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Sri Lankan journalist given 20 years in prison October 5, 2009

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By BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI, Associated Press Writer Bharatha Mallawarachi, Associated Press Writer Mon Aug 31, 1:53 pm ET

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – A Sri Lankan reporter singled out by President Barack Obama as an example of persecuted journalists around the globe was sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison on charges of violating the country’s strict anti-terror law.

J.S. Tissainayagam’s articles in the now-defunct Northeastern Monthly magazine in 2006 and 2007 criticized the conduct of the war against the Tamil Tiger rebels and accused authorities of withholding food and other essential items from Tamil-majority areas as a tool of war.

Tissainayagam’s conviction, 17 months after the ethnic Tamil reporter was arrested, was the first time a journalist was found guilty of violating the country’s Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Rights groups have accused the government of waging a broad crackdown on media freedom that has continued since it routed the rebels and ended the nation’s quarter-century civil war in May.

Tissainayagam, who has been labeled a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, was arrested in March 2008 and indicted five months later under the anti-terror law.

During his World Press Freedom Day address in May, Obama highlighted Tissainayagam’s case as an example of journalists being jailed or harassed for doing their jobs.

On Monday, High Court Judge Deepali Wijesundara said Tissainayagam’s articles violated the law because they were aimed at creating communal disharmony. She also found him guilty of raising money for a publication whose articles violated the anti-terror law and sentenced him to 20 years.

“The constitution guarantees media freedom, but no one has a right to deliberately publish false reports that would lead to communal violence,” prosecutor Sudarshana de Silva said in his court filing.

Defense lawyer Anil Silva said Tissainayagam had always fought for human rights.

“He was never a racist and he at no time tried to arouse hatred,” he said in his defense filing. “Now he has been punished for what he wrote as a journalist. This will be a lesson to other journalists too.”

Silva said his client would appeal.

“We are shocked at this judgment,” said Chulawansa Sirilal, convener of the Free Media Movement, a local media rights group.

He said this has posed a serious threat to the country’s media freedom and journalists.

“There is no press freedom in this country today, even after the war is over,” said Sirithunga Jayasuriya, another local media rights activist. Tissainayagam’s conviction would set a bad precedent for media across the country, he said.

“The imposition of this extremely severe sentence on Tissainayagam suggests that some Sri Lanka judges confuse justice with revenge,” said Reporters Without Borders, adding that it is “appalled” by the sentence.

International media rights groups say the government has used emergency laws to silence public criticism of its conduct and has failed to investigate violent attacks — and killings — of journalists.

The government has denied the allegations.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said at least 11 Sri Lankan reporters were forced to flee the country in the past year, and Amnesty International said at least 14 Sri Lankan journalists and media workers had been killed since the beginning of 2006.

In June, the government said it would re-establish a powerful press council with the authority to jail journalists it finds guilty of defamation or inaccurate reporting.



Citizenship for Lankan refugees under consideration, says PC October 5, 2009

Posted by reader111 in Hindu Rights Register.
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TNN 4 October 2009, 06:16am IST

CHENNAI: Chief minister M Karunanidhi’s request to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to “legally regularize” the stay of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in 
Tamil Nadu is under the consideration of the Centre, Union home minister P Chidambaram said on Saturday.

“We have received his letter in this regard and it is under consideration,” he told reporters, after calling on Karunanidhi at his Gopalapuram residence.

In a conference held at Kancheepuram last week, the ruling DMK adopted a resolution, indicating that steps would be taken to allow over one lakh Tamil refugees living in different camps in the state to become permanent citizens.

To a query on the proposal to send a delegation of MPs to Sri Lanka to study the situation in the island nation, Chidambaram said that such an idea was also being examined.

The Union minister, who held a 30-minute-long discussion with Karunanidhi, said the issue of rehabilitating the internally-displaced Tamils in Sri Lanka, now staying in camps, back in their hometowns was discussed at the meeting.

“The chief minister has given some suggestions and we have also raised some points. A decision will be made after external affairs minister S M Krishna holds consultations with the prime minister,” he added.


‘Sri Lankan Tamils are India’s natural allies’ June 7, 2009

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Sheela Bhatt

November 29, 2006

On Monday we carried the first part of an interview with Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader V Gopalaswamy alias Vaiko. Today we present the second and concluding part of the interview with Managing Editor Sheela Bhatt:

Why do you say Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was misled?

I blame [former high commissioner to Sri Lanka [Images]] J N Dixit and Junior Parthasarathy (diplomat G Parthasarathy) and some other officers for the debacle in Sri Lanka. [Former President] J R Jayewardene cunningly trapped India into an agreement. He could not face the attacks by the LTTE so he cleverly invited India to face the LTTE.

As the events unfolded, [LTTE leader V] Prabhakaran was brought to New Delhi. He was told ‘you will be the only representative of Tamils’. They didn’t speak at all about the Indo-Sri Lanka agreement. He came with high hopes. On his arrival he was immediately locked up in Ashoka Hotel. I tried to meet him as a member of Parliament. When I attempted to enter his room I was stopped. I held a press conference to declare that Prabhakaran was being kept away from the public. Prabhakaran’s team was not given a copy of the Indo-Sri Lanka agreement.

It was merely read out to them. Dixit read the terms of the agreement. Anton Balasingham was also present at that meeting. Prabhakaran was totally shocked. They never expected India to enter into such an agreement. They [Prabhakaran and his team] said they were opposed to the agreement. Dixit, who was puffing a cigar, said, ‘We don’t care. Who are you to oppose?’ Prabhakaran said, ‘We will oppose with all our might.’

Dixit said, ‘Before this cigar is over, smoke is over, within that time we will crush you.’

These are the words of J N Dixit. Balasingham told me the exact words.

Prabhakaran contained his disappointment. Somehow, they were persuaded to meet Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. He said, ‘For the time being you agree. Keep some doors open. We will give you all help to rebuild Jaffna. Every month we will give Rs 50 lakhs. We will give security.’

Prabhakaran thought he cannot oppose India at that juncture. The Indo-Sri Lanka accord was thrust on them. Even after the accord the State-sponsored violence went on, Sinhalese were settled in Tamil areas in the Eastern province. In those areas Tamil Musilms were won over by the Sinhalese.

What made Rajiv Gandhi displease Prabhakaran? What could have been his calculations?

At that time the Bofors scandal exploded. It was a rude shock for them.

To divert the attention of the Indian people he thought if he could have this agreement he can show the world that he has settled the Tamil problem that was not possible for his mother. He was misled like this. And Jayewardene set the trap. I feel very sorry for Rajiv Gandhi. As per the agreement, internal administration was not done. The North and Eastern parts of Sri Lanka were to be merged into one unit as per the accord but it was not done. The accord also promised that there will be a referendum in the East which was not done. Before the ink on the agreement dried Jayewardene said, ‘I’ll propagate against the merger of North and East.’

Dixit didn’t visit the Sri Lankan Tamil leader who was on fast against settling the Sinhalese in Tamil areas. He died. There were many such mistakes by India.

As per agreement, on October 3, some 17 LTTE commanders were allowed to come to India but before that they were arrested by the Sri Lankan army and kept in custody. The LTTE contacted Indian officials. Indian generals had sympathy for the LTTE. They informed the government but Dixit misled the government. He allowed these commanders to be taken to Colombo so that Prabhakaran would come to terms and accept the Indo-Sri Lanka accord. In Palali, Indian soldiers had put a cordon to prevent Sinhalese soldiers from detaining the LTTE commanders. On October 5, instructions were given from New Delhi to withdraw the cordon. As the cordon was withdrawn Sri Lankan armed soldiers went to arrest them but they swallowed cyanide within minutes and 12 of the commanders died on the spot. This was the turning point. This was the major factor of confrontation.

On November 11 I raised questions in the Rajya Sabha, but Natwar Singh could not reply to them. In retaliation, the LTTE attacked the Sinhalese and in return the Indian army blasted two newspaper offices and television stations of the LTTE. The Indian army sent a Special Commando Unit to Jaffna. They landed by helicopter in Jaffna to capture Prabhakaran but no Indian commando could survive. In four days of heavy fighting 14 Indian tanks were crushed. The LTTE decided to fight and die.

Do you know what happened after that? Rapes and killings. How many women were raped! How many innocent people were killed! Sri Lankan Tamils thought India will be the saviour but India played a mercenary role for the Sinhalese government. These are all facts of history, and history should not be conveniently buried.

How do you see the US influence in the region?

Americans are helping the Rajapakse government because they think maybe it will allow them to have a foothold in Trincomalee. The Rajapakse government is getting weapons from Pakistan and China. [National Security Advisor M K] Narayanan is telling the government that if India doesn’t provide military help Pakistan and China will give weapons to Sri Lanka. I am asking whether any people of Pakistan origin are living there? Whether people of Chinese origin are living there?

Don’t forget we are 70 million Tamil citizens of India who have got an umbilical relationship with the Sri Lankan Tamils. Don’t play with fire. Let Pakistan and China give weapons. For your geo-political interests why should the Tamil people be made scapegoats? During the Bangladesh war the Sri Lankan government supported Pakistan. They allow them to refuel their planes.

The Tamils of Sri Lanka will be India’s natural allies because we are brothers and sisters. Why should we support the Sinhala government?

Maybe, for geo-political reasons.

For geo-political reasons you should support Sri Lankan Tamils and support Tamil Eelam. Trincomalee will be there, too. Americans are trying to intimidate the whole world today but they are unable to shake even an inch of Cuba. Tamil Eelam will be another Cuba. Sri Lankan Tamilians will be with you. Why are you afraid? The southern most point will be your protection.

What will happen if you help the Sinhalese? The seeds of hatred and frustration will be sown in the minds of the younger generation of Tamils in India, if not today then it will happen tomorrow. India is trying to help the regime which is trying to decimate the Tamil population. Then, another Kashmir will be created in the south. I am worried about the unity of India. Some people say if Tamil Eelam is achieved then people will ask for a separate Tamil Nadu. This is idiotic. Bangladesh was created, are Bengalis of West Bengal asking for a separate State?

But the religion of the majority is different in both cases.

Hindus and Muslims were on both sides. If religion is so important then Iran and Iraq would not have been fighting.

You know how and why some people may quote the Kashmir insurgency if the Indian government took some bold steps.

No. Sri Lankan Tamil and Kashmir issues are not comparable. Kashmiris are not treated as second class citizen of India. They are enjoying more rights than the citizens of other parts of the country. You should not equate Kashmiris with Sri Lankan Tamils. For every conflict there are different views and causes.

In India also the LTTE doesn’t have support. People abhor its violence.

People don’t know the history of the issue. They don’t know the facts. The entire Tamil population of Sri Lanka is with the LTTE. Don’t think that Indian Tamils are not supporting the LTTE.

Blood is thicker than water! It’s smoldering the hearts and minds of ordinary Tamil people of Tamil Nadu. You go and ask the people in the villages. They will say, ‘If Tamils are fighting the Sinhalese my support is for them.’

Many believe that because New Delhi has to consider the Tamil opinion within India, it’s unable to take a bigger view to influence the Sri Lankan government to bring peace in the island. Do you agree?

Delhi has the binding duty to oppose the genocidal attack of the Sinhala government against the Tamils.

India has repeatedly said that India stands for the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. United States Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns recently said the Sri Lankan government has the right to protect its territorial integrity and security.

Who are they? India has no right, America has no right. We don’t want India to help the Tamils to separate their country. We don’t make any request to India to help the liberation movement. But, destiny has to be decided by the Tamils in Sri Lanka. What right India has got, you kindly tell me?

But because of domestic politics of Tamil Nadu India is taking a backseat and that vacuum is being filled by the European Union and the US.

You wait and see. When the Tamils are killed in Sri Lanka, Tamils in Tamil Nadu will not sit as idle spectators.

But Sri Lanka is not your country. Indians have limitations.

But don’t forget we have got an umbilical relationship with them for the past so many centuries. Just 200 years back what relationship did we have with the people of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar?

Was India one country before the British came? You tell me, what relationship have I got with a UPwallah and Biharwallah? After the British left we accepted India as one country.

But what can you do beyond a point because Sri Lanka is a different country?

We will have to fight. We will give moral support. If the Indian government supports the Sinhala government we will go to the streets of Tamil Nadu to express our anger and will raise our banner of opposition against any such move.

What are your suggestions?

India will not commit any blunder that was committed earlier. Last year, India wanted to go for defence ties with Sri Lanka. I have managed to crush it.

As a result Sri Lanka will get military support from Pakistan, tacit support from China and diplomatic support from the US. India will get marginalized.

India will never get marginalized if it supports the Tamils. Just because Pakistan and China are helping Sri Lanka you are thinking of helping them, then I tell you, you are entering a dangerous path. The future generations in Tamil Nadu will not be the same. Changes will come in swiftly. Why do you want to sow the seeds of despair and frustration against India?

You are creating another Kashmir in the southern tip. What is more detrimental?

Lastly, can you tell me how you can bring peace in Sri Lanka?

There is no solution other than Tamil Eelam.

Tamils and Sinhalas co-existing is totally ruled out.

What are your suggestions to the Indian government in the short term?

The Indian government should prevail upon the Sri Lankan government to stop the killings of Tamils. They should open the A-9 highway [linking Jaffna to the rest of Sri Lanka]. India should not give any assistance, directly or indirectly, for the military pursuits of Sri Lanka.

It is believed that Parabhakaran is ageing and is not in touch with the latest global trends.

You should know he is a legend. I respect Fidel Castro. Mr Prabhakaran is more than Fidel Castro. His personal character is perfect. He is more or less running the government. In every Tamil household one boy or girl is giving up his/her life for the movement led by him. I claim that he will win the war. He will get Tamil Eelam and the world is going to witness it.


MGR gave us Rs 6-crore, says LTTE June 7, 2009

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Posted online: Tuesday, January 27, 2004 at 1235 hours IST

Chennai, January 27: Anton Balasingham, the LTTE ideologue, has claimed that the late M G Ramachandran had assiduously promoted the interests of his organisation. He helped them out financially too, giving them as much as Rs 6 crore from out of his personal funds, and in hard cash at that.

In an anthology of articles titled Viduthalai (Liberation), brought out recently in the United Kingdom, Balasingham has made several sensational disclosures, including the gift of an AK-47 to MGR by Prabhakaran. His almost unrestrained eulogy of MGR and tacit admission that the LTTE leaders played on his ego are quite revealing.

Their very first encounter, in 1984, came through in some unusual circumstances. At the time a number of Lankan militant groups were operating in Tamil Nadu, and MGR, in an attempt to unite them, had called a meeting of the leaders of those groups.

But DMK leader Karunanidhi, in an attempt to show off his commitment to the Lankan Tamil cause, also called a meeting of his own, a day earlier. Not wanting to get caught in the internal politics of Tamil Nadu, the LTTE kept out of the meeting convened by Karunanidhi. They decided not to meet MGR either.

But as it happened, when the meeting between Karunanidhi and three LTTE leaders made a splash in the media, a cut-up MGR peremptorily cancelled the meeting he had called. At the same time, he sent a senior police official to persuade the LTTE leaders to meet him at his residence. And Balasingham agreed, but only on condition that no other rebel leader would be present at the meeting.

(Prabhakaran, though still in Madras then, was not that easily accessible, even to the chief minister of the day. He would not meet MGR at the time, but would do so at a later stage.)

Balasingham and his associates quickly managed to strike a rapport with MGR, two key factors being their badmouthing his rival Karunanidhi for ‘‘playing politics’’ in an issue involving the very future of the Lankan Tamils and unashamedly flattering MGR on his face about his social concerns. His face lighted up when they described him as a ‘‘social revolutionary,’’ equating him with Prabhakaran himself, Balasingham writes.

And as the conversation proceeded apace, Balasingham slips in his request for money, towards training his cadres and for arms. MGR asks: ‘‘How much?’’ Rather hesitantly, Shankar, a senior leader of the LTTE, mumbles, ‘‘Rs 2 crore.’’ The response was prompt: ‘‘Come tomorrow and collect it.’’ Later the LTTE team wondered whether they should not have asked for more. The next evening Balasingham arrives at MGR’s residence in a van, is taken to the basement wherein he finds boxes (of what type, he doesn’t describe) stacked to a height of ten feet. MGR tells the security guards in Malayalam to take out ten of the boxes and pile them up in the van.

It is late in the night, and the LTTE folk are worried about the security and possible police interception. ‘‘No problem,’’ MGR says and the team goes to its destination under police escort.

Thus the foundation for a historic friendship was laid, Balasingham remarks and says that at the time it was essentially MGR’s money that kept the LTTE wheels moving.

Still later, Prabhakaran demanded Rs 5 crore. This time MGR chose to dip into the funds collected by the government for the rehabilitation of the Lankan Tamils affected by the 1983 riots. A project for their health care, to be managed by an LTTE-front organisation, was to be the cover. After some hassles, Balasingham was handed a cheque for Rs 4 crore at the secretariat. (Only that much had been collected by the government.) But the media exposed the transaction, and all hell broke loose. (Incidentally, Balasingham mentions only the this website’s newspaper and not the upcountry newspapers in that connection.)

The then prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, spoke to MGR rather sharply. The LTTE spokesman says that MGR was dismayed and wondered what wrong there could have been in handing the money meant for Lankan welfare to an organisation that was fighting for their rights.

But not wanting to lock horns with the Centre, MGR got the cheque back and compensated the rebels with cash from his basement.

It was not just monetary help that MGR was rendering. He went out of his way to go to their rescue whenever they were caught in one crisis or other. Once a consignment of arms meant for PLOTE, a rival organisation, was seized by the Madras Port authorities. Wiser by that experience, the LTTE promptly sought the Chief Minister’s help when its own shipment, worth thousands of dollars, docked. ‘‘No problem,’’ was the answer again. He pulled the necessary wires and they got their goodies cleared. It was as a token of his gratitude that Prabhakaran gifted an AK-47 to MGR, who was of course delighted at his new toy, says Balasingham.

Again when MGR’s most trusted police chief, Mohandas, ordered a crackdown on all militant outfits and seized their arms and communication equipment, and Prabhakaran went on a fast, the Chief Minister personally intervened and ordered the return of whatever had been seized. Plus, as a bonus, the arms seized from the other groups too went to the LTTE’s kitty.

Strangely, the book is silent on MGR’s failure to raise his voice against the IPKF offensive and Karunanidhi’s vociferous protests. It should, indeed, be galling to Karunanidhi that there is no reference at all to his role, except for an occasional dig or two.

Source: Newindpress.com