The National Peace Council (NPC)

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18.05.14 Media Release

PUBLIC INTEREST OR PERSONAL VENDETTA? LET THE READERS DECIDE

What can be said about someone naked who steals the clothes of his opponent and parades them as his own to hide his own nakedness? The Editor of the Daily News has shamelessly misappropriated the statements used by the National Peace Council (NPC) to expose his ignorance and confusion of history and parades them as his own. We ask the readers to compare the NPC Statement refuting his original editorial (which he did not publish) and his latest editorial in the issue of 16/05/2014 titled “CAN HE TELL HIS ELBOW FROM HIS ...?”

According to the Editor in his editorial of 14/05/2014, “Besides, it is a fallacy to say that Civil War victories are not celebrated in the US or any other part of the world. The 4th of July celebrations which commemorate the US Revolutionary war is also a commemoration of an American civil war as what is called the Revolutionary war was also a series of battles fought for the Union -- as much as the war against the Confederates was also a war for unification. Americans fought Americans in the American Revolutionary War except that one side was comprised of loyalists who fought out of loyalty to the British Empire. So when the wooly headed simpletons of the National Peace Council say that no country celebrates a Civil War they are either saying that 4th of July does not mark a celebration or that the United States of America is not a respectable country, which opinion of course they are entitled to if they really want to believe in it...”

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15.05.14 Media Release- NPC Replies to Two Daily News Editorials

DISCRIMINATION ARISES WHEN THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE LAW AS IT IS AND HOW IT IS IMPLEMENTED IN PRACTICE

In response to our reply to the challenge issued by Western Provincial Council Minister Udaya Gammanpila, the Daily News in its editorial of Saturday, May 10, 2014 titled "ON POWER DEVOLUTION, AND BADLY EXPOSED NGO" declared that we had lost the challenge since the Northern Provincial Council enjoys the same powers as the Provincial Councils in the rest of the country.  There is only one law governing all Provincial Councils. There is no dispute about that.  The question is whether there was no discrimination against the Provincial Councils of the Tamil and Muslim majority areas.   There is a difference between the law as it is and how it is implemented in practice.  There is discrimination if the law is not uniformly applied.

In our reply we pointed out the discrimination in the sphere of legislative powers suffered by the North East Provincial Council when it sought the Governor’s approval for a draft Tourism Development statute on the lines of a similar statute passed by the Southern Provincial Council. The Governor turned it down and manifested the discrimination. Was it discrimination which had the backing and consent of the Government of the day or was it the individual decision to discriminate on the part of the governor?  Perhaps the Editor should ask for the comments of the Governor who is still serving as the Governor although the Provincial Council is now functioning only for the Eastern Province.

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12.05.14 Media Release

COMMEMORATE THE END OF WAR AS ONE NATION

The government will be having its “Victory Day” celebration in Matara in the Southern Province on May 18.  In preparation for this celebration the government ordered the closing over 40 schools in the Matara city area for over a week to facilitate the organizing of the logistics relating the celebratory events.  This is an indication of the importance that the government is placing on this celebration in which the bravery and sacrifice of the Sri Lankan security forces will be commemorated.  Concurrently, the government has prohibited any public commemoration of the end of the war in the Northern Province.  The government has expressed its opposition to the occasion being used by political parties and separatist groups in the North to glorify the LTTE.  The diametrically different government positions with regard to public commemorations of the end of the war in the North and South reveals a chasm that continues to exist in the polity.

The National Peace Council is saddened by the continuing emphasis on the divisions that exist within Sri Lankan society instead of on factors that could genuinely unify the polity.  Our country is once again leaving space to the people in the North to develop their own structures to deal with their sorrows and issues which will contribute to a separate state of mind. There is no peace when there is victory and defeat side by side on the same issue.  It was all of Sri Lanka that went through a thirty year war that saw large scale civilian casualties through offensives, bomb attacks and assassinations.  We should remember all who died in the hope that this bloodletting will never occur again.  This indeed is the message and recommendation of the Lessons Learn and Reconciliation Commission appointed by His Excellency the President, which is yet to be implemented in full.

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14.05.14 Media Release

IDENTIFY ROOT OF PROBLEM OF IMPUNITY
Even as the government prepares to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the end of the war there are disturbing events that show up the failure of government by law as opposed to arbitrary power. War-time legacies must not   continue to haunt the country.  The incident where two police officers on night time duty on the road were abducted by armd men in a white van, stripped naked, and one shot dead, is symptomatic of a larger problem that has gone unaddressed.  It is an extreme manifestation of a phenomenon that occurred regularly during the war in which people suspected of terrorism were bundled into vans and disappeared.

The continuation of abductions five years after the end of the war is totally unacceptable. So far it appears that the police are at a loss to find the perpetrators although they have the evidence of the surviving police officer and what he observed and heard.  The National Peace Council is of the view that the failure to apprehend those guilty, and those who are behind the armed group in the van, is a clear manifestation of the breakdown of the Rule of Law . The brazenness of the action suggests that the perpetrators were confident that they enjoyed impunity.  It is this deteriorating law and order situation that that calls for policy changes that address the roots of the problem.

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01.05.14 - Media Release

Reply by National Peace Council
On the functioning of the Provincial Councils of the North and East

In an interview given to the Daily News of 24.04.14, Western Provincial Council minister Udaya Gammanpila has taken issue with a statement of the National Peace Council with regard to Provincial Councils in the North and East. He has quoted from the NPC statement that “although the government has held elections in the Northern Provincial Council, it is useless unless the Council is allowed to function without undue interference from the centre”.

He says “I challenge NPC activists to name any powers which the center has withheld from the Northern Provincial Council that are enjoyed by the other Provincial Councils" and goes on as follows: "They say that a measure of autonomy must be given to the Tamils. This is to allude that Provincial Councils have no autonomy. All the Provincial Councils in the country, including the Northern Provincial Council have autonomy in regard to their administration," he adds.

NPC wishes to reply to this challenge by Mr. Udaya Gammanpila regarding the actual devolution of power to the PCs and to name any powers which the centre has withheld from the Northern Provincial Council that are enjoyed by the other PCs.

Although on paper the same powers are devolved to all Provincial Councils those in the former North-East Provincial Council and the present Northern Provincial Council have been stultified in their functioning by the manner in which the Governors of these two provinces have used their powers with respect to these two Provincial Councils (the former North –East and later Eastern Provincial Council) and the Northern Provincial Council. Unlike the manner in which the Governors have functioned in the South where they have played a largely passive role and allowed the Chief Ministers and the Councils to function as per their initiative, the Governors in the former North Eastern Provincial Council and later in Eastern and the Northern Provincial Councils have stymied the legislative and executive powers of these Provincial Councils.

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18.04.14 Media Release

URGENTLY RESUME THE DIALOGUE TO AVOID DANGEROUS BACKSLIDE TO PAST

Less than five years after the end of the three decade long internal war, the Sri Lankan government has warned that the LTTE is regrouping and plotting to renew its violent campaign for a separate state again.  This warning has come in the context of a shootout reported in the North that led to the killing of three LTTE members by the military who, according to the government, had shot and injured a policeman in the leg.   The security forces conducted extensive cordon and search operations and arrested over 60 persons, including civic activists, prior to the final shootout.  The slain persons are accused of having had connections with the Tamil Diaspora. 

 The National Peace Council notes that this violence, which is the first LTTE-related violence since the end of the war, occurred soon after the passage of the UNHRC resolution calling for an international investigation into the last phase of Sri Lanka’s war.  The government has refused to cooperate with this investigation.  It has also banned 16 Tamil Diaspora organizations and 424 individuals whom it has accused of promoting terrorism.   Reports from the North indicate that the military role has grown and the space for civil society to function has shrunk due to permission for activities that has to be obtained and is either not forthcoming or is deemed to be impossible to obtain.

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Media Release 2 - 20-03-14

NATIONAL PEACE COUNCIL REJECTS DAILY NEWS LEAD STORY

The Daily News of 18 March 2014 in its lead front page story claimed “National Peace Council Tiger Links Bared” in relation the arrest and detention of Human Rights Defenders, Ruki Fernando and Fr Praveen Mahesan. We categorically refute this malicious accusation. Both of them were released without charge by the government which contradicts the assertion of this newspaper.

We are distressed that the premier English language daily newspaper of the Government of Sri Lanka should engage in such misinformation and lead its readership astray. It also conveys a wrong impression of the government’s own position on a matter that has attracted widespread international attention and even been discussed at the ongoing UN Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva.

NPC has a mission to promote peace and reconciliation by engaging with all parties to the national conflict. We believe in non-violent conflict resolution and that the roots of conflict should be dealt with through political dialogue and reform. We have always promoted the unity of the country nationally and internationally. We have engaged and cooperated with the state and its authorities where and when needed. We operate within the law and are committed to a united Sri Lanka.

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Media Release 1 - 20.3.14

RELEASE OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IS A STEP IN RIGHT DIRECTION

The National Peace Council welcomes the government’s release of Ruki Fernando and Father Praveen Mahesan who were arrested earlier this week under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. We are pleased to note that they were released unconditionally and speedily as the allegations on which they were detained were devoid of substance. We recognize that the government was willing to reassess their arrest in the face of the local and international pressure and appeals made to secure their release.

We call upon the government to likewise reassess the other recent arrests including Balendran Jayakumari who has been in the forefront of families seeking their missing ones. The Prevention of Terrorism Act which was enacted to deal with conditions of terrorism and war is no longer indispensable. Therefore we call upon the Government to take action against them if warranted under the normal law of the land. We expect the government to follow the recommendation of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and call on the government to repeal this Act which is a potential instrument of abuse.

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Media Release - 17-03-2014

 17.03.14

 Media Release

REASSESS ARREST OF RUKI FERNANDO AND FR. PRAVEEN MAHESAN

AND UPHOLD RULE OF LAW AND DUE PROCESS

The National Peace Council views with great concern the arrest  of Ruki Fernando and Fr Praveen Mahesan, two of the leading human rights defenders in the country.  Both of them are partners of NPC and have taken part in our programs.  Their commitment to sustainable peace and reconciliation and promotion of humanitarian norms are unquestionable.   Both of them were arrested last evening in Kilinochchi in the North where they had been seeing to the welfare of families of missing persons following the arrest and detention of one of their members Balendran Jayakumari, whose youngest son went missing after allegedly surrendering to the army at the end of the war. 

Ms Jayakumari was arrested under the prevention under the Prevention of Terrorism Act which was formulated to deal with issues of terrorism and war and has no place in a post-war country.  Human rights activists like Ruki and Fr Praveen are those who give hope to the hopeless and who by their support discourage extremism.  The harsh measures taken against human rights defenders will only show the UNHRC and democratic world opinion that there  are continuing problems of arbitrary arrest and detention for human rights workers in Sri Lanka who make representations about such violations to international fora such as the UN Human Rights Council.

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Media Release - 16.03.14

National Peace Council of Sri Lanka
12/14 Purana Vihara Road,
Colombo 6.
Tel: 2818344,2854127, 2819064
Tel/Fax:2819064
E Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Internet: www.peace-srilanka.org

Media Release - 16.03.14

THE TRAGEDY OF VULNERABLE FAMILIES OF DISAPPEARED PERSONS

The arrest and detention of Balendran Jayakumari under controversial circumstances raises the question whether those who persevere to openly advocate on behalf of the victims of the war are being targeted for punitive action. The government’s police spokesperson stated that a shooting incident took place in the north and they have identified a house where the suspect has been hiding and that two women are being investigated. Human rights defenders in the area report lots of checkpoints, raids, questioning, fear and surveillance. Jayakumari is reported to have been detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for 16 days by a court order and sent to the Boosa detention centre which is at the other southern corner of the country.
During the past five years since the end of the war in 2009, Jayakumari has been one of those in the forefront of families seeking the whereabouts of their missing loved ones. She is a victim herself who lost three of her four children in the war. Two of them were killed in the course of the war. The third, a boy aged 15 at the time he went missing, is alleged by her to have been taken into government custody. Her remaining child, a girl aged 13, has been pictured carrying the photograph of her missing brother, and crying and asking for her brother’s return.

It is reported that due to detention of her mother, Jayakumari’s daughter has been taken into the care of the government’s probation service, as other families are afraid to take her in. It is this type of ongoing human rights tragedy that moves many people to support the call for a credible and independent investigation into what happened in the last phase of the war, and what continues to happen today. This is despite the spotlight being directed on the actions of the Sri Lankan government in Geneva right now.

The new and revised US draft resolution on Sri Lanka which is reportedly being circulated among members of the UN Human Rights Council expresses deep concern over reported intimidation and retaliation against civil society members who engage with UN human rights mechanisms including those who met with the High Commissioner during her visit. As the arrest of Jayakumari can conceivably be seen as an attempt to cause fear and the silencing of those who are seeking knowledge of their loved ones, the government needs to make clear what its position on this matter is. It also highlights the need for the repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and better protective mechanisms for citizens who campaign for human rights and justice.

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