|PEARL’s News Update 07 March 2016
Protesters demand release of Tamil detainees
Families of Tamil political prisoners detained by the Sri Lankan security services held a hunger strike by the Muniyappar temple in Jaffna, calling for their immediate release – Tamil Guardian. Another protest was held earlier in the week – Tamil Guardian. A hunger strike by some of the detainees is continuing – Tamil Diplomat.
Military gifts its own land to “needy” armed forces personnel, while Tamil protests continue
Sri Lanka’s Navy has handed over land plots owned by the military in the South of the island to “needy serving personnel” – Sri Lanka Air Force. Meanwhile Tamils in the North-East continued protests demanding the return of land taken by the military – Tamil Guardian.
Government backtracks on media censorship
Sri Lanka’s government Thursday admitted it had no legal authority to call for the registration of news websites and rolled back an order which amounted to regulation and potential censorship of the Internet – Economy Next.
Military opens Hindu temple in Kilinochchi
The Civil Security Department, which falls under the military has opened a Hindu temple in Kilinochchi and laid the foundations for another one in Viswamadu – Daily Mirror.
Swiss NGOs warn its too early to send Tamil asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka
During his recent visit to Bern, Sri Lanka’s foreign minister promised his citizens living in Switzerland a safe return to the island. Yet some Swiss non-governmental groups say it is still much too early for asylum seekers to go back – Swiss Info.
International participation for advice only – Minister Sarath Fonseka
Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, who is suspected to be responsible for grave human rights violations during the armed conflict, says he welcomed international participation as long as it was in an advisory capacity. Fonseka, who was made made a cabinet minister by the Sirisena-government in February, said their participation would help clear his own name and that of the military, as it was the international community that made the allegations. He further said that he was “100% sure” that the army as a whole did not commit war crimes – The Nation.
PTA to be amended or repealed?
The government has put forward an amended version of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, saying the changes would “protect human rights” – Ceylon Today. The government had previously agreed to “review and repeal” the draconian act, including in the UN Human Rights Council resolution which it co-sponsored last year. Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera only last week said his government intended to “repeal” the PTA – Daily Mirror.
Sri Lanka brings back war time measures to combat gangs
Sri Lanka’s police have re-introduced war-time road blocks and random checks on vehicles following a surge in gang-related shootings in the capital. More than 100 police stations in Colombo and its suburbs have been asked to erect snap blocks, a common practice during the island’s separatist war that ended nearly seven years ago, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said – AFP.
TNA committed to self-determination within merged North-East in a federal Sri Lanka – Sampanthan
“We have not achieved our target yet. Our political journey will continue until we achieve our political ambition of self-determination within a merged North and East under a federal form of Constitution in a united Sri Lanka. Until then our political activities will continue. We hope a reasonable political solution could be found through talks,” said TNA leader Rajavarothayam Sampanthan – Ceylon Today.
India confronts controversy over trade deal with Sri Lanka
India’s High Commissioner Y.K. Sinha has confronted opposition to the proposed Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) between India and Sri Lanka, which has been the subject of much controversy on the island – The Hindu. Meanwhile, it was reported that the recent US-Sri Lanka Partnership Dialogue could lead to the touted land bridge between India’s Tamil Nadu and the Tamil-dominated North-East in Sri Lanka – The New Indian Express.
Kodikamam rail station was a torture camp – witness
Amid allegations that torture and sexual abuses are still ongoing in Sri Lanka, an eye-witness has told the Paranagama Missing Persons Commission that the military had used the old Kodikamam railway station in the Northern Jaffna peninsula as one of its torture camps – Ceylonews.
Hindus should overcome pettiness – Ranil
Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has asked the Hindu community to overcome pettiness and work towards a constructive engagement with all communities – Colombo Page.
Sri Lanka dismisses sovereign rating downgrade
Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister and Central Bank Governor has dismissed a rating and outlook downgrade by Fitch deeper into junk status, saying it was an isolated action by one agency and markets had already factored in the bad news – Economy Next.
OPINIONS & FEATURES
The dangers of trade deals with the Sri Lankan military
“[Ongoing] problems don’t seem to be priorities for the German Ministry of Economy and the Foreign Office during Sirisena’s Berlin visit. A German trade visit to Sri Lanka is planned for this May. It’s unlikely that companies and trade associations will address the fallout from the conflict in northern Sri Lanka. But the current negotiations between the EU and Sri Lanka on tax exemptions (GSP+) offer a chance to call for new standards and evaluate the results of the previous negotiations in 2010. Without intense scrutiny of the root causes of the conflict, investment from Germany and other European countries risks reinforcing ethnic discrimination and hindering reconciliation in Sri Lanka.” – European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights.
Fertilizer subsidy, IMF and new agriculture
This week, the Cabinet of Ministers was at pains to find a via-medium. Financial experts and industry sources say a billion dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was at stake. The IMF has a familiar formula for giving loans to economically developing countries; put your house in order is the bottom line. To heck with the political fall-out. It is called officially, Structural Adjustment Policies. For Governments that must fall in line with this fiat; you are damned if you do, you are damned if you don’t. – Editorial Sunday Times.
Don’t blame it on the Norwegians – Interview with Mark Salter
“I think there were some key moments when things could really have gone differently. The first was the GoSL’s decision to hold a donor conference in Washington DC in spring 2003. That really upset the LTTE, as their proscribed status in the USA meant they were not allowed to attend the conference. It’s true that the GoSL gave Balasingham the heads-up on their plans but even so, it was a decision that betrayed a lack of sensitivity to the LTTE’s desire for equal treatment. You can argue all you like that the government of a sovereign State and a rebel organization shouldn’t be treated the same. But that misses the point that for the purposes of a peace process, success depends critically on the extent to which all parties feel they are being treated with equal consideration and respect.
The next was the GoSL response to the LTTE’s Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA) proposal in late 2003. Lots of official ink has been spilled explaining that it was an outrageous document calling for a de facto Independent Tamil entity in the North, and thus fully deserved to be dismissed out of hand. Problems with this analysis of the ISGA contents aside, first, it needs be emphasized that it was the product of a real effort by the LTTE to respond to the GoSL’s long-standing calls for them to come up with a political proposal. And it should have been treated as such, not just as a scheming, manipulative move unworthy of serious consideration.Second, it seems clear that the LTTE intended the ISGA proposal to serve as a negotiation document. In other words the details – both minor and substantive – were up for discussion. For both these reasons, then, what was needed was a GoSL response that welcomed the ISGA as an opportunity to kick-start dialogue – and in the process, perhaps, revive peace talks that had been stalled since the LTTE suspended its participation in the wake of the Washington donor meeting.The third crucial (lost) moment of opportunity came following the tsunami.
Here, within several weeks of an enormous tragedy that engulfed the (mainly Tamil) population of the North-East as much as the Sinhala-dominated South, you had the LTTE leadership agreeing to participate in a national relief structure – the P-TOMS – in a way that implied recognition of official i.e. government-controlled structures: something they had never done before. For a brief period, there was hope that the P-TOMS might point the way forward: that as in Aceh, the tsunami tragedy might prove instrumental in heralding resolution of Sri-Lanka’s equally long-running conflict.
But as we know, this was not to be. And it was a huge, missed opportunity. Some argue that the P-TOMS’ failure was the point at which the LTTE effectively gave up on the peace process. If Colombo couldn’t even agree on a mechanism that would enable relief to get through to people living in LTTE-controlled areas, then what was the point of further talks?” – Ceylon Today