The Sri Lanka the authorities don’t want you to see

To natter to politicians about human rights you need to head to their stalking ground…Party conferences. It is like a festival for political anoraks where we all queue up to see our favourite “acts”. However, this year among the many meetings, prawn vol-au-vents and receptions I was blown away by how human rights concerns can easily be pushed aside over a nice glass of wine (which I  presumed was) paid for by the Sri Lankan government.
 
Before Conferences this year I watched, or rather cried through, Callum Macrea’s powerful film 'No Fire Zone', which documents the final awful months of the 26 year Sri Lankan civil war. It is a chilling exposé of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
 
Post film I felt fired up and thought attending the Conservative friends of Sri Lanka reception would be a good chance to discuss, with others interested in Sri Lanka, what needed to be done. How wrong could I be? It was a celebratory affair, not one mention of human rights and much like how I imagined the recent UK drinks reception at the UN with the Sri Lankan Government. One MP even reflected how pleased he was that the beautiful beaches in the north of the island are now open for tourists. Surely he didn’t mean the same beaches where people were corralled into alleged "no fire zones"? Where civilians were shelled, hospitals deliberately targeted, people were stripped naked and executed and rape and other sexual violence was widespread. I was appalled and left. Rather than a handy new tourist spot to head off to during recess, this is the Sri Lanka the authorities don’t want you to see.
 
In less than 3 weeks the Sri Lankan government will host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHGOM). Amnesty is extremely concerned about Sri Lanka’s disturbing record of repressing civil society activism. We want all Commonwealth governments, including the UK, to push Sri Lanka to end its continuing crackdown on human rights.
 
To build up the pressure on the UK government last night Amnesty co-hosted a Parliamentary screening of No Fire Zone in Westminster with Channel 4 and the Parliamentary Human Rights Group. The event was chaired by Jonathan Miller, who alongside Jon Snow and Channel 4 News, has been keeping the horrendous abuses in Sri Lanka on our screens and pressing for more action from the 'timid' UK government.  
 
Panellists called on the UK to ensure that civil society is protected and that human rights are not side-lined in the interest of trade. Callum Macrae detailed how screenings of his film have been banned in Nepal and Malaysia following pressure from the Sri Lankan authorities. We also heard from Alan Keenan, from International Crisis Group about the need for proper independent, international investigation into these alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.
 
So what was the response of the UK government..? Well nothing actually. Despite the Government having agreed to speak at the event pre-reshuffle, the new Minister unfortunately did not have the time in his busy schedule to defend their position on Sri Lanka. Nick Clegg has said the UK government “will be using the opportunity (of CHOGM) to cast a spotlight on the unacceptable abuses there”. But a hollow pyrotechnics show from the UK is the last thing we need. We need to see a meaningful strategy for how they’ll use CHOGM to press Sri Lanka to end the abuses, how the UK embassy can better support and protect human rights defenders and finally how the UK can mobilise political will to prevent Sri Lanka from becoming the next Commonwealth Chair.
 
So, if like me, this all makes you pretty cross here are two things you can do ahead of CHOGM. First, Watch No Fire Zone and download the app.
 
Second, email William Hague. Join us in our global push to ensure that Sri Lanka’s human rights abuses will not be given a Commonwealth seal of approval. Our petition asking the Indian Prime Minister not to go to CHOGM in India has already reached 35,000 signatures. So let’s let Foreign Secretary William Hague know the UK’s apparent toleration of Sri Lanka human rights abuses is not in our name. And finally if the Conservative Friends of Sri Lanka were true “friends” they should also press the Sri Lankan government to improve their appalling human rights record.

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21 comments

Hi Lucy,
As a long-time member of Amnesty and supporter of Human Rights for all Sri Lankans, perhaps you may wish to correct your allegation that Conservative Friends of Sri Lanka is "(probably)" funded by GOSL [: http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=90051] Your use of the word "probably" by definition intimates ''very likely''. Making such assumptions does not reflect well on Amnesty's credibility, of which I am a member. Let me state very clearly and categorically, CFSL is a British organisation and they are NOT funded by the Sri Lankan Government in any way,shape or form. CFSL does not believe in being judgmental of others and believes in engaging with everyone and anyone, to build peace, reconciliation and harmony amongst all people. Will you kindly retract your allegation please? - Amal

amal.abey 4 years ago

Hi Amal,
Thanks for your continued support of Amnesty and the important work we do.
In response to your comment I was referring to the event being paid for by the Sri Lankan government, not CFSL, perhaps the word probably is too strong and therefore I will change it to "I presumed" - which I did at the time.
Thanks for sending through the link, it does not clarify where the funding for CFSL comes from but I'd be happy to hear more about that. I did try to find out from your website whilst writing the blog but I did not find anything.
I guess more importantly rather than focusing on who paid for or didn't pay for the glass of wine the issue still remains that there is complete impunity for the abuses that happened and are still happening in Sri Lanka. I would certainly love to hear more about how CFSL are raising these issues both with the UK government and the Sri Lankan one? Lucy

Lucy WakeStaff 4 years ago

Lucy,
CFSL is a UK organisation and its funding is governed by rules established by the Electoral Commission. CFSL is prohibited from accepting funding or donations in kind such as wine+food for events bearing our name, where payments may be received from any source that is not British, cannot be accepted. CFSL is funded entirely from individuals/institutions who are British and/or on the British electoral register. Your current wording states:
"a nice glass of wine (which I presummed {your mis-spelling} was) paid for by the Sri Lankan government"
gives the impression that:

1. You were actually at the event - did you attend this event?.
2. That GOSL used CFSL to host an event at the Conservative Party Conference, at which the Sri Lankan Govt actually paid for the costs of hosting the event. CFSL denies this. If it were true - it would be illegal. Kindly provide the evidence which has led you to this presumption please.

CFSL’s core values are on our website.
CFSL, which comprises people from all the communities in Sri Lanka, abhors torture, rape, murder, human shields, suicide bombings, political assassinations, terrorism, suicide bombings, human trafficking, extortion, child soldiers, threats to freedom of expression, extra-judicial killings and impunity for these acts. We seek to see real change in the lives of all the people of Sri Lanka by encouraging engagement between communities, their leaders and other stakeholders irrespective of their background or ethnicity by looking to the future, rather than the past. We believe there are genuine opportunities for positive Human Rights progress to be made, through mutual understanding of the issues and agreement to resolve the difficulties involved. Recent history has shown that adversarial rhetoric and vitriolic criticism, however justified, and attempts to disengage or isolate the current democratically elected leaders of Sri Lanka may not produce the end results which you and I, as advocates of Human Rights, wish to see happen in Sri Lanka. As a British organisation, we work primarily with British institutions, however we do have meetings with Sri Lankan officials, including ordinary individuals, institutions and political leaders, where we encourage progress to emerge through mutual respect, discussion and consensus.
I'm happy to continue this discussion, at an informal meeting, however, I would appreciate if you would first kindly explain the basis of your presumption please.
- Amal

amal.abey 4 years ago

Amal,

Thank you for the information about CFSL, of which I note you are the Director. I did attend the reception in the Midland hotel with two colleagues, hence the part of the blog which refers to hearing MPs talk about the opening of beaches in the North and not anything about human rights concerns. My mistaken presumption re provision of refreshments was based on the effusive and uncritical support for the government of Sri Lanka an the event. I stand corrected and note for the record here that from the information you have given me it appears the reception was not in any way paid for by the Sri Lankan government.

I am delighted to hear that CFSL, in your words, seeks to see real change in the lives of all the people of Sri Lanka. I wish you the best of luck in your work.

Lucy

Lucy WakeStaff 4 years ago

Dear Lucy

As a junior doctor here in London, and a volunteer in Sri Lanka and Africa, I feel that our essential aims - to help people – are the same. Indeed, I have been a fan of Amnesty International and similar groups and I share with you concern for my people in Sri Lanka

However, having seen your blog above, I am sorry to say that, I feel a pang of disappointment in organisations such as yours and Human Rights Watch.

Whilst your basic intentions are good – to improve the human rights records of governments (and no doubt there’s a great deal of work needed here!) – I feel that your style of aggressive and emotive campaigning is ineffective because it alienates rather than engages the very bodies whom you are trying to improve.

And your latest blog about the conservative friends of Sri Lanka – above – exemplifies this. It highlights a rather worrying trend that I have noticed, to use emotion rather than facts, and incomplete, second-hand or uncorroborated information(e.g. the video footage) to make broad statements and incorrect insinuations about organizations. I feel this erodes the credibility of groups such as yours and is therefore counterproductive, if not detrimental, to actual human rights.

At the meeting your refer to above, for example, you did not attend but made the insinuation that it was a SL-government sponsored event (which it appears that it wasn’t) and quoted things that were supposedly said but were actually not. The message I got from attending this event -as an independent and politically neutral observer - was that there was a great deal of positive work in terms of rehabilitation going on in Sri Lanka, but that the government of the above was not averse to criticism and in fact needed constructive criticism and help from others.

So, whilst I congratulate you for your intentions to help the human rights of Sri Lankans, I would suggest that the best way of doing this is by engaging with bodies such as the government and other stakeholders – to attend events such as these and engage in debate with Sri Lankans. This way, I feel you would garner a great deal more support and respect from ordinary Sri Lankans and even larger organisations and thereby, come closer to the goals that many of us share with you.

regards,
Ruwan Weerakkody

wruwan 4 years ago

Dear Ruwan,

Thanks for taking the time to read and respond to my blog. It is a shame your are disappointed with the approach I have taken.My intention was certainly not to alienate others who care deeply about Sri Lanka, like yourself.

You are correct that my blog is emotive. I cannot apologise for that. It is very difficult not to be moved by the extent of the human rights abuses, detailed by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, The United Nations and the recent film No Fire Zone.

There is a body of evidence of serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law during the armed conflict, some amounting to war crimes or crimes against humanity. These include enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and the intentional shelling of civilians and protected areas such as hospitals.
http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/un-must-act-now-investigate-war-crimes-sri-lanka-2011-04-21

We continue to document evidence of torture and a crackdown on critics through threats, harassment, imprisonment and violent attacks (see reports/press releases below)

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA37/021/2013/en/ca8710cc-fe3d-4a9e-ba80-c0c572ee3884/asa370212013en.html
http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA37/003/2013/en

As I am sure you are aware, blogging is just one way that Amnesty International tries to raise awareness about human rights abuses. We campaign on behalf of individuals, like Prageeth Eknaligoda, a Sri Lankan journalist and political analyst, who went missing on January 24, 2010
http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx?c=6oJCLQPAJiJUG&b=6645049&aid=13667

We also document evidence of abuses, lobby government's across the globe and work with civil society.

The CFSL event that I attended at Party Conferences may only be a snapshot of the work that CFSL do, but I was deeply disappointed not to hear any recognition of the deteriorating human rights situation in Sri Lanka at all.

We had a number of Sri Lankans attend our recent event in Parliament last week, and a number of MPs who represent large diaspora groups here in the UK. We invited the Sri Lankan High Commission to attend our event, but unfortunately they did not respond.

I agree a lot more is to be done in terms of individuals and organisations engaging with the Sri Lankan government. And we will continue to carry out this work.

Best wishes

Lucy

Lucy WakeStaff 4 years ago

Lucy - The documentary is indeed very distressing but sadly wars are not conducted under MCC rules and the death of innocent civilians , so grotesquely referred by the western media as " collateral damage " is almost a given. The GoSL is simply unable to accept any culpability in terms of civilian casualties and the conduct of the armed forces during the latter stages of the conflict as any such admission would lead all the way up the chain of command to the executive.
The GoSL is also well aware that neither the British nor American governments are in a position to preach about " human rights " and collateral damage after the carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan, where, in the name of liberation and democracy ( whatever that means ) , these two countries have been reduced to living on handouts and where civil society barely exists , sewage runs in the streets and where suicide bombings are a daily occurrence.
I agree that many things in Sri Lanka , including press freedom, are not what they should be BUT one needs to understand that Sri Lanka has been a practising democracy since independence in 1948 and the current government and President have been democratically elected.
One also needs to understand that for thirty long years , the spectre of suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings by the LTTE were an everyday part of life for ALL Sri Lankans. Whilst we live in a very sanitised world where the spectre of such random violence is only seen on a television screen in far away countries, the people of Sri Lanka had to endure the barbarity perpetrated by the LTTE ( oddly enough in the name of freedom ) as part of everyday life. For all the issues that organisations such as Amnesty bring up about Sri Lanka, no Sri Lankan will any longer be blown up in a school bus or on a train on their way to work. For most Sri Lankan, that is a lot more important than investigations into perceived war crimes or the lack of press freedom.
HMG will not boycott CHOGM as that will set a very dangerous precedent and countries such as Canada and India will only do so because of domestic political considerations and not due to solidarity with any victims or the disenfranchised. .
Canada has a very large Tamil diaspora which impacts on the demographics of the political landscape whilst India has to contend with coalition politics vis a vis Tamil Nadu.
Best regards
Charles Abey
Ps. Although Amal and I share the same surname, we are not related !!

Charles.Abey 4 years ago

Lucy - The documentary is indeed very distressing but sadly wars are not conducted under MCC rules and the death of innocent civilians , so grotesquely referred by the western media as " collateral damage " is almost a given. The GoSL is simply unable to accept any culpability in terms of civilian casualties and the conduct of the armed forces during the latter stages of the conflict as any such admission would lead all the way up the chain of command to the executive.
The GoSL is also well aware that neither the British nor American governments are in a position to preach about " human rights " and collateral damage after the carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan, where, in the name of liberation and democracy ( whatever that means ) , these two countries have been reduced to living on handouts and where civil society barely exists , sewage runs in the streets and where suicide bombings are a daily occurrence.
I agree that many things in Sri Lanka , including press freedom, are not what they should be BUT one needs to understand that Sri Lanka has been a practising democracy since independence in 1948 and the current government and President have been democratically elected.
One also needs to understand that for thirty long years , the spectre of suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings by the LTTE were an everyday part of life for ALL Sri Lankans. Whilst we live in a very sanitised world where the spectre of such random violence is only seen on a television screen in far away countries, the people of Sri Lanka had to endure the barbarity perpetrated by the LTTE ( oddly enough in the name of freedom ) as part of everyday life. For all the issues that organisations such as Amnesty bring up about Sri Lanka, no Sri Lankan will any longer be blown up in a school bus or on a train on their way to work. For most Sri Lankan, that is a lot more important than investigations into perceived war crimes or the lack of press freedom.
HMG will not boycott CHOGM as that will set a very dangerous precedent and countries such as Canada and India will only do so because of domestic political considerations and not due to solidarity with any victims or the disenfranchised. .
Canada has a very large Tamil diaspora which impacts on the demographics of the political landscape whilst India has to contend with coalition politics vis a vis Tamil Nadu.
Best regards
Charles Abey
Ps. Although Amal and I share the same surname, we are not related !!

Charles.Abey 4 years ago

Thanks Charles for your comments. You raised some interesting points.

I am quite glad that international humanitarian law, also known as the laws of war, apply rather than MCC rules...They were developed precisely in order to mitigate the effects of such conflict, by limiting the means and methods of conducting military operations. Those responsible for alleged war crimes or human rights violations must be pursued and prosecuted - whomever is the perpetrator - including act committed by the US and the UK.

We have documented abuses on both sides - Both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE violated international humanitarian law. The government used heavy weaponry indiscriminately in areas densely populated with civilians. The LTTE forcibly recruited adults and children as combatants, used civilians as human shields against the approaching government forces, and attacked civilians who tried to escape.

The run up to CHOGM meeting is an important to highlight both what happened in the war and the need for independent, international investigation into these alleged crimes but also to focus on the recent deterioration of the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. I hope in the run up to, at and after CHGOM that meaningful progress is made in these areas
Lucy

Lucy WakeStaff 4 years ago

Lucy
Totally agree with with you on humanitarian law - however, we all live in the world that we live in and not the world we WANT to live in ! The application of the laws that you refer to is very very subjective and some countries flout these laws with total impunity.
The state of Israel has since its creation completely ignored such laws as it persecutes the Palestinian people and the world turns a blind. Gaza is a concentration camp in all but name and yet Israel is seen as the victim !! Some justice !
The US and Britain. on the pretext of " the war again terror " bombs Iraq and Afghanistan back into the stone age with in excess of one million Iraqis killed since 2003 and yet is there any remote likelihood of either George W Bush or Tony Blair being prosecuted for war crimes ? There is a greater possibility of seeing a squadron of flying pigs over London !
You are right that the SL used heavy weaponry indiscriminately. In fact I would even go as far as to state that such weapons were fired quire deliberately to cause as much causalities to the LTTE irrespective of the " collateral damage " - in the same way as the American predator drones fire at suspected Al Quaida terrorists and end up killing bridal parties in Pakistan as collateral damage. Is there any danger that Mr Obama will be prosecuted for war crimes as he is the Commander in Chield of the US armed forces.

Charles.Abey 4 years ago

Hi Charles,

Call me an idealist, if you may, but I believe we all need to be the change we want to see in the world (to coin Gandhi). Having worked for NGOs for over ten years now (Oxfam, MSF and Amnesty) I have seen how campaigning for change can make a difference, including on international humanitarian law. We recently successfully campaigned for a global treaty to regulate the flow of arms around the world (and yes now we have to make sure it is implemented). My job at AI is to call for not just policy change but also practice change...which is often the more difficult part.
I spent a good few years with AI highlighting the abuses of the UK in the war on terror - both at home and abroad. On GW Bush we said "Anywhere in the world that he travels, President Bush could face investigation and potential prosecution for his responsibility for torture and other crimes in international law, particularly in any of the 147 countries that are party to the UN convention against torture"
http://www.theguardian.com/law/2011/feb/06/george-bush-trip-to-switzerland

We have also just released a report on the issue of drones; calling on USA to be held to account for drone killings in Pakistan
http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/usa-must-be-held-account-drone-killings-pakistan-2013-10-22

We seem like we are on the same page on a lot of these issues.

Do I believe that my blog alone will secure the investigations, outlined below, in Sri Lanka..? No. But to coin another hero "The tidal wave of change is made of a million ripples" and I do hope this blog is one of them.

Nice exchanging ideas with you.

Lucy

Lucy WakeStaff 4 years ago

Lucy - I admire your idealism and desire to make a difference and the great hero's you quote from , the Mahatma and Bishop Tutu, have indeed left a huge legacy.
Sadly however, idealism turns to reality which ultimately turns to cynicism when one observes the world around us.
Someone said that " words are easy but deeds are difficult " and for all the flowery language all the idealists use ( and I include myself as one ), very little actual benefits filter down to the disenfranchised around the globe.
The "real politik" means that organisations like AI will remain very tight lipped about certain countries whilst being very vocal about others.
For all the "sins" that a country like Sri Lanka commits, they are nothing compared to the terrible deeds countries such as Israel, Saudi Arabia ( where foreign domestic workers are treated like vermin and where Sharia law with all its grotesque manifestations is practiced ) and Bahrain commit. There are others but you get my point. And yet one does not hear calls for boycotts against such countries.This is " real politik" where money and influence are the primary factors. Half of UK PLC is now owned by the sovereign wealth funds of middle eastern dictatorships / monarchies and by Asian conglomerates. China, that great beacon of democracy and freedom, owns a very large percentage of the US govt debt and is welcomed by HMG as a valued investor !
I hope you can understand why Sri Lanka feels just a tad aggrieved by the perceived double standards from certain countries and NGO's.
For what its worth, the single biggest issue effecting SL right now is not human rights or press freedom but the endemic corruption from top to bottom of the food chain. It is literally tearing up the fabric of society - my subjective point of view of course !.
All the best in your endeavors
CA

Charles.Abey 4 years ago

Lucy,
Your comments have helped me understand Amnesty's stance re SL, however I'd appreciate a little clarity on a few loose ends please:
- I'm intrigued by some of your postings. "Those responsible for alleged war crimes or human rights violations must be pursued and prosecuted - whomever is the perpetrator" & "The LTTE forcibly recruited adults and children as combatants, used civilians as human shields against the approaching government forces, and attacked civilians who tried to escape."
The LTTE's activities were clearly funded from somewhere - and it would be interesting to understanding about
Amnesty's position with regards people who helped the LTTE directly or indirectly eg by organising to finance their arms procurements - would they also be considered as people potentially guilty of war crimes?

amal.abey 4 years ago

Hi Lucy
I have been following your blog and subsequent comments with some interest and I too would be interested to understand Amnesty's position on those who supported the LTTE either directly or indirectly. Human Rights Watch CEO, Kenneth Roth has said "the people who carry out suicide attacks are not martyrs, but war criminals and so are the people who helped plan such attacks" The US clearly believes that those who fund and promote terrorism are as guilty as suicide bombers and remove them in drone or by US Navy Seal attacks in sovereign states with impunity.
I wonder if you have ever heard of, or seen, a 1996 documentary produced, I believe, by Channel 4 Films, entitled Suicide Warriors. It is, primarily,about the lives and training of female LTTE cadres including suicide bombers and, most chillingly, the distribution of cyanide capsules. Included in the documentary is the reputed leader of the female wing of the LTTE who is neither Sri Lankan nor Tamil. I wonder if its' producers could be persuaded to broadcast it again .
Suicide Warriors plainly demonstrates the deadly influence exerted by outsiders, both in relation to LTTE cadres ( whether forcibly recruited or volunteers )and innocent civilians who died as a result of their attacks.
I look forward to reading your reply and understanding Amnesty's position.
Kit Rana

sl.teardrop 4 years ago

Lucy
To add to Kit Rana's comments and to assist you with your research - the leader of the female wing of the LTTE was a Austrailian lady called Adele Balasingham nee Wilby whose connection to SL was that she married a leading LTTE official. She was last heard of living in the relative comfort of South West London - a far cry from her halcyon days when she glorified the concept of suicide attacks and encouraged young LTTE cadres to swallow cyanide capsules to avoid capture.

A quick search on the Internet will reveal the lady in all her past glories - in full LTTE combat fatigues encouraging others to kill and be killed !

CA

Charles.Abey 4 years ago

Part of our call for an independent international investigation in Sri Lanka is to look into allegations of crimes under international law committed by the Government and the LTTE in the country’s armed conflict.

As you are no doubt aware the as conflict tens of thousands of civilians were killed in northern Sri Lanka between January and May 2009. At the time we criticised both sides; the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for using civilians as a buffer against the advancing Sri Lankan Army, recruiting child soldiers and shooting people who attempted to escape and the Sri Lankan government who knowingly shelled areas after encouraging civilians to gather there and systematically deprived people in the conflict zone of humanitarian aid.

Regarding support for the LTTE, we have always opposed the transfer of weapons, equipment, training or skills, whether to governments or armed political groups, and whether by governments, companies or other entities, where it can reasonably be assumed that they will be used to commit or facilitate violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law. We also campaigns to stop governments or armed political groups receiving such weapons, equipment, or training when there is reason to believe that it would be used to commit or facilitate such abuses.

I hope you will join us in our call for independent international investigations into the conflict in Sri Lanka and the abuses committed by both side.

Kind regards

Lucy

Lucy WakeStaff 4 years ago

Lucy -

A wonderfully drafted response - your third paragraph reminds me of documents usually compiled by lawyers !

I would without hesitation agree that the conduct of ALL protagonists in armed conflicts should be examined / investigated to identify any wrong doings such as the abuse of the Geneva convention and other codes of conduct during warfare.

I hope organisations such as AI will show the same vigour and enthusiasm shown in their campaign to bring to account those culpable with the GoSL when identifying those in the LTTE and its support network who were also culpable for terrible crimes against civilians from 1983 to 2009 and equally importantly the " money trail " which continues to fund what is left of the LTTE .

There is now an asymmetrical campaign being conducted against SL which I fear involves NGO's and media outlets acting as proxies of the LTTE to propagate and promote, by stealth, the concept of Tamil Eelam. NGO's need funding and as the saying goes, " there is no such thing as a free lunch " !!!!

I sincerely hope that AI does not fall into that trap.

Best

CA

Charles.Abey 4 years ago

Hey Lucy,
Saw you on C4 News last week! You seem to have a passionate interest in Sri Lanka. Have you ever been to Sri Lanka yourself or read the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) report perhaps?
AA

amal.abey 4 years ago

Hi,

Yes it was great that Channel 4 news covered the demonstration in Parliament. It is a really key time to raise the issue with the UK government.

We have the researchers who go on missions to the countries we work on, when we are allowed access. I work for the UK section of Amnesty International and my role is to represent our movement to UK government and Parliament. I try and get the research and the voice of our activists (like the 250 students protesting at the human rights abuses in Sri Lanka in the video on Channel 4 or the 9228 people in the UK who've written to William Hague or the 190,000 odd globally who signed our petition).
https://www.amnesty.org.uk/actions/sri-lanka-no-commonwealth-seal-approval-abuses
Amnesty has officially responded to the LLRC. Please see here for more details.
http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/report/sri-lanka-inquiry-armed-conflict-fundamentally-flawed-2011-09-07

Given both of our interests in '"positive human rights progress being made" I am sure you'll be as delighted as I am that the Prime Minister has said the following
"I will tell him (Rajapaksa) that if Sri Lanka doesn't deliver an independent investigation, the world will need to ensure an international investigation is carried out instead".

Finally I read an interesting piece in the Telegraph this morning about a ban on Conservative MPs from having paid for trips to Sri Lanka. Apparently, there is growing concern about over the regime’s lobbying activities in Britain. I wondered what your perspective on this was....
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/srilanka/10439696/Tory-MPs-banned-from-free-Sri-Lanka-trips.html

Lucy WakeStaff 4 years ago

Dear Lucy, [Part 2]
With regards Monday's Telegraph article, I don't see anything particularly wrong in MPs being paid for trips provided the information and activity is declared and legal. After all the GOSL should be able to demonstrate and explain to elected representatives of a foreign country, for example, that considerable work has been done towards peace and reconciliation, and that the Sri Lanka did not have a deliberate policy of killing or wounding innocent people trapped by terrorists as a Human Shield. The piece does not allege any wrong-doing, but as usual, by sly insinuation it all adds to the current anti-Sri Lankan sentiments being fanned by the pro-Tamil lobbies, which are frankly bordering on racism. Are you saying that Sri Lanka specifically should be singled out and denied the opportunity to do this kind of lobbying activity? Can only the rich and powerful, or countries subscribing to your/AI's view of the world, or countries who anyway have strong media outlets be allowed to lobby? After all AI uses it's resources to regularly lobby Parliamentarians eg the All Party Parliamentary Group on Human Rights?
Moreover, AI does regularly take funds from various Tamil lobby groups doesn't it? Perhaps you could share the names of the Tamil lobby groups which have donated to AI?
Best
Amal

amal.abey 4 years ago

Dear Lucy, [Part 1]
I'm saddened that even after being a member & contributing personally for years to AI's work & having specifically requested that I wished to be kept abreast of Sri Lanka-related campaigns (which you acknowledged) that you chose to (perhaps) deliberately exclude/not inform me about last Saturday's Parliament demo. Are AI members who may challenge your agenda not allowed to come to these demos? Am I not allowed to share my views at your AI gatherings? Is this how AI demonstrates the right to freedom of expression? Or is it perhaps discriminatory? Surely its not an accidental clerical error.

My questions focused on your understanding of Sri Lanka's situation as this is your personal blog & not a corporate response site isn't it? I still don't know whether you've personally understood AI's engagement with LLRC or if you've even read the LLRC Report? Nor do I know whether you've been to Sri Lanka(?) for yourself (which was my question) and whether you could comment on your own first-hand experience, rather than through the (probably) blinkered or biased views of others.

CFSL is very supportive of The Prime Minister's decision to attend CHOGM & we've publicly stated so [http://www.conservativefriendsofsrilanka.org] and Mr Cameron is grateful for our stance. Despite AI's and the other Anti-Sri Lanka lobbyists playing petty UK Party Politics and hoping Britain would boycott CHOGM, it's a good sign that sanity has reigned (don't you think?) and that our Govt is choosing to engage with the democratically elected Govt in Sri Lanka and is travelling to the North where he may meet Sri Lanka's Tamil people and elected administration for himself. AI's failure to deliver meaningful Human Rights changes in Sri Lanka is precisely because of its non-engagement policy. AI's strategy is not taken seriously by the real players in Sri Lanka who want to progress with HR improvements on the island. As an AI advocator+stakeholder, who understands the people and workings in Sri Lanka, maybe I could contribute to AI possibly altering its approach ? Is this possible? I've suggested being engaged with Yolanda Foster, but as yet you've not responded to my request.
[continued below....]

amal.abey 4 years ago