The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Thursday, 17 January 2008

CPI against military offensive in Lanka

The National Council of the Communist Party of India (CPI) today said military offensive could not be a solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka and urged all those concerned in the island to strive for a political solution through negotiations.

Expressing its deep concern at the situation in Sri Lanka, the National Council, which met here, passed a resolution to this effect on the opening day of the three-day session.

''The National Council of the CPI is of the view that a military offensive cannot be a solution to the conflict in Sri Lanka. The Tamils in Sri Lanka are striving for peaceful co-existence with equal rights. The legitimate aspirations of Tamils in the neighbouring country with all democratic and human rights must be safeguarded through a proper mechanism for devolution of powers on the basis of federal principles within Sri Lanka,'' the resolution said.

The Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in 2002 and declared mutual ceasefire under international guidance.

However, the Lankan Government had terminated the ceasefire unilaterally, it added.

The Council pointed out that the armed conflict had claimed over 65,000 lives since 1983, an official statement said.

In another resolution, the National Council congratulated National Executive Committee member R Nallakannu on his receiving the prestigious Dr Ambedkar award. ''It is a fitting tribute to his six decades of struggle and dedicated service to the cause of the downtrodden,'' it said.

Party General Secretary A B Bardhan placed the main draft of political resolution and the National Council started deliberation on it. The resolution would be further discussed by the 20th Congress of the CPI, to be held in Hyderabad from March 23 to 27.

The meeting was presided over by Mr Amarjeet Kaur (Delhi), Mr Manju Kumar Majumdar (West Bengal) and Mr Christopha Foriseka (Goa).


Sri Lanka unveils 'Trail of Ramayana' tour package

NEW DELHI: With an eye on its "primary source market", Sri Lanka tourism has identified some 50 sites associated with Hindu epic Ramayana to lure more pilgrim travellers from India to the island nation.

'Following the Trail of Ramayana' is based on research findings that link the sites to Lord Ram, wife Sita and demon king Ravana, SLT director-general S Kalaiselvam told reporters while unveiling the ambitious thematic programme here today.

"Currently, we are taking steps to develop and restore all 50 sites to facilitate foreign and local visitors the opportunity to witness and experience the sacredness of these sites," he said.

The tour package of areas "steeped in Ramayana history" comes on the heels of the Buddhist circuit of Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, Rajgir, Varanasi and Lumbini aimed at attracting pilgrim tourists to India.

The programme includes names of places like Seethaeliya, Ram Bodha, Ussangoda and Roomassala and special temples in areas where Ravana is believed to have held Sita captive.

Kalaiselvam said the "Ramayana epic is a very special feature in the bond that we have with India and we are trying to offer opportunity to our friends here to visit Sri Lanka to explore, absorb and enjoy the various places of significance as present in the epic".

Asked about the Ram Setu controversy, he said, "this is a question of faith. Local people believe it and there are many who would like to visit the sites related to the Ramayana in Lanka. We are trying to facilitate it."

Source: Times of India

LTTE intelligence wing member & 7 seven Sri Lankan Tamils arrested in Chennai

Chennai, Jan 17: An LTTE intelligence wing member and seven Sri Lankan Tamils were arrested here last night and iron-ball rings and plastics used in making explosives seized from them. The group was procuring supplies for the LTTE and gathering information on movements of anti-LTTE leader Varadaraja Perumal and Sri Lankan Social Service and Social Welfare Minister Douglas Devananda, the police said.

The LTTE operative Thambidurai Parameswaran had arrived in Rameswaram clandestinely in February 2007 and was masquerading as a taxi driver and procuring iron ball-rings, plastic, two-wheelers and boats, a press release issued by the police said.

He had engaged the seven Sri Lankan Tamils who attempted to procure these articles from Puducherry and Rameswaram to be smuggled to Sri Lanka by boats from Rameswaram, it said.

Acting on information, police arrested Thambidurai at Madipakkam in the suburbs of the city last night and during interrogation details of the seven others in the city were revealed by him.

Varadaraja Perumal and Douglas Devananda, known for his anti-LTTE stand, are regular visitors to India.

The eight arrested were produced before a magistrate today who remanded them to judicial custody. (Agencies)


India paying back Australia in their own coin: Ranatunga

Former skipper and head of the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), Arjuna Ranatunga, cannot hide his happiness as Team India gives Australia a taste of their own medicine.

"I think this is the first time after I gave it back that Australia is now being paid back in their own coin," Ranatunga said.

Ranatunga said over the last decade, there have been issues with the Australian cricket team, but he advised India not to get distracted by their on-field antics and leave it to the boards of both the countries to resolve contentious matters.

He also said that the Sri Lankan team is looking forward to join India in the upcoming tri-series in Australia.

The former Sri Lankan skipper said he was hopeful the tour would continue smoothly as the island nation was confident of victory.

"So far it's going on a smooth way. I hope the tour will continue because the Sri Lankan will be joining Australia and India for the one day series and it is a good opportunity for the Lankans to win this tournament," he told reporters at the launch of a 45-minute film titled 'Ramayana Trails' in New Delhi.

Sri Lanka has picked six fast bowlers in a 15-man squad for next month's tri-series in Australia, which also involves India.

Sri Lanka leaves for Australia on January 24 and will play two warm-up games against the Prime Minister's XI on January 30 and against Tasmania on February 2. (ANI)


250 LTTE rebels killed in 2 weeks

Colombo, Jan 17: Sri Lankan Government today challenged LTTE's contention that the outfit has the wherewithal to take on the army and said 250 rebels were killed since its decision to abrogate the ceasefire agreement.

Reacting to the statement of LTTE political chief N Nadesan, a senior military spokesman said the Tigers were hardly a conventional force which resorts to "cowardly acts of targeting civilians as has been demonstrated during the recent past".

"We are in a strong position, our cadres... Have the strength to defend this military offensive," Nadesan said yesterday.

"Definitely if they try to launch a major offensive against our forces, the Sri Lankan forces will face severe casualties," the LTTE leader said.

The Norway-brokered ceasefire agreement of 2002 between government and the Tamil Tigers formally ended yesterday.

The government gave notice on January 2 to pull out of the agreement.

"We are shocked and disappointed that the ceasefire has ended", Nadesan told BBC adding the outfit would fight back.

"We are in a strong position, our cadres... Have the strength to defend this military offensive," Nadesan said. "If they try to launch a major offensive against our forces the Sri Lankan forces will face severe casualties." The Sri Lankan military spokesman said at least 70 people have crossed over to the cleared areas in last three months from the LTTE dominated places.

He said the LTTE's strength is depleting as the outfit has already lost the battle in Eastern Sri Lanka.

When asked whether the LTTE resorted to forced recruitments, Nadesan said "They like to join us. We never force people. LTTE is a people's organisation".

On its resorting to hit and run tactics, Nadesan said "we will never revert to guerrilla warfare".

He said LTTE was not involved in the recent claymore mine attack that killed Minister D M Dassanayake and in the bomb attack in Nugegoda in November that killed 19 people. "We are a conventional force. We will launch attacks on military targets. We will not target civilians," Nadesan said. (Agencies)


Anyone called for international law for taking decisions on behalf of the Motherland would have to be taken over our dead bodies–JVP

The JVP vehemently condemns a warning made by Ms. Louise Arbour, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights that "Violations by any party could entail individual criminal responsibility under international criminal law, including by those in positions of command.”

In condemning the decision of the government to withdraw from the CFA Ms. Louise Arbour emphasized that international law prohibited all sides in the decades-long Sri Lankan conflict from committing unlawful killings or torture, arbitrary detention, recruiting or deploying child soldiers, and forcing people out of their homes.

She also has warned that any party violating this international law, those who are responsible for such violations, including those in position of command would be tried under international law.

Mr. Somawansa Amarasinghe, speaking at a special media meeting held at Colombo foundation Institute today called Arbour’s warning as international terrorism. He said, “If any politician or military officer is taken before the international law for taking decisions on behalf of the Motherland they would have to take them over our dead bodies. We emphasize this to the military leaders of this country and the international community.

They make these kind of statements to threaten this country and the government. This is international terrorism. It cannot be allowed. Don’t forget we, too are a member of the UNO. We call upon international community to support us to completely eradicate barbaric terrorism from Sri Lanka. For this intensify the struggle against terrorism in your countries,” he said.

Speaking about the prevailing political situation Mr. Amarasinghe said, “They are trying to bring in devolution proposals at this moment. It is a serious blunder. It is casting away the victories achieved by heroic security Forces. Surveys have pointed out that more than 83% of the people in the North are with the Security Forces. These are not only Sinhalese; there are Tamils and Muslims as well. It is a great victory achieved by Security Forces. It shows how professional our Security Forces are.

We still have suspicions regarding the government. The President is in a quandary. If you read a paper today you would come across parties in the government making contradictory statements. Retaliatory action only would not be enough against terrorism. Only retaliations are carried out. Now there should be forward determined attacks. War cannot be won only by defending. To win a war there should be forward attacks,” said Mr. Amarasinghe.

Speaking further the Leader of the JVP said, “Abrogation of the CFA is a victory. The JVP too has a big share of this victory. A main item of the MoU we signed with the present President when he was the Prime Minister is the abrogation of the CFA. The belatedly taken step to abrogate is not complete. The decision to disband the so-called APRC should be taken in parallel to this. Establishing that committee is against the mandate. There is no right to establish a committee to discuss devolution proposals.

What we did was swimming against the tide. When we made statements against Norway, we were condemned as extremists and non-diplomatic. However, we knew in which direction the country should move. The JVP is prepared to sacrifice our lives for the sovereignty, the unitary state and territorial integrity of the Motherland,” Mr. Amarasinghe said.

Speaking further the Leader of the JVP said, “We have a road map to solve this issue. First terrorism should be defeated militarily. Next separatism should be defeated ideologically. Democracy should be established. Elections should be held in those areas. Development should be taken to those areas.

Without doing that don’t bring in devolution proposals in haste. These constitutional reforms should be brought only when a peaceful atmosphere has been created.”

Source: Lanka Truth

A Sri Lanka Air Force MIG 27 jet flies over Colombo

Picture: (AFP/File/Sanka Vidanagama)

30 Tamil Rebels Killed As Sri Lankan Air Force Destroys Rebel Hide-out

(RTTNews) - 30 cadres of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam, or LTTE, were killed on Thursday in an intensified attack by the Sri Lankan air force on a rebel hide-out in northern Sri Lanka. A six-year old cease-fire between the government and rebels expired the day before.

The military pounding was a heavy retaliation to the Tamil rebels, whose attack on a passenger bus killed 27 people on Wednesday in Buttala, southeast of the capital Colombo.

The air force jets pounded the hide-out used by top rebel officials near Kilinochi, a stronghold of the LTTE, and destroyed the target, military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said, quoting the pilots. Senior Tamil tiger leaders were gathering at Jayapoor in Kilinochi at the time of the attack, the AFP quoted a defense ministry statement as saying.

Also on Thursday, commandoes destroyed a rebel bunker in Mannar, killing four female cadres of the LTTE, according to Nanayakkara. A rebel fighter committed suicide after giving up a fight with the soldiers in northern Jaffna.

On Wednesday, the Sri Lankan soldiers made a breakthrough by capturing a three-kilometer stretch of road connecting two villages in the northern Mannar district in an effort to take rebel-held territories in Mannar, Nanayakkara said.

Defense officials also reported the deaths of seven rebels in several clashes across the north the previous day.

The escalating fighting between the government forces and Tamil tigers have spurred deep concern from international organizations.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the parties to try to negotiate an end to the conflict.

The European Union condemned the attack on civilians, and reiterated "strong concerns" about the Sri Lankan government's decision to end the cease-fire. In a statement, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner urged all parties to "comply with their obligations under international law to protect civilians."

Human rights group Amnesty International said it is gravely concerned at the end of ceasefire between the government and rebels.


Don’t be misled by rumours

In the backdrop of victories of the Security Forces defeating LTTE terrorism, some opportunistic elements are spreading rumors to mislead and cause panic among the people, states the Media Centre for National Security in a press release.

The Government is deeply concerned with the vicious move by disgruntled elements and appeal to the people not to be misled by the baseless rumours. The Government stresses that these rumours are baseless and false.

When the Security Forces are engaged in a heroic mission to eliminate terrorism, these unpatriotic elements are trying to cloud the victories against terrorism.

The Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law and Order, Tri-Forces and Police have dedicated themselves to ensure maximum security to the people of Sri Lanka under the able guidance of His Excellency the President Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Commander-in-Chief.

Therefore the Government appeals to the people not to be panicked and to engage in their day-to-day activities without any fear.

Source: Daily news

Sri lankan Woman dead, husband in custody in Surrey

Homicide investigators are at a house in Surrey, B.C., on Wednesday, after a 50-year-old real-estate agent was found dead and her husband was taken into custody.

RCMP were first called to the 15400 block of 91A Avenue around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Subalini Ratnanesan was found dead inside her home in what RCMP Sgt. Rob Morrow described as a "dramatic scene."

Her husband, 51-year-old Sivapragasam Ratnanesan, was found injured and taken to hospital, Morrow said. He was later released into the custody of homicide investigators.

Homicide and forensic investigators were inside the home Wednesday and police were not releasing the cause of death or any other details.

Morrow would not say whether Ratnanesan was considered a suspect in his wife's death, and would not comment on speculation the incident was a murder-suicide attempt.

The couple was from Sri Lanka and had two children — one daughter in high school and another attending university in Edmonton, neighbours told CBC News.

Subalini Ratnanesan was a real estate agent with Homelife in the Fleetwood neighbourhood, they said.


Norwegian Tamils march against the abrogation of CFA

Abrogation of the CFA by the Government of Sri Lanka has removed the only reporting body of human rights and humanitarian law violations that take place in Sri Lanka, said K. Sivapalan, a senior attorney-at-law from Trincomalee, addressing four hundred participants, mainly members of the Tamil diaspora, who participated in a march carrying torches towards the Norwegian Parliament in Oslo, expressing solidarity with the Tamils in the homeland Wednesday evening.

Source: Tamilnet


(click on image to enlarge)

NZ regret on end to Sri Lanka ceasefire agreement

Hon Rick Barker
Duty Minister

17 January 2008
Media Statement

NZ expresses regret on end to Sri Lanka ceasefire agreement

Duty Minister, Rick Barker today expressed the Government’s regret over the Sri Lankan Government’s withdrawal from the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

“New Zealand is concerned about the deterioration of the security situation in Sri Lanka and the very serious implications for the civilian population.

“Already this year, there have been three attacks in the capital of Colombo, with one bomb killing a Sri Lankan Government deputy minister.

“In this context, the decision by Sri Lanka to withdraw from the Ceasefire Agreement and the subsequent termination of the work of the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission is regretted,” Mr Barker said.

“The withdrawal from the agreement is a negative signal.

“New Zealand reiterates its call for both parties to end hostilities and return to the negotiating table in order to work towards a durable, political solution to the conflict.

“We also call on all sides to respect human rights and humanitarian law. It is the only real way for Sri Lanka to move forward,” Mr Barker said.


Government Responds Louise Arbor: Abrogation of CFA, Government’s Inalienable Right in the Face of LTTE’s Grievous Violations

By Philip Fernando in Los Angeles

In a strongly worded statement, Sri Lanka reiterated its decision to abrogate the Cease Fire Agreement, while assuring the UN High Commissioner Louise Arbor that all necessary and meaningful measures to avoid civilian casualties and hardships to civilian populations will be taken by the government. The government viewed the right to abrogate the CFA, an inalienable right of Sri Lankan government, stipulated in the cease fire agreement.

In the face LTTE’s continuous and grievous violations of the CFA, causing loss and damage to civilians and endangering the security of the State, the government had not other choice. The government could not allow LTTE’s attempt to establish a mono-ethnic mono-political separate State in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka. LTTE’s very participation in the CFA was explicitly for that reason. Thus, the only reasonable option available was to abrogate the CFA, the government believed.

Sri Lankan Government’s response to a statement made by United Nations High Commissioner Louise Arbor is given below:

The Government of Sri Lanka wishes to inform perpetrated by the LTTE with its aim of establishing A consideration of the conduct of the LTTE during the period commencing February 2002 (when the CFA came into operation) reveals clearly that this terrorist organization had not entered into the CFA in good faith and that it was not interested in resolving the problems of the Tamil ethnic minority through peaceful dialogue and acceptable political means.

Its unwavering intention of establishing a separate State became even more evident in 2004 when the LTTE leadership went back on its post 2002 February declared intent of seeking a solution to the ethnic conflict within the framework of a constitutional solution and extensive power sharing. LTTE’s withdrawal from this declared intention clearly reveals the continued objective of the LTTE to create a separate sovereign State.

With that intention, the LTTE has continuously and grievously violated the CFA, causing loss and damage to civilians and endangering the security of the State. Several attempts by the Government of Sri Lanka to motivate the LTTE to change its mind and to take part in meaningful and peaceful political negotiations, turned futile.

Furthermore, credible evidence has surfaced that the LTTE is readying to launch a major terrorist offensive against the State and its people. Thus, the Government of Sri Lanka had no other option than to end the CFA.

The Government of Sri Lanka remains conscious of the need to resolve the country’s ethnic conflict through political and constitutional means. With that in mind, the government is currently awaiting the proposals of the All Party Representatives Committee (APRC) appointed to propose constitutional means by which the ethnic conflict could be resolved. These proposals are likely to be received by the government in the very near future. Military measures the government would implement to eliminate terrorism would remain independent of steps the government would take to implement through constitutional means a solution to the ethnic conflict, so that all people of Sri Lanka would through their democratically elected representatives enjoy devolved power within the framework of the sovereign Sri Lankan State.

The Government of Sri Lanka wishes to inform the UN High Commissioner that, as a responsible State in the global community, the government is committed to the enforcement of military and other lawful measures to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka and to eliminate terrorism, in accordance with the laws of Sri Lanka and in compliance with international norms and standards including International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law. As in the past, even at the cost of delay in the implementation and successful completion of military operations, the government will take all necessary and meaningful measures to avoid civilian casualties and hardships to civilian populations, some of whom remain kept against their will by the LTTE as human shields. An example for this policy would be seen in the preemptive military operation the government was compelled to take in 2007, to liberate parts of the Eastern Province and its people from the unlawful control of the LTTE. The government would also continue to uninterruptedly supply humanitarian aid and food supplies to areas being unlawfully held by the LTTE, knowing well that a considerable portion of such supplies would be consumed by fighting cadres of the LTTE.

The Government wishes to assure the UN High Commissioner that it remains a policy of the State not to tolerate any forms of Human Rights or Humanitarian Law violations by members of the security forces and the police. The command, rank and file of the security forces and the police have been regularly briefed through state sponsored awareness campaigns of the need to adhere to laws of Sri Lanka and applicable international legal norms including.

Subordinate members of the security forces are aware that they are obliged to only carryout lawful orders given by superiors. Superior officers of the security forces are well aware of legal principles relating to command responsibility. All members of the security forces and the police are quite aware that certain violations of the law attract individual criminal responsibility.

The Government wishes to take this opportunity to reiterate its intention to continue the existing dialogue with the UN High Commissioner, with the intention of obtaining assistance the government may require strengthening domestic mechanisms including the National Human Rights Commission, so that its functions including the investigation and reporting of alleged Human Rights violations could be efficaciously discharged. The government remains committed to strengthen domestic mechanisms, and wishes to avail itself of this opportunity to restating its opposition to the proposal made by the UN High Commissioner to establish UN field presence in Sri Lanka for monitoring and reporting. The government is of the view that the proposal has not been made applying objectively laid down transparent criteria adopted by the international community and does not reflect the actual ground situation. Furthermore, objective and accurate reasoning which would necessitate the implementation of such a mechanism has not been given by the UN High Commissioner. Thus the proposal is totally unacceptable to the Government of Sri Lanka.

The Government is compelled to indicate to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, that it considers her Statement on the end of the CFA containing warnings on ‘individual criminal responsibility’ as being untimely, inappropriate and unacceptable. Therefore, the government regrets that the UN High Commissioner deemed it necessary and appropriate to issue such a statement.

The government wishes to state that, its decision to end the CFA would not be reversed and would be implemented as previously stated, in the best interest of the country and its people. Following the end of the CFA, with the assistance of its well trained, professional and disciplined security forces, the Government of Sri Lanka would take all necessary measures to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country and eliminate terrorism.

Mahinda Samarasinghe MP,
Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights

Source: Asian Tribune

UN Watch Expresses Concern After Sri Lanka Rejects UN Human Rights Monitoring as ‘Unqualified’

Geneva, Jan. 16, 2008 — UN Watch expressed concern today after Sri Lanka’s representative in Geneva called the office of High Commissioner Louise Arbour “unqualified” to report on the island's bloody conflict. Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based NGO, said it was legitimate to debate statements by the world body but was “disappointed that a vice-president of the Human Rights Council would negate a core duty of the UN’s highest human rights official.”

Earlier this week, Ms. Arbour issued a statement calling on all parties to the Sri Lankan conflict to respect international law and ensure the protection of civilians. Yesterday, in response, the office of Sri Lanka’s envoy to the Human Rights Council, Dayan Jayatilleka, called Arbour’s statement “gratuitous” and complained of “obvious bias” by her office. “The High Commissioner has once again unqualified the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is in monitoring and reporting human rights in Sri Lanka as an independent actor,” said the statement.

“We regret the use of ill-advised language and the disputing of the UN’s jurisdiction to monitor the events in Sri Lanka,” said Neuer.

The office of Ambassador Jayatilleka also repeated a charge often levelled by China and other countries who oppose scrutiny of their records, saying the “OHCHR should be more transparent in its funding and decision-making” and “more representative of the world's peoples and regions in its composition.”

Neuer said Sri Lanka’s latest statement against High Commissioner Arbour’s office “only underscores the dangerous attempts by repressive regimes to eliminate all forms of independent human rights scrutiny.” China, Iran, Sudan and other members of the “Like Minded Group” successfully introduced a Human Rights Council resolution (HRC 4/6) in March 2007 that imposed geographic requirements, instead of merit, as the basis for staff hiring by Ms. Arbour’s office, and sought to curb her independence.