By Munza Mushtaq - An elite panel of 11 judges will decide if the President Mahinda Rajapaksa led government and its armed forces were instrumental in carrying out gross violations of human rights and involved in war crimes against innocent civilians in the Northern Province during the run up to its significant yet controversial victory over the ruthless rebel outfit, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
With an impressive jury hailing from across the globe, the highly revered Milan based Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) will attempt to put an end to months of controversy over the final phase of the war in Sri Lanka, at an international tribunal which will thoroughly investigate allegations that the Government of Sri Lanka and its armed forces committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during its final phase of the war with the LTTE.
The international hearing will be held on January 14 and 15 at the Trinity College, Dublin, with the provisional findings from the tribunal scheduled to be announced at a public meeting on January 16, 2010.
The Tribunal will be co-hosted by the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin and the School of Law and Government, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland. The event is being organised by the Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka (IFPSL).
The government has however shrugged off the Dublin Tribunal terming it as yet another concerted ‘international conspiracy’ against Sri Lanka.
Members of the Panel of Judges of the People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka are:
1) François Houtart – UNESCO awardee for non-violence and tolerance, Chairperson of the UN Committee on Economic Recession, Prof. Emeritus, University of Louvain, Belgium.
2) Rajinder Sachar – Former High Court Judge of Delhi, headed the Sachar Committee appointed by the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to prepare a report on the social, economic and educational status of the Muslim community in India.
3) Nawal al Saadawi – Egyptian writer, trained as a medical doctor, known for her outstanding work for women’s rights in Egypt and in the region. She has been imprisoned for her activities and writings in Egypt. She has also been United Nation’s Advisor for the Women’s Programme in Africa (ECA) and Middle East (ECWA) from 1979 to 1980.
4) Sulak Sivaraksa – Thai Buddhist peace campaigner and writer, initiator of a number of social, humanitarian, ecological and spiritual movements and organisations in Thailand. He was awarded the Alternative Nobel Prize (Right Livelihood Award).
5) Denis Halliday – Former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations. He resigned from his 34 year old career in the UN because of the economic sanctions imposed over Iraq by the Security Council. Laureate of the Gandhi International Peace Award.
6) Gianni Tognoni – Secretary General, People’s Permanent Tribunal, Milan, Italy.
7) Daniel Feierstein – Director of the Centre for Genocide Studies at the Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero, and Professor in the Faculty of Genocide at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
8) Mary Lawlor – Director, Front Line – The International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Dublin, Ireland.
9) Oystein Tveter – Norwegian Scholar of International Law and member of the People’s Tribunal on extra-judicial killings and violations of human rights in the Philippines
10) Eren Keskin – Kurdish-born lawyer and a human rights activist in Turkey, vice president of the Human Rights Association, Istanbul. She co-founded the project “Legal Aid For Women Who Were Raped Or Otherwise Sexually Abused by the National Security Forces”, to expose the abuses happening to women in Turkish prisons. In 1995, she was imprisoned for her human rights activities and was adopted as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.
11) Francesco Martone – Ex Senator in Italy, a leading activist in the non-governmental sector and an ecologist.
Organisers of the tribunal told The Sunday Leader that the judges for the hearing have been chosen from across the globe — south to the north in order to transcend geopolitical barriers and to ensure that its findings are both credible and ethically binding.
Ireland has been chosen because of its historical status as a post-colonial nation, the success of the Northern Ireland peace process, and its traditional policy of neutrality.
“The People’s Tribunal will investigate the allegations that the Government of Sri Lanka and its armed forces committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during its final phase of the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
“The Tribunal will also examine violations of human rights in the aftermath of the war and the local and international factors that led to the collapse of the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement,” a press release from the organisers said.
Several legal and human rights groups from Asia, the European Union and the United Nations are scheduled to submit reports on alleged crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes against peace in Sri Lanka.
Meanwhile, although a formal invitation was extended to the Sri Lankan High Commissioner in London, Nihal Jayasinghe, the organisers have received no response from Jayasinghe and so a lawyer will present the Sri Lankan government’s position at the hearing.
“Evidence will be given by individuals and groups who have first hand knowledge about these crimes,” organisers told The Sunday Leader via email.
Meanwhile, the IFPSL citing reasons for such a tribunal emphasized that the war saw a ‘terrible human cost’ and was a ‘war without witnesses’ due to the fact that journalists and other potential witnesses like aid workers were prevented by the government from remaining in the conflict area.
By April 2009, according to United Nations’ internal documents, the air raids and use of heavy weapons were resulting in the death of approximately 116 people a day.
During the last weeks of the war, according to reports in the British and French press, over 20,000 people were killed when the Sri Lankan armed forces allegedly used heavy artillery fire against hundreds of thousands of Tamil people crowded in an extremely small area.
According to Human Rights Watch, hospitals were bombed 30 times between December 8, 2008 and May 2, 2009 and, according to a French medical team, cluster munitions and white phosphorous have been used against these civilians.
“There has been media evidence of torture, summary executions, rape and sexual violence, and of food and water being used as a weapon of war against civilians by the Sri Lankan military,” the Forum said.
Meanwhile the Government’s Defence Spokesman Minister Keheliya Rambukwella vowed to defeat what he termed as an ‘international conspiracy’ against Sri Lanka and its sovereignty.
He claimed that an ‘international conspiracy’ was in place to bring disrepute to Sri Lanka and despite such conspiracies, his government will not waiver but will instead fight till the end to protect the nation and its sovereignty.
Pooh-poohing the tribunal in Dublin, Rambukwella said, “These are all part of the international conspiracy, we have defended these allegations before and will do so in the future.”
He emphasized that despite his government defending itself against war crimes allegations in the past including at the United Nations, conspiracies were still very much prevalent and cited the Dublin hearing as one such conspiracy.
“We won’t bow down to these conspiracies, we will fight and defend our nation and sovereignty,” Rambukwella declared.
He added that although Sri Lanka will not be formally present at the hearing, it had the intelligence apparatus to gather the necessary information which comes out from the Dublin Tribunal scheduled for mid this month.
© The Sunday Leader
Permanent Peoples' Tribunal (PPT) - Wikipedia
When People Judge: The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal - Corporate Watch
Why a tribunal on Sri Lanka? - Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka
PPT on the genocide of the Armenians - Armenian News Network
PPT in Colombia - Upside Down World
PPT on Industrial Hazards and Human Rights - pan-uk.org
PPT in Lima - Enlazando Alternativas
PPT on European Transnational Corporations in Latin America and the Caribbean
PPT on Philippines - International Association of Democratic Lawyers
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Sri Lanka's main minority Tamil party on Monday backed the main opposition presidential candidate, Sarath Fonseka, who as army chief led the offensive that crushed Tamil rebels last year, officials said.
Fonseka, a former four-star general who quit in November following differences with his political boss President Mahinda Rajapakse, pledged in a letter to end a state of emergency if he was elected in the January 26 vote.
The moderate Tamil National Alliance (TNA) agreed to back Fonseka's campaign after he signed a three-page programme that he hopes to implement in the island's former war zone, a party official said.
"We have decided to support General Fonseka, but a formal announcement will be made on Tuesday," said the TNA official, who declined to be named. The TNA has 21 seats in Sri Lanka's 225-member parliament.
In his letter, a copy of which was seen by AFP on Monday, Fonseka promised to free Tamil detainees within a month if no charges had been brought against them.
The former military chief, who is credited with leading the military drive against the separatist Tamil Tigers, also promised to establish a completely civilian administration.
"Full restoration of all institutions of civil administration from the office of village headman upwards will be free from military, police and political interference," the letter to the TNA said.
The TNA was at one time seen as a proxy of the Tamil Tigers who were crushed in May with the elimination of the rebels' military leadership after 37 years of fighting.
Fonseka pledged to end the state of emergency which had been in force since March 1983, largely to deal with Tamil rebels as well as militants among the majority Sinhalese.
The emergency gives sweeping powers to security forces to arrest and detain suspects for long periods without trial. France has led international calls on Sri Lanka to end the emergency after the ethnic conflict ended in May.
Rajapakse called the January poll in a bid to capitalise on the victory over the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who launched their campaign for a Tamil homeland in 1972.
Fonseka and Rajapakse have been at loggerheads since the end of the conflict. Fonseka quit after accusing the government of sidelining him and falsely suspecting him of trying to stage a coup.
"I will not accept partition of the country" - Gen.Fonseka - Tamilnet
General offers amnesty for LTTE - BBC Sinhala
Tamils a force in Sri Lankan polls - Asiaone News
UNP invites TMVP for “secret” talks to garner support - Daily Mirror
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
By Munza Mushtaq - Controversy surrounds the summoning of some 14 Sri Lankan diplomats, some lodged at plush five star hotels and condominium complexes to carry out President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidential election campaign.
The diplomats who are allegedly carrying out the President’s propaganda work include Sri Lankan Ambassador in Washington DC, Jaliya Wickramasuriya, Ambassador to Italy Hemantha Warnakulasuriya, Consul General for Toronto, Bandula Jayasekara, Ambassador to Iran M. M. Zuhair, Ambassador to Korea Asitha Perera, Ambassador to Philippines N. Bennett Cooray and Ambassador to Myanmar Newton Gunaratne.
It is learnt that Ambassador Wickramasuriya, a close relative of President Rajapaksa, is residing at a luxury condominium situated in a five star hotel compound, from where he along with two other diplomats are carrying out campaign work.
The other ambassadors have been assigned to carry out the campaign work at a special election office which comes under the direct purview of the President’s brother, Basil Rajapaksa.
This office, it is learnt, is located on the top floor of a building constructed recently within the compound of Temple Trees.
“Due to this sudden recall, the ambassadors are unable to carry out the diplomatic responsibilities they were originally entrusted with,” Foreign Ministry sources said. All the expenses, including the apartment rent and other incidentals of these ambassadors will be borne by the Foreign Ministry.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Hemantha Warnakulasuriya who is in Sri Lanka denied any involvement in the government’s election campaign. He told The Sunday Leader that he came to Sri Lanka after obtaining duty leave of his own will and will return as soon as his leave expires. “I am hoping to go back before elections and I am staying at my residence and not at a five star hotel,” he added.
© The Sunday Leader
CaFFE charges plans to rig vote - CaFFE
Political storm over STF ‘circular’ - The Sunday Times
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Andrew Moran - At the end of the month, Sri Lanka will be holding Presidential elections between current incumbet Mahinda Rajapaksa and former military chief Sarath Fonseka and so far Fonseka is winning over voters.
On Saturday, Presidential opponent to incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa in January’s election, General Sarath Fonseka, toured the northern city of Jaffna for his election campaign, while meeting with local and religious leaders, according to AFP. Fonseka also addressed a rally being held and met with the Roman Catholic Bishop of Jaffna Thomas Savundranayagam.
Fonseka is no stranger to the northern region as he served as the district’s special security forces commander during the military conflict with the Tamil Tigers, which ended last year. Both Rajapaksa and Fonseka claim credit for defeating the Tigers.
The Fonseka campaign fear that the Sinhalese vote will be split, therefore, he felt compelled to gain support from the Tamil electorate. The former military chief even promised the residents of Jaffna a better future by developing economic and infrastructure measures for the region, reports Xinhua.
Some Toronto Tamils, however, are not supportive of either candidate. Senthan Nada, a Toronto spokesperson for the Coalition to Stop the War in Sri Lanka, told Digital Journal in an e-mail on Sunday that Tamils in Sri Lanka are like “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” because both candidates were partnered together during the military operations.
Both “pressed for a brutal military solution where at least 20,000 were massacred another 50,000 maimed at least from the account of the Times Online to what is essentially a peaceful political solution for the past 61 years of Tamils’ struggle for equality.”
Nevertheless, according to Nada, Tamils in Sri Lanka feel like they need a change in government and now the contest is the island nation is between the “Rajapaksa family and the common candidate Fonseka.”
Although Fonseka may gain Tamil support, the General could face legal action over war crimes against the Tigers, according to the Hindustan Times. Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe told reporters, “We are looking into taking some sort of legal action against general Fonseka in line with the constitution and the laws of the country.”
The Sri Lankan government is looking into this because Fonseka brought back the issue of war crimes throughout his campaign, which they believed has been dealt with by the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Nada concluded that he feels the election will be close and the Tamils will have the power to tip the balance, “I think The Tamils have to choose between the lesser of the evils. Tamils are considering Sarath Fonseka as a common opposition candidate and lesser evil of the two evils.”
Digital Journal reported last month that the Tamils voted in large numbers across the globe in favor of a separate state for the Tamil people within Sri Lanka.
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
A leftwing presidential candidate in Sri Lanka's forthcoming elections says that refugees in Jaffna still lack basic facilities and struggling to find a way of living.
Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne, the leader of the Left Front, currently visiting the northern Sri Lankan town as part of his election campaign said that over 300 families in the Manalkadu camp needs to be sent to Vanni where they come from.
He told BBC Sandeshaya that the military was reluctant to allow him to visit camps for the internally displaced people (IDPs) in Jaffna but later allowed on his insistence that the presidential candidates have a right to campaign throughout the island.
"Although the camps are in the vicinity of the sea they are not allowed fishing and the IDPs have to depend on the food rations," Dr. Karunaratne said.
The refugees are held in a military camp environment, he said.
Jaffna that has been under the military and the LTTE for time to time, was last captured by the government security forces in 1995.
Hundreds of IDPs are still kept in Jaffna, but journalists or independent visitors are not allowed to visit the camps.
Dr. Karunaratne, one of the few to gain access, told BBC Sinhala service that the IDPS requested authorities to resettle them in their original lands as soon as possible.
But the government insists that the full resettlement will only be carried out after the de mining in the north is completed.
© BBC Sinhala
Wickramabahu, Sivajilingam in Jaffna - Daily Mirror
The struggle of Tamils will be continued - Lanka News Web
We will continue with the struggle of Tamils - VoteBahu.blog
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
By Raisa Wickrematunge - The government is unlikely to carry out a formal investigation to determine the fate of millions of rupees of tsunami aid which went missing or was used for unrelated projects.
Lal Sarath Kumara, a media spokesman for the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, said to his knowledge no investigations were being done on the matter.
The comments came following a statement from Transparency International (TI) on December 26 charging that 603.4 million dollars, meant for tsunami relief following the devastating tsunami of 2004, had instead been used for unrelated projects.
An additional 471.9 million dollars appeared to be missing, TI alleged. They have called for an audit to explain the discrepancies in figures.
Executive Director of Transparency International (Sri Lanka) J.C Weliamuna said that the organisation had brought the issue of misappropriation of tsunami relief funds to the notice of the authorities.
Weliamuna said that as a civil society organisation, TI did not have the executive powers to ensure a proper investigation was done. “We have no mandate to sue, but can only bring these issues to the notice of the authorities, and hope they are addressed accordingly,” Weliamuna told The Sunday Leader.
Secretary, Ministry of Nation Building, W. K. K Kumarasiri, said he was not aware of the TI statement which was highly publicized in both local and international media.
© The Sunday Leader
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Terry Macalister - Shell has become embroiled in a major row with the World Bank and green energy companies after allegations that it is unfairly refusing to honour warranties on solar power systems sold to the developing world.
A widespread breakdown of its equipment in Sri Lanka and elsewhere has left the oil firm accused of abandoning a responsibility to impoverished communities while damaging the prospects of the wider renewable power sector in a world desperate to reduce carbon emissions following the Copenhagen climate change summit.
The rural electrification business under which the Shell systems were sold has now itself been passed on – as have most other parts of the group's solar business – but critics say that Shell, which made profits of $31bn in 2008, has a continuing role in ensuring former customers are not left vulnerable.
"Shell exited solar on a global basis, seemingly without due consideration to how after-sales service and warranty replacements would be provided, thereby damaging the very local solar industries it had earlier helped to create," said Damian Miller, a former Shell manager who now heads his own solar business, Orb Energy.
"In Sri Lanka, poor customers with average earnings of $1,500-$2,000 a month have bought Shell's solar systems. The system is equivalent to 30% of their annual income," he added. "They could only afford a system because they could get a loan from microfinance institutions or other banks. But now there are reports of thousands of Shell's [branded] solar panels failing in the field and Shell seemingly is not replacing them."
The World Bank, which provides financing packages to the developing world, said it too was very worried about a situation in which about 700 solar systems appear to have failed and local suppliers risked going out of business.
Anil Cabraal, an energy specialist at the bank's Washington headquarters, has written to Shell asking for action. "I would like Shell to honour these commitments. We are not talking about millions of dollars here but hundreds of thousands," he told the Observer.
The company argues that it is being unfairly targeted and is doing all it can to sort out the problem. It points out that its Shell Solar Sri Lanka business has been transferred to a third-party purchaser, Environ Energy, along with all liabilities. The Anglo-Dutch oil group says the bulk of its former solar module manufacturing operation has also been switched to a new owner, Solar World.
"In October 2007, Shell sold Shell Solar Lanka Ltd to Environ Energy Global PTE Ltd. Specifically in order to protect customer interests, the terms of the transaction explicitly covered the management of all past, present and future liabilities, including warranty issues," said a Shell spokesman in the Hague.
"Environ Energy Global understands that resolution of this issue rests with Environ, but [its] own management team in Sri Lanka continues to approach Shell. We have asked Environ Energy Global to clarify responsibilities with [its] own management team in Sri Lanka."
The situation has been complicated by the fact that Environ claims Solar World will not replace any modules unless it has the appropriate warranty documents. Environ claims those papers were destroyed by Shell prior to the handover to Solar World, although Shell told the Observer this was not true.
Nigerian Farmers and Fishers take Shell to Court - Shell Guilty
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