The Head of Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission Major General Lars Johan Solvberg on Thursday met Liberation Tigers Political Head B. Nadesan in Ki'linochchi, following the Sri Lankan government's announcement of unilateral withdrawal from the Ceasefire. Noting that the government has withdrawn from the ceasfire without any justifications, Nadesan said that the Tigers, even at this juncture, stood ready to implement every clause of the agreement and requested Norway to continue with its facilitation role with the support of the International Community. He urged the IC to recognize the right of the Tamil people to live with self-determination in their homeland and remove the bans it has placed on the LTTE.
There was no immediate reaction from the government. However, it is to be noted as the year began Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse ruled out any negotiations with the Tigers before crushing them militarily. Sri Lanka's military began the New Year with a vow to crush the Tigers by June. They set a target to kill 3,000 guerrillas in the first six months and dismantle the rebels' mini-state in the north.
At almost the same time an international journalist organizations called on the Sri Lankan government to protect the safety of reporters operating in the country. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) protested against a Sri Lanka Army official's labelling of some journalists as traitors and urged the government to take steps to ensure the safety of all media persons working in the country while pointing out that Sri Lanka has become one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists.
Earlier this week Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association President Sanath Balasuriya told a press conference on the island action must be taken to ensure media freedom, good governance and social justice as they are hard to find in today’s political situation. "People are looking forward to live in a society free of political violence and it is time for justice to prevail."
Attempts by the international community to find peace have basically been too little and too late.
The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) says the failure of the peace process underlines the inherent weaknesses in small country peace brokerage. The ACHR says Norway never had the necessary leverage in the peace process, nor is it ever likely to have. In Sri Lanka (pictured above), Norway has been little more than a messenger.
The ACHR adds:
"The United States has never been able to look beyond the Al-Queda prism. In the Oslo conference in November 2002, the US representatives refused to share dais with the LTTE representatives. The US also did not allow the LTTE representatives to attend the April 2003 Washington Development Conference on Sri Lanka – the preparatory conference for the Tokyo conference."
India, the most important player with a stake at the national level, has always been unsure of its own role, but very certain about its veto on any external attempts to resolve the conflict. It refused to join the Co-Chairs. It participated in the Washington Development Conference but not the Tokyo conference itself that laid down the framework for development and the peace process. India is not a formal participant in the Colombo donor's group. Yet, it wants to be informed of each and every development on the issue. Norway had to brief New Delhi either on the way to Colombo or while returning from Colombo."
The ACHR adds the government's current strategy is, "...likely to provide the environment for a further deterioration in human rights."
The London based Minority Rights Group International agreed and said Colombo's decision to formally withdraw from the ceasefire deal with the rebels would result in escalating violence and lead to more rights abuses against minority Tamils and Muslims.
"There is now going to be a greater void in the monitoring and reporting of human rights abuses in the conflict zone," Minority Rights Group's director Mark Lattimer said in a statement received here.
"The need for international human rights monitors is now ever more crucial," Lattimer said.
Sri Lanka has rejected previous calls for a UN rights mission here.
The rights group accused the Sri Lankan government of reducing security of key minority politicians and called on Colombo to ensure proper protection for minority political leaders.
AFP reports the statement came after opposition Tamil lawmaker T. Maheswaran was gunned down earlier this week in Colombo as he prayed at a Hindu Temple.
Maheswaran had declared in parliament that the government would be responsible if anything happened to him.
The following is from TamilEelamNews.
Sri Lanka Ends CFA; IFJ Calls to Protect the Safety of Journalists
Brussels - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) which represents more than 600,000 journalists in more than 110 countries alarmed at the new development in the country as the government of Sri Lanka unilaterally scrapped the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) which was signed in February 2002 between the government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelm (LTTE) under the guidance and mediation of Nordic countries, especially Norway, calls on Sri Lanka's Government and its President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, to take urgent and necessary action to protect the safety of journalists and media personals in Sri Lanka.
Full Text of the IFJ report on January 10, 2008:
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) calls on Sri Lanka’s Government and its President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, to take urgent action to protect the safety of journalists and uphold the rights of the media to report on issues of public interest.
A serious deterioration in the press freedom environment and safety of journalists in Sri Lanka since January 2, when the Government formally withdrew from a ceasefire with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), is of grave concern to the IFJ and its local affiliates, the Free Media Movement (FMM), the Sri Lankan Working Journalists’ Association (SLWJA) and the Federation of Media Employees Trade Union (FMETU).
The IFJ’s 2007 annual report on journalists killed around the world, Tragedy Unlimited, highlights Sri Lanka as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for practicing journalists, with six killed there in 2007. In Sri Lanka, the killing of a media worker is most likely to be an act of murder. This toll does not reveal the equally dark reality of journalists who are reported missing and whose whereabouts remain unknown.
In the past two years, mainly journalists from the Tamil community have fallen victim to acts of violence that go unpunished. FMM reports that in one of the most serious cases, Jaffna-based newspaper Uthayan has received threats to cease its operation. Four Uthayan employees have been murdered, while others have been kidnapped, threatened and censored. The editor, M.V. Kanamailnathan, has not left the newspaper office for more than a year for fear of being killed.
As the violence between government forces and the LTTE escalates, several attacks on journalists, including attacks instigated by government officials, have raised the concerns of all journalists and media workers across the regions and increasingly in Colombo.
According to FMM, an unknown gang failed in an attempt to abduct Silumina senior journalist and SLWJA secretary Poddala Jayantha at his home on January 7.
The attack occurred just days after two separate incidents in which government officials publicly attacked journalists physically and verbally. On December 27, Labour Minister Mervyn Silva forcibly entered the offices of the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) and assaulted the state-run television network’s news director, T.M.G. Chandrasekara. The attack was reportedly because SLRC did not telecast one of the Minister’s speeches.
FMM reports that three leading media personnel of the MBC TV and Radio network who covered the incident, Chevaan Daniel, Kingsley Ratnayaka and Susil Kedelpitya, have since received death threats.
FMM is also alarmed at reports that the lives of other senior journalists, media activists and journalists’ leaders, including SLWJA president Sanath Balasooriya and FMETU general secretary Dharmasiri Lankapeli, are at risk because of their involvement in condemning the SLRC incident.
At a press conference on January 7, the Social Services and Social Welfare Minister, K.N. Douglas Devananda, also put the safety of journalists at risk by condemning the Shakti TV Minnal program and its presenter, Sri Ranga Jeyarathnam. Minister Devananda labelled the presenter a traitor and accused him of being a terrorist working with the LTTE.
On January 2, a commander of the Sri Lanka Army, Major General Sarath Fonseka, accused sections of the media and journalists of treachery and being unpatriotic. Such statements undermine the role and function of the media to hold to account those in public office.
It is clear that increasing attacks on journalists and the media put any journalist or media worker at risk if they challenge, question or criticise the actions or policies of power-holders, said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.
“The IFJ condemns any attack on journalists conducted by either side of the conflict. But as the major power-holder, the Government must lead the way in making a commitment to uphold journalists’ rights and put an end to the practise of ministers taking matters into their own hands,” Ms Park said.
“The latest attacks on journalists are indicators that the Government is failing to respect all media workers as non-combatants in war zones and failing to ensure the right of the media to report on the conflict. Now the broader journalism community is also in danger.”
The IFJ strongly urges Sri Lanka’s Government to enforce the United Nations Security Council Resolution to Protect Journalists Reporting in War Zones and Crisis Areas, adopted by the UN Security Council in 2006.
The Resolution stipulates “that all parties to an armed conflict comply fully with the obligations applicable to them under international law related to the protection of civilians in armed conflict, including journalists, media professionals and associated personnel”.
The IFJ reiterates its call to Sri Lanka’s Government to abide by its commitments to international law, including under Article 79 of the Additional Protocol to the Geneva Convention to respect the safety of journalists as non-combatant civilians and refrain from deliberate attacks that endanger their lives.
All members of the international human rights and press freedom community are encouraged to assist media professionals in Sri Lanka in defending press freedom and democratic process in the face of the threat of murder, abduction harassment and politically motivated violence.
End of the Report of IFJ, and for further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919.
New York-Based the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Executive Director Joel Simon, sent a letter yesterday to the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa calling to ensure that members of Rajapaksa’s government to refrain from regarding violence, intimidation and harassment against journalists and media personals in Sri Lanka.
Number of International and local media rights groups including CPJ, RSF and FMM expresses serious concerns regarding the constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression of the media in Sri Lanka aftermath of the CFA and urging the Sri Lankan government to respect the vital role journalists play in an open democratic society as verbal, written, and physical assaults on journalists are attacks on the very fabric of a democratic society.
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