The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Friday, 1 February 2008

31 killed in Lanka clashes

At least 29 Tamil Tigers and two soldiers were killed in fierce clashes in Sri Lanka's restive northern region where several LTTE bunkers were destroyed by the security forces, officials here said today.

"Ten militants were killed today and a large number injured during surprise attacks in the Muhamale, Nagarkovil and Killali areas of Jaffna," the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) said in a statement.

Several LTTE bunkers were destroyed in the attacks, it said, adding two soldiers also lost their lives and six sustained injuries.

In another incident, four Tiger rebels were either killed or injured in a confrontation in Welioya in Jaffna while two other guerrillas were gunned down by the security forces in Adankulam in northwestern Mannar, the army said.

Two more rebels were killed and two injured in Vadukkari area in the region, the Defence Ministry said.

In a confrontation in Kallikulam area of northern Vavuniya, eight LTTE cadres were killed and a rebel bunker completely destroyed by troops, it said.

Troops also killed a Tamil Tiger in the Killali area of Jaffna today, MCNS said, adding nine LTTE cadres surrendered to the security forces at Murunkan road block in Mannar.

Five rebels were shot dead by security forces in Kakkudhudhuvai in northern Welioya, the Defence Ministry said. One more guerrilla died elsewhere in the region. (Agencies)


Japan not to suspend aid to Sri Lanka

Japan has told Sri Lanka that it has no plans to suspend development aid to the island nation as reported in the international media.

Japan's special envoy Yasushi Akashi told Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona over the phone Friday that his country had not changed its aid policy vis-a-vis Sri Lanka and it would stick to the commitments it had made.

Akashi said that Japan welcomed the proposals made by the Sri Lankan all party panel on devolution of power and commended President Mahinda Rajapaksa for his efforts to find a peaceful solution to the ethnic conflict.

The international media had reported from Tokyo Thursday that Akashi had warned that Japan would cut off aid to Sri Lanka if the latter continued with its military operations against the Tamil Tiger rebels.

Meanwhile, Road Development Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle was sworn in as acting foreign minister by Rajapaksa. Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama is on an official visit to Pakistan.

The website of Daily Mirror reported that Bogollagama was to come back to Colombo Saturday but was rushing back Friday night itself, anticipating 'major' changes in the foreign ministry.


Cash-less Sri Lanka banks on India, says Ranatunga

Sri Lanka's new cricket chief and former captain Arjuna Ranatunga has revealed his board has no money left and is banking on financial support from India to stay afloat.

Ranatunga, who was appointed head of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) by the country's President Mahinda Rajapakse earlier this month, said the board was surviving on bank borrowings.

"There is no money left," Ranatunga told AFP in an interview this week at the SLC headquarters overlooking the Sinhalese Sports Club in the capital.

"We are now surviving on a six-million dollar bank overdraft. We also plan to ask for a short-term loan from the Indian cricket board to be set off against some of our future tour revenues."

Allegations of graft and kickbacks have dogged the island's cricket administration for years and Ranatunga, 44, has asked a team of auditors to investigate the board's finances.

Sri Lanka's cricket had not been short of sponsors after the island won its only World Cup under Ranatunga's captaincy in 1996, but the kitty has been running dry in recent times.

Most of the money that the SLC earns these days is through prize money won by the national team that includes the world's leading Test wicket taker Muttiah Muralitharan.

Ranatunga, however, was confident he will meet his target to streamline the administration and nurture new talent.

"I promised the president that I will put things right," said the nation's legendary captain who quit international cricket in 2000 after playing 93 Tests and 269 one-dayers and is now a ruling party lawmaker.

Ranatunga said he looked forward to India's Test and one-day tour of Sri Lanka in July-August to help boost his organisation's finances.

India may not be the number one team in the world, but it has enormous commercial appeal, and less affluent countries like Sri Lanka cash in on it.

"India visits us this year and we are looking towards the Indian tour to earn some money," he said.

"India has financial muscle due to the massive captive (domestic) television audience. They have also helped us financially.

"While we work closely with other countries, India plays a strong role in keeping our finances afloat."

Ranatunga, a strong campaigner for a radical shake up in the nation's domestic cricket, fears that there may not be enough money to spend on developing younger players.

The previous administration, headed by businessman Jayantha Dharmadasa, had said it could raise 30 million dollars in worldwide sponsorships within the next five-years by way of commercial rights for television.

But Ranatunga was dismissive of the claim.

"I don't know where those figures came from," he said, adding he was also reviewing the current deal with Dubai-based satellite broadcaster, Ten Sports, for home internationals.

Ten Sports' 50-million dollar deal ends in 2009 and there were allegations that the previous administration had extended it till 2012 without a proper bidding process.

Source: AFP

Action 'slow to halt killings'

Global concern is mounting over Sri Lanka's worsening human rights record, but action by key international players has been "slow and lacked cohesion," Human Rights Watch said.

The group said Sri Lanka managed to head off censure in the UN Human Rights Council by agreeing to host UN officials, though Colombo later rejected UN demands for the global body to monitor human rights in the country.

"Expressions of concern about the situation in Sri Lanka grew in 2007," the New York-based group said.

The US government's Millennium Challenge Corporation suspended more than $110 million (BD41.5m) in aid to Sri Lanka due to concerns about the island's human rights situation, it said. Britain had also suspended $3m (BD1.13m) in debt relief citing concerns over human rights and high defence spending to battle separatist Tiger guerillas, the report added.

The group has been lobbying Japan to use financial aid to the government as leverage to force President Mahinda Rajapakse to clean up its rights record.

In the continuing conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Tigers, both show little regard for the safety of civilians, it said.


‘India trying to stop Lanka forces from defeating Tigers’

A radical Sri Lankan nationalist party leader has accused India of trying to stop the Sri Lankan Army from defeating the Tamil Tiger rebels militarily.
India was forcing Sri Lanka to accept a political power-sharing arrangement with the minority Tamils now only to thwart the Sri Lankan Army’s successful campaign to crush the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), charged K D Lalkantha, member of the Sri Lankan parliament representing the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP).
“India is once again trying to stop the victories of the Sri Lankan armed forces as it did when president J R Jayawardene was in power in 1987,” Lalkantha told a public meeting here on Wednesday night.
“At that time, it made him sign the India-Sri Lanka Accord and accept the provincial councils system.”
India was also “envious” of the Sri Lankan Army’s achievements, the media here quoted him as saying.
“India cannot get over the fact that our army is defeating the Tiger organisation, which India, with the world’s sixth largest army, could not defeat (when it was fighting the rebels in 1988-90),” he said.
“India does not want to see the Sri Lankan Army getting credit for defeating the terrorists,” he charged.
Lalkantha claimed that India had acted “illegally” when it forced Jayawardene to accept the accord and the provincial councils.
However, despite stiff opposition from allies like the JVP and the Patriotic National Movement (PNM), a conglomeration of Sinhalese nationalist organisations, President Mahinda Rajapaksa seems keen on “fully implementing” the power-sharing arrangement which the India-Sri Lanka Accord had stipulated, and which became law through the enactment of the 13th amendment and the Provincial Councils Act in 1987.
Yesterday, Rajapaksa formed a cabinet sub-committee to go into the nitty-gritty of the implementation of the amendment and the working of the Provincial Councils Act. – Indo-Asian News Service


Sri Lanka says UAE firms to build refinery

Two UAE petroleum firms have won Sri Lankan government approval to build the island's second refinery with an investment of 1.2 billion dollars, a senior minister said.

Trans Asia Gas International LLC and Star Petro Energy LLC of the UAE plan to build a 100,000 barrels-per-day refinery in the southern town of Hambantota, minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa told reporters.

The project has been approved by the Board of Investment, the investment promotion agency that grants investors tax and other concessions.

Yapa has previously said the planned refinery's entire output will be shipped to overseas markets.

The refinery project will provide employment to about 700 people in the area, one of Sri Lanka's most neglected districts where unemployment and poverty are high.

It is the home electorate of Sri Lanka's president Mahinda Rajapakse.

The government has also started work with Chinese funds to build a new port in Hambantota, to exploit its location close to the main shipping lane across the Indian Ocean.

The new refinery investment comes at a time when Sri Lanka is offering petroleum firms the chance to bid for oil exploration blocks in offshore areas.

The island's sole refinery owned by state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corp at Sapugaskanda, north of Colombo, has a capacity of only 50,000 barrels per day.

The government is also seeking foreign investment to upgrade this refinery and raise its capacity.

Lanka IOC, a unit of Fortune 500 Indian Oil Corporation that commands a third of the local retail fuel market, has also proposed an oil refinery in northeastern Trincomalee.

Source: LBO

Cabinet Committee to study APRC proposals

APRC discussions to continue:

The Cabinet has appointed a Cabinet Committee to seek ways and means of implementing the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) proposals.

Media and Information Minister and Cabinet Spokesman Anura Priyadarshana Yapa addressing the weekly Cabinet press briefing at the Government Information Department Auditorium yesterday said the Cabinet which met on Wednesday, had appointed the committee to discuss and formulate diverse ways and means whereby the APRC proposals would be discussed at length.

“The committee comprising all party leaders in the Cabinet and associated with the APRC, will pursue all ways and means on how the 13th Amendment could be implemented in relation to the APRC proposals. The committee’s decisions will be made public shortly,” he said.

He added that they will make sure that the Provincial Council for the East and the Governor and the Interim Advisory Council for the North would be appointed.

Meanwhile, the APRC in a press release said it met on Monday January 28 as scheduled.

After a critical review of recent events, it was decided to proceed with discussions to finalise the set of proposals that would be the basis for a new Constitution and provide a final solution to the National question. Ideas were exchanged on what should go into the agenda for future meetings and an agreement was reached on this matter.

Interest was expressed on the desirability of studying the constitutional set up in some countries like Britain, Spain and Germany.

The hope was expressed that the President and the Government would speedily and maximally extend the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the present Constitution.

Source: Dailynews

Sri Lanka cannot be prevented from installing mines: ICG

Amidst protests by Indian fishermen against the planting of mines along the maritime border by Sri Lankan Navy, Coast Guard today said the island nation could not be prevented from installing such devices to ensure the security of their territory.

Talking to reporters at the "Fifth island" near the International Maritime Boundary Line, the Commanding Officer of the Indian Coastguard Station at Mandapam, Commander K Janarthanan said: "how can we prevent them from planting mines, when they have got every right to make their country secure in whatever way they desire".

He said the Sri Lankan officials had informed the Indian side about the mines so that fishermen could be careful.

Their objective was to prevent the movement of LTTE in and around Delft island, which was 12 nautical miles away from the IMBL, he said.

He also ruled out the possibility of the mines drifting into the Indian territory as they had been placed very far from the IMBL. Besides, the area where the mines had been planted were in the 'High Security Area', where fishermen were not allowed.

"If the fishermen went into the war zone and got killed in the cross-fire or by mines, it is also a cause of worry", he said.


Anti-LTTE Jaya’s stir against Lankan navy

Even as most fishermen ended their days-old strike following the Tamil Nadu government's announcement that all 12 fishermen arrested by the Sri Lankan navy had been released, the main Opposition party, the AIADMK, would protest against the Sri Lankan navy at the Rameswaram coast tomorrow.
Referring to the fishermen's arrest, party supremo Ms Jayalalitha said such incidents had become the norm now. The AIADMK leader, often portrayed as a Sinhalese supporter by Tamil nationalists here owing to her anti-LTTE stand, came down heavily on the Sri Lankan navy and said it was firing at fishermen frequently and had set up mines under the sea from Katchatheevu to Neduntheevu (islands near state coast), endangering the livelihood of fishermen.
“It had become customary for the Sri Lankan navy to arrest and attack Tamil Nadu fishermen and the complacent attitude of the state and Centre are to blame for it,” Ms Jayalalitha said. Though pro-LTTE leaders such as MDMK leader Mr Vaiko, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi leader Mr Thol Thirumavalavan and Tamil nationalist leader Mr P Nedumaran, initially raised the issue of mines, anti-LTTE parties such as the AIADMK has joined issue only now as they can no longer ignore the growing anti-Lankan feeling of the fishermen.