In October 2009, Daily Mail and Sun said that while 7 million pounds of public money had been wasted in policing the situation Parameswaran was faking the hunger strike, eating hamburgers secretly. While Daily Mail titled its article “Hunger Striker’s 7 million Big Mac”, Sun said, “Hunger Striker was Lovin' It”.
In their stories, the newspapers claimed existence of supporting evidence caught by police surveillance camera. But, the police superintendent who was in charge of the police operation at the Parliament Square confirmed that the police did not see Parameswaran eating and that these allegations were false.
“Many Tamils place faith and belief in what they read in the English newspapers.[..] Scotland Yard has a reputation in Sri Lanka as being the best and most trustworthy police force in the world. Tamil readers (and quite possibly others) believe the allegations have been made by Scotland Yard and therefore they must be true. My denials of the allegations have appeared hollow given the alleged police evidence to the contrary”, Parameswaran commented in the press release.
When Parameswaran’s solicitor Magnus Boyd told the Court that the allegations were entirely false, the Counsel of the newspapers accepted it.
“Both Associated Newspapers limited and News Group Newspapers Limited, through me withdraw all the allegations complained of and apologise sincerely and unreservedly to the Claimant for the allegations published and for the hurt and distress that publication caused. Both defendants are pleased to set the record straight”, said the Counsel of the newspapers.
But the Counsel hinted at hidden hands giving the false information when he said that the Associated Newspapers published the article in good faith based on information that, at that time, was understood to be reliable.
The real culprits are shielded, commented Tamil circles in London.
“I honestly believe someone gave this story to the newspapers [..] The newspapers have not told me the identity of the sources or if they were paid money for their stories. Unfortunately, this is something that I may never know”, Parameswaran said.
The youth uprising in the Eezham Tamil diaspora last year, against genocide taking place in the island with the abetment of the so-called international community, was a matter of serious concern for the authorities of many Establishments. At that time they were trying very hard through their agents to discourage youth participation in the agitations. After the war their focus was on creating disenchantment in the diaspora on the goal of national liberation, by discrediting and blunting independent political moves of the diaspora.
Thanking people who stood by him, 29-year-old Parameswaran said: “My sacrifice during the 23-day hunger strike was real and for the sake of my fellow Tamils who are suffering in Sri Lanka.”
“I am relieved that this matter is now resolved and I can start to rebuild my life again. The past 8 months have been an unbearable strain on my life, to the extent that at times I have even contemplated taking my own life. As a result of the lies that the Newspapers published about me, and through no fault of my own, I have lost friends, been shunned by family members and completely ostracised from the Tamil community,” he further said.
But how these newspapers that discredited the youth movement at the most wanted time, immediately following the genocidal war, are going to compensate the damage they have done to the political organization process of the nation of Eezham Tamils, and what courts of justice are there to sue them and the hidden hands behind them for that, ask Tamil diaspora youth circles.
Parameswaran was represented by Magnus Boyd and Michelle Riondel.
© Tamil Net
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Daily Mirror Online
The Federation’s Convener, Udul Premaratne said they will take whatever measures necessary to see that the police hold an impartial investigation into Susantha’s death.
The police initially declared that the death was due to natural causes and later said that another university student was responsible for the death. Meanwhile the mother of the victim after her first statement later went on record stating that the police was responsible for the cause of her son’s death.
According to the student union the victim was assaulted at the Ruhunu University, Maddewatta hostel premises on July 18. Bandara was hospitalized at the Diyatalawa Hospital and then transferred to the Badulla Hospital where he passed away.
© Daily Mirror Online
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Mothers complained that living with out knowing what happened to their children is something difficult to bare up.
A mother in tears told reporter Dinasena rathugamage that her son was arrested by the army when he crossed over from the then LTTE controlled area and that he is now held in the Army Camp at Welikanda.
Another mother said that finding her lost son has become a very expensive affair and she has had to spend the little money earned by selling rice to search her son.
“Please tell us if he is living or not and if he is not living we will make up are minds” said this mother.
Most of the relatives who had come to lodge complaints had come from the Manik Farm refugee camp.
They complained that it was difficult from them to travel to the Vauniya town where the police relief centre was conducted and urged the police to have the relief service at the Manik Farm camp for war refugees.
Parents also complained to the police saying that have been denied access to their children who have been detained by the army.
© BBC Sinhala
Thursday, July 29, 2010
By Sutirtho Patranobis | Hindustan Times
The government claimed to have settled 267,393 IDPs till last week. Critics have pointed out that most among the "resettled" IDPs have simply been released from the main camps to be moved to transit camps or temporary accommodations; some have even set up their own tents at their own places of origin. And rehabilitation is still a long way off.
Amid all this, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRCCS) have announced that it is running hugely short of funds to take care of 5,000 displaced families under its care.
An emergency appeal was launched in April seeking $3.4 million in cash, kind, or services to support the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS) as it assists approximately 5,000 families (25,000 people) for 24 months.
"With contributions received to date, including pledges in the pipeline, the appeal is about 40 per cent covered. Funds are urgently needed to enable SLRCS to provide much needed assistance to those displaced by years of conflict," a statement from its office said.
The government and humanitarian actors estimate that the total number of houses in need of rebuilding and reconstruction is around 260,000.
© Hindustan Times
Thursday, July 29, 2010
By B.B. Muralidhar Reddy | Frontline
Coming close on the heels of the decision of the European Union (E.U.) to discontinue, from August 15, tariff concessions to the garment and apparel industry (known as generalised system of preferences +, or GSP+) to the tune of $150 million per annum and the announcement by the Barack Obama administration of a review of trade tariff concessions (linked to workers' rights), the U.N. episode showed the complete isolation of the government not just from the Western bloc but also from the larger world community.
The Sri Lankan government may have a point in its criticism that the West is applying double standards on the human rights issue, but its failure to secure the support of the countries in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in its confrontation with the U.N. demonstrates the stark reality.
The supposed “fast-unto-death” by Housing Minister Wimal Weerawansa, which went on for a little over 50 hours, seeking the scrapping of the three-member experts' panel appointed by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on June 22 to advise him on accountability issues relating to alleged violations of human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the military operation against the LTTE was perhaps a telling commentary on the state of affairs in the “post-war” era. And with the U.N. showing no signPresident himself visited the protest site and offered a glass of water to Weerawansa to end the fast.
Weerawansa, a rebel of the ultra-nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and leader of the National Freedom Front (NFF), a constituent of the ruling alliance, is seen as a staunch loyalist of the President. Little wonder no one was convinced by the government's explanation that the protest fast had nothing to do with it. The dominant view among political observers is that the government has no one but itself to blame for the crisis centred on the U.N.
On July 6, two weeks after the announcement by the office of Ban Ki-moon on the Sri Lanka experts' panel, supporters of the Minister staged a protest outside the main gate of the U.N. office compound in the heart of Colombo. Hours later, the hundred-odd demonstrators worked themselves into a frenzy and burnt an effigy of the Secretary-General as Weerawansa arrived on the scene. They laid siege to the U.N. office and prevented the U.N. staff from leaving the building for a few hours. The police tried to stop the protesters but had to retreat reportedly on the orders of Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who is the younger brother of the President. The drama continued into the night.
On July 7, the U.N. virtually shut down its office and asked its staff to work from home. The protesters continued to camp at the site. On day three the Minister joined the protest, set up a makeshift tent outside the gates of the U.N. compound and vowed not to eat until the U.N. panel was dissolved. A report that the U.N. was winding up the UNDP's office in Sri Lanka and “recalling” its chief, Neil Bhune, created a sensation on July 8. But it soon came to light that the UNDP was in the process of winding down for some time now. The timing of the news, however, was seen as a counter from the U.N.
Fifty-two hours into the fast, President Rajapaksa intervened. He visited the site and served water to the Minister, apparently after his family requested him to do so. The direct intervention from the head of state revealed once again the many layers of the politics of the island nation.
Meanwhile, on July 17, a week after his “recall” to the U.N. headquarters, the Sri Lanka Resident Coordinator was back in the island nation. He was reportedly called for consultations to the U.N. headquarters but was back in Colombo to help rebuild the nation and assist in rejuvenating its ties with the U.N. Despite the move, the damage seemed to have been done.
The experts' panel
What is this experts' panel that led to the showdown? It was announced on June 22 and its mandate is to prepare a report within four months on the implementation of the government's commitment on human rights accountability made in the joint statement issued by the Secretary-General and the President after the former's visit to Sri Lanka in May 2009, less than a week after the end of the war.
Indonesia's Marzuki Darusman is to serve as the chair of the panel, which includes Yasmin Sooka of South Africa and Steven Ratner of the United States. As per a statement by the U.N., the panel will examine “the modalities, applicable international standards and comparative experience with regard to accountability processes, taking into account the nature and scope of any alleged violations in Sri Lanka”.
'Not a follow-up'
Within hours, the government denounced the panel as an intervention in Sri Lanka's internal affairs and asserted that it was not a follow-up of the commitment made by Colombo during Ban Ki-moon's visit in 2009.
At a news conference, Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris went to the extent of saying that the panel's members would not be issued visas. The Minister noted: “Sri Lanka regards the appointment of the Sri Lanka panel of experts as an unwarranted and unnecessary interference with a sovereign nation. This interference, moreover, has potential for exploitation by vested interests hostile to the process of reconciliation taking place in Sri Lanka.”
The government referred to the ‘Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation' Commission appointed by Rajapaksa in May and argued that it would address all concerns, including questions on accountability. The government's explanation raised more questions than it sought to answer. Why did it take a year for the President to appoint the commission after the end of the war?
If the government has nothing to hide about the conduct of the war, as Rajapaksa and others in his regime have said, why is it so allergic to a mere advisory panel to the U.N. Secretary-General?
Gap in perceptions
The answer perhaps lies in the gap in the perceptions of the government and the U.N. on the commitments made by Colombo to Ban Ki-moon. It is true that there is no specific reference in the joint statement on the alleged human rights violations and the accountability process. But there is also no movement on the promises made by the President on most issues.
Extracts from the statement read:
“The government expressed its commitment to ensure the economic and political empowerment of the people of the North through its programmes. President Rajapaksa expressed his firm resolve to proceed with the implementation of the 13th Amendment [on the devolution of powers to the provincial councils], as well as to begin a broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil parties, in the new circumstances, to further enhance this process and to bring about lasting peace and development in Sri Lanka.
“Sri Lanka reiterated its strongest commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, in keeping with international human rights standards and Sri Lanka's international obligations. The Secretary-General underlined the importance of an accountability process for addressing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. The government will take measures to address those grievances.”
In an opinion piece in the English daily Daily Mirror, Harrish Peiris (spokesman of the President from 2001-2005) wrote that while on the face of it the U.N. panel was a direct international intervention in Sri Lanka's affairs, it reflected the lack of credible progress on crucial issues of reconciliation and political solution to the ethnic confict.
The writer expressed the view that the U.N. endorsement of the victory of the security forces over the LTTE came with the caveat that Colombo would pursue three objectives, namely, rehabilitation and reconstruction of conflict-affected areas; finding a political solution that addresses the causes of the conflict, through a dialogue with all parties, especially the Tamil parties; and measures to deal with possible violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.
Peiris wrote: “Of the three issues above, post-conflict rehabilitation we would need to do for humanitarian and equity reasons and to continue to claim to be a civilised society. It's the absence of a political solution or at least a credible political process, of engagement with the Tamil polity and its dominant representatives, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the world is suspicious about our intentions and the trajectory of our post-conflict socio-political order. A political solution that receives the approval of the TNA would have international credibility and reduce the political pressure on the accountability issues, which anyway we should do domestically with the emphasis on truth and reconciliation and not crime and punishment.”
In this context the protest and fast by a Cabinet Minister on the constitution of the U.N. panel becomes interesting. According to reports, the heat being turned on ever so mildly by the international players, as showcased by the E.U.'s latest moves plus the lack of support from the NAM, Russia and even to some extent China, perhaps fostered this approach – ingeniously unofficial yet enough to draw attention to the Sri Lankan government's official standpoint.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
By Kusal Perera | South Asia Speaks
The Weerawansa fiasco is one incident that gathered major media coverage and thus provides ample space for an assessment of media professionalism and independence. “Daily Mirror” (DM), generally talked of as impartial and professional than most Sinhala news papers therefore would be best for this purpose. To talk on journalistic independence and media professionalism.
DM went online breaking news and providing explanations on their ‘broken’ news, clearly showing the slip that was intentionally “anti Ban Ki-moon”. Being anti Ban Ki-moon at that point of time in Sri Lanka, was (01) consciously getting in step with the government instigated Weerawansa ‘comedy’ (02) openly accepting the editorial policy as bias and not independent and (03) letting down the ‘Readers’ by publishing wholly twisted reports.
This is a case in point, on such DM reportage. Bias to the core and intentionally nuanced and malicious in reporting.
On 09 July at 11.50 am, DM told its readers that Ban Ki-moon had issued a statement misleading every one. Captioned “Ban statement misleading” it said, [quote] UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has misled the media and the public by giving the impression that the UNDP Regional Center situated in Sri Lanka had been closed as a result of the protest being carried out by Minister Wimal Weerawansa outside the UN country office in Colombo [unquote] The tone of the DM language without nuances, is loudly accusing.
Now, whom is DM using to accuse UN Secretary General as wrong and misleading ? An unnamed “UN Colombo official”. The man who took the decision to close down the UN regional centre in Colombo and says why he closed it down, is not “right and true” for DM. Why ? That does not fit the pre determined stand of DM on this whole Weerawansa fiasco. So they went to an unnamed local source to report what they had already decided, they would publish. “That the UN regional office in Colombo was not closed due to Weerawansa’s crude “patriotism”. How professional is that journalism ?
The DM did not stop at that. They wanted to prove their position with this unnamed, unidentified source in Colombo is right and carried the next news post the same day (09 July) at 23.00 hours with a caption, “UN contradicts UN again”. The report says,
[quote] Just hours after the UN office in Colombo said that the closing down of the UNDP Regional Center in Sri Lanka was not linked to the protests outside the UN in Colombo, UN Associate spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York a short while ago that both were linked.[unquote]
Who is this “UN office in Colombo” source that DM keeps insisting is more authoritative than even the UN Secretary General and the Associate Spokesperson ? Its the same unnamed, unidentified UN Colombo official. If at this point, the DM was so certain about its “Colombo office” source they should have clearly said who it is, instead of continuing to quote this unnamed, unidentified local source to contradict the UN Secretary General and the UN Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq, for such is not professionalism.
In fact with such stress laid down by both the UN Secretary General and the Associate spokesperson at UN head quarters on why the UN regional office in Colombo was closed, the right caption and the right news should have been that the Colombo office and the unnamed unidentified person has not been in line with the official UN position and has thus been giving out wrong information, misleading the media and the public. That was, IF the DM was independent and free of political bias.
DM did not want it that way. The DM news report thus says, [quote] When contacted by Daily Mirror online today, a UN Colombo official clarified that preparations were underway for several months now to close down the UNDP Regional Center in Sri Lanka and it was not linked with Weerawansa’s protest. [unquote]
Why did the DM contact an unnamed local source, when two top UN positions had officially stated the reason for the closure of the Colombo regional office ? If they still did not believe the two official UN statements from NY, why did not the DM contest that with their source named and with facts and figures ?
The UN regional office in Colombo did not allow DM to stay put with its pun on the news and sent in a clearly worded statement the next day. Therefore, on 10 July at 11.26 am, DM had to publish this UN Colombo regional office statement, on line. The DM once again tried a twist on it by giving that post the caption, “UN Lanka clarifies stand”. That in fact was not a clarification of the UN position, but “a correction” to DM’s previous day Gobel’s reporting on the closure.
This is how the DM says it in their “clarifying” news. [quote] Daily Mirror online had earlier quoted a UN Colombo official as saying that preparations were underway for several months now to close down the UNDP Regional Center in Sri Lanka and it was not linked to the protest outside the UN compound.[unquote]
Contradicting this unnamed “UN Colombo official” that DM wished to quote previously, the UN regional office in Colombo in an official e-mail sent to DM online, said that there was no doubt a ‘down sizing’ of its regional office in Colombo and also said very clearly they had in fact discussed it with the External Affairs ministry. But the statement clearly said this time the closure was the result of Weerawans’a protests.
This is how the Colombo regional office statement which confirms Ban Ki-moon’s New York statement 02 days before and Farhan Haq’s brief to reporters, contradicts the DM’s unnamed Colombo UN official. [quote] However in light of the UN Secretary General’s decision announced two days ago the UN is now closing the regional center outright and it is a direct response to the situation in Colombo and the inability for the UN staff to do their work without hindrance.[unquote]
That was simple, clear and loud enough for any fifth grader to understand the reason for the closure of the Colombo office. Yet not for DM and its editorial. For they had their ulterior motive(s) in making the UN a “comedy of contradictions” and save their comedy hero Weerawansa.
Who is this unnamed, unidentified Colombo office spokesman who played it out with the DM that DM refrains from naming ?
He is, most definitely Mohan Samaranayake, the Communication Officer with the Colombo UN office. This person who has broken all ethical and moral standards of decent professional behaviour and perhaps UN conditions of employment too, sitting in the Public Performance Board (PPB), a statutory board appointed by the government minister in charge, was the person who went round saying the closure of the UN facility in Colombo had nothing to do with the protests and that was pre determined. Being a privileged person of this Rajapaksa government, Samaranayake has been faithful to the regime here rather than to his “employer”, the UN. He was quoted by the AP and also by the Nation news paper on the same issue, although the DM kept him unnamed and undisclosed.
This also brings out the issue, what the UN would do, or should do with such local employees who not only contradicts UN interests in pledging their loyalty with the country government, but also helps ridicule and insult the UN, publicly.
Conniving with such devalued persons who are not even identified, such is the vested interest in DM’s professional media culture. Twist, turn and toast the news to suit its own petty agenda, never mind the responsibility to the “reader” public.
The Sri Lankan media in general has been this over the past half decade. It had tried to project itself as nationalistic and patriotic. In the process, they had given up their professionalism and their independence.
Therefore, there is no logic in asking the government to allow media freedom, when Editors and journalists themselves don’t act independent and ethically. They have to first establish their independence within the framework of the “Code of Professional Practice” known as the Code of Ethics drafted, agreed and accepted by the Editors’ Guild itself.
The editors who drafted this Code of Ethics for all journalists, agreed foremost in its preamble that [quote] This code of practice which is binding on all Press institutions and journalists, aims to ensure that the print medium in Sri Lanka is free and responsible and sensitive to the needs and expectations of its readers, while maintaining the highest international standard of journalism. [unquote]
The preamble goes on to say, “those standards require newspapers to strive for accuracy and professional integrity, and to uphold the best traditions of investigative journalism in the public interest, unfettered by distorting commercialism or by improper pressure or by narrow self-interest which conspires against press freedom”.
We are yet to see editors sticking by this Code of Ethics. There is no talk of journalists being told and advised by editors to work according to their own Code of Ethics.
One may also take refuge by saying that this Code of Ethics is only for the print media and not for others. But, an irresponsible editor handling a web based online news portal as an extension of the print media, can not be a responsible editor in the print media. That apart, this code of ethics should be discussed for all media now, for it is not print media alone that fashion the mindset of this society. True, this would not be taken as a responsibility by the publishers or their association(s). For they are all in this Sri Lanka, where businesses are almost always State sponsored and politically patronised. It is therefore, once again the Editors and journalists who would have to work towards an independent media and for their own self respect.
© South Asia Speaks
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Photo courtesy: lankatruth
It was organised by the Inter University Students' Federation.
Udul Premaratne, convenor of the Federation, said that the protest was organised against the alleged incident where Ruhuna university student Susantha Bandara died due to a police assault.
The Federation added that the protest was being carried out to force the authorities to arrest the police officers responsible for the incident.
Newsfirst correspondent at the protest said that a large number of students were participating at the protest and added that they were carrying placards with pictures of the student who was allegedly killed.
Newsfirst cameras captured the Anti-riot squads and police stationed in several locations in the city from morning. A heavy deployment of security personnel could be observed at the Department of Higher Education and in Fort.
Despite these measures, large numbers of students could be seen arriving at the venue to take part in the protest campaign.
Speaking to Newsfirst at the venue, Udul Premaratne, convenor of the Inter University Student's Federation said that once the protest was organised, the government had threatened bus owners to hinder transport.
“We demand that the government arrest those police officers responsible for the death of student Susantha Bandara. He died due to an assault by the police. He was hit on the head and the government was attempting to shy away from the responsibility by allowing a student to be killed in this manner by blaming it on another student,” said Premaratne.
The students concluded the protest around 5.30pm and dispersed peacefully.
© News First
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Rev. Panama Chandarathana, the Chief Sanganayaka thero of Wellassa Digamadulla region along with villagers from Ragamwela agreed to call off a protest following a pledge by senior police officers.
Hundreds of Ragamwela villagers demonstrated at the Panama junction calling the police whom they accuse of occupying their ancestral land to leave.
Wasantha Chandrapala who visited the scene reported that protesters who burnt tyres and logs sat down to block the Pothuwil Okanda highway for a over an hour.
Security of the area was tightened by calling armed riot Police squads and the special task force, he added.
Senior Deputy Inspector General for East Edison Gunathilaka who met the protesters promised to 'find a solution'.
An armed group has destroyed several houses and attacked villagers in Ragamwela, Panama, Potuvil on the night of 17th July.
Dozens of villagers visited the Ampara Human Rights commission on monday to complaint against police occupying their land.
Panama is in the vicinity of the Yala wildlife sanctuary and the Arugambay surfing resort.
Tourism industry in the area that has been badly affected during the decades long conflict, has seen a revival in recent months.
© BBC Sinhala
- ► 2008 (14)
- ► August (36)
- ► September (134)
- ► October (115)
- ► November (115)
- ► January (131)
- ► February (152)
- ► March (96)
- ► April (93)
- ► May (106)
- ► June (115)
- Sri Lanka: Villagers protest against 'land grab'
- Thousnads of students take to the streets against ...
- How “responsible” SL Editors play foul on readers
- Sri Lanka: Panel pressure
- Over 35,000 displaced Tamils still in camps
- Over 500 pleas to find loved ones
- Sri Lanka: Students go to Human Rights Commission
- Tamil hunger striker wins libel claim against Dail...
- ▼ Jul 29 (8)
- ► August (164)
- ► September (114)
- ► October (70)
- ► November (63)
- ► January (77)
- ► March (40)
- ► April (104)
- ► May (79)
- ► June (82)
- ► August (61)
- ► September (53)
- ► October (37)
- ► November (72)
- ► January (39)
- ► February (40)
- ► March (53)
- ► April (28)
- Reporters Sans Frontières
- Media Legal Defence Initiative
- International Press Institute
- International News Safety Institute
- International Media Support
- International Freedom of Expression eXchange
- International Federation of Journalists
- Committee to Protect Journalists
- Asian Human Rights Commission
- Amnesty International