The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Thirty-one die in Lanka clashes

At least 30 Tamil Tigers and a soldier were killed in a series of gun battles in Sri Lanka's embattled northern region, officials here said on Thursday.

Troops gunned down five rebels and injured 10 others in separate attacks in Nagarkovil and Muhamalai areas of Jaffna, the Defence Ministry said, adding one soldier also lost his life.

Another two LTTE cadres were killed at Navathkulam in Vavuniya in a confrontation, it said.

Separately, two guerrillas were gunned down in Kokkuthuduwai in northeastern Welioya yesterday, the ministry said.

In another confrontation in Welioya, one rebel was shot dead and another injured on Wednesday, the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) said.

One more LTTE cadre was killed in Andankulam area of Welioya while two others injured yesterday, it said.

In fierce clashes at Vavuniya, at least seven rebels were killed by troops in Periyapandivirichchan area yesterday, the Defence Ministry, adding another guerrilla died in a separate clash in the same area.

In subsequent clashes in the same area, seven more LTTE cadres were gunned down by security forces.

One rebel was shot dead in Vilayathikulam area of Vavuniya yesterday, the MCNS said, adding another rebel was killed at Parappakandal in northwestern Mannar on Wednesday.

Source: NDTV

Some NGOs providing assistance to LTTE: Sri Lankan PM

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake has warned that some NGO activists were assisting the LTTE to save the outfit from defeat.

The Tiger militants are being blamed for the recent spate of attacks on civilians in Sri Lanka on the eve of the Diamond Jubilee Independence Day celebrations of the country.

While the US' FBI had named the LTTE as one of the most dangerous terrorist organisations, there were some elements in the country, including NGOs, that had attempted to supply the Tamil Tigers with highly nutritious food and bullet proof suits to save it from defeat, he said.

Wickramanayake, speaking in Parliament on the motion to extend the State of Emergency in the country for another one month, yesterday said the Tigers are now mainly confined to the small jungle area in the north.

The Tiger militants are committing acts of terror on civilians to divert the attention of people in the North as they were being defeated in the battle against the Armed Forces, the Island newspaper quoted the Prime Minister as saying.

Source: Times Of India

For some Sri Lankan women, military is the saviour: book

Wives and mothers in militancy-infested Sri Lanka have come to accept the military as the sole avenue of employment for their husbands and children, however anguished they are about losing them in the war, a new book says.
"Given the absence of non-military public sector expansion and lack of employment opportunities even for the urban youth, agrarian devastation, closure of garment factories and breakdown of rural economies, wives and mothers have come to accept the military as the sole avenue of employment for their husbands and children," writes Neloufer de Mel in "Militarizing Sri Lanka: Popular Culture, Memory and Narrative in the Armed Conflict".

According to de Mel, women also have to constantly negotiate with paramilitary and para-legal entities in going about their daily business and are vulnerable to gendered abuse as these groups stand accountable neither to the government nor the law.

"Militarizing Sri Lanka" is about the work of militarism and militarisation in relation to the Sri Lankan armed conflict, and covers a period spanning the late 1980s to 2005.

The writer says women have also taken advantage of the military economy in various ways.

"During the war, a thriving sex industry operated in the north-central city of Anuradhapura, the site of a major transit camp for Sri Lankan Army soldiers either going to or returning from the battlefields of the north," de Mel, an English professor at University of Colombo, says.

From about 10 sex workers in the city in 1986, the figure shot up to 1,000 by 1996, she claims.


U.K. Calls for a `Political Process' to End Sri Lanka Conflict

By Jay Shankar

Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. Foreign Secretary David Miliband called for a ``political process'' to end Sri Lanka's conflict with Tamil rebels, saying violence in the South Asian island nation has escalated in recent weeks.

``Violence can never provide an answer to Sri Lanka's problems,'' Miliband said in a statement posted on the Web site of the British Embassy in Colombo. ``A sustainable solution to the conflict can only emerge through a just political process involving all communities.''

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have been fighting for 25 years for a separate homeland for Tamils in a conflict that has killed more than 70,000 people. The military has stepped up attacks on the Tamil Tigers in the north after forcing them out of the eastern region in July.

The government has blamed the LTTE for killing more than 90 civilians since Jan. 1, 48 of them in three attacks between Feb. 2 and Feb. 4. Tamil rebels said 49 Tamil civilians were killed and 18 others ``disappeared'' during the conflict in January, according to a statement posted on the LTTE Web site.

Sri Lankan fighter jets bombed an LTTE command center and a communications station on Jan. 5. At least 31 rebels were killed in gun battles with government troops in Northern Province on Jan. 5, according to the Defense Ministry.

``I urge all in Sri Lanka to take steps to safeguard the civilian population and find ways to reduce the violence,'' Miliband said.

Source: Bloomberg

India should put pressure on LTTE: TULF chief

The international community, especially India, should put pressure on the LTTE to refrain from killing innocent civilians in Sri Lanka, a senior Tamil politician has said.

"The time has now come for India to step in and tell the LTTE to keep hands off civilians," Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) president V Anandasangaree said.

"The LTTE's only hope now is to unleash fresh violence for which the Sinhalase are not prepared," he said in a statement from London.

"I condemn every killing. I believe that no one has any right to take the life of another," he said.

"It (the killings) will not take them (LTTE) anywhere. Instead they lose their credibility day by day. It is high time the international community warn the LTTE to refrain from causing the death of innocent civilians," he said.

He criticised the Tamil media in Lanka for not being categorical in blaming the LTTE for the killings of civilians in the country.

"I reiterate that the Tamil media, both print and electronic, should bear part of the blame. Their failure to condemn these killings in one voice, gives some encouragement to the LTTE terrorists."

"With a good network of their reporters, they can easily assist the authorities to detect the real culprits. Without doing their duty they find fault with others," he said.

He said the LTTE must confess that they can't give any protection to the Tamils and surrender their cadre to the forces.

Source: The Hindu

Sri Lanka suspends school sports after bomb

Feb 7, 2008 (AFP) - All school sports have been suspended in Sri Lanka after a Tamil Tiger suicide bomb attack in the capital killed nine pupils and a baseball coach, the government said Thursday.

An eduction ministry spokesman said planned field trips for events marking the island's 60th anniversary of independence from Britain would also be cancelled, with the freeze remaining in place until further notice.

The decisions follow Sunday's suicide bomb attack at the main railway station in Colombo that killed seven schoolboys from a local collage and their coach.

Two other schoolgirls were also killed in the same blast, believed to be the work of the separatist rebel group the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The sports ban will hit popular cricket tournaments organised by schools.

"We have taken a decision to suspend all school cricket tournaments until further notice following a directive by the Ministry of Education," Dilshan de Silva, the secretary of the Schools Cricket Association, told AFP.

The move could affect a friendly match between two leading schools played since 1879. The 129th annual match between the Royal College and St. Thomas's College was to be played over three days next month.

The more popular match between Ananda and Nalanda colleges, which together have produced the highest number of Test players, including Sri Lanka's World Cup-winning skipper Arjuna Ranatunga, could also be hit by the suspension.

Sri Lanka has ordered schools in Colombo to remain closed until Monday as a sign of mourning for the nine students killed in Sunday's bomb attack, while security for all schools has been stepped up.

The authorities fear that the Tiger rebels, fighting for independence since 1972, could target schoolchildren as a way to create unrest.

Source: LBO

India urged to end military support to Sri Lanka

A group of Indian Tamils on Thursday urged the Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony to end military support to Sri Lanka, saying it was worsening the situation in the island.

Periyar Dravida Kazhagam leader Kolathur Mani said that Antony heard carefully what his delegation had to say but he made no commitment, the Tamil Nadu political leader said.

"We told him that the Indian government needed to respect Tamil sentiments. Now that Colombo has rejected the ceasefire it signed with the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), India should stop helping Sri Lanka militarily," Mani told IANS after meeting Antony.

"India should only work towards a political solution in Sri Lanka," he added. "The land of Mahatma Gandhi should not be seen as providing arms to the land of Buddha."

But Mani, a long-time sympathiser of the Tamil Tigers, said Antony made no commitment. "He kept saying 'ok, ok' to everything we said but he did not give us any assurance that India's policy will change."

Mani said his delegation also showed Antony 10,000 of the one million signatures collected mainly in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry urging India to end its wide-ranging military backing to Sri Lanka.

Mani's comments came a day after he led a 500-strong demonstration in the heart of the Indian capital in support of the same demand. Most of the protestors were from Tamil Nadu, a few from Mumbai and New Delhi.

Thousands have been killed and many injured in escalating violence across Sri Lanka blamed on the LTTE and Sri Lankan armed forces in the past two years. Sri Lanka in January abrogated a Norway-brokered truce it signed with the Tigers in 2002.

Source: MSN

Six Lankan naval personnel killed by LTTE

Six Sri Lankan Naval personnel were killed and one was rescued when LTTE Sea Tigers attacked their vessel off the island's northern coast, a defence official said on Wednesday.

"Six Navy sailors have died and one has been rescued in an attack by the Sea Tigers off northern Thalaimannar," he said adding, the LTTE could have fired from a boat that posed as an Indian trawler.

Earlier, the Navy said in a statement that the naval wing of the LTTE may have been involved in the incident. "They often use the cover of Indian fishing boats to launch attacks on Sri Lankan Navy (SLN) vessels and craft," it said.

The LTTE mingle with Indian fishing boats to avoid detection and launch attacks endangering the lives of the Indian fishermen in the ensuing retaliatory fire, it said.

"LTTE sea tigers have a track record of hijacking Indian trawlers and boats to be used in attacks against the (Sri Lankan) Navy and to run clandestine arms smuggling activities across the Gulf of Mannar," it said.

The Navy said a boat that came along with a cluster of Indian fishing vessels had pretended to be in distress and requested assistance. When approached, the Navy personnel were fired upon, it added.

"SLN boats did not open retaliatory fire in order to avoid other Indian fishing boats being hit," it said adding, the Indian High Commission was apprised of the incident.

Indian intelligence officials questioned fishermen in Rameswaram to verify reports that their boats may have been used by the LTTE to attack a Sri Lankan Navy vessel.

Source: Indiatimes

Bishops repeat call for 'peace zone' after terror attack

Church leaders in Sri Lanka have repeated demands for a "peace zone" around the popular Roman Catholic shrine at Madhu near Mannar in the north of the country after an anti-personnel mine killed 18 Catholics and injured many more near the religious site.

"It is sad that the government and the LTTE [Tamil rebels] have not responded positively to the repeated requests to declare the area around the Madhu church as a peace zone," said Anglican Bishop Duleep de Chickera of Colombo.

The blast on January 29 took place in a region of Sri Lanka under the control of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who are fighting for autonomy for Tamil-majority areas in the north and east of the island.

The rebels accused a government "deep penetration" unit of laying the mine, while the government said the rebels were responsible for the blast.

The fighting in Sri Lanka, where the Sinhalese ethnic group is in a majority, pits government forces against rebels from the Tamil minority.

All the victims of the attack near Madhu were children or relatives of staff at the shrine, which is the biggest Catholic pilgrim center in Sri Lanka.

"Had this daunting concept [of a peace zone] received the co-operation of both sides, civilian casualties in this area would have been reduced," Chickera said.

Catholic Bishop Rayappu Joseph of Mannar has also called for the area around the Madhu shrine to be designated as a zone of peace.

"The perpetration of war and violence that is plunging our country into darkness, chaos and destruction has resulted in another unbearable civilian tragedy one kilometer away from the Sacred Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu," he said.

Meanwhile, a series of further bomb blasts struck Sri Lanka in the days leading up to the 60th anniversary of this Indian Ocean island's independence from Britain on February 4.

On February 2, an explosion killed 20 people on a bus packed with Buddhist pilgrims on their way to the Anuradhapura Buddhist shrine. The following day, the Fort railway station in Colombo was rocked when a female suicide bomber detonated explosives. Another 12 people died on February 4 when a civilian bus hit a roadside bomb at Ethavatunuwawa in Sri Lanka's north-central province.


High School Athletes Buried in Sri Lanka


COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Students and families mourned Wednesday for seven high school baseball players and their coach, whose killing in a suicide attack at a train station devastated their school and left many questioning the cost of Sri Lanka's civil war.

Classmates carried 17-year-old Rajaratnam Ratheeswaran's coffin to a Colombo cemetery, where Hindu rituals were performed before his burial. The boy was dressed in his black school blazer, and a certificate he received for playing baseball was placed in the coffin, which was draped in his school's black-and-gold flag.

"It's a sorrowful moment for the school," said Asoka Hewage, the school's principal. "Child rights and human rights groups must raise this with the fighting sides and ask them not to kill innocent children."

As fighting between government forces and Tamil separatists has escalated in the jungles of the north in recent months, suspected rebels have waged a string of attacks on buses, train stations and other civilian targets, the military said.

The attack Sunday killed 15 people, including the coach and more than half the baseball team from Colombo's prestigious D.S. Senanayake school. The school held a viewing for the slain students Tuesday before many of them were buried in separate funerals Wednesday.

"These killings must end by some means. We should not see other children suffering the same fate," said Nihal Peiris, whose nephew Thiwanka Thisera, 17, was among those killed.

The baseball players had just returned from a weekend tournament in the city of Kandy when the attacker blew herself up, officials said. The other six members of the team returned a day early and escaped the attack,

"It is unbelievable, I can't find words to describe my sorrow," team captain Kirana Jayawardana told The Associated Press.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa sent an aide to read a message vowing revenge against the Tamil Tiger rebels, but Ratheeswaran's mother, Wasantha, refused to accept the letter when the emissary tried to hand it to her.

"Publish this in the papers, but give me my son back," she wailed.

The Tamil Tigers have not responded to accusations they were behind the railway bombing as well as two recent bus bombings that killed at least 32 other people. The rebel group, accused of hundreds of bombings and suicide attacks, is listed as a terror organization in the United States and the European Union.

Amnesty International said in a statement Tuesday that the government and the rebels were "failing to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law and are killing civilians on an increasingly regular basis."

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils after decades of being marginalized by Sinhalese-dominated governments. More than 70,000 people have died in the violence.

Source: AP