The Lanka Academic

VOL. 6, NO. 309


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Norwegian, Swiss envoys meet Tamil Tiger rebels to prepare for Geneva talks
Shimali Senanayake, February 9th, 2006, 5:00 pm SLT. The government said on Thursday that a top priority at Geneva talks with the Tamil Tiger rebels will be to stop a wave of killings that has rocked Sri Lanka, as peace brokers stepped up moves to finalize arrangements for the first high-level meeting between the two sides in nearly three years.

"We want to make sure there are no killings from any side," Anura Priyadhashana Yapa, media minister told reporters. He said more than 5,000 crease-fire violations have been recorded so far, which include scores of killings. Both sides blame each other for the violence.

Hans Brattskar, Norway's ambassador in Colombo and Bernardino Regazzoni, Swiss ambassador and host-country for the talks, flew to the northern rebel-capital Kilinochchi earlier Thursday, for a meeting with rebel negotiators led by S. P. Thamilselvan, the Tigers' political chief. It focused on issues that will be discussed at the talks and a location in Geneva to conduct the discussions, officials involved said.

The Tigers have stressed the Geneva meeting will be limited to discussions on strengthening the February 2002 cease-fire agreement and have ruled out amendments to the pact as earlier demanded by the government. "The talks will be on a meaningful cease-fire," Anura Priyadhashana Yapa, media minister told reporters on Thursday. He declined to elaborate.

Yapa confirmed that Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, minister of trade and Rohitha Bogollagama, minister of investment promotion were the key government negotiators led by health minister Nimal Siripala de Silva. He said a top-level team headed by the foreign minister had been appointed to help the negotiators and focus on a long-term solution to the conflict. The Tigers' have already named a six-member team for the talks.

So far several options have been mooted to hold the discussions including venues in Geneva as well as those in the outskirts. No final decision has been made as yet. The government delegation on Tuesday discussed preparations for the media and media access at the talks, an issue that will play a role in finalizing a venue.

Air transport for the rebel delegation from Kilinochchi to Colombo's international airport and other logistics were also discussed with the diplomats, the officials said.

Tamilselvan had raised the alleged abductions of 10 aid workers of the pro-rebel Tamil Rehabilitation Organization or TRO, and "expressed concern over government apathy …. at a time the parties need to strive creating a positive and conducive atmosphere for the talks in Geneva," the Tigers' official peace secretariat Web site said, about Thursday's meeting.

However, the government continued to express doubt over the alleged kidnappings nearly two weeks ago. "We are very sorry to say that the TRO is not helping in the investigation," Yapa said, adding that the "government is doing its best to find out the truth about the incident." Three of those allegedly kidnapped have been released while seven remain missing, according to the charity. The alleged abductions have cast a cloud over the impending talks and raised fears if the rebels will back out of negotiations over the incident they blame on para-militaries supported by the government forces, an allegation Colombo denies.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam started fighting for an independent homeland in 1983 claiming discrimination of minority Tamils by the Sinhalese majority. Nearly 65,000 people were killed before Norway brokered a cease-fire between the two sides. Subsequent peace talks however, broke down in April 2003 over rebels demand for wide autonomy.

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Published: Thu Feb 9 09:21:05 EST 2006

Government names three ministerial delegation for peace talks with Tamil rebels
Associated Press, Thu February 9, 2006 07:14 EST . BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lanka - 's government on Thursday announced the names of three Cabinet ministers who will take part in peace talks with Tamil Tiger rebels later this month. A Norway-brokered cease-fire between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam came under severe strain in recent weeks with frequent violence in Sri Lanka - 's ethnic Tamil-majority north and east.

About 81 government security forces have been killed in attacks blamed on the rebels while the Tigers accuse the government of harassing and killing Tamil civilians.

``The government should come for talks with a proper understanding of the history of our problems and the countless tragedies and displacements faced by our people,'' said Tamil Tiger political head S.P Thamilselvan, addressing reporters in the northern rebel stronghold of Kilinochchi.

He made the comments after meeting Norway's Ambassador Hans Battskar and Swiss Ambassador Bernadino Regazzoni and discussed preparations and the travel arrangements for the Tiger delegation attending the talks in Geneva, rebel spokesman Daya Master said.

The Tigers started their violent campaign in 1983 to carve out a separate state for minority Tamils accusing majority Sinhalese of discrimination.

More than 65,000 people were killed in the fighting before the cease-fire. Peace talks broke down in 2003 over disagreements on postwar power sharing.

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Published: Thu Feb 9 09:05:10 EST 2006 Back to the top

Amnesty International calls for media responsibility amidst cartoon controv ersy
Munza Mushtaq in Colombo, February 9, 2005, 7.45 p.m.. Amnesty International (AI) has stressed upon the need for media personnel to work with sensitivity and responsibility. The organization's request comes amidst growing protests against the controversial cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed.

"Events of recent weeks have highlighted the difficult question of what should be the legitimate scope of freedom of expression in culturally diverse societies.While different societies have drawn the boundaries of free speech in different ways, the cartoon controversy shows how, in today's increasingly global media space, the impact of actions in one country can be felt way beyond its borders. Today, more than ever, societies are faced with the challenge of asserting universal human rights principles in an area where there has traditionally been a tendency to defer to the domestic laws of a particular state and the values they enshrine.

"Set against the backdrop of the rising climate of intolerance and suspicion between religious and other communities in many parts of the world, including in Europe, two conflicting sets of principles are being advanced in this controversy.

"Newspaper editors have justified the publication of cartoons that many Muslims have regarded as insulting, arguing that freedom of artistic expression and critique of opinions and beliefs are essential in a pluralist and democratic society. On the other hand, Muslims in numerous countries have found the cartoons to be deeply offensive to their religious beliefs and an abuse of freedom of speech. In a number of cases, protests against the cartoons have degenerated into acts of physical violence, while public statements by some protestors and community leaders have been seen as fanning the flames of hostility and violence," Amnesty International pointed out.

The right to freedom of opinion and expression should be one of the cornerstones of any society. This right includes "the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers" (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19). For more than forty years, Amnesty International (AI) has defended this right against attempts by governments across the globe to stifle religious dissent, political opposition and artistic creativity.

However, the right to freedom of expression is not absolute -- neither for the creators of material nor their critics. It carries responsibilities and it may, therefore, be subject to restrictions in the name of safeguarding the rights of others. In particular, any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence cannot be considered legitimate exercise of freedom of expression. Under international standards, such "hate speech" should be prohibited by law, AI impressed.

Amnesty International also called upon government officials and those responsible for law enforcement and the administration of justice to be guided by these human rights principles in their handling of the current situation.

"AI also calls on those working in the media to act with sensitivity and responsibility so as not to exacerbate the current situation. This incident highlights the power and reach of the media and AI calls on those in the media to apply greater political judgement, taking into account the potential impact of their output and the range of often competing human rights considerations involved," the statement noted.

While AI recognises the right of anyone to peacefully express their opinion, including through peaceful protests, the use and threat of violence is unacceptable. Community leaders must do everything in their power to defuse the current atmosphere of hostility and violence. Culture and religion are of central importance to many people's lives, but they cannot be used as an excuse to abuse human rights

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Published: Thu Feb 9 08:46:05 EST 2006 Back to the top

Pallone’s resolution focuses on encouraging peace talks in Lanka, February 09, 2006, - 17:20 EDT. Leading lawmaker Frank Pallone, Jr introduced a resolution today in the US House of Representatives urging the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to engage positively in the forthcoming peace talks... Back to the top

Suspected LTTE militant gives the slip, February 09, 2006, - 17:20 EDT. Chennai: A 25 year-old Sri Lankan National suspected to be an LTTE militant, gave the slip, when the authorities wanted to check his identity before boarding a colombo bound Sri Lankan Airlines flight at Anna International Airport here today... Back to the top

Tamil businessman abducted in Colombo, February 09, 2006, - 17:20 EDT. ADELAIDE: Australia’s Mike Hussey has warned Sri Lanka could spring a surprise in the VB Series finals, which start on Friday... Back to the top

Norwegian, Swiss ambassadors in Sri Lanka visit rebels, February 09, 2006, - 17:20 EDT. Colombo: The Norwegian and Swiss ambassadors in Sri Lanka Thursday visited Tamil rebels to prepare for peace talks between the insurgents and the Sri Lankan government due to be held in Geneva Feb 22-23, Media Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa said... Back to the top

INTERVIEW-S.Lanka eyes prisoner swap with Tigers, February 09 2006, - 07:35 EDT. COLOMBO, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers are considering a prisoner swap to pave the way for trust building at talks this month that could be the island's last chance for peace, a government negotiator said on Thursday... Back to the top

US lends Lanka more for arms
TamilGuardian, February 8. The United States has increased its military credits under its Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program: from $496,000 in 2005 to an estimated $1 million in 2006, IPS reported... Back to the top

Hussey wary over Sri Lanka threat, February 09, 2006, - 17:20 EDT. ADELAIDE: Australia’s Mike Hussey has warned Sri Lanka could spring a surprise in the VB Series finals, which start on Friday... Back to the top

National Day Celebrations at the Sri Lanka High Commission, London, February 09, 2006, - 17:20 EDT. The ceremony to commemorate the 58th anniversary of independence was held on Saturday, 4th of February 2006 from 10.00 a... Back to the top

Three elephants die in Sri Lanka after stepping on land mine
Associated Press, Thu February 9, 2006 05:37 EST . BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Three wild elephants died from their injuries after stepping on a land mine in northeastern Sri Lanka - because government veterinarians refused to go to rebel-held territory without army and Red Cross escorts, officials said Thursday... Back to the top

Mansion plans on hold for Chandrika
BBC, January 9. Ravaya editor Victor Ivan says the former president’s handing back the land she got for her future home should not signal the end of the controversy... Back to the top

Japanese zoo to get 2 baby elephants from Sri Lanka +
Associated Press, Thu February 9, 2006 08:43 EST . COLOMBO, Feb. 9 (Kyodo) Two baby elephants from Sri Lanka - are being sent to the Nagoya Higashiyama Zoo in exchange for a pair of black rhinos, the government said Thursday. The baby elephants are presently cared for at a unique elephant orphanage at Pinnawela, midway between Colombo and Kandy... Back to the top

Lanka seeks changes to truce accord, February 09, 2006, - 07:35 EDT. COLOMBO: Sri Lanka will seek to amend the ceasefire agreement with Tamil Tiger rebels during negotiations in Geneva later this month despite opposition from the guerrillas, official sources said yesterday... Back to the top

Tamil businessman abducted in Sri Lankan capital
Associated Press, Thu February 9, 2006 00:06 EST . COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Unidentified gunmen abducted an ethnic Tamil businessman in the Sri Lankan capital in the latest of a spate of kidnappings across the country, police said Thursday... Back to the top

Slow, dusty pitches were meant for SA not Sri Lanka, February 09, 2006, - 07:35 EDT. AUSTRALIA was expecting to play SA not Sri Lanka in the triangular one-day cricket final series, but Adelaide’s dry pitch would suit them in tomorrow’s opening final, Australian player Michael Hussey said yesterday... Back to the top

Tobacco bill: a pipe of peace in Sri Lanka
Dawn, February 09, 2006, - 07:35 EDT. A Buddhist monk, who tabled a bill in the Sri Lankan parliament to control the sale of tobacco and alcohol, says he is gratified at the wide support he has received in a country known for the deep divisions among its ethnic and religious communities... Back to the top

Sri Lanka 's former president returns lavish land grant+
Associated Press, Wed February 8, 2006 07:59 EST . COLOMBO, Feb. 8 (Kyodo) _ Former Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga said Wednesday she was immediately returning to the state prime urban land granted to her free of charge by the government she headed. Kumaratunga's office said in a statement that she had by letter dated Tuesday informed the government that she had decided to return the land ''granted to her on a unanimous decision taken by the cabinet of ministers of the previous government... Back to the top

LTTE cadres running riot in Qatar, a dissident cadre severely injured
Munza Mushtaq in Colombo, February 8, 2006, 1.29 p.m.. The LTTE dissident group led by Karuna today alleged that LTTE Leader Prabhakaran's paramilitary groups are running riot in Qatar, targeting several of their cadres after attempts by the Vanni faction to persuade these cadres to join Prabhakaran's camp once again failed... Back to the top

Opposition politicians defect to Sri Lanka 's governing party
Associated Press, Wed February 8, 2006 05:57 EST . COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Eighteen local opposition politicians joined Sri Lanka's ruling coalition on Wednesday, saying they wanted to strengthen the president's hand to negotiate peace with separatist Tamil Tiger rebels... Back to the top

Sri Lanka to sell $500m bonds to cancel old debt, Wed 8th Feb 08:15GMT. Sri Lanka will sell $500 million worth of bonds, probably dollar denominated, on international markets by the end of May to raise funds to cancel out old debt raised in the 1980s and 1990s, the island’s Treasury Secretary said on Monday... Back to the top

LTTE to discuss only CFA at Geneva, February 08 2006, - 07:36 EDT. The LTTE has made it abundantly clear that it will resist attempts by the Sri Lankan government to discuss issues other than the implementation of the existing Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) at the forthcoming talks in Geneva... Back to the top

UN legal expert due on visit
Sassanka Samarakkody,, Wed 8th Feb 08:15GMT. Chief of the Treaty Section in the United Nations Legal Affairs Office Dr Palitha Kohona is to arrive in Colombo this week on the government’s invitation to advise President Mahinda Rajapakse on the peace process... Back to the top

TULF refutes LTTE claim
Sassanka Samarakkody,, Wed 8th Feb 08:15GMT. TAMIL United Liberation Front (TULF) president V Anandasangaree has condemned the claim of an LTTE leader that the claymore mine attack on the military was carried out by civilians, and not by the rebel group... Back to the top

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