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

29/04/2010

Human Rights Watch challenge India and Japan to be more authentic about events in Sri Lanka

Both New Delhi and Tokyo often contend that their efforts at polite persuasion are more effective than the public condemnation they describe as the "western way".

There is a time and place for private diplomacy, but for years now the Sri Lankan government has ignored such behind-the-scenes advice. In any case, private diplomacy should never become an excuse for inaction in the face of grave human-rights violations.

Ban Ki-moon's panel of experts, although modest, could yet prove to be an important step toward accountability for wartime abuses in Sri Lanka. India and Japan should publicly and wholeheartedly support this initiative.

http://www.opendemocracy.net/meenakshi-ganguly/sri-lanka%E2%80%99s-war-time-for-accountability

28/04/2010

Gang boss known for hostility towards journalists appointed deputy media minister

By Reporters Without Borders/Reporters sans frontieres.

"In what country do you appoint an arsonist to put out fires?" Reporters Without Borders asked today after learning that Mervyn Silva, a politician notorious for insulting and physically attacking journalists, has been appointed deputy minister of media and information. Labour minister in the last government, Silva was confirmed in his new post by parliament on 23 April.

"The Sri Lankan government has against distinguished itself by assigning key posts to very controversial figures implicated in attacks on press freedom," Reporters Without Borders said. "The ruling party's victory in the parliamentary elections is being marred by this kind of appointment, which is casting serious doubt on its ability to carry out reconciliation and reconstruction."

The press freedom organisation added: "We call on Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne to relieve Mervyn Silva of his ministerial post."

Silva's appointment comes at a time of considerable hostility towards press freedom. The defence secretary (who is the president's brother) put a great deal of pressure on TV stations and websites not to provide live coverage of opposition leader Sarath Fonseka's speech at the opening of the new parliament on 22 April.

In the event, no TV station broadcasted live the speech delivered by Fonseka, who was let out of prison to attend the inauguration because he won a seat in the parliamentary election. A former army commander, Fonseka has been detained after last January's presidential election, in which he was the leading opposition candidate.

Several newspapers reported his speech on their websites, but did not publish any photos of him in their print editions. "When such pressure comes from the defence ministry, we have no choice but to not publish, or else we will be risking closure," a Colombo-based journalist told Reporters Without Borders on condition of anonymity.

Threats forced several Sri Lankan journalists to flee the country during the campaign for the 8 April parliamentary elections. Later, a team working for the Colombo-based Daily Mirror newspaper was followed and threatened on 21 April in the central city of Kandy by a local journalist apparently acting on the orders of the police. Journalists had gone there to cover a re-poll.

A ruling party candidate threatened Wasantha Chadrapala, a correspondent for various media in the eastern district of Ampara, on 4 April because of his coverage of the election campaign. His house was attacked by unidentified assailants that evening.

There is still no news of Prageeth Eknaligoda, a reporter and cartoonist who has been missing since 24 January: http://en.rsf.org/sri-lanka-cartoonist-kidnapped-two-months-23-03-2010,36823.html

Opposition journalist Ruwan Weerakoon is meanwhile still being held although he is in very poor health: http://en.rsf.org/sri-lanka-anti-terrorist-police-arrest-18-03-2010,36782.html

Finally, the government has ordered all journalists, newspaper editors and media owners to submit a declaration of possessions by 30 March.

English: http://en.rsf.org/sri-lanka-mervyn-silva-gang-boss-minister-26-04-2010,37152.html
Français : http://fr.rsf.org/sri-lanka-un-chef-de-gang-nomme-ministre-26-04-2010,37151.html

Information about Mervyn Silva

A staunch supporter of President Mahinda Rajapksa, Mervyn Silva is above all known for organising various physical attacks on news media while labour minister, and for his verbal attacks on independent journalists. In December 2007, he led an assault on the headquarters of the state TV station SLRC and was forcibly expelled from the building. At least five of the station's employees were physically attacked in the weeks that followed - some of them sustaining serious stab wounds - presumably to punish them for humiliating Silva.

Silva and his men assaulted several journalists, including a BBC correspondent, during a peaceful meeting near Colombo in 2007.

In March 2008, Silva supporters threatened a Sirasa TV crew that went to do a report about a bridge being in Kelaniya, near Colombo. "This time I lift a finger but the next time I will lift a hand if you come back," Silva told the journalists. The following month, Silva's thugs threatened photographers from the Daily Mirror and Daily Lankadeepa newspapers who were covering an inauguration.

More information about Silva’s hostility towards the media:
http://en.rsf.org/spip.php?page=article&id_article=26001
http://en.rsf.org/spip.php?page=article&id_article=20939
http://en.rsf.org/spip.php?page=article&id_article=25240
http://en.rsf.org/spip.php?page=article&id_article=26259

26/04/2010

For Colombo's Tamils, Eelam is a faraway place

In Colombo's shanty towns, Tamils are more concerned about daily needs than the struggle for independence. Nina de la Preugne meets the Tamils for whom Eelam won't pay the bills.


The walls vibrate as the train passes along the shanty town in Colombo's suburban Narahenpita district. The small strip of land is crammed with poorly built houses, where Tamil families of up to ten people often live in one room.


Most of the people here were born in this shanty town, and only a few elders recall the reason they migrated here in the 1980s - to escape the violence in the North. The younger generations do not know of the war; to them it is disconnected from the everyday struggle to find enough to eat and pay the rent.


"We want a correct solution for us. We want to live together and get a good freedom and human rights," says Damorasingan, 65, who is originally from Jaffna. "But you see where I am living, my lane. We are facing issues here. It is not only the Tamil (ethnicity), it is the shanty town. That is the main problem."

Although few people speak of outright discrimination against Tamils, several question the government's attitude towards the minority, especially the older generations.

"I had an accident and was not treated at the hospital. They did not say but I think because I am a Tamil, they could not be bothered to help. The government is not looking after Tamils properly," says an elderly man.

Several men gathered in a group had injuries that had not been taken care of at the public hospital. H Jaladmalay, 32, had an open wound looking worryingly deep and infected.

"The government hospital did not admit me, they said you have to go home." For him, his wound means he cannot work and provide for his family.

The men were divided on the reasons for their lack of access to healthcare. Some said it was because of the lack of expertise and the overcrowding; others spoke of not being able to afford the bribes to doctors or of racism towards Tamils.

Prices before rights

For the majority of the shanty town's inhabitants, the main issues are basic needs. Prices went up dramatically in recent months and life has become tougher as salaries have not kept up.

Managing to get by is now a daily struggle, and women in particular are worried about the future.

"It is ok for now, but if things stay the same for too long, it will be damaging for my children's health. I cannot give them proper food every day, and medicines are too expensive," says Catherine Pakian, 28.

It is with this kind of problem in mind that Catherine and many other went to the poll last week for the parliamentary elections.

Several indicated that they voted for the ruling party. "The president is good. I hope the government will improve life. I voted for the government," says K Jabadmalamay.

However, most of their votes went to independent political movements in hope of a positive change.

Nadarajah, a 30-year-old man who has been living in the shanty town all his life, says he does not feel discriminated against because he is a Tamil, but voted for a Tamil party nonetheless:

"The government will not change anything for us; we have to take care of ourselves. The prices went up and there is no way for me to make savings. Even in a shanty town like here, I have to pay a rent. Whoever is helping us, we will support. I voted for a Tamil party this time, Mano Ganesan’s party."

Dr N Kumaragurupan, the secretary general of the Democratic People's Front, a party founded by himself and Mano Ganesan to defend Tamils' rights in the west of the country, points out that many of the Tamils living in the shanty towns are too focused on their own economic problems to be able to worry about political issues such as reconciliation or self-determination.

"If you are unable to take care of yourself properly, then political self-determination is the least of your worries. Not helping these people is also a way of subduing them for the government," he says.

Whether the government is deliberately not helping Tamils in the shanty towns is debatable, but people do feel they cannot rely on anyone else.
M Mardani, a 50-year-old woman, voted for the ruling party but is unconvinced it will bring the changes she hopes for:

"I am not sure whether something will come. We are in for ourselves. We are not affected by the discrimination because we are in Colombo, although I know some places are. But what can we do?"

Posted in The Samosa

23/04/2010

The idea of citizenship

Posted in Peacebuilding by Sanjana Hattotuwa on 21/04/2010.


To freely create, subscribe to and be part of an idea, without coercion or fear, underpins all social and political associations. Citizenship is essentially an idea, and a powerful one. On the one hand, a citizen is a legally recognised subject or national of a state or commonwealth, either native or naturalised, an inhabitant. But this definition alone does not address the fact that laws guaranteeing recognition, and by extension participation in democracy, maybe trumped by systemic conditions contributing to marginalisation. Take our tea plantation workers for example. Indentured labour from India brought in by the British and stateless for decades, all are at present, technically, Sri Lankan citizens. But what does this really mean? As Nia Charpentier points out on Groundviews(1),

Being so heavily dependent on the tea estate owners for most of their basic needs such as healthcare, housing and water access, these communities have almost always existed socially and economically isolated from the rest of the country. As a by product of this, plantation workers to this day suffer from low self-esteem, ill health and also have poor levels of education and language barriers to contend with. There have been countless reports of instances where tea estate owners have abused the rights of workers by demolishing parts of their homes in order to make room for more plantations, in a desperate bid to cope with growing competition on the international market. Furthermore, schools are often under staffed and estate children have few role models for alternative occupations, continuing this bitter cycle of dependency, isolation and vulnerability.

The injustice this community has faced, and continue to endure, is well documented. More recently, video productions like Flip the Coin's The Bitter Taste of Tea(2) portray the visceral reality of their lives that the placebo of Fairtrade does little to meaningfully address. Further, in the visible difference between the existential conditions of workers in small-hold estates in the South and those in the hill-country lies a cautionary tale of an idea and meaning of citizenship gone very wrong in Sri Lanka.

Primus inter pares?
I submit that it is only when a person feels that she / he is part of society that citizenship grows, and matters. This feeling is more than just the full enactment of existing laws regarding citizenship. It is pegged to how peoples can express themselves, are depicted by others and interact with the State. Here we find particular communities, identities and peoples in Sri Lanka, whether by conscious construct or by unquestioning conduct, portray themselves as the more legitimate citizens - the Sinhalese over Tamils, straight over gay and lesbian, the Buddhists over all other religions.

To a point of caricature, there are certain peoples in Sri Lanka who enjoy far greater benefits of citizenship than others. When ethno-political affiliation is the primary marker of citizenship, it is not hard to imagine the fate of those who do not fit the mould.

A good, if not tragic example of this is when over 400,000 Tamil 'citizens' in Menik Farm in August 2009 suffered horrific conditions of internment and flooding. The justification for their internment was on the basis of suspect credentials of citizenship, entirely defined by a majoritarian government. Media, especially the Sinhala media, did not report the ground conditions in Menik Camp exacerbated by the flooding. There were no SMS news alerts. Few English media picked up on the story. There were no visuals on television, no radio coverage, no government ministers who flew in to assess the situation. The very next week, when localised flooding hit an area in the South, affecting Sinhalese families and villages, the difference in media coverage and government attention clearly revealed underlying attitudes towards, inter alia, citizenship. To add to this sharp contrast, significant socio-economic disparities in areas outside the North and East also have a direct impact on how peoples see themselves, and by extension, notions of belonging and entitlement, of what are and should be 'ours' and 'theirs' in post-war Sri Lanka.

Generally accepted in studies looking into these socio-political dimensions is the lack of a civic sensibility undergirding a pan-Sri Lankan identity. Citizenship is thus anchored not to a secular, liberal ideal larger than the sum of its constituent peoples and communities, but to reductionist fault-lines and groupings, based on and fuelled by communal hagiography and the chauvinism of majoritarian politics.

Voters without citizens?
A powerful expression from antiquity that offers a rather different and compelling idea of citizenship is E pluribus unum, Latin for "out of many, one". The US used it to good effect in its formative stages, before the mid-50's when their trust was for better or worse placed in God. And though at around the time this phrase was coined, only Plato disagreed that women were incapable of political participation, read today it resonates with the idea that the good life is only possible through policies and practices that do not favour any one identity or community to the detriment - real of perceived - of another.

But if we accept this idea, why we must ask didn't more Sinhalese openly and volubly condemn the conditions of fellow citizens interned in Menik Farm? Moreover, why did so many go to the extent of justifying these conditions, disturbingly even suggesting that they were better than what those in the camps would have endured under the erstwhile LTTE?

Perhaps it is because the Sinhala-Buddhist majority in Sri Lanka, comfortable in their dominance of polity and society, define citizenship in very narrow terms. The current political discourse, as petty as it is venomous, of patriots and traitors is also linked to an idea of citizenship that is communal, partisan and parochial. Active contestation of government policies and practices, participation in political opposition, dissent and increasingly, even the mere expression of ideas such as self-determination are seen as criminal and suspect. Disturbingly too, though we have regular elections and universal franchise in law, we know most voters do not exercise their franchise based on a critical appreciation of issues, policies and manifestos or hold elected representatives responsible for promises made and undelivered.

The problem as I see it, to re-engage with the question as to why more didn’t express concern about fellow citizens interned in Menik Farm, is perhaps we don’t know how to, or care enough to be critical.

Whither ideas domain
This lack of a more progressive notion of citizenship, linked to near absence of widespread condemnation when government falls far short of the democratic ideal, is partly explained by the failure of our education. As Prof. Siri Hettige observes(3), the segregation of education on ethno-linguistic lines significantly contributed to an education system unable exchange ideas and provide opportunities to learn about the 'other', transcending divisions of caste, religion and ethnicity. The end result is scarcely a citizen.

That many don't care enough to be critical about vital issues regarding citizenship and in particular, restrictions on its fullest expression and enjoyment, is also linked to the absence of a critical culture. The guiding principle of the Economist magazine, which is to take part in "a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing… progress", is deeply resonant in this regard, for it is precisely the timbre of informed dissent absent in Sri Lanka. It is also a debate leading to stronger ideas and safeguards of citizenship the majority do not really want to see.

This majority is Sinhala and at least in name, Buddhist. You do not need to be either to be a citizen of Sri Lanka. But it is a combination that affords, inter alia, privileges in society and polity other communities are not, even post-war, able to easily enjoy, or aspire to. Those who disagree must ask themselves, when will this majority countenance a Tamil, Muslim, Malay, Moor, Adivasi, Colombo Chetty, Indian Tamil, Kaffir or Burgher citizen as the elected head of state?

The honest answer to that question is the central challenge to citizenship in Sri Lanka.


Written for Options, published by Women and Media Collective, Sri Lanka
(1) http://www.groundviews.org/2007/04/26/causing-a-storm-in-a-tea-plantation/

(2) http://www.flipthecoin.org/?p=51

(3) http://www.groundviews.org/2008/09/27/education-citizenship-and-development/

22/04/2010

Campaign Adviser, Basil Fernando, has a new book "Sri Lanka: Impunity, Criminal Justice and Human Rights".

According to Tapan Bose, a well known Indian journalist, film producer and a political activist ,Basil Fernando's book provides us an insight into "abysmal lawlessness and the zero status of the citizens", the militarisation of the state, the bypassing of the constitution and the levels of impunity that the executive enjoys. The author inquires into how such a situation could arise in Sri Lanka where the institution of parliamentary democracy was introduced nearly eight decades ago.

In Sri Lanka, whether one is a businessman or a politician or a judge or a media person no one escapes the scrutiny of the intelligence wings of the state. The most powerful organ of the state is the intelligence apparatus of the government. This is return to the "Arthashastra", ancient Indian treaties on governance written by Chanakya. The advice of Chanakya to the "Prince" was that the success of the regime depended on the system's ability to get the subjects to spy on each other and constantly report to the state.

So tourists and Bollyword stars - who choose to be blind to this oppression along with many international decision-makers and not an insignificant number of Sri Lankan diaspora - welcome to Paradise Island!

http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2010/04/sri-lanka-emergence-of-power-of.html

20/04/2010

Indian security specialist argues for India to do more to secure peace with justice for Tamils

Col R Hariharan served in Sri Lanka as the head of intelligence for the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka between 1987 and 1990 and is still well connected with the Indian security services.

In his interesting analysis of how the LTTE was defeated, and the strength and weaknesses of today's Sri Lankan security forces, Hariharan concludes by saying:

"The time for implementation of 13th amendment even with additional palliatives is well past and it is unlikely to satisfy all parties. It is essential for India to take two initiatives to bring ethnic amity and normalcy. It can use its good offices with Sri Lanka Tamil Diaspora to open a positive dialogue with Sri Lanka government while prevailing upon President Rajapaksa to come up with a political agenda for implementation without any more delay. Secondly, extend large scale aid and credit for the reconstruction and development of war ravaged north and east to enable speedy return to normal life in these provinces."

Hariharan is unlikely to really believe India has "good offices" with Tamil Diaspora! Many in the international community, leave aside the Tamil Diaspora, hold India particularly to blame for acting as the anaesthetist that helped the international community ignore the atrocities as they were happening and protecting the Government of Sri Lanka since.

Viraj Mendis, a Sinhalese lawyer with the International Human Rights Association, has recently said that "if not for the position that India took on the Tamil struggle, the international perception about the oppression of the Tamils would not have occurred." According to Mendis, India turned 180 degrees on the Tamil question in Sri Lanka, and that "without this change the genocide would not have happened."

More likely, this is Indian civil servant language for telling the Government of India to try harder. And on that everyone could agree!



Col Harihan's analysis: http://www.colhariharan.org/2010/04/sri-lanka-armed-forces-dynamics-of.html

Viraj Mendis and other comments about Indian complicity in the Sri Lankan war crimes: http://karthikrm.wordpress.com/2010/04/18/report-of-the-april-15th-convention-on-war-crimes-in-sri-lanka/

18/04/2010

Reflections of a South Asian human rights activist

Tapan Bose is no stranger to violence and human rights abuse in South Asia. As Secretary General of the South Asia Forum for Human Rights, and based in Nepal, he has seen and investigated many atrocities.

That is why his reflections about a recent visit to Sri Lanka are worth reading in full.

Here are some extracts which capture the situation:

"President's son and Gotabaya and Basil, his wife, family, brother-in-law, everyone is in the government. His son has now become an MP. He runs a paramilitary force called the Blue Brigade. What the Blue Brigade does, we all know. They are being trained by the Sri Lankan army. So there is a situation on one side as total suppression of dissent and on the other side, you have a family rule which is worse than what Suharto of Indonesia did. And this is something that will take a long time to correct."

"You see, it is the worst kind of police state. In the Soviet Union there was the practice where only a very few people were allowed to have a typewriter and you had to return the typewriter ribbon in order to get new one so that they could be examined to see what you had written. It is worse than that in Sri Lanka today because technology services have become all powerful. There is no privacy, there is no safety and this is something that the world outside is not realising. The level at which the rights are threatened is terrible. Rights don't exist in Sri Lanka today and the unfortunate part of it is that no institutions function."

"I have a lot of friends in Sri Lanka, so I asked one of them to have an informal meeting in one of our homes, so that we can talk. Very few came. Even my close friends. Others sent apologies. One of them told me, Tapan, this the first time we are having a meeting like this since May, 2009. It may be seen as a threat. Even if 10 or 15 people get together for a party, it may be seen as a threat. So this is the level of control by the government."

"Some of the countries like India, China, Pakistan and Iran for their short term interests are making deals with the Rajapakses. In the long or even mid-term, this is going to boomerang on all of us because the Sri Lankan interests cannot flourish. Sri Lanka is a bucket without water. Unfortunately Sri Lanka does not have oil and natural gas like Burma. If it did, it would be a different story. So this is something that has to be deal with.The point is the Rajapakses may have billions of dollar abroad already. They will go away but what will happen to the Sri Lankan when they leave. And that is what the international community has to start worrying about."

http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2010/04/impressions-after-recent-visit.html

15/04/2010

Amnesty International Event. Sri Lanka: demanding justice for survivors one year after the end of the conflict

Event Date: Wed 19 May 2010 ..........

19 May marks the first anniversary of the end of the internal conflict between Sri Lankan government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which lasted for more than 30 years. Despite massive violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed by both sides, impunity remains the norm. Survivors and family members of those killed have no hope of justice, truth and reparations at the national level.

Amnesty International is calling on the UN to establish an international independent investigation to collect information from all relevant sources as a first essential step to establish accountability.

Speakers include Alan Keenan, (Senior Analyst, International Crisis Group), Mr. Iqbal, (formerly Secretary to two Commissions of Inquiry into Disappearances in Sri Lanka) and Yolanda Foster, (South Asia team, Amnesty International).

19th May 2010
Event Type Panel discussion
Event venue The Human Rights Action Centre
Time 6.30 - 8.30pm
Price Free of charge

Online tickets Book this event

Amnesty International

06/04/2010

Leaders of Sri Lanka main religions appeal for free and peaceful elections

An Interfaith Coalition, which brings together representatives of the four main religions, called on all candidates and citizens to act without violence, abuse and corruption in the elections on 8 April.

They state that "coexistence is important, we must work for it. All of us, as religious leaders, reject any kind of violence. We hope that those who participate in elections reject it as we do".

There were similar calls before the Presidential election in January 2010 by the Interfaith Coalition and the Friday Forum which comprised of prominent Buddhist, Hindu and Christian civil society members.

At the press conference held in Colombo on March 30th, Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe, Bishop of Kurunegala, stated that the interfaith group "is the only guide and representative" of all faiths and the prelate stressed the importance of this joint initiative to ensure the expression of a free and informed vote.

The Buddhist Monk Venerable Weligama Dhammissara Thero noted that in Sri Lanka is home to the four most popular religions (Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism) and that all teach the same message of condemnation of violence, abuse and corruption. The Hindu religious Lakshmikanthan Jegadeeshan Kurukkal also asked all candidates and voters to act fairly and peacefully.

As well as their plea to the Political leaders and the public, Venerable Thero Madampagama Assaji, coordinator of the Interfaith Coalition also stated that they were meeting all the candidates to urge them in person for free and fair elections. The group has also prepared a sticker written in Sinhalese and Tamil "Our vote for peaceful election" for use on vehicles and places of transit.

In past elections the country has seen widespread violence and credible accusations of vote manipulation. Whether this call has the effect these concerned religious leaders want will depend on how effectively they and others can influence senior figures in the Government of Sri Lanka and ordinary Sri Lankans, and hence the importance of the outreach.

One is reminded that in many situations around the world, religious groups have lead the way towards non-violent victory in transforming systems of oppression. In particular, mobilising peace-loving people into action can reverse the spiral of violence.

Religious leaders in the Philippines played a critical role in the change from the authoritarian Marcos regime to a democracy. They founded AKKAPKA ("Action for Peace and Justice"). They worked in a variety of way to protecting against election fraud. When the crisis came they and other organisations had trained half a million poll watchers who were prepared to stand up to prevent falsification of ballots.

We support and urge the religious leaders to step out in leading their members. It takes bold action.


http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Leaders-of-all-Sri-Lankan-religions-committed-to-holding-free-and-peaceful-elections-18037.html

Friday Forum letter (scroll to 18th Jan blog)

05/04/2010

UN report on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka

The UN agencies produce a regular update of the situation in Sri Lanka. This is the March report. The highlights are:

1. Menik Farm (the largest detention centre in Sri Lanka) currently hosts a total of 93,926 IDPs. It has the capacity to hold 111,856 people.

2. Progressive improvements in freedom of movement additionally have been witnessed since the 1 December 2009 pass system was introduced.

3. Returns are continuing and the Government has indicated plans for movement of 50,000 additional people before the end of April.

4. A significant segment of the IDP population is female (51%) and children (12.5% under 5 years, 23% under 10 years, 30% under 18 years).

5. The Government has drastically reduced services due to lack of resources and technical support.

6. Many protection activities, including for disabled persons, ended in December 2009, several due to the lack of funds.

04/04/2010

The Risen Lord will Shine upon us and give us His peace

An Easter Message.
By The Rt. Rev Duleep de Chickera, The Bishop of Colombo.

Jesus experienced a violent death through a distortion of the truth. He was called a blasphemer, accused of sedition and then put to death on a cross. But this was not the last word; it never is.

God raised Jesus from the dead to announce that truth and love will finally prevail over distortion and violence.

Consequently Easter is the festival that calls us to strive against the evil that humans impose on each other and to rise to that new sustainable life of freedom and generosity that God offers all.

But for this to become a reality we are called to name the distortions and violence that torment us. It is when we perceive these realities and allow them to judge us all that we will shift from arrogance and indifference to repentance and forgiveness.

It is then that the healing and reconciliation we long for, will raise us to a new life of justice, interdependence and freedom.

Then, no child will be thrown into the river by a desperate mother and no mother will mourn the senseless killing of a son.

Then, the poor will not be driven to seek employment in distant lands and no journalist will seek refuge away from the land of his birth.

Then, none will languish in refugee camps and all will be free to move and build their houses anywhere.

Then, our children will be protected and cared for and our elders cherished and affirmed.

Then, our people will stand up for their rights and our politicians will seek to serve and not to be served.

Then, confrontation and theories of conspiracy will give way to dialogue and compromise.

Then, our elections will be fair, free and non-violent and none will be politically marginalised.

Then, no Sri Lankan will be second class and each will respect and celebrate the other.
Then, the truth will set us free and we will be a resurrected people moving from darkness to light and despair to hope.

Then, the risen Lord will make His face to shine upon us and give us His peace.
With Peace and Blessings to all.

The Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera
Bishop of Colombo

02/04/2010

As Lasantha warned, the permanent military occupation of the North and East is well underway

In an official gazette notification last month, President Mahinda Rajapakse declared that the extensive network of army camps established during the war against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) will be made permanent.

The number of army camps in these two provinces, which have a population of about 3 million, has increased to 147. Two of the LTTE’s former strongholds—Kilinochchi and Mullaithivu—will become security force headquarters and permanent forward maintenance areas. And in addition to the new military camps, at least a dozen new police stations are said to be planned for the northern Wanni area (a former LTTE stronghold).

French TV also carried a story which is emblematic of the “internal colonialism” agenda that drives the Sri Lankan government’s policy - evicting Tamils from key tracts of the north east and settling Sinhalese personnel and setting up military camps in those areas by using development aid and military in civil uniform to keep the media out, so continuing the policy of unseen oppression.

In the editorial published after his assassination, Lasantha Wickrematunge warned that “.. a military occupation of the country's north and east will require the Tamil people of those regions to live eternally as second-class citizens, deprived of all self respect. Do not imagine that you can placate them by showering "development" and "reconstruction" on them in the post-war era. The wounds of war will scar them forever, and you will also have an even more bitter and hateful Diaspora to contend with. A problem amenable to a political solution will thus become a festering wound that will yield strife for all eternity.”

As a leading Sri Lankan (Sinhalese) commentator notes, when President Rajapakse repeatedly stated that the world was flat – ie there was no ethnic problem – he was simply positioning himself as a Sinhala supremacist. Concrete actions have accompanied this ideological shift, not least the unitary state has been declared unalterable. Today even the 13th Amendment – a rather moderate approach to some regional autonomy – is “dismissed as unnecessary and undesirable by a government intoxicated by its victory over the LTTE, and disinclined to countenance devolution to gain Indian goodwill”.

It is therefore deeply ironic that the Government of Sri Lanka has recently criticized Israel over the fate of Palestinians. Whether this is deep denial, rank hypocrisy or both it is hard to tell. But what is clear is that the same sort of oppression Palestinian face is now the fate of Tamils in Sri Lanka unless much more assertive action is taken by those who are concerned.

1.http://www.wsws.org/articles/2010/mar2010/sril-m23.shtml

2. http://transcurrents.com/tc/2010/03/video_tamils_on_probation.html
(turn sound on)

3.http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2010/03/remaking-sri-lanka-rajapaksa-way.html


4.http://www.dailymirror.lk/index.php/news/2604-lanka-concerned-over-palestine.html