Sri Lanka - the Kings of Spin

There are just some issues that get under your skin. If you watched No Fire Zone on Channel Four this week you’ll understand why I’ve got the bit between my teeth about Sri Lanka. 40,000 civilians (or more) were killed at the end of the conflict in 2009. There are credible allegations that the Sri Lankan military and Tamil Tigers armed group committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Perhaps this is why President Rajapaksa stifles criticism of his regime and rejects the need to investigate alleged war crimes during the conflict? Perhaps this is why he employed a PR company to write his UN speeches? Surely, the spin is totally unrelated to the US$2bn in foreign investment the government has reportedly said it is hoping the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) summit will rake in?

So here are some of the human rights abuses the government’s spin doctors don’t want to be on the agenda at the Commonwealth Heads meeting:

  • Sri Lanka has among the highest number of reported enforced disappearances in the world.
  • At least 15 media personnel have been killed since 2006 and more than 80 journalists have fled since 2005.
  • Torture in police custody is rampant in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka’s national human rights commission recorded 86 complaints of torture in the first three months of 2013 alone.

Before you start screaming this from the rooftops one thing you should be aware of is that if you criticise Sri Lanka…be prepared for the consequences. Luckily for me my critique of the government has only resulted in a couple of cross comments, tweets, emails and phone calls. Opposition politicians, human rights defenders, trade union activists and the judiciary in Sri Lanka are threatened, harassed or even killed for criticising President Rajapaksa’s regime.

The modus operandi is for white vans to be used in many abductions and enforced ‘disappearances’ in Sri Lanka, particularly since 2006, when state agents and paramilitary groups allied to the government stepped up attacks on government critics. Prageeth Eknaligoda a Sri Lankan journalist, cartoonist and political analyst has been missing since January 2010. Local residents reported seeing a white van without number plates close to his house around the time he went missing.

This week Sandhya Eknaligoda, Prageeth’s wife was here in London asking UK government to help her find her husband. She is urging our Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to use the summit to ensure that the Sri Lanka government investigate the disappearance of her husband, make the results of the investigation public and hold accountable those responsible for his disappearance.

At one meeting, Stephen Gilbert MP handed Sandhya postcards designed and given to him by Amnesty activists from St Austell’s Penrice community college. Sandhya’s delight and surprise that activists in the UK would take the time to campaign to help her find her husband brought a tear to all of our eyes. Those cards, she said, and the support they represent give her the strength to keep up the fight to find her husband and get justice for the many disappeared people in Sri Lanka.

So let’s join this brave and inspiring woman and keep up the fights for justice and accountability in Sri Lanka.

Cameron & Hague are off to Sri Lanka. Will they speak out?

Our government is going to CHOGM.  This weekend hundreds of Amnesty student activists dressed as grim reapers descended on the UK Parliament insisting that the Commonwealth meeting isn’t a whitewash and that our leaders ask some hard questions of their hosts.

Our government have said they are going to “cast a spotlight on the human rights abuses in Sri Lanka”. No idea what that means? No? Me neither. Let's ask them.

Hugo Swire the Minster responsible for Sri Lanka will be answering questions on Twitter about CHOGM between 12.30 and 1.15pm tomorrow. So why not shine the spotlight on him for a while and ask him some of the following questions

  • Why has UK been quiet on calls for an independent, international investigation into alleged war crimes? #askfco #SriLanka
  • Will the UK government use #CHOGM to press @PresRajapaksa to stop intimidating, threatening and attacking human rights defenders #askfco
  • Will they ask @PresRajapaksa where is Prageeth Eknaligoda? And meet with his wife and other human rights defenders when in #SriLanka #askfco

Choose your question - these or perhaps one of your own - and tweet it to #AskFCO before 12.30 tomorrow. Let's see if they answer.

Tweet #AskFCO !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+'://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');

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Please see the US cable in WikiLeaks below.

After a meeting with Jacque de Maio, ICRC Head of Operations for South Asia on July 9, 2009, just two months after the war, the ambassador wrote; “The army was determined not to let the LTTE escape from its shrinking territory, even though this meant the civilians being kept hostage by the LTTE were at increasing risk. So, de Maio said, while one could safely say that there were ‘serious, widespread violations of IHL,’ by the Sri Lankan forces, it did not amount to genocide. He could site examples of where the army had stopped shelling when ICRC informed them it was killing civilians. In fact, the army actually could have won the military battle faster with higher civilian casualties, yet chosen a slower approach which led to a greater number of Sri Lankan military deaths. He concluded however, by asserting that the GSL failed to recognize its obligation to protect civilians despite the approach leading to higher military casualties. From his standpoint, a soldier at war should be more likely to die than a civilian.”

Related posts to this cable;

prlcm83 5 years ago

It is well known AI is getting money from Tamil Tiger Front organizations in UK and Canada. These tears are not real only crying for more money. All these are to hide issues in in the Western world where Western governments killing innocent civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria in a massive scale. At least in Sri Lanka there is no killings now for almost 4 years; but in these western involvements thousands dying daily. We never see AI given such a priority to any such western involvements. Please don't give money to these Hypocrites!

harryrichard 5 years ago

Another US cable in WikiLeaks...

After a meeting with Jacque de Maio, ICRC Head of Operations for South Asia on July 9, 2009, just two months after the war,the Ambassador wrote;”De Maio explained that ICRC has a fairly good network of people to whom family members report arrests/disappearances. In the cases of those who seem to disappear during screening, most of them turn up within days, and were three to five times more likely to be found if they received a report within twenty-four hours of disappearance. He believed that many incidents were driven by the GSL view that all civilians coming out of the Vanni were presumed guilty by the government. ICRC has been visiting regularly 11,400 people arrested and interned in 10 camps as suspected LTTE fighters.”

prlcm83 5 years ago

Another US cable in WikiLeaks...

After a meeting with Jacque de Maio, ICRC Head of Operations for South Asia on July 9, 2009, just two months after the war,the Ambassador wrote;”De Maio explained that ICRC has a fairly good network of people to whom family members report arrests/disappearances. In the cases of those who seem to disappear during screening, most of them turn up within days, and were three to five times more likely to be found if they received a report within twenty-four hours of disappearance. He believed that many incidents were driven by the GSL view that all civilians coming out of the Vanni were presumed guilty by the government. ICRC has been visiting regularly 11,400 people arrested and interned in 10 camps as suspected LTTE fighters.”

prlcm83 5 years ago

This is another good example why AI renowned as an organization where they work only for money. If you give enough money they will write any damn thing even against their own organization.
Here are some points to back my claim.

Statement: Sri Lanka has one of the highest number of disappearances – Truth: This is hugely vague bunch of words, to stand by this tell how many disappeared in SL and what are the other countries.

Statement:15 media personnel killed since 2006 – Truth: Only 6 media personnel killed since 2006. 15 may be including those bloody barbaric tamil terrorists. Terrorist propaganda machine is the second most ruthless part next to suicide bombers. How dare you glorify such a ruthless terrorists as journalist.

Statement: More than 80 journalist fled since 2005 – Truth: Any Tom, Dick and Harry can leave SL. Out of so called journalist 35 of them wrote less than 10 articles to online papers, but you call them as journalist!!!!

Statement: Torture in police custody is rampant in SL – Why don’t you mind your own bloody damn business. In UK Wormwood Scrubs prison in London is notorious for torture of it’s inmates, while such gruesome crimes happening in UK you don’t have any right what so ever to point fingers to other.

These are the kind of organization that get under your skin.

sadithp 5 years ago

Sri Lanka does not tolerate those who are not offering any win - win solutions to its internal matters. No country ( including India ) and no NGO ( including Amnesty International ) has right to draft any more amendments to the island constitution. In the past, we were naively believed all these goons who eventually back stabbed the going concern in style. Today, Sri Lanka has identified its friends and its enemies. Sri Lanka is ready to play a vital role when it comes to regional politics in counter terrorism, maritime security, fisheries, and so on. Watch we grow as a country and keep begging blood money from all the terror related parasites who do nothing but milking out of self made FR and HR issues in the globe.

gmlanka 5 years ago

Thank you all for your comments. I am afraid when it comes to crimes against humanity, rape, torture, extra judicial executions and the like Amnesty International will never "mind our own bloody damn business"....
However, you'll be pleased to know we criticise the UK (and many other countries) for their human rights records. Only last week we were criticising the Lobbying Bill
https://www.amnesty.org.uk/blogs/yes-minister-it-human-rights-issue/gunpowder-plot-fireworks-and-lobbying-bill

Here is a full list of reports we have done on the UK
http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/uk

Lucy WakeStaff 5 years ago

There is now an early day motion about the disappeared journalist and cartoonist, Prageeth Eknaligoda.. Please ask your MP to sign. To check if they have already signed go to http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/736

Also email your MP - David Cameron is off to the Commonwealth conference this week, he has promised to raise human rights issues with President Rajapaksa. We need to make sure he does

ChrisUsher 4 years ago

Thanks for posting that link Chris. We will keep up the pressure on the agenda and Prageeth's case.
Here is our latest press release on CHOGM this week
http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/dangers-reporting-human-rights-sri-lanka-2013-11-15

Lucy WakeStaff 4 years ago

Hi Lucy,

Perhaps you may wish to comment on Rod Little's piece in the Sunday Times[Nov 17, 2013]:
"But for 26 years the murderous, maniacal Tamil Tigers waged war in Sri Lanka — assassinations, suicide attacks, using children as hostages, planting bombs. And they were able to do so thanks to the money that flooded in largely from the UK — via the Tamil diaspora in, mostly, London. 

For decades we turned a blind eye to the relentless fundraising for these terrorists — and the Tamil Tigers were themselves only proscribed as a terrorist organisation (rather than lauded as freedom fighters) in 2001, a year, incidentally, when we all opened our eyes to terrorism."

So, isn't it the same Tamil diaspora, who bankrolled the LTTE's terrorist war crimes (which I know you and Amnesty are eager to prosecute) that are now hell bent on campaigning for the GoSL to be hauled up before an International War Crimes Tribunal?

Help me out here please Lucy, are not the Tamil Diaspora who raised the funds that fuelled "the murderous, maniacal Tamil Tigers" equally guilty of War Crimes?

Amal

amal.abey 4 years ago