Sri Lanka grateful for Saudi support at UN

Updated 01 April 2014
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Sri Lanka grateful for Saudi support at UN

The Sri Lankan government praised Saudi Arabia’s crucial support in its fight against terror and civil war between the majority Sinahlese and ethnic Tamil communities in Sri Lanka during a voting session at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on Thursday.
“We are grateful for the Saudi support at the key UN vote which concluded in Geneva last week,” Abdul Hameed Mohamed Fowzie, senior minister for Urban Affairs told Arab News from Colombo on Sunday.
The US-initiated resolution was carried out at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva with 23 votes in favor and 12 against the resolution.
Saudi Arabia, UAE and Pakistan were among 12 countries that sided with Sri Lanka. India and 11 other states abstained from voting although the resolution was approved on Thursday with 23 votes in favor of the resolution.
The latest resolution asked UN rights Chief Navi Pillay to probe the actions of both government forces and Tamil rebels during a seven-year period leading up to the end of Sri Lanka’s 37-year-old Tamil separatist war.
About 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were said to have been killed by government forces in the final months of fighting, a charge Colombo has vehemently denied.
Sri Lanka has also said it needs more time to effect reconciliation between the ethnic Tamil minority and the majority Sinhalese community.
Speaking to Arab News, Fowzie said that the Kingdom has always been supportive of Sri Lanka at all international forums. “Both countries have been victims of terror and Sri Lanka has been suffering from terror for well over three decades,” the minister said, adding that his government would push on with reconciliation efforts in its bid to maintain transparency.
The minister said that he hopes to visit the Kingdom shortly to hand over a letter from his country’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa to the high officials to express his government’s appreciation to the Saudi leadership for voting in favor of Sri Lanka.
Two weeks before the voting, Fowzie held talks with Crown Prince Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, on matters of mutual cooperation. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, who rejected the UN call for an investigation against his country, said he was pleased that India, which voted for a similar resolution last year, decided to abstain this time round.
“I think it is encouraging that India did not vote against us,” he said shortly after the results of the vote were announced on Thursday.
“We reject this (resolution),” Rajapakse said. “This resolution only hurts our reconciliation efforts. It does not help. But I am not discouraged. We will continue with the reconciliation process I have started.”
External Affairs Minister Professor G.L. Peiris said yesterday the outcome of the vote on the US sponsored resolution at the UN Human Rights Commission reflects that more countries are against the US at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Prof. Peris stressed that the US resolution was voted for with a majority of 25 last year but it has dropped to 23.
The number of countries against the resolution is greater than those supporting it, he said. He made these observations at a press conference at Peacock Hotel, Hambantota. Professor Peiris said that another development is that India which voted for the US during the last two years, abstained from voting this year.


Arrests follow rape of Indian anti-trafficking activists

Updated 23 June 2018
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Arrests follow rape of Indian anti-trafficking activists

  • At least 60 NGOS in four networks are working on a memorandum asking the state to protect activists
  • More recently it brought in the death penalty for those who rape children under the age of 12 following a national outcry over the gang rape

NEW DELHI: Police have made a series of arrests in connection with the abduction and rape at gunpoint of five anti-trafficking campaigners in the central Indian state of Jharkhand early this week.

Khunti police station officials, where the incident happened, told Arab News that three people have been arrested, including the head of the school where the play was being performed. 

Police superintendent Ashwini Kumar Sinha said a leader of a local movement called Pathalgadi instigated the accused, saying that the play performers were against the movement and should be taught a lesson. 

Pathalgadi is a political movement whose followers recognize their village councils as the only sovereign authority and views all outsiders suspiciously.

Activists working in the area say the incident has left them shocked and worried for their safety.

Earlier this week, nine activists were abducted while performing a street play in Kochang village and driven into a forest, where they were beaten and the women raped.

The activists were from the nonprofit organization Asha Kiran, which runs a shelter in the Khunti district for young women rescued from trafficking. Activists say that while such incidents are rare, the abductions have shaken the community.

“There is definitely fear now,” said Rajan Kumar, of Sinduartola Gramodaya Vikas Vidyalaya, a nonprofit group campaigning against people trafficking in the district. 

“But people have to work. We need to do more to take members of the village council into our confidence.”

Rajiv Ranjan Sinha, of the Jharkhand Anti-Trafficking Network, a coalition of 14 organizations, said the incident has frightened everyone.

“We’ve never had to face this before,” Sinha said. “But it will definitely have an implication. New people will be scared to go into the field.”

On Saturday, several non-profit organizations called for a silent protest march at 10 a.m. in the state capital Ranchi on Sunday.

At least 60 NGOS in four networks are working on a memorandum asking the state to protect activists and to take seriously the issue of violence against women.

“We are not only NGO workers, but we are female also,” a spokeswoman said. “There is a lot of fear among workers now.”

India has a poor record of sexual violence against women — at least 39,000 cases were reported in 2016, the latest government data available. Activists say many more incidents go unreported.

The country changed its rape laws and introduced Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences legislation after the rape and murder of a 19-year-old student in December 2012 in the Indian capital.

More recently it brought in the death penalty for those who rape children under the age of 12 following a national outcry over the gang rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in the northern state of Kashmir.

The girl was kidnapped, drugged and raped in a temple where she was held captive for several days before being beaten to death.