Gordon Weiss, Former UN Sporksman In SRI LANKA – Interview with ABC

Gordon Weiss was spokesman for the United Nation’s humanitarian mission in Sri Lanka during the civil war.

GORDON WEISS: Well I think that the decisions over the war and the execution of the war come down to a very narrow circle of people that surround the Rajapaksa family. The Defence minister was a Rajapaksa, the president was as a Rajapaksa, there was a range of Rajapaksas in the administration, but also people like Palitha Kohona, who was the secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs there.

ALI MOORE: Who also has Australian citizenship.

GORDON WEISS: Who has also Australian citizenship. And these were the people who were busy pedalling the notion to the rest of the world that there was nothing very untoward happening at all, that the war was going along merrily and ultimately that the war was won without a drop of civilian blood being spilt, which the Government maintains to this day, despite all this evidence to the contrary.

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Ravaya ==HOT TOPIC ==

Victor Ivan’s editorial & Sumanasiri’s Column(10.05.09)

Ravaya - 10.05.2009

Robert Evans MEP: Who can protect Tamil civilians caught in the conflict?

The news that the Sri Lankan government has rejected Gordon Brown’s appointment of the former defence secretary Des Browne as special envoy comes as little surprise to anyone who has been following the situation there. The Sri Lankan government has become increasingly paranoid and defensive about all matters relating to the vicious civil war being waged in the north of the island.

For years this conflict continued with very little outside involvement and the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) were able to establish a de facto independent state-within-a-state, with their capital at Kilinochchi. A year ago, the Sri Lankan government unilaterally withdrew from the Norwegian-brokered ceasefire, and under the leadership of its hawkish President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, embarked on this current campaign which seems to be reaching its climax.

Whilst the Sri Lankans claim that they are merely trying to eliminate terrorism, the real victims are, as ever, the civilians trapped by the fighting. All the evidence suggests that unless the international community acts very soon, about a quarter of a million people could be caught in a ghastly bloodbath. The Sri Lankan government has urged Tamil civilians to come over to their side for protection, but there is a strong reticence and fear of such a move.

The Tamil people have seen so much death and destruction. They are terrified of Sri Lankan troops and their “holding camps”, withall the stories of assaults and rape, not to mention the different language and religion which divides the Hindu Tamils from the Buddhist Sinhalese troops.

Equally, on the other side there are stories suggesting that the LTTE has, or might, shoot anyone who tries to escape from the areas that remain under their control.

But none of this is verifiable. The Sri Lankan government restricts all journalists and independent observers from entering the conflict zone. The reports from the few remaining aid or humanitarian agencies still allowed in the area are dismissed by the Sri Lankan authorities as propaganda.

Can Amnesty International and United Nations workers all be lying? Are all the horrific pictures of bombed-out hospitals and lines of dead men, women and children false or fabricated?

So the situation in Sri Lanka is now critical. It is difficult to know what could happen next, hence the Prime Minister’s insistence on sending Des Browne as a special envoy. But if not him, then who will protect the Tamil civilians from being massacred? Could President Rajapaksa refuse the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon if he too demanded that a UN peacekeeping mission be allowed in to supervise an evacuation of civilians?

With the Gaza war it was possible to be appalled at what the Israeli government was doing without being labelled as a supporter of Hamas, but anyone who doesn’t wholly back the murderous tactics of the Colombo government is automatically dismissed by the Sri Lankan authorities not just as an apologist for terrorism but as a supporter of the LTTE .

And for how much longer should we allow British holidaymakers and cricket teams to go to an island waging a vicious civil war against its own people? Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe was ostracised by the international community. Unless things change very quickly, the same fate must await Sri Lanka.

The author is chairman of the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with South Asia.

Source:  Independent

Sri Lanka Rejects Call for Truce, Saying Defeat of Rebels Is Near

Published: February 5, 2009

NEW DELHI — Rejecting international calls for a cease-fire, Sri Lanka said Thursday that it had the vestige of a rebel group cornered in a small wedge of the northeastern coast, where the group’s elusive leader was likely to be holed up in the company of thousands of civilians.

Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa said in a telephone interview from Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, that government forces could swiftly seize the bastion of the rebel leader, Vellupillai Prabhakaran, and his subordinates were it not for a shield of civilians they had placed around them.

“The leaders are still there in that area, and they have that human shield,” Mr. Rajapaksa said. “Very soon when we overrun this place, we will be able to capture him.”

The military also announced the capture of the last known naval base of the rebels, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. A few days ago, it said it had captured the last of seven airstrips held by the Tamil Tigers’ crude but deadly air force, as well as a village hut that it had described as a hide-out of Mr. Prabhakaran.

There is no way to confirm any of what the government says. Journalists are not allowed anywhere near the war zone. The Tamil Tigers have not been reachable for comment.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, or I.C.R.C., estimates that 250,000 civilians are trapped in the combat zone; the government says there are far fewer.

Whatever the numbers, Mr. Rajapaksa said the government would not agree to a cease-fire, as several of Sri Lanka’s backers, including the United States, have urged, to allow the civilians to evacuate. “We had so many cease-fires in the last three decades,” he said. “None of these cease-fires solved the problem. Don’t give them breathing space.”

The Tamil Tigers have been widely accused by, among others, international aid agencies, of prohibiting civilians from leaving the area, which has been bombarded by aerial attacks, artillery shelling and even cluster munitions. One of the worst victims of the fighting was the last proper hospital in the rebel-held area, which had come under such repeated shelling over four days that the Red Cross, which helps run the hospital, had to evacuate all patients and staff members and flee deeper into rebel-controlled territory.

On Thursday, Mr. Rajapaksa, the brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, denied that government troops would shell the hospital, but insisted that not all its patients were civilians and that the Tamil Tigers were fighting in the vicinity. He said the Red Cross had been cautioned to evacuate the hospital into what the government had demarcated as a no-fire zone.

The agency has repeatedly warned both sides that hospitals and known civilian sites are, by definition, protected zones under international law.

President Rajapaksa said Wednesday that it would be just days before the Tamil Tigers were defeated, promising an end to one of the world’s longest-running civil wars.

Source : The New York Time

Berlin: Tausende demonstrieren gegen Gewalt auf Sri Lanka

Rund 4000 Tamilen aus ganz Deutschland haben gestern in Berlin gegen das Vorgehen der Regierung von Sri Lanka protestiert. Sie warfen der singhalesischen Armee Völkermord an der tamilischen Minderheit vor. Die Aufständischen kämpfen seit 1983 für einen unabhängigen Staat.
Bei heftigen Kämpfen zwischen Armee und tamilischen Rebellen im Nordosten Sri Lankas sind erneut Zivilisten ums Leben gekommen. Nach Angaben der Vereinten Nationen wurden mindestens 52 Menschen getötet. Das letzte noch arbeitende Krankenhaus in der Region wurde evakuiert, nachdem es erneut unter Beschuss geraten war.
Staatspräsident Mahinda Rajapaksa gab sich unterdessen siegesgewiss. Die Rebellen würden in wenigen Tagen völlig besiegt sein, sagte er in einer Rede zu Sri Lankas gestrigem Nationalfeiertag. Die Armee hat die Aufständischen nach eigenen Angaben in ein kleines Gebiet von etwa 260 Quadratkilometern im Nordosten zurückgedrängt.
International wächst der Druck auf die Konfliktparteien und die Sorge um die rund 250 000 Menschen, die offenbar zwischen die Fronten geraten und von jeder Hilfe abgeschnitten sind. Wie Großbritannien und die USA appellierte auch der Papst an die Konfliktparteien, einen Waffenstillstand zu vereinbaren, um humanitäre Hilfe zu ermöglichen. Die USA, Japan, Norwegen und die EU riefen zudem die tamilische Rebellenbewegung “Befreiungstiger von Tamil Eelam” auf, die Waffen niederzulegen.
Zu der Klinik im umkämpften Gebiet sagte eine Rot-Kreuz-Sprecherin, die rund 300 Patienten seien in ein Auffangquartier gebracht worden. Bei vielen sei der Zustand noch kritisch.
Source : – MorgenPost

Can’t ensure safety of civilians in LTTE areas= CNN=

Clip 01

Sri Lanka’s military said it captured the Tamil Tigers’ seventh and final airstrip Tuesday, effectively grounding their tiny air force and edging troops closer to ending Asia’s longest-running civil war.

Clip 02

Ambassador H. M. G. S. Palihakkara on Situation in Sri Lanka


Source : AssociatedPress

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Civilians trapped in Sri Lanka fighting = AlJazeera English=

The plight of civilians trapped between the opposing forces of the Sri Lankan army and the Tamil Tigers is causing increasing concern in the international community.

There are calls for camps housing people fleeing fighting in northern Sri Lanka to to be run by civilians and not the military.

Despite civilians being kept in a ‘no fire zone’, it has been reported that between 120,000 and 350,000 civilians are caught in the conflict zone. The Internatioanl Red Cross says at least 300 civilains have been killed so far.

Al Jazeera’s Tony Birtley has more from Colombo.

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Tamils share concerns over Sri Lankan conflict – 02 Feb 09

The conflict in northern Sri Lanka has raged on for most of the last 25 years, forcing millions of Tamils to seek refuge abroad.

Al Jazeera’s Azhar Sukri reports on the impact of the conflict on the Tamil community in Malaysia.

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Timeline: Conflict in Sri Lanka

Though picturesque, the island-country of Sri Lanka has been blighted by a long-running conflict between government forces and armed Tamil rebels. Thousands have died and many more have been made homeless by the unremitting violence.

Ethnic composition

The Sinhalese, who are in power in Sri Lanka, comprise about 73.8 per cent of the population and are concentrated in the densely populated southwest. They speak Sinhala, an Indo-European language derivative of Sanskrit.

Tamils in Sri Lanka form two distinct groups. The first group, the so-called Sri Lanka Tamils, are descendents of Tamils who lived on the island for centuries. They comprise approximately 18 per cent of the population and live predominantly in the north and eastern coasts.

The second group are called the hill country Tamils or the plantation Tamils. They are the descendants of the labourers brought to Sri Lanka by the British and are about five per cent of the Sri Lankan population.

Tamils speak an ancient classical language which is said to be 4,000 years old.

They remain concentrated in the “tea country” of south-central Sri Lanka. Muslims form about eight per cent of the population.

Unlike the Buddhists, Christians or Hindus on the island, whose identity stems from the language that they speak, religion determines the identity of Sri Lankan Muslims who speak Tamil in Tamil-dominated areas and Sinhalese on the rest of the island.

The rest of the population consists of Burghers – descendants of European colonists, and tribesmen, known as the Veddahs.

Below is a guide to some of the key events in the island’s history since independence:

1948: Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon, gains independence from British rule. Ethnic Tamils feel disenfranchised by the so-called “Citizenship Act” which denied citizenship to Tamils and their descendents brought by the British from India to work on tea plantations

1956: Solomon Bandaranyake, then prime minister, enacts a law making Sinhala the only official language of Sri Lanka, alienating the Tamils. Peaceful protests by Tamils are broken up by a Sinhala mob and riots follow.

1957/65: Pacts are signed between the government and the Tamils giving them a measure of regional autonomy and freedoms in language and education, but the agreements remain largely on paper.

1970: New constitution enshrines earlier law making Sinhala Sri Lanka’s official language and makes Buddhism the country’s official religion, further alienating Tamils who are mainly Hindus and Christians.

1972: Ceylon becomes a Republic and is officially renamed the Republic of Sri Lanka. Velupillai Prabhakaran forms the Tamil New Tigers group to set up a separate homeland – the Tamil Eelam.

1975: Tamil New Tigers re-named Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

1978: LTTE proscribed as an illegal organisation.

1981: Riots in Jafna. A state of emergency is declared.

1983: First guerrilla-style ambush by LTTE kills 13 soldiers. Rioting erupts killing hundreds of people. About 150,000 Tamil refugees flee to India where Tamil military training camps are established.

1987: The Indian government cracks down on armed Tamil groups in India.
First suicide attack by LTTE kills 40. Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord signed and India agrees to deploy peackeepers – the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), which quickly gets drawn into the civil war.

1990: IPKF withdraws from Sri Lanka. LTTE becomes the prominent Tamil armed group. Over 100,000 Muslims are expelled from LTTE dominated areas, many with just two hours notice.

1991: Rajiv Gandhi, then Indian prime minister, is assassinated by a female LTTE suicide bomber.

1993: Ranasinghe Premadasa, then president of Sri Lanka, is killed in a LTTE suicide bomb attack.

1999: Chandrika Kumaratunge, a former prime minister and later the first female president of Sri Lanka, is wounded in an assassination attempt during an election rally.

2002: Norway-brokered ceasefire between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government comes into effect. It holds for five years despite many incursions from both sides. A road linking Jaffna peninsula and the rest of Sri Lanka opens after 12 years.

2004: The LTTE splits. Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan, also known as Colonel Karuna, commander for the Batticaloa-Amparai, breaks from the LTTE forming a pro-government outfit.

2005: The government of Sri Lanka and LTTE sign Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-Toms) by which the two entities agreed to work together to offer relief to the communities devastated by the Asian Tsunami. Lakshman Kadirgamar, Sri Lankan foreign minister, is assassinated by the LTTE.

2007: After weeks of heavy fighting, the Sri Lankan army takes back the LTTE-held town of Vakarai. LTTE air force attacks various Sri Lankan targets including Colombo airport. SP Thamilselvan, leader of the LTTE’s political wing, is killed in an air raid.

2008: The Sri Lankan government formally withdraws from the ceasefire with the LTTE and renewed fighting erupts. Amid attacks and counter-attacks, Sri Lankan forces seem to gradually gain the upper hand.

2009: The government claims its forces have captured the town of Kilinochchi, the political hub of the Tamil Tigers and the the last rebel-town of Mullaittivu. Remaining LTTE fighters thought to be trapped in a small area in northeast of the island prompting military claims that the war could end in days.

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