brad brace contemporary culture scrapbook

March 31, 2007

Sri Lanka: A state against minority

Filed under: global islands,sri lanka — admin @ 5:59 am

The protracted armed conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has drastically escalated since the beginning of 2006. An estimated 4,000 people have since been killed and over 275,000 internally displaced in that period. This is in addition to more than 500,000 uprooted earlier in the conflict and by the tsunami of December 2004.

The areas mostly affected by the renewed war are Batticaloa, Jaffna, Mannar, Trincomalee and Vavunia. Apart from the large number of internally displaced, around 18,000 Tamils have been forced to find refuge in India since January 2006. Both sides to the conflict are accused of deliberately targeting civilians and committing grave human rights violations with impunity. The government and the LTTE have severely restricted access to the conflict areas under their control, thus leaving more than half of the newly displaced people and other affected populations without access to basic needs.

At this present moment the eastern district of Batticaloa is becoming a region of internally displaced persons (IDPs). More than 35% of Batticaloa’s Tamil population of 422, 674 have now been displaced. In the last three months alone there has been a movement of 145,000 IDPs within the district. In addition, approximately 30,000 Tamils from eastern Trincomalee have sought refuge in the district. However there is a deliberate effort by the government to minimize the figures.

The latest reports coming out from Batticaloa are alarming; there have been numerous serious human rights abuses committed against these IDPs: forcible return and resettlement in unsafe areas, using them as human shields, mass arrests under emergency regulations, child recruitment, abductions, involuntary disappearances, sexual abuse, political killings, torture, etc. The Government has curtailed relief organisations’ access to IDP points in order to cover up the human catastrophe that is unfolding in the east. UN relief agencies state that the IDPs do not have shelter, food and water, and are living under catastrophic hygienic conditions and suffering from fever, diarrhea, coughs and various skin rashes. Aid agencies have also warned that they are on the verge of running out of food and the ever-increasing IDP influx in the eastern province has already caused a severe shortage of shelter materials. Further overcrowding, they fear, may cause major outbreaks of epidemics. The situation of the IDPs is further complicated by the active involvement of a third armed actor, the Karuna Faction, which split from the LTTE in March 2004. The Karuna Faction, with the assistance of the government security forces, also carries out abductions, political killings and child recruitment in IDP camps while pretending to do resettlement work.

The Sri Lankan IDP problem is unique because of the nature of multiple displacements. Many of the current Tamil IDP families have been on the run on and off for the last 25 years and the younger generation of this population has experienced for several months a return with a vengeance of intensive air-strikes and indiscriminate shelling of their welfare centres, mass massacres, disappearances and forced recruitment. Some of these youngsters were born in refugee camps and rotated in between camps several times within a year. For this community nothing has been permanent since 1985 other than the hostilities, abuses and atrocities committed by the government, LTTE, Karuna group and other paramilitary groups. In the recent past, the Sri Lankan government has been moving the IDPs by force to the areas that they have newly captured from LTTE. Most of these areas are full of landmines and do not provide the means to re-build livelihoods for returnees as a consequence of the heavy militarization process. It is also alarming that government officers and INGOs have to consult a government backed armed group (Karuna Faction) on resettlement and relief activities thus forcing even experienced UN bodies like UNHCR to withdraw/ reduce their involvement with IDPs.

The human right situation in Sri Lanka is deteriorating day by day. According to the Minority Rights Group International report (released on 20th March 2007) Sri Lanka has jumped 47th places since the previous year and is now in the top 20 list of countries where minority communities are most under threat. Minority Tamils and Muslims are not only caught in the cross fire and made homeless overnight but are specifically targeted for grave human rights abuses including killings, abductions and disappearances. In the last two months (January and February 07) alone, 388 people have disappeared. Citizens in the northernmost part of the country have been completely cut off from rest of the country due to the closure of the A9 road in last September. In Jaffna alone, the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission reports that every three hours one person is abducted and/or killed. Eye witnesses’ accounts from Mannar reveal that LTTE cadres have been forcefully recruiting young women from IDP camps. Some of these IDP women, who have dared to resist, have been beaten up and stripped naked by LTTE women cadres. IDP receiving points are the breeding ground for all forms of violations against minority communities by all parties that are involved in this dirty war and it is crucial that there should be an international mechanism put in place to monitor IDP condition and assure some form of security to this most vulnerable population of the north and east.

The Rajapakse government has been militarily supported by the USA, China, Pakistan and India in its war. While some countries have been becoming more critical of the government’s human rights record, the support for the war against ‘terrorism’ has given the government the confidence to continue with the war. The government has been proactively blocking the entry of any foreign missions, including the proposed visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, which has been postponed twice; and since the EU countries are branded as supporters of the LTTE their visas to undertake even humanitarian activities have been denied or purposely delayed. Recently, security forces have been accused of killing humanitarian workers of Action Faim who were killed in execution style in August 2006, which resulted in the fear that the limited international presence in most of the needy and war torn areas being further reduced. For local human rights advocates most spaces for agitation against the war have been completely blocked and local human right defenders are constantly hunted down. The liberal media has been silenced either by killing vocal anti-war journalists or arresting them on counterfeited terrorism charges.

The current government has introduced various forms of ‘counterterrorism’ measures. These measures have been used against the minority Tamils, specially against the IDPs. There have been mass arrests from IDP camps and at crossing points and the victims have been locked up in undisclosed locations without any charges or access to lawyers. The government says the detainees are militants and have surrendered voluntarily. The main counter terrorism measures have given unlimited authority to the police and the military to arrest and detain suspects. It has also widened the culture of impunity with the government-backed paramilitary groups carrying out human rights abuses including abductions for ransom even in the capital city Colombo.

In Sri Lanka today, raising human rights concerns have become unpleasant and scary in the context of the ongoing war that the government intends to win at any cost. Simply put, the governments of USA, China, Pakistan and India (through its omissions and commissions) are encouraging this war against the Sri Lankan minorities. Concerned civil society groups in these countries must help us stop this madness.

Tamil Tigers warn of bloodbath

Filed under: global islands,india,sri lanka — admin @ 5:52 am

Colombo – Thousands of civilians are fleeing Tamil Tiger-held territory in east Sri Lanka as troops and rebels battle with artillery and mortar bombs, the two sides said on Thursday, amid a rebel warning of a bloodbath.

Nearly 13 700 civilians have fled rebel areas in the eastern district of Batticaloa in the past fortnight, 3 800 of those alone on Wednesday. The Tigers and the military both said thousands more were fleeing on Thursday.

“Civilians are worried they will be held as human shields as happened earlier and are fleeing the area,” said military spokesperson Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe.

“The security forces’ plan is to liberate civilians from the Tigers and neutralise rebel gun positions that pose a direct threat to troops in Batticaloa,” he added.

The military already have captured a large coastal swathe of territory in recent months that the Tigers held under the terms of a now-tattered 2002 ceasefire pact, forcing the rebels to flee to jungles further inland or to their northern base by sea.

However, troops had not yet begun a push to clear the Tigers from a jungle area called Thoppigala about 40km west of Batticaloa, where rebel fighters have regrouped and which analysts say will be the next target of a military offensive.

A bloodbath

The Tigers warned on Monday of a bloodbath if the international community was unable to convince the military to halt a declared plan to wipe them out militarily.

Analysts fear a new episode in a two-decade civil war that has killed about 68 000 people since 1983 will deepen.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who say they are fighting for an independent state for minority Tamils in north and east Sri Lanka, said the military had mounted attacks on most of the areas it still controls in Batticaloa.

The Tigers said they had recovered the body of one soldier, but there were no immediate details of any wider casualties.

Resettling refugees

Thursday’s fighting comes after land and sea battles, ambushes and suicide attacks that have killed about 4 000 people in the past 15 months alone.

It also comes a day after authorities started to resettle the first of more than 15 000 refugees displaced by months of fighting in newly captured territory further north in Batticaloa.

President Mahinda Rajapakse’s government has vowed to unveil a power-sharing proposal within weeks, but has rejected the Tigers’ demands for a separate homeland.

March 23, 2007

Filed under: bangladesh,global islands — admin @ 9:30 pm

The metaphors of Islamic mysticism and philosophy are not merely poetic ornaments but are indicative of a peculiar way of thinking. The Sufis have, for instance, spoken of the experience of the Black Light–the light of bewilderment: when the divine light fully appears in the mystic’s consciousness, all things disappear instead of remaining visible. Such is the experience of fana–a blackout of everything until the mystic perceives that this blackness is in reality the very light of the Absolute-as-such, for existence in its purity is invisible and appears as nothing. To discover the clarity of this black light is to find the green water of life, which, according to legends, is hidden in the deepest darkness–baqa, persistence in God, is concealed in the very center of fana.

March 18, 2007

Five Poor Countries Have Debt Forgiven

Filed under: global islands,nicaragua — admin @ 4:44 am

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) announced Friday that it would forgive a debt of $4.4 billion owed by the five poorest countries in Latin America and the Caribbean: Bolivia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti and Guyana.

Bank president Luis Alberto Moreno said it would also provide funding to Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Paraguay and Suriname, in order to let them devote more money to education, health care and other services.

“This is a historic opportunity that will give these countries a fresh start,” Moreno said.

March 17, 2007

Massive Bangladesh Deaths, Arrests

Filed under: bangladesh,global islands — admin @ 5:44 am

Dacca, Mar 14 Since the introduction of the emergency state by the interim government in Bangladesh, 95,825 persons have been arrested by security and there were at least 50 deaths, according to statistics.

The report of the humanitarian organization Odhikar compiles the numbers published by 11 national newspapers, edited in Dacca, between January 12 and March 12 of 2007.

The measure was applied by the president Iajuddin Ahmed after postponing the general elections and withdrawing the interim government, which were people s main demands during three months of demonstrations in Bangladesh.

That decision followed the call carried out by the Awami League president and leader of the opposition alliance Hasina Wajed, who urged supporters to surround the Presidential Palace from January 14.

The statesman talked about his position of suspending the constitutional guarantees by the state of “serious emergency, where security and Bangladesh economic life are threatened by internal disturbances.”

More than 60,000 soldiers and policemen are deployed with special powers and can stop people without a court order in the national territory.

Rich dump toys in Bangladesh crackdown

Filed under: bangladesh,global islands — admin @ 5:41 am

THE rich and powerful of Bangladesh are dumping luxury goods from top-of-the-range 4WDs to pet peacocks in the hope of evading a crackdown on corruption by the new military regime.

The latest haul includes three Hummers abandoned by the roadside in Dhaka and six rare deer left in a disused iron foundry, police said yesterday.

The discoveries came after the confiscation of more vehicles and exotic pets from politicians arrested since an election was cancelled and a state of emergency declared on January 11.

The animals, including a bear and a cheetah, have been given to a safari park after what one official described as the largest recovery of wildlife since independence.

The seizures hint at the extraordinarily opulent lifestyles enjoyed by Bangladesh’s political elite, while more than half the population of 150 million struggles by on less than a dollar a day.

And the crackdown reflects the military’s determination to root out corruption at the top before organising new elections.

Security forces last week arrested Tarique Rahman, whose mother, Khaleda Zia, was prime minister until late last year. Mr Rahman, wearing a bullet-proof vest, was remanded in custody for a month yesterday pending a full investigation into corruption charges against him.

The military’s role in government was formalised last week with the establishment of a National Security Council, including the civilian head of a caretaker administration and the chiefs of the three armed services. That has raised concerns among Western diplomats and ordinary Bangladeshis about how and when the army will return to barracks.

However, most people support the new regime, such was their disillusionment with the personal rivalry between Ms Zia and the main opposition leader, Sheikh Hasina, which has dominated politics since 1991.

When Ms Zia’s Bangladesh National Party was in power, her 40-year-old son became known as Yuvraj (Prince) and Mr Ten Per Cent because of the cut he was alleged to take on government deals. Critics accuse him of amassing millions of dollars through corruption.

The military now appears determined to break the grip of both the BNP and Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League.

March 12, 2007

Filed under: bangladesh,global islands — admin @ 9:05 am

Africa at large: $140bn lost in corruption annually

Filed under: global islands,kenya — admin @ 8:06 am

Corruption drains Africa of over $140bn, the Chairman of the Economic and
Financial Crimes Commission, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, has said. Ribadu, who disclosed this at the convocation lecture of the University of Abuja on Friday, said that
the African Union released the startling figure recently. The theme of the
lecture was ”The Anti-corruption crusade: Why, how and the journey so far.‘ He
said that there was the likelihood that greater part of the money, which
represented about 25 per cent of the continents official Gross Domestic
Product, was stolen from Nigeria.

The EFCC boss also said that the African Development Bank indices had shown that
corruption was responsible for the loss of approximately 50 per cent of tax
revenue. He continued, ‘Some eight years ago, the Central Bank (of Nigeria)
told us that N200bn was lost in depositors— savings under a regime we now call
the failed bank regime. ‘This incidence was an extravagance act of the most
wicked proportion and a savage violation of thousand of small income family
savings by a gang of elite bank robbers who chose the media of the banking halls
to rip off people of their hard earned income.‘

He said that there was also a recent case of N18bn that was recovered from a
head of the law enforcement institution in the country. ‘All this, fantastic as
they are, pales into insignificance when we recall the mind-bogging example of
the much reported brazen profligacy of our ruling elite.‘ I am talking here of
the 220bn pounds (about $500 billion) of development assistance that has been
stolen from this country since independence to date by past leaders of our
country,‘ he said. He challenged participants at the lecture to consider
development infrastructure the stolen amount would have helped the country to
finance. ‘If we do not know how to compute the concrete cost of this loot, we
can at least relate it with the fact that it represents six times the value in
money that went into rebuilding Europe via the famous Marshal Plan at the end of
the second World War,‘ he said.

March 10, 2007

Filed under: General — admin @ 7:21 am

Bangladesh bans all politicial activity following new corruption arrests

Filed under: bangladesh,global islands — admin @ 7:20 am

The Bangladeshi interim government issued a complete ban on political activities late Thursday, stating that “the government will take stern action against anyone who breaches” the order. The announcement, issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, expands the January 11 state of emergency order by President Iajuddin Ahmed, which prohibited street protests, public meetings or gatherings, but did not prohibit “indoor political activities.” In addition, police have been given four days to question Tareque Rahman, son of slain former president Ziaur Rahman and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader Khaleda Zia. Rahman is accused of being involved in a $186,000 extortion scheme. Rahman, a senior member in the BNP who was widely expected to succeed his mother, was arrested Thursday in Dhaka.

In recent weeks, government security forces have arrested more than 60 politicians, mostly members of the BNP and the Awami League . Several major corruption trials are slated to begin later this month. Transparency International has listed Bangladesh as one of the world’s most corrupt states. The interim government mandated by the constitution prior to a scheduled national poll has promised to hold elections which were canceled following the January 11 order, but no date has been set.

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