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Posts tagged ‘Sri Lanka’

Study: Government Restrictions, Social Hostility Rise Against Religion.


Government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion are on the rise around the world, a new study from the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life disclosed.

Social hostilities include “abuse of religious minorities by private individuals or groups in society for acts perceived as offensive or threatening to the majority faith of the country,” according to Pew.

Social hostilities in a third of the 198 countries or territories surveyed were viewed as high or very high, with acts of religious violence rising everywhere in the world except the Americas, Pew noted in its study, which covered the six years from 2007 to 2012.

“We monitor this in two ways that religious freedom is restricted — actions of government and actions of individual groups of society,” the study’s lead author Brian Grim told Newsmax. “We’ve seen a steady climb overall. It’s a global phenomenon.

“There’s an association between social hostilities and government restrictions. As one goes up, the other goes up. And that may be part of what is going on,” said Grim, president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation in Annapolis, Md.

Among the Pew study’s key findings:
• The number of countries with religion-related terrorist violence has doubled over the past six years.

• Women were harassed because of religious dress in nearly a third of countries in 2012 (32 percent), up from 25 percent in 2011 and 7 percent in 2007.

• The Middle East and North Africa were the most common regions for sectarian violence, with half of all countries in the regions seeing conflicts in 2012.

• China, for the first time in the study, experienced a high level of social hostilities involving religion, with multiple types reported during 2012, including religion-related terrorism, harassment of women for religious dress, and mob violence.

• The number of countries with a very high level of religious hostilities increased from 14 in 2011 to 20 in 2012. Six countries — Syria, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand, and Myanmar (Burma) — had very high levels of religious hostilities in 2012 but not in 2011.

Raymond Ibrahim, a religious scholar and author who studies hostilities against Christians, said persecution of Christian minorities was rising across the Islamic world, as well as in North Korea and to a smaller extent in India and China.

Ibrahim said the U.S. culture’s embrace of tolerance makes it different from other places where religious traditions tend to discount other faiths as false.

“I think the historical position on religions is about truth. If I have the truth, you don’t. I don’t want your falsehoods to get out in the open. We in the West don’t appreciate this kind of logic and we take for granted the idea of religious tolerance,” Ibrahim said.

The difference between the United States and other countries around the world is that America has “many mechanisms to address religious freedom problems as they come up,” Grim noted, citing the Department of Justice’s special branch dedicated to reviewing discriminatory issues related to religious dress as well as land use problems involving churches and mosques.

In current hot zones of violence, like the Central African Republic and Nigeria, and across sub-Saharan Africa, “there’s a real trend toward major fighting and religious violence along this Christian-Muslim line,” said Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

In Nigeria, “you have a largely Muslim north and a largely Christian south and extremist groups stoking tensions between the two and carrying out acts of violence,” Rassbach told Newsmax.

“I think what happens is those conflicts aren’t just limited to their own countries. What you are seeing is they end up resulting in inter-religious disagreements in other countries,” Rassbach said.

Ethnic and economic conflicts are also tied up in regional disputes, and those add to the mix of religious differences, he said.

“In other parts of the world, it tends to be government-driven, especially in more authoritarian governments. You tend to see a crackdown, so to speak,” noting the crackdown on Christian house churches in China.

In Pakistan, “the government doesn’t officially target religious groups, but the way it runs itself, it ends up essentially green-lighting inter-religious violence by individuals who can often act with impunity,” Rassbach said.

In the Middle East, “the Arab Spring has intensified a lot of previously quieter disputes,” many of which have spilled over to other countries within the region as governments have been destabilized. “I think, anecdotally, you can tell that the violence and resentment is going up. But I think it’s for different reasons in different places,” he said.

There also has been some hostility toward religion in the United States, Rassbach added. “I think a lot of it has been stoked by the government,” including “issues like the contraceptive mandate that we are litigating.”

“It used to be that everybody agreed that religious liberty was a good thing. Now you are starting to see people here opposed to religious liberty.

“I think it’s because of the politicization,” he said. “Some political actors have seen it as useful to pick fights with religious groups. That ends up stoking religious tensions.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Andrea Billups

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How Nigeria Embassy Excluded Naija Center News Reporter From Nigeria Meeting In Sri Lanka.


Foreign minister Voila Onwuliri, VP Namadi Sambo, and Nigeria ambassador to Sri Lanka, F. A. Rotimi
By Ehi Ekhator

The fear of the unknown is the beginning of failure; it was during the just concluded Commonwealth program in Sri Lanka that took place on November 10-17th that Naija Center News was victimized by the Ambassador through his confidante, Ibrahim Hamiudu.

The Nigeria ambassador to Sri Lanka, F. A. Rotimi, initially called a meeting of all Nigerians and NCN was invited. In the meeting, the ambassador requested Nigerians present, who had intentions of asking President Jonathan’s questions to send their questions for screening.

This didn’t go down well with many Nigerians including NCN. He also requested volunteers for different activities to entertain the President during the meeting.

Naija Center News was one of the media accredited to cover The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka.

During the meeting with VP Sambo, who replaced President Jonathan due to his inability to attend the program, Naija Center News reporter was excused out by one of the Sri Lanka securities.

Surprisingly, we were told that we weren’t invited whereas the text messages sent to us were still on our phones. It was embarassing but needed to deal with it, we found our way back few minutes later. One of the embassy staff called Boco appealed and asked us to sit calmly without causing tension in the hall,

Few minutes later, Boco invited us out again saying, he has been child by some of the staff and he was told not to allow us stay in the hall. His reason was simple; that if anything happens during this meeting, he will be held liable.

NCN didn’t mind, we sat down and for the third time, VP securities excused us out. This time, it was like being accused as a national threat. They asked for our identity which we gave including our complimentary cards, we realized from them that we were being victimized for the fear that we might ask questions.

After few minutes of argument, though they know we weren’t going to mind their threat, they asked us to promise that if we get back, we won’t ask questions.

Read the conversation:

VP securities: Can I have your identity card?

NCN: Sure (handed over) What is the problem?

VP securities: We were told your network was not invited, so you have no right to be here.

NCN: You must be joking. If we don’t have rights to be here as a network, we have rights as Nigerians. Besides, we were invited

VP securities: Listen, we don’t want the hall to be tensed, your presence could tense it up, so we are doing what we think is best for everyone.

NCN: What’s going on here? There are other media in the hall and how can NCN tense up the hall?

VP securities: Promise us that if you get back in, you won’t ask questions.

NCN: Why should we promise that? Aren’t we supposed to ask questions in such occasions? And why is the embassy so scared of NCN, because he knows we know him too well or we might ask questions that might implicate him (Ambassador Rotimi)?

The time was far spent, and we knew VP Sambo was not going to stay long. So we decided to agree to their conditions.

Notwithstanding, they didn’t stop there, they asked us to sit with them to be sure that we won’t ask questions anyways, and that we refused. At the time we got back to the hall, the program was almost ended.

What we could not figure out was, why should an embassy be so scared of NCN? Because we don’t compromise our work, we don’t take bribe for publication, and we KNOW HIM and HIS WAYS?

Since we refused to submit questions to him to see, he excluded us from the meeting for the fear that we might ask questions that will jeopardize his office as he has told NCN before that we were after his office due to the previous questions we have asked.

The truth was, we weren’t going to ask questions, we were too busy taking pictures, recording and taking down notes and there were numerous Nigerians who came for the intention of clarifying some issues. But the fear was already created in the ambassador’s mind and he decided to use his diplomatic power to victim us.

He (Ambassador Rotimi) used one of his staff called Hamidu Ibrahim who was at the centre of the entire incident. Ambassador was too busy then he gave the mandate to Ibrahim who was controlling the securities to get us out. The most annoying part was that Ibrahim met us before the occasion started, we talked, we laughed, he never told us anything until the meeting started and he sent different securities to exclude us.

We intend to reach Prof. Viola regarding this issue, when we are done, we will update everyone of the outcome.

Note: Naija Center News didn’t have problem with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, we were fully okay and was treated equally with other media around the globe. Whatever you read above happened at a separate meeting organized for VP Sambo and Professor Viola to meet with Nigerians residing in Sri Lanka.

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

Persecuted: Chronicles of the Global Assault on Christians.


persecuted church

Persecuted: Chronicles of the Global Assault on Christians is a book designed to show that “Christians are the single most widely persecuted religious group in the world today.”

With that aim, three authors well known in the field of religious advocacy—Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea—give the reader the ultimate global briefing on the causes, patterns and trends in the persecution of Christians.

That the “briefing” lasts 400 pages is not the authors’ fault, though it will perhaps condemn the book to a niche readership. But a great service has been rendered nonetheless.

The authors don’t get bogged down in definition discussions but dive straight into the sinister trinity they claim is causing the persecution of Christians around the world today: “the hunger for total political control, the desire to preserve Hindu or Buddhist privilege, and radical Islam’s urge for religious domination.”

The totalitarian dynamics of the first cover the Communist and post-Communist world; Hindu and Buddhist nationalisms cover South Asia, especially India and Sri Lanka; and radical Islam is the most dispersed and global of the three forces. Half the book is dedicated to tracking radical Islam’s effects on the church across every continent.

The church in the Muslim world takes up four of the eight overview chapters, and the divisions are instructive, as it is always difficult to categorize geographically the nature of the various pressures on the church under Islam.

One chapter deals with state governments the authors claim are impeding the practice of Christianity—Malaysia, Turkey, Turkish Cyprus, Morocco, Algeria, Jordan, Yemen and the Palestinian territories. This is instructive, as often the restrictions are subtle and their application to the persecution of Christians not always obvious—and perhaps all the more effective for that.

In Turkey, for example, Christians are “being smothered beneath a dense tangle of bureaucratic restrictions that thwart the ability of churches to perpetuate themselves.”

A second chapter deals with the two countries the authors claim to be the worst culprits and main exporters of Islamic extremism in the world today—Saudi Arabia and Iran—and establishes that the situation is getting worse, not better, in both states and will continue to do so thanks to their petrochemical superpower status.

A third chapter looks at four states (Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sudan) where the authors say repression is extreme and persecution comes from sources beyond the government, such as mobs and vigilantes.

A fourth chapter examines what life is like for Christians in states where the central government is not considered the main persecutor. For Iraq, Nigeria, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Somalia, extremists in society are often the ones held responsible.

As a system of explanation, these four categories work quite well, though the authors would admit they inevitably overlap. The history of persecution in each country is neatly summarized alongside a round-up of latest cases and issues.

One chapter covers Communist countries (China, Vietnam, North Korea, Laos and Cuba), while another concerns post-Communist countries (Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Georgia), where the dynamics of “register and control” are well outlined.

In addition to the countries where religious nationalism is a concern, such as India and Sri Lanka, one chapter looks at what really amounts to a fourth global source of persecution: national security states, such as Eritrea, Burma and Ethiopia.

The aggressive secularism seen in more Western states is not identified as a global driver, and perhaps rightly so, as the authors point out that Christians in those places have the ability to fight back, whereas “the persecuted do not have the ability to debate freely and seek redress and reform through democratic means.”

One clear advantage of the book is its comprehensiveness. It is essentially a readable handbook.

Those looking for stories about persecuted Christians will find a few, ranging from the very well known, such as the Pakistani Christian mother Asia Bibi, on death row in Pakistan since 2009 on blasphemy charges, to the not-so-well-known, such as U.S. Ambassador Joseph Ghougassian’s success in convincing the Qatari authorities to allow the building of five churches in the territory, despite their Wahabbist tendencies.

But the focus is kept firmly on the country-by-country overviews, usually in the format of stories, history and then cases.

The authors have done their best to make each chapter readable, though the handbook format cannot be hidden, and indeed the text cries out for graphs, pictures and maps to help the reader along.

There are so many astonishing sentences about trends and situations that rush by amid the inevitably rapid pace of a global overview. “In the 21st century, more people in China attend church services than in all Western Europe,” the authors note. They also claim that “mosque speakers continue to pray for the death of Christians and Jews, including at Mecca’s Grand Mosque and at the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, where they serve at the pleasure of King Abdullah.”

The essential data is bookended by an outstanding introductory chapter that gives a historical sweep of persecution and a final chapter that upbraids the current U.S. policy elite for a failure to speak up for persecuted Christians.

Also highlighted is the notion that Eastern Christianity was not curtailed by the rise of Islam in the seventh century, but in the 14th, when the invading Mongols sought to ally with Christian kingdoms, drawing the ire of the Muslim rulers who responded with terrifying ferocity. Another wave of persecution mentioned occurred in the early 20th century, when Christians in Ottoman territory were massacred, including up to 1.5 million Armenian Christians. And there is the suggestion that a third wave of persecution is now underway, in the wake of the Arab Spring, as Christians flee the Palestinian areas, Lebanon, Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Egypt.

In a book this size, and with such ambition, there are some inevitable imperfections. The write-ups are sure-footed when dealing with well-known cases and government policies, but knowledge of the local or so-called “village reality” is lacking in some country overviews. The remarkable story of the revival of the church in North Korea is not really covered to its full extent.

Some may take issue that the increasing freedoms enjoyed by China’s house churches underneath formally restrictive legislation are underplayed and underestimated. Others might preserve a disappointment over definitions—that, for example, pastors killed in Colombia for resisting guerrilla encroachment are not considered part of the persecuted church.

And the final chapter may ascribe a little too much credence to the ability of U.S. government pressure to change the fortune of the persecuted church, rather than suggesting other forms of pressure which could perhaps be more successful.

But these are minor points in an otherwise superb overview, and the authors are well placed to warn that “the [U.S.] Presidential bully pulpit has fallen silent regarding Middle Eastern Christians in their great hour of need.”

This is a depressing book to read, but perhaps that is how it should be. In country after country, the facts are marshalled, laid out and laid bare, and the story is primarily a sad one—one of Christians harmed, squeezed, battered and sometimes martyred. For Christians in the Islamic-majority world, particularly, there is great despair and fear, and the reader begins to share in this. Still, there are other books that tell that story.

The authors set out to do as they promised: document one of the world’s most underreported stories. They have provided an essential, unique, sober and sobering analysis of the persecution of Christians worldwide.  It will not be a best-seller, but it certainly deserves to be.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

WORLD WATCH MONITOR

Cyclone Batters Bangladesh; 1 Million Flee.


COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh — The outer bands of Cyclone Mahasen struck the southern coast of Bangladesh on Thursday, lashing remote fishing villages with heavy rain and fierce winds that flattened mud and straw huts and forced the evacuation of more than 1 million people.

The eye of the storm was expected to reach land Thursday evening, but at least 18 deaths related to Mahasen already have been reported in Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

The storm was on course for Bangladesh, Myanmar, and northeast India, bringing life-threatening conditions to an area with a total population of 8.2 million, according to the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Danger was particularly high for tens of thousands of displaced Rohingya people living in plastic-roofed tents and huts made of reeds in dozens of refugee camps along Myanmar’s western coast.

Driven from their homes by violence, members of the Muslim minority group refused to evacuate, distrusting an order from officials in a majority-Buddhist country where Rohingya have faced decades of discrimination.

Early Thursday, the cyclone battered the southern Bangladesh fishing village of Khepurpara along the Bay of Bengal with 100 kph (62 mph) winds and was heading east toward the city of Chittagong and the seafront resort town of Cox’s Bazar.

River ferries and boat service were suspended, and scores of factories near the choppy Bay of Bengal were closed. The military said it was keeping 22 navy ships and 19 Air Force helicopters at the ready.

Tens of thousands of people fled their shanty homes along the coast and packed into cyclone shelters, schools, government office buildings and some of the 300 hotels in Cox’s Bazar to wait out the storm. Some brought their livestock, which took shelter outside.

“We have seen such a disaster before,” said Mohammad Abu Taleb, who shut down his convenience shop in the city of 200,000. “It’s better to stay home. I’m not taking any chance.”

A 1991 cyclone that slammed into Bangladesh from the Bay of Bengal killed an estimated 139,000 people and left millions homeless. In 2008, Myanmar’s southern delta was devastated Cyclone Nargis, which swept away entire farming villages and killed more than 130,000 people.

Both those cyclones were much more powerful than Cyclone Mahasen, which is rated Category 1 — the weakest level. It could hit land with maximum wind speeds of about 120 kph (75 mph), said Mohammad Shah Alam, director of the Bangladesh Meteorological Department.

Heavy rain and storm surge could prove deadlier than the wind. Bangladesh’s meteorological office said the cyclone was moving so slowly it may take a whole day for it to pass the Bangladesh coast.

In Cox’s Bazar, local government administrator Ruhul Amin turned his own three-story office building into a shelter for about 400 people as intermittent rains and gusty winds hit.

Huddling with the crowd, evacuee Mohammad Tayebullah said, “Each time there is a cyclone warning we come to the town for shelter. This has become part of our life.”

The Bangladesh Ministry of Disaster Management said more than 1 million people had been evacuated from coastal areas. Television stations reported the deaths of two men, one of whom was crushed by a tree uprooted by the wind.

India’s Meteorological Department forecast damage to the northeastern states of Assam, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura, and Nagaland, and advised fishermen off the west coast of the country to be cautious for the next 36 hours.

Related heavy rains and flooding in Sri Lanka were blamed for eight deaths earlier this week. At least eight people — and possibly many more — were killed in Myanmar as they fled the cyclone Monday night, when overcrowded boats carrying more than 100 Rohingya capsized. Only 43 people had been rescued by Thursday, and more than 50 Rohingya were still missing.

Much attention was focused on western Myanmar because of fears over the fate of the crowded, low-lying Rohingya camps.

In Rakhine state, around 140,000 people — mostly Rohingya — have been living in the camps since last year, when two outbreaks of sectarian violence between the Muslim minority and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists forced many Rohingya from their homes.

Nearly half the displaced live in coastal areas considered highly vulnerable to storm surges and flooding from Cyclone Mahasen.

“Pack and leave,” a Rakhine state official, U Hla Maung, warned as he walked through a camp near Sittwe, the state capital. Accompanied by more than a dozen soldiers and riot police, he suggested that people living there move to a nearby railroad embankment, then left without offering help.

Distrust of authorities led many Rohingya to stay where they were Thursday morning.

“We have no safe place to move, so we’re staying here, whether the storm comes or not,” said Ko Hla Maung, an unemployed fisherman. “The soldiers want to take us to a village closer to the sea, and we’re not going to do that.. . . . If the storm is coming, then that village will be destroyed.”

Even as rain and wind from the edges of Cyclone Mahasen began to pelt the coast near Sittwe, most people camped there appeared to be staying put. Some, however, were taking down their tents and hauling their belongings away in cycle-rickshaws, or carrying them in bags balanced on their heads.

“Now we’re afraid. . . . We decided to move early this morning,” said U Kwaw Swe, a 62-year-old father of seven who was hoping the government would transport his family. Otherwise they intended to walk to safety.

Myanmar’s President’s Office Minister Aung Min told reporters Wednesday that the government guarantees the safety of the Rohingyas during relocation and promises to return them to their current settlement when the storm has passed.

The Rohingya trace their ancestry to what is now Bangladesh, but many have lived in Myanmar for generations. Officially, though, they are dismissed as illegal immigrants. They face widespread discrimination in largely Buddhist Myanmar, and particularly in Rakhine, where many of the Rohingya live.

Tensions remain high in Rakhine nearly a year after sectarian unrest tore through the region and left parts of Sittwe, the state capital, burned to the ground. At least 192 people were killed.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: NEWSmax.com

Sri Lanka film on war crimes makes debut at U.N..


GENEVA (Reuters) – A documentary purporting to show the execution of civilians and other war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan army had its first public screening on Friday but was swiftly rejected by the government as part of an “orchestrated campaign” against it.

The documentary “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka” is the third by British journalist and director Callum Macrae about the final stages of the nearly 30-year civil war.

“We see it as a film of record, but also a call to action,” Macrae told a news briefing. “All of it is genuine. It is evidence of war crimes and I have to warn you it is pretty horrific.”

Tens of thousands of civilians were killed in 2009 in the final months the war, a U.N. panel has said, as government troops advanced on the ever-shrinking northern tip of the island controlled by Tamil rebels fighting for an independent homeland.

The film depicts terrifying scenes from the territory held by the Tamil Tiger rebels just before their defeat in May 2009. In the so-called “No Fire Zone” declared by the army, rights groups say soldiers killed thousands of Tamil civilians by heavy shelling and massacres yet perpetrators have gone unpunished.

“The Tigers are guilty of war crimes, guilty of using child soldiers and preventing civilians from leaving, so they are complicit in some ways in what happened,” Macrae told reporters.

Sri Lanka’s government this week formally protested against the film’s screening on U.N. premises on the sidelines of the Human Rights Council. The event, organized by activist groups seeking an international inquiry into atrocities by both sides, was allowed to proceed.

“By providing a platform for the screening of this film which includes footage of dubious origin, content that is distorted and without proper sourcing and making unsubstantiated allegations, the sponsors of this event seek to tarnish the image of Sri Lanka,” Ravinatha Aryasinha, Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, told the audience on Friday.

Aryasinha – who did not attend the viewing but entered just after the 90-minute film ended – said: “It will take a few days, possibly weeks, before experts in the field would be able to ascertain the true facts about the contents of this film.”

Colombo considered the film as “part of a cynical, concerted and orchestrated campaign that is strategically driven and aimed at influencing debate in the council on Sri Lanka,” he said.

Some footage of troops executing naked and blindfolded prisoners are from “trophy videos” taken by government soldiers on mobile phones, according to Macrae, whose two previous films on Sri Lanka’s civil war were broadcast by Britain’s Channel 4.

Balachandran Prabhakaran, a 12-year-old son of the slain Tamil Tiger founder Velupillai Prabhakaran, is shown in a series of photographs in the last hours of his short life. He is first shown eating a biscuit while held captive by soldiers, then shot dead along with other men presumed to be his bodyguards.

“There were five gunshot wounds indicating the distance of the muzzle of the weapon to the boy’s chest was two or three feet or less. This is a homicide, murder, there’s no doubt,” forensic pathologist Derrick Pounder says in the film.

Rights groups and a member of a U.N. expert panel set up by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the footage corresponded to evidence they had gathered from the conflict.

The panel, whose findings have been rejected by the Sri Lankan government, said the army committed large-scale abuses and that as many as 40,000 civilians were killed in the last months of the conflict.

“I believe that most of the footage in the film can be corroborated. In fact in our report you find references to many things you see in the documentary,” Yasmin Sooka, a member of Ban’s panel, told Reuters after attending the screening.

Julie de Rivero, director of the Geneva office of Human Rights Watch, one of the organizers, said: “The Human Rights Council cannot continue to ignore the call for an independent international investigation into war crimes that were committed.

“All our investigations corroborate what is shown in this film, that civilians were indiscriminately targeted, that thousands and thousands and thousands of them died unjustly.”

(This version of the story adds desciption in paragraph 12 of scene featuring Prabhakaran’s son; in paragraph 13 replaces quote that pertained to another scene in film.)

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Rosalind Russell and Kevin Liffey)

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By Stephanie Nebehay | Reuters

On This Day: Sri Lanka gains independence.


February 4: The proud island nation of Sri Lanka gained its full independence on this day back in 1948.

Then called Ceylon, the new constitution took effect after rising public pressure for change following the end of the Second World War.

During the war the island had served as an important base for the Allied forces in the fight against the Japanese Empire.

It was Don Senanayake who held the honour of becoming the first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka.

In the British Pathé video (which has no sound) Mr Senanayake can be seen  walking across the parade ground in Colombo alongside Prince Henry and the Duke of Goucester, while the Duchess of Gloucester watches on.

He raises the flag of the newly-independent nation in a ceremony full of pomp and pageantry, cheered on by thousands of jubilant islanders.

The day is now marked every year with much dancing, singing and performances that showcase the island’s national unity and fascinating culture.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

Yahoo! NewsYahoo! News 

Sri Lankan chief justice impeachment illegal: Supreme Court.


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COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lanka‘s Supreme Court said on Thursday parliament does not have the legal authority to investigate accusations of misconduct against senior judges and animpeachment proceeding against the chief justice was against the law.

The government and Supreme Court have been at loggerheads since President Mahinda Rajapaksa‘s ruling party filed an impeachment motion against Shirani Bandaranayake, Sri Lanka’s first female head of the Supreme Court, on November 6.

The government complained that she had been overstepping her authority but Bandaranayake’s supporters complained of political interference in the judiciary. The case has raised international concern about the independence of the judiciary.

A parliamentary impeachment committee last month found Bandaranayake guilty on counts of financial irregularities, conflict of interest and failure to declare her assets.

But the Supreme Court said investigations into any misbehavior by senior judges including the chief justice should be conducted by a judicial body.

“Therefore, in our opinion, it is mandatory for parliament to provide by law the body competent to conduct the investigation,” the court said in a 27-page ruling, which was read out in a lower court.

Government Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwelle declined to comment on the ruling saying the speaker of parliament would decide on the latest move by the judiciary.

Parliament had scheduled to debate the impeachment on Bandaranayake next week, before a vote which the government, with a majority in the assembly, would be bound to win.

The Supreme Court’s ruling backs up a decision by an appeal court’s which last month blocked parliament from voting to impeach Bandaranayake, the country’s first woman chief justice.

The United States, the United Nations and the Commonwealth have raised concerns about the impeachment and called on Rajapaksa to ensure the independence of the judiciary.

The parliamentary panel which found Bandaranayake guilty was appointed by Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, the elder brother of the president.

The accusations against Bandaranayake arose after she ruled against a bill, submitted by the president’s younger brother, Basil Rajapaksa, proposing an 80-billion rupee ($614 million) development budget which she said had to be approved by nine provincial councils.

(Writing by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez | Reuters

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