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Commonwealth Heads Meeting in Sri Lanka plan denounced

Legacy of Colonialism Forum | 18.09.2011 12:14 | Anti-militarism | Repression | Social Struggles

Talk of awarding the next Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting to Sri Lanka, led by the despotic Rajapaksa governement accused of systematic war crimes against scores of civilians at the end of the country's 26-year old civil war in 2009, has been widely denounced.

Meanwhile, why so little BBC coverage on Sri Lanka since the end of the conflict bearing in mind the grotesque barbarity that has occurred in the country, as Channel 4 have so successfully exposed?

The Canadian PM has apparently declared he won't go to Sri Lanka for a Commonwealth Heads of State meeting. Sri Lanka’s candidature for hosting the meeting was deferred from 2011 to 2013 because of concerns about human rights abuses by the Sri Lankan government. It appears no decision has actually been made as to which country will host the 2013 CHOGM, but that Sri Lanka's canditure has still not been ruled out! (read copied below the statement from Joint Open Letter to Commonwealth Foreign Ministers from Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Asian Legal Resource Centre, Centre for Policy Alternatives, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Human Rights Watch, INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre, Sri Lanka, International Federation for Human Rights, Law and Society Trust, Minority Rights Group International, and Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace & Justice).

This merely days after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sent a report highly critical of the actions of Sri Lankan government troops in the final months of Sri Lanka's civil war to the UN Human Rights Council. Widespread international condemnation of the actions of Sri Lankan government forces in the final months, weeks and days of conflict between them and the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) in the first half of 2009 were reinflated after the showing of Channel 4's documentary "Sri Lanka: The Killing Fields" broadcast on Tue 14 June 2011, which showed previously unseen footage and further evidence of war crimes carried out by Sri Lankan government forces, including extra-judicial killings and rape. The film was screened in Geneva during the 17th UNHRC sessions in the first week of June 2011. This new evidence was revealed at an important time just after the UN expert panel published their report in April this year and concluded that there was credible evidence that up to 40,000 people were killed in the final months of the civil war between the Tamil Tigers and Government forces. (Nation states are rumoured to be discouraged from bothering to draw up a UN resolution with China* and Russia who are on the UN Security Council with a right of veto thought to be continuing to be resistant to any such action).

[* see at foot of this posting for further info on China and ultimately global capital's possible vested interests on this issue].

Sri Lanka as host of the next Commonwealth heads meeting appears grossly inappropriate-Right Groups and Activists
8 September 2011

A Joint Open Letter to Commonwealth Foreign Ministers from Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Asian Legal Resource Centre, Centre for Policy Alternatives, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Human Rights Watch, INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre, Sri Lanka, International Federation for Human Rights, Law and Society Trust, Minority Rights Group International, and Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace & Justice:

Subject: The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2013

We are gravely concerned about the ongoing discussions on holding the 2013 CHOGM in Sri Lanka.

At the 2009 CHOGM, Sri Lanka’s candidature for hosting the meeting was deferred from 2011 to 2013 because of concerns about human rights abuses by the Sri Lankan government. While war-time abuses have ended, the situation in Sri Lanka continues to be characterised by serious human rights violations, including assault on democratic institutions, such as the media and trade unions. The Panel of Experts appointed by the UN Secretary-General to advise him on the status of allegations of war crimes during the last weeks of the conflict in Sri Lanka has concluded that serious abuses were committed by the government and by the LTTE, and warrant an international investigation.

Consideration of Sri Lanka as host of the next CHOGM appears grossly inappropriate in the above context. Awarding the next CHOGM to Sri Lanka would not only undermine the fundamental values on which the Commonwealth is based, but also has the potential to render the Commonwealth’s commitment to human rights and the promise of reforms meaningless.

At this crucial juncture, when the Commonwealth is seeking to strengthen its legitimacy and relevance, there is an urgent need for the institution to take principled decisions that demonstrate its commitment to the fundamental values of democracy and human rights.

The fact that the host country of the CHOGM goes on to hold the chairmanship of the Commonwealth (from 2013 to 2015) is also a serious concern. Handing over leadership of the Commonwealth to a country with a questionable record in terms of human rights and democracy should not be the outcome of an event that will celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Harare Declaration.

We note that the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) is looking into ways in which it can fully implement its mandate to act on “serious or persistent violations” of the Commonwealth’s fundamental values.

We urge that the CMAG should call on the government of Sri Lanka to meet a specific set of benchmarks within an agreed upon timeline in order to prove itself worthy of hosting the Commonwealth’s emblematic meeting in 2013.

These benchmarks could include:

1. Ensuring meaningful domestic implementation of the international human rights treaties to which the Government of Sri Lanka is party and bringing all legislation in line with international human rights standards;

2. Providing guarantees that all Sri Lankan people will be treated with dignity and respect as equal citizens and live in an environment in which they can enjoy all fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Sri Lanka;

3. Restoring Constitutional provisions that guarantee separation of powers and re-instating the independence of the three wings of government;

4. Restoring the independence of key government institutions, such as the National Human Rights Commission;

5. Instituting effective mechanisms to protect journalists, civil society groups and human rights defenders who work for the promotion and protection of human rights;

6. Supporting and cooperating with independent and credible domestic and international investigations into all allegations concerning violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in the country, especially related to the conduct of the conflict which ended in 2009; and

7. Committing to collaborate with the Office of the UN Secretary General to initiate the implementation of the recommendations set out in the report of the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts.

CMAG should conduct its monitoring of these benchmarks in a transparent way, in cooperation with the government and with full participation by civil society.


Yap Swee Seng, Executive Director
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

Wong Kai Shing, Executive Director
Asian Legal Resource Centre

Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Executive Director
Centre for Policy Alternatives

Maja Daruwala, Director
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative

Brad Adams, Asia Director
Human Rights Watch

Sunila Abeysekera
INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre, Sri Lanka

Souhayr Belhassen, President
International Federation for Human Rights

Ruki Fernando
Law and Society Trust

Chris Chapman
Minority Rights Group International

Edward Mortimer CMG, Chair
Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace & Justice


Critical Sri Lanka report sent to Human Rights Council
Tuesday 13 September 2011

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has sent a report highly critical of the actions of government troops in the final months of Sri Lanka's civil war to the UN Human Rights Council.

Yesterday's referral came on the day the Human Rights Council (HRC), an inter-governmental body which promotes human rights, opened its three-week session.

The report, by a panel of UN experts, finds "credible allegations" of war crimes and crimes against humanity by all sides in the conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers, which ended in 2009 after nearly 26 years

The panel concludes that "most civilian casualties in the final phases of the war were caused by government shelling". It alleges Sri Lankan troops shelled civilians in a no-fire zone and targeted hospitals in their push to finish off the Tamil Tigers.

Sri Lanka has produced its own report on the situation in the north of the country under the aegis of its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). That report is also being forward to the Human Rights Council.

The LLRC was established by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse in May 2010, who pledged there would be a process of accountability after the country's civil war.

Read more: 'We are investigating the war', says Sri Lanka government

'No more excuses for inaction'

Human rights group Amnesty International has welcomed the secretary general's decision to refer the report to the HRC.

"Now there can be no more excuses for inaction or delays," said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific director.

"For the first time an international body acknowledged the extent of human rights abuses committed in the last days of Sri Lanka's brutal conflict, when at least 10,000 civilians were killed.

"It's time for the Human Rights Council to act on these findings and hold those responsible for massive atrocities in Sri Lanka to account."

Amnesty International has also criticised the Sri Lankan government's inquiry into the country's civil war.

In a report published on 7 September and entitled Sri Lanka: When will they get justice?, AI describes the LLRC as "flawed at every level: in mandate and conceptualization, in composition and in practice".

A reminder of the genocide of Tamil people in Sri Lanka in Spring 2009:

Sri Lanka War-Crimes Accountability The Tamil Perspective 15/01/2010

Genocide in Sri Lanka (11/04/209)

UN concealed carnage to keep Sri Lanka goodwill (30/05/2009)

Bloodbath unfolding in Sri Lanka (13/05/2009)

Sri Lanka Gov't capture last Tamil Tiger territory/Blood & Dishonour (16/05/2009)

Channel 4's documentary "Sri Lanka: The Killing Fields" broadcast on Tue 14 June 2011
Produced by the Channel 4 in Britain, the program forensically investigates allegations that up to 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed as Sri Lankan Government forces moved in to destroy the Tamil Tiger army. The program provides evidence that while the 'Tigers' used civilians as human shields, the Government forces repeatedly shelled civilians who had been offered sanctuary in "no fire zones". The footage contained in the documentary allows you to judge for yourself.

This film provides powerful evidence that will lend new urgency to the panel's call for an international inquiry, including harrowing interviews with eye-witnesses, new photographic stills, official Sri Lankan Army video footage, and satellite imagery.

“The most important film that I have ever reported” – Jon Snow - Renowned British Journalist.


The civil war in Sri Lanka was declared over in May 2009 when the Sri Lankan military claimed victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In the face of the Sri Lankan Government's blockade of independent media and international monitors into Northern Sri Lanka, reports and evidence emerged from independent investigations conducted by “War Without Witness” that Sri Lankan military forces used banned arms such as cluster bombs and chemical weapons (including Phosgene and Mustard Gas) in their attacks leading to what the UN estimates to be 25000-30000 civilian deaths in the last week of fighting alone. This is on top of the estimated 7000 civilian deaths that are believed to have occurred due to the conflict between January - March 2009.

The Sri Lankan Government’s continued blockade of independent media and international monitors into the Northern regions of the country has meant that the truth of the extent of the humanitarian crisis has been largely shielded from the world.

In June 2010, the UN chief asked a panel of experts to advise him on the evidence available relating to the conduct by both sides in the closing months of the war. In a report published in April this year, the panel of experts concluded that there was credible evidence that up to 40,000 people were killed in the final months of the civil war between the Tamil Tigers and Government forces.

The UN report called for the creation of an international mechanism to investigate alleged violations of international humanitarian and international human rights laws committed by Sri Lankan Government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

More about the conflict & it's aftermath:

Over 280,000 displaced civilians were held in prison camps - living in dire conditions with poor sanitation, without adequate security, with reports disease is rife. Young girls being abducted from the camps. Read report here:
Amnesty International received consistent reports of serious human rights violations, including enforced disappearance, extra-judicial executions and torture and sexual violence. Read article here:

There were consistent accusations of the use of cluster bombs and shelling (), with widespread reports the SLA used chemical weapons ().

Three doctors who were working inside the last Tamil Tiger-held war zone were detained by the Sri Lankan Army & held on suspicion of collaborating with Tamil rebels. Appeal to World Leaders for release of Dr. Shanmugarajah, Dr. Varatharajah and Dr Sathiyamoorthy (Ref: )

Despite massive international pressure, on Wed 27th May 2009, the United Nations Human Rights Council refused calls to investigate allegations of war crimes by both sides.

Meanwhile, ongoing repression of independent media & of government critics continued:

On Saturday 20th June 2009, in central London around 100,000 people (mainly Tamils) marched in Central London in support of the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka. The march was organised by the British Tamil Forum (

Report here:
Short Film:

In April 2009 before the brutal end of the conflict, over 200,000 Tamils marched in London (though the BBC reported this as only being 100,000), which was largely neglected by the UK media, though the long running occupation of Parliament Square by Tamil people during May and June 2009 more regular coverage.

Whilst Channel 4 have been upstanding in their consistent and thorough coverage of the war in Sri lanka and its aftermath, in regard to the BBC, there has been a complete absence of coverage across it's tv output on the issue. It is especially incredible the BBC have failed to have even one television news report, featurte or documentary on the subject since May 2009.

More Info: Historical background to the Ethnic conflict between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil population on the former British colony:

[* Observers have pointed to the fact that China is quietly strengthening its strategic position in the Indian Ocean. China’s strategic interest in the island, underscored by it’s military assistance to the Sri Lankan government, is manifest in the building of a $1 billion port at Hambantota on Sri Lanka's south coast, to use as a refuelling and docking station for its navy - an essential component of China’s need to secure shipping lanes across the Indian Ocean and through the Straits of Melaka and the South China Sea for it’s supplies of Saudi oil. To safeguard its shipping, China needs to be capable of projecting power into the Indian Ocean, the Middle East and Africa. From ports and airfields like Hambantota, sited along the Eurasian seaways like a 'string of pearls', Chinese forces could gather intelligence, protect its shipping and attack hostile navies. [Source: The Strategist - Ref: This would be of significance not only to China but geopolitically for the world economy since we are talking here about the importance of maintaining secure oil supplies for the world's global manufacturing base in China.
With specific regard to China, in April 2007, Sri Lanka signed a classified $37.6 million (£25 million) deal to buy Chinese ammunition and ordernance for its army and navy, according to Jane’s Defence Weekly, and according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, China gave Sri Lanka — apparently free of charge — six F7 jet in 2008. China’s aid to Sri Lanka jumped from a few million dollars in 2005 to almost $1 billion last year, replacing Japan as the biggest foreign donor. [Source: “Chinese billions in Sri Lanka fund battle against Tamil Tigers”, The Times Online, May 2, 2009 – Ref:
China’s impartiality in taking their seat as a permanent member of the UN Security Council must be questioned in these respects].

Cairn India to start Sri Lanka oil drilling in Aug
Tue Jun 28, 2011

By Shihar Aneez

COLOMBO, June 28 (Reuters) - Cairn India , majority held by Cairn Energy , will start drilling for oil in Sri Lanka's northwestern Mannar basin in August, though commercial production would be at least six years off if it finds any.

Sri Lanka has awarded one of eight blocks to Cairn Lanka, a subsidiary of Cairn India, with an area of 3,000 sq km.

"We will drill three wells. In four months after drilling, we will be able to say if there is oil and gas in the basin and it will take another two years to assess how much oil and gas are there, if any. Altogether, if there is oil, it will take a minimum of six years to start commercial production," Stuart Burley, the head of geoscience at Cairn India, told Reuters in Colombo.

Sri Lanka gave one block each to India and China in 2007, but neither of the Asian giants responded positively. Sri Lanka has planned to award other blocks as well by tender.

American and Russian companies from the mid-1960s to 1984 undertook exploration work in the Cauvery basin, but no commercial oil was produced and Sri Lanka's civil war ended exploration.

With the end of the 25-year war in May 2009, the $50 billion economy has focused on oil and gas exploration in its economic revival plans.

Calgary-based Bengal Energy Ltd. has exploration rights for 1,362 sq km on the Indian side of the Cauvery basin, which already has nearly 30 operating wells.

Sri Lanka's government has said previous seismic data showed potential for more than 1 billion barrels of oil under the sea in a 30,000 sq km area of the Mannar Basin, located further south along the western coast.

Sri Lanka produces no oil and is totally dependent on imports, which cost it $3 billion in 2009. (Reporting by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Will Waterman).

Legacy of Colonialism Forum


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