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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 conflict between Israel and Gaza: Silence of UN and US led world

Photography via Slate On again and off again ceasefires, rocket launches, bombings and killings involving Israel and Gaza dominate television news at this time. When the indirect talks between the two sides fail in Cairo, the military campaigns restart and the destruction caused by Israeli bombings in Gaza is there for all of us to […]

Remembering 1994: Violence interrupted, democracy restored

Photo courtesy Club Madrid May 2014 marked the fifth anniversary of the brutal end of Sri Lanka’s civil war, amidst massive human rights violations by rival armies that killed thousands of civilians. While many Sri Lankans felt relieved to be free of the fear of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, communalism has since been […]

Prioritising Truth in Post-War Sri Lanka

Photo courtesy Daily Maverick “How do we keep the past alive without becoming its prisoner? How do we forget it without risking its repetition in the future?” Ariel Dorfman, ‘Death and the Maiden’ The Chilean playwright Ariel Dorfman poses these questions in his play Death and the Maiden after witnessing massive human rights violations in […]

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 […]

When press releases become propaganda

How the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index 2014 was reported in Sri Lankan media reads as a cautionary tale when dealing with press releases. The report was brought to my attention upon reading an ‘article’ in the Daily FT titled ‘World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index 2014: Sri Lanka top in South […]

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 […]

“We the People”: Reflections on Governance and Civic Engagement in Sri Lanka

Deshamanya Professor Nandadasa Kodagoda 17th Memorial Oration August 1, 2014, Sri Lanka Foundation It would not be an exaggeration to say that I was deeply humbled by the invitation to deliver the 17th Deshamanya Professor Nandadasa Kodagoda Memorial Oration. At the outset, let me thank the members of the Nandadasa Kodagoda Memorial Trust for the honor […]

Mob disrupts meeting of families of disappeared: Police & Government hound participants

Image courtesy Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai. More photos on her Twitter feed as well as from Marisa de Silva. Families of the disappeared from the Northern Province, gathered in Colombo on 4th August 2014, at 2.30pm, at the Centre for Society&Religion (CSR), which is a Church (Oblates of Mary Immaculate – OMI) run institution situated in the premises […]

SITA MAMI

Photo by La Shawn Pagan via NYC Views and News (A semi fictional account written in 1991 and edited) They had to postpone the funeral by a couple of days. The children wanted to pay their last respects. Flights had to come in from Canada, England, Dubai and Australia. Transport had to be organised. Announcements […]

A TRIUMPH OF HOPE OVER EXPERIENCE? A PRELIMINARY COMMENT ON THE NMSJ’S ROAD MAP

Image by AFP’s Ishara Kodikara courtesy Foreign Correspondents Association Sri Lanka There was a remarkable image in the news recently. It was from the meeting of the Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thera’s National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) at which a ‘road map’ for the abolition of the executive presidency was launched on 24th July 2014. […]

Relevance of Freedom of Association in 1992 and today: Ratawawi Peramuna and its players

Photo by Pankaj Nangia/Bloomberg News, via The Japan Times Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), are the popular punching bag of the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL), when its actions are challenged by any individual and/or organization. Name-calling, brandishing circulars to warn NGOs and now a draconian law to prevent them from raising public issues has been the […]

The Advisory Council of Experts: A council, a council, my kingdom for a council?

Photo by REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte via Malaysian Insider Some observations are in order on the President’s appointment of an international panel of experts to advise the Commission on Disappearances. The Commission comprising Maxwell Paranagama, Mesdames Ramanathan and Vidyaratne were appointed to look into disappearances. They have held public hearings throughout the north and east and received over […]