Showing posts tagged as "Sri Lanka"

Showing posts tagged Sri Lanka

12 Mar
In Sri Lanka, signs of war slowly being erased but not the scars | Josh Marlow 
Along the major roads of northern Sri Lanka, the signs of 26 years of war between the mostly Hindu Tamil separatists and the Sinhalese Buddhist-dominated government are slowly being erased.
Once bombed-out roads have been resurfaced, and workers are laying down tracks for a train line that was rendered dormant for decades by war. Mine clearers move through the tall grass lining roads, searching for unexploded ordnance. The beaming face of President Mahinda Rajapaksa is plastered everywhere, and banners hanging from destroyed buildings promise, “Never again.”
The plaques at victory monuments erected by the military here and frequent government statements declare that these are signs of reconciliation and progress, but many would disagree.
FULL ARTICLE (Al Jazeera)
Photo: Photosightfaces/flickr

In Sri Lanka, signs of war slowly being erased but not the scars | Josh Marlow 

Along the major roads of northern Sri Lanka, the signs of 26 years of war between the mostly Hindu Tamil separatists and the Sinhalese Buddhist-dominated government are slowly being erased.

Once bombed-out roads have been resurfaced, and workers are laying down tracks for a train line that was rendered dormant for decades by war. Mine clearers move through the tall grass lining roads, searching for unexploded ordnance. The beaming face of President Mahinda Rajapaksa is plastered everywhere, and banners hanging from destroyed buildings promise, “Never again.”

The plaques at victory monuments erected by the military here and frequent government statements declare that these are signs of reconciliation and progress, but many would disagree.

FULL ARTICLE (Al Jazeera)

Photo: Photosightfaces/flickr

4 Mar
Let the U.N. Unmask the Criminals of Sri Lanka’s War | Louise Arbour
Louise Arbour, a former United Nations high commissioner for human rights, is the president of the International Crisis Group
In early 2009, as many as 40,000 civilians were killed in the final days of Sri Lanka’s civil war, having been herded into an area about the size of Central Park and subjected to relentless shelling. No one has been held accountable for these crimes, and even now the government in Colombo remains intent on burying the past. Only an international commission of inquiry stands any chance of rectifying this omission. So when the United Nations Human Rights Council meets Monday in Geneva, it should seek an investigation. It would be a decisive step toward justice and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.
The 26-year civil war in Sri Lanka, in which ethnic Tamil rebels rose against a government dominated by the ethnic-majority Sinhalese, was regularly punctuated with massacres and rights abuses by government forces, as well as by suicide bombings and other attacks on civilian targets by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Since the government’s crushing defeat of the rebels, the predominantly Tamil northern province has been under de facto military occupation, with widespread reports of serious rights violations against the civilian population.
As the fifth anniversary of the war’s end approaches this spring, Sri Lankan officials say they need more time for reconciliation initiatives to take root. They argue that an international investigation will only further polarize Sri Lanka. They have reacted angrily to a new report by Navi Pillay, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, that advocates an international investigation and heavily criticizes the government.
As the International Crisis Group has documented in a series of reports, the government’s postwar policies have entrenched an increasingly authoritarian regime in Colombo, deepened the rift between Tamils and Sinhalese, and drawn dangerous new lines of ethnic and religious conflict. To date, the government has rejected calls by the Human Rights Council to conduct an independent investigation into war crimes allegations against both sides that have been documented by the United Nations secretary general’s panel of experts and by nongovernmental organizations like ours, and to adopt reforms that could foster postwar reconciliation.
The United States, which has a record of leadership within the Human Rights Council, would be the best sponsor for a resolution seeking an inquiry. The other members of the council should give it their strong support. They should also reject the Sri Lankan government’s endless delaying tactics and its global public-relations counterattack, which includes a half-hour infomercial that has been shown on American television.
Momentum for such an investigation is building. Six United States senators, led by Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, called for an international commission of inquiry in a letter sent this month to Secretary of State John Kerry. Three days later a resolution was introduced in the Senate calling for an independent investigation (not necessarily by a commission). Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, other senior European Union politicians and Indian officials also have taken clear exception to Sri Lanka’s failure to pursue accountability for atrocities. Meanwhile, in response to victims’ pleas for justice, a newly elected northern provincial council in Sri Lanka has joined the calls for an international investigation.
But the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has rejected all such recommendations, even when they came from Sri Lanka’s own reconciliation commission. He has also gravely weakened the independence of the judiciary and the police with the impeachment last year of Sri Lanka’s chief justice, placing the possibility of using Sri Lanka’s courts to achieve accountability further out of reach.
An inquiry mandated by an intergovernmental body like the Human Rights Council would produce a more complete record of the scale of civilian suffering, and would challenge the Sri Lankan government’s denials that government forces were responsible for any significant loss of civilian life.
A commission is also likely to uncover evidence of abuses by the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in a form that would be hard for Tamils and Tamil organizations to deny. That would deflate a romanticization of the Tigers among Tamils that keeps alive Sinhalese fears that the Tamil insurgency might resume, and also gives the government an excuse for continued militarization and repression.
By showing survivors of wartime abuses that the international community hasn’t abandoned them, a commission mandated by the council could also undercut growing calls by Tamil diaspora organizations for more radical measures, and encourage victims of rights abuses from all of Sri Lanka’s ethnic and religious communities (the country’s main faiths are Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim) to continue seeking an end to institutionalized impunity.
Such an inquiry won’t solve all of Sri Lanka’s problems; the island’s crisis of accountability and democratic governance runs too deep and is too complex to be resolved quickly. Nonetheless, increased authoritarianism, Sinhalese ethnic triumphalism and simmering Tamil resentment are clearly not the ingredients for a secure future. Both justice and reconciliation are needed for the Sri Lankan body politic to one day be healed.
The Human Rights Council has an opportunity, and should seize it. A number of the council’s current member states — for instance Chile, Costa Rica, Botswana, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Morocco and Macedonia — have led on other human rights issues and should press the council on this one. Sri Lanka’s government is playing a waiting game, hoping the international community will lose interest, while also proffering the crude argument that reconciliation is attainable without justice.
But the costs of doing something now would be very small compared with the years of strife that would be the likely result of letting impunity win in Sri Lanka.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE (New York Times)
Photo:  springm / Markus Spring/flickr

Let the U.N. Unmask the Criminals of Sri Lanka’s War | Louise Arbour

Louise Arbour, a former United Nations high commissioner for human rights, is the president of the International Crisis Group

In early 2009, as many as 40,000 civilians were killed in the final days of Sri Lanka’s civil war, having been herded into an area about the size of Central Park and subjected to relentless shelling. No one has been held accountable for these crimes, and even now the government in Colombo remains intent on burying the past. Only an international commission of inquiry stands any chance of rectifying this omission. So when the United Nations Human Rights Council meets Monday in Geneva, it should seek an investigation. It would be a decisive step toward justice and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

The 26-year civil war in Sri Lanka, in which ethnic Tamil rebels rose against a government dominated by the ethnic-majority Sinhalese, was regularly punctuated with massacres and rights abuses by government forces, as well as by suicide bombings and other attacks on civilian targets by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Since the government’s crushing defeat of the rebels, the predominantly Tamil northern province has been under de facto military occupation, with widespread reports of serious rights violations against the civilian population.

As the fifth anniversary of the war’s end approaches this spring, Sri Lankan officials say they need more time for reconciliation initiatives to take root. They argue that an international investigation will only further polarize Sri Lanka. They have reacted angrily to a new report by Navi Pillay, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, that advocates an international investigation and heavily criticizes the government.

As the International Crisis Group has documented in a series of reports, the government’s postwar policies have entrenched an increasingly authoritarian regime in Colombo, deepened the rift between Tamils and Sinhalese, and drawn dangerous new lines of ethnic and religious conflict. To date, the government has rejected calls by the Human Rights Council to conduct an independent investigation into war crimes allegations against both sides that have been documented by the United Nations secretary general’s panel of experts and by nongovernmental organizations like ours, and to adopt reforms that could foster postwar reconciliation.

The United States, which has a record of leadership within the Human Rights Council, would be the best sponsor for a resolution seeking an inquiry. The other members of the council should give it their strong support. They should also reject the Sri Lankan government’s endless delaying tactics and its global public-relations counterattack, which includes a half-hour infomercial that has been shown on American television.

Momentum for such an investigation is building. Six United States senators, led by Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, called for an international commission of inquiry in a letter sent this month to Secretary of State John Kerry. Three days later a resolution was introduced in the Senate calling for an independent investigation (not necessarily by a commission). Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, other senior European Union politicians and Indian officials also have taken clear exception to Sri Lanka’s failure to pursue accountability for atrocities. Meanwhile, in response to victims’ pleas for justice, a newly elected northern provincial council in Sri Lanka has joined the calls for an international investigation.

But the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has rejected all such recommendations, even when they came from Sri Lanka’s own reconciliation commission. He has also gravely weakened the independence of the judiciary and the police with the impeachment last year of Sri Lanka’s chief justice, placing the possibility of using Sri Lanka’s courts to achieve accountability further out of reach.

An inquiry mandated by an intergovernmental body like the Human Rights Council would produce a more complete record of the scale of civilian suffering, and would challenge the Sri Lankan government’s denials that government forces were responsible for any significant loss of civilian life.

A commission is also likely to uncover evidence of abuses by the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in a form that would be hard for Tamils and Tamil organizations to deny. That would deflate a romanticization of the Tigers among Tamils that keeps alive Sinhalese fears that the Tamil insurgency might resume, and also gives the government an excuse for continued militarization and repression.

By showing survivors of wartime abuses that the international community hasn’t abandoned them, a commission mandated by the council could also undercut growing calls by Tamil diaspora organizations for more radical measures, and encourage victims of rights abuses from all of Sri Lanka’s ethnic and religious communities (the country’s main faiths are Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim) to continue seeking an end to institutionalized impunity.

Such an inquiry won’t solve all of Sri Lanka’s problems; the island’s crisis of accountability and democratic governance runs too deep and is too complex to be resolved quickly. Nonetheless, increased authoritarianism, Sinhalese ethnic triumphalism and simmering Tamil resentment are clearly not the ingredients for a secure future. Both justice and reconciliation are needed for the Sri Lankan body politic to one day be healed.

The Human Rights Council has an opportunity, and should seize it. A number of the council’s current member states — for instance Chile, Costa Rica, Botswana, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Morocco and Macedonia — have led on other human rights issues and should press the council on this one. Sri Lanka’s government is playing a waiting game, hoping the international community will lose interest, while also proffering the crude argument that reconciliation is attainable without justice.

But the costs of doing something now would be very small compared with the years of strife that would be the likely result of letting impunity win in Sri Lanka.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE (New York Times)

Photo:  springm / Markus Spring/flickr

28 Feb
Doubts over Sri Lanka’s reconciliation efforts | Gabriel Domínguez
The Sri Lankan government has repeatedly come under fire from critics for failing adequately to investigate war crimes and promote reconciliation with the country’s Tamil minority following a decades-long civil war.
Last week, it said it was considering a process similar to South-Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Colombo sent a high-level delegation to South Africa to see, according to a spokesman for Nimal Siripala de Silva, Sri Lankan minister for water, who led the five-member team, “what lessons it could learn.”
During their two-day trip, the Sri Lankans held talks with South African officials about the “procedures and experiences of the commission” that was set up almost two decades ago to probe political crimes committed during the apartheid era. The ColomboPage newspaper reported that the visit was aimed at exploring the possibility of using the South African mechanism for the reconciliation process in Sri Lanka.
FULL ARTICLE (Deutsche Welle)
Photo: mckaysavage/flickr

Doubts over Sri Lanka’s reconciliation efforts | Gabriel Domínguez

The Sri Lankan government has repeatedly come under fire from critics for failing adequately to investigate war crimes and promote reconciliation with the country’s Tamil minority following a decades-long civil war.

Last week, it said it was considering a process similar to South-Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Colombo sent a high-level delegation to South Africa to see, according to a spokesman for Nimal Siripala de Silva, Sri Lankan minister for water, who led the five-member team, “what lessons it could learn.”

During their two-day trip, the Sri Lankans held talks with South African officials about the “procedures and experiences of the commission” that was set up almost two decades ago to probe political crimes committed during the apartheid era. The ColomboPage newspaper reported that the visit was aimed at exploring the possibility of using the South African mechanism for the reconciliation process in Sri Lanka.

FULL ARTICLE (Deutsche Welle)

Photo: mckaysavage/flickr

31 Jan
U.S. Envoy to Visit Sri Lanka as Pressure Builds for War Crimes Inquiry | Gardiner Harris
A top State Department official is expected to arrive in Sri Lanka on Friday, just three days after the United States announced that it would again seek a resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council pressing for an investigation into allegations of war crimes in Sri Lanka.
Nisha Biswal, the assistant secretary of state for Central and South Asian affairs, is expected to meet with government officials, members of the opposition and others in Colombo, the capital. She is also expected to travel to Jaffna, a city in the heart of the Tamil-dominated Northern Province of Sri Lanka.
The visit comes as relations between the United States and Sri Lanka have become increasingly frosty, largely because, nearly five years after the end of a nearly 30-year civil war in which government forces battled the Tamil Tigers — a notoriously brutal insurgent group — the Sri Lankan government has shown little appetite for any robust investigation into possible war crimes.
Keheliya Rambukwella, a government spokesman, said in a phone interview that Ms. Biswal’s visit was an opportunity for the United States to “see firsthand the progress Sri Lanka has made in its reconciliation efforts.”
Two resolutions pressing the Sri Lankan government to investigate war crimes have already been passed by the Human Rights Council, but this time the United States may ask that an independent international investigation be conducted, one that does not depend on the government, human rights advocates said.
FULL ARTICLE (New York Times)
Photo: james_gordon_losangeles/flickr

U.S. Envoy to Visit Sri Lanka as Pressure Builds for War Crimes Inquiry | Gardiner Harris

A top State Department official is expected to arrive in Sri Lanka on Friday, just three days after the United States announced that it would again seek a resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council pressing for an investigation into allegations of war crimes in Sri Lanka.

Nisha Biswal, the assistant secretary of state for Central and South Asian affairs, is expected to meet with government officials, members of the opposition and others in Colombo, the capital. She is also expected to travel to Jaffna, a city in the heart of the Tamil-dominated Northern Province of Sri Lanka.

The visit comes as relations between the United States and Sri Lanka have become increasingly frosty, largely because, nearly five years after the end of a nearly 30-year civil war in which government forces battled the Tamil Tigers — a notoriously brutal insurgent group — the Sri Lankan government has shown little appetite for any robust investigation into possible war crimes.

Keheliya Rambukwella, a government spokesman, said in a phone interview that Ms. Biswal’s visit was an opportunity for the United States to “see firsthand the progress Sri Lanka has made in its reconciliation efforts.”

Two resolutions pressing the Sri Lankan government to investigate war crimes have already been passed by the Human Rights Council, but this time the United States may ask that an independent international investigation be conducted, one that does not depend on the government, human rights advocates said.

FULL ARTICLE (New York Times)

Photo: james_gordon_losangeles/flickr

18 Nov
SA can influence Sri Lanka in positive way | Alan Keenan
It was always questionable for the Commonwealth to hold its heads of government meeting in Sri Lanka.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa looked forward to the gathering as a precious opportunity to rebuild his government’s tarnished image, which has suffered in the face of criticism for alleged war crimes committed in May 2009, at the end of a decades-long civil conflict, and for growing authoritarianism since. The Rajapaksa government hoped the Commonwealth meeting would showcase its own, happier, picture of a democratic country at peace, committed to reconciliation and moving forward.
Events, however, have not gone according to the government’s script.
FULL ARTICLE (IOL News)
Photo: PresidentRajapaksa/Flickr

SA can influence Sri Lanka in positive way | Alan Keenan

It was always questionable for the Commonwealth to hold its heads of government meeting in Sri Lanka.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa looked forward to the gathering as a precious opportunity to rebuild his government’s tarnished image, which has suffered in the face of criticism for alleged war crimes committed in May 2009, at the end of a decades-long civil conflict, and for growing authoritarianism since. The Rajapaksa government hoped the Commonwealth meeting would showcase its own, happier, picture of a democratic country at peace, committed to reconciliation and moving forward.

Events, however, have not gone according to the government’s script.

FULL ARTICLE (IOL News)

Photo: PresidentRajapaksa/Flickr

15 Nov
Sri Lanka risks violence if crackdown continues, says ICG | Nita Bhalla
Sri Lanka faces the threat of violence if it continues to ignore international concerns over attacks on the rule of law, human rights abuses and a lack of post-war reconciliation, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a report on Thursday.
Despite recent moves to show progress, the London-based think tank said the government in Colombo had not altered the “authoritarian direction” of its policies, and the rights and security of all communities remained under threat.
FULL ARTICLE (Thomson Reuters Foundation)
Photo: Rajith Vidanaarachchi/Wikimedia Commons

Sri Lanka risks violence if crackdown continues, says ICG | Nita Bhalla

Sri Lanka faces the threat of violence if it continues to ignore international concerns over attacks on the rule of law, human rights abuses and a lack of post-war reconciliation, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a report on Thursday.

Despite recent moves to show progress, the London-based think tank said the government in Colombo had not altered the “authoritarian direction” of its policies, and the rights and security of all communities remained under threat.

FULL ARTICLE (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

Photo: Rajith Vidanaarachchi/Wikimedia Commons

13 Nov
The leaders of several nations are boycotting the 2013 Commonwealth Summit, held this week in Sri Lanka. Check out this graphic to see why. 

The leaders of several nations are boycotting the 2013 Commonwealth Summit, held this week in Sri Lanka. Check out this graphic to see why. 

"Sri Lanka’s ethnically-exclusive regime continues to close political space and consolidate its power."

—from our latest report, “Sri Lanka’s Potemkin Peace: Democracy Under Fire

Sri Lanka’s Potemkin Peace: Democracy Under Fire
Colombo/Brussels | 13 Nov 2013
Despite recent moves meant to show progress towards post-war reconciliation and respect for human rights, Sri Lanka’s government has not altered the authoritarian direction of its policies, and the rights and security of all communities remain under threat.
In its latest report, Sri Lanka’s Potemkin Peace: Democracy Under Fire, the International Crisis Group examines challenges facing the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) following its landslide victory in Sri Lanka’s north, the central government’s hostility to devolution, and the ever-shrinking democratic space nationwide. The Colombo government’s attempts to mask its growing authoritarianism as it hosts this month’s Commonwealth summit appear increasingly flimsy.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
The long-awaited northern province elections were a success, but to go forward the TNA-controlled council needs both Colombo’s cooperation and financial, technical and political support from the international community. Influential governments, including India and other Commonwealth members as well as the U.S., should make clear to Colombo that diplomatic pressure will intensify if it pushes through constitutional changes that weaken or eliminate provincial councils.
Militant Buddhist attacks on mosques and Muslim businesses have continued with tacit government support, while violence against Christian churches and worshippers appears to be on the rise. There have been no serious government efforts to prevent or punish attacks.
Participants in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) this week in Colombo should press the government to address human rights abuses, prevent attacks on religious minorities and restore judicial independence.
Legal and administrative moves responding to the government’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and the UN Human Rights Council’s March resolution have not restored judicial or police independence, curbed militarisation or ensured accountability for war crimes in the conflict that ended in 2009.
If the government cannot show progress by March 2014, when the UN Human Rights Council next meets, members should design an international mechanism to investigate the many allegations of violations of international law by both sides in the civil war and to monitor continuing human rights violations and attacks on the rule of law.
“The government’s policies badly damage rule of law and democracy, undermine the rights of Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese alike and render all citizens insecure”, says Alan Keenan, Sri Lanka Project Director. “If it continues to close avenues of peaceful change, the risks of violent reaction will grow”.
“The small window of opportunity that exists in the northern province shows that sustained and focused international pressure can work”, says Jim Della-Giacoma, Asia Program Director. “With opposition parties and civil society weakened by years of government intimidation, international pressure on Sri Lankan leaders is essential to preserve the remaining space for democratic dissent, prevent regression on ethnic issues and restrain growing authoritarianism”.
crisisgroup.org

Sri Lanka’s Potemkin Peace: Democracy Under Fire

Colombo/Brussels | 13 Nov 2013

Despite recent moves meant to show progress towards post-war reconciliation and respect for human rights, Sri Lanka’s government has not altered the authoritarian direction of its policies, and the rights and security of all communities remain under threat.

In its latest report, Sri Lanka’s Potemkin Peace: Democracy Under Fire, the International Crisis Group examines challenges facing the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) following its landslide victory in Sri Lanka’s north, the central government’s hostility to devolution, and the ever-shrinking democratic space nationwide. The Colombo government’s attempts to mask its growing authoritarianism as it hosts this month’s Commonwealth summit appear increasingly flimsy.

The report’s major findings and recommendations are:

The long-awaited northern province elections were a success, but to go forward the TNA-controlled council needs both Colombo’s cooperation and financial, technical and political support from the international community. Influential governments, including India and other Commonwealth members as well as the U.S., should make clear to Colombo that diplomatic pressure will intensify if it pushes through constitutional changes that weaken or eliminate provincial councils.

Militant Buddhist attacks on mosques and Muslim businesses have continued with tacit government support, while violence against Christian churches and worshippers appears to be on the rise. There have been no serious government efforts to prevent or punish attacks.

Participants in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) this week in Colombo should press the government to address human rights abuses, prevent attacks on religious minorities and restore judicial independence.

Legal and administrative moves responding to the government’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and the UN Human Rights Council’s March resolution have not restored judicial or police independence, curbed militarisation or ensured accountability for war crimes in the conflict that ended in 2009.

If the government cannot show progress by March 2014, when the UN Human Rights Council next meets, members should design an international mechanism to investigate the many allegations of violations of international law by both sides in the civil war and to monitor continuing human rights violations and attacks on the rule of law.

“The government’s policies badly damage rule of law and democracy, undermine the rights of Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese alike and render all citizens insecure”, says Alan Keenan, Sri Lanka Project Director. “If it continues to close avenues of peaceful change, the risks of violent reaction will grow”.

“The small window of opportunity that exists in the northern province shows that sustained and focused international pressure can work”, says Jim Della-Giacoma, Asia Program Director. “With opposition parties and civil society weakened by years of government intimidation, international pressure on Sri Lankan leaders is essential to preserve the remaining space for democratic dissent, prevent regression on ethnic issues and restrain growing authoritarianism”.

crisisgroup.org

"The government’s policies have badly damaged the rule of law and democracy, undermined the rights of Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese alike and rendered all Sri Lankans insecure. If it continues to close off avenues of peaceful change, the risks of violent reaction will grow."

—from today’s report on Sri Lanka, “Sri Lanka’s Potemkin Peace: Democracy Under Fire