Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The U.S. Speaks Out on Sri Lanka

The Dravida Munnetra Kazagham party on Tuesday said it would withdraw its support from the central government, which it criticizes for not taking a strong enough position against Sri Lanka over alleged human rights violations against the country’s Tamil minority.
The DMK wants India to support a U.S.-sponsored United Nations resolution.
The U.N.’s Human Rights Council this week is set to vote on a resolution expressing concern about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, four years after the end of a 26-year-long civil war there.
The U.S. and others say the Sri Lankan government has failed to probe into allegations of human rights abuses against its minority Tamil population.
Colombo denies the allegations, saying they are fuelled by Tamils and separatist forces in Sri Lanka and abroad.
Human rights activists allege that the Sri Lankan army is torturing suspected members or supporters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a militant group also known as the Tamil Tigers.
Victoria Nuland, spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, addressed the issue late Monday during a press briefing in Washington D.C.
Here are excerpts of her remarks.
QUESTION: If I can check with you on Sri Lanka. The U.S. delegation which is going to – in Geneva right now, the kind of talks you’re having with the Sri Lankan government and also the Indian government on this issue, do you have something to say on that?
MS. NULAND: Well, you know when we’ve spoken about it here that we are sponsoring a new resolution in the Human Rights Council and we’re working with a lot of governments who share our concerns about the lack of progress in Sri Lanka. It is not a surprise to the Government of Sri Lanka that we are doing this. We made clear publicly and privately that this was a response to the fact that we just didn’t see the kind of movement that was necessary. We didn’t see promises fulfilled. So we’re being very transparent with the Government of Sri Lanka, and we’re expecting strong support for the resolution that we’ve put forward.
QUESTION: But there are sections from the pro-LTT groups which are coming up very strongly in support of the resolutions in Geneva. Do you think that this – there are some critics who say the passing of this resolution will give boost to LTT activities not only in Sri Lanka but world over.
MS. NULAND: Well, the best thing that the Government of Sri Lanka could do for its own people and to undercut the claims of these groups would be to fulfill the obligations that it made to the international community to take the process forward. So that hasn’t happened, and we are taking more measures in the Human Rights Council to make clear that progress has been insufficient.
QUESTION: And then lastly, has the Indian government approached you for any change in the draft resolution?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any details about the discussions that are ongoing…

UN Sri Lanka vote threatens India's government

MUNEEZA NAQVI | March 19, 2013 06:42 AM EST |
NEW DELHI — A dispute over a United Nations resolution on the bloody end to Sri Lanka's civil war with ethnic Tamil rebels is threatening the stability of India's already shaky coalition government.
A key ethnic Tamil party withdrew from the coalition Tuesday, accusing the government of watering down a U.N. resolution criticizing Sri Lanka's war-time conduct against its minority Tamil population. The party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, has demanded the U.N. Human Rights Council resolution accuse Sri Lanka of genocide and that it lead to the formation of an international inquiry into possible war crimes. The party also demanded a similar resolution be passed by India's Parliament.
The DMK party, from the southern state of Tamil Nadu, has 18 members in Parliament, five of them government ministers.
The issue of Sri Lanka's actions in the final five months of its quarter-century civil war in 2009 poses a conundrum for the Indian government. It is concerned that too strong a resolution will anger its Indian Ocean island neighbor and push it deeper into China's sphere of influence.
However, the anger of ethnic Tamil parties in India – and the precarious nature of the coalition – puts it under pressure to take a hard line toward Sri Lanka.
A U.N. investigation into the final months of the war indicated the ethnic Sinhalese-dominated government might have killed as many as 40,000 minority Tamil civilians. The Tamil Tigers had been fighting for a breakaway Tamil state in northern Sri Lanka.
Indian Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said the government was still considering its position on the U.N. vote, adding that any resolution by Parliament would require a consultation with its other government allies, a process the Congress party had already begun. He insisted the DMK's withdrawal would not topple the government, even though the coalition is already a minority government that leans heavily on small regional parties and is routinely held hostage to their pet interests.
National elections are not expected until next year.
The DMK accused the government of diluting a draft Sri Lanka resolution sponsored by the United States and ignoring the Tamil party's concerns.
"It will be a big harm to the Tamil race for the DMK to continue in government," said the party's leader, M. Karunanidhi.
Several Tamil legislators, from the DMK and an opposition party, disrupted Parliament, storming the well and chanting, "We want justice."
However, Karunanidhi left open the possibility of rejoining the government, saying, `'We are ready to change our opinion" if the demands are met.
The U.N. draft resolution, posted on a U.N. website late Monday, calls on Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of its own war commission and take action to ensure justice and reconciliation in the country.
It also calls for the implementation of recommendations issued last month by the U.N.'s top human rights official, Navi Pillay, who accused the government of failing to investigate reports of widespread killings and other war-time atrocities. Pillay's report said opposition leaders were being killed or abducted in Sri Lanka. It also questioned the government's commitment to postwar justice and urged Sri Lankan authorities to allow international experts to investigate allegations of human rights violations.
Rights group Amnesty International also blamed India for pushing for a weak U.N. resolution.
"There is a lot of evidence in this draft resolution to clearly show the imprint of Indian influence. There is a significant downgrading of the international community's concerns regarding human rights violations in Sri Lanka," G. Ananthapadmanabhan, the head of Amnesty International in India, said in a statement.
The rights council passed a similar resolution last year that human rights campaigners accuse Sri Lanka of largely ignoring.
Ananthapadmanabhan said the new resolution is especially weak given new information about possible war crimes that has come to light since last year.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi declined to comment on the DMK's withdrawal, but earlier Tuesday called for an "independent and credible" inquiry.
"We are anguished by reports of unspeakable atrocities on innocent civilians and children, especially during the last days of the conflict in 2009," she said, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.
A Sri Lanka spokesman denied that his government was involved in genocide.
"This is far from the truth," Keheliya Rambukwella said.
He also dismissed the events in neighboring India.
"We don't get involved in provincial politics of another country," he said.
Associated Press writer Krishan Francis in Colombo, Sri Lanka, contributed to this report.

Protests in Colombo over attacks on Sri Lankan monks in TN

Colombo, March 19, 2013
AP Sri Lankan Buddhist monks representing “Sinhala Ravaya” or 'the voice of Sinhalase' shout slogans during a protest outside the Indian High Commission in Colombo on Tuesday.
Sinhala Ravaya, a Sinhalese Buddhist pressure group, on Tuesday staged a march to the Indian High Commission in Colombo to protest the repeated attacks against Buddhist monks in Tamil Nadu.
Several dozens of monks and civilians handed over a petition to the Indian mission seeking Indian government’s intervention to prevent the attacks.
“The LTTE cadres who have killed many civilians Buddhist monks...are now enjoying the facilities provided by the government after being rehabilitated.
“While there is such a situation in Sri Lanka, we regret that the Indian government has not taken any action to stop these uncivilised actions against Sinhala Buddhists”, a statement by Sihala Ravaya said.
Two Buddhist monks had come under attacks in Tanjavur and in Chennai on Monday, triggering protests in Colombo.
Sri Lanka said it has sought from India protection for the Sri Lankan travellers and the island’s interest in view of the protests which have mounted to coincide with decision time for India over the anti-Sri Lanka resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council.
The protest came just hours ahead of an Indian High Commission statement which said “We have noted with concern the recent incidents involving Sri Lankan citizens in Tamil Nadu. The Government of India, in consultation with the concerned State governments, has taken and will continue to take all measures to ensure the safety, security and well-being of Sri Lankan visitors to India, including to Tamil Nadu”.

Worried SL Deputy High Commission seeks more security

HENNAI, March 19, 2013
S. Vijay Kumar
The Hindu The city police on Monday enhanced security arrangements around the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission in Nungambakkam. Photo: S. Vijay Kumar
The Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission in Southern India has written to the State government asking for increased security to be given to Sri Lankan people and establishments in the city.
The request follows Statewide agitations on the issue of Sri Lanka’s human rights record and attacks on Buddhist monks, including one on Monday.
“We have sought enhanced security arrangements to protect our people and establishments, including the Bank of Ceylon, Sri Lankan Airlines and the Mahabodhi Society premises,” said O.L. Ameerajwad, minister and head of chancery.
Expressing concern over the attacks on Buddhist monks, Mr. Ameerajwad, who, at present, is holding the additional charge of Sri Lanka Deputy High Commissioner, said many pilgrims were arriving in TN on their way to visit Bodh Gaya in Bihar.
“The Tamil Nadu police are cooperating well. The attack came as a shock. But as of now, we have not issued any travel advisory to pilgrims or tourists visiting Tamil Nadu from Sri Lanka,” he said.
On Monday, a general alert was sounded in the State and police kept a close watch on the movement of Sri Lankan nationals, particularly Buddhist monks. In Chennai, where protesters marched to the airport and other Central government establishment, city police commissioner S. George reviewed the security scenario with senior police officials.
Tight security arrangements were in place at the Sri Lanka Deputy High Commission on Sterling Road as well as the Mahabodhi Society in Egmore.

Sonia demands credible inquiry into human rights violations in Lanka

PTI | Mar 19, 2013, 12.52 PM IST
NEW DELHI: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday demanded an "independent and credible" inquiry into the violation of human rights in Sri Lanka even as she refused to comment on key UPA ally DMK withdrawing support to the government at the Centre.

Voicing her pain and anguish over the "denial of legitimate political rights" to Sri Lankan Tamils, Gandhi dwelt at length on the issue at the
Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) meeting.

Gandhi's remarks on the
Sri Lankan Tamils issue came ahead of DMK's announcement withdrawing support to UPA.
"I have nothing to say now", Gandhi said when later asked about the pull out by DMK.

"The plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka is close to our hearts. Our support for equal rights and equal protection of the laws to them has been unwavering since the days of Indiraji and Rajivji. "We are most pained at the manner in which their legitimate political rights continue to be denied to them. We are anguished by reports of unspeakable atrocities on innocent civilians and children, especially during the last days of the conflict in 2009," she said in her four-page speech.
The Congress President also spoke on the political challenges before the party ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and impending Assembly polls this year in a number of states besides underlining the need to focus on gender issues including passage of the anti-rape Bill and measures like Lokpal for fighting corruption.