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These blog postings do not necessarily represent the views of all members of the Advisory Council.

31/03/2010

Current reality in Sri Lanka

Why is there a belief in the International Community and even the Sri Lankan Diasporas that things are returning to normal in Sri Lanka? This account from a highly credible source that cannot be named for security reasons, is clear evidence that this false perception has more to do with media censorship than fact.

Account follows-

There are a number of areas that we are still concerned about especially in respect of the upcoming General Election. I will try to list out a few of those below.

. During my travels around the country the most alarming sight was the fact that there were no signs of the participation of any opposition candidates in the elections. There were no posters or banners depicting their concerns. I could see only those of the government candidates. This shows that there are instances of intimidation and force brought upon the opposition and they are not allowed to display any of their propaganda material.

. This leads to the fact that there is no possibility for us to expect a free and a fair election. It appears that violence is increasing all the time. The question remains whether it is going to be a 'one horse race', that they are expecting. This is also a part of the wider restrictions on the freedom of expression.

. Violence is spreading widely as the election is drawing near. There was an attack on the media institutions Sirasa and MTV a few days ago. Mobs have come in a bus supposed to have been taken from a state travel depot and pelted stones at the above institutions, damaging the buildings badly. It is almost certain that there won't be any action taken regarding these incidents or there will be any attempt to identify any of those responsible. Violence at local levels too is increasing.

. It appears that the Election Monitoring Systems too will be handicapped. I have seen a news item to the effect that none of the monitors will be allowed by the Elections Commissioner to enter the Counting Centres. This will hamper the effectivity of the monitoring system enormously.

. The cost of living is going up all the time. It is expected that all the controls that are in place now, will be lifted almost immediately after the elections, leading more and more increases and burdens on the ordinary people in the country.

. The crime of the utter wastage of public funds is continuing unabated. Further the extremely high costs of the campaigns both individually by the candidates and corporately by the political parties is increasing all the time, almost in a very competitive manner. Whether this is done by the government parties or the opposition parties is not the matter for concern, but the fact that these are all the resources within the country that are wasted.

. The situation of the IDPs has not improved as yet. It has been observed that the supply of water, sanitation and health facilities may grind to a halt in the days to come.


End of account.

28/03/2010

The United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour Report : "2009 Human Rights Report on Sri Lanka"

The United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor criticized the Sri Lankan Government, pro-government paramilitary forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for blatant human rights violations in its "2009: Human Rights Report on Sri Lanka", released on March 11, 2010.

The report blames the Sri Lankan government for releasing detainees in an arbitrary manner and for failure to coordinate with local or international aid agencies, who were asked to provide assistance at short notice. In July, the report notes, the Sri Lankan government ended access in July 2009 by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for protection work in main camps and access to detention camps near Vavuniya for former LTTE combatants as well as withdrawing permission for the ICRC to work in the Eastern Province.

The report also cites concerns for citizens' freedom of movement and their rights to choose their residence and their freedom to return to the country. In the Eastern Province, checkpoints operated by the Government and a pro-government para-military group, TMVP, have impeded the free movement of residents, especially Tamils.

Human rights groups have estimated that the government held 11,700 combatants since the end of the conflict in detention centres near Vavuniya. On torture, the report says, "reports of secret government facilities where suspected LTTE sympathizers were taken, tortured, and often killed."

The report describes how government officials and Sri Lanka's diplomatic missions abroad have regularly accused human rights NGOs and UN bodies of bias against the government and how NGOs’ international personnel often have had trouble getting visa renewals to continue working in the country.

The Report also comments on way the President's family dominates the government with two of his brothers holding key executive branch posts as defence secretary and senior advisor to the President and the rampant corruption in all three branches of the goverment.

On the human rights violations by the LTTE, the Report says that, during the final months of the war, the LTTE engaged in torture, arbitrary arrest, and detention; denied fair public trials; arbitrarily interfered with privacy; and denied freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association. From January to May the LTTE dramatically increased its forced recruitment of child soldiers. Reports from the conflict zone during these months stated that both boys and girls as young as 12 were forced to join the fighting.

The Report comments on the longstanding and systematic discrimination that Tamils have faced in university education, government employment, and in other matters controlled by the government, including how Tamil tenants in Sinhalese-dominated areas have been required to report their presence to the police. It notes that Tamils throughout the country, but especially in the conflict-affected north and east, have reported frequent harassment of young and middle-aged Tamil men by security forces and paramilitary groups. The report raises concerns about the seizure of private lands, particularly seizures in the north and east to create security buffer zones around military bases and other high-value targets which the government calls High Security Zones.

The Sri Lankan Ministry of Human Rights has described the contents of the Report as non-specific and based on unverified information, accusing the State Department of failing to meet the high standards it professes to uphold. Ironically, the Ministry response is vague and fails to mention that the reason information is not verified is because of government restrictions on UN and other agencies.

http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/sca/136093.htm

http://www.dailymirror.lk/index.php/news/2393-us-report-vague-non-specific.html

23/03/2010

An open letter to Election Commissioner: "I challenge you, where and with whom, you were in night of Presidential election day?" by veteran Sri Lankan

This open letter is from a veteran and widely respected Sri Lankan lawyer. It was first published in Lanka-e-News 20.March.2010



Dear Dayananda,
A Free and Fair Election – An impossible dream ?

We, the People have a Sovereign right to exercise our franchise at free and fair elections. The very last time we could do so was in 1977. Giving vent to our disgust with the governance then prevailing, we gave J.R. Jayawardena, who claimed to be the long-awaited saviour of the Sri Lankan nation, a 5/6th majority. Free and fair elections were soon relegated to history. The election process rapidly degenerated to the level of the notorious Wayamba Provincial Council election in 1999.

In an attempt to stem this ominous trend, the OPA beginning in 1994, attempted to monitor elections. At the end of a discussion some of us had with you re monitoring the 1999 Presidential election, you claimed to have been at the receiving end of my lectures in SLIDA. I immediately assumed (rightly or wrongly?) that you had endorsed the need for exemplary conduct I consistently tried to instill into those who chose to listen to what I said.

In an attempt to reduce rigging at the Presidential election of 1999, you had affixed the now infamous "stickers" to Polling Cards. The potential abuse of such stickers was prevented by the accidental detection of this secret move of yours, by a VV.I.P. Consequent attempts made by a triumvirate of the most powerful personalities at that time, with the obvious connivance of a state agency, to sideline you and replicate the Wayamba election, were thwarted by justification of your bona fide and lawful, though admittedly futile and costly, act. However, you had not been vested with any power to control or even contain the violence and blatant violation of election laws that took place.

Disgusted with the mockery that passed off as "free and fair elections", we the people, through our elected representatives in Parliament, adopted the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, drastically curtailing the extent of the Executive power of the Sovereign People which had been delegated to the President, and creating an Elections Commission of five members, endowed with extensive powers, for the sole purpose of restoring the conduct of free and fair elections.

The 17th Amendment, passed with only one abstention and no one against, became operative on 3rd October 2001, and provided the Elections Commission (EC) with sufficiently extensive powers, inter alia, to appoint other officers to the EC and delegate to them any power, duty or function of the EC, to notify the Inspector- General of Police of the facilities and the number of police officers required and then deploy them to secure the enforcement of all laws relating to the conduct of free and fair elections, to prohibit the misuse of any state property, and to enable the Competent Authority to take over the management of SLBC and SLRC in respect of all broadcasts which impinge on the election.

Regrettably, no Elections Commission was constituted and consequently, in terms of Section 27(2) of the said Act, you were vested with all the extensive powers, duties and functions of the Election Commission. Your failure to exercise most of these powers culminated in your validating the 2005 Presidential election where about 500,000 electors in the South and almost all the electors in the North were unlawfully disenfranchised.

Rather than invoking the extensive powers vested in you, so as to promote the conduct of a free and fair 2010 Presidential election, you only requested the IGP to continue to deploy the police officers himself, in the manner indicated by you. Belatedly, you issued directions for the immediate removal of cut-outs (and even provided the funds needed for same) and the cancellation of certain transfers. However, such directions were disregarded with impunity. You had chosen not to take cognisance of the fact that this IGP had been appointed by the President in violation of the Constitution, and had even been vested with the powers of the National Police Commission, also in violation of the Constitution, and certainly had to display greater allegiance to the President who appointed him, and to the Defence Secretary to whom he reports, rather than obey your commendable directives, confident that you would, deliberately or otherwise, not exercise the extensive powers vested in you to ensure compliance with your directives.

The "directives" reportedly issued by you to Ministry Secretaries and others re the abuse of state resources were largely disregarded, in violation of the Constitutional requirement that "every person under whose control such property is, for the time being, is required to comply with and give effect to such directions". You did nothing further. You appointed a Competent Authority to control the broadcasts of SLBC and SLRC. The issuance of comprehensive Guidelines and even Directives failed to have any significant effect on the SLBC and SLRC. Without invoking any of the powers vested in you to "secure the enforcement of your directives", you frequently appeared on TV, and attempted to exculpate yourself from your betrayal of the trust placed in you, by repeatedly complaining that your many directives, inter alia, to the IGP, to all Secretaries and the Media and those of your Competent Authority were not being heeded, and that you were helpless. You merely revoked the appointment of the Competent Authority without enabling him to take over the management of SLBC and SLRC, in respect of all political broadcasts or any other broadcast, which impinges on the election, under Arts 104 B(5)(c) and Act No. 3 of 2002.

To cap it all you announced that a "Sticker" would be placed on each ballot box to signify that it had been duly "checked", "closed" and "sealed". The necessary implication was that any ballot box which carried this "sticker" must necessarily be presumed to have been duly checked, closed and sealed by the Senior Presiding Officer in the presence of the Candidates and/or their duly nominated agents. You cannot plead that you did not realise that this procedure lent itself to mass-scale non-verifiable corruption. A news report of ballot boxes having been transported in a Navy Vehicle was immediately suppressed.

We the People, looked up to you to honour the trust placed in you by us, through our elected Representatives, and to hold a free and fair election. You signally failed to invoke the extensive powers set out in Articles 104C and 104E, to notify the IGP of the facilities and Police Officers required, appoint competent, non-partisan retired officers (of whom there are many) to direct the deployment of the facilities and Police Officers made available by the IGP, so as to ensure a "free and fair election".

At about 2.30 p.m. on January 26th 2010, a public announcement was made on several TV Channels that casting a vote for General Sarath Fonseka was of no value because his name was not included in the list of Electors and that, even if elected, he could not lawfully hold the post of President. On this being brought to your notice, you issued a written statement that General Sarath Fonseka was indeed, lawfully entitled to be elected and function as President. Soon after this was broadcast on the TV, two or more VV.I.PP of the UPFA visited you at the Elections Secretariat and after some time you left the Secretariat in their Company. Thereafter you were seen in the Secretariat only minutes before you announced on 27th January, 2010, inter alia, that this was the worst election you have ever conducted, it was only when Indra de Silva was IGP that you were able to conduct a peaceful election, you had been told by powerful persons that your only function was to count the votes in the ballot boxes and announce the result, your election staff could not even ensure the safety of the ballot boxes, you will attend to the incidental functions relating to that election in the next few days in January and not thereafter even set foot in the Secretariat premises, and you wished to particularly thank the IGP Mahinda Balasuriya because he complied with all the requests made to him by you.

To the astonishment of the Public, you returned to the Elections Secretariat on 2nd February 2010, and retracted all the statements you made. You also declared that you were willing and able to conduct the General Election which will determine the future course of this country. Many, including me, have lost all faith in your commitment to conducting any free and fair election. You are, once again making attractive statements which, from your own recent experience, you no doubt know very well, will go unheeded. You have not even bothered to appoint a Competent Authority but have directed Party Secretaries to seek fairplay from the very Chairman who blatantly refused it. You have left it to the IGP to deal with any Police officers who failed to actively support the President. You have turned a blind eye to the flagrant abuse of State Resources. You are just going through the motions.

I challenge you to appear live on TV and truthfully divulge to the country where, and with whom, you and your wife were between 3.30 p.m. on 26th January 2010 and 4.45 p.m. on January 27th 2010, and also invoke all the Constitutional powers vested in you, not for the purpose of boosting your tarnished image, but for the purpose of conducting a free and fair election. If you do so, public confidence in your ability and willingness to conduct a free and fair election may well be restored, and it will not be necessary for me to tender an unqualified apology to you and your wife for having brought you to this state, and also to the Sri Lankan Nation for having prevented your removal from the election process in 1999 and thereby facilitating, what I believe, were fraudulent elections in Sri Lanka.

Please be aware of the maxim "Facts cannot lie, but men can"
With best wishes to you and your wife.

Yours sincerely,

Elmore M. Perera

Attorney-at-Law & Past President, Organisation of Professional Organisations,
Vice President, Citizens’ Movement for Good Governance.

16/03/2010

Weak UN Human Rights Council can be improved by engaging public in developing world democracies argues Campaign Chair

Speaking at the 2nd Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy, the Chair of the Sri Lanka Campaign, Edward Mortimer, made a strong plea for human rights activists to do more to engage the developing world democracies who currently define how the UN Human Rights Council operates.

Speaking of Sri Lanka he said: “A particularly flagrant example was last year’s special session on Sri Lanka, in which not only did the majority of Council members refuse to condemn the massive and indiscriminate killing of civilians that characterized the last phase of the war against the Tamil Tigers, but many of them even criticized the High Commissioner for a report in which she proposed an independent inquiry into war crimes committed by both sides. One can only ask why, if such an inquiry was justified in the case of Israel’s actions in Gaza a few months earlier – as I believe it was – the same principle was not applied to Sri Lanka.”

Panel on “Towards the 2011 Reform: Can the UN Human Rights Council Be Fixed?”
(Geneva, 9 March 2010)

Remarks by Edward Mortimer
[Senior Vice-President, Salzburg Global Seminar; formerly Chief Speechwriter and Director of Communications to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan]

Good Afternoon.

It’s a great honour for me to be invited to address this conference. I spent most of my journalistic career as an editorial writer and columnist rather than in war zones; and all of my UN career in the relative safety of UN headquarters in New York. All my life, I have been able to say and write what I wanted without being threatened with imprisonment, torture or assassination. The only censorship I have had to face has been the self-censorship of over-cautious editors and bureaucrats, and I have never had to worry about any worse sanction than losing my job.

So it’s a humbling experience for me to listen, at meetings like this, to a succession of very brave women and men, who have run terrible risks, and in some cases paid a terrible price, for exercising basic rights that people like me take for granted. It reminds me how privileged I am, and how grateful I should be for it.

So why am I on this platform? I suppose it’s because I was a member of Kofi Annan’s team in 2005, when the idea of a UN Human Rights Council was first put forward in his report, In Larger Freedom, and in 2006, when the General Assembly established the Council and it held its first meetings. I certainly would not claim to be the creator of the Council but I was, to use a well-worn phrase, present at its creation. I certainly feel I have some stake in it, and therefore in this discussion.

It is, of course, rather sad that, when the Council has not yet been in existence for four years, we are asking whether it can be “fixed”. The Council was established, after all, precisely because many people, including Kofi Annan, had come to the conclusion that its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights, could not be fixed, and that something new and better was needed.

It is also rather depressing, for me at least, to read that one of the ways in which some people would like to fix it is by introducing universal membership. This proposal reminds me of the precise circumstances in which, exactly five years ago, the decision to propose the creation of a Human Rights Council was taken.

There were actually very few completely new ideas in Kofi Annan’s "In Larger Freedom report", which was based mainly on two previous reports produced by independent panels that he had set up – the development part on the report of Jeff Sachs’s Millennium Project, and the peace and security part on the report of the High-Level Panel established in 2003, in the wake of the Iraq war.

That second report included proposals for reforming the UN itself, many of which were very good and were adopted more or less unchanged. But we all agreed that the recommendation on the Commission on Human Rights was about the weakest in the whole report, as the panel were not able to agree on anything better than to suggest universal membership of the Commission.

None of us could see how this proposal would in any way make the Commission more effective. On the contrary, we thought it would aggravate all the Commission’s worst features, making it in effect a replica of the General Assembly which would debate everything in a highly politicized context, either forcing through one-sided resolutions on the basis of bloc voting, or adopting a consensus rule which would ensure that only vacuous and extremely general resolutions would be passed.

We all said, “surely we can do better than this!” I think we were right then, and whatever the problems in the Council now I cannot believe that universal membership would be the right solution to them. That is a counsel of despair, and one might even say that the result would be a “Council of Despair”, because its message to the victims of human rights violations around the world would be “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

I can’t remember now who first came up with the idea of a Human Rights Council. I think it may have been Louise Arbour, the High Commissioner at the time. Certainly the idea of universal peer review came from her. But I do remember that Mark Malloch Brown – who had recently been brought in as the Secretary-General’s Chef de Cabinet, and was overseeing the process of producing his report – seized on the idea of a Council with great enthusiasm, because it helped us give an elegant thematic structure to the whole report – stressing that development, peace and security, and human rights were the three mutually reinforcing pillars of the whole UN system, none of which could be reliably secured if the other two were neglected; and therefore it made sense that each should have its own Council – the Security Council, ECOSOC, and the Human Rights Council.

Logically that implied that the Human Rights Council, like the other two, should be a “principal organ” of the UN, rather than a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly. But we knew that that would require an amendment of the Charter, with the whole process of a two-thirds majority in the GA and ratification by two thirds of the member states, including the five permanent members of the Security Council; and that therefore the member states might shy away from it, or they might agree on it but the amendment would never come into force. Which is why in the end we suggested that to start with it should be a subsidiary organ, but that in due course the member states might consider elevating it to the status of a principal organ. And I think that is why, or at least it’s one of the reasons why, the GA ended up writing the idea of a five-year review into the resolution that established the Council.

I see, however, that at the recent meeting of the “Reflection Group on the Strengthening of the Human Rights Council”, in Paris, the general view that emerged was that at this stage it is more important to consolidate the Council’s work in its present format; that a Charter amendment would still be very difficult to achieve – and debate about it might well poison the atmosphere of negotiations among member states; and that any effort to change the status of the Council should come only after “a better performance and clearer results” have been achieved. I can only agree with that conclusion, on all counts.

The question we have to ask ourselves is why the performance has not been better, and the results clearer, up to now.

I believe the Council has in fact been an improvement on the Commission in several respects; and it is certainly not true, as a former ambassador of Israel was quoted as saying at the time of the Goldstone report, that Kofi Annan regards its creation as the greatest mistake of his Secretary-Generalship. Mr. Annan has told me that he never said that, and has authorised me to deny it publicly.

Also, I’m not sure it’s true that we imagined a “de-politicized” body. I don’t think we were that naïve. Human rights is, and always will be, a highly political issue, and governments are bound to take their general political interests into account when they approach it. What I would argue is that the reverse should also be true: that governments should always take human rights into account when formulating their general policies. And indeed that is the real purpose of having an intergovernmental organ dealing with human rights at the heart of the UN system. So let’s not blame the Council for being “political”. Let’s concentrate on the political content of its deliberations and decisions.

What we did hope was that, in the words of the General Assembly resolution establishing it, the Council would be “guided by the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity”. And I fear it would be hard to argue that it has fully lived up to that in the first four years of its activity. Too many of its decisions have been flagrantly selective, and too many votes have been guided, not by impartial concern for the victims of human rights violations wherever they can be objectively established to have happened, but by solidarity with other governments subjected to criticism – solidarity, that is, not with the oppressed but with the oppressors.

A particularly flagrant example was last year’s special session on Sri Lanka, in which not only did the majority of Council members refuse to condemn the massive and indiscriminate killing of civilians that characterized the last phase of the war against the Tamil Tigers, but many of them even criticized the High Commissioner for a report in which she proposed an independent inquiry into war crimes committed by both sides. One can only ask why, if such an inquiry was justified in the case of Israel’s actions in Gaza a few months earlier – as I believe it was – the same principle was not applied to Sri Lanka.

I am not convinced that the answer lies in the structure or even the composition of the Council. It’s true that Kofi Annan originally suggested a smaller body, and one whose members would be elected by a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly, rather than a simple majority as was eventually decided. But whatever its size, the Council needs to be broadly representative of UN members. Otherwise there is no point in it.

The fact is that some of the most egregious violators have failed to win election in a secret ballot. No government’s human rights record is perfect – that is why we need the universal periodic review. But I think by most criteria one could describe the majority of Council members as democracies. And they can sometimes be shamed by strong leadership into behaving better. That happened at the end of 2006 when Kofi Annan publicly warned them not to ignore the tragedy of Darfur, and it happened last spring when Justice Goldstone and President Uhomoibhi between them were able to change the terms of reference of the inquiry into violations in Gaza.

The problem, as I see it, is that countries’ behaviour in the Council, and in the UN generally, often fails to reflect the democratic values that they uphold in domestic affairs. This is because, in the absence of strong public debate at home about the merits of the issues considered at the UN, governments and their representatives are more sensitive to pressure from each other than to pressure from public opinion. Thus, too often, human rights issues are framed as a contest between North and South, in which “southern” governments can present themselves as being on the side of the oppressed, even when in practice they are themselves the main oppressors. And once the contest is framed like that, the North cannot win – (a) because it is numerically in the minority and (b) because, of course, “northern” governments themselves are far from having a consistent record on human rights, let alone a blameless one.

So the task of all of us who care about human rights is to frame the debate differently, and above all to take the case to public opinion within the many democracies of the developing world. The governments of, for example, India, South Africa, or practically any Latin American country, should be held to account by their own people if they condone gross human rights violations in other developing countries, because the people should know that the impartial and universal defence of human rights is their own best safeguard against ever suffering similar abuses themselves.

When we see positive change in governments’ behaviour at the UN, it generally reflects change within the societies that they represent. And therefore I believe that the struggle for improvement in the Human Rights Council is one that needs to be pursued not only through conventional intergovernmental diplomacy but also through political work at the level of civil society. It is through what people like us in this room say and do, not only at meetings in Geneva, but through constant and consistent advocacy within our own societies and in our interaction with each other’s societies. We must take the debate to the people.

Thank you very much.

15/03/2010

NOT QUITE PARADISE

AN AMERICAN SOJOURN IN SRI LANKA by Adele Barker

Reading and Signing, Monday , March 15th,7.00pm.
Politics & Prose Bookstore, 5015 Connecticut Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20008.

In addition to reading excerpts, Adele will also be talking about human rights issues and the post-war situation on the island.


"Essential reading. Even travelers headed to other parts of the globe- or those going no farther than their own living room- will find this story of an American woman thoughtfully wending her way through the complexities of another country's culture and history fascinating."
Kristen Ohlson, author of Stalking the Divine and co -author of Kabul Beauty School

"Against the background of a most beautiful country and through the tragedies that have marred its recent history, her love of the land and for its people won a high place in this reader's heart."
Mary Oliver, Pulitzer Prize- winning poet

For information www.politics-prose.com

08/03/2010

Professor Stuart Rees is welcomed onto the council of advisors

Professor Emeritus Stuart Rees is the Director of the Sydney Peace Foundation (founder of the Sydney Peace Prize) at the University of Sydney, Australia. He has said about the on-going situation in Sri Lanka: “Respect for universal human rights is the test for any government which claims to be civil and democratic. The Government of Sri Lanka is failing that test. That government and those who support them will therefore have to sit the human rights exam again, but this time in full view of those international observers responsible for adherence to international law.”

01/03/2010

2 leading academics join the Council of Advisers

The Council is delighted to welcome two new Advisers, both renowned academics.

Adele Barker is a specialist in Russian and Slavic Studies at the University of Arizona and has a deep knowledge of NGO’s in Russia, having run government sponsored exchanges between the University of Arizona and academic institutions in Turkmenia and Kazakhstan. She is the author or editor of five books on Russia and the Soviet Union.

She first went to Sri Lanka in 2001 as a Fulbright Senior Scholar and has returned to the island for two extended stays. Her recently published work of creative non-fiction Not Quite Paradise: An American Sojourn in Sri Lanka (Beacon Press, 2010) is part-memoir, part-travelogue of her own life on an island at war with itself. Prof Barker is deeply concerned about both the physical and psychological problems faced by those who have been displaced by the tsunami and the civil war and believes "that military victory achieves only a temporary absence of war but no real peace." The urgent need, today, "is that the Tamil grievances that led to this war be addressed and that a truth and reconciliation commission begins to be formed. Otherwise, I worry that the divisions on this island will become etched even deeper."

Professor Damien Kingsbury is an expert on political and security matters in South-East and South Asia, has written widely on these issues and advised both the Australian government on a range of security policy issues and also the Free Aceh Movement during the historic Helsinki peace talks. During this process, Prof Kingsbury drafted the negotiating points and negotiated much of the final agreement, including the critical issue of local democracy.

In a recent article he highlights the major economic problems facing the country (external debt greater than its annual economic output, and inflation at close to 25%), the need for a "genuine political solution" for Tamils after "decades of structural alienation" and "a return to free media, a more participatory approach to governing and a decentralisation of political power". Sadly he concludes that "None of this is likely, however, from Sri Lanka's triumphalist President" and warns that "Sri Lanka's Tamils will continue to feel outcasts in their own land, and will continue to try to flee, or perhaps again to fight. Sri Lanka's presidential election is over, but the problems that led to its long civil war continue."

See Adele Barker's article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/adele-barker/heartbreak-in-post-war-ja_b_446328.html

See Damien Kingsbury's article: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/has-sri-lanka-stumbled-on-path-to-democracy-20100128-n1ro.html