Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sri Lanka: Rains continue to lash the country - Over 442,000 affected, 17 dead

by Dasun Edirisinghe - About 17 people have been killed by floods with thousands of others badly affected, according to Disaster Management Centre Director Brigadier (retd.) N. B. Weragama. He told The Island that 442,415 people had been affected by floods islandwide.

The flood-affected districts are Colombo, Kalutara, Gampaha, Kegalle, Ratnapura, Galle, Puttalam, Trincomalee, Matara, Anuradhapura and Nuwara Eliya.

He said 154 houses were fully damaged and 802 partially.

"The government has set up 50 camps for those that are displaced by floods and 8,927 people are currently there," Brig. Weragama said.

Colombo District Disaster Management officer P. K. C. L. Pathirana said there were 10 welfare centres in the Colombo District.

Those displaced by floods could seek shelter at relief centres located at: Darusalam Vidyalaya – Colombo 10, Sudharmarama Viharaya, Kotte, Bodhirajarama Viharaya, Egoda Uyana, Moratuwa, Vidarshanarama Viharaya, Egoda Uyana, Moratuwa, Kalapaluwawa Siddhartha Viharaya, Kaduwela, Kaleel Dispensary, Colombo 10, P. D Sirisena Ground, Colombo 10, Gunananda Mawatha, Colombo 15, 64 Watta Store, in Madampitiya and Sirimapura Public Hall, Colombo 14.

Gampaha District Disaster Management Officer A. M. A. N. Chandrasiri said Gampaha – Ja Ela, Minuwangoda – Katana roads and some areas of Colombo – Negombo road were under water.

Low-lying areas of Wattala, Katana, Ja–ela, Negombo and Kelaniya are still under water.

Ratnapura District Disaster Management officer Lt. Col. M. P. B. Abhayarathna said the Kalu Ganga had overflowed in the Ratnapura, Elapatha, Ayagama and Kiriella areas and transportation on minor roads had come to a standstill last morning.

He said that there was a landslide threat in the Ratnapura, Pelmadulla, Kuruwita, Eheliyagoda, Kalawana, Kolonna and Elapatha areas and people had been advised to vacate the area.

"We have provided the people who are living in areas prone to landslides with rain gauges and asked them to vacate the area if there is a rainfall over 150mm," Lt. Col. Abhayarathna said.

Galle District Disaster Management Officer Col. Rasika Ranasinghe said Gin Ganga had spilled over at Welipitiya and Divithura areas. The low-lying areas of the Galle – Mapalagama road were under water.

The Meteorology Department has warned of more rains in next few days, but ruled out the threat of cyclone ‘Laila’ moving towards Sri Lanka.

Meteorologist Gayana Hendawitharana said the cyclone ‘Laila’ was moving away from the island, but strong windy conditions would continue over the country and surrounding sea areas.

She said showers would occur in the Western, Central, Sabaragamuwa Provinces and Galle and Matara Districts.

Hendawitharana warned that north seas would experience frequent showers, strong winds and rough conditions. There would be showers at several places and fairly rough wind at times over the other sea areas around the island, she said

According to the Sri Lanka Automobile Association the road from Ja–Ela to Bandaranaike International Airport in Katunayake is submerged due to flooding.

Sri Lanka Air Force spokesman Group Captain Janaka Nanayakkara said SLAF helicopters were ready to airlift all passengers who were heading to the airport.

Navy boats have been deployed in the flooded areas. Navy Spokesman Captain Athula Senerath said the Navy was carrying out flood relief operations.

Captain Senarath said 23 naval teams and 22 SLN boats were operating in the Gampaha District providing relief assistance.

In addition, special naval teams had been dispatched to Wattala, Negombo, Gampaha and Katana areas, he said.

"On Tuesday, 17 naval teams and boats were engaged in evacuating people and they provided emergency relief and medical assistance to those severely affected by floods in Divulapitiya, Kimbulapitiya, Gampaha, Minuwangoda, Seeduwa, Kiribathgoda, Maharagama, Biyagama, Hanwella, Katunayake, Kotugoda, Katana, Kelaniya, Kolonnawa, Ambalangoda and Wathugedara areas," Captain Senerath said.

The Navy boats had been dispatched to assist the inbound and outbound passengers to the Airport due to heavy flooding on the Katunayake – Minuwangoda road, Senerath said adding the Navy continued monitoring the situation and additional troops and crafts were kept on stand by for contingency deployment in case of flash floods and earth slips.

Disaster Management Minister A. H. M. Fowzie said about Rs. 80 million had been allocated to provide relief for the flood victims and out of that 18 million rupees had already been released through Divisional Secretaries in the flood affected areas.

© The Island

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sri Lanka: Mass grave discovered in Naachchikkudaa, Mannaar

De-mining workers of Danish De-mining Group (DDG) have discovered a mass grave in Naachchikkudaa area in Mannaar containing 75 to 100 skeletal remains while engaged in de-mining in the area, informed sources in Mannaar told TamilNet Wednesday. Sri Lanka Army (SLA) had not permitted resettlement in Naachchikkudaa earlier claiming that the area was infested with landmines and a great quantity of explosives lying buried at the height of the war had taken place in Naachchikkudaa. It is suspected that the skeletal remains discovered may have belonged to young men and women, the sources added.

The sources also revealed that the de-miners also found a lot of unexploded landmines and explosives in the area.

Though people have been permitted to resettle in many parts of Mannaar district Naachchikkuda is not one of them.

Even the de-mining activities are carried out under the strict supervision of the SLA in Naachchikkudaa.

SLA authorities have refused to release any information about the mass grave.

Meanwhile, on 08 October 2009, Parliamentary Group Leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), R. Sampathan said in Sri Lanka Parliament that, “The Sri Lanka government fears that, if the international community gets involved in the de-mining, they may stumble on to mass graves of Tamil victims killed during the last stages of fighting between the Sri Lanka military and the Tamil Tigers," accusing the Sri Lankan government of refusing to accept foreign assistance towards the de-mining.

© Tamil Net

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sri Lanka offers war advice to crush Indian Maoists

Sri Lanka has offered India its expertise in defeating the LTTE to help fight the Naxals. Sri Lanka has said its armed forces could train Indian paramilitary personnel to successfully fight the Naxals. The offer was recently conveyed by Lankan High Commissioner Prasad Kariyavasam to National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon.

Sources told Headlines Today that the assistance was offered only for the areas where Naxals have made their presence felt and covered all aspects of training. It is not clear how the Indian government responded to the offer.

The Lankan army's expertise in small-team operations paid off during its war against the LTTE. The use of UAV imagery by the air force also helped. After their victory against the LTTE last year, the Lankan forces are probably the most combat hardened in the world in fighting large-sized guerilla outfits like the Naxalites.

© Daily Mirror

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sri Lanka marks victory anniversary

Sri Lanka is marking the first anniversary of the end its bloody civil war, which finished after government troops defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in a final offensive last spring.

The government declared final victory in the 25 year civil war with the killing of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the LTTE's leader and subsequent capture of the group's final stronghold.

But the cost was high - an estimated 30,000 Tamils caught in the conflict zone perished in intense fighting in the finaly days of the war.

Though the Sri Lankan government dismisses the figures as exaggerated, independent human rights groups say they have evidence that government forces fired on hospitals, food distribution points and groups of the civilians during the fighting and have called for an investigation into possible war crimes committed by both sides during the conflict.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Louise Arbour, the president of the International Crisis Group said that clear evidence had emerged that suggested there was a case to answer.

"We are starting to get evidence that seriously challenges the narrative that the government of Sri Lanka has maintained all that time regarding the level of casualties and the methodology of war, demonstrating there were deliberate attacks on civilians, on humantarian institations and hospitals," she said.

Sri Lanka's majority Sinhalese government has, however, rejected the allegations.

"The government, at the level of the president, gave an assurance to the community that heavy guns will not be used when the civilians were going to be relieved or were going to be rescued, and I’m 100 per cent certain that the government did not use heavy artillery after that commitment," Palitha Kotha, Sri Lanka's foreign secretary during the war, said.

The international community has also been criticised for its lack of action during the conflict.

Rights groups say that the UN and others turned a blind eye to the civilian cost of the campaign, and have criticised their involvement in government-run internment camps where displaced Tamils are being held.

About 80,000 Tamils are still living in the camps, unable to rebuild their lives and coping with deteriorating conditions as money used to run the camps dries up.

© Al Jazeera

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

New accusations of war crimes in Sri Lanka

By Robert Mackey - One year after Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, declared victory and hailed his military for ending a decades-long separatist rebellion by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a British news organization aired new accusations that the country’s soldiers committed war crimes during the war’s final months.

On Tuesday, Britain’s Channel 4 News presented what it said was testimony from two former members of Sri Lanka’s military who claim that the government ordered the execution of Tamil prisoners captured at the end of a separatist rebellion last year.

The two men, both said to be in hiding, were granted anonymity by Channel 4 News. While The Lede has not been able to independently verify the accusations made by the men — one a former commander, the other a front-line soldier — Channel 4 News has produced credible reports on apparent human rights violations in Sri Lanka in the past.

Amateur video obtained by Channel 4’s Jonathan Miller last year — which showed, according to the exiled Sri Lankan journalists who smuggled it out of the country, the execution of Tamil prisoners by government forces — was later deemed authentic by a panel of experts who studied the footage for the United Nations.

Mr. Miller’s new report, also contains what he says are photographs taken by Sri Lankan soldiers last year of captured Tamil men and boys, including one image of the dead body of the leader of the Tamil Tigers.

The man identified in Mr. Miller’s report as a soldier who served on the front line against the Tamil Tigers said that when members of the rebel force surrendered with their families, “our commander ordered us to kill everyone.” Among those executed after surrendering was the 13-year-old son of the rebel leader, according to the man identified as a senior commander in the report.

The High Commission for Sri Lanka in London issued a statement denouncing the report, which was published on the Web site of Channel 4 News. The statement said, in part:

The High Commission of Sri Lanka in the United Kingdom totally deny the allegations made against the Government of Sri Lanka and its armed forces. As it has been repeatedly stressed and supported by evidence, Government’s security forces were engaged in a humanitarian operation with the objective of rescuing the civilians held as human shields by a terrorist outfit. [...]

The President of Sri Lanka has established the “Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission” of eight eminent persons reflecting all ethnic groups in Sri Lanka to inquire and report institutional administrative and legislative measures which need to be taken in order to prevent any recurrence of such concerns in the future, and to promote further national unity and reconciliation among all communities.

The Sri Lankan government insists that the presidential commission is sufficient to look into all accusations of atrocities that may have been committed by both sides during the war, but human rights groups and the United Nations have called for an independent inquiry.

As my colleague Lydia Polgreen wrote on Sunday, a new report by the International Crisis Group released on Monday, “which cites witness testimony, satellite images, documents and other evidence, calls for a wide-reaching international investigation into what it calls atrocities committed in the last months of the Sri Lankan government’s war against the Tamil Tiger insurgency.”

The International Crisis Group’s president, Louise Arbour, who is a former chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, explained to Channel 4 News why “a credible, fair, independent, international investigation,” is necessary because “Sri Lanka has a very long history of impunity and any national initiative in Sri Lanka would be bound to fail and certainly would carry no credibility.”

Following Ms. Arbour’s appearance, Palitha Kohona, the Sri Lankan ambassador to the U.N., disagreed sharply with her assessment that the presidential commission would not give a credible account of atrocities carried out by both its own forces and the Tamil separatists. Mr. Kohona said, “Sri Lanka has a history of a very highly respected judicial system and I have no doubt that this commission of inquiry will conduct its inquiries in a satisfactory manner — and to suggest that anybody from outside can do a better job, I think is simply colonialist. That era is gone now.”

© The Lede

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

One year on, conditions worsen for war-displaced Sri Lankans

By Nita Bhalla - As Sri Lanka marks the first anniversary of the end of the war, shortages of food and water and outbreaks of disease are plaguing tens of thousands of war-displaced who are still living in camps, aid workers say.

The fighting forced almost 300,000 people to flee their homes in the north of the Indian Ocean island in the final phases of the conflict, which pitted separatist Tamil Tiger insurgents against government troops for a quarter of a century.

Since the war ended on May 19 last year - with President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government declaring victory over the Tamils - most of the displaced have returned to their villages to try and rebuild their lives.

But around 80,000 Sri Lankans still remain in displacement camps and face a deteriorating humanitarian situation as aid agencies pull out due to a shortage of funds, relief workers say.

Many donors stopped providing funding for assistance to camps in November 2009 and the impact of this was seen in the early months of this year, according to aid workers.

"Our monitors who visit the displacement camps on a daily basis are reporting the effects of the lack of funding," said Margaret Vikki, country director of the Norwegian Refugee Council in Sri Lanka.

"This is in the form of rations of complementary food such as vegetables, oil, milk, sugar and spices being stopped, water rations also being much lower, and increasing outbreaks of communicable diseases in the camps."


The U.N. warned on Monday that it had received less than a quarter of the $337 million it needs this year to support populations in camps as well as those who are returning to their war-ravaged villages.

Neil Buhne, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Colombo, blamed donor fatigue, high budget deficits brought on by the financial crisis and more severe emergencies such as the January earthquake in Haiti as reasons for the poor donor response.

At the peak of the crisis in April last year, aid workers were overwhelmed by the exodus of people who were fleeing the war zone and eventually seeking refuge in camps such as sprawling Manik Farm site in Vavuniya district.

Dozens of international aid agencies supported national relief organisations in getting food, water, shelter as well as sanitation, health and education services to the overcrowded camp.

But now, as Sri Lanka's humanitarian community struggles to fund its activities - and focus shifts to supporting the hundreds of thousands of people who are returning to their shelled homes and mine-infested villages - aid agencies are forced to make some very difficult choices.

"We have to work where the need is greatest, and the need is greatest in the areas of return," said Christian Aid's Country Director Brian Martin, whose organisation was providing 4,000 families with food at the height of the peak of the crisis, but was forced to stop camp work in April due to a lack of funds.

"But we must not forget those left behind in the camps ... we are still looking for more funding so that we can go back and support relief work there."

Relief workers estimate that more than half of the international aid agencies have either withdrawn or reduced their activities, resulting in a major relief deficit.


Complementary food rations were stopped in January this year, aid workers said, forcing camp-dwellers to sell-off their rations of pulses and rice in order to buy missing food items.

Water provisions - where 15 litres per person is the international humanitarian standard - have been reduced to seven litres per person.

Vital resources, which the displaced have been dependent on for months, are also being diverted as increased attention goes to rehabilitating returning communities.

Water bowsers are being diverted to areas of return and even schools in the camps are being affected as teachers are returning to their homes.

Aid workers also say there has been an increased outbreak of communicable diseases like mumps and diarrhoea, mainly due to poor hygiene and sanitation conditions which have worsened after relief work stopped.

"Many NGOs were giving out hygiene kits which included soap, detergent, toothpaste and sanitary materials - but now that has stopped," said the NRC's Vikki.

"People are saying that they can't even afford soap to wash themselves and their clothes which is a serious issue in terms of hygiene and sanitation."

© Reuters

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sri Lanka not safe for deportees: Social justice group

Sri Lanka is not safe for deported asylum seekers who face arrest and imprisonment, a Catholic social justice organisation says.

Edmund Rice Centre director Phil Glendenning, who recently returned from Sri Lanka, said Sri Lankan authorities took the view that any Tamil who fled the country had to be a sympathiser of the defeated Tamil Tigers.

If Singhalese, the person was regarded as a traitor, he said.

"On our most recent visit we found that all asylum seekers returned to Sri Lanka in recent months are handed over to the CID, the Sri Lankan police, and taken into custody," he said in a statement.

"Some are detained, some have been assaulted. One man who is still in jail has lost the hearing in one ear given the severity of the assault he suffered, and another has received damage to his sight.

"We hold grave concerns for the ongoing safety of these people, and of all deported asylum seekers to Sri Lanka. The absence of war there does not mean peace."

Many recent boat arrivals off Australia's west coast come from Sri Lanka, but the Australian government has imposed a three-month freeze on processing asylum claims from people fleeing the country.

With Sri Lanka's long-running civil war now over, the government has foreshadowed that more Sri Lankan asylum seekers are likely to be found not to be refugees and returned.

Mr Glendenning said he welcomed comments from Immigration Minister Chris Evans urging caution over returning asylum seekers connected to the Tamil Tigers.

"However, based on our experience, similar reservations need to be extended to all those who left Sri Lanka by unauthorised means."

Mr Glendenning said the Sri Lankan government was party to one of the most brutal wars of the last century and any guarantees of safety of returnees could not be taken seriously.

"We know that of the asylum seekers removed by Australia back to Sri Lanka in the Howard years, nine were later killed. We cannot go back to this," he said.

© The Sydney Morning Herald

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Sins of Sri Lanka's Great War Victory

By Jyoti Thottam and Amantha Perera - The International Crisis Group, an international human rights group based in Brussels, released an alarming report on Tuesday, timed to coincide with the first anniversary of the end of Sri Lanka's civil war. The report, "War Crimes in Sri Lanka," calls for an international inquiry into violations by Sri Lankan security forces, describing several incidents in which civilian targets, including hospitals and humanitarian aid shelters, were shelled.

The group also claims to have evidence suggesting that civilian casualties in the last months of the war were much higher than earlier estimates: "The period of January to May 2009 saw tens of thousands of Tamil civilian men, women, children and the elderly killed, countless more wounded," the report said. The Sri Lankan Army defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, an ethnic Tamil separatist group, after 26 years of conflict. May 18, 2009, marked the official end of the war, when the LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, was killed.

The ICG report is the latest of numerous efforts by human rights groups, governments and international agencies to hold the Sri Lankan government accountable for the way it conducted the last phase of the war. The report stops short of actually revealing any of the evidence, which the ICG says will be given only to "authorities that are able to ensure a credible legal process that includes the protection of witnesses." But it does provide a chilling, comprehensive account of the many already published allegations against the Sri Lankan government. They include a video apparently showing soldiers executing blindfolded Tamil men; the alleged battlefield execution of two LTTE leaders who had surrendered with their families and staff; and the shelling by security forces of a U.N. aid distribution center within a no-fire zone, resulting in 11 civilian deaths.

The government of Sri Lanka, however, remains as defiant as ever. It has so far faced no legal action or international sanction, and this report is unlikely to change its refusal to allow any international investigation into alleged human rights abuses or war crimes. How has a small, trade-dependent island nation withstood this pressure? Sri Lanka's president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has made refusal to bow to international criticism a crucial part of his image as a tough leader. A recent article in the Indian Defence Review listed this as one of the central principles of Rajapaksa's military strategy: "telling the international community to 'go to hell.'"

Rajapaksa has done so, in perhaps less colorful language, on several occasions. When the United Nations Human Rights Council considered calling for a similar investigation last May, shortly after the war ended, Sri Lanka's allies — including China, Pakistan and India — rallied against the measure. Instead, the HRC passed a resolution praising Sri Lanka's success in ending the war. Billboards in Colombo trumpeted that bureaucratic finesse in Geneva as another victory for the nation. A similar effort within the U.N. Security Council failed.

The ICG report acknowledges that neither of those two bodies are likely to take any action, and instead calls on U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to use his authority to start his own inquiry. But Rajapaksa has already sidelined Ban. When the Secretary General announced plans in March 2010 to set up an advisory committee on Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa said such action was "unwarranted and uncalled for", as no such action had been taken against other U.N. members facing similar criticism.

Rajapaksa's overwhelming election victories this year have strengthened his hand, and he is unlikely to feel any internal pressure to allow an international inquiry. He won the January presidential election by a 1.8 million-vote majority and his coalition secured 144 of 225 seats in the April parliamentary elections, just shy of a two-thirds majority. "The responsibility of a sovereign government is to the people who elected it," says Keheliya Rambukwella, a minister in Rajapaksa's government. "The vast majority of people have shown that they trust the President and his administration."

He has made some token steps toward reconciliation. Since the new government took office in April, it has relaxed certain emergency regulations. Rajapaksa also pardoned the Tamil journalist and editor Jayaprakash Tissainayagam, who had been sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for receiving funding from the Tigers. Tissainayagam's conviction had been widely criticized as an attempt to silence criticism of the government. This week, Rajapaksa appointed his own eight-member expert commission to look into the conduct of the war.

The United States still has some leverage. It is Sri Lanka's largest trading partner, and it may have jurisdiction to investigate two prominent names in the ICG report: Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the president's brother, who is a U.S. citizen, and former Army Chief Sarath Fonseka, who is a green-card holder. Both were questioned by U.S. officials last year, resulting in no action other than a minor diplomatic controversy. The story isn't quite over yet, however. The U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues will submit his report on Sri Lanka on June 16.


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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sri Lanka: Jaffna editors navigate minefield

Robert Mahoney - M.V. Kaanamylnathan hasn’t left his office for four years. Sri Lanka’s civil war is over but the editor-in-chief of the Tamil daily Uthayan still thinks it’s unsafe to venture out. He’s become famous among the island’s media community for his self-imposed house arrest. The colonial-era compound housing the editorial offices and printing press are guarded, but not especially tightly, reflecting an easing of tension since the defeat of Tamil secessionists in May 2009.

But Kaanamylnathan is taking no chances. He has been with the paper since it started in the mid-1980s and his journalism has angered many on both sides of the war that pitted the majority Sinhalese government against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). To remind everyone of the dangers the paper has faced, he has not plastered over the bullet holes in his office walls from a May 2006 attack that killed two employees.

“I am staying here in office for the last four and half years,” Kaanamylnathan told CPJ, his fast-flowing Tamil-inflected English punctuated by the lazy beat of an old-fashioned printing press in the next room. When he last walked the narrow streets of this former Tamil stronghold, which has changed little in the 60 years since British rule, he was knocked down by unidentified men in a van—an event he says was a hit-and-run attempt on his life. He was seriously injured in the attack and was evacuated to Europe for medical treatment.

“We have been targeted and I don’t think that position has changed,” he said. “They may take their revenge.” When asked who “they” are, Kaanamylnathan grows pensive. “Paramilitary elements or army might take revenge,” he says. “I am writing against the government.”

The wounds from 26 years of civil war are still raw, especially in the north and east of the island where the army remains in control. Up to 100,000 Tamils uprooted by the fighting, referred to as internally displaced persons, or IDPs, are still in camps. Huge swaths of the north, designated by the military as high security zones, have been cleared of farmers and villagers. Thousands of young male Tamils who disappeared during the war are still unaccounted for.

These and other grievances are off-limits for most journalists writing in Tamil. Jaffna is the base for three of the island’s four main Tamil-language dailies but only Uthayan has been consistently targeted by gunmen. “We have to be careful to avoid writing something which is not palatable to the army,” Kaanamylnathan said. “There is self-censorship, I would say that affects 10 to 15 percent of what we publish. … The rights of the Tamil people and high security zone—there are so many things.”

Across town, N. Vijayasuntharam, editor of the Tamil daily Vaalumpuri, is equally cautious.

“The paper has not been threatened, but I know it could happen,” he told CPJ. “That is why we don’t tackle controversial subjects. … For example, IDPs are off-limits,” said Vijayasuntharam, who called self-censorship a matter of “self-preservation.”

S.P. Samy, publisher of the daily Thinakkural, says his editors have to work out for themselves just how far they can go. “The rules are not in writing,” he told CPJ. But it irks enterprising journalists to avoid burning public issues such as the refugees because they fear retribution. Thinakkural couldn’t report on the IDP camps, so instead it launched an appeal to help individuals displaced by the war. Its readers got the point.

With all this editorial self-restraint, Tamil journalists in Jaffna believe the threat to their newspapers has diminished, at least for now.

“The threat level is down maybe to 80 percent from 100 percent,” Kaanamylnathan said. Even so, journalists continue to take precautions such as forgoing bylines to protect their identities.

“We can’t put some stories in the paper and we can’t leave others out,” said one editor who asked not to be identified. “I get reporters calling, saying we must run their story because it came from the army. They will be in trouble with some officer if the story does not appear next day.”

Editors try to circumvent these various forms of censorship by running foreign news agency copy, and picking up stories from the Sinhala- and English-language media in the south. But even this access to independent news may be narrowing. The Colombo-based media have been under assault since a spate of violence in early 2009, including the unsolved killing of prominent Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickramatunga.

Tamil editors sigh sympathetically as they see what’s happening to the media in the rest of the country. “I told my colleagues in Colombo they came for my neck,” Kaanamylnathan said. “Now they will come for your neck.”

Robert Mahoney is CPJ's deputy director.

© Committee to Protect Journalists

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