8 Oct

Local monitors note change in political culture

Local election monitors today noted a positive change in Sri Lanka’s political culture which was having an impact on the Parliamentary elections.The Peoples Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) said that collective action had led to the positive change and this should now be maintained. He said there were less reports of State resources being used ahead of election day and Government vehicles which were used, had been returned following the intervention of the Elections Commissioner. Hettiarachi also hailed the measures taken by the police and the Elections Commissioner to prevent violations of elections laws.He said the powers with the Elections Commissioner has been boosted as a result of the 19th Amendment to the constitution and so those who backed the 19th Amendment must also be commended. PAFFREL meanwhile urged the public to select suitable candidates to represent them in Parliament when they go to vote on Monday.Hettiarachi also said that simply because someone had a bad past record does not mean he is clean now when contesting the election. (Colombo Gazette) The Executive Director of PAFFREL, Rohana Hettiarachi said that when compared to past elections there has been a considerable drop in pre election violations reported ahead of the August 17 polls. read more

2 Oct

UN food relief agency extremely worried about missing staff in volatile South

“We are extremely worried about the fate of our missing colleagues and are working hard for their safe return,” WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said in a press release issued today. “Our staff take enormous risks every day to bring vital aid to people in critical need.”According to WFP, their disappearance comes after another WFP staff member was abducted at gunpoint in October 2014 from the airport in Malakal in South Sudan and hasn’t been heard from since. WFP fears that worsening insecurity in some parts of South Sudan will make it harder for humanitarian agencies to reach conflict-affected communities with badly needed assistance, just as the lean season is set to begin.The three WFP staff members disappeared on April 1 en route to a food distribution in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state. They were traveling in a convoy from Malakal to Melut, carrying food intended for thousands of conflict-affected people, when witnesses say intercommunal fighting erupted along the road on which they were traveling. WFP lost contact with the three men and has not heard from them since, despite intense efforts to reach them.The agency also noted that because of increasing concerns about staff safety, it is re-assessing its ability to work in some parts of Upper Nile state. According to the press release, WFP plans to temporarily reduce its operations in those areas where it no longer believes it’s safe to work. “We regret that we must temporarily suspend food assistance in Akoka and Fashoda counties,” said WFP Deputy Country Director Eddie Rowe, in Juba, South Sudan. “We hope to resume as soon as we have the necessary assurances that our staff and partners can work safely.”The UN says that 10 humanitarian workers have been killed in Upper Nile state since the start of South Sudan’s conflict more than 16 months ago. “We are equally concerned about the welfare of innocent people, particularly women and children, who are suffering the consequences of this conflict,” Ms. Cousin said. “We are committed to assisting the South Sudanese people the best we can, but we cannot do our lifesaving work unless national and local authorities are willing and able to safeguard humanitarian staff.”According to WFP, 2.5 million people in South Sudan started this year unsure of where their next meal is coming from. Food security analysts believe this number will increase with the start of the lean season in May. WFP aims to assist roughly 3 million people throughout the country in 2015.The WFP has raised its most recent concerns as the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) reports that fighting erupted in Malakal on Tuesday evening and continued throughout most of the morning and early afternoon. The residence of the Upper Nile state governor was reportedly shelled by mortar rounds and two of his security officers were also wounded.At least 1,500 unarmed civilians have arrived at the UN protection site outside Malakal, which brings the total numbers of civilians being protected there to that particular site to 28,000 people. read more