Elephant calf rescued from drain in Sri Lanka


This video says about itself:

29 May 2016

A young elephant has been rescued from an uncovered drain in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port.

Locals workers joined forces with wildlife officials to use an array of basic tools to carry out the rescue operation.

The animal was taken away for treatment with a suspected broken leg.

United States ‘liberal hawk’ Samantha Power praises Sri Lankan human rights violators


This video from the USA says about itself:

Code Pink: ‘We see Samantha Power as a war hawk’

19 November 2014

A group of activists belonging to the anti-war group Code Pink interrupted the panel between Jorge Ramos and U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power at Fusion’s RiseUp event in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday …

Ramos caught up backstage with the activists after their intervention.

We see no future in war. “We are appalled that Samantha Power, who’s our diplomat, is now saying that military actions are the solution.”

By Kumaran Ira, exile from Sri Lanka:

UN Ambassador Samantha Power hails Sri Lanka as human rights champion

10 May 2016

At the recent US-Sri Lanka Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council Meeting in Washington, Samantha Power, the US permanent representative to the UN, took the time to promote the US “pivot to Asia” aimed to isolate and prepare war against China. She hailed Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s government, which was installed by Washington in January 2015 as part of the “pivot to Asia,” for its human rights record.

Power said Sirisena’s regime has made “extraordinary progress,” claiming, “Sri Lanka has, since January 2015, emerged as a global champion of human rights and democratic accountability.”

Power is lying through her teeth. The Sirisena government is no such thing. In fact, its violations of democratic rights and its flagrant contempt for the workers and toiling masses of Sri Lanka make fairly clear what kind of local allies Washington is relying on to carry out its “pivot to Asia,” behind a veil of empty and hypocritical “democratic” rhetoric.

The Sirisena government are burying the war crimes committed by the previous Rajapakse regime. Thousands are still missing after the civil war ended with the massacre of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009, killing tens of thousands. Many top Sirisena officials are deeply implicated in these crimes, with Sirisena himself having served as Rajapakse’s acting defence minister at the end of the civil war.

War victims’ families have protested, demanding the government release their relatives disappeared during the war. The Tamil minority in the North and East of Sri Lanka are still under military occupation since the end of civil war, and thousands are still living in makeshift camps in deplorable conditions. Hundreds of political prisoners of all ethnicities have been held without trial in prisons for years.

All these demands have been brushed aside by Sirisena, as well as his Tamil nationalist allies in the Tamil National Alliance. Even after Tamil political prisoners staged a hunger strike demanding their release, the Sirisena government brazenly insisted that there are no political prisoners in Sri Lanka.

The Sirisena government has cracked down on opposition to its austerity agenda from workers, students, and farmers. It resorted to legal frame-ups against tea estate workers protesting poor working conditions and obtained injunctions to prevent bank employees’ protests. When it faced large-scale protests by farmers against subsidy cuts and low prices for their products, and by students against education cuts, it ordered security forces to brutally attack the protesters.

Though Power and other top US diplomatic officials have repeatedly visited Colombo and are excellently informed of Sirisena’s attacks on democratic rights, Power claimed Washington’s regime in Colombo is overseeing an unprecedented flowering of democracy.

Power stated, “When I visited in November, the change since my last visit in 2010 was palpable. People told me that it felt as though a repressive climate of fear had been lifted and that they could breathe again. Activists felt safe to work openly and, of course, to criticize the Government with new fervor. Journalists reported freely; political prisoners were being released; land was being returned to the people; and the internally displaced were beginning to go home in new numbers. As part of its determination to deal with the abuses of the past, moreover, the Government had committed to justice and reconciliation processes to try to serve all Sri Lankans.”

Who does Power think she is kidding? A broad and growing body of public evidence points to a surge in human rights violations after Sirisena’s election, including abductions, torture, and rape, in an unsuccessful effort to silence broad popular opposition through state terror.

Recently, the International Truth and Justice Project-Sri Lanka published a report based on interviews with 20 Tamils abducted last year.

Their testimony was confirmed by physical evidence of torture including scarring, and by psychological or psychiatric symptoms of torture and sexual abuse. Torture methods included “beating, whipping, burning with cigarettes, branding with heated metal rods, water torture, asphyxiation in a plastic bag soaked in petrol or chilli and tied around their necks, hanging upside down, beating on the soles of the feet and the use of electric currents through their body”.

One torture victim, originally from a village in Sri Lanka’s east and now living in London, said he had signed a false confession to being a Tamil Tiger fighter after members of the security forces burned him repeatedly. “I don’t think there has been change, I don’t think there has been any change under the new government,” he said.

As she sings the praises of the Sirisena government with its torture chambers and detention camps as an exemplar of democracy, Power is engaging in what she has made her particular specialty: the justification of US foreign policy under the fraudulent banner of “human rights.” As the Director of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of the National Security Council in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2013, she was a leading advocate of the so-called R2P (responsibility to protect civilians) policy. It served as the justification for Obama’s “humanitarian” wars.

Power was a leading architect of the US-NATO war for regime-change in Libya, which ousted and murdered Muammar Gaddafi, killing tens of thousands and devastating the country, claiming this was necessary to protect Libyans’ human rights against Gaddafi.

At the UN in 2014, she backed the Israeli massacre of Palestinians in Gaza, blocking the UN Security Council’s passage of any binding resolution imposing a ceasefire. She warned that any attribution of blame on Israel is a “red line” for Washington.

It is fitting therefore that she should be chosen to give Sirisena’s reactionary policies a hypocritical “democratic” gloss, as Washington tries to ensure that Colombo will be a reliable partner for preparing war and suppressing opposition in the working class throughout Asia.

THE FUTURE OF THE ASIA PIVOT “As [President Barack] Obama’s time in office comes to an end, Asian nations are deeply skeptical about how much they can rely on Washington’s commitment and staying power in the region. They sense that for the first time in memory, Americans are questioning whether their economic and defense interests in Asia are really that vital.” [NYT]

A US Pacific Command (PACOM)-led team of military experts concluded a week-long Operation Pacific Angel exercise in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province on August 23. The exercise was part of the expanding links between the US military and Sri Lankan security forces, under the guise of providing humanitarian assistance: here.

Sri Lankan woman’s death penalty for false Saudi ‘adultery’ accusation


This video is about the horrible beheading of Ms Laila Bint Abdul Muttalib Basim in Saudi Arabia. Not fit to watch for children and sensitive people.

By Pani Wijesiriwardena in Sri Lanka:

Sri Lankan housemaid faces execution in Saudi Arabia

5 December 2015

Saudi Arabian authorities are about to carry out another barbaric execution: the public stoning to death of a Sri Lankan domestic worker. The 45-year-old woman, who worked in Riyadh since 2013, was convicted by a Sharia court for alleged adultery last August.

The Saudi monarchy maintains these reactionary laws as part of its repressive rule directed particularly against the working class, including the country’s estimated nine million foreign workers. This case also highlights the Sri Lankan government’s disregard for the plight of hundreds of thousands of citizens working in the Middle East.

The woman, whose name has been withheld by the Sri Lankan government and media, is reportedly a mother of three from Colombo. She went to Saudi Arabia to work as a housemaid in 2013. In 2014, she was arrested for allegedly committing adultery and after a trial beginning in March 2014 was found guilty of the charge.

The Colombo-based Sunday Leader, however, reported that the convicted woman had told her husband that she fled her employer because of unbearable living conditions and was arrested by police. Her husband sought the help of the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) by lodging a complaint.

The plight of the woman has been widely condemned by human rights groups in Sri Lanka and internationally. In response, the Sri Lankan government has made token efforts to intervene on her behalf. SLBFE spokesman Upul Deshapriya told Arab News that the government has contacted the Saudi authorities to seek a review of the death sentence.

Nalin Rajapakse, media secretary for Foreign Employment Minister Thalatha Athukorala, said that since the maid had already pleaded guilty, the conviction could not be overturned. He said the minister had hired a lawyer and filed an appeal before the Riyadh Court requesting that it reduce the punishment.”

The government’s priority, however, is to maintain good relations with the Saudi regime and thus the flow of remittances from migrant workers back to Sri Lanka. The attitude of President Maithripala Sirisena and the present government is no different to that of the previous government of President Mahinda Rajapakse.

In 2013, Saudi uthorities beheaded a young Sri Lankan housemaid Rizana Nafeek, who had been convicted for murdering her employer’s infant child. The Rajapakse government made no effort to help in her legal defence or to prevent the execution. Nafeek had no training in looking after infants and evidence came to light that the death had been accidental.

Even after a Saudi court sentenced her to death in 2007, the government refused to provide financial assistance for an appeal. Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Minister Keheliya Rambukwella declared that it was “important not to violate Saudi Arabia’s domestic laws.”

Tens of thousands of poverty-stricken male and female workers seek jobs in Middle Eastern countries. According to Central Bank of Sri Lanka statistics, 279,952 Sri Lankans went to work in the Middle East in 2014. Total remittances from migrant workers were more than $7 billion in 2014, mainly from Middle Eastern countries. Remittances account for about 9 percent of Sri Lanka’s gross domestic product.

One of the main destinations of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from South Asia is Saudi Arabia. Under that country’s law, workers have virtually no rights. Domestic workers in particular are ill-treated, work as slaves and are not properly paid.

Indonesia announced in May that it had decided not to send workers to Middle East countries after two housemaids were executed after being found guilty of murder. The Indonesian government, which was seeking to deflect the mass outrage over the executions, said its decision would be implemented in 15 months. Like Sri Lanka, Indonesia is dependent on migrant workers as a lucrative source of foreign exchange.

Foreign workers are particularly vulnerable as they do not read or speak Arabic. According to Amnesty International, they are not provided with adequate translations of the proceedings in court.

James Lynch, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program, commented: “The Saudi Arabian authorities appear intent on continuing a bloody execution spree which has seen at least 151 people put to death so far this year—an average of one person every two days.” In 2014, according to Amnesty International, the total number of executions carried out in Saudi Arabia was 90.

“The use of the death penalty is abhorrent in any circumstance but it is especially alarming that the Saudi Arabian authorities continue to use it in violation of international human rights law and standards, on such a wide scale, and after trials which are grossly unfair and sometimes politically motivated,” Lynch said.

As for the Sri Lankan government, it is seeking to defuse mounting public anger over the looming execution, while ensuring not to offend the Saudi regime. Sri Lankan Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Azmi Thassim, told Arab News that authorities were “vigilant about the progress of the appeal made to the Saudi Court of Appeal” and hoped that “the sentence would be lessened.”

At the same time, Thassim found fault with the Sri Lankan media for criticising Saudi laws. He also implied that the 45-year-old woman was responsible for her own fate. “The problem lies with the lack of awareness of local laws. If someone is not happy with the laws of the Kingdom, they should choose not to come,” he said.

Five things that Saudi Arabian women still cannot do: here.

US arms sale to Saudi Arabia criticised by human rights groups. More than 2,500 civilians have been killed in Yemen mostly in air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition: here.

Saving blue whales in Sri Lanka


This 2011 video is called World’s Largest Blue Whale colony – Discovered in Sri Lanka.

From Wildlife Extra:

Simple solution proposed to save Blue Whales from being struck by ships

Research into Blue Whale distribution around one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and analysing their fatal collisions with ships has led scientists to offer a simple solution to the deadly threat.

Heavy ship traffic crossing the Indian Ocean passes close to the southern coast of Sri Lanka, bringing it into waters also occupied by the endangered Blue Whale, the largest animal on the planet.

Survey work coordinated by the University of Ruhuna in Sri Lanka, local whale watch operator Raja and the Whales, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Biosphere Foundation and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) in 2014 and 2015, was carried out with the aim of finding ways to address Blue Whale deaths in the ship strike hotspot off the coast of Mirissa.

A paper on the findings, Distribution patterns of blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) and shipping off southern Sri Lanka, was recently accepted for publication in Regional Studies in Marine Science.

Eleven Blue Whales are known to have been killed by ships between January 2010 and April 2012 but the true number of ship strike-related deaths is likely to be much higher as for part of the year the current and winds are offshore, meaning additional whales could have been killed but their carcasses not found.

Surveys conducted perpendicular to the shipping lane were used to determine the relative density of whales close to the shore, both in the existing shipping lane and further offshore. The highest density of Blue Whales was observed in the shipping lanes.

Previous data on Blue Whale distribution and coastal upwellings (a process by which deep, cold water usually rich in nutrients rises towards the surface) indicates consistent and predictable patterns of whale distribution. This provides considerable potential for effective measures to keep ships and whales apart.

Data from the study suggests the risk to Blue Whales could be reduced by 95 per cent if the shipping lane was to be moved slightly so that traffic passes 15 nautical miles further south than at present.

Patrick Ramage, IFAW’s Global Whale Programme Director, says: “It is not often that a serious threat to whales can be so easily resolved and at minimal cost, but here we clearly see not only the problem, but also a straightforward practical solution which can prevent more endangered Blue Whales from suffering fatal ship strikes.

“A little more analysis is needed before Sri Lanka can start the process of asking for the shipping lane to be moved, but we are confident that this step will result in a dramatic reduction in the number of fatal collisions involving this great whale.”

Vivek Menon, Executive Director of WTI, adds: “Moving the shipping lane this short distance would provide a positive solution for all. It would increase protection for whales and whale watching boats in the area and therefore also help tourism.”

Researchers estimated that more than 1,000 interactions between blue whales and ships are likely to occur each year. An interaction is defined as an incident where a collision would have occurred if neither ship nor whale had taken avoiding action. Moving the shipping lanes could reduce this to around 50.

Shipping lanes in other parts of the world have been successfully moved in similar circumstances. In 2007, a shipping lane in the approaches to Boston Harbour in America was moved in order to lower the risk of collision with Right Whales by avoiding the main area of density, cutting the risk of collision by an estimated 58 per cent.

In order for the shipping lane to be moved, Sri Lanka will need to bring forward a proposal for consideration by the International Maritime Organisation. Additional data continues to be gathered and further analyses will be coordinated through the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission.

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.