UN expands presence in Afghanistan with new office in the north

9 May 2009The United Nations opened its 20th office in Afghanistan today, in the northern Sar-i-Pul province, continuing the world body’s drive to promote development across the country. “I consider this opening to be especially important, because it reflects one of our most important objectives to draw more attention and resources to the poorest provinces,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Kai Eide said at a ceremony marking the event.Mr. Eide, who heads the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said that the poor and the stable provinces in the Central and Northern parts of the country cannot continue to be neglected. Pledging to push for an equitable and astute distribution of assistance to the people of Sar-i-Pul and across Afghanistan, he warned that if we allow “this feeling of unfairness to continue, then the result could be instability where there is today stability.”The new office in Sar-i-Pul aims to introduce agricultural reform as to avoid the constant humanitarian crises of the past, as well as devote attention to human rights, particularly the rights of women. “Afghanistan needs the resources and talents that its women can bring to the development of the country,” he said. “It is a not just a question of human rights of individuals, but also the future of the entire country.”Mr. Eide also used the occasion to urge the people of Afghanistan to ensure that the upcoming presidential and provincial elections are free of corruption and compliant with the country’s Constitution and laws.Earlier this week, the Special Representative opened a UNAMA office in Tirin Kot, the capital of the southern province of Uruzgan, stating that the “opening of our office should serve as a signal encouraging others to come and work in this province.”UNAMA’s other offices are located in Mazar-e-Sharif, Kunduz, Heart, Kandahar, Nangarhar, Bamyan, Kabul, Gardez, Ghor, Kunar, Khost, Nimroz, Badghis, Maimana, Uruzgan, Faizabad, Daikundi and Zabul provinces. In addition, the mission has liaison offices in the Iranian capital of Tehran and the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. read more


Ban voices concern as Myanmars Aung San Suu Kyi faces new charges

“The Secretary-General believes that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is an essential partner for dialogue in Myanmar’s national reconciliation and calls on the Government not to take any further action that could undermine this important process,” according to a statement issued by his spokesperson.Ms. Suu Kyi, who leads the National League for Democracy (NLD), and all those who have a contribution to make to the future of their country “must be free to be able to do so to ensure that the political process is credible,” the statement added.According to information received by the independent UN expert on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Ms. Suu Kyi and two aides were escorted this morning by security forces to Insein Prison, where they were charged by a special court. They are currently detained in the Insein compound and their trial has been scheduled for 18 May.“I call on the Government of Myanmar to release Aung San Suu Kyi and her aides unconditionally,” stated Special Rapporteur Tomás Ojea Quintana, who reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.The new charges, according to a news release issued in Geneva, are said to be in connection with the recent intrusion of an American citizen into the home of Ms. Suu Kyi. “Since her house is well guarded by security forces, the responsibility for preventing such intrusions, and alerting the authorities, lies with the security forces and not with Aung San Suu Kyi and her aides,” Mr. Ojea Quintana said. He added that in order to ensure national reconciliation and democratic transition, to which the Myanmar leadership has committed itself, all 2,156 prisoners of conscience currently detained by the authorities should be released before the 2010 elections.Mr. Ojea Quintana, who works in an independent and unpaid capacity, has visited Myanmar twice since he was appointed to his post in May 2008, most recently this past February. 14 May 2009Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is “gravely concerned” about the news that detained pro-democracy leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for several years, has been moved to Myanmar’s Insein Prison to face criminal charges. read more


50000th Myanmar refugee leaves Thailand for new life in US UN reports

An ethnic Karenni schoolteacher is the 50,000th refugee from Myanmar sheltering in Thailand who has left to begin a new life in the United States, marking a milestone for the world’s largest resettlement operation, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) announced today.Since 1996, Plu Reh had been living in the Ban Mai Nai Soi camp – where he had taught primary school – in northern Thailand since 1996. Along with his wife and 2-year-old daughter, he left Bangkok this morning on a 28-hour journey that will ultimately take him to Camden, New Jersey.Before departing, he “spoke optimistically to our staff about the opportunities in the United States for a good education for his daughter and for further education for himself and his wife,” UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler said.Resettlement from the nine refugee camps along the Thai-Myanmar border began in 2004, but picked up pace in early 2005 when the US offered homes to the uprooted.“For refugees around the world, return to their home country is usually the preferred option,” Mr. Spindler said.But most of the Myanmar refugees, most of whom had been for over two decades in Thailand where they are not allowed to settle permanently, do not see any chance of returning to their home country.“So for them, resettlement in a third country is the best option,” the UNHCR spokesperson said, expressing gratitude to countries such as the US, Canada, Australia, Finland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden for offering refugees a chance to restart their lives.Currently, 112,000 registered Myanmar refugees live in the nine camps, and the agency expects to resettle a further 6,000-7,000 this year. 30 June 2009An ethnic Karenni schoolteacher is the 50,000th refugee from Myanmar sheltering in Thailand who has left to begin a new life in the United States, marking a milestone for the world’s largest resettlement operation, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) announced today. read more


SecretaryGeneral voices concern after major earthquake hits Haiti

12 January 2010Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today voiced concern for the people of Haiti as well as the United Nations staff there after a major earthquake struck off the coast of the impoverished Caribbean nation. “My heart goes out to the people of Haiti after this devastating earthquake,” he said in a statement issued on Tuesday night. “I am receiving initial reports and following developments closely.”The 7.0-magnitude quake reportedly hit south-west of the capital, Port-au-Prince, late this afternoon. The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping said that contacts with the UN on the ground have been severely hampered as communications networks in Haiti have been disabled by the quake.“For the moment, a large number of personnel remain unaccounted for,” Alain Le Roy said in a statement. He added that the headquarters of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) in Port-au-Prince has sustained serious damage along with other UN installations.“The Department of Peacekeeping Operations is still in the process of gathering information on the extent of the damage and the status of UN personnel,” stated Mr. Le Roy.MINUSTAH was set up in 2004 and currently has more than 9,000 military and police personnel and nearly 2,000 civilian staff. read more


Côte dIvoire UN condemns violence at political gathering in Abidjan

According to media reports, youths armed with sticks attacked a rally organized by the Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI) party of former president Laurent Gbagbo in Abidjan, the country’s commercial capital, on Saturday, disrupting the meeting.The UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) urged the authorities “to take the appropriate action to find out the truth about the circumstances, nature and extent of the incidents, in order to identify those responsible with a view to taking the required measures in accordance with the law.”The mission also appealed to the people of Côte d’Ivoire and supporters of all political parties to exercise restraint and work for national reconciliation and the consolidation of peace.The West African nation is emerging from a crisis that ended in mid-April, when Mr. Gbagbo finally surrendered, ending months of violence in the wake of his refusal to step down after he lost last November’s UN-certified run-off election to Alassane Ouattara, who was sworn in as President in May.The country now faces a number of key post-crisis tasks, including the restoration of law and order, national reconciliation, the holding of legislative elections, and economic recovery.Cote 10 October 2011The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire today condemned acts of violence at a political gathering in Abidjan over the weekend and appealed for calm to enable campaigning for the forthcoming legislative elections to proceed in a peaceful atmosphere. read more


Canadian insolvencies rising for first time since recession

OTTAWA — The number of Canadians who can’t pay their debts and are being forced into insolvency is on the rise for the first time since the recession, according to a report by CIBC.The bank says the cumulative number of insolvencies rose by 1.2 per cent in the six-month period ended in February.The overall increase came as personal bankruptcies fell by 4.7 per cent. However the number of proposals, where consumers negotiate to repay only a portion of their debt, rose by no less than nine per cent.CIBC economist Benjamin Tal noted the affect of lower oil prices is starting to show.The number of insolvencies in Manitoba and Saskatchewan rose by almost 11 per cent, while Alberta saw an increase of 6.5 per cent.In contrast, the number of insolvencies in Ontario fell by almost seven per cent.“Zooming in on the situation in Alberta, there are reasons to believe that the coming quarters will see continued deterioration,” Tal wrote in the report.Weak oil prices have prompted some of the industry’s biggest names to cut capital spending plans for this year and reduce staff in order to lower costs.For example, Trican Well Service announced last week that it would cut 2,000 people from its North American workforce, just the latest firm to make such a decision.More seniors filing for insolvency with bigger debts than young, report saysCredit counselling in high demand in Alberta as oilpatch downturn hits homeTal noted the shift to proposals followed changes in 2008 that increased to $250,000 from $75,000 the limit of non-mortgage debt that can be considered under such arrangements, making the option more attractive than bankruptcy.“The opposing trajectories of proposals and bankruptcies have led to a situation in which proposals now account for a record-high 50 per cent of total insolvencies,” Tal said.The Bank of Canada and others have suggested consumer debt is a key risk to the economy.A prolonged period of low interest rates has helped boost household debt to record levels. Statistics Canada reported earlier this year that households in the fourth-quarter of last year owed about $1.63 in consumer credit, mortgage and non-mortgage loans for every dollar of disposable income.However, data also suggests that while Canadian families are borrowing more, that increase has come against a backdrop of rising asset values, notably real estate worth.Tal noted that if interest rates start to increase, the number of insolvencies could  rise even further.“Given the increased sensitivity of Canadian households to higher interest rates, it is reasonable to expect that, as opposed to previous cycles, the upcoming interest rate tightening cycle will lead to a moderate increase in the insolvency rate,” Tal wrote.The CIBC report noted that delinquency rates continue to trend downward in all major types of borrowing, with the exception of lines of credit, where the delinquency rate has been on the rise in recent years.“This trajectory largely reflects transfer of risk from credit cards to lines of credit,” Tal wrote. read more


More Canadians are saying the countrys housing is unaffordable regardless of income

OTTAWA — Feel like a house in your city is unaffordable? Apparently, you’re not alone.A new poll suggests that just over two in five Canadians believe housing in this country is not affordable for them, a finding that cuts almost evenly across income levels.The poll by EKOS Research appears even more bleak in some of Canada’s hottest housing markets, where only a small sliver of respondents said they believe homes are affordable.The data closely lines up with more formal benchmarks the federal government uses to measure affordability, as well as other data about the cost of housing, whether purchased or rented.The Trudeau government has promised a national housing strategy to help Canadians find and afford suitable housing, part of a larger strategy to reduce poverty. But the poll suggests the government is also dealing with public fears about affordability.Mortgage rate hike looms as Canadians hit near-record debtHas Poloz been more hawkish than people think? The July 12 rate decision will offer up some clues“It’s a deeply troubling finding that in certain portions of Canada, either geographically or societally, that this is a crisis level,” said Frank Graves, president of EKOS Research.The poll found about half of respondents who consider themselves poor or working class believe that the cost of local housing is beyond their means. The rate was 38 per cent and 37 per cent, respectively, with respondents who consider themselves middle or upper class.Looking at cities, only six per cent of respondents in Toronto and two per cent in Vancouver said they believe housing was affordable. In Calgary, the number was 11 per cent; in Montreal, 22 per cent.The results of the telephone poll of 5,658 Canadians, conducted between June 1 and 19, are considered accurate to within 1.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.The federal government hopes to halve the number of the hardest-to-help homeless, lifting tens of thousands out of “core housing need” — meaning they spend more than one-third of their before-tax income on housing that may be substandard or doesn’t meet their needs.The Liberal government believes the biggest impact could be on renters who are stretched financially in many of Canada’s biggest cities.Research from the University of Calgary’s school of public policy finds that affordability crunch is most acute in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto, where a low-income family can spend upwards of half their income on the lowest-priced apartments.Different situations in different cities make crafting a national housing strategy a challenge, because it must account for regional variations in incomes and costs, the school says in its June research note.Municipal leaders are asking the government to prioritize federal spending on repair existing and construct new affordable housing units to deal with chronic shortages and deepening poverty in Canada. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is also recommending the government provide direct housing support newcomers to Canada and provide more help for indigenous peoples living in urban centres.The recommendations are part of a submission to the Liberals’ anti-poverty strategy consultations.The Canadian Press read more


Markets update at midafternoon

On the markets at midafternoon (ET):In Toronto, the S&P/TSX composite index is up 3.64 points to 15,178.45.The Dow Jones industrial average gained 11.82 points to 21,649.56.The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 2.19 points to 2,461.46.The Nasdaq composite index climbed 5.79 points to 6,318.25.The Canadian dollar was trading at 78.82 cents US, down from Friday’s average price of 78.91 cents US.


Markets update at midafternoon

On the markets at midafternoon (ET):In Toronto, the S&P/TSX composite index was up 5.87 points to 15,149.28.The Dow Jones industrial average was up 21.62 points to 22,140.48.The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down 0.73 of a point to 2,495.75.The Nasdaq composite index was down 3.38 points to 6,450.90.The Canadian dollar was trading at 81.98 cents US, down from Tuesday’s average price of 82.24 cents US.



GM Unifor to resume talks aimed at ending 3weekold strike at CAMI

INGERSOLL, Ont. — General Motors and the union representing about 2,500 striking workers at the CAMI assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ont., are expected to resume talks today aimed at ending a strike that’s into its fourth week.The members of Unifor Local 88 walked off the job a little more than three weeks ago on Sept. 17 as union negotiators worked to have GM designate the CAMI plant as the lead producer of the Equinox SUV.The union said last Thursday that the two sides had “worked through a lot of the contract language” but remained far apart on job security and economic issues.Local 88 president Dan Borthwick says the union’s master bargaining committee took a break over the Thanksgiving weekend and met this morning.He says the union’s position will remain the same as it was last Thursday when it meets with the company’s bargaining team.Job security at the CAMI plant has been a major issue, with Unifor seeking to prevent work done by its members from being moved to Mexico, where GM also produces the Equinox SUV.Ontario Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid said Friday that he had spoken with both sides and that neither had asked for government support to keep the Equinox lines in the province.Duguid said the dispute was “rippling through” Ontario’s supply chain economy and urged both parties to reach an agreement.Dias dismissed GM’s latest contract offer last week as “fluff,” saying it still allowed the company to shift resources away from the Ingersoll plant. read more


Statistics Canada says real GDP contracted by 01 per cent in August

OTTAWA — The Canadian economy hit reverse in August, its first monthly pullback since October last year.“The amazing run of amazing Canadian economic data is officially over, with growth coming back to reality in a hurry,” Bank of Montreal chief economist Doug Porter wrote in a note to clients.Statistics Canada said Tuesday real gross domestic product fell 0.1 per cent for the month, following essentially no change in July.Porter said the two-month lull in activity reinforces the point that “the frothy growth of the past year is over and done.”The Canadian economy began 2017 with strong growth through the first two quarters.However, after raising its key interest rate twice this year, the Bank of Canada kept its target for the overnight rate on hold last week amid expectations that the economy would slow in the second half of the year.In doing so, the central bank suggested future rate hikes were still likely, but noted it will proceed with caution while paying close attention to the impact of higher interest rates on indebted households, the evolution of the economy’s capacity, wage growth and inflation. Future rate decisions would be guided by incoming data, it said.The bank also said it’s closely watching persistent unknowns around geopolitical developments as well as U.S.-related fiscal and trade policies, such as the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.On Tuesday, governor Stephen Poloz was cautious once again as he delivered his opening statement to a parliamentary committee. He said Canada was in a “crucial spot in the economic cycle and significant uncertainties are clouding the way forward.”“We agreed that the economy is likely to require less monetary stimulus over time, but we’ll be cautious in making future adjustments to our policy rate,” Poloz said in reference to the rate decision made last week by the bank’s governing council.Because of Tuesday’s GDP numbers, TD Bank senior economist Brian DePratto said third-quarter growth is now tracking around an annual pace of 1.9 per cent, roughly in line with the Bank of Canada’s forecast of 1.8 per cent in last week’s monetary policy report.“Indeed, although there remain some wild cards, such as the impact of a strike in the auto sector, it is likely that output will come back to life in coming months, particularly given still encouraging signs from labour and housing markets,” DePratto wrote.Statistics Canada said goods-producing industries contracted by 0.7 per cent for August, while services-producing industries edged up 0.1 per cent.Twelve of 20 sectors improved for the month, but weakness in manufacturing and mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction more than offset the gains.The mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction sector fell 0.8 per cent in August, due to maintenance shutdowns in Newfoundland and Labrador.The manufacturing sector contracted 1.0 per cent for the month as both durable manufacturing slipped 0.1 per cent and non-durable manufacturing declined 2.0 per cent. read more


Thousands face empty homes tax in Vancouver as declaration deadline passes

VANCOUVER — Nearly 8,500 homes have been declared vacant or underused in Vancouver after the submission deadline passed for the city’s new empty homes tax.The figure not only includes properties that were deemed unoccupied for six months or more, but also those that claimed one of the various exemptions to the levy. It also includes about 2,100 homes that will be hit with the tax because no declaration was submitted by Monday’s deadline.The tax is the first of its kind in Canada and is set at a rate of one per cent of a home’s assessed value. It’s aimed at freeing up more units for the city’s tight rental market.“Vancouver housing needs to be for homes first, not just treated as a commodity,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson in a news release.“We brought in an empty homes tax because Vancouver has a near-zero vacancy rate and many people are struggling to find a place to rent.”About 184,000 homeowners — 98 per cent — submitted their declarations on time.Sixty per cent of the empty or underused units are condominiums, 34 per cent are single-family houses and six per cent are multi-family and other types of homes, the city said.Downtown Vancouver is home to 2,250 unoccupied or underutilized homes, by far the largest number. But the West End and Shaughnessy have the highest percentage of vacant units relative to the total number of residential properties in the neighbourhoods, at eight per cent each.Declared vacant and undeclared properties will be issued a vacancy tax bill in mid-March with payment due by April 16, the city said.But the city did not say how many of the 8,481 unoccupied or underutilized homes were granted an exemption. So it’s unclear how many homes will receive a tax bill, apart from the 2,132 undeclared units.There are a wide range of exemptions for homes that are left empty for more than six months a year, including if it’s a primary residence, if it’s undergoing renovations or the owner is in hospital or long-term care.City spokesman Jag Sandhu said specific numbers of exempt or vacant declarations will not be confirmed until audits have been conducted and owners have submitted appeals. The numbers will be released, along with the revenue raised by the tax, in an annual report to council this fall, he said.The provincial government signalled in its budget last month that it intended to introduce a tax on homeowners who do not pay income taxes in B.C. and leave their units vacant. The plan means that some owners of empty Vancouver homes could end up paying both a city and a provincial tax.A 2016 city-commissioned report analyzed electricity use and found about 10,800 Vancouver homes were left vacant for more than a year, most of them condominiums. read more


Pak Defence Secretary to visit Sri Lanka

Defence Secretary Lt Gen (Retd) Asif Yasin Malik will be visiting Sri Lanka from 7-11 August 2012.During his stay in Colombo, Malik will hold discussions with Sri Lankan Defence hierarchy to further strengthen the relations between two time-tested friendly countries. During the course of the said Seminar, two Pakistani defence equipment manufacturing firms will also be exhibiting their products. The Secretary of Defence Pakistan will also address Defence Seminar 2012 being organized in Colombo by the Sri Lanka Army under the theme of “Towards Lasting Peace and Stability” from 8th to 10th August, 2012. Major General Ghulam Qamar and Brigadier Hamayun Aziz of Pakistan Army will also be attending the Defence Seminar. Since independence, Sri Lanka and Pakistan have consistently maintained close, cordial and mutually supportive relations especially in the field of defense. Both nations have assisted each other during testing times in their histories.Pakistan and Sri Lanka have comprehensive and mutually beneficial training collaboration for Army, Navy and Air Force. Over a period of time, a strong bond of commitment and mutual understanding has been reached between both the friendly armed forces. (Pakistan Today) read more


Government rejects parts of Petrie report

The Government of Sri Lanka does not intend to comment on the entirety of its contents. However, some of the issues raised in the Report are of grave concern to Sri Lanka, and should not be construed as the accepted position.This Report seems to seek to endorse the baseless and discredited allegations in the Darusman Report, of an exaggerated civilian casualty figure during the last stages of the terrorist conflict, which has not been agreed upon even among the senior UN officials at the time, because of the speculative nature of the information which could not be verified. The statistics in the Petrie Report are based on “unnamed sources” quoted in the Darusman Report and unsubstantiated allegations made by NGOs and certain lower level UN officials.  However,  a censored section of this Report refers to a meeting of the Policy Planning Committee to discuss Sri Lanka where several participants including the then Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and the Resident Coordinator did not stand by the casualty numbers, saying that the data were ‘not verified’ and questioned the proposal by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to release a public statement containing references to the numbers and possible crimes. No mention has been made of the intransigence of the LTTE which held the people as a human shield, and even shot in cold blood those who tried to escape to gain their freedom.While the Report admits that the LTTE positioned its artillery among civilians, the allegation of Government shelling into civilian concentrations does not take into account the principles of self defence or reasonableness of retaliation, proportionality, or a technical analysis of the trajectories of the shells allegedly fired, to determine their source. ·         The Policy Committee met two days later on 12th March 2012 to discuss Sri Lanka. Participants noted variously that “this crisis was being somewhat overlooked by the international community”, the policy “of incorporating a series of high level visits seem to have produced some positive results”, and that the possible involvement of the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide would not indicate a suspicion of genocide but may add to the overcrowding of UN actors involved……..”.·          On 30 July the Policy Committee met again at UNHQ to address “follow-up on accountability” in Sri Lanka discussing whether or not the Secretary General should establish an international Commission of Experts, many participants were reticent to do so without the support of the Government and at a time when Member States were also not supportive…..”. The Secretary General said that the Government should be given the political space to develop a domestic mechanism……..”.This practice of redacting clearly brings into question, yet again, the sincerity and objectives of this entire exercise.Finally, the Report, which is critical of the Member States, seems to forget that the United Nations is an inter-governmental organization whose members are equal in terms of sovereignty and dignity. We remind the author of the Report that they must act within their given mandate and the Charter, and be equal and fair in their dealings with all Member States. A Report of this nature could serve to dangerously have the statistics and unsubstantiated information acquire a life of their own. In fact, the initial statements emanating from some countries seem to disregard the fact that the basic purpose of the Report was to engage in a critical appraisal of the UN system’s performance. Ignoring this vital aspect, they have taken the opportunity to resort to criticism of the GoSL in a manner that reflects patent bias and unwillingness to examine the developments with any degree of objectivity. The government has rejected parts of the “Petrie Report” released by the review panel appointed by UN Secretary General Ban ki-moon.A statement by the Ministry of External Affairs said that attention has been drawn to certain issues with regard to allegations directed at the Government of Sri Lanka in the report which are unsubstantiated, erroneous and replete with conjecture and bias. The allegation relating to the Government deliberately restricting food and medicine to the North is another unsubstantiated statement which, as in the Darusman Report, is repeated in the Petrie publication. The attempts of the GOSL to demonstrate the fallacy of this contention from the time it emerged seem to have been dismissed in cavalier fashion in the Petrie Report. It is a well known fact that food and medicine sent to the North were monitored regularly by the Consultative Committee on Humanitarian Assistance (CCHA), which comprised officials from the Government, the UN and other humanitarian agencies, and representatives of the diplomatic community based in Colombo, including Japan, USA, Norway and the European Union. The efforts of successive Governments to provide food and medicine to the North, despite the definite knowledge that a major part of it was ending up in the hands of the terrorists, have been appreciated from the early stages of the conflict by the UN. This is amply corroborated by contemporaneous statements by the UN in Sri Lanka at the time. Further, the alleged intimidation of UN staff for delivery of humanitarian assistance is completely baseless, a position which has been endorsed by the former United Nations USG for Humanitarian Affairs and reported widely at the time in the media. The External Affairs Ministry statement said:While noting that both these Reports are internal advisories to the UN, it is disconcerting that the Darusman Report came into the public domain initially through a leak, and in this instance of the Petrie Report too, the unacceptable procedure of leaking has been resorted to, establishing a disturbing pattern which brings into question the bona fides of the authorship of the document and its underlying motivation.  It may be recalled that following the leak of the Petrie Report, while the UN Spokesman took the position that he could not comment on a leaked Report, the author stated to the media that the penultimate draft “very much reflects the findings of the Panel”. Following formal discussions on this issue by the Permanent Representative in New York, with the UN Secretariat, the latter characterized the Report as a document prepared by an independent body over which the Secretariat and has no control. However the expectation of a sovereign Government, quite legitimately, is that the accepted procedure of first consulting with the country concerned be rigidly adopted when commissioning experts. It is pertinent to recall, in the context of a recurring pattern, that the Darusman Report was formally made available by the UN to the public on the basis that it first leaked through the media, and in fact the Petrie Report also was formally released to the media the day after its leak. The Ministry, through its Permanent Mission in New York protested against the leak of the Report on the very day after this questionable action, to the Office of the Secretary General. The “Petrie Report” is an internal document to assess the working of the United Nations system in Sri Lanka during a given period, following a recommendation in the Report of the advisory Panel of Experts appointed by the Secretary General, known as the “Darusman Report”. Repeated characterization of the welfare villages without any basis as “military run internment camps” demonstrate the ignorance on the part of the author of the Report, as well as resolve to ignore the efforts taken by the Government to provide basic needs and essential services to the thousands of displaced civilians who fled from the stronghold of the terrorists to the Government side.  Without the assistance of the military at that juncture, the GOSL could not have handled the magnitude of the humanitarian task at hand. The military’s role in responding to any humanitarian crisis is well established the world over. It has been in this sense that the military has been engaged in Sri Lanka to overcome the challenges of the terrorist conflict.Furthermore, while it refers to the military campaign to defeat the LTTE, the Report makes scant reference to the long series of negotiations engaged in by successive Governments to arrive at a peaceful settlement, while all those efforts and brief periods of ceasefire were used by the LTTE to regroup and rearm, to be subsequently unilaterally violated.The Report appears to be another attempt at castigating Sri Lanka for militarily defeating a ruthless terrorist group which has held the very people it claimed to represent as human shields. The basis for blacking out sections of the Petrie Report is unclear and it is left to the GoSL to surmise that references which may serve positively are those which have been censored. In this context, attention is drawn to the following blacked out sections, inter-alia :- read more


Illegal asylum seekers arrested

The police said that the group had been arrested this morning at Muneswaram as they were preparing to head to Australia.They are all residents of Gurunagar in Jaffna, the police media unit said. The Chilaw police arrested a group of people who were preparing to head to Australia by boat illegally, the police media unit said today.According to the police there were 28 men, four women and 9 children.




Tourists from seven countries including Syria to be screened

Sources also said that visitors from Ghana and Nigeria will be screened for illegal immigrants while Pakistanis will be screened for refugees.It was reported that there are moves to screen visitors from Afghanistan as well in the near future as well as Uganda. Visitors from Syria, Pakistan, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon will be screened before being approved a visa. Report by Indika Sri Aravinda Western countries have increased security following recent attacks by ISIS and IS rebels who infiltrated the countries, some as Syrian refugees.According to foreign media reports, internationally, close to 4.9 million Syrians had been registered as refugees as of early January; the vast majority are in first-asylum countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq; only a fraction are likely to ever be permanently resettled. Facing dim resettlement prospects and eager to establish new lives, nearly 900,000 Syrians have headed to Europe and filed asylum claims there since the war began.Beyond the United States, a small number of countries have accepted Syrian refugees through their resettlement programs, most notably Canada, which took in close to 40,000 Syrians between November 2015 and December 2016. Since 2013, Germany has admitted about 41,000 displaced Syrians who were living in Syria or a first-asylum country in the region via a humanitarian admissions program. (Colombo Gazette) Sources at the Immigration and Emigration Department said that tourists from Syria and Egypt will be screened as there is a fear ISIS rebels from those two countries may attempt to infiltrate Sri Lanka. The Government has decided to screen tourists from seven countries including Syria, Pakistan and Nigeria.Minister of Internal Affairs, Wayamba Development and Cultural Affairs S. B. Navinna has said the screening will be carried out in light of national security concerns. read more


Human rights activist Vijay Nagaraj dies in car accident

In a press release on Friday, MKSS said, “Exhaustion got the better of him and his car ran into a truck before falling into a nearby water body in the early hours of this morning, resulting in his untimely death”. Nagaraj was a part of the struggle for the Right to Information. He left MKSS to work for Amnesty India, Human Rights in Geneva and with TISS Mumbai in various capacities. He rejoined MKSS in 1999, and was part of the group that organized several public hearings. He also was closely engaged in the process that saw people associated with MKSS contest panchayat elections. Vijay Nagaraj, 44, former director of Amnesty International-India, who joined Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghatan in Rajasthan in 1995 as a fresh graduate from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, died in an accident while driving to Batticaloa from Colombo in Sri Lanka on Friday, the Times of India reported.Nikhil Dey of MKSS said, “He was in Sri Lanka for about 10 years, working on human rights issues as head of research of the Law and Society Club.” “The news of his death comes as a huge shock and setback to those of us who have worked with him. We wish his family courage in this difficult hour,” MKSS said. Nagaraj is survived by his parents, a sister and brother. The family is based in Bangalore. read more