Thursday, 24 January 2008
By P.K. Balachandran, Colombo , Jan 24 : Sri Lanka said Thursday that the recommendations of an all-party panel on devolution of power to the provinces reflected a collective resolve to fully implement the India-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987
"It is a fact that after 20 years the present formulation will see the letter and spirit of the agreement of 1987 being fully implemented in the areas it was intended to serve," Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said here.
"What is most significant about the present consensus is that political parties, both in the north and the south, have demonstrated a spirit of political flexibility in extending their cooperation to the proposals," he told reporters.
The All Parties Representative Committee (APRC) submitted a report to President Mahinda Rajapaksa Wednesday, recommending full implementation of the 13th amendment of the constitution that was based on the 1987 India-Sri Lanka pact.
The 13th amendment had created provincial councils enjoying a modicum of power devolved from the central government. But the provincial council of the north-eastern province, inhabited predominantly by Tamils and Tamil-speaking Muslims, ceased to exist in 1990, thus creating a grievance among the minorities.
The foreign minister said that the APRC's report stood out for three things: the recommendation to set up an Interim Advisory Council for the northern province; for seeking elections to a full-fledged provincial council in the east; and the call for the full implementation of the constitutional provisions for the use of Tamil, one of the official languages of the country.
The Advisory Council would consist of people from the civil society and leading figures from various walks of life and those with knowledge of the area. It will be temporary till elections are held to pick a new council.
The minister said that all previous attempts to resolve the dragging ethnic dispute had failed because there was no collective resolve over power sharing.
He claimed that there was consensus on the APRC's bid to fully implement the power-sharing system as envisaged in the 13th amendment of the constitution.
"Even those who opposed the amendment when it was passed are now operating within the provincial councils system, fighting for elections and taking part in provincial governance," he said.
Although President Rajapaksa is yet to say he has accepted the APRC's recommendations, the minister spoke as if the president had already accepted them.
Asked if Tamil Tigers leader Velupillai Prabhakaran would be included in the Advisory Council, Bogollagama said: "He qualifies to the extent he is a citizen of Sri lanka and has knowledge of the area. But he would have to give up violence and terrorism first."
But the minister ruled out a merger of the northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka.
New Delhi, Jan 24 (IANS): India Thursday hailed as a "welcome first step" a report submitted to the Sri Lankan government suggesting devolution for that country's provinces.
The external affairs ministry said to the extent the proposals of the All Parties Representative Committee (APRC) contributed to a settlement acceptable "to all communities within the framework of a united Sri Lanka", they "are a welcome first step".
The APRC had presented an interim report on a devolution package for the island's provinces which Colombo said would be in keeping with the 1987 India-Sri Lanka Accord.
The long-awaited APRC report was submitted to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse Thursday.
"The government of Sri Lanka has been good enough to share with us the interim steps recommended by the APRC for implementation of devolution provisions and official language provisions of the Sri Lankan constitution," said ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna.
Sarna added that India would "continue to work with Sri Lanka and its people to bring about ... a settlement of the issues in Sri Lanka".
16 bodies have been found in a garbage pit in Kiriketuwewa area at Kabethigollawa. The bodies had their hands tied behind say reports from the police.
The bodies have been found when Kabethigollawa Police carried out a search operation in the area on information received from a civilian.However, when ‘Lankatruth’ inquired regarding the incident a police spokesman said it was too early to give any further information regarding the incident.
By Peter Apps
LONDON (Reuters) - Renegade ex-Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger rebel Karuna Amman has pleaded guilty to identity document fraud in Britain, court officials said on Thursday, as rights groups push for him to be charged with war crimes.
Karuna was the eastern commander for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) until he split from the mainstream rebels in 2004. Since then analysts say his fighters have been backing the government and attacking their ex-comrades.
British officials say they have asked the Sri Lankan government how Karuna -- real name V. Muralitharan -- was able to acquire an apparently genuine Sri Lankan diplomatic passport in a false name after his new group the TMVP split and ousted him last year.
The Sri Lankan government has denied any knowledge of how Karuna, arrested in London by British police and due to be sentenced on Friday, obtained the documentation.
Officials at Isleworth Crown Court told Reuters he had pleaded guilty at a lower, magistrates court before Christmas to charges under the Identity Cards Act. He could face up to two years in prison, a fine or both.
"He will be sentenced tomorrow," an official said.
Rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch accuse Karuna of massacres, hostage-taking and child soldier recruitment, both before and after his split, while his attacks were seen as a factor in the collapse of the island's 2002 ceasefire and renewal of civil war in 2006.They hope to persuade Britain's Crown Prosecution Service to charge him with torture or other war crimes charges, and hope witnesses will be more likely to testify if they know he is already in prison.
Karuna and his group has always denied abuses, saying the mainstream Tigers might be carrying them out in their name to blacken their image. The government and Karuna deny links, despite numerous accounts of troops and his fighters together.
Analysts say his group was valuable in assisting the military in evicting the LTTE from the island's east.
Both the mainstream Tigers and government have become increasingly internationally isolated, with diplomats aghast after the government unilaterally withdrew from the Norwegian-brokered truce earlier in January.
The war has since further escalated and few see an end in sight as the death toll rises above 70,000 on an island still recovering from the 2004 tsunami.Source: Reuters
An all-party peace panel in Sri Lanka has recommended maximum devolution of powers to Tamils in northern and eastern provinces while addressing the problems of Sinhala minorities in these areas.
The All Party Representative Committee (APRC) headed by Tissa Vitharna submitted its much-awaited report to President Mahinda Rajapakse yesterday.
It recommended that special arrangements are necessary to permit maximum devolution of powers to the Northern and Eastern provinces under the 13th amendments that calls for setting up of autonomous provincial councils.
Giving details of the report, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama told reporters today the government would not hesitate to undertake any kind of expenditure to implement the proposals that would initially come in the form of an Interim Advisory Provincial Council for the North and Eastern Part of Sri Lanka.
"We (Sri Lanka) are more than 20 billion rupee economy. Funds will never be a problem for implementing the proposals," he said in reply to a question.
"The APRC recommendations also seek to overcome existing shortcomings, especially through adequate funding of the Provincial Councils by the government," he told a crowded press conference here.
Taking into consideration the existing conditions in the Northern Province, an alternative arrangement there is to be made to enable people to enjoy the fruits of devolution, he said.
The committee recommended establishment of an Interim Council as a temporary measure for the Northern Province, reflecting the ethnic character of the province to aid and advise the Governor in the exercise of his executive powers until the elections are held.
The APRC recommendations included recruitment of Tamil speaking police officers and taking steps to recruit interpreters and translators for facilitating other relevant facilities in the courts of law in sufficient numbers.
They also included recruitment of staff and procurement of equipment to enable Tamil speaking people to transact business in public bodies in their own language.
According to the APRC report, similar steps are to be taken to address the problems of the Sinhala minorities in the North and the East of Sri Lanka.
The committee said it is of the view that conditions in the eastern Province are conducive to holding elections to the Provincial Council and that the polls should be held immediately.
On elections in the LTTE-dominated north, the report said conditions there are far from being peaceful.
"A free and fair elections in the North will not be possible in the near future. Hence an alternative arrangement is required in the Northern Province to enable the people there to enjoy the fruits of devolution.
"As it is not possible to hold elections in the North, the President could make appropriate order to establish an Interim Council for the Northern Province in terms of the Constitution," it said.
The APRC report said the proposed Interim Council for a Province should consist of individuals who have political experience and an abiding interest in the development of the province and in its people and be acceptable to the people of the province.
Buoyed by the recent military success against the Tamil Tigers, Sri Lankan government on Thursday asked the elusive LTTE supremo V Prabhakaran to lay down arms.
"Wherever Prabhakaran is, he will be knowing about the all party representative committee (APRC ) recommendations that have called for an interim council for north as a temporary measure until the elections are held there. He should lay down arms," Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama told reporters.
Bogollagama said the security forces had achieved a major success in their battle against the Tiger rebels in the island`s restive northern region.
Earlier, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse had said the APRC recommendations were not meant for "terrorists."
The Foreign Minister, who was briefing the media persons after his discussions with heads of missions on the interim report on devolution proposals which was submitted to Rajapakse yesterday, said the APRC under the chairmanship of Tissa Vitarana will continue to work on the recommendations.
The APRC was set up in 2006 and held about 60 meetings before finalising the interim package recommending setting up of autonomous provincial councils in north and eastern part of the country.
Replying to a question, Bogollagama said the Sri Lanka donor co-chairs group -- Norway, US, EU and Japan -- and the heads of missions including from India were supportive of the proposals when he provided details to them about the APRC recommendations.
Source: ZEE NEWS
(Reuters) - A home grown peace plan aimed at giving more autonomy to Sri Lanka's war-torn north and east was officially unveiled on Thursday, but its proposals have already been rejected by Tamil Tiger rebels and left analysts lukewarm. The All Party Representative Committee's (APRC) so-called "devolution proposals", which have been in the making for nearly two years, call for more regional autonomy to territories where rebels have been fighting an independence war for 25 years. While analysts said they were disappointed with the proposals, they were encouraged the government still appeared to be seeking a political solution to the 25-year civil war which pits minority Hindu Tamils against the majority Sinhalese Buddhists. "It will be no different from the system that already exists," said Jehan Perera, an analyst with the non-partisan advocacy group, the National Peace Council. "But, if the government sincerely implements (the proposals), then it will be a positive sign that the government is keen on solving problems through political means rather than military means." The government in 1987 decided to move towards a power sharing agreement in areas controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), but never actually conceded any power. The APRC's proposals were the latest reincarnation of that plan, but despite its' lofty name, the committee credibility problems by excluding the LTTE from the outset, and suffered further when most opposition party members walked out. While full details of the proposals are still to be revealed, it recommends the full implementation of the 1987 plan -- which was written into the constitution. President Mahinda Rajapaksa said he would fully implement the recommendations, but his stance of dealing with terrorism would not change. Analysts expect the war, which has killed around 70,000 people since 1983, will grind on for years. (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by David Fox)
The upcoming elections for local council seats in Batticaloa mark a very important opportunity to give the Tamils the opportunity to have their first elected Governor,” says US Ambassador for Sri Lanka Robert O Blake.
Addressing a public function held in Batticaloa on Wednesday the US Ambassador said free & fair elections cannot be held in Batticaloa as one party is allowed to bear arms.
If one party was allowed arms and threaten and intimidate other parties and other contestants free and fair elections cannot be held said the US Ambassador. He said US was working with the government, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations to help establish and reconstruct whole of east particularly Batticaloa but allowing paramilitary groups to act freely in the East had discouraged prime investment that was badly needed to help the reconstruction process in the province.
Protests in front of the UN compound in Colombo usually call for more assertive action by the world body, but this week was different: The People's Liberation Front (PLF), the second largest opposition party, held a demonstration calling on UN Human Rights High Commissioner Louise Arbour to mind her own business, and her language. The PLF's criticism of Arbour stems from comments she made in recent speeches that human rights violators in Sri Lanka, even those in senior government posts, could be charged in international criminal courts. "The high commissioner warned that violations of these rules by any party could entail individual criminal responsibility under international criminal law, including by those in positions of command," the UN said in a statement on 15 January. Arbour's statement reflects her concern over the possibility of increased civilian casualties with the end of the ceasefire between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers on 16 January. The PLF and other groups, including the pro-government National Patriotic Movement (NPM), said they took Arbour's comments as a veiled threat to discourage military operations by government forces to dislodge Tamil Tigers from areas under the latter's control in the north. "Arbour directly threatens the political and military leaders who are involved in taking measures for national security," the National Patriotic Movement (NPM) said in a statement on 18 January. "What she says in diplomatic language is that if anyone takes steps to liberate the Wanni and Killinochchi areas [under Tiger control] they would be branded as war criminals and brought before international law. This is clearly a threat." The PLF also came out strongly against Arbour's statement and said it was "international terrorism" to attempt to influence the actions of a democratically elected government. "If any politician or military officer is taken before international law for taking decisions on behalf of the motherland," PLF leader Somawansha Amarasinghe said on 16 January, "they would have to take them over our dead bodies." The NPM warned such statements could endanger the lives of UN staff and requested UN officials to be more careful. "We also call upon all responsible officials of the UN in Sri Lanka, considering the safety of the employees of the UN and its assets, to refrain from making such utter[ly] foolish statements that would enrage the people in this country," it said. Government reaction The government reaction to Arbour's statement has been more measured. Disaster Management and Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said the decision to pull out of the ceasefire was taken after lengthy deliberation and the government would not condone or support rights violations by its forces. "As in the past, even at the cost of delay in the implementation and successful completion of military operations, the government will take all necessary and meaningful measures to avoid civilian casualties and hardships to civilian populations," Saramasinghe said in a statement on 16 January, adding, "the government is compelled to indicate to the UN high commissioner for human rights that it considers her statement on the end of the CFA [ceasefire agreement] containing warnings on 'individual criminal responsibility' as being untimely, inappropriate and unacceptable." Sri Lanka's Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva called Arbour's comments gratuitous and biased. "The high commissioner has once again proven one point - how unqualified the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is in monitoring and reporting human rights in Sri Lanka as an independent actor," it said on 17 January. The government has had a long-running disagreement with Arbour, who visited Sri Lanka in October 2007, over the latter's proposal to set up a field presence of the high commissioner's office in Sri Lanka to monitor and report on abuse. Civic groups speak out Civic groups in Colombo see the latest attack on the UN official as an extension of recent efforts by political groups and sections of the media to discredit international agencies, including the UN. A group of 13 national organisations including the Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Law and Society Trust and the Free Media Movement have banded together to defend Arbour and others who have come under criticism for advocating international human rights monitoring. They said attacks like the recent one on Arbour could hamper assistance to the most needy in Sri Lanka and endanger the lives of humanitarian workers even more. "Where it concerns the war-affected civilian population in the north and east, it is the humanitarian organisations that have often been the main source of institutional solace to the people," they said in a statement on 17 January. "Over the last two years humanitarian agencies have faced multiple incidents of violence, including killings and disappearances of humanitarian staff, attacks against offices and vehicles, and threats and intimidation, which has made working in Sri Lanka all the more challenging."
COLOMBO (AFP) — A peace panel including ruling party politicians told Sri Lanka's president to devolve more power to minority Tamils as a first step to resolving the island's long-running ethnic war, officials said Thursday.
The panel, made up of President Mahinda Rajapakse's Sri Lanka Freedom Party lawmakers and their allies, has been mulling peace options for two years.
The recommendation, however, falls far short of demands by Tamil Tiger rebels for full independence and is nothing new -- devolution is part of existing provisions in the Sri Lankan constitution that have never been put into practice.
"The APRC (All Party Representative Committee) proposals are to address the reasons for the present conflict... and to implement devolution proposals introduced to the constitution in 1987, that were never fully implemented," foreign minister Rohitha Bogollagama told reporters.
The minister, however, declined to set a timeframe for devolution.
In 1987, the Sri Lankan government took the decision to share power with minority Tamils in the north and east, but never fully devolved political power.
The Tamil Tigers already control a large part of the island's north and run a de facto separate state -- meaning that in many Tamil areas the president has no power to devolve anyway.
But Bogollagama has briefed foreign diplomats in Colombo about the proposals, which he described as a "historic step."
"The proposals were very well accepted by the diplomatic community and they hoped that it could be implemented very quickly," said Bogollagama.
"The international community must realise that these are not proposals aimed at meeting the demands of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), but to meet the aspirations of the long-suffering people in the north and east."
The president's all-party peace panel has come in for stiff criticism for displaying no sense of urgency and having little or no clout.
The panel got off to a bad start when the island's opposition parties walked out, and the Tamil Tigers were also excluded from the beginning.
Its recommendation comes in the wake of Rajapakse's decision to pull out of a 2002 Norwegian-brokered ceasefire with the Tamil Tigers earlier this month.
This week the president insisted he did not believe in a military solution to the war and wanted a political solution, although at the same time fighting has been escalating in the north with the Sri Lankan army claiming it is killing hundreds of rebels.
The decades-old conflict has left well over 60,000 people dead.
Reiterating that Congress party would never forgive the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for "assassinating" former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, a senior legislator today urged the Tamil Nadu government to take steps to bring LTTE leader V Prabakaran to India to face trial in the assassination case.
Participating in the debate on the motion of thanks to the Governor for his address in the assembly, Mr C Gnanasekaran said in the last two years, after the DMK came to power, as many as 102 LTTE militants had infiltrated into the state and this posed grave threat to peace and tranquility in the state.
Sri Lanka has banned import of chicken from India in the wake of outbreak of bird flu in West Bengal.
"Sri Lanka has banned chicken imports from India with immediate effect as bird flu has been reported from many parts of that country," Animal Products and Health acting Director General K M T Kendaragama said.
Sri Lanka imports egg-powder and one-day old chicks from India.
In a statement, Kendaragama said though the Department of Animal Products and Health has banned the import of chicks a few months ago after India declared that there was bird flu in the country, Sri Lanka relaxed the ban after the threat disappeared.
"We had to slap a ban once again after the bird flu epidemic broke out again in India in the last few weeks," Kendaragama said.Sri Lanka has also banned the import of chicken products from certain European countries from where bird flu has been reported, he said
Deadly bunker busters used to inflict maximum damage Although the fate of the Tiger chief was not immediately known, the military was confident that he could have been in the heavily fortified bunker at the time of the raid. "We are awaiting confirmation from our intelligence operatives on the ground," a high ranking military officer told The Island adding that he was almost certain Prabhakaran had been there at that time. "The bunker has been reduced to dust," he claimed, "several LTTE leaders may have been killed." He admitted that deadly bunker busters weighing about 1,000 kg each had been used as the SLAF ‘didn’t want to leave anything to chance’. Migs and Kfirs, on a low flying mission had targeted the base, located East of the Iranamadu Tank in the Kalmadukulama area the SLAF sources said. Military Intelligence had been watching the LTTE leader’s movements in the Wanni during the last few days. They had reported their findings about his presence in this hideout to the SLAF. According to Air Force spokesman Wing Commander Andrew Wijesuriya the sorties were carried out on information obtained through real-time air surveillance and ground reconnaissance. He also said that the targeted location had been under reconnaissance for some time. Combat pilots had confirmed that the target was accurately hit, he said. The Defence Ministry said in a communique that the air raid had been timed for a "special" activity that was going on at the LTTE base. However, sources refrained from commenting further on the issue. They said the targeted ‘terror hub’ was located in a thick jungle patch, North of the LTTE's runway in Iranamadu. The area has been long demarcated as a ‘high security zone’ out of bounds for civilians. The SLAF has been continuously supporting the ground troops in their ongoing operations in the North and the Vanni. On November 26, it was reported that Prabhakaran had received minor injuries in an attack by the SLAF but the LTTE website denied the story. However, the LTTE leadership was furious that a number of its top leaders, as well as second level local leaders, were also targeted in the combined operations by the armed forces and the police commandos in the recent months. In retaliation they have started attacking civilians in the deep south and other parts of the island.
Tigers maintain radio silence, order closure of shops
Tip-off rattles LTTEintelligence unit
by Harischandra Gunaratna and Norman Palihawadana
The LTTE in total disarray ordered the closure of all shops in Kilinochchi and maintained radio silence following yesterday’s decapitating air strike on a hideout known as ‘X-ray base’, at Iranamadu, frequented by LTTE leader Prabhakaran around 11.15 yesterday morning.
Although the fate of the Tiger chief was not immediately known, the military was confident that he could have been in the heavily fortified bunker at the time of the raid. "We are awaiting confirmation from our intelligence operatives on the ground," a high ranking military officer told The Island adding that he was almost certain Prabhakaran had been there at that time. "The bunker has been reduced to dust," he claimed, "several LTTE leaders may have been killed."
He admitted that deadly bunker busters weighing about 1,000 kg each had been used as the SLAF ‘didn’t want to leave anything to chance’.
Migs and Kfirs, on a low flying mission had targeted the base, located East of the Iranamadu Tank in the Kalmadukulama area the SLAF sources said.
Military Intelligence had been watching the LTTE leader’s movements in the Wanni during the last few days. They had reported their findings about his presence in this hideout to the SLAF.
According to Air Force spokesman Wing Commander Andrew Wijesuriya the sorties were carried out on information obtained through real-time air surveillance and ground reconnaissance. He also said that the targeted location had been under reconnaissance for some time. Combat pilots had confirmed that the target was accurately hit, he said.
The Defence Ministry said in a communique that the air raid had been timed for a "special" activity that was going on at the LTTE base.
However, sources refrained from commenting further on the issue. They said the targeted ‘terror hub’ was located in a thick jungle patch, North of the LTTE's runway in Iranamadu. The area has been long demarcated as a ‘high security zone’ out of bounds for civilians.
The SLAF has been continuously supporting the ground troops in their ongoing operations in the North and the Vanni.
On November 26, it was reported that Prabhakaran had received minor injuries in an attack by the SLAF but the LTTE website denied the story.
However, the LTTE leadership was furious that a number of its top leaders, as well as second level local leaders, were also targeted in the combined operations by the armed forces and the police commandos in the recent months. In retaliation they have started attacking civilians in the deep south and other parts of the island.Source: Island
Indian police say they are on the lookout for 50 Sri Lankan Tamil rebels who are hiding in southern Tamil Nadu state.
The Q branch of the Tamil Nadu police is on the lookout for nearly 50 suspected Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The special branch of state police said it believes suspected rebels have been working with Thambidurai Padmanabhan, a member of the LTTE's intelligence wing arrested last week in Chennai, a state police spokesman said.
The spokesman said an alert had been sounded at Chennai airport and coastal districts for the LTTE suspects. He said Thambidurai was arrested along with seven other Tamil rebels for conspiring to kidnap local political leader Varadaraja Perumal from suburban Madipakkam.
The officials from Q branch said the wing was on the lookout for LTTE operatives. Officials at local airports said sleuths were monitoring all Colombo-bound flights as well as those flying to Paris, London and Frankfurt, Germany.
"Q men have been stationed near the immigration counters since Monday with the names of nearly 50 Sri Lankan Tamils. Over the last couple of days, they have been looking out for Tigers or their supporters," airport officials said.
The LTTE is fighting for a separate Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka. Tamil Nadu is an Indian state and is home to millions of ethnic Indian Tamils.
by Ramani Kangaraarachchi
Sri Lanka’s first Terrestrial Digital Television Broadcast went on air, yesterday with Dialog Television’s Pilot launch of DVB-T based Terrestrial Digital Television covering the City of Colombo. Sri Lanka will be No. 1 in South Asia to enjoy this status with this launch.
Chief Executive Officer, Dialog Television, Nushad Perera said Dialog is committed to establish and operate world class digital broadcast infrastructure and to provide excellent customer service to Sri Lankan consumers.
Our platforms will carry high quality content of local and international broadcasters to Sri Lankan homes, vehicles, and handsets via our portfolio of satellite and terrestrial broadcast”, he said.
Referring to the benefits that DVB-T offers to the consumers he said DVD quality video, electronic program guides and selection, multi-lingual audio capability, multi-lingual sub-titling capability and enhanced audio technology are significant.
“The efficiencies delivered by digital broadcast technology are also set to facilitate the expansion of television availability to all regions in the country, where economic viability constrained the expansion of incumbent analogue infrastructure,” he said.
The DVB-T (Digital Video Broadcast-Terrestrial) broadcast standard enables digital broadcast over the standard VHF/UHF television spectrum, enabling viewers to access the digital broadcast using standard televisions and VHF,UHF antennae with the addition of a DVB-T access device (adaptor or set top box).
The broadcast would be also available on vehicle mounted devices, and via DVB-H technology on advanced GSM, 3G handsets.The pilot broadcast carried out by Dialog Television carries nine television channels on a single UHF frequency demonstrating at the outset a nine fold enhancement in Frequency utilization.
State channels Rupavahini, Eye, Nethra and ITN join private broadcasters Derana, Swarnavahini and The Buddhist on the first terrestrial digital broadcast. It also carries three foreign channels to complete the channel line up.
The pilot broadcast would be initially ‘tested’ using selected viewers forming a representative set across the broadcast coverage area.
Dialog Telekom PLC Group, CEO, Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya appreciating the support and encouragement it had received from state and industry stakeholders in delivering the country’s first terrestrial digital television broadcast hoped that the broadcast industry will capitalize on technology advancement in order to deliver a superior and more widely available television experience to Sri Lankan consumers.
He said the product will not be immediately available in the market as this is a pilot project but once it is ready the price will be affordable to consumers. It will be less than the price of a hand phone.
Political party representatives yesterday expressed their happiness and satisfaction over the handing over of APRC proposals to end the national question describing it as a historic occasion in the country at a time the country was preparing to celebrate the 60th independence day.
EPDP leader Minister Douglas Devananda thanked President Mahinda Rajapaksa for his bold initiative for the first time in post independence Sri Lanka to devolve power as a solution to the national question.
UNP Democratic Group leader Minister Karu Jayasuriya also hailed the President for his commitment and determination to solve the national question without passing that burden to another generation.
He said such a bold initiative will surely pave the way to dispel the bad reflection on the country and the President has the resolve and strength to fully eradicate terrorism from the country.
He also pointed out that steps should also be taken to conduct the Eastern election in a fair manner.
SLFP General Secretary and Minister Maitripala Sirisena also commended the President for taking an initiative to convene the All Party Representative Committee to solve the national question.
National Congress leader Minister A.H.M. Athaulla also expressed his happiness over the administration of the North and Eastern Provinces separately.
NUA leader Minister Ferial Ashraff also thanked the President for giving all political parties an opportunity to express their views on a political solution to the national question. PA General Secretary D.M. Jayaratne said it was a great victory for the masses that nearly all political parties were able t come together to resolve the ethnic conflict.
He said the proposals should be implemented and final peace achieved for the benefit of all Lankans.
The MEP’s Somaweera Chandrasiri said the Eastern masses were already benefiting as a result of the President’s leadership.
All parties must support his efforts to wipe out terrorism and rebuild the nation.
Liberal Party Leader Kamal Nissanka said the 13th Amendment should be implemented fully and more powers devolved to the provinces. The President is firmly determined to protect the country’s national security and territorial integrity.
Minister Champika Ranawaka said although they were opposed to the provincial council system, the two PC’s in the North and East should function effectively. The Forces would soon be able to liberate the uncleared areas as well.
APRC proposals handed over to President:
President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday appealed to all political parties to join hands to solve the national question within a common agenda sans their private agendas and party differences, thinking of their Motherland and the common masses.
President Rajapaksa made this appeal at the historic occasion in which the Chairman of the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) Prof Tissa Vitharana handed over the draft proposals of the APRC to solve the national question at the Presidential Secretariat.
“All political parties should join hands for the sake of the common masses of the country to provide them a political solution and to salvage the country from terrorism, considering it as their bounden duty and responsibility”, the President said.
The proposals were handed over to the President following his request to the APRC on January 09 to hand over the draft proposals by January 23 for him to go ahead with the proposals to solve the national issue after obtaining approval from the Cabinet.
President Rajapaksa thanked all the political parties represented at the APRC and also those who left the APRC prior to the completion of the final proposals for their participation at APRC deliberations. He also thanked the APRC members for handing over their proposals within the stipulated period.
The President explained that the handing over of the proposals was a fulfilment of a requirement of the country as the public expected a political solution to fully implement the Constitution in all parts of the country.
“Today we have an environment to implement these political proposals in the country though it was difficult due to interference by the LTTE in the North,” the President added.
He said that all political parties share the responsibility in the process of ensuring democratic rights and the people’s right to live without any fear regardless of their ethnicity.
The party leaders who participated at the event expressed satisfaction that the APRC was able to finalise the proposals at a time the nation was about to celebrate 60 years of independence next month.
“We should find a political solution for the political problem of the country. There is no military solution to political problems. That is very clear. The solution to terrorism is a different one. We are bound to fulfil all aspirations of the people,” the President added.
He also said that proposals could be discussed with the Cabinet of Ministers and also with other political parties in order to rectify any shortcomings.
The President also thanked the party leaders for agreeing to proposals and for expressing their willingness to extend their support for the proposals in the future too.
Political party representatives representing the Parliament and outside the Parliament participated.
UN human rights monitoring urgently needed to resuscitate criminal investigations
The Asian Human Rights Commission strongly supports the call for a human rights monitoring mission by the United Nations as a measure to resuscitate the severely damaged criminal investigation capacity of the Sri Lankan policing system.
The state, as the sovereign, owes an obligation to investigate into all crimes irrespective as to whether these are done by organised criminal gangs, terrorists or state agencies themselves. This obligation implies that there needs to be a competent and impartial criminal investigation branch within the policing system which has not been corrupted or impaired by political interference. There is consensus within Sri Lanka that the capacity of the police investigation system has been gravely diminished due to political interference over several years and that its internal capacity for investigations has become extremely limited. When it comes to organised crimes, acts of terrorists and also extrajudicial acts of the military and the police, the police investigation system has not demonstrated any capacity for effective investigations in recent years.The inability to ensure effective criminal investigations is a fundamental failure of the state in ensuring security to its people. This situation needs to be cured immediately. A United Nations human rights monitoring body can assist the revival of this system and without such assistance there is no predictable way of how such a revival might happen.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reiterated her call for human rights monitoring in her statement to the Human Rights Council on December 10th 2007.
“I was very pleased to visit Sri Lanka from 9-12 October at the invitation of President Rajapakse and am grateful for the broad access I was given to Government representatives, political parties and members of civil society, including the troubled northern region of Jaffna. I regret not having the opportunity to meet with representatives of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), as I would have liked to convey to them directly my deep concern with their serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law, including recruitment of children, forced recruitment and abduction of adults, and political killings.
During my visit, I paid special attention to the issue of abductions and disappearances, which have been reported in alarming numbers over the past two years. While the Government pointed to several initiatives it had taken to address these issues, there has yet to be an adequate investigation or credible public accounting for the vast majority of these cases. I am also concerned about safeguards for those detained under the emergency regulations, including during recent mass arrests in Colombo.
Regrettably, the various national institutions and mechanisms that could be expected to safeguard human rights have failed to deliver adequate protection. In particular, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, which had previously enjoyed a proud reputation internationally, has had its independence compromised by the irregular appointment of its Commissioners and the credibility of its work has suffered. Further, despite high expectations, the special Commission of inquiry appointed by the President more than one year ago to investigate high profile killings and disappearances has yet to complete any of its cases. The Eminent Persons invited to observe the Commission have expressed concerns about its compliance with international standards.
In a highly polarized context, where human rights information is easily manipulated for propaganda gains, there is a critical need for an independent actor to gather information and publicly report on the human rights situation. For this reason, I have suggested that the Government would benefit from the support of a presence of OHCHR in the country, with a full mandate incorporating technical assistance and public reporting. Since my visit, my Office has engaged in discussions with the Sri Lankan authorities on possible models involving an OHCHR presence working alongside national structures. We have reached no agreement on a formula by which independent, public reporting by OHCHR could be ensured. OHCHR will continue to assist the authorities in strengthening the national human rights system, but this will fall short of meeting the critical protection gap.”
The phantom limb in human rights protection
A phantom limb is the sensation that an amputated or missing limb is still attached to the body and is moving appropriately with other body parts. The pronouncement of the Sri Lankan government that it has adequate local mechanisms to deal with investigations into human rights violations reflects a similar mentality. The recent statement of Mahinda Samarasinghe, the Minister for Disaster Management and Human Rights is the latest expression of this same mentality. Where are these investigation mechanisms, one may ask and the answer would not be different to one that might come from an amputee who feels as if his missing limb still exists, like the missing limb a credible investigation mechanism simply does not exist.
The amputation of the investigation mechanism for human rights abuses has taken place over a long period of time with the operation of emergency regulations, anti terrorism laws and the deliberate dismantling of the basic institutions of public administration including the institutions of the administration of justice. The large scale killings that took place in 1971 and 1986 to the 1990 period in the south and the continuous repression in the north and east from 1978 to the present day required that no credible investigations could be allowed into allegations of human rights abuses as it would cause unrest in the military and this would affect the stability of the ruling political regimes. The limitations imposed on investigations naturally infected the prosecution system under the Attorney General's Department, which was often required to cooperate in the cover up of the perpetrators and guarantee them impunity. The independence of the judiciary was crushed by the pressures from the presidential system as well as through legal limitations imposed by various constitutional amendments and emergency laws.
The former Supreme Court Judge K.M.M.B. Kulatunga recalls a time when Sri Lanka did have a competent criminal investigations capacity within its police, even to deal with very serious crimes as evidenced in many cases reported in the new law reports. These included political cases such as the assassination of Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and the attempted coup of 1962. However, this system was seriously interfered with in order to facilitate the causing of extrajudicial killings, disappearances and torture on a large scale through the police, military and paramilitary groups. Today the system does not have the capacity to even investigate ordinary crimes let alone those crimes done with the connivance of political authorities for military purposes. The ugly situation that prevails is manifested through the constant killing of arrested persons in police custody, allegedly whey they try to throw grenades at police officers while they are taken to find concealed objects. The falsification of information in order to justify crimes committed by state agencies, which would appear to any reasonable person as pathetically ridiculous, is offered in the name of the sovereign state of Sri Lanka by the state agents and its propaganda units.
The phantom limb on criminal investigations in Sri Lanka is manifest daily in many of the statements that come out under various propaganda units such as the Peace Secretariat, the Geneva Consulate, the office of the Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights, the Secretariat of Defense and even in the name of the President himself. The claim of the existence of a competent and credible criminal investigation capacity is offered both as a cover up for the incapacity and unwillingness to investigate human rights abuses, as well as to counteract any calls for assistance to the Sri Lankan government by the international community by way of human rights monitoring through the United Nations. The phantom limb mentality prevents the finding of real solutions to the real problems that make Sri Lanka one of the most lawless places in the world.
The Asian Human Rights Commission in the past ten years has consistently pointed out the way the Sri Lankan criminal justice system has become dysfunctional (kindly see http://www.ahrchk.net/pub/ - Sri Lanka's Dysfunctional Criminal Justice System). As long as this situation remains, life will remain a nightmare to all civilians in the country. To this civilian nightmare is now added the targeting of civilians by the LTTE, the government as well as other paramilitary groups which operate freely in the country. This climate is also unscrupulously used naturally by the criminal elements who try to profit from this situation by way of all sorts of crimes including kidnapping for ransom.
It is not possible to protect the people with a phantom limb. The sooner this illusion is demolished the better it will be for all the people of Sri Lanka.
Human rights monitoring and the independence of the judiciary
In the reply of the Sri Lankan government to the High Commissioner’s speech there was an insinuation that such monitoring would infringe upon the sovereignty of Sri Lanka and particularly the independence of the judiciary. There is no basis at all to see a conflict between support for investigations into human rights abuses by the United Nations and the independence of the judiciary. The judicial branch will have all the powers it presently has for pre-trial, trial and appeal functions, as well as other functions under writ jurisdiction and fundamental rights. Human rights monitoring is about how the investigations are done and not about how courts conduct their affairs under the laws of Sri Lanka. The only problem that the human rights monitors would address is the very absence of such investigations, which prevails at present due to problems within the policing system. By engagement in such investigations the present impasse can be addressed and the police themselves will benefit when the likelihood of political interference into investigations is removed. Once United Nations human rights monitors can address the limitations imposed on the Sri Lankan police for political and other reasons, competent Sri Lankan criminal investigators themselves will be able to play their role and regain their lost professional prestige and dignity.
Therefore we call upon the citizens of Sri Lanka to avail themselves of this invitation made by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in order to address one of the problems that all citizens are well aware of in terms of the defective policing system of Sri Lanka. Here the country has an opportunity to deal with the problem that has troubled the nation for several decades now. If the country’s criminal investigation section is resuscitated it will be possible for the people to deal with such massive problems as corruption. To defeat corruption is not to defeat sovereignty but to assert it. It is quite clear that what the spokesmen against human rights monitoring are concerned about is not defending the sovereignty of Sri Lanka but defending a bad policing system, abuse of power and the massive corruption that prevails within the country.