21 September, 2020

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Sri Lankan President Cancels Speech In London Over Protest Fears – The Guardian

By  and / The Guardian –

The president of Sri Lanka has been forced to cancel a keynote speech in the City of London after concerns about the threat of large demonstrations by Tamil rights groups.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has been accused of presiding over human rightsabuses after allegations of war crimes by Sri Lankan armed forces, will still attend a lunch for the Queen, hosted by the Commonwealth secretary general at Marlborough House on Pall Mall.

The Sri Lankan president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, and his wife, Shiranthi, at a diamond jubilee reception at Guildhall in central London. Photograph: Chris Jackson/PA

Rajapaksa was set to give the keynote speech at a special diamond jubilee meeting of the Commonwealth Economic Forum on Wednesday morning, but the event’s organisers, the Commonwealth Business Council, stated on its website: “After careful consideration, the morning sessions of the Forum … will not take place.” Tickets to the event cost £795 plus VAT.

A spokesman for Scotland Yard said it had agreed to guarantee the president’s security but the CBC had “decided it was not in their interest to stage the event” because of the extent of the policing required and the likely disruption to the City of London.

Fred Carver, campaign director of the Sri Lanka Campaign, welcomed the news, calling it a “testament” to the campaign. But as Rajapaksa was still set to have lunch with the Queen, protests are expected outside the Hilton hotel on Park Lane where the president is staying.

“It is absolutely not appropriate for President Rajapaksa to be feted by the Queen at the behest of the Commonwealth secretary general,” said Carver. “It is likely Assad learned some lessons from the way the international community tolerated [many more] civilian casualties in Sri Lanka. What lessons will Assad learn from seeing how quickly the international community rehabilitates those responsible?”

Sen Kandiah, founder of the British Tamil Forum, said: “Common sense has prevailed. There is now enough evidence that allegations of war crimes in Sri Lanka lead directly to the president himself. That is why British government officials are reluctant to meet him. He is not welcome here.”

The protests come after a Sri Lankan man, who was left scarred and suicidal after two weeks of tortureaccused the British government of forcibly deporting asylum seekers who are then tortured in Sri Lanka.

The victim told the Guardian he was tortured over the space of 17 days after being deported from the UK last year. His torturers accused him of passing on to British officials information about previous beatings at the hands of state officials and other human rights abuses to ruin diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The coalition is coming under increasing pressure to revisit a policy that suggests it is safe to return Tamils to Sri Lanka. Last week the high court halted the deportation of 40 people to the island at the last minute, citing human rights concerns.

In an in-depth interview, the former member of the rebel Tamil Tigers’ intelligence service said he was tortured after the Home Office deported him and two dozen other asylum seekers in June 2011. More than 70 UK border guards accompanied girls and men on the flight from Stansted airport last summer after a last-minute judicial review and his initial claim for asylum, based on previous evidence of torture, were turned down by UK authorities, he said.

Speaking through a translator, the victim, who wants to be identified only as Hari for fear of further retribution by Sri Lankan authorities, said that six months after he was deported, security personnel arrested him and beat him with rods, put petrol-filled plastic bags over his face and hung him by his feet with a nylon rope. Hari’s back displays a welter of scars and the Guardian has seen medical reports supporting his claims.

Hari managed to bribe his jailers and escape back to the UK via Russia and is now filing a second claim for asylum. “I came here with a hope,” he said. “I believed that the UK authorities would consider my case reasonably but, regardless of all my history and the evidence, they sent me back and I had to suffer again.”

Last week, the UK government forcibly deported several other Sri Lankans, ignoring pleas from human rights organisations to halt flights in the face of mounting evidence that UK and European returnees have been tortured.

The Home Office has insisted it is safe to return Tamils to Sri Lanka after the end of a long civil war and quotes a European court ruling that “not all Tamil asylum seekers require protection”. However, officials are facing increasing pressure to change their policy.

In a dramatic turn of events, a senior high court judge last week halted up to 40 deportations from taking place as the plane waited on the tarmac.

Citing evidence from Human Rights Watch that returnees were being tortured on arrival, the judgment granted a last-minute reprieve. Drafted by Justice Eady and seen by Channel 4 News, it is reported to have said: “The recent Human Rights Watch report, dated 29 May 2012, suggests that there may be new evidence relevant to the risk of ill treatment.”

Human Rights Watch said that in one of the 13 cases it had taken up, the UK’s immigration and asylum chamber had accepted that a woman who managed to make her way back to the UK in late 2010 after having been deported by Border Agency staff was tortured and raped on her forcible return to Sri Lanka.

A spokesman for the British Tamils Forum said the Human Rights Watch cases were likely to be “just the tip of the iceberg”.

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Latest comments

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    I have a feeling these demos will certainly help MR to portray himself as a victim of foreign conspiracy back home.In addition, he may embark on an act of revenge with the local population by giving the military a free hand to increase their “service” to defend the country from terrorists.

  • 0
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    This is a very complex issue with no easy answers. On the one hand, most Sri Lankans in general now enjoy a peaceful everyday existence since the conclusion of the war, facilitated by a determined leadership that included both military and civilian participation.

    On the other hand, there are many contentious issues that detract from the country emerging as a modern, mature democracy, where deficiencies in administration play a significant role.

    There is also the issue of powerful foreign lobbies which seem oblivious to the positive aspects of post-war developments and are single-mindedly pursuing a rather narrow agenda, much to the detriment of the general image of Sri Lanka as a country.

    Finally, there are the few foreign governments which had fervently wished to prolong the conflict in order to maintain their roles as honest broker while actually benefitting in terms of geo-political strategy and regional power-play advantages.

    Concentrated power is known to be corruptive. Whilst strong leadership in the right hands can be critical for the success of a commercial entity, it could damage the delicate fabric of society if misused in government.

    The need for countervailing power from the international community in such circumstances must be accompanied by sincere intentions, where the objective is to ensure balance, fairness and equitability within a framework of justice. The development of these ideals should not be hijacked for the sake of insincere, self-serving agendas.

  • 0
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    The lengths to which the Western Press will go to humiliate our President is reflected clearly by the Headline of this article in The Guardian. Are these Moronic Journalists not aware that it was not The President who cancelled the speech, but the spineless Commonwealth Business Council which succumbed to the pressure exerted by the Tamil Diaspora.

  • 0
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    Every srilankan aware that CBF cancelled the speech due to security reasons.Some journos do not grasp the facts of the stories but make their own assumptions and misinterpret the stories. This is the present day education. Whether it’s the BBC or guardian or the Times. They should be taught to publish the true facts, by their guild.As we know the modified versions of the stories ends up in courts for defamation sometimes.

  • 0
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    Dude looks pretty shaken. Lol. Must have got scared to the reception he got in London!

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