The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Monday, 31 March 2008

I committed 'three' mistakes as Lanka prez: Kumaratunga

Former Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga said she has committed "three" mistakes during her nine-year reign, including dismissal of UNP-led government in 2004.

Kumaratunga said she realised that an alliance with the Marxist JVP party was a mistake she committed while at the helm of affairs in the country.

Similarly, she said, the UNP-led government of Ranil Wickremesinghe should not have been dismissed in 2004.

The 62-year-old former President said she would reveal the third mistake she committed sometime in the future.

In an interview to a Sinhala weekly, Kumaratunga said her party the Sri Lankan Freedom Party (SLFP) and the opposition United National Party should forge an alliance to resolve the 25-year-old Tamil ethnic conflict.

"I think the SLFP and UNP should come together and work out a common understanding to find a solution to resolve the conflict in the country," she said.

She also made it clear that neither she nor her sister Sumitra would enter active politics.

Their brother and former Foreign Minister Anura Bandaranaike died recently raising questions about the future representatives of the legendary Bandaranaike family in politics.

Fifty nine-year-old Anura, son of Prime Ministers S W R D Bandaranaike and Sirimavo Bandaranaike was at one time considered a forerunner for the country's top post.


21 killed in Lanka clashes, LTTE runway damaged

Sri Lankan fighter jets today destroyed a 'runway' operated by the LTTE even as a series of clashes over the weekend left 20 Tamil Tigers and a soldier dead in the embattled northern region.

Military fighter jets twice attacked an LTTE 'runway' located 10-km west of rebel strong hold of Mullaitivu and the pilots confirmed the target was hit successfully, Air Force spokesperson Wing Commander Andrew Wijesooriya said.

According to defence sources, ten people, including a soldier, were killed in clashes yesterday while eleven rebels were shot down a day earlier.

While three militants, including two female LTTE cadres, were gunned down in Veddayanmuripu area in Mannar, another three were killed in Vavuniya region yesterday.

Troops also killed one Tiger rebel in Periyawalayankaddu area in the region yesterday, the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) said.

Another militant was killed in Veddayanmuripu area, it said, adding in a separate incident troops gunned down one militant in Mallikattidal area in Mannar, also yesterday.

One soldier lost his life in clashes in Madhu area in North-western Mannar, the Defence Ministry said. Sri Lankan fighter jets also "successfully" targeted Chilawathha Alampil area in a rebel stronghold in northern region yesterday noon, the MCNS said.

According to delayed reports, the security forces gunned down four LTTE tigers in the Madhu area on Saturday, the MCNS said, adding that seven militants were also killed in another confrontation in Madhu on the same day.


Illegal travel to India lands Sri Lankans in trouble

Two Sri Lankans were arrested and another four including a woman detained for questioning Monday off the Rameshwaram coast in Tamil Nadu for trying to enter India illegally, police sources said here.

The two who were arrested were identified as Anton (40) and Valentine (29).

A police spokesman said that an Indian naval helicopter spotted them travelling in a high-speed boat ferrying a 30-year-old woman, Nakuleshwari, and her three children from Trincomalee in eastern Sri Lanka to India.

After surrendering to the Indian authorities, the family admitted paying Rs.50,000 to the boatmen, a police officer quoted officials as saying in the coastal town of Rameshwaram.

The family had come looking for their male breadwinner who had fled to India earlier, the police said.

The police said that the antecedents of the six people were being checked to discern whether they were linked to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

"On the basis of their statements, we will decide the future course of action," a police source said.


Sri Lanka offering overseas jobs to Tamil rebels

The Sri Lankan government said Monday it was contemplating offering overseas jobs to Tamil Tiger rebels who surrendered to the authorities.

Keheliya Rambukwella, defence spokesman and minister of foreign employment told reporters that he had discussed the issue with the International Organization for Migration.

He said some 47 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) members who had surrendered in the northern Jaffna peninsula were being rehabilitated in two centres.

Some 11 former LTTE members had already been released and gone on jobs overseas, said the spokesman.

Rambukwella said the government has put up posters offering financial help and foreign employment to the members of LTTE's suicide squad.

"This was an action taken purely on humanitarian grounds," Rambukwella said, adding that the government wanted to offer an alternative to the LTTE members in order to prevent destructive action by them.


Sri Lankan war jets bomb LTTE airstrip

Sri Lankan jets Monday carried out two air raids on a suspected fresh airstrip of the Tamil Tigers in their heartland in Mullaitivu in the island’s north, the military said. “Air Force Kfirs and Mig-27s bombed an LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) runway located 10 km west of Mullaitivu town at 9.45 a.m. and 10.30 a.m.,” said military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara.

“The pilots have confirmed that they … damaged it extensively,” he said, giving no further details.

Although the Sri Lankan jets have periodically bombed the LTTE airstrip at Iranaimadu in the rebel-held north, this is for the first time the air force has said it bombed a rebel airstrip in the Mullaitivu district.

The LTTE is known to be in possession of unspecified number of Czech-built Zlin Z-143 light wing aircraft and have carried out five air raids against Sri Lankan military and economic targets until October 2007.

There was no reaction from the LTTE regarding the latest air raid.

Meanwhile, Brig Nanayakkara claimed that at least 678 LTTE cadres and 73 government soldiers were killed while a large number of rebels and 316 soldiers were wounded in fighting in March.

He said despite the challenges posed by the unexpected torrential rains and resultant floods, government troops were continuing with their offensive aiming at pushing the Tigers further into the war zone.


Sunday, 30 March 2008

Heavy Fighting Kills 71 Rebels In Sri Lanka

At least 71 Tamil Tiger rebels were killed in fierce fighting with the government troops in the country's embattled northern region, officials said on Saturday.

A school used by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a training camp in the region had also been captured, according to reports.

The rebels were killed in a series of separate fights.

As many as 30 rebels were killed in Pandivirichchan in North-west Mannar in fighting with troops on Friday, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported quoting the state-owned Rupavahini Television reports.

At least 10 Tamil Tigers rebels were killed on Friday when security personnel captured a land stretch of 700 meters in the Illanthevan area of Mannar after destroying two LTTE bunkers, officials said.

At least seven militants were killed in clashes with army in Kilaly and Muhamalai on Friday, according to the defense ministry.

In a separate incident, as many as three LTTE cadres were shot dead in Nagarkovil in Jaffna region on Friday, the ministry said.

There was no immediate comment from the LTTE, but a soldier died on Friday after accidentally touching a live electric fence along the northern defense line, the AFP reported quoting a pro-rebel website. The military did not comment.

Security forces have killed at least 2,418 rebels since the beginning of January, while only 147 government soldiers have died in action, the defense ministry confirmed.

The government casualty numbers and those given by the Tigers cannot be independently confirmed as Colombo bars journalists and rights groups from front line areas.

The rebels have been battling for an independent homeland since 1972 in an ethnic conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Source: AHN

Friday, 28 March 2008

26 killed in Sri Lanka battles: military

Twenty-six people, including two civilians have been killed in new fighting in civil war-wracked Sri Lanka, the military said.

A series of tit-for-tat clashes between security forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) across the island's north yesterday left at least 18 rebels and four soldiers dead, according to a military statement.

Also two civilian workers who were collecting sand from a river bed to make cement were killed when they came under rebel fire in Amapara in the island's east yesterday, the military said.

"Terrorist gunfire killed two of them (the civilians) but the third one survived with injuries," a military statement said. The ministry refers to the LTTE as terrorists.

There was no immediate comment from the LTTE and casualty claims by either side cannot be independently verified as journalists and rights workers are barred from the embattled areas.

Since the start of this year, at least 2,401 rebels and 147 soldiers have been killed in fighting, according to defence ministry figures.

Northern Sri Lanka has been the scene of heavy fighting between troops and Tamil rebels since the Government ejected the LTTE from its eastern stronghold last year.

Security forces have been trying to dismantle the Tigers' de facto state in the north, but the guerrillas have been putting up stiff resistance.

Tens of thousands of people have died since the LTTE launched their armed struggle in 1972 to carve out a separate homeland for minority Tamils in the the majority Sinhalese country.

Source: ABC

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Sri Lanka campaign to discourage suicide bombers

Sri Lanka has launched a mystery poster campaign inviting would-be Tamil Tiger suicide bombers to phone a government helpline in exchange for 10 million rupees ($92,000) and a new life overseas.

"Why should you die with a scattered body?" the red-and-yellow posters, placed in Tamil-dominated areas of the capital, Colombo, asked readers contemplating becoming members of what the rebels call elite "Black Tiger" suicide squads.

"You also were born to live. Why should you carry bombs?" the posters said alongside a fuzzy black-and-white photograph of a suicide bomber's severed head.

Sri Lanka's capital and other districts have increasingly been targeted by suicide attacks as the government and military vow to defeat the Tigers by December, pressing home an offensive against northern rebel strongholds.

The military, perhaps wary of scaring off genuine callers with rebel sympathies, said it was unaware of the posters, which invited readers to phone a government-operated 118 line that went unanswered when called by Reuters on Thursday.

Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanyakkara said he did not want to comment on whether the failure to answer was a fatal campaign flaw or whether the line could be swamped by the poor in a nation where average yearly salaries are $2,230.

Police, who with the military man most road corners and major buildings in Colombo, said they were also unaware who placed the posters, which make no mention of a backer other than relying on a government number.

"We do not know who pasted up the poster," said Mangala Dehideniya, in charge of Wellawatta Police where many of the posters were placed.

The posters said Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran should sacrifice his own son before asking others to become suicide bombers.

"Your life is precious and you have only one. Do not die for the brave words of an illusion," the poster read, promising 10 million rupees for genuine callers to build a new life at home or overseas if necessary.

The Tigers are regularly hitting back at the government's offensive with bloody suicide strikes and roadside bombs increasingly aimed at civilians, escalating a conflict in which an estimated 70,000 people have died since 1983.

In February, a suicide bomber blew themselves up near Colombo's main port, wounding seven others and spreading body parts around a house in the Modhara quarter during a search and cordon operation by police.

($1=107.79 rupees)

Source: Reuters

Row erupts over Tamil rebel film

A Sinhala-language movie about Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels has provoked a row between Indian Tamil activists and the film's director.

The activists, who sympathise with the Tigers, were involved in a scuffle with the director, Tushara Peiris, in the south Indian city of Madras (Chennai).

The scuffle broke out at a studio where the film, named Prabhakaran after the Tigers' leader, was being processed.

Mr Peiris has now demanded government help to ensure his film rolls are safe.

He told the BBC he was going on a hunger strike to make the Indian and Sri Lankan governments guarantee that the prints of his film - believed still to be at the studios - are returned undamaged.

According to the Sri Lankan press, Mr Peiris' film focuses on a would-be suicide bomber recruited by the Tamil Tigers.

Rising violence

The Chennai studio processing the film was picketed by activists from the Dravidian Tamil movement, a group of parties that backs the Tigers' cause.

Scuffles broke out when Mr Peiris appeared before the protestors in an attempt to defend his film.

A leader of the protesters, Suba Veerapandian, told the BBC he regretted that the confrontation had turned violent.

But, he said, his group had acted to defend Tamils against an "insulting" film.

Tamils are the main ethnic group in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, of which Chennai is the capital.

Tamil speakers are in a minority in Sri Lanka, mostly concentrated in the island's north and east.

The Tigers took up arms against the Sri Lankan government more than 20 years ago, arguing that the island's ethnic Sinhala majority discriminated against Tamils.

The collapse of a recent ceasefire deal has seen fighting intensify along frontlines in the north of the country, where the rebels control a swathe of territory.

Source: bbc

Air Force warplanes destroy LTTE training facility and Radar post in Wanni

Sri Lanka Air Force fighter jets successfully carried out two bombing missions targeting two identified camps of LTTE terrorists located in Wanni region this morning (March 27). According to the defence sources the targets were a training facility and a Radar command post both located in Kilinochchi district.

Air Force Spokesman Wing Commander Andrew Wijesooriya speaking to said that the first mission was launched around 6.25.a.m. targeting a training facility located inside a jungle patch at Kalmadhu, in Iranamadhu. According to the defence intelligence, the terrorists have also used the location as a marshalling point for the conscripts.

The second mission was launched at 6.35.a.m. targeting a Radar Command post located in the Vallaipadhu area, South of Poonaryn, said the Air Force spokesman. Meanwhile, defence intelligence revealed that the terrorists have been using the location to coordinate boat operations across the Gulf of Mannar. The location was a recently established one by the terrorists due to frequent air raids on the strategically important coastal belt in the Northwest of the Island, the sources further said.

According to Wing Commander Wijesooriya the targets have been positively identified through human intelligence and verified by air surveillance. The Kfir and F-7 fighter jets carried out the missions jointly and the targets were accurately hit the added citing the fighter pilots.


Multivision allowed to transmit

Sandasen Marasinghe

Colombo District Judge Sisira Ratnayake yesterday issued an enjoining order preventing Union Residencies (Pvt) Ltd from taking measures not to allow the Ruhunu 2001 Multivision (Pvt) Ltd to use the satellite dishes on the rooftop of the Union Residencies (Pvt) Ltd for their transmission.

The plaintiff Ruhunu 2001 Multivision (Pvt) Ltd filing the plaint before the District Court stated that it was using the two existing satellite dishes on the rooftop of the Union Residencies (Pvt) Ltd to operate their pay TV Service and Cable TV network.

The plaintiff stated that it entered into an agreement with the defendant company on November 24, 1997 to use the two existing satellites on the rooftop of the defendant company for 20 years to broadcast and transmit the plaintiff's services.

Plaintiff further submitted that the defendant later informed the plaintiff that they were unable to supply the services to the Ruhunu 2001 Multivision (Pvt) Ltd. The plaintiff further stated that the Ruhunu 2001 Multivision (Pvt) Ltd was incorporated as a joint venture between an Australian Company and Southern Development Authority to set up and operate a pay Cable Network in Sri Lanka.

The Government owns a 10 per cent share in the Ruhunu 2001 Multivision (Pvt) Ltd through the Southern Development Authority.

The Plaintiff evaluated the case for Rs. one million.

Source: dailynews

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Sri Lanka violence kills 22: Government

A roadside blast in Sri Lanka's restive eastern region has killed two policemen while fighting in the north left at least 19 rebels and one soldier dead, the Government said.

A Japanese national visiting a Tokyo funded project in Batticaloa narrowly escaped the mine attack, but two policemen providing security for the group died in the explosion, the Japanese embassy here said.

"Our national is safe, but we are saddened that two Sri Lankan policemen, died in the Claymore attack," an official said.

The mine attack in Batticaloa also injured five people, including a civilian and two elite police commandos, the defence ministry said, blaming the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The Government earlier held elections in Batticaloa, after ejecting the rebels from the east last year.

Tamil Tiger rebels, who have been fighting for a separate homeland since 1972, are now largely confined to the island's north.

Sri Lanka warplanes bombed two suspected rebel targets in the north, the ministry said.

Russian built Mi24 helicopter gunships provided air cover for troops in northern Mannar, while fighter jets later pounded a building used by rebels to build boats in the guerrilla-controlled Kilinochchi area.

"Pilots have confirmed the targets were accurately hit," the statement said.

Fighting across the war-ravaged northern district, meanwhile, killed at least one soldier and 19 rebels on Tuesday, the Defence Ministry said.

There was no immediate comment from the LTTE, who are fighting to carve out an independent state for minority Tamils in the north and east of the majority Sinhalese island.

Security forces have killed at least 2,375 rebels since January while some 137 soldiers have died, according to the ministry.

Casualty figures cannot be independently verified because journalists and rights groups are not allowed access to the embattled areas.

Fighting has escalated since January, when Sri Lanka formally pulled out of a six-year Norwegian-arranged truce with the Tigers.

Source: ABC

Two Sri Lanka police killed escorting Japanese

Two Sri Lankan police were killed on Wednesday while escorting Japanese aid workers and three civilians were killed in crossfire between the military and Tamil Tiger rebels.

The two police were killed and seven others, including three civilians, were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded at the rear of a Japanese aid convoy visiting an agricultural irrigation project in Vavunathivu, northeast of Colombo.

"There were some Japanese officials. Police were escorting them," police Deputy Inspector General N.K. Ilangakoon told Reuters, saying the convoy was hit by a fragmentation mine.

The Japanese were not hurt in the blast, which occurred after the main convoy had already passed, Ilangakoon said.

Tiger rebels, who are fighting for an independent homeland in Sri Lanka's north and east, frequently target police and the military with claymore fragmentation mines.

Separately, the army said three fishermen were killed and three others wounded after they were caught in crossfire in the north.

Sri Lanka's conflict has intensified since 2006, when the military launched fresh offensives as a truce agreement broke down. The six-year truce was formally scrapped in January and Nordic monitors expelled, opening a new phase of a war that has killed more than 70,000 people since 1983.

Helicopter gunships attacked rebel bases in the northern Mannar district in support of ground troops, who have been engaged in bitter fighting since last week, the military said.

Air force jets also bombed a Tiger boatyard in the northeast, where a navy attack vessel was sunk last week by what rebels said was a suicide squad. The navy said the boat was sunk by a Tiger sea mine, with 10 crew still missing and feared dead.

The yard, where the Tigers build and repair fast boats to target the navy and land weapons, was destroyed in the bombing, although there was no information on whether any Tiger fighters had been killed, the military said. A spokesman for The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was not immediately available for comment on the latest clashes in a 25-year civil war the military has vowed to end by December.

Source: Reuters

South Asian regional meeting on anti-terrorism rescheduled for April

Pakistan said on Tuesday that the South Asian regional meeting on counter-terrorism has been rescheduled due to hectic phase of government formation.

The regional meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries on counter-terrorism cooperation will be held from April 15 to 17 in Islamabad, said Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema.

The meeting will be held alongside the meeting of police chiefs of the SAARC.

The meeting hosted by Pakistan was originally scheduled from March 25 to 27.

"The new date for the important meeting of experts from the region has been set after necessary consultations with the secretariat of the organization and the governments of member countries," said Cheema at a news briefing.

Pakistan's lower parliament elected Yousuf Raza Gillani as the country's new prime minister on Monday. The cabinet members will be announced within days.

The SAARC consists of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Maldives.


India won’t allow division of Sri Lanka: Ratnasiri Wickremanayake


“India will never allow a separate independent state for Tamils in Sri Lanka because such a development will have a disastrous effect in India,” the island’s Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake told a gathering here.

“India has always been committed to Sri Lanka’s territorial integrity.”

The Prime Minister, who is on a four-day visit, claimed that Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam leader V. Prabakaran wanted to create a Tamil state by “including certain parts of India as well.


Tamil Nadu BJP opposes military aid to Lanka

Tamil Nadu BJP has opposed providing military equipment and training to Sri Lankan military saying that such a move will affect the island Tamils.
State president Mr L Ganesan, told reporters here that the Katchatheevu, an island near Tamil Nadu, given to Sri Lanka as per an agreement in 1974, should be retrieved. He said the Sri Lankan government had violated the Katchatheevu agreement, which provided rights to Tamil Nadu fishermen to dry their nets in the island. Now, the Sri Lankan navy had set up sea mines near the island, denying even the fishing rights for Tamil Nadu fishermen, he said.
Meanwhile, Tamil film director Mr Vijaya T Rajendar, today announced that he was resigning from the post of deputy chairman to the State Small Savings Commission, since he would lead a protest against Centre's assistance to Sri Lanka in its genocidal war against Tamils. Mr Rajendar said that he was resigning since holding a government post while leading a protest against the Centre would create an embarrassing situation for chief minister Mr M Karunanidhi, who had appointed him.
In a related development, Tamil nationalist leader Mr Nedumaran, who held a protest demonstration against the Centre's military aid to the island courted arrest alongwith his supporters. Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam, which split from the Dravidar Kazhagam, has announced public meetings throughout the state, condemning Centre's help to Sri Lanka government.


Over 550 Dead In March As Sri Lankan Clashes Continue

Siddique Islam - AHN South Asia Correspondent

Colombo, Sri Lanka (AHN) - Heavy fighting between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels in northern areas of Sri Lanka have killed an estimated 501 militants and 54 soldiers, according to officials in Colombo. Sri Lankan military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara told reporters that an unknown number of rebels and 223 soldiers have also been injured in the clashes dating back to March 5.

Furthermore, military operations are continuing in Mannar, Vavuniya and Jaffna. "The security forces have been successful in capturing 31 square kilometers of territory south of the A14 road in Mannar," Nanayakkara said according to Chinese state-run media.

The fighting has intensified in the northern battle front after the government's announcement in mid-January to withdraw from the 2002 Norwegian-backed cease-fire with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The rebels have been battling for an independent homeland since 1972 in an ethnic conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.


Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Lankan court orders release of 12 Indian fishermen

A Sri Lankan court today ordered the release of 12 Indian fishermen and four boats, which had been apprehended by the Sri Lankan Navy on March 7, 2008.

An official release here said Puttlam Magistrate T G S A Perara ordered the release of fishermen belonging to Thoothur, Ehudesam, Chinnadurai hamlets of Vilvancode taluk in Kaniyakumari district.

The fishermen were released following constant follow up and continous efforts taken by the Tamil Nadu government with the help of Minstry of External Affairs, Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan Deputy High Commissioner in Chennai.

The fishermen would be brought to Kanyakumari shortly.

Earlier, 50 fishermen were released on March 10, 2008 based on the request of the Tamil Nadu Government, the release added.



A Provincial Council member brandishing a gun assaulted a security guard at a Bible college in Lunuwila, Puttlam district two weeks after an attack on 10 of the institution’s students seriously injured two of them. A Wennappuwa Provincial Council Member identified in published reports as Winton Appuhamy appeared at the college gate at midnight on March 15 and assaulted the unarmed security guard. A hearing that was scheduled earlier that day regarding the attack by masked men on students of the Believers’ Church Bible College was postponed after Appuhamy led a protest with villagers and some Buddhist monks accusing the school of harboring Liberation Tiger of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) terrorists. Intensified fighting between government troops and the LTTE, bombings of civilian targets, abductions, killings and other atrocities have deepened the mistrust between the country’s majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil ethnic communities. Anti-Christian elements strategically exploit the conflict to provoke and justify violence against Christians.


Sri Lanka values Indian help in battle against LTTE

The Sri Lankan government said Tuesday that India's help was crucial in the island's battle against Tamil Tiger rebels.

"We appreciate the assistance of the Indian government in our battle to defeat terrorism," Keheliya Rambukwella, the government's defence spokesman and the minister of foreign employment, told reporters.

He said the Sri Lankan government was aware of the India's domestic political compulsions of trying to look after the interests of the Tamil community.

Rambukwella's remarks came after a visit by the Sri Lankan Army chief Sarath Fonseka to India, which has been urging Sri Lanka to end the island's conflicts with a political solution.

India had sent its peacekeeping force to the island in 1987 as part of the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord.

But since the mid-1990s the Indian government has adopted a hands-off policy in Sri Lanka's conflict.


S.Lanka conflict raises human trafficking risk: UN

Sri Lanka's protracted and increasingly bloody civil war is making the country more vulnerable to human trafficking, a senior United Nations official said on Tuesday.

People fleeing conflict-torn areas in Sri Lanka's north and east, where fighting between Tamil Tiger rebels and state security forces has raged since 1983, opened the door to people smugglers keen to profit from the vulnerable, the United Nations said.

"The conflict you have is quite clearly going to be a major factor in increasing vulnerability of some of the country's young people," Gary Lewis, representative of the U.N. Office for Drugs and Crime in South Asia, told Reuters.

"Migration is the key in which traffickers and traffic victims meet," Lewis said after a briefing in Colombo.

Sri Lanka, a developing nation of 20 million, has one of the lowest incidences of people smuggling in Asia, despite the ongoing conflict which has claimed 70,000 lives.

Lewis's office estimates at least 150,000 people are trafficked within South Asia each year, led by India and followed by Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

But with fighting intensifying between government troops and the rebels, the U.N.'s refugee agency UNHCR says around 188,000 Sri Lankans have been forced from their homes since April 2006.

There are also tens of thousands of others living long-term in internal refugee camps after two-and-a-half decades of war, many in rudimentary conditions in tents.

"As soon as you disrupt a child from their home environment, there is movement and there is lack of physical contact with those who love and care for them," said Lewis, referring to children living in what were supposed to be temporary tent camps.

"You are going to get increased vulnerability on trafficking and also children being abused," Lewis said.

Though poverty, natural disaster and demand for cheap labour and prostitution also contributed to human trafficking in Sri Lanka, conflict could accelerate the problem.

"You will get dysfunctional families. You will get young men turning to crime," Lewis said. (Editing by Rob Taylor)

Source: reuters

Sri Lanka navy fights Tiger boats

Sri Lanka's navy has fought a battle with a flotilla of Tamil Tiger boats off the island's north-east coast.

It comes days after officials said a navy fast-attack craft was sunk by a sea mine. The rebels claimed it was sunk by a suicide attack.

Meanwhile, fighting is continuing on land too.

Battles have intensified since January when the government pulled out of a ceasefire. It has vowed to crush the rebels by force.

The latest sea confrontation took place in the middle of the night.

A navy patrol spotted a small flotilla of Tamil Tiger boats hugging the coast and opened fire.

Navy spokesman Lt Cdr Rohan Joseph said one rebel vessel was disabled in the fighting but he had no details on whether anyone on board was wounded or killed.

On Saturday a navy fast-attack craft was sunk in the same area.

Ten sailors are missing and now presumed dead.

The navy said the vessel most likely hit a sea mine planted by the tigers, but the rebels say it was destroyed in a suicide attack by the so-called Black Sea Tigers.

On land the fighting is continuing too, despite rains and flooding.

The military claims more than 500 rebel fighters have been killed in the last three weeks, 10 times as many casualties as the security forces have suffered.

Both sides are accused of exaggerating the loses they inflict while playing down their own to maintain morale on the front lines.

Source: BBC

Sri Lankan Prime Minister visits West Bank and meets with Abbas

Ratnasiri Wickremanayake the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka visited the West Bank on Tuesday

The visit started in the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem, where Wickremanayake met Palestinian Authority officials including the Governor of Bethlehem Salah Ta'mari and the Mayor of Bethlehem Victor Batarseh.

Wickremanayake made a short visit to the Church of the Nativity. During his stop in Bethlehem the visiting Prime Minister said that the Israeli illegal wall is "unnecessary" during a time when nations of the world are seeking openness to one another.

Later on Tuesday Wickremanayake headed to the central West Bank city of Ramallah were he met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister of the caretaker government Salam Fayyad as well as Palestinian businessmen.

The Palestinian ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Anwar Al Agha was accompanying the Sri Lankan official during the visit.


Israel's Olmert Advises Visiting Sri Lankan PM Against Giving in to Terrorism

Text of report in English by Israeli Prime Minister's Office website on 24 March

[Press release: PM Olmert Meets With Sri Lankan PM Ratnasiri Wickremanayake"]

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, this afternoon (Monday), 24.3.08, met with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, who is on a working visit to Israel. The two men discussed bilateral relations and enhancing mutual cooperation.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Wickremanayake noted that his country has been dealing with a severe terrorism problem that is affecting both daily life as well as the national economy. Prime Minister Olmert told him, "Do not give in to terrorism because it will only bring destruction to your country. Terrorism must be fought; one must not capitulate to it."

Prime Minister Olmert briefed his guest on Israel's concerns over Iran's attempt to arm itself with nuclear weapons. The Prime Minister said that Iran is currently a global symbol of extremism and added that the international community had to take united action against the dangerous trends that Iran is leading.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Wickremanayake thanked Prime Minister Olmert that Israel was among the first countries to offer assistance to Sri Lanka following the deadly December 2004 tsunami in which approximately 40,000 Sri Lankans lost their lives. Prime Minister Olmert noted that Israel had no hesitations whatsoever about assisting Sri Lanka in wake of the disaster.


2,500 Tigers killed since January 1

Sri Lanka’s military on Monday claimed that at least 18 cadres of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam killed and several others were injured in fighting in the north.

According to statistics released by the Defence Ministry, over 2,500 LTTE cadres have been killed by the military since January 1. More than 7,200 Tigers have been killed since December 2005.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa took office in November 2005.

With the LTTE-controlled areas virtually cut off from the rest of the world and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) having wound up its operations, it is impossible for any independent verification of the claims and counter claims made by the military and the Tigers. The Media Centre for National Security said that on Sunday 11 LTTE cadres were killed on the Vavuniya front. Ten Tigers were killed in two separate clashes in Kallikula while another LTTE cadre was killed in Navathkulam.
Mine explosion

Three army soldiers suffered injuries in anti-personnel mine explosions in the Kokilmoddai, Periyathampane, and Ramanathankulam areas.

The MCNS claimed that five LTTE cadres were killed and 19 others were injured when troops launched an operation to liberate Tamil civilians in the Wanni. Two Tigers were killed in two separate incidents in the general areas north of Welioya and Kokkuthduwai; 12 LTTE cadres were injured.

Source: Hindu

Monday, 24 March 2008

'We are better off without the LTTE' : S C Chandrahasan

S C Chandrahasan is the son of Samuvel Selvnayagam, a Tamil leader who was known as the Mahatma Gandhi [Images] of Sri Lanka [Images]. After the island-nation's ethnic conflict began in 1983, Chandrahasan founded the Organisation For Eelam Refugees' Rehabilitation.

OFERR works in Sri Lanka and India, and has offices in all the 104 refugee camps in Tamil Nadu. It also works in the north and east of Sri Lanka, two regions badly affected in the conflict.

The soft-spoken leader slams both the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam for the mess in the island state.

He spoke at length to's Special Correspondent A Ganesh Nadar.

What was the position on the ground at the time of the ceasefire and peace talks in 2002?

At the time of the ceasefire some areas were controlled by the Sri Lankan government and others were under the control of the LTTE. There were some hazy areas where both the LTTE and government troops moved around.

What is the position now?

Currently the LTTE s presence in the east has been cleared.

Why did Colonel Karuna go against the LTTE?

The people in the east did not appreciate the way the LTTE leadership shared the facilities that came by because of the ceasefire. There was a committee to oversee development activities. Not a single person from the east was on that committee. They did not give enough positions in the administration to the people in the east. That hurt them. Karuna objected to this.

What is the composition of the people in the east?

In the east, the majority are Tamilians, then Muslims and Sinhalese. The Muslims speak Tamil but of late they want to be classified separately and not be bunched with the Tamils. So they are being classified that way. But they are Tamil speaking and culturally Tamil. The Tamils and Muslims did have a good rapport, but with the ethnic conflict, and the divide and rule policy of the government, there has been some friction.

Do you work in the east too?

We are working in the east and we work with all three communities. We like our work to be balanced. Our work in the peaceful area is easy. On the battlefront it is difficult. There both sides (the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Army) are armed, and the hapless people are caught in between.

What is happening in the east now?

After the talks broke down, the army has moved forward slowly. In the east they have cleared the area and the LTTE is not visible there anymore in a meaningful way. They are moving around there but no longer in command.

Which areas have been cleared?

Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara districts have been cleared. Mannar and Vavuniya and some places in the north are still under the LTTE's control.

With the increase in fighting there, why has there not been an influx of refugees to India?

There are places where civilians can still move around and find alternative residence. But people usually move as a last resort after the fighting starts and it becomes dangerous. It is also difficult to get boats to India and therefore there has been no heavy influx of refugees.

There is a belief that when you have to move it is still better to remain within the country than cross the border -- then you lose everything. We work in Mannar too. We advise people to remain there. Only as a last resort do they cross over to India.

Also the climatic conditions are not conducive to crossing. Also the navies of India and Sri Lanka and the Coast Guard are patrolling the sea.

Any other reason?

Another thing that has changed now is the approach of the army. Earlier, in the eighties, they used to attack Tamil civilians. Now civilians are not attacked.

But human rights violations are occurring. When they suspect that you are connected to the LTTE or an informer or you give wrong information, you are in trouble. People have been summarily executed. People continue to disappear. The number of deaths and disappearances are unacceptably high. According to latest reports the highest number of disappearances are in the government-controlled area in the north.

How can that be stopped?

Enough public opinion has to be built up to stop that. Once people are taken we do not know what happens to them. The government has to correct that.

What is the difference between life in a government area and an LTTE area?

In the LTTE areas, civilians were secure. Their only fear was forceful recruitment and taxes. The LTTE's taxation was highly arbitrary.

When fighting breaks out civilians are in great danger. After the fighting, life does not get better in the liberated area. There is a screening process and the army keeps an eye on the people. Commodities are not allowed to come in as the army fears that it will fall into LTTE hands. So the civilian population is put to great hardship even after the government gets back control.

Has the LTTE helped in getting justice for the Tamil people?

The LTTE coming into the picture has two phases. Earlier they were not killing innocent people. Then they started internecine fighting and started killing innocent people and other Tamil leaders. They have become a problem rather than the solution.

What is the alternative?

Some of us who believe in the non-violent process know that the struggle will go on until justice is achieved. It will go on much more effectively if the LTTE is not in the picture.

Tell us about your father's role in the struggle?

My father S A V Selvanayagam was the leader of the Tamil people from 1948 to 1983. He was the leader of a federal party. He believed that a federal solution was possible. If people would have accepted that solution there would have been no problem now. It was a non-violent struggle. He was very firm that we must not use violence, that we must convince people. It was Gandhi's method that he adopted. Then the militants went and hijacked the process and could not sustain it.

The problem started in 1948. They brought in an act in Parliament whereby half the Tamil population lost its citizenship. The act took away the citizenship of all Tamils of Indian origin who were working in the plantations. That was the basic cause.

At that time my father said, 'What is now happening to the Indian Tamils will happen to us tomorrow'. People did not believe him and in the 1952 elections he lost. In 1956 people realised that what he had said was right.

People who returned to India at that time say that the Sri Lankan Tamils supported the government in chasing out the Indian Tamils?

One Tamil leader did go along with the Sinhala government and that gave us all a bad name. My father said that any act that is discriminatory should be opposed. They began the struggle at that time. Only one percent of the Tamils driven out at that time were business people. Most of them were in the plantations.

Then began the process of colonisation. The majority Sinhala people were sent into the Tamil areas with free land, money and equipment. The locals did not get anything. Then came the language act. That was the last straw. They said anybody seeking government employment had to be fluent in Sinhalese.

What happened to the non-violent movement for justice?

The movement gathered strength and in 1960 we paralysed the entire government machinery in the northeast without any violence. Unfortunately with violence spreading in the south in the seventies infecting other areas, the Tamil youth started reacting.

What did the government do next?

The violence on the Sinhala side increased. They first started recruiting more Sinhalese in government service. If you take the police in 1977, 99 percent were Sinhalese. The army is still worse. When you have two large ethnic communities and you fill the security forces with one side, it is a big mistake. Now it is a bit late to do anything about it.

What about the influence of the LTTE on the Tamils?

The LTTE has a hold on about 10 percent of the Tamils. That also is the fault of the government. When someone in your family disappears in a white van, there is bitterness and a desire to support the LTTE. The activities of the Sinhala government and its troops have been encouraging militancy. Tamil militancy is reactive.

Otherwise people would have gone the non-violent way. The influence of the Gandhian movement in India had a tremendous effect on the island. The actions of the army, including indiscriminate firing on civilians in the eighties, encouraged militancy.

You feel that it has changed now?

Now that has changed. There is no indiscriminate firing. Also there is a sizable population among the Sinhalese who say 'We must live together'. That is a qualitative change.

What is the position of the LTTE today?

Unfortunately, the LTTE factor is a problem. The LTTE not being in the picture will strengthen the Tamil side. It will facilitate India coming in a very meaningful way.

We had a two-day discussion in Tamil Nadu among representatives of the refugees. Everyone agreed that we should not take an LTTE-centric view of everything. The LTTE view will show everything going wrong. But if you don't look it at that way, there are other means. The struggle will go on till justice is achieved.

If the non-violent movement had continued after 1977 we would have got our rights by now.


India not in favour of signing int'l refugee law: official

India Monday stated that it did not favour signing the "International Convention for Refugees 1951," which guarantees refugee rights. "India's track record on the refugee issue is good without signing any international treaty," country's Home Minister Shivraj Patil told news agency Indo Asian News Service on the sidelines of a conference here today. "Though India has not signed the international convention our record in hosting refugees is impeccable. The government has never forced a single refugee out of this country," the Minister said.

India is home to at least 330,000 refugees. But it is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Refugee Protocol. The refugee population in India includes nearly 143,000 Sri Lankans, 110,000 Tibetans, 52, 000 Chins and other minorities from Myanmar, and 11,400 people from Afghanistan. "Foreigners Act 1946" is applicable to refugees and asylum seekers in India. India is a signatory to the Additional Terrorism Protocol of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) that allows SAARC nations to protect those being prosecuted or punished on account of their race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin or political opinion. SAARC comprises India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives.


Iran, Sri Lanka Discuss Expansion of Ties

Iran's ambassador to Colombo and Sri Lanka's minister of port and aviation discussed expansion of relations and mutual cooperation in a meeting in the Sri Lankan capital.

During the meeting, the two sides reviewed activities of the Uma Oya developmental program, and the Iranian diplomat offered Tehran's assistance with Colombo in providing the Sri Lankan employees with higher educational opportunities.

The envoy also proposed Sri Lankan port authorities with further training at institutions in Iran as well as implementation of an employee exchange program.

The two sides also discussed adoption of introductory measures to pave the way for a visit to Sri Lanka by the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Iranian and Sri Lankan officials further exchanged views about the start of agricultural cultivations at the suburbs where the Weerawila Air Port is constructed.

The Iranian ambassador also stated that steps would be taken to supply Sri Lanka with vessels and to assist the country with the improvement of its Shipping Corporation.

For his part, Sri Lankan Minister of Port and Aviation Chamal Rajapaksa offered special gratitude to the Iranian ambassador for the dedicated contributions and assistance towards the said developments in the country.

The meeting was also attended by Sri Lanka's secretary of the Ministry of Port and Aviation Thilak Kollure, Additional secretary of the Ministry of Ports Ranjith Silva, Vice chairman of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority Priyath Bandu Wickrama, Chairman of the Shipping Corporation M.M.Hameed and Coordinating Secretary of the Ministry of Port and aviation Udaya Boralessa.


Family of Sri Lanka massacre victims doubt justice

By Rob Taylor

COLOMBO, March 24 (Reuters) - Relatives of 17 aid workers massacred in Sri Lanka said on Monday they did not expect justice as a heated human rights inquiry began into their execution-style murders more than a year ago.

Ravi Shantha, the aunt of one of the Action Contre la Faim (ACF) aid workers killed in August 2006 in the northeastern town of Muttur, told a panel of judges appointed to investigate rights abuses in Sri Lanka that too much time had passed.

"I don't trust that I will be given justice in this case," Shantha said to Reuters after giving evidence about the last known movements of her nephew Ambigavathy Jayaseelan.

"It's almost two years. Nobody has talked about justice and I do not think I will able to get it, even after this," she said at the end of an emotional four hours in the witness box.

Nordic truce monitors have blamed the massacre, at the time the worst attack on aid workers since a 2003 bomb attack on the United Nations office in Baghdad, on state security forces.

A blast that wrecked two U.N. buildings in Algiers last December also killed 17 U.N. staff.

The government has accused ACF of being responsible for the massacre of their own local staff through "negligence" and "irresponsibility" in the midst of a 25-year civil war between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels.

The 17 mostly Tamil workers were shot in the head and were lying face down in the ACF compound. The military said they were trapped in fighting between troops and rebels.

Shantha told the hearing that her nephew, also her adopted son, joined the NGO because he could not get a government job, going to work by bicycle and "leaving again in a coffin".

She also told of threats after Jayaseelan's death from a group of unidentified men dressed in civilian clothes.

"They warned us not to speak about this incident to anyone," she said, wiping away tears. Shantha, an ethnic Tamil, said she had not even been allowed to see Jayaseelan's body before burial or file a police report.

Lawyer for the army, Gomin Dayasiri, pressed Shantha on foreign negligence and leapt on an admission by rights lawyer Desmond Fernando that he had secretly been told who carried out the massacre by Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe.

"I would urge Mr Fernando to withdraw from the case and be called as a witness," Dayasiri angrily demanded, halting proceedings as a heated legal argument broke out.

International monitors recently told the government they were withdrawing from the inquiry because of official interference and lack of internationally acceptable standards.

Rights watchdogs have reported hundreds of abductions, disappearances and killings blamed on government security forces and Tamil separatists since the civil war, in which 70,000 people have died since 1983, resumed in 2006.

The U.S. State Department, in its recent annual rights report, said the Sri Lankan state's respect for human rights continued to decline in 2007, citing reports of killings by government agents and collaboration between the state and paramilitaries accused of major abuses. (Additional reporting by Shihar Aneez)


Sunday, 23 March 2008

Sri Lankan military says 60 rebels, 6 soldiers killed in fighting in the north

Sri Lankan troops fought ethnic Tamil rebels along the front lines of their civil war in the north in a series of battles that killed 60 guerrillas and six soldiers, the military said Sunday.

It was not possible to get independent accounts of the clashes because the war zone is restricted to journalists. Both the government and Tamil Tiger rebels often exaggerate their enemy's casualties and underreport their own.

In the worst of the reported fighting, 25 rebels and two soldiers were killed when the military took control of what it said was a small but important slice of territory in northern Mannar district Saturday.

Clashes in Welioya district killed 14 rebels and three soldiers, the military said in a statement. Another 21 insurgents and a soldier were killed Saturday in scattered battles across Vavuniya and Jaffna districts, the military said.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not be reached for comment.

Source: IHT

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Seven LTTE cadres killed

Four LTTE terrorists were killed in Army attacks in NAGARKOVIL, MUHAMALE today (22) in the morning.

Another three terrorists were killed when Army troops launched attacks on the Northern and Southern sides of the A- 9 road this morning.

source: MCNS

Sri Lanka Airforce bombs rebel radar station and center

The Sri Lankan Airforce here Saturday claimed a Tamil Tiger rebel radar station in the island's north was bombed and destroyed in an air strike.

Wing Commander Andy Wijesuriya, the Airforce spokesman said the air raids were carried out at 11 a.m. local time (0530 GMT) at Nayaru 300 kms northeast of Colombo.

In the second air raid which took place at 2.10 p.m local time (0840 GMT) a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) sea Tiger wing co-ordinating center located at Puthukudyiruppu in the Mullaithivu district was destroyed, the Airforce said.

The air raids came as a Sri Lankan Navy fast attack craft was destroyed in the early hours of Saturday in a sea mine explosion at Nayaru.

The explosion happened around 2 a.m. local time (2030 GMT). The Navy said six out of the 16 on board had survived the explosion while it had launched a search operation to find and rescue the rest of the sailors.

The LTTE rebels claimed that the Navy attack craft was destroyed by them where they lost three of their Black sea Tigers.

However the Navy rejected the rebel claim stating that there was no confrontation whatsoever in the areas.

The clashes are part of the ongoing military action in the north of the island in the separatist war waged by the LTTE rebels on behalf of the Tamil minority.


Ten Sailors Missing After Sinking Vessel In Sri Lanka

At least ten crew members from a Sri Lankan patrol boat are missing after their vessel exploded and sank off the country's northeast coast early on Saturday.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said they sank the navy fast attack craft (FAC) by using three suicide bombers who also perished, but the Sri Lankan navy said the vessel was destroyed in a sea mine blast.

Two navy fast attack craft, about 25 meters (82 feet) long and armed with heavy and light machine guns, were on a routine patrol when one was caught up in an explosion and sank, BBC reported.

The incident took place near Nayaru, 300 kilometers (185 miles) north of Colombo.

Six crew members of the vessel including the officer-in charge have been rescued and search operation is underway for other survivors, the Navy said.

The LTTE said it attacked and sunk the FAC between Mullaithivu and Nayaru. "Three Black Sea Tigers were killed in action," the pro-rebel website Tamilnet quoted LTTE sources in Wanni as saying.

Source: AHN

16 die in ground battle

Fierce combats in Sri Lanka convulsive northern region killed 14 Tamil rebels and two government soldiers, - SL Defense Ministry

Ship from Sri Lanka hits Bengal jetty

A ship carrying containers and construction equipment from Sri Lanka lost control Saturday and hit a Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) jetty near here. No one was injured in the accident. “The ship was coming from Colombo with heavy machineries and containers. On its way to Kolkata port, it lost control due to some technical problems and hit a jetty at Nurpur in South 24 Parganas district,” Kolkata Port Trust Chairman A.K Chanda told IANS.

He said the steering of the ship got jammed and the captain had no option but to stop it abruptly.

“The jetty was completely damaged but no human injury was reported in the incident,” Chanda said.


SL Navy craft caught in explosion off Mulaitivu

A Navy fast attack craft was caught up in an explosion off Nayaru, Mulaitivu early this morning. Six of the sixteen sailors on board were rescued following the incident. There was no confirmation if the explosion was caused by a sea mine or an attack.


LTTE attacking Indian fishermen, not Lankan Govt: SL Minister

Sri Lankan Minister for Highways Jayaraj Fernando today said the frequent attacks on Indian fishermen at the midsea were carried out by the banned LTTE and not by the Lankan Navy. In an informal chat with the newspersons here, he said it was only the LTTE, who attacked Indian fishermen. But they put the blame on Sri Lankan Navy to tarnish the image of Sri Lankan Government.

He said the Sri Lankan Government was keen on national integration within the island nation and not for any partition. ''We will not allow disintegration of the nation,'' he asserted.

He said the Sri Lankan Government was always ready for settling the ethnic issue through peaceful negotiations but the LTTE did not believe in these talks and instead they wanted to create problems in the island nation.

Citing an example, he said during the Geneva talks in 2006, while representing the island nation, he himself witnessed the non- cooperation of the LTTE.

He said the Indian Government, being fully aware of the activities of LTTE, was extending full support to the Sri Lankan Government on the issue


Tata Sky changes ad-revenue model

The advertisement revenue model on the direct to home (DTH) platform is changing in the country. Tata Sky, which has 1.8 million subscribers and claims to offer the largest amount of interactive content among the DTH players in the Indian market, has moved on to a new ad-revenue earning model. It is making a shift from the ‘flat fee’ model to the ‘cash per lead’ model for advertisements, which in simple words mean that while advertisers used to pay a flat amount for their ads for a specific duration, say Rs 10 lakh for 10 days, to get their ad beamed on the platform, now they will pay for the number of consumers who have shown interest in their products.

Companies like Samsung, Whirlpool, Tata Teleservices have already opted for the cash per lead model where details of their product are beamed for Tata Sky customers in form of two to three static pages and if the consumer is interested in the product, he/she is asked to send an SMS back to a number. For every such SMS generated, Tata Sky is charging the advertiser.

“We have introduced this new ‘cash per lead’ model on our interactive platform in January 2008. The core strength of this model is that the advertiser doesn’t witness any wastage. This model closes the loop as advertisers end up paying for only those customers who have evinced genuine interest in their product. It also drastically reduces their cost on advertisement,” Vikram Mehra, CMO, Tata Sky told FE. Tata Sky is in talks with segments like car manufacturers, telecom operators, mutual funds, insurance products and personal computer who have shown keen interest in the new model.

“Basically all products which have to communicate in greater details to the consumer will tremendously benefit from this model. Today, Tata Sky caters to 91% of DTH subscribers in Sec A and Sec B cities. That is the target audience for many niche products. Since the concept of cash per lead is new, the ad space buyers are also trying to understand it. But the response so far has been very encouraging.” Currently these ads are in form of static pages but Tata Sky plans to offer space for video ads in near future.


Sri Lanka Honors Arthur C. Clarke

Students, space enthusiasts, politicians and Buddhist monks paid respects Friday to the late science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke.

Clarke died Wednesday at age 90 after suffering breathing problems. His remains were put on display for public viewing at his home in Colombo, the capital of his adopted country Sri Lanka.

"He fascinated a lot of us into being interested in space and astronomy," said Kavan Ratnatunga, a Sri Lankan-born astronomer and long-time associate of the author.

Clarke won worldwide acclaim with more than 100 books on space, science and the future. He also founded the Astronomical Society of Ceylon in 1959, inspiring many youngsters by screening films of space mission launches, Ratnatunga said. Sri Lanka used to be known as Ceylon.

"He made us all proud by being with us, I became his fan by reading the '2001: A Space Odyssey' given to me by a friend," said Udana Marasinghe, a Colombo high school student who went to pay his respects Friday.

Born in western England on Dec. 16, 1917, Clarke earlier worked as a clerk and served in the Royal Air Force during World War 11 before moving to Sri Lanka in 1956.

Clarke's 1968 story "2001: A Space Odyssey" — written simultaneously as a novel and screenplay with director Stanley Kubrick — was a prophecy of artificial intelligence run amok.

Clarke was to be buried Saturday at Colombo's general cemetery in a plot owned by his friend and business partner with whom the writer lived for decades.

Source: AFP

Friday, 21 March 2008

Mannar claymore blast on army bus

Two soldiers were killed and 11 others sustained serious injuries when a suspected LTTE claymore mine exploded targeting an army bus in South Bar area Mannar in the evening.


India set to relax limits on foreign DHT ownership

The regulator TRAI has recently suggested that India should relax its tough limits on foreign ownership and inward investment into DTH broadcasting.

At present foreign investors are limited to owning just 49% of an investment in DTH broadcasting, pay-TV operations and teleport Earth stations.

In an unprecedented move reports from New Delhi have stated that these limits are set to be raised to 74%. This limit is also set to apply to satellite radio operators. This could potentially help WorldSpace to expand its presence in India.

Nonetheless cable TV foreign ownership limits will stick at 49%. This has incensed that sector who wanted limits to raise to 74% on par with telecoms companies. Foreign ownership of Indian news and current affairs TV channels is set to stay at an even lower 26%.


Anil Ambani group to launch 20 TV channels

The Reliance Dhirubhai Ambani Group is set to launch 20 TV channels in the country as part of its plans to expand the reach in the fast-growing broadcast entertainment business, top company officials said.

The group, which has Reliance Entertainment as a subsidiary, is foraying into the broadcast business through two companies Reliance Big TV Entertainment and Reliance Big TV News, the officials added.

"We are at the planning stage. So we are not revealing the details of the media project right now. At the appropriate time - very shortly perhaps - we will make a formal announcement," a spokesperson for the group told IANS.

"The first of these channels will go on air probably in July-August this year. We have already applied for approval of these channels from the information and broadcasting ministry," the spokesperson added.

Two separate companies are being floated since the government imposes restrictions on foreign direct investment in the news media sector and the group is proposing two general news and two business news channels in Hindi and English.

The group wants to remain open to the idea of roping in an international player in the entertainment TV segment, officials explained.

Although the other 16 channels have not yet been finalised, the idea is for two TV channels catering to Hindi entertainment and regional movies. Besides, plans also include channels for children and on lifestyle and leisure.

The Rs.130-billion Reliance Entertainment Ltd has interests in the production, distribution and exhibition of films, besides foraying into FM radio, Internet and television content.

The Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, through its subsidiaries, also has equity stakes in a number of media and entertainment companies. The group also markets music and movies under the labels of Big Music and Big Flicks.

In 2005, the group had also acquired Adlabs Films, which is among the largest entertainment companies in India with interests in film processing, production, exhibition and digital cinema. Through it, the company has forayed into FM radio under the Big 927 FM banner and has licences for 45 stations.

It already runs 12 stations across the country with more planned in the ensuing months.

Source: NDTV

Price of wheat flour to be increased by 10 rupees

Prima Company (Private) limited, the monopoly in wheat flour trade in Sri Lanka has requested a price hike by 10 rupees per one kilo of wheat flour.

According to the company sources, a written request has been made with this regard to the Consumer Services Authority to which the approval is yet to receive.

The company says that the increasing of wheat prices in the global market and the shipping costs are the reasons for this decision.

Two months earlier, the company increased the price of one kilo of flour by 13 rupees. The retail price of one kilo of wheat flour is 75 rupees in the present market.

Poor weather conditions in wheat producing countries have resulted in shorter supplies of wheat flour and higher grain prices.

Source: colombopost

Maruti most preferred imported car in Lanka

Country's largest car maker Maruti Suzuki India has emerged as the most preferred 'imported car manufacturer' in neighbouring Sri Lanka.

The company said that according to recent import statistics released by the Sri Lankan government, it has been declared the most preferred "imported car manufacturer".

This is the fifth year in succession that MSI has bagged the position, it said in a statement.

The company has so far exported over 3,600 units to Sri Lanka, it added. Cumulatively, Maruti has exported over 26,000 units since it started operations in Sri Lanka in 1989-90 with a first batch of 10 vehicles.

The car maker's most popular model Maruti-800 alone accounts for over 16,000 units in Sri Lanka, besides Alto and Swift being the other popular models. It exports all the models to Sri Lanka, but SX4.

According to the import study by the Sri Lankan government, MSI said there had been a shift in consumer's choice from second-hand imported vehicles to new cars.

Sale of new car in the island nation spurred after its government incentivised new vehicle purchases over used or refurbished, which a senior Maruti official termed as "a positive development".


Twenty-one rebels killed in confrontations in northern Sri Lanka

At least 21 rebels were killed in sporadic confrontations in northern Sri Lanka as government troops continued military operations to recapture rebel held areas, a military spokesman said Friday. Fighting was reported from the Welioya area, 280 kilometres north- east of the capital, in Vavuniya, 240 kilometres north of the capital, and in Mannar, 320 kilometres north of the capital, on Thursday and Friday.

Government troops used rocket-propelled grenades and small arms to attack rebel targets in the areas as rebels also carried out attacks on the forces.

The military spokesman said that no deaths were reported among soldiers, but at least 10 of them suffered injuries.

The incidents came as the government moved the majority of the police commandos deployed in the east to the front lines in the northern province in an apparent move to step up operations against the rebels.

The police commandos, known as the Special Task Force (STF), will be mainly deployed to protect villages vulnerable to rebel attacks.

Military commanders have declared that they want to recapture rebel-held areas in the north before the end of the year.

Earlier, troops recaptured rebel-held areas in the north and local elections were held. Nominations have been called for provincial elections in the east for May.


STF withdrawn from 10 camps in East

Sweeping changes in Police Dept., new chiefs appointed to CID, STF

By Sunil Jayasiri

With heightened military activities in the North, the Defence Ministry has decided to withdraw the Special Task Force from more than ten camps in the East and Mannar, in order to deploy them in LTTE threatened areas in Welioya, police sources said.

A top Police official said that the Army would take over those camps in the East and Vavuniya areas. “The Ministry has decided to withdraw the STF from some camps in the Ampara and Akkaraipattu areas and deploy them in LTTE threatened villages in Welioya, including Kebithigollewa, shortly,” the police official said.

He also said that the Army would take over security in the Ampara and Akkaraippatu areas, where the STF was present. “The process will start next week,” he added.

Meanwhile, confirming the report, Military Spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said that the Ministry had taken a decision to withdraw STF personnel from camps certain areas in the East as well as the Vavuniya area.

“The decision has been taken in order to facilitate future military operations,” Brigadier Nanayakkara said. He added that the STF personnel would be deployed in some areas in the Welioya sector.

“Only the STF camps in some areas will be withdrawn, others in the Eastern region will remain,” he added.

At present there are several STF camps in the Mannar and Vavuniya areas in addition to those in the East. Following the recapture of the entire Batticaloa District by the military, STF personnel had taken over the control of the district in order release the Army for the operations in the North.

The STF are responsible for the recapture of the Kanchikudichchiaru area from the LTTE after launching several military operations.

Meanwhile, days after appointing ten new Deputy Inspectors General, sweeping changes have been made in the Police service, including yesterday’s removal of the STF Commandant and the CID Chief.

According to the new orders, approved by the National Police Commission, CID Chief D.W. Prathapasinghe has been transferred to Sabaragamuwa and DIG Sisira Mendis appointed as the new CID Chief. DIG Mendis will be also in charge of the Terrorist Investigation Department and the Disappearance Investigation Unit.

Deputy Inspector General Nimal Lewke, who was the STF Commandant, has been replaced by Senior DIG K.L.M. Sarathchandra. DIG Lewke will continue as DIG Operations of the Western Province.

The other new appointments are as follows: DIGs A Gunatilake as DIG Moneragala Operations Range, P. Nanayakkara as DIG North-Western Range, Puttalam, R.P.S.K. Rajapaksa as DIG Ampara, H.M.D. Herath as DIG Eastern Range Central, Batticaloa, A Jayasinghe as DIG Training and Exams, S. Michel as DIG Recruitments, W.P. Dayaratne as DIG Ombudsman, J. Abeysiri Gunawardane as Central Range, East Nuwara Eliya, U. Hewagae as DIG Crimes, Police Headquarters.

Early last week, ten SSPs were promoted as DIGs.


Lanka agrees to play ODI series

Sri Lanka has agreed to play an unscheduled five-match one-day series in Pakistan from April 23 to May 5, official sources confirmed here on Thursday.

Pakistan invited Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to play bilateral one-day rubbers after security apprehensions prompted Australia to postpone its tour of the country for a full series which was due to start from March 29.

“Talks between the Chairmen of the Pakistan and Sri Lankan boards, Nasim Ashraf and Arjuna Ranatunga, were successful and the Lankans will tour from April 23 to May 5,” a Pakistan Cricket Board source said.

Bangladesh had earlier given its nod for a one-day series from April 6 to 22.

The PCB source said venues for the series against Sri Lanka had been decided and would be announced later


Roshan Mahanama named Match Referee for India-SA series

Sri Lankan Roshan Mahanama will be the Match Referee for India's three-match Test series against South Africa starting in Chennai next week.

Pakistani umpire Asad Rauf and New Zealander Tony Hill will officiate in the Chennai Test (Mar 26-30) while Hill will be joined by Jamaican Billy Doctrove for the second Test in Ahmedabad from April 3.

Rauf will team up with Doctrove for the third Test in Kanpur (Apr 11-15), according to an International Cricket Council (ICC) release here on Thursday.

ICC also named Chris Broad as the Match Referee for Sri Lanka's tour of the West Indies comprising two Test matches and three one-dayers.

Simon Taufel and Billy Bowden will officiate in the Test series. Taufel will stand in the entire ODI series as well along with local appointments.


Thursday, 20 March 2008

25 rebels killed in Lankan clashes

In an ongoing fierce clash between the LTTE and government forces, at least twenty five militants have been killed in the restive northern Sri Lanka.

Six militants were killed in clashes in Muhamalai and Nagarkovil in Jaffna peninsula on Wednesday, the army said in Colombo on Thursday.

In north-western Mannar, at least two rebels were gunned down in Adampan and Munakkathirichchi on Wednesday, the Media Centre for National Security said.

Meanwhile, reports received from north-eastern Welioya front said seven Tiger militants were killed during intermittent clashes with troops in Kokkuthuduvai and Andankulama.

On the Vavuniya battlefront, the army said it engaged artillery and mortar fire at “terror” locations in the general area of Arachchivankulama, killing six LTTE cadres.

As many as three militants were killed in Kallikulam in Mannar on Wednesday, the army said.

One militant was gunned down in Kirichudankulam in the rebel stronghold of Wanni, it added.


JVP demands disarming of TMVP

The JVP today called for the disarming of the TMVP and warned that the group would use the weapons to win the Provincial Council election in the Eastern Province.


Heavy rains and floods continue

At least eight persons were reportedly killed and over 170, 000 affected countrywide from heavy floods caused from torrential rains of the North-Eastern monsoon season.

-daily mirror

Ranatunga wants Hair to umpire all matches

Controversial Australian Darrell Hair should be allowed to umpire all international matches, Sri Lankan Cricket Board chairman Arjuna Ranatunga said on Thursday.

Hair, who has fallen out with Sri Lanka and Pakistan during his career, was reinstated as a test and one-day umpire by the International Cricket Council (ICC) on Tuesday.

The 55-year-old had been dropped from the ICC's elite umpires' panel for his role in the Oval test between England and Pakistan in August 2006.

"At the ICC meeting (in Dubai this week) we mentioned our concerns about the Darrell Hair issue," former Sri Lanka captain Ranatunga told Geo television in Lahore.

"But the important factor is if he is eligible to umpire I think he should do all matches featuring India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, otherwise he won't be tested."

Hair called Sri Lanka's record breaking off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan for "throwing" in 1995.

Pakistan became the first team to forfeit a test when they refused to return to the field after tea on the fourth day of the fourth test at the Oval because they had been penalised five runs for alleged ball tampering.

"I just hope the ICC realises the potentially explosive situation it could create by posting Hair for any matches involving Pakistan," Shaharyar Khan, head of the Pakistan Cricket Board at the time of the Oval test, told Reuters.

Source: Reuters

DishTV now in cars

Direct-to-home (DTH) major Dish TV has rolled out its on-the-move services in Kolkata, after Delhi and Mumbai.

The aim is to tap the niche, upwardly mobile consumers who could watch television while moving in a car, bus, aeroplane or train.

According to Ramesh Balinga, regional sales manager of Dish TV, “This service will be available for Rs 1,60,000, with a monthly subscription of Rs 300.”

For usage in cars, a set-top-box will be installed along with an antenna on the car. The six-inch thick antenna, instead of sticking out, will be a flat lying plate on the car. It will constantly move to align itself with the satellite.

Currently, Dish TV has a subscriber base of 1.7 lakh in West Bengal and 28 lakhs in the country.


Neo Sports spices up cricket

Neo Sports is poised to narrow the bridge between cricket and entertainment by announcing a bouquet of cricket based shows. These shows will commence with the upcoming India versus South Africa three-Test series, starting in Chennai on March 26.

The shows would be launched over the next one month with the first show going on air on Monday, March 24.Neo Sports will air shows that will engage the viewer on a larger level with the sport.

Dial C for Cricket a unique viewer centric interactive show, where viewers can call in to discuss the various issues of the game, player performances, match conditions etc. This show has been inspired by the blogging culture which exists and will be positioned as Your cricket blog on TV. Viewers can call to take part in various topics of discussion on cricket or ask questions about their favourite cricketer or the sport and get their queries answered by the panel of experts on board.

Baat and Bowl which would be hosted by Vineet Malhotra would take viewers up-close and personal with their cricket idols. The show would have informal interviews with the stalwarts of the game, off the field and in the studio. Sports Zone gives viewers their daily dose of sports updates. Everything that's happening around the globe in sport can be caught on this show.

Besides these shows Neo Sports has also woven the lighter side of the sport into the shows. Popular Neo Sports anchor Archana Vijaya would bring to the fore the fun aspect of the game and also give viewers a sneak peek into behind the scenes happenings of the teams. Tour Diary will see Archana following the teams at different venues across the country and cover the excitement at the stadiums, her interactions with cricketers, fans etc.

Cricket Tadka Marke as the name suggest would dish out the sport with a dash of spice. This show focuses on crazy fans, gossip about cricketers, fun trivia and other happenings in the world of cricket. The Cricket-Bollywood connection would be exposed here.

Then there are shows for the true cricket fanatic bringing those glorious old days of the past right into his living room. Encounter as the same suggests is about the greatest encounters in the history of cricket. These are classic matches, threaded with a theme, filled with insights, dramatizations, and anecdotes and behind the scenes drama. Each match is treated like a real story -- with a beginning middle and an end punctuated with its dramatic twists and turns along the way that ends in an exciting finish.

Ballebaaz showcases the best performances of Indian batsmen peppered with a unique filmy twist. The spotlight is on a great performance by a different batsman each week. Catch Dhoni's [Images] Dhamakas, Ganguly's Dadagiri, the Sabse Bada Khiladi- Sachin, Yuvi- The prince and Dravid-The Wall only on Ballebaaz.

Extra Cover will give an insight on the finer nuances of the game as well cover the fun aspect of it. It would encapsulate all aspects of the sport, from comprehensive cricket analysis and news, to lighter behind the scenes stories. The studio segment of Extra Cover will give viewers the latest updates, previews, reviews, statistics and expert opinions. Indian Test cricket legend Mohinder Amarnath and former South African Test cricketer Peter Kirsten would also be part of the show as guest panelist for the upcoming series against South Africa.

The news shows launched are:

1. Dial C for Cricket
2. Sports Zone
3. Tour Diary
4. Tadka Marke
5. Baat and Bowl
6. Encounter
7. Ballebaaz
8. Jaya He
9. The Great Indian Run Chase


South Africa Joins Sri Lanka Conflict Resolution Conference

South Africa is to attend an international conference aimed at ending the conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Representing the South African government, Deputy Minister of Communications Roy Padayachie will address the two-day International Seminar on Ethnic Conflict, taking place in London on Saturday.

"The South African Government has consistently sought to encourage and lend support to the creation of a climate conducive to a finding a lasting solution to the Sri Lankan conflict.

"Our effort at this international gathering will once again call upon the leadership of all of Sri Lanka's diverse people to recommit to a ceasefire and to use all possible endeavours to return to the negotiating table.

"We mourn the loss of life as a result of the intensification of violence and we will make every effort to share our experiences in the peaceful settlement of conflicts, reconciliation and nation building that we have learnt from our own transition process from apartheid to democracy with the Sri Lankan people.

"We have been consistently urged by the South African Tamil groups and organisations and the broader South African public to play a role in support of Sri Lanka's return to peaceful reconciliation and development," Mr Padayachie said.

The seminar will contribute to the growing world opinion urging Sri Lankans to observe the 2002 ceasefire and return to the negotiating table to seek a lasting solution to the conflict emanating from the LTTE's struggle for the creation of an independent state.

The seminar will also focus on discussing effective mechanisms that will tackle the issues of racial and ethnic discrimination and ways in which these could be addressed through inclusive constitutional development.

The conference is being organised by the Global Peace Support Group, a charity organisation based in the United Kingdom.

According to the Department of Communications, the conference will mobilise politicians and ministers, jurists and other eminent scholars and dignitaries from Sri Lanka, Australia, India, Malaysia, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, United States of America, Norway, United Kingdom and South Africa.

South Africa is internationally hailed for stepping out of the apartheid era into democracy without a civil war.

In terms of conflict resolution on the continent, South Africa has engaged in various support and peacekeeping operations in 12 countries.

These countries include Uganda, Burundi, the Comoros, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Rwanda, Eritrea/Ethiopia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Cote d'Ivoire.

At a Post-Cabinet briefing on Thursday, Government spokesperson Themba Maseko announced Cabinet has approved the deployment of South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members to northern Uganda as part of an African Union (AU) mission there.

Mr Maseko highlighted that the east African country has been plagued by violence in one of the continent's longest-running conflicts.

This has been perpetrated largely by a group of rebels, the Lord's Resistance Army, who have been accused of committing widespread and gross human rights violations utilising thousands of child soldiers. -


Sri Lanka to play Pakistan

Sri Lanka have agreed to play a five-match one-day series in Pakistan to help fill the gap created by the postponement of Australia's tour over security fears, officials said on Thursday.

"We are thankful to the Sri Lankan board, who have agreed to tour for a series of five one-day internationals on our invitation," Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Nasim Ashraf told reporters.

The series is likely to take place after Mahela Jayawardene's Sri Lankan team ends a tour of the West Indies on April 15. The only hitch could be the Indian Premier League for which top Sri Lankan players have signed up.

The inaugural IPL is due to be held from April 18 until June 1.

Pakistan have already convinced Bangladesh to take part in a tour that includes a five-match one-day series and a Twenty20 international from April 7 to 22.

The two unscheduled tours will fill the gap created by Australia, who were due to be in the country between March 27 and April 29.

Cricket Sri Lanka chairman Arjuna Ranatunga praised Pakistan's support for his country and said he was ready to send his team.

"India and Pakistan have always supported us in our needs like big brothers so I am ready to send my team whenever Pakistan want," Ranatunga said.

The PCB said dates of the series will be finalised shortly.


Sri Lanka's Caribbean tour live on Ten Sports

A young Sri Lankan side, led by the vastly experienced Mahela Jayawardene, will be hoping to make all the right moves against hosts West Indies during their two-Test matches and three ODI tour of the Caribbean Islands starting this month.

And Ten Sports, the most watched sports channel in the Sub-continent, will be present at each and every spectacular venue to ensure ball-by-ball coverage of what promises to be an intriguing series for both teams. Sri Lanka are hoping for a clean sweep to get over the disappointment of their tour Down Under, while the West Indies will be eager to build up on their good show in South Africa.

The first of the two Test matches start at Providence from Saturday, March 22, while the second Test is at Port of Spain from Thursday, April 3. The first two ODIs are at Port of Spain on 10 and 12 April, and the final ODI will be a day-night affair in St Lucia on 15 April.

Live telecast of the first Test match starts every day at 7:15 pm IST.

Sri Lanka lost both their last two tours of the West Indies, but with a much more experienced and varied bowling attack than the hosts this time – led by world record holder off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan and veteran seamer Chaminda Vaas – the visitors will be hoping for a first tour win in the Caribbean.

Sri Lanka will also be delighted with the batting form of skipper Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara on top of the order.

But the islanders are sure to run into a determined home side. Led by Chris Gayle, who is fit and raring to go, West Indies will like to put in a good performance to put to rest any talks about demoting them to a proposed ‘second tier’ Test status.

Ten Sports recently renewed its partnership with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) for another five years to distribute television coverage of all cricket played in the West Indies between 2008 and 2012.

Ten Sports has the broadcast rights to the Middle-East and South-East Asia and will also distribute the events worldwide, with the exception of the UK, Ireland and Caribbean.


China denies supplying heavy weapons to Sri Lanka

By P.K. Balachandran

Colombo, March 20 (IANS) China has reportedly denied supplying heavy weapons to Sri Lankan armed forces fighting Tamil Tiger guerrillas, a Tamil MP said Thursday. The denial, reported in the Tamil media Thursday, came during a meeting between Chinese ambassador Dabo Ye and Tamil MP and rights activist Mano Ganeshan here Wednesday evening.

“The ambassador told me that his government was well aware of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, and that it wished that the people here lived in peace and harmony with each other. He denied that China was a major arms supplier to Sri Lanka and asserted that only some light weapons were being supplied,” Ganeshan, who is chairman of the Civil Monitoring Commission (CMC), told IANS.

“The ambassador made it clear that China did not want to take sides in the ethnic conflict, and that it did not favour any particular political party or community in its dealings in Sri Lanka,” Ganeshan said.

“He maintained that Chinese arms supplies to Sri Lanka could not be interpreted as an anti-Tamil act.”

Pro-Tiger Tamil politicians and rights workers often ask why many countries including the US and India give military assistance or sell weapons to Sri Lanka even while seeking a military solution to the ethnic conflict.


UN: Civilians at risk in Sri Lanka

As fighting intensifies in northern Sri Lanka, the UN and advocacy groups say there is grave concern for the state of human rights in the war-torn country.

A US State Department report issued on March 11 said that in 2007, "The government's respect for human rights continued to decline."

It then cited "numerous reports" that the army, police, and pro-government paramilitary groups had "participated in armed attacks against civilians and practiced torture, kidnapping, hostage-taking, and extortion with impunity."

Since the 1980s, the conflict between the government and the LTTE, who are fighting for a separate Tamil homeland on the island, has left some 70,000 dead. The fear among many Tamils is that their community is now being targeted by the authorities as part of a 'dirty war' against the LTTE.


Wild elephants fall victim to Sri Lanka war strategy

PIMBURELLEGAMA, Sri Lanka (Reuters) - Shaking his head at an elephant carcass rotting by a lush paddy field in north Sri Lanka, park warden J.A. Weerasingha counts the cost of a state initiative to arm villagers against Tamil Tiger rebels.

While Sri Lanka has long wrestled with a human-elephant conflict that kills dozens of animals and people annually, elephant deaths are up sharply -- and it's clear why.

In what the military says is a bid to protect villages in the far north as the government and its Tiger foes wage a new phase of a 25-year civil war, farmers have been given shotguns and a civil defense force semi-automatic weapons for protection.

But the plan has backfired. The recipients are turning them increasingly on pachyderms who stray onto their crops or damage their homes in search of food -- with elephant deaths up 13 percent in 2007 from a year earlier.

"They are shooting my animals," Weerasingha lamented on a visit to this remote village on the periphery of Wilpattu National Park in the island's northwest. "They had the chance to just scare the elephant away. It had only come to the boundary of the paddy field. Instead they shot it."

"It was an automatic round. Definitely it was shot by a homeguard," he added, referring to village residents, some of them also farmers, who are given T-56 assault rifles by the state and act as a rural defense force.

In 2007, 193 elephants died in Sri Lanka, the vast majority shot, poisoned or electrocuted. Some were run over by trains, others fell down wells. Only a few died of disease.

That compares to a total population estimated at around 3,000-4,000 elephants, and is up from 171 deaths in 2006.

In Sri Lanka's northern and northwestern districts alone, home to an estimated 1,500 elephants, 63 elephants were killed -- 27 of those directly by gunfire.


Others died of septicemia from gunshot wounds, some were poisoned with chemical-laced pumpkins and a few electrocuted by wires connected directly to the electricity grid.

Elephants, the vast majority of which roam wild in forest and jungle areas, are increasingly straying into human settlement areas in search of food, as their habitat is encroached upon by development projects, the war and man.

Some have fled their habitats because of artillery battles between the military and rebels.

What is now the Tigers' northern stronghold was full of elephants in the mid-18th century according to one antique map. It is unclear how many there are in that area now.

"The human population is increasing, the forest is decreasing. You can't stop it," said Manjula Amararathna, northwest region assistant director of Sri Lanka's Department of Wildlife and Conservation.

Elephants killed 50 people in 2007, some trampled, others smashed against the ground using their trunks -- and at least one woman was torn limb from limb.

Outside Amararathna's office in the northern town of Anuradhapura, elephant skulls sit on the porch. One has a round hole in the middle of its forehead made by a shotgun.

"To protect villages from terrorists, guns have been given to homeguards and villagers," Amararathna said. "We can't protest, because it is very important to protect the people."

"I think at the moment there's no alternative."

Instead, officials are erecting electric fences and planting vegetation unpalatable to the animals in a bid to minimize human-elephant contact and conflict. Catching culprits is an uphill task.

With up to five years in jail and a fine of up to 300,000 rupees ($2,785) facing those who kill an elephant, there are no ready confessions, and there is often little evidence to go by.

The military admits arming civilians is part of the problem, but says it has no choice.


"We have to increase supervision on this, that's the only way," Army Commander Sarath Fonseka told Reuters.

"We give strict instructions, but there will be a couple of culprits because they are from the villages, elephants come and start destroying houses and various things, and they get shot."

"They have to have the guns, otherwise we can't guard each and every village ... The Tigers come and start killing people."

Officials say the Tigers have long used Wilpattu park to transport weapons and explosives to the coast and then run them to the capital Colombo to mount attacks.

Wilpattu's previous park warden and several employees were killed in an ambush blamed on the Tigers inside the reserve in 2007.

The park has remained closed to the public since a group of local tourists, including renowned Sri Lankan author Nihal de Silva, were killed when their vehicle ran over a suspected Tiger-planted mine while tracking wild elephants in 2006.

But it is not all doom and gloom. Officials estimate the elephant population -- which is down from around 12,000 in 1900 -- is stable, with birth rates offsetting the kill rate.

In the eastern wildlife park of Minneriya, 'Ha Ha' the elephant has been a regular fixture on the threshold of Lilian Jayasinghe's roadside shop and cafe for years.

Rubbing his head against a wooden post at the entrance, he waits for customers to feed him buns, cakes and bananas. Passing soldiers patrolling the area stop to stroke his trunk.

On his legs and body, round welts of thickened grey skin are tell-tale signs of healed gunshot wounds.

"Once he came with a gunshot wound to his stomach. We made a paste of chili powder, pepper and turmeric and rubbed it on the wound," Jayasinghe said. "Then he used his trunk to massage the paste in!"

"It is a bad thing that they are killing elephants," she added, as tourists jumped out of a passing minivan to take photos. "Thieves don't come here because the elephant is here. He's like a security guard. We think of him as a pet."

(For more information on humanitarian crises and issues visit

(Editing by Megan Goldin)

Source: Reuters