Friday, October 09, 2009

Tissainayagam felicitated in Colombo

By Olindhi Jayasundere - Senior journalist J.S.Tissainayagam’s father Jayaprakash Tissainayagam Wednesday (07) told a gathering – at a function held to felicitate the journalist who received the first Peter Mackler award for courageous and ethical journalism – that he and his wife had received 600 letters of love and support from abroad.

He said the Tissainayagam family was most grateful for the support expressed by well wishers, at a time they were going through so much of mental strain and agony.

“The letters were mainly from the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan. There has been no support extended to us from India or China, which I don’t find at all surprising,” he said.

Mr. Tissainayagam (90) said several people who were in a similar situation, but were afraid to speak out and said that he himself spoke though reluctantly as he felt the need to do so. “My son sent a message asking me to speak, and that is why I am speaking to you,” he said.

Mr. Tissainayagam said that his son’s imprisonment was an act that needed to be addressed.

“In spite of my old age I am aware of what is wrong and right, good and bad and just and unjust,” he said.

J.S. Tissanayagam who was sentenced to 20 years hard labour on August 31 received the first Peter Mackler award for courageous and ethical journalism given by the Global Media Forum and Reporters without Borders. His wife accepted the award on his behalf.

The ceremony was attended by family members, fellow journalists and other well wishers.

© Daily Mirror

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Parliament extends emergency by further month

Parliament yesterday (Oct. 08) extended the state of emergency by a further month.The motion for the extension was put to a vote and was passed with a 70 vote majority.

There were 82 votes in support of the motion, and 12 against.

The UNP abstained from voting, while the JVP was absent at the vote.

© Colombo Today

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Sri Lanka seeks extra 20% for '09 defence budget

Sri Lanka's government on Thursday sought an additional 39.6 billion rupees ($345 million) to fund its military, a 20 percent increase from the original defence budget despite the end of a 25-year war against Tamil Tigers in May.

The documents presented to parliament and seen by Reuters showed that the government has sought extra money for defence expenditure including salaries, fuel, compensation and to procure machinery for the security forces.

The government allocated 200 billion rupees ($1.74 billion) for defence in its 2009 budget, when the military was fighting the last phase of one of the Asia's longest modern wars.

Tamil Tiger rebels, who fought for a separate nation in the island nation's north and east, were militarily defeated and the government announced the end of the war on May 18.

Analysts said the government's increased defence spending would put pressure on its budget deficit, which the government had agreed to bring down to 7 percent by end this year for a $2.6 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

© Reuters AlertNet

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Friday, October 09, 2009

The cost of Elections Rs.1,233 million

The Election Secretariat states that Rs. 1,233 million had been spent on the last provincial council polls.

A sum of Rs. 147 m was spent on the East Provincial Council polls while Rs. 286 m was spent for PC polls in North Central and Sabaragamuwa provinces.

Polls held in the Central and North Western provinces had cost Rs. 320 m each while Rs. 360 m each was spent at the Uva and Western provinces.

In addition, Rs. 300 m has been estimated for the forthcoming provincial council polls in the South.


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Friday, October 09, 2009

Election Violence Increased by 85%- NEM

Network of Election Monitoring (NEM-IHR) says, by the end of the pre-election process of the Southern PC election, the election violence has been increased to a significantly high level as 85% increase compared to the Uva PC election. They said it in a press conference held today in Colombo. This is the report issued to the media by NEM-IHR
"Violations of election regulations, specially, election violence, abuse of state power, misuse of state properties and resources in the governing party election campaign and illegal propaganda campaigns have been continuously increasing in the pre election process of the Southern PC election.

NEM IHR has received 198 complaints including 76 election violence, 39 cases of misuse of state properties and resources by the ruling UPFA, 10 incidents related to biased conduct of the police, 68 cases related to illegal propaganda and disruption of propaganda campaigns and 5 incidents related to undue influences on the public opinion.

Escalation of election related violence

By the end of the pre-election process of the Southern PC election the election violence has been increased to a significantly high level. NEM IHR has received 76 such complaints and it is a 85% increase compared to the 41 incidents reported in the Uva PC election.

NEM IHR recognizes several main factors for the increase of election violence.
The leaders of the political parties have not taken any practical steps to control the unlawful practices and violent behavior of their candidates and the party supporters. In fact, some party leaders encourage their supporters to such violence.

Intra-party violence has been increased as the main political parties have not named their chief ministerial candidates. Some influential candidates name themselves as chief ministerial candidates and launch all out campaign to ensure a high preferential vote percentage. Such candidate believe that they are empowered to act their own and do not hesitate to obstruct the political campaigns of the other candidate in the same party, resulting escalation of violence.

Use of State properties and resources

Use of state properties and resources for the ruling party election campaign is taking place widely and openly. This happened in all PC elections held recently and reached the highest level at the Uva PC election and now continues in the Southern PC election. The leaders of the ruling party and the candidates openly use sate properties and resources, specially, vehicles violating the election laws, financial and administration regulations of the government. Most of them behave in a manner that they have the right to use the state power and the resources for their election campaign.

Relatives of some ministers who contest for the election are using vehicles, officials and other resources of the relevant ministries. Government officers and various social groups were assembled using state power and facilitated to the ruling party campaign. Large number of SLTB buses has been used to transport the party supporters and the people to UPFA election rallies. Hundreds of SLTB buses from other regions have been deployed causing the collapse of public transport in the area.

As usual the state media is openly use for the ruling UPFA election campaign and malicious attacks on opposition parties and their leaders.

Illegal propaganda campaign

All most all main political parties carry out illegal propaganda campaign by displaying photos of the candidates, preferential numbers and party symbols. Thousands of billboards were displayed all over the Southern province violating election laws. The police and the other authorities have miserably failed to mitigate the situation. Although special orders are not necessary, the state authorities turning blind eye over one month to instruct to remove these illegal propaganda materials.

Biased conduct of the police

NEM-IHR received eight complaints on biased conduct of the police from the inception of the election campaign. Police has failed in preventing election violence, illegal propaganda campaign and removal of such propaganda material. Some complaints received to NEM-IHR say that the police has discriminated opposition political parties by disturbing their lawful propaganda campaign. Also police allegedly released some respondent for violence without taking proper judiciary actions.


NEM-IHR believes that there are many positive measures that have to be still taken to conduct the Southern PC election in free and fail environment ensuring the sovereign rights of the people. Also NEM IHR urges the political parties to intervene to stop unlawful conduct of the candidates and the party supporters.
To mitigate undemocratic practices in the election process the voters too have a responsibility and IHR request the people not to cast their preferential votes for the candidates who are responsible for election violence and election malpractices."

© Lanka Truth

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Sri Lanka urged to close Tamil camps over health fears

Human rights group Amnesty International today called for Sri Lanka to release hundreds of thousands of war refugees held in military-run camps, saying monsoon floods could create a health crisis.

Sri Lanka has come under intense pressure to free the nearly 300,000 minority Tamils who were forced into the camps after fleeing the final months of the government’s war with the Tamil Tiger rebels earlier this year.

The government says it is trying to release some of the civilians, but the process is slow because they need to be screened for rebel ties and their villages in the former battle zone have to be de-mined. Rights groups say the screening is an excuse for keeping Tamils detained.

“(The) international community and the government of Sri Lanka can no longer ignore the voices of camp detainees to be allowed to leave,” said Yolanda Foster, Amnesty International’s Sri Lanka researcher. “Freedom of movement is now critical.”

Rights group also fear that the monsoon rains expected in the coming weeks will flood the overcrowded, low-lying camps, creating a fertile breading ground for disease.

Amnesty said the government had failed to deliver vital services to the camps, and they lacked basic sanitation facilities. Heavy rains last month sent rivers of water and sewage flowing through the tents, it said.

On Tuesday, Britain’s International Development Minister Mike Foster expressed disappointment at the progress being made in releasing the displaced and said all British funding being used to run the camps would be stopped, other than that needed to help with any emergency the rain may cause.

Sri Lanka says more than 22,000 people have been resettled from the camps and it hopes to send everyone home by the end of January.

Sri Lanka declared victory over Tamil Tiger rebels in May, ending their 25-year fight for an independent state. The UN estimates that 80,000 to 100,000 people were killed in the civil war.

© Irish Examiner

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Displaced Sri Lankans trapped between the military and the impending monsoon

A quarter of a million Sri Lankans now being held in de facto detention camps are facing a humanitarian disaster as monsoon rains threaten to flood camps, said Amnesty International on Thursday.

Months after the government of Sri Lanka set up camps in Vavuniya District in the north-east of the country following the end of the conflict there, the authorities are still failing to deliver basic services.

Camps remain overcrowded and lack basic sanitation facilities and heavy rains in September saw rivers of water cascading through tents with camp residents wading through overflowing sewage.

"People living in these camps are desperate to leave. The government must ensure that the displaced are treated with dignity. They have a right to protection and must be consulted on whether they wish to return to their homes or resettle," said Yolanda Foster, Amnesty International’s Sri Lanka expert, who is in contact with relatives of people inside the camp

"The provision of protection, assistance and return is not an act of charity but a basic right," said Yolanda Foster.

A recent escapee from Chettikulam camp told Amnesty International how some women had to give birth in front of strangers without privacy.

"Medical staff are only available in the camps 9 to 5," the escapee said. "People start queuing for medical assistance from early morning... how can you expect a lady who is pregnant to stand in a queue for hours? If the war has ended why doesn't the government let these people out?"

Amnesty International has also received reports that the military is blocking release attempts by the civilian administration.

Since the war ended in May 2009, thousands of people detained in camps have been subjected to 'screening' processes by the security forces.

While screening processes need to be followed to ensure that people are not members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) they should follow proper procedures and not be used as an excuse for collective punishment.

There are separate detention facilities for approximately 10,000 ex-LTTE combatants.
The government has widely publicised recent releases from the camps yet Amnesty International has received reports that many are simply transfers to other camps where the displaced may be subjected to rescreening by local authorities.

Amnesty International has previously raised concerns about the lack of independent monitoring and lack of accountability for the screening process.

The Sri Lankan government must involve the displaced in plans for return or resettlement. It should also facilitate the assistance of independent humanitarian organisations.

"Freedom of movement is now critical. The international community and the government of Sri Lanka can no longer ignore the voices of camp detainees to be allowed to leave," said Yolanda Foster.


According to government figures, the fighting between the Sri Lankan army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) displaced over 409,000 people. At least 280,000 are displaced from areas previously under LTTE control. A dramatic influx of people fleeing the fighting and crossing to government controlled areas took place from March 2009.

The displaced people, including at least 50,000 children, are being accommodated in 41 camps spread over four districts. The majority of the displaced are in Vavuniya District where Manik Farm is the biggest camp.

When United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited some of the camps in May, he said: "I have travelled around the world and visited similar places, but this is by far the most appalling scene I have seen."

While some progress had been made on providing basic needs, much still needs to be done on the right to health, food, water, family reunion and access to relatives.

Amnesty International has also called on the government of Sri Lanka to end restrictions on liberty and freedom of movement; ensure that camps are of a truly civilian nature and administered by civilian authorities, rather than under military supervisions; and give immediate and full access to national and international organizations and observers, including aid agencies, in order to monitor the situation and provide a safeguard against human rights violations.

© Amnesty International

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Friday, October 09, 2009

High level Iranian military delegation due in Colombo

by Shamindra Ferdinando - A high level Iranian military delegation is expected in Sri Lanka shortly. This was discussed during a meeting on Tuesday (October 6) between visiting Iranian Defence Attache Brigadier Seyed Reza and Army Commander Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasuriya.

Extending Iran’s warmest congratulations to Sri Lanka Army celebrating its 60th anniversary on October 10, the Iranian diplomat said that this year’s anniversary was significant due to their glorious victory over LTTE terrorism.

According to an army headquarters statement, the army chief had appreciated the support extended by Iran to Sri Lanka and exchanged views on matters of bilateral interest during the meeting.

The Iranian military delegation will be led by Brigadier Mahmoud Amini Ranjbar, sources said.

Under the auspices of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka and Iran have enhanced bilateral relations. Sri Lanka is one of the major recipients of Iranian financial assistance by way of funding for upgrading for Sapugaskanda oil refinery as well as facility to purchase Sri Lanka’s oil requirement on extremely easy terms.

Government sources said that Iran had come to Sri Lanka’s rescue during the then President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s tenure when an LTTE offensive had threatened to overwhelm the army in Jaffna peninsula. Sources said that several plane loads of Iranian equipment were made available immediately after Sri Lanka sought assistance from the Iranian leadership.

The two countries were likely to explore the possibility of sharing military expertise. Responding to The Island queries, sources asserted that the two countries have over the year developed strategies relating to small boat operations. Iran is widely believed to a leading strategist in this concept while Sri Lanka, too, has developed an elite Special Boat Squadron as well as Rapid Action Boat Squadron.

© The Island

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Neither Sri Lanka nor Israel should have impunity in their 'wars on terror'

By Antony Loewenstein - Israel’s war against the Gazan people in December and January devastated the tiny Strip, killing over 1,400 people, a majority of whom were civilians. The Western powers, including America, England and Australia, backed Israel’s battle against Hamas and shared its belief that destruction of the Islamist group would benefit their interests.

More than six months later, however, the political realities in the region remain virtually unchanged, with Hamas still in control of Gaza, Israel and Egypt imposing an inhumane siege on the area and Israel regularly launching military strikes against “terrorist” targets.

During my visit there in July, I found many of the 1.5 million Palestinians desperate for a normal life, something denied to them for decades due to Israeli occupation and irregular bombardment.

The recent UN released report on Gaza, investigated by distinguished South African Justice Richard Goldstone, found overwhelming evidence that both Israel and Hamas committed war crimes during the conflict and should be held to account in an international tribunal. Goldstone stressed that the culture of impunity endemic in the Middle East must end the targeting of civilians and their infrastructure and the lack of international will to fully investigate the atrocities carried out in the name of “defeating terrorism.”

Goldstone told US magazine Tikkun that, “the powerful are protected because of their power. But it’s not prejudice it’s politics. They use their power to protect themselves.” Israel and US are determined that the former never face justice for its crimes.

Compare the international outcry over the Gaza massacre to the relative silence toward Sri Lanka’s war against the Tamil people in 2008 and 2009. Conservative estimates place the death roll at over 20,000 people, perhaps as high as 50,000. The Colombo regime dismissed all attempts to cease its military operations, negotiate with the Tamil Tigers or allow the transfer of hundreds of thousands of civilians to safety. Today, close to 300,000 Tamils are trapped in government-imposed camps, surrounded by barbed wire and unable to leave.

The International Crisis Group told the European Parliament in early October that “such restrictions on freedom in the absence of due process are a violation of both national and international law.”

Sri Lanka was fighting its own “war on terror” with the Israeli playbook. Ban all independent media from the war zone, demonize human rights groups as sympathetic to terrorists, dismiss all questioning of tactics as giving in to terrorism and support the doctrine of overwhelming fire-power. Like Israel, Sri Lanka won the battle, but will inevitably lose the war.

Israel has battled Palestinian nationalists for decades and remains unable to destroy the spirit of the people. Independence for the Palestinian people will come one day. Despite extensive media coverage and global sympathy for their cause, the Palestinians are today still stateless and under occupation. But their plight is far better understood than the Tamils.

Israel’s ambassador to Britain, Ron Prosor, wrote in the London Times in late September that the “farcical” United States Human Rights Council, tasked to investigate the Gaza massacre, should not examine Israel because, it “did its utmost to direct Palestinian civilians out of harm’s way.” Every human rights group in the world has evidence to prove the fallacy of this argument. Israel should be treated like any other country calling itself a democracy and not excused because of its bellicose tactics in the global arena.

A growing number of Jewish groups are joining this call, unafraid of being labelled anti-Semitic or self-hating and simply believing in equitable justice. An initiative I co-founded, Independent Australian Jewish Voices, is part of this conversation, regularly working with Palestinians over our shared concerns.

Proser demanded to know why the UN wasn’t investigating the “300,000 Tamil civilians currently languishing in Sri Lanka.” It’s a fair question, except his ideal outcome would be impunity for Western states fighting their own “war on terror.” In this worldview, it’s only developing or Third World nations worthy of sanction.

Sadly, the vast majority of Muslim and Middle East countries, except Bosnia, voted with Sri Lanka in the UN Human Rights Council in May to support its war against the Tamil people. The idea of non-democratic nations backing a brutal regime isn’t new; defeating “terrorism” is a language democracies and dictatorships both share. The fact that the UN is a flawed body doesn’t prevent it from conducting important work in the field of human rights and abuse prevention.

Sri Lanka doesn’t enjoy favored nation status like Israel but it should face a thorough examination of its conduct during the war. Many states, such as Israel and China, have no desire to discover the truth behind the conflict because they provided arms to the Sri Lankan government. Israel is reportedly protecting Sri Lanka from any American pressure against its actions. But obstacles to international justice should not preclude their commencement. Crimes in Congo, Sierra Leone, Cambodia and the former Yugoslavia were thoroughly investigated by legal bodies, even if the final outcomes were not perfect.

It is time for the Sri Lanka leaders to understand that destroying a terrorist infrastructure without political and social assistance to the vanquished is doomed to failure. The Sri Lankan government will need to be convinced that normal relations with the world will not be possible until its crimes against the Tamils are acknowledged.

Peace with justice demands nothing less.

Antony Loewenstein is an Australian journalist, author of “My Israel Question” and “The Blogging Revolution.” He sits on the Advisory Council of the British-based Sri Lankan Campaign for Peace and Justice.

© The Daily Star

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Vanni doctors back at work

All four doctors who served in the Tiger held territory in Vanni and Mullaitivu districts were reinstated in the government health service.

“I am appointed as the additional provincial director for the North and this office deliver medical supplies to five districts” Dr T. Sathiyamoorty told BBC Sandeshaya.

Dr T. Sathiyamoorty was the Killinochchi Regional Director of Health Services (RDSH) when the area was under the LTTE.

He along with Mullaitivu RDHS Dr Thurairaja Varatharajan, Dr Ilancheliyan Pallavan, Dr K, Shanmugarajah were detained by the military and have been released on bail since end of August.

“Other three doctors have been appointed as planning Medical Officers at the provincial level” Dr. Sathiyamoorty said.

Happy to rejoin

“Dr Varatharajan has been appointed as a planning medical officer of the provincial office, Dr Shanmugarajah has been appointed as a Medical Officer for Vauniya and Dr Illncheliyan has gone to the University of Colombo to continue his higher studies.

“We are happy to rejoin the service” Dr Sathiyamoorty added.

He is of the view that the court case against him and the other doctors will continue and said “the next hearing is on the 9th November”.

Dr Sathiyamoorty said all of them have to report to the Criminal Investigation Department every month, and is hopeful that they will be released soon.

© BBC Sinhala

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