Feature Article

Tamil journalists applaud “Women of Courage” award to Srinithy Nandasekaran

[TamilNet, Monday, 30 March 2009, 11:46 GMT]
Magistrate Srinithy Nandasekaran, who had served earlier in the courts of Vavuniyaa, Jaffna, and Oorkaavattu'rai (Kayts), and currently a Magistrate in the Colombo Juvenile Court, was recognized as a South Asia Regional Finalist for the US Secretary of State's Women of Courage Award by the U.S. Ambassador Blake in Colombo on 24th March. Commenting on the award, a senior journalist said: "Ms Nandasekaran took strong, legally admissible steps to reign in on the Sri Lankan military's attempts to encroach into basic freedom of movement and rights of Jaffna residents. She ruled that the military cannot wear black masks during duty, and was a staunch critic of the road blocks the military forces set up that created hardship to the normal life of civilians."

Srinithy Nandasekaran
Srinithy Nandasekaran
Ms Nandasekaran served as Vavuniyaa district Magistrate and District Judge from 15 October 2002. She was then appointed as the Magistrate for the Oorkaavattu'rai (Kayts) Court on 16 June 2003.

After serving for three months, Judge Nandasekaran was appointed as the Magistrate and Additional District Judge for the Jaffna High Court.

"Ms Nandasekaran earned the admiration of the Jaffna district residents for her impartial dispensation of justice, and established her reputation as a courageous upholder of human rights in a difficult environment. During her Jaffna tenure nearly 50,000 members of Sri Lanka Security forces were deployed to maintain security in the district with 500,000 residents. Paramilitary groups working with the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) added further difficulties to law enforcement in Jaffna," commented an exiled journalist who earlier worked for TamilNet.

After serving nearly three years and six months in Jaffna, she was transferred to Colombo to function from February 2007 as a Magistrate in the Juvenile Magistrate Court in Colombo. Civil society sources in Jaffna believe that Ms Nandasekaran's judicial independence was increasingly becoming an irritant to Colombo, and the transfer was planned to silence her voice.

During the Allaippiddi massacre where 8 civilians were massacred and 3 were seriously injured in Mandaitheevu islet in May 2006, allegedly carried out the soldiers of Sri Lanka Navy (SLN), Ms Nandasekaran was instrumental in promptly attending to the welfare of the victims. She worked closely with the Sri Lanka Red Cross to facilitate immediate medical attention to the injured, and worked to recover expeditiously the bodies of those killed.

Later in August 2006, when Rev.Fr. Thiruchelvam Nihal Jim Brown, 34, Parish Priest Allaippiddi, was reported missing, Ms Nandasekaran entered the SLN camp and conducted investigations, directing the Commander of the SLN to appear before the Court. SLN was widely suspected of complicity in the disappearance and murder of Fr. Jim Brown. The Judge's actions helped internationalize the case and help to expose the ferocity of crimes being perpetrated against civilians in Jaffna.

"Ms Nandasekaran took strong, legally admissible, steps to reign in on the Sri Lankan military's attempts to encroach into basic freedom of movement and rights of Jaffna residents. She ruled that the military cannot wear black masks during duty, and was a staunch critic of the road blocks the military forces set up that created hardship to the normal life of civilians," said a senior journalist in Jaffna.

"When Sri Lanka Army (SLA) soldiers threatened her with death along Jaffna Palaali Road near Thirunelveali Ms Nandasekaran exposed the incident, and earned the ire of Colombo," he adds.

"She has been a strong advocate for child rights, and has worked with child welfare organizations to institute safeguards to prevent children from sexual abuse."

Ms Nandasekaran is a strong believer in Media Freedom, and she has earned a good reputation among the journalists. When two Uthayan staffers were shot dead and two seriously injured by attackers in May 2006, she rushed to the scene to facilitate speedy attention to the injured, and directed the law enforcement authorities to provide police protection to Uthayan premises. Police presence near the premises still continues.

“Women of Courage” is an honour bestowed by the U.S. Department of State on women who demonstrate exceptional courage and leadership.

Secretary Clinton paid tribute to eight honourees representing Afghanistan, Guatemala, Iraq, Malaysia, Niger, Russia, Uzbekistan, and Yemen on March 11 during a ceremony at the Benjamin Franklin Room in the White House. The eight are among over 80 exceptional women nominated by U.S. Embassies worldwide for their extraordinary work in advancing human rights.

Srinithy Nandasekaran
Srinithy Nandasekaran receiving award from the US Ambassador


Full text of the press release issued by the U.S. Embassy in Colombo follows:

    U.S. Ambassador Blake recognized Magistrate Srinithy Nandasekaran on 24 March as a South Asian Regional Finalist for the Secretary of State's Women of Courage Award. “Women of Courage” is an honor bestowed by the U.S. Department of State on women who demonstrate exceptional courage and leadership. In recognizing Ms. Nandasekaran, Ambassador Blake said, “Throughout her career as an attorney and magistrate, Srinithy has shown exemplary commitment and courage in the dispensation of justice to Sri Lankans of all ethnic groups, often while serving in the country’s most difficult conflict-torn areas.” Ambassador Blake noted especially Magistrate Nandasekeran's tireless efforts on behalf of Sri Lanka's children.

    U.S. Embassies around the world annually select outstanding women leaders to receive “Women of Courage” recognition. This year, U.S. Embassies worldwide nominated over 80 exceptional women by for their extraordinary work in areas such as advancing human rights and advocating for the promotion of women’s issues. Srinithy Nandasekeran was a Regional Finalist for South Asia. The Secretary of State selected eight recipients to receive International Women of Courage Awards at the Department of State in Washington, including women from Niger, Russia, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Guatamela, Uzbekistan, and Malaysia.


External Links:
US: 2009 International Women of Courage Awards
US: The Secretary of State's 2009 International Women of Courage Awards

 

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