Sri Lanka

The announcement of the new Ministerial Portfolios has everyone talking. Who has got demoted or promoted, included or excluded, or whether the appointments are apt, or not, is a common talking point whether in Colombo or elsewhere. Amongst the surprises were the appointments of two men as Minister and Deputy Minister respectively of the Ministry of Child Development and Women’s Empowerment previously known as Women’s Affairs. Cat’s Eye decided to conduct a spot poll of some women on what they thought about this choice.

The manifestos, called Mahinda Chintanaya II in the case of the incumbent President and The Common Minimum Plan in the case of General Sarath Fonseka, have now been released to the public. In an election short on substantive issues and characterized by mud-slinging by both sides, these documents provide the voter an idea of the programmes both candidates wish to prioritize.

Resettlement efforts are under way for thousands of displaced Muslims from Sri Lanka’s north who have been languishing in refugee camps for nearly two decades, officials say. The internally displaced people (IDPs) were forcibly evicted in October 1990 from the northern districts of Jaffna, Mannar, Kilinochchi, Mullaithivu and some parts of Vavuniya by the insurgent Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). About 75,000 Muslims are estimated to have fled, making their way towards government-controlled areas in Vavuniya and Anuradhapura, as well as to Puttalam District on the northwestern coast, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG).

“War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.” - George Orwell (Nineteen Eighty-Four). Thus begins the Rajapakse era, with the arrest of Gen. Sarath Fonseka. I did not and do not consider Sarath Fonseka to be a hero, any more than I consider Mahinda Rajapakse and Gotabhaya Rajapakse to be heroes. Still I believe Fonseka’s arrest should be a matter of gravest and most intimate concern to all those who value democratic freedoms, because it symbolises the conclusive triumph of a new political commonsense which equates Mahinda Rajapakse (and his brothers) with the country and thus damns any opponent of Rajapakse rule as an enemy of the nation. A democracy which equates opposition to the powers that be with treachery to the nation is no longer a democracy but an autocracy.

Publié le 26 janvier 2010: L’élection présidentielle d’aujourd’hui va se tenir dans un climat particulièrement tendu, notamment pour la presse qui a été confrontée à de multiples entraves. Les médias d’Etat ont été utilisés pour promouvoir le candidat sortant Mahinda Rajapaksa. Certains médias privés ou d’opposition ont été les cibles d’attaques qui ont culminé avec l’enlèvement, le 24 janvier au soir, du journaliste politique Prageeth Eknaligoda. Reporters sans frontières appelle les deux camps à tout faire pour ne pas créer un "scénario à l’iranienne" où des élections contestées et contestables ont débouché sur un cycle de manifestations et de répression, dont la presse serait évidemment la victime.

26 January 2010: Tension surrounds today’s presidential election, especially for the press, which has had to face many obstacles. Use of the state media to support President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s campaign for another term has been accompanied by harassment and violence against privately-owned opposition media, culminating in the 24 January abduction of political reporter Prageeth Eknaligoda. Reporters Without Borders appeals to both sides to make every effort to avoid an Iran-style scenario in which the challenging of a questionable election result leads to a cycle of demonstrations and repression in which the press would clearly be one of the victims.

Dublin war-crimes tribunal, conducted by Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) based in Milan, which held hearings on Thursday and Friday on war-crime charges on Sri Lanka from eye-witnesses and other material evidence, in the preliminary findings issued Saturday said, Sri Lanka Government is "guilty of War-Crimes" and "guilty of Crimes Against Humanity."

In 1995 a significant set of reforms to the Sri Lanka penal code was enacted. The process was consultative and women’s groups were included in the discussions that led to the reforms. While the 1995 amendments were, by and large, a welcome modernization of the penal code, nineteen years after these amendments, still other laws remain which undermine women’s equality. The demand for further legal reform is about this ‘unfinished business’. At a time of elections Cat’s Eye particularly wants to highlight some laws (which apply to both men and women, and some to women in particular) that require urgent reform so that the public and political parties can take note.

On 22 October 2009, human rights defenders Ms Frederica Jansz and Ms Munza Mushataq received identical death threats by post, both of which had been hand-written in red ink. Frederica Jansz is Editor-in-Chief of the Sunday Leader, and Munza Mushataq is the newspaper's News Editor. The founder and former Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper, Mr Lasantha Wickramatunga, was murdered in January 2009, three weeks after receiving a similar death threat which had also been written in red ink.

The Cabinet has approved a proposal by the Minister of Justice and Law Milinda Moragoda to bring in certain reforms to the Muslim personal law and to uplift the system of Quazi courts and enhances the knowledge of Quazis.
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