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Opinion: Guerre au Sri Lanka – Le Canada doit sortir de sa torpeur

May 20, 2009

Guerre au Sri Lanka – Le Canada doit sortir de sa torpeur

Christian Nadeau, Professeur au département de philosophie de l’Université de Montréal

Le Devoir

Édition du samedi 02 et du dimanche 03 mai 2009

Selon les Nations unies, 100 000 civils tentent ou ont tenté d’échapper à la zone des conflits depuis le début des hostilités au Sri Lanka le 20 avril. Ils sont pris en charge par le gouvernement dans des «camps de bien-être» que l’organisation Human Rights Watch a qualifiés de «camps d’internement» (Le Monde, 30 avril 2009).

La population tamoule est ainsi forcée à un exode sans précédent. Selon l’ONU, 6500 civils ont déjà perdu la vie en raison des combats, en plus de 14 000 blessés. En ces temps de grippe porcine, les préoccupations sanitaires voilent les yeux de la communauté internationale sur une tragédie à laquelle il faut à tout prix mettre un terme.
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Opinion: The War in Sri Lanka and the Left in Toronto

May 18, 2009

By Noaman Ali and Fathima Cader


photo by freelancer RJ

The recent burst of mass mobilizations by sections of the Canadian-Tamil community in Toronto has brought to the fore several contradictions concerning the conflict in Sri Lanka and its presence in and connection to Canada. Mainstream media’s responses to the protests have been overwhelmingly racialist, exposing many of the limits of Canadian multiculturalism. In order for Canadian multiculturalism to accept any given group of people as a cultural community, it must define that group by differentiating it from a supposedly mainstream Canadian identity. This focalising Canadian identity—in effect a non-identity—is white and middle-class. Thus, when the Toronto Star publishes an editorial entitled “Protesters vs. the public” [1] it effectively notes that the protesters are not part of the public by pitting (Tamil) protesters against the (Canadian) public. Rather than focusing on the war, media outlets have focused on the inconvenience posed to commuters, thereby shifting attention away from deaths in Sri Lanka to traffic regulations in Canada. Read more…

News: Canadian Academics for Tamil Rights – Statement on the Crisis in Sri Lanka

May 17, 2009

Canadian Academics for Tamil Rights
Statement on the Crisis in Sri Lanka

We are writing to express our grave concerns about the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in the “safe zone” in the Vanni region of Sri Lanka. Most independent observers estimate that more than 200,000 Tamil civilians, many already displaced multiple times, have been under siege in the tiny coastal strip with at least 50,000 still there. Confirmed reports indicate that more than 4000 civilians, including 700 children, have been killed since January 2009.

Displaced persons who have managed to flee the fighting have been placed in de facto detention camps by the Sri Lankan government where they are denied freedom of movement, in contravention of international standards. There are over 40,000 displaced people being held in 13 sites in the Vavuniya District in overcrowded conditions without adequate access to healthcare, food and water. There are reports of rape, torture and killings in the camps (Medico International, Germany, April 16, 2009). Civilians who are suspected of LTTE ties have been taken into government custody, leading to fears of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings, tactics the government and its allied militias have employed in significant numbers over the past few years (Amnesty International, ASA 37/004/2009).
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Opinion: The War of Words — The Politics of Genocide: Part II

May 15, 2009

By Chandra Almeida

Read Part I here:

photo by freelancer RJ

Genocide is not the “crime of crimes”. – International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur

The legal and moral meanings of the word “genocide” have parted ways. As a result, lawyers and journalists talk past each other, and politicians suddenly find a convenient linguistic excuse for doing nothing. That is not just semantics. – Professor David Luban, Chicago Journal of International Law

Sri Lanka would not be the first instance where international reaction to mass atrocities is almost always confined to press releases, lopsided actions by states and military-diplomatic and financial support for state parties committing crimes (including from the West). There’s a considerable list of mass atrocities committed against civilian populations (targeted for their group identity) — from the massacre of Hutus in Burundi to ethnically targeted mass killings in Indonesia among others.

Unless genocide terminology is invoked, mass atrocities carried out in systematic and relentless ways are almost always hidden under generic labels like humanitarian disaster, civil war, complex emergency etc., which de-prioritize them for meaningful international action. Even the term ethnic cleansing has not been evoked vis-à-vis Sri Lanka where Tamils face the brunt of a conventional and counterinsurgency/counter terrorism campaign. Read more…

Opinion: War of Words: Part I

May 15, 2009

By Chandra Almeida

Save Genocide

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” – George Orwell, Politics and the English Language

Genocide has become such an emotive and powerful word — it recalls the horrors of the Holocaust and Rwanda in our popular psyche, and so is seen as the crime that demands immediate international intervention among the public at large.

Hip Hopster M.I.A should stick to singing and not dabble in anti-genocide advocacy for Sri Lanka, or so her not-so-hip critics charge. They claim this is the preserve of ivory tower denizens, or comparably able minds. Not even Arundhati Roy is welcome at this exclusive club. Volleys of withering criticism have been directed by mostly Sri Lankans, seemingly concerned for the plight of Tamils, but really worried about the conflict moving beyond the counterinsurgency/counter-terrorism context or the obscurity of civil war. Read more…

Video Interview: Both Sides of the Sri Lankan Conflict

May 15, 2009

Al Jazeera English: Interview: Both sides of the Sri Lankan conflict – 2 May 2009

What is happening in Sri Lanka’s war zone is practically impossible to verify because independent observers and journalists have little or no access to the area.

In an attempt to gain some clarity, Al Jazeera’s Imran Garda spoke to Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, a spokesman for the Sri Lankan military, and Thileepan Parthipan, a representative from the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

News: Statement by Lasantha Wickramatunga’s wife on World Press Freedom Day

May 14, 2009

by Sonali Samarasinghe Wickrematunge

(Widow of Lasantha Wickrematunge, 2009 UNESCO World Press Freedom Laureate)

Your Highness, Mr Director-General, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:

On behalf of my late husband and fellow journalist, Lasantha Wickrematunge, I wish to thank you most sincerely for this great honour you have done him. Lasantha would have been so proud, so humbled, to have known that an august, independent, international jury of his peers had seen in him, a fit candidate to receive this prize. On his behalf, and on behalf of fellow journalists worldwide who continue to risk life and liberty, to provide for us, all the freedoms we so cherish, from the bottom of my heart I thank you. His parents and his children will be so proud, to know of the recognition you have given their son, their father… as indeed am I, now his widow.

The fact that Lasantha is the second journalist to be honoured posthumously since this prize was created 12 years ago is testimony to the risk many journalists run in the pursuit of their calling. Two years ago you honoured Anna Politkovskaya, an unapologetic critic of military and political excess, who was brutally murdered in Moscow in October 2006.
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