The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Saturday, 19 January 2008

UK issues stern warning to Colombo

The British government has issued a stern warning to Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse that "the world is watching and waiting" for the island nation to make a "bold" leap towards peace. The warning comes barely 72 hours after Colombo scrapped the tattered 2002 ceasefire with Tamil rebels.

Calling for a new ceasefire, foreign office minister Kim Howells issued the warning to Colombo during a special parliamentary adjournment debate requested by MPs anxious about the deteriorating situation after fighting between government troops and LTTE militants escalated in recent weeks.

The British government's rap on Sri Lankan knuckles came just hours after UK MPs, members of the European Parliament and leading politicians across party lines met members of the British Tamil community to discuss the plight of their friends and relatives in the embattled north and east of Sri Lanka.

Cautioning Rajpakse against a too-hasty and ill-judged attempt to sideline Tamil representatives by failing to invite them onto the powerful All Party Representative Committee (APRC), which will recommend a devolution package a week from now, Howells said it was a "big mistake".

He added that the president's refusal to invite the Tamil National Alliance onto the APRC did not bode well for Rajapakse's promise to "take the necessary bold steps to put an end to dashed hopes and aspirations and lost opportunities".

The warning came even as Sri Lanka's former colonial master reminded the world of the crying need for Colombo to "address the grievances of the Tamil people" in the 60th anniversary-year of independence.

The minister insisted that the Sri Lankan government, which had ended the ceasefire, consequently bore "a heavy responsibility to deliver their commitment to produce a just political solution that satisfies the legitimate aspirations of all Sri Lankans. That must happen soon."

The strong UK statement came as MPs across party lines, including Liberal Democrat president Simon Hughes, Labour's David Kidney, Andrew Love and Paul Murphy and Conservatives Clifton Brown and Lee Stark, expressed grave concern about the deteriorating situation in Sri Lanka.

The minister said that the withdrawal of the Sri Lanka monitoring mission "can only add to deep concern about the human rights and humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka".

Pointing out that after a recent visit to Sri Lanka, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed "alarm at the weakness of the rule of law and the prevalence of impunity for those abusing human rights", Howells said the UNHCR had "criticized the absence of credible systems of public accountability for the vast majority of these deplorable incidents and the general lack of confidence in the ability of existing government institutions to safeguard against the most serious human rights abuses".

In what many described as one of the strongest nudges from the British parliament to Colombo urgently to pay heed to Tamil problems, the minister pointed out that "Tamils argue that the military pursuit of self-determination is generated by a sense of despair that their grievances will never be addressed in a united Sri Lanka."

MP Simon Hughes criticized Sri Lankan government forces for the "absolutely unacceptable" practice of being "actively involved in forcibly recruiting children", even as Paul Murphy of the governing Labour Party urged muscular international interventionism.

Earlier, on the very day Colombo formally abrogated the ceasefire agreement, the parliamentary meeting organised by the British Tamils Forum (BTF) and chaired by Goan-origin Labour MP Keith Vaz drew parallels between the Tamil plight and the Rwandan genocide, Darfur killings and Bosnian ethnic cleansing.

Gareth Thomas, parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Department for International Development, told the Tamils his government regretted Colombo's decision to walk away from the peace process and that London suspended aid payments to Sri Lanka last year because of growing concerns about human rights abuses by government forces.

BTF spokesman Suren Surendiran alleged that Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe is violating his people's human rights sans international assistance but the Rajapakse government was "abusing the Tamils fundamental human rights and killing innocent Tamil civilians with the aid and assistance from the international community."

Source: Times of India

UK calls for urgent ceasefire in SL

Britain has called for an urgent ceasefire in Sri Lanka to enable the country to find a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict.

"A new ceasefire must be constructed as quickly as possible if we are to make progress," Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells told the British parliament.

"The end of the ceasefire agreement is confirmation that we have entered a dangerous new phase in Sri Lanka," Howells told the House of Commons at the end of a debate on the developing situation in Sri Lanka.

He described the conflict in Sri Lanka as "appalling" and regretted Colombo's unilateral abrogation of the six-year-old "internationally-backed" and Norway-brokered truce pact Jan 3.

"The ceasefire agreement was not perfect but (it was) a basis for peace and moving forward," he said, according to the text of the speech released by the British High Commission in Colombo Friday.

Howells admitted that at the present moment, there was "little substance around which to base negotiations" but he stressed that the international community "must clearly continue to stay engaged, stop the violence and help the Sri Lankan government build a credible environment for a sustainable peace process".

"The withdrawal of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) can only add to the deep concern about the Human Rights and humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka," he said.

He emphasized that the Sri Lankan government, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and a breakaway pro-government armed group, the Tamileela Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP) led by Karuna, all shared responsibility for the worsening human rights situation in the island.

"There is an urgent need to address the culture of impunity that persists," Howells said.

"The case for an expanded presence and mandate in Sri Lanka for the UN High Commission for Human Rights can only be stronger following the departure of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission," he said.

The Sri Lankan government has been resisting tooth and nail the establishment of an office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in the island saying that it is unwarranted and will abridge the sovereignty of the country.

"Having chosen to end the ceasefire, the Sri Lankan government has a clear responsibility to live up to their commitment to address the grievances of the Tamil people," the British minister said.

It was important for the government to win the "trust and confidence" of the Tamil people in regard to finding a peaceful and just solution for their problems within a united Sri Lanka, he added.

Turning to the LTTE, Howells said that it should change, give up violence, and become democratic in a credible way. He asked the influential Tamil Diaspora to help find a solution within Sri Lanka and abjure thoughts of partitioning Sri Lanka because partitioning had only led to massive bloodshed in other parts of the world.

In this connection, he recalled the carnage that followed the division of India in 1947 and Pakistan in 1971.

On the All Party Representative Committee (APRC), which Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa had set up to draft a devolution package, Howells said that the British government thought it "important" that the recommendations of the APRC went "beyond the current constitutional provisions to protect minority rights".

"The international community will be watching carefully and we do not want to see another false dawn," he said. The British warning assumes significance in the light of reports that the APRC, under pressure from Rajapaksa, is preparing to dilute its draft recommendations to suit his plan not to go beyond the existing provisions in the Sri Lankan constitution, in other words, not to go beyond the 13th amendment to the constitution carried out in the late 1980s.

The APRC is to submit its recommendations to Rajapaksa Jan 23.

On what Britain planned to do in regard to Sri Lanka, concretely, minister Howells said that it would not supply arms or any dual use equipment. It would indulge in "quiet" diplomacy, interact with all sections of Sri Lankan society and offer to help find a devolution package using its own experience in tackling the political problem in Northern Ireland.

Source: centralchronicle

Sri Lankan govt. determined to implement devolution package

Amid raging fighting with the LTTE in the north, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Saturday said his government was determined to go ahead with the power devolution package which will be submitted on January 23 to resolve the over two-decade-old Tamil ethnic conflict.

"I had asked the committee to submit the proposals on January 23 and after studying it will put it before the cabinet and publish the same," Rajapakse told PTI.

He said the proposals will be placed before Parliament and his government was determined to implement them after getting necessary approvals.

The President was talking on the sidelines of a get-together at his residence to mark Pongal festival.

Rajapaksa said though the proposal of the All Party Representative Committee(APRC) will be in the form of an interim report but the final recommendations will also be submitted subsequently.

The APRC, which was set up in 2006, had held about 57 meetings before finalising the package to set up provincial councils in the trouble torn North and Eastern Part of the country.

Fighting between troops and LTTE militants has escalated in recent weeks with the government's move to scrap a tattered 2002 ceasefire with the rebels. Nearly 300 Tamil Tigers have been killed this year while the LTTE have intensified their attacks on civilians.

Source: The Hindu

Sri Lanka military: Fighting kills 35 Tamil rebels, 1 soldier in embattled north


Associated Press Writer

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) -- Battles between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels killed 35 guerrillas and one soldier along the front lines in northern Sri Lanka, the military said Saturday, as violence continued to escalate following the government's withdrawal from a cease-fire.

Soldiers destroyed three rebel bunkers and killed 12 guerrillas Friday in Mannar district, southwest of the rebels' northern headquarters, said military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara. One soldier was wounded in the fighting, he said.

In nearby Vavuniya district army troops killed nine insurgents, while on the northern Jaffna peninsula two separate confrontations killed eight rebels, he said.

Nanayakkara said another clash in the northeastern village of Welioya left six rebels and one soldier dead.

There was no immediate comment from the rebels.

Each side often gives different accounts of the fighting, exaggerating enemy casualties while underreporting its own. Independent confirmation is not possible since the battle zone is a restricted area.

Violence has intensified in the Indian Ocean island nation since the government announced two weeks ago that it would scrap a six-year-old cease-fire with the rebels -- a pact that had largely been ignored in recent years. The truce officially ended Wednesday.

Senior military officials have vowed to dismantle the rebels' de facto state in parts of the north this year and then hunt down the remaining rebels fighting in the jungle.

On Friday, suspected Tamil Tigers killed 10 ethnic Sinhalese civilians in southern Sri Lanka, the military said.

The Tigers, listed as a terror organization by the U.S. and European Union, routinely deny responsibility for such attacks.

The fighting coincided with a visit by a top U.S. Navy official who reaffirmed American support for the government's efforts to fight the rebels.

Adm. Robert F. Willard, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, ended a two-day visit to Sri Lanka on Friday during which he "reaffirmed the support of the United States to Sri Lanka in defending against terrorist activity through co-operation on maritime security,'' the U.S. Embassy said.

Willard met with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and senior military officials and discussed U.S. help in countering the Tigers, the embassy said in a statement, without giving details.

The government's decision to end the cease-fire was criticized by peace mediators and foreign governments, who worried it would make it even more difficult to end the decades-old conflict.

More than 400 people have been killed in renewed violence across the country since the government's withdrawal from the truce, according to military figures.

The Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for an independent state in the north and east for the ethnic Tamil minority after decades of being marginalized by Sinhalese-dominated governments. The fighting has killed more than 70,000 people.


Tamil businessman shot dead in Chilaw

Unknown gunmen shot and killed a Tamil businessman, Kathiresan Ganesan, 43, while he was driving home with his family at Udappu (Udappuwa) in Chilaapam (Chilaw) police area Saturday around 9:20 a.m. His wife, Pakiyanaathan Puvani, 32, was seriously wounded in gunfire and rushed to Chilaw hospital, Police said.

Kathiresan Ganesan returned to Sri Lanka recently after living 14 years in Europe and started a business in Chilaapam.

On Saturday he was driving back home after attending a function at his relative's house at Uddappu with his wife, 2 children and 2 other relatives. When the van reached the Uddappu bridge lonely gunmen stopped the van and fired at them. Ganesan died on the spot.

Chilaw Magistrate K. Sivapakiyasundram visited the scene.

Source: Tamilnet

Let the true spirit of democracy prevail

Daily Mirror Editorial

Minister Maithripala Sirisena’s reiteration of the government policy of finding a political solution to the national problem through a process of power devolution, at this stage, raises some hope for the country to come out of the present predicament.

The General Secretary of the SLFP and Agricultural Development Minister Sirisena has made the assertion when he addressed the weekly Cabinet press briefing at the Government Information Department Auditorium in Narahenpita on Thursday.

He has said the government’s commitment to the policy of devolving power and implementing the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) proposals remains unchanged. He has said that on the directives of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, APRC Chairman Prof. Tissa Vitharana is expected to present the APRC proposals to the President on January 23. The proposals would thereafter be presented to the Cabinet and party leaders. And after the appropriate amendments where necessary, the final proposals would then be placed before the people, he has said.

This demonstrates that the government is determined to go ahead with the implementation of its policy despite pressure exerted on it by certain parties and groups that oppose these moves. The JVP, which is for total vanquishing of the LTTE has asked the government to scrap the APRC and refrain from presenting any kind of political solution to the problem.

Apart from the obvious pressure brought to bear on the government by the international community, there is the compelling factor of the concerns of the vast majority of the people in the country about the disastrous impact of the ongoing conflict on them, that has prodded the government into expediting the formulation of a political framework.

Although much is said by the parties that want the war to be waged to a finish about the people’s readiness to undergo any hardship or inconvenience for safeguarding the country’s sovereignty, integrity and independence, the majority of people who are at the receiving end of the present conflict do not seem to be in a mood to tolerate their misery any longer. JVP Leader Somawansa Amerasinghe of course says that if the people are not ready to undergo hunger for the cause, the party will ensure that they will respond to the nation’s call. Some among these groups say that the people are not yet compelled to eat ‘bagiri’ as they did when the country was involved in an imperialist war.

It is unfathomable why the JVP has changed its earlier policy of being prepared to go with the majority decision as long as it did not jeopardise the country’s interests. Apparently, the JVP now thinks that the LTTE could be completely wiped out. But the preponderant opinion here as well as abroad is that even if the forces succeed in completely vanquishing the LTTE, the Tamil grievances and aspirations will remain temporarily submerged to surface later. The JVP’s own history substantiates the correctness of this assertion.

The JVP was ruthlessly decimated and suppressed following their armed struggles. But their mission and concerns could not be eliminated that way. They remained dormant under oppression, but came alive later in a different form to sponsor the same cause for which their departed comrades made the supreme sacrifice. So, it is really the JVP, more than other political parties that should empathize with those having grievances though, of course the JVP is justified in revolting against the LTTE’s use of arms to promote their cause.

The JVP now advises the government to carry on with preemptive attacks on the LTTE, avoid any talks with them, refrain from resorting to constitutional reforms and dissolve the APRC. They have every right as a mainstream political party to express views and make suggestions. But what is deplorable is that their exhortations often, if not always, are accompanied by threats and warnings. They are so presumptuous as to claim absolute perfection for their policies and actions and attempt to project a façade of being the exclusive guardians of the country’s interests.

Although the party claims to have come to the mainstream of democratic politics and substantiated this claim in certain respects, yet they seem to be lacking in the democratic spirit. Discussion, debate, compromise and respect for majority decision are some of the tools of democracy the use of which is expected from its practitioners. The JVP needs to develop these qualities.

Source : Dailymirror

People living on the edge

Daily Mirror Feature

By Senaka De Silva and Jeevani Pereira

Pics by Samantha Perera

On November 26, 2007 Leelawathi, Ekanayake, Hemapala and Punchi Banda of Mahawilachchiya, Anuradhapura met their unhappy fate at around 8 a.m. when entering their fields to begin work. Two weeks before, a farmer had disappeared from the field and a week before that another disappearance had occurred; thus fear was foremost in their minds.

Ekanayake who was wheeling his bicycle towards the shade of Okra plants saw a suspicious movement near the clump of trees he was heading for. According to the police, Ekanayake who had seen an unfamiliar man lying in wait in a crouch, would have pretended that he had not seen the man. But, before he had reached his usual parking place, Ekanayake had apparently abandoned his bicycle and had broken into a run. The man realising he had been discovered had shot Ekanayake, killing him on the spot.

Meanwhile, hidden from view at various points of the 125 acre field, men suspected to be LTTE cadres had shot at Punchibanda. Two LTTE terrorists had taken Leelawathi and Hemapala, (husband and wife), several meters away and killed them as well. It is believed that as a result of Ekanayake running away and the sound of gun fire, the lives of many other farmers entering the field that day had been saved.

“There are more than 40 farmers who work their land in the Mannaram Handiya area,” commented the OIC. “And we believe that the six LTTE cadres who came that day, were counting on killing more after abducting them away from there.”

The incident sparked off a massive effort by the police to ensure the safety of the villagers, not only around the area the incident had taken place, but also in the 12 Gramaseva divisions of Mahawillachchiya, surrounded by the Wilpattu forest. With the participation of the chief monk in the area and other relevant authorities, the police began a campaign to educate people in the villages and arranging to provide a 24 hour protection system by recruiting people from each village to form civil defence forces.

“We want to continue farming, this is all we know. Where are we to go if we leave this place? We cannot go beg at refugee camps. But now we are not sure what will happen to us, we fear for our survival,” N Gunatillake who has been farming in the Mahawillachchiya area for nearly 50 years said adding that with troubles escalating in the North they were going to be affected more than ever.

With a shotgun tightly in hand, K.A Lionel told us tentatively that he was not sure whether he was going to continue tending his pumpkin and green chillie Chena during the next season.

He, like many others in the Mannaram Handiya village in Mahawillachchiya, Anuradhapura were unsure of their lives each day they come to work their land; especially after four farmers were killed by suspected LTTE terrorists in the very same field in November last year and a recent attack at one of the bunkers set up to protect the area.

Threatened village

Fringed by the Wilpattu forest with no more than 10 kms. to cross over to Vavuniya, the farmers in the threatened village fear mostly that the security put in place for them by the police would not be enough if the war should escalate and rebels should trickle down. However, police pointed out that recruiting more than 400 to the Civil Defence Force recently and positioning them to guard the mouth of the forest at various points would counter the problem adequately.

“Soon after the murders, we held a meeting with the relevant authorities as well as farmers of the area and wasted no time in assuring security for the civil population,” explained OIC Mahawillachchiya G K Abeynaike.

“Also we will be receiving Rs 15 million from the government to clear 200m into the forest for 34 kms. up to the Ittikulama stream, areas which are exposed to threat, and build bunkers,” said Jayanta Atapattu, ASP Tantirimale.

More than 550 shotguns were also distributed among villagers for protection and according to the OIC, updates with the community are done each week building up close relations with the people in the area.

“The dedication of recruits from the village to protect the area has to be specially commended,” he remarked, adding that they were people willing to sacrifice their lives during cordon searches in the forest.

Furthermore, the Civil Defence Committee set up among the villages has proved informative about the problems they encounter, as well as any suspicious activity in the area.

The people of the threatened villages in Mahawillachchiya however, find it difficult to get back to normalcy. Meeting people who had farmed in the area for more than 50 years at a stretch, they said they had hardly encountered such a grave situation before.

Protection increased

“We were getting ready to come in the morning when we heard the news,” said Damayanthi Perera adding that she had been farming as long as she could remember, with her parents, and now with her husband. “Protection has been increased but still we are afraid. Some of us live close to the forest and if nothing happens to us in the fields we are scared that something will happen to us in our houses.”

Gunatillake who has been farming in the area for nearly 50 years said that with troubles escalating in the North they were going to be affected more than ever. “We want to continue farming, this is all we know. Where are we to go if we leave this place? We cannot go begging at refugee camps. But now we are not sure what will happen to us; we fear for our survival,” he said.

“We are unsure of the next season,” wife of murdered Punchibanda, told us. “I will go to the fields now because I have to see to my survival, but I do not know what will happen the next time, and I know of no other way to survive.” Her husband who set off earlier that morning was to be joined by her. However, house work made her promise to come later. “My husband was abducted before in 1996 by LTTE terrorists. They questioned him in the forests; he might have been killed if a group of young people from the village did not go looking for him and saved him,” she said adding tearfully that the second time he had not been so lucky.

According to K A Lionel they had asked for security when the abduction of a farmer took place during the previous week but nothing was done. “It was after the killings that the authorities looked up and decided to do something about it. They gave us guns but I don’t think anyone can handle a mammotty and a gun at the same time,” he said.

Nothing attempted

He also pointed out that authorities had promised to begin clearing 200m of the bordering forest by 5th January. However, up to date nothing has been attempted. Many of the villagers echoed that they would feel much safer with the bunkers around.

Kabellawe Dhamma Buddha Thera, priest at the Mahawillachchiya temple who has been actively involved in communicating and educating people said that only a little of the money promised for the bunkers had been released and they were awaiting the full amout before clearing the borderline of the forest – without touching Wilpattu itself.

“The bunkers will be set up and safety will be ensured,” he stressed adding that with a protective strip already in place from Tantirimale, Indiweva up to Kudakakkul Kotuwa internally the bunkers at the borderline would provide added safety for civilians.”

In the silence of the fields of Mahawillachchiya, that spread as far as the eye could see we encountered newly established hillocks with two or more Defence Forces standing guard. Men from the village itself stressed that they too would afford no more chances for any civilian to be hurt.

‘Defence Forcer’, Nandasena said that the safety of villages was ensured with the recruitment and that they were doing their best to keep harm at bay.

“After we started guarding the area for 24 hours, people started coming earlier than they used to. Before they used to come by 10 a.m. and leave by 2 p.m. He continued saying that this gave little time for pumpkin farmers to ensure the pollination of male and female flowers of the plants, something they had to do themselves when the bee season was over.

S.M Madhura Kumara, another Defence Forcer who joined after the four murders said that they are sent on cordon searches in teams almost three times a week. “We go into around four kilo meters of forest – that is as far as we can communicate with our equipment,” he said. “We do these not because we have to, but because the people of this village are our parents, friends and relatives.”

Repercussions of war

Thus the battle for survival goes on and despite the best efforts by authorities, fear is a constant affliction for these people living in threatened villages. Forced to dealing with failing crops and wild animals at the worst of times, they are now burdened with repercussions of a war they had never asked for.

Source : Dailymirror

Britain tells world – Stop violence in Lanka

The Britain yesterday urged the international community to continue efforts to end violence in Sri Lanka while building a credible environment for a sustainable peace process.

It also expressed disappointment over the government’s failure to invite the TNA to be part of the APRC deliberations.

Expressing his views during the adjournment debate on Sri Lanka in the House of Commons on Thursday Deputy Foreign Minister and West Asian Minister Kim Howells said after ending the ceasefire agreement, Sri Lanka has a clear responsibility to live up to its commitment to address the grievances of the Tamil people and urged the APRC to go beyond constitutional provisions to protect minority rights.

“The TNA was not invited to participate — a big mistake, in my view. The committee is due to present its final recommendations in a little over a week. We think it important that those recommendations go beyond the current constitutional provisions to protect minority rights. We have called on the President to take a bold and courageous lead from this foundation to set out a framework for a just solution

within a united Sri Lanka that satisfies the legitimate aspirations of all Sri Lankans. The international community will be watching carefully and we do not want to see another false dawn,” Dr. Howells said.

The Deputy Foreign Minister also condemned the Buttala bus attack and said he did not believe the LTTE which advocated the use of murder and terrorism represented the hopes and aspirations of the majority of Tamils in Sri Lanka and around the world.

“The LTTE must renounce terrorism and demonstrate a real commitment to democratic principles if it is to be regarded internationally as a legitimate political movement. There needs to be a full debate among the Tamils, free of intimidation and polarisation, on what an acceptable political settlement might look like for the Tamil people,” he said.

“The message that we have for the Sri Lankan government — that there can be no military solution to this appalling conflict — applies equally to the LTTE. Some Tamils argue the Tiger pursuit of self-determination is generated by a sense of despair that their grievances will never be addressed in a united Sri Lanka. It is vital that the Government allay those fears and give them hope. For Sri Lanka to find a way forward, we need to see signs of genuine good will from the Government to any proposals for devolution that might emerge and a readiness on the part of disillusioned Tamils to contemplate alternatives to self-determination. Without generating trust and confidence, that will not happen.”

He said Britain’s support calls for a much more effective UN human rights monitoring presence on the island adding that the case is made stronger following the departure of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission.

“Peace will not happen until the parties to the conflict understand that nothing can be gained from continuing violence. Some in Sri Lanka did not welcome our involvement. We regret the fact that they do not understand, or chose not to, that our aim has been simply to do what we can to help the Sri Lankans find a way forward. We have no ulterior motives. We remain ready to help with the search for peace in Sri Lanka,” he added.

Source : Dailymirror

UNP wants international monitors for Batti polls

By Kelum Bandara

The main opposition UNP hopes to request the Elections Chief to ensure the presence of an international mission to monitor elections to nine local government bodies in the Batticaloa district.

UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake said the international monitoring mission was necessary for the conduct of a free and fair poll in the East.

Mr. Attanayake said the wave of violence that swept the province after the election was announced had caused grave concern to residents and candidates alike. He said some armed groups operating in the area were also posing a threat to the conduct of a free and fair poll.

“Our party will write to Elections Chief Dayananda Dissanayake requesting him to bring an international election monitoring mission,” he said.

But he said this request would be made only in case the UNP decides to contest the election.

The JVP said it was the government’s responsibility to conduct a free and fair poll in the East.

Its parliamentary group leader Wimal Weerawansa said the JVP did not beleive an international mission was essential for the poll.

“But, we will not oppose an international monitoring mission coming in. Yet, it is not absolutely essential. There are local organizations funded by foreign bodies. They too have proven their capability in monitoring elections,” he said.

Source : Dailymirror

A timely move

Daily News Editorial

uel prices are up again. Motorists are feeling the pinch, but it is an inevitable fact of life in these times. A price rise was a foregone conclusion in the face of a steep escalation of crude oil prices in the world market.

Amidst this somewhat gloomy scenario, one news item gives us hope that the authorities are taking an enlightened, positive approach to the issue.

Environment Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka has proposed that duty concessions be granted to hybrid (gasoline/electric) and all-electric vehicles as an immediate measure. We are told that the Cabinet has endorsed his proposal.

This is indeed a groundbreaking decision that was long overdue. We applaud the Environment Minister for taking this measure, in line with the rest of the world. The Daily News has persistently campaigned for duty cuts on hybrid and electric vehicles. Motor traders too had urged the Government to take this progressive step.

Indeed, the rest of the world has overtaken us in this regard. Many developed and developing countries, aware of the need to cut down on fuel consumption and noxious emissions, grant either duty-free or concessionary duty structures for cars such as the best-selling Toyota Prius. Many countries exempt all-electric cars from all duties and taxes and even parking fees.

The Minister has also called for more facilities for local assemblers of motor vehicles. This is also a step in the right direction. They should be encouraged to manufacture more environment-friendly vehicles.

Hybrids and electric are not fancy products that are still in the ‘future’. They are widely available now and the technology is improving all the time. Tomorrow’s hybrids will be cleaner and more fuel efficient.

Car companies and specialist battery manufacturers are working on new batteries that will give a longer range with lower recharging times. A slew of new electric cars will come to the market in the next few years.

Moreover, hydrogen/fuel cell powered cars are likely to enter the market in the next decade. These cars, which emit water as the only by-product, will be extremely environmentally friendly and authorities should keep an eye on the latest developments.

The authorities must also take this opportunity to rethink the entire duty structure applicable to passenger motor vehicles, especially diesels. Diesel passenger cars attract a duties and taxes upto 500 per cent of the car’s value. The idea is no doubt to prevent private users from enjoying the subsidy meant for transport providers.

But this thinking lacks any rationality in the face of rising oil prices and current diesel technology. Litre per litre, today’s advanced diesel engines are far more efficient and frugal than their petrol counterparts.

In other words, diesel cars do more kilometres per litre than their petrol counterparts, whatever the engine size. More than 75 per cent of new cars registered in Europe (where petrol and diesel prices are more or less equal) are diesels. Even in neighbouring India, there is only a slight variation in prices between petrol and diesel powered cars.

Several countries are also taxing cars based on their carbon dioxide emissions, not engine sizes. Lower CO2 emissions attract lower duties. In fact, some of the bigger engines are less polluting than smaller ones.

A more logical diesel duty structure will lead to a higher number of diesels on our roads, which could mean a huge saving in terms of foreign exchange in the long run.

The authorities should also rethink the existing policy on reconditioned cars. Reconditioned and brand new cars are taxed more or less at the same rates.

Reconditioned vehicles have been used either in Japan or Singapore for upto three years and then dumped here. Often, these vehicles have failed to pass tough emissions and mechanical tests in the country of first registration. They often come with second hand parts.

Raising taxes on reconditioned vehicles (or still better, banning their import altogether) and lowering taxes on brand new vehicles is a far healthier option. A lot of foreign exchange can thus be saved on importing second hand cars and second hand spare parts.

Another sore issue the issue of duty free permits. While our People’s Representatives can buy, say, a brand new Toyota Prado for just Rs.3.5 million, others have to pay a staggering 15 million rupees for the same car.

Granting car permits to public servants was a step in the right direction, but we see no reason why the scheme cannot be applied to expatriate workers who bring in more than US$ 3 billion a year, depending on the number of years they have worked abroad.

Finally, if Sri Lanka had good transport links such as subways, fast trains, clean, uncrowded buses, many would prefer to use them instead of fuel-guzzling vehicles. A good public transport system will be the ultimate fuel saver.

Source : Dailynews

Ample food stocks in Jaffna

Supply adequate for three months for entire peninsula:

The Government Agent of Jaffna K. Ganesh stressed that there is no shortage of food or other commodities in Jaffna district as the Government has taken every possible step to send essential items to normalise food storage in Jaffna.

The food stocks are sufficient for three months. Addressing a press briefing yesterday held to describe the food situation, the Jaffna Government Agent said the food situation in Jaffna is very satisfactory. Almost all essential food items are available in Jaffna. According to the Government Agent, Jaffna has no problems at all with regard to the distribution and supply of essential items.

At the moment Jaffna has 6,887 Mt of rice, 1,697 Mt of sugar, 1,351 Mt wheat flour, 775 Mt of red dhal, 69 Mt of milk food, 95 Mt of soap and other laundry products, Commissioner General of Essential Services S.B. Divaratne said.

He pointed out that the storage of rice in Colombo is 5,000 Mt which is far below the storage level in Jaffna. Almost all commodities are available except Pentorch batteries at around 4,000 private sector and Government sales outlets.

There is no shortage of petroleum products in Jaffna but a there is a slight price hike considering transport costs. Diesel, petrol and kerosene are freely available.

The Commissioner General of Essential Services has taken steps jointly with the Jaffna GA to bring down the price of LP Gas to Rs. 2,900 from Rs. 5,000.

The Commissioner General of Essential Services has been using eight ships to transport goods to Jaffna.

“The Jaffna GA pointed out that the Jaffna residents don’t want any rice for three months since they have 6,887 Mt of rice and it is estimated they will be having a good paddy harvest. The price of rice in Jaffna is cheaper than in Colombo,” the Commissioner said.

Postal services are in operation. All schools, hospitals and the university are functioning well. Students have received textbooks and school uniforms, the Government Agent said. He appreciated the contribution of the Security Forces for the transport of goods.

Source : Dailynews

Waiting for cheap rice

Island Editorial

The government has promised to import rice to bring down prices. It is planning to release 30,000 tonnes of rice to the market within the next two weeks through state owned sales outlets. Nothing exposes the stupidity of the custodians of this country who have ruined the state sector agricultural and trading institutions more than the predicament of the present government and the public. The CWE was the most potent instrument at the disposal of the State to regulate prices but it was systematically enervated and reduced to an empty shell at the behest of private traders who sponsored political potentates. This government may claim the credit for proposing the revival of the co-operative system but precious little has so far been done on the ground.

The government’s decision to import rice is welcome but the question is whether the stocks to come will be fit for human consumption. President Mahinda Rajapaksa will have to ensure that the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats won’t line their pockets by importing low quality rice which will end up as animal fodder. What the people need is not anything cheap but good rice at reasonable prices.

In trying to distribute the rice to be imported through the State owned outlets which are few and far between, the government may be biting off more than it can chew.

Co-operatives are notorious for inefficiency and corruption and the government will find it difficult to prevent long winding queues forming at those places (reminiscent of the 1970-77 era) and the sale of rice to the private traders through the backdoor. It is hoped that the people won’t have to get ‘chits’ from politicians to obtain rice from co-operatives like in the bad old days.

The need that has arisen for an efficient distribution and marketing network should serve as an eye-opener to the government vis-à-vis the rapid expansion of supermarket chains at the expense of retail traders. The day may not be far off when the consumer will be at the mercy of those super markets with massive overheads to buy his provisions at exorbitant prices. The attractive prices they are offering at present are deceptive. They will lay bare their true faces only after they get rid of the retail traders and acquire monopolistic status. It behoves the government to prevent retailers from going out of business, in the public interest.

Minister of Agriculture Maithripala Sirisena is reported to have attributed the steep rise in the rice prices to a sharp increase in the demand for rice caused by a huge drop in the wheat flour consumption—40 per cent—due to the recent flour price increases. The basis of his pronouncement remains to be statistically proved but if what he says is true, then the country is on the right course. The people must be encouraged to consume less wheat flour. However, if there has been so sharp a drop in the wheat flour consumption, as he claims, then how on earth haven’t the prices of flour based products come down or any bakeries gone out of business? The prices of paan, gal banis, maalu pan and bibikkam continue to rise and bakers are having a field day! We just can’t understand Sirisena’s economics.

Minister Sirisena has offered to resign if that would help bring down rice prices. Price hikes or no price hikes, the people will really appreciate his resignation, which will be some consolation to the irate public bearing the cost of maintaining a jumbo Cabinet. It is the fervent wish of the people that one half, if not three quarters, of the Cabinet will step down. How relieving it will be for a hungry man to have a swarm of parasites feasting on him removed goes without saying!

President Rajapaksa is said to have had a discussion with rice importers and mill owners on how to arrest the increasing rice prices. It would have been more prudent for him to invite Pottu Amman to a discussion on how to defeat terrorism in this country!

The heavenward rush of the rice prices cannot be explained in the light of Sirisena’s ‘piti theory’. Rice prices are being kept artificially high through hoarding by a cartel. We have pointed out in these columns umpteen times that successive governments have placed the consumer at the mercy of a mudalali Mafia, which controls from Colombo even the price of an egg a humble hen lays in a far-flung village. If it is the interests of the consumer that the government intends to protect, then it must act independently of traders who are hell bent on exploiting the public.

There are times when a government has to shed its laissez-faire attitude toward the mudalalis and use the stick instead of the carrot in dealing with them. However, as is the way with this Universe, balance is of great import. Although state intervention is called for to regulate prices in crisis situations, the government must desist from taking the country towards a closed economy which is out of step with the modern world.

The soaring food prices are attributable mainly to the government’s inefficient handling of the essential commodities. The SLFP-led coalitions are usually characterised by the chicanery and shenanigans of conceited pundits in the garb of ministers whose approach to problem solving is replete with hubris and callousness. They remember the people only on the eve of an election. The present government is lucky that it is being challenged by a lame duck Opposition which floats like a bee and stings like a butterfly and the people are desirous of seeing an end to the scourge of terrorism, regardless of their economic woes.

Promises are of little use to a populace crushed under the heavy burden of living. The government ought to go beyond meetings and committees, do its damnedest to bring down prices of rice and other essential commodities and step up the local food production. It must pluck up the courage to deal with the politically backed rice mill owners— including the siblings of the ruling party politicians—who purchase paddy at Rs. 17.00 per kilo and sell a kilo of rice at Rs. 80-90 and drive both the farmer and the consumer to suicide.

Source : Island

The claymore mines: How did they come here?

by kanchana Godakanda

M18A1 Claymore is a directional anti-personnel mine used by the U.S. military. It was named after the large Scottish sword by its inventor, Norman A. MacLeod. The Claymore fires shrapnel, in the form of steel balls, out to about 100 meters across a 60 degree arc in front of the device. It is used primarily in ambushes and as an anti-infiltration device against enemy infantry. It is also of some use against soft-skinned vehicles.

1. It must weigh less than 3.5 pounds (1.6 kilograms)

2. It must throw enough fragments so that at a range of 55 yards (50 meters) it achieves a 100 percent strike rate on a 1.3 square foot target (man sized)

3. The fragment area must not be more than 8 feet (2.4 meters) high and no more than 60 degrees wide

Fragments must have a velocity of 4,000 feet per second (1,200 metres per second) providing 58 foot-pounds (79 joules) of kinetic energy delivered to the target

The question is being asked as to how and when the LTTE came by these Claymore mines. This is a question which is not difficult to answer. They have been brought in during the infamous CFA, which our foreign ‘friends’ are bemoaning the abrogation of. For the benefit of the present western Ambassadors and High Commissioners who were not in the country in the period 2002 –2004 let me inform them that the LTTE was permitted to, in one instance alone, bring in eleven containers which were allowed to be taken without inspection to Kilinochchi. The then defence minister and a side kick of his who was in charge of the airport and the then Secretary to the PM and the Secretary of Defence facilitated the clearance of this cargo. Karuna claimed that 21 shiploads of arms had been brought in during the CFA, others claimed that 11 arms shipments came in, whatever the number may be, the administration did not show concern. The only time they did show any anger was when an LTTE arms ship was sunk by the Navy. The Navy Commander had been told by ‘high authority’, "You are the first naval commander to sink a ship during a ceasefire"! Former Navy Commander Sandagiri would bear witness to this. The second arms ship was sunk without informing the Prime Minister, on the orders of the then President. This, dear readers, is how these abominable Claymore mines came to be obtained by the LTTE, they were gifted. It was not just the advance communication equipment that was gifted to the LTTE. The abominable CFA prepared in secret by Solheim and the Balsinghams and signed by the then PM, without reference to the Service Commanders and without the permission of the executive President was a God send for the LTTE. They have used it to prepare for the final phase of their march to Eelam; the final phase which Prabhakaran promised in his heroes day speech in 2005. So you know who is responsible for Kebbetigollawa, the other Claymore mine killings and this latest Buttala butchery, not just the LTTE but also those of the UNP’s appeasement brigade. Instead of hiding their heads in shame they are strutting the stage blaming the government, claiming that it has endangered the security of our country by pulling put of the CFA! What should we do with these people ?

Source : Island

STF sent to hunt Tigers in Monaragala after 10 more civilians killed

by Norman Palihawadena

Two Special Task Force teams were flown to the Monaragala District from Batticaloa yesterday following the killing of 10 more civilians by the LTTE in Hambegamuwa and Kalawelgala in Tanamalwila.

On Thursday night around 10 pm residents of Kalawelgala noticed an armed gang and informed the Police, who rushed to the village accompanied by some home guards. On seeing the Police the Tigers had opened fire killing three civilians and injuring four others, including a home guard. Police, too, opened fire but the LTTE cadres had fled under cover of the night. The injured were rushed to the Tanamalwila Hospital.

In a search operation conducted yesterday morning at Hambegamuwa, Police recovered six more bodies of civilians with gun shot injuries. Later another body of a civilian with gun shot injuries was found at Kalawelgala. A total of ten bodies were recovered by the Police in Tanamalwila and Hambegamuwa.

Police, Army and the two STF teams rushed to the area yesterday and combed the jungles around Tanamalwila but could not find any trace of LTTE cadres. However, three people suspected of providing information to the Tigers, were detained.

During the search operation in Tanamalwila an anti personnel mine was recovered, police said.

Source : Island

Diaspora Tamil Community urges Boycott of Goods and Services from Sri Lanka

London - One million Tamils from Sri Lanka displaced throughout the world, especially Europe, America, Canada, Australia, India, South Africa and many other countries due to the ongoing civil war between Sri Lankan government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for over three decades.

The British Tamils Forum is urging its Diaspora Tamil community to immediately boycott the use of the Sri Lankan’s Air Line when they traveling to other places from where they are residing also, all the goods and services from Sri Lanka citing, Sri Lanka is using the foreign exchange earner from goods and services they sell it to the a million strong Tamil Diaspora to fight the war with Tamils cause mayhem and destructions to the Tamil people in the North and East of Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, since the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) has unilaterally withdrew from the February 22, 2002 Cease Fire Agreement (CFA), one million strong Diaspora community worries about their brethrens back home and are willing to go to that extra mile to assist their helpless loved ones, as the world at large is relatively unwilling to come to the assistance of the Tamils. They also calling for a total boycott of the Sri Lankan groceries, tea, garments and other related products that are produced in Sri Lanka as they feel every pound they spent to wage savage war against Tamils.

Sri Lanka embarked on near daily aerial bombardments in the densely populated areas of Killinochchi, Mullaiteevu and other areas causing deaths and destructions to the people including school children. Diaspora Tamil community is strongly convinced that their money which spent on the Sri Lankan air lines, groceries, garments other items imported from Sri Lanka tainted with their own brethrens blood and flushes and calling to boycott of the products.

Ivan Pedropillai, of the British Tamils Forum says, there are 300,000 Tamils from Sri Lanka living in the U.K. alone and claimed that the Diaspora Tamil community spent approximately 12 million sterling pounds per annum on the Sri Lankan air lines and close to 100 million sterling pounds spent on the Sri Lankan groceries, garments and other items imported from Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan government using all its foreign exchange earners from the Diaspora community together with the other forms of financial aid from many countries are diverted and being used to fight the destructive war against Tamils, said the British Tamils Forum.

"The Sri Lankan government has abandoned all pretence of observing a ceasefire while resorting to an escalating war on the Tamils corralled into an ever tightening military cordon in their traditional homeland," said Ivan Pedropillai, of the British Tamils Forum.

"We appeal to our fellow Tamils ... to understand that traveling with Sri Lankan Airlines is tantamount to paying the government of Sri Lanka to buy the weaponry with which to kill our own people in their homeland in Sri Lanka.

"We appreciate that flying with other airlines to Colombo may involve some delay in transit stopovers."

He also urged Britons to avoid taking holidays in Sri Lanka: "We extend this appeal to our other British compatriots who want to travel on holidays to Sri Lanka to think of the deaths and destruction that their money paid will eventually cause among the Tamils of Sri Lanka and to kindly avoid such travel."

Sources at the Sri Lankan High Commission declined to comment on the call on the British Tamils Forum and said that such campaigns had failed in the past.

"They have tried many times to request the Tamil expatriate community living in the UK to boycott even Sri Lankan products," the source said, "but they failed. The people did not listen. They are trying to find an opportunity to hit the Sri Lankan government.

"The government decided to abrogate the treaty because there's no point in having a document that serves no purpose.

"The Tamil Tigers were carrying out atrocities even before the treaty was ended."

"They have tried many times to request the Tamil expatriate community living in the UK to boycott even Sri Lanklan products," the source said, "but they failed. The people did not listen. They are trying to find an opportunity to hit the Sri Lankan government.

"The government decided to abrogate the treaty because there's no point in having a document that serves no purpose.

"The Tamil Tigers were carrying out atrocities even before the treaty was ended."

“It is time for our fellow Tamils to boycott all Sri Lankan goods and services available. We Tamils living outside the country are helping GoSL to earn foreign exchange earner and to kill our loved once back home,’ said Mani Maran from London who was migrated to UK after the 1983 pogrom against Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Just a small breakdown of how the Sri Lankan exports earned the foreign exchange in two countries namely Australia and Canada.

Major Australian imports From Sri Lanka, 2004-05(A$m):

Tea and mate 28 Million

Clothing 14 Million

Rubber Tires 9 Million

Clay construction materials 3 Millon

Articles of iron or steel 3 Million

Year Sri-Lanka’s exports to Canada in Million

1992 40.7

1993 44.1

1994 67.7

1995 76.4

1996 71.5

1997 83.0

1998 96.5

1999 92.00

2000 137.05

Jan-Sep 2001 95.26

“What we the Tamil Diaspora community is doing when we purchase goods and services from Sri Lanka are actually contributing nothing but death to innocent Tamil people. One of those innocent people may be one of our Sister, Brother, Mother, Father, Uncle, Aunt, Niece, Nephew, or your neighbor. Do you know that if you buy a product from Sri Lanka, you also directly responsible for all those innocent death? One MD jam can kill 20 Innocent people,” said a Tamil community leader in London.

Enforced abductions, disappearances, massacres, extra-judicial killings, and mass displacements of civilians in Sri Lanka are real and serious concerns to most of the human rights organizations and governments around the world, a rights activist said.

In contrary to the believe of the London High Commission sources, if the Tamil Diaspora community at large determined to not to buy any goods and services imported or sold from Sri Lanka even starting from today, severe dent can be inflicted on the Sri Lanka’s ability wage this savage war against our Tamil brethrens in Sri Lanka and sure to save the lives and destructions of our kin and kith who are continue to live in hopes back home, Sivaraman, another Tamil Londoner fled Sri Lanka after 1983 racial riots against Tamils told TNS.