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Human Rights

Sri Lanka Faces New Year Pressure Over Rights

COLOMBO, Dec 29 2013 (IPS) - When the American Centre in Colombo held a memorial event honouring the late South African President Nelson Mandela, the first few questions at the question and answer session had nothing to do with the great freedom fighter.

The questions raised at the meeting Dec. 20 were about how South Africa could assist Sri Lanka set up its own national healing process. During the Commonwealth Heads of State summit (CHOGM) in Colombo in November, President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government had approached the African state to explore the possibility of assistance in setting up something akin to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

According to the South African envoy in Colombo, Geoff Doidge, the request was made to South African President Jacob Zuma at the summit. “The past will haunt you as a country, even if you go forward, without a TRC-like process in Sri Lanka,” Zuma had told the meeting.

The questions on the TRC were symbolic of the kind of focus Sri Lanka’s rights record, and government efforts to correct it, have received since a bloody civil war ended almost five years back.

The Commonwealth meeting turned the spotlight on that rights record yet again. While attending the summit, British Prime Minister David Cameron visited the former war zone in the north with a retinue of reporters and journalists. During his whistle-stop tour, Cameron was quick to stress that Sri Lanka lagged behind in its efforts to address international concerns over rights violations.

Cameron said that the UK would back stricter international strictures against the Rajapaksa government if it does not redress the situation.

“The spotlight will be on Sri Lanka to demonstrate it is committed to Commonwealth (values),” British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka John Rankin said before the Commonwealth meet.

Cameron’s comments resulted in a barrage of criticism against him locally, but international advocates pushing for a credible investigation into rights violations welcomed it.

“It has reinforced the need for an international inquiry,” Steve Crashaw, director for the Office of the Secretary General at Amnesty International who was in Sri Lanka during the Commonwealth meeting told IPS.

Crashaw said Cameron’s actions should be followed by other international players. “It should not be limited to a one-off media event.”

It is unlikely to be. The U.S. has expressed similar sentiments that Colombo needs to do more to investigate wartime allegations, especially about the thousands of civilians who have gone missing. The New Year is now likely to see more pressure on the Sri Lankan government.

The U.S. Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal is expected in Sri Lanka in mid-January. During her first visit to the island Biswal is expected to discuss issue pertaining to investigations into disappearances and deaths.

Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa set up a new commission in late November to tabulate wartime deaths. The new census is being conducted by the Department of Census and Statistics.

A similar effort by the same department in 2011 found after looking at vital events in the North and East that 4,156 persons were untraceable in the two provinces since 2005. International organisations including an advisory panel to the UN Secretary General have put figures of civilian disappearances close to ten times that.

The newly formed Northern Provincial Council, controlled by the opposition Tamil National Alliance, has already said it would launch its own census of the disappeared since it did not trust the numbers produced by government surveys.

National rights activists told IPS that pressure by the likes of the UK, the U.S. and next-door neighbour India, whose prime minister stayed away from the Commonwealth confab, is leading the government at least to take note of uncomfortable issues.

“At the very least, it strengthens the determination and courage of victims, their families, a few journalists, lawyers, the clergy and activists who continue to struggle for truth and justice,” Rukshan Fernando, board member of the national advocacy group Rights Now told IPS.

Fernando observed that if the government continues to drag its heels, it could face a tough reception at the upcoming March sessions of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council. Over the past two years the council has adopted resolutions calling on the Sri Lankan government to address lingering allegations of rights violations.

However, neither resolution has included any mention of the possibility of an international rights inquiry.

“The members of the Council have toughened the position on Sri Lanka from 2009 to 2012 and 2013, and the Indian PM’s boycott of CHOGM indicates that India is ready to be tougher on Sri Lanka,” Fernando said.

India’s role has changed considerably in the last five years. In mid-2009 when the war was in its final stages, India was instrumental in stalling a resolution brought on by European nations condemning Sri Lankan government actions.

In 2014, domestic political exigencies may push New Delhi to come full circle, according to Ramani Hariharan, a political commentator from India who served as intelligence officer with the Indian Peace Keeping Force that was stationed in Sri Lanka from 1987 to 1990.

“The UNHCR meet will be held in March 2014 when the Indian parliamentary poll campaign will be in full steam. The Congress (government’s) fortunes are at stake and it is likely to oblige the Dravida Munnetra K’azhagam [DMK] party’s demand to keep it in the coalition.” The DMK is a dominant party in India’s Tamil Nadu.

It was due to pressure from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu with its Tamil majority population, that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stayed away from Colombo in November.

“The UN Human Rights Council sessions can create significant pressure on Sri Lanka,” Amnesty International’s Crashaw said.

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  • Justice

    war criminal Mahinda must be punished

  • Rajan

    Mahinda is a Great Hero. Thanks for defeating LTTE Tamil Terrorists.

  • Obamasal

    The need for an impartial investigation of alleged war crimes by both parties and ongoing human rights violations is more to do justice to the victims than vindictive. The heavy deployment of military in Tamil speaking areas lead to abductions, torture, rape and fear psychosis of the hapless citizens. Unless the pressure comes from abroad status quo will continue. The investigations of high profile murders allegedly carried out in 2006 and 2008 by security forces are still stalled by the government and a few token actions such as some arrests of security personnel, instituting LLRC and talks of implementing its recommendations have come about due to previous UN HRC resolutions.

  • Alan.G

    Crazy fellow

  • Eusense

    No war crime investigation on Sri Lanka is needed or valid until investigations on war crimes on Palestinians, Iraqis and Afghans are initiated and investigated. People in these countries are humans too, not only Tamils of Sri Lanka.

  • Sinniah Sivagnanasun

    Why are you so envious?

  • Sinniah Sivagnanasun

    ANYBODY CAN BECOME A HERO when there is ZERO MORALITY. Do anybody DARE to CHASE An INDIGENIOUS people from their own MOTHERLAND ,make them captive in a small plot of land and MURDER them with HEAVY artilary without any concern for HUMANNESS ? other than A SINGALA TERRORIST GOVT.
    Be sympathetic and human please toward innocent TAMILS .

  • Eusense

    This President became a hero because he annihilated a Tamil terrorist group and saved 20 million Sri Lankans from suicide murder attacks. This number included both Sinhalese and Tamils. He also saved 200k Tamil people who were used as human shields by these brutal Tamil terrorists. Tamils are Sri Lankans too and non terrorist Tamils are friends of Sri Lanka. Are you one of them or a terror supporter?

  • thivya

    He is a hero for Sinhalese and killer for Tamils, even Hitler was a hero for Germans and killer for the Jews.

  • Arasu54

    Me or whatever , the discussion here is on sinking Lanka and pakse mass murdrers !

  • Eusense

    Were the jews suicide killers of Germany?
    Stupid or what??

  • Leela

    We in Sri Lanka had four Eelam wars for over thirty years
    since Tamil youth were urged to take arms against elected Sri Lanka government
    in Waddukkodai on May 14th, 1976 by political leaders. When IPKF fought the
    tigers from 1979 for two years over two thousand Indian jawan and many a Tamil
    civilians ad been killed. It was no secret that even old women were raped by
    jawans. Subsequently LTTE had blown Indian premier Rajive and a Sri Lanka
    President to pieces. Altogether 384 LTTE human bombs were blown up and tens of
    thousands civilians were maimed and killed leave out their other atrocities. So
    it is nothing but hypocrisy to try to investigate a few week of a 30 year war
    aided by various parties. All must be investigated.

  • Eusense

    Not envious. Laughing at stupidity of a tamil terrorist group (including you) who spends millions dreaming of something that will never materialize!

  • Eusense

    Pakse is a mass murderer of terrorists. Innocent Tamils were murdered by your terror idol parayabakaran who got children and women to carry out suicide killings and swallow cyanide capsules.

  • Eusense

    There are no criminality in fighting terror wars where the enemy is unidentifiable. This is at least until the UN come up with a terror war treaty on how to fight this kind of wars.

  • Srivanamoth

    First an impartial UN investigation to find out the full truth and nothing but the ttruth in the face of mass extermination of humans by the Sinhala state and by the Tamil parties involved. Then follow-up from such an investigation as needed.

  • thivya

    Obviously the Germans were smarter than Sinhalese, they sent all the Jews to concentration camps before they become suicide bombers. Learn to accept the fact that the LTTE was the Tamil people’s answer to Sinhala state terror unleashed on them from the days of independence, Hitler killed the Jews in concentration camps only, but the Rajapaksas killed Tamils t in their homes and villages, and in the concentration camps after the war.

  • Eusense

    Tamils do not under go any state violance. Look, more tamils live in the south than in the north. There are more tamils in colombo than sinhalese and tamils are wealthier than the sinhalese in colombo. How can this be true if tamils are subjected to state violance and discrimination. You appears to be a person of the defeated terror group living outside SL and spreading misinformation.

    Blacks in the US went through more severe human rights violations. They did not have voting rights either. Did they resort to violance, raise arms against the gov. Or ask for a separate state? Without any of this they won their rights and live as americans not as africans. If tamils opted violance they have to face the consequences. Remember if you live by the sword you die by the sword. Sadly due to foolishness of few tamil terrorists many inocent tamils had to sacrifice their lives.

  • thivya

    First of all comparing the civil rights protests of Black Americans to the Eelam Tamil struggle for self-determination is an insult to the Tamils who were in Sri Lanka as long as the Sinhalese.

    Pardon me, but I think only a retarded Sinhala modaya who has no knowledge in the history of Sri Lanka will blabber like this. And we, Eelam Tamils weren’t forcefully brought to Sri Lanka as slaves and we are not the recent immigrants either. We Tamils are the ancient inhabitants of this island as the Sinhalese, and the Sinhalese were not our masters at anytime in our history. Therefore, we Tamils have equal claim to the island of Sri Lanka.

    The Tamils have been the majority in the North East from the dawn of the history of Sri Lanka. Even your own Mahavamsa talks about Tamils as the rulers, In the Dutugemunu-Elara episode, the Mahavamsa says, Dutugemunu had to conquer not just one Tamil king (Elara) but 32 Tamil Chieftains around the Anuradhapura principality alone.

    I hardly see any connection between the Black American’s civil right protests and the Sinhala war against Tamils. I think the Sinhalese like you got mixed up with Martin Luther King and Mahinda Rajapukse.

    The Tamils asked for their rights from the Sinhalese with non- violent protests for more than 35 years. The power of non-violence didn’t have any power over Singhalese. Remember from 1956 until Prabhkaran showed up with his gun, the Sinhalese unleashed violence on the nonviolent Tamil protesters.

    Some may ask, if the nonviolent protest by the American Blacks worked with the white people, why it didn’t work with the Sinhalese. I think the white people are not as violent and hateful as Sinhalese. The extent of white’s hatred against their black countrymen is not as deep as the Sinhala hatred against Tamils.

    The Sinhalese are not like the Americans and the Sinhala hatred of Tamils is much deeper than even the worst racist Americans hate of Blacks. There are so many white people who fought along with the black people for their rights and many of them sacrificed their lives to safeguard the civil rights of blacks of Americans.

    -Show us one Sinhala leader or Sinhalese who genuinely fought for the rights of Tamil people.

    -Show us one Sinhalese who openly confronted and protested against their Sinhala government for the rights of minority Tamils in Sri Lanka.

    -Can you show even a single Sinhalese who died to defend the Tamil rights in Sri Lanka? There is none, whatsoever. But some Sinhalese like you have the audacity to compare the civil rights of American blacks to the Tamils struggle against the Sinhala racism in Sri Lanka.

  • thivya

    //Tamils do not under go any state
    You must be drunk or lying..

  • thivya


    Given all this, there is the question as to why Tamil choose to live in the south among the Sinhalese. The answers are: escaping the war zone, pursuing basic economic life and transit. For many Tamils, the areas outside the Northeastern
    war-zone are comparatively safer places.

    Whilst disappearances, indefinite detention, torture, etc are a risk in the south, the risks of these are far greater in their home towns and villages in the Northeast (consider the situation in Jaffna, for example, which has been under state control for 13 years). By the way, the imminence of (Sinhala) violence is referred to as ‘impunity’ by the international community.

    Secondly, following decades of state exclusion from investment, even by the early eighties, the Northeast had little prospect of economic life outside state employment. Which is why, despite, as Prof. Gunesinghe puts it, the period from 1977 to 1983, being described as one of incessant ethnic rioting , large numbers of Tamils remained in the south. Their luck ran out in 1983.

    Yet, there is little choice for Tamils trying to survive today. Attempting to secure a basic economic life, many accept the latent risks of living in the south. Their desperation is heightened by Sri Lanka’s rampaging inflation. Then there are those Tamils trying to get out of Sri Lanka, either for safety or to seek employment abroad to support families in the Northeast.

    But with the state administration (travel and other papers), international embassies (visas) and the island’s sole international airport being in Colombo, large numbers of Tamils have come to Colombo and languish in squalid ‘lodges’ or crowd relatives’ homes while they try to arrange their departures.

  • Eusense

    How retarded are you? How can any tamil live and thrive in the south if there is state violance against them?
    Your explanation is i am drunk or lying???

  • thivya

    There is no outright state violence against the Tamils in the Capital because of the presence of diplomatic community but still the white vans are threatening them as well. The occupying mono ethnic Sinhala military is still terrorizing the Tamils even after the war. That’s why the Sinhala regime in not allowing any independent journalists or observers to the North – East without the guidance of the occupying Sinhala military. If you don’t know about the murders, rapes, mass graves and carpet bombing by the Sinhala state against Tamils, you must have been in a coma for past the 35 years. If you, Sinhalese have nothing to hide, why don’t you agree to an independent international investigation?

  • Eusense

    So, only tamils can seek self determination? What about the muslims and other minorities in SL and blacks and hispanics of the US?
    To be honest i don’t dwell in the past. Tamils are 15% of the population and are a minority and that is what it is today. You need to live as a minority, and thats how millions of minorities live in various countries. Tamils are no exceptions. In fact people like you live as minorities where ever you live now. People like you are the lazy tamils who fled SL to the west for asylum with all kinds of excuses. Millions of hard working tamils are thriving in SL.

    working tamils by passing india where your own

  • thivya

    The Sri Lankan Tamils are a NATION and not a minority. More than 2000 years later the Jews came from 82 countries and reclaimed their homeland. Merely 60 years after so called independence from the British whom annexed and gave our homeland to the Sinhalese, why can’t the Tamils, the vast majority of who are still living in their homeland, free their homeland from the Sinhala occupation?

    Obviously the Jewish state is inspiration, to not only the Tamils, but all the national minorities who lost their historic homeland to the new majority colonialists in their own countries.

    The vast majority of the denizens of the north and east seek the restoration of their rights and not devolution of power. These are the rights which were snatched away from them by virtue of a mathematical innovation where the majority in the two provinces were added to the majority in the seven provinces and thus made a minority inthe nine provinces

    “We Sri Lankan Tamils, it must be noted, were never a minority. We were made a minority. It is not essential to go into the question of whether Tamils were here a thousand years ago, two thousand years ago or were the original inhabitants. The recent revisionist historians should note that, as recently as ninety years ago, the then Sinhalese leaders Sir James Peiris and E.J.Samarawickreme having promised Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam, that they would
    support the demand for a Tamil Seat for the City of Colombo, repudiated their pledge after winning the election.

    They directed the Sinhalese Electorates created under the 1921 Constitution, drafted almost entirely by Sir P. Arunachalam, to nominate only Sinhalese candidates for election. The ground on which they objected to the provision of any safeguards for the Tamils, was that

    (I quote)

    The Tamils like the Sinhalese and unlike any other people of the Island were in themselves A MAJORITY COMMUNITY and as such had no reason to be classed with the minorities or to stand in need of any safeguards.

    This gives credence to the fact that

    The Sri Lankan Tamils far from being a minority have from remote ages been and continued to be a full blooded majority in their ancient homelands where their own kings and potentates had held unquestioned sway.


  • Eusense

    I sense you need psychatric help. You seem to be in a state of halusination. Your elam dream will never materialize. Sorry.

  • thivya

    I think you need a brain to understand all this. Your fantasy of a total majoritarian Sinhala rule over Tamils will never be acceptable to the Tamils. As long as you Sinhalese want to keep Sri Lanka as a Sinhala Buddhist unitary state, this Tamil – Sinhala conflict will continue. The history of many liberation struggles tell us that Sinhala majoritarian racism will eventually lead to separation and one day Tamil Eelam will be free from Sinhala occupation.

    Merely 60 years ago Jews didn’t have a state either. The heroic struggles of East Timorians, Slovaks, Croatians, Bosnians, Kosovar etc.etc. shines like bright stars in the sky for Tamils to emulate!

  • MaxV

    @thivya–Obviously you don’t know what the heck you are talking about. You can’t drag ancient Sri Lankan history to postcolonial ethnic crises. The “Tamil homeland” in North and East is just as mythical as Sri Lanka being a solely Sinhalese-Buddhist country. Same goes for Tamils being “ancient inhabitants” of Sri Lanka. Elara was a Chola invader, most successful invader in pre-colonial history, ultimately defeated but his 40-year-reign certainly contributed to the Sri Lankan Tamil population. Sinhalese have history on their side, the Tamils have heritage. Either way, don’t be a moron chained to the cave wall. You want Sinhalese to wake up to state terrorism against Tamils? First, you’d have to wake up to the reality of the “Eelam struggle.”

  • MaxV

    Yes, I do think the Zionist state (exclusively for European Jews) of hypocrisy,oppression and ethnic cleansing is a GREAT example for the monoethnic Eelam. I mean really. LTTE and Israel do have that in common.

  • thivya

    IF you don;t know that the Tamils are ancient inhabutants of sri lanka, you should read your own mahavamsa first. 🙂

  • thivya

    //You can’t drag ancient Sri Lankan history to postcolonial ethnic crises.//

    Please go tell that to the Sinhala Buddhists first and don’t forget to tell that to Ellavela and his minions as well. :))

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