Monday, November 09, 2009

New regulations for reality programs, musical shows

By Indika Sri Aravinda - The government is to introduce new regulations to broadcast reality musical programs on television or radio stations from next year. Such programs will have to obtain clearance from the public performance board from January, the Chairman of the board Asoka Serasinghe told Daily Mirror online.

He further said that visuals and lyrics of the songs to be telecast on television will also be filtered by the board.

The Public Performance Board is concerned over the airing of unsuitable music content on television especially visuals showing semi nude men and women, Mr. Serasinghe added.

© Daily Mirror

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 09, 2009

163,000 people in Sri Lanka camps under deteriorating conditions-UNHCR

“Following the recent returns, some 163,000 people still remain in the camps where conditions are deteriorating,” UNHCR said in a media communiqué issued on Nov 6th.

Other independent reports say that amid heavy rains and thunder storms many of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) held in Menik Farm camp are leaving from their shelters and seeking refuge in the public halls and school buildings located inside the camp.

UNHCR media brief notes that discussions with the Sri Lanka government regarding the situation in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu are ongoing, “to ensure that minimum return standards, such as completion of demining and access to services, are adhered to.”

According to government and independent civil society sources only a few people have settled in their own homes or allowed to stay with their relatives. Many of the IDPs brought to Jaffna peninsula Saturday Nov 7th have been lodged in militarized “interim camps.”

There are allegations that the Government of Sri Lanka is deliberately barring and delaying people returning to Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts and schemes to alter demographics are already being carried out in the districts.

In a query to Lt. Gen Sarath Fonseka – the much decorated “war hero” speculated to be Sri Lanka opposition common presidential candidate, Democratic People’s Front (DPF) led by Mano Ganesan has asked to reveal the stance of the “common candidate” on IDP re-settlement without changing Wanni demography, prior to extending the support of DPF.


Related Links:
UNHCR demining machines to arrive in Sri Lanka - Relief Web

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 09, 2009

UN still worried about refugees in Sri Lanka

The UN has said that while the pace of Tamil refugees returning to their homes has accelerated in Sri Lanka, the condition of the temporary camps in which the remaining continue to be is deteriorating.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told journalists that in the past two weeks, an estimated 39,000 people have returned to their former villages — mostly in the north and east of Sri Lanka — as part of the government’s resettlement plan.

Agencies quoted Mahecic as saying in Geneva that another 16,500 people were released from the camps and were being accommodated with host families. This group, he added, included pregnant women and elderly people. A number of those with disabilities have also been released to specialised care institutions.

About 163,000 displaced Tamils now remain, Mahecic said, adding conditions inside those camps are deteriorating.

“UNHCR and other UN agencies continue to advocate strongly with the government of Sri Lanka to expedite the return of all remaining IDPs [internally displaced persons] to their areas of origin in safety and dignity and in line with international standards,” he said.

© Hindustan Times

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 09, 2009

SRI LANKA: Gov’t, EU in Back-channel Talks Over Fate of Trade Pact

By Feizal Samath - Sri Lanka has reacted strongly to a European Commission (EC) probe on its human rights record, saying it is politically motivated.

But beyond the public sparring and rhetoric, informal diplomatic contacts between the two sides are underway to save a crucial trade pact and hundreds of jobs in the garment industry.

Sri Lanka stands to lose its trade concessions from the European Union under the Generalised System of Preferences Plus (GSP+), which has allowed tax- free Sri Lankan exports to Europe since 2005. This, following the release last month of EC’s probe of the island state’s compliance with international treaties on human rights.

On Friday, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama presented a 48-page government response to the EC mission in Colombo and EU diplomats on the damning report by the EC over Sri Lanka’s alleged breach of international conventions on core human rights, labour rights and conventions on environment and good governance principles.

Highly placed garment industry trade unionists privy to the informal engagement between the government and the EC are eagerly awaiting the outcome of such talks.

"We reliably understand (from our contacts in Brussels) that an EC diplomat arrived last week for consultations on the GSP+ with the government and that the government is seeking technical assistance to help it fulfill these conventions," said one trade union official, who declined to be named.

"We were informed by an international NGO [non-governmental organisation] to be ready for a meeting with the official, but that didn’t happen as he was authorised only to meet government officials."

The EC office in Colombo confirmed an EC deputy director was visiting Colombo but that it had nothing to do with the GSP+ trade benefits scheme. Sri Lanka has applied for a second round of concessions for the new scheme, which began in 2009, but must await the outcome of an EC probe on whether Colombo has implemented 27 international conventions, a pre-requisite to approval.

Bernard Savage, EC Head of the delegation to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, declined to comment on the government response. "I cannot comment. All I can say is that we received the government’s observations," he told IPS from the Maldives where he is on official visit.

Thousands of jobs in the garment industry, the country’s biggest export and the main sector that would be affected if the concessions were called off, are at stake if the concessions are not granted. Savage told IPS in an interview last week that the EC decision on Sri Lanka’s application would be announced by December and effective six months later. Until then, Sri Lankan exporters would continue to enjoy the trade benefits.

The government response, submitted to the probe committee report on the deadline set by the EC, said the probe was "politically motivated and accompanied by a high degree of prejudice."

Substantiating this claim, the report quotes an incident last year where EC officials had threatened to withdraw GSP+ if the war was not called off.

At a meeting with Sri Lanka’s Minister of Export Development and International Trade on March 13 last year in Brussels, an EC Commissioner said, "this war is never, never, never going to be solved militarily. The only possible solution is a political one. We have been telling you this for a long time. You have ignored us. We now have a powerful weapon in the GSP+, which we will not hesitate to use".

The EC report was critical of alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka, particularly during heavy fighting in the last stages of the war between government forces and Tamil rebels. The near 30-year-long revolt was crushed by government troops in May.

Garment manufacturers said the concessions are vital to the industry, which is Sri Lanka’s biggest foreign exchange earner along with remittances from migrant workers.

However, one industrialist who was part of a team of officials from the garment industry, other sections of government and lawyers that prepared the government brief, said the EC probe smacked of a strong bias.

"For example, 15 member associations of the Joint Association of Apparel Exporters, which goes by the acronym JAAF and represents the industry, sent submissions to the EC probe team but none of our submissions was cited in the report," he said.

"The investigations relied a lot on the anti-government submissions," lamented the businessman, who declined to be named. Submissions from the industry largely supported the government contention that there has been progress in the implementation of the conventions on labour and human rights.

"We now have to contact our friends in Brussels and keep the dialogue going to ensure the concessions continue," he said.

Separately, Anton Marcus, general secretary of a trade union representing workers in the country’s free trade zones where many garment factories are located, said the union-styled Apparel Industry Labour Rights Movement or ALaRM was going to meet on Nov. 8 to discuss a course of action on the government response.

"We are meeting to discuss a course of action which we will explain to the media on Thursday at a press conference," he told IPS.

Marcus said trade unions had pleaded with the government to start a dialogue with the EC, which the former had refused, saying it would not take part in any investigation, as it was an insult to a sovereign nation. "Now they want to start a dialogue, which they should have done in the first place," he said, referring to the report.

The government, while rejecting the EC report, said the government and the EC should continue to have a constructive engagement on the "issues at hand."

The garment industry has suffered over the years, initially following the end of textile quotas some years back before it was hit by the rising costs of production, which has seen a sharp rise in job losses.

Currently, there are 270,000 workers in the industry, according to government estimates although the industry says it is much less because a number of smaller units have collapsed. From around 400 factories and 500,000 workers in the 1980s, the industry has slumped to less than 250 factories while many are struggling to survive.

"There are many orders, but the problem is costs. Interest rates are high at 22 percent and our return is only 3 percent. We just can’t survive. Many small industrialists have wound up or sold their factories to the bigger players," noted Cassian Fernando, a garment industry veteran who sold his factories two years ago. He believes the industry will consolidate to just 15 big companies in the years to come.

Some garment industry workers hit by closures are seeking jobs as domestic aides overseas. "There are quite a few who are undergoing training before going abroad," said W.P. Aponsu, president of the Association of Licensed Foreign Employment Agents.

© Inter Press Service

Related Links:
Economic Consequenceas of the Withdrawl of GSP + - The Nation

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 09, 2009

Australia urges Sri Lanka reforms, reconciliation

Australia on Sunday urged Sri Lanka, having defeated the Tamil Tigers in May, to now embrace political reform and reconciliation to stem the flow of asylum seekers leaving the country.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith will meet his Sri Lankan counterpart Rohitha Bogollagama in Colombo on Monday amid a standoff in Indonesia involving 78 Tamil asylum seekers, who are refusing to leave an Australian vessel that rescued them last month.

"I will reiterate Australia's view that having won the war, Sri Lanka now needs to win the peace through political reform and reconciliation," Smith said in a statement.

"Mr Bogollagama and I will discuss bilateral and regional cooperation on people smuggling and ways in which Australia will continue to assist Sri Lanka rebuild after decades of internal conflict."

The standoff in Indonesia involves an Australian customs vessel which rescued a group of boatpeople in Indonesian waters. It took them to the Indonesian port of Tanjung Pinang but the Sri Lankans have refused to leave the vessel.

On Friday Indonesia extended for another week a deadline for the ship to leave its waters.

The arrival in Australia of several boats carrying asylum seekers, many of them Sri Lankans displaced by the civil war, has ignited what is a hot-button political issue in Australia.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has had to defend his border security policy, which critics say has been softened and is attracting more boatpeople.

Opinion polls show the popularity of Rudd's government has taken a tumble in the past few weeks as a result of its handling of the issue.

Sri Lanka's envoy to Australia said on Sunday that many of the boatpeople were "economic refugees" who were using the war as an excuse to seek a better life.

High Commissioner Senaka Walgampaya told Channel 10 that any Sri Lankan nationals were welcome to return home, but warned that action would be taken against any later found to be "fugitives from justice".

Almost 300,000 civilians were forced from their homes and moved into the cramped camps in the north of Sri Lanka during the final months of Sri Lanka's 25-year-old civil war against separatist Tamil rebels which ended in May.

© Reuters

Related Links:
Minister heads to Sri Lanka for asylum crisis talks - ABC

Read More

Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 09, 2009

France asks Sri Lanka to end emergency, probe war crimes

A top French envoy Saturday asked Sri Lanka to end its state of emergency and probe war crimes ahead of a key European Union ruling on trade concessions to the troubled island.

Ambassador for Human Rights, Francois Zimeray, said he hoped Colombo will signal the ending of its war with Tamil rebels in May by withdrawing emergency laws which allowed the detention of suspects for long periods without trial.

"Ending of the emergency (in force since 1983) should have been the first consequence of ending the war (in May)," he said at the end of three-days of talks with key Sri Lankan leaders on the island's human rights situation.

"The fact that the conflict is over should be an opportunity to put an end to emergency laws," he said referring to the draconian legislation which was also used in August to jail an editor for 20 years.

He echoed international calls to probe alleged war crimes in the final stages of the fighting and said Colombo should allow independent investigations to ensure that a culture of impunity did not persist.

His visit, which took place against the backdrop of a European Union probe into the island's human rights record, could influence the stance Paris will adopt in deciding future trade concessions to the island, he said.

His remarks came as Sri Lanka said the probe by the EU, the findings of which could cost the country lucrative trade concessions, was "politically motivated."

The EU report highlighted the slow resettlement of war-displaced people in camps and allegations of rights violations and torture during the decades-long conflict between the government and Tamil rebels.

"The government contests this (EU) position," the foreign ministry said in a 48-page response to the October report.

The ministry said the EU decision to order the investigation was "politically motivated and accompanied by a high degree of prejudice."

The EU could decide to suspend trading concessions worth over 100 million dollars given to Sri Lanka under a trade preference called GSP Plus.

Zimeray insisted that they were not imposing "western values" on Sri Lanka, but only wanted the island to implement its own laws in respect of protecting human rights and ensuring the rule of law.

The GSP Plus scheme offers tariff cuts for the country's key exports like clothes and ceramics.

The report also focused on the killing of an editor who was a prominent war critic and the 20-year jail term given to a Tamil editor accused of supporting the rebels. The report said there was an absence of media freedom.

Sri Lanka dismissed the notion of media suppression, saying journalists write freely and that reports of attacks on media personnel were being investigated.

Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said he hoped the EU executive would "extensively examine" Colombo's response to the report and make a positive recommendation.


Read More

Bookmark and Share
© 2009 - 2014 Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  © Blogger template 'Fly Away' by 2008

Back to TOP