the story. It is particularly regrettable that this happens at a time when the search for justice for human rights violations in Sri Lanka has become more imperative than ever. We remain committed to challenge the culture of impunity in Sri Lanka.

Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA)
Mothers and Daughters of Lanka (IMADR)
Rights Now – Collective for Democracy
Sri Lanka National Commission of Jurists
Home for Human Rights (HHR)

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

"Grant amnesty" for political prisoners

Relatives of war affected called upon the government to grant an amnesty for political prisoners.

The request was made from the government following a public meeting held in Colombo organised by the Civil Monitoring Committee (CMC).

The Sri Lankan government says that nearly 10,000 suspected Tamil Tigers are held in detention.

CMC convener, Parliamentarian Mano Ganeshan recalled that senior Tamil Tigers George Master and Daya Master has already been released on bail.

"If they can be released why are students been detained?" asked MP Ganeshan.

LTTE media co-ordinator, Velayudam Dayanidhi widely known as Daya Master and translator, Kumar Pancharatnam known as George Master surrendered to Sri Lanka military in Puthumathalan in April.

Many Tamils attended the meeting carrying photographs of their relatives who have dissapeared in the war.

Addressing the meeting Sri Lanka freedom Party Mahajana wing leader said that over 10,000 have disappeared from war refugee camps in Vavunia.

"Thirty to fourty disappear daily," said Mangala Samaraweera MP, quoting a high ranking official.

Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremasinghe told the gathering that he does not see fault of informing the international community of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka.

"It was Mahinda Rajapaksa who initiated the practice of crying out to the world," added the opposition leader.

© BBC Sinhala

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sri Lanka quizzed over Tamil rights

The UN's political chief has arrived in Sri Lanka to press the government to release nearly 300,000 Tamil refugees detained at government-run camps since the end of the civil war in May.

Lynn Pascoe, the undersecretary-general for political affairs, arrived on Wednesday for three days of talks with government officials and political and civil society leaders.

Pascoe is expected to focus on "the resettlement of internally displaced persons, political reconciliation and the establishment of a mechanism of accountability for alleged human rights violations in the context of the conflict,'' the UN said in a statement.

Gordon Weiss, the UN spokesman for Sri Lanka, told Al Jazeera: "We hope that it will add to the assurances given to the UN secretary-general [Ban Ki-moon] by the president of Sri Lanka when he was here in May.

"The secretary-general believes that progress in getting people out of the camps and back home and on political reconciliation is going too slow.

"Sri Lanka has human rights obligations ... and is expected to uphold those obligations," he said.

Displaced Tamils

The Sri Lankan government had promised Ban that 80 per cent of displaced people
would be sent back to their homes before the end of this year.

The foreign ministry said it welcomed Pascoe's visit and looked forward "to the widest possible engagements" during his stay.

Sri Lanka has so far resisted calls for war crimes investigations into its battle with the Tamil separatists.

The UN has said that up to 7,000 civilians may have been killed in the first few months of this year when security forces escalated their offensive against the remnants of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Sri Lanka has denied any civilians were killed by its security forces and in turn accused the Tamil Tigers of using tens of thousands of Tamil civilians as human shields, which Tamil leaders have denied.

© Al Jazeera

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

'AG to UK to discuss legal options against Channel 4' says SL minister

By Roel Raymond - Sri Lanka’s Attorney General Mohan Peiris is due in UK tomorrow to explore the possibilities of taking legal action against British broadcaster Channel 4 for airing controversial video footage of alleged military killings of unarmed LTTE cadres, Disaster Management and Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said.

Speaking to Daily Mirror online the Minister, who is in Geneva for the 12th UN Human Rights Council session, said that the Attorney General would meet with the lawyers representing Sri Lanka and discuss with them the best legal way in which to proceed with the broadcaster. He said that the AG would also meet with the Press Complaints Commission in the UK with regards to this issue and seek redress.

Minister Samarasinghe had also met with the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Phillip Alston’s team in Geneva - as the Special Rapporteur himself was not present at the sessions - and had conveyed a message to him saying that as quick as Alston was able to issue a statement asking Sri Lanka to investigate the allegations made by Channel 4, he should also issue a statement welcoming the investigation that was opened by the government of Sri Lanka into the incident.

The Minister had added that he expected Channel 4 to welcome the investigations into the video footage by the government , that had found it to be fake, and said that he hoped this would make the broadcaster ensure that the authenticity of footage aired on its channel would be verified in the future.

Minister Samarasinghe had also met with António Guterres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in talks that had been ‘productive’. The Minister explained that the UNHCR was already extending a helping hand to Sri Lanka with regards to the needs of the IDP’s and said that Gutteres had pledged continued support to the island in the future.

© Daily Mirror

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Journalist Tissainayagam files appeal against jail sentence

Senior journalist S. Tissainayagam, through his lawyer, filed an appeal in the Court of Appeal Tuesday seeking to set aside the conviction and the sentence imposed on him by the Colombo High Court on August 31, 2009. Tissainayagam was convicted for blaming the Government of Sri Lanka, inciting racial hatred and for having monetary dealings with the LTTE, a terrorist organization prohibited by the State, according to the prosecution led by the Attorney General.

A sentence of five years rigorous imprisonment (RI) was imposed for the first count, a sentence of another five years RI for the second count and a sentence of 10 years RI for the third count.

Tissainayagam was indicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, for articles published in the North Eastern Herald in 2006. The articles were said to have brought disrepute to the State of Sri Lanka and invited racial hatred, according to the prosecution.

The trial against Tissainayagam was heard by Colombo High Court Judge, Deepali Wijesundara, who convicted Tissainayagam, imposing a sentence of 20 years RI.

© TamilNet

Related Links:
Context and more background information on Tissainayagam case

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