The Sri Lankan government is committed to fully implementing the 13th amendment to the constitution mooted in 1987 as a solution to the island’s ethnic conflict, a senior government spokesman said Thursday.
“The government is committed to the 13th amendment and the provincial councils,” the cabinet spokesman and Minister of Media and Information Anura Yapa told reporters. Yapa said some debates have begun with regard to conferring the councils with police and land powers.
“These issues can be sorted out through discussion,” Yapa stressed.
Fully implementing the provisions of the 13th amendment is currently being seen as the engine to offer some form of political power to the island’s Tamil minority.
Since the government’s comprehensive military success over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil last month the government has come up with calls to settle for power sharing with the Tamil minority.
Sri Lanka’s top rights panel said Thursday it has concluded investigations into the murder of 17 local employees of a French charity and six other high profile cases from the island’s civil war.
The head of the probe, however, refused to say who had been found responsible for the 2006 massacre of the aid workers, which international monitors and rights groups have blamed on Sri Lankan government forces.
“We have completed seven cases, including the ACF (French charity Action Against Hunger) case, and we have asked for a date to hand over the report to the president,” Nissanka Udalagama said.
“I can’t discuss our findings because it is up to the president to decide,” he added, saying his panel would ask the president to establish a more permanent body to keep up investigations.
Reports AFP, via Google News.
The Economist takes a look at the response from the state and political parties et al, following the defeat of the LTTE: the speeches, the parades, the hailing of Mahinda Rajapakse as a king.
In the third of his big set-piece victory speeches early this month, Mr Rajapaksa asserted that the war had been fought to liberate the Tamil people. Unaccountably, he made no reference to the sufferings of Sri Lankan Tamils even though nearly 300,000 of them have been displaced from their homes and are now miserably interned in camps. The president also harked back to ancient Sinhalese martial heroes. Marking victory with plans to build stupas all over the mainly Buddhist country, and relishing songs, posters and newspaper articles hailing him as a “king”, Mr Rajapaksa seems to be cultivating the image of an elected monarch. In particular, he likes to recall Dutugemunu, a famous warrior-king of the second century BC, who defeated Elara, a Tamil usurper from India.
This foolish oratorical provocation has been matched by increasing intolerance of dissent, suspicion of many Tamils and threats against those seen as Tiger “collaborators”. The government refuses to bow to calls for an independent investigation into the final weeks of the war, in which thousands are believed to have been killed by government shelling. It blames nearly all the civilian deaths on the Tigers. But in the absence of any inquiry a decades-old culture of impunity will persist, as will Tamil grievances and a sense of injustice.
Read the entire article here.
In an interesting addendum, ICT4Peace reports that “This week’s Economist has apparently (as per Vijitha Yapa – to whom I pay a bloody 11,000 bucks for the magazine) been “held up” at Customs.”
After a military victory for the government in a civil war that has torn the country apart for decades, Sri Lanka now begins a process of national reconciliation. Al-Jazeera’s Riz Khan explores.
The U.N. has consistently warned against the bloodbath scenario as we’ve watched the steady increase in civilian deaths over the last few months
Gordon Weiss, the U.N. spokesman in Sri Lanka is quoted in the New York Times on Monday. Weiss adds,
The large-scale killing of civilians over the weekend, including the deaths of more than 100 children, shows that that bloodbath has become a reality.
The AP story continues,
A government doctor said at least 378 civilians — and perhaps as many as 1,000 — had been killed and more than 1,100 wounded on Saturday and Sunday during intensive shelling of the combat zone on Sri Lanka’s northeastern coast, a boggy sliver of beachfront where Sri Lankan troops have surrounded Tamil separatist fighters.
“There were many who died without medical attention,” the doctor, V. Shanmugarajah , told The Associated Press. “Seeing the number of wounded and from what the people tell me, I estimate the death toll to be around 1,000.”
Concern for civilians trapped in the zone has grown in recent weeks. The area of fighting, which at one time had been set aside by the government as a “no-fire zone,” has shrunk to about 7 square kilometers, or about 2.5 square miles. An estimated 50,000 civilians, mostly Tamils, are thought to be caught there, along with a holdout force of between 200 and 500 fighters.
Some relief groups and the government have assailed the rebels for holding the civilians as human shields. Many of the same agencies and some foreign governments have accused the government of shelling the area — along with the civilians inside — despite pledges to no longer use heavy weapons, artillery or air strikes.
Read the entire article here.
Nick Paton Walsh, the reporter who brought you the grim situation from the IDP camps, has been arrested and will be deported shortly, reports AP and Daily Mirror.
Sri Lankan police arrested three journalists for London-based Channel-4 television news Saturday on charges of tarnishing the image of the government security forces.
Nick Paton Walsh, the channel’s Asian correspondent told the Associated Press by telephone that he had been arrested along with producer Bessie Du and cameraman Matt Jasper.
Walsh said he and the crew were being driven to capital Colombo with police escort. The three had been covering fierce fighting between government forces and the separatist Tamil Tigers.
Police spokesman Ranjith Gunasekera confirmed the trio were arrested in the eastern city of Trincomalee on Saturday. He said investigations are continuing.
Walsh said he believed the arrests were connected to a recent report the crew filed on conditions for war refugees and alleged sexual abuse in camps for those who fled the northern war zone.
Reports Associated Press via Google News. And Daily Mirror says,
A reporter attached to the British Channel 4 network is to be deported from Sri Lanka over allegations his reporting had tarnished the image of the country. The immigration and emigration department said his visa has been cancelled.
Channel 4 had recently aired a video shot inside the vavuniya camp for the displaced people and made claims of abuses taking place in the facility.
InMutiny welcomes your views on the matter, and the Sri Lankan media sphere as a whole.
Update (11/05/2009) : Nick Patten writes a blogpost about his experience in Sri Lanka.
Young Asia Television’s SriLankaToday takes a look at the civilians trapped by the fighting in Wanni area.