The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Indian Supreme Court fixes April 29 for Sethusamudram project hearing

The Supreme Court on Tuesday fixed April 29 as the next date for the hearing of the petition against the controversial Sethusamudram project, asking parties opposing it to file their reply to the fresh affidavit filed by the Centre.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan heard the matter.

On February 29, the Centre had filed a fresh affidavit in the apex court on the project seeking vacation of its interim orders putting on hold any damage to "Ram Setu."

The 60-page affidavit, cleared by the Cabinet Committee of Political Affairs (CCPA) chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said the government respects all religions but was of view that it should not be called upon to respond to issues of faith, except in recognizing their existence.

The amended affidavit assumes significance as it has been filed after the Centre in September last withdrew its two affidavits in which it had questioned the existence of Lord Ram and "Ram Setu".

Following an outcry led by the Sangh Parivar over the controversial affidavit, the apex court on September 14, 2007 had allowed the Centre re-examine entire materials afresh to review the Rs 2,087 crore project.

However, it had continued the operation of its August 31 interim order restraining any damage to "Rama Setu" or Adams Bridge, a mythical bridge situated south-east off Rameshwaram, connecting the Talaimanar coast of Sri Lanka.

The court in its interim order had allowed the dredging activity for the project to the extent that it did not in anyway damage the "Rama Setu" or Adams Bridge.

While withdrawing the affidavits, the Centre had said, "it has total respect for all religions, and Hinduism in particular, in the context of the present case. The Central government is alive and conscious of the religious sensibilities, including the unique, ancient and holy text of Ramayana".

Source: newkerala

India to play 'decisive' role in Sri Lankan crisis: Norway

India will play the "most decisive" role in the peace process in Sri Lanka being the "best-placed regional power" to help the island nation, a top Norwegian envoy has said.

Norway's special envoy to Colombo Jon Hanssen-Bauer said in an interview to PTI that India was to be the "main partner" for Sri Lanka in the future, and that Oslo was in regular touch with New Delhi over the issue of peace process in its neighbouring country.

Norway had borkered the now-defunct ceasefire treaty between the Sri Lankan government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2002.

"India is the main neighbour to Sri Lanka and they are always taking a keen interest in helping Sri Lanka. I think India will play the most decisive role in the peace process," he said on the sidelines of a Conference on Peace and Reconciliation in South Asia, organised here by Art of Living Foundation of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

"India is Sri Lanka's big trade partner, it is also a political partner for a long time and they (India) would be the best-placed regional power to actually help Sri Lanka in the best way," the top Norwegian diplomat, who was appointed the special envoy in 2006, said.

Stressing that Norway was having "very open communications" with India on the ethnic strife in Sri Lanka, the envoy said: "We are consulting with them very frequently because we think India has a lot of good advice to give."

Source: Hindu

Intl panel asks Sri Lanka to clean up human rights record

An Indian-led international panel on Tuesday rapped Sri Lanka for human rights violations in the country, saying the government lacked transparency in probing abuses by the security forces in its war against the LTTE.

Headed by India's former Chief Justice P N Bhagwati, the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) asked Colombo to clean up its human rights record and said they found an "absence of will" on the part of the government to take action against those involved in rights violation.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa formed the IIGEP in 2006 to oversee functioning of a government commission investigating 16 human rights cases.

"The IIGEP has... Found an absence of will on the part of the government of Sri Lanka in the present inquiry to investigate cases with vigour, where the conduct of its own forces has been called into question," the 11-member panel said in a statement.

Rajapaksa in November 2006 had appointed a commission of inquiry to investigate and inquire into 16 incidents of alleged serious violations of human rights that took place in the island country since August 1, 2005.

He subsequently invited 11 persons of international repute to form the IIGEP and tasked them with observing the functioning of the commission and commenting on transparency of its investigations and inquiries.

Observing that "summary executions, massacres, disappearances, wanton destruction of property, and forcible transfers of populations can never be justified", the IIGEP said, "no efforts should be spared to uncover responsibility, including recognition of command responsibility, for such actions."

Source: Zee news

Daughter visits Gandhi assassin

A DEVOTED daughter's attempts to understand the assassination of her father in one of modern India's most notorious political killings has led Priyanka Gandhi to a prison cell meeting with one of the killers of her father, former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Ms Gandhi, now 36 and the mother of two young children, was 19 at the time her father was blown up by a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber in May, 1991.

The country's biggest selling English-language newspaper, the Times of India, said accounts of Ms Gandhi's meeting last month with Nalini Sriharan, 43, the only survivor of the conspiracy that killed her father, add "another chapter to an amazing story of how the Gandhi family has tried so bravely to come to terms with the tragedy of Rajiv's death".

The paper reported that a "visibly emotional Priyanka made Nalini sit next to her and asked several short questions related to the assassination. (Such as) Why had it happened? For what purpose? What was Nalini's involvement?"

Priyanka is quoted as saying, "My father was a good person. It could have been resolved through talks. Had you known about my father's good nature, you would not have done this."

Nalini, who was 26 at the time of the assassination, was sentenced to death but that was commuted to life imprisonment after Gandhi's widow, and Ms Gandhi's mother, Sonia Gandhi, pleaded for clemency for the sake of the convicted woman's five-year-old daughter.

Ms Gandhi asked repeatedly who was behind the assassination plot, which is blamed on Tamil Tiger separatists fighting in Sri Lanka.

Nalini said she did not know.

The Times of India reported that Nalini believed Ms Gandhi was moved to meet her following a series of letters sent from prison to Sonia Gandhi, including one wishing her well when she was in hospital recently.

Details of the meeting, which took place in the prison for women in Vellore, in the state of Tamil Nadu, on March 19, was confirmed by Nalini's mother as well as her lawyers.

But with Ms Gandhi remaining silent about the reported encounter, a lawyer in the state capital, Chennai, is reported to have filed an application with a local court to get details of the meeting.

Rajiv Gandhi was widely esteemed in India as a politician who was a genuinely decent person. Seventeen years after his assassination, he remains deeply mourned by his widow and two children, Priyanka and her brother, Rahul, a leader of the Congress party and the man tipped to become prime minister after the next general election.

Source: theaustralian

EU Greens Criticise Slovakia for Arms Trade Agreement with Sri Lanka

The Greens faction in the European Parliament on Thursday in Brussels condemned an arms trade agreement between Slovakia and Sri Lanka that it says violates multiple provisions of the European Union Code of Conduct on Arms Exports.

"I am shocked to hear that Slovakia has signed an agreement to sell weapons to the government of Sri Lanka, a country which has been locked for 25 years in a civil war during which massive infringement of human rights, notably against civilians, has occurred," according to Greens Rapporteur for arms exports Raul Romeva i Rueda.

The Greens rapporteur in EP pointed out that Slovakia is a member of the European Union that has pledged to adhere to the Code of Conduct on Arms Exports. According to him, the EU is planning in the near future to adopt a common position that would make the code binding on all member countries. Meanwhile, the Code has been deemed politically binding ever since its inception a decade ago.

"It is very disconcerting that individual member countries continue to sign arms trade contracts without following the code, consulting other member states or reporting to the EP," said the Spanish MEP who is poised to call Slovak authorities to account and turn to the EU Council over the issue.