இவற்றிற்கான களஞ்சியம் October, 2006

Oct 24 2006

[World Socialist Web Site] The government and their supporters want to encourage a war mentality in this country – teledrama director Athula Pieris

Censorship of filmmakers, artists and writers is escalating in Sri Lanka in line with the Rajapakse government’s intensification of its war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

In a recent case, the Sri Lanka Ruphavanini Corporation (SLRC), the island’s state-funded television channel, cut dialogue from the weekly teledrama Sudu Kapuru Pethi (White Camphor) early last month and a few days later axed the series entirely, claiming it “disgraced” the military.

The then SLRC chairman Newton Gunaratne told the media the television show had insulted the security forces. “Some parts of this teledrama bring disgrace to these soldiers and their self-respect,” he claimed. Gunaratne, however, made no attempt to substantiate his claims.

In fact, the multi-episode drama directed by Athula Pieris and funded by the broadcaster is a love story involving a Sinhalese girl from Sri Lanka’s south and a Tamil boy from the north. Based on Thushari Abesekera’s award-winning novel of the same name, the teledrama is set during the island’s protracted civil war prior to the 2002 ceasefire. The drama was initiated following the 2004 Boxing Bay tsunami and promoted by the SLRC as part of the network’s attempts to present “a new vision of peace”.

While Sudu Kapuru Pethi is not an explicit antiwar drama, it is a humane work. Its central love story between Tamil and Sinhalese youth is anathema to the Sinhala communalists, who dominate the Sri Lankan state, including the army. Its censorship follows a pattern of increasingly serious attacks on artists, filmmakers and journalists who reject Sinhala racism or dare to raise questions about the government’s war drive.

Last year Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera published a comment in the Sunday Times denouncing local filmmakers—Asoka Handagama, Vimukthi Jayasundera, Prasanna Vithanage and Sudath Mahadiwulvewa—for making antiwar movies. He claimed these films aided “terrorism” and were tantamount to treason.

A few days later Weerasekera, accompanied by Brigadier Daya Ratanayke, met with several filmmakers, including Handagama and Mahadiwulvewa, and said those who failed to produce pro-military movies when war resumed against the LTTE would “face the consequences”. The “consequences” were soon made clear.

In March, Culture Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana suddenly banned Asoka Handagama’s Aksharaya even though the film was not about the civil war. It had been already approved by Sri Lanka’s censorship body, the Public Performance Board (PPB) and cleared for local release.

Handagama’s movie was denounced as a “foreign-inspired” attack on Sri Lankan moral values. State authorities threatened criminal charges against the director, claiming he had violated the country’s child protection laws.

Last month’s axing of Sudu Kapuru Pethi was equally arrogant and provocative. SLRC management did not even bother to tell director Athula Pieris that dialogue had been cut from his show. He only learnt about it during the broadcast of its tenth episode on September 3.

When Pieris protested this violation, management “suggested” he re-edit the entire program. He refused and the show, which had another 13 episodes to run, was summarily cancelled.

Pieris is a well-known local television director whose Sindu kiyana Una Pandura (Singing Bamboo Bush) won Sri Lanka’s best single episode teledrama prize in 2005. He told the World Socialist Web Site the SLRC invested some 4.7 million rupees in the production, which had been initiated under the previous Kumaratunga government. The Rajapakse government approved its script in late 2005.

“After broadcasting 10 weekly episodes the SLRC stopped my teledrama without providing any acceptable reason. Without my knowledge they censored the dialogue—‘Jaffna tears are as cold as tears in Hambantota [Rajapakse’s electorate]’—in the tenth episode and then telecast it,” he said.

Pieris’s ability to legally challenge the axing of his production is limited because he is an SLRC employee and does not own the rights to the teledrama. But he is determined to fight this attack on artistic freedom.

“I condemn any sort of censorship, let alone state-sponsored censorship, which effects the creator’s and the viewer’s freedom,” he continued. “This is what happened with the recent banning of the local film Aksharaya (A Letter of Fire).

“The government and their supporters want to encourage a war mentality in this country. My drama attempts to discuss the real situation here and that’s why they censored some scenes.”

The cancellation of Sudu Kapuru Pethi foreshadows further assaults on democratic rights. As it widens its deeply unpopular war, the Rajapakse government is determined to silence any opposition. In this case, the suggestion that ordinary Tamils and Sinhalese share common problems and concerns was enough to provoke the ire of those who are deliberately stoking communal hatreds.


Sri Lanka’s state-owned television censors drama series

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Oct 24 2006

[The News Tribune] Man accused of having relations with dog

Published by under Bad Remark,The News Tribune,US

Prosecutors say a man’s wife caught him having sex with their dog. He might be the first in the state charged under a new animal cruelty law.

KAREN HUCKS; The News Tribune
Published: October 20th, 2006 01:00 AM

A Spanaway man is the first person in Pierce County – and possible the first in the state – charged under a new section of the state’s animal cruelty law that makes bestiality a felony.

Pierce County prosecutors say Michael Patrick McPhail, 26, had sex with his family’s dog Wednesday.

Deputy prosecutor Karen Watson charged the father of two Thursday with one count of first-degree animal cruelty – a crime that could mean up to a year in jail if he’s convicted.

McPhail was arraigned Thursday afternoon in Pierce County Superior Court and a not-guilty plea was entered on his behalf.

Judge Katherine Stolz ordered him held in the Pierce County Jail in lieu of $20,000 bail.

Stolz set trial for Dec. 11.

According to a Pierce County Sheriff’s Department report, McPhail’s wife told investigators that she caught her husband on the back porch about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday having intercourse with their 4-year-old female pit bull terrier.

She took photos of the act, the report says.

The bestiality law, which took effect in June, was prompted by a case near Enumclaw in which a man died after having sex with a horse.

Before the law was enacted, Washington was one of 14 states where bestiality had not been explicitly prohibited.


Man could be charged under cruelty law

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Oct 23 2006

[Boston Globe] Washington should suggest Tamil self-government

SRI LANKA’S intermittent war between successive governments and the secessionist movement known as the Tamil Tigers has been going on for nearly a quarter century and has taken 65,000 lives. It is one of the most vicious and intractable conflicts in theworld, but receives less attention than other wars that involve American interests more directly.

Episodes of gruesome bloodletting on both sides this fall demonstrate that a 2002 ceasefire survives only on paper. At the same time, Pakistani arms deliveries to the government and a consequent expectation that India will provide military aid (albeit covert) to the Tamils threatens to transform Sri Lanka’s civil war into a proxy war between South Asia’s two principal antagonists. So the Bush administration did well last week to dispatch Richard Boucher, assistant secretary for South and Central Asian affairs, to Sri Lanka to press for a political solution to the island’s civil war.

During a visit last June, Boucher staked out a sound principle for resolution of the conflict. The United States believes, he said, that the Tamil ethnic minority that predominates in the north and east of the island nation ought to have some form of self-rule in its own homeland. Vague as this formula may be, it does point the way to a political rather than a military solution in Sri Lanka, including a durable, peaceful coexistence between the mostly Hindu Tamils and the Buddhist Sinhalese majority.

But for Boucher’s visit Thursday and Friday to have a practical effect, it will have to be followed up with concrete measures. Although American officials are prohibited from engaging in contacts with the Tamil Tigers because the group is on the US terrorism list, the Bush administration should give whole hearted backing to the Sri Lankan government’s participation in peace talks with the Tigers later this month in Geneva.

To demonstrate Washington’s seriousness about a permanent peace that provides for Tamil self-government and human rights in a confederal Sri Lanka, the administration ought to prevail on the central government to withdraw its armed forces from the Tamil areas in the north of the island. The Sri Lankan government should also be told that as a humanitarian gesture , it would be wise to open the road to Jaffna, the sole main artery connecting the Tamil areas to the rest of the country.

Peace in Sri Lanka must be accompanied by justice for the island’s Tamil minority. That justice and that peace should be seen as building blocks for the security in Asia that is sure to become more and more important to the United States.


Asia’s unending war

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Oct 18 2006

[Guardian Unlimited] “Even other Muslims turn and look at me”

Muslim journalist Zaiba Malik had never worn the niqab. But with everyone from Jack Straw to Tessa Jowell weighing in with their views on the veil, she decided to put one on for the day. She was shocked by how it made her feel – and how strongly strangers reacted to it

Tuesday October 17, 2006
The Guardian

Photograph: PA

‘Idon’t wear the niqab because I don’t think it’s necessary,” says the woman behind the counter in the Islamic dress shop in east London. “We do sell quite a few of them, though.” She shows me how to wear the full veil. I would have thought that one size fits all but it turns out I’m a size 54. I pay my £39 and leave with three pieces of black cloth folded inside a bag.

The next morning I put these three pieces on as I’ve been shown. First the black robe, or jilbab, which zips up at the front. Then the long rectangular hijab that wraps around my head and is secured with safety pins. Finally the niqab, which is a square of synthetic material with adjustable straps, a slit of about five inches for my eyes and a tiny heart-shaped bit of netting, which I assume is to let some air in.

I look at myself in my full-length mirror. I’m horrified. I have disappeared and somebody I don’t recognise is looking back at me. I cannot tell how old she is, how much she weighs, whether she has a kind or a sad face, whether she has long or short hair, whether she has any distinctive facial features at all. I’ve seen this person in black on the television and in newspapers, in the mountains of Afghanistan and the cities of Saudi Arabia, but she doesn’t look right here, in my bedroom in a terraced house in west London. I do what little I can to personalise my appearance. I put on my oversized man’s watch and make sure the bottoms of my jeans are visible. I’m so taken aback by how dissociated I feel from my own reflection that it takes me over an hour to pluck up the courage to leave the house.

I’ve never worn the niqab, the hijab or the jilbab before. Growing up in a Muslim household in Bradford in the 1970s and 80s, my Islamic dress code consisted of a school uniform worn with trousers underneath. At home I wore the salwar kameez, the long tunic and baggy trousers, and a scarf around my shoulders. My parents only instructed me to cover my hair when I was in the presence of the imam, reading the Qur’an, or during the call to prayer. Today I see Muslim girls 10, 20 years younger than me shrouding themselves in fabric. They talk about identity, self-assurance and faith. Am I missing out on something?

On the street it takes just seconds for me to discover that there are different categories of stare. Elderly people stop dead in their tracks and glare; women tend to wait until you have passed and then turn round when they think you can’t see; men just look out of the corners of their eyes. And young children – well, they just stare, point and laugh.

I have coffee with a friend on the high street. She greets my new appearance with laughter and then with honesty. “Even though I can’t see your face, I can tell you’re nervous. I can hear it in your voice and you keep tugging at the veil.”

The reality is, I’m finding it hard to breathe. There is no real inlet for air and I can feel the heat of every breath I exhale, so my face just gets hotter and hotter. The slit for my eyes keeps slipping down to my nose, so I can barely see a thing. Throughout the day I trip up more times than I care to remember. As for peripheral vision, it’s as if I’m stuck in a car buried in black snow. I can’t fathom a way to drink my cappuccino and when I become aware that everybody in the coffee shop is wondering the same thing, I give up and just gaze at it.

At the supermarket a baby no more than two years old takes one look at me and bursts into tears. I move towards him. “It’s OK,” I murmur. “I’m not a monster. I’m a real person.” I show him the only part of me that is visible – my hands – but it’s too late. His mother has whisked him away. I don’t blame her. Every time I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirrored refrigerators, I scare myself. For a ridiculous few moments I stand there practicing a happy and approachable look using just my eyes. But I’m stuck looking aloof and inhospitable, and am not surprised that my day lacks the civilities I normally receive, the hellos, thank-yous and goodbyes.

After a few hours I get used to the gawping and the sniggering, am unsurprised when passengers on a bus prefer to stand up rather than sit next to me. What does surprise me is what happens when I get off the bus. I’ve arranged to meet a friend at the National Portrait Gallery. In the 15-minute walk from the bus stop to the gallery, two things happen. A man in his 30s, who I think might be Dutch, stops in front of me and asks: “Can I see your face?”

“Why do you want to see my face?”

“Because I want to see if you are pretty. Are you pretty?”

Before I can reply, he walks away and shouts: “You fucking tease!”

Then I hear the loud and impatient beeping of a horn. A middle-aged man is leering at me from behind the wheel of a white van. “Watch where you’re going, you stupid Paki!” he screams. This time I’m a bit faster.

“How do you know I’m Pakistani?” I shout. He responds by driving so close that when he yells, “Terrorist!” I can feel his breath on my veil.

Things don’t get much better at the National Portrait Gallery. I suppose I was half expecting the cultured crowd to be too polite to stare. But I might as well be one of the exhibits. As I float from room to room, like some apparition, I ask myself if wearing orthodox garments forces me to adopt more orthodox views. I look at paintings of Queen Anne and Mary II. They are in extravagant ermines and taffetas and their ample bosoms are on display. I look at David Hockney’s famous painting of Celia Birtwell, who is modestly dressed from head to toe. And all I can think is that if all women wore the niqab how sad and strange this place would be. I cannot even bear to look at my own shadow. Vain as it may sound, I miss seeing my own face, my own shape. I miss myself. Yet at the same time I feel completely naked.

The women I have met who have taken to wearing the niqab tell me that it gives them confidence. I find that it saps mine. Nobody has forced me to wear it but I feel like I have oppressed and isolated myself.

Maybe I will feel more comfortable among women who dress in a similar fashion, so over 24 hours I visit various parts of London with a large number of Muslims – Edgware Road (known to some Londoners as “Arab Street”), Whitechapel Road (predominantly Bangladeshi) and Southall (Pakistani and Indian). Not one woman is wearing the niqab. I see many with their hair covered, but I can see their faces. Even in these areas I feel a minority within a minority. Even in these areas other Muslims turn and look at me. I head to the Central Mosque in Regent’s Park. After three failed attempts to hail a black cab, I decide to walk.

A middle-aged American tourist stops me. “Do you mind if I take a photograph of you?” I think for a second. I suppose in strict terms I should say no but she is about the first person who has smiled at me all day, so I oblige. She fires questions at me. “Could I try it on?” No. “Is it uncomfortable?” Yes. “Do you sleep in it?” No. Then she says: “Oh, you must be very, very religious.” I’m not sure how to respond to that, so I just walk away.

At the mosque, hundreds of women sit on the floor surrounded by samosas, onion bhajis, dates and Black Forest gateaux, about to break their fast. I look up and down every line of worshippers. I can’t believe it – I am the only person wearing the niqab. I ask a Scottish convert next to me why this is.

“It is seen as something quite extreme. There is no real reason why you should wear it. Allah gave us faces and we should not hide our faces. We should celebrate our beauty.”

I’m reassured. I think deep down my anxiety about having to wear the niqab, even for a day, was based on guilt – that I am not a true Muslim unless I cover myself from head to toe. But the Qur’an says: “Allah has given you clothes to cover your shameful parts, and garments pleasing to the eye: but the finest of all these is the robe of piety.”

I don’t understand the need to wear something as severe as the niqab, but I respect those who bear this endurance test – the staring, the swearing, the discomfort, the loss of identity. I wear my robes to meet a friend in Notting Hill for dinner that night. “It’s not you really, is it?” she asks.

No, it’s not. I prefer not to wear my religion on my sleeve … or on my face.


‘Even other Muslims turn and look at me’

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Oct 18 2006

[BBC] Analysis: Sri Lanka military setbacks

By Dumeetha Luthra
Sri Lanka’s military has suffered two heavy blows in less than one week.

First, at least 129 Sri Lanka soldiers were killed in one day of fighting and more than 300 soldiers injured. It appears that an army offensive went badly wrong.

That figure represents the worst single day of casualties for the military since a ceasefire was signed in 2002.

The government claims it killed more than 200 Tamil Tiger rebels. However, no-one has yet been able to verify that and the rebels say they lost only 22 fighters.

Now more than 90 sailors are reported dead in a Tamil Tiger suicide attack.

The fear is that peace talks scheduled for the end of the month in Geneva, Switzerland, may not happen.

Analysts say the balance of negotiating power may have shifted.

Tiger ‘trap’

Previously the government was seen to be willing but reluctant to come to the talks table.

The heavy casualties the forces have suffered could prove an opening for the softer elements within the government to have their voice heard

They had enjoyed several military victories, including the capture of Sampur, which is strategically placed on the southern edge of the Trincomalee harbour in the north-east of the island.

They had also advanced into Tiger-held territory in the Jaffna peninsula.

There was a clear element within the military and the government which was pressing to fight on and push the advantage in the field to translate into an advantage at the talks table.

The expressed readiness to come to talks was, as one diplomat put it, a sign that the government was open to negotiations – but not quite yet.

However, with the latest setbacks for the military, this strategy may now have backfired.

Analysts say that last week the Sri Lankan government started the fighting in Jaffna but underestimated the strength of the rebels.

The Tigers claim to have been waiting, prepared and expecting this clash. Strategists say the soldiers walked into what was essentially a trap.

Dangerous phase

The international community had hoped that before the proposed talks on 28 October there would be a reduction in the violence.

Rebel fighters

The rebels are accused of using the truce to regroup

In fact, the country’s key backers had called for a cessation of hostilities as a necessary precursor to the negotiations.

However, diplomats acknowledge that given the fluidity of the situation in Sri Lanka, the gap of several weeks between the agreement to talk and the date of those discussions was going to be a dangerous phase.

Observers say the military have been keen to push their military advantage while they still have the time; the Tigers for their part want an opportunity to regain a balance of power.

The rebels have never been known to come to the table from a position of weakness.

In fact, ahead of these talks both sides’ commitment to the process has been questioned.

According to sceptics, the motivation for the Tigers agreeing to talks was not to resolve the situation, but to use it as an opportunity to regroup.

Even the monsoon rains have been cited as a reason why both sides are considering talking at this point.

Everything, anything, but the reality of a solution to Sri Lanka’s conflict.

The agenda for the discussions still hasn’t been set. No-one knows what the two sides will even be talking about.

And now the prospect of talks, however slim their chances for a sincere settlement, are hanging in the balance.

There is a real possibility that continued violence could scupper the discussions.

What now?

The heavy casualties the forces have suffered could prove an opening for the softer elements within the government to have their voice heard, a move away from the military solution.

Tamil residents of Jaffna wait to board buses to escape fighting

Fighting in the north has led many civilians to flee their homes

However it could also mean the government is now unwilling to come to the table from a position of perceived weakness.

The hardliners may push for military successes to ensure their bargaining strength in Geneva is not weakened.

On the Tiger side, the fact they held their lines last week and have inflicted such losses on the government may result in a reluctance for immediate talks.

They may want to regain the territory they lost. On the other hand they may feel that already they have already regained the upper hand.

It is still too early to say what the longer term impact of this clash will be, but the continuing violence does not auger well for any prospective talks.


Analysis: Sri Lanka military setbacks

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