Saturday, June 23, 2007

SF troops rattle LTTE movement; 13 terrorists killed- Vavuniya

The Sri Lankan Army Special Forces (SF) troops rattled an LTTE movement attempting to breach the forward defences west of Omantahi, killing 13 terrorists, while injuring over a dozen other LTTE cadres in a fierce duel, yesterday (23).

According to the Special Force troops, two LTTE terrorist were killed initially attempting to infiltrate the defence lines, at around 09.00a.m, when the alert observation units retaliated.

Later according to the Army officials, the elite forces engaged a large column of terrorists between Madhu and Omantai, when they tried to enter the liberated areas, and drew heavy fire from the Army troops. 11 terrorists were killed while the LTTE concentration was dispersed into all directions, rattled by the enormous SF fire power.

The Special Forces corps, a battle hardened elite unit of the SL security forces, who with their enormous fire capability is a most feared combat unit amongst the LTTE.


London Police ready to file action against Shanthan – Tiger leader in UK

Latest reports from London indicate that London Metropolitan Police who holds A.C.Santhan, Head of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Britain at the Paddingtomn Green Police Station, has decided to file action against him.

The Police have decided to file initially the charge of “conspiring to collect funds for a proscribed organization. “

The reference to “a proscribed organization” in the charge sheet points to the proscription of the Tamil Tigers on 28 February 2001 under the Terrorism Act 2000.

Shanthan has been arrested and held in police custody under the Terrorism Act. Sources revealed that anyone arrested under the Terrorism Act is allowed to be held under Police custody for 28 days.

In case the Police need to hold a person for more than 28 days they could do so on a special court’s order.

Information revealed after the arrest of Shanthan, police has raided four properties located in the South London yesterday.

It is further revealed that Police has taken with them large amount of documents from the houses they raided. Also it is learnt they have taken with them several computers and documents.


Shanthan – the key to Tiger operations in UK

The arrest of A. C. Shanthan, the No: 1 Tiger agent in UK, has been a big blow to the Tiger movement in Europe. His links to Anton Balasingham, the London-based ideologue, makes him one of the principal agents of the Tigers. Shanthan who is held in Paddington Green, Paddington is being continuously grilled by the Police in United Kingdom regarding the activities of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Shanthan was arrested under Terrorism Act and Police expect him to be a mine of information on Tamil Tiger operations in Europe.

It is learnt that UK police are liaising with the French police to investigate clues leading to the murder of two LTTE operatives in Paris a few years ago. Kandiah Perinpanathan formerly the LTTE's treasurer and Kajan of the Eelamurasu were killed in Paris.

Police sources alleged that Shanthan in operations that involved forcible collection of funds, threats, intimidations, abductions, illegal confinement of those opposed to the LTTE, and harassment and torture.

According to police sources, Shanthan is the man behind the operations of his second in command Robert Soosaipillai who was involved in abducting and illegally confining Tamil diaporas and harassing and torturing.

UK Police according to reliable sources have details of abducting and confining anti-LTTE people at Thamilini Cash and Carry located at South hall, Middlesex which earlier belonged to the LTTE. Now it is owned by one Aravinthan and Ilankovan. One of the partners Ilankovan is now under arrest in Chennai on allegation of credit card scam.

Police sources revealed that abducted Tamils are taken to the storeroom of the Tamilini Cash and Carry and their hands and feet tied, mouth plastered and harassed and tortured.

Sources close to the police also revealed that Shanthan has a property in Katherine Road in Eastham, a safe-house used for illegal confinement.

Police sources revealed that Shanthan was involved in credit skimming, cloning and credit card scam.

Further more police suspects that Shanthan is involved in money laundering. Two private money exchanges owned by a Tamil man and woman located near the Hydepark and Marble Arch tube stations were made use by Shanthan for the money laundering activities.


UK anti-errorist police strike at LTTE

Fifty-one year old A.C.Shanthan, a relative of LTTE leader Pirihaparan's wife Mathivathani by marriage and formerly closely associated with "Col Kittu" who committed suicide when confronted by the Indian navy, was arrested early yesterday morning by the British anti-terrorism police and intelligence agents at his house.

More than 20 armed policemen has surrounded his house and arrested Shanthan in connection with LTTE activities which are prohibited in the UK because the LTTE is a proscribed organization.

Shanthan is the President of the British Tamil Association but the police think that he is the LTTE's UK head.

Also arrested yesterday morning was 29-year old Goldan Lambert also from the BTA.

Police have been monitoring their activities for a long time after they had organized a big meeting at London's Hyde Park in support of the LTTE and speakers praised the LTTE and its leader.

Police found according to a police source as Shanthan was involved in numerous illegal activities in United Kingdom. Police is of the opinion that Shanthan was involved in abduction, illegal detentions, harassment and torture of Tamils who opposed the LTTE in London.

Police had information from several other police forces and from investigations after the arrest in India of one Ilankovan, a shareholder of Tamilini, a cash-and-carry store in the UK.

Shathan is also suspected of laundering money for the LTTE using several money exchange businesses including some situated in central London.

Recently the LTTE has been trying to sell several of its assets including property.

Why the LTTE is trying to get rid of them, some inside sources say, is because it needs hard cash to buy arms urgently in order to meet military attacks in the Jaffna peninsula which are being planned.

Shanthan who hails from Udupiddy has been watched by police because of reports that members of the Tamil community have been harrassed and forced to donate funds to the LTTE. Many Tamil businessmen and families have been forced to contribute to wards the "final war". They have been even threatened with abduction if they do not contribute.

One of the properties that Shanthan has been trying to sell is in East Ham. It used to be occupied several years ago by Daya Master who returned to the Wanni and is now the LTTE's spokesman. This property has been used as a safe house and also to keep persons Shanthan has kept under detention.

Police are said to be investigating several other Tamils and Tamil businesses closely associated with Shanthan.

One person who was recently interrogated by the police is Anandevi Perimpanayagam to find out about the movement of money according to information released by Tamil sources.

Several money exchanges and travel businesses are being watched by police who think that money transactions that eventually go into LTTE funds are going on in some of them.
Police also think that Shanthan, his second in command Robert Soosaipillai and his associates have been involved in credit card scam and also involved in skimming and cloning credit cards that have been used by LTTE cadres in many parts of the world. Some of those cadres have been arrested abroad.

Police who have investigated the recent credit card scams at petrol filling stations is several parts of the UK are also looking for connections between that and the LTTE.


North-east insurgents in Britain

The perceptible increase in the bloody manifestations of the several insurgencies in the north-east, more particularly that conducted by the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has more to do with geopolitics than any expectation of success in their mission. ULFA’s mindless attacks on Hindi-speaking migrant labour and petty businessmen have already boomeranged at some places when terrorists caught in the act of extortion were lynched. That sentiment has yet to acquire the momentum of a groundswell but it should give the ULFA something to pause and ponder.

So far as the talks with the NSCN (I-M) are concerned, they have pulled back several times from the brink of collapse which would have ignited a fresh round of open hostilities. The current ceasefire is up for renewal and there are signs of frustration among the insurgents that there have been no tangible signs of progress.

Central to the Naga issue is the integration of Naga majority areas in contiguous States of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and Manipur which are vehemently opposed to the creation “Greater Nagaland”. On at least one occasion the depth of antagonism became came upfront. Manipur burst into flames during the NDA regime when Delhi indicated it might consider the demand. On the other hand, the Nagaland assembly has on several occasions passed resolutions calling for integration of Naga areas.

Between the two postures there does not appear to be much room for manoeuvre, calls for “transparency” notwithstanding. The geopolitical scenario is also acquiring new dimensions. Last year the NSCN (I-M) delegation had travelled to China raising the spectre of a fresh dose of Chinese-sponsored insurgency on India’s north-eastern flank. The latest development in which China has asserted its claims on Arunachal Pradesh will further tend to muddy prospects for peace not just in the north-east but further afield as well.

A British Labour MP of Kashmiri descent, Lord Nazir Ahmed, has once again managed to bring together in London in May on one platform the Sikh Khalistani separatists and the Naga (I-M) group. The worrying aspect is that here is British lawmaker who is involved in promoting “self-determination” for organisations that have not hesitated to use terror tactics in trying to attain their goal of separation. This, even as Britain itself is suffering the consequences of terrorist attacks from home-grown Islamic fundamentalists who have received training and indoctrination in Pakistan. It is natural in this context to put question marks over the West’s commitment to fight terrorism.

The London conclave adopted a resolution that devoted a paragraph on “Indian colonialism” against the Kashmiris, the Nagas, Assamese, the people of Manipur, the Bodos, but the central theme was the revival of the Khalistan movement in Punjab. Ever since the Sikh separatists were crushed in the late 80s, Pakistan has been maintaining a special cell within the Pakistan Army’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to try and resuscitate it and one of its former directors-general was appointed to head the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee. His name is Lt-General Javed Naseer. The sporadic bomb blasts in Delhi and Punjab two years ago were credited to the Babbar Khalsa which is funded and maintained by the ISI.

Instead of making its displeasure known to the NSCN (I-M) for attending the London conclave it would be more appropriate for Delhi to take up the matter with London and let it know that such dual standards of fighting global terrorism on the one hand and pandering to it on the other will not be in its own interest much less of India’s.

The consequences of such encouragement to terrorism have long-term effect and India must jog British memory to the days when “President” of Khalistan Jagjit Singh Chauhan (he died recently in India) who was provided consular facilities by the American Government to obtain a passport and Britain provided him sanctuary and the propaganda wherewithal to propagate his brand of terror.

With all the proof at their disposal both Britain and the US should be able to bring more pressure to bear on the Government of Pakistan to stamp out the germs of terrorism that germinate on its soil. But before that they must practice what they preach and in any case dissuade parliamentarians from stoking the embers.


Karuna imposes taxes on Tamil civilians

Karuna group is now raising fund by imposing taxes on those fishermen living in the Government controlled areas in Batticaloa and Amparai. It is learnt that Karuna group is also collecting information about the individuals and family incomes in the two districts through the Grama Servaka officers. They are preparing a list of the shopkeepers and businesses in the Government controlled area with a view to impose taxes.

On the last 13th , Karuna’s commanders Sinnathamby, Veera, Mangalan and Ranjan met the fishermen in Batticaloa and ordered them to pay taxes due on their boats with immediate effect.

They have ordered that owners of large motorized boat to pay monthly Rs.3000, Karavalai boat Rs. 1500 and Dhoniy Rs. 1000 each

Karuna’s Group also has imposed Rs. 100/ per bullock-cart for a cart load of sand to the cart owners.

Three-wheelers in the Batticaloa – Amparai districts are ordered to pay monthly Rs.2500 as tax to the Karuna group. In the beginning three-wheeler drivers in Kalmunai resisted the payment of tax.

Resistance by the three-wheeler drivers was viewed as a challenge to Karuna’s authority in the East.

Subsequently, Gopi Kanth, Karuna’s man in Kalmunai shot and killed one three-wheeler driver who opposed the payment of tax. Following the killing in Kalmunai, it is learnt that the three-wheeler drivers have already submitted and started paying taxes to Karuna group.

People in the East who live in the Government controlled areas are petrified because of the threats from the Karuna group.


Tiger supporter P. Nedumaran of Tamil Nadu wanted in the UK

Police in London are searching for P. Nedumaran, head of the World Tamil Movement (WTM), who had slipped into UK to participate in functions organized by the Tamil Tigers. The WTM is a front organisation of the Tamil Tigers and it is learnt that Nedumaran, who had been jailed in India for his pro-Tiger activities, was instructed by Velupillai Prabhakaran to join the Tamil Tiger agents in their separatist campaigns in Europe.

Police in London want him for questioning. But it appears that Nedumaran had slipped out of London. Police sources, however, are of the view he is still in London.

P. Nedumaran, the South Indian Tamil politician who is one of the leading heads of the Tiger movement in Tamil Nadu, is a close political ally of Prabhakaran and is known to be actively engaged in Tiger activities in India. In one of the meetings held in London, he has urged the Tamil diaspora in the west to liberally contribute funds to Tamil Tigers. He has argued that the Tigers are urgently in need of funds to purchase military hardware to fight the final battle against the Sri Lanka Government.

The mission assigned to him by Prabhakaran is to generate more funds for the Tamil Tigers and to propagate the politics of the Tigers. He is known to be a popular agitator and a propagandist with an ability to rouse communal hatred.

According to available information he had participated in a couple of public functions in London and later entered Switzerland to participate in the Tiger protest march in front of the United Nations office building. He had also joined the Tigers’ protest in which the LTTE flag was hoisted in front of the UN building as part of their propaganda campaign.

After that he had returned to London it was initially reported as he was staying with Daya Idaikadar. This was further confirmed when he contacted a representative of the EROS.

According to some sources Nedumaran is residing in London with the Tiger agents in UK in a secret location in London and has met up with N. Seevaratnam, the ousted Chairman of the Sivayogam Trust, Dr. Sathiyamoorthy of White Pigeon, Velupillai Kuhanendran, a Consultant working for Kingston Council and the Ravi Sundaralingam alias Kudambi Ravi (who claims to run EROS) and several others.

Nedumaran has been arrested in Tamil Nadu, India on several occasions over his links with the LTTE. Once he was smuggled into Sri Lanka and Tiger leader V. Prabhakaran personally awarded one of the Tiger honours for services rendered.

UK authorities are investigating as to how he obtained a visa and on what pretext. It is also not known how the Home Office which denied a visa to the leader of TELO, Selvam Adaikalanathan when he tried to visit the UK had agreed to issue a visa to Nedumaran.


Disappearances: US Style – 39 Persons Unaccounted in name of Counter Terrorism

In the most comprehensive accounting to date, six leading human rights organizations in early June 2007 published the names and details of 39 people who are believed to have been held in secret US custody and whose current whereabouts remain unknown.

The briefing paper also names relatives of suspects who were themselves detained in secret prisons, including children as young as seven.

In a related action, three of the groups filed a lawsuit in US federal court under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) seeking the disclosure of information concerning “disappeared” detainees.

The 21-page briefing paper “Off the Record: US Responsibility for Enforced Disappearances in the ‘War on Terror,’” includes detailed information about four people named as “disappeared” prisoners for the first time. The full list of people includes nationals from countries including Egypt, Kenya, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan and Spain. They are believed to have been arrested in countries including Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Sudan, and transferred to secret US detention centers.

The complete briefing paper can be read at the Human Rights Watch internet site.

The list – drafted by Amnesty International, Cageprisoners, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University School of Law, Human Rights Watch, and Reprieve – draws together information from government and media sources, as well as from interviews with former prisoners and other witnesses.

“Off the Record” highlights aspects of the CIA detention program that the US government has actively tried to conceal, such as the locations where prisoners may have been held, the mistreatment they endured, and the countries to which they may have been transferred.

It reveals how suspects’ relatives, including wives and children as young as seven years old, have been held in secret detention. In September 2002, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s two young sons, aged seven and nine, were arrested. According to eyewitnesses, the two were held in an adult detention center for at least four months while US agents questioned the children about their father’s whereabouts.

Similarly, when Tanzanian national Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was seized in Gujarat, Pakistan, in July 2004, his Uzbek wife was detained with him.

The human rights groups are calling on the US government to put a permanent end to the CIA’s secret detention and interrogation program, and to disclose the identities, fate, and whereabouts of all detainees currently or previously held at secret facilities operated or overseen by the US government as part of the “war on terror.”

In a related action, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), CCR and the International Human Rights Clinic of NYU School of Law filed a lawsuit on June 7 in US federal court under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) seeking disclosure of information concerning “disappeared” detainees, including “ghost” and unregistered prisoners. AIUSA, CCR and the NYU International Human Rights Clinic filed FOIA requests with several US government agencies, including the Departments of Justice and Defense, and the CIA. These FOIA requests sought information about individuals who are – or have been – held by, or with the involvement of, the US government, where there is no public record of the detentions. Though a few departments produced documents containing little relevant information, no agency provided a list of secretly held detainees or an assessment of the legality of the secret program.

The documents that the groups are seeking are known to exist. President Bush publicly acknowledged the existence of CIA-operated secret prisons in September 2006; 14 detainees from these facilities were transferred to Guantanamo, and the US Department of Justice has issued an analysis concluding that the secret detention program is legal.

Yet information about the location of the prisons, the identity of the prisoners, and the types of interrogation methods used, has never been publicly revealed. This prevents scrutiny by the public or the courts, and leaves detainees vulnerable to abuses that include torture and other ill-treatment.

The secrecy surrounding the program also means that no one outside the US government knows exactly how many prisoners have been detained and how many remain “disappeared.” The April 2007 transfer of Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi from CIA custody to Guantanamo indicates that the program continues to operate, although some prisoners may have been transferred to prisons in other countries, possibly as a form of proxy detention. “Off the Record” indicates that some missing detainees may have been moved to countries where they face the risk of torture and where they continue to be held secretly, without charge or trial.

Interviews with prisoners who have been released from secret CIA prisons indicate that low-level detainees have frequently been arrested far from any battlefield, and held in isolation for years without legal recourse or contact with their families or outside agencies. Those who have been released have received no acknowledgment of their detention or any legal or financial redress. (Source: Human Rights Watch)


CIA to release 1970s documents on agency’s crimes

The US Central Intelligence Agency is preparing to release a set of documents compiled more than 30 years ago detailing the agency’s involvement over the previous quarter century in crimes both at home and abroad. These included assassination attempts against foreign heads of state, covert spying on newspaper columnists and other US citizens, the infiltration of left-wing groups and the testing of mind-alerting drugs on unwitting American subjects.

The CIA’s current director, Gen. Michael Hayden, announced the decision to release the documents, known within the agency as the “family jewels,” at a conference in Washington Thursday of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.

On the contrary, the issues raised in the report—assassinations, domestic spying, kidnappings and torture—are all too familiar to anyone following the activities the CIA and other US security agencies have carried out in the name of the “global war on terrorism.”

The 693-page document was compiled in response to a 1973 directive issued by then-CIA Director James Schlesinger ordering senior agency officials to provide an accounting of all CIA activities that had been conducted in violation of the agency’s charter, which specifically bars it from carrying out domestic operations.

Schlesinger’s order to catalogue these illegal activities was prompted by the arrest of two longtime CIA operatives—E. Howard Hunt and James McCord—in connection with the break-in at the Democratic Party’s Watergate offices. The Watergate crisis exposed broader agency involvement in the so-called “dirty tricks” carried out by the Nixon administration against its political opponents.

It was under these conditions, and in the wake of Richard Nixon’s resignation, that Schlesinger’s successor at the CIA, William Colby, assembled the record of the so-called “skeletons” in the agency’s closet and presented them to President Gerald Ford.

While some of the material in the document had previously been leaked and much of its contents were publicly exposed in the course of House and Senate investigations of the agency—the Pike and Church committees—in the mid-1970s, the CIA had until now steadfastly refused to release the material.

There is little doubt that what is to be made public will be carefully vetted for material that could still incriminate living participants in the crimes of that period, not least of them former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, who remains a key advisor of the Bush administration.

In his speech to the historians’ conference, Hayden cautioned: “Remember that nothing about intelligence and declassification happens without human intervention. We do not—we cannot—just kick these things out the door. We have to examine each and every page through the real-world security prism I mentioned. It takes time. It takes care. It takes talent.”

In conjunction with Hayden’s announcement, the National Security Archive at George Washington University posted on its web site a series of documents. These include a summary of the “family jewels” prepared for the US Justice Department and memorandums of conversations between Colby, Schlesinger, Kissinger and Ford on their implications and on how to protect the CIA and the administration itself from the political consequences.

The summary was provided to the Justice Department in December 2004 after a front-page article by Seymour Hersh appeared in the New York Times under a banner headline, “Huge CIA operation reported in US against antiwar forces, other dissidents in Nixon years.”

In an attempt at organizing damage control over the revelations, the CIA, the Justice Department and the White House initiated discussions of the document assembled by the agency.

Among the crimes cited by Colby in his presentation to DOJ was the forcible three-year confinement of a Soviet defector, which Colby acknowledged “might be regarded as a violation of kidnapping laws.”

He also acknowledged multiple episodes of CIA spying on journalists in an attempt to discover their sources. Among those targeted was Jack Anderson and his assistants—including the current right-wing Fox News anchor Brit Hume—Washingon Post national security reporter Michael Getler and two syndicated columnists, Robert Allen and Paul Scott.

Also included in the report were break-ins at the homes of former CIA employees and covert mail openings of letters to and from the Soviet Union and China.

Colby also acknowledged the CIA’s participation in assassination plots against Cuban President Fidel Castro, Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba and Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo.

Colby claimed that the CIA played no active role in the assassination of either Lumumba or Trujillo, but admitted to a “faint connection” between the CIA and the latter’s killers.

The CIA director also admitted that the agency had engaged in spying upon and infiltrating antiwar organizations and other left-wing opponents of the government in the 1960s and 1970s, amassing the names of some 10,000 people active in opposing the Vietnam War.

Also acknowledged was the use of “unwitting” American participants in experiments using drugs being tested for use in interrogations as well as the testing of polygraph and wire-tapping equipment on subjects in the US.

The memorandum of the conversation between Kissinger and Ford portrays the then-secretary of state and architect of some of Washington’s bloodiest crimes as apoplectic. He warned the president that the Times story on massive domestic spying represented “just the tip of the iceberg.” As to the facts not included in the story, he said, “If they come out, blood will flow.” As an example, he pointed to the role played by Robert Kennedy (the former attorney general and president’s brother) in personally directing the assassination campaign against Castro. The implications, he added could be “worse...than Watergate.”

Kissinger noted, the “Chilean thing” was not in Colby’s report, hinting darkly that it was kept out as “sort of a blackmail on me.” In the 1973 Chilean coup, Kissinger and the CIA played the decisive roles in organizing the military overthrow of an elected government and the subsequent reign of terror in which tens of thousands of Chileans were murdered and tortured.

Indeed, this and other crimes were not included in Colby’s “family jewels,” presumably because the CIA hierarchy believed that they did not represent a violation of the charter under which the agency was founded in 1947.

The coup in Chile was only one in a long series of bloodbaths, coups and dirty wars organized by the CIA in Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, Congo, Vietnam, Afghanistan and many other countries.

Hayden’s attempt to cast the limited number of crimes that found their way into the dossier compiled by Colby as relics from some distant and long-surpassed era hardly stands up to scrutiny.

Indeed, the release of documents dating from nearly 35 years ago almost has the character of a distraction from far more current and serious crimes being carried out presently.

There is ample evidence that the agency has seldom been involved in as much criminal activity as it is today, while the limited restraints placed upon the national security establishment following the revelations of the mid-1970s have been largely swept aside since 2001, with the enactment of the USA Patriot Act and the assumption of ever-more-sweeping powers, including massive domestic surveillance, by the Bush White House.

In his remarks at the conference in Washington, Hayden acknowledged that the press of increased operations had slowed down some of the agency’s declassification work. “The ops tempo we have maintained since 9/11—and must continue to maintain—is unmatched in our agency’s history,” he said. “The good news here is that we’re producing great stuff for future historians.”

What will this “great stuff” include? Among the current “ops” that have been at least partially exposed is the CIA’s involvement in the illegal abduction of alleged suspects, and their rendition to secret prisons in many parts of the world where they have been subjected to torture and in some cases murdered. CIA agents have been indicted and brought to trial in Italy for one such “extraordinary rendition.”

In addition, CIA death squads and assassination teams have been deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere.

It is unlikely, to say the least, that the agency is preparing the release of documents detailing these criminal activities. As Hayden told his audience of historians, “Of course, we cannot tell the American people everything we do to protect them without damaging our ability to protect them.”


Prabhakaran: the spectre haunting human rights activists

One of the most disheartening – one may even call it flawed – reports produced on the current crisis in Sri Lanka is the latest Asia Report 135 of the International Crisis Group (ICG). As the title says, the report deals with Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Crisis. It is disheartening because its runs on the predictable groove of blaming practically everyone – Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL), the LTTE, better known as Tamil Tigers, the Sri Lankan Peace Monitors, the Tamil para-militaries, the international community, the UN, the Sri Lankan judiciary, the commissions of inquiry etc -- without targeting the key area that needs to be addressed for any solution to emerge.

By and large (and predictably) the ICG blames the GOSL. Though the ICG blames the Tamil Tigers intermittently it places the primary responsibility on the GOSL to correct its human rights record. That again is predictable. It concedes that “(T)he government faces a severe security threat, which it has a legitimate right to address. However, its policies are doing little to improve security and are fuelling antagonism among moderate Tamils and other minorities towards the state.”

Its recipe: “Without ignoring or minimising the serious violations of the LTTE, the international community needs to bring more pressure to bear on the government, through UN mechanisms, a reappraisal of aid policies and intensified political engagement. The alternative is a further decline into authoritarianism, violence, terrorism and repression.”

Blaming the international community ICG adds: “The international community has responded to the renewed conflict and human rights abuses, however, in a disjointed and lacklustre way. While there has been some public criticism, there is little sign of a coordinated approach that would put real pressure on the government to change course.”

In conclusion it says: “The international community can no longer afford simply to repeat formulaic criticisms of the government’s human rights violations and express hope that political proposals will be forthcoming. More urgent action is needed, including support for a resolution in the UN Human Rights Council, an across the board reassessment of aid policies and support for more international involvement in monitoring abuses. Until that action is forthcoming, the victims of violence perpetrated by the state, the LTTE, and other armed groups have nowhere to turn.”

In other words, the thrust of the Report is to tie the hands of the GOSL with the tight ropes of human rights – just the recipe required by the Tamil Tigers to vindicate their position with their financial backers in the diaspora to raise more funds to commit more violations of human rights. Not surprisingly this issue comes up each time the Security Forces are advancing into the area controlled by the Tamil Tigers. It began with India stopping the advance of Sri Lankan forces into Vaddamarachci area in the north by dropping lentils over Jaffna. This “humanitarian intervention” was propagated then as a means of winning the hearts and minds of the Jaffna Tamils people who were said to be “persecuted” by the Sri Lankan forces. The disastrous role of the IPKF and its subsequent withdrawal stands as one of the best political and historical answers to the outsiders who pretend to know the solution to the crisis in Sri Lanka.

The analysis leading to the conclusion too is questionable. Based on the popular theories touted by the local NGOs the ICG Report argues that the Sri Lankan crisis can be solved if (1) a political package can be presented to satisfy the aspirations of the Tamils (please note: Tamils only and not the aspirations of the other communities) and (2) human rights issues are addressed to wean away the Tamil moderates from the Tamil Tigers which, hopefully, will return the country to normalcy.

That is the theory though the ICG concedes that there is this little problem of tackling Velupillai Prabhakaran. A fundamental flaw of the ICG Report is its assumption that observing human rights – with GOSL taking full responsibility -- is the magic formula to put an end to the crisis. It argues: “A central part of such a political strategy is respect for due process and the basic rights of citizens. This kind of respect for human rights is necessary to establish the legitimacy of the state and to undercut the sense of grievance that is at the root of any serious insurgency. Harsh counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency efforts aim to deter insurgents and their potential supporters but evidence shows that they often produce an opposite effect.”

But the historical evidence proves that forces bigger than human rights and various peace packages (Indian and Oslo agreements) have failed to bring the Tamil Tigers to the negotiating table, or to keep them there whenever they come to the table. Whatever themerits of human rights are – and no one denies those merits -- and however noble the ideals are the fact remains that nations fighting insurgency never won any battle by waving the UN charter on human rights. The ICG report confirms this when it says that in the period from 2002-2006, when the Ceasefire was in force, the Tamil Tigers took advantage of the reluctance of Ranil Wickremesinghe government to confront the violations of the human rights and the provisions of the CFA, fearing such action would upset the prospects of peace talks. In the end neither peace talks nor human rights gained anything by the so called “confidence building” inaction of the Wickremesinghe-Bradman Weerakoon duo.

So what are the lessons that should be drawn by human rights activists from these historical experiences? Sri Lanka has established a credible record of defeating terrorism when it confronted the JVP and crushed them militarily. But the ICG dismisses the defeat of the JVP as a victory over a “relatively amateur, poorly funded and ineffective fighting force.” It also adds the use of “great brutality and legal and extra-judicial violence……” for the state’s success.

Though there is a modicum of truth in this it is, on the whole, a case of trivializing and misdiagnosing the factors that led to the collapse of the JVP as a violent force. As a fighting force the JVP reached its peak when it reduced the writ of the all-powerful president to the limits of the Colombo city. Even the city was run by kids distributing chits to the terrorised citizens. At its peak it was far better oganised that the amateur forces of the Tigers riding on bicycles in Jaffna murdering unarmed citizens. JVP nearly had, according some estimates, a substantial area under its control. The ICG has missed the salient points that gave succour to the Tiger terrorists. First is the fact that the JVP did not have foreign backers like India who trained them, financed them and armed them to destablise Sri Lanka. Second is the sheer ruthlessness of the Tiger tactics in eliminating their rivals and the licence of impunity given to them to get away with violations of human rights. Third, the Churches dominated by Tamil clergy, with international pastoral networks stretching from home to Rome, were not there to justify their political violence. Fourth, the founding fathers of Marxism who were quick to condemn the JVP as CIA agents were the first to raise their voices in defence of mono-ethnic extremism of northern political class. Fifth, the full force of the organized foreign-funded NGO, backed by foreign governments, was not in existence at the time to lend a hand and political respectability to the JVPers. Sixth, the JVPers did not gain any substantial sympathy from the north (e.g. academics, leftists, and political activists) like the way the Tamils of the north got from the south, despite the cries of Sinhala chauvinism. Seven, the Sinhala diaspora was not sympathetic to the JVPers who also cried discrimination on the basis of language (English/kaduwa) and lack of social mobility. Eight, GOSL was not hampered by the fledgling “civil society” and its human rights issues to deal with the violence unleashed by the JVP. Nine, JVP’s short spurts of violence did not produce a flood of Sinhala migrants who could exploit the benefits of a long-drawn violence (like the Tamils) to gain refugee status and sympathy of the bleeding hearts of the West. Ten, the Tigers cashed in on the cry of discrimination by presenting themselves as the underdog despite the fact that they were the most privileged community that went out to the world and occupied professional heights in Western capitals through the free education system (from the kindergarten to the university) provided by the so-called “Sinhala-dominated governments”. Eleven, though the Tamil and Sinhala youth were stuck in a stagnant colonial economy facing the same socio-economic disabilities and inequalities the JVPers did not have the middle-class English-speaking elite to lead them, or to prepare the ground for them to grab the attention or the support on a global scale. Twelve, the JVP movement was not internationalized to drag in the international community to intervene on their behalf.

These and other factors will reveal the extent of the Tamil political line that had influenced and misdirected the analysis of the ICG Report. Apart from this it is clear that the ICG Report is a rehash of the formulas written by the local NGO pundits. The strictures, the analysis and the prescriptions in the ICG Report could have been done by Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu or Kumar Rupesinghe eyes closed. In fact, the argument to restrain the GOSL by cutting aid was the theme of Saravanamuttu’s talk to the CSIS in New York, headed by the former US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Teresita Schaffer.

Here a distinction needs to be drawn in the name of human rights. It is not in the interest of global peace, stability and prosperity to advocate, encourage, or manufacture excuses for the violations of human rights. But sometimes, as in the case of “just wars”, there are exceptional circumstances when, in the overall interests of protecting human rights threatened by brutal forces, it becomes necessary to fight fire with fire. The argument against this is that defenders of human rights cannot descend to the lower levels of the violators of human rights. However, the undeniable reality is that there isn’t a moral order that has come out of surrendering to the forces undermining human rights. Practically, every moral order has come out of violent struggles to win the human rights. Charters of human rights are valuable guides to protect a moral order. But invariably the triumph of any moral order has been a preceded by a struggle to overthrow the authoritarian and violent forces suppressing human rights.

Besides, violent politics strikes a moral posture of being above the law because of perceived grievances. The world is full of grievances but that does not give each and every disaffected group to resort to violence outside the framework of laws based on democratic consensus. Violence outside a democratic legal structure is a recipe for anarchy and not for protection of human rights. Democratic forces fighting forces outside the law can never eliminate violations of human rights or even excesses sometimes. The best they can do is to minimize such excesses.

Nevertheless, in Sri Lanka powerful forces, both foreign and local, exploit human rights issues to strengthen the authoritarian one-man rule by tying the hands of a democratically elected government that has maintained its democratic structures (with faults no doubt) against overwhelming forces of right-wing coups, left-wing uprisings and a terrorist force unleashed by mono-ethnic extremism. The contradictions are too stark to add any further comment. President Mahinda Rajapakse is fully aware of the negative impact of violating human rights and the ICG Report quotes him as saying that it tends to drive the Tamils into the hands of Prabhakaran. Apart from the political consequences human rights are treasured for the mutual benefits they bestow on the protectors and the recipients of these sacred values. Human dignity is dependent on human rights. Violence strips that dignity and dehumanizes society with no shared values to hold individuals together except hate.

Prabhakaran is the embodiment of hate. He packs his suicide bombers body belts with explosives of hate. He reduces his suicide bomber to a zombie driven only by pure hate. It is not love that turned human beings into precision bombers of Rajiv Gandhi and Premadasa. Each death is counted by him as a tribute to his glory. Each death is a fix that pumps his adrenalin. Graveyards of Tamil youth are kept meticulously clean to wipe out any stains of blood or memories of his guilt. The violence he unleashes confirms to him his arbitrary and unrestrained power over life and death. He has thrived so far on the power of his violence.

His minions are instructed to bring him videos of events that glorify him as a global power. They even took pictures of the body parts of Rajiv Gandhi flying in all directions of the compass. Those pictures make him believe that he can even make India dance to his tune. Where would he be today if he was persuaded to give up violence and embrace human rights? Would any Western diplomat queue up outside his den in the Vanni if he had failed to use his gun accurately? If the moral merchants in the NGO and diplomatic circles had evaluated the misguided eviction of 370 Tamils from Colombo (which, of course, was condemned and corrected by the judiciary and the GOSL) with that of the ethnic cleansing of the 50,000 Muslims from Jaffna by the Tamil Tigers (mark you, without any corrections so far) who should get the plaudits for protecting human rights?

Tragically, the lip service paid by the Western world to human rights had devalued these sacred tenets to a worthless piece of paper. Last Monday, for instance, a US-led air-strike killed seven children in an Afghan school. Did the British Ambassador in Washington walk into the State Department and read the riot act to the Americans? In Australia last Wednesday a police officer accused of killing an Aborigine locked up in a cell walked out free from a court. His defence was that the Aborigine broke four ribs, split his liver and punctured his portal vein when fell on his prisoner in a fight. The Aborigine died of internal haemorrhage within an hour. Medical experts said that it would require “massive force”, something like a knee”, to inflict those injuries. It doesn’t require much imagination to guess what the NGOs would have said about the judiciary if such a verdict was delivered in Sri Lanka against a Sinhala Police officer?

The ICG Report confuses the human rights violations of tbe south with the military efforts to beat the Tigers. Though one leads to the other in a vicious cycle they are two different issues. Given the nature of entrenched Tamil Tiger terrorism military responses, at times, are bound to be excessive. Without making excuses for those excesses, it is legitimate to ask those nations who accuse Sri Lanka of violating human rights a simple question: which nation fighting brutal enemies came out of their wars with clean hands? By all means, the international community has a duty to put pressure on Sri Lanka to curtail excesses. But in the process do they have a right to commit excesses of cutting aid as a punitive measure? This war, and consequently the violations of human rights arising from this war, would have ended if these Western nations proposing to cut aid had stopped the unlimited aid flowing out of their banks to finance Prabhakaran’s killing machine. This war – and the violations of human rights arising from this war – would have ended a long time ago if the nations calling for sanctions against Sri Lanka had cut off aid that flowed freely from their bases to Prabhakaran. Every bullet, gun, boats, planes came from Western funds. So who is responsible for keeping the war going for so long? And who is responsible for the violations of the human rights?

The ICG Report which blames every in sight does not look inwards at their guilt and responsibilities. It is their failure that had fuelled the fires of war in Sri Lanka. It is immoral and hypocritical for the ICG to press for cutting of aid to a democratic government fighting a terrorist war that had been financed by the Western nations. The ICG smugly passes the buck to GOSL. It talks of the several Western governments cracking down recently on the Tigers after letting them run in their backyards for decades. They sit in judgment over Sri Lanka, as some superior moral guardians, without taking any responsibility for the crimes they have committed in providing bases to raise funds, torture and extort money from their citizens, turn a blind eye to exporting terrorism from UK, for instance, saying that they had not violated British laws, and above all, refusing to act even now on the critical judicial remedy available to them to solve the problem. They are pussyfooting around human rights issues without going straight into the heart of the problem – the heart of darkness hidden in the jungles of Vanni.

The ICG Report comes almost near to it but at the critical point it turns away from the obvious, the necessary, the logical and the inevitable step – a step which it has taken in other instances where violations of human rights have reached intolerable levels. The international community has two major options: 1. military intervention for regime change as in Iraq and 2. hunting and charging political criminals who have a dismal record of violating human rights. Charles Taylor of Sierra Leone is the latest that is being tried by the UN prosecutors.

What explanation can the international community, along with their moral mates in the NGOs, give for not putting Prabhakaran on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity? The New York Times branded him as the “latest Pol Pot of Asia” who incarcerates Tamils who dare to even crack anti-Prabhakaran jokes. He is a criminal wanted by Interpol, India and Sri Lanka. He is banned in all countries respecting human rights. Oddly enough, the ICG Report even mentions the need for Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to visit Sri Lanka and negotiate with the GOSL. ICG also talks of making “other UN mechanisms” “more active”.

But “more active” for what? Is it to tie the hands of the GOSL or to maintain the status quo by providing further legitimacy and scope to perpetuate the one-man regime of the Tamil Pol Pot? Fed up with the violations of human rights perpetuated by a needless war political observers tend to agree that there will not be peace in Sri Lanka until Prabhakaran is removed from the political equation. This removal can take many forms. It may be a regime change. It may be a safe haven in Norway for Prabhakaran. It may be voluntary retirement. It may be a cyanide pill, if he chooses that exit. Or it may be a trial in an international criminal court set up by the UN.

If the ICG is genuinely concerned about the human rights issue in Sri Lanka why does it not take the initiative in filing the open-and-shut case against Prabhakaran? What is inhibiting it? Why isn’t the international community hunting him the way they hunted the war criminals in divided Yugoslavia? ICG knows that all its sanctions have failed to reform Prabhakaran. So what is ICG waiting for? What is its excuse? Is it going to claim that peace process will be hindered if he is put on trial? The reality is that the peace process has not gone anywhere and will not go anywhere as long as he remains as the man who calls the shots in the crisis. In one stroke the international community can immobilize him by de-legitimizing his violent politics and alienate him from the war-weary Tamils who are yearning for peace if a case is instituted against him for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The impact on the peace process would be electrifying. More than all the measures taken to stop the flow on funds from Tamil expatriates this legal move would paralyze the Tigers as never before. There isn’t a better means of protecting human rights than putting the man responsible for most of it behind bars.

But will ICG or Ms. Louise Arbour take this critical step? Considering the crimes he has committed against his own people – let alone the other communities – he should have been put on trial years ago. The credibility and the integrity of ICG and Ms. Arbour will rocket sky high if they move in this direction to defend and protect human rights. The victims of this needless war in Sri Lanka are sick to their back teeth of futile, finger-pointing reports. ICG should be sufficiently informed by now of the ground realities to know that the best option available is to indict the man who will never give peace either to his Tamil people, or to the other communities, or even to the region.

It is easy to write reports which generally tend to find excuses or legitimize violence of non-state actors in democratic societies. The hard part is in de-legitimizing violence of these armed groups which is a primary requirement to prevent violations of human rights. ICG sadly has taken the easy option. Failure to accept this legal remedy will make ICG another irrelevant producer of reports that are not even remotely connected to conflict resolution.

Footnote: Crisis Group works closely with governments and those who influence them, including the media, to highlight its crisis analyses and to generate support for its policy prescriptions.

The Crisis Group Board – which includes prominent figures from the fields of politics, diplomacy, business and the media – is directly involved in helping to bring the reports and recommendations to the attention of senior policy-makers around the world. Crisis Group is co-chaired by the former European Commissioner for External Relations Christopher Patten and former U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering. Its President and Chief Executive since January 2000 has been former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans.

Crisis Group’s international headquarters are in Brussels, with advocacy offices in Washington DC (where it is based as a legal entity), New York, London and Moscow. The organisation currently operates twelve regional offices (in Amman, Bishkek, Bogotá, Cairo, Dakar, Islamabad, Istanbul, Jakarta, Nairobi, Pristina, Seoul and Tbilisi) and has local field representation in sixteen additional locations (Abuja, Baku, Beirut, Belgrade, Colombo, Damascus, Dili, Dushanbe, Jerusalem, Kabul, Kampala, Kathmandu, Kinshasa, Port-au-Prince, Pretoria and Yerevan). Crisis Group currently covers nearly 60 areas of actual or potential conflict across four continents. In Africa, this includes Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Western Sahara and Zimbabwe; in Asia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Kashmir, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar/Burma, Nepal, North Korea, Pakistan, Phillipines, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan; in Europe, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Georgia, Kosovo and Serbia; in the Middle East, the whole regionfrom North Africa to Iran; and in Latin America, Colombia, the rest of the Andean region and Haiti.

Crisis Group raises funds from governments, charitable foundations, companies and individual donors. The following governmental departments and agencies currently provide funding: Australian Agency for International Development, Austrian Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canadian International Development Agency, Canadian International Development Research Centre, Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, German Foreign Office, Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, Japanese International Cooperation Agency, Principality of Liechtenstein Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign Affairs, New Zealand Agency for International Development, Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Turkish Ministry of Foreign affairs, United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, United Kingdom Department for International Development, U.S. Agency for International Development.


The Flourishing Business

It was rather paradoxical to hear the news that that Radhika Coomaraswamy, special representative for children and armed conflict will be going to Burma to "the issues of children associated with armed groups and humanitarian access." Charles Petrie, the U.N. humanitarian chief in Burma told reporters at the United Nations on Wednesday that since 2003, the U.N. has been able "to start addressing some very difficult issues" with the Burmese Military Junta, including the problem of child soldiers.

Human Rights groups around the world have long accused the Burmese Junta and opposition groups for recruiting large numbers of child soldiers, some as young as 11. The Military Junta seems to be proud of carrying on its gregarious human rights abuses, including summary executions, torture and forced labor as they always justify that this was the historical task carried on since the days of Burmese monarchs.

A spokesman at Coomaraswamy's office stressed that the trip was not a fact-finding mission but a routine, visit to coordinate U.N. programs to protect children in the country. Coomaraswamy plans to meet with the government, U.N. workers, members of civil society and children affected by conflict. But we are quite positive that the top brass will show only the positive side.

However, if Ms Radhika Coomaraswamy cared to have a cup of tea in any of the Burmese teashop in Burma she would noticed that the persons serving her are just 9 to 11 years old boys. One can argue this cannot be categorized as child labor because it was done voluntarily by the children to supplement their parent’s income to make both ends meet. No teashop or any restaurant dared to hire the boys of age 12 and above because they were forcibly kidnapped by the gangs and sell it to the army recruiters who in turn send it to the Training centre between Kalé and Tamu way up in the north of Burma where very few people can reach. In fact it was something like a boys company, but keeps it Hush Hush!

The Burmese Junta aims to have half a million men second only to China and has been turning out the junior army officers from Maymyo Defense Service Academy. Hundreds of them graduated every year to be assigned to the army. But they have no soldiers. The Burmese army has more captains than soldiers. Hence they assigned these new graduate army officers to recruit young soldiers promising them with promotion if they can recruit a record number of young boys.

Most of these graduate who hailed from the well to do parents, simply go to this centre and buy of the boys. The price for these boys ranges from 300,000 to 1,200,000 Kyats depending on they physique. The boys were paraded and each captain goes around choosing them, they just look at their mouth, eyes and physical structure as if they were choosing slaves of the olden days. Once they brought these boys to their company, they were ear marked for promotion. Hence, this business of kidnapping boys has become the most flourishing business in Burma. It has surpassed the narcotic trade as most of the Narco barons who now have become the “Gentleman of Rangoon” are now quite smug in their live of luxury.

The kidnappers usually ply at night especially at Railway stations and cinemas where the boys used to solicit and if they happen to meet any boy between 12 and 16 they are just carted off to be sold at the Hush Hush Military Training Centre. Sometimes they lay in wait for the schools children coming back home from school and pounced on them.

Recruiters for Burma's army frequently apprehend boys at train and bus stations, markets and other public places, threatening them with jail if they refuse to join the army. The boys are given no opportunity to contact their families, and are sent to camps where they undergo weapons training, are routinely beaten, and brutally punished, if they try to escape. Human Rights Watch received several accounts of boys who were beaten to death after trying to run away. These children were given a choice, to choose whether they want to die or to serve in the army. Hence, they were taken to that recruiting centre and sold for quite a high price. More than 20 percent on active duty at the Burma army are children under the age of 18. Hence, in Burma, there are lots of parents who have lost their boys. They poor parents approached the police stations and other security personals for help, but to no avail.

Nobody knows this flourishing business and of course the Junta and its cronies always suppress this kind of news blaming that the destructive elements were out and out to tarnish the image of the Army and the fair name of the country until the cat was led out of the bag one day.

It happens so, when the nephew of U Win Sein, the former minister of culture, a boy of age 11 was kidnapped by one of these gangs at Monywa station and sold it to the “Hush Hush Military Training Centre” at Kalé thinking that he was like any other boy. The parent has sent him to Fine Arts School in Mandalay, and on enquiry discovered that their son had never reach the school, it was lost on the way. The fact finding groups was set up to discover of whether there was any fatal accident or what happens. There was no trace of him. So naturally the parents approached the Minister of Culture who alerted the military intelligence. After some investigation it was discovered that the boy was already training in that “Hush Hush, Military Training Centre”. Even then the parents have to pay a large sum of money to get their son back. This is but one case of trafficking of children in Burma.

Obviously the Junta’s propagating machine and its media would loudly deny this episode as a crack up story claiming as usual to the destructive elements. If Ms Radhika Coomaraswamy would care and dare to visit this “Hush Hush Military Training Centre” the world will know who are the destructive elements of Burma? Or if the Junta is brave enough to set up an independent team with the help of the UN. The truth will come out.

What will be the fruition of 15-member Security Council expressing its “grave concern” at the suffering of civilians and children if these kinds of things are going on under our noses and then pretending that everything is alright? Addressing the Council, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said that “if there is one thing we need to do above all, it is to end the culture of impunity which underlies so many abuses.” And this is exactly what the Burmese Junta is doing.

The Junta continues to recruit large numbers of children into its army, many by force, despite its promises to stop this internationally-condemned practice. Most of the children said they were coerced and deceived to join the army and suffer its horrible conditions in training camps and dangers of injury and death on the battlefield. Other children said they joined the military because of economic hardships and social pressures, conditions that make children in Burma easy targets for government recruiters.

In January 2004 after the U.N. Secretary-General reported to the U.N. Security Council that Burma was violating international laws. The Burmese army rather than trying to resolve the problem focuses on public relations exercises, contesting allegations from the U.N. and from international human rights groups about the use of child soldiers. With new weapons that are lightweight and easy to fire, children are more easily armed, with less training than ever before. Often recruited or abducted to join armies, many of these children - some younger than 10 years old - have witnessed or taken part in acts of unbelievable violence. Such children are exposed to the worst dangers and the most horrible suffering, both psychological and physical. What is more, they are easily manipulated and encouraged to commit grievous acts, which they are often unable to comprehend. When schools are closed, children are left with few alternatives and may be more easily swayed to join the army.

When a conflict is prolonged as in Burma, armed forces and groups are more likely to use children to replenish their ranks. Children who are used as soldiers are robbed of their childhood and are often subjected to extreme brutality. Stories abound of children who are drugged before being sent out to fight and forced to commit atrocities. Burma’s record on child soldiers is the worst in the world said Jo Becker, advocacy director of the Children's Rights Division at Human Rights Watch. The 220-page report, "My Gun was as Tall as Me: Child Soldiers in Burma," is the most comprehensive study of child soldiers in Burma to date. Drawing on interviews with more than three dozen current and former child soldiers, the report examines child recruitment by 19 different armed opposition groups in addition to Burmese Tatmadaw.

Once deployed by the Burmese army, boys as young as 12 engage in combat against opposition groups, and are forced to commit human rights abuses against civilians, including rounding up villagers for forced labor, burning villages, and carrying out executions. Human Rights Watch interviewed two boys, ages 13 and 15 at the time, who belonged to units that massacred a group of 15 women and children in Shan State in early 2001.

The Burmese army often used threats, intimidation and often violence to force young boys to become soldiers. "To be a boy in Burma today means facing the constant risk of being picked up off the street, forced to commit atrocities against villagers, and never seeing your family again." Human Rights Watch noted that the Burmese army has as many as 70,000 soldiers under the age of 18 are proven beyond doubt. Will Ms Radhika Coomaraswamy try to discover the truth or fall prey to the Burmese Junta like Mr. Gambari is still yet to be seen?


Freedom dawns in Thoppigala

Navy destroys sea Tiger boats in decisive battle

A message reached the Northern Naval Area Headquarters (NNAHQ) on Tuesday around 4.30 pm that a fleet of Sea Tiger attack boats had taken to the sea from their base at Kadaikadu, south of Nagarkovil and were heading northwards.

By then only two Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) Dvora Fast Attack Craft (FAC) were in the area, monitoring sea movements. Soon after receiving the message, the NNAHQ alerted the entire area command about this development and they in turn informed Naval Headquarters in Colombo.

Navy Chief, Vice Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda was in office when he received the news. He rushed to the operations room, where Director General Operations Rear Admiral S.M.D Weerasekera, Deputy Director Naval Operations Commander D.K.P. Dassanayake, Director Naval Operations Captain S.F. Ranasinghe and other staff had already commenced communications with NNAHQ about this latest development in the northern seas.

Though this was a surprise move by the Sea Tigers, the Navy aware of the diverse strategies of the Tigers had been on high alert.

The command office in Colombo informed the Eastern Naval Area Headquarters (ENAHQ) of this development and the Eastern (Trincomalee) Naval Commander Rear Admiral Tisara Samarasinghe was instructed to send a fleet of FACs immediately to the Northern Command.

While these activities were taking place, additional FACs from the northern Command had been dispatched towards Point Pedro, where already there was a number of FACs on alert.

When the Sea Tiger fleet was approaching Point Pedro, the FACs, monitoring their movement gave a full detailed report to the Colombo command office. The report stated that there were 16 LTTE attack boats, which were approximately some 16.5 metres long along with four boat engines of 250 hp. Four more suicide boats and four other small boats were also in the Sea Tiger fleet. All these were moving northwards and were some 4 to 5 nautical miles away from the shore.

Instructions had been given to the FACs in the area to allow the Tiger fleet to proceed towards Point Pedro until additional FACs reached the scene.

In the meantime, air force assistance was also sought and a MI-24 gunship took off from Palaly Air Force base. However, the helicopter had to return to the base due to a technical defect. But, the air force was also kept on high alert to provide any other assistance if necessary.

At the same time, the naval detachment at Point Pedro saw blips on their radar monitors. The flotilla was in the seas, some five to seven nautical miles off the shore of Point Pedro.

The time was just past 6.30 pm The FAC fleet from the east had by now almost reached the area .It was led by a squadron commander. As darkness began to envelope the area, the northern squadron commander gave his FAC fleet the green light to engage with the Tiger flotilla. At the same time, the army camps near Point Pedro also commenced targeting the Tiger fleet, using Multi-Barrel Rocket Launchers (MBRL) and Artillery guns. This forced the Tiger flotilla to move further into the high seas where the Navy FACs could easily intercept and cause heavy damages to it.

The sea battle was 10 to 12 nautical miles away from the shore. Some of the smaller LTTE boats were unable to move as they did not have an operating radar system. The battle resembled a massive fireworks display at sea.

From the beginning of the battle the sea Tiger flotilla could not effectively hold out against the heavy attack by the Navy and the ground attack from the army .It was compelled to withdraw .This provided an opportunity for the Eastern FACs, who entered from the south to attack the fleeing Tiger boats.

During the first hour of the battle, the Tigers lost two attack boats and another two were damaged. Within the next two hours, it lost two more boats and was unable to move three other boats.

The Navy also continuously intercepted Tiger radio communication, which appealed for reinforcements to counter the heavy attack from the navy, but they did not receive the reinforcements they requested from their command.

Intercepted Tiger communication later claimed that the main problem that affected the sea Tigers was their inability to transfer casualties since most of the attacking boats had been damaged at the initial stage of the battle.

Around 11.30 in the night, the battle was almost over with what remained of the Tiger flotilla withdrawing from the scene. Unable to withstand the Navy fire, the flotilla beached at Thalaidy although the Sea Tigers do not normally use the Thalaiady beach as the Army can easily use artillery to target it.

Later the Sri Lanka navy said that it had destroyed five and damaged nine LTTE craft inflicting heavy damages to the enemy. One damaged Sea Tiger boat, which was left behind by the Tigers, was recovered by the naval personnel and it was towed to the Kankesanthurai Harbour.

The LTTE craft, which was 16.5 metres long, was fitted with four outboard motors (OBM) with a capacity of 250 horse power in each. A 14.5mm twin barrel anti-aircraft gun was fixed at the front with four GPM guns mounted on the sides to bolster its fire pwer. The craft also had radar and a GPS inside. Two communication sets were also found abandoned by the terrorists. There were four bodies of LTTE cadres trapped inside the craft. The bodies were retrieved by the naval personnel to be handed over to the LTTE through the ICRC.

The Navy also announced that around forty LTTE cadres were suspected to have been killed and a large number were believed to have sustained serious injuries in the confrontation. No naval craft was damaged or personnel injured in the incident.

The Navy believed that the Tigers wanted to carry out a surprise attack on the navy, like what they had done in November last year on the same seas. During that battle, the Navy had lost two FACs and more than 20 naval personnel, while four sailors are still in the custody of the LTTE .The main armament of the Dvora, the 23 mm Canon, Heckler & Koch AGL (Automatic Grenade Launchers), Fifty Calibre (Point Five Zero) Guns and Light Machine Guns including a large stock of 23mm canon shells had also been seized. However, this time, the Tigers were effectively defeated.

Navy to sell its Rs. 250 million worth Hovercraft

The Sri Lanka Navy has called tenders to sell its 250 million rupees worth Hovercraft - Landing Craft Air Cushion - that has not been used logistically for its intended purpose for many years.

According to a newspaper advertisement, the closing of the tender was June 17.

The Sri-Lanka Navy acquired this British designed Hovercraft that could achieve a speed of 50 knots with a full load of 10 tons and a range of 600 km for logistical use.

The medium-lift M10, designed by ABS Hovercraft (based in Romsey) is built by Vosper Thornycroft. The craft is capable of carrying 56 troops or two land rovers and 20 troops or other such permutations. It is armed with a 20mm cannon and can be fitted with missiles.

However, two years after it was purchased in 1998, it was used for advertising purposes and earned some money for the Navy, but it was not put to any military use.

After it was purchased, many in the military and outside stated that it was a ‘White Elephant.’


Air Force ready for any challenge

The Government yesterday said it was prepared to resume night operations at the Bandaranaike International Airport shortly as the Air Force was now fully confident of meeting any air threat from the LTTE.

“The BIA is now equipped with detection and interception capability to counter any air threat and will resume its operations in the first week of next month,” Government Defence Spokesman and Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told the media.

“The Air Force is capable of handling any situation in future,” Minister Rambukwella said in response to questions whether the Air Force was ready to meet possible LTTE raids in the future.

However, the minister said that aviation officials had to obtain certification from several institutes, authorized to carry out assessment of security and other airport activities, before the resumption of the 24-hour operation.

“It will take about ten days to work out these modalities and after this we hope to reopen the airport as planned,” the minister said.

He said that several rounds of official discussions were held in this regard.

The airport shut down its operations from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. a day following the Tamil Tigers’ air attack on the airport on June 10. Three Air Force personnel were killed and more than 15 others injured in the raid.

On Tuesday evening, Ports and Aviation Minister Chamal Rajapaksa held talks with top Government officials about the opening of the BIA. Tourism Minister Milinda Moragoda, Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, Tourism Deputy Minister Faizer Musthapa, the President’s Senior Advisor Basil Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Ports and Aviation Ministry Secretary Tilak Collure, Sri Lanka Tourist Board Chairman Renton de Alwis and Air Force Commander Air Marshal Roshan Goonetilake attended the talks held at the Aviation Ministry.


Businessman files intervening petition against CPA

A Musilm businessman yesterday filed an intervening petition challenging the fundamental rights violation application filed by Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) against the eviction of Tamil civilians from Colombo.

Citing CPA and its executive director Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu as respondents, the petitioner Dr. Mohammed Suleiman Zurfick claimed that the Inspector General of Police’s direction to send back the Tamil civilians who are in Colombo lodges without a valid reason was a security measure to protect the metropolitan from LTTE attack. He stated that this sending back of lodgers was interpreted by the western media as ethnic cleansing in Sri Lanka.

Mr. Zurfic stated that the majority in Colombo are Tamil and Muslim nationals and the minority is Sinhalese. On the orders of IGP the lodgers who were sent from Colombo on June 7 was around 300 to 400 and this was a very small number compared to the large number of Tamils living in Colombo. Colombo city has been under attack by the LTTE for so many times and there is a threat to the lives of the public in the city. The courts order against removing of lodgers from Colombo is against the combating of terrorist by the army.

The petitioner asked court to grant him permission to intervene as a party in the fundamental rights petition filed by CPA.


CPA pleads for substantive compensation for forcibly evacuated Tamils

The Centre for Policy Alternatives in its affidavit filed this week in the fundamental rights violation petition against the forcible evacuation of Tamils from Colombo pleaded with the Supreme Court to grant substantive and / or punitive compensation to the affected.

Dr Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu, the Executive Director, in the affidavit had pleaded to court to direct the relevant authorities to take disciplinary action and appropriate punishment against all those responsible for the forcible eviction of Tamils. He stated that Senior DIG (Range III) M Balasuriya had issued a circular dated May 31 stating that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had instructed to take steps to remove Tamils who had come from the North and East to the Western Province.

He also stated that on June 7, the police sought assistance from the public to inform the police the details of others who are resident in Colombo without ‘a valid reason’.

He alleged that a large number of Tamils in Wellawatta, Pettah, Kotahena, Wattala, Maradana, Modera, Bambalapitiya, Kirulapone, Grandpass, Narahenpita, Keselwatte and Wolfendal Street were forcibly removed on June 6 and 7 by police and army who forcibly rounded up and took them in buses to Vavuniya, Trincomalee and to an unknown destination.

He has also filed four affidavits from four persons who were forcibly removed to Vavuniya. Later they were brought back to Colombo by police but they have been asked by the police to leave Colombo within two weeks and three months respectively and further threatened that they will be arrested and detained for 14 days in their failure to leave, Dr Pakiasothy alleged.

In another case, a father came to Colombo to send his son abroad and thereafter the son was diagnosed to have dengue and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of the Royal Hospital. As his conditions was critical, and he had vomited blood, he was transferred to the National Hospital where he was treated for 10 days.

He was thereafter discharged and was lodged at a lodge in Wellawatta to receive adequate rest and further medical treatment. Mr Pakiasothy alleged that the sick son had been forcibly evicted by the police by turning a deaf ear to his pleas that he needs to stay in Colombo to receive further treatment.

When his medical reports were shown, the police officers told him to get himself admitted to the Jaffna Hospital if he was sick. Mr Pakiasothy further stated that on June 10, the Prime Minister expressed regrets, however several other Ministers had justified this move. He said that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya too justified this eviction referring to Tamil people in Colombo had stated, “We could have put all of them under detention.”

The Supreme Court on June 8 had issued an Interim Order directing the IGP not to take any steps to evacuate Tamil persons from Colombo or to prevent them from entering and staying in any part of Colombo.

Leave to proceed was also granted for the alleged infringement of Article 12(1) and 12(2) of the Constitution guaranteeing fundamental right to equality and equal protection of the law as well as Article 14(1) (h) for the alleged infringement of the fundamental right to freedom of movement and of choosing residence within Sri Lanka.

Court had reserved the right to allow the petitioners to further support for the infringement of fundamental right to freedom from torture or cruel or inhuman and degrading treatment as well as the right to freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention. Petitioner cited IGP, OICs of Wellawatte, Pettah, Kotahena and Wattala police stations as well as Army Commander Lt.Gen. Sarath Fonseka, Air Force Commander Air Vice Marshal Roshan Gunatilleke, Navy Commander Vice Admiral Wasantha Karanagoda, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksha and the Attorney General as respondents. This matter is to be taken up today (22).


Lassana Sri Lanka (with apologies to the CDN)

The town (Colombo) is filled with all manner of predications. Some say a Royalist who cannot get a majority in the Mustangs tent will have the country fall on his lap because of a Yoga. Some others are getting ready to prostrate before the Horagolla Samahdi for non extreme political work ,having sunk the P-TOMS in other extreme conditions. Another group of GoSL tribe members vehemently deny that their brothers have neither gone missing nor paid any ransom nor taxes. A gentleman who maybe slightly nuts has said they are all reported missing because they are out on AWOL with second wives or girl friends. The Courts have freed Tiran A from bondage, asked that a MP/Minister not kindly continue seeking bribes from Sevanagala where more stone throwing villagers would justifiably greet any Minister wandering around for kickbacks or bribes, the SLT deal with tales of shell companies is under scrutiny, and sending lodgers by bus voluntarily at 2 am was all found to be troubling fundamental rights. One more coming soon: the south harbour in the western part(!) of the Colombo port has some changes in the stipulations for bids which has mysteriously appeared raising a storm and making life difficult for brother Saliya (Apey Saliya malli). Apologies, official, personal, justifiably homicidal were all seen too.

A briefing note for a group of worthies has this toll:

‘Since the signing of the CFA an approximate total killed amounts to 4,186 in the North and East, with approximately 3,685 killed in the North and Eastern provinces from October 2005 – May 2007 . Whilst exact figures are hard to obtain, other reports from 2005 up-to-date show an estimated 346 killed/ 533 wounded in 2005, 3,900 killed/4,000 wounded in 2006 (with 3,500 killed in the second quarter of 2006 alone) and 705 killed/ 721wounded in the first quarter of 2007.

Human security was further jeopardized and disregarded in witnessing mass displacement of thousands of civilians in the Northern and Eastern region. At the onset of 2006, 17,775 Sri Lankan refugees entered Tamil Nadu, India. As of February 2007, the number of displaced persons was 213,166 across 11 Districts (Jaffna/Killinochchi/Mullativu/Mannar/Vavuniya/Trincomalee/Batticaloa/Anuradhapura/Puttalam and Kurunegala). The largest concentrations of IDPs having been in Batticaloa, Jaffna and Killinochchi.

Since August 2006, 315,000 people have fled from their homelands, and 100,000 of them fled in March 2007 alone. These staggering figures are in addition to the 200,000-250,000 people displaced by the tsunami of 2004 and the 315,000 people displaced from the conflict prior to 2002. As of April 2007, the number of IDPs amounted to 301,879.

The disregard for human life has reached shameful and significant levels within Sri Lanka. As a result, the human rights violations in the country today have become tantamount with the feelings of insecurity and fear that is spreading amongst the general population and those who are vulnerable or are rendered vulnerable.

Human rights abuses are not merely confined to populations residing in vulnerable regions, but have grown to encompass the very freedoms that seek to serve and provide information to citizens of Sri Lanka. The climate of impunity continues to instill fear and oppression in people, denying freedom of expression and pluralism in many vital spheres of individual and social life.

Since the end of 2005, hundreds of civilians have been caught up and killed in clashes between warring parties, or have been targeted due to their political affiliations or killed in terror attacks. More than 1,000 people have gone missing or confirmed to have been abducted for ransom and children have become victim to engaging in combat.’

In the middle of this lassana katha, IIGEP released one of their statements (not a report which should go to the President). They have vented their frustrations and expressed their opinion on a few matters.Some of the young uns in the secretariat would not know the back of human rights in this country as they do not of the layout of the JAIC where they are located at work. Sadly they have through a bungled effort to distribute funds fast, prostituted the work literally of all significant human rights and advocacy organization actors including one state agency as we speak. If Dr. K at MFA were to look closely he would find enough reason to PNG and recommend toe dipping in the Maldives for a few.

The TRO another organization practically PNG’d has said this in a statement overnight.

‘As we honour the 14 million refugees on World Refugee Day, 20 June 2007, TRO would also like to highlight the plight of the world's Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). According to UNHCR figures there are currently 24.5 million IDPs worldwide, who have been displaced by conflict.

The conflict in Sri Lanka has resulted in over one million Tamil refugees leaving the island to Canada, Western Europe and other parts of the world. Currently, approximately 100,000 Tamils live in camps in the South of India.

Those that have left the island of Sri Lanka and found refuge in other countries are protected by the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, but there is no similar convention or system of international protection for IDPs. As a result the plight of the IDPs in the Northeast is left to the "goodwill" of the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL). Military offensives over the past 18 months by the GoSL have been the primary cause of the displacement of 300,000 IDPs.

TRO petitions the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the International Community to address the Humanitarian issues affecting IDPs in Sri Lanka:

* End all embargos, restrictions and other impediments to the flow of humanitarian relief items and construction materials (for temporary shelters for IDPs) to the Northeast
* Allow local and International NGOs to freely access areas affected by the conflict in a timely manner
* End restrictions on international humanitarian agencies and their international staff: denial of visa renewals, refusal of visas, the controversial work permits and limiting the mandates of iNGOs
* Adhere to the international Guiding Principles of Internal Displacement – GoSL should stop forced eviction of civilians by targeted shelling / bombing of villages
* Ensure that the prior incidents of "Forced resettlement" (as verified by the UN and others) do not recur and that human rights and human dignity are respected.

a.Ensure that IDPs are informed of their rights and that there is transparency re - garding the development and implementation of hu mani tarian policies

b. Ensure that all affected com munities are consulted at all stages from initial displace- ment to resettlement

c.IDPs have a right to choose when to return and should be allowed to visit the areas of return prior to return

d.Ensure that resettled IDPs re ceive compensation and assis tance to restart their liveli hoods and have access to their properties in the High Securi ty Zones (HSZ)

Ensure free access to education for IDP children

a.Thousands of children, some as young as 6 years old, have to pass through numerous checkpoints close to their camps and schools on their way to school everyday.

IDP Camp management

a.Most camps in the East do not currently meet interna tionally accepted SPHERE minimum standards. The GoSL and the international community must ensure that these standards are main tained

b. Camp Security in the East – ensure that the abductions and harassment do not take place


LTTE running out of money: Samarasinghe

The LTTE is finding it very difficult to feed the 73 civilians and two soldiers they are holding in their camp at Toppigala, said military spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe yesterday.

“There are Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim civilians in the group taken hostage by the LTTE. The Tigers have no alternative but to release them as they cannot afford to maintain them as they are under siege and confined to a small jungle area in Toppigala,” Brigadier Samarasinghe told the media at the weekly cabinet press briefing at the Information Department.

Quoting a civilian who had allegedly escaped from the LTTE clutches he also said that the LTTE leaders are demanding Rs.15 million and food parcels to release civilians in sheer desperation. He also said 43 LTTE cadres surrendered to the security forces last week.

Mass Media and Information Minister, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, said the cross over of his former colleagues, Mangala Samaraweera and Sripathi Suriyarachchi, has not weakened the government. Politicians in the past have changed parties.

They are doing it right now and they will do the same in the future too he said. “In a democracy they are free to express any ideas and future plans and we have nothing against their conduct,” minister Yapa said.

Asked whether there was a government hand in the hacking in to of the pro LTTE web site, Tamil Net, he said the government had nothing to do with it and the government knew nothing about the black out of the Tamil Net. Asked about the strictures made recently in the Supreme Court and a Magistrate Court on Ministers Jeewan Kumaratunga and Jagath Pushpakumara, Minister Yapa declined to comment. When suggested that under a civilized administration the two ministers should have been sacked or they should have resigned, he said “no comments”.


LTTE running out of money: Samarasinghe

The LTTE is finding it very difficult to feed the 73 civilians and two soldiers they are holding in their camp at Toppigala, said military spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe yesterday.

“There are Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim civilians in the group taken hostage by the LTTE. The Tigers have no alternative but to release them as they cannot afford to maintain them as they are under siege and confined to a small jungle area in Toppigala,” Brigadier Samarasinghe told the media at the weekly cabinet press briefing at the Information Department.

Quoting a civilian who had allegedly escaped from the LTTE clutches he also said that the LTTE leaders are demanding Rs.15 million and food parcels to release civilians in sheer desperation. He also said 43 LTTE cadres surrendered to the security forces last week.

Mass Media and Information Minister, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, said the cross over of his former colleagues, Mangala Samaraweera and Sripathi Suriyarachchi, has not weakened the government. Politicians in the past have changed parties.

They are doing it right now and they will do the same in the future too he said. “In a democracy they are free to express any ideas and future plans and we have nothing against their conduct,” minister Yapa said.

Asked whether there was a government hand in the hacking in to of the pro LTTE web site, Tamil Net, he said the government had nothing to do with it and the government knew nothing about the black out of the Tamil Net. Asked about the strictures made recently in the Supreme Court and a Magistrate Court on Ministers Jeewan Kumaratunga and Jagath Pushpakumara, Minister Yapa declined to comment. When suggested that under a civilized administration the two ministers should have been sacked or they should have resigned, he said “no comments”.


Committee probes Sudaroli editor’s complaint

The committee that was appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to probe into the disappearances and abductions of recent times has started an inquiry into a complaint by N. Vidyatharan, the editor of the Tamil daily “Sudaroli”, that some unidentified men in a white van had made inquiries regarding his whereabouts on Wednesday.

Speaking to Daily Mirror, Mr. Vidyatharan, said that a group of men had come in a white van to his former residence – an apartment in Wellawatte -- on Wednesday, and made inquiries regarding his whereabouts from the security guard at the block of apartments. “They had threatened the watcher and asked him where I was and then left,” he said.

He added that the security guard had not turned up for work yesterday through fear.

After hearing of this development, members of the Special Presidential Committee on Disappearances and Abductions had met Mr. Vidyatharan and recorded his statement. “I am very glad those committee members came and promised me that they would take necessary action as soon as possible,” said Mr. Vidyatharan.


A case for participation of women in conflict resolution

Internal armed conflicts within states between government forces and insurgents or militant groups is a phenomenon seen throughout the world. It is widely recognised that in all these conflicts it is the women and children who are the most affected. In this context, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 of 2000, is most relevant as it addresses the impact of war on women while also recognising the contribution that women’s participation can make to conflict resolution and peace building. It calls upon all actors involved in peace negotiations to adopt a gender perspective, and urges member to ensure increased participation of women at all decision-making levels in national, regional and international institutions for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts.

The Resolution expresses concern that civilians, particularly women and children account for the vast majority of those adversely affected including refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPS). It calls upon all parties to armed conflicts to respect the civilian and humanitarian nature of refugee camps and settlements and to take into account the particular needs of women and girls. The Resolution also stresses the obligation of all parties to the conflict to respect the obligations applicable to them under the ‘Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Optional Protocols of 1977, Conventions on the Rights of the Child, and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) among others. It calls upon the parties to armed conflicts to protect women and girls from sexual assault and other forms of violence in situations of armed conflict. It should be noted that the case law of the International Criminal Tribunals recently constituted i.e. International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia and International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, as well as the Statute of the ICC, makes it clear that the laws of war (International Humanitarian Law) are applicable in internal armed conflicts as part of customary international law.

It has been pointed out by peace negotiators that the presence of women at the peace table can make an important difference because when women are present the talks tend to adopt a more inclusive view of security concerns and also address issues related to the reintegration of children and women post conflict. Moreover, as they are the persons most affected, they are more inclined to work towards the resolution of the conflict. It has been pointed out that while women and children have an important stake in political outcomes, they have so far had little power to shape them.

In Sri Lanka, in December 2002, a subcommittee on gender issues was established during the peace process. This was a good beginning but was not inclusive enough as it consisted of 10 persons, five of whom were appointed by the Government and five by the LTTE. What is proposed is a more inclusive consultation between women’s groups from all parts of the country and which should include women from villages, towns and IDP camps, cutting across ethnic and religious lines. Such a consultation should not be politically directed. Local NGOs with branches in the rural areas, religious bodies and other concerned parties could help to set up such groups and facilitate their travel and networking.

It is submitted that while on the one hand constitutional and political processes should go forward for conflict resolution and peace building, there should also be an alternate track whereby the affected parties too could participate and bring to the fore their concerns and priorities. Furthermore, by involving the rural women from small towns and villages across the country, we will be drawing from and tapping into the cultural and religious traditions of the people, based upon the four great religions in the country, Buddhism, Hinduism Christianity and Islam. In the rural communities and towns across the country there continues to exist a respect for the sanctity of human life, compassion for the sufferings of fellow human beings and good neighbourliness. Violence and ethnic/religious hatred have little place in this philosophy of life, neither does strident nationalism of any kind. On this basis, the Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim communities living in threatened villages, as well as throughout the island, have interacted with each other over the years.

The traditional values of a society are most evident in the woman folk who are in the greater part peaceable. This attitude is also borne out of experience, because in times of war and armed conflict it is they who suffer the most. They have to see their young children, husbands and brothers forcibly taken away by armed groups to be killed and maimed on the battlefields. They have to watch, caught between opposing forces, their homes being battered and destroyed by the heavy artillery and mortar firing. They have to salvage whatever belongings and flee from the theatre of war. They have to make the long trek through country roads and jungle paths fleeing from the bombs and fighting carrying their young ones till they find shelter in an internally displaced persons ( IDP) camp.

Here again it is a struggle to provide for their families out of the meagre rations, and amidst poor sanitary conditions. Their children are denied education, which is their right, and the normal pastimes of children, and instead live in a trauma of fear which could have long-term psychological impact. In other parts of the country are women who know the grief of sons and husbands killed or maimed in battle, family members blown up in bomb blasts, while in threatened villages, people live in fear of sudden attacks and wanton killings. People outside the theatre of war may applaud some military victory here or bombing raid there, depending on which side they support, but it is the mothers and children of all communities caught up in conflicts the world over, who know the true cost of the war in terms of suffering.

There are examples in recent times where the participation of women has had a positive outcome. In Northern Ireland, with its long history of conflict and religious animosity, over 200 women’s organisations met in 1996 to create the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition, the first female dominated political party. The movement cut across religious lines and included women from both Protestant and Catholic communities, and worked as a cross-community party to promote civil, human and workers rights. George Mitchell the US Senator, who mediated the Northern Irish peace process, credits this movement with having helped achieve the successful outcome in the peace process. In other parts of the world too women’s participation has had some impact. In the Afghanistan peace process, five women out of approximately 60 delegates were included in the Bonn talks of 2001. The women’s’ representatives fought for women’s rights and one of their achievements was the creation of a Ministry of Women’s Affairs.

In Guatemala, the participation of women in the peace process of 1996 led to the creation of a national health programme for women and girls and a programme to reunite families and locate missing or separated children and orphans. In Sierra Leone, two women were involved in the peace process, and a key article of the final agreement calls for special attention to be paid to victimized women and girls in formulating and implementing rehabilitation, reconstruction and development programmes. In the Darfur Peace Agreement negotiations in 2005, a gender experts support team gathered women from a variety of tribal and ethnic backgrounds to create a unified platform of women’s priorities and gender issues. The outcome document “Women’s priorities in the peace process and reconstruction in Darfur” contains a number of key provisions related to women and children including specific protection of women and children in conflict situations provisions for secondary education in the camps for refugees and IDPs and the creation of an institution to provide legal support, psychological counselling and other relevant services to women and children (This material is sourced from the UNICEF publication “State of the World’s Children 2007”)

Similarly in Sri Lanka too women of all communities cutting across ethnic and religious barriers should come together, as in Northern Ireland. They should be able to meet and share their common concerns and voice their priorities. In this way a consensus can be built up against violence and the security concerns of all communities identified and issues critical to the well-being of women children and families, included in the peace process and political settlement proposed. Such contacts would also be a unifying factor, making people of all communities conscious that they belong to one human family.

The UN Security Council Resolution 1325 has focussed attention on critical issues which should be given effect to in internal armed conflicts, both in its call for women’s participation in the peace processes as well as its call for the parties to armed conflicts to respect the laws of war. It stresses the fact that even in war the laws are not silent. These injunctions, if adhered to, would help in creating the conditions for a just and inclusive peace building process.