The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

EU says it has 'very serious concerns' over alleged Sri Lanka human rights abuses

The European Union said Tuesday it has "very serious concerns" about reported human rights abuses in Sri Lanka.

Abductions, enforced disappearances and unexplained killings have increased in the country since December 2005, when hostilities reignited between Sri Lankan government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels after a cease-fire brought relative calm for more than three years.

"The EU continues to harbor very serious concerns about continuing reports of human rights abuses," said a statement issued at the end of a three-day visit by a six-member group representing the present EU presidency. The group also condemned alleged rights breaches by the Tamil Tigers.

The U.S. State Department's 2007 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Sri Lanka was released last week and cited alleged government abuses including unlawful killings, abductions, arbitrary arrests and the denial of fair public trials.

"The government's respect for human rights continued to decline due in part to the escalation of the armed conflict," the report said.

There was no immediate comment from the government or rebels on Tuesday's statement.

The government and rebels have in the past denied involvement in rights abuses. The government said last week's U.S. statement presented a distorted and exaggerated view of the situation.

The rebels have fought since 1983 to create an independent homeland for the island's minority ethnic Tamils after decades of marginalization by governments controlled by the majority Sinhalese. The violence has killed more than 70,000 people.

Source: IHT

22 killed in Lankan clashes

At least 19 LTTE militants and three Sri Lankan soldiers were killed in fierce clashes in the country's embattled North, officials said here on Tuesday.

At least seven militant were killed in Kallikulam area of Vavuniya district in two separate incidents yesterday, the army said.

In Weliola, two militants were killed in Kokkuthuduwai area while another rebel was killed in Kaduththachamalai yesterday, the Defence Ministry said.

Meanwhile, two soldiers were killed in Muhamalai in Jaffna yesterday in two separate confrontations, the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) said.

Separately one soldier was killed in a claymore mine blast in North-western Mannar yesterday, the army said, adding six militants were also killed yesterday in Munkilmurichhan in Mannar.

In Kadduthadammalai in Welioya, one rebel was shot dead by troops yesterday, the army said, while two other LTTE cadres were killed in Navatkulam area in Vavuniyaon Monday.


Sri Lanka trade deal with EU linked to human rights law

Sri Lanka has to improve its human rights record and implement its obligations under international agreements to extend trade concessions given by the European Union, officials said in Colombo.

Sri Lanka is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) but is yet to complete the process that will see its full effectiveness.

"The state of ratification and the state of implementation across the board matters," Janez Premoze, an EU director for Asia and Oceania who headed a three member delegation, said at the end of a visit to the island.

The government has already referred the ICCPR to the island's Supreme Court for advice.

Sri Lanka's apparel export trade has been given preferential access to the EU under the GSP+ scheme which runs out at the end of this year.

"According to the rules of this scheme all countries wishing to continue benefiting from the GSP+ regime will have to re-apply by October 08," the EU delegation said in a statement.

"The legal provisions of the GSP+ scheme also spells out the linkage between trade preferences and human rights.

"The EU confirms that the entire process which has not yet started will be governed by objective criteria."

The EU backed calls by an Independent International Group of Eminent Persons and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to improve Sri Lanka's human rights record.

"We noted incremental progress," James Moran, director Asia and Oceania Euro Commission – External Relations said.

The delegation also repeated IIGEP concerns that a presidential commission of inquiry on human rights was below international standards.

The delegation said it had listed Tamil Tiger separatists as a terrorist organization in 2006 and acted against fund raising, and after seeing interim proposals from an all party body on devolution was looking for an "ambitious final proposal" in the coming months.

Source: LBO

No military solution to ethnic conflict in Lanka: Indian PM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said there was no military solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.

"The way forward lies in a peacefully negotiated political settlement within the framework of a united Sri Lanka acceptable to all communities, including Tamils," he said in reply to a letter from MDMK Chief Vaiko.

The interests of the Tamils in Sri Lanka was of particular significance to India in the country's dealings with the island nation, he said.

"It is with this in mind we have welcomed as a first step, the intention of Sri Lankan Government to fully implement the '13th amendment' to its Constitution to give some powers to Tamils," he wrote.

On the Sri Lankan Navy's arrest of Indian fishermen, he said: "the welfare and safety of the country's fishermen has been the nation's persistent goal. Whenever necessary, the government has taken this up on a priority basis with Sri Lanka. We have impressed on the Sri Lankan Navy to act with restraint and treat Indian fishermen in a humane manner."

However, most of the incidents of firing have taken place in Sri Lankan waters, close to their shores. The Sri Lankan government had declared these waters as a high security zone and no fishing zone, Singh said.

"We will continue work to ensure, to the extent possible, that our fishermen do not enter Sri Lankan waters where there is potential for them to be caught in cross-fire."

Vaiko had written to the Prime Minister urging him to take steps to stop the arrests of Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy. The MDMK had made available a copy of the Prime Minister's reply to the press.


Floods displace thousands in east Sri Lanka

Floods triggered by torrential rain have forced more than 7,000 people from their homes in eastern Sri Lanka, with some taking shelter in schools and mosques, officials said on Tuesday.

Flooding and ensuing mass displacement are common in Sri Lanka, often fuelled by monsoon rains.

The latest flood victims included families living in basic camps, who had already been displaced by renewed war between the state and Tamil Tiger rebels.

"A total of 7,200 people have been displaced in Batticaloa due to the heavy rains," said Keerthi Ekanayake, national coordinator at the National Disaster Management Centre.

"Of those there are about 600-700 people who were in IDP (internally displaced) camps who were already displaced by battles," he added.

He said most of the displaced were living with friends and relatives.

An estimated 5,000 war-displaced are still living in camps in Batticaloa district, waiting to be resettled in areas that are still military high security zones.

The camp conditions are often basic, the sandy soil floors of the shelters sodden during heavy rain, and some families have had to sit on their haunches through the night to avoid lying down in water.

In January, more than 30,000 people were displaced in the east by monsoon flooding, while in December 175,000 people took refuge in welfare centres and temples in the eastern and central parts of the country following flash floods.

The latest flooding hit the eastern district of Batticaloa, a largely flat agricultural area with a coastline that was hammered by the 2004 tsunami and where infrastructure has long been neglected because of a protracted war between the state and Tamil Tigers.

The Meteorology Department forecast continued rainfall in coming days.

Flooding and drought are cyclical in Sri Lanka, where a southern monsoon batters the island between May and September, and a northeastern monsoon runs from December to February. (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal, Editing by Simon Gardner)


NSA didn't say LTTE has base in Tamil Nadu: Indian government

The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) Tuesday clarified that National Security Adviser (NSA) M.K. Narayanan never said that Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger guerrillas were setting up base in Tamil Nadu.

Denying published reports in this regard, the PMO said in a statement: "It is clarified that answering a question relating to LTTE activity in Kerala, the NSA only said that the police would monitor such activity.

"No reference was made in this connection to Tamil Nadu nor was there any mention whatsoever that the LTTE had established a base there," the statement said.

The clarification followed reports regarding references to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) reportedly made by Narayanan during a visit to Kerala over the weekend.

Narayanan was widely quoted as saying that both Tamil Nadu and Kerala were home to "small pockets of the rebel group". The LTTE is outlawed in India.


US Ambassador Receives Update on Security Affairs

US AMBASSADOR for Sri Lanka Robert Blake Tuesday (18) afternoon called on Commander of the Army Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka at Army Headquarters in order to receive an update on current security developments and discuss matters of bilateral military issues and training programmes.

The US envoy during his cordial exchange of views raised inquiries into the conduct of military operations in Wanni to liberate the masses from LTTE terrorist grip and also the measures, being adopted to receive those who are fleeing un-cleared areas in Wanni after abandoning their homes. In addition, in response to queries Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka briefed the envoy on development projects underway in the East and security measures launched to restore civil administration.

Both of them during their dialogue focused attention on ongoing US sponsored military training programmes for Sri Lanka Army and the Security Forces. Commander also enlightened the visiting ambassador about routine Army training courses conducted on questions of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

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Tamils are slaves in India: LTTE leader

A leader of the Tamil Tigers has alleged that Tamils in India are not a free people but are slaves of the Indian state, according to a media report Tuesday. “In ancient times the whole of India was a Tamil land. And the Chola kings (from Tamil Nadu) ruled over Sri Lanka for 70 years. Today, the Tamils are slaves in India and are fighting for their liberation in Sri Lanka,” Tamil daily “Sudar Oli” quoted Thamilendhi as saying.

Thamilendhi is the “finance commissar” of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

He was speaking in Kilinochchi at the launch of a Tamil book, “Let us Move Towards the Frontiers of Tamil Eelam”, written by Anbuselvan.

Thamilendhi’s comment came close on the heels of a strident anti-India statement in which the LTTE accused New Delhi of assisting Colombo to commit “genocide” against the Tamils.

Thamilendhi’s remarks are significant because he is part of the non-military inner circle in the LTTE that also includes political wing chief B. Nadesan and intelligence chief Pottu Amman.

Detailing the plight of the Tamils in the world, Thamilendhi said that in Malyasia the community was left with no option but to come to the streets and protest.

In the West, the migrant Tamil population was in danger of losing its ethnicity and language. He blamed disunity among the Tamils and a tendency to trust other communities for their plight, whether in India, Sri Lanka or Malaysia.

Thamilendhi pointed out that the demand for a separate Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka was not new

“In the past, we had failed in our duty to secure an independent Tamil Eelam. If our present struggle does not succeed, the Tamils all over the world will surely perish,” he warned.

Man arrested in Canada for aiding Tamil tigers

On Saturday RCMP arrested a man they suspect has been raising funds for a Sri Lankan-based terrorist organization known as the Tamil Tigers.

Prapaharan (aka 'Prapa') Thambithurai was remanded in custody on Sunday, March 16 and is scheduled to appear in Vancouver Provincial Court on Tuesday, March 18th, 2008, according to a statement issued by the RCMP.

It is alleged that Mr. Thambithurai committed an offence under Section 83.03(b) of the Criminal Code of Canada, "Providing, Making available, etc. Property or Services for Terrorist Purposes."

The E Division Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET) investigated Thambithurai and collected evidence that supports the allegation that he targeted residents of the Lower Mainland of Tamil heritage to make cash donations to support the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE), which is commonly known as "Tamil Tigers."

The Canadian Department of Public Safety declared the LTTE a terrorist organisation in 2006.

"The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is a Sri Lankan-based organization which advocates the creation of an independent homeland in the north and northeastern part of Sri Lanka which it has called 'Tamil Eelam,'" the department's web site states.

"Its war against the government of Sri Lanka has been fought on three fronts: a political campaign, guerrilla warfare, and a terrorist campaign. The LTTE is committed to using a variety of terror tactics in order to achieve its objectives, including attacking political, economic, religious and cultural targets, as well as targeting civilians."

RCMP are requesting that any member of the public who has been approached by Thambithurai or who may have additional information of interest to this case to contact INSET's Anti-Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit at 604.598.4040


'No union action' on SLRC

Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) workers have decided not to take any inductrial action after President Mahinda Rajapaksa agreed to their demands on Monday.

Chairman of SLRC producers union, Kanchana Marasinghe, told BBC Sandeshaya that the president agreed to their demands apart from sacking minister Mervyn Silva.

Source: BBC