Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Three more cops wanted over B’balapitiya attack

The Police will seek the Attorney General’s advice to take into custody three more Policemen allegedly involved in last Thursday’s attack a man near the Bambalap-itiya Railway Station.

Police spokesman Senior DIG Nimal Mediwaka told The Island that they would not hesitate to take action against police personnel involved in the incident.

The Policeman, who is alleged to have attacked Bala Sivakumar near the Bambalapitiya Railway Station on Thursday afternoon, surrendered to the Bambalapitiya police. The constable, Dimuthu Somnas, was handed over to the Colombo Crime Division, Mediwaka said.

The deceased was a mentally retarded person and had been treated at the Kalubowila Hospital and the National Mental Health Institute, Angoda recently, members of his family said.

Before he developed this mental condition he had worked in a garage, they said.

According to eye witnesses Sivakumar had pelted stones at passing trains and vehicles on the Marine Drive and one of the stones had shattered the glass window pane of a train compartment. He had also thrown stones at policemen and soldiers.

He had been chased and brutally attacked with clubs by a group of persons who arrived at the scene. The victim had jumped into the sea to escape the attackers. He had struggled in the sea for about a hour but his attackers had not allowed him to come ashore although he had pleaded with them. Finally he had been dealt a terrible blow by one of the attackers leading to his death by drowning.

The whole incident had been videoed by a television station which operates in close proximity to the place where the incident took place.

© The Island

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

SL Government should be investigated for committing war crimes - Arundhati Roy

By Nilantha Ilangamuwa - In an exclusive interview with the Sri Lankan Guardian, Ms. Roy has shared her views on the present situation in Sri Lanka.

First of all, welcome to Sri Lanka Guardian and thank you for accepting our interview request. We'd like you to share your thoughts with our readers on the present political and military climate in Sri Lanka as well as your thoughts on the ongoing war against Naxalite in India, that is considered as deadly threat to the internal security of India, according to the Leaders of the Government of India.

Q. So how do you summarize the present political developments in Sri Lanka six months after the elimination of the Tamil Tiger rebels?

A: The situation sounds absolutely grim. I have not visited the camps myself, but from the reports that are emerging it is obvious that there is an unconscionable humanitarian crisis unfolding which the world seems to be turning it's eyes away from. For hundreds of thousands of people to be herded into camps and held there by a government that is so blatantly gloating over its military victory over them is a terrifying situation. Mind-numbing. The use of the term 'concentration camp' does seem appropriate given the few testimonies that have made their way out of the steel wall of silence the government has erected around them. If these testimonies are untrue, and if the Government of Sri Lanka has nothing to hide it should allow the media free access to the camps so they can see what is going on.

Q. How is the Naxalite terror impacting on India?

A: Many of us here feel that the Indian Government has paid close attention to the Sri lankan government's methods and will try to reproduce them to some extent in the region where the Maoist (Also called Naxalite) guerillas are, which also happen to be the mineral rich forest regions which the government wishes to clear for mining. I have just written a very long piece about it that you may like to read (click here to article) it’s too a complex situation to discuss in a couple of sentences. However, unlike the Rajapakse Government's openly Nationalist almost fascist rhetoric, which is even more extreme than the rhetoric of the Hindu nationalists—the BJP and its goon squads (the VHP and the Bajrang Dal)— the current Indian government has a different rhetoric, a different self-image. ..it is in a way, far more sophisticated and would not penly use such language. People in India are very disturbed by what is happening, and we hope our protests will be heard. But there are huge corporate interests at stake, running into trillions of dollars. So they won’t back off all that easily. In this part of the world, so many countries are falling into civil war...Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and now India. It is very worrying.

Q. The Government of Sri Lanka is saying it will resettle all Internally Displaced People (IDPs) before end of January 2010. It is interesting to read that the Government is ready to offer Colombo schools to ex-Child Soldiers of Tamil Tigers. Always we can hear victory euphoria from the Government side and its tune all the time is very optimal. Meanwhile, many Rights groups and some countries like the United States criticized the action of the Government of Sri Lanka, and are saying the Government is violating basic human rights, as well as there are some critical issues over war crimes by the Government in the final battle against the Tamil Tigers. But it seems the Indian civil society is having very little sympathy to the suffering of Sri Lankan Tamils. Let me know your views on War on Terror in Sri Lanka and the minority’s future in the Island Nation?

A: Indian civil society is a vast and varied creature. Most people in India have absolutely no idea what happened in Sri Lanka, because the Indian media was careful not to report it. The section of the Indian establishment - those with a 'voice' are increasingly developing a ghoulish fascination for State power and its ability to crush people. There is a great admiration for Israel and its methods among this crowd. It is shameful. So this section has no problem with what ha been done to an ethic minority. They have tolerated a huge amount of state brutality in their own country, in Kashmir, in Nagaland, in Manipur for years. My views on the Sri Lankan War? I believe that the Government of Sri Lanka should be investigated for committing war crimes.

Q. It is claimed by some quarters that India was behind the conflict from the beginning and gave weapons and other logistical support and also training facilities in her soil for the Tamil militancy few decades ago. But later India went against the Tamil militancy and went close to the Government of the Island nation. Let me know your views on the India’s approach towards its southern neighbour in the future?

A: That the Indian government armed and trained the LTTE is well known. But then it switched sides. India has done everything it can, including blocking the demand for an investigation into the possibility that the Sri Lankan government might be guilty of having committed war crimes in this war against the Tamil people of Sri Lanka. India, China and Pakistan came together to block it. International politics is a cold, unforgiving game.

Q. The Prevention of Terrorism Act–or as you have called it, the ‘Production of Terrorism Act’–is still in force in Sri Lanka, whilst hundreds of youth, most of them ethnic Tamils are being arrested under the PTA and held prisons or in undisclosed clandestine camps. It seems Patriotism, National Security, Humanitarian Mission etc of the government are overshadowing the Law and Order in the country. It is easy for people to be branded as patriots or traitors by under these missions thus undermining the law and order needed at this difficult juncture. If this continued what will be the long term consequences for Sri Lanka?

A. That is exactly what anti-terror laws are meant for. They are never meant for real terrorists. They are meant to terrorize ordinary people, to criminalize democratic space.In Gujarat in 2002 after Hindu mobs massacred Muslims on the streets, only Muslims were booked as 'terrorists'. Today India is passing laws that allows the government to call anyone it wants to a Maoist, a Naxalite. In India the bogey of 'Islamist terrorism' had an inherent flaw - the minimum qualification for a person to be booked was that he or she had to be Muslim. Now with the 'Maoist Terror' bogey that flaw has been rectified. The media’s wild stories about Maoist terror has allowed the Indian Government to vastly expanded the catchment area of suspects. It can apply to any one of us. In Sri lanka the long term consequences cannot be good. I don’t believe that people who have been brutalized and robbed of their dignity will just keep taking it. The Tamils will rise again, not now, but some years from now.

Q. Whenever you came out with your views on the ground realities, you came under severe criticism of the Sri Lanka government as a supporter of the LTTE. Is this because your comments are considered pro-LTTE sentiments?

A. That is a pretty standard, self-serving way that most right wing governments have of dealing with criticicm. It’s the old Bush doctrine ‘If you are not with us you are with the terrorists.” I refuse to submit to it. I am in no way pro LTTE nor have I ever been. I cannot admire those whose vision can only accommodate justice for their own and not for everybody. However I do believe that the LTTE and its fetish for violence was cultured in the crucible of monstrous, racist, injustice that the Sri Lankan government and to a great extent Sinhala society visited on the Tamil people for decades. I also believe that the LTTE must take at least some responsibility for the cataclysm that has befallen the people it claimed it spoke for, and fought for. The tragedy of Sri Lanka’s Tamil people is one that all armed struggles, including the Maoists of India ought to learn from.

Q. My last question in this worthy meeting is about former US President Goerge W. Bush’s comment in the Hindustan Leadership summit that “the US recognised India's nuclear weapon's programme and it is considered India's passport to the world,". While in her resent visit in Pakistan, US state Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton said, Pakistan has failed in its mission against Islamic militancy while the Pentagon is giving millions of dollars to Islamabad. However, Pakistan has blamed India for fueling the war in Pakistan. What are your views on the cold war between Delhi and Islamabad, and the current US’s Foreign policy towards South Asia.

A. My views on this are well known. What I fear, just from reading some stray signs, is that given the worsening of the sitation in Pakistan, the Indian Government may be being 'persuaded' to send Indian troops to help the US out in Afghanistan. I really hope I am wrong. I also fear that the ratcheting up of the rhetoric between India and China may result in the US offering India 'protection' (which actually means India offering the US use of its airbases on the border…) And that like other countries that have been thus 'protected' by the US in the past- Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan - India too will devolve into chaos. I fear that greatly. We have enough trouble brewing internally without this added catalyst. I hope this Indian government can reign in its almost child-like desire to please the US. India’s nuclear weapons did not make India a superpower. They made India buy into a game that it cannot hope to win. Once it was a proudly Non-aligned country. Now it is completely aligned, and feels no embarrassment in calling itself the ‘natural ally’ of countries like the US and Israel. Sad.

© Sri Lanka Guardian

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Port, Petroleum, water join to work to rule from 11th of November

CEB employees’ special convention organized by joint CEB trade union alliance was held at Colombo Viharamahadevi open theatre on 1st of November. The meeting was convened by the employees in CEB in order to give their collective seal of approval to the upcoming trade union action demanding the promised salary increment.

The meeting came to a common agreement in order to force the government to pay the due salary increment for year 2009 without any further delay. If the government fails to address this demand, delegates unanimously agreed that a trade union action of work to rule should be conducted from 11th of November with the support of Petroleum, port, and Water Supply Board employees.

Several prominent trade union leaders from various other public sectors also participated in the event, in order to show their solidarity with the CEB workers.

© Unions.lk

Related Links:
The right to be unequal - Daily Mirror Editorial
Strikes as galkatas - The Island Editorial

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Twelve Sri Lankans lost in asylum sea tragedy

A DOZEN Sri Lankan asylum-seekers are feared dead after their vessel capsized in heavy seas as they sailed direct from Sri Lanka, apparently in an attempt to avoid the Rudd government's "Indonesian solution".

As aircraft from the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Flying Doctor Service scoured the Indian Ocean for any trace of those still unaccounted for, a Newspoll taken for The Australian showed support for the Rudd government had slumped as the asylum-seeker debate dominated the headlines.

Primary support for the Coalition rose seven points to 41 per cent, level with the ALP, which also polled 41 per cent. The government's two-party preferred lead was slashed to four points from 18 points in the previous Newspoll.

Kevin Rudd spoke yesterday to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa about improving housing needs in the country and despatched senior diplomat John McCarthy to Colombo in an effort to stem the flow of boatpeople.

Defending his government's border protection regime, the Prime Minister said the government's policy was responsible and balanced, but hardline in dealing with people-smugglers.

"I am under no illusions that this policy and our implementation of it will be in any way popular in the Australian community," he said. "These are difficult challenges."

But Mr Rudd said the first priority was to "fully prosecute" the rescue of the Sri Lankans in the Indian Ocean. The crisis comes as senior Australian officials were despatched to a secret meeting in Jakarta today for talks on government plans to help fund Indonesian efforts to disrupt people-smuggling.

The latest boatload to be detected sank 648km northwest of Cocos Island late on Sunday night, following a series of distress calls to Australian authorities.

Sources told The Australian last night that the 39 people on board the boat were asylum-seekers believed to have sailed directly from Sri Lanka.

Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor said last night that at least one asylum-seeker was confirmed dead and grave fears were held for another 11.

Last night 27 people had been rescued, some after up to 16 hours in the water, clinging to debris.

Eighteen survivors were last night aboard the bulk freighter LNG Pioneer and a further nine were on the Taiwanese fishing trawler Kuamg.

The drama began with a distress call from passengers aboard the boat to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority at 7am on Sunday.

The trawler and the bulk freighter responded to a general alert for help to the sinking vessel.

The trawler, which arrived first at about 4pm, found the boat taking on water.

The trawler was followed by the Pioneer, which arrived to find debris from the boat strewn about the water and a "significant" number of the passengers in the ocean.

Andy Hill, general manager of MO-LNG, managers of the Pioneer, gave an account of the rescue conducted by the freighter's 28 crew.

"When they arrived on the scene there were remnants of a boat and a significant number of people in the water," he told The Australian yesterday.

"At that particular time it was dark or just on darkness arrival, and the crew responded to the incident in a seamanlike way."

Three aircraft were sent to conduct searches yesterday - an RAAF P3 plane and two commercial planes, including one chartered by the Flying Doctor Service.

The 277m Pioneer was travelling from Hazira, on India's west coast, to Darwin when it assisted with the rescue, which occurred within the Australian search and rescue zone.

The Pioneer's intended destination increases the likelihood the survivors will be taken to Christmas Island, with Mr O'Connor saying the ship's master would be consulted on the decision.

"We will do everything we can to recover all passengers and prevent people, wherever possible, perishing in this tragic situation," Mr O'Connor told reporters in Melbourne yesterday.

"At that point the masters of the vessels will determine, in conjunction with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, where the safest port will be. That may well be Christmas Island, it may well be another port."

The nearest Australian navy ship was yesterday at least 24 hours from the scene of the incident.

Mr Hill said the vessel's large size made rescue efforts difficult.

"It is a challenging and fairly difficult process," he said.

Chief of the Defence Force Angus Houston said yesterday the boat appeared to have capsized during the rescue, plunging those aboard into the heavy seas.

"I understand when the first ship got there, this vessel was still intact," he said. "Somehow or other during the process of interaction between the ship and trawler and also the stricken vessel, there's been a capsize and people ended up in the water."

That account was backed by Mr Hill, who said the master of the Pioneer had given a similar account.

"But that would be a summation of the situation as he found it on arrival," he said. "As I say, on arrival there were people in the water and there was debris."

However, Mr O'Connor's spokesman cautioned last night that it was not certain the boat had capsized, only that it had sunk by the time the Pioneer arrived.

Mr Hill said there were no indications the boat had been scuttled to ensure the rescue of the passengers, a common tactic among asylum boats.

"The weather conditions were quite poor at the time, choppy seas and quite windy," Mr Hill said.

Yesterday, refugee advocate Pamela Curr said Tamil community leaders had told her the boat had sailed direct from Sri Lanka, apparently to avoid detection in Indonesia or Malaysia.

"They knew that the boat was coming," Ms Curr told The Australian. "They're not going through Indonesia any more. They can read the papers just like the rest of us."

Tamil community leader Ramalingam Wickramasingham, of Justice and Freedom for Ceylon Tamils, said Tamils in Columbo were phoning relatives in Australia worried that the downed boat was carrying loved ones.

"That's what we fear, that they are Sri Lankans," he told The Australian.

Opposition immigration spokeswoman Sharman Stone said if the boat had sailed from Sri Lanka in an attempt to avoid the Rudd government's "Indonesia solution", it represented a grim development.

"If they are in fact asylum-seekers, if they are in fact from Sri Lanka and they've taken a longer route around to avoid the so-called Indonesia solution, then quite clearly this is going to be a very serious problem in terms of danger to the client," Dr Stone said.

"The smugglers never buy decent boats. It's a one-way trip they don't charter."

Yesterday, Indonesian foreign ministry officials decried what they said was the lack of an adequate "Australian solution" to the boatpeople problem.

Indonesian spokesman Sujatmiko said today's talks would determine whether the Customs vessel Oceanic Viking's permission to remain in Indonesian waters off the city of Tanjung Pinang with 78 protesting Sri Lankan asylum-seekers on board would be extended beyond this Friday.

Describing the crisis talks as a "very, very high senior official meeting", he said they would "discuss the issue of this stalemate as well as the long-term issue, how we resolve this problem when similar issues arise".

© The Australian

Related Links:

Many missing near Cocos Islands - Al Jazeera
Hopes fade in boat disaster search - ABC News
Asylum Seekers Feared Dead After Boat Capsize, Australian Says - Bloomberg

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Two unidentified bodies found near Army firing range

Two unidentified bodies were found yesterday afternoon near the Maduru Oya Army firing range, police spokesman Senior DIG Nimal Mediwaka said.

The two bodies were found after a complaint was made by the Army to the Police. An explosion is suspected to have been the cause of the death of two people. A special police team is conducting investigations into the incident.

© Daily Mirror

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Tamils refugees in SL to be resettled by Jan 2010

Sri Lankan government hopes to resettle majority of war displaced Tamils by January next year, a senior minister has assured amidst rising pressure from the US and other western nations to send the Tamils home.

"The Government has consistently maintained that Internally Displaced Persons will be screened and released in a structured and well managed manner," Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe said.

"We are hopeful of achieving our target of resettling a majority of IDPs by 31 January next year," he said.

Currently, tens of thousands of war displaced Tamils are languishing in special refugee camps and Washington, EU and human rights groups have called for their speedy repatriation back to their home.


Related Links:
Sri Lanka speeds refugees' return amid trade threat - Financial Times
Sri Lanka steps up Tamil releases - BBC

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

US to question Sri Lanka army chief over war crimes allegations

Sri Lanka today objected to attempts by the US to question the chief of its army over allegations of war crimes during the final stages of the conflict with the Tamil Tigers.

US immigration authorities told General Sarath Fonseka, who is currently visiting his daughters in Oklahoma, that they would like to interview him before renewing his green card.

The Sri Lankan government said it was "worried" about the questions he might have to face because the US state department had made "allegations of crimes committed by the Sri Lankan armed forces".

Officials in Colombo are concerned that the US could also seek to ask the army chief about the involvement of the defence secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa – the brother of the Sri Lankan president and a US citizen – in the war.

The Sri Lankan embassy in Washington has retained lawyers from Patton Boggs, a leading law firm, to make the case that Sri Lanka could resist US attempts to question Fonseka over the defence secretary's conduct.

Fonseka and Rajapaksa are seen as the brains behind the government's bloody victory in May, which saw the Tamil Tiger leadership wiped out on the Indian Ocean island's north-eastern beaches.

Tamil groups have long urged the US to prosecute both the general and the defence secretary for what they describe as "genocide".

Bruce Fein, a lawyer for the US-based group Tamils Against Genocide, has argued that the political justification for a genocide investigation was strengthened because the "United States has been vocal with Serbia, Bosnia and other nations about policing and punishing their own citizens or residents for genocide".

There have been persistent allegations of war crimes committed during the final months of the 25-year Sri Lankan civil war.

Last month, the US state department's leading war crimes official, Stephen Rapp, called on Sri Lanka to conduct a "genuine" investigation into allegations of war crimes by both government troops and the Tigers.

Rapp's statement came as the state department released a 68-page report, based on US embassy findings, satellite imagery and aid agencies accounts, that painted a bleak picture of civilian life in a war zone under constant bombardment and where the death toll was rising. According to the UN and human rights groups, between 7,000 and 20,000 civilians were killed in the north-east between January and May.

The report blamed both the government and the Tigers. It said rebels had shot people trying to flee from their territory, forcibly recruited child soldiers and used suicide bombers.

But it also alleged that government forces shelled civilian populations, hospitals and schools in rebel-controlled territory, often in areas that had been described by the authorities as no-fire zones.

The Democratic senator Patrick Leahy, who wrote the legislation requiring the report, said it "eliminates any reasonable doubt that serious violations of the laws of war were committed by both the LTTE [Tamil Tiger] rebels and Sri Lankan government forces".

Sri Lanka dismissed the document as "unsubstantiated and devoid of corroborative evidence" .

Since then, Colombo has promised to investigate the final stages of the war, but many observers have raised doubts over its commitment to investigating itself.

© Guardian

Related Links:
US tightlipped on Sri Lanka army chief - AFP
Sri Lanka says U.S. trying to quiz top military official - Reuters

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