Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Sri Lanka: JVP threatens to take to streets against CEPA

Sri Lanka's leftist party JVP or the People's Liberation Front said on Tuesday that they will take to the streets if the Sri Lankan government moves forward with the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) which is to be signed with the Indian government.

JVP legislator Sunil Handunnetti told reporters that the government is still not showing it to the public as well as to parliament despite of the request of opposition parties.

Handunnetti said Indian vehicles, drugs, foods, motorbikes and electrical goods have already invaded Sri Lankan market and the situation will get worse if CEPA is signed.

CEPA is a trade agreement between Sri Lanka and India. The two countries were on the verge of signing the agreement in October 2008, but Sri Lanka withdrew after the domestic opposition to CEPA heightened.

"According to the drafted agreement, the custom rules would be relaxed for the transactions between the two countries," Handunnetti said, adding that it is not a correct practice.

He said that under CEPA, Indian laborers would also come to Sri Lanka.

A senior government minister said CEPA will take center stage during President Mahinda Rajapaksa's ongoing visit to India and the government intends to sign the agreement later this year.

Keheliya Rambukwella, minister of Mass Media and Communication said the government is determined to give a wide spectrum of stakeholders an opportunity to express their views.

The business community, industrialists, investors, importers and exporters and even consumers can express their concerns on CEPA, said Rambukwella.

"The agreement would be signed after these suggestions and ideas are evaluated and incorporated into," he said.

© Peoples Daily Online

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Exert pressure on Colombo to declare detained LTTE members as political prisoners: CPI politician

Thousands of former LTTE members, who were captured by the Sri Lanka Army in May last year are still perishing in Colombo’s detention camps in unknown locations. “Many of the families of these young Tamils do not even know the whereabouts of their loved ones. The Sri Lankan state is treating them like criminals. Rajapaksa is not recognising these young Tamils as Prisoners of War. But, he should at least be pressurised by the global community to declare those detained as political prisoners,” said C. Mahendran, the deputy state secretary of the Communist Party of India (CPI) in Tamil Nadu. Mr. Mahendran was addressing fellow activists of Ilangkai Thamizhar Paathukaappu Iyakkam, while they were held under collective custody by Tamil Nadu police, after a protest on Tuesday against Rajapaksa’s visit to New Delhi.

“These are youth who stood up for a political cause, for their right to homeland, and are therefore political prisoners,” Mr. Mahendran said.

Political leaders and movements in Tamil Nadu need to launch an awareness campaign to highlight the plight of the thousands of youth under Sri Lankan detention, he said.

The Tamil youth in Tamil Nadu have been angered by the actions of the Sri Lankan military in the post-war situation, the CPI leader said.

Thousansds of former LTTE members are kept in isolated detention camps like criminals. Even criminals, who receive punishment for their selfish acts, are given legal protection. But, these young Tamils, who were selflessly prepared to sacrifice themselves for a common cause, are being held in appalling conditions, he said.

Many families do not know the whereabouts of their loved ones who are detained by the Sri Lankan military.

“When people are kept isolated without any information to their families and without access to the monitoring agencies, it should be a matter of grave concern to the outside world as any harm could be caused to their lives,” he said.

“The Indian Air Force commanders have refused to bomb the territory controlled by Maoist guerrillas. But, the Sri Lanka Air Force indiscriminately bombed Tamils. The Sri Lankan military carried out a genocidal onslaught on tens of thousands of Tamil civilians who sought refuge in safe-zones. Our security forces should imagine the plight of these young Tamils under the custody of the genocidal Sri Lankan military,” he said as more than 200 Tamil Nadu police personnel were patiently listening to his emotional speech.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, who met Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in Colombo on Monday before he leaving to New Delhi, told TNA delegation not to talk about the release of ex-LTTE members adding that only a gradual release was possible.

© Tamil Net

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Indian Tamils protest against Sri Lanka leader's visit

Police in southern India have detained hundreds of Tamil demonstrators ahead of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa's three-day visit.

Protesters alleging mistreatment of Sri Lankan Tamils were stopped from marching to the country's mission in the city of Madras (Chennai).

Mr Rajapaksa is making his first visit to India, a year after Sri Lankan troops defeated Tamil Tiger rebels.

India gave Colombo military support and did not question its tactics.

But reports say the Indian government wants President Rajapaksa to show that he plans to give Tamils some measure of self-governance.

Tens of millions of ethnic Tamils live in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. They are concerned with how the Sinhalese-dominated Sri Lankan state treats its own Tamil minority, the issue that led to decades of ethnic war.

'Treacherous betrayal'

"Mr Rajapaksa is the man responsible for the death of many innocent Tamils. Giving him a red carpet welcome is like rubbing salt on Tamil hearts," the leader of the regional MDMK party, Vaiko, said.

"We condemn the reception being given by the government which is committing betrayal after betrayal, treacherous betrayal, against the Tamils."

Mr Vaiko was among hundreds of protesters taken into custody across Tamil Nadu state on Tuesday.

A number of protests were held in the southern cities of Madras and Coimbatore.

In several places effigies of Mr Rajapaksa were burnt and in Madras, police prevented demonstrators from marching to the Sri Lankan deputy high commissioner's office.

In Coimbatore, protesters attempted to stop trains.

Prior to the visit, Mr Rajapaksa held his first meeting with the main Tamil party in Sri Lanka since polls earlier this year.

The BBC's Charles Haviland in Colombo says the talks are reported to have gone well, even if they were thin on substance.

The president's office quoted Mr Rajapaksa as telling the Tamil politicians to trust him and saying that, by working together, they could find solutions to problems.

Sri Lanka's Tamils account for 12.5% of the island's 20 million population.

Up to 100,000 people were killed in the island's 25-year civil war, the United Nations estimates.

© BBC News

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

From rail to power, sops ready for Sri Lanka

Shubhajit Roy - A bouquet of pacts, including one on deep-sea power cables and another on a rehabilitation centre for Tamil widows, between India and Sri Lanka is likely to be announced when President Mahinda Rajapaksa meets Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at Hyderabad House on Wednesday.

Among the other important announcements likely are rebuilding of rail network in northern Sri Lanka, an academic centre for Indian studies, and consulates in Jaffna and Hambantota.

Agreements on mutual legal assistance and transfer of convicted persons are also expected to be signed between the two countries on Wednesday, after the delegation-level talks between the two leaders. Sources said the agreement on convicts is aimed at prisoners who want to spend the remaining term in their homeland, and the legal cooperation treaty is an umbrella agreement aimed at helping each other with legal issues.

Sources said that the agreements and announcements by New Delhi is an effort to balance the Indian as well as Lankan interests.

While India is interested in showering sops for the Tamil minority in the island nation, New Delhi wants to make sure that Rajapaksa’s Sinhala base is also taken care of. So, even as the Tamil groups protested down South on Tuesday against Rajapaksa’s visit, South Block was working hard to balance the interests of the two countries.

The expected MoU on power grid connectivity will look at conducting feasibility studies to ensure power supply to the Sri Lanka’s war-ravaged electricity situation. Once found feasible, deep-sea power cables will integrate the grids of the two countries and will ensure power supply, up to 1,000 MW, for Lanka. Incidentally, China is building a coal-based power plant to be readied later this year which will supply 300 MW initially and will be expanded to 900 MW.

Another MoU will be for setting up centres or institutes for rehabilitation of Tamil widows — whose husbands have died during the Lankan war against the LTTE — to be built by Ahmedabad-based NGO SEWA.

There will be two pacts to rebuild and construct rail links in Lanka, especially in the northern areas where majority of Tamil minorities live. India, which has been keen on opening a consulate in the Tamil-dominated Jaffna town, will also be opening another consulate in Hambantota.

Hambantota is key for two reasons: first, it is a Sinhala-majority area and is a stronghold of the Rajapaksa. And second, it is the place where the Chinese are building a port and is seen by New Delhi as a strategic base for Beijing.

© Indian Express

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Sri Lanka still demands justice

By Louise Arbour - If international criminal justice is ever to be effective, its enforcement cannot be selective. We recently marked the first anniversary of the end of the Sri Lankan civil war, yet the international community — in stark contrast to its approach on other conflicts — still has done nothing to address accountability for war crimes committed in its final months.

The difference between the speedy dispatch last year by the United Nations Human Rights Council of a fact-finding mission to Gaza and the deafening silence of the world while thousands of civilians were becoming victims of illegal methods of warfare in Sri Lanka strikes at the heart the international justice project.

On April 3, 2009, the president of the Human Rights Council established the U.N. Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza conflict with the mandate to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law in the context of military operations there between December 2008 and January 2009.

At that very moment several hundred thousand people — civilians of all ages, many wounded, weakened and hungry — were crowded in the second "No Fire Zone" established by the Sri Lankan army in the Vanni, awaiting further shelling by government forces while the remaining cadres of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam among them ensured that they would not be allowed to cross over to the government side.

By the end of May 2009, it was all over. It is difficult to say precisely how many Tamil civilians were killed in these final five months of the 30-year war waged by the Sri Lankan government against the Tamil Tigers. A proper investigation would likely set the figure in the tens of thousands.

On Sept. 29, 2009, Justice Richard Goldstone, head of the Gaza Fact Finding Mission, presented its report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, calling for an end to impunity for violations of international law in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The U.N. mission reported Palestinian casualty figures at between 1,166 and 1,444.

There was never any Goldstone report on Sri Lanka. Rather, on May 27, 2009, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution welcoming the conclusion of hostilities and "the liberation by the government of Sri Lanka of tens of thousands of its citizens ..."

Evidence uncovered since then suggests that the council seriously misapprehended the facts when it failed to call for an investigation of both sides. There is indeed evidence suggesting war crimes by the Tamil Tigers, and despite the best efforts of the government of Sri Lanka to keep the world at bay during the last months of the conflict, there is also a substantial body of credible evidence pointing to the commission of war crimes by government forces including attacks on humanitarian operations, attacks on hospitals and deliberate shelling of civilians enticed by the government to seek protection in the safety of "No Fire Zones."

More investigation will be necessary to expose and document the full scale of the violations of the laws of war and the possible individual criminal responsibility at the highest levels of civil and military command in the Sri Lankan armed forces as well as by the Tamil Tigers. 

However, no fair, independent and credible investigation can be undertaken by the government of Sri Lanka, or by an organ created by the government.

The long history of impunity, the legitimate fear of reprisals on the part of prospective witnesses and the persistent denial at the highest levels of government of any wrongdoing suggest that only an arms-length international process would be credible.

An international investigation is required to ensure that Sri Lanka rebuilds itself on the solid foundation of the rule of law including the fundamental principle that no one is above the law. It is also necessary to ensure that the future rests on a truthful acknowledgment of the past and that all the people of Sri Lanka understand what was done, seemingly on their behalf, to their fellow citizens, many of whom were innocent civilians trapped between a terrorist movement and a government unwilling to extend to them the protection to which they were entitled by law. The nature and the magnitude of the crimes are such that there is no prospect of a real, durable peace without justice.

Such an investigation is also necessary to reaffirm the international community's commitment to the principle of accountability for serious violations of international humanitarian law. This is particularly pressing since the "Sri Lankan option" may otherwise become increasingly attractive to those governments that will find it expedient to disregard the law if they are convinced that they may do so with impunity.

Former United Nations high commissioner for human rights and former prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, Louise Arbour is president of the International Crisis Group, which recently released the report "War Crimes in Sri Lanka." 

© Global Post

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