Friday, October 30, 2009

Death threats to Sunday Leader staff: President orders probe

by Mike Andree - President Mahinda Rajapaksa early yesterday instructed the Inspector General of Police to conduct a thorough probe into death threats received by two senior journalists attached to the Sunday Leader newspaper, Presidential Secretariat sources said.

Earlier this year, founder Editor of the Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunga was gunned down near his office by unidentified gunmen.

The two journalists of the newspaper, now under threat said they had received letters last week threatening them with death if they do not stop writing.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said it was greatly concerned by last week’s death threats against the Sunday Leader journalists.

"The air of impunity surrounding violence against the media is having a chilling effect on journalists," CPJ’s Asia program coordinator Bob Dietz said.

© The Island

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Graduates in state service to support struggle of unemployed graduates

The Graduate Employees’ Union (GEU) reiterated they would extend their cooperation fully to the continuous fast and protest carried out by unemployed graduates’ unions for the last 22 days as the government was avoiding taking measures to find solutions and the struggle carried out by unemployed graduates of Indigenous Medicine. This was stated by the General Secretary of GEU Chadnana Suriyarachchi at a media meeting held at Hotel Nippon today (29th).

Mr. Suriyarachchi said the GEU would symbolically join the fast carried out by unemployed graduates and his union would send telegrams to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, as a part of the struggle to uphold the rights of more than 25,000 unemployed graduates.

If the government continues to ignore the issue and does not take any measures to solve the issue more stringent measures would be taken said Mr. Suriyarachchi. He said, “By now unemployed graduates have launched various campaigns demanding employment. We too engaged in struggles before we were able to get employment in 2005. Despite the government promising employment to graduates in all budgets that were presented since 2006, those promises have not been kept.

Hence, the number of unemployed graduates throughout the country is about 30,000. Every time there is a struggle the government gives false promises and tries to deceive the graduates. The fasts that have been launched by graduates opposite Fort Railway Station and Ayurvedha Hospital at Borella have continued for 25 days. The government states they would be employed in 2010. However, the government tries to bring in a ‘vote on account’ for 2010 instead of a budget. There is no possibility of providing employment to graduates from a ‘vote on account.’ Hence, we say that the government should prepare a scheme to provide employment for graduates immediately. If not we, graduates in state service, would take stern action jointly with unemployed graduates,” said the General Secretary of GEU.

© Lanka Truth

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Sri Lanka outcry over police brutality

By Charles Haviland - Sri Lanka's war ended in May but one branch of its security forces is now under particular scrutiny.

There has been an outcry against the police over brutal acts they are said to have committed.

People have also been protesting against their crackdown on organised crime, saying they are getting out of control.

A focus for public anger is the impoverished village of Angulana, half an hour to the south of the capital, Colombo.

Children and families play in the surf there as the ocean gleams.

The houses and shacks lining the sandy shore are poorly built with breezeblocks and tin roofs.

In a house nearby two families gather to tell the BBC the harrowing story of what happened there a few weeks ago.

One evening their sons, Dinesh, a fish-seller, and Dhanushka, a gym instructor, went missing. They were cousins, both in their 20s.

Hours later it emerged that they had been picked up by the Angulana police and held at the police station.


Dinesh's father Sangadasa says it was late the same night that he discovered his son's fate.

"On my way to the police station I heard people saying a nice-looking boy had been killed and his body was on the beach.

"I rushed to the seashore. I saw his body there. I went into shock."

Dhanushka's body was found later by a railway track.

Both youths had gunshot wounds. Nine policemen now face possible murder charges.

Media reports said the victims had been teasing a local woman but exactly what happened remains unclear and local people were enraged by the killings.

Once they attacked the police station, the authorities promised action.

This is one among a recent series of apparent police misdeeds.

There are regular deaths in detention - the government admits 32 people have died in custody this year alone.

A human rights lawyer, Chandrapala Kumarage, believes the security concerns of decades of war have left some police officers (by no means all) feeling they are not accountable.


"It is really police abuse," he says.

"Impunity is really the thing which encourages the police to commit this kind of crimes. And now the extrajudicial killings continue after the end of the war."

In Maligawatte, an old Muslim quarter of Colombo with narrow streets and brightly-painted houses, there is also indignation.

As Friday prayers finished at the mosque, children laughed and teased each other in the street outside.

But there was anger in the neighbourhood against the police, especially a so-called Special Task Force which had, over a number of weeks, been shooting men in this part of the city in what they call a crackdown on the underworld - a phrase also used by top members of the security forces.

Most of those killed happened to be Muslims although the police say this has nothing to do with ethnicity and that they are targeting known criminals.

Local people say many are not criminals and that even those who may be, deserve due legal process.

As soon as the prayers finished, dozens of Muslim men and women marched down the street with banners showing pictures of young men, at least one of whom had been killed.

Speakers addressing a rally a few minutes later voiced outrage.

One said some of those killed had been helping politicians and were only later labelled as "underworld" members and had weapons planted on them.

In defence

"They don't have the right to kill those people," another said. "We want to show the government, the entire world, that there is no law in this country."

Many are suspicious because police accounts of these killings usually follow the same pattern.

They say that a man is arrested; he takes police to a place where weapons are hidden; then draws a gun on them so officers are forced to shoot him.

But Sri Lanka's police spokesman, Nimal Mediwake, defends his force.

In every case a magistrate's inquiry and post-mortem are held, he says.

"After completing that, the judge will decide whether it is justifiable homicide or the police are to be dealt with."

The spokesman added that there had not, to date, been any instances of the police being indicted after the death of so-called "underworld" members. In general, he said, it was ruled that the killings were justifiable homicide.

"These people have taken the law into their hands, trying to attack the police. So the police have had to return fire."

But lawyer Chandrapala Kumarage disagrees.

"In a country where there is rule of law and not law of the jungle, you can't kill people like that," he says.

'A violation'

"A responsible government has no moral right to say those killings are justified. They are illegal and they are in violation of the law of this country."

He links the "underworld" cases with the others, such as the Angulana ones, which have struck a chord with ordinary people.

Lawyers, including him, say the Sri Lankan government is violating the constitution by not having a standing independent commission on the police.

Back in Angulana, Devika Fernando grieves as she remembers identifying the body of her son, Dhanushka, killed like his friend and cousin, Dinesh.

"How can we accept the police as people who protect the public, if they commit this type of intolerable crime against society?" she asks.

"They are supposed to protect us."

In Angulana and many other places, public opinion has been hardening against the police. Now the war is over there are calls for efforts to rebuild the rule of law, undermined by decades of conflict.


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Friday, October 30, 2009

Sri Lankan camps are 'crime against humanity

While the guns may be silent in Sri Lanka for the first time in 26 years, the price of peace could not be higher, a Labour MP said yesterday.

Introducing a Westminster Hall debate about the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Sri Lanka, Joan Ryan (Lab, Enfield North) accused the country's government of having no regard for the welfare of the 300,000 civilians being detained.

Water and food are scarce for the hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians living in the camps, Ryan told MPs.

Poor sanitation facilities mean that people are dying of treatable diseases.

The UK government must raise its voice on behalf of those whose human rights are "being ridden over roughshod".

Ryan highlighted the existence of around 10 secret camps that the Sri Lankan government refuses to acknowledge.

The conditions in these camps are impossible to monitor, she said.

"The camps are illegal and a crime against humanity."

Ryan called for Sri Lanka to be suspended from the Commonwealth and removed from the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group.

The Sri Lankan government does not give "a damn" about the international community, Lee Scott (Con, Ilford, North) said.

Scott argued that the IDP camps simply should not exist in the present day. If the Sri Lankan government will not stop its behaviour, the only solution is to suspend it from the Commonwealth, he said.

Unless the Sri Lankan government understands the Tamils’ aspiration for self-determination, there is no hope for progress, Barry Gardiner (Lab, Brent, North) told MPs.

Tom Brake (Lib Dem, Carshalton and Wallington) urged the Sri Lankan government to allow free media access to the IDPs.

The IDPs are not in refugee camps, they are in prison camps, Jeremy Corbyn (Lab, Islington, North) argued.

It is unacceptable that so many are "essentially prisoners of war" when the war is supposed to be over, John Barrett (Lib Dem, Edinburgh, West) insisted.

He urged the international community to use its economic leverage.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Con, Cotswold) called on the British government to assist Sri Lanka in rebuilding the country's infrastructure.

He said that any future elections must be free, fair and involve all sectors of society equally.

The British government has recently provided £500,000 to a de-mining organisation, the HALO Trust, to speed up the process of land clearing, Michael Foster responded.

The parliamentary under-secretary of state for international development said he hoped this will enable a faster return for people from the camps.

Foster acknowledged that the monsoon season could potentially "wreak huge damage to the sanitation systems" in the IDP camps.

The Commonwealth should seriously consider suspending Sri Lanka. The Govt is not prepared to listen to the UN, EC, Human Rights Organization. So what do you do for such a country. Sanctions should be imposed by the International Community.
29th Oct 2009 at 4:27 pm by Leon

It is just very cruel to see that children are being held in these camps without adequate food and water, If these were the Sinhalese Majority..treatment by the Govt would have been different. The only solution for the Tamils are to live freely in their Tamil Home land ie Tamil Eelam.
29th Oct 2009 at 3:56 pm by Karen

What has been achieved? Nothing achieved. Everybody knows what is going in Sri Lanka but still they support it to continue the human rights violations.The UN is powerless and its secretary is bought by Sri Lanka. Most of the humman rights violating countries want to escape through Sri Lanka. They joined together and agreed it as a internal problem and then next? Now nobody can control them.

Because of Bush's foreign policy, Western democratic countries are powerless and they have to face a big team of anti-American countries. China want to control the economy as well as the world politics by secretly invading every nook and corner of the world.

If the western countries want to control China, the better way is to stop the import from China and break these countries it to bits by supporting the freedom fighters. Healing the root cause of the problems make more supporters for the western countries. Do not support the countries like Sri Lanka.


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