Daily Mirror journalist Sandun A. Jayasekera was assaulted by soldiers providing security at the Maharagama hospital while President Mahinda Rajapaksa was attending an event at the hospital this morning.
According to Mr. Jayasekara the troops had not allowed him to enter the premises to cover the event despite him receiving an official media invitation. Mr. Jayasekara had produced his media card to the Army soldiers but they had scolded him in filth.
However later officers of the Presidential security Division (PSD) who had recognized Mr. Jayasekera invited him inside to cover the event.
Following the event when Mr. Jayasekara was leaving the premises the soldiers who had earlier prevented him from entering the premises rounded him up and assaulted him seemingly embarrassed that he was allowed in to cover the event despite the soldiers not giving him permission.
Mr. Jayasekara was admitted to the Colombo National hospital for treatment a short while ago.
© Daily Mirror
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
N.Manoharan - Despite the formal end of ethnic war, an island-wide Emergency continues in Sri Lanka. Since August 2005, when the Emergency was re-imposed in the wake of the assassination of the then Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamer, the Sri Lankan Parliament has renewed it for the 62nd time this April. The Public Security Ordinance (PSO), under which Emergency is declared, stipulates that unless the country’s Parliament votes for its renewal at least by a simple majority within a month, the Emergency will be null and void.
The principal justification given for perpetuating the ‘state of exception’ is to tackle Tiger remnants. According to the government of Sri Lanka, about 9000 LTTE cadres have surrendered, but hundreds are still prowling in various parts of the country. The government claims that they may pose threat to the security or may try to make a comeback; that they are just waiting for an appropriate opportunity. Emergency blanket, therefore, is an imperative not only to smoke them out, but also to tame them once and for all.
The major concern however, is the long-term effect of a prolonged use of Emergency. Nearly half of independent Sri Lanka has been under the Emergency rule. As a result, a culture of repression and impunity has developed among the security forces. Emergency, combined with special laws like the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), has virtually paralysed the operation of the normal legal process by allowing overriding, amending or suspending any law, except the provisions of the Constitution. They are vast in scope and are frequently used for non-emergency purposes.
Offences under Emergency Regulations are also vast. They range from; to bring or attempt to bring the President, Constitution, government or the judiciary into hatred or contempt by spoken or written words or promote hatred between different groups; to publish information or comment about a proscribed organisations like the LTTE or government investigation into such an organisation, and, publication on the disposition, condition, movement or operations of the security forces or matters relating to the defence of Sri Lanka.
Under Emergency, the security forces may break and enter any premises or vehicle and search, arrest without warrant, detain and interrogate suspects and seize property, vehicle or any other article. The arrested person may be detained for 90 days, with restrictions on access, communication and other rights that ordinary prisoners are entitled to; by amending or modifying rules under the Prisons Ordinance. In the case of the death of any person by an action of the armed forces or while in their custody, the DIG has the power to deny access to the dead body to relatives and order cremation or burial.
Despite overriding powers and encroachments on the normal legal process, the Parliament lacks power to scrutinise Emergency regulations to ensure that they are necessary and reasonable. At the maximum, the legislature has power only to extend the period of Emergency. Most importantly, the President’s decision to declare a state of Emergency or its continuation cannot be called into question before any court of law. Thus, the judiciary is kept at an arm’s length. It is for these reasons that Emergency regulations in Sri Lanka are time and again been criticized as falling far below internationally accepted standards.
At this juncture when the process of ethnic and political reconciliation is going on, legislation like Emergency is a major impediment. At the same time, sweeping reforms are required in the way an Emergency is invoked and implemented. The onus of this lies with both the President and the new Parliament. The PSO should be amended to include basic safeguards. They could range from communication on the arrest of a person to his relatives, production of those arrested before the courts within 24 hours, non-admission of confession made under duress as evidence, institution of checks and balances on the use of special laws by empowering bodies like the Human Rights Commission, incorporating judicial and parliamentary scrutiny, and mandatory periodic review of the Regulations, at least once in five or ten years. They must confirm to the international standards and commitments made by the island state on the human rights front. As long as the ‘state of exception’ continues, the ‘state of peace’ will be an elusive commodity.
Dr. N Manoharan is a Senior Fellow of Centre for Land and Warfare Studies (CLAWS)
© Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Photo courtesy of Sanka Vidanagama (Demotix)
By Nabeela Hussain and Sarah Kellapatha - Journalists Against Suppression (JAS) held a protest campaign opposite the Fort Railway Station yesterday to mark 100 days after the disappearance of Lanka- e- news website journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda.
The protestors carried placards urging the government to stop media suppression and stop hiding frauds by politicians by asking journalists to reveal their assets and liabilities. The protestors also asked the government to release details of the investigations conducted into the disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda.
The protestors asked President Mahinda Rajapaksa who is the Minister for Media and Deputy Media Minister Mervyn Silva to provide details as to how Mr. Eknaligoda went missing. JAS convener Chandana Sirimalwatte who’s also the editor of the Lanka Newspaper said it was the responsibility of the government to ensure the safety of journalists.
“It has been 100 days and the police have not released details of their investigations into his disappearance,” he said. He also said there were rumours that the disappearance of Mr. Eknaligoda was connected to an investigation he was conducting at the time. “He had a driver of a VIP as a source and he was said to have been conducting investigations regarding the elections, and since there was a problem with the election results we can only conclude that the incidents are connected.”
Mr. Sirimalwatte also said that the media was being suppressed by the government directly as well as indirectly. “Sometimes members of the government are not advertising in other media and that is indirectly affecting the media organization,” he said.
“The government is using laws such as the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) which is to be used for other purposes to arrest journalists and the media has no freedom. This also prevents the people of the country from knowing vital information,” he added.
Prageeth Eknaligoda’s wife, Sandhya Eknaligoda who was also present at the protest said the police had promised to give her details about her husband’s disappearance within the first few days but the days had stretched to weeks and she had yet not been given any information.
She said all she wanted to know was whether her husband was alive or not. “Tissainayagam was released yesterday. He was arrested for writing the truth and that was what my husband was doing,” she said.
“I have no husband and my children have no father, I plead to everyone that I get my husband back,” said Mrs. Eknaligoda.
“It has been hundred days since I saw my father and it is not fair,” said Sanjay Eknaligoda, eldest son of Prageeth Eknaligoda.
© Daily Mirror
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Malathi de Alwis - It was heartening to hear President Mahinda Rajapakse identifying reconciliation and development as the priorities of his new government. However, it is crucial that both processes should unfold with the active involvement of Sri Lanka's citizenry, rather than being imposed from above by an omnipotent state. We seem to already have plenty of intimations of the latter.
On 19 March 2010, Sri Lanka's Daily Mirror carried a brief article on its front page startlingly headlined, "Government to wipe out LTTE [Tamil Tiger] landmarks". The rationale for this, according to the secretary to the ministry of tourism, George Michael, was that the "LTTE and the violence which affected the public during the war should be forgotten". Fortified with such logic, the government has bulldozed all the LTTE cemeteries in the Wanni and is now proceeding to demolish the homes of Velupillai Prabhakaran and other LTTE leaders. A few weeks back, the Thileepan memorial near the Nallur temple was defaced with the collusion of the Sri Lankan army. While the homes of LTTE leaders will be replaced with hotels and resorts, according to the ministry, we have also witnessed the erection of several state-sponsored "victory monuments" to commemorate the defeat of the LTTE in the north.
I am dismayed by the government's myopic and misguided understanding of memory, and its brutal disregard for the feelings and emotions of a people who have undergone unimaginable and innumerable horrors for the past three decades. The primary response to the war we endured should not be bulldozings and demolitions and exhortations to forget, but rather to ensure that we never again descend into that hellish abyss. To do this, we need to reflect on the circumstances that led to this war and make sure we do not repeat the mistakes made in previous decades.
In this regard, the UPFA government's efforts to develop the neglected northern and eastern provinces and limited use of the Tamil language by government officials are steps in the right direction – but much more work needs to be done to offer parity of status to the minorities in this country.
Bulldozing cemeteries and demolishing homes in the name of development and the promotion of tourism will only further alienate the Tamil citizenry and stall any attempts at reconciliation. Such memorials, in particular, play a crucial role in all societies. They function as repositories of memory, suffering and grief, and often help to translate the unthinkable to the thinkable. While the LTTE undoubtedly appropriated these cemeteries and the rituals of mourning associated with the dead to promote and disseminate a violent form of Tamil nationalism, we must also remember that those buried there have fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, wives and husbands, sons and daughters. Bulldozing and obliterating these cemeteries not only deprives the kin of the dead a place to commune with their lost loved ones, but also displays a callous disregard for both the dead and the living. It is also a telling indictment of us as a nation that we do not have any memorials to the civilians who have died in this war, as well as in all the anti-Tamil and anti-Muslim riots that have taken place in this country.
On 21 February 2010, a group of academics at the University of Jaffna sent a letter to the director general of the department of archaeology appealing for his intercession in thwarting the further destruction of the heritage of Jaffna. They also alerted him to a variety of historic buildings, including temples, schools and presses, in Jaffna earmarked for demolition under the road development authority's current programme of road expansion in the north.
This letter is reflective of broader debates carried out in Jaffna – in Tamil newspapers such as the Uthayan, Thinakkural and Valampuri – concerning the need to secure the cultural heritage of Jaffna in the face of the postwar development of the north. Personal appeals have also been made by the vice-chancellor at the University of Jaffna and a delegation from the All Ceylon Hindu Congress. Sadly, all appeals seem to have fallen on deaf ears: no reply has yet come from the director general, nor any invitation for further consultations with the governor or project funders.
The new government's first step towards reconciliation should be the inclusion of Tamil and Muslim citizenry of the north in the formulation of a consensual and viable development plan for this war-torn region. And that plan must secure the integrity of its cultural and emotional heart.
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
By Asantha Sirimanne and Anusha Ondaatjie - An International Monetary Fund mission will visit Sri Lanka next week to discuss the 2010 budget of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s newly elected government as it evaluates whether to lend the island more money.
The IMF will return to Sri Lanka starting May 12 for discussions on the budget, “which will be the key determinant of the disbursement of the third tranche under the $2.6 billion aid package,” said Koshy Mathai, the fund’s resident representative.
The IMF said Feb. 25 it may consider changing its aid package to Sri Lanka after the South Asian nation’s 2009 budget deficit exceeded the Washington-based lender’s target under the program. Sri Lanka’s Treasury Secretary P.B. Jayasundera said April 6 the country plans to nearly halve its fiscal deficit in three years as the end of a 26-year civil war spurs economic growth and boosts revenue.
“We will be conducting a qualitative assessment,” Mathai said yesterday in a telephone interview. “We are looking for a good budget with some serious commitment to contain the fiscal deficit.”
The government’s 2010 budget is likely to be presented in June after being delayed by the parliamentary election in April, and include a “new tax regime while rationalizing public spending,” Jayasundera said last month.
Sri Lanka’s budget shortfall is targeted to narrow to 5 percent of gross domestic product by 2012, from 9.7 percent last year and 7.5 percent in 2010, Jayasundera said. Under the IMF loan approved in July, Sri Lanka was forecast to cut its deficit to 6 percent of GDP in 2010 from 7 percent last year, and to reduce it to 5 percent by 2011.
Standard Chartered Plc said today it may forecast a faster appreciation in the Sri Lankan rupee this year “if the budget satisfactorily addresses fiscal risks and initiates investment- friendly reforms.”
“Sentiment is strongly in favor of further rupee appreciation and a move toward 105-110 a dollar by the year- end,” Standard Chartered said in a research report today. The bank currently forecasts the rupee will appreciate to 113 per dollar by the end of 2010.
The currency, which has gained 0.7 percent this year, traded at 113.6 as of 3:48 p.m. in Colombo, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Targets under the IMF program will need to be revised to bolster Sri Lanka’s economic recovery, Jayasundera said.
“On monetary policy and the reserves position we have no issues,” Mathai said. “A precise deficit figure has not been agreed yet.”
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Deputy Minister of Media Mervyn Silva has resigned from his post just hours before a new Media Minister was scheduled to take oaths before President Mahinda Rajapakse.
The Presidential Media Unit conformed that Silva had handed over his resignation this morning and has sought a new ministry.
© Daily Mirror
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