Indian PM - 'worried about the fate of Tamils'

Speaking in the Rajya Sabha as part of a wider debate on Friday, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said , "There are problems in Sri Lanka; we have been worried about the fate of the Tamil population in Sri Lanka." "It has been our effort to plead with the government of Sri Lanka that there must be political reconciliation, that without national reconciliation (the) situation cannot remain calm." "It has been our effort to work with the leadership in Sri Lanka and to ensure that Tamil people (there) do get a chance to live a life of dignity and self respect as equal citizens of the...

Draft resolution HRC 22 circulated amongst UNHRC

The second draft of a US sponsored resolution on Sri Lanka that is to be submitted to the 22nd session of the UN Human Rights Council currently underway, was circulated today. See here for full text.

Prof Manor: 'New Delhi will be blamed'

Writing in the Indian Express , James Manor, professor emeritus of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London, argues that the venue for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) later this year must be changed from Sri Lanka, " if the Commonwealth is to retain its well-earned reputation as a force for human decency ", adding, " if that meeting is not moved elsewhere, the Commonwealth will abandon its enlightened commitments. Its irresolute secretary general, Kamalesh Sharma, has blocked a change of venue. Because he is a former Indian diplomat, New Delhi will be blamed ." Reproduced in full below: A message to Colombo India will soon be blamed — unjustly — for an international catastrophe. Since 1991, the Commonwealth has been a potent force behind the scenes for democracy, rights and human dignity. For example, it has persuaded the leaders of several one-party states to adopt open multi-party systems and it has ensured that leaders who have lost elections do not cling onto power. This admirable record is about to be squandered. The next Commonwealth heads of government meeting in November is scheduled for Sri Lanka where an abusive government has committed multiple outrages. If that meeting is not moved elsewhere, the Commonwealth will abandon its enlightened commitments. Its irresolute secretary general, Kamalesh Sharma, has blocked a change of venue. Because he is a former Indian diplomat, New Delhi will be blamed. This is already beginning to happen. Some commentators are saying that India urged Sharma to avoid offending Sri Lanka's leaders because it is anxious about China's growing influence there. It is true that China has invested massively in the island and that in 2011, President Mahinda Rajapaksa made a threatening telephone call to a newspaper editor in an unsuccessful attempt to suppress a report that the Chinese had given him $9 million to be used at his discretion. But India has not tried to restrain the secretary general.

Jaya slams shooting of Indian fishermen

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has blasted Sri Lanka, after a group of Indian fishermen were allegedly shot at by the Sri Lankan Navy. A 40-year-old Indian fishermen was injured after shots were fired by the Sri Lankan Navy, causing extensive damage to their boats and equipment, who claim they were in Indian waters at the time. The Rameswaram Fishermen's Association president Emiret criticised New Delhi’s "indifference" and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, labelling the constant attacks as an “indirect attempt to intimidate India and...

Devolution needs ‘a sense of urgency’ – Indian PM

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called for political devolution in Sri Lanka to be addressed with a “sense of urgency”, in his address to the Lok Sabha on Wednesday. Replying to the debate on the President’s Address, Singh stated, "Members have raised the issue of human rights violations during the conflict in Sri Lanka and the lack of progress on reconciliation, accountability and political devolution in Sri Lanka. The Government takes the sentiments expressed by Members very seriously. We are firmly of the view that issues of reconciliation and political devolution in Sri Lanka need to be addressed with a sense of urgency. " " We have consistently called upon the Government of Sri Lanka to fulfil its public commitments for the implementation of the 13th Amendment and for building further on it so as to achieve a meaningful political settlement. We have also urged that elections to the Northern Provincial Council be held at the earliest and have called for effective and time-bound implementation of the constructive recommendations contained in the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission report." "This was also the message, Madam, I conveyed to President Rajapaksa during his visit to India in September 2012. We will continue to remain engaged with the Government of Sri Lanka to implement these steps and take forward the process of reconciliation and settlement." The Prime Minister went on to address the topic of the upcoming UN Human Rights Council and resolution on Sri Lanka stating, “ our decision will depend on the substance of the final text Tabled in the Council. We will, however, be guided by our consistent position that we support proposals that seek to advance the achievement of a future for the Tamil community in Sri Lanka that is marked by equality, dignity, justice and selfrespect . I wish to assure the House that our Government will remain engaged with the Government of Sri Lanka to promote a durable settlement of the Tamil problem that enables the Tamil citizens of Sri Lanka to lead a life of dignity and self-respect with equal rights .”

Caste discrimination requires legal recognition in the UK

In a landmark vote on Monday, the House of Lords voted to outlaw caste-based discrimination amongst South Asian communities in the UK. The bill was fiercely backed by peers from all parties and passed with a majority vote of 225-153. Yesterday’s vote will bring the proposed bill to the House of Commons, where it needs to be voted upon by the end of the March to be passed into law and become the first anti-caste legislative act outside of South Asia. The bill in question, Clause 9(5)(a)of the 2010 Equality Act, has previously been enshrined in the anti-discrimination act but has not been activated yet. The current Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government remains strongly opposed to the bill, having already announced its planned opposition in a forthcoming vote set to take place in the House of Commons. In the eyes of the government, anti-caste discrimination will do little to abolish caste-discrimination amongst British South Asians. Instead, the government relies on widespread educative measures to eradicate caste-discrimination in the UK. However, with twenty-two Liberal Democrat peers and nine Conservative peers voting against their own government’s stance, opposition to the bill remains fractured.

SL security forces block 1000s Tamils travelling to protest march

Sri Lankan security forces have stopped thousands of Tamils from joining a protest march in Colombo to demand justice for disappeared or detained relatives on Wednesday. Protesters, who were travelling mainly from Vavuniya, had boarded buses in order to make the 210 km journey to Colombo when Sri Lankan police stopped the buses. The Sri Lankan Military spokesperson, Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya, claimed that police stopped the buses in order to prevent possible calshes in Vavuniya. However, leader of the Democratic People's Front party, Mano Ganeshan, rejected this and said that security...

US 'alarmed' by detention of Tamil protesters

In a statement published on Wednesday, the US embassy in Sri Lanka expressed alarm at the blocking of 1000s of Tamil protesters travelling to Colombo by Sri Lankan police. See here . Reproduced in full below: The U.S. Embassy is concerned about reports that hundreds of Sri Lankan family members of the disappeared were blocked in Vavuniya by Sri Lankan authorities while traveling to Colomb o. These family members are calling for information about their missing loved ones. The Embassy calls upon Sri Lankan authorities to allow free movement of these citizens. The right to freely express...

Canadian MP Brad Butt - 'not satisfied with what we are hearing today'

In an interview to Phoenix News Media on 1st March 2013 regarding Sri Lanka, the Canadian MP for Mississauga-Streetsville, Brad Butt, reaffirmed Canada's commitment to " continue to put pressure on through international bodies, through the Commonwealth and other agencies that Canada is a partner ", and made clear that whilst quiet diplomacy can work, " sometimes you have to raise the bar, and that's exactly what we are doing ." " As we learn more, we continue to step up, " he added. Extracts of Brad Butt's responses have been transcribed below: "The Prime Minister has spoken out very loudly and clearly on this issue, so has our foreign affairs minister, John Baird. We continue to be concerned about the lack of accountability for the serious allegations of war crimes . We know that there has been work done by the UN, a number of other reports that you've mentioned, that the Canadian government is gravely concerned about ." "From what I heard, the US government is stepping up their comments and their concerns as well on this issue, so we are starting to build a better international voice on this to make sure that these issues are well articulated ."

Investing in the future...

Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa will open a new 'Buddhist Leadership Academy' later this month. The Academy will be located in the Ranchawala region of Galle, reported the Mirror . According to the Bodu Bala Sena ("Buddhist Power Force"), a Buddhist organisation based in Colombo, the purpose of the academy is to develop and improve leadership qualities in the Buddhist clergy, Buddhist leaders and Buddhist youth activists. The Defence Secretary's vindication of the Buddhist Academy comes at a time when the extremist tendencies of the Buddhist clergy and activists are rife .