The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

India backs Lanka in UN human rights review

India fully backed Sri Lanka in the just-concluded UN human rights review in Geneva, enabling its troubled neighbour to get a “balanced” appraisal from the world body on Tuesday.

The appraisal has raised hopes in Sri Lanka that it will be re-elected to the UN Human Rights Council by the General Assembly in New York on Wednesday.

While most of the Western countries attacked Sri Lanka on its rights record, citing arbitrary arrests, abductions, involuntary disappearances, mass displacement and even complicity in child recruitment by a pro-government militia, India mentioned only the positive aspects of the Sri Lankan situation.

The Indian delegate, Rajiv Kumar Chander, described Sri Lanka as a “close and friendly neighbour,” which maintained its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and played an “active role” in the Human Rights Council.

Ignoring Sri Lanka’s running battle with many UN agencies that it accused of being pro-LTTE, the Indian delegate said Sri Lanka’s cooperation with the UN system had been “noteworthy.”

India found Sri Lanka’s argument that its laws were compatible with international conventions in human and labour rights, “useful,” Chander said. He praised Colombo for appointing a steering group to draft a bill of rights, but wanted to know more about what was being done to build bridges across ethnic groups through language teaching.

India was silent on the issue of implementing the devolution package envisaged in the 13th amendment of Sri Lanka’s constitution to solve the Tamil-Sinhalese political problem even though it was enacted under Indian pressure in 1987. Interestingly, Pakistan, which is viewed in Sri Lanka as a closer friend, wanted to know whether there was any progress in its implementation.

A report from Sri Lanka’s Permanent Mission in Geneva said that over half the 56 delegations that participated in the review praised Colombo for protecting human rights while fighting terrorism. They were impressed with Sri Lanka’s frankness about its inadequacies and appreciated its desire to build capacity with UN help.

Sri Lanka was even able to justify its rejection of a UN proposal to set up a monitoring station on the island to report to the Office of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights. The Sri Lankan Minister for Human Rights, Mahinda Samarasinghe, said the need of the hour was not UN monitoring but indigenous capacity-building with international help.

Samarasinghe also said that the membership of the UN Human Rights Council should not be restricted to those countries with a clean record.

Source: newindpress

27 killed in Lanka clashes

At least 22 LTTE cadres and four soldiers were among 27 people killed in intense clashes in the embattled Northern Sri Lanka, officials said on Tuesday.

One civilian was shot dead by suspected LTTE cadre yesterday in Vavuniya, the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) said.

While two tiger rebels were shot dead in Kasawalpuliyankulam area in Vavuniya on Monday, two more militants were killed in Palamipiddi in the region, it said.

In a separate incident, unidentified gunmen shot dead a civilian at Badulu junction in Eastern Batticaloa on Monday, it added.

Fierce clashes between army and the LTTE in several areas of North-eastern Welioya also left five tiger militants dead on Monday, according to the MCNS.

Meanwhile, the defence ministry said at least 12 LTTE cadres were killed and 21 others injured in counter-terrorist operations against LTTE in Periyamadu, Mullikulam and Palampiddi in Vavuniya on Monday.

Three soldiers also lost their lives during these clashes, it said, adding, one security force personnel was killed during clashes in Kiribbanwewa area of Welioya on Monday.

Source: Hindu

Monday, 19 May 2008

Lanka lauds Pak help in fight against terrorism

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wicramanayake has lauded Pakistan for its support to the fight against terrorism in the island nation which is dealing with the "brutal" LTTE outfit.
"We are grateful to Pakistan who have helped us in our times of need and we haven't forgotten it," Wicramanayake said at a function organised by the Pakistan High Commission here recently.

"The friendship between our two countries is of particular importance today because we are both victims of scourge of terrorism." The Sri Lankan Prime Minister remarks came during the launch of two books of the world heritage site of Taxila in Pakistan that were translated into Sinhala language.

"Sri Lanka is fighting with the world's brutal terrorist outfit, the LTTE, and Pakistan is fighting terrorism on their own soil," he said, adding "terrorism is a sickness that is spreading in this part of the world and both our countries are suffering." Wicramanayake also had a dig at some western countries which he said were demanding Colombo to talk to terrorists even though they were not willing to lay down their arms.

Source: chennaionline

10 soldiers and 40 rebels killed in north-western Sri Lanka

Ten soldiers and 40 Tamil rebels were killed and three more soldiers were reported missing during weekend clashes between the two sides in north-western Sri Lanka, the defence ministry said Monday. The deaths were reported in three separate incidents in the Mannar area, 320 kilometres north of the capital, where government troops are trying to push forward into rebel controlled areas.

Five of the soldiers were killed in the Nadunkandal where the Tamil rebels made an attempt to capture the forward defence lines of the army and lost 21 of their cadres, military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkarasaid.

Twelve rebels and three soldiers were also injured in the incident in the fighting that lasted more than one hour.

Four soldiers and eight rebels were killed in a separate clash in the Karukkandal area on Sunday morning. Three soldiers were reported missing after the clash.

Rebels also had launched a mortar attack, killing one soldier, and troops retaliated killing 11 rebels.

Fighting in the north has claimed over 4,000 lives during the past four months, according to the military.

Source: earthtimes

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Sri Lanka accuses rebels of sinking navy ship

Sri Lanka accused Tamil Tiger rebels of sinking a naval ship in the eastern port of Trincomalee on Saturday but said no casualties had been reported.

"The logistic vessel called Invisible ... sank due to an underwater explosion," said navy spokesman Commander D.K.P Dassanayake.

The sinking occurred as Sri Lanka prepared to stage the first local elections in its eastern region in two decades on Saturday.

On Friday, a bomb exploded in a cafe in the eastern town of Ampara, killing at least 11 people, said the military.

It blamed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for the blast.

Source: Reuters

..Navy spokesman Cmdr. D.K.P. Dassanayake says the rebels attacked the cargo ship with an underwater explosion at about 2:15 a.m. He says the 213-foot (65-meter) vessel was empty.

Source: IHT

Friday, 9 May 2008

UK transfers renegade Tamil Tiger

A former leader of Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels who was jailed in the UK in January has been transferred to an immigration detention centre.
Col Karuna was sent to jail in January for identity fraud after being arrested in London late last year.He was carrying an apparently genuine Sri Lankan diplomatic passport issued under a false name.It is not clear if he will be deported. Human rights groups want him charged with war crimes.The British Home Office refused to give details of Col Karuna's case.A spokeswoman would only tell the BBC that he "remains detained under immigration powers".He had served half of a nine-month sentence after being found guilty of identity fraud.Col Karuna's lawyer, David Phillips, says he has not claimed asylum so far and although he could apply from the detention centre his chances would not be very high because he failed to declare his intention to seek asylum immediately upon arrival in the UK.

British 'concern'

During his UK court case, Col Karuna said he had received the false diplomatic passport from the Sri Lankan government.He said the defence secretary in Colombo, who is also the brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, had arranged the documents for him.Col Karuna, whose real name is V Muralitharan, was arrested on 2 November at a flat in the London district of Kensington.The British Foreign Office said in December that it had told the Sri Lankan government of its "concern" at how Col Karuna had acquired a diplomatic passport under a false name.Sri Lanka's government denies it has any links to Col Karuna.

Fighting intensified

Col Karuna is one of the most controversial figures in Sri Lanka's prolonged civil war.He was the commander of the Tamil Tiger rebels in eastern Sri Lanka until 2004, when he changed sides and started fighting alongside government forces.Troops under his command - both before and after he changed sides - are accused of torture, murder and the recruitment of child soldiers.Human rights groups have urged the British government to try him for war crimes. But they say witnesses have been unwilling to come forward to testify against him.Both the Tiger rebels and the Sri Lankan military have faced repeated accusations of gross human rights abuses.Fighting in the north of the island this year has intensified after the army drove the rebels out of their eastern strongholds last year.

In January the government formally withdrew from a ceasefire which both sides were supposed to be observing, even though fighting grew steadily worse last year.

Source: BBC

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Heavy fighting claims 66 lives in Sri Lanka: military

At least 64 Tamil Tiger rebels and two Sri Lankan soldiers have been killed in the latest battles in the island's north, according to the defence ministry on Thursday.

It said the two days of fighting on Tuesday and Wednesday occurred in the Vavuniya, Mannar and Weli Oya areas, from where government forces are trying to push into the guerrillas' northern mini-state.

There was no immediate comment from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The latest casualties raise to 3,471 the number of LTTE cadres the defence ministry says have been killed since the start of the year. It has admitted losing 261 soldiers in the same period.

Information from the front line cannot be independently verified since Colombo prevents media and rights groups from visiting the embattled areas.

Source: AFP

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

UN watchdog groups denounce 5 nations (including Sri lanka) vying to join rights council

Five countries trying to win seats on the UN Human Rights Council - Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bahrain, Gabon and Zambia - fail to protect human rights and should be disqualified from membership, two watchdog groups said in a report.

But the groups, Freedom House and UN Watch, said Tuesday that Gabon and Zambia are virtually guaranteed seats because candidates are chosen by regional groups and Africa has an uncontested slate in the election, scheduled for May 21.

Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, which is based in Geneva, criticized democratic countries in Africa and elsewhere for failing to compete for seats on the council, where they could become advocates for human rights.

"Instead, they lend international credibility to repressive governments that routinely violate the rights of their own citizens," Neuer said in a statement.

Freedom House, based in New York, promotes human rights worldwide, while UN Watch monitors the international body's performance based on its charter. Both evaluated the 20 candidates for council seats on their records of promoting human rights at home and at the United Nations.

Their report gave "questionable" ratings to three candidates with mixed human rights records - Brazil, East Timor and Burkina Faso.

"Qualified" ratings were given to Ghana, Japan, South Korea, the Czech Republic, Serbia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Argentina, Chile, France, Spain and Britain.

The Human Rights Council was created in March 2006 to replace the widely discredited and highly politicized Human Rights Commission, and one aim was to keep some of the worst human rights offenders out of its membership. But the council has been widely criticized for failing to change many of the commission's practices, including putting much more emphasis on Israel than on any other country.

The United States was virtually alone in voting against the establishment of the council, and Washington has chosen to remain off the council.

The Geneva-based council is composed of regional groups that give dominance to Africa and Asia, each with 13 countries.

The council's current membership includes Cuba, Saudi Arabia, China and Russia, whose human rights records have been widely criticized. Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Gabon and Zambia, whose rights records were called "dismal" on Tuesday, are also members.

Source: IHT

43 killed in Sri Lanka clashes

At least 41 LTTE cadres and two civilians were killed as fierce clashes broke out between the Tiger rebels and security forces in the volatile northern Sri Lanka, official said here on wednesday. At least two LTTE cadres were killed in Sittaru in northern Sri Lanka during clashes with the army on Tuesday, officials said.

The Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) denied reports that LTTE has overrun an army camp at Sittaru in Ellakantale.

Meanwhile, two civilians were killed when a claymore bomb planted by suspected rebel tigers exploded near the Vavuniya Municipal grounds on Tuesday, the MCNS said. As many as five LTTE cadres were killed in Matottam in Mannar during clashes with the security forces on Tuesday, the defence ministry said.

Separately, troops said it had killed six Tiger rebels who were travelling in a tractor in Periyamadu in North-east of Vavuniya on Tuesday.

At least seven rebels were shot dead in clashes with security forces in Palampiddy in Vavuniya on Tuesday, the ministry said. In another confrontation, the security forces gunned down seven LTTE rebels during an offensive in Alankulam in Mannar on Tuesday, the MCNS said, adding in another clash they shot dead one Tamil tiger at Palampiddi in the region Mannar on Tuesday.

Source: Hindu

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

More time to question Tamil three

DETECTIVES were yesterday granted another eight days to question three men suspected of raising funds for a banned terrorist group.

City of Westminster magistrates gave police permission to hold the three men, aged 33, 39 and 46, until next Tuesday. Two of them were arrested in Powys.

They are suspected of raising funds for the Tamil Tigers, who have waged three decades of guerrilla fighting in Sri Lanka.

Police staged a series of early morning raids in Wales and London last Tuesday.

Government officials and senior police officers believe large sums of money are collected in Britain to fund Tamil Tiger attacks.

Members of the group are suspected of credit card fraud and extortion.

The two aged 39 and 46 were arrested at separate addresses in Newtown, and the third man, aged 33, was held in Mitcham, London.

Source: icwales

New fighting in Sri Lanka kills 16 rebels, 2 soldiers

Clashes broke out between government forces and ethnic Tamil separatists across northern Sri Lanka, killing 16 rebels and two soldiers, the military said Tuesday.

In the worst of the fighting Monday, nine rebels were killed during a series of battles in the Vavuniya district, the military said in a statement.

The military also accused the rebels of targeting a leading Buddhist monk in the north with a roadside bomb. The cleric was uninjured, the military said.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan was not immediately available for comment.

It was not possible to independently verify the military's claims because the media are banned from the northern jungles where much of the fighting takes place. Both sides commonly exaggerate their enemy's casualties while underplaying their own.

The military, which has promised to crush the rebels by the end of the year, also said it captured about 1 square kilometer (0.39 sq. mile) of rebel-held territory in the Mannar area.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for an independent homeland for minority ethnic Tamils, who have been marginalized for decades by governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the fighting.

The newly announced battles broke out as the warring sides fought two other battles in the north. The rebels said they killed eight soldiers in the Muhamalai area Monday and three sailors in Mannar. The government said it killed 10 rebels, while two soldiers were killed and another was missing from the fighting.

Source: gmanews

Tiger leader sought $3M from Canada

RCMP counterterrorism investigators in Toronto have seized a letter signed by the leader of Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers guerrillas directing Canadian Tamils to send him $3-million, according to police files released yesterday by the Federal Court.

The rebel leader's letter, found during a search of the Toronto office of the World Tamil Movement, discusses the need to "intensify the struggle" and ensure that Tamils are "strong enough" to fight "with our full breath," according to the newly unsealed files.

Velupillai Prabhakaran adds that he looks "forward to receiving substantial contribution from the displaced people of Tamil Eelam" and advises the "Canadian office" to provide 15 of the 100 "crores" he needs. A crore is the equivalent of just over $200,000.

The RCMP cited the 2002 letter as evidence the WTM is the "Canadian branch" of the Tamil Tigers, a rebel group fighting a civil war against Sri Lankan government forces. The Tigers want an independent ethnic Tamil state.

Also known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, the Tigers are an outlawed terrorist group in Canada because of tactics that include suicide bombings and political killings. But many Canadian Tamils say the Tigers are freedom fighters defending the country's ethnic Tamil minority against state terror.

The solicitation from Mr. Prabhakaran is contained in hundreds of pages of materials the RCMP took to a Federal Court judge last month as part of an application to seize the WTM's bank accounts. The judge approved the seizures.

The documents remained sealed until yesterday, although some parts remain blacked out. Last Friday, the courts released documents concerning a related investigation into the WTM office in Montreal.

The documents detailing the Montreal and Toronto terrorist financing investigations (some of which were revealed in the National Post on Saturday and Monday) provide the first indication the Canadian Tamil groups serve as "foreign branches" of the guerrillas, police claim.

The documents also spell out the money trail, showing how the WTM has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in Quebec and Ontario and shipped it overseas, allegedly to pay for arms and other materials for the Tamil independence struggle -- although WTM officials deny the claims and no charges have been laid.

"As a result of my four-year involvement with this investigation, I believe that the World Tamil Movement is involved in terrorist financing activities in Canada," according to an affidavit by RCMP Corporal DeAnna Hill, a member of the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team in Ontario.

Cpl. Hill says the WTM uses everything from bake sales to the sale of Tamil Tigers paraphernalia to generate money. But the investigation, called Project Osaluki, also uncovered one lucrative "terrorist financing scheme" that targets Canadian Tamils who visit Sri Lanka, she says.

Travelling Canadian Tamils who try to enter Tamil Tigers-held territory in Sri Lanka are taken aside and pressured into signing a pre-authorized payment form allowing the WTM to make a monthly withdrawal from their bank account, the police documents say.

"These persons, out of fear, compliance or empathy, completed a pre-authorized payment form at a checkpoint operated or enforced by the LTTE in Sri Lanka," Cpl. Hill writes. "Upon their return to Canada, these persons were visited by representatives of the World Tamil Movement to exact the collection of the stipend."

Some of the forms were seized by the Canada Border Services Agency. Police also interviewed those who signed them. The close co-operation on the scheme between the LTTE in Sri Lanka and WTM in Toronto shows an "inextricable link" between the two, she says.

"Moreover, I believe this sequence of events provides irrefutable evidence that the World Tamil Movement acts on behalf of the LTTE in Canada and participates in active fundraising for the LTTE."

The Canadian government outlawed terrorist financing in 2001. The investigation into the WTM Toronto branch began on April 22, 2002, and climaxed with a police raid in 2006.

The case, together with the related probe in Montreal, marks the first time Canadian police have gone to court to seize real estate and bank accounts because of alleged involvement in terrorist financing.

Source: nationalpost

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Explosives' seizures worry Tamil Nadu cops

Discoveries of explosives' caches in two Tamil Nadu districts Sunday worried state police officials on a day the US government indicated increased Maoist activity in Tamil Nadu since last year.

Home ministry sources here admitted that a PMK worker K. Ilanchezhiyan was taken into custody in Kanchipuram district 60 km from here for illegally possessing several country made bombs.

Prem Anand Sinha, Perambalur district superintendent of police, said on telephone that a huge stash of unaccounted explosives was seized from a stone quarry following an explosion that killed one person.

"We are worried at instances of unrecorded explosives cropping up in the state, but are hopeful of success within a week," a top official told IANS.

The two incidents were reported within a 250 km southward radius of capital Chennai.

Significantly, two persons died in an explosion last year in Ilanchezhiyan's farm.

The US government had said that there were 971 instances of Maoist activities in India during the first seven months in 2007.

In July 2007, a civic official was killed when an IED went off under his car in Sivaganga (constituency of Finance Minister P. Chidambaram) within days of newspaper reports alleging presence of over 600 Maoists in the foothills of the Western Ghats on Tamil Nadu's border with Kerala, 400 km south of Chennai. Four of them were caught by alert locals.

Top police officials denied links between Sunday's incidents and increased extreme left-wing political activity in the state - though three Maoists were killed in encounters in Tamil Nadu during the last 35 days.

Significantly, Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi chided PMK founder Ramadoss Saturday for repeatedly being an impediment to the state's developmental activities following the latter's verbal assault against creation of Special Economic Zones to benefit major business houses, a well-known left-wing stand.

The left, along with PMK, prop up the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam regime in Tamil Nadu.

Statistics provided by the state government admit that 87 cases have been registered against "agent provocateurs" owing allegiance to the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam for smuggling ordnance to Sri Lanka since the DMK came to power in Tamil Nadu in 2006.

Seven of them belong to the self-styled Tamil culture vigilantes PMK and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi - both allies of the DMK and apologists of the LTTE espousing a left-of-centre political disposition.

Source: newkerala

LTTE unloaded three shiploads of arms in two months: Report

Despite the Sri Lankan Navy’s claim that it had destroyed all 10 arms ships of the Tamil Tiger rebels, the country’s intelligence agencies have revealed that the guerrillas unloaded at least three shiploads of military hardware in the last two months, a media report here said Sunday. It said that intense use of heavy artillery shells by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the northeastern Weli Oya and northern Wanni and Jaffna fronts has “raised fresh concerns” about the LTTE’s ability to replenish their dwindling armoury regularly.

“The general impression among the public was that the LTTE had been starved of military supplies since the navy destroyed a fleet of LTTE vessels which functioned as floating armouries for the group. However, recent reports by intelligence agencies suggest otherwise,” the English weekly Lakbima News said in its defence column Sunday.

“They (intelligence reports) paint a gloomy picture, revealing that the LTTE had unloaded three shiploads of arms during the months of February and March,” it said.

Quoting a recent report “filed by the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) and presented to the National Security Council”, the media report said a shipload of arms was smuggled to the Wanni March 12.

“Another report by the State Intelligence Services (SIS) stated that two vessels had been unloaded by the LTTE during Feb 16-17. These consignments were transferred to trawlers from ships anchored in the deep seas and unloaded in Chalai, Mullaitivu and Veththilaikerny on the northeastern coast,” it said.

According to the media report, the recent developments in the battlefront “appear to substantiate the findings of these two reports” with the significant increase in artillery and mortar attacks by the LTTE being observed during recent battles, including the one that left over 200 combatants killed and nearly 1000 wounded on both sides in Muhamalai in the northern Jaffna Peninsula April 23.

Source: thaindian

43 LTTE militants, seven soldiers killed in gunbattles

At least 43 Tamil Tigers and seven soldiers were killed in running gunbattles between the rebels and the security forces in the embattled northern Sri Lanka, the military said here today.

As many as 10 LTTE rebels were killed and 10 others injured when the army launched a massive offensive yesterday and captured an area of 1.5 sq km in Puliyankulam Mannar, it said.

Six LTTE cadres were killed in Janakapura in North-east Welioya yesterday, the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) said adding two soldiers also lost their lives during the confrontation.

In another clash later in the day, army gunned down seven tiger rebels in North Janakapura in Welioya, it said. Two soldiers were also killed in the gunbattle.

As many as four tiger militants were gunned down in Kokkuthduwai in Welioya yesterday, the defence ministry said.

Separately, the security forces gunned down four rebel fighters in Kiribanwewa while three soldiers lost their life in a confrontation in Adankulam in Welioya yesterday.

At least four tiger militants were shot dead in Adampan area of North-western Mannar yesterday while six rebels and a soldier were killed during a clash in Nadulkandal area in the region.

Separately, the army gunned down two LTTE cadres in Palampiddi area, North of Madhu in Vavuniya yesterday

Source: PTI

Sri Lanka military denies report that 2,000 troops killed in 2007

Sri Lanka's military Sunday denied a report saying more than nine times as many of its soldiers have been killed in clashes with Tamil rebels in 2007 than officially stated.

The English-language Sunday Times said Sri Lanka's top army general Sarath Fonseka told a briefing of military commanders last week that 2,000 troops were killed and 4,000 injured during in 2007, compared to an official tally of 213 dead and 829 injured.

"I myself was not present at that meeting. But we did not have so many casualty figures last year," army spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara told AFP in refuting the newspaper story.

Fonseka, who was severely injured by a Tamil rebel suicide bomber in April 2006, told the military commanders that security forces killed 5,000 Tiger cadres last year, the Sunday Times said.

The military had earlier estimated the Tigers' strength between 3,000 and 5,000 combatants and announced at the start of 2008 that they would be able to wipe out the rebels within six months.

According to the military, fighting since January 2008 killed 3,359 rebels and 246 soldiers died during the same period. The figure comes on top of military claims that 2,752 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) cadres were killed in 2007 which would total 6,111 rebels dead in the past 16 months.

Both sides are known to downplay their own casualty figures and inflate enemy losses. Casualty figures cannot be independently verified as Colombo prevents media and rights groups from visiting embattled areas.

Tens of thousands have died since LTTE launched a separatist campaign for an independent homeland in 1972.

Source: AFP

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Sri Lanka sets up political council for war-torn North

In a significant concession to the ethnic minorities, the Sri Lankan government on Friday set up a multi-party political council to advice on the administration of development and rehabilitation projects in the war-torn Northern Province, which includes Jaffna and the districts under the control of the Tamil Tiger rebels.

Cabinet spokesman Anura Priyadarshana Yapa said the high-powered three-man council, called the Special Task Force (STF), would be headed by the cabinet minister for social services, Douglas Devananda. It would include the minister for rehabilitation, Rishad Badiuddin, and senior presidential advisor and MP Basil Rajapaksa.

The three members belong to three different parties, and represent the three main communities in the island, namely, Tamil, Muslim and Sinhalese.

“The formation of the council has been a longstanding demand of mine for an interim council of peoples’ representatives to run the administration in the Tamil-speaking north and east Sri Lanka,” Devananda told this website’s newspaper on Saturday.

“While the Eastern Province will have an elected provincial council after the May 10 elections, the Northern Province will have a nominated but representative political council till elections are held,” he said.

Devananda and Badiuddin are both MPs representing the Northern Province. The All Party Representative Committee (APRC), set up by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to work out a new devolution package for the country, had recommended for now a representative advisory council for the war-affected northern province be given.

However, the Eelam Peoples’ Democratic Party (EPDP), which Devananda represents, hopes to make the STF more than just a body overseeing economic development and rehabilitation. A top source in the party told this website’s newspaper that it would try to get a say in the maintenance of law and order, which means controlling the police.

The EPDP official pointed out that the 13th Amendment of the Sri Lankan constitution, which President Rajapaksa has promised to implement in full, envisaged the transfer of law and order powers to the provinces.

But this has been anathema to the majority Sinhalese and successive governments in Colombo. The Sinhalese fear that if law and order is handed over to a Tamil province, Tamil separatist forces cannot be controlled.

Source: newindpress

14 die in new Sri Lanka fighting

Scattered gunbattles and a roadside bomb blast in Sri Lanka's embattled north killed 11 Tamil Tiger rebels and three government soldiers, the military said Saturday.

Sporadic fighting in northern Mannar district killed 10 rebels and two soldiers Friday. Fifteen insurgents and four troops were also wounded, said a defense ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of government regulations.

Tamil guerrillas triggered a bomb targeting an army truck in northeastern Welioya region Friday night, killing one soldier. Separately, a gunbattle along the front lines in Welioya killed one Tamil rebel and wounded 13 others, four of them soldiers, he said.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan was not immediately available for comment Saturday.

It was not possible to independently verify the military's claims because fighting took place deep in the northern jungles, where access is restricted. Both sides commonly exaggerate their enemy's casualties while underplaying their own.

The government has pledged to capture the rebels' de facto state in the north and crush them by the end of the year. But diplomats and other observers say the army is facing more resistance than they had expected.

Fighting has escalated along the northern front lines since the government withdrew from a long-ignored cease-fire in January.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for an independent homeland for minority ethnic Tamils, who have been marginalized for decades by governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the fighting.

Source: AP

Thursday, 1 May 2008

British police get more time to quiz Tamil Tiger suspects

British police have been given more time to question three men held as part of a police probe into the Tamil Tiger guerrillas in Sri Lanka, a spokesman said Thursday.

Detectives have been granted until Tuesday to hold the trio at the high-security Paddington Green police station in London.

"We got an extension which expires on May 6," a Metropolitan Police spokesman told AFP.

The trio were arrested on suspicion of the "commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism" in dawn raids Tuesday.

Two men aged 39 and 46 were arrested at separate addresses in Newtown, central Wales. A third, aged 33, was held in Mitcham, southwest London.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who are fighting for a separate Tamil state in the north and east of Sri Lanka, are designated a proscribed terrorist organisation under Britain's Terrorism Act 2000.

Government officials and senior police officers believe large sums of money are collected in Britain to fund attacks in Sri Lanka.

Tamil Tiger activists are also suspected of involvement in widespread credit card scams, fraud and extortion.

The arrests were the latest development in a lengthy investigation aimed at flushing out sympathisers.

The rebels have been fighting to carve out an independent homeland for the island's Tamil minority since 1972. Tens of thousands have died on both sides in the conflict in the Sinhalese-majority nation.

Last November, the founder of a breakaway faction of the Tamil Tigers, Colonel Karuna Amman, was arrested in a joint operation by British police and immigration officials.

No details have been released of where he was detained or whether Sri Lanka will begin extradition proceedings.

Source: AFP

Fighting kills 73 in Sri Lanka

A roadside bomb suspected to have been planted by Tamil Tiger rebels killed two police commandos on Thursday while Sri Lankan troops captured a rebel base in the north west, the military said.

The capture of the rebel camp in Mannar comes a week after one of the bloodiest battles in the country's long civil war in the same area.

"Advancing troops...brought the entire area under control on Wednesday," a spokesman at the Media centre for National security said.

The military said a suspected rebel roadside bomb in central Anuradhapura killed two police commandos, while police retaliation killed two rebels.

The military said fighting in the far north a day earlier, killed 25 Tamil Tiger rebels and injured 37 while four solders died and 14 were injured.

Fighting between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has intensified since the government formally pulled out of a 6-year-old ceasefire pact in January, though a renewed civil war has been raging since 2006.

Source: Reuters