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Sri Lanka News Bulletin 29 June - 12 July 2001


Sri Lanka News Bulletin 29 June - 12 July 2001

1. Crisis in government
2. Norway's efforts
3. Aerial bombing
4. Testimony against Janaka Perera
5. Human rights
6. Other news

A news bulletin on Sri Lanka produced by Australian and New Zealand activists working for peace in Sri Lanka.
contact:
Australia - Willie mailto:willie@apex.net.auwillie@apex.net.au
New Zealand - Malathy mailto:malathy@ihug.co.nzmalathy@ihug.co.nz

1. Crisis in government
==========

Having lost its majority in parliament as a result of defection, the
government was facing a defeat of the no-confidence motion filed by the
opposition. In a bid to avert this the President used two provisions in
the much criticised constitution that give her powers to suspend
parliament and to call for referendum. On July 10, President suspended
Parliament until September and called for a referendum. An official
statement issued late Tuesday said the legislature was "prorogued with
effect from midnight July 10 until September 7". The statement said that
the President would call a referendum on August 21 to ask the people
whether they needed a new constitution and election system to solve the
national crisis. Each provision had been used just once since the
constitution came into force in 1978, each time as a means to cling to
power with disastrous consequences.

The crisis in government was precipitated when Hakeem from Sri Lanka
Musil Party (SLMC), who was a cabinet minister in the coalition
government, was sacked. He walked out of the coalition with six other
Muslim MPs thus ending the majority the government had in parliament.
Ferial Ashraf wife of the late SLMC leader and three other Muslim MPs
stayed with the coalition.

The country was facing a parliamentary voting on Fri 6 July on the
monthly extension of the emergency regulation (ER) under which the
country has been ruled for 18 years. ER gives the security forces the
additional powers of arrest and detention. According to the government
the ban on the LTTE was also imposed through provisions under ER.

All the Tamil parties in opposition have been voting against the
extension of ER. However no other parties opposed the extension of ER
until now. With the loss of its majority in parliament government needed
some votes from the opposition to extend ER. Both UNP and JVP the two
main opposition parties declared that they will vote against the
extension of ER.

President choose to avoid the defeat on ER in parliament and instead
used her power as the President to proclaim Public Security Ordinance
and banned the LTTE under it. Legal experts claimed that the call on
security forces to maintain public order following the end of ER
still requires parliamentary approval.

On June 27 President suddenly left the country after appointing the
Prime minister as the acting President. This is the first time the
President appointed an acting President while she is away from the
country, an indication of the seriousness of the crisis faced by the
government. (President was in fact attending the graduation ceremony of
her daughter in London). During this time the Acting President announced
that parliament will debate the no confidence motion on July 16 and 17.

Reports suggested that some leaders from the two main parties, SLFP and
UNP discussed the prospect of forming a united Sinhala party. There was
even speculation that the President and the opposition UNP leader met to
discuss the formation of a national unity government and that the talks
have failed. The current position is that the combined opposition has
115 MPs, as against the government's 109. There were a few reports of
MPs crossing from one side to the other thus changing the balance with
each such move. Reports suggest attempts continues to be made to bring a
working arrangement between the two parties. S B Dissanayake, Minister
for Samurdhi Affairs and Deputy Minister for Finance continued to
advocate a national government as being vital.

In the meantime, the two left parties in the government coalition, the
Lanka Samasamaja Party (LSSP) and the Communist Party (CP) said they
will resign from the government, if the government joins with the main
rival United National Party to form a government of "National Unity".

Observers believe that there is little chance of this occurring in the
near future. However, due to the declining popularity of both the
SLFP and the UNP as well as the smaller parties and the parties of the
minorities coming to the foreground, the argument for Sinhala
consolidation will strengthen in due course.

On July 4, the government changed its mind and refused to debate the
motion in July and agreed to consider a date in August. Opposition UNP
was demanding a date in July. Party leaders were to meet on July 12th to
fix date for no confidence motion but the President has since suspended
parliament.


2. Norway's efforts
===========

The peace process in Sri Lanka has been put on the hold as the
government faced ER extension and the no confidence motion. The
Norway's effort was further damaged when Erik Solheim's role was down
graded by Norwegian Foreign Minister Thorbjoern Jagland on request from
the Sri Lankan government.

"Norway Post" reported that the Sri Lankan foreign ministry has
announced that a four-member team led by Norway's Deputy Foreign
Minister Raymond Johannsen will revive the stalled peace bid between
Sri Lankan government and the LTTE. According to the announcement the
Norwegian team consist of the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of
Norway Raymond Johanssen, Norway's ambassador in Sri Lanka Jon
Westborg, Erik Solheim and Ms. Kjersti Tromsdal, executive officer,
Norwegian ministry of foreign affairs.

Pope John Paul also called for Sri Lanka's government and rebel leaders
to pursue negotiations to put an end nearly two decades of ethnic
violence.


3. Aerial bombing
==========

Sri Lanka's air force carried out extensive aerial bombing in northern
Sri Lanka and it claimed this is to thwart a potential LTTE attack to
recapture Jaffna. Both India and US expressed concern over the air
attacks asserting that this is not an alternative to the peace process.
LTTE also issued a statement that the air attacks have made irreparable
damage to the peace process.

Sri Lanka responded to Indian and US concerns by saying that their
comments are unacceptable. Sri Lankan Foreign Minister said: "These
decisions are never easy to make. In making them the government must
not be deterred by what political opponents and others,including other
governments, might say. Each sovereign state is the best judge, the
sole judge, of the dangers to its territorial integrity." The government
also issued an unusually strong statement that the only way to end the
Tamil separatist insurgency is full-scale war.

Yet, the air strikes were halted in what may be a response to strong
criticism from the United States and India.


4. Testimony against Janaka Perera
==========

Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) issued a media release and a
testimony of a victim who was tortured under the command of Janaka
Perera, the current Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Australia. The
victim in his testimony said that during the 1980's there was extreme
physical and psychological torture, overcrowding and hundreds of
disappearances/ extrajudicial killings at an illegal military detention
camp in Wehera in Kurunegala district, which was under the command of
Janaka Perera. Tim Gill, spokesperson for AHRC, said, "We are releasing
the harrowing account of the eyewitness not to encourage a witch-hunt of
the appointed High Commissioner, but to show the scale of the atrocities
committed in Sri Lanka between 1988 and 1992, and to call for those
responsible to be brought to justice."


5. Human rights
==========

The Investigation Officer of the Human Rights Commission, Mr. S.
Sritharan, visited Boossa camp recently and recorded evidence from four
persons who were detained and tortured. The prisoners claimed that the
torturer urinated into their mouth, smashed their fingers, and poured
boiling water down their throat.

Wed July 4 issue of Lakmiba reported that in a human rights violation
petition filed at the Supreme court against the officers of the
Terrorist Investigation Unit, a Hindu priest said the police arrested
him while he was conducting pooja and the police took off all his
clothes and assaulted him and burnt his penis with a cigarette.

Following the rape of a Tamil woman by three policemen in Jaffna,
Tamil opposition parties in Sri Lanka called for a day of protest
against what they say are the increasing number of gang rapes of
minority Tamil women by the security forces. The Tamil and Muslim
parties say nine-tenths of rape cases go unreported for fear of
reprisals and social stigma. The parties want the government to change
the law to deny bail to alleged rapists and introduce the death penalty
for gang rape. Heeding to this call shops, offices and schools in
northern and eastern Sri Lanka closed on July 6. Sri Lankan military
denied that government soldiers were involved in the rape alleging that
the Tiger rebel infiltrators camouflaged in army uniforms were
responsible.

Amnesty International issued a statement calling for the government of
Sri Lanka to probe the disappearances of a number of individuals in
Vavuniya. The human rights organization alleges that other Tamil
militant group working with the security forces caused many of the
disappearances. AI has faulted the government for harbouring these
paramilitary forces who are allowed to carry out extrajudicial
activities without any accountability.


6. Other news
==========

War casualties according to government sources: On June 30. Government
troops shot dead five Tamil Tiger rebels in sporadic confrontations
and rebels killed one civilian. On July 1, 9 LTTE members were
killed on the Trincomalee Coast. On July 5, Sri Lankan troops attacked a
Tamil rebel camp killing at least 12 rebels. On July 9, nine LTTE cadre
were killed in two separate incidents. LTTE's firing squad executed two
civilians in public for allegedly spying for government forces.

According to LTTE sources, the security forces penetrated an area in
their control and killed a senior rebel leader and his body guard on
July 1. On July 8 in a similar incident in Vakarai, four civilians were
wounded when the tractor in which they were travelling was hit by
claymore mine triggered by a Sri Lanka Army. A fisherman was killed and
three others were wounded when Sri Lanka Army soldiers shelled the seas
off Gurunagar on July 2.

The commander of the US Pacific fleet Admiral Dennis P. Blair is on a
three day visit to Sri Lanka for talks with President Chandrika
Kumaratunga and military leaders. He is the Commander in-chief of US
Navy for the pacific region, that covers an area of 169 sq. kms and 43
countries. He will be the first Commander in-chief of the Pacific
fleet to visit Sri Lanka. Blair in a press conference is reported to
have said that USA is against separatism and is willing to even give
military aid to Sri Lanka to defeat terrorism.

Full report on the Bindunuwewa investigations was submitted to the
Badulla courts. There were 83 accusations against 43 persons and the
report request that the case be heard in front of three judges.

The hospital in Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka is suffering from a chronic
shortage of life-saving drugs. The director of the hospital says they
have had stop doing X-rays because the authorities have prevented them
from bringing in fresh supplies of the solution used to develop the
films. All supplies of medicine and equipment to the hospital, which
serves nearly half-a-million people in an area badly affected by civil
war, require Ministry of Defense clearance.

Sri Lankan Army arrested Mr. Thivyan Krishnasamy, secretary of the
student union of Jaffna University. The Jaffna University students
protested the arrest by walking out of the classes. The students
alleged that the arrested student was tortured. The students continued
their walk out and picketed for seven days. The military has ordered
that the University be closed in a bid to end protests against the
security forces. Vice chancellor told more than 4,000 students at
the University to stay at home until further notice. Student union has
called upon the Jaffna people to help obtain the release of the arrested
student.

A team from the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was in New
Zealand and Australia recently to find out the whereabouts of KP, the
mysterious financier of LTTE, who allegedly financed the assassination
of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The Indian investigators have
interrogated three Indian men living in New Zealand, the Herald news
paper in New Zealand reported.

Sophisticated weapons worth Rs 15 million were seized from a
suspected LTTE bunker by the Sri Lankan police in Jaffna district,
police said. Some of the weapons, unearthed with the help of private
informants bore the Indian Army crest and other Indian markings, police
claimed.

LTTE may be using Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands as routes into
Australia. Four suspected rebels were caught recently trying to travel
through P-N-G on forged Canadian and Malaysian passports.

The Director of the planned census in Sri Lanka(the first in 20 years)
said that it may not show Lanka's actual Tamil population because
rebels will not allow enumerators into certain parts of the country.

ENDS

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