Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sri Lankan journalist threatened by a gang

Journalist Dileesha Abeysundera Tuesday lodged a complaint with the Borella Police that she was threatened by a group of unidentified persons around 11.45 p.m. on Monday night, according media reports in Colombo. Ms. Abeysundera works for Irudina, a sister newspaper of the Sunday leader. She is also the Deputy Secretary of the Free Media Movement (FMM), a media watchdog, and Secretary of the National Forum for Journalists (NFFJ).

"I got home after work around 10:00 p.m. on Monday night. At about 11.45 p.m, someone kept banging on my house gates, while calling out my name. I was woken up by the noise, and I opened the door slightly while the gate was still locked and inquired as to who it was. The person at the gate asked if Dileesha Abeysundera of the Sunday Leader lived here. I replied that there was no such person in this house and closed the door," the complaint lodged at the Borella Police, said.

"About this time it started raining. Subsequently, I heard a few persons talking outside. About ten minutes later they left in a vehicle," the complaint added.

Ms Abeysundera said she believed it was someone trying to frighten her, because she was involved in campaigning for media rights, the media reports said.

The night Ms. Abeysundera was threatened, she has returned home after organizing a meeting held at the J.R. Jayewardene Centre, which called for the abolition of the Press Councils Act, Ms Abeysundera further stated to media in Colombo.

© TamilNet

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

UN envoy Walter Kalin counters government statement

The Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Walter Kaelin said the restoration of freedom of movement for more than 250,000 internally displaced persons held in closed camps in Northern Sri Lanka is becoming a matter of urgency, and he remains very concerned about the very slow pace of releases.

In a statement today over his recent visit to Sri Lanka, including the IDP camps in Vavuniya, Kaelin said he continued to welcome the Government’s stated intention that 70–80% of the displaced shall be allowed to return by the end of the year and he was impressed by the Government’s massive demining and reconstruction efforts that he witnessed in the Mannar rice bowl.

“It is imperative to immediately take all measures necessary to decongest the overcrowded camps in Northern Sri Lanka with their difficult and risky living conditions. The IDPs should be allowed to leave these camps and return voluntarily and in freedom, safety and dignity to their homes. If this is not possible in the near future, the displaced must be allowed to stay with host families or in open transit sites”, the Representative said.

“This is particularly important as the monsoon season is approaching. The camps, which were set up to respond to an immediate emergency, are not equipped to deal with heavy rains. The expected flooding of low-lying areas in the upcoming weeks is likely to cause serious threats to health and life,” Kaelin added.

The comments countered a government statement released last week which quoted Kalin as expressing his full satisfaction about the facilities provided by the Sri Lankan Government for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) sheltered at the Welfare villages.

The Representative, in his statement yesterday, while appreciating that his interlocutors in the Government shared these goals, called upon the Government to translate its commitments into action without further delay.

“In this context an incident reported by the Sri Lankan Army on 26 September involving the use of firearms to control a group of internally displaced persons trying to move from one camp zone to another that resulted in injuries to two persons raises serious human rights issues. It also underscores how interning people in large and overcrowded camps not built for prolonged stays is in itself a factor detrimental to security,” he said.

According to international law, legitimate and imperative security concerns may justify the internment of civilians during the height of a conflict, but it must not last longer than absolutely necessary to respond to these security concerns. Internment decisions must further be made on an individual rather than a group basis. Those who are not released must be informed about the reasons on an individual basis and be given a genuine opportunity to have this decision reviewed by an independent body.

In light of these standards and the need to properly balance security concerns with the rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), the Representative urged the Government again to take prompt action.

© Daily Mirror

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sri Lanka May Create Bitterness by Holding Refugees, Ban Says

By Paul Tighe - Sri Lanka risks creating bitterness if it fails to rapidly resettle Tamil refugees held in camps since the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in May, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

Further suffering under harsh conditions in the camps may result in growing bitterness, Ban told Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake at a meeting yesterday in New York, according to the UN.

A shooting at the main center in the north at the weekend, in which two children were injured, is a “sign of growing frustrations” in the camps, the UN cited Ban as saying. Sri Lanka’s military said people in the camp threw a grenade at soldiers who fired in the air to disperse an unruly crowd.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government says the resettlement of more than 280,000 displaced people depends on ensuring security in the north and clearing mines from conflict areas. Sri Lanka earlier this month rejected an assertion by UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay that the Tamils are detained under “conditions of internment.”

The army defeated the last LTTE forces in a battle on the northeast coast in May that ended the group’s 26-year fight for a separate Tamil homeland in the north and east of the South Asian island nation.

While Ban acknowledged the efforts being made by the government since the conflict ended, he said Sri Lanka must win the trust and confidence of the population in the mainly Tamil north to achieve reconciliation.

Camp Unrest

The unrest at the weekend occurred at the Menik Farm camp at Vavuniya in the north. Soldiers were forced to fire in the air when people threw stones, military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said two days ago.

Two suspects were wounded when they tried to escape after throwing a grenade at soldiers, he said, adding they had links to Tamil Tiger terrorists.

In the past two weeks, Lynn Pascoe, UN’s political chief, and Walter Kalin, the under secretary-general for human rights, visited the country to assess the needs of displaced people. Pascoe said the pace of the release of refugees is “too slow” and people are growing impatient to leave the camps.

Wickremanayake told Ban, while the government is trying to meet its pledges to resettle all displaced people by January, it needs international aid, in particular for clearing mines, according to the UN.

The international community should support Sri Lanka’s efforts to rebuild after its defeat of terrorism, the prime minister said in a Sept. 26 address to the UN General Assembly.

Overseas Funds

The LTTE enjoyed financial assistance from outside Sri Lanka and remnants of the group are continuing efforts to raise funds, Wickremanayake said.

“Although we have been successful in defeating terrorism in Sri Lanka, we continue to urge our friends and partners in the international community to be vigilant and to continue to take action against the illegal acts of the LTTE on their soil,” he told the assembly.

Sri Lanka is facing a conspiracy to devalue its defeat of the Tamil Tigers, Rajapaksa said earlier this month. Western nations should help reconstruction and stop criticizing the country over its treatment of displaced people and human rights, the president said.

© Bloomberg

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UN in Tamil 'bitterness' warning - BBC News

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

JVP members arrested for campaigning

Twenty seven members of the JVP who were involved in election campaign of the Southern PC election have been arrested by Morawaka Police.

Among the JVP members who were arrested are Lal Premanath and Priyanthe Ratnayake two candidates contesting the PC election. They have been arrested alleging they wee involved in an illegal election campaign.

While the arrested members of the JVP were being taken to the police station a large number of UPFA supporters with decorated vehicles had been going on a motorcade shouting slogans in Morawaka town. However, the police had not taken any action regarding the supporters of UPFA reports our correspondent at Morawaka.

© Lanka Truth

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Garment factories closing like ‘nine pins’

Half of the country's garment factories have been closed after the quota system ended in 2005, and garment factory owners fear that another set of factories will close if Sri Lank does not get the GSP+.

However, authorities are still unaware of the number of garment factories operating in the country.

UNP Parliamentarian Lakshman Kiriella said that out of the 789 garment factories that existed in the country, 589 have been closed and only 200 were functioning at present.

Media Minister Anura Yapa said that there are only 370 BOI registered factories in Sri Lanka. The Minister admitted that some companies have closed as usual in the business sector --- but many more have been earmarked for closure shortly

When LAKBIMAnEWS contacted the Apparel Exporters Association, Rohan Masakorala, general secretary, he said, "When the quota system came to an end in 2005 nearly 400 factories closed but after that I am not aware of recent figures." He added, "Though factories closed down the industry expanded. But with global recession, the sector shows a downward trend.’’

© Lakbima News

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

S.L. Govt. uses Israel to soften American pressure

Upul Joseph Fernando - The report on Sri Lanka’s (SL) war that was to be forwarded to the US Congress has been postponed indefinitely . According to sources in America , this postponement is engendered by the need to garner more information in connection with the report . However , some sources say ,this is the result of a successful ‘Diplomatic operation’ of SL. It is Israel which is being employed to execute this operation . Israel is playing a major role in the operation to soften the American pressure.

Use of Israel by the SL Govt. to ward off the pressures of America is not something new. According to knowledgeable sources , Israel helped SL to stave off the pressures brought to bear on SL by America to halt the war to protect the civil population during the final phase of the war.

There existed a divergence between the American political and the Defense Division opinions regarding the SL war because of Israel’s ability to exert pressure over the American Defense division’s opinions , sources said. When the American political Division tried to stop the war in SL , the Defense Division of America followed a policy of assisting SL to fight the war yielding to the intervention of Israel, it is argued.

The manner in which SL Govt. used America and Israel’s war weapons and equipment for the war was disclosed by an International website as follows :

“ The real assets of the SLAF driving Eelam war 1V were the new Spy planes. Several Cessna 421 , Golden Eagle and two ‘Beechcraft’ super King crafts were bought from the United States for maritime and ground surveillance . Close ground surveillance was carried out by Israeli IAI searcher MK 11 and EMIT Blue Horizon 2 unmanned aerial vehicles …..”

SL decided to seek Israel’s assistance somewhere in 2007. Even during that period,the SL Govt. apparently followed foreign policies which were favorable to anti -Israel States - Palestine and other Arab countries.

SL’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa was also the former President of the SL –Palestine friendship campaign. He had consistently voiced his concern over the Palestine issue. He had campaigned for the Palestinians from as far back as 1970 -1977 when he was the youngest Parliamentary member in the United Front Govt.

Even after his party was installed in power in 1994, he did not abandon this stance in respect of Palestine . When his party decided in the year 2000, to call back the Israel Embassy which was closed down during the tenure of office of the former President R. Premadasa, Mahinda Rajapaksa steadfastly raised objections to this at the Cabinet meeting. He also conducted a vigorous media campaign against this decision publicly. Yet , the Govt. went ahead and got down Israel again to SL as it needed assistance in regard to the war.

Many thought that after Mahinda Rajapaksa becoming President he would close down the Israel Embassy and send them packing. But that did not materialize.

In 2006, when the resolution in favour of Palestine was presented before the UN general assembly , SL walked out and abstained from voting . Many began questioning whether President Rajapaksa changed his stance regarding Palestine ? Sources close to the President reported that this action was taken by the then Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera independently without consulting the President. Later , the President has accused Samaraweera for this. Mangala on the other hand had declared that he took this step because the country needed American assistance for the war. Subsequently , when Mangala was dismissed from his portfolio in 2007 , one of the reasons cited by Mahinda for the dismissal was his abstaining from voting and walking out when the Palestine resolution was taken up ,which had therefore damaged the image of the President he has built with the Arab countries.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, since his becoming the President has been cultivating and maintaining cordial relations with Iran and the Arab countries..Hence, his action of dispatching the Prime Minister to Israel in March 2008 sprung a surprise among all. Following the Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake’s meeting with the Israel P.M. Ehud Olmert , the latter’s office issued a communiqué which stated thus …. “Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told SL Prime Minister , do not give into terrorism because it will only bring destruction to your country . Terrorism must be fought , one must not capitulate to it ……”. Similarly, the whole world must be alerted and awakened against Iran’s nuclear power , the Israel Prime Minister has insisted.

It is evident , the SL Govt. while maintaining ties with Iran has obtained support of Israel. In the wake of SL Prime Minister’s tour of Israel , the ‘Sunday Leader’ reported , as Iran’s intelligence service is training SL ‘s intelligence service , Israel has declined to supply arms to SL. This is a consequence of the fear Israel entertained that the information regarding its weapons could leak to Iran through SL , the report added.

It is clear however SL used Israel not only to purchase arms , but also to subdue the antagonism of the Obama administration towards the war.Even today , it is the view of some that SL is enlisting the assistance of Israel to ward off America’s attempts to level war crime charges SL . They also claim that SL ‘s ties with Israel currently , is stronger than those with Arab countries.

Foreign media have reported that expulsion of former SL Ambassador in Geneva, Dayan Jayatileke was at the instigation of Israel which had applied pressure on SL Govt. to dismiss him because he roundly condemned Israel’s attacks on the Gaza strip at the UN human rights Commission, and was very critical of the Israel Army. The foreign media even went further to add that Israel has strongly protested to the SL Govt. against Dayan’s speech .

The Govt. which earlier removed its Foreign Minister from his Ministerial portfolio for walking out and abstaining from voting in favour of the resolution brought forth in favour of Palestine, in order to continue its cordial and friendly relations with Palestine , now deemed it right to expel the SL Ambassador who condemned Israel at the UN human rights Commission, in order for the Govt. to continue its friendly relations with Israel , thus demonstrating to the World , all what matters in its Diplomacy is sheer expediency and nothing else.

© Daily Mirror

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Media unite against re-establishment of Press Council

By Nizla Naizer - Re-establishing the Press Council will render the public blind, deaf and dumb, was the message sent out by a collective force of media organisations yesterday as they implemented a petition against the move.

The Conference organised by members of the Sri Lanka Editors Guild, Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, Free Media Movement, Sri Lanka Muslim Journalists Guild, Sri Lanka Tamil Journalists Guild, Association of Media Workers Unions and National Guild of Journalists brought together journalists, politicians and civilians concerned about media freedom to the Jayawardene Centre yesterday.

The petition signed by all gathered will be submitted to the President requesting the abolishment of the Press Council which is seen as a direct threat to media freedom in Sri Lanka and a step back in the democratic process.
UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe speaking at the Conference said that the Press Council was an outdated and unnecessary legislation which would curb the voice of the people if implemented. He said that since 2002, they have been working towards abolishing the Press Council but due to changes in the Government it did not come through.

“Those who support the Press Council which will lead to media suppression and suppressing the right to expression are traitors to the state while those who oppose the Press Council and support media freedom are patriots.”

He said that a self regulatory media is the ideal model in a democratic country while the Press Complaints Legislation which has successfully dealt with 700 complaints since its inception, manages to deal with the media in terms of complaints.

However, he urged the media community to come together and stand unafraid in its opposition to the Press Council. “It is unfortunate, but within the media too there are those who stood firm and then changed their stand.”

Free Media Movement President Sunil Jayasekera said that in order to be implemented the Press Council requires two representatives from the media organisations. “The nine media organizations in Sri Lanka unanimously decided to refuse to nominate representatives from within our organisations.”

His views were echoed by other journalists including Lanka Prelis and Tissa Withanage who said that if the Press Council was implemented the media cannot report on any Ministry activity unless provided with written approval by the Ministry secretary, a task that would result in no information on wrong doing revealed to the public even if the Government officials had misappropriated public funds or misused resources.

“Members of the present Government including the President himself once fought to defeat the Press Council,” Prelis declared, “And we can’t believe that these same individuals are bringing it back.”

“The Government is legalising the terror of the media with this law,” Withanage added, “It cannot be allowed and as responsible citizens we must stand up against it.”

© The Bottomline

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

374 Vanni IDP families remain in Trinco transit centres

Three hundred seventy four IDP families out of three hundred eight nine families brought to Trincomalee district from Vavuniyaa internment camps three weeks ago to be resettled in their villages are still held under detention in transit centres located in four schools under heavy security of the Sri Lanka Army (SLA), sources in Trincomalee said.

Only fifteen IDP families have been allowed to go back to their villages by the army.

Others would be allowed to leave the camps only after screening them to find out whether suspected LTTE cadres are among them, military and civil authority sources said.

350 members of 101 families are still held in transit centres in Thampalakamam Aathi Koneswara Maha Vidiyalayam, 268 members of 87 families in Sri Shenpaga Vidiyalayam in Verugal division, 272 members of 83 families in Kuchchaveli Vivekananda Maha Vidiyalayam and 329 members of 103 families in Allesgarden Mathumai Ambaal Vidiyalayam, sources said.

© TamilNet

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