12 Oct

MoroccanBorn Singer Bilal Hassani Competes for Eurovision Song Contest

Rabat – France is holding its competitions to select its representative at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest May 14-18 in Tel Aviv, Israel. Among the competitors is Moroccan-born Bilal Hassani.The 19-year-old artist’s new song, “Roi” (King) released on January 4 has already become a hit, scoring over 1 million views on YouTube.Roi’s music video features clips from Hassani’s childhood until now, depicting his blossoming love for music and telling how society alienated him as a gay person. Hassani is outspoken in his songs about his personal experiences, mainly about his experience as a member of the LGBTQ community. Hassani’s life reached a turning point when his parents found out his sexual orientation when he was in middle school. Hassani recounted how his school expelled him in a YouTube video titled “Expelled from my middle school because I’m gay,” in French.Read Also: Singer Ricky Martin and Husband Welcome Baby DaughterDespite all, the young singer who said “I’ve always been who I am” in his new song, came out as gay to his followers at age 17.The singer was already known for his participation in the second season of the Voice Kids, the French music talent show for children aged 6 to 15.Eurovision, a contest held since 1956, asks each participating country to submit “an original song” which will determine whether the candidates will make it to the contest which aims to support youth’s musical careers.This year, 42 countries are participating in the contest. read more

8 Oct

Sooka slams decision to give top post to Shavendra Silva

President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to appoint a notorious alleged war criminal as Chief of Army Staff is a shocking new low for Sri Lanka, a former member of a UN penal of experts appointed on Sri Lanka said today.Major General Shavendra Silva assumed duties today after being appointed to the post yesterday. Yasmin Sooka said that Major General Shavendra Silva was named by a United Nations investigation for his part in commanding the 58 Division, which was the unit responsible for repeated and deliberate attacks on hospitals, food distribution queues and displacement camps in 2009, resulting in tens of thousands of civilian deaths in a matter of months. Units under Silva’s direct command are also alleged to have been involved in summary executions including of women and children, hundreds of cases of enforced disappearance, as well as torture and sexual violence. “This is an incredible affront to the victims of that war – and jeopardises any reconciliation attempt in Sri Lanka,” said Ms. Sooka. “We cannot imagine what the President is thinking in promoting a man who brings the whole country into disrepute and is a close ally of the former secretary of defence, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, serving in the same regiment together.”SookaSilva is alleged to have been personally present at the location of the so called“white flag” surrenders on 18 May 2009, and has confirmed that he was in overall command of the area. An eyewitness says he saw Silva shake hands with the political leaders of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)as they surrendered to him; their corpses were seen on the roadside a few hours later. The UN’s Investigation said the leaders were summarily executed, despite assurances from the Government that they could safely surrender under a white flag.During the final phase of the war, Major General Silva reported directly to General Jagath Jayasuriya. In 2017 the ITJP filed a lawsuit against General Jayasuriya in Latin America, where he was based as a diplomat, in connection with his command position in 2008-9. Both Brazil and Chile found there was jurisdiction to accept the case; Jayasuriya fled the country on the eve of the filing, rather than test his innocence in an independent international court of law. Shavendra Silva’s alleged role in war crimes has also been extensively reported in the media for many years. In 2011, a war crimes lawsuit was filed against Silva in New York but failed because he had diplomatic immunity. In 2012, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, reportedly raised concerns with the UN Secretary General regarding Silva being an alleged war criminal. In 2012, Silva was removed from a top UN peacekeeping advisory committee because of the allegations of war crimes. A South African NGOalso threatened litigation when it was reported that Silva was to be posted as a diplomat to their country. “Sri Lanka now has a chief of army staff who risks arrest every time he travels abroad, if any country is foolish enough to give him a visa” Yasmin Sooka, now the executive director of the International Truth and Justice Project said. “We have prepared a substantial dossier on Major General Silva which we shall be releasing shortly; we believe there is more than enough evidence to charge him for international crimes should the opportunity arise. This is arguably the most wanted man in Sri Lanka – a decade on,tragically,he is being promoted instead of standing trial”Tamil survivors of the 2009 war, thousands of whom have been driven into exile since, have expressed horror that Silva has been chosen for such a senior military position. “This latest development might have been avoided,” said Ms. Sooka, if Major General Silva’s promotions had been scrutinised and criticised more closely in recent years. In 2017, Silva was promoted to Adjutant General of the Sri Lanka Army – ironically putting him in charge of the directorate of human rights and humanitarian law. He even received funding from coca cola and CEAT to run sporting events to raise money for the men in his regiment who fought with him. “The Attorney General of Sri Lanka should seriously consider indicting him for war crimes and crimes against humanity,”said Sooka.Silva’s official army biography says he was trained in the USA, Israel, Netherlands, Greece, Italy, France, Pakistan and India and was instructed in psychological operations by the US Army. It added that he taught an International Humanitarian Law Course for the Sri Lankan Army. (Colombo Gazette) read more