Tamil council to count Sri Lanka war casualties

Updated 26 December 2013
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Tamil council to count Sri Lanka war casualties

COLOMBO: The provincial government in Sri Lanka’s main Tamil region said Thursday it would compile its own death toll from the country’s ethnic war, saying an ongoing census would play down the number of casualties.
Tamil officials said the census ordered by President Mahinda Rajapakse last month would give a distorted picture because of its “flawed” terms of reference, arguing that a more credible alternative was needed.
“The council will work out the logistics of taking a count,” Dharmalingam Sithadthan, a senior member of the Northern Provincial Council, told AFP from the regional capital Jaffna.
“This is something we have to do because we don’t accept the government census.”
The United Nations has estimated that at least 100,000 people were killed in Sri Lanka’s 37-year separatist war with about 40,000 civilians killed in the final months of fighting in 2009.
The Rajapakse government kicked off its own census late November after disputes over the scale of the killings in the final phases of the war dominated a Commonwealth summit in Colombo earlier in the month.
Sri Lanka has repeatedly rejected allegations that its troops killed civilians while battling the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who were also accused of using civilians as a human shield.
While launching the government census in November, the head of the Public Administration Ministry, P.B Abeykoon, said they had “nothing to hide.”
But Suresh Premachandran, a member of the Tamil National Alliance party who represents Jaffna in the Parliament, said the census had been designed to minimise the death toll.
Compilers of the census would only be able to ask survivors whether they had lost spouses, sons or daughters and would not be allowed to ask survivors about the fate of their parents, said Premachandran.
The census would also lack any input about casualties from survivors who have sought refuge.
“We strongly believe this is an attempt to give lower figures for war fatalities,” Premachandran said.
“For planning purposes of the council, we want the actual numbers, not watered down figures,” he added.
The provincial council says it needs comprehensive casualty figures to provide social services to widows, orphans and other victims of what was one of Asia’s longest and bloodiest conflicts in the post-colonial era.
Rajapakse, who is a member of the majority Sinhalese community, has rejected proposals for international investigators to conduct their own separate inquiry.


European court to hear case on stopping Brexit

Updated 42 min 59 sec ago
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European court to hear case on stopping Brexit

LONDON: The European Court of Justice will at the end of this month begin hearing a legal challenge brought by anti-Brexit campaigners to force the government to spell out how Britain could revoke its notice to leave the EU.
The hearing comes after the British government was refused permission Tuesday to appeal to the UK Supreme Court over the case, amid growing calls for Prime Minister Theresa May to hold a second referendum on Brexit.
"The best, the really compelling, the objective evidence that all options are still on the table is the desperation with which the government acted to try and block MPs from seeing the clear path to remain," said Jolyon Maugham, a lawyer who has spearheaded the legal challenge.
The Supreme Court rejected a bid from the government for permission to appeal against a lower court ruling asking the European Court to spell out "whether, when and how" Britain can unilaterally revoke its notice to leave the EU, which would see the UK pull out on March 29.
Labour, Scottish nationalist and Green members of the British, Scottish and European parliaments brought the case through the highest civil court in Scotland.
The Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled in September to refer the question to the Court of Justice of the EU.
A hearing at the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) is set for November 27.
The British government applied to the Court of Session for permission to appeal against the ruling to the higher UK-wide Supreme Court, but the application was rejected.
The government then applied directly to the Supreme Court itself for permission to appeal.
But in refusing that permission on Tuesday, the Supreme Court said the Court of Session's ruling was "preliminary" and the Scottish court would still have to reach a judgement of its own after receiving the CJEU's guidance.
Britain invoked Article 50, its two-year notice of intention to withdraw from the EU, in March 2017.