Showing posts with label Tamil. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tamil. Show all posts

Thursday, June 16, 2011

People's Liberation Front (JVP) initiative for the human rights of Tamil political prisoners

We adopted the following news story from the People's Liberation Front (JVP) affiliated Lanka Truth website.

The 'We are Sri Lankans' is also a human rights initiative of the JVP.

We identify this trend of the JVP as a unique phenomenon. JVP backed the war that was the main reason for the violation of human rights of the Tamils.

‘We are Sri Lankans (WESL)’ an organization agitating for the release of Tamil political prisoners said Tuesday(14) Tamils held in prisons and detention camps countrywide were allegedly being abused and neglected by prison authorities.
WESL Executive Committee member Udul Premaratne told a media briefing they had received information that individuals who were arrested on suspicion of having links to the LTTE were being harassed by inmates and prison officers.
“These detainees are being mistreated simply because they are ‘Tamil political prisoners’. However, it is an act of injustice to allow them to languish in detention camps without filing charges against them. So far the government has even failed to release the names of those being detained in such centres,” he charged.
Referring to a statement made by Minister Dinesh Gunawardena that at present only about 700 are being detained as LTTE suspects, Mr. Premaratne said the number was quite different to that released by government sources earlier. “According to the government, some 1,700 identified as hardcore LTTE cadres at detention camps. If these figures are accurate, how can the number now suddenly decrease to a mere 700? What happened to the others?” Mr. Premaratne asked.
He said the relatives of some of these individuals were mistreated and even sexually harassed by prisons officials during their visits to the prisons. “A large number are continuing to be detained because of the language barrier and the lack of means for legal support,” he added.
Mr. Premaratne said if the government was genuinely interested in restoring peace in the country, it was vital for it to focus attention on the issue of political prisoners and establish a mechanism to ensure that individuals without any charges are released.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Sinhalese displaced from Jaffna and Tamils displaced from the rest of the island

(October 11, 2010, Colombo - Lanka Polity, Ajith Perakum JayasingheLanka, irrespective whether it is Jaffna or Hambanthota is a multi-ethnic multi-religious country since times known.

A minority Sinhalese community lived in Jaffna before the escalation of hostilities in 1980s. Famous stories say they ran the bakery business there. Several university dons, namely Sucharitha Gamlath and Sunil Ariyarathna taught in the Sinhala Department of Jaffna University before 1983.

The fond memories of multi ethnic Tamil dominated Jaffna shattered with escalation of war. Tamil Tigers resorted to military strategies that attributed to ethnic cleansing. But, a Jaffna which was meant to be out of bound for Sinhalese and Muslims soon became a hub for tens of thousands of militarized Sinhalese young men that guarded the city with suspicious watchful eyes penetrating the Jaffna Tamils.

Now the war is over although conflict drags on at different levels. An apparently organized Sinhala group of around 200 families led by yet to be disclosed elements has emerged in Jaffna seeking land to resettle in what they call either the birthplace or the former residential town of theirs. They say their claim is rational although they had no proof for land ownership there.

Jaffna peninsula is a crowded area where a large extent  of land is still under Army high security zones. It is not easy to grant the demands of these Sinhalese families, although their claims can be justifiable.

Many thousands of Tamils also lived similarly in many areas in Sinhala dominated south and they too were displaced mainly as a result of 1983 July ethnic violence against Tamils. They either resettled or began to repeatedly displace elsewhere. What can the government do if all these people come back and ask for land in the places where they lived before they were dislocated by the circumstances of history?

For instance, Anuradhapura is a city a sizable Tamil population lived.  Only a few remained there after 1983 violence and the Tamil Tiger attack in the city in 1985. Some land the Tamils owned were grabbed by others and sometimes government used them in development projects.

What if the Tamils that lived in Anuradhapura return there and seek refuge in the city railway station pleading resettlement. Is the government ready to accept the returning Tamils in the same vein the Sinhalese are admitted and provided security at Jaffna railway station.

If the government redress the Sinhala people displaced from Jaffna it will rationalize the claims of the Tamils for similar treatment. But, the problem here is if this kind of development will create any positive impact in regard of reconciliation.

Won't the Sinhalese if they would be resettled in Jaffna face hostilities from the jealous Tamils who think the Sinhalese are responsible for their plight? Are Tamils' mindset broad enough to admit them as brethren?

In such context, are Sinhalese in south ready to admit the Tamils also in similar vein, if they return to pre-1983 context?

Status quo can be a better solution for some problems although it causes injustice in some senses.

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cheap labour from IDPs of Sri Lanka changing the labour terrain

By Ajith Perakum Jayasinghe

(August 29, 2010, Colombo - Lanka PolityWorking class of Sri Lanka is facing new challenges following the defeat of the Tamil liberation struggle and the capitalist re-unification of the state structure.

In the latest development, the garment factory owners struggling to survive amidst the loss of GSP Plus tax concessions from European Union are in a mass recruitment drive of Tamil girls among IDPs for cheap labour in factories.

Anton Marcus, President of the Progressive Free Trade Zone and Apparel Union told the Sunday Times, “After many years of war, the people in these areas are ignorant of workers rights, wages and so on and are easy prey for the apparel operators. Most of the big names currently touring the north and east are known to be serious violators of labour laws. There is a huge dearth of factory hands at the moment because many are leaving owing to poor wages and working and living conditions. Therefore the apparel bosses have switched to the north and east where there is widespread unemployment. These people are willing to work for any wage and they care less about the working or living conditions. At the end of the day, these workers will be exploited.”

The trend recalls the history of colonial planters importing low-income group people from South India as plantation workers in the 19th century. Poverty stricken Sinhala villagers that lost their traditional livelihood due to land grab of the colonial companies grew a deep rooted jealousy and hatred with the Indian workers and it still prevails even more than 60 years after gaining independence. To appease them, Sinhala rulers took back the citizenship right of these Tamil workers and deported thousands of them against their wish. Indian origin Tamils are still struggling far behind the other communities to achieve due equality.

The cheap labour available in recently re-unified areas of Sri Lanka may have a greater impact on Sri Lanka's labour market in recent future with the revocation of restrictions of mobility that were imposed on security concerns. Even now, the cheap labour from the workers of minority communities have changed the labour terrain in rice cultivating districts like Polonnaruwa.

This can cause a new challenge to the workers' movements since there is a possibility of emergence of a new wave of racism among workers that clash in labour market for better demand for them. Similar riots took place in some states of India in recent times.

Another kind of manipulated labour migration is also visible in re-unified areas. The state and private companies that carry out development projects in Northern Province take labourers from south to north due to security and other issues instead of recruiting labourers from IDPs.

Media reports say even India is to bring a 20,000 workforce to Sri Lanka to employ in the 50,000 numbers mega housing project for IDPs of Northern Province.

Less attention is paid both by Sri Lanka and India regarding the feeble voice of the IDPs demanding employment in these development projects.

Governments are yet to identify that they are providing breeding grounds for fragmented Tamil nationalist forces that are manipulating the situation to revive Tamil racism among IDPs.

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Electoral reforms or state reforms? Listen to minority communities of Sri Lanka

(July 17, 2010, Colombo - Lanka Polity)A dialogue is underway between the President and the major opposition United National Party (UNP) regarding the constitutional reforms.

This dialogue can at least have an impact on the President Mahinda Rajapaksa's possible backward moves to guarantee a royal future for his son Namal Rajapaksa as his uncontested successor.

Opposition can push the President for more democratic reforms even in the context the President may try to achieve his ulterior goals. The President's plans to remove the two-term limit of Presidential terms have been challenged indirectly by his party stalwarts as well as his family. He cannot push Namal into the throne so easily in this backdrop.

Now, the President indicates that he is ready to extend this dialogue even to get the National Democratic Alliance (DNA) that comprises of his arch rival ex-Army Comander and defeated Presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka and the Marxist People's Liberation Front (JVP) involved in it.

But still there are no indications that he is going to have a proper dialogue with the representatives of the minority communities of Sri Lanka at least regarding electoral reforms.

In the Presidential campaigns of both opposition and government candidates in the election 2010, both candidates promised to abolish the executive presidency. Mahinda Rajapaksa promised in 2005 to abolish this draconian power within his first tenure itself. Still he has time until November in which he has planned to swear in for the second term.

Ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) has a long history of promising to abolish executive Presidency. In 1994, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumarathunga promised to do so but remained clinging in the power for two terms and passed the hat to the next President.

The proportional representation system has also come under severe criticism in the majority Sinhala community. They try to project their need for change as a common need of the entire polity undermining contradictory views or reservations of the minority communities.

After all, while all were in a verbal war regarding the constitutional reforms, the Tamils in Northern and Eastern Provinces fought a bitter battle for state reforms. They experimented in state formation as well through the Tamil Tigers' state within the state.

Therefore, they are the people that should be consulted somehow if the government really want a sustainable peace through whatever the reforms they are going to propose. But the moves in this regard must be beyond simple electoral reforms. Their demand for a state reform is still valid although the Tamil Tigers' armed struggle was defeated. Tamil struggle has not ended although their armed fight has been defeated.

Meanwhile, the minorities living among the majority community are in fear of losing whatever representation they now enjoy through the electoral reforms.

'The issue of electoral reforms are very fundamental for the Tamil and Muslim minorities live in the southern districts than their counterparts in the northern and eastern provinces. President and leader of opposition should take the Tamil speaking minorities into confidence when dealing with this issue,' said Democratic People's Front (DPF) leader Mano Ganesan in a release issued by the DPF media office.

Ganesan says further in the release, "The national consensus today is for a mixed electoral system encompassing positive features of both first past the post (FPP) and Proportional representation (PR) systems. We endorse this consensus and subsequent national search for an appropriate system. The established apprehension along the line of search is that complete doing away with the PR system would cut down the representations of the minorities inappropriately.

"It should be understood that if any unfair system is implemented, the numerical minority Tamils and Muslims living in the southern districts will be the most affected than their counterparts in the northern and eastern provinces. This is being one of the major core issues being debated over the years in respect of the electoral reforms subject. The fear of the numerical minorities should not be under estimated."

We would like to highlight the following part that clearly portrays the danger of the electoral reforms that does not parallel with state reforms. "Even the mixed system, which is being projected is also has sent an impression of distrust amidst the minority political parties representing the Tamil speaking people live in the southern districts outside north and east. It is essential that all possible avenues must be tried to arrive at the most suitable electoral system. The suitability is to ensure fair minority representation while accommodating positives features of both PR and FPP systems. Disfranchisement and violent denials of voting rights of the Tamil people to elect their democratic representatives have led to turmoil in the past. DPF calls upon the president and leader of opposition to take the minorities into confidence by being mindful of the fear."

This enfranchisement of minority communities in certain districts has already taken place. For instance, the Muslims of Kaluthara district have lost their long lasted parliamentary representation that was guaranteed before the PR system was introduced via Beruwala muti-seat electorate. The sizable community of Indian-origin Tamils that live in this district do not have representation at least in the Western Provincial Council.

These are only two examples. We have just come out of a bloody ethnic war and what now we are in dire need is the reconciliation. among ethnic communities For that, the minority communities are needed to be empowered politically so that they can use their franchise for the development of their community.

For this, we need a state reform plus electoral reforms. These two are like the two wheels of a bullock cart. If one is oversize or under-sized we will not go forward. Instead we will come to the same place after some time.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Sri Lanka's JVP again resorting to anti devolution politics

(April 23, Colombo - Lanka Polity)  Sri Lanka's prominent left movement People's Liberation Front (JVP) that lost a number of parliamentary seats they held since 2004, seems to resort to anti devolution politics once again to find a path to get out of the stalemate they are stuck in now.

JVP, that sprang out of village Sinhala youth in late 60s and early 70s inherited a mint of anti Tamil Sinhala chauvinism from its beginning and it widely resorted to anti devolution politics in its second uprising in late 1980s.

After the repression in 1989 in which almost the entire leadership was eliminated, JVP re-entered mainstream politics in 1994. Since then, the JVP's political strategies were decided in a fear psychosis vis-a-vis breakaway Sinhala arch nationalist leader Champika Ranawaka. JVP was always in fear that Ranawaka would win the Sinhala radical youth from them and moved in nationalist path in a race with Ranawaka trying to overtake him.

This conflict paved way Mahinda Rajapaksa, a capitalist politician with a background of rural nobility, to rise in power yielding what sown by the nationalists turned radicals. With the nationalist war and the victory of the Rajapaksa-led Sinhala forces, JVP that grudgingly evaded practically supporting the war was alienated from the nationalist state set up in which Champika Ranawaka had fairly consolidated as an individual.

JVP contested the 2010 general election in a coalition with ex-Army Commander and defeated Presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka who was jailed by the ruling regime and secured four seats for the party while the coalition won seven seats.

However, the party is no more a king maker in Sri Lankan politics and the leadership is facing a fast deteriorating party support base that is frustrated with the party's failure to achieve tangible gains for them.

At this juncture too, some of the prominent JVP leaders still seem to think that they may find a way out of this trouble via anti devolution politics since the newly mandated government is tended to go for devolution as a solution for the ethnic problem in an understanding with the major Tamil constituent Tamil National Alliance and India.

This can be very well observed in the present content of the JVP's propaganda organs like Lanka Sinhala newspaper and Lanka Truth website. These media try to portray a picture that the government is conspiring with India to set forth a set of proposals to devolve power to Northern and Eastern Provinces to address the long standing demand of the Tamil politicians to strengthen their national identity in politics.

We do not think this is a right moment for a campaign like what JVP led in 1987 against Provincial Councils that were introduced under Indo-Lanka peace accord. After all the Provincial Councils were in practice for more than 20 years. JVP also represented them. The major Tamil force that rejected the Provincial Councils targeting a separate Tamil state is too a non-entity in practical politics in Sri Lanka. Tamil National Alliance is also ready to accept a solution that goes a little distance beyond the Provincial Council system under the present unitary state structure.

Progressive forces of the country should try at this moment to push the government to begin a new dialogue with the minorities that are fighting for identity in politics and to come to a settlement. This will not only benefit the capitalist development but it will also enhance the development of society and polity. Leftists should not worry about what the capitalism achieves through a compromise in national issue. The solution will also pave way for broader unity among downtrodden masses as well superimposing the national divisions that restrict their struggles against evils of capitalism.

by Ajith Perakum Jayasinghe

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

International Crisis Group on Sri Lankan issue

(February 24, Colombo - Lanka Polity)  Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora groups should move away, once and for all, from the failed agenda of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and instead put their energies into the quest for a sustainable and just peace in a united Sri Lank, says International Crisis Group, a think tank studying the conflicts in the world.

Following is the full text of their report:

The Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora after the LTTE,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines political dynamics within the Tamil diaspora since May 2009, as Tamils abroad adapt to the LTTE’s defeat. It also looks at the potential for new forms of militancy within the diaspora, especially among the younger generations, radicalised by the deaths of thousands of Tamil civilians in the final months of the war. While there is little chance of the Tamil Tigers regrouping in the diaspora, most Tamils abroad remain profoundly committed to a separate state of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka.

“New diaspora initiatives attempt to carry forward the struggle for an independent state in more transparent and democratic ways, but they must repudiate the LTTE’s violent methods”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “And they must also recognise that the LTTE’s separatist agenda is out of step with the wishes and needs of Tamils in Sri Lanka”.

The gap between the diaspora and Tamils in Sri Lanka has widened. Most in the country are exhausted by decades of war and are more concerned with rebuilding their lives under difficult circumstances than in continuing the fight for an independent state. Without the LTTE to enforce a common political line, Tamil leaders in Sri Lanka are proposing substantial reforms within a united Sri Lanka. While Tamils have the democratic right to espouse separatism non-violently, Tamil Eelam has virtually no domestic or international backing. With the Sri Lankan government assuming Tamils abroad remain committed to violent means, the diaspora’s continued calls for a separate state feed the fears of the Rajapaksa administration and provid e excuses for maintaining destructive anti-terrorism and emergency laws.

The Sri Lankan government must address the legitimate grievances at the root of the conflict: the political marginalisation and physical insecurity of most Tamils in Sri Lanka. The international community needs to press Colombo much more strongly for political and constitutional reforms. Donors should insist that money given to redevelop the north and east is tied closely to the demilitarisation and democratisation of the region. This should include giving Tamils and Muslims a meaningful role in determining the future of the areas where they have long been the majority. Donor governments and the United Nations must also insist on an independent investigation into the thousands of Tamil civilians killed in the final months of 20fighting in 2009.

“Tamils in Sri Lanka currently have little appetite for a return to armed struggle”, says Robert Templer. “But should the Sri Lankan state continue to fail to respond to their collective aspirations, some may eventually seek a solution through violence and could find willing partners in the diaspora”.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Freedom offered by Sri Lanka government to Tamil IDPs backlashes

(December 21, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Sri Lanka government says it has opened the main highway from Colombo to Jaffna and people now can travel on the road without passes issued by the Ministry of Defense. The government has sped up the resettlement of Tamil refugees and say they provide all facilities to the people 'liberated' from the iron arm of the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE).

President Mahinda Rajapakse has called an early presidential to get himself elected for a second term before the warmth of the war victory wanes. However, with the ex-Army Commander Sarath Fonseka's coming forward as the opposition common candidate, Sinhala polity is divided and the winner of the presidential depends on minority votes.

President Mahinda Rajapakse has directed his powerful brother Basil Rajapakse, an adviser, for bargaining votes for freedom among the desperate Tamil IDPs. As a result, the Tamils of Vanni now enjoy better treatment from the 'liberator.'

But the 'freedom' also has repercussions. People are on the verge of opening their mouths on the experiences in the hands of the 'liberators' who are now facing war crime allegations due to the inhuman conduct in the final phase of war.

At least one Tamil woman who lived in the government declared 'no fire zone' until 'liberated' by the 'humanitarian operation' of the state security forces has opened her mouth to global media. Thamilvani Gnanakumar, 25, was in the 'no-fire zone' assisting people in health care and she was released after confining her for several months in Manik Farm 'welfare village' what she calls a concentration camp. Vani, a biomedical graduate, is a Sri Lankan origin UK citizen and talked to The Observer from her house in Essex describing her harrowing experience.

She says she waited until now to reveal the full scale of her ordeal in the hope of avoiding reprisals against friends and family held with her. They have now been released after the Sri Lankan government bowed to international pressure this month and opened the camps.

Following are several excerpts from her interview with the UK newspaper:

"It was a concentration camp, where people were not even allowed to talk, not even allowed to go near the fences.

"They were kept from the outside world. The government didn't want people to tell what happened to them, about the missing or the disappearances or the sexual abuse. They didn't want anyone to know.
"Sexual abuse is something that was a common thing, that I personally saw. In the visitor area relatives would be the other side of the fence and we would be in the camp. Girls came to wait for their relatives and military officers would come and touch them, and that's something I saw.

"The girls usually didn't talk back to them, because they knew that in the camp if they talked anything could happen to them. It was quite open, everyone could see the military officers touching the girls," she said.

"Tamil girls usually don't talk about sexual abuse, they won't open their mouths about it, but I heard the officers were giving the women money or food in return for sex. These people were desperate for everything.

"One time I saw an old man was waiting to visit the next camp and this military officer hit the old man. I don't know what the argument was, but the officer just hit him in the back.
"In the same area people were made to kneel down in the hot weather for arguing with the officers. Sometimes it lasted for hours.

"They were asking people to come in and take their names down if they had any sort of contact [with the Tamil Tigers]. They did an investigation and then a van would come in and they would take them away and nobody would know after that. I know people still searching for family members.

Kumar said that on arrival at the camp, near the northern town of Vavuniya, she was put in a large tent with several people she did not know. The camp was guarded by armed soldiers and ringed with high fences and rolls of razor wire. "The first two or three days I was alone there still scare me. When I arrived at the camp I put my bag down and just cried. That feeling still won't go. I just don't want to think about those two or three days in the camp, the fear about what was going to happen to me.

"For the first few days I didn't eat anything. We didn't know where to go to get food. I thought, 'Am I dreaming or is this really happening?' I never thought I would end up in a camp." Tens of thousands of people were crammed into flimsy tents which provided little respite from the intense heat. Toilets and washing facilities could not cope with the demands and food and water were in short supply.

"You have to bathe in an open area in front of others, which I find very uneasy. I stayed next to the police station, so every day I had a bath with the police officers looking at me, men and women. Everyone can see you when you are having a bath. So I would get up early in the morning about 3.30am, so it was dark," she said.

Kumar was held in the best-equipped part of the camp, but even there conditions were dire. "It is not a standard a human being can live in. The basic needs like water and food [were] always a problem. Most of the time you were queuing for water.

"The toilets were terrible, and there was not enough water, so we could not clean them. There were insects and flies everywhere. After two or three days of continuous rain, the sewage was floating on the water and going into the tents and everyone [was] walking through it, up to knee height." She was finally released into the custody of the British High Commission in early September.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Crucial conference of Tamil speaking politicians of Sri Lanka in Zurich

(November 20, Colombo - Lanka Polity) A highly important conference of Tamil speaking political parties of Sri Lanka is now being held in Zurich, Switzerland. The conference started yesterday and it is scheduled to end tomorrow.

The conference attended by the political parties that are 'no further engaged' in the agenda of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) is organized by the Tamil Information Center. However, the organization website had no information regarding the conference signal ling that the conference is a hurried arrangement.

Franlyn R. Sathyapalan writes to The Island, "The London based Tamil Information Centre, which was an alliance of Tamil militant groups, was founded in 1984 and had its head office in India. It became dysfunctional following the Indo-Lanka Agreement in 1987 and subsequently got amalgamated to the pro LTTE Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO). After the defeat of the LTTE it had been taken over by the Tamil Diaspora, Tamil political sources said."

Representatives of the TNA, TULF, EPDP, CWC, UPF, DPF, PLOTE, TELO, ACRC, SLMC, TMVP, and EPRLF (both Naba and Varatha wings) are participating in this conference. They are namely Rajavarothayam Sampanthan, the parliamentary group leader of Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Mavai Senathirajah (TNA), Suresh Premachandran (EPRLF-S, TNA), Gajendrakumar Ponnampalam (All Ceylon Tamil Congress, TNA), Arumugam Thondaman (CWC),Muthu Sivalingam (CWC), Mano Ganesan (DPA), Douglas Devananda (EPDP), P. Chandrasekaran (UPF), Ananda Sangaree (TULF), T. Sritharan (EPRLF-P), Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan (TMVP), D. Siddharthan (PLOTE) and Rauff Hakeem (SLMC).

Pro-LTTE Tamilnet indirectly said that the conference has been arranged by UK and US with support of India aiming to ‘extracting’ a joint proclamation of the participants to come out with a political programme to achieve ‘minimum’ demands.

Meanwhile, pro-LTTE Tamil nationalist elements are in a move to re-mandating the Vaddukkoaddai Resolution of 1976 that provided the base for the struggle for Tamil Ealam. They are holding elections for a transnational self-governing arrangement of the Ealam Tamils and first of such elections were held in Norway on last Sunday.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sri Lanka's military strategy to curb Tamil nationalist sentiments among IDPs under pressure

(Lanka Polity - July 20, 2009) International media reports and unofficial local reports say that Sri Lanka government's military strategy to suppress the nationalist sentiments among the Tamils displaced from the formerly rebel-held Vanni in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka is under pressure due to international human rights concerns, lack of resources to hold people for long period of time and also due to the unrest among the inmates of the military-run refugee camps.

The government tirelessly counters media and other reports regarding the situation in the refugee camps. Government officials presented facts last week to prove that the skeptical media reports on the mortality rate in the camps were inaccurate and the rates were within the accepted parameters. However, the government has pressed the aid workers to sign agreements to prevent leaking out information regarding the camp life to media. The government has to permit the aid workers to enter into the well guarded camps since they are a vital part for running them. The inmates of the camps are restricted to move out and the outsiders sans the permitted individuals are allowed into them.

The camps cost nearly $400,000 (over Rs. 45 million) a day to operate. The U.N. called for $270 million in aid to Sri Lanka this year, but only $96 million has been promised. "The lack of funds forced aid groups have cut back on fruit and vegetables for the camps, leaving many with little more than rice and lentils," AP reported.

In January, the government asked international donors to help build five camps — with 39,000 semi-permanent homes, 7,800 toilets and 390 community centers — to hold civilians for up to three years. This proposal came under heavy criticism from the Western nations. The government says to India and other international players that the majority of the refugees will be resettled within this year.

In June, chicken pox was rampant and cases of typhoid, tuberculosis, skin and respiratory infections, hepatitis A, scabies and diarrhea have begun cropping up, according to U.N. reports. The camps currently have only about 9,215 toilets while 15,000 are needed, UN officials said. There is not enough suitable land to build more toilet, they point out. 

More than 35 percent of children under 5 are suffering from wasting, or acute malnutrition, according to a July 3 government presentation leaked to the AP.

The Sunday Times reported on July 19 that 14 new encephalitis cases were detected in the Vavuniya General Hospital over the past week. With that, Vavuniya-based United Nations staff providing relief services to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have been advised to keep away from the hospital due to the outbreak of meningitis and encephalitis, the paper said. Sunday Times further said while the fatality rate of meningitis cases treated in all government hospitals in Sri Lanka from 2000 to 2005 had dropped to less than five percent, the fatality rate in the Vavuniya General Hospital is about 50 percent.

"Tents meant for five are packed with up to 15 people, water is scarce and the seasonal rains expected in the coming weeks could create a health nightmare, several foreign aid workers said. Relatives are not allowed to visit, although many gather at the barbed wire fence hoping to get messages to their loved ones. Opposition lawmakers are barred as well, and independent journalists are only allowed in on rare, military-guided tours.
Signs of unrest are growing. Several weeks ago, inmates held a protest demanding they be reunited with family members in other fenced-off sections of the camp, aid workers said. Military troops shot in the air to disperse the angry residents," AP reported.

Several hand-written posters were put up in a part of the camps supporting the militarily defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) several weeks ago alerting military intelligence regarding the developments among the camp inmates.

Meanwhile, President Mahinda Rajapakse said in an election rally in Uva Province last week that the authorities released 3000 over 60 years of age people from the camps and a number of aged LTTE supporters got freedom with them.

Sinhala majority of the country widely support the government's policy on the displaced Tamils and the ruling party is slated a landslide victory in the upcoming elections.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A post-Sarath Nanda Silva scenario in the making?

(July 98m 2009) Two fundamental rights petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court seeking changes to the verdicts delivered under the purview of the former Chief Justice Sarath Nanda Silva

One petition was filed by B. K. Abhaya Padmasiri Balasuriya of Bahirawakanda, Kandy citing that the former Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva, when he was the Chairman of the Court of Appeal, made a district court judge of Kandy to lodge a false complaint against him and he was remanded for 294 days as a result of it.

The petitioner says that the former Chief Justice chased him away without allowing him to make clarifications last year when he attempted to proceed with a fundamental rights petition. He also said that he had to wait until the former Chief Justice retired to resubmit the petition.

In the second incident, the Asia Pacific Golf Course Limited, Access International and the owners Water's Edge residencies have appealed through a motion for reconsidering the verdict in relation to the property citing that they incurred losses due to the Supreme Court verdict to revert them to the state. 

In Sri Lanka’s Judiciary: Politicised Courts, Compromised Rights, the latest policy report from the International Crisis Group, warned that the Sri Lankan judiciary is not working in a fair and impartial way that secures justice and human rights for everyone regardless of ethnicity. This risks undermining the government’s recent military victory over the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam). A durable national reconciliation process is only possible if human and constitutional rights are fully restored.

“The judiciary has not acted as a check on presidential and legislative power but has instead contributed to the political alienation of Tamils”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “Under the former chief justice, the Supreme Court’s rulings strengthened political hardliners among Sinhala nationalist parties”.
Rather than assuaging conflict, the courts have corroded the rule of law and worsened ethnic tensions. They are neither constraining militarization of Sri Lankan society nor protecting minority rights. Instead, a politicized bench has entrenched favored allies, punished foes and blocked compromises with the Tamil minority. The judiciary’s intermittent interventions on important political questions have limited settlement options for the ethnic conflict.

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