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‘WAR CRIMES’ IN SRI LANKA - What the international experts say

Professor Michael Newton on civilians, hostages and artillery fire

This opinion focuses on the intentional use of artillery fire directed to respond to LTTE artillery fire emanating from within civilian areas. The LTTE refused to permit some 330,000 fellow Tamils to flee towards safer areas away from the zone of conflict, and used them as human shields to deter offensive operations by the Sri Lanka Army. The Government of Sri Lanka declared a no fire zone (NFZ) in order to protect the civilians. Aside from refusing to agree to the creation of such a safe zone, which itself constitutes prima facie evidence of its intent to use civilians as an extension of its military campaign, the LTTE embedded its heavy artillery within the NFZ and intentionally shelled Sri Lankan positions from the midst of the civilian population.

The use of the civilian population in that manner is roughly comparable to the war crime of perfidy because the LTTE sought to use the government's compliance with the laws and customs of warfare in order to gain an unwarranted military advantage. Civilians who would otherwise have spread out and sought shelter in other regions were prevented from doing so in order to dissuade the government from attacking lawful targets. Intentional efforts to use the presence of such civilians to shield military operations constitute a war crime in its own right. This opinion therefore also addresses the law regarding the use of force against military targets when one party to the conflict has attempted to ‘insulate’ those targets through manipulation of the laws and customs of warfare.

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Port City Confusion and Uma Oya Cockup: Challenges to good governance

The latest news on the Port City and Uma Oya projects is that the government has "automatically stopped" the former, but only after some dithering, and "suspended" the latter until further review. While Port City has been all over the news, the Uma Oya project is another screw-up from the Old Regime that deserves no less scrutiny. The new government is still finding its way in clearing the old Rajapaksa decks and setting up its own stage for good governance. Or, is it? Ministers running around like headless chickens, and cackling at cross-purposes, is not an encouraging sign of good governance. The corruption of the Old Regime must be exposed and dealt with, but the new government must also demonstrate competence not only in dealing with the misdeeds of the Old Regime, but also in replacing them with good deeds of its own. People’s patience can end abruptly and their frustrations can flare up alarmingly, now that they have tasted the power to bring down what, until two months ago, was considered to be an irremovable government.

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Polls Chief denies pressure on him to suspend results

  • Ready for general election

Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya yesterday said that he had come under no pressure from the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa to halt the release of the presidential elections result in the wee hours of January 09.

Addressing a media conference at the Elections Department auditorium, the Polls Chief said that even if heavyweights of the then government had forced him, he would not have given in to pressure as he was vested with adequate powers to resist such a move and conduct a free and fair election.

Deshapriya said   he wasn’t aware of any coup attempt outside the Elections Department and the on-going investigation would reveal whether it was true or not.

"Former President Rajapaksa or his brother Gotabhaya did not give any directions to me to halt results, but issuing results to media got delayed by one hour due to a technical fault at the University of Colombo School of Computing (UCSC) responsible for issuing of results to media," he said.

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Obama to arrive in India on Sunday

United States President Barack Obama will arrive in India on Sunday (Jan 25) for a three-day state visit. He will be the chief guest at India’s Republic Day on Monday (Jan 26), it was officially announced here and in Washington today.

Obama is the first US president to attend the Republic Day function and also the first to visit India twice while in office. He visited India the first time in November 2010.

External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said the visit is "the culmination of a qualitative reinvigoration of our ties" following the meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Modi last September in Washington.

Since then, both the sides have acted with alacrity, collaborated in common pursuits and have traversed along a transformative path, he added.

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Mangala promises demilitarisation of North, domestic war crimes probe

Sri Lankan Minister of External Affairs Mangala Samaraweera has outlined a series of steps President Maithripala Sirisena’s Government will undertake to achieve national reconciliation in the civil war-ravaged island-nation.

Talking to a select group of journalists here on Monday, he said the new government will demilitarise the Northern Province, order a domestic probe into the excesses reportedly committed during the last phase of the so-called Eelam War IV in 2009, and take suitable steps to provide relief and justice to victims of the civil war that tore the country apart for nearly three decades.

He also said the government will soon initiate a dialogue with the one-million-strong Sri Lankan diaspora scattered across the globe to seek its help to rebuild the North.

The minister expressed the hope that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) will respond positively to President Sirisena’s invitation to join the government and actively participate in executing its plans to transform the country into an inclusive liberal democracy.

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