|PEARL’s News Update 29 February 2016
Suspected war criminal Fonseka made minister
Sri Lanka has appointed suspected war criminal Sarath Fonseka as its Minister for Regional Development, in yet another move throwing doubt on the government’s sincerity on dealing with impunity and accountability – The Hindu.
Mr Fonseka meanwhile denied that war crimes occurred and accused head of Human Rights Watch Asia of violating his human rights – Daily FT.
First annual US-Sri Lanka Partnership Dialogue held in Washington DC
Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera visited the US for the first Partnership Dialogue between the two countries. Speaking at a public event in Washington, Mr Samaraweera left open the possibility of allowing international judges and prosecutors and said that a judicial mechanism with special courts would be opened in the next 5 to 6 months. The foreign minister said President Sirisena’s recent statements ruling out international participation were his “personal opinion”. See full video of his speech and the Q&A here.
President Sirisena was reported to be “outraged” by the foreign minister’s comments. “Following Samaraweera’s remarks President Sirisena had told several of his confidantes that he will take up the matter with the former, and will demand a clarification to the effect that the Foreign Minister’s stance on the matter is actually not what the government believes,” – Ceylon Today.
Missing LTTE cadre identified as captured alive by parents
The parents of P Ajinthan, a member of the LTTE who disappeared in 2009, have identified him in a picture showing him in military custody. Testifying at the presidential commission for the disappeared, the parents pointed out their son, surrounded by several other Tamils and armed members of the military in and surrounding a ditch. The photo was first published by the UK’s Channel 4 – Tamil Guardian.
International justice mechanism of “utmost importance” – Amnesty International
Amnesty International last week urged UN Human Rights Council’s member states to ensure justice is delivered to victims in Sri Lanka and highlighted the “utmost importance” of international role in justice mechanism.
“Engagement of international judges, prosecutors, defence lawyers, forensic experts, and victim and witness protection experts will be of the utmost importance to maintain the credibility, independence and effectiveness of the process,” Amnesty said, in a written statement submitted to the UNHRC ahead of the Council’s upcoming session – Tamil Guardian.
Resolution demanding army to vacate Kilinochchi is passed
A resolution was passed by the Kilinochchi district coordinating committee demanding the military leaves the district. Speaking at the event along side C V Wigneswaran, TNA MP, S Sritharan said Kilinochchi was under military rule which was preventing the development of the area into a true city.
“The military is selling black lentils, selling pulses, selling rice, selling white flour. The military is leasing land. It’s the military that’s building schools here. Do you know what the military is doing? It’s doing everything. It’s running pre-school. The military has everything. So what then, it is military rule that is happening here,” Mr Sritharan said – Tamil Guardian.
Torture and impunity persisted in 2015 – Amnesty International
Amnesty International said in their annual report that torture, sexual violence and impunity persisted in 2015. See the full report here.
Army continues to administer pre-schools in North-East
TNA MP Sritharan detailed continuing militarisation of pre-schools and said pupils are made to wear uniforms with army ensigns. When the MP at a district coordinating committee meeting proposed to pass a resolution calling for a halt to militarised school services, some NPC councillors pointed out that President Sirisena had already ordered a halt to employing teachers under the military’s Civilian Defence Force and that this would happen soon – Tamil Diplomat.
Fitch downgrades Sri Lanka’s ratings
Fitch Ratings has downgraded Sri Lanka by one notch to ‘B+’ from ‘BB-‘ with a negative outlook at the lower level, on falling foreign reserves, high debt maturities and lack of policy coherence – Economy Next. Meanwhile Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendra said that Sri Lanka wanted a programme with the IMF to signal investors that an economic strategy with wide consensus was being carried out – Economy Next.
Tamils protest against abduction and rape in North-East
Following the rape and murder of a school girl in Vavuniya, Tamils across the North-East. including in Batticaloa, Kilinochchi, Mullaithivu and Vavuniya, protested, calling on the government to take action against the ongoing sexual violence – Tamil Diplomat & Ceylonews.
Paranagama commission accuses LTTE for majority of disappearances
Sri Lanka’s commission to look into the disappeared said the majority of cases were due to abductions by the LTTE – Ceylonews.
Tamil political prisoners admitted to hospital
Three hunger striking political prisoners have been forcefully admitted to hospital – TamilNet.
Two UN officials to visit Sri Lanka in April
UN special rapporteurs on the independence of judges and lawyers Marco Pinto and on torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment Juan Mendez will visit Sri Lanka in April, after the new government agreed on proposed dates – Gulf Times.
OPINIONS & REPORTS
The US must pay more attention to Sri Lanka’s transitional justice debate
“It’s imperative that the international community, especially the United States, keep the pressure on Sri Lanka to help consolidate the nation’s recent democratic gains and assist a war-torn country build a durable peace. By speaking with a clear voice on the toughest of subjects during the U.S.-Sri Lanka Partnership Dialogue, Washington would be sending a strong message to the political leadership in Colombo. The United States would also be communicating directly with the Sri Lankan people: Even though Sri Lanka’s path toward transitional justice and a lasting peace is a process that’s owned and managed by Sri Lankans, it’s a journey that the U.S. will remain deeply committed to – by leading from the front,” Taylor Dibbert in The Diplomat.
Opinion poll on Constitutional Reform highlights ethnic divide
An opinion poll conducted by the CPA asked a representative poll sample of people in Sri Lanka several questions on constitutional reform. including on the role of Buddhism and the unitary nature of the state – for full report by the CPA see here.
Sri Lanka’s victims demand and deserve credible justice
“‘The regime has changed, but the system remains the same; how can we expect justice from them?,’ asked a Tamil nun who survived the brutal conflict between the Sri Lankan Government and the Tamil Tigers in Vavuniya district in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province.”
“Her sentiments echo a growing sense of skepticism shared by many in the country’s north and east in the willingness and ability of the Sri Lankan State to deliver justice and accountability for victims of the conflict and their families.” – Nikhil Narayan, International Commission of Jurists’ South Asia senior legal adviser – Groundviews.