Thursday, January 07, 2010

Philip Alston to present analysis on Channel 4 video at UN today

Philip Alston, who is the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, is to present the findings of an analysis of the authenticity of the "Channel 4 videotape" containing footage from Sri Lanka during a special briefing at the UN today, the UN announced.

Meanwhile responding to reporters at the UN, the UN Secretary General Ban ki-moon noted that President Mahinda Rajapaksa has promised he will have all the remaining displaced persons in the IDP camps resettled or reintegrated into their native homes or some other place by the end of this month.

The UN Chief said he was going to discuss this matter with the Sri Lankan Government and hoped the government will keep their promise.

© Daily Mirror

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

U.N. rejects request to observe Sri Lanka elections

by Patrick Worsnip - The United Nations has turned down a request from Sri Lanka to send observers to monitor the country's presidential election later this month because of lack of time, a U.N. spokesman said on Wednesday.

Incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa is standing against 21 challengers in the Jan. 26 vote, the first since the government crushed a 25-year rebellion by Tamil Tiger separatists in May.

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said Sri Lanka's election commissioner and government had asked the world body to consider observing the election.

"In light of the limited lead time available" and because U.N. election observation requires a mandate from the General Assembly or Security Council, "the U.N. informed the commissioner and the government of Sri Lanka that it could not provide observers," Nesirky said.

The United Nations has not sent observers to monitor an election in any country for at least 10 years, Nesirky said, although it has provided technical assistance for votes in several nations, most recently Afghanistan.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Sri Lanka days after the end of the war against the Tigers. Some critics said his visit could be seen as endorsing the government's military victory.

© Reuters

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

PTA prisoners continue hunger strike demanding amnesty

By Gandhya Senanayake - A group of prisoners arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) are continuing a peaceful hunger strike, demanding a general amnesty, Prisons commissioner, Major General V. R. Silva told Daily Mirror online. He added that so far legal action has not been taken against 196 prisoners and 364 of those remanded have been sent for rehabilitation.

He added that the legal process for these inmates has been stepped up but it was a lengthy process. The Attorney Generals department had to consider individual cases and decide whether to take legal action or not and this took time. Furthermore two teams have also been appointed, one by the Attorney Generals department and another by the IGP to look into this matter and speed up the process.

© Daily Mirror

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

On board the Tamil asylum boat

By Atika Shubert - They are home movies of a different sort. Children scamper across the wooden deck. Parents lie on woven mats trying to fend off boredom. A handful of men share a single hose as a shower at the back of the boat.

This is daily life aboard the Indonesian fishing boat carrying more than 200 Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers to Australia.

Video and pictures chronicling their daily life, were given to CNN by Sanjeev Kuhendrarajah, one of the asylum seekers. He calls himself Alex.

He was raised in Canada and is now on board with a camera and a laptop. He has become, he says, a reluctant spokesman.

"I am not the leader of this ship and I am not God. I cannot save lives," Alex said us in a broadband interview with CNN. We're at the point where we don't know what to do anymore."

Since Sri Lankan forces routed Tamil rebels seeking an independent state last year, thousands of Tamils have been seeking asylum -- mostly in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

Alex and his fellow passengers were trying to reach Australia when they were intercepted by the Indonesian navy, at the request of Australia. They have now been parked off the coast of West Java for about two months.

With his laptop, Alex beams out what he says are deteriorating conditions aboard the boat. He claims disease is spreading and access to medical care is minimal.

He shows us video of a man having a seizure on board. In this case, an ambulance came to take him to an Indonesian hospital. But another asylum seeker was not so lucky. Alex says his friend Jacob, died after days of vomiting blood.

"I tried my best to save this man. But I couldn't save Jacob. I tried to do whatever I can for him." He says before breaking down in tears. 'Jacob went through a lot of pain and in my eyes died of criminal negligence."

Indonesia says it is providing food and medical attention but the asylum seekers not only refuse to leave the boat, they won't allow Indonesian officials on board to assess their condition or process their requests for asylum with the U.N. High Commission for Refugees.

"They don't allow us access to check the medical situation on board. They are always refusing us entry to the boat even just to see how the situation is like" says Teuku Faizasyah, a spokesman for Indonesia's Foreign Ministry. "By refusing, they actually are doing more harm to their own people."

So, why not leave the boat or give officials access? Alex was convicted of illegal weapons possession in Canada and deported to Sri Lanka. A youthful mistake, he says, of getting involved with a gang.

He has already had run-ins with the Sri Lankan authorities. Now, the Sri Lankan government accuses him of being a member of the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam -- a terror group fighting for Tamil independence in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government also says Alex is a wanted human smuggler. Allegations he denies.

"I don't know anything about the LTTE. I don't sympathize with them at all. I don't know anything about them to support them," he says. "I don't understand. What proof do they have of that? I paid $15,000 to get on this boat. Why would I want to pay to smuggle myself out. And I wouldn't bring 250 people with me."

He fears leaving the boat will mean deportation and jail back in Sri Lanka. He wants the UNHCR to give him a shot at asylum.

"My life is now so public," Alex said. "People hate me. I did something in Canada that was childish and immature and I'm paying the price 9 years later. I deserve a break. I'm only human."

For now, however, Alex and the other asylum seekers on board are in a stand-off with Indonesian authorities. UNHCR is unable to process their asylum requests until Indonesia has cleared them and verified their identities.

Alex left behind a wife and four children, including a baby boy born while he was aboard the boat. He had hoped to reach Australia, claim asylum and then bring them afterwards. That does not seem likely now.

"What people should understand is that the situation in Sri Lanka is riskier than going to hell itself," he says. I don't know when the Tamil people will find peace, when we'll find a country but of all the things in my life, I will go as far as it takes to find these 250 people refuge, to find them a national anthem and a country they can call their own."


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Thursday, January 07, 2010

World Agenda: will the hammer of the Tamils nail the President?

Catherine Philp - A few weeks ago Sri Lanka’s upcoming general election looked like a walk in the park for the incumbent, President Rajapaksa, who was riding high on the kudos of ending the country's long-running civil war.

While Western human rights groups and governments railed at his abuses of power, at home the folksy President spoke confidently of his re-election in the first fully nationwide poll to be held in Sri Lanka for more than three decades.

That was before his own general, Sarath Fonseka, who led the offensive that crushed the Tamil Tigers, turned on the President and put himself forward as the candidate for the opposition. That motley coalition of parties has only one goal: to beat Mr Rajapaksa.

And so, in a bizarre twist, General Fonseka, the hammer of the Tamils, has won the support of the Tamil minority. A competition is now on between the President and his disillusioned general over who should take the credit for winning the war and get the chance to win the peace.

Tamil refugees are starting to trickle home after months imprisoned in detention camps because of harsh government measures ostensibly aimed at rooting out rebel fighters. Their votes have never counted in the way they promise to in this election because in the past the Tamil Tigers ordered them to boycott official polls.

Tamils make up about 12 per cent of the electorate but other groups — including Muslims descended from Arab and Malay traders and so-called Estate Tamils originating from India — bring the total "minority" proportion up to 25 per cent.

Sri Lanka’s other minorities have watched in alarm at the treatment of Tamils following the end of the civil war, and at the bellicose Sinhalese nationalism employed by the President and his allies.

The announcement by the Tamil National Alliance that they will back General Fonseka will send a powerful signal to other minorities that this might be their best chance of representation too.

General Fonseka has won Tamil support in part by alleging that the President himself was behind extrajudicial killings of Tamil Tiger rebels that the army chief did not authorise. He has also made much of Mr Rajapaksa’s failure to bring political reconciliation to Sri Lanka.

He has played up Mr Rajapaksa’s cronyism – three of his brothers are in his cabinet – corruption and economic failings in his pitch to the Sinhalese majority.

So far Mr Rajapaksa has led the field but support has recently started to shift towards the former general, influenced by allegations about state sabotage of his campaign.

Mr Rajapaksa’s defeat of the Tigers shows he has no qualms about fighting dirty and General Fonseka is a dangerous man – he holds the key to any future war crimes charges.

Whoever wins, Sri Lanka may not be big enough for both of them. The battle for the nation is not over.

© Times Online

Related Links:
Tamils throw weight behind general who crushed them - The Independent
"These candidates are largely to blame for destroying our people" - The Independent
All Ceylon Tamil Congress to support Fonseka - Express Buzz
Majority of TNA MPs back Fonseka - Tamil Net

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

IDPs 'resettled' to another camp

Over two hundred internally displaced people (IDPs) had been relocated to a camp in Killinochchi instead of resettling in their homes, says one of the refugees who spoke to the BBC.

He told the BBC Sinhala Service, that they were taken from Vavunia to Killinochchi to be put in another camp.

"We were brought here from the Arunachalam camp in Vavunia. They told us that we would be permanently resettled in our own homes," he told the BBC.

Tamil inmates from Vavunia say that they are frustrated about the situation.

Home nearby

"We had been here in this camp for over a month now. We were promised that we would be going home within days. Latest we heard is that it will happen in a month".

The refugee who spoke to the BBC from Killinochchi, said there are fifty two families in this camp situated at Killinochchi Central School.

"Once we arrived, we were given dry rations, now we get cooked food like any other camp. The perimeter of the school is guarded by the Army,"he said.

"My house is only 800 metres away from this camp. We are kept in the school while there is an army camp where my house was. This is a new camp established since the end of the war".

The refugees are not allowed out by the authorities, he says.

"After days of protest, they took us in a bus for a hair cut. The barber was only one hundred metres down the road. We were taken back to the camp immediately after the haircut".

The IDPs in Kilinochchi are waiting to go back to their homes says the refugee who spoke to BBC Sandeshaya.

© BBC Sinhala

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