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Disappearances and the struggle for truth and justice

Photo courtesy Human Rights Solidarity 30th August is the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. Tens of thousands have disappeared in Sri Lanka in last few decades[1]. On this day, families of disappearances in Sri Lanka will gather in Vavuniya in the North, to once again publicly appeal to find their loved ones, […]

International Human Rights: Dispelling the Myths

Photo courtesy JDS A Talk given at the Colombo Club, August 2014 Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today. I do so with trepidation since speaking to captains of industry is quite outside my zone of comfort. My brother Indrajit Coomaraswamy, with whom you are more familiar, once told me in the […]

UN Investigators for Sri Lanka, Show Your Work!

Photo by Lakruwan Wanniarachchi, AFP/Getty Image via Al Jazeera If the U.N. wants to promote reconciliation in Sri Lanka, it has to show its work.  U.N. investigators should use tools and methods that are transparent, replicable, and open to scrutiny by all.  Every Sri Lankan, both inside and outside the country, deserves the chance to […]

The Spectre of Evictions and Land Grabs in Colombo

Photo by Abdul-Halik Azeez courtesy The Picture Press There is a new energy to the beautification and development of urban areas in Colombo with a surge in construction, reconstruction and opening up of new spaces.  The other side to this is the demolition of private properties and the eviction of thousands of people. In August […]

Bishop of Mannar’s letter to Presidential Commission on Missing Persons

Photo courtesy Tamilnet. Download this letter from here. It can also be viewed online – Page 1 and Page 2. ### The Chairman and Commissioners, Presidential Commission on Missing Persons Dear Commissioners, Submission Regarding My position with regard to appearing before the above Commission in Mannar I am thankful for your very kind visit to […]

A blow-by-blow commentary of the mob attack on families of disappeared

Image courtesy Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai. More photos on her Twitter feed as well as from Marisa de Silva. 3.15pm: On the 4th of August a private sharing of experiences session organized by civil society inside the Centre for Society and Religion [CSR] is disrupted by an organized gang led by what appeared to be a group of Buddhist monks. […]

Where have all the young men gone?

All photos by the author. See full set of photos here. Snippets from hearings of the Presidential Commission to investigate into complaints regarding missing persons Sathurukondan, 09/09/1990 Q: Who is the missing person? A: Father, mother, brother, grandmother, grandfather, younger sister, older sister and her three children.  An eerie silence followed these words that was […]

In conversation with Kalana Senaratne: Religiosity, politics and identity in Sri Lanka

Kalana Senaratne is a distinguished columnist and researcher. Readers of Groundviews would be most familiar with his writing on the rise of militant Buddhism in Sri Lanka, though he has written consistently of issues of governance, rights, politics and religiosity since 2009. We caught up on TV recently to talk about at greater depth and […]

Quo vadis Sri Lanka?

Photo courtesy Amnesty International May 2009 will always be an exclamation mark in Sri Lanka’s history. Many will celebrate the defeat of the Tamil Tigers as a rupture with a brutal past. For others it will mark a period of remembrance as families mourn relatives lost in crossfire or shelling. It was a time of […]

The slow wheels of justice and change: a Sri Lankan case study?

Image via Rights Now Five years since the end of the war, the state of affairs in Sri Lanka is likely to evoke feelings of frustration and despondency for most readers of this series of essays. The military has entrenched itself in the governance of the North and East and continues to suppress Tamil political […]

The hunt for the missing

Photo by AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena, via The New Indian Express In its 2012 report the International Committee of the Red Cross said was is still tracing 16,090 missing people in Sri Lanka. Those are merely the cases where families have requested the ICRC’s help. Very many others are not documented. By no means all the […]

PLATO’S CAVE IN THE INDIAN OCEAN: ELITE FAILURE IN SRI LANKA

Photo by EPA/M.A.PUSHPA KUMARA courtesy LA Times “…one cannot expect an individual or a book to change reality but only to interpret it and to indicate a line of action. Machiavelli had no thought or intention of changing reality; he only wanted to show concretely how the concrete historical forces ought to have acted to change […]

Launch of Special Edition: The end of war in Sri Lanka, five years on

Photograph by the author In the corner of my room, there’s a large air-tight plastic bag I open once a year, and occasionally glance at with mixed emotions. It contains, carefully folded, all the newspapers I could buy on 19th May 2009. Those who tried to buy a newspaper on this day may recall how difficult it was. Almost all […]

In the name of talent

Image from ‘Kolavari Sri lankan tuition song-By Risinu Gamlath’ video, courtesy Sirasa TV For a very long time now I have watched little children performing at children’s reality shows in Sri Lanka, which are marketed as children’s ‘talent shows’ in our country. Little children come on stage wearing costumes and makeup in the manner of […]

Women and Children: The Cutting Edge of International Law

Photo by UN/Myriam Asmani, via World Education Blog The Grotius Lecture 2014[1] PREFACE Sometime at the end of 2011, while I was still the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, I met an ambassador from an Asian country just before a United Nations Security Council meeting on children […]