UN mission in Haiti to hold memorial service for 11 peacekeepers killed

12 October 2009The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti will hold a memorial ceremony tomorrow in the capital, Port-au-Prince, to honour the 11 military officers killed when a plane crashed last Friday into a mountainside in the southeast of the country. Six Uruguayans and five Jordanians died in the crash and their bodies will be repatriated after tomorrow’s service, the mission – known as MINUSTAH – said in a press release issued today.The crash site, located in the Fonds-Verrettes area, has been secured and the investigation into the cause of the accident is expected to take several weeks, MINUSTAH said. The plane had been on a routine surveillance flight near the border with the Dominican Republic when it struck the mountain around noon.The mission said it was touched by the many messages of condolences and support it has received from around the world in the wake of the crash.The Security Council and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have both issued statements offering their condolences and voicing sorrow at learning of the news of the crash.MINUSTAH has been in place in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, since mid-2004 after the then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid violent unrest. Currently there are more than 9,000 military and police personnel deployed and nearly 2,000 civilian staff. read more

Gota in India this week over 13 A

Gotabhaya’s call for abolition of the 13th amendment is said to be in response to the “post-war strategy” of the TNA. India has repeatedly, and successfully, sought a reiteration from Lanka of its commitment to the 13th amendment, saying it was imperative for reconciliation after the war ended in 2009. Though the 13th amendment, which guarantees devolution of power to the provinces and comprises several other major concession to the Tamils, has often been pejoratively referred to as an “imported solution”, rarely has it been subjected to such attack by parties within the ruling coalition. Indian officials here said they were “surprised” by the development, but added they would respond at the right moment. Sources confirmed that Gotabhaya will be visiting India this week, and that the issue will be taken up with him. Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is expected in India this week to discuss the government position of the 13th Amendment, the Times of India reported today.The Indian media report said that ongoing one-upmanship between the Sri Lankan government and TNA, which represents a vast majority of Tamil population in the island nation, has taken a dangerous turn with many within the government, including President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother and defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, demanding that the 13th amendment to the Constitution, a product of the Rajiv Gandhi-Jayewardene 1987 accord, be repealed altogether. Despite raising doubts about the agenda of TNA, described by India as a credible body, President Rajapaksa had told TOI earlier this year that his government remained committed to 13th amendment. A joint statement issued by the two countries last year had said that “a devolution package, building upon the 13th amendment, would create conditions for genuine reconciliation”.Indian officials underlined how Lanka made the same commitment in the 2008 Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which looks at the human rights record of all UN member states every four years. Interestingly, Lanka’s record will be reviewed again by the UPR in early next month with India being one of the three countries that will carry it out. “This is not just a commitment made to India but to international agencies,” said an official. The reconciliation talks, which started after the war, collapsed in January with President Rajapaksa insisting that the process could be taken forward only through a Parliament Select Committee (PSC). The TNA has refused to join the PSC.While ties have suffered because of India’s vote at the UN Human Rights Council against Sri Lanka, PM Manmohan Singh did try to save the situation when he met Rajapaksa last month and assured him of New Delhi’s support at international fora in future. In the talks, though, India also conveyed to Lanka that it looked upon TNA as a credible entity with which talks must be resumed. The relations now threaten to hit an all-time low with the talk about scrapping the 13th amendment altogether. the Times of India reported. read more