January 12, 2011

Sudan Envoy: Secession May Help Heal North-South Enmity

by Peter Heinlein
Voice of America News, Addis Ababa

Sudan’s representative to the African Union says the expected southern vote for secession from Khartoum’s rule could herald an unprecedented era of north-south cooperation. The envoy reaffirmed the Khartoum government’s pledge to honor the result of the vote, whatever it is.

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December 08, 2010

Shelter tops returnees' needs as rains continue

(IRIN) - Heavy rains continue to wreak havoc on the lives of thousands of returnees to Sri Lanka's conflict-affected north, aid agencies say.

"At this point the immediate needs are food and shelter," Thaya Thiagarajah, a senior official with the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India, told IRIN, noting even schools in the Jaffna area were unable to function properly.

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November 28, 2010

Ethiopia: Donor Aid Supports Repression

by HRW

Contributors Should Review Development Programs, Monitor Use of Funds

(London) - The Ethiopian government is using development aid to suppress political dissent by conditioning access to essential government programs on support for the ruling party, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Human Rights Watch urged foreign donors to ensure that their aid is used in an accountable and transparent manner and does not support political repression.

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June 28, 2009

The Improbable American - nytimes.com/video

Despite no college education or a medical background, a rugged American named Todd Shea runs a charity hospital in Kashmir, where a 2005 earthquake killed 80,000 people.

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April 01, 2009

Madharasa Functions Suspended in Ampitiya, Kandy

A group of Buddhists including monks had gone to the Ampitiya Usman Quran Madharsa in Kandy on Saturday the 21st instant and warned the use of Madharasa as a mosque. They also warned the Imam functioning there to vacate the Madharasa immediately.

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March 28, 2009

More challenges now for rebuilding battered Sri Lanka

By Dr. S. Narapalasingam

The mere absence of the war that has destroyed many lives (more than 70,000 - no firm estimate is available), displaced tens of thousands of families from their habitats and inflicted untold suffering on virtually the entire population for more than two decades does not mean the return of lasting peace. This requires essentially, the elimination of the root causes that led to the violent conflict. However, the immediate need is the easing of the hardships of the victims of the vicious war. The reconstruction and rehabilitation programmes should be integral part of a genuine peace process. The attainment of the peace goal also requires the promotion of a sense of togetherness, understanding by the Sinhalese people of the problems faced by the ethnic minorities and the need for changes from the perspective of the future of all ethnic communities and the island nation. The extreme brutality of the war which the government resolutely continued at high cost aimed towards a conclusive victory for the armed forces has made the reconciliation and peace processes increasingly difficult.

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[Clean water distribution in the 'conflict zone'-in Valagnanyarmadam-more pics]

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March 24, 2009

Racism, xenophobia lie at the root of many inter- and intra-state conflicts

By Dr. Dayan Jayatilleke

“Mr. President,

In my capacity as Chairperson/Rapporteur of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration & Programme of Action, it is my honour to submit the report on its 6th Session to the Human Rights Council, pursuant to Resolution 1/5 and Decision 3/103.

Racism, xenophobia and related intolerance pose a threat to national and international peace and security as they lie at the root of many conflicts, both interstate and intrastate. Therefore, it is our responsibility to work whole-heartedly towards the eradication of racism and xenophobia by fulfilling the mandate of the Inter-Governmental Working Group accordingly. I am committed to ensuring that the goals established under the mandate are realized effectively.

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March 21, 2009

Sri Lankan constitution analysed by a different Rajapakse

Dr. Deepika Udagama

BOOK REVIEW

A Guide to Current Constitutional Issues in Sri Lanka
By Ruana Rajepakse Published by Citizens’ Trust (2008)

Some constitutions around the world appear to be rock solid; others seem to work reasonably well; and yet others seem to be floundering no matter how much of work has gone into them. We have witnessed three constitutions in operation since independence in 1948. The last of them, the 1978 Constitution of Sri Lanka, was amended no less than seventeen times, with many more attempts at amendment. Yet, our problems as a nation seem so intractable. Are our national problems due to the constitutions, or are we, the citizenry, to be blamed for our apathy and our choice of political representatives?

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Some aspects on the barriers to the Tamil cause

Point of View: By A. Rajasingam

The Tamils all over the world are concerned of the plight of the innocent Tamils who are caught in the armed conflict. On one side the Government calls it has waged a war on the terrorists in order to rescue the Tamils from the clutches of the LTTE. On the other side the LTTE maintains the people are with them. Apparently the Tamils also do not have faith in the Armed Security Forces fearing that they will be persecuted on suspicion of a LTTE cadre or sympathizer. Further, the Government, too, has not demonstrated its good faith without placing a meaningful solution for the innocent Tamils to decide a better future. Moreover, there are reports that the LTTE held these innocent Tamils as shields to protect them. Above all, the Government had denied access to the journalists and the NGOs on whom the trapped innocent Tamils have full confidence. The issue raises the role of the United Nations to deal in such a situation.

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[Barbed wired centres being built to shelter the Vanni displaced in Manic Farm, Vavuniya-Feb 2009~pic by drs. Sarajevo]

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March 18, 2009

ICRC continues to help civilians as crisis escalates

Fighting continues between Sri Lankan government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), prompting growing fears for the lives of those trapped in the conflict area. The ICRC has been bringing a little hope, evacuating the sick and wounded and escorting boats carrying food and limited medicines - ICRC activities in January and February 2009:

Tens of thousands of people confined to a rapidly-shrinking area have headed for the coast to escape the fighting, in search of safety, food and medical care. But numbers in the coastal belt held by the LTTE have increased drastically over recent weeks, and clean water is scarce. The area is affected by shelling every day, and the cramped conditions and the lack of water and proper sanitation are putting people at risk of epidemics.

"The humanitarian situation is deteriorating by the day," said Paul Castella, head of the ICRC’s Colombo delegation. "Many of these people are forced to shelter in trenches. They are in considerable physical danger. After having been forced to move from place to place en masse for weeks or even months, they depend entirely on food from outside the conflict area."

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[ICRC helping in transportation of patients in Vanni-pic: dpdhs Kilinochchi]

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March 17, 2009

UN Human Rights Council urged to intercede on behalf of two detained journalists

Reporters Without Borders, which has consultative status with the United Nations Human Rights Council, today asked the council to intercede on behalf of two imprisoned Sri Lankan journalists, J.S. Tissainayagam and N. Vithyatharan, and to meet as quickly as possible to discuss the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.

The press freedom organisation said Tissainayagam, who worked for the Sunday Times newspaper, has been held under an anti-terrorism law for more than a year just for writing two articles about how civilians have suffered as a result of the fighting between government forces and the rebels of the LTTE.

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March 15, 2009

Genocide and Human Rights in Sri Lanka-Re-visited

Point of View by A.Rajasingam

Today the UN is burdened with the problem of genocide and terrorism which are inter-twined and complex. These problems exists in developing countries including some multi-racial countries. Terrorism in any form which is committed by anyone or group has to be condemned unequivocally. In Sri Lanka though the Government is waging a war on terrorism, the Tamils have to clear all the hurdles to prove that the government is committing genocide on the pretext of fighting terrorism. A careful study of the Geneva Convention on Genocide together with other Resolutions on suppression of Terrorism, Declaration of Human Rights, Sri Lanka Constitution and the Prevention of Terrorism Act have to be scrutinized in dealing with genocide. The basis of the applicability of the international humanitarian law are the Geneva Conventions where armed conflict occurs and deal with the general protection of civilians.

Article 2 of the Geneva Convention on Genocide describes killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group and Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. Article 3 of the Geneva Convention on Genocide goes on to state that genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, attempt to commit genocide and complicity in genocide are punishable.

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March 10, 2009

The grid map of political opinion in Sri Lanka

by Dayan Jayatilleka

How do we classify Sri Lankan opinions and the opinions about Sri Lanka? One broad categorization would be between those who think that the Tigers are the problem and those who think the Tigers are the solution. Most Sinhalese belong to the first category and many Tamils, especially in the Diaspora, to the latter.

There is a more subtle version of this classification. There are those who think the Tigers are part of the problem and those who think they are part of the solution. Most Sinhalese and some Tamils fall into the first category and most Tamils into the latter.

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Obama: Good-bye to Dalai Lama & Aung San Kyi, Hail Hu Jintao

by B. Raman

"There is a common interest in the US as well as in China in maintaining and strengthening the present economic linkages without lettingthem be damaged seriously by what a Chinese analyst has called the tumours in the otherwise healthy organism of Sino-US relations whichkeep appearing from time to time such as the Taiwan, the proliferation, the Tibet and the National Missile Defence (NMD) issues. Thepolitical leaderships and the business class in the two countries would see to it that these tumours do not become malignant. One saw thatduring the Clinton Administration and one would see that during the Bush Administration too. After the present phase of rhetoric andconfrontation, moderation would again set in at Washington as well as in Beijing. It would be unwise and short-sighted for India to think thatthe present confrontation would last for long and that it could strategically take advantage of it."

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March 09, 2009

Commonwealth Runs Risk of Becoming Relic In Britain

by Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah

March 9 was Commonwealth Day. To mark it, Queen Elizabeth was set to join 2,000 others at Westminster Abbey, London, for the U.K.’s largest multifaith observance. Since emerging from the colonial era as a voluntary grouping of independent nations 60 years ago, the modern Commonwealth has done a great deal to promote democracy, international understanding and the interests of vulnerable states. Yet, at least in the U.K., if more is not done to raise its visibility and relevance the Commonwealth risks disappearing from the national consciousness.

In 1969, a Gallup poll found that 34 per cent of British people identified the Commonwealth as the most important part of the world for Britain, on a par with those who said America, and one and a half times those who said Europe. An RCS/YouGov survey finds that only 14 per cent of British do so now, well behind America and Europe.

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[Britain's Queen Elizabeth II arrives at Westminster Abbey in London, ahead of the annual Observance for Commonwealth Day, on March 9, 2009. AFP PHOTO]

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Reformist Perspective on Constitutional Change

by Sumanasiri Liyanage

One autumn day when Basho and one of his ten disciples, Kikaku, were going through a rice field, Kikaku composed haiku on a red dragonfly that caught his fancy. And he showed the following haiku to Basho.
Take a pair of wings
From a dragonfly, you would
Make a pepper pod.

“No” said Basho, “that is not haiku. You kill the dragonfly. If you want to compose a haiku and give life to it, you must say”:
Add a pair of wings
To a pepper pod, you would
Make a dragonfly.

-Kenneth Yasuda, The Japanese Haiku

 

March 06, 2009

Will deterrent actions solve the Sri Lanka's political crisis

Point of view: by A.Rajasingam

Democracy is a Western concept that was introduced by the British to Sri Lanka with good intention whereby all sections of the community could take part without any discrimination as to race, religion, language, etc. However, Sri Lankan history has shown that successive governments have engaged in suppressing the rights of the minorities as from 1956 for political gains and changed the constitution thrice to suit their objectives of having the Tamils to be under their control without recognizing their rights. Their failure to resolve the problem without placing a meaningful federal solution had eventually led the minority to view the government as a foreign domination, giving rise to the birth of the concept of Tamil Homeland. As a result the presence of the ethnic issue emerged and continued until it took the form of terrorism and countered by State terrorism with the passage of time.

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How united Ceylon became divided Sri Lanka? What next?

By Dr. S. Narapalasingam

Recently, Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama told a news conference at the University of Madras, Chennai in reply to the question whether he approved the military action by the Buddhist rulers of Sri Lanka: "I pray and hope some peaceful resolution is arrived at in Sri Lanka. I think the Sri Lankan government should accept reality." He also reiterated his averseness to the use of force. (Times of India 22 January 2009). Some Buddhist religious leaders and other Sri Lankans detesting violence have also stressed the need to recognize the realities in seeking a permanent political solution to the ethnic problem that is the root cause of the present gory conflict. There is awareness even amongst present political and military leaders that there is no military solution to the underlying problem.

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February 26, 2009

Search for Peace and the unanswered problems

Point of View: By A.Rajasingam

Though it appears that the LTTE was cornered, the LTTE has once again proved that they are still active with the air raid in Colombo. What the Government has achieved is the capture of territories without people and later a systematic and calculated murder of innocent Tamils after they are accommodated in separate camps, which demonstrates genocide on different pretexts. Murdering innocent citizens is not encouraged in religious teachings including Buddhism to defeat an enemy. This is not the way to initiate peace though the LTTE has sent a hot signal in respond to the international community for truce, but not prepared to surrender arms and negotiate. The Government should grab this opportunity to give priority for the rehabilitation of the IDPs.

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[Thousands of Sri Lankans need safe passage away from the fighting in the north (file photo)-IRIN/by Amantha Perera]

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Tamil newspaper editor arrested in Colombo

Full text of statement by RSF

Reporters Without Borders is extremely shocked by today’s arrest of N. Vithyatharan, the editor of Sudar Oli, a Colombo-based Tamil daily that is part of the Uthayan press group. He was forcibly arrested while attending the funeral in Colombo of a relative of the group’s chairman. The media minister told the organisation that he was being “treated well” by the police.

“Carried out without a warrant, this arrest was a violation of the rule of law,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The police must release Vithyatharan without delay. What is this respected Tamil editor accused of? Outspoken coverage of the situation in Sri Lanka, including the fate of its Tamil population.”

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Bad omens from Bangladesh

by B. Raman

"In an assessment on Bangladesh disseminated in January, 1997, this writer had observed as follows: " There are individual officers in theBangladesh intelligence community and in its security forces, who feel positively towards Sheikh Hasina (Prime Minister) and her father, butone cannot say the same thing of these organisations as institutions. Institutionally, they may not share with her the same enthusiasm forcloser relations with India and for assisting it in dealing with the insurgency (in the North-East). It would take her and her party considerable time to understand and assess the intricacies of their working and the labyrinthine relationships which they have built up withtheir Pakistani counterparts during the last 21 years. She, therefore, has to move with caution."

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