Friday, October 02, 2009

Sri lanka : RSF worries about the safety of journalist

Reporters Without Borders is worried for the safety of Dileesha Abeysundera, a journalist working for the Sinhalese-language weekly Irudina, who may have been the target of a kidnapping attempt when unidentified men tried to force their way into her home in the Colombo suburb of Borella on the night of 28 September. She reported the incident to the police.

“The abduction and agression of journalist and press freedom activist Poddala Jayantha in June showed that this kind of threat is to be taken seriously,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Political gangs continue to intimidate journalists and human rights activists with complete impunity. We urge the authorities to carry out a thorough investigation in response to Dileesha Abeysundera’s complaint.”

Several men arrived outside Abeysundera’s home in a white van shortly before midnight, called out her name repeatedly and tried to force the gate before eventually leaving.

Abeysundera thinks she is being threatened because of her role in campaigns for media freedom and against the government’s plan to restore a press council.

The newspaper that Abeysundera works for is part of the Leader Publications group, which also owns the Sunday Leader. She is deputy secretary of the Free Media Movement and secretary of the National Forum for Journalists.

The investigation into the murder of Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickrematunga nine months ago has meanwhile stalled without any suspect being arrested.

© Reporters Sans Frontières

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Friday, October 02, 2009

"In democracies, like Sri Lanka, governments have a duty to uphold the rights of all their citizens" - Siobhain McDonagh

Addressing the final day of the 2009 Labour party conference, former Labour whip Siobhain McDonagh MP draws attention to Channel 4 News's coverage of events in Sri Lanka.

The Labour party conference in Brighton turned its attention to the aftermath of the civil war in Sri Lanka today.

In his speech, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said –

"In those democracies, like Sri Lanka, where civil war claimed lives and liberty, we say governments have a duty to uphold the civil, social and political rights of all their citizens, whatever their ethnicity or religion."

The conference went on to debate – and pass – a resolution which condemned "the detention by the Sri Lankan government of 300,000 men, women and children" as inhumane.

The resolution also called for journalists to be allowed to enter Sri Lanka and report what is happening in the camps, and for the withdrawal of Sri Lanka’s favoured trading status.

Debating the resolution, former Labour whip Siobhain McDonagh described Sri Lanka as "a country where we can see on Channel 4 News young men, naked and bound, shot at close range."

On 25 August Channel 4 News broadcast footage which appeared to show Sri Lankan forces executing Tamils.

The footage allegedly dated from January of this year, several months before Sri Lanka declared victory over the Tamil Tigers after a civil war that had lasted more than a quarter of a century.

Sri Lanka’s government disputed the authenticity of the footage, but it nonetheless prompted the United Nations to call for an investigation. UN rapporteur Philip Alston remarked: “This videotape seems to have most of the characteristics of a genuine article.”

On 7 September Channel 4 News broadcast new film which appeared to reveal the victims of Sri Lanka’s war, suffering poor conditions in UN-funded camps.

Four days later, on 11 September, Professor Rajiva Wijesinha, spokesman for Sri Lanka’s ministry of disaster management, appeared on Channel 4 News, questioning the authenticity of the film shown on 7 September and of the earlier footage.

© Channel 4

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Friday, October 02, 2009

Southern PC Elections: state vehicles being misused on large scale

While highlighting the fact that for the first time in election history party leaders have not been invited to meet the Commissioner of Elections before the Southern Provincial Council election, Ruwan Banagala of the Campaign for Free and Fair Election (CaFFE) charged that an increasing number of election malpractices were being reported in the run up to the Oct 10 polls.

Giving examples he said they had received complaints that vehicles belonging to the Ministry of Vocational Training were being used for propaganda work in the Galle district. “Five buses bearing licence number plates starting from WP NA 6912 upto 6916 were been used for propaganda work in the daytime and are parked at the Technical College premises at night. It was reported that persons using these vehicles cover the state logo with a white sticker before using them in the Galle District. Two additional vans (WPNA 4527 and WPNA 4529) are being used for the same purpose. Highlighting several other abuses of state resources he said a digital printer brought by the ministry on invoice no 4305 was allegedly being used at one of the candidate’s elections office.”

Similar abuses of public property have also been reported from Hambanthota this time involving vehicles belonging to the Ministry of Ports and Aviation. Vehicles belonging to other ministries too have been used for propaganda work for the Southern Provincial Council election.” he added.

Media Spokesman for CaFFE Keerthi Tennakoon presenting an update on incidents of violence and election malpractices said 126 such cases had been reported. “ 38 cases of damaging property, 18 assaults, 20 violations of election law including pasting posters and cutouts in unauthorized places, six cases of intimidation, 13 cases of misuse of state property and 22 incidents that cannot be categorized was also reported. There had also been nine unconfirmed incidents reported as well,” he said.

He pointed out that this is the first time in the history that the party leaders did not held the discussions with the Elections Commissioner with regard to the elections.

He also stated the importance of implementing the 17th amendment, specially the need of independence elections commission and independence police commission for a free and fair election.

© Daily Mirror

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Friday, October 02, 2009

Govt. will oppose any EU probe

By Sandun A. Jayasekera - The government yesterday expressed its unconditional opposition to any inquiry by the European Union (EU) on Sri Lanka in connection with further extending the GSP+ facility, stressing any such move would compromise the self esteem, dignity and sovereignty of the country.

Export Development and Internal Trade Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris making a special statement at the weekly cabinet news briefing at the Information Department auditorium stressed that Sri Lanka was ready to reciprocate positively in a dialogue if the EU needed more information but not at any cost.

‘There has been a great deal of misunderstanding and misinterpretation about the extension of the GSP+ facility which was granted in January 2008 for three years. The people who talk negatively about Sri Lanka must understand that the situation is much different from what we have witnessed prior to the end of the conflict. The highest priority of the government right now is to resettle about 250,000 IDPs safely,” Prof. Peiris emphasized.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has appointed a high level Cabinet Sub Committee to look into issues pertaining to the extension of the GSP+ and take all necessary steps to obtain it. The committee has already conducted several rounds of talks and has interacted with the EU through Sri Lanka’s EU representative Ravinatha Ariyawansa.

“But we will not agree to an inquiry by any other country. We do not want to withhold any information from the EU. But we refuse in no uncertain terms if the EU demands a probe and we shall not take part or support any such inquiry,’ Prof. Peiris emphasized.

© Daily Mirror

Related Links:
Lanka will not respond to GSP+ investigation expert’s report - Daily Mirror

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Friday, October 02, 2009

25th JVP office set ablaze

A JVP propaganda office was razed to the ground in the early hours of yesterday (1) at Wadiya in the Beliatta Police area.

This was the 25th JVP office that was set ablaze in the Hambantotta District during the run up to the forthcoming Southern Provincial Council elections.

Beliatta Police are conducting investigations.

© The Island

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