Diaspora Lanka Report : 28 September to 31 December 2013 – Part 1

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In this edition….
…A three-day “lockdown” workshop produces inspired urban design for Mannar’s town plan
…Visible progress made on the women’s rice mill project
…A community tourism strategy gets the attention of the International Financial Corporation
…Successful overseas volunteer programs in 2013 will generate further ones in 2014

 

The past three months in Sri Lanka have been a mixed bag, of frustration and hampered progress on some of our larger projects and encouraging headway on our more community-level ventures. The political backdrop of this trip was vibrant and at times volatile due to the holding of the Northern Provincial Government elections and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGM). The Government was also preoccupied with preparations for the forthcoming return to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in March of 2014.

A highlight of this period was having 15 overseas volunteers work alongside local counterparts on a range of projects. Although our town planning initiatives didn’t quite go according to plan, Diaspora Lanka brought out 11 Australian planning professionals who assisted to fast-track the Mannar urban development plan. Two volunteers came from Estonia to work on a community tourism strategy and an English-based activity program, while two further volunteers from Vietnam and Australia focused on establishing an ‘English as a Second Language’ (ESL) program.

Other pleasing developments included the progress made on establishing a rice mill so that women made vulnerable by the war can earn a daily income and the establishment of the Computerizing Mannar Villages initiative for children and youngsters in two more remote areas of Mannar.

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US seeks to eventually partition Sri Lanka – Tamara Kunanayakam

The United States has no genuine interest in accountability or reconciliation in Sri Lanka, but is seeking a strategic military base in Asia, says Tamara Manimekhalai Kunanayakam, onetime Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Holy See.

In a wide ranging interview with Ceylon Today, Kunanayakam said, the US would demand more concessions using the resolution as a tool and charged the UN Rights Chief as a ‘US instrument’ doing Washington’s bidding.

Kunanayakam also alleged the resolution was aimed at demonstrating Sri Lanka’s alleged failure to demonstrate accountability and to showcase the island as a failed State to maximize on concessions, including a demand to create a US military hub in Sri Lanka.

Excerpts from the interview:

 By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

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Reconciliation and the role of India

Reconciliation and the role of India

Presentation by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha, MP

At the Observatory Research Foundation

Delhi, December 13th 2013

I must admit to being deeply worried about the current state of relations between India and Sri Lanka. I contrast this with the excellent situation that obtained in 2009, when India was the chief component of the protective barrier against efforts to stop us eradicating terrorism from our shores. One might have thought that this was a goal the whole world would have supported, but sadly this is not an ideal world and countries will naturally put their own self interest first. Fortunately, not only did India’s interests coincide with our own at that stage, but given the terrible toll terrorism funded by external sources was taking on both our countries, I think it is also true to say that we worked in accordance with the highest moral perspectives.

But the aim we shared then, of eradicating terrorism on our shores, went hand in hand with another commitment, which was the promotion of pluralism in Sri Lanka. This again is a moral goal, but it also has a practical dimension, in that the full incorporation of the Tamil people in the body politic in Sri Lanka would have reduced the potential for future terrorism.

Sadly Sri Lanka has not pursued the Reconciliation process with the commitment it requires. Given its urgency I believe we should try to understand the reasons for this, and try to overcome them. In this process India has a significant role to play.

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Statement by Tamara Kunanayakam at the 68th session of the General Assembly Third Committee -28/10/2013

Statement by Tamara Kunanayakam

 

 CHAIRPERSON-RAPPORTEUR OF THE WORKING GROUP ON THE RIGHT TO DEVELOPMENT

68th session of the General Assembly Third Committee

Item 69 (b) of the provisional agenda Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms

28 October 2013

 New York

Mr. Chairperson,

Distinguished delegates,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour to address you in my capacity as Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the Right to Development. It is the first time that the Assembly has invited me to present an oral report, instead of an update, of the 14th session of the Working Group, and to engage in an interactive dialogue with the Third Committee. I thank you for this invitation.

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The numbers game: counting civilian deaths in Sri Lanka’s war

Estimating the number of civilian deaths in the final stages of the war in Sri Lanka is proving problematic.

By Kath Noble

The generation-long war in Sri Lanka came to an end in May 2009, with the military defeat of the the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) by government forces. Tamil diaspora groups claimed there had been genocide, but the dominant narrative was of a bloody but essentially fair fight, as captured in the congratulatory resolution passed in the UN Human Rights Council barely a week later.

Even the United States, which backed an alternative and more critical statement, privately felt the same way—a cable published by Wikileaks quotes its Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues as having said at around the same time, ‘The Army could have won the military battle faster with higher civilian casualties, yet chose a slower approach which led to a greater number of Sri Lankan military deaths.’

However, this near-consensus has gradually been eroded, and pressure is now mounting for an international investigation.

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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights met Hon. Governor, EP

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 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Her Excellency Ms. Navanethan Pillay met Hon. Governor, Eastern Province Rear Admiral Mohan Wijewickrama on 28th August 2013 at Governor’s Secretariat in Trincomalee.

H.E. Mr. Ravinatha Ariyasinha, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN Office at Geneva, UN High Commissioners’ delegation and the Officials of the GoSL also present at the event.

A discussion on the development of Eastern Province after the conflict was held at this meeting.

http://www.ep.gov.lk/DetailsEventnew.asp?lan=0&eid=308

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay visits Northern Province

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Her Excellency Navanethem Pillay, United Nations High Commission for Human Rights arrived in Sri Lanka on a 7 day official visit. She was accompanied by five senior officials of the UN Human Right Council.

During her tour to the north part of Sri Lanka, she met Governor of Northern Province GA Chandrasiri at his office in Jaffna on 27th August 2013 and had discussion regarding the current situation of the province. Governor G A Chandrasiri had a breakfast meeting with UN High Commissioner and briefed the main development and reconciliation activities which took place after the end of hostilities in 2009.

Governor gave a clear explanation to the questions raised by UN High Commissioner for human rights especially on resettlement, rehabilitation and land issues.

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UNHCR recommendations accepted by Sri Lanka to improve Human Rights

1. Consider ratifying the Palermo Protocol on human trafficking. (Philippines)


2.
Make further efforts to ratify other relevant international instruments that are vital to the promotion and protection of Human Rights, in keeping with its national capacity and priority. (Cambodia)


3.
Continue efforts to implement the National Action Plan for the protection and promotion and human rights. (Bahrain)


4.
Expedite action to implement the agreed Action Plan in line with the spirit of the LLRC through a process inclusive of all people belonging to all ethnicity. (Bangladesh)


5.
Steady implementation of the National Action Plan for Promotion and Protection of Human Rights as well as the National Plan of Action to implement the recommendations of the LLRC. (Japan)


6.
Take all steps to strengthen and ensure the independence of the National Human Rights Commission. (Germany)


7.
Ensure structural and operational independence of the national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles. (Maldives)


8.
Strengthen the independence of institutions such as the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the Police Commission and Election Commission. (Norway)


9.
Take action to facilitate greater participation by citizens and civil society in helping to implement human rights action plans. (Australia)


10.
Maintain and strengthen cooperation with various UN mechanisms, as well as financial institutions to overcome the challenges faced in the peace and national reconciliation process. (Benin)


11.
Share with the international community its experiences in rehabilitating and reintegrating former LTTE child soldiers. (Cuba)


12.
Prioritize the rehabilitation and reintegration of former child soldiers. (Italy)


13.
Provide greater cooperation to the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to accomplish its work. (Ecuador)


14.
Ensure women’s participation in the post-conflict, reconstruction and peace building process. (Finland)


15.
Adopt necessary measures to ensure that gender equality is a legal and practical reality, combating particularly gender violence.(Spain)


16.
Criminalize all forms of violence against women and hold the perpetrators of such violence accountable. (South Africa)


17.
Increase efforts on strengthening protection of children’s rights in such areas as child labour, domestic violence, trafficking and sexual exploitation. (Iran)


18.
Consider incorporating the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and the UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders, otherwise known as the “Bangkok Rules“ as part of its work on the treatment of prisoners. (Thailand)


19.
Fully and transparently investigate alleged grave breaches of international humanitarian law during the conflict. (UK)


20.
Take necessary measures to bring to justice and prosecute perpetrators of violations of the international human rights law and humanitarian Law. (Chile)


21.
Take necessary steps to ensure that all detainees are afforded a fair trial within a reasonable period. (Ireland)


22.
Continue to carry out the policy aimed at improving the judicial system, reforming law enforcement bodies and decreasing the level of crime and corruption. (Russia)


23.
Carry out an independent and credible investigation on the allegations of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. (Switzerland)


24. 
Ensure legal ownership and return or restitution of houses and lands to internally displaced persons, according to international standards. (Holy See)


25.
Remain committed to sustainable economic and social development, further promote national reconciliation, and achieve stability and development in the country. (China)

The Laws’ and Other Delays

Even before I was asked to convene the Task Force on implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan, we had commenced at the Reconciliation Office a series of consultations with relevant Government officials as well as Civil Society, to develop suggestions as to how best the Plan could be taken forward.

We had three such consultations which all produced a wealth of ideas, and these fed in to a meeting of the Task Force which looked in particular at Children’s issues. The Secretary to the Minister who chairs the Inter-Ministerial Committee sent out several requests on the basis of the decisions taken then, though we still need a clear directive from the Presidential Secretariat about swift implementation of the Plan.

Unfortunately the next set of Consultations we had planned had to be postponed when I was suddenly asked to go to Geneva. I fear now that we will again have to devote time and energy to dealing with misguided criticism rather than moving forward with productive action. I suppose that has to be expected though, when Human Rights becomes a political tool rather than an entitlement for people that needs to be strengthened.

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Strengthening the Human Rights Commission

I was delighted last week to be told that the Human Rights Commission was receiving assistance from the Asia Pacific Centre which coordinates work with National Human Rights Commissions. When, following my appointment to convene the Task Force to promote and monitor action on the National Human Rights Action Plan, I met the HRC, I had been told that such assistance had been requested. I asked for a meeting, since I believe that the HRC is one of the core elements in the promotion of Rights in Sri Lanka, but I heard nothing, and later I was told that they had said they were too busy to meet me.

It was fortuitous that I found out they were present. During the Council of Asian Liberal and Democrats Congress that was held at Colombo, I noted the presence of the UN and on checking was told that a number of UN Human Rights personnel were staying.

The Ministry of External Affairs knew nothing about this, but I then checked with the UN Resident Coordinator who was helpful as always, and said he thought it was the Asia Pacific people who were working with the HRC. The chairman confirmed this, and kindly arranged a meeting for me at short notice.

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