Peace for the World

Peace for the World
First democratic leader of Justice the Godfather of the Sri Lankan Tamil Struggle: Honourable Samuel James Veluppillai Chelvanayakam

Friday, August 26, 2016

Tamils continue to face racial discrimination in Sri lanka, says UN Committee post review

United Nations reviewed discrimination against Tamils in Sri Lanka. Reuters
 United Nations. Reuters
   

Tamils continue to face discrimination in Sri Lanka, a UN committee stated recently, and questioned the island-country if Indian Tamils were allowed to get back to their homeland - while reviewing a report on the anti-discrimination efforts undertaken by the country.

No cases of sexual violence - during the horrific civil war in Sri Lanka - had been submitted, even though this had affected thousands of women, said Jose Francisco Cali Tzay, committee member and country rapporteur for Sri Lanka, during a review of Sri Lanka in the 90th session of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

Last week, CERD concluded the examination of the combined tenth to seventeenth periodic report of Sri Lanka - on its implementation of provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

The Tamil population continues to suffer discrimination, including through lack of access to public services in their own language, and the fact that police agents in the north of the country did not speak Tamil, he noted. People continue to live in fear due to the big military presence.

The recently-promulgated Law for Witness and Victim Protection had no dedicated funds for the mechanism to facilitate its implementation on the ground.

What measures have been taken to protect Tamil women from multiple discrimination, the Guatemalan expert who has been on the Committee since 2004, asked, warning that discrimination against Tamils, particularly for not having access to public spaces to bury their dead would continue to hinder lasting peace and reconciliation.

Since 2009, there have been several issues that have remained unaddressed, brought about by violations of humanitarian laws and human rights by both sides, leading to anxiety, fear and suspicion, said Ravinatha Aryasinha, Sri Lankan Ambassador to the UN office at Geneva, while presenting his country report. Successive governments have failed to reach a political settlement with the groups.

Aryasinha referred to the various steps that have been taken since the Maithripala Sirisena government assumed power in January 2015, including the introduction of the nineteenth amendment to the Constitution - which imposed a two-term limit for the mandate of President and recognized national reconciliation as a duty of the President. The amendment also established a special Presidential Task Force on Reconciliation and an Office for National Unity Commission for  Truth, Justice, Reconciliation that would consult with South African authorities.

Both Sinhala and Tamil were made the languages of administration and of the courts, he added. Article 22, per the provisions of the 16th amendment to the Constitution, ensures that Sinhala will be the official language in all provinces except in the north and east where Tamil will also be used.

Replying to questions by experts on application of customary laws, the Sri Lankan delegation said that any change of customary law had to change from the communities themselves. As such, those people of Islamic faith have the option of subscribing to Muslim personal laws (including statutes) while Tamils hailing from the Jaffna Peninsula fall within the ambit of the ‘Thesavalame Law'.

Any Sri Lankan had the right to return - and the Government had re-established the possibility for dual citizenships - said the Sri Lankan delegation, replying to a question from a human rights expert that if Indian Tamils were allowed to return to their country.

The CERD members said that the situation of refugees and internally displaced persons, war widows, inter-ethnic violence, reconciliation, the Prevention of Terrorism Act, and the lack of human rights education were all “issues of concern” for the Committee.

Reports presented by civil society organisations and the UN human rights mechanisms along with UN resolutions, offered a very different picture of the current situation than that presented by the Sri Lankan government - the discrepancies were concerning, Tzay stated.

The UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Mónica Pinto, were on an official visit to the Buddhist nation this year.

Both the experts had said that “more reforms are needed before Sri Lanka can be considered to be on a path to sustainable democratisation”.

“Severe forms of torture continue to be used, although probably less frequently, while both old and new cases of torture continue to be surrounded by total impunity,” Méndez had said.

Reiterating her concerns on the issue of massive rape by the military, a CERD expert noted that many of the perpetrators were still in the north of the country, and emphasised the need for newly-recruited Tamil elements there.

Experts were concerned about the 18-month period for pre-trial detention, and raised a number of questions in relation to the application of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

“Suspects are subjected to lengthy remand periods with many being detained for years, some even up to 15 years before trial,” Méndez had said after his Sri Lankan tour.

The Act allows for arbitrary detention without charges, admissibility of statements obtained under duress in courts and limits access to a lawyer.

The Sri Lankan government, however, maintained that persons arrested under the PTA were entitled to all safeguards, including visits by family members and the National Human Rights Commission.

Questions were also raised by the UN committee on risks of political interference, referring specifically to the removal of judges for politically-motivated reasons, urging the country to adopt better provisions for ensuring the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.

Pinto had also stated that the government needs to “reinforce the independence and impartiality of the justice sector” during the drafting of its new Constitution.

This is the first interaction between the Sri Lankan government and the CERD experts since August 2001, when the last formal meeting took place in the midst of hostilities perpetrated by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

CERD is a body of independent human experts monitoring the implementation of ICERD by the state parties.

Former Editor Upali Tennekoon identifies officer who assaulted him


AUG 26 2016
Senior journalist and former Editor of the 'Rivira' Upali Tennekoon identified the person who attacked him in January 2009, in a parade before Gampaha Acting Magistrate Mahesh Herath this morning. 
The suspect is a former sergeant attached to the Intelligence Unit of the Sri Lanka Army. He is the same officer held in connection with the murder of Lasantha Wickremetunga, the former Editor-in-Chief of the Sunday Leader.
Tennakoon was driving to his office when four men on motorcycles stopped him, smashed in his car windows, and proceeded to beat him and his wife with metal bars. 
Wickremetunga was murdered January 2009, the same month Tennekoon was attacked, in a similar manner. 
Following the attack, Tennekoon's wife received phone threats asking that Tennekoon resign from journalism, or face death. 
Gampaha Additional Magistrate Lalith Kannangara ordered the suspect remanded until August 29.

Victims of Sri Lanka's brutal civil war unwilling to provide crucial testimony to war crimes court

Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena
Civilians who fled to Australia during the Sri Lankan civil war may never have their crucial testimonies heard in a war crimes court.
ABC NewsThu at 6:08am 25/08/2016 
Australia is home to thousands of Sri Lankan refugees who were victims of, or witnessed, potential war crimes in the final stages of the brutal civil war.By the National Reporting Team's Natasha Robinson

Under a resolution co-signed by Sri Lanka in October last year, the nation initially agreed to a judicial process that would involve international judges and prosecutors.

But Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena recently backed away from that pledge, leaving many victims with no faith in a judicial process controlled solely by Sri Lanka.

The testimonies of the victims living in Australia was collected by Sydney-based Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC).

Some of these detailed testimonies have gone before the United Nations, and helped trigger an historic resolution in which Sri Lanka committed to a far-reaching process of reconciliation.

But the non-profit law and policy organisation has now warned many of those who have these crucial eyewitness testimonies would be unwilling to testify before Sri Lankan judges.

PIAC's International Crimes Evidence Project coordinater, lawyer Daniela Gavshon said victims had no confidence in the judicial process.

"There are two reasons why people will engage in a transitional justice mechanism: one is if they believe that it's independent and impartial, and that's both in practice and perception, and the other reason is if they feel safe to do so," Ms Gavshon said.
"And without a foreign presence it's very hard to see how people are going to feel safe to participate."

Girls 'went missing' in detention camps

Many of the Sri Lankan asylum seekers who fled to Australia were Tamils, displaced from their villages in the north of the country.

One Tamil woman, who has spoken to the ABC on condition of anonymity, said she does not "have faith that the perpetrators can bring about reconciliation on their own."

"As a victim I have seen first-hand what happened," she said. "I have no faith that that can happen."
The woman, who the ABC has chosen to call Indira, was one of thousands of displaced persons who were trapped in the northern Sri Lankan town of Mullavaikal in the final weeks of the Sri Lankan civil war in April and early May 2009.

It was during those weeks that UN investigators found international crimes were almost certainly committed by both sides of the conflict, with civilians used as human shields and large crowds being fired upon and bombed indiscriminately.

Indira was in a makeshift hospital in Mullavaikal when the hospital came under attack.

"The hospital was just on a roadside and when they bombed I couldn't even walk, so I dragged myself with one hand and went under a vehicle that was parked, and that's how I survived that bombing," she said.

"When I was hiding I saw a lot of people who were mobile who were crossing to the army controlled area.
"I saw a mother holding a child, a baby, crossing over and at that time she was hit with a shell, and her head was blown away. She was still carrying the child and the child was alive. 
"Because everyone at that time were trying to flee, no one even helped the child. I don't know what happened to that child."
Indira was later taken into a detention camp where she was raped and tortured.

"There was a lot of torture and abuse that I underwent," she said. "There was a lot of girls who went missing who were with me inside that camp."

Mixed confidence in independence of judiciary

Former diplomat Bruce Haigh, who once served as Australia's Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, told the ABC President Sirisena is under pressure to guarantee that any war crimes court will be domestically-controlled.

"I think his own position has become a little bit weaker within Sri Lanka," Mr Haigh said.
But not all observers are critical of the idea that Sri Lanka's judiciary may preside over war crimes hearings.

Former Attorney-General of Sri Lanka Sunil da Silva said he believes the judiciary is strongly independent of the government.

"I think there are certain matters that have to be rectified, and I think the government is in the process of making sure that the judiciary will be able to deal with the situation as an independent judiciary," Mr da Silva said.
But for war crimes victims like Indira, there is still much suspicion.
"I can't hand over my testimony to the perpetrators directly, which is the government," she said
"So I tell my story in good faith that people outside the government, the international community and the UN, will seek justice for us.

"Everyone who was killed had a dream, had a life to live, and they are no longer. But people who committed those crimes are living happily, and that hurts."

SUBMISSION ON LGBTIQ PERSONS AND TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE MECHANISMS

Photo courtesy 30 Years Ago

WOMEN AND MEDIA COLLECTIVE on 08/25/2016

TO THE ZONAL TASK FORCE AND THE CONSULTATION TASK FORCE FOR RECONCILIATION MECHANISMS

Download glossary of terms here, which was included as part of the submission.

Introduction

We present this submission as individuals self-identifying as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, and Queer (LGBTIQ), as family members and friends of LGBTIQ people, and as individuals/communities coming forward in support of Sri Lankans who wish to acknowledge and break the silence surrounding a people whose rights have been denied through the mechanisms and institutional structures of a democratic state.

Context

THE LANGUAGE CARROT FOR RECONCILIATION…


2016-08-26

Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga is on record as having said that the Sri Lanka Freedom Party failed...back in the late 1950s...to balance off the language issue by not introducing legislation whereby the government should have constitutionally provided for a reasonable use of Tamil.

It took boldness and moral as well as political integrity for her, especially in the cauldron of deep racist overtones from several political parties and organizations, to come right out and say that the 1957 Act providing for a reasonable use of Tamil has not been implemented to this day, and even during and after her tenure as President, was not implemented because of these very racism-tinged divisive politics such as that encouraged by the former regime via the BBS and other similar organizations. "Every government in this country excelled in sweeping the Bill under the carpet and thereby not giving the Tamil language its rightful place."

That was not merely her way of saying mea culpa but was a sweeping indictment of the depth and extent to which southern politicians from every political party have been pandering to the whims and fancies of extremists in their desire to hold sustainable power in their hands. To rouse the ire of these extremist elements would be to risk being rejected at the hustings and thereby concede defeat to the party that panders to these extremist elements.

Remarkable guts

CBK has shown remarkable guts in daring to address this explosive issue at a public event. That a daughter of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike can strike a blow for the rights of the Tamils at such a crucial juncture in the country, especially at a time that President Sirisena has his hands full blunting renegade SLFP attacks on him, is indeed a bold step to take, especially in the full knowledge that crucial Local Government Elections can be held by the year's end, a mere 100 days away. This could not have been an off-the-cuff statement because she is in constant touch with the President and hence knows it rhymes with his own thinking. Taken together then, this is a sort of watershed statement because it shows that the SLFP under Sirisena, with her as the ideal lieutenant, is prepared to take on all detractors to prove its honest commitment to racial re-integration and reconciliation. It's perhaps the President's way of saying to the diaspora and other extremists including CM Wigneswaran that 'here we are, what you see is what you get'...and that makes it obligatory on the Tamil leadership to back off from their collectively irresolute though nationally defeatist and negative stance demanding 'self-assertion', federalism and what have you. That stance totally negates the positive moves by the government to forge sincere rights-based reconciliation as a positive step towards sustainable peace. The Tamil leadership must realize that even while sections in the South led by the SLFP [I don't include the renegade JO in that reckoning] takes tentative steps towards them in all honesty, that leadership must also recognize the destructive potential for greater destabilization that its die-hard stance can generate among extremist forces in the South.
Said CBK, "This may be a small initiative...but this is the first time that in post-independent Sri Lanka that a government is making the effort to create an enabling environment to allow its citizens to communicate with the government in their language of choice."

The problem here would at closer range appear to be the new phenomenon that the Tamils, especially in the North, have increasingly begun looking upon the Tamil National Alliance controlled Northern Provincial Council as being 'their government' with Colombo beginning to look like a distant force that holds resented power to determine their future. Here we find another phenomenon in the nature of the TNA having progressively in not so subtle moves imbued in the Tamils a stronger sense of Tamil nationalism than Prabhakaran ever did. In this, the TNA has extended the mental and psychological parameters of the then nascent sense of a Tamil nationalism strong enough to press harder for something approaching autonomous power.

One wonders how well the government has understood this phenomenon and blindly continues to presume that it is still dealing with the immediate post-war mindset of the TNA, the diaspora and the Tamil community. These facets taken together have morphed into a clear and implacable force demanding, though in less aggressive ways than did the LTTE, the maximum devolution approximating self-rule.

From being a community within a nation the TNA leadership has progressively transformed the Tamils into a 'Nation' on whose behalf they are not any more 'asking' for more power but have all but articulated the demand in clear terms for the establishment of a 'comity' of nations with Colombo.
They have in other words accomplished 'Tamil national' segregation and are working towards seeing that dream come to fruition.

This is what President Sirisena, the government, CBK and the UNP need to understand fully. Else, they will continue labouring under the impression that 'conceding Tamil language rights' will suffice to force a lasting reconciliation. Yes, from the Tamil stance that will also be the objective. The difference is that the demand today is by a people whose political leaders have clearly articulated a demand for recognition of the Tamils as a 'nation' and not as a community within a Sinhala-Buddhist nation. As CBK put it, successive governments have failed.....but successive governments were then dealing only with a separate community's demand for equal rights. That demand today is for the assertion of 'National' recognition.

It's a matter of too little too late. This is the awesome magnitude of the reality of the challenge before the Sirisena Presidency. Dealing with JO pales into insignificance in the context of the mammoth dimensions of the Tamil demands of today compared with the demands of the LTTE.

It would then appear that the military defeat of the LTTE accomplished nothing... nothing. Let me stress that fact.

When the diaspora, TGTE etc. persuaded the Tamils to vote the TNA into power and later together vote this government into power, they had their own objectives.

Pay day is at hand...I'm not too sure a mere facility to use their language 'to communicate with the government', is what was in the minds of those who helped vote this government into power.
The Bandaranaikes should have listened to Colvin R. de Silva who warned that one language would create two nations.

CBK is probably 40 years too late in reading the signs of the times. But in the national interest, one would desperately hope not.

Book Review: Sri Lanka - Lost Evenings, Lost Lives: Tamil Poems of the Sri Lankan Civil War


(Edited, translated and introduced by Lakshmi Holmstrom & Sascha Ebeling, UK, 2016.)
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By Prof. Charles Sarvan-Dated 22-Aug-2016

Front CoverThis bilingual anthology of fifty poems is by the very nature of its subject (ethnic conflict) political, and yet it would be inaccurate and unfortunate to describe the volume as a political work. It is about the experience of politics: politics as experienced not by the makers of history but by those who endure it; politics not as an abstraction but as something personally felt by ordinary, sentient, human individuals. As several of these poems attest, whether we are interested or not in politics, it affects us. Indeed, tragically, often the victims of politics are the poor and the innocent. I suggest that poets do not go searching for a theme: the subject chooses and compels them through personal experience. And “experience” here includes what the poet has seen, been told or read. ‘Tamil Poems’ does not mean poems by Eelam poets only, and there are several works by Indian Tamil poets. Many chose to write under a nom de plume.

If of the three traditional genres of Literature (Poetry, Drama, Fiction), Poetry is the most literary, it is also the most difficult to translate. Apart from other qualities, poetry being associated with song, is mnemonic: we remember lines from poetry and song but rarely from prose. In translation (particularly when, as with the present collection, it is into another language that is completely different) inevitably much is lost. And it is not only musicality but cultural connotation. Literature emerges from, and in turn reflects, a specific way of life, a culture; when translated (trans-ported) into a foreign language and culture, rich nuances of significance can be lost.

While a poem must stand on its own, background information can throw a different light, enhance appreciation. For example, in Nuhman’s ironic poem, ‘Buddha murdered’ (p. 25), the Buddha and his teaching have to be obliterated in order to burn down the Jaffna Library. On 1 June 1981, in an act of barbarism, the Library which housed well over 90,000 works, one of the biggest in Asia, was destroyed including irreplaceable ancient manuscripts and scrolls. Similarly, Rashmy’s ‘The inscription of defeat’ (pp. 129-131) requires some knowledge of the history of the ethnic conflict, and of the LTTE leader.
However, Lost Evenings, dealing primarily with violence and its impact - death and destruction; sorrow, pain of body and soul – attempts to transcend specificity and be universally comprehensible. It must be admitted that, as George Orwell wrote in his essay ‘Writers and Leviathan’ (1948), though we have “an awareness of the enormous injustice and misery of the world”, our response to literature can be coloured by “loyalties” which are non-literary.

The translators give a brief outline of events during the course of nearly thirty years of war: the savage 1983 pogrom, “the brutal intervention of the Indian Peace Keeping Force”, the increasing violence of the Tamil Tigers, and so to “the last terrible months of war” (p. 9). The poems are given in chronological order of publication and so parallel; arise from, and reflect, this history.

The irruption of brutality destroys what was once normality in Nuhman’s poem, ‘Last evening, this morning’ (pp. 17-19). Last evening, we popped into a bookshop, idly watched the crowds at the bus terminal, took in a film and then cycled home. This morning, bullets pierce bodies, the terminal is deserted, the market shattered.

And this was how we lost our evenings                                                 
we lost this life.

It’s when we fall ill that we realize how wonderful it is to be free from pain and disability – a normality otherwise taken for granted. And so it is that when violence irrupts into an otherwise placid pattern of life. (I recall several years ago being asked in Jaffna by a man in genuine puzzlement: “All we want is to be allowed to lead our lives as we want. Sir, why don’t they leave us alone?” He thought it was a simple wish and, therefore, a fair question.)  Jesurasa’s poem, ‘Under New Shoes’ is a ‘meditation’ based on Jaffna’s old Dutch fort. Three hundred years have passed since the imperialist, occupying, Dutch left; colour (now not white) and language (now Sinhala) have changed but for Tamils “the same rule of oppression” (p. 21) continues.

The compulsion to communicate with a loved one makes the persona of Urvasi’s poem, ‘Do you understand?’ (pp. 29-31) write a letter though there’s no address to send it to. (A poignant work, it recalled Ezra Pound’s beautiful rendering of the Chinese poem, ‘The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter’, available on Google.) Urvasi’s persona includes in her letter what one could call home details: the jasmine is in bloom; the small puppy runs in circles, its tail raised; I dust your books. But a different reality (menace) throbs beneath the lines: they haven’t come to interrogate me – as yet!

‘I Could Forget All This’ by Cheran (pp. 33-4), a post-1983 poem, remembers ghastly sights such as a thigh-bone protruding from an upturned, burnt-out car; a socket empty of its eye, and a pregnant Sinhalese woman carrying off a cradle from a burning Tamil house. (One thinks of what has been described as the shortest story ever written in English. It consists of six words: “For sale, baby shoes. Never worn.”) Cheran concludes with a powerful use of symbolism. But

How shall I forget the broken shards                              
and the scattered rice                                                          
lying parched upon the earth?

A related poem is ‘Oppressed by Nights of War’ by Sivaramani (pp. 45-6) showing what happens to children in a time of protracted and “total” war: children their childhood destroyed. Biographical information heightens our response to Captain Vanathi’s ‘My Unwritten Poem’, a work that repeatedly urges the addressee to complete what she couldn’t accomplish. Vanathi was killed in action shortly afterwards, and this is her last poem. The year is 1991, and there is still the belief that all their suffering and sacrifice will not be in vain: As you walk freely in an independentTamileelam, I and the thousands of other martyrs will smile with joy (p. 57): her poem will then have been written. Metaphorically, freedom is the poem that must be ‘written’ (achieved).  It is indeed strange, very strange, to read these lines in the present context. 

The editorial note to Aazhiyaal’s poem, ‘Mannamperis’, explains that Tamil Koneswari Selvakumar was gang-raped by Sinhalese soldiers who then killed her by exploding a grenade in her vagina (p. 75). But the poem, broadening outward, encompasses other instances of “man’s inhumanity to man”. During what in Sri Lanka is known as the Insurgency (the violent uprising of Left-leaning young men and women against the government) Padmini Mannamperi, a Sinhalese beauty-queen, was raped and killed by members of the Sri Lankan army (April 1971). The editorial note does not elaborate that, in an avowedly Buddhist and conservative country, Padmini was stripped naked and forced to walk down the street; that she was buried even before she was dead. One thinks, for example, of William McGowan’s Only Man Is Vile: The Tragedy of Sri Lanka (New York, 1992). It may be added that, whatever the sins and crimes of the Tamil Tigers (and they were several and grievous; destructive and, as History shows, finally fatal) there is no record of them ever indulging in rape or in the sexual humiliation of women. On the contrary, women enjoyed an unprecedented degree of emancipation; of equality. See for example:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?
feature=player_embedded&v=nSSv9Kk3tkI

The theme of exile finds expression in poems such as ‘The Lizard’s Lament’ by Solaikkili (pp. 67-69); ‘Identity’ by Aazhiyal (p. 99); ‘Goodbye Mother’ by Jayapalan (pp. 105-107) and in ‘Photographs of Children, Women, Men’ by Cheran (pp. 149-151). In the last mentioned poem, documentation is demanded of the refugees but all they carry are “burning tears”, and memories of murder and ethnic cleansing. Estrangement, to a greater or lesser degree, awaits the first-generation refugee. As Doris Lessing wrote, once you leave your first home, you have left all homes forever.

But to leave behind the one room                                           
where you have lived all your life…                                           
that is tragedy.
          
(Solaikkilli, ‘The Lizard’s Lament’, p. 69)

2009 marks the year when the Tigers were totally annihilated, and the poems following reflect this reality. Indian poet Ravikumar in ‘There Was a Time Like That’ (pp. 119-121), using the refrain “There was once a time”, reflects on a time when things were very different, both in Sri Lanka and in Tamil Nadu. Latha in ‘Empty Days’ (p. 147) writes that “the last little fragment of land that was ours” is lost; our people and their dreams destroyed. There is not a sign that they ever existed. The persona in Sharmila Seyyid’s ‘Keys to an Empty House’ (pp. 143-5) has only her memories and the keys to her father’s house: the little house itself has been totally destroyed. But though the triumphant enemy celebrate; dance and mock “our overflowing tears” (Cheran, ‘Forest Healing’, p. 133), the father in Jesurasa’s poem, ‘The Time Remaining’ (p. 123), comforts his son: Life has destroyed our dreams; your path forward may now seem blocked but your time will come.

To go on would strain the Editor’s allowance of space, and I leave it to readers to come to terms, each in her own way, with these poems. To learn the ‘facts’ of the 30-year conflict, one turns to history books and articles, biased or objective. But if one wants to gain something of an insight into that experience, one turns to Literature.

If I may conclude on a personal note, I never met Lakshmi Holmstrom but we corresponded; I considered her a friend, and write this introduction with deep regret at her passing. Finally, I thank Aruni, my niece, for presenting me with a copy of Lost Evenings, Lost Lives.

Sri Lanka has long term stability

Ambassador David DalyAug 25 2016

Valedictory message by David Daly, Ambassador for the Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka and the Maldives

When you read this I will already have left Sri Lanka. I take up my new duties at the European Union headquarters in Brussels on September 1, 2016. When I came here in September 2013 Sri Lanka was preparing to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). Colombo was in a deep state of beautification. Even if hosting CHOGM was the catalyst, we all enjoyed the fruits of the improvements afterwards; the racecourse complex, Independence arcade, better streets and a cleaner Colombo. It all looked great. CHOGM also showed what Sri Lanka was capable of.

However, Colombo is not Sri Lanka and the visible surface is not the complete reality. When I travelled to the north and east of Sri Lanka in the early days I saw a different reality; poverty, destruction, the legacy of war. I was proud to visit EU funded projects which brought regeneration to fishermen and farmers, to villages and their schools and to ordinary people, very many of them women, trying to rebuild lives destroyed by the war and its aftermath -the horror of knowing nothing about their missing husband, son or daughter. The pain of simply not knowing. I congratulate the government on the Office of Missing Persons.

Our development work is evolving and our latest programmes are in Central and Uva provinces. The EU has long argued that Sri Lanka needed to improve its human rights record, to engage in a genuine reconciliation process and to investigate independently and credibly what exactly happened during the last stages of the war so that the allegations of war crimes could be tested against the truth. I made these arguments to the Sri Lankan government and others; and I did so as a friend interested in the long term stability of the country. Without addressing these issues, history tells us that they do not go away but rather that they return in some form or other later. European history has many dark chapters and we are happy to share with our friends the benefits of the tough lessons we have learned.

Asian culture

Often I was met with denial and the criticism that I could not understand because I was a foreigner; also, that I was trying to foist Western concepts on an Asian culture. Yes, I am a foreigner in Sri Lanka and I cannot see and feel as a Sri Lankan. But that does not mean that if the underlying factors which caused the war remained unaddressed that the issues would simply disappear; or, that I should expect the rule of lald somehow expect lower standards.

Why should I?w to pertain to me because I am an Irishman and a European, but that if I were a Sri Lankan I shou

Why should Sri Lankans?

The election of President Sirisena was a watershed for Sri Lanka and for my diplomatic posting here. His priorities of good governance, improved rule of law and a genuine reconciliation process were what a majority of Sri Lankans voted for.

The EU is helping Sri Lanka on these issues and is bringing on stream new financial support to these ends. My successor, Tung-Lai Margue, will have the privilege of inaugurating the programmes to support short-term needs and long-term reconciliation which the Delegation is already working on with the Government, the wider international community and Sri Lankan civil society. I was very pleased that Sri Lanka was able to make the necessary progress that enabled the EU to lift its IUU fisheries ban. Being able to export fish to Europe means all those in the fishing industry from the fishermen up -receiving more money for the work that they do. And the controls and regulations that have been put in place help protect their livelihoods going into the future.

International conventions

The GSP+ is another major issue on which a lot of progress has been made; this progress, and more, must continue so that Sri Lanka can convince my colleagues in Brussels, the Council of the Member States and the European Parliament that the progress on human rights and the implementation of the international conventions that Sri Lanka has signed is irreversible.

Both the IUU and the GSP+ have helped us to work more closely together. The EU-Sri Lanka Joint Commission in Brussels in July registered great progress across the wide range of issues of our engagement. In December 2013 when we held the Joint Commission in Brussels, it was the first such meeting after a hiatus of five years. Now we are back on track in working together in a more open and frank manner.

This matters. Working closely with the European Union sends a message to others that Sri Lanka is making progress. Investors take note of such things. Naturally, one of the issues we discuss is exactly trade and investment; how to attract more investment and to eliminate trade and investment barriers. This always needs more work.

When people ask me about Sri Lanka I describe it as a country with enormous potential. To unleash the full range of this potential it is necessary to show progress on the governance and rule of law issues as well as to engage in a genuine reconciliation process. The world is watching transition in Sri Lanka and wishes it well; not just the UN Human Rights Council, but also investors and others.

Most of all, Sri Lankans are watching to see that their hopes and expectations are to be met. Over my three years here I have seen night and day; denial and openness; damage and rebuilding. It has been a tremendously enriching experience for my family and me in terms of friendships, culture and education.

We are very sad to leave Sri Lanka. It is a beautiful country with warm, generous, friendly people. How could we not be sad? We will return as tourists.

Our sadness is tempered, however, by the realisation that we were privileged to represent the EU here, to serve here, to make friends here. Such a privilege is not accorded to everyone. I wish all Sri Lankans the very best for the future.

The Families Of Missing Persons in Sri Lanka: ICRC Recommendations

ICRCb

(ICRC photo)-25/08/2016

6. Recommendations.
Sri Lanka Brief
Based on the findings described in this report, a set of recommendations has been developed to assist governmental and non-governmental,national and international stakeholders to address the issue of missing persons and their families in Sri Lanka, and place additional efforts to clarify the fate and whereabouts of the unaccounted for and to support their families during the process.

6.1. Main recommendations addressed to Sri Lankan Authorities

International humanitarian law casts an obligation on each party to the conflict to take all feasible measures to account for persons reported missing as a result of armed conflict and to provide their family members with any information it has on their fate.70 Based on the findings of this Assessment, the ICRC has shared its detailed recommendations confidentially with the Government of Sri Lanka to assist national authorities to address the issue of missing persons and their families in Sri Lanka in a comprehensive manner. The ICRC’s recommendations to the Sri Lankan authorities are centred on the following key issues:

Address the Need to Know the Fate and Whereabouts
1.1. T ake all possible measures to relieve the families of their uncertainty and fulfil their need to know and establish an independent mechanism71 by an Act of Parliament, with the main objectives of:
1.1.1. Clarifying the fate and whereabouts of missing persons through individual case resolution and informing their families thereof.
1.1.2. Consolidating a national list of missing persons.
1.1.3. Coordinating and streamlining the activities of all government institutions and other organisations involved in the process of clarification of the fate and whereabouts of missing persons, prevention of disappearances and addressing the multiple needs of
the families of the Missing (economic, legal, administrative, psychosocial, etc.).
1.2. Ensure that:

a) appropriate technical forensic capacities are developed and available in the search for, recovery and identification of the remains of the missing persons;

b) an adequate legal framework is adopted that mandates the full investigation of the deaths of missing persons, including the recovery, identification and return of their remains whenever possible; and
c) this legal framework promotes communication, cooperation and coordination amongst all concerned stakeholders to promote efficient and effective delivery of information on the fate and whereabouts of missing persons to their families.

Address Psychosocial Needs

1.3. Address the psycho-social needs of the families of the Missing by:

1.3.1. Filling the pending counsellor positions with individuals who have a degree in counselling psychology; increasing training opportunities for the counsellors and establishing a dedicated coordinating body which oversees all counselling activities across different line ministries.

1.3.2. Providing greater access to NGOs and CBOs who work in different fields of psychosocial support, as organised and coordinated support to families’ needs has to take place in forms of district-based support, where local resources and peers will assist the improvement of the families’ well-being.

1.4. Integrate the theory of ambiguous loss and related intervention guidelines72 in counselling and clinical psychology curriculums, as wellas social work curriculums at the level of tertiary education.

1.5. Develop an environment where a sense of safety is felt by all, affording families the freedom to gather peacefully in groups and organise commemoration73 services in remembrance of their missing relatives.
Address Economic Needs

1.6. Recognise all families of missing persons as victims of the conflict and ensure consistency and non-discrimination in the services and benefits available to them.

1.7. Design specific social benefit packages to address the difficulties faced by families of the Missing in today’s context. In doing so, it is important that particular attention is paid to labelling these packages (i.e. not using the word “compensation” and not providing social assistance as a form of a reparation package).

1.8. Provide information summarising and describing social assistance schemes available to the families of missing persons and the procedures to access them.

Address Legal and Administrative Needs

1.9. Recognise a legal status for the ‘Missing’ and provide for its effects under Sri Lankan law, while establishing the administrative framework necessary for its implementation. The introduction of certificates of absence to families who so require, would allow them to address legal and administrative issues arising from the absence of their loved one, without having to declare the missing person dead.

1.10. Consider revision of the existing administrative rules and procedures to facilitate access for the families of missing persons to services and benefits, including access to relevant documentation (birth certificates, marriage certificates, identity cards, electoral registration
etc.).

1.11. Provide information to the public on different legal and administrative processes and their requirements, in all three languages.

Address Acknowledgement and Justice Needs

1.12. Consider avenues to acknowledge the families’ need to preserve the memory of their missing relatives, such as by dedicating a day of remembrance in close cooperation with all families of missing persons.

1.13. Include families of missing persons in consultations to determine which transitional justice mechanisms to establish, to adequately address their need for accountability and justice.

6.2. Recommendations to other stakeholders

The ICRC calls upon other stakeholders – whether at national or international level – to support the State authorities to fulfil their primary responsibility to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing persons and address the needs of their families, by:

1.1. Promoting the clarification of missing persons’ fate and whereabouts and making funds available for it;

1.2. Considering the inclusion of families of all persons missing in relation to the armed conflict as a priority concern, developing programmes in their favour taking into account their identified multifaceted needs, and allocating sufficient funds to cover these needs adequately and holistically;

1.3. Pursuing the dialogue on including the issue of missing persons and their families in the transitional justice discourse and encouraging the inclusion of missing persons’ families in the process; and
1.4. Coordinating efforts to ensure a synchronised response to the multifaceted needs of the families along with the authorities, to make certain that all categories of victims of the conflict are adequately supported, while the efforts are not duplicated and all potential gaps are covered.

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Friday, 26 August 2016

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera yesterday urged his opponents to stop misleading the public by spreading false information about the Office for Missing Persons Act.

Reminding the House about former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s actions, he said: “He was willing to go to hell, not just Geneva, to wipe away the tears of mothers. Our Government got this approved without visiting hell.”

Highlighting the importance of the new legislation for the families of those missing, the Minister said: “This law was required to register the deaths and was long overdue. Loved ones are waiting for their missing but I think providing such certification is important for them. In the absence of this certificate they are unable to access welfare. However, the certificate will become cancelled if the missing person is found to be alive.” AH

 On reconciliation and 'reconciliation' 





Fragments.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Reconciliation implies a two-way process, ideally aiming at equality for both sides to a conflict. Accountability can only be a part of it if it’s scripted in properly and not, as it’s wont to be today, pushed forward as part and parcel of a larger, insidious agenda. There are degrees of equality with each side to a conflict blaming the other. Once you factor in accountability, more often than not, what prevails is something that goes by the name of reconciliation but which does not coalesce into the genuine, cohesive movement it should.

Embracing Globalisation: The Case Of Sri Lanka


By S. P. Chakravarty –August 26, 2016
Prof. S. P. Chakravarty
Prof. S. P. Chakravarty
Colombo TelegraphSome of the new economic initiatives announced by the Sri Lankan government about integrating the economy with the wider world, initially acquiring land to create special economic zones where large scale investment projects from India and China are to be invited to locate, are a refreshing departure from an economically dysfunctional post-independence mindset of nationalist pre-conception of the national interest as a zero sum game with the world beyond: their gain is our loss and our gain is their loss. Sri Lanka at the time of independence boasted an economy more prosperous, a population that was better educated and a society which was largely free of the worst dysfunctional aspects of religion which characterize the neighbouring countries of the sub-continent. Yet the country became ensnared by angst over identity and suspicious of opening up the economy to the world at a time when development was fueled by trade. The changed mindset informing recent economic initiatives holds out prospects for greater prosperity.
There is danger of a reversal in the political climate unless the problem of the distribution of economic gains from globalization are addressed. The result of the recent British referendum on continuing membership of the European Union is a warning sign that even those that benefit from an economic policy may vote against their own economic interest by rejecting that policy. They do so if they perceive their benefit to be an unfair share of the total benefit accruing to society. This is what experiments on what psychologists call ultimatum games demonstrate. Unfortunately, a valid disquiet amongst the electorate about unfair distribution of gains from globalization can be exploited by the purveyors of simplistic solutions invoking the false narrative of an imaginary glorious past.
Britain has become more prosperous since the start of the collapse of the empire. The economic opportunities for the masses in Britain were held back during the heyday of the empire, but glorified in the narrative of English nationalism. The retarding impact of the nationalism of the past on economic prosperity for the masses in Europe began to be realized during the second half of the 20th century, but the post-war trend is unfortunately in danger of being derailed by the failure to take adequate account by governments of the distributive consequences of globalization.
It is in the context of an analysis of this development that I wish to comment on the new direction of Sri Lankan economic policy. If I sound critical on occasion, it is not because the policies are not laudable. It is to warn against complacency about fairness in the distribution of gains in the details of the design of policy. Analyses of the Brexit vote suggest that many of those who voted to leave the European Union lived in poorer areas of the country, and would suffer from their chosen outcome of the referendum as economic growth slows down due to uncertainty about the future direction of the economy. The burden of economic decline falls disproportionately on the poor. Notwithstanding headlines in the press suggesting immigration as the issue, some of these Brexit voters live in communities where the percentage of foreign-born people is considerably below the national average. People living in these communities have been left behind as others have prospered. Unfortunately, their plight cannot be addressed by pining for a glorious past that never was when the British public were alleged to be in control of their destiny.

When cat is away rats at play at Rupavahini : chairman abroad , so ‘rats’ invite notorious traitor for live telecast

-Media chiefs asleep at the wheel
LEN logo(Lanka-e-news -25.Aug.2016, 4.30PM) Yesterday is a most crucial day for National Rupavahini television . This is not  for reasons which would make the nation happy but rather because a traitor has been invited for a live telecast over its channel to the dismay and  rude  shock of the nation and the world ! 
The present administrative authority has taken steps  to invite the most infamous Major General Shaveendra Silva to participate in the Nugasevana program of the Rupavahini despite the well and widely known fact that Shaveendra tarnished the image of Sri Lanka (SL)  before the entire world based on charges of direct violation of human rights, in addition to his involvement in a multi million rupee fraud while he was serving in the SL office of the United Nations( UN) New York in connection with which an investigation is under way.
Shaveendra has been invited for the Rupavahini program to promote the ‘Gajaba Supercross’ event which in fact was a ‘headache’ for the soldiers in the army though to  those in the higher rungs of the army during the Gotabaya Rajapakse lawless era , it was something for them to rejoice and revel ( being an opportunity to plunder ).
Shaveendra created  history as the one and only who  gave precedence to self fattening by exploiting   the war rather than fighting the war . The foolhardiness of Shaveendra can also be clearly understood vis a vis his imbecility of  having  a posse of media henchmen around him ,lavishing them with  black label whisky and  trying  to boost his image using them , which on the contrary finally led to  the war crimes and those criminal orders given during the war to be marketed and  circulated internationally.
 
While journalists were banned from  entering  the battlefield ,still the confidential reports were made possible to be sold at colossal rates internationally with the knowledge and approval  of notorious Shaveendra the   traitor . Moreover , it is this same traitor while embarking on bogus  foreign tours soon after the war ended ,  who sold war video footages to LTTE sympathizers at extremely high prices . The video footages that are telecast via channel four are  those footages sold by the Shaveendras and not those given to the LTTE sympathizers by any  other .
 
It is because of these betrayals of the country and his own nation that Shaveendra was able to freely stay in New York city
where exist large pro LTTE groups .
Shaveendra while  masquerading as a patriot has all along been a traitor out and out, and a double agent. Lanka e news at that time had reported incident after incident in this connection. We have all the evidence even now in our possession .If it was in another country he would be behind bars , whereas sadly in SL like in a nudist camp where nudity is honorable, criminals are treated honorably by our media channels. 
During the run up to the last presidential elections it was this unscrupulous traitorous Shaveendra in official uniform unlawfully mounted the political campaign platform of ex corrupt brutal president Mahinda Rajapakse who was a presidential candidate then ,violating army disciplinary code and election laws flagrantly . Moreover he disgraced the uniform and the army by doing all the sordid and unlawful biddings of the Rajapakses who were finally thrown out lock stock and barrel by the people on 8 th January  2015 . In any other country such a scoundrel would now be behind bars for betraying  the genuine forces and the nation , and for high treason.
Incredible but true ! it is this scoundrel who is a disgrace to the army , the nation and himself who has been invited to address the nation  live on channel one of the National Rupavahini from 9.30 a.m to 10.00 a.m. though the  pro good governance masses have expressed their utter displeasure against the satanic spirits of Rajapakse still haunting the Rupavahini channel. 
It is learnt that this is a deliberate attempt and a calculated conspiracy to create  alternative and misleading opinions among the pro good governance masses who are treading the right path of the incumbent government of good governance. This is a cold calculated conspiracy  because this program had been organized during the period Rupavahini chairman Ravi Jayawardena is out of the Island.

Those of the Rupavahini behind this conspiracy are :
Director General Professor Sunil Shantha
Programs division chief  Wimalaratne Adhikari
Nugasevana supervisor Dharshana Piyaratne ( the one who participated in all the malpractices within Athugalage’s Institution  during the nefarious Rajapakse decade)
Sports unit Director Palitha Senarath Yapa and
Marketing Manager Anil Sirimalwatte
At a time when the government is taking great pains to establish reconciliation ,is this the message in favor of reconciliation  that is being conveyed by a leading national television to the group of people who were victims ?
The minister in charge of the media , deputy minister, media secretary and the Director General information who are in a deep slumber while allowing a locally and internationally discarded  scoundrel like Shaveendra who brazenly and brutally violated human rights to speak let alone hold the mike of a main  electronic media of the State  must hang their heads in shame ( whether they have their heads in the right place is another question) . 
At this rate , if the Rajapakse stooges and lickspittles while taking these administrators for a ride  sooner than later  take control , these sleepy Joes will still be sleeping like Rip Van Winkle .
Lanka e news that espouses truth and nothing but the truth frankly, fearlessly and forthrightly , and which is always with the people for good governance wishes to issue a dire warning : this is just one incident , whereas there  are similar incidents occurring everywhere every now and then , which can , if allowed to escalate reach alarming proportions so much so the government itself can be brought to its knees. 
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by     (2016-08-25 11:24:55)