Geneva 2014: Is the government falling into a trap?

The exclusion of intellectuals and their input in the making of public policy — foreign policy in particular — and the consequences thereof, was a recurring theme at a recent public discussion on the upcoming UN Human Rights Council session in March 2014.  Nativist, xenophobic tendencies were coming to the fore and “We don’t know how to converse with the world anymore,” warned Dayan Jayatilleke, the keynote speaker.  Dr Jayatilleka is best known as the former UN ambassador in Geneva who led the team that defeated a hostile resolution brought against Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council Special Session in May 2009, soon after the military defeat of the LTTE.   Sri Lanka lost two subsequent US-led resolutions in 2012 and 2013.

The discussion held at the auditorium of the Organisation of Professional Associations (OPA) was organised by the Liberal Party and moderated by its leader Rajiva Wijesinha, a National List MP and Secretary to the (now dismantled) Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP). Prof Wijesinha noted the absence of input from independent think tanks in foreign policy decision making, and lamented the failure of the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute and the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies in this regard.

Jayatilleka has been arguing consistently in the media that the cold war the country faces is an intellectual battle. A bibliography on Sri Lanka has developed over the years with a number of documents being produced, but though these were studied in the West there was no significant discourse in Sri Lanka he said, on his fortnightly TV talk-show ‘Vantage Point’ aired Thursday on ‘MTV Sports.’ “We are going into battle without knowing the history.” He said it was unthinkable that the GoSL did not respond to the flawed report of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Panel (the ‘Darusman report’). There were two brilliant critiques of it that had been disregarded. One was by the Marga Institute, a much respected independent think tank, and the other a study titled ‘The Numbers Game’ by a group of highly educated Western-based Sri Lankans. Listing some of the other literature on the subject he mentioned the Petrie report, Gordon Weiss’s book ‘The Cage,’ The Routledge Handbook on R2P, and a UK House of Commons research paper in 2009 titled ‘War and Peace in Sri Lanka,’ which traced the campaign against Sri Lanka originating much earlier than the ‘last stages of the war.’

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Thaipongal National Celebration held in Jaffna – 19 January 2014

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“Thai Pongal (தைப்பொங்கல்) or Pongal (பொங்கல்) is a harvest festival celebrated by Tamil people at the end of the harvest season.  Pongal is a four day festival which usually takes place from January 13 to 16 in the Gregorian calendar i.e., the last day of the Tamil month Maargazhi to the third day of Tamil month Thai.

 The second of the four days i.e., first day of the Tamil month Thai is the second and main day of the festival and this day is known as Thai Pongal. This day coincides with Makara Sankranthi which is a winter harvest festival celebrated throughout India. The day marks the start of sun’s six-month long journey northwards or the Uttarayanam. This also represents the Indic solstice when the sun purportedly enters the 10th house of the Indian zodiac i.e. Makara or Capricorn.”

Thaipongal National Celebration was held at Nallur, Jaffna on 19th January 2014. Minister of National Languages and Social Integration Vasudewa Nanayakkara graced the event as the chief guest.

Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration organized this event at Nallur in the association of Jaffna District Secretariat. The ceremony commenced at Nallur front. The guests were invited to the jubilee hall with the traditional dance and music. Several traditional cultural items were performed to mark Thaipongal.

Minister of Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development KN Douglas Devananda, Governor of Northern Province GA Chandrasiri, Indian Consul – Jaffna V.Mahalingam, Mayoress Mrs.Y.Patkunarajah , Government Agent of Jaffna district Sundaram Arumainyagam and several others took part in the event.

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http://www.np.gov.lk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2702:thaipongal-national-celebration-held-in-jaffna-19-january-2014&catid=85&Itemid=20

Logos Hope Opened for Public in Trincomalee

E1M4-10-01-2014Logos Hope – World’s largest floating Book ship made her very first visit to Trincomalee harbour on 09th January 2014. Hon. Governor, Eastern Province Rear Admiral Mohan Wijewickrama attended as the Chief Guest at the opening ceremony of the book exhibition on 10th January with a cross section of political and public officers of the area. 

The ship is open to the public from 10th January to 15th January allowing visitors who are interested in exploring to purchase books under many titles over 5000 publications and meet the crew members. Also at the request of the Hon. Governor, the Organizers of the book fair will provide free access to students who visit the ship in school uniform.

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http://www.ep.gov.lk/DetailsEventnew.asp?lan=0&eid=356

The fog of war in Sri Lanka

Berne (1)

By Michael Roberts and Padraig Colman

Reporting of the civil war in Sri Lanka has tended to distort various aspects of the violence that ensued, particularly in terms of the number of civilian casualties and the causes of their deaths.

Although Western media have been critical of both sides in the conflict between the Sinhala-dominated government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), they tend to see Tamils (and thus the LTTE) as underdogs.

Sri Lankan Tamils have been emigrating since the fifties. There is a substantial body of intelligent and prosperous Tamils abroad alienated from Sri Lankan politics and governments. The patriotism of expatriate Tamils increased when the government defeated the LTTE in 2009. They are receptive to the propaganda of Tiger activists.

Tamil nationalists or sympathizers now hold key positions in the west. Sri Lankan government PR is ineffective in comparison with the coordinated campaign of the Tamil diaspora using such outlets as the BBC, ABC, Sky, Channel Four, New York TimesDer Spiegel and their like.

The result has been distortion.

  • Western media erroneously describe it as “a war without witnesses” even though a restricted number of foreign reporters were transported to the rear battle front on several occasions.(1)
  • The received wisdom is that at the end of war there was “merciless shelling” and “extermination” and that subsequently some 300,000 civilians were “interned” in “concentration camps”. Both claims are exaggerations, the latter being quite gross.
  • Ban Ki-Moon’s Panel of Experts (Darusman Report) said that “a number of credible sources have estimated that there “could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths”. Despite the questionable methodology pursued by this panel, (2) its guesswork became a definite figure of at least 40,000 civilian dead; and, in the indelible words of a British parliamentarian named Lee Scott, 40,000 “slaughtered”.

British parliamentarians did not allow for the following factors during the last five months of the war in the patch of LTTE territory we term the “Vanni Pocket”:

  • It was difficult to distinguish between civilians and combatants;
  • The LTTE often fired on Tamil civilians;
  • US Ambassador Butenis confirmed the government’s claim that they made a conscious decision to prolong the war and risk more SL Army casualties in order to protect civilians. Red Cross representative Jacques de Maio, Robert O Blake of the US State Department and Jim Grant of UNICEF echoed this in their secret memoranda during the height of the war;
  • The Sri Lankan authorities knew that USA and India were tracking the battles on satellite and would spot any inordinate use of force; Continue reading

SF-(J) Commander Gives 100 Scholarships to Konapulam Children at His First Public Function

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Major General Udaya Perera, former Commander of Security Forces Headquarters – (Kilinochchi), assumed duties as the Commander Security Forces – (Jaffna) on Friday (10). He commenced duties in the office signing the first official document at auspicious time after observing religious formalities.

Commander security Forces – (Jaffna) (SF-J) Major general Udaya Perera, a few hours after assuming duties in the office, attended a scholarships award ceremony at Mallakam on Friday (10) afternoon. Under this programme, 100 schoolchildren residing at Konapulam open welfare centre (muham) will receive an allowance of Rs. 500/= for a period of one year as an inducement to continue with their education.

Launching the programme, SF-(J) Commander handed over the passbooks to beneficiaries from low income families of the village. Addressing children and parents gathered at Konapulam Vairavar Temple, where the ceremony was held, Maj. Gen. Perera urged them to take interest in their education giving value to those scholarships they received today. He further expressed his pleasure for being able to attend a community welfare function of this nature the same day he took over duty.

The SF-(J) Commander did not forget to share his views with media personnel and villagers present at the venue. Responding to media, he revealed that government’s fervent hope is to resettle all who lost their lands due to war. He further said that more than 90% have already been resettled in their homesteads and the rest will get lands and shelter in near future.

Rev. Fr. Wasanthan of Inuvil Church of South India, Divisional Secretary Thelippalai Mr. Sri Mohanan and Ms Mathista of Mavadipuram Nadeswara Vidyalaya, a beneficiary, addressed the meeting and admired the effort taken by the Army to enhance education of Jaffna.

General Officers Commanding 51, 52 and 55 Divisions, Commander 513 Brigade, Senior Army officers and villagers were present.

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http://www.cimicjaffna.lk/Cimicnews_2014_01_11.php

Our preparations for Geneva

946826684glBy K. Godage

Former Ambassador

I was happy to read that Mr. Lalith Weeratunge and Dr. G.L. Peiris would be going out to Geneva to brief missions of countries in the HRC, whatever briefing/ publicity we can give to what we have achieved so far and what we intend to do will not be a waste of time.

This approach is certainly what is called for, not sending a large delegation during the Sessions to lobby delegates as we did a few years ago; most countries decide on their positions on Resolutions such as those relating to countries such as ours, before the Session commences. Former Ambassadors such as Jayantha Dhanapala. Pallihakkara, Nihal Rodrigo {who is an Advisor to His Excellency] and Bernard Goonetilleke would bear me out.

I have often wondered as to what the government’s strategy is to counter these anti-Sri Lanka Resolutions. In the first instance, as the government is already doing, we need to continue to reach out to the Tamil people in a meaningful manner and encourage the Tamil people to reach out to the Sinhalese and Muslim communities. The Tamil community in particular, along with all other communities of our country must continue to enjoy the hard won freedom in every sense of that word; they also need to feel secure and have opportunities to pursue livelihoods of their choice; another important value for the Tamil people in particular is Education, in this regard I am, aware that those who take the trouble to find out about the progress within the country are more than happy with what the government has done since the war ended, to improve the education facilities in the region. In this regard I would urge the government to continue its good work in spite of attempts by pro LTTE elements to divert its attention and create a rift between minor communities and the government.

The government, I presume, has prepared Documentaries that can be shown to the international community. Such Documentaries, perhaps prepared by foreign companies under our supervision of course, would have greater credence and acceptance. We should also establish a Reconciliation Commission which should be headed by a committed person such as Professor Rajiva Wijesinha, the Advisor on Reconciliation to the President, who is well informed and has worked tirelessly to challenge the baseless accusations made by the pro LTTE individuals and organizations. We should without further delay also establish a local commission with three retired judges of the Supreme Court to inquire into what happened in the last days of the conflict, when we saved the lives of over three hundred thousand civilians.

We could then without doubt, give the lie to the horrendous charge that 40,000 were killed in the closing stages of the war on terrorism. Let us call upon those who are making this wild accusation to come up with proof before the Commission, giving the names of those whom they claim were killed. We could also commission an independent body, comprising respected Sri Lankans from a range of professional fields, to document the history of the war and record the deaths that have resulted from targeted terrorist activity – this needs to include the support lent by any organisations and certain countries to the terrorists, which has enabled them to continue their war against the State. Continue reading

Major General Hathurusinghe’s service to Jaffna appreciated

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Appreciating the service of outgoing Jaffna Security Forces Commander Major General Mahinda Hathurusinghe to Jaffna and it’s people, a large gathering of civilians were present at Vasavilan on Saturday (04).

Religious leaders, senior government and private sector officials, representatives of deferent community organizations, who gathered on the occasion organized prior to the departure of Major General Mahinda Hathurusinghe to take over his new appointment as Adjutant General of Army Headquarters, invoked blessings and appreciated his service extended to needy people of Jaffna and commended his successful effort to establish peace in Jaffna.

Addressing the well-wishers present, Commander Security Forces – Jaffna (SF – J) recalled his cherished memories with peace loving people in Jaffna and expressed his delight over the rapid development taking place in Jaffna. He further said, we must not adopt or foster divisive ideologies, and instead we must work towards sustainable peace for a better country where our future generations could live in peace and harmony.

Mr. Dharmakulasingham, a retired senior diplomatic official giving vote of thanks specially mentioned about the cordial relationship that developed between the military and the civilians during the tenure of Major General Hathurusinghe as the SF-J Commander.

People showing their solidarity and friendliness garlanded outgoing Major General Mahinda Hathurusinghe and presented him mementos and wished him all the best in his future endeavors.

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 http://www.cimicjaffna.lk/Cimicnews_2014_01_06.php

 

Awareness Program Held on ‘Importance of Sending Children to Pre-Schools’

E1M1-25-11-2013Pre-School Education Bureau is taking measures to raise awareness on ‘Importance of Sending Children to Pre-Schools’ through street dramas. In this regard, a street drama was staged on 25.11.2013 at public places in Nintavur and Akkaraipattu.

Secretary to the Chief Minister Mr. U.L.A. Azeez officially inaugurated the event. Large amount of audiences and dignitaries of the area were present on the occasion.

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http://www.ep.gov.lk/DetailsEventnew.asp?lan=0&eid=343

11 SLLI Troops & Villagers in Joint Shramadana to Repair Karainagar Beach Road

2013_11_18_1Responding to a request of J. Srikaran Ayyar Kurukkal, Chief priest of Kiluvankadu Arulmiku Sri Kandaswamy Temple and the villagers, troops of 11th Sri Lanka Light Infantry (11 SLLI) mended the road Karainagar beach road.

On directives of the Commanding Officer 11 SLLI Lieutenant Colonel Shashika Perera, soldiers filled the edges of the 1.2 km long road which had been neglected by responsible authorities over four years and cleaned either side in a shramadana campaign organized on Thursday (14).

Youths in the village also joined the soldiers in this Shramadana which would benefit nearly 100 families and tourists visiting the famous Casuarinas Beach.

Villagers revealed that many a request made to the Karainagar Pradeshiya Sabha with regard to inconvenience faced by them due to bad condition of this road fell in deaf ears.

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http://www.cimicjaffna.lk/Cimicnews_2013_11_18.php

Palm Jaggery Production Factory – Pandatharippu

8679564137_1024e35802“Local productions have shown tremendous progress in the recent past. The provincial administration under the guidance of the Governor, taking every possible step to improve the productivity of local production.”

Opening ceremony of Pandatharippu palm jaggery production factory of Pandatharippu Palmyrah Development Board was held on 24th April 2013. Minister of Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development Douglas Devananda and Governor of Northern Province GA Chandrasiri participated as chief guests.

This factory was established to produce local jaggery products with modern technology and high standard and thereby, it will help to improve the livelihood of the relevant society. The arrangements for local and foreign marketing facilities have been made.

This jaggery factory which is located at Keerimalai, Periyavilan, Pandatharippu was declared open by the chief guests. They also unveiled the commemorative plaque of the factory. The guests also made a observation visit to see the machinery and activities. Sales activities were also officially launched.

The factory was constructed at a cost of 21 million rupees with the financial support of Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). It is estimated that 1,200 bottles of palm juice (karupani) can be produced per day through this factory.

Divisional Secretary of Vali South-West Muralitharan, Cooperative Commissioner Mathumathy Vasanthakumar, Asst. Commissioner of Cooperative Development Arunthavanathan, Regional Manager of UNDP Gnanaganeshan and several relevant officials also took part at this event.

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http://www.np.gov.lk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2300:palm-jaggery-production-factory-declared-open-24-april-2013&catid=68&Itemid=14