Haunted By Her Yesterdays: Women Fighters of LTTE #Vaw #Video #mustwatch


This documentary tells a story of silent agony, trapped screams and repressed mourning. A story of women forced to deny their identity — who are trapped in between a government which sees them as “Tigers,” and a society whose norms they are no longer deemed worthy of.

These women fought bravely alongside men as members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during Sri Lanka‘s bloody thirty-year civil war. From protectors and defenders of their families, villages and nation, thousands of female ex-combatants have now returned home to assume more traditional roles as mothers, wives, widows, and teachers — in communities where they are perpetually shunned. Through several powerful voices, “Haunted by Her Yesterdays” allows a few to share their pain and suffering — the wounds that remain unhealed, the scars that are impossible to ignore and the hearts that still burn with pain, passion and grief — for the world to hear. This film is a gripping tale of loss, betrayal and struggle, but –above all else — it is a search for inspiration and a call for action. As the country’s war-torn North and East struggles to rebuild itself, this documentary tells a deeply moving story that has been overlooked for far too long.

 

‘Probe sexual violence against Tamils in Sri Lanka’ #Vaw


NEW DELHI, February 22, 2013

J. Balaji, The Hindu

File photo of Brad Adams, Asia Director, Human Rights Watch

The Hindu File photo of Brad Adams, Asia Director, Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch’s report to be released on Monday

The Human Rights Watch (HRW), a global human rights organisation, has sought an international investigation into reports of sexual violence, rape, third degree torture against Tamil women and men carried out by the Sri Lankan security forces to get confessions from those suspected to have links with the then Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The HRW, which has prepared a 140-page report, “‘We Will Teach You a Lesson’: Sexual Violence against Tamils by Sri Lankan Security Forces,” which is to be released on Monday, provides detailed accounts of 75 cases of alleged rape and sexual abuse that occurred from 2006 to 2012 in both official and secret detention centres throughout Sri Lanka.

While widespread rape in custody occurred during the armed conflict (with LTTE) that ended in May 2009, “HRW found that politically motivated sexual violence by the military and police continues to the present.” HRW Asia Director Brad Adams claimed: “The Sri Lankan security forces have committed untold numbers of rapes of Tamil men and women in custody. These are not just wartime atrocities but continue to the present, putting every Tamil man/woman arrested for suspected LTTE involvement at serious risk.”

Mr. Adams said the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) should direct the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to conduct an independent international investigation. “The government’s response to allegations of sexual violence by its security forces has been dismissive, deeming them ‘fake’ or ‘pro-LTTE propaganda.’ It’s not clear who in the government knew about these horrific crimes. But the government’s failure to take action against these ongoing abuses is further evidence of the need for an international investigation,” he said.

Victims’ accounts

Quoting from the accounts of a 31-year-old Tamil woman who was picked up from her Colombo house by CID personnel in November 2011, the HRW said: “I was taken to the fourth floor of the CID office in Colombo. I was not given any food or water. The next day, the officials, who included a uniformed armed official, photographed me, took my fingerprints, and made me sign on a blank sheet of paper. They told me that they had all my husband’s details and kept asking me to disclose his whereabouts. When I told them my husband was abroad, they continued to accuse him of supporting the LTTE. I was beaten with many objects. I was burned with a cigarette during questioning. I was slapped around and beaten with a sand-filled pipe. Throughout the beatings, they asked me for my husband’s details. I was raped one night. Two men came to my room in civilian clothes. They ripped my clothes and both raped me. They spoke Sinhala so I could not understand anything. It was dark so I couldn’t see their faces clearly.”

Another 23-year-old male youth, caught in August 2012, said: “They removed my blindfold [and] I found myself in a room where four other men were present. I was tied to a chair and questioned about my links to the LTTE and the reason for my recent travel abroad. They stripped me and started beating me. I was beaten with electric wires, burned with cigarettes and suffocated with a petrol-infused polythene bag. Later that night, I was left in a smaller room. I was raped on three consecutive days. The first night, one man came alone and anally raped me. The second and third night, two men came to my room. They anally raped me and also forced me to have oral sex with them. I signed a confession admitting my links with the LTTE after the rapes.”

Yet another youth, who surrendered before the security forces in May 2009, said: “Two officials held my arms back [while] a third official held my penis and inserted a metal rod inside. They inserted small metal balls inside my penis. These had to be surgically removed after I escaped from the country.” A medical report corroborates his account, said HRW.

The rights body alleged that the victims also described being beaten, hung by their arms, partially asphyxiated and burned with cigarettes. None of those who spoke to HRW had access to legal counsel, family members, or doctors while they were detained. Most said that they signed a confession in the hope that the abuse would stop, though the torture, including rape, often continued. The individuals interviewed were not formally released but rather allowed to “escape” after a relative paid the authorities a bribe.

 

#Srilanka -Without truth, there can be no justice or peace


Callum Macrae’s documentary No Fire Zone: Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields is making waves, showing war crimes during the LTTE-government conflict. Speaking with Manoj Ramachandran, Macrae discussed his views on the Sri Lankan government, why accountability is crucial – and how India can help:

Why is your film significant?
What’s significant is the shocking scale of war crimes committed by a government which claims democratic legitimacy and adherence to international humanitarian law. The crimes we’re talking about aren’t executions of prisoners and sexual violence against fighters – we’re talking about the deliberate targeting of civilians in the No Fire Zone, which the government itself encouraged them to gather in.
A UN panel concluded that most who died did so as a result of government shelling – we’re talking about tens of thousands dead.
Have there been serious attempts to get victims justice?
The people who stand accused are at the highest levels of the Sri Lankan government. They’re unlikely to investigate themselves – and if they do, i fear they will simply find themselves innocent.
At the end of the war, many hoped the government would hold out a hand of friendship and reconciliation to Tamil citizens. They did the opposite. Their behaviour seems to suggest they regard all Tamils in the north as indistinguishable from the Tigers, that they’re in effect an enemy within which must be thoroughly repressed – that’s a recipe for more conflict and tragic bloodshed.
You claim to have footage of LTTE supremo Prabhakaran’sson,Balachandran,alive in a bunker, apparently held by Lankan troops, later showing the 12-year-old shot two or three feet from his chest. Would you tell us more?
The new photographs of Balachandran alive are not just distressing and disturbing – they are also enormously important evidentially because they appear to rule out any suggestion that he was killed in cross-fire or during battle or that he was executed by some maverick band of paramilitaries.
They show he was held – even given a snack – before being taken and executed in cold blood. There was time to take photographs. It is difficult to imagine the psychology of an army in which the calculated execution of a child can be allowed with apparent impunity.
Against this backdrop, can a film make a difference?
Without justice, there can be no peace – and without truth, there can be no justice. We hope we can be an important part of that truth-telling. Our job is to present the evidence to the world. I think there are enough people who care about the rule of law, human rights and the need for reconciliation to take up the campaign for justice.
Forthcoming events, starting with the UN Human Rights Council meeting in March, going on to the Commonwealth heads of government meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka in November, will focus attention on this.
Many people are already asking whether their governments should be attending that CHOGM meeting unless the government shows significant progress on accountability. Also, human rights defenders argue for a credible independent international inquiry. If India was to declare its support, it could mark the start of the movement towards peace and justice in Sri Lanka. India has a huge responsibility in the forthcoming UN meeting.
Finally, is your film absolving the LTTE?
The LTTE were a brutal army, guilty of appalling crimes. There should be no doubt about that – we make that point very clearly in our film. But the Sri Lankan government needs to understand that the crimes of one side do not justify the crimes of another.

Sri-Lanka Genocidal sex abuse of ex-LTTE female cadres #VAW


[TamilNet, Thursday, 30 August 2012, ]

 
The genocidal Sri Lanka military occupying the country of Eezham Tamils is routinely engaged in repeated sexual abuse of the former female members of the LTTE to see them pregnant by the Sinhala soldiers, in the model of former Yugoslavia, news sources citing a number of cases and medical professionals told TamilNet. While Radha D’Souza views the Tamil struggle “as one of the most significant movements since the end of the Vietnam War,” the former US Deputy Secretary of State and a current ICG trustee Richard Armitage in Oslo last year was harping on the unawareness of the world on the happenings in the island. The genocide is meant to be so by the architects, and the Akashi visit last week viewing ‘rehabilitated’ female cadres was another effort to keep the on-going genocide under the carpet, political observers in the island said.

Many former female cadres of the LTTE are repeatedly abused with determination to make them pregnant either in detention or by ‘summoning’ them after the so-called release.

When they refuse or not cooperate to the ‘summons’, their family members are harmed.

Confirming the kind of genocide-intended pregnancies of ex-LTTE cadres, a senior doctor in the North said that he didn’t know what to do about it.

A recent case that had come to him had an eight-month pregnancy. She is now handed over to the care of some nuns. “I don’t know what to do with most of the cases,” the doctor said.

“There is no international system to protect them in the island or provide refuge outside,” the doctor further said, whose statement was also confirmed by a gender-related social worker in the island.

Sexual abuses are committed at two stages on the ex-cadres, first in the internment camps and then after the so-called release, the feminist social worker said.

The details of 2000 to 3000 female cadres who were captured by the SL military are not yet known. Whether they are alive or still kept in secret camps is not found in any local or international records. The numbers of those who were captured and released do not tally. Colombo says there are only around 600 left in detention. What had happened to the remaining, asked the social worker.

The condition of senior female cadres is pathetic, the social worker said, citing reports of some released cadres. “Many have been seen in the detention camps, but we do not know what has happened to them,” the social worker said.

In the second stage, abuses take place after the so-called release of the cadres. ‘Summoning’ them for interrogation and repeatedly abusing them has become a routine and a past time in the SL military camps now. This happens widely in the SL bases and intelligence camps of Vavuniyaa and Jaffna, and in the camps of Vanni, the social worker told TamilNet.

In another recent incident in Jaffna, a young ex-cadre from Vanni wanted to hand over her 13-month old child to anyone who would take care of it. The child was a result of repeated abuse of the woman by the ‘interrogating’ military but she wanted the child to live.

Genocidal Colombo, elements clinging to it and their media, try to project the situation as a result of current social conditions and deviations among Eezham Tamils. But most of the cases are result of systematic and genocide-intended military abuses, observed the feminist social worker, agreeing with the doctor that there is no independent international mechanism operative in the island to protect the ex-cadres.

* * *
Commenting on the situation, TamilNet former war correspondent Mr. Lokeesan said that by the end of the war, young Sinhala soldiers of the genocidal military were given with pornographic material to induce them to commit sexual assault on the captured female LTTE cadres.

A Sinhala military cultivated in this way is what that is going to stay in the country of Eezham Tamils, and the results could be imagined, he further commented.

While China now builds permanent cantonments to the occupying Sinhala military, and India ‘trains’ the genocidal military in its bases, Mr. Akashi has come primarily to patch up relations between the West and Colombo, media reports from Colombo said.

The genocidal war is perhaps perpetuated by a system and not by individuals. But the world needs an international people’s tribunal to identify the ultimate elements of such a system to remedy it.

At least some individuals or institutions articulating for the system on the question of Eezham Tamils, such as the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, Robert Blake, Erik Solheim, Yasushi Akashi, Shiv Shankar Menon, his predecessor MK Narayanan and institutions such as the International Crisis Group (ICG), either coming forward or being made to answer to the world would immensely help the progress of human civilization, commented an academic in Jaffna.

The politicians and political activists who continue to deal with this system, and in the process pressurized to take up a patch-up course have to consider twice before deviating from the grassroot realities, political observers in the island and in the diaspora cautioned.

Meanwhile, those who whitewash the genocidal regime to the world with the hoodwink of Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation, do many times more harm to humanity than the fault they had found with the LTTE, social workers in the island said.

* * *
The following are further direct reports to TamilNet by a few among the affected who decided to talk:

“I don’t like to live here. I may be in peace if I go elsewhere. Otherwise there is no option other than committing suicide with my entire family,” says a tearful ex-LTTE female cadre. She has become a wreck by continued sexual abuse in the name of summons and interrogations by the occupying Sinhala military.

She was 6-months pregnant when she was released from the SLA internment camp, said her mother with a downcast face.

“We went to an illegal medical facility for abortion,” her mother was sorrowful about it.

The ex-LTTE female cadres have come to their worst point of predicament now.

The occupying Sinhala military that summoned them earlier in the name of ‘monitoring and interrogation’, now openly summons them for its sexual needs, comments a social worker of an organisation for the emancipation of women in the North and East.

Many don’t tell the truth about the sexual abuses. This may be due to the cultural stigma. So they keep the sufferings within their mind and sulk secretly. When the situation is perpetuated they are pushed to the end of committing suicide. Many try all possibilities to get out of the island, the feminist social worker said.

The situation is the same for the so-called released female cadres, whether in Jaffna, Vanni or in the East, conceded another human rights worker in the island.

* * *
A female ex-LTTE cadre, Pallavi (name changed), told TamilNet of her experience when ‘summoned’ to a local camp.

When ‘summoned,’ one has to first wait for hours in the camp, facing lewd comments coming from the Sinhala soldiers. Then, a low-rank officer would come for sexual assault in the name of ‘interrogation,’ followed by the higher officer, if he is in the ‘mood’. They behave totally in a sadistic way and it is very obvious that they get pleasure from our sufferings, Pallavi said.

Some of those ‘summoned’ to the local camps used to be sent to regional camps as well as bases in the towns. The story is the same everywhere.

The SL torture camp at Achchezhu in the Palaali base is a nightmare for former female cadres.

The Achchezhu torture camp is famous for the ‘disappearances’ of thousands of Tamil youth since 1996. People in Jaffna call the camp as the Slaughter House (I’raichchi-kadai). Sexual assault is a simple matter at this camp.

* * *
Another female ex-LTTE cadre came out with shocking facts on the experience of those who are taken to the Palaali base.

After being ‘summoned’ to the local camp and taken to regional and the Achchezhu camps, some are chosen to ‘meet’ the top officials at Palaali, the ex-cadre said.

When asked how it becomes possible to take them around without being seen by people, the ex-cadre said that they are taken in white vans or mini buses, sitting along with soldiers in civil dress, so that it would look as though they are passenger vehicles.

They have a large fleet of those white vans and such vehicles ply to and fro the base without any hindrances, she said.

Narrating her experience of meeting higher officers at Palaali, another ex-cadre said that after tiring her by interrogation for three hours, she was given with cool drink. The drink fainted her and she awoke to find that she had been sexually assaulted.

“I couldn’t do anything. I came alive out of that interrogation, crying,” she said.

“We could go absconding or go out of the country. In those cases they get hold of our family members. It could be my father, mother, brother or sister,” she further said.

To escape from sexual harassment another ex-cadre from Ki’linochchi used to hide in the houses of friends and relatives. On those occasions her father was assaulted by the SL military and was even hospitalized. Her brothers were threatened that they would be killed.

For the sake of the family, the ex-cadres accept the ‘summons’ and go back to the SL military camps. On returning to ‘interrogations’ we face sexual assault with more vengeance and sadism, the ex-cadre from Ki’linochchi told TamilNet.

* * *
A senior doctor in the Jaffna teaching hospital admitted treating a number of ex-cadres who had attempted committing suicide after ‘interrogation’ sexual assaults.

Some had been admitted to the hospital after swallowing blade pieces in the camps in their attempts to commit suicide. Some had attempted suicide by immolating themselves after returning from the SL military camps, the doctor said.

Poverty is attributed to the suicide of some of those who hanged themselves. But there could be other reasons, the doctor further said.

Vanni is the worst hit region. In Jaffna and in the other towns there are social activists for the consolation of the victims. But no one could raise a finger for what is happening in Vanni.

The SL military camps mushroomed at very short distances in Vanni aim for the exploitation of the ex-cadres. Going out from the region is the only escape to a former female cadre. The parents would tell the SL military that their daughter has eloped with someone.

The claim of ‘rehabilitation’ is a farce and the facility in Vavuniyaa is only a showcase, comments an ex-cadre from Vanni.

The fate of thousands of female cadres who were captured at the end of the war is not accounted yet; claim those who have managed to escape disappearance in the camps after the war.

Many of us are psychological wrecks after release from the internment camps of the SL military. Many do not go out, meet people or even speak to their family members. Many live only for the sake of their children, says another female cadre.

Her husband became mentally retarded by the war. Two of her kids were killed in the war. She lives for the sake of three more children remaining.

Some of them want at least to send their children out. But they have no means.

Meanwhile, in the cases of some, people who have personal animosities with them or with their families send malicious information, providing opportunities for the occupying military to harass them.

* * *

Subhodini Sivalingam

Subhodini Sivalingam
32-year old, Ms. Subhodini Sivalingam, who recently committed suicide at Polika’ndi in Jaffna, had sacrificed 15 years of her life to the freedom struggle.

She was partly paralysed after getting injured in a combat operation in 1999 and was serving in the medical service of the LTTE during the Vanni war.

Her suicide has been attributed to poverty. But informed circles come out with different facts. She had been continuously harassed, interrogated, sexually abused and threatened for her life by the occupying SL military.

Subhodini, who was also called Paadini, immolated herself in a closed room in the house she was living in at Polika’ndi in Vadamaraadchi, Jaffna.

Many ex female freedom fighters want to forget the sexual abuses of the genocidal military in the internment camps as a bad dream.

“But the occupying military has now made it a routine to harass us perpetually. How could we forget anything now,” asks a female cadre.

“I feel like fighting again. If I get a gun I would kill a particular lot before losing my life,” swore another woman fighter who survived a suicide attempt after sexual assaults and harassments in the SL military camps.

more here-http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=79&artid=35510

 

At Home with Violence: Ethnic LIfe in Colombo by Sharika Thiranagama


 

Colombo, where every anti-Tamil riot in Sri Lanka has begun, is, at the same time, a city of many Tamil-speaking (and other) minorities. This paper takes Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka and the urban heart of Sri Lanka to argue that Colombo has had to perform its Sinhala nationalist credentials constantly because it is “a city which is not one” (Tagg 1996). The paper examines the ways in which people make themselves at home in an ethnically divided city that has never fully been intelligible to its dwellers as one city. Here violence is taken as critical to Tamil phenemenologies of the city. Riots, bombs, and the checkpoints that crisscrossed Colombo made violence a constant feared spectacle of the urban, images of the possible bound by past violence. Yet Tamil spaces of relative safety also presented themselves, due to fear of the separatist LTTE and exploitation by other Tamils, as spaces of un-safety. This paper will takes these everyday practices of inhabiting Colombo as a minority to reflect further on the major dilemmas and political conflicts now facing Sri Lanka in its post-war future.

Speaker Bio: Sharika Thiranagama’s research has focused on various aspects of the Sri Lankan civil war. Primarily, she has conducted research with two different ethnic groups, Sri Lankan Tamils and Sri Lankan Muslims. Her research explores changing forms of ethnicisation, the effects of protracted civil war on ideas of home in the midst of profound displacement and the transformations in and relationships between the political and the familial in the midst of political repression and militarization.

Sri Lanka: A child is summarily executed


Footage of atrocity committed at the end of the government’s war with the Tamil Tigers is revealed

Callum Macrae

It is a chilling piece of footage that represents yet another blow for the beleaguered Sri Lankan government in its attempts to head off a critical resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva this week.

The short clip dates from the final hours of the bloody 26-year civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the secessionist rebels of the Tamil Tigers, the LTTE.

A 12-year-old boy lies on the ground. He is stripped to the waist and has five neat bullet holes in his chest. His name is Balachandran Prabakaran and he is the son of the LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran. He has been executed in cold blood. Beside him lie the bodies of five men, believed to be his bodyguards. There are strips of cloth on the ground indicating that they were tied and blindfolded before they were shot – further evidence suggesting that the Sri Lankan government forces had a systematic policy of executing many surrendering or captured LTTE fighters and leading figures, even if they were children.

The footage – dating from 18 May 2009 and which seems to have been shot as a grotesque “trophy video” by Sri Lankan forces – will be broadcast for the first time on Wednesday night in a Channel 4 film, Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished – a sequel to the controversial investigation broadcast last year which accused both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Last year, a special panel of experts appointed by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, suggested that as many as 40,000 civilians died in the last few weeks of the war – the vast majority as a result of government shelling, much of which was targeted on so called “No Fire Zones” set up by the government itself. But as international concern grew over the emerging evidence of appalling crimes against civilians, the Sri Lankan government, headed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and his powerful brother, the Defence Minister, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, launched a counter-offensive. At its heart was a special inquiry appointed by the President, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).

This, they insisted, would answer the international criticisms. When the LLRC finally reported last December, it did make important concessions – not least an admission that considerable numbers of civilians had died (a fact denied by the government until then). But it specifically denied that civilians had been targeted and rejected allegations of war crimes by the government. It thus failed entirely to deal with the evidence of blame pointing to the political and military leadership.

But still the criticisms have grown – and are likely to increase, following the new revelations in the Channel 4 film. In one incident, legally significant because it is well documented, two international UN workers leading the last UN overland food convoy became trapped near a temporary hospital in a village primary school in Uddiyakattu, in the first of the government’s No Fire Zones.

With the help of other civilians they began to dig bunkers to provide some protection from incoming shellfire. As was standard practice, one of the UN workers, an Australian called Peter Mackay, took precise GPS co-ordinates of the site, and these were supplied to the government. But if that had any effect, it was certainly not the desired one. Over the next couple of days the camp was subjected to a massive, sustained barrage of incoming shellfire, much of it falling directly on or near to the UN bunker. Dozens were killed – and many more horrifically injured. It was all photographed by the UN workers.

In a sense, it was just one relatively small incident in the ongoing carnage of the war, but it is potentially significant because it provides specific evidence linking the Sri Lankan government’s chain of command to knowledge of targeted attacks on civilians – attacks that appear to constitute war crimes.

As the barrage continued, the UN workers took turns to stand clear of the bunker where they could get line of sight to make frantic sat-phone calls to the Australian High Commi-ssion and other UN officials in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, pleading with them to get the government forces to stop the shelling. They were told these requests were passed on directly to both the then Sri Lankan army chief, General Sarath Fonseka, and the Defence Minister.

Shortly after these phone calls, the shelling shifted slightly away from the UN bunkers. But it continued to rain down on the No Fire Zone. In a sworn statement about the incident, Mr Mackay describes how the shelling was re-targeted: “Now the closest shells landed 100 metres from us, indicating that they could control the fire when they wanted to.”

That is likely to be significant in any future legal proceedings over command responsibility for war crimes because it amounts to specific evidence suggesting the Defence Minister and army chief had now at least a direct knowledge of the shelling of the No Fire Zone, and that while shelling was then ordered away from the actual UN bunkers, it continued to rain down on the No Fire Zone. It also represents evidence that the attacks killing civilians were accurately targeted.

Other new evidence – some of it emerging from a massive trawl of confidential diplomatic cables sent between the US embassy in Colombo and the US State Department in Washington – reveals just how calculated was another of the most awful features of this war: the deliberate denial of adequate humanitarian supplies of food and medicine to civilians trapped in those grotesquely misnamed No Fire Zones.

To justify this policy, the government systematically underestimated the number of civilians trapped in the zones. At the end of April 2009, for example,

Read more here

 

Mr. Minister, my name is Sunanda Deshapriya. I am not a terrorist.


5 Feb, 2012,  Sunanda Deshapriya      

Tamil rebels in a pickup truck in Killinochchi...

Image via Wikipedia

An Open Letter to Srilankan Minister Keheliya Rambukwella

Mr. Minister, I don’t know whether you have seen the film called ‘my name is Khan. In it, the main character played by popular actor Shah Rukh Khan Repeats the lines ‘My name is Khan. I am not a terrorist’ at different points in the film, in order to affirm his innocence. I too am about to tell you a similar story. ‘My name is Sunanda Deshapriya. I am not a terrorist’. This is my theme.

The story of ‘My name is Khan’ centres around the harassment a Muslim man with the name of Khan has to endure following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, USA. These attacks on the Twin Towers generated both fear and anger in the minds of the American people. Some extremist groups tried to unleash the feelings of anger against ordinary Muslim people living in the US. The film’s narrative is set against this background.

You are trying to do the same thing today. You are trying to use the fear and anger generated in the minds of the Sinhala people because of the brutality of the LTTE against those of us who have been advocating respect for human rights in Sri Lanka, including respect for the rights of the Tamil people of our country. When I say ‘you’ I do not only mean you as an individual, Mr. Minister. I include the entire gamut of people who do your bidding, including those media persons who sing your praises with no shame.

Do you know what baseless and venomous lies the media under your control has spread about me in the past few weeks? Have either you or your acolytes ever tried to behave in accordance with universally accepted media ethics and asked me for my comments on your revelations? Isn’t your talk about media ethics therefore to be understood as mere political hogwash?

In the film, Sameer, the young son of Khan and his wife Mandira is brutally killed by a gang of boys of his own age. This act of savagery became possible only because the feelings of anger and hatred that I described earlier had been let loose in their community. There can be nobody who watches this film whose heart and mind are not captivated by the tragedy of the child’s murder and the subsequent events. In the past weeks I too have read newspaper reports about your children. How disturbed you would have been after reading such stories? Can you imagine how many deaths my family, my children, have gone through as a result of the vicious campaign being carried out against me by you and the media that serves your will?

I fervently hope that one day you will be able to think about others as you think about yourself; this is the preaching of the Lord Buddha.

You talk over and over again about media ethics. You order news websites to be shut down because they are acting without respect for these ethics. You warn us that you will bring about a Code of Ethics for the Media that will be very special to Sri Lanka.

You are levelling charges against a group of journalists, accusing them of receiving money from the LTTE and carrying out a traitor’s agenda. You say that these media persons and journalists are now living abroad. You say they cannot be prosecuted because the Sri Lankan law does not permit it.

Mr. Minister, while your media people broadcast your words on this subject, they project images of me at various media freedom demonstrations on the screen behind them. With respect to which Code of Ethics are you displaying my photograph to illustrate baseless allegations? You say that it is because you cannot prosecute these persons who have obtained money from the LTTE under existing Sri Lankan law that you are not revealing their names. But your media institutions carry my photograph as an illustration to this statement. What is the intention behind this? Is it NOT to implicate me in your statement? Why is it that your acolytes have permission to do what you don’t dare to do? It must be that you think you do not need to be bound by any ethical standards because you are in power.

You advise the media about the use of language. Yet the media under your control continue to use the vilest forms of hate speech against me, shamelessly and without any proof to back up whatever they are saying. You reward these acolytes of yours with awards of media excellence.

Is it your theory and your practice that only your opponents should be held responsible for respecting media ethics? Is this how you devalue your own use of the media?

Wasn’t it your media that repeatedly broadcast the canard that at the session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in September last year, the Maldivian President said that ‘Sunanda Deshapriya is a traitor to the nation’ even after it had been proved to be false and inaccurate? Where were the media ethics that you preach, then? The first ethical consideration of any journalist or media person is that of respect for the truth. Doesn’t the media under your control break this principle every day? Is the proverb ‘Practise what you preach’ not applicable to Ministers of this government?

Since a while ago I have publicly challenged your government to prove that I have received even one cent from the LTTE. The truth of the matter is that neither you nor your government nor anyone else holds on shred of evidence to prove this. If your government is capable of indicting members of the military and the Police for having accepted money from the LTTE, why should we believe that you are not able to do the same in the case of journalists who have received money from the LTTE? I accuse you of trying to unleash the same forces of extremism that Khan and Mandira faced on the murder of their son Sameer against me and all others working for the defence of human rights and media freedom in Sri Lanka today.

It is no secret that I hold an extremely critical view of the Rajapakse regime. As Media Minister, you are obliged to defend my right to hold those views. Instead, you are engaged in taking away that space from us and terrorizing us. Please remember that the right to hold dissenting views is one of ethical bases of media freedom.

On ITN, in the ‘Athulanthaya’ (Interior) programme, you said something ridiculous: That because you cannot take these charges before the law, lacking evidence, you are instead placing them before the people. What does this mean? Why must you take information that has no basis and therefore would not stand scrutiny in a court of law into the public arena? Doesn’t this show us that you are trying to build a hate campaign against me in the minds of the people?

In June 2009, award-winning journalist and Secretary of the Working Journalists’ Association, Poddala Jayantha, was abducted and brutally assaulted because of a similar hate campaign. You who are levelling the most absurd of charges against media persons fighting for media freedom today, what have you done to bring the perpetrators of the attack on Jayantha to justice, almost three years after the attack? Tell us if there is even one example where you and your government have brought any of those responsible for killing, beating and harassing journalists and media persons to justice.

As Media Minister, you are raising against unfounded allegations against us. But the allegations we raise against you as media freedom fighters are completely factual.

When cartoonist and media activist Prageeth Eknaligoda was abducted three years ago, it is you who confidently told us that he would return in two weeks time.

Sri Lanka: No Progress on Justice | Human Rights Watch


A member of the Free Media Association shouts slogans in front of an image of missing cartoonist and columnist Prageeth Eknaligoda during a protest in Colombo June 8, 2011. The protest was held to mark 500 days since the disappearance of Eknaligoda, a pro-opposition journalist who worked for Lanka-e-News, a private-owned independent website that was critical of the government. The placard reads “500 days since Prageeth’s disappearance.” © 2011 Reuters

In 2011, accountability remained a dead issue, the media faced increasing censorship, and the long-standing grievances which led to the conflict were not seriously addressed. Sri Lankans face a lack of justice, weak rule of law, land grabbing, and a censored media from a government that is increasingly authoritarian.
Brad Adams, Asia director

(New York) – The Sri Lankan government in the past year failed to advance justice and accountability for the victims of the country’s 26-year-long civil conflict, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2012. While Sri Lanka’s war-ravaged north and east became more open, the government deepened repression of basic freedoms throughout the country.

The government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa continued to stall on accountability for abuses by the security forces, threatened media and civil society groups, and largely ignored complaints of insecurity and land grabbing in the north and east, Human Rights Watch said. The long-awaited report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), published in December, largely absolved the military for its conduct in the bloody final months of the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which ended in May 2009.

“In 2011, accountability remained a dead issue, the media faced increasing censorship, and the long-standing grievances which led to the conflict were not seriously addressed,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Sri Lankans face a lack of justice, weak rule of law, land grabbing, and a censored media from a government that is increasingly authoritarian.”

In its 676-page report, Human Rights Watch assessed progress on human rights during the past year in more than 90 countries, including popular uprisings in the Arab world that few would have imagined. Given the violent forces resisting the “Arab Spring,” the international community has an important role to play in assisting the birth of rights-respecting democracies in the region, Human Rights Watch said in the report.

The government’s failure to hold perpetrators of abuses accountable remained a key issue throughout the year. No one was prosecuted for atrocities committed during the conflict with the LTTE. The government ignored the findings of a Panel of Experts report, commissioned by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which found rampant abuses by both government forces and the LTTE, and called for an independent international mechanism to investigate laws-of-war violations. The government insisted instead that its LLRC would be the mechanism to address wartime abuses, though the mandate, composition and procedures of the commission were deeply flawed. The LLRC effectively exonerated government forces for laws-of-war violations, rehashed long-standing recommendations, and took no concrete steps to advance accountability.

The commission’s findings stand in stark contrast to those of the UN Panel of Experts, the UN special envoy on extrajudicial executions, and nongovernmental organizations, including Human Rights Watch. Although the LLRC found that government shelling resulted in civilian casualties, an allegation that the government had strenuously denied, it did not even consider the repeated attacks on civilian areas and hospitals as possible indiscriminate attacks prohibited by the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said.

“The abuses by government forces detailed in the UN Panel of Experts report are strangely missing in the LLRC’s findings,” Adams said. “Even the LLRC’s useful recommendations seem destined to join those of other Sri Lankan commissions that got filed away and ignored.”

Free expression in Sri Lanka was under assault in 2011. The editor of a Jaffna-based newspaper was beaten with iron bars by a group of unidentified youths in late July. Also in July, a team of Radio Netherlands journalists were harassed by police and later robbed and attacked at gunpoint by men in a white van, a notorious symbol of terror in Sri Lanka. The chairman of the Sunday Leader, whose brother Lasantha Wickrematunge had been gunned down in 2009, received a phone call from President Rajapaksa who threatened to attack him personally in response to articles in the Sunday Leader about high-level corruption. In December, two human rights activists, Lalith Kumar Weeraraj and Kugan Muruganathan, disappeared, apparently abducted while en route to a planned protest rally in Jaffna. Weeraraj’s father stated that his son had received anonymous phone calls prior to the protest telling him that he would be eliminated if he continued his political involvement.

In November, the government-owned Daily News announced that the government would issue guidelines and a code of conduct for the country’s media. The Media Ministry called on all news websites to register. At least five websites critical of the government were subsequently blocked inside the country.

“A free media is an essential building block of a democratic state,” Adams said. “The Rajapaksa administration is putting this in jeopardy by reacting to criticism with heavy-handed measures.”

The government says that there has been meaningful progress on reconciliation, but there is little evidence to support that contention, Human Rights Watch said. Talks between the government and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) on distribution of powers remained stalled through most of 2011. While campaigning ahead of elections in Jaffna in June, members and supporters of the TNA were attacked by army personnel wielding rods, batons and sticks.

There were some improvements for the Tamil population in the north and east in 2011. Freedom of movement to the north has allowed for greater access by humanitarian, local human rights and media groups, as well as by families. However, the government took inadequate steps in 2011 to normalize living conditions. Security in the region remained poor, with alarming incidents reported of gender-based violence and enforced prostitution. The unsettling attacks mid-year by “grease devils” – unidentified male assailants – exposed the vacuum in the security forces’ ability to respond adequately to civilians’ needs for protection. The heavy military presence in the north and east was a continuing source of distrust among the largely Tamil population.

The issue of land, one of the central problems undergirding the decades-long conflict, remains unresolved. Although the cabinet in April passed a circular intended to address the issue of land ownership and competing claims, particularly for those who fled during the war, little was done to implement its provisions.

Further, the government failed to appoint a National Land Commission, as required under the 13th amendment to the constitution. Reports of land-grabbing by the military in the north and elsewhere in the country increased through 2011. In some cases, the military provided some compensation, but sporadically and only when initiated by the owners, not the occupiers.

“The government has barely made an effort to address the grievances of the Tamil population,” Adams said. “Instead of the government facilitating greater dialogue, Tamil political representatives are subject to threats and harassment.”

Most of the nearly 300,000 displaced persons illegally confined in military-controlled detention centers after the war were able to leave by early 2010, but many have still not been able to return to their previous homes or communities. About 57,000 people live with host families, and another roughly 53,000 remain in the camps, in part because de-mining activities have not yet been completed in their original home areas.

By December, the government had released all but about 1,000 of the nearly 12,000 LTTE “surrenderees,” alleged combatants and supporters that it was detaining without charge or trial, and claimed that those remaining would be released by mid-2012. The government says these former combatants have been rehabilitated and trained to enter civilian life. The government said another 1,000 “hardcore” LTTE members are being held at Camp Boosa. The conditions for all of these detainees are not known.

Allegations of mistreatment and torture in custody have not been investigated.
The Emergency Regulations were allowed to expire on August 31, but the 1979 Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and other laws and regulations permitting detention without charge for up to 18 months leave an abusive detention regime in place.

Local government elections held between March and October further consolidated the hold of Rajapaksa’s United Freedom People’s Alliance party. It won control over 270 of the 322 local authorites contested. As in previous years, the president relied on close family members to strengthen his hold on government. Various Rajapaksa brothers remain as cabinet ministers with important portfolios. Opposition parties were effectively sidelined.

Sarath Fonseka, the former army commander who challenged Rajapaksa during the 2010 presidential election, was sentenced to an additional three years in prison after his current sentence expires in January 2012.

“As the Rajapaksa government has strengthened its grip politically, basic rights protections in the country have deteriorated,” Adams said.

Download-World Report- Srilanka 2012

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