34 journalists killed, says JDS

A new orgnisation formed by recently exiled media workers from Sri Lanka have expressed serious concern about 34 journalists and media workers who they say have been killed “with no recourse to justice” since the current government was formed.

In a press release, Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) state that “people of Sri Lanka are deprived of their right to information and media, and journalists are forced to practise unprecedented levels of self censorship”.

Since the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) government came into power in April 2004 with the present President Mahinda Rajapaksa as its prime minister, there has been an increase in killings, abductions, intimidations and threats against journalists and the media, JDS said.

50 journalists ‘exiled’

It has resulted in more than 50 journalists leaving the country due to fear of persecution.

The organisation had also published a list of 34 media workers killed since 2004.

When asked why the organisation is blaming the government since the Tamil Tigers were blamed for some of the killings, the coordinator of JDS, Rohitha Bashana Abeywardhana said, “The Tamil Tigers no longer exist, it is the responsibility of the government to investigate the killings and find the perpetrators. Since that is not done, we have no one else to blame”.

JDS supports the 11-point plan put forward last week by International Press Freedom Mission to redress the press freedom environment in Sri Lanka.

The organisation calls upon the United Nations, governments and other international organisations to put pressure on the Sri Lankan government “to end the culture of impunity and to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice.”

JDS is a group of journalists, writers, artists and human rights defenders who having left Sri Lanka, convened recently in Europe and campaign for human rights and media freedom in Sri Lanka.

Source : BBC

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Uncomfortable truths and unconscionable lies

The heightened exodus of IDPs from the Government (GOSL) designated No Fire Zone and the government announcement that it would cease using heavy weaponry, shelling and aerial bombardment against the LTTE and give priority to the protection of civilians, raises serious questions with regard to its conduct of the war, especially in light of the statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights of  March 13, that actions by both the GOSL and the LTTE could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Consider for a moment what the exodus have revealed.  Official GOSL figures put the numbers that have come out of the Wanni at close to 200,000 and the numbers still trapped inside as between 15-20,000.  For months the UN and humanitarian agencies as well as civil society groups maintained that there were anywhere between 200 -250,000 persons in the Wanni, some arguing that the figure was more likely to be around 300-350,000.

Civil society groups in particular were branded as traitors for going with the figures given out by the UN and humanitarian agencies.  The GOSL insisted throughout this period that there were only 70,000 persons trapped in the Wanni and made much of the fact that they were feeding them and supplying them with essential items.

What is the truth and where does it lie?  Has the GOSL been deliberately starving out some 150,000 – 180,000 of its own citizens?  Has it been shamelessly employing siege tactics against them?  Is there any denying the horrendous state of the IDPs who have come out?

Even if the local media is too cowed to ask these questions, unwilling or unable to publish the visual images of this horror, the rest of the world has read about it and seen the images. Accountability must follow.

Clear admission

Likewise, the announcement by the GOSL that it will cease using heavy weaponry and aerial bombing, and give priority to the protection of civilians. Despite the fervent denials to the contrary over the last months, is this not a clear admission that the GOSL was shelling and bombing its civilians in the No Fire Zone, which the GOSL, had designated as such?

Confidential UN satellite images taken between  February 5 and  April 19, and leaked on  April 30, clearly show that the No Fire Zone has been bombed, despite being designated as such by the GOSL on  February 12.  There is concern that the use of heavy weaponry and aerial bombing continues with reports of a medical facility being hit on April 29.

According to an al Jazeera report of  May 1, Foreign Secretary Kohona has admitted to targeting LTTE heavy guns in the zone.  The report states:

But on Friday, confronted by the latest UN satellite imaging agency (Unosat) pictures showing craters which were formed inside the zone between February and April this year, Kohona at first challenged their authenticity before admitting targeting the Tiger’s heavy guns.

He said, however that it was before civilians flooded the area and maintained that the government adhered to international law.

Peter Bouckaert, Emergencies Director for Human Rights Watch is quoted in the  May 1, online edition of The London Times as follows:

This is incontrovertible evidence that the Government has been lying for months.

US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, according to a Reuters report of  May 1, has made clear that the US had doubts about GOSL denials regarding the use of heavy artillery in the NFZ.  According to the Reuters report:

“Despite the Government of Sri Lanka’s promise to suspend combat operations, most accounts indicate that shelling into the conflict zone continues,” she said in remarks prepared for delivery at the closed door meeting.

War crimes

David Milliband on his return to London from Sri Lanka, has told the House of Commons that any alleged war crimes should be investigated “urgently, independently and credibly.”   Following their visit to Sri Lanka, the Foreign Ministers of Britain and France are reportedly in favour of Sri Lanka being put on the agenda of the Security Council.  According to Milliband in an interview with the BBC:

‘I think we were right; Britain, France, the US, to raise this issue at the United Nations last Friday, this does belong on the United Nations Security Council agenda. This is a civil war that does have regional and wider ramifications and, obviously, a massive civilian emergency as well.’

The need for an independent, international investigation is clear.  Both the GOSL and the LTTE have engaged in action that as the High Commissioner for Human Rights has pointed out, could amount to war crimes.  Failure to investigate these allegations will have serious repercussions for protracted conflict into the future and constitute an egregious reinforcement of the culture of impunity that has enveloped this country on account of the war.

Peace, reconciliation and unity require that uncomfortable truths are faced up to and unconscionable lies exposed.

It is time for the GOSL to cease the siege against its people in the Wanni and for the LTTE to let the people it has treated as hostages, go in peace.  And if there is an international community, there must be accountability.

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Source : The Sunday Leader

Kaviya = Mage Nirwanayate Pera=

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“Better, fewer but better”

The time when people show their true colours

By Kumar David

These are the worst of times and also the best; these are the times when all shades of chauvinism come out to bask in the glorious sun of military victory, these are also the times when the steadfast stand up tall. Politicians and clergymen, newspaper editors, intellectuals and laymen from all walks of life are no exception. Last Sunday (15 February) even the English language newspapers succumbed to a sharper than usual tilt towards chauvinism not seen since the days of holocaust denial by the kept-press of 1983; we were also treated to displays of blighted xenophobia. Conversely I have met in person, or know of local bishops and South Indian clergymen, monks in yellow robes, women activists, Marxists and boring liberals, and many men and women of goodwill, who have said that enough is enough and decided to take a stand. In quantity, the detritus outnumbers the steadfast, but no matter; in the long run the fewer will be the better, much better.

The title of today’s piece is borrowed from Lenin’s article of March 1923, less than a year before his demise. Ethnic bigotry is our issue, his, the first shoots of bureaucratic degeneration. Lenin was one of the earliest to spot the rot; many in our midst cannot see rot dripping from every corner of the social fabric.

Grinding down the LTTE

First the ritual bit; I am no LTTEer – those who know me or read me know this, those who see a Tamil terrorist behind every bush will never comprehend that internationalism rejects the oppression of national minorities. There is another point to add; it serves no purpose to discuss the blunders of the LTTE with those who do not recognise that the Tamil people are an oppressed minority; purposeless, because it will be an exercise in Tiger bashing without national liberation, sans LTTE, as an objective. Having made this clear let me proceed to communicate with those, the few, who share my space.

The LTTE has been beaten, forever or for the time being I do not know, but it has been trounced by a combination of local and international forces and also by changed circumstances. War between the representatives of about two million people against a state representing 15 million is an uphill task at the best of times, unless like Israel, a global superpower underwrites the venture. Plain demographics were adversely loaded from square one, but that is the case with all minority armed struggles. Then, it is plain idiocy to go antagonise the whole world, have ones logistics, supply chain and funding disrupted, commit crimes against another national minority (Muslims), kill the prospective prime minister of India, and use widespread terrorism. The LTTE was its own worst enemy.

By changed circumstances I am referring to two factors; the large changes in Tamil demographics whereby the young and the able in body, brain and booty, live outside the North-East if they live in Lanka at all, and secondly the global war on terror and India’s induction as an American coolie in that enterprise.

Political zilch and economic goodies

When the LTTE is routed the Tamils are battered; no point pussyfooting about the essential nature of race wars. The majority of Tamils were active or passive supporters of the LTTE, at least at one time. Don’t take my word; this is what the government’s fellow traveller Pilleyan (Chandrakanthan) said about the 1990s in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “We didn’t have doubts. Not only I, the entire Tamil community had faith in the Tigers”LakbimaNews, 15 February. By and large the community remained passive and subcontracted out the national question to the Tigers. This was inevitable if the military strategy is dominant to the near exclusion of everything else – politics, diplomacy, social and civic issues.

Now that the Tigers have been licked what can the Tamils expect? Devolution, ethnic democratisation of the Sinhala State, self-governing arrangements in Tamil regions, a non-unitary constitution; rubbish, none of this will see the light of day. There will be an economic development programme in the North more so than the East, facilitated by foreign aid and according to some reports coordinated and led by India and Indian capital. Sans a political package of deep devolution, and with democratic spaces in the South shrinking, can such a strategy to buy off Tamil nationalism with a peace dividend of economic goodies succeed? That remains to be seen; I veer between watchfulness and deep pessimism. But it remains to be seen whether the programmes really gets of the ground in the midst of a worsening economic prospect for the country, global recession and a still unsettled security scenario.

A campaign is now on to marginalise the TNA, the last remaining and rather limp representative of Tamil nationalism. Obviously there have to be substitutes to put in its place to administer the Northern Province. Quislings are waiting in the wings and known or unbeknown to newspaper editors the stakes are already being laid out by power brokers in the highest echelons of the regime. The LTTE pushed into guerrilla warfare, the TNA marginalised, quislings as satraps and military occupation of Tamil lands! Is this or is this not the recipe for another disaster some years down the road. When will they ever learn, not only in Colombo, but in New Delhi too?

Gratuitous advice for Tamil nationalists

Let me close with a few words of unsolicited advice. The national liberation struggle of the Tamil people must continue until the fundamental nature of the state in Lanka is transformed, but it must be prosecuted by methods starkly different from those of both the Chelvanayagam and the Prabaharan eras. The Tamil nationalist movement must put politics in command and engage with broad struggles on social and economic issues. It must join the current campaign to preserve democratic rights (right to life, right to dissent) and link the demands of national liberation into these tasks. Emphatically, this is not the same as ‘joining the democratic mainstream’, the phoney approach that the regimes new found hangers-on, jaded left-opportunists and recently articulate petty-bourgeois quacks postulate. It is as different as Rosa Luxemburg is from Anadasangaree; though no offence meant to this respected gentleman.

Sunanda Deshapriya : Vikalpa_05

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Sunanda Deshapriya : Vikalpa_04

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