Boucher calls for transparent investigations
supports an International Commission
investigate HR abuses in Sri Lanka
US Assistant Secretary
of State for South and Central Asian Affairs,
Ambassador Richard Boucher expressed grave
concern last week over reports of human rights
abuses and killings in government controlled
areas in Sri Lanka and said the United States
would strongly encourage the government to take
the issue of human rights seriously and would
support an international commission to help make
sure those investigations do get carried out
Speaking to The
Sunday Leader at the Department of State in
Washington, Tuesday, Boucher said the United
States urged Sri Lanka to investigate incidents
of abuse in a serious manner and to ensure that
law enforcement officials followed careful codes
of conduct and acted in a transparent manner.
Boucher also expressed
equal concern over continued forced recruitment
in Tiger controlled territory and the bombing of
buses full of innocent civilians.
In response to a
question by The Sunday Leader on the US
assessment of the deteriorating human rights
situation, Boucher said the United States was
"concerned about the human rights situation
in Sri Lanka."
"I think we have
two things. We have first the basic problem
which is that a democratic government with
democratic institutions is fighting against a
terrorist group. We are very concerned about the
continuing reports of what is going on in the
Tamil Tiger areas about forced recruitment.
Frankly the bus bombings, bombing buses full of
innocent civilians, these things are all serious
human rights problems. But we are also concerned
about reports of abuses and killings in
government controlled areas and we strongly
encourage the government to take those
seriously, to investigate seriously, to ensure
that the law enforcement officials follow
careful codes of conduct and act in a
transparent manner," Ambassador Boucher
He further stated the
United States has "helped support the
commission of inquiry and supported an
international commission to help make sure those
investigations do get carried out more
"I’d say we are
very concerned about the whole human rights
situation and put a lot of emphasis on it as we’ve
seen often it is a difficult thing for other
things to proceed if there are widespread
concerns about the human rights situation,"
Boucher, head of the US
State Department’s Bureau of South and Central
Asian Affairs has been involved in Sri Lanka’s
peace process and has participated in several
discussions among the Co-Chairs.
Speaking to a group of
international journalists from the South and
Central Asian nations Boucher also said the
region was a place of enormous potential even
though just about every problem in the world can
be found in the region. The US, he said, was
fighting terrorism, trying to find democracy,
dealing with climate change and poverty
problems, in the region.
Boucher further added
the United States was not looking to change
governments. "Building democracy and
building stability we think are part of the same
thing. We are not looking to change governments,
we are looking to help governments achieve the
institutions that can support democracy, the
education systems, the information systems, the
rule of law, election commissions, anti
corruption commissions, things like that, that
really can make a democracy stable in the longer
term. That sort of democratic stability in the
longer term, that is what we are trying to
achieve, " he said.
Meanwhile speaking to a
group of international journalists Tuesday
morning, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
acknowledged the difficult role of journalists
in conflict areas stating "journalists are
often those who are on the frontlines of some of
the most difficult conflicts in the world, very
often giving their lives, paying the highest
sacrifice to report the news. And in these days
of conflict around the world there are always
journalists who have given their lives and so I
want to especially acknowledge that
Paying tribute to
fearless journalism Secretary Rice stated
"it’s also true that in countries that
are not yet free, where people do not yet enjoy
the benefits of freedom, it is often journalists
who make the sacrifice and endure the danger to
try and report to the outside world so that
those places can be free. And so journalists are
not just reporters, if you will, of the great
events. They are also very involved in making
those events happen. There’s no period in
history in which journalists, in which the press
has not played a role in bringing about
mission to monitor HR
By Amantha Perera
The UNP last week said
that it supported the induction of international
human rights monitors to the country following
Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s acceptance of a
pledge from the Civil Monitoring Committee at a
meeting attended by family members of those
"If local means
are not enough, we will have to enlist the
support of international organisations,"
Wickremesinghe told the gathering.
The pledge included a
request to the government to "set up an
independent international monitoring mechanism
in Sri Lanka that can investigate the
disappearances of our loved ones in an
independent manner." "We do not oppose
(international monitors). When the UNP was in
power everything was carried out in a
transparent manner. The government is against
this because it has so much to hide," MP
Lakshman Kiriella, member of the CMC told The
Many family members of
the missing too support the setting up of an
international monitoring mechanism, repeatedly
rejected by the government.
They said that local
authorities have proved futile in tracing the
community should bring pressure, nothing gets
done here without international
involvement," Tambiah Sivaraja whose son
Haran went missing last April in Jaffna said.
According to the Human
Rights Commission more than 1000 have been
abducted or gone missing during 2006 and at
least 81 cases have been reported this year as
well. Family members are too frightened of
repercussions to come out openly with their
grievances but say that they have not received
any help from authorities.
"We have appealed
to everyone, the police, the government, the
NGOs, everyone, no one knows anything," S
Chandramohan whose brother Manivaran was
The family members said
that they have had no information of their
missing loved ones and had no way of looking for
their whereabouts as well.
"We want him back,
why should my daughter give birth to a child
like this, who is responsible," S.
Pakiyanadan whose son-in-law Pradeepan was
abducted on April 4 said.
The CMC said that it
was planning to hold island-wide meetings to
muster support for wider investigations and an
end to abuses.
The government has
continuously maintained that the newly set-up
Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry would
fulfill all requirements of an independent
moves to renew talks
No fresh initiatives
are underway to renew any new dialogue between
the Tigers and the government, the SLMM said,
though both sides continue to express
willingness to negotiate.
"There is nothing
new, there were no fresh proposals or moves when
we met the Tigers last time (on April 6), it was
just routine," SLMM Spokesperson Thoffinur
Omarsson told The Sunday Leader.
Last week reports
indicated that there were fresh moves underway
following the latest SLMM visit to Kilinochchi
and the government reiterated its willingness to
"We have only
normal discussions with the SLMM and others,
that is it," LTTE military spokesperson
Rasiah Ilanthirayan said.
He said that neither
the Norwegians nor any other party had informed
of any fresh initiative. (AP)
By Amantha Perera
Heavy fighting broke
out along the Forward Defence Lines west of
Vavuniya last week, the Tigers and the military
The government also
said that the strategic A5 had fallen under its
control on April 11 afternoon.
Twenty-four hours of
fighting about 12 km west of Omanthai, had
claimed the lives of 30 combatants by April 10.
The military said that it killed at least 20
Tigers in the fighting north of Vavuniya and the
Tigers said 10 soldiers were killed.
"There is heavy
fighting in the Palamuttai area, fighting broke
out Tuesday evening," LTTE military
spokesperson Rasiah Ilanthirayan said. He said
that the Tigers had repulsed a government attack
and had recovered eight bodies and weapons.
The military said the
Tigers had attacked troops in the area with
mortar and 120 mm shellfire forcing retaliation.
The crossover point
remained closed from April 10.
The area has seen heavy
fighting in the past three weeks and two weeks
back the military had launched two major
offensives involving hundreds of troops into the
Tiger held areas, the SLMM said.
"There were two
SLA led offensives into LTTE controlled areas in
the Wanni 25 kilometers west of Vavuniya. The
first reportedly involved some 200 soldiers, the
second comprised of more than 1000 soldiers
according to the LTTE. The last confrontation
lasted more than 12 hours and it is believed
that more than 60 combatants died in the battle.
The intention (according to the Defence
Ministry) was to gain control over the Madhu
area. However ground positions seem to have
remained more or less the same," the
monitors said in their situation report from
March 26 to April 1.
One soldier was killed
and three others injured in the shellfire at
Omanthai on April 10. Meanwhile, shell and
artillery fire was reported at the northern end
of A9 at Muhamalai, south of Jaffna and at Black
Bridge, just west of Chenkalady.
The SLMM reported that
shellfire has been continuous along the FDLs in
the last few weeks. "Sporadic shelling has
taken place all along the southern, as well as
the northern FDL all week and sea clashes have
taken place both south of Mullaitivu and further
north," it said.
At least one relief
agency, the World Food Programme has warned that
the fighting now centered on the east may shift
to the north.
under pressure on HR violations and abductions
By Kshanika Argent
Each teary-eyed face
that gathered with posters of their missing
loved ones at the meeting organised by the Civil
Monitoring Commission (CMC) last Monday had more
or less the same story to tell — a son or
husband gone missing, and they want answers.
Throngs of family
members and friends of missing persons, some of
whom have travelled from as far as Vavuniya,
participated in the meeting.
CMC Convenor and
Western People’s Front Leader, Mano Ganesan
said that the government would be definitely
pressurised by the local and international
community due to the increasing human rights
violations in the country.
He added that the
government was under severe pressure as the main
opposition had also joined the CMC on the issue
of abductions and human rights violations.
government will face a lot of pressure as this
issue has been taken up internationally and also
due to the fact that the main opposition the UNP,
has joined hands with us on this issue," he
told The Sunday
about people who have a right to live in this
country, regardless of their religion and
political views. White vans visiting houses —
is this what we expect from Sri Lanka? This
nonsense must stop before it becomes an
international crisis. A government has been
elected and it’s time it carried out its
duties," he added.
He added that the
functions of the CMC were not restricted to the
abductions and HR violations in and around
Colombo, but in other areas as well.
"We appointed a
TNA parliamentarian as a member to show that we
are concerned about the HR violations in the
north and east as well. There were people who
were from Vavuniya and Batticaloa who took part
in last Monday’s meeting," he said.
Suresh Premachandran at the meeting called on
the government to ‘stop playing with people’s
lives’ and stated that he and the TNA would
help the Opposition Leader in whatever way they
can to solve this issue.
The UNP, which joined
the CMC for the first time last Monday said it
would continue to work with the organisation on
human rights violations in the country.
"A declaration was
handed over to our leader by Mano Ganesan. We
will be working with the Civil Monitoring
Commission on these issues in the future,"
UNP General Secretary, Tissa Attanayake said.
However, most of the
affected families who attended the meeting told The
Sunday Leader that they were taking every
possible effort to make sure that their
sufferings are conveyed to the abductors.
complained to all the human rights organisations.
We have not got any responses so far. We are
taking part at these meetings so that our
sufferings would be conveyed to the community at
large and the abductees as well," said S.
Premila, whose husband, a van driver, was
abducted along with two others from Puttalam.
She said that he had
previously gone on hires to the north and east
and had not received any threats.
However, the families
pointed out that the involvement of the
international community was not likely to change
the situation in the country.
"We have seen the
human rights violations in the north and east.
International organisations are working in these
areas. The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM)
is finding it very hard to curb the situation.
This is nothing different. We want to know
whether the abducted people are safe. We do not
want any other people to undergo the agony we
are going through," Premila added.
agrees to have intl. HR monitors
By Jamila Najmuddin
The Tigers last week
expressed their willingness to allow
international human rights monitors and said
that they would welcome any investigation by an
The Tigers made their
position public following the government’s
reaction to an advocacy campaign launched by
Amnesty International (AI) coinciding with the
Cricket World Cup to push for international
monitors in the country.
Despite, the government’s
grouse that the campaign was against the Sri
Lankan cricket team and the government, AI has
also accused the Tigers of rights abuses and has
insisted that any international mission should
work in the entire island.
"We are not
against Amnesty International’s campaign. We
are all cricket lovers but initiating such a
campaign during the World Cup will only bring
more pressure on the Sri Lankan government to
cease violating human rights," LTTE
Spokesperson for Human Rights, Selvy Navaruban
told The Sunday Leader.
Navaruban said that the
Tigers would support international monitors and
their work in LTTE controlled areas.
Meanwhile, AI said that
it had never launched any protests inside venues
where World Cup matches were being played and
did not plan to do so as well.
initiated our campaign in the Caribbean. We have
only had very small groups in the West Indies
who have visited bars and school children in
order to inform them of our campaign against Sri
Lanka’s human rights violations. The Sri
Lankan government needs to get its facts
straight before accusing Amnesty," Regional
Campaign Coordinator, Asia Pacific Programme,
Amnesty International, Rob Godden said.
The government last
week wrote to the International Cricket Council
through the Sri Lankan High Commission in London
raising its concerns over the AI campaign. The
ICC said that it did not want to get involved in
a political wrestling match between the
government and AI, but said that any protests
inside venues would be barred.
studies for MBA from remand
Former Port Development
Minister Sripathi Sooriyaarachchi who is
currently in remand custody has started studying
for his MBA in Finance.
passed the first semester of his MBA from the
University of Southern Queensland in Australia
with an A grade last month is to sit for his
second semester in June.
Sooriyaarachchi who is unable to attend classes
conducted by the Chartered Institute of
Accountants given his remand status has obtained
the study packs from the University of
Queensland and is preparing for his examination
to meet Pope
Rajapakse is to meet Pope Benedict XVI in the
Vatican this week.
Rajapakse is scheduled
to leave the island early this week for the
four-day tour. He will fly to the Vatican via
of landslides looms over Southern Province
By Shezna Shums
The National Building
and Research Organisation (NBRO) has warned
residents in the Southern Province to
immediately evacuate their homes if they notice
even slight earth movements or cracks in the
The heavy rains
experienced in the past week have mostly been in
the south of the country.
Geo Technical Engineer,
NBRO, Kumari Weerasinghe told The Sunday
Leader that heavy rains have been reported
from the Matara and Kalutara Districts.
In Matara, the specific
areas of Pasgoda and Kotagoda divisions have
recorded high rainfall.
Weerasinghe stated that
the people living in hilly terrain in these
areas have to be extra vigilant. In the Kalutara
District there is also a threat of landslides
especially in the areas of Pittabedera and
It was also highlighted
that the relevant Divisional Secretariats have
been instructed to evacuate families in case
there are signs of a landslide. NBRO has briefed
these officials on pre landslide signs.
With regard to the up
country areas, Weerasinghe said that these areas
have not received much rain and as such there
was no imminent threat of landslides.
areas have not received much rain, so the risk
of landslides is low," she explained.
Upto last Wednesday the
NBRO had not received information of any deaths
or injuries to persons resulting from
for nursing and paramedic sectors
By Sunalie Ratnayake
Steps are to be taken
by the government to strengthen the nursing and
paramedic sectors in the island.
The Healthcare and
Nutrition Ministry is to take necessary measures
to meet the equipment shortage presently facing
the Nursing Training Schools (NTSs) in the
island by April 24.
Nutrition Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva’s
call to international organisations such as
UNICEF, World Health Organisation (WHO), World
Bank (WB) and other organisations for assistance
has finally borne results as these organisations
have volunteered to provide the necessary
equipment for the NTSs. Following a discussion
to be held in the Healthcare and Nutrition
Ministry on April 24, equipment will be
distributed among the schools on the same day.
In addition, the nursing and paramedic system in
the island will be further strengthened with the
award of diplomas to nurses and paramedics at
the BMICH on April 24. This will be the first
time a recognised certificate will be issued to
those engaged in the two fields.
and Govt. to jointly improve transport service
By Risidra Mendis
The Private Bus Owners’
Association (PBOA) will enter into a partnership
with the government to improve the public
transport service in the country.
Speaking to The
Sunday Leader President, PBOA, Gemunu
Wijeratne said at present the Provincial
Transport Authority does not accept rules and
regulations imposed by the central government.
"There is no
development by the Transport Authority with
regard to the transport sector in the country.
Officials of the Transport Authority are not
interested in developing the sector for the
benefit of the public. We have discussed this
issue with Transport Minister Dulles
Alahapperuma and he has agreed to a
private-public partnership between the PBOA and
the government," Wijeratne said.
According to Wijeratne
under the new partnership agreement the PBOA
will come directly under the central government
and not the Provincial Transport Authority.
will benefit by this partnership agreement as
the PBOA will pay the government for using its
facilities. At present Rs .500 million is paid
by the government to run the SLTB. Under the new
partnership agreement the PBOA will pay the SLTB
for using its bus stands and other
facilities," Wijeratne added.
of a chikungunya and dengue outbreak
With the onset of the
inter monsoon rains there is an expected
outbreak of chikungunya and dengue fever once
chikungunya and dengue prevail at a low level at
present, we are expecting an increase in the
number cases because of the prevailing weather
conditions in the island.
"However, we are
taking action to review the situation and will
plan ahead for the next couple of months,"
Chief Epidemiologist, Health Ministry
Epidemiology Unit, Dr. Nihal Abeysinghe told The
In addition, Dr.
Abeysinghe said that Leptospirosis is an endemic
problem and at present the Epidemiology Unit is
conducting surveillance, which is an ongoing
Further, the Healthcare
and Nutrition Ministry is requesting the general
public to cooperate in controlling the mosquito
menace by disposing of tins, yoghurt cups, tyres
and other household litter in a proper manner.
The Ministry’s Dengue and Malaria Control
Units are also taking steps to destroy
mosquito-breeding places by spraying appropriate
New Year for Kebethigollewa victims
By Arthur Wamanan
Civilians who are yet
to return to their homes in Kebethigollewa will
not be receiving any assistance from the
government for the Sinhala and Tamil New Year,
Kebethigollewa Divisional Secretary, H.M.J.M.
Speaking to The
Sunday Leader he said that 58 families were
yet to return to their homes. These families
from Yakawewa had remained in the Borulukanda
camp despite the rest of the villagers going
He added that 128
families were initially displaced from Yakawewa
after the claymore attack on the civilian bus
Secretariat added that the government had
stopped helping the remaining people a few
months ago as the other civilians from nearby
villages had gone back to their homes.
"There were 128
families from this particular village following
the claymore attack.
"Most of the
victims were from this village. That was the
reason why the villagers were not willing to go
back. However, 58 families are still remaining
in the camp. The government however is not
assisting them as there are only a few families
and the rest have gone back," he said.
He added that the
government would be distributing food parcels
among the Yakawewa civilians for the New Year.
"This is the first
New Year, after the attack. The government will
be providing the Yakawewa civilians with food
packets on New Year’s Day. We will also have a
celebration on April 21," Herath added..