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UN goes ahead with fresh probe, seeks funding for project

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‘We are having info and evidence repository of 120,000 items’

UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet yesterday (13) said that her Office was going ahead with a fresh investigation in respect of Sri Lanka accountability issues. The declaration was made at the 48th session of the UNHRC.

 In her oral update, Bachelet, the former Chilean President, urged the UN member states to provide funding required for the investigation.

 Having strongly criticised Sri Lanka over accountability issues, Bachelet said that her Office had begun to implement the accountability-related aspects of Resolution 46/1, pending recruitment of an investigation team.

She said: “We have developed an information and evidence repository with nearly 120,000 individual items already held by the UN, and we will initiate as much information-gathering as possible this year. I urge Member States to ensure the budget process provides the necessary support so that my Office can fully implement this work.

 “I encourage Council members to continue paying close attention to developments in Sri Lanka, and to seek credible progress in advancing reconciliation, accountability and human rights.”

The following is the text of her full statement:

 I am pleased to update the Human Rights Council on Sri Lanka and the trends and issues identified in my last report.  I acknowledge the inputs sent by the Government in preparation for this update, and I note the President’s statement in June that the Government is “committed to work with the UN to ensure accountability” and will implement “necessary institutional reforms.”

I look forward to seeing concrete actions to this effect – in line with the recommendations that have been made in our reports and by various human rights mechanisms – and my Office stands ready to engage.

I also encourage the swift and public release of the reports of the national Commission of Inquiry that was appointed in January 2021, which I understand will complete its mandate by the end of this year, so that its work and recommendations can be assessed.

The current social, economic and governance challenges faced by Sri Lanka indicate the corrosive impact that militarisation and the lack of accountability continue to have on fundamental rights, civic space, democratic institutions, social cohesion and sustainable development.

A new state of emergency was declared in Sri Lanka on 30 August, with the stated aim of ensuring food security and price controls, amid deepening recession. The emergency regulations are very broad and may further expand the role of the military in civilian functions. The Office will be closely monitoring their application.

I note with interest the President’s recent meeting with some civil society leaders, and I encourage broader dialogue and steps to open Sri Lanka’s civic space.

Regrettably, surveillance, intimidation and judicial harassment of human rights defenders, journalists and families of the disappeared has not only continued, but has broadened to a wider spectrum of students, academics, medical professionals and religious leaders critical of government policies. Several peaceful protests and commemorations have been met with excessive use of force and the arrest or detention of demonstrators in quarantine centres.

New regulations on civil society groups are being drafted, and it is widely feared that they will further tighten restrictions on fundamental freedoms. I urge that the draft be made public to allow the broadest possible discussion.

I am concerned by developments in judicial proceedings in a number of emblematic human rights cases.  They include the Attorney General’s decision not to proceed with charges against former Navy commander Wasantha Karannagoda in the case of the enforced disappearances of 11 men in 2008 and 2009.

Despite various inquiries, the victims of the Easter Sunday bombings in 2019 and religious leaders continue to call urgently for truth and justice, and a full account of the circumstances that permitted those attacks.

The President’s recent pardon of a former member of parliament, Duminda Silva, who was convicted for killing a politician in 2011, also risks eroding confidence in the rule of law and judicial process.

I am deeply concerned about further deaths in police custody, and in the context of police encounters with alleged drug criminal gangs, as well as continuing reports of torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement officials.

In March, new “de-radicalization” regulations were issued that permit arbitrary administrative detention of individuals for up to two years without trial.  I note that the Supreme Court has issued an interim stay order on their enforcement while it considers fundamental rights petitions to challenge the decree. The Government has also prescribed or listed over 300 Tamil and Muslim groups and individuals for alleged links to terrorist groups.

In June, 16 prisoners who had been convicted under the problematic Prevention of Terrorism Act, and who were nearing the end of their sentences, were pardoned. An Advisory Board has been established to which detainees under the Act can apply for their cases to be reviewed, and I urge a speedy resolution to these long-standing cases.

The Government has reaffirmed its intention to revisit the Act and established a Cabinet sub-committee for this purpose. However, I am deeply concerned about the continued use of the Act to arrest and detain people.

Lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah has now been detained for 16 months under the Act without credible evidence presented before a court. Likewise, Ahnaf Jazeem, a teacher and poet, has been detained without charge since May 2020.  I urge an immediate moratorium on the use of the Act, and that a clear timeline be set for its comprehensive review or repeal.

A National Policy for Reparations was approved in August, and reparation payments and reconciliation programs have continued. The Office of Missing Persons has also continued to operate – with a sixth regional office opened in Kilinochchi – but it needs to inspire confidence among victims.  I stress again the importance of transparent, victim-centred and gender sensitive approaches, and that reparations programs must be accompanied by broader truth and justice measures.

I note also that last month, the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions decided to initiate a special review of the national Human Rights Commission to determine its compliance with the Paris Principles, indicating its concerns about the appointment process of the Commission and its effectiveness in discharging its human rights mandate.



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Bipartisan US Congress legislation calls for self-determination for Eelam Tamils

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Wiley

…proposes South Sudan, Montenegro, East Timor, Bosnia, Eritrea, and Kosovo style solution

A controversial resolution has been introduced to the US Congress calling on the United States to work towards an independence referendum for Eelam Tamils and recognize the genocide committed against them by the Sri Lankan state.

The resolution, introduced by Wiley Nickel, is the first of its kind to be brought to the US Congress. It comes as Tamils marked the LTTE’s defeat 15 years ago, with May 18 commemorated as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day, worldwide.

The resolution calls for the “no recurrence of past violence, including the ‘Tamil Genocide’, by supporting the right to self-determination of Eelam Tamil people and their call for an independence referendum for a lasting peaceful resolution”.

It goes on to detail historic Tamil support for independence and how “similar conflicts have successfully been democratically, peacefully, and legally resolved by exercising the right to self-determination by the people in countries such as South Sudan, Montenegro, East Timor, Bosnia, Eritrea, and Kosovo via independence referendums with support from the United States and other countries”.

It resolves that the House of Representatives:

(1) urges the United States to strengthen diplomatic channels with the Eelam Tamils and collaborate toward peace and stability in the South Asian region of the Indo-Pacific;

(2) urges the United States and the international community to advocate for and protect the political rights of the Eelam Tamil people and work toward a permanent political solution based on their right to self-determination that is democratically and peacefully approved by them through a universally accepted process of independence referendum; and

(3) recognizes the genocide against the Eelam Tamil people by Sri Lanka.

The resolution has bipartisan support and is co-sponsored by Susan Wild, Danny K. Davis, Nicole Malliotakis, Mike Carey, Donald G. Davis, Summer L. Lee, and Jeff Jackson.

The full text of the resolution: “This conflict shattered families and communities, leaving deep scars that are still felt to this day,” said Nickel as he addressed the United States Congress today (May 15).

“My resolution recognizes the genocide in Sri Lanka and affirms the right of Tamils to self-determination through a democratic process.” Nickel stated that the resolution “emphasises the need for a peaceful and democratic solution to ongoing tensions in Sri Lanka”.

“It advocates an independence referendum, a process that has been used successfully to resolve similar conflicts in other parts of the world. This echoes our commitment to democratic principles and underscores our support for human rights globally.”

“The resolution is a significant step forward in our struggle for self-determination,” said an Eelam Tamil activist who worked closely with US representatives, from Washington DC. They were present alongside dozens of others, as Nickel spoke.

“This is the first time that support for an independent Tamil Eelam has been publicly and explicitly advocated for at the United States Congress. Fifteen years since the end of the Mullivaikkal genocide, our struggle is continuing and support for it has only grown. We are not a defeated people.”

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Refugee from Sri Lankan now Labour Party Mayor of UK town

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A smiling Labour Councillor Elango Elavalakan (left) at a ceremony where he was accepted as the Mayor of Ipswich Borough Council.

…worked in India, Uganda and Ruwanda before arriving in the UK

A Sri Lankan Tamil, who fled the country during the conflict, has been appointed the Mayor of Ipswich Borough Council.

According to the British media, Labour Councillor Elango Elavalakan is the first Hindu to hold that position. Members of Ipswich’s Hindu community attended Wednesday (15) evening’s ceremony, with celebrations at the nearby temple planned for later in the week.

Having fled Sri Lanka, Elavalakan lived and worked in India, Uganda and Rwanda before moving to the UK, the media reported. He initially moved to Ilford, in east London, before moving to Ipswich in 2006.

Labour Councillor Elango Elavalakan has taken over the ceremonial role after a unanimous vote at Ipswich Borough Council’s annual meeting.

“I’m so happy today, and very proud to be Mayor of this great town,” the media quoted Elavalakan as having said.

Council leader Neil MacDonald, who proposed the nomination, said Elavalakan would get to read out a general election result during his year in office.

“The announcement by a refugee who fled war and persecution, and who has made a new life and contributed to society here, will send a message,” MacDonald said.

Dr. Sachin Karale, Chair of Ipswich Hindu Samaj, said: “It shows the great diversity and multiculturalism of Ipswich town that a Hindu man is becoming Mayor. I’m really proud.”Elavalakan’s wife, Manchula Elavalakan, will be his consort.

The Mayor’s theme for the year will be “support and wellbeing” with his two chosen charities Genesis Orwell Mencap and Cancer Support Suffolk. ‘Ipswich is my home town’

“When I came for one project here, in Ipswich, I felt the people were very friendly,” he said. “So I decided, Ipswich is my home town.” He became a Labour councillor for St John’s ward in 2014.

“Having lived in many different countries and experienced many different lifestyles, I have always been interested in helping those that need it,” he said. “I am passionate about empowering communities and representing those in need.” Elavalakan is not the first Ipswich Mayor from the Indian sub-continent, however.

Kavas Jamas Bashah was born in Mumbai and was a senior officer of the Indian Civil Service.

He retired to Ipswich and became Mayor in 1925.

The town elected its first Mayor, Benjamin Brame, in 1836, following the Municipal Corporations Act the previous year which reformed local government and made Ipswich a municipal borough. Its first female mayor was Mary Whitmore, in 1946.

She was a suffragette and member of Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), and was made MBE in 1951 for her contribution to public services.

Albert Grant became Ipswich’s first black councillor and mayor of Ipswich in 1995.

He moved to the UK in 1955 at the age of 21 and has dedicated his life to tackling racism and fighting to secure equality and justice.

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Govt. asked how it intends to counter US-Eelam lobby

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Dr. Wasantha Bandara

‘Far worse than Canadian declaration of Tamil genocide’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Top Patriotic National Movement (PNM) spokesperson Dr. Wasantha Bandara said that the government should explain how it intended to counter the powerful Eelamist lobby seeking to divide the country on ethnic lines with the help of the US, a self-appointed world policeman.

Dr. Bandara said so commenting on a resolution that had been introduced to the US Congress calling on the government to work towards an independence referendum in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and recognise the genocide committed.

Dr. Bandara pointed out that the US move should be examined also taking into consideration the continuing Western support extended to the Khalistan movement seeking an independent state in India’s Punjab region.

The civil society activist said that the so-called bipartisan resolution had been timed for the 15th anniversary of Sri Lanka’s triumph over the separatist terrorist agenda.

Responding to another query, Dr. Bandara said that the US resolution meant that though the LTTE’s conventional military/terrorist power had been eradicated in the battlefield, the Eelamist lobby was busy in Western capitals.

According to him, the US-British led grouping pushed Sri Lanka over the accountability issue as part of their overall strategy to pressure the government on a solution that would end the country’s unitary status.

Dr. Bandara asked how could the government and the Opposition remain silent when the US-backed Eelamists’ push for a solution similar to self-determination granted to South Sudan, Montenegro, East Timor, Bosnia, Eritrea, and Kosovo through ‘independence referendums’ with support from the United States and other powerful countries.

The heightened threat to our unitary status should be one of the major issues at the forthcoming presidential poll, Dr. Bandara said, demanding that all political parties state their positions on the US moves.

Dr. Bandara said that the government should set the record straight in Washington and Geneva where agendas inimical to post-war Sri Lanka were being hatched.

Dr. Bandara said that successive governments, including the current dispensation, should be ashamed of their failure to counter unsubstantiated war crimes allegations.

The US move, unless countered, could be far worse than the Canadian declaration of Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day on May 18 and sanctions on former Presidents, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

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