British government plans to deport torture victim


Janahan Sivanathan

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Fears for victim of torture spark rally

Friday 12th June 2015

CAMPAIGNERS in Yorkshire will protest outside Home Office buildings in Sheffield today over the threatened deportation of a 22-year-old torture victim from Sri Lanka.

Supporters say Janahan Sivanathan, a Tamil living in Doncaster, was “horrendously tortured” in captivity in 2009, during Sri Lanka’s civil war, when he was a school student.

They are demanding he be allowed to stay in Britain.

Protest organiser Alistair Tice said: “There was a genocide against Tamils in Sri Lanka in 2009, with 100,000 killed or missing.

“The Foreign Office’s latest report on Sri Lanka found that there were continued allegations of police involvement in torture and custodial deaths, as well as in extrajudicial killings throughout 2014.”

Mr Sivanathan is to report to the Home Office today. The last time he did so, he was detained. The protest is at 1.30pm.

22 year old man detained regardless of UK rules forbidding detention of torture survivors: here.

A GLASGOW student was feared dead yesterday after he disappeared in Pakistan following his deportation by the Home Office: here.

Beheadings in Saudi Arabia, more and more


This video from Taiwan says about itself:

Sri Lankan faces beheading in Saudi Arabia for ‘witchcraft’

20 April 2012

A Sri Lankan woman was arrested and given the death penalty for allegedly using witchcraft on an unsuspecting 13-year-old girl in Saudi Arabia.

The young girl began acting erratically during a shopping trip in Jeddah after she was in close proximity to the suspected woman. Her father accused the woman of casting a spell on his daughter and reported her to security forces, resulting in her swift arrest.

Witchcraft and sorcery are punishable by the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, a country where court rulings are based on Wahhabism, a strict, ultra-conservative form of Sunni Islam. Other illegal activities under Wahhabism include homosexuality, acting like a tomboy and drinking alcohol.

In September, a Sudanese man was beheaded after being convicted on sorcery charges. A few months later a woman met the same fate. Amnesty International has since began to campaign against such executions.

Translated from daily De Standaard in Belgium today:

In Saudi Arabia on Tuesday yet another man was beheaded with a saber. This was reported by the Interior Ministry. The beheading brings the total number of executions in the country this year to eighty.

Rabih Al-Sayari was sentenced to death for drug smuggling, says the ministry. He was executed Tuesday in Najran, a city in southern Saudi Arabia. This year brought the country already eighty executions, just seven fewer than the total for all of 2014.

Since 2010, when the Gulf monarchy had 27 beheadings, executions have continued to increase. Many human rights organizations express their outrage at regular intervals, but Saudi Arabia carries on.

“Already over 130 beheadings’

According to a representative of Human Rights Watch, the number of beheadings has in reality risen to 135: “And every day there are some more. We are seeing an exponential increase compared to previous years”, the organization says.

Sri Lankan militarist film censorship


This video from Sri Lanka says about itself:

Oba Nathuwa Oba Ekka (With You, Without You) official movie trailer HD

19 April 2014

New film by Prasanna Vithanage

By Wasantha Rupasinghe in Sri Lanka:

Sri Lankan government censors Prasanna Vithanage’s latest film

18 December 2014

In another serious attack on fundamental democratic rights and freedom of artistic expression, the Sri Lankan government has demanded extensive cuts to Prasanna Vithanage’s With You, Without You. The film is the last in the writer-director’s Sri Lankan anti-war trilogy. Vithanage has been told he cannot publicly screen the film anywhere in Sri Lanka unless he makes the changes ordered by the government’s Public Performances Board (PPB).

With You, Without You is based on a novella by Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky. It is a tragic love story about a beautiful Tamil girl and her Sinhalese pawnbroker husband, who served in the military during the protracted civil war against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The film, which is set in Sri Lanka’s central highlands tea estate region during war’s aftermath, challenges Sinhala and Tamil communalism by sensitively dramatising the destructive impact of the war on human relations (see review here).

Since its international release in February 2013, the film has been screened at numerous film festivals and won awards in France, Russia, Italy, the US and India. At the Vesoul Film Festival of Asian Cinema in France, it won the prestigious Cyclo d’Or and Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) prizes. It has also been screened in Australia and released in dozens of Indian cinemas.

In Sri Lanka, all film screenings must be approved by the PPB, which comes under the Sri Lankan Ministry of Culture and the Arts. The PPB, which includes members of the defence ministry, wants virtually all comment on the Sri Lankan military removed from the film.

The PPB’s letter to Vithanage demanded the following cuts:

“1. At about the 50th minute, the film shows a soldier who had deserted the army as having a pistol. Soldiers who have deserted the army or those not reporting for service are not allowed to keep a pistol with them. Such scenes [in the film] could be misinterpreted and harm the stature of the army.

“2. The statement of the wife gives the impression that she was sent to the mountain area by her parents to prevent her from being raped by the military and it might distort the public’s understanding about the situation that prevailed at the time in North and East.

“3. The wife says that her two school-going brothers were killed by the military and it too shows that the military killed innocent students without any reason. Since it is not true, it is not suitable to be shown.

“4. Finally, questions such as, “How many Tamils have been killed by the military? How many of our girls have been raped by the military? How much gold was looted from us?” which were emotionally demanded by the lady from her husband, are not suitable and could be erroneously interpreted.”

In other words, the PPB wants Vithanage to remove any reference to the brutal conflict and the military’s war crimes, particularly during the last phase of the war in 2009. These crimes have been documented in a number of local and international reports.

With You, Without You does not explicitly portray these crimes or show a single battle scene or soldier in uniform. The movie is an exploration of how the war destroyed the marriage of a Tamil girl and her Sinhala husband. The film’s sparse dialogue accurately captures the sentiments and plight of tens of thousands of victims on both sides of the conflict.

The ban on With You, Without You is an intensification of the anti-democratic measures taken against filmmakers and artists during the war.

During the war, filmmakers who realistically portrayed Sri Lankan life or criticised the military had their work banned and were subjected to threats and violent attacks. Vithanage was one of only a handful of Sri Lankan artists who stood firm and continued to expose the reality of war in their works.

In 2000, the United People’s Freedom Alliance government of President Chandrika Kumaratunga banned Vithanage’s Death on Full Moon Day (1997), the first film in his anti-war trilogy. That film explored the impact of the conflict on an elderly Sinhala villager whose son was killed in the war.

In 2000, filmmaker Asoka Handagama’s This is My Moon was angrily denounced by high-ranking military officials and Sinhala racialists. Five years later, in 2005, the internationally acclaimed Forsaken Land (2005) by Vimukthi Jayasundara was withdrawn from Sri Lankan cinemas after threats from the military and Sinhala extremists.

Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara declared in Sri Lanka’s Sunday Times in 2005 that local film directors should make pro-military movies. Any film that “even indirectly contributed towards fulfilling [LTTE] objectives,” was “treason and should be dealt with severely,” he wrote. He specifically named Vithanage, Handagama, Jayasundara and Sudath Mahadivulwewa.

More than five years after the end of the war, President Mahinda Rajapakse’s government is acutely sensitive to any criticism of the Sri Lankan military. After fully backing the war against the LTTE and turning a blind eye to the military’s war crimes, the US is cynically exploiting the atrocities to put pressure on Rajapakse. This has nothing to do with defending “human rights” in Sri Lanka but is aimed at forcing the government to cut its ties with Beijing and fully embrace the US-led “pivot to Asia”—a diplomatic offensive and military build-up against China.

Having called an early presidential election, Rajapakse confronts a concerted effort by the opposition parties, tacitly supported by Washington, to engineer his electoral defeat. The common opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena, who split from the government shortly after the election was announced, is being falsely promoted as a great defender of democracy.

Significantly, neither Sirisena nor any of the opposition parties have issued a statement opposing the censorship of With You, Without You. All of them, like the government, are mired in Sinhala communal politics and backed Rajapakse’s war to the hilt. They have embraced the banner of “democracy” and enlisted in the US “human rights” campaign purely to advance their own interests and those of sections of the corporate elite.

Likewise, the Sri Lankan media, even as it reports the international success of With You, Without You, has dutifully fallen into line and is maintaining a deafening silence about the censorship of the prize-winning movie.

Workers, youth, artists and intellectuals in Sri Lanka and internationally must unconditionally condemn this act of censorship and demand the film’s immediate Sri Lankan release. These anti-democratic measures will inevitably be used against working people, regardless of whether Rajapakse or Sirisena wins next month’s presidential election.

‘Sri Lankan women cricketers sexually abused by bigwigs’


This 2014 cricket video is called Highlights: Sri Lanka Women Beating India.

By Kadeem Simmonds:

Sri Lankan women forced into sex acts

Thursday 6th November 2014

Cricketers were dropped from national team if they refused

Sri Lankan cricket was yesterday rocked by sexual misconduct allegations surrounding the women’s cricket team.

Sri Lanka’s sports minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage has ordered an independent inquiry after sickening reports in the local press that some of the national players had to perform sexual favours to officials in order to keep their place or break into the national side.

Reports also claim that players were dropped after refusing to engage in sex acts with sports officials.

“The minister wants to clear the air by getting this report investigated,” spokesman Harsha Abeykoon said. “We want to get to the bottom of it because this is bad for the image of the game and the country.”

The investigation will be run by a three-person panel, headed by a retired female judge and will begin within the next two days.

The findings of the inquiry will be reported at the next meeting held on November 12, at which point a decision will be made whether or not a full-scale investigation will be required.

Three bears rescued from poachers in Nepal


This video is called Close encounter with a Sloth BearYala National Park – Sri Lanka.

From Wildlife Extra:

Three bears rescued from poachers are doing well

After being rescued from poachers in Nepal by Wildlife SOS and International Animal Resuce (IAR) in December 2013, three sloth bears are reported to be doing well.

The bears had been kept by poachers until they had grown large enough for sale, and when they were old enough had been taken to India in an attempt to sell them to the Kalandar community, who had traditionally used bears for dancing. However, the practice of keeping dancing bears was made illegal in India in 1972, and in 2009 all dancing bears in the country were liberated. The poachers found that, as the Kalandar community no longer maintains the dancing bear tradition, they could not sell them the bears. As a result, the animals were taken back to Nepal, where it is believed they would have been sold to make bear paw soup.

They were fortunately apprehended by Wildlife SOS and local police from the forestry department. The bears, named Bean, Bintha, and Bobby, were moved to Bhagwan Birsa Biological Park in Ranchi for care, before being relocated to the Wildlife SOS Sanctuary where they are being cared for and rehabilitated with help from International Animal Rescue (IAR).

The oldest bear, Bean, was three-years-old when he was rescued from the poachers. He was found with a rope pierced through his nose, and his canines had been removed, most likely without anesthetic. Vets removed the rope from his nose and treated him for pain.

Bintha, who was 11-months-old at the time of rescue, also had her nose pierced and harnessed with a rope, and although it has healed, she still bears the scars.

According to Wildlife SOS, Bobby is the more reserved of the three. After he has spent time learning the basics of being a wild sloth bear in the sanctuary’s socialisation enclosure, he will be given access to a free-roaming area where he can live like a wild bear, but with the added security of having the Wildlife SOS team on-hand. All the bears now have a clean bill of health and continue to improve, socialising with the other bears at the sanctuary.

Sloth bears, which are found in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka (the Sri Lankan sloth bear), have been traditionally used as dancing bears. They are classified as vulnerable by the IUCN, with currently about 20,000 alive in the wild.