Thursday, August 04, 2011

"When journalists are assaulted, I visit them in Hospital" says SL Media Minister

Ada Derana

"I am not the Defence Minister and as the Defence Minister the President has directed the Inspector General to look into the legal matters of the crimes involving the media" Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella stated.

Addressing a media gathering held today in Colombo, he stated that as the Media Minister his role was to visit those in hospital whenever such an incident took place and also to bring king coconut for them. He jokingly added that king coconut was equal to saline.

He made these statements in reply to a question put forward by a journalist regarding police inaction on crimes against the media as well as what steps were being taken regarding the solving of these cases.

I cannot take the law into my hands and I cannot tell the Police to bring the culprits to justice tomorrow, he claimed, adding that there is a long legal process which needs to be followed in such cases.

The Minister stated that President Mahinda Rajapaksa has publicly requested witnesses to come forward and give any information regarding these cases because no legal case can move forward without evidence being proven.

Answering another question, Minister Rambukwella said that in comparison to the number of crimes against the media there is around 500 times the amount of unsolved robberies in the country which never gets discussed.

He added that sometimes it takes up to ten years to solve one of these cases and assured that all of them are being investigated.

© Ada Derana

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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Protesters call for prompt prosecution in Sri Lanka murder case

Deutsche Presse Agentur | Monsters & Critics

Thousands of villagers protested in north-western Sri Lanka Wednesday over the murder of an aid worker, alleging that prosecutors were delaying the case because of the main suspect's political connections, police said.

The body of Pattani Razeek, the head of a Muslim relief fund, was found buried at a building site last week, 17 months after he disappeared.

The police have arrested Shabdeen Naushad, who witnesses say bundled Razeek into a waiting van in Polonnaurwa, 180 kilometres north of Colombo, in February 2010. The police also said they traced telephone calls made by the suspect in connection with the case.

Protesters allege that Naushad has so far not been prosecuted because he is employed by an institution linked to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, and worked on the most recent election campaign of Rishard Bathiudeen, the current minister.

An estimated 7,000 protesters chanted slogans against Bathiudeen at Razeek's funeral in a village 50 kilometres south of Polonnaurwa. The also called for a shutdown in Puttalam, the nearest main town.

The minister has denied any connection with the kidnapping and murder.

The victim's son Riz Khan Razeek told the German Press Agency dpa that his father resisted pressure by the minister's office to contribute to the campaign fund of the ruling United People's Freedom Alliance.

'There was also political pressure from the minister to delay the investigations into the abduction,' he said.

Razeek's presumed abductors demanded a ransom of 20 million rupees (182,000 US dollars) from his son, but he said he could not afford the payment.

Razeek was the managing trustee of the Community Trust Fund, a primarily Muslim organization which helped victims of the 1983-2009 civil war in the north and eastern parts of the country.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said after the arrest last week, 'We hope that investigation and prosecution of this crime will now be expedited.'

Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the UNHRC in Geneva, said the office also called for 'similar progress in resolving the many thousands of outstanding cases of disappearance in Sri Lanka.'

Most disappearances happened during the government forces' 26-year conflict with Tamil separatists in the north and eastern areas.

She also encouraged Colombo to accept the assistance of the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, which has 5,653 outstanding Sri Lankan cases on its books, and to invite it to visit Sri Lanka.

© M & C

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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Seven Tamil detainees hospitalised after severe torture by the prison officials

Asian Human Rights Commission

According to the information that the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) received, seven Tamil detainees in Bogambara Remand Prison in Kandy were severely tortured by prison officials on 14 June 2011 inside the prison premises.

Following a dispute which happened between two groups of Sinhalese prisoners several officers came to the prison to investigate the matter. This dispute was due to a territorial argument as both groups selling drugs in the prisons compound.

While the prison officials were carrying out their investigation they started to torture Tamil detainees in the remand prison who had no connection what-so-ever with the dispute. The particular detainees have been held for several years without being charged due to delays in the judicial system. The officers abandoned their investigation and started to torture these detainees, threatening that they would face the same difficulties as Kuttamanni and Thangathurai, two former detainees who were killed some years ago. The incident pertaining to their deaths became nation-wide news at the time. The prisoners were bleeding from their injuries and suffering greatly from pain. The prison officials admitted all seven detainees to the Prison Hospital for treatment.

To-date, the prison authorities have paid no attention to the incident and no investigation into the violations of the detainee's rights has been instigated.

Furthermore the police also, have not made any effort to investigate these brutal attacks. While prisoners can make complaints within the prison itself they are not permitted to make complaints to the outside authorities. The Headquarters Police Station of Kandy is situated in close proximity to the location where the incident took place. The Headquarters Inspector of Police (HQI) of the said police station is supposed to initiate an investigation on any incident which endangers the lives of detainees but he has ignored his official duties.

The details of the detainees who were tortured as follows:

1. Ramaia Rubachandiran (38) of Walaygala, Kandy father of three who was arrested on 13 May 2008
2. Weersami Sivasubramaniyam (35) of Rathwatta, Matale who is a father of two and arrested on 10 August 2008
3. Ganasean Pushparaja (29) of Lindhula, Hatton a father of one child and who was arrested on 21 September 2008
4. Ramaiya Thevarasa (34) of Putu Kudiyeruppu who was arrested on 1 June 2009
5. Vishwanadan Rameshkumar of Ratwatte, Ukuwala who is a father of one child and arrested on 9 August 2008
6. Velu Yogarasa (24) of Marugola, Ukuwela who was arrested on 9 August 2008
7. Fernando (25) of Ukuwella, Thalawakala who was arrested on 16 August 2008.

All the prisoners are waiting for justice for the violation of fundamental rights of them.

The Asian Human Rights Commission has reported innumerable cases of torturing innocent persons by different state agencies including prison and police which are illegal under international and local law which have taken place at different Police Station in the country over the past few years.

The State of Sri Lanka sign and ratified the CAT on 3 January 1994. Following state obligations Sri Lanka adopted Act number 22 of 1994 the law adopted by the Sri Lankan parliament making torture a crime that can be punishable for minimum seven years and not less than ten years on being proven guilty. The Attorney General of Sri Lanka is suppose to file indictments in the case where credible evidence were found on torturing people by state officers.


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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Sri Lanka plan to become "Asian Hub"

Exim News Service

Sri Lanka aims to create an Asian shipping hub capable of competing against Singapore and Dubai by pouring $3.4 billion into expanding ports with Chinese help, after the island's container volumes surged to a record.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has a goal of capitalising on the end of a 26-year civil war to build a trade gateway to emerging markets, and port revenue may almost triple to 72 billion rupees in 2015 from 2010, it has been estimated.

The government forecasts rising cargo levels will enable transportation, including ports, to make up 40 per cent of gross domestic product by 2020, a fourfold gain from last year. Economic growth reached a 32-year high of 8 per cent in 2010 amid Chinese investment in roads and harbours.

Mr Rajapaksa is seeking to take advantage of Sri Lanka's position—31 kilometres off India's southern coast. There lie the main shipping lanes linking the Far East, West Asia, Africa and Europe.

Deeper berths, new terminals and increased efficiency in the capital, Colombo, and in southern Hambantota city will allow bigger, super post-Panamax ships to dock and transfer cargo more quickly to and from smaller vessels that carry goods for India and other emerging markets.

The government is seeking to close the gap with Singapore, the top container port in 2009, and Dubai, which ranked seventh, according to data from London-based Cargo Systems.

Container volume in Sri Lanka surged 22 per cent in 2010 to 4.16 million TEUs.

Last year's level was a record, Sri Lanka Ports Authority Chairman, Mr Priyath Wickrama, said in a June interview, adding that it is expected to rise 10 per cent in 2011 and as much as 20 per cent next year, with target capacity for the capital and Hambantota combined set at 12.8 million units by 2015.

"Hambantota is the most suitable location to feed the Indian Subcontinent," he said. "A combination of Colombo and Hambantota will compete with Dubai, Salalah and Singapore."

Colombo's three existing terminals currently account for the island's entire cargo volume. Hambantota is still under development. The goal is for five Colombo terminals by 2015 with a total capacity of 10.8 million TEUs.

Sri Lanka's 18 per cent share of Indian transhipment, however, may fall as Indian ports improve and its government tries to match the lower prices offered by the island's terminals, it is projected.

Meanwhile, China has tightened its embrace of Sri Lanka by committing at least $3.7 billion since 2005 for projects from ports to a power plant.

It pledged $306.7 million in 2007 to the initial phase of the port in Hambantota, the highest among donors that also included the Asian Development Bank, Japan and Denmark. The island expects an $808 million loan from Export-Import Bank of China to help pay for the next leg, it has been reported.

Mr Rajapaksa’s ports plan aims to tap that prospective gain as well as to deepen trade ties between emerging markets. Port projects are expected to spur more foreign investment and create about 55,000 jobs in Colombo and Hambantota.

© Exim India

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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Sri Lanka: Sinhalese refuse to accept historical errors and crimes that made war unavoidable

By Tisaranee Gunasekara | Transcurrents

“A historic victory can wreak as much havoc as a historic defeat”. Tony Judt (Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten 20th Century)

The road to Black July (and the long Eelam War it rendered unstoppable) was paved with avoidable errors and needless crimes. Amongst this litany, arguably one of the most poignant is the fate of the inaugural political initiative of the newly formed Tamil United Front’s (TUF).

The 6-point proposal presented to the United Front government by the TUF in 1972 was a model of moderation. Yet, neither Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike nor her left (LSSP and CP) partners felt that the TUF’s proposal merited even a formal rejection. The TUF proposal was rudely and insultingly consigned to the dust-heap of historical might-have-beens’.

In brief, the TUF proposal asked for the parity of Sinhala and Tamil languages and a constitutional guarantee of the citizenship right of all Tamil speaking people (‘The state shall have no power to deprive a citizen of his citizenship’). It argued for a secular state with equal protection for all religions and requested that the state should guarantee the equality and the ‘valid fundamental rights’ of all persons and ethno-cultural groups. It advocated a constitutional provision abolishing caste and untouchability and asked for administrative decentralisation (positing that ‘peoples’ power’ rather than ‘state power’ is the necessary corollary of a ‘participatory democracy’).

There was nothing separatist in these demands, nothing racist, nothing that any reasonably intelligent Sinhala nationalist could have objected to, rationally. These proposals were profoundly democratic. Every one of them could have been implemented within a unitary Sri Lanka. The newly formed TUF was careful not to mention such emotionally-charged and divisive terms as power-sharing or federalism. Moreover the UF government had the requisite two-thirds majority to change the constitution, if necessary.

Objectively, rationally, there were no bars to the acceptance and the implementation of the TUF’s unbelievably moderate proposal. And yet it was condemned to die an unnatural death through malign-neglect.

Four years and many peaceful protests later the TUF changed its name to the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) and adopted the Vadukkodai Resolution, advocating a separate state. Had the UF government possessed the intelligence and the foresight to deal with a moderate TUF and its unobjectionable demands, the subsequent tragedies may well have been averted. But a combination of Sinhala supremacism and opportunism, augmented by a hubristic blindness and a stupefying arrogance, prevented the UF government from opting for the path of peaceful democratic resolution, bringing the country several leaps closer to a devastating war.

Sri Lanka had one more opportunity to avoid the looming catastrophe. In its classic 1977 election manifesto, JR Jayewardene’s UNP acknowledged the existence of a Tamil problem and promised to resolve it: “The United National Party accepts the position that there are numerous problems confronting the Tamil-speaking people. The lack of a solution to their problems has made the Tamil-speaking people support even a movement for the creation of a separate state.

In the interests of national integration and unity so necessary for the economic development of the whole country, the Party feels such problems should be solved without loss of time. The Party when it comes to power will take all possible steps to remedy their grievances in such fields as education, colonisation, use of Tamil language and employment in the public and semi-public corporations. We will summon as All-Party Conference as stated earlier and implant its decisions”

That promise too was broken, to the detriment of Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans.

The Jayewardene administration committed several historically unforgivable errors. One was to proscribe the JVP, unfairly, on the false charge of instigating the Black July. But the Black July itself resulted from an earlier seminal mistake: the President’s failure to honour the promise he made in the 1977 Election Manifesto to implement a political solution to the Tamil issue. The landslide victory scored by the TULF (with the Vadukoddai Resolution as its main electoral platform) in 1977 indicated the extent of Tamil discontent and the urgent need to alleviate it. But in this essential matter, the Jayewardene administration proved to be as disastrously obdurate as its unlamented predecessor.

If in the aftermath of his massive electoral victory Mr. Jayewardene had summoned an APC and commenced a dialogue with the TULF, a reasonable resolution could have been found (perhaps something akin to the 13th Amendment). The armed groups, though in existence, were still too weak to veto or wreck such a solution which could have been used to isolate and debilitate them still further. A majority of Tamils, still law-abiding, still desirous of a dignified normalcy, would have accepted a Jayewardene-Amirthalingam Pact.

Moreover, in 1977, the UNP had a mandate from the South to offer a political solution to the North. The SLFP was reeling from its unprecedented defeat and the JVP was in the most moderate phase of its history. Thus a political solution could have been offered without significant Southern opposition.

But that possible J-A Pact never happened. That critical absence conferred immense credibility on the argument for an armed struggle for Tamil liberation. The ‘armed struggle for separation’ argument gained further vigour with the violent DDC polls and the burning of the Jaffna Library and became indisputable with the blood-letting of Black July.

The Jayewardene administration did not inaugurate the Black July (some government ministers played a leading role in it, while many UNPres participated as foot-soldiers; but then so did many SLFPers, JVPers, and people without party affiliations). The regime may not have minded a mini-riot but the sheer ferocity of the conflagration took the power-wielders by surprise. Characteristically the President tried to benefit from the pogrom, by depicting the carnage as a ‘collective human sacrifice’ to propitiate Sinhala-anger. Perhaps he even thought (hoped) that the violence would terrify the Tamils into familiar submission.

The feeling of Tamils as the ‘alien/inimical Other’ was only one factor which enabled Black July; the other was the belief that Tamils were incapable of retaliating. The Tamil armed groups were not seen as a real threat (their role was that of a convenient scapegoat). The hysterical Sinhala-reaction to the apocryphal story about a Tiger attack on Colombo (the mobs ran, helter-skelter, in the opposite direction, many of them shouting ‘koti enawo’ – Tigers are coming) stemmed from the shock generated in the collective Sinhala psyche by the sudden, unexpected loss of this belief in freedom from reprisal. (That loss of impunity was one of the main reasons for the absence of any retaliatory violence, post-July 1983, despite innumerable Tiger depredations, beginning with the Anuradhapura massacre).

The long Eelam War followed. The Tigers, in the pursuit of their goal, did not shy away from barbaric deeds. Their anti-civilisational practices did much to discredit them internationally and, to an extent, within the Tamil community. The LTTE’s criminality was one of the underlying causes of its ultimate ruin.

The Indo-Lanka Accord and the 13th Amendment presented one final opportunity for the two communities to come together. The Jayewardene administration had become somewhat chastened and India could have become an honest broker, protecting Tamil interests in an undivided Sri Lanka. That last chance was destroyed by the LTTE, with generous help from Southern extremists. It is instructive that the anti-Accord struggle was joined by the Tigers, and their seeming Sinhala antithesis, the JVP with the total endorsement of the SLFP.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, together with other hardliners within the SLFP, played a key politico-propaganda role enabling and justifying the JVP’s ‘liberation struggle’ against India (in reality a campaign of uninterrupted coercion and carnage focused on the South), until the JVP turned on its erstwhile sponsor. Almost two decades later Mr. Rajapaksa was to provide the political leadership to the war effort which defeated the LTTE and ended the Eelam War. In this the LTTE was once again his inadvertent ally; by conscripting children, murdering unarmed political opponents and exploiting suicide bombers, the Tigers turned themselves into untouchables, regionally and internationally.

Barbarism may have been the LTTE’s forte but it is not the LTTE’s exclusive preserve. Legitimate states too can succumb to barbarism, if they blind, deafen and desensitise themselves with a belief in their own moral-ethical and political infallibility. Almost 20 years after the Black July, the Sinhala South is back in the ‘we never did any wrong, we can never do any wrong’ mindset which enabled that old horror.

The Sinhalese refuse to accept the historical errors and crimes which made the war unavoidable; they also hide from the brutal reality of the war by parroting the zero-civilian casualty lie. (Incidentally, but pertinently, the gruesome scenes of prisoner abuse and execution depicted in the Channel 4 Documentary allegedly happened not during the war, but in the immediate aftermath of victory.

This timing makes even the argument of necessity inadmissible; what was done – if it was done – was motivated not by the exigencies of war but by a deadly combination of sadism and revenge). The Tamils focus on their defeat and their indubitable suffering, without a clear analysis of the Tiger crimes and errors which paved the way to Nandikadal and the open prison camps.

With the defeat of the LTTE, the Rajapaksa administration was offered a rate historic opportunity to resolve the political problems and grievances which gave birth to the Tigers and sustained the war. But this opportunity was not utilised.

The results of the local government election in the North clearly indicate the dangers inherent in the regime’s current Sinhala supremacist course.

Unfortunately, it does look as if this lesson is lost on the Ruling Family and its acolytes. In an interview Brother-Minister Basil Rajapaksa countered the TNA demands for greater devolution by claiming that “the President has a bigger mandate not to give these powers” (Daily Mirror – 28.7.2011). Minister Champika Ranawaka made a veiled threat to starve the North of national funds. These remarks indicate that the Rajapaksas may opt for punishment/revenge rather than reconciliation after their electoral drubbing in the North.

This Sinhala extremism can create conditions for another upsurge of Tamil extremism (as Tony Judt said in another context, “it is the myopia of the first that lends spurious credibility to the argument of the second”).

So long as the reasons which drove Lankan Tamils to peacefully and democratically endorse separatism in the parliamentary election of 1977 and support a war for Eelam post-1983 are not understood, acknowledged and addressed, the Sinhala-Tamil divide manifested in the recent electoral outcomes will not abate.

Given the proclivity of the absolute majority of Sinhala and English language media to under-report Tamil issues, the festering of this ethnic rift may happen unseen by Southern eyes and unheard by Southern ears. Until the moment of explosion arrives.

© Transcurrents

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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Manmohan Singh supports Sri Lanka at the expense of Tamils

By Sidharth Gautham Sunder | Truth Dive

The General Secreatry of MDMK Vaiko met Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan yesterday to discuss various issues. Mr. Vaiko is a former Member of Parliament who maintains good relationship with both Dr. Manmohan Singh and the BJP leaders.

Mr. Vaiko placed demands on Sri Lanka including action for international investigation on the war crimes committed by Sri Lankan army, withdrawal of army from Tamil home land, prevent Sinhala colonization, impose economic embargo against Sri Lanka.

But Dr. Manmohan Singh reiterated the established Indian policy towards Sri Lanka based on the China factor. He expressed his fears that China will replace India as strategic and trade partner. This is only expected from the Prime Minister since the Indian foreign policy is still under the control of Anti Tamil establishment in South block.

Therefore Vaiko returned empty handed. Vaiko and other politicians of Tamil Nadu have no influence in New Delhi. Politically they have either lost their power due to corruption charges or due to their preference to other issues. There is no politician in Tamil nadu who can exert pressure over New Delhi to save Sri Lankan Tamils. However there is more euphoria and empty rhetoric on who have the leadership to save Tamils.

The declaration of Prime Minister also means that the resolutions of Tamil nadu assembly asking for economic sanctions has been dumped to the dust bin by the central Government. The resolutions of the Tamil nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa are as good as the letters written by her predecessor M. Karunanidhi making no impact or result in favor of Tamils.

Unless the flawed foreign policy of India is rectified there is no hope for Tamils. Earlier the policy makers who supported Sri Lanka propagated the issue of terrorism and threat to India from LTTE. But after the demise of LTTE they have come up with the idea of China getting afoot hold in Sri Lanka posing a security threat to India. This is untenable. China maintains good relation with Pakistan too. If India is capable of tackling such a nexus there is no reason why India cannot overcome a China Sri Lanka partnership. Anyway such a hostile partnership has already developed. It is now easier for India to tackle any threat from any combination since a formidable strategic relationship is evolved with mighty USA.

The implied meaning in the declaration of Indian Prime Minster is painful to digest for an average Tamil living anywhere in this world. They feel orphaned. What does it mean? Should Tamils desist from demanding justice for war crimes for the sake of Indian security? Should the Tamils in Sri Lanka be reduced to slavery for defending India? Why Tamils should pledge their freedom for safeguarding the strategic and economic relationship of any two countries?

These questions have to be answered. And will be answered.

© Truth Dive

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