Colombia UN voices concern over wave of death threats against partner agencies

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Colombia today expressed its deep concern over a spate of death threats made against human rights workers, including uprooted people defending their communities’ rights.In the most recent wave of intimidation, one of the South American nation’s new illegal armed groups distributed pamphlets last week, targeting several state bodies and civil and human rights organizations.The national Ombudsman Office, one of UNCHR’s closest partners in Colombia, was singled out by the group for issuing early warnings to people of critical human rights situations in several areas.The Office is in charge of overseeing the protection of civil and human rights in the country’s legal system and its Early Warning System is a unique method of preventing rights abuses and forced displacement, UNHCR said.“UNHCR reiterates its support to the Ombudsman and its staff at this difficult time,” agency spokesperson Andrew Purvis told reporters in Geneva today.He added that there is a rising climate of intimidation in Colombia in recent months, with indigenous communities, social leaders and representatives of displaced groups all having been targeted.In some cases, those threatened have been forced to leave their communities for their safety, while some have even lost their lives, Mr. Purvis said, noting that often, survivors, their families and colleagues refrain from speaking out against the intimidators for fear of reprisal attacks. “UNHCR strongly condemns these acts and is extremely concerned that new illegal groups that have begun operating in Colombia in the past few years are increasingly turning into another factor behind forced displacement in a country that already counts a very large IDP [internally displaced persons] population,” the agency’s spokesperson said.In the country, roughly 3 million people are registered as internally displaced, with an average of 300,000 new cases registered annually in the past two years. UNHCR has one dozen offices in Colombia and works closely with the uprooted, supporting Government efforts to protect and assist them, as well as find long-term solutions. 22 May 2009The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Colombia today expressed its deep concern over a spate of death threats made against human rights workers, including uprooted people defending their communities’ rights. read more

UN rights expert calls for urgent reform of justice system in Haiti

“When Haiti’s population sees the reform of the Haitian National Police proceeding at a fast pace, but the justice system is still marked by deprivation and limited resources, they are legitimately entitled to ask for the reasons behind this disparity,” Michel Forst told reporters in the capital, Port-au-Prince, before wrapping up his visit.Although there were high hopes for the laws designed to reform the judiciary, progress appears to have been halted with their passage, he said. “There is still a long way to go before the country has a penal system that adheres to the rule of law.”Mr. Forst pointed to progress in reforming the police, who are wearing new uniforms, driving new cars and include many more women in their ranks, but noted that the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, known as MINUSTAH, still reports that law enforcement officials are behind violence and corruption.Overcrowded conditions in prisons constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, he said, welcoming the construction of new detention centres and the influx of funding from international partners.In a new report on Haiti released yesterday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote that while there is substantial reason to believe Haiti is moving away from its past of conflict towards a brighter future of peaceful development, there is still a need to strengthen State institutions and constitutional reform, among the current challenges.“Further efforts to curb corruption and impunity are also critical,” stressed Mr. Ban, adding that an effective response “to violent incidents during the elections of 19 April would help to shore up public confidence in the democratic process.”His report underscored the critical contribution MINUSTAH and the UN Country Team can make to stability in Haiti, especially as the emergent Haitian police force is still strengthening. 4 September 2009Demand for justice outpaces the much-needed reform of the justice system in Haiti, the independent United Nations expert on the situation of human rights in the small Caribbean nation has underscored. read more

European countries endorse UNbacked pact on tropical timber

Representatives of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain took part in a ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York yesterday to indicate their country’s support for the International Tropical Timber Agreement. The agreement was adopted in January 2006 to serve as a successor to a previous pact but will only enter into force once a certain proportion of major exporting and importing countries have ratified it. The pact aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and to improve the management of forests in tropical countries by addressing illegal logging and deforestation while supporting the rehabilitation of degraded forests. Annebeth Rosenboom, Chief of the Treaty Section of the UN’s Office of Legal Affairs (OLA), welcomed the signature by Germany and the ratifications and said they would help bring the key agreement closer to its entry into force, perhaps as early as next year. 18 December 2009Eleven European countries have ratified a United Nations-backed agreement designed to promote the sustainable management of forests producing tropical timber and a diverse and legal international trade in such products. read more

Ban urges stronger legal protection as UN marks day for detained and

In his message to mark the International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members, Mr. Ban said 24 UN civilian members of staff who have been arrested or detained in relation to UN-specific activities or under circumstances when access or due process was denied.“I demand full justice and due process for all and call for action on behalf of the two individuals, one in Eritrea and one in Somalia, who remain missing,” said Mr. Ban.The Secretary-General commended States that have ratified the 1994 Convention on the Safety of UN and Associated Personnel and urged all others to support the treaty without delay. He noted that the 2005 Optional Protocol to the convention, which extends legal protection to other humanitarian workers, is now two countries short of the 22 ratifications needed for its entry into force.He pledged to work with the UN staff union’s committee on security and independence of the international civil service to raise public awareness on the matter. “We must not relent in our efforts to secure justice in all pending cases and prevent further abuses,” Mr. Ban said.Staff Union President Stephen Kisambira said colleagues who had been arrested, detained, abducted or disappeared and their families would not be forgotten, and demanded better protection for international civil servants.“Civilian personnel carry out their work in strict neutrality and impartiality and should not be hindered in their functions,” said Mr. Kisambira. “It is ironic and sad that United Nations personnel have become pawns in violence,” he added.The International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members is marked every year on the anniversary of the abduction of Alec Collett, a former journalist who was working for the UN Relief and Works Agency in the Near East (UNRWA) when he was abducted by gunmen in 1985. This year’s commemoration comes four months after his remains were finally found and returned to his family. 25 March 2010Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged all States to strengthen the legal protection afforded to United Nations staff and associated personnel by adopting the main treaty aimed at preventing attacks committed against them and punishing those responsible. read more

UN agency boosts aid to livestock herders in Niger and Chad at

21 April 2010The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is boosting assistance to herders and pastoralists in Niger and Chad, where nearly 10 million people are vulnerable to severe hunger owing to poor rains last year which impacted food production. The lack of rainfall led to a steep decline in agricultural production and dried out livestock pastures, according to a news release issued by the Rome-based agency, which noted that thousands of people are also under threat in the north of Burkina Faso and north-east Mali. “The situation in the region is very worrying indeed,” said Fatouma Seid, FAO Coordinator for West Africa. “Poor livestock herders are being forced to sell their only assets and an important source of nutrition, their animals, at discount prices in order to buy enough food for their families while farmers have no seeds to plant,” she said. Surveys carried out by the UN and the governments concerned show a prevalence of global acute malnutrition higher than 16 per cent, which exceeds the World Health Organization (WHO) critical threshold. Poor farmers and pastoralists are also having difficulty buying food since food prices continue to be high. Ms. Seid said FAO’s priority is to get feed to animals and to supply farmers with the seeds for the June planting season. Almost 70 per cent of livestock are at risk if they do not receive food soon. To assist Niger, which already experienced a major food crisis in 2005, the agency is rolling out eight new projects worth $12.7 million that will benefit an estimated 2.6 million people, including purchasing and distributing animal feed, seeds and fertilizers for the upcoming planting season. In addition, FAO has also started a cash-for-work programme for vulnerable households to restore pasture land, and is implementing a $4.1 million European Union Food Facility Programme for rehabilitation of medium-term improvements to the country’s agricultural system.The situation in Chad, where food production was at its lowest since 2006, was compounded by the influx of refugees from Sudan’s Darfur region and the Central African Republic (CAR), which placed additional demand on already limited food supplies. FAO is planning to supply agricultural inputs, seeds, fertiliser and animal feed worth $4.5 million in time for the May planting season in Chad. It is also currently distributing animal feed and veterinary products to pastoralists in Mali and Burkina Faso. read more

Probe under way into abduction of two UNAfrican Union blue helmets in

14 August 2010An investigation is underway into the abduction of two police advisors serving with the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in the strife-torn Darfur region of Sudan who were seized early Saturday. The incident happened at approximately 7:55 this morning in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state, according to a news release issued by the mission, known as UNAMID.The two officers, who had been walking to a UNAMID transport dispatch point, were 100 metres from their residence in the city’s Almatar area when they were blocked by three individuals in a 4×4 vehicle. “The perpetrators seized the peacekeepers at gunpoint and sped off,” stated the mission. An investigation into the incident is underway by Government authorities and UNAMID, which has been in place since the start of 2008 to protect civilians and quell the violence in Darfur, where nearly seven years of fighting has killed at least 300,000 people and driven 2.7 million others from their homes.Today’s incident is the latest in a series of attacks against UNAMID personnel in recent months, including the ambush last month of peacekeepers on patrol in West Darfur that resulted in injuries to seven blue helmets, as well as another ambush in June in the same region that killed three soldiers and seriously wounded a fourth.The attack also comes amid recent violence and ongoing tensions at the Kalma camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in South Darfur following the latest round of peace talks in the Qatari capital, Doha, aimed at bringing an end to the Darfur conflict, with some of the camp’s residents saying they were not fully represented. read more

Convention on environment and human rights crucial for ecological protection – Ban

1 July 2011Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today lauded the world’s leading international convention on environment and human rights as a powerful tool for environmental protection and the promotion of civil rights, saying the instrument also helped to combat climate change and air and water pollution. “The Convention’s critical focus on involving the public is helping to keep governments accountable,” Mr. Ban said in a message to the fourth meeting of Parties to the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters – the so-called Aarhus Convention.“There have been many achievements over the past decade, including the entry into force of the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers, the first global legally binding instrument of its kind,” Mr. Ban noted in the message, delivered on his behalf by Jan Kubiš, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).He said that the growing caseload of the Convention’s Compliance Committee, which offers members of the public the opportunity to trigger action, is a healthy sign of constructive engagement.Mr. Ban also pointed out that the convention is building synergies through cooperation with other international organizations, including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).Collaboration with international organizations such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is also yielding results, he added.The Secretary-General said he was pleased that this week’s meeting focuses on the role of the convention in promoting sustainable development, pointing out the as the world prepares for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil next year, it should be remembered that the convention is one of the major results of the Rio Declaration adopted at the first Earth Summit nearly 20 years ago.“As the convention enters its second decade, we applaud the accomplishments of the past while acknowledging the challenges ahead. I trust that the treaty’s spirit of openness, participation and justice will ensure that the public stays constructively engaged in order to achieve even greater progress in the future,” Mr. Ban added. read more

Security Council extends UN mission in Côte dIvoire for another year

27 July 2011The Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire for another year to assist the country tackle the many challenges it faces following the recent post-election crisis. In unanimously adopting resolution 2000, the Council decided that the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) will remain in the country until 31 July 2012 at its current strength of nearly 9,800 troops, which includes the additional 2,000 troops deployed earlier this year amid the post-electoral violence. The West African nation is emerging from a crisis that ended in mid-April, when former president Laurent 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.It is to assist with these and other tasks that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recommended in a recent report that the Council extend UNOCI’s mandate for one more year. “The crisis has taken a massive toll on Côte d’Ivoire and the country cannot be expected to bounce back swiftly to a level where it is able to contribute significant resources of its own towards addressing the immediate threats and priorities,” he wrote. “The country will need our help at this critical time to enable it to get back on its feet,” said the Secretary-General, who met with Mr. Ouattara today at UN Headquarters in New York. While at the UN, Mr. Ouattara also met with General Assembly President Joseph Deiss. They both underlined the importance of national reconciliation and stressed the need for the international community to continue to assist Côte d’Ivoire as it seeks to heal and rebuild. UNOCI was established in 2004 by the Council to facilitate the peace process in the country, which became split by civil war in 2002 into a rebel-held north and Government-controlled south.Cote read more

Closing Bell TSX up amid bullish housing news traders look to Fed

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market closed higher Monday as traders hoped for hints this week about when the U.S. Federal Reserve may move on hiking interest rates.The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 34.23 points at 15,338.47. The Canadian dollar was up 0.02 of a cent at 91.86 cents US.A strong showing in the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index raised hopes for a rebound in the U.S. housing sector and also helped push New York’s Dow industrials up 175.83 points to 16,838.74. The Nasdaq gained 43.38 points to 4,508.31 and the S&P 500 index rose 16.67 points to 1,971.73.The Fed has kept short-term interest rates near zero since the financial crisis of 2008-2009.Traders will initially look to the Fed minutes from its latest meeting on rates on Wednesday.They’ll also look to Friday when Fed chair Janet Yellen delivers the keynote speech at the central bank’s annual meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyo., which has been the scene of other major announcements.“And in particular, they remember back two years ago signalling the next round of quantitative easing (so) I can understand why people are so focused on it,” said David Wolf, portfolio manager in the Global Asset Allocation group at Fidelity Investments, adding he doesn’t think markets will end up any the wiser about rates.“The (Fed) keeps on drilling it into us it is data dependent, not calendar dependent, and the data have been evolving generally in a positive direction that suggests that tightening is on the visible horizon. Anything more specific is just sort of market chatter that should be tuned out.”One reason higher rates are a concern is that investors could be tempted to put more of their money in investments with a higher guaranteed rate of return.Inflation plays a big part in when rates will start to head higher and traders will also consider the latest reading on the U.S. consumer price index on Tuesday. Economists are looking for inflation to come in at an annualized rate of 2%.Sentiment was also helped along after the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers held talks in Berlin over the weekend. The discussions were aimed at ratcheting down tensions in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian militias have been battling Ukrainian forces.The tech sector led TSX advancers with BlackBerry Ltd. (TSX:BB) ahead 17 cents to $10.61 as the company said that it has created a new business unit that will combine some of its most innovative technology, including QNX embedded software, Certicom cryptography applications and its patent portfolio.The financial sector climbed 0.35% in advance of a string of earnings reports coming in from Canada’s big banks. Royal Bank (TSX:RY) reports Friday and its shares climbed 56 cents to $80.41.The metals and mining sector gained 0.25% while September copper was ahead a penny at $3.11 a pound.The gold sector shed early losses to move up about 0.2% while a lessening of geopolitical tensions pushed December bullion down $6.90 to US$1,299.30 an ounce.The energy sector was the major decliner, falling 0.42% as September crude dropped 94 cents to US$96.41 a barrel, near its lowest since April, as fears of supply disruptions from major producer Iraq faded, removing much of the risk premium that built up in May and June.The Canadian Press read more

WatchLinamar Corp bids 116 billion for French auto parts maker Montupet in

GUELPH, Ont. — One of Canada’s largest autoparts companies is making a play for French counterpart Montupet SA in a friendly takeover offer valued at $1.16 billion.Linamar Corp. of Guelph, Ont. says the acquisition would be a significant step in its strategy of becoming a global leader in making aluminum components for the automotive sector.Montupet designs and manufactures complex aluminum castings, with a presence in several European countries, North America and Asia.Canada’s auto industry could lose 20,000 jobs because of TPP trade deal, union saysThese analysts aren’t worried about Canadian auto parts makersHow Volkswagen’s Dieselgate has made the auto sector’s outlook smoggyLinamar is a diversified manufacture of precision metal components and systems, with particular expertise in aluminum components used in engines, transmissions and other sub-systems.It is offering 71.53 euros in cash for each Montupet share, or about $107.30, which is 15.5 per cent above the pre-announcement market price.Linamar would also assume Montupet debt valued at 63 million euros or $94.5 million.The Montupet board of directors and shareholders who own 36.6 per cent of its shares are supporting the bid, which requires regulatory approvals and will be open to other shareholders until early December. read more

The average price of a home in Canada is now more than

OTTAWA — The hot real estate market in Toronto and the surrounding areas helped push home sales up last month to their highest mark in nearly a year.The Canadian Real Estate Association says home sales though its MLS system hit their highest level since last April, gaining 5.2 per cent in February compared to January.The association says February sales were up from the previous month in about 70 per cent of all local markets it measures, with the national increase driven by the Greater Toronto Area and surrounding regions.Canadian home prices climb another 1% in biggest February increase on record as Toronto stays strongForeign buyer tax plus a surtax on expensive homes needed to rein in Toronto housing: report‘It’s terrible, it’s just discouraging’: Desperation sets in for house hunters in red-hot Toronto marketCREA president Cliff Iverson says homes are selling briskly throughout the Greater Toronto Area and nearby communities, but elsewhere, competition among potential buyers is less intense, so listings take longer to sell.Compared with a year ago, sales were down 2.6 per cent from February 2016 due to a slowdown in B.C.’s Lower Mainland region.The national average price for a home sold in February was $519,521, up 3.5 per cent from a year ago, boosted by Greater Vancouver and Greater Toronto.Excluding those two markets, the national average price was $369,728. read more

Most actively traded companies on the TSX

Some of the most active companies traded Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange:Toronto Stock Exchange (15,059.83, down 30.32 points):Precision Drilling Corp. (TSX:PD). Oil and gas. Up 26 cents, or 8.10 per cent, to $3.47 on 5.9 million shares.Hydro One Ltd. Instalment Receipts (TSX:H.IR). Utilities. Up five cents, or 0.13 per cent, to $39.00 on 5.4 million shares.Kinross Gold Corp. (TSX:K). Miner. Down 11 cents, or 1.89 per cent, to $5.70 on 4.21 million shares.Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (TSX:CM). Bank. Up 88 cents, or 0.85 per cent, to $104.98 on 4.18 million shares.Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B). Aerospace, rail equipment. Up six cents, or 2.53 per cent, to $2.43 on 4.05 million shares.Trevali Mining Corp. (TSX:TV). Miner. Up seven cents, or 4.76 per cent, to $1.54 on 3.8 million shares.Companies reporting major news:Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. (TSX:ATD.B). Convenience stores. Up $1.57, or 2.64 per cent, to $61.03 on 976,570 shares. CEO Brian Hannasch says its Texas team is “working tirelessly” to get its convenience stores and fuel stations back to full capacity as it continues to integrate CST Brands Inc. into its North American retail network. The Quebec-based company also reported adjusted earnings of US$364.7 million or 64 cents per share in the first-quarter, up 17.5 per cent from the same time last year and total revenue including acquisitions was up 16.9 per cent at $9.85 billion as of July 23, about a month before devastating flooding began sweeping the U.S. Gulf states.Hudson’s Bay Company (TSX:HBC). Retailer. Up 92 cents, or 8.16 per cent, to $12.19 on 1.2 million shares. The retail giant is hopeful that cost-cutting and investments will bear fruit in the busy fall and holiday season after it lost $201 million in a “very disappointing” second quarter. read more

Garneau talks selfdriving cars with Tesla execs and makes Canadian pitch

OTTAWA — Under the California sun, Marc Garneau pressed a button to let a car take him for a spin as part of a joy ride that was more business than pleasure.While much attention this week went to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s trip to Washington and Mexico to save North American free trade talks, the transport minister and two senators quietly travelled to Silicon Valley to meet officials from one of the world’s biggest tech companies.The race to put more self-driving cars on North American roads has meant Garneau is now moving quickly to craft regulations so his government doesn’t fall behind the curve, even if the technology may not be fully ready for another 10, 20 or 30 years.Garneau has already travelled to Waterloo, Ont., as part of that work, but he and his team made the decision that it was important to go to the epicentre of the technological change at Tesla’s facility near San Francisco.In a few weeks, the transport minister will go to Detroit, the heart of the American automotive industry, to see what the big three automakers are doing on their end as companies race to develop self-driving systems.On Thursday, a day after Garneau’s test drive at Tesla, BlackBerry QNX tested an autonomous car just outside Ottawa in what was billed as the first on-street test of an autonomous vehicle in Canada.On the day Garneau met researchers from Stanford University and executives from Tesla and Proterra, which makes electric buses, California’s government released revised regulations that could pave the way for self-driving cars to be on the state’s roads next year.Florida legalized fully autonomous cars for road use last year. Nevada has done the same and is looking to connect companies with local researchers with an eye towards economic development. Other jurisdictions are looking at similar measures to lure tech companies away from Silicon Valley, which made Garneau’s trip part trade mission.“What I did bring up is that Canada had quite a bit to offer in terms of engineering and research,” Garneau said of his visit to Tesla.“With our capability that is established in Canada, particularly in Ontario and in Quebec, there is the possibility that Canada could contribute if Tesla made the decision that it wanted to expand its manufacturing.”At Tesla, talk largely focused on the availability and location of charging infrastructure for electric cars, as well as potential purchase or tax incentives for consumers or companies. Both issues will likely be addressed in the Liberals’ planned zero-emission vehicle strategy set to be released next year.“We’re on the right track,” Garneau said of the strategy in a telephone interview.“I think we’re zeroing in on the things that we need to do.”There were also discussions about safety and privacy issues with self-driving cars, two key issues the Senate’s transport committee is looking at as part of a study about autonomous cars, which Garneau asked for.The committee plans to deliver a final report by the end of the year, although that timeline could change. The committee has legislation to review and Senate rules say that takes precedence over studies.The senators who travelled with Garneau said they felt the trip validated the questions they have been asking. The issues that have come up in the study to date mirror those they heard during the visit, said independent Sen. Patricia Bovey.Sen. Michael MacDonald, the committee’s deputy chairman, said while the technology on display in California was impressive, the automated vehicle is still very much a work in progress.“There’s a lot more to do there and figure out,” the Conservative senator said. read more

Financial market highlights on Wednesday SPTSX 1585477 down 5037 points

Highlights at the close Wednesday at world financial market trading.Stocks:S&P/TSX Composite Index — 15,854.77, down 50.37 pointsDow — 23,329.46, down 112.30 pointsS&P 500– 2,557.15, down 11.98 pointsNasdaq — 6,563.89, down 34.54 pointsCurrencies:Cdn — 78.30 cents US, down 0.65 of a centPound — C$1.6924, up 2.84 centsEuro — C$1.5073, up 1.72 centsEuro — US$1.1803, up 0.38 of a centOil futures:US$52.18, down 29 cents(December contract)Gold futures:US$1,279.00 per oz., up 70 cents(December contract)Canadian Fine Silver Handy and Harman:$22.497 oz., up 17.9 cents$723.28 kg., up $5.76

Divi Neguma bill passed

The government expects to form the Divi Neguma Department bringing the Samurdhi Authority, Upcountry Development Authority and the Southern Development Authority under its umbrella. The Divi Neguma Bill was passed in Parliament this evening with 160 votes in favour and 53 against it.The opposition UNP, TNA and DNA voted against the bill while 11 members abstained. According to state media, the government hopes to set up Divi Neguma community based organizations, Divi Neguma Community Based Banks and banking societies under this bill. More than 10 Amendments were made to the Bill before it was presented to Parliament today.The Supreme Court had earlier determined that several clauses of the Bill need to be passed by a special majority in Parliament while one clause that gives the authority to the minister to appoint administrative zones would require the approval of the people at a referendum unless it is amended to give that appointing authority to the Cabinet of Ministers. read more

NGO to be questioned

“We would like to state on record that we find this notice to be present at the KDN (Home Ministry) office to record Tan’s statement about a film screening is highly unnecessary. It is disruptive to his work and seems more like a form of harassment when they had already recorded the statements of KOMAS staff and colleagues who were arrested and questioned for more than 3 hours on the night of July 4th. 2013. Tan also acted as the person to post bail for the 3 arrested KOMAS colleagues then. This continued form of intimidation tactics to curb freedom of expression and speech is highly disappointing especially when these basic rights are in fact guaranteed in Article 10 of the Malaysian constitution, the most important and highly regarded document in the land. Despite our objections to this form of unnecessary harassment by the KDN, Tan has nevertheless agreed to be present at the KDN office together with KOMAS legal counsel at 10am on July 22nd 2013,” the statement said. (Colombo Gazette) A Malaysian NGO is to be questioned next week over its screening of the controversial film “No Fire Zone, the Killing Fields of Sri Lanka” in Malaysia.KOMAS Director Tan Jo Hann said in a statement that he had received a fax notice from the Malaysian Home Affairs Ministry requiring him to be present at their office to record his statement on the issue. Tan being summoned to have his statement recorded is related to KOMAS screening of the film “No Fire Zone, the Killing Fields of Sri Lanka” that was raided by Police and Immigration department on 3rd July. read more

Dutch national drowns at Mount Lavinia sea

The man was later rescued and taken to the Kalubowila hospital where he had died. He was identified as a 60 year old resident of the Netherlands. (Colombo Gazette) A Dutch national who had gone for a swim in Mount Lavinia had drowned, the police media unit said today.The police said that the foreigner had gone for a sea swim and was pulled away by strong currents.

Passenger arrested at BIA with gold slabs

He was arrested at the arrival lounge of the airport with six gold slabs weighing 600 grams and valued at Rs. 3 million.Further investigations are underway. A passenger who arrived from Chennai was arrested at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) today with gold slabs in his possession.The customs department said that the 51 year old man, a Sri Lankan, had hidden the gold in his rectum.

Four elephants killed in train accident

A Sri Lanka Railway official told Xinhua that an investigation by the Railway and Wildlife Departments was underway and added that the accident took place in a spot which was not frequented by wild animals. The elephants were walking towards a newly constructed railway line in Chettikulum, in the Vavuniya district when they were hit by the Colombo bound Thaleimannar Express train.No passengers were injured in the accident. “The Wildlife Department together with the Sri Lanka Railways have been trying to identify paths where wild animals usually roam around. Along these routes trains usually reduce their speed and are very cautious. Wednesday’s accident took place in an area where there have been no wild life movements,” the official said.He added that the four elephants had been hurt when they suddenly moved on to the tracks while the train was crossing. One baby elephant had been dragged meters away. (Colombo Gazette) Four elephants were killed when they were hit by a passenger train in northern Sri Lanka on Wednesday, Police said.The accident is termed as one of Sri Lanka’s worst involving wild animals, according to the Xinhua news agency. read more

Men charged with smuggling Lankans go on trial in Canada

In his opening statement, Crown counsel Peter LaPrairie told a 12-member jury that the migrants were charged a fee, generally a $5,000 down payment, to be on the boat, with an additional $25,000 owing when they arrived in Canada, for a total of $30,000. Once they had been transferred to the Lower Mainland, all of the passengers made refugee claims due to violence in Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan civil war.The trial is expected to run eight weeks. (Colombo Gazette) “A Sri Lankan national who wishes to enter Canada must have a valid passport and a visa issued by the Canadian government to come to Canada,” LaPrairie said. “None of the 492 persons aboard MV Sun Sea had the required travel documents.” “When the boat set sail for Canada there were 493 persons on-board. One person became ill during the journey and died at sea. His body was buried at sea.”Emmanuel was the captain of the vessel, spending his time on the bridge operating the boat and staying in the crew’s quarters, LaPrairie said.Christhurajah rented apartments for the migrants in Bangkok and supervised the loading of the migrants into vans for the journey to the south of Thailand, LaPrairie said. LaPrairie said that the migrants will testify that after leaving Sri Lanka they ended up in Bangkok, arriving there in the spring of 2010. Some migrants were housed in apartments in the Thai capital after arrangements were made by “agents” they dealt with while awaiting for the journey on the boat, he said.When it was time to board MV Sun Sea, the migrants were transported to the south of Thailand and then put on a fishing vessel and taken out to the cargo ship. Some migrants spent several months on board before the vessel set sail for Canada on July 5, 2010, LaPrairie said. The Crown portrayed some bleak living conditions for the migrants, who included 380 men, 63 women and 49 children aboard the vessel.The vessel, which was intercepted by Canadian authorities on Aug. 12, 2010, was designed to accommodate a maximum of 13 crew and ply coastal waters instead of oceans. The small crew on MV Sun Sea had cabins, a washroom and a kitchen, but the hundreds of male migrants were forced to stay below deck in the cargo hold of the ship, LaPrairie said.“There were no beds. The men slept on the floor. Food was sent below decks and the men were only allowed on deck for certain periods of time. The women and children slept under tarps on the deck of the boat.” Rajaratnam and Mahendran were acting as agents for the migrants and were not aboard MV Sun Sea when it was intercepted by Canadian authorities off the B.C. coast and escorted to CFB Esquimalt, he said. Both Rajaratnam and Mahendran are Canadian citizens. More than six years after a rickety vessel with nearly 500 Sri Lankan Tamils aboard arrived off the coast of Vancouver Island, four men charged with human smuggling saw their trial open Wednesday in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, Times Colonist reported.Lesly Emmanuel, Kunarobinson Christhurajah, Nadarajah Mahendran and Thampeernayagam Rajaratnam have pleaded not guilty to the offence under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. read more