The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Thursday, 31 July 2008

80 Indian fishermen assaulted by Lankan navy

About 80 fishermen from Tamil Nadu were allegedly assaulted by the Sri Lankan navy in the Palk Straits in the early hours on Thursday, officials here said.

The incident occurred even as political parties in the state staged protests during the past few weeks, demanding that the Centre take up the recurring incidents with the island nation and provide adequate security to fishermen.

Quoting the fishermen, the officials said about 80 of them, sailing in 20 boats, were assaulted with clubs while they were fishing around Katchathivu island, which was ceded to Sri Lanka by India in 1974.

Many fishermen had to abandon their boats and jump into the sea to escape the assault. They stayed afloat for more than one hour, then got back into their boats and returned to shore.

The ruling DMK and many other political parties, including AIADMK, CPI and MDMK had held protests over the incidents.

In a statement, AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa said she would move the Supreme Court, challenging the validity of ceding Katchathivu, an uninhabited island in the Palk Straits, to Sri Lanka by India.

For its part, the Sri Lankan government has been denying that its Navy has a hand in the incidents and blamed the LTTE for the attacks.

Source: sify

Sunday, 27 July 2008

SAARC meeting begins, crackdown on dogs

A meeting of officials of South Asian countries began here on Sunday, after an unprecedented crackdown on stray dogs ahead of the SAARC summit early next month.

A foreign ministry official said that the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) commenced its meeting, with Sri Lanka taking the chair from India.

Grace Asirwatham, director general of SAARC and the foreign ministry's South Asia wing, took charge of the 33rd session of the Programming Committee from Indian joint secretary Kheya Battachariya, the official said.

The Sunday meeting of the officials will be followed by a meeting of the council of ministers July 31 and Aug 1.

Heads of state and government from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will gather at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH) Aug 2-3 to thrash out agreements on various regional issues, mainly in the spheres of trade, education, cultural and tourism.

The government has deployed 19,000 additional security personnel to provide security cover for visiting leaders and their delegations in the capital of 650,000 people.

The hotels where the VIPs will stay, the convention centre and the roads leading to these venues have been declared high security zones. Shuttle buses will be used to ferry passengers going to these areas.

Meanwhile, local authorities have unleashed a major crackdown on stray dogs in the vicinity of the summit venue. One official said the foreign ministry wants a "dog free zone".

On Saturday, Colombo Municipal Council workers, acting on a request from Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, rounded up stray dogs.

"This is not in view of the security but to keep the venue clean," a foreign ministry official said.
A local official said 24 dogs had been taken to the dog pound. The dogs would be released in the same area after the summit.

"It’s a difficult task to catch street dogs. Even if we remove all in one area, more dogs come there. But for now we are doing our best to take away the ones roaming near the summit venue,” an official said.

Source: indiatimes

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Terrorism expected to be high on agenda of SAARC summit

In the backdrop of attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul and upsurge of violence in Sri Lanka, terrorism is expected to be high on the agenda of the upcoming SAARC Summit in Colombo.

The two-day Summit from August 2, which will be preceded by official and ministerial level meetings beginning tomorrow, will also deliberate on food security, energy security and connectivity.

The SAARC meet will discuss how to deal with the scourge of terrorism that is affecting several of the eight member countries, particularly India, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Besides these countries, SAARC also comprises Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives and Bhutan.

The meet will seek to formalise a regional Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) in Criminal Matters as a tool to check terrorism through cooperation in investigation and other aspects.

India has been pressing for the legal framework, particularly in the wake of the July 7 Kabul attack which has trans-national linkages.

The regional MLAT was discussed at the last Summit held in New Delhi in April last year but it could not be finalised because of opposition by Pakistan to the extradition clause.

The Summit will also deliberate on the issues of food and energy security in view of the increasing prices of eatables and fuels.

The upcoming Summit is expected to see progress on the proposal for setting up of a SAARC Food Bank aimed at meeting the requirements of the member countries in the times of need.

The Summit will also deliberate on continued implementation of the connectivity, the theme of the last meet.

Source: outlookindia

Friday, 25 July 2008

Sri Lanka's worsening human rights could hit economy -EU

Sri Lanka's failure to address human rights concerns, including a "frightening" number of abductions, could cost the island nation a lucrative trade concession, the European Union said on Friday.

Concluding a visit to the island nation, an EU delegation for South Asia relations said that the Sri Lankan government needed to do more to address rights abuses.

Human rights groups have said around 150 people, most of them ethnic Tamils, were abducted in the first half of this year, most from the capital Colombo.

"The European parliament delegation urges the government of Sri Lanka, as a top priority, to organise investigations into these cases," the delegation said in a statement, describing the number of abductions as "frightening".

"The widespread belief that the military and police enjoy impunity does nothing to set ordinary people at ease and may even fuel the LTTE," it said, referring to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who are fighting for a separate state for ethnic Tamils in the island's north and east.

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

The government has admitted there are rights abuses and has said it is doing its best to address them.

The trade concession, called the GSP+ scheme, expires in December. It helped Sri Lanka net a record $2.9 billion from EU markets last year, or 37.5 percent of total export income.

"The European Parliament delegation remains extremely anxious about the impact a possible loss of GSP+ status would have on the economy and employment in Sri Lanka," the EU statement said.

Sri Lanka was one of 15 countries granted GSP+ concessions in 2005 to help it recover from the Indian Ocean tsunami.

The island's garment and textile industry, which employs hundreds of thousands of largely rural poor, would be hard hit if the special trade terms were axed.

The European Commission said last month it would withhold a 70 million-euro aid package unless Sri Lanka removed barriers to humanitarian assistance.

Source: reuters

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Security for SAARC meet strengthened

Despite the LTTE’s ceasefire declaration for the duration of the SAARC Summit, Sri Lanka is taking nothing to chance and has drawn up an unprecedented security plan. The government on Tuesday said it viewed the ceasefire announcement as a ruse to regroup.

A senior government official told The Hindu there would no change in the security measures contemplated by the military and police to ensure smooth conduct of the summit. “We do not believe in the pronouncements of the LTTE. If the past conduct of the Tigers is any guide, the so-called unilateral ceasefire by the LTTE is all the more reason for the government to be extra vigilant,” said the official.

The security plan for the SAARC is envisaged in two phases. Some of the measures proposed would come into force only in the second phase, when the Foreign Ministers commence their two-day deliberations on July 31, and when regional leaders meet on August 2 and 3.

Several key areas in the city would be declared out of bounds for the public from July 31 to August 3. On representations from some of the SAARC countries, the government has permitted heads of state to bring their own security contingents. In a recent interaction with Foreign Correspondents Association (FCA), Army chief Lt. Gen. Sanath Foneska said the government would not hesitate to seek assistance of neighbouring countries to help the Air Force and Navy provide air cover and sea surveillance. As per the security plans, the summit venue, hotels where the delegations would stay, Katunayaka Air Base and Parliament House would be declared High Security Zones.
LTTE’s ploy

The security plan is premised on the assumption that the LTTE might use the opportunity to tarnish the country’s image by trying to sabotage an international gathering and divert attention from their battlefield losses.

Also, the military has claimed troops operating near Illuppakaddavai pounded LTTE positions with artillery and mortar fire, killing at least 25 LTTE cadre and injuring 17 others.

Source: Hindu

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Sri Lanka not ready to accept unilateral LTTE cease-fire agreement

Sri Lankan government has stated that it is not bound by the unilateral cease-fire agreement announced by the Tamil Tigers Monday night.

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said in parliament Tuesday that the government will not respondent to the LTTE overture, All India Radio (AIR) reported.

The Tamil outfit had announced a 10-day unilateral cease-fire from July 26 in view of the SAARC Summit slated to begin in Colombo later this month.

However a few hours after the announcement of the cease-fire agreement by the Tamil Tigers, Sri Lankan Air Force launched massive air strikes on Mullaithivu killing 22 black tigers.

Air Force spokesman Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara told AIR that the fighter jets pounded training camp of LTTE leaders located at Uddarkattukulam in Mullaithivu.

LTTE has not reacted to the loss suffered by them following the air strike.

At the same time Sri Lankan Navy launched an offensive on an LTTE flotilla at Pulmudai off Trincomalee in the eastern coast early hours today.

Navy spokesman said that one Tamil Tiger boat was completely destroyed while two other vessels were partially damaged.

The spokesman said the 10 sea-tigers are believed killed in the sea-attack.

Source: IRNA

ESPN Star lands rights to Olympics

ESPN Star Sports has acquired exclusive cable, satellite, IPTV and mobile TV rights in 22 countries in Southeast Asia, including India, to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Deal gives the Disney-News Corp. joint venture 200 hours of coverage for the London Games and more than 60 hours for Vancouver.

"This is the first time that IOC has awarded the rights to a pay TV platform across the region, and it is a testament to our commitment to reaching out to a wide audience base across Asia with the most interesting and compelling programming," said ESS managing director Manu Sawhney.

The 22 territories covered by the deal are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, India, Indonesia, Laos, Macau (English-language rights only), Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Caledonia (English-language rights only), Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

The company recently landed exclusive TV rights for the Indian subcontinent to soccer events including the 2010 FIFA World Cup and 2009 Confederations Cup.

Source: variety

LTTE announces unilateral ceasefire during SAARC summit

The Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam (LTTE) on Tuesday announced that the movement would observe unilateral ceasefire during the period of SAARC conference from 26th July to 04 August, giving cooperation for the success of the conference. Conveying goodwill and trust of the Tamil people, the LTTE Political Wing, in a press statement issued from Vanni said it wished for the success of the SAARC conference, extending the movement's support to the "countries of our region, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives."

Source: Tamilnet

Monday, 21 July 2008

Indian Govt to go ahead with Sethusamudram project

Ahead of crucial trust vote, the government bows to pressure from its ally -- the DMK -- to file affidavit to allow work on the Sethusamudram project.

Government will file an affidavit in the Supreme Court tomorrow asking for work to progress on Sethusamudaram project. Government is also planning to submit that ASI survey is not important. The
government's turnaround - considering it had earlier suggested that the Archaeological survey is imperative - is being seen as a surrender to the DMK.

The government's turnaround will come as a major boost to DMK. DMK has been pushing for the project to go ahead.

In its time of crisis it's only natural for the Congress to be more dependent on its allies, and so it comes as no surprise that the government has had to bow to the wishes of the DMK.

What is Sethusamudram?

Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project, which envisages dredging of a ship channel across the Palk straits between India and Srilanka, is finally taking shape. The project will alllow ships sailing between the east and west costs of India to have a straight passage through India's territorial waters, instead of having to circumvent Sri Lanka. This will lead to a saving of upto 424 nautical miles (780 Km) and upto to 30 hours in sailing time.

Two channels will be created - one across north of Adam's Bridge (the chain of islets and shallows linking India with Sri Lanka) South - east of Pamban Island and another through the shallows of Palk Bay, deepening the Palk straits. The total length of these two channels would be 89 Kms.

Source: timesnow

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Sri Lankan expats will have to pay duty on household items

Beginning Aug. 1, Sri Lankan expatriates will have to pay a duty on electronic and household goods they ship home, according to an advisory by Customs officials in Colombo.

Members of the Sri Lankan community in Saudi Arabia have lambasted the move, while at least one shipping company in the Kingdom has complained that the government gave neither prior notice of the duty nor a grace period for goods that have already been purchased by Sri Lankans abroad and are on their way to the country.

Some of the items, such as televisions, will face a 20 percent levy upon arrival in Sri Lanka.

The size of the duty is based on the types of products being shipped. Items that will now be taxed include: air conditioners, refrigerators with two or more doors and with capacities over 500 liters, dish washers, deep freezers, four burner cookers with ovens, fully automatic washing machines, CRT televisions exceeding 29 inches and LCD TVs exceeding 32 inches. The cost of the levy depends on the item.

Andrew Sinnen, country manager for Trico International, a shipping agent in the Kingdom, said that the news has come as a shock to the Sri Lankan community.

“The expatriates, including housemaids, purchase these items over a period of time prior to their vacation and store them in our warehouses. Some of these goods are currently aboard cargo vessels,” Sinnen said, pointing out that notice should have been given for such a move in the interest of the poor workers.

Fazli Sameer, an IT consultant working in Riyadh, said it is bad news for all Sri Lankan overseas workers. Previously, they were given baggage allowances that waived import duties on personal goods.

“Removing the duty free concession on several items of household electrical goods under the prevailing passenger baggage allowance is certainly a step backward in the motivation of expatriates who look forward to return home either for their vacation or on completion of their work overseas contracts,” Sameer said.

Most expatriates, especially those living and working in the Middle Eastern region, are used to these household electrical items and would certainly want to continue using them in their own homes in their native land, he added.

“These items are not luxury for those who live abroad and they are essentials for all those who live in Sri Lanka too,” Nihal Gamage, former president of the Sri Lankan Expatriates Society said.

Source: arabnews

Saturday, 19 July 2008

DMK leaders on fast to protest killing of fishermen by Lankan troops

Leaders of the ruling Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK) staged a day-long state-wide fast on Saturday to protest the killing of Tamil fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy.

Party president and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi commenced the fast in Chennai today.

Several union and state ministers, besides senior party functionaries participated in the protest.

On Thursday, a resolution was adopted by the DMK's Working Committee meeting, which called for Central intervention in the matter.

The DMK also adopted a resolution that urged the Centre to summon the Sri Lanka High Commissioner and express its displeasure in strong and unequivocal terms over the killings.

A third resolution called for the intensification of patrolling by the Indian Navy and Coast Guard on the international maritime boundary to prevent incursions by the Sri Lankan Navy.

The DMK Working Committee called on the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, to convey the Indian Government's concern and displeasure over the killing to the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse during the 15th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Colombo next month.

Source: newstrackindia

E.U. delegation to visit Sri Lanka

A parliamentary delegation of the E.U. will arrive here on July 20 to assess the situation in the eastern part of the country, especially after the recent election to the Eastern Provincial Council (EPC).

The delegation includes a cross-section of political groups and E.U. member-states.

The delegation’s six-day visit would include meetings with key members of the Cabinet, political parties and the media.

The visit assumes importance as the issue of extension of GSP plus concession” to Sri Lanka’s textile sector is coming up for review shortly.

The Foreign Ministry said Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the E.U., Ravinatha Aryasinha, briefed the delegation in Brussels on Wednesday.

Source: Hindu

Friday, 18 July 2008

Colombo closes in on victory in Sri Lanka's long civil war

The offensive launched two years ago by Sri Lankan government forces against Tamil Tiger rebels took on new momentum in the past few days with the capture of a key rebel naval base.

On Wednesday government troops took the port town of Vidattaltivu on Sri Lanka's northwest coast after heavy fighting. The port has been a base for the Tamil Tigers' small boat navy and is an important entry point for arms and other supplies smuggled in by the rebels, mostly from India across the Palk Strait.

Government forces swiftly consolidated their hold on Vidattaltivu and pursued Tamil fighters northwards, attacking them with air force bombers and helicopter gunships.

Officers described the capture of the port as a "fatal blow" to the Tigers, properly known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who have been fighting for an independent Tamil state in northern Sri Lanka since 1983. About 70,000 people have died in the fighting and terrorist attacks by Tigers, who have targeted politicians, officials, journalists and civilians, usually in the capital, Colombo.

The Colombo government does indeed have cause for satisfaction and some confidence that its boast that it can capture all Tiger territory by the end of the year can be met.

Since the collapse of the 2002 ceasefire and peace process brokered by Norway, and the resumption of all-out civil war in 2006, government forces have had a steady succession of victories. Colombo's military now controls northeastern Sri Lanka, in part because of the defection of a local renegade Tamil Tiger commander known as "Karuna."

Though casualty claims by both sides are usually exaggerated and unreliable, the government claims to have killed 9,000 Tigers since 2006 while losing about 1,000 troops itself. Remaining Tiger forces are said to control only a shrinking area in north-western Sri Lanka.

Army Commander Lt.-Gen. Sarath Fonseka said a few days ago his soldiers have noted that the Tigers no longer have "the same strength and willpower to fight. We have already defeated them."

Fonseka is experienced enough, however, to know that even complete victory on the battlefield will not bring an end to the insurrection that has its roots in entrenched discrimination against Tamils by the country's Sinhalese majority.

In 1949 one of the first acts of the Sinhalese-dominated Sri Lankan government, fresh from independence from Britain the previous year, was to disenfranchise Indian Tamil plantation workers. The anti-Tamil drive gained momentum in 1956 with the election of the intemperate Sinhalese nationalist Solomon Bandaranaike as prime minister.

Sinhala was made the only official language, Tamils' access to government jobs and higher-level education was restricted, and measures introduced to enhance Sinhalese Buddhist culture. Most Tamils are Hindus.

Over the following years anti-Tamil riots killed hundreds of people and many thousands of Tamils were displaced. Government-sponsored anti-Tamil discrimination continues, including the extra-judicial killing of non-governmental organization workers and journalists who are deemed sympathetic to the Tamils or insufficiently loyal to the government.

In many ways the wonder is that it took until 1983 -- more than 30 years -- before the Tamil reaction to their subjugation became a full-blown separatist rebellion.

So even a conclusive military victory by the government forces now will not be a solution to Sri Lanka's internal problems.

"You might never be able to kill the last LTTE member," Foneska said, adding it is quite possible the Tigers could continue a terrorist insurgency for two decades or more.

That is more than likely. The Tamil Tigers invented the suicide bomb and have counted Sri Lankan president Ranasinghe Premadasa and former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, among their victims.

Terrorist attacks by Tigers in the past few weeks include the machine-gunning of a civilian bus in which 24 people were killed, and the assassination of the highways minister.

But, as with all civil wars, there has to be a political solution to Sri Lanka's agony. That will have to include a semi-autonomous Tamil state in northern Sri Lanka.

The concern now for all Sri Lankans and the country's neighbours is that a battlefield victory will blind the Colombo government to this necessity.

Source: Vancouver Sun

Sri Lanka journalists harassed: media group

Journalists covering Sri Lanka's war with Tamil Tiger rebels are being harassed despite a government pledge to take action to protect the press, a rights group said Friday.

The Free Media Movement (FMM) reported eight incidents of threats and intimidation, just two weeks after a ministerial committee was formed to look at the issue of media rights.

The incidents included verbal death threats, assaults in public places and visits to journalists' homes by people claiming to be from the police, the statement said.

"It is apparent that the cabinet sub-committee... is powerless to foster media freedom and the freedom of expression in Sri Lanka, or investigate meaningfully the violence directed at journalists," the FMM said.

The rights group demanded a probe into the recent incidents and asked the committee to tell police to respect journalists.

In June, Sri Lanka's hawkish defence ministry published several editorials which labelled journalists and reporters "cowboy defence analysts" and "enemies of the state."

The defence ministry presented reporters with a stark choice of being either pro-government or "pro-terrorist" -- sparking renewed alarm among media rights activists about freedom of the press in Sri Lanka.

Since August 2005, 12 media workers have been killed in Sri Lanka, which is regarded as the second-most dangerous place for journalists after Iraq.

Eleven of them died in government-controlled areas and no one has been brought to justice in connection with the deaths.

Sri Lanka's bitter ethnic war, which has left thousands of people dead, has escalated sharply since January, when the government pulled out of a Norwegian-brokered truce with the Tamil Tigers.

Source: AFP

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Court stops UK from returning Tamil to Sri Lanka

The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Thursday that an ethnic Tamil man denied asylum in Britain could not be sent back to his native Sri Lanka because he would be at risk of torture there.

The ruling could have implications for hundreds of other Tamils trying to avoid expulsion from Britain to Sri Lanka.

Thursday's ruling centred on a 33-year-old man who sought asylum in Britain in 1999 citing fears of ill-treatment by the Sri Lankan authorities, who had detained him six times in seven years on suspicion of involvement with the rebel Tamil Tigers.

The man had been released without charge every time. He was ill-treated during at least one of his detentions and his legs bear scars from being beaten with batons.

The man also feared the Tigers because his father had done some work for the Sri Lankan army, which has been fighting the rebels for 25 years in a civil war estimated to have killed 70,000 people.

The European Court of Human Rights said it had received an increasing number of petitions from ethnic Tamils facing expulsion to Sri Lanka from Britain and it had asked British authorities to suspend 342 procedures pending rulings.

Fighting has intensified in the north of Sri Lanka after the army, which has vowed to finish off the Tigers this year, drove the rebels out of their eastern enclave in 2007.

The Tigers, fighting for an independent state for the ethnic Tamil minority in predominantly Sinhalese Sri Lanka, regularly retaliate with suicide attacks.

In its ruling, the European Court of Human Rights "took note of the current climate of general violence in Sri Lanka", according to a summary posted on the court's website.

The court agreed with British authorities that the deterioration in security did not create a general risk for all Tamils returning to Sri Lanka, but it found there were specific risk factors in the case they were examining.

The court said the man's father had signed a document to ensure his release from detention and therefore it was possible authorities would have records of him and would detain him on arrival in Colombo.

"The court considered that where there was a sufficient risk that an applicant would be detained ... the presence of scarring, with all the significance that the Sri Lankan authorities were then likely to attach to it, had to be taken as greatly increasing the cumulative risk of ill-treatment."

Source: Reuters

I am still the boss - Tillakaratne

Hashan Tillakaratne maintains he is still the manager of the Sri Lankan cricket team despite reports he was removed a day after he took over.

A report in the Daily Mirror said sports minister Gamini Lokuge refused to endorse Tillakaratne's appointment for political reasons. Tillakeratne is a member of the opposition United National Party.

But the left-handed batsman told reporters after the team's morning practice at the Sinhalese Sports Club: "As far as I am concerned, I am still the team's manager and there has been no letter to suggest that I am not."

He added: "I offered my services and it was accepted."

The former opening batsman replaced Shriyan Samararatne, who's term ended after the Asia Cup.

Tillakaratne's appointment has been ratified by Sri Lanka Cricket's Interim Committee, the governing body of the sport in the country.

However, his appointment needs to be ratified by the sports ministry, a step which is still pending.

Tillakaratne continues as manager until then.

Source: PA

Sri Lanka gets tough on UN, aid visas

Sri Lanka's government on Thursday unveiled new restrictions on how long United Nations and other foreign aid staff are allowed to work on the war-torn island.

The new regulations come amid a backdrop of mounting tensions between the government and the United Nations and key member states, who have been highly critical over how the war against Tamil Tiger rebels is being conducted.

Under the new Sri Lankan foreign ministry rules, foreign nationals will not be allowed to stay more than four years in a single place, while experts and advisers will only be allowed into the country for a year.

Previously rules regarding foreigners were flexible and allowed for people to stay in the country for long periods of time.

UN and other aid agencies will also not be allowed to create new positions without prior approval from Colombo.

The ministry said the rules where designed to "consolidate the linkages between the UN and other international organisations with ministries dealing with the relevant sectors of activities."

Sri Lanka's government, which pulled out of a Norwegian-brokered ceasefire with Tamil Tigers in January, has seen its relationship with the UN and other key donors worsen over the past year.

The UN's human rights body has asked it be allowed to set up a monitoring office on the island amid reports of widespread disappearances, abductions and murders linked to the conflict.

Colombo has rejected the demand and accused Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, of "obvious bias" after she hinted Sri Lankan officials were exposing themselves to the risk of war crimes charges.

The hawkish government has also publicly accused its foreign critics -- mainly Western nations -- of being "pro-terrorist", and argues that a number of international organisations and NGOs in Sri Lanka have been infiltrated by rebels.

Relations further soured when UN member countries rejected Sri Lanka's re-election bid to the world body's Human Rights Council in May.

Government troops were also implicated by French aid group Action Against Hunger for massacring 17 of its workers in 2005. Sri Lanka has denied the charge, but the perpetrators have not been brought to justice.

Last November, the government was forced to recall 111 soldiers on a UN peace keeping mission to Haiti over allegations that some of the troops sexually abused local girls.

International media rights groups have repeatedly pulled Colombo up for not doing enough to protect journalists from being verbally abused by senior government officials, abducted, harassed and killed. Rights groups say at least 12 media workers have been killed in Sri Lanka since 2005.

The government has also brushed off threats of foreign aid cuts due to the worsening conflict and human rights situation, and turned to countries like Iran and China for aid this year.

Sri Lanka's powerful defence secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapakse, has often accused expatriates of being "too soft" on Tiger rebels and taking up posts on the tropical island to "simply have a paid holiday".

The Tamil Tigers are fighting for a separate state in the north and east of the ethnic Sinhalese-majority island.

A UN official, who asked not to be named, said the new visa rules made it difficult for expatriates to seek extensions.

However, the foreign ministry quoted UN resident co-ordinator for Sri Lanka Neil Buhne as saying that the UN agreed to cooperate with the new rules.

Source: AFP

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

War is only job available in Sri Lankan village

Iyathigewewa is a classic company town. But the youth don't head off to work in the local mine or factory _ they go to war.

With no other job prospects in this impoverished, remote northern village about 27 miles south of the front lines, roughly half the men of fighting age have enlisted in the army, navy, police or other security branches.

"When we want to find a job, the easiest thing is to join the security forces," said Sisira Senaratna, 38, a 16-year police veteran who has two brothers who enlisted in the army and another in the police force.

After a quarter century of civil war between government forces and ethnic Tamil rebels, fighting is so entrenched in this Indian Ocean island it has become a career for tens of thousands seeking a path out of rural Sri Lanka's brutal poverty.

For their part, the Tamil Tiger rebels have been accused of filling their ranks by forcibly recruiting at least one member of each family in their de facto state in the north.

With the military promising to crush the rebels in the coming months, its appetite for more recruits is huge. Two weeks ago, the defense ministry sent a nationwide text message calling on "Young Patriots _ come join with our armed forces (army navy or air force) and be a part of a winning team."

Kadirage Leelawathi's entire family had already answered the call.

Her husband joined the army 20 years ago after failing to scrape a living from his tiny farm. The family lived in a clay hut with a floor made of cow dung and used kerosene lamps for light, she said. They could only afford to eat meat once a week.

"We couldn't make ends meet with three children," she said. "With the little money he earned from farming, we had a hard time even sending the kids to school."

With his army salary, they built a two bedroom concrete house with electricity, running water, a telephone, a 21-inch color TV and a 20-foot antenna piercing the sky.

Her oldest son dreamed of becoming a Buddhist monk, but grew disillusioned with the clergy and joined the navy five years ago. Her next son, seeing his father and brother serving, enlisted in the army two years ago. Seven months ago, her youngest son joined the paramilitary home guard, which protects villages in the north from rebel infiltration.

With the fighting escalating, Leelawathi said she is worried about her family: "But there's no option. What can we do?"

"If there were any other job opportunities, they wouldn't go," said her sister-in-law, Kiriyage Kamalawatee.

The economic situation was not always so bad.

In 1952, Iyathigewewa's 430 acres of farmland were enough for its 30 to 40 families. But many parents had 10 or more children, and the population explosion soon overwhelmed the village.

Parents divided their modest farms among their offspring, who subdivided them among their own children. Many of the 375 families living here now are left with slivers of land far too small to support a family.

Without the option of pushing plowshares, the youth of Iyathigewewa picked up swords.

The village's first recruit joined the army in the late 1970s. A trickle of youth followed, eventually becoming a flood.

Now, 175 of Iyathigewewa's 1,161 residents are in the security forces, where many earn a solid living of $230 to $280 a month. That money has brought relative prosperity to the village.

Its small shacks have been replaced by modest cement houses filled with kitchen appliances. Motorcycles and shiny, red three-wheeled vehicles purchased with army salaries shoot down the only paved road.

"The way the village is now, economically, that is because of the military," said Susil Premaratne, a village councilman.

But the fighting has taken its toll as well, robbing the village of 16 of its men.

Kalu Hamy's son Premasiri was killed in a land mine explosion in the eastern town of Trincomalee in 1991. Another son, Piyadesa, disappeared several years later after a battle near the rebel-held town of Kilinochchi. Her grandson was shot and killed in a 1998 ambush in the town of Vavuniya.

They joined the army in search of money and meaning for their lives, but the sacrifice wasn't worth it, the 72-year-old woman said, her voice cracking with grief.

"I would never let my children or grandchildren join the military again," she said.

Nishan Keerthiratne, 35, disagrees. With no job prospects, he joined the infantry in 1990. Two years ago, a mine hanging from a palmyrah tree exploded over his vehicle, damaging his spinal cord and paralyzing him from the chest down.

Now, he spends his days fighting bedsores as he lays on a rattan bed in his kitchen, the only room with sunlight and a breeze in his small home.

"I looked after my family, I served my country and I was able to raise our standard of living," he said. "I have no regrets."

Source: AP

29 LTTE cadres, 4 soldiers killed in Lanka clashes: Officials

At least 29 Tamil Tigers and four soldiers were killed in fierce clashes in Sri Lanka's restive northern region, officials here said on Tuesday.

Security forces gunned down 10 Tiger cadres during confrontations in Vavuniya yesterday, the Defence Ministry said.

It said another six rebels were killed and 11 injured in gun-battles in north of Janakapura and Kiriibbanwewa in the Welioya region.

A soldier was also killed and 13 others injured during the clashes in Welioya yesterday, the Defence Ministry said.

In a separate incident, an LTTE rebel was killed in a Sri Lankan Army sniper attack at Muhamalai in Jaffna yesterday while three soldiers died during a confrontation with guerrillas in Nagarkovil.

At the Mannar battle theatre, an LTTE rebel was killed in the general area of Puthukkamam, according to military reports.

In Karalmoddai, troops killed six LTTE cadres while four others were injured, the defence ministry said.

"The other attack in the same area later in the day claimed the lives of five more LTTE cadres while leaving six others wounded."

Source: Zeenews

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Sri Lanka to resume talks with LTTE if it lays down arms

After a two-year gap, Sri Lanka is ready to resume talks with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) if it lays down arms.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said on Saturday at the end of his two-day pilgrimage to the Tirupati Balaji temple here that the LTTE should give up terrorist activities and come to the negotiating table in the interest of the nation.

Stressing on government's intentions, he said it was the government which had been negotiating with the LTTE for the past 20 years expecting some positive outcome every time.

Negotiations were held even in Geneva, Oslo and Japan though there were instances when the LTTE walked out of the talks, he said.

Hinting that there was a change in the mood of Tamils, he said the election of a former LTTE leader as Chief Minister of the Eastern Province was an indication of this.

On India-Sri Lanka cooperation, Rajapaksa said New Delhi had always remained helpful to his country. "The relations between the two countries, I can say, are at their best." He had great admiration for the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and considered him as the greatest of all politicians.

Rajapaksa also talked about Indian fishermen and denied of their harassment by the Sri Lankan defence forces.

It was the LTTE which was forcibly taking away their boats and using them for the smuggling of arms. He said: "We even have reports from aerial surveillance squads to substantiate this."

The two sides had six rounds of talks after the 2002 ceasefire but the rebels pulled out in 2006. The peace process received a crushing blow in January when the government scrapped the tattered ceasefire, a move that unleashed a fresh wave of violence as the military intensified its offensive against the Tamil Tigers in the north.

Source: newkerala

Lankan navy again opens fire at Indian fishermen

For the second consecutive day, the Sri Lankan Navy allegedly opened unprovoked firing on Indian fishermen off the Nagappattinam coast, official sources said Sunday. No lives were lost in the firing. According to official sources, Lankan naval personnel opened fire on 100 fishermen in 30 boats and ripped off their nets, causing them to scamper ashore off Nagappattinam coast, 350 km from here.

On Saturday, two Indian fisherman were killed when a Sri Lankan Navy vessel allegedly opened fire on their fishing boat, a survivor of the incident said here.

The bodies of the fishermen were brought ashore after K. Murali, a fisherman injured in the shooting in the wee hours of Saturday, tipped off relatives on a mobile phone that his mates S. Vasagan and N. Narayanswamy were killed in “unprovoked” firing by the Sri Lankan Navy in the Palk Strait.

Though no lives were lost in Sunday’s firing, political leaders and activists cutting across party lines joined angry families of Saturday’s victims in demanding stringent action against the island’s navy.

AIADMK boss J. Jayalalithaa condemned the state and the central governments’ inaction and called for a compensation of Rs.500,000 for every victim’s family. Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president K.V. Thangkabalu told reporters here that he had written to Union Defence Minister A.K. Anthony, requesting the strengthening of protection to Indian citizens.

The Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi announced a demonstration in Nagappattinam July 21 - ahead of a picketing protest by Communist Party of India outside the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission slated for July 30 here.

Pattali Makkal Katchi and the Bharatiya Janata Party also in their interactions with the press here condemned the incessant attacks by the Lankan defence personnel on Indian fishermen.

The ongoing indefinite strike by Rameshwaram fishermen protesting against similar attacks continued peacefully.

Sri Lankan diplomats could not be reached for comments.

Source: thaindian

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Two Indian fishermen killed in Sri Lankan navy firing

At least two Indian fishermen were killed early on Saturday when they came under fire from the Sri Lankan Navy, news reports said.

Fishermen injured in the incident informed relatives ashore by mobile phone of the 'unprovoked' attack in the Palk Straits, the IANS news agency reported.

Indian officials told the PTI news agency that the fishermen may have strayed into Sri Lanka waters, provoking the firing incident.

Instances of Indian fishermen intruding into Sri Lankan waters have often caused problems for the two governments.

India and Sri Lanka are separated by a narrow expanse of water called the Palk Straits.

Fishermen have protested against the frequent 'attacks' and demanded the Indian Coast Guard protect them.

Source: m&c

Sri Lankans unsure of playing in next year's IPL

In a setback to Sri Lankan players, who want to play in next year's Indian Premier League at the expense of a Test series against England, Sri Lanka Cricket on Saturday said the Board has not yet accepted their demand.

"It is not correct to say that the crisis has been resolved and that Sri Lankan players can now go ahead to play in IPL league next year. The matter is still at a negotiating stage by the Interim Committee and the Players' Association," a SLC top source told PTI on conditions of anonymity.

He said the SLC was still awaiting a response from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on the proposal to reschedule the dates or any other alternative schedule of the tour.

ECB announced on Wednesday the dates of two-Tests home series against Sri Lanka starting May 7, which coincides with the IPL, scheduled between April 10 and May 29, 2009. This led to some Lankan players meeting President Mahinda Rajapakse to plead either to get the tour postponed or be played after the IPL.

On Friday, reports of SLC giving permission to players to play in the IPL instead of touring England after President Rajapakse's intervention provoked sharp criticism from the ICC with CEO Haroon Lorgat saying it might be the start of a dangerous trend.

"If we don't manage this situation we could be threatening the lifeblood of all member countries. International cricket generates revenue that is essential to our survival," Lorgat had said.

Source: rediff

'SAARC meet would focus on evolving strategy to combat terrorism'

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Saturday said the SAARC summit scheduled to be held in Colombo next month would focus on evolving a combined strategy to combat terrorism.

All SAARC countries would discuss and develop a new combined strategy to combat terrorism at the summit to be held from August 2-3, Rajapakse, who was here to worship at the Lord Venkateswara shrine, told reporters here. He said elaborate security measures would be made for the summit but at the same time some VVIPs would attend the summit with their own security personnel.

Recent reports said Indian security personnel would provide security cover for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his visit to Colombo to attend the summit.

Rebutting criticism on allowing security personnel from other countries, Rajapaksa said he has come to Tirupati with his own security men even though heavy security arrangements had been made by the Indian government.

Rajapaksa described India as a great developing country and Sri Lanka maintained relations with it on all fronts.

On the LTTE, Rajapakse said that his government was firmly committed to holding talks with the LTTE provided they give up arms. He charged the Tamil militant group for indulging in terrorist activities killing "tens of thousands of innocent people"

Ever since Rajapksa became President in November 2005, his government has held peace talks with LTTE but during the ceasefire too the LTTE started indulging in killings in the Island putting a question mark on the credibility of the peace talks, Rajapaksa said.

During his two-day stay here, he visited the temple and later left for Bangalore.

Source: Hindu

Sri Lankan jets bomb rebel bunkers

Sri Lankan fighter jets bombed Tamil Tiger bunkers in the embattled north, a day after scattered ground battles killed 17 rebels, the military said.

The military bombers hit rebel positions in Thunukkai village of rebel-held Mullaitivu district, a military statement said. It did not give details of casualties or damage.

Friday's infantry fighting broke out in the Mannar, Vavuniya and Welioya regions surrounding the rebels' northern stronghold, it said.

Seventeen guerrillas were killed. No soldiers died, but some were wounded, the military said.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not immediately be reached for comment, and it was not possible to verify the military's claims because reporters are barred from the war zone.

Each is side known to exaggerate casualties inflicted on the other and under-report their own.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1983 to create an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils, who have been marginalised by successive governments controlled by ethnic Sinhalese.

More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

The government has stepped up operations around the rebels' de facto state in the north in an effort to deliver on its promise to crush the group by the end of this year.

Source: PA

Sri Lanka tightens use of mobile phones to fight terrorism

Sri Lanka Saturday tightened mobile phone regulations and forced service providers to maintain full details of phone users as part of anti-terrorism moves.

Phone operators were told to check the identity of subscribers before signing them up, Telecommunications Regulatory Commission chief Priyantha Kariyapperuma said.

New and current subscribers also need to keep a certified copy of the letter issued by the operator for inspection by police and military, in order to prove the ownership of the phone connection, he said.

"The rules were brought in on the request of the defence ministry, because mobile phones are misused for terrorist activities. The government is finding it difficult to trace the real owners," he told AFP.

Separatist Tamil Tiger rebels, who are fighting for a separate homeland for minority Tamils from the majority Sinhalese community, are known to use several mobile phone connections under different names to evade detection.

Mobile telephones have also been used to remotely detonate bombs.

Kariyapperuma announced the new rules would go into effect "immediately" but said existing users would be given "some reasonable time" to get their paperwork sorted out.

Sri Lanka, which has a population of 20 million people, has 12 million telephone subscribers, of which 10 million are mobile phones, Kariyapperuma said.

Source: AFP

Sri Lanka hike cricket players’ fees

Sri Lanka Cricket has agreed to raise players’ fees and perks as part of a deal to settle a long-running dispute over contracts, officials said yesterday.

SLC officials and player representatives thrashed out a deal over the last two days that ended four months of negotiations, amid growing resentment by the country’s top cricketers.

“The meetings ended amicably and they agreed to our request related to the annual fees, match payments and player welfare,” said Graeme Labrooy, the secretary of the Sri Lanka Cricketers’ Association.

The deal, which will be signed next Wednesday, raises the Test match fee from $3,500 to $5,000, while the fee for one-dayers and Twenty20s will increase from $1,800 to $3,000.

Under the new contracts, there is a freeze on annual retainers for senior team members, but substantial increases for junior players on the national squad and the A team.

“Sri Lanka Cricket was keen to give an increase to junior players and also encourage non-contracted players by making the match fees the same for all,” Labrooy said. Cricketers will be allowed to write articles and have media contracts, which will be regulated by an existing Code of Conduct for all players.

Annual player contracts were due to be finalised by March 31, but the national players have not been paid since the tour of Australia in February.

“Sri Lanka Cricket agreed to back-date the players’ contract payments from March 1, 2008. The contract runs till February 2009,” Labrooy said.

“The players will sign their contracts next week.”

Source: khaleejtimes

Amnesty condemns Buttala attack

London based rights watchdog, Amnesty International (AI), has condemned the continuous attacks on civilians in Sri Lanka.
In a statement issued on Friday after the attack on a bus in Buttala, the AI has called upon all parties in to the conflict to abide by the international law.

“These indiscriminate attacks are brutal. The victims are overwhelmingly people who are trying to go about their everyday lives, living in fear of attacks at any time, with the added untold suffering this brings to their relatives”, the AI statement said.

'Brutal' attack

At least four people have been killed and 25 others wounded when gunmen ambushed a crowded passenger bus in Sri Lanka, the army has said.

The attack took place in the southern town of Buttala, 240km (150 miles) south-east of the capital, Colombo.

Unidentified gunmen hiding by the side of the road began firing at the bus as it passed, officials said.

They blamed the attack on Tamil Tiger rebels who are fighting for an independent homeland in Sri Lanka.

'Sped through'

"A group of gunmen hiding by the side of the road near Buttala raked the passing civilian bus with gunfire," news agency Associated Press quoted military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara as saying.

"The bus driver sped through the ambush, only stopping when he reached safety," he said.

"Two females and a 12-year-old child were among the victims killed in this attack and their bodies have been laid at the hospital," the defence ministry said in a statement.

An injured civilian succumbed to injuries at the hospital, taking the number of dead to four, the statement said.

The wounded have been admitted to nearby hospitals, officials said.
In January, 26 people died in a bomb attack on a bus in the same area.

There has been no immediate word from the rebels, who have carried out a number of attacks in the south in recent months.

Buttala is in a Sinhalese-dominated area, far from the rebels' stronghold in the north.

Source: bbc

Friday, 11 July 2008

Sri Lanka's June tourist arrivals fall 9.3-pct

Sri Lanka attracted fewer holidaymakers in June, the island's main tourism promotion authority said Friday, blaming the drop in the number of visitors on the country's ongoing ethnic conflict.
Arrivals in June fell 9.3 percent to 27,960 from 30,810 reported a year earlier and totalled 224,363 in the first half of 2008, down 0.2 percent from the same period a year earlier, Sri Lanka Tourism said.

The number of visitors from Britain and Germany -- both key markets -- fell five percent each in June to 5,304 and 1,317 respectively over the same period a year earlier.

The number of leisure travellers from neighbouring India declined 28.8 percent in June to 5,664, as against the same period last year.

"It's the conflict that is keeping tourists away. There are frequent bomb attacks and it is natural they would be cautious to travel here," an official from the tourism authority said.

Many countries in the west have cautioned their nationals against travelling to Sri Lanka, where fighting between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels has escalated since the start of the year.

The rebels, who are fighting for a separate homeland for minority Tamils, have been blamed for a string of bomb attacks in and around the capital, where most of the country's upmarket hotels are situated.

Despite the threat of terrorism, the state-run tourism promotion agency is aiming to attract 600,000 foreign visitors this year, officials said.
Tourism is the fourth biggest revenue generator for Sri Lanka's 27-billion-dollar economy, behind remittances from expatriate workers, clothing and tea exports.

Source: LBO

4 Sri Lankan Civilians Killed In Bus Ambush

At least four civilians were killed and 25 others injured when gunmen ambushed a crowded passenger bus in Sri Lanka’s deep south on Friday, according to army officials.

The incident took place in the southern town of Buttala, 240km south-east of the capital, Colombo, considerably far from the regular struggle regions in the north.

Authorities reported that the still unidentified attackers, hiding by the side of the road, began to fire at the bus as it passed. However, officials believe that the assaulters are members of the Tamil Tiger rebels, who are disputing for an autonomous homeland in Sri Lanka. Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not be contacted for comment. The Tamil Tigers have been held responsible for various suicide bombings and other attacks on civilians and are registered as a terror group by the United States, European Union and India.

The Associated Press cited military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara as saying that the bus driver accelerated in order to avoid the attack and stopped only when he was sure to have reached shelter.

The defense ministry reported in a statement that two women and a 12-year-old child were also among the victims murdered in the assault and their dead bodies have been taken to the hospital. A wounded individual died at the hospital because of the critical injuries, raising the number of dead to four, according to the statement.

In January this year, 26 people died in a bomb attack on a bus in the same region of Sri Lanka. Buttala is in a Sinhalese-ruled area, far from the rebels’ monopoly in the north.

Source: enews20

S.Lanka's budget deficit, foreign debts mounting: Treasury

Sri Lanka's overall budget deficit is growing due to increased public investment and foreign debt is mounting, the country's Treasury department said on Friday.

The budget deficit has risen 25.7 percent in the first four months of 2008 compared with last year, the department's mid year fiscal position report said.

"The overall deficit increased to 93.4 billion rupees ($867.4 million) from 74.3 billion rupees due to increased public investments," the treasury said in the report.

The government's external debt totalled $15.3 billion at the end of May, a $180 million increase from end 2007, the report showed, while its total debt rose to 3,328.8 billion rupees by the end of April, up 18.1 percent from a year earlier.

Credit rating agency Standard and Poor's warned Sri Lanka last month it was at risk of a downgrade from its current B+ rating, while Fitch Ratings said it was concerned over Sri Lanka's increasing foreign commercial borrowings.

"The government should curtail its spending," said Chirantha Caldera, a currency dealer at Commercial Bank of Ceylon.

"If your revenue is coming down, and your defence expenditure is escalating, then curtailing spending on capital expenditure like infrastructure should be there," Caldera said, adding the government risked further stoking inflation which was running at an annual 28.2 percent in June.

The government has allocated around 18 percent of its 925.1 billion rupees budget this year to defence spending, after pledging to finally crush Tamil Tiger rebels in a war that has killed more than 70,000 people since 1983.

Sri Lanka has also been struggling to pay high global oil prices, which have hit levels above $145 this month compared with the island's 2008 budget estimate of $85 per barrel.

The central bank this week said the oil price alone would increase the country's trade deficit by $500 million to $4.47 billion this year.

Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal told Reuters on Tuesday that inflation would be no higher than 20 percent at the end of 2008 and stuck with an economic growth forecast of 7 percent. [ID:nCOL98109].

The fiscal report showed revenue increased by 23.5 percent to 210.4 billion rupees, while expenditure rose 24.2 percent to 303.8 billion rupees in the first four months.

Public investment spending increased by 15.1 billion rupees, while current government spending rose by 23.5 percent or 43.6 billion rupees to 229.2 billion rupees.

The treasury said the deficit from its operating activities in the first five months had surged to 23.4 billion rupees ($217.3 million) from last year's 11.62 billion rupees. "The main reason for the deviation was the shortfall of revenue receipts," it said.

Source: reuters

Ready for ceasefire and talks, says LTTE

Facing a concerted military offensive by the Sri Lankan army in its stronghold of Jaffna peninsula, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has expressed readiness for ceasefire and peace talks with the island government.

LTTE's political wing chief, V Nadesan, on Thursday said that the group was ready for a ceasefire now, while accusing the Sri Lankan government of 'abrogating' the six-year-long ceasefire, which came to an end early this year.

Nadesan, in a telephonic interview to Times Now television channel, said the LTTE was not against peace negotiations.
'Yes' was his answer when asked whether the LTTE was for the ceasefire starting again.

'It is the Sri Lankan State that unilaterally abrogated the ceasefire agreement and is unleashing a war against the Tamils in their homeland,' he charged.

'We are not against ceasefire or peace talks,' he said.

Asked about the petition filed by Nalini, sentenced to life in the Rajiv Gandhi Assassination case, seeking premature release, Nadesan said the LTTE believed that holistic changes will take place and the Indian government 'will recognise the legitimate aspirations of Tamil people and their freedom struggle. And Nalini's release will start the holistic change'.

He also termed Priyanka Vadhra's visit to the Vellore prison to meet Nalini a few months ago as a 'humanitarian gesture'. LTTE, which was indicted in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination, continues to be banned in India.

Nadesan's interview came as the Sri Lankan military chief LT Gen Sarath Fonseka claimed on June 30 that LTTE had lost capability to fight as a conventional force and its cadre strength had dropped to 5000 from 8000 in August 2006.

Nadesan said weakening of the Eelam movement will 'definitely undermine' Indian interest in the region, paving way for anti-Indian forces to gain a stronghold.

Referring to reports of Indian military aiding the Lankan armed forces, he said the Indian government had 'wrongly identified the partner'.

'It (Sri Lanka government) has always been working against Indian interest in the area (region); once again the (Sri Lankan) government is going to cheat the Indian government,' he said.

About support from some political leaders in Tamil Nadu, he said their backing was a 'support to their brothers and sisters in Tamil Eelam to achieve their legitimate aspirations and freedom'.

On the recent escalation of 'war' in Sri Lanka and LTTE's strategy to face it, he said: 'We always use various military strategies according to the political and military conditions on the ground. Tamil people are giving full support to our struggle. We are confident we can pass any obstacle in the freedom struggle with the help of our people.'

He denied that his outfit suffered huge losses due to the escalation and its morale was at the lowest ebb.

He also brushed aside claims by the Sri Lankan Army that LTTE leader V Prabhakaran would be captured alive soon and said 'our leader is carrying on his work'.

Source: rediff

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Lanka govt scraps controversial TV deal

The controversial multi-million dollar deal signed with TEN Sports rpt TEN Sports for telecast rights of the cricket matches in the island country by the previous Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) interim committee has been scrapped by the government.
"I have instructed SLC to cancel the television contract last evening after receiving the finding of a special three-member committee," Sri Lankan Sports Minister Gamini Lokuge told PTI today.

The investigation committee was headed by the Secretary to the Ministry of Sports and Public Recreation S Liyanagama.

The decision terminates the deal involving two new agreements signed for providing TV rights for home matches from 2009 to 2012.

The current agreement with Taj Entertainment Network (TEN) would expire by the end of this year.

"The deal for the next three years has been cancelled and the previous agreement that lapses this year end will stand," Lokuge said adding the new agreements had been entered into without a mandate.

An independent committee was appointed by Lokuge to conduct a detailed inquiry to find out whether the previous SLC interim committee, headed by Jayantha Dharmadasa, had entered the deal without legal authority.

The Review Committee was asked to probe circumstances in which the controversial agreements were signed.

According to the SLC officials the decision to cancel the decision would be informed to Taj Television after which fresh bids will be invited.

Taj will, however, be entitled to participate in any tender that would be floated by the SLC for future TV rights.

Source: PTI

WNS acquires Aviva BPO for $230 mn

Warburg Pincus-controlled WNS Holdings on Tuesday acquired Aviva Global Services, the UK-based insurance giant’s captive BPO in India and Sri Lanka, for $230 million. WNS has beaten Aviva’s other vendors EXL and 24/7 Customer to clinch the deal.

The deal will also see WNS securing Aviva’s committed $1 billion outsourced work over an eight-year period. ET, in its edition dated June 2, had first reported on the impending transaction. WNS is expected to inform the US Securities Exchange Commission on Thursday.

WNS will fund the buyout through a $200 million line of credit from ICICI Bank, while Warburg, which owns 51% stake, will pump in around $30 million as equity contribution. This is one of the largest buyouts of a foreign captive BPO in India.

The buyout will bring over 6,500 employees of Aviva Global Services spread across Bangalore, Pune, Noida, Chennai and Colombo under the WNS fold.

WNS will be subcontracting part of the $1 billion deal with the other two vendors — EXL and 24/7 Customer. WNS, with a revenue of $459 million, has been aggressively looking at inorganic options to shore up its topline.

Meanwhile, 24/7 Customer has announced the transfer of 750 employees from its Aviva 24/7 centre in Chennai to Aviva Global Services as part of its “Build Operate Transfer” (BOT) contract. This is the second BOT contract that 24/7 Customer is executing for Aviva.

The first transfer was at the Bangalore facility, where 1,600 employees were transferred in January 2007. The Chennai centre has 750 employees servicing the Life and Motor insurance businesses of Aviva providing customer service, sales and finance and accounting operations.

Aviva had put its captive BPO operations in India and Sri Lanka on the block quite some time back. The bidding is also believed to have attracted the interest of global giants like Capgemini though this could not be confirmed independently.

Today’s deal also marks the first successful sale of a large BPO captive amidst raging debate on the long-term viability of captive units in view of escalating costs.

Source: indiatimes

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Tamil Nadu fishermen helping LTTE: Lanka

Tamil Nadu’s fishermen bitterly complain that the Sri Lankan Navy is aggressively preventing them from exercising their “traditional right” to fish in the Palk Strait, especially around Katchchativu island, which was ceded to Sri Lanka in the 1970s.

But the Sri Lanka Navy contends that the problem is not about Tamil Nadu fishermen poaching around Kachchativu, but the massive daily intrusion of these fishermen into Sri Lankan waters very near Mannar and Jaffna, posing a major security threat to North Sri Lanka.

“They not only poach fish, but smuggle in fuel and other war-like material for the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam),” Sri Lankan navy’s spokesman, Commodore DKP Dassanayake, told Express here on Tuesday.

For example, between June 6, 2007 and July 7 this year, asmany as 6,839 Indian fishing boats were seen off the north Sri Lankan coast, especially Thalaimannar, Pesalai and Delft island.

“These boats carry fuel, bicycle balls and explosives for the LTTE. Several of them have been seen heading towards Viduthalthivu and other places, presently under the control of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.”

“We also learn that each boat gives 20 litres of fuel as a bribe to the LTTE to be able to fish in this area. Just imagine the amount of fuel that the LTTE must be getting on a daily basis from these fishermen,” Dassanayake said.

The Indian fishermen, however, claim complete innocence. They never admit that they go up to the Sri Lankan shores, leave alone admitting to any dealings with the LTTE.

Source: newindpress

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Sri Lankan military says planes bomb rebel base

Sri Lankan fighter planes bombed a Tamil Tiger base Tuesday and the rebels ambushed an army patrol killing two soldiers in the country's war-ravaged north, the military said.

The attacks came a day after ground battles along the front lines of the civil war killed 19 rebels and two soldiers, according to the military.

The air force jets twice hit a logistics facility in the rebel-controlled Kilinochchi district Tuesday, the defense ministry said in a statement. The pilots confirmed the attacks were successful, but did not give casualty or damage details, the military said.

Hours later guerrillas ambushed soldiers on foot patrol, killing two of them in Vavuniya district bordering the rebel-held region in the north, the statement said.

In ground fighting Monday, troops killed 11 rebels in Vavuniya while in Jaffna a confrontation killed one soldier and wounded six others, the military said Tuesday.

Separate battles in Welioya killed seven guerrillas and one soldier, while in Mannar one rebel was killed, the military said.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not be reached for comment.

It was not possible to independently verify the military reports because journalists are banned from the northern jungles where much of the fighting takes place. Each side commonly exaggerates its enemy's casualties while underreporting their own.

The rebels have been fighting since 1983 to create an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils, who have been marginalized by successive governments controlled by ethnic Sinhalese. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

Source: AP

England name Sri Lanka as Zimbabwe replacement

England will host Sri Lanka for two Tests and three ODIs in April and May next year. Sri Lanka's tour slots in the fixture gap caused by England's decision to suspend bilateral ties with Zimbabwe and the cancellation of their 2009 visit.

David Collier, the ECB chief executive, was pleased with Sri Lankan's willingness to step in and ensure England will have a competitive series ahead of the Ashes later in the summer.

"The strong and close relationship which we built up during our recent winter tours to Sri Lanka allowed the ECB, at short notice, to be able to approach Sri Lanka and confirm their availability for the international matches in the early part of next summer," he said.

The ECB cancelled Zimbabwe's tour last month, minutes after Gordon Brown, the prime minister, told the House of Commons that he wanted the tour scrapped. The ban on a team from Zimbabwe entering the country also put in doubt England's hosting of next year's World Twenty20 next year, but as of now the issue has been resolved with Zimbabwe pulling out of the event.

Sri Lanka play three three-day games ahead of the Tests series, followed by a warm-up one-dayer before the ODI series.

Source: cricinfo

Turkish PKK running guns to tigers

Chief of Turkish General Staff Gen. Yasar Buyukanit said on Tuesday that terrorism was the biggest threat for global peace and security in the age of globalization.

Gen. Yasar Buyukanit

"For instance, the terrorist organization PKK/Kongra-Gel is responsible for the 80 percent of heroin smuggled into Europe, extortion in several European countries, or even running guns to terrorist organization Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. These are all meaningful in terms of showing the activities of terrorist organizations in international level,"

Source: turkishpress

S.Lankan shares slide to 1-year closing low

Sri Lankan shares fell 1.19 percent to a one-year low on Tuesday as concerns about the impact of high interest rates and inflation on corporate earnings added to worries about the long-running civil war.

The Colombo All-Share index .CSE closed 28.67 points weaker at 2,372.50, a 10th consecutive fall that took it to its lowest close since July 19, 2007. The market has fallen 11.8 percent from an 11-month high on April 23.

"Investor sentiment is very weak, mainly on earning fears," said Geeth Balasuriya, assistant research manager at HNB Stockbrokers.

"High inflation and high interest rates are pressurising profit margins of the companies due to high costs, while some companies are discouraged to go for new investments due to high borrowing cost."

Later this month, companies are due to start releasing their results for the quarter ended on June 30.

Sentiment on the corporate sector has been hit by poor economic data. Annual consumer price inflation rose to a 5-year high of 28.2 percent in June, while annual economic growth in the March quarter slowed to 6.2 percent from 7.6 percent in the previous quarter. See [ID:nCOL109662].

Market heavyweight Dailog Telekom DIAL.CM fell 1.82 percent at 13.50 rupees a share calculated on a weighted average, and leading fixed-line telephone operator Sri Lanka Telecom SLTL.CM fell 2.38 percent to 41 rupees.

Top conglomerate by market capitalisation, John Keells Holdings JKH.CM closed 0.69 percent weaker at 107.25 rupees, and private lender Hatton National Bank HNB.CM fell 1.23 percent to 100 rupees.

Conglomerate Hayleys HAYL.CM closed 0.73 percent firmer at 137.75 rupees. Traders said four block deals in the stock were seen during trade.

Hayleys accounted for more than 32 percent of total turnover of 270.55 million rupees ($2.5 million), which was two-thirds of last year's daily average of 400 million rupees.

The rupee edged up to 107.65/67 per dollar from Monday's close of 107.66/68 on dollar sales by exporters.

The interbank lending rate CLIBOR rose to 14.906 percent, up from Monday's 13.650 percent. ($1=107.65 rupees)

Source: Reuters

Monday, 7 July 2008

India's Cairn to invest 100 mln dlrs to explore oil in Sri Lanka

Cairn India, a unit of British exploration firm Cairn Energy Plc, plans to invest 100 million dollars to explore oil and natural gas deposits off Sri Lanka's coast, officials said Monday.

Spread over three years, the investment includes conducting further seismic studies and drilling three wells off the island's northwestern coast of Mannar, Cairn India's chief financial officer Indrajit Banerjee told reporters here.

"Oil and gas exploration is a risky business and success is not always guaranteed. We plan to do more seismic studies because as of now we don't know what's down there," Banerjee said.

Sri Lanka, which imports all of its oil needs, offered three blocks to investors after seismic surveys showed oil deposits along the Gulf of Mannar close to neighbouring India.

Block two, an area that covers around 3,400 square kilometres (1,360 square miles) off Mannar, was offered to Cairn in June after a competitive bidding process.

"The Mannar basin has not been explored in Sri Lankan waters and as such represents a frontier petroleum province," Banerjee said.

Cairn has been in South Asia for more than a decade and has developed a good understanding of the region's geology, Banerjee said.

Banerjee added the company has made over 40 oil and gas discoveries to date in India, including the Mangala discovery onshore in the deserts of Rajasthan, which has an estimated total oil in place of 3.7 billion barrels.

Sri Lanka's north and east has seen heavy fighting over the past three decades as separatist rebels push to carve out a separate homeland for minority Tamils from the majority Sinhalese community.

Fighting has intensified since January, when the government pulled out of a Norwegian-brokered ceasefire with the Tamil Tigers.

"We have taken the security aspect into consideration in our bid. And the government has told us that the area is out of danger," Banerjee said.

Petroleum minister A.H.M. Fowzie said the government will provide adequate security when Cairn's project gets off the ground in six months.

"We can provide enough security for the project," Fowzie said.

Besides Cairn, India's state-run ONGC Videsh and Canada's Niko Resources bid to explore block two.

Sri Lanka has already allocated two other blocks to the governments of India and China.

Fowzie said Cairn deposited a one-million-dollar cheque with the Sri Lankan government during Monday's signing ceremony.

The island spent just under three billion dollars in 2007 importing oil and Fowzie expects the fuel bill to climb to four billion dollars this year.

Over 35 years ago, overseas companies explored areas off Sri Lanka's northwest coast, but failed to find any oil and gas reserves worth exploiting commercially.

Source: AFP

Sri Lanka warns of rebel attacks in Colombo

Sri Lanka beefed up security on Monday and warned of possible rebel attacks around the capital Colombo as the island's Tamil Tiger rebels marked the 21st anniversary of their first rebel suicide attack.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on the weekend commemorated the 356 men and women who have blown themselves up suicide attacks since the first such attack on 5th July 1987, when the suicide bomber or Black Tiger drove an explosive-laden truck into a Sri Lankan Army garrison in northern Jaffna.

"According to the information bureau, the LTTE is planning disruptions in south - Colombo, the suburbs and other parts. We have put all police officers on alert," said police spokesman Ranjith Gunasekera.

Last year, Black Tiger commandos attacked the Sri Lankan airbase in north central district of Anudradhapura in the rebels' first combined Black Tiger and air attack, destroying several aircraft.

Separately, Sri Lanka's military said it killed 69 Tamil Tiger rebels in the island's far north in fresh weekend fighting. Five soldiers were also killed.

The fighting in the northern districts of Jaffna, Vavuniya, Mannar and Polonnaruwa came amid near daily land, sea and air attacks, as the government tries to gradually retake the rebels' northern stronghold in a bid to win the 25-year civil war.

"Troops killed 69 LTTE terrorists and injured 77 in fighting since Friday. Five soldiers died and 23 were injured from the fighting," said a military spokesman.

The military also said troops captured strategically important rebel bunkers in island's north on weekend while air force gunship helicopters attacked rebel positions.

The LTTE, fighting to create an independent state in north and east Sri Lanka for ethnic Tamils, a minority in the predominantly Sinhalese country, were not immediately available for comment.

Analysts say the military has the upper hand in the latest phase of the long-running war given superior air power, strength of numbers and swathes of terrain captured in the island's east, though they still see no clear winner on the horizon.

An estimated 70,000 people have died since the civil war began in 1983.

Source: Hindu

Bharti to start Lanka services by year-end

Bharti Airtel hopes to start providing services in Sri Lanka by the end of this year. Besides 2G, the firm is currently testing 3G services in the island.

"We will roll out both 2G and 3G network throughout Sri Lanka. The roll out will replicate the model currently followed in India," a source close to the development said. The company will initially start with Colombo and thereafter move to other towns and rural areas, he added.

Bharti has tied up with Huawei Technologies to build and manage GSM mobile infrastructure in Sri Lanka. Huawei will deploy and manage Airtel's core network, BTS and end-to-end 2G/3G network solutions. About 80% of Sri Lanka's mobile market is controlled by Dialog Telekom, a unit of Telekom Malaysia. "We will soon take a decision on the handset company with which we can tie up for bundled offers," the source said.

Meanwhile, Bharti intends to cover around 85% of India's rural population by the year-end. "We will expand in clusters to reach remote villages," said K Srinivas, Bharti executive director (east hub & Sri Lanka). Bharti currently enjoys 28.5% market share in eastern India. "We have already identified the areas that need to be covered," K Srinivas added.

Source: timesofindia

Canadian Tamils hold rally, condemn Ottawa's ban

Waving the flag of the Tamil Tigers guerrillas, thousands of Canadian Tamils gathered this weekend for their first rally since the federal government shocked the community by outlawing a Toronto-based Tamil non-profit group under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

A statement issued by the event's organizers condemned the government for last month's decision to ban the World Tamil Movement as a suspected financial front for the Tigers, and called on Canada to recognize guerrilla-held areas of northern Sri Lanka as an independent state, called Tamil Eelam.

"There is no other solution to this conflict," said Brian Senewiratne, a medical doctor from Australia who was the keynote speaker, addressing the large crowd at Downsview Park from a giant stage.

The Sri Lankan-born physician, who showed video clips of helicopter gunships firing rockets, called the Sri Lankan government a "murderous, barbaric regime" that was at war "against the Tamil people."

He said the Tamil Tigers, also known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, were a legitimate liberation movement. "There is a very clear distinction between terrorism and freedom fighters."

He urged the crowd to get more involved in the fight for Tamil independence.

"What I want to do is move you from watching things happen to making things happen." Canada's decision to ban the Tamil Tigers "has to be challenged," he said.

The rally was just the latest of many similar events that have taken place across Canada over the past decade but it came at a critical time: as the Tigers are apparently losing ground steadily on the battlefield and the Conservatives in Ottawa are taking a firm stand against Tamil Tigers activities in Canada.

Following a five-year RCMP investigation, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day announced in June that the government had placed the World Tamil Movement, which had offices in Toronto and Montreal, on Canada's list of outlawed terrorist groups because of evidence it was financing the Tigers.

The location of the rally was not announced until late Friday afternoon. The Sri Lankan United National Association of Canada had written to police asking them to cancel the event's permit because the Tigers are an outlawed terrorist group under Canadian law.

Participants were bussed in from around the region. They ranged from young children to the elderly, and carried signs that read: "O Canada you have a responsibility," and "Don't label us as terrorists."

Organizer Thiru Thiruchelvam said the location was only announced at the last minute because the event kept growing and they had to find a venue to accommodate the expected crowds.

"What we want is peace," said Thiruchelvam, who told how his 19-year-old son was killed by Sri Lankan government forces. "We are asking the Canadian government to get involved."

Sri Lankan Consul General Bandula Jayasekara denied Senewiratne's claim that Sri Lanka was at war with the Tamil people.

"The LTTE has killed more Tamil leaders than anyone else," he said. "Unfortunately the LTTE, a ruthless terrorist organization, has brought its ruthless war to Canada."


Sunday, 6 July 2008

48 LTTE rebels killed in Northern Sri Lanka clashes

At least 48 rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and a soldier have been killed in fresh clashes in Northern Sri Lanka.

At least 17 LTTE cadres were killed as soldiers yesterday captured a key LTTE's base in north-east Welioya, Sri Lankan Defence Ministry said in a statement at Colombo Saturday.

Seven more LTTE rebels were killed at North Kiribbanwewa area in Welioya yesterday.

Two LTTE cadres were killed in Ampaddankulam area in North-western Mannar yesterday, the Defence Ministry said.

Two more rebels were killed in Kiriththivu in Mannar yesterday. While two rebels were killed in Navathkulam in Vavuniya, three others were killed in Thunakkai area in the region.

Two LTTE cadres and a soldier were killed at Nochchikulam area in Vavuniya yesterday, the Ministry said.

In Nochchikulam, three cadres were killed. Six more were killed in Nauvi in Vavuniya yesterday. Four more rebels were killed in Kovitkanchikulam in Vavuniya yesterday.

Source: khabrein

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Fresh Clashes Kill 36 In Sri Lanka

At least 35 Tamil Tiger rebels and one security personnel were killed in fresh clashes in the country's restive northern region, defence ministry officials said on Saturday.

Government troops killed 35 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels and wounded an equal number in different places of Vavuniya, Mannar, Mullaitivu and Jaffna districts on Friday, the defense ministry said, adding that one soldier was killed and four wounded.

It was not possible to independently verify the military's claims because media are banned from the northern jungles where much of the fighting takes place.

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

Indian Navy to operate UAVs from air station at Uchipuli

The Indian Navy, which commissioned its first Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) squadron at Kochi two and half years ago, plans to operate UAVs from the Naval Air Station at Uchipuli near here.

This is expected to enhance the Navy’s surveillance capability along the coast off Tamil Nadu from Tuticorin to Chennai and the sea around southern peninsula. The move is considered an “imperative” step in the context of the prolonged war between Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The programme took shape after the recent visits of Vice Admiral Raman Prem Suthan, Vice Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Nirmal Kumar Verma, Flag Officer Commanding-In-Chief, Eastern Naval Command, and Commodore Phillip Van Haltren, Naval Officer-in-Charge, Tamil Nadu, to the air station.

At least two Israeli-built UAVs based at the Indian Naval Air Squadron at Kochi might be operated from the Naval Air Station at Uchipuli, to be upgraded as a regular commissioned air station. Its 3,000-foot runway will be expanded to 6,000 ft, keeping in mind future requirements. It has been proposed to acquire 343 acres in the nearby areas to facilitate the expansion.

“We will be in a position to station UAVs and operate them round the clock within a year,” Commander P. Rajkumar, Station Commander, Naval Air Station, Uchipuli, told The Hindu.

The focus of the programme was to operate UAVs at a higher altitude from remote.

Source: Hindu

Friday, 4 July 2008

Karuna back in Sri Lanka

The rebel LTTE leader, Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias ‘Colonel’ Karuna, returned here after completing his jail term in Britain on charges of violation of immigration laws. He fled to London in November 2007 using an alleged forged diplomatic passport.

Karuna left Sri Lanka after a split in the political party he founded, the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP). Later, his deputy, Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan, took control of the party.

According to diplomatic sources, Karuna had applied for political asylum in the U.K. on the plea that his life was under threat from the LTTE. However, after being sent to prison, he withdrew the plea and moved an application for “voluntary repatriation.”

Human rights groups had urged the U.K. to try Karuna for his alleged rights violations as an LTTE commander in the east, and subsequently as TMVP’s leader. However, the British government chose not to proceed against him as there was no sufficient evidence.

Source: Hindu

Seized boats were sailing towards LTTE area

The Indian trawlers that were seized on Wednesday had been sailing towards the LTTE-controlled Vidattaltivu area in northwestern Mannar district, says Sri Lanka.

“The trawlers were surrounded by naval craft between the Delft and Thalaimannar islands and taken into custody. After investigation, we released 299 trawlers by 10 in the night and the remaining one trawler was released on Thursday morning,” said the Navy spokesman, Commander D.K.P. Dassanayake.

The Indian High Commission intervened to aid in their release.

Fisherfolk from India and Sri Lanka routinely stray into each other’s territorial waters. In recent weeks, both countries have stepped up vigil to ensure that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam does not take advantage of the situation in the guise of fisher folk.

Source: Hindu

Sri Lanka to focus on maritime security

Sri Lanka is contemplating setting up a national strategy for maritime security to address issues related to its strategic and commercial interests in the Indian Ocean. The suggestion has been mooted by a high-level committee appointed by Foreign Affairs Minister Rohitha Bogollagama. On receipt of a concept paper, Mr. Bogollagama has underlined the need for Sri Lanka to adopt a strategy for maritime security, given her geo-strategic location in the Indian Ocean.

A Foreign Ministry statement said the concept paper on maritime security, the first ever comprehensive study conducted in Sri Lanka, covered a wide range of aspects. Having researched and identified the threats, objectives and the strategic plan of action, the paper suggested Sri Lanka should formulate a well-defined national maritime security strategy for the protection of marine resources from unlawful exploitation, prevention of damage or harm to vital assets from acts of subversion, terrorism or sabotage, it said.

The committee has proposed many plans such as maritime domain awareness and intelligence integration, integrated threat response, a regional and global coordination strategy, infrastructure recovery, transportation and commercial security.

The paper also proposed the establishment of an Inter-Ministerial Council and a National Maritime Coordinating Authority through the enactment of legislations. The establishment of a Net-Centric Communication Network linking various units has also been suggested. This would facilitate real-time information, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Separately, the military claimed at least 14 LTTE cadres were killed and 12 injured in battles in the north. The LTTE, in a report posted on its website, claimed hundreds of government employees from the secretariat, hospital, schools and zonal education office marched down the A9 Road to the Kilinochchi District Secretariat on Wednesday to request the government to ensure their safety in Kilinochchi.

Source: Hindu

‘SAARC co-operation key to eliminating regional terrorism’

President Pervez Musharraf on Thursday urged member countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) to enhance co-operation to eliminate terrorism and extremism in the region.

He was speaking to Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama at President's Camp Office in Rawalpindi.

Musharraf said SAARC countries would have to devise a joint strategy to overcome the challenges faced by the region.

During the meeting, various issues of national interest, war on terror, the region’s situation and international affairs were discussed. The president stressed the need of close co-operation in various fields between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Bogollagama said the economic and trade co-operation between Pakistan and Sri Lanka were being enhanced while both countries were collaborating in the war on terror.

Bogollagama also met Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani at Prime Minister's House on Thursday.

Gilani said Pakistan and Sri Lanka should play an active role in energising SAARC into a more active group to promote regional co-operation. He noted significant progress by SAARC in a number of areas like poverty alleviation, but said there still was need of strengthening this regional forum, especially in the fields of regional co-operation, environment, agriculture and food, water and energy security. He expressed his government's desire to consolidate ties with Sri Lanka in various fields, particularly diplomatic, political, economic, defence and security. The prime minister said the signing of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Pakistan and Sri Lanka had boosted economic ties between the two countries.

Source: dailytimes

Sri Lanka journalists demand protection

The BBC's Roland Buerk in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, looks at why journalists and human rights activists there are so angry.

The police dragged barricades across the road, blocking the route to President Mahinda Rajapaksa's office.

Wearing black armbands, journalists and human rights activists said the freedom of the press had been undermined as the war continues between the government and the separatist Tamil Tigers (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam).

"Media workers are continually being harassed, they are being tortured, they are being hammered," said one man who was holding a placard. "So we have been complaining to the authorities but nothing is happening."

"Perhaps, there are individuals within the heart of the government who feel that any kind of dissent is to be taken personally and squashed, because the end justifies the means," said Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, from the think-tank the Centre for Policy Alternatives, who had joined the protestors.

"And the end for them may well be their notion of defeating terrorism, but they are destroying everything this country stands for if it is to be a functioning democracy," Mr Saravanamuttu said.

The World Association of Newspapers ranked Sri Lanka the third most dangerous country in the world for media workers in 2007 based on the number who were killed.

Victim's story

Unarmed police officers watched the demonstration from behind the barricades but took no action.

After marching around one of the capital's main roundabouts, severely disrupting traffic, the protesters dispersed.

There have been a series of abductions and assaults against journalists in Sri Lanka, the latest on Monday.

Namal Perera, a defence correspondent and a campaigner, was in a car with a Sri Lankan official from the British High Commission, when they were ambushed.

"I saw the people coming with clubs," Mr Perera said from his bed in hospital.

"They first attacked our windscreen, then they tried to grab me for my shirt. The other persons tried to poke me with the stick. That's how I got these injuries.

"They said in Sinhalese: 'We need to grab you, we need to grab you', something like that. They definitely tried to abduct me," Mr Perera said.

The assailants fled in a white van when other cars began hooting their horns and a crowd gathered.

No-one has been brought to court for attacks like this on journalists and there are accusations the government has been turning a blind eye, if not encouraging them.

'Sense of responsibility'

The ministry of defence, in particular, objects to what it sees as biased and irresponsible reporting of the war against the Tamil Tiger rebels.

Articles which have questioned official casualty figures, some military promotions or which have alleged corruption in arms deals have led to some writers being labelled traitors or enemies of the state.

"This concerns the security of the nation," said Sri Lanka's army commander, Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka.

"People can't play the fool when it comes to security of a nation. Whatever they write, they have to also be responsible. They have to write with a sense of responsibility."

Lt Gen Fonseka said newspapers, published by the Tamil Tigers and found in captured bunkers on the frontlines in the north, show how such reporting helps the enemy.

"They have repeated a lot of articles written here in the south by various defence correspondents. That is because they like that kind of article, they know that kind of article is constructive for their war effort, destructive for our war effort. We will publicise that so people will know which articles have become popular with the LTTE," he said.

'Doing their job'

But some have said such actions make journalists potential targets, and have led to self-censorship and a lack of independent reporting.

"The ministry of defence seems to think this demoralises the troops," said Kumar Nadesan, publisher of the Express group of newspapers.

"I don't think they are demoralising the troops. I think the people are solidly behind the president in whatever he is doing, and this is inconsequential, what the journalists are saying.

"But they do need to report on the truth of what is happening. That is their job, that's their function, their duty, their obligation as journalists, nothing more," Mr Nadesan said.

The government has said it is keen to stop attacks on journalists. It has not imposed formal censorship, as has been used intermittently in earlier phases of the long war.

A cabinet sub-committee of ministers has been set up to look into reporters' grievances, and the police have been directed to carry out a full investigation into Monday's attack.

The protesting journalists in Colombo said results would be the proof of the government's sincerity.

Public opinion remains an important battleground in Sri Lanka's civil war.

Source: bbc