The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Monday, 18 February 2008

Church leader in fresh call for peace in Sri Lanka

By: George Conger.

THE INTENSIFICATION of the civil war in Sri Lanka has elicited renewed calls for peace from the Anglican Church of Ceylon.

The Bishop of Colombo, the Rt Rev Duleep de Chickera (pictured) has condemned government air attacks on Tamil villages in northern Sri Lanka sheltering Tamil Tiger rebels, [LTTE] and the LTTE terror bombing campaign targeting Sinhalese civilian.

"The recent spate of calculated mayhem targeted against innocent civilians that collectively killed scores of civilians including school children, and injured many more,” he said on Feb 7, “must be condemned without reservation."

The terrorist attacks demonstrated a “total disregard” for human life and were “counterproductive” to the cause of Tamil independence. The LTTE attacks were stiffening the resolve of the government not to give in to terrorism and were leading “to the conversion of moderates to extremism,” he said.

He also noted his “great concern” about government air attacks on rebel-controlled bases. Two church-run orphanages were in rebel territory he said. These children “live in fear and have nowhere to run except into their bunkers when the planes arrive. Please do everything possible to avoid harming these little ones,” he asked the government.

Bishop de Chickera urged Sri Lankans of all ethnic backgrounds “to remain calm under provocation and to do all we can to strengthen understanding and peaceful coexistence,” between the country’s ethnic communities.

Jayalalitha telling ‘a bundle of lies’: Karunanidhi

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi Monday accused archrival J. Jayalalitha of “telling a bundle of lies” about the DMK government’s support to Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels, saying her “only aim is to get the DMK government dismissed”. He was responding to the AIADMK leader’s statements in an interview to her party’s television channel, Jaya TV, Sunday night. In the interview, the former chief minister said AIADMK MPs would raise in parliament the issue of DMK encouraging the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Accusing the central government of “lacking political will to do so”, Jayalalitha said her MPs “will seek the cooperation of parties that have faith in the sovereignty of the nation and concern for national security” to “seek the dismissal of the Karunanidhi government on this count (support to the LTTE)”.

In a six-page statement countering the AIADMK leader’s charges, Karunanidhi denied that his regime was “soft on the LTTE”.

He also recalled Supreme Court judges S. Rajendra Babu and G.P. Mathur’s interpretation that a section (3-1) of the draconian Prevention Of Terrorism Act could be construed to be terrorism only if support to extremist outfits led to terror against the state and people, and that mere oral support was not a crime.

Karunanidhi has earlier drawn flak for his ode to slain LTTE leader S.P. Thamilchelvan, who was killed in a bombing raid by the Sri Lanka Air Force in November.


Soldiers capture a rebel bunker line as fighting kills 11

Sri Lankan soldiers pushed across the front lines and captured a line of strategic rebel bunkers after a battle Monday that killed 10 rebels and one soldier, the military said.

Backed by mortar and artillery fire, army troops captured a 600-meter-long line of bunkers in northern Mannar district following a two-hour battle that also injured four soldiers, said Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara, the military spokesman.

Though small, the stretch will be an advantage to the military's push to take rebel-held territories in Mannar district, Nanayakkara said.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan did not answer calls seeking comment.

It was not possible to independently verify the reports because of limited access to the northern jungles where the fighting took place. Both sides often inflate their opponents' casualty figures while minimizing their own.

Violence has escalated on the Indian Ocean island since the government withdrew last month from a 2002 cease-fire with the Tamil rebels.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils, who have been marginalized for decades by Sinhalese-dominated governments. The fighting has killed more than 70,000 people.

Government troops last year drove the guerrillas from their eastern strongholds and in recent months fighting has raged around the rebels' de facto state in the north.

The 2002 truce fostered hopes for a lasting peace, but broke down as fighting over the past two years killed 5,000 people.

Nearly 1,500 people have been killed since the government announced its withdrawal from the cease-fire, according to the military.


more tax on cars to cut imports & 135% rise in electricity

Sri Lanka has further raised taxes on cars to discourage imports and save foreign exchange, officials said Monday.

The new tax, which adds 10-percent import duty on cars and vans, is to be rubber-stamped by parliament this month although customs authorities have been collecting it since January.

Sri Lanka has no car manufacturing industry and imports mainly from Asia and Europe with duties ranging from 250 to 350 percent before the new tax.

The finance ministry said the hike is also to discourage imports and save foreign exchange.

The island's overall imports jumped 10.2 percent in 2007 to 11.30 billion dollars, the central bank said last week. Petroleum products accounted for nearly 60 percent of import costs.

Total vehicle registrations in 2007 was flat at 278,000, according to customs figures.

'We have seen a 25 to 30 percent drop in overall vehicle sales in the past year alone. The taxes makes it impossible for first time buyers to own a vehicle,' said Ranjan de Silva of the Motor Traders Association.

The price of a second hand, four-year-old Toyota (nyse: TM - news - people ) Corolla will reach 40,000 dollars, car dealers said.

'Right now, we can't dispose the stocks we have in hand, let alone import new ones,' said Berty Widanagamage, spokesman for the Used Vehicle Importers Association of Sri Lanka.

'Interest rates are over 20 percent, inflation is over 21 percent and even leasing companies are feeling the pinch. We are finding it very difficult to survive,' he said.

Prices of essentials have soared as the government pours 1.5 billion dollars to fight Tamil Tiger rebels this year, up 20 percent from last year.

Electricity charges are set to go up by 135 percent from March, under a hike proposed by the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board monopoly.

Source: forbes

Asian countries fearful over Kosovo independence

The unilateral secession of the Albanian Kosovars risks being "an unmanageable precedent" for all groups aspiring to independence. China, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Israel are concerned over the consequences for Taiwan, Tamil, Aceh, Palestine.

The declaration of Kosovo's independence is generating fear in many Asian nations, above all those made up of various ethnic groups. They are afraid that Kosovo's unilateral independence could be a model for many other groups, leading to the disintegration of countries like China, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and even India.

Yesterday, the Kosovar parliament unanimously (and unilaterally) declared its independence from Serbia. The region, which now has an overwhelmingly Albanian and Muslim majority population, has separated from the rest of Serbia, which is of Slavic and Orthodox tradition.

The decision, which has long been supported by the United States, has created joy in Kosovo, but great concern in the world. Various countries of the European Union - Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy - are ready to recognise the new country, together with the U.S.

Russia, allied with Serbia, asked overnight for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, and obtained a more formal and extensive meeting on the topic for tomorrow afternoon.

Russia criticises the decision and highlights the difficulties of guaranteeing the safety of the 120,000 Serbians who live in Kosovo. But it fears above all that the push for independence will spread through various regions of Russia, leading to division in the federation. In the same way, Spain will not recognise Kosovo, fearing the encouragement for Basque and Catalan separatists.

In Asia, the independence of Kosovo is seen as a threatening model. China, which is fearful of seeing Taiwan take the same step, today declared its "deep concern" over Kosovo's unilateral decision, and asked the Serbian and Albanian Kosovars to find 'a 'proper solution through negotiations''.

Taiwan, on the other hand, is celebrating and congratulating Kosovo. A declaration from the foreign minister affirms that "self-determination is a right recognised by the United Nations, and it is the people who are masters of their nation's future". Taiwan, considered a "rebel" island by China, has tried dozens of times to be recognised by the UN, but has always found itself blocked by Beijing and its allies. "In no way", continues the Taiwanese declaration, "should the independence of one nation be denied by another ".

Indonesia, which has a war for the independence of Aceh behind it and is composed of many ethnic groups, has declared that it is "not yet in a position to recognise Kosovo's statehood". But Indonesian Islamic groups are celebrating the declaration of independence of the Kosovars, who are Muslims. But Abdillah Toha, a member of the parliamentary commission, has said that in all likelihood, if the UN votes on the independence of Kosovo, Indonesia will abstain from voting.

Sri Lanka, which has been fighting against Tamil efforts for independence for 20 years, declared today that the move by Kosovo could create "an unmanageable precedent in the conduct of international relations". The foreign minister in Colombo does not support the secession of Kosovo, because it "poses a grave threat to international peace and security".

In the Philippines, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has declared that with the move by Kosovo "the taboo" of the unwritten rules of the United Nations safeguarding the integrity of the countries that it recognises "has been shattered". After years of fighting for the independence of Mindanao, the Front has agreed to open talks with the government, setting aside the goal of independence and asking only for administrative autonomy for the southern region. "What is prohibited for decades", says Khaled Musa, deputy chairman of the Front, "is now a virtual part of international law".

Israel is looking with concern and reservation at what it calls "the unilateral secession" of Kosovo, because this could have implications on the Palestinian issue.

The Israeli foreign minister said yesterday in a terse statement that it is "following the developments" of the situation and will express itself in the future.


Animal rights group protests LTTE attack on zoo

An international animal rights organisation has protested the bombing of a zoo in Dehiwela in Sri Lanka, allegedly by Tamil Tiger rebels earlier this month.

"In addition to injuring several human beings - which was no doubt its intent - the explosive device that was set off near the zoo's birds enclosure terrified many animals in the zoo," said Ingrid E. Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in a letter to the Tamil Tiger leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran.

At least seven people, including two children, were injured, when a grenade kept near the birds' enclosure went off Feb 3.

Newkirk said that animals got caught in the cross fire of wars all over the world and countless animals were being killed either intentionally or accidentally in bomb attacks worldwide.

"Al Qaeda and the British government have used animals in hideously cruel biological weaponry tests, and the US Army abandoned thousands of loyal service dogs at the end of the war in Vietnam," she pointed out.

"If you have the opportunity, will you please consider my request and appeal to all those who listen to you to leave animals out of the conflict?" Newkirk asked Prabhakaran.


Sri Lanka says Kosovo decision a threat to nations

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka, fighting a 25-year insurgency by Tamil separatists, said it was concerned about Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence as it could set a precedent in other parts of the world and hurt nations.

"The Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Kosovo could set an unmanageable precedent in the conduct of international relations, the established global order of sovereign States and could thus pose a grave threat to international peace and security," the Foreign ministry said in a statement.

Sri Lanka's Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have been fighting for an independent homeland for minority Tamils in the east and north of the island. More than 70,000 people have been killed since 1983.

Colombo has vowed to crush the rebels militarily.

"This action by Kosovo is a violation of the Charter of the United Nations, which enshrines the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States," the statement said.

Kosovo Albanians declared independence on Sunday, confidently awaiting Western recognition for their state despite the anger its secession provoked in Serbia and Russia's warnings of fresh Balkan unrest.

China has also expressed concern.

Sri Lanka also said the Kosovo declaration was made without the consent of the majority of the people of Serbia and was a violation of the charter of the United Nations.

(Reporting by Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

Source: Reuters