1:31 PM

Sri Lanka sends full report to EU on Tissanayagam case

Sri Lanka yesterday said that it has sent a full report to the European Union on the judgment and the circumstances that led to the conviction of journalist T.S. Tissanayagam following some local and foreign elements were on a mischievous attempt to intimidate the independence of Sri Lanka’s judiciary.

"Nobody had the right to question the independence and rationale of the judgment by a court in a democratic country," Cabinet spokesman Information and Media Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa said.

Similar judgments have been delivered on such charges against journalists in the US and UK and many other democracies but those judgments have never been an issue for protests or controversies, he charged.

He also said that the government has not in any way influenced the judiciary and the judgment was an independent decision of the court.

The EU Thursday said that it is troubled by the severe sentence given to Tissanayagam, who was found guilty under the Prevention of Terrorism Act of Sri Lanka, of abetting terrorism and supporting the terrorist organization LTTE.

Sri Lankan government has stressed that the verdict has been reached by the judicial process following the due process and does not pose any restrictions on the media freedom.

1:27 PM

TNA to meet President

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is to meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa next Monday.
The President who is currently on tour in Libya will be meeting the TNA delegation headed by TNA Leader R. Sambandan on September 7 to discuss several key issues according to party member P. Ariyanendra.

“There are two key issues they we wish to discuss with the President. One is the situation of the internally displaced people and about their resettlement in the north, which we feel is happening without due process and legal purview. The second point of discussion will be the issue of a political discussion that has been under consideration for a long time but has seen little of concrete importance emerge,” he said.

1:26 PM

US disturbed by Channel 4 video

The video footage allegedly showing Sri Lankan Government soldiers executing Tamil rebels aired on Britain’s Channel 4 is ‘very disturbing’, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said yesterday.
Speaking at a press briefing of the UN Security Council she said that the US would like more information as they formulate their own national response. “These reports are disturbing and they are of grave concern,” she said.

Channel 4 News aired the unauthenticated video after obtaining it from a group of exiled journalists called Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka. The Government of Sri Lanka has declared the video as fake.

Rice, who holds the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council during the month of September, said it was not yet clear whether the council would take up the issue.
"I'm not aware of a council member proposing that this be discussed on the council agenda but obviously these reports are very fresh and that could change," she said.

The UN on Tuesday had said it has always taken reports and information on human rights violations, including those related to war crimes seriously and the Channel 4 video is no exception.

However, the UN is not in a position to ascertain the authenticity of the video in question and has noted its rejection by the Sri Lankan authorities, the UN said.

1:25 PM

Media Minister orders ITN and Rupavahini Chairmen to take custody of video tapes amidst Channel 4 controversy

The Media Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa had ordered the Chairmen of ITN and Rupavahini that all video tapes on the war scenes in the North during the final phase be immediately taken into the custody of the Chairmen.

Incidentally , it was only the ITN and the Rupavahini the only two State Institutions which were permitted to cover these war scenes.

This urgent order by the Minister to take into custody all tapes both telecast and not telecast has raised queries as to whether this action of the Minister has any connection with the airing of human executions in SL by men in military uniform by Channel 4 in Britain.

1:25 PM

U.S. voices "grave concern" about Sri Lanka video

The United States voiced grave concern on Wednesday about video footage that a Sri Lankan group says shows government soldiers summarily executing Tamil rebels in violation of international law.

"These reports are very disturbing, they are of grave concern," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters. "We'd like more information as we formulate our own national response."

Rice was reacting to video footage aired last week on British television which, according to a Sri Lankan advocacy group, shows government forces executing unarmed, naked, bound and blindfolded Tamils during the army's final assault to smash Tamil Tiger rebels earlier this year.

The Sri Lankan government has dismissed the video as fake.

Rice, who holds the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council during the month of September, said it was not yet clear whether the council would take up the issue.

"I'm not aware of a council member proposing that this be discussed on the council agenda but obviously these reports are very fresh and that could change," she said.

Previous attempts to formally raise the issue of Sri Lanka's conduct during the final months of its 25-year war against the Tamil Tiger rebels met resistance from Russia and China, who opposed official council discussion of an issue they said was an internal matter for the Sri Lankan government.

Philip Alston, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said on Tuesday he hoped the United Nations would launch an investigation to determine whether Sri Lankan soldiers did in fact summarily execute Tamils, which would be a violation of international law.

Alston acknowledged there was no certainty the video was authentic. Britain's Channel 4 television said it got the footage from advocacy group Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka.

"There's nothing on the surface to indicate that it is not authentic and, if that's the case, it would raise very grave concerns," Alston told Reuters in an interview.


A spokeswoman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the United Nations took all reports of serious human rights violations and war crimes with the "utmost concern" and that the Channel 4 video was "no exception".

Sri Lanka's government has repeatedly denied that its forces were guilty of war crimes or human rights breaches during the last months of its war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), whom it defeated in May.

U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes has said several thousand civilians were killed during the final phase of Sri Lanka's war against the LTTE, when the rebels retreated to a narrow strip of coast in northeastern Sri Lanka.

The rebels brought hundreds of thousands of Tamils with them, whom U.N. officials said were used as human shields.

U.N. and Western officials accused Sri Lanka of using heavy artillery to shell areas that it knew were heavily populated with civilians, killing many of them in the process. Colombo denied the allegation.

By: By Louis Charbonneau
(Editing by Phil Stewart)

1:23 PM

Lanka News Journalists not produced before Court

he Police who took into custody three Journalists of the ‘Lanka News’ on the charge of attempting to trespass on a garden in Deniyaya, Matara had been handed over to the Colombo crime Division , Lanka News reports.

The three Journalists were to be produced before the Morawaka Magistrate today (03) , and their lawyers had also gone to the Morawaka courts this afternoon. Later however with the intervention of the DIG Anura Dissanayake of the CCD ,they were to be entrusted to the custody of the Colombo Police crime Division , the Lanka news had added.