The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Monday, 10 March 2008

No need to panic, says Sri Lanka captain

Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene said Monday there was no need to panic following the team's repeated batting failures in recent one-day internationals.

"What we have to remember is that all these guys have made a lot of runs in the past," said Jayawardene.

"Everyone takes responsibility for the failure and it is now a question of making right decisions."

World Cup runners-up Sri Lanka lost 3-2 to England in a home one-day series in October, and last month failed to qualify for the finals of a triangular tournament in Australia won by India.

Jayawardene said the batsmen had been working hard to regain form and there was no need to make major changes ahead of the upcoming tour of the West Indies.

Sri Lanka will play two Tests and three one-day internationals on the tour starting on March 17.

Sri Lanka Cricket chief Arjuna Ranatunga echoed those sentiments, saying the he was not "too much worried" about the team's performance in Australia.

"We should move on and have the team ready for the next World Cup," said Ranatunga, captain of the 1996 World Cup-winning squad.

The next World Cup will be jointly hosted by India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in 2011.

Source: AFP

China making inroads in India's backyard, wooing Lanka

China has overtaken Japan and India among Sri Lanka's major donors, pumping over USD one billion in aid with no strings attached and is carrying out major development projects there, including a new port in the home town of President Mahinda Rajapakse.

Chinese assistance has increased five fold in the last year and Beijing is now building a highway and developing two power plants in the island country, a top official was quoted as saying by the New York Times.

Sri Lanka also buys a lot weapons from China and its ally Pakistan, the New York Times reported in the context of Colombo scrapping a 2004 ceasefire with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The move has led to a barrage of criticism over alleged human rights abuses and Colombo has lost defence aid from the United States.

But in recent months, Sri Lankan government officials have increasingly cozied up to countries that tend to say little to nothing on allegations of abductions and assaults on press freedom, the report said.

Lanka's foreign secretary Palitha Kohona says that Sri Lanka's "traditional donors," namely, the United States, Canada and the European Union, had "receded into a very distant corner," to be replaced by countries in the East.

He gave three reasons: The new donors are neighbours, they are rich and they conduct themselves differently. "Asians don't go around teaching each other how to behave," he said. "There are ways we deal with each other perhaps a quiet chat, but not wagging the finger," Kohona was quoted as saying.

Kohona says India's contributions had also grown to nearly USD 500 million this year. India is building a coal-fired power plant and Indian companies have been invited to build technology parks and invest in telecommunications.

The picture in Sri Lanka, the report says, is emblematic of a major shift from 20 years ago, when India was the only power center in the region.

"Now come China's artful moves in India's backyard," it says.

While Sri Lanka is free to dismiss Western concerns about human rights these days, the paper says there are still long-range costs it may find itself confronting one day.

"The real Achilles' heel for the government is looming economic trouble, as its war chest expands and inflation reaches double digits."

"And in that, the world matters. For its failure to ratify certain international conventions, Sri Lanka already risks losing trade preferences with the European Union at the end of this year. And, however much China has risen in importance, Europe remains this country's largest trading partner," it adds.


Sri Lanka arrests five journalists

Authorities in Sri Lanka have detained five mostly ethnic minority Tamil journalists, a media activist group said yesterday, days after Colombo came in for intense criticism over its rights record.
Five journalists, all linked to a liberal news website,, were taken in for questioning over the weekend while some have been detained under tough emergency laws, the Free Media Movement (FMM) said.
"We hope that due process will be followed regarding the arrested writers and journalists," the FMM said, expressing its concern over the latest government crackdown against journalists.
FMM official Sunanda Deshapriya said his group's spokesman, Tamil journalist S. Sivakumar, had also been detained for 12 hours and later freed by the police Terrorist Investigation Division.
International media rights activists have described Sri Lanka as one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists due to a worsening climate of violence and unofficial censorship.
Killings and attacks against journalists remained unsolved leading to fears that media freedom is being deliberately and violently suppressed through threats, abductions and attacks, a team of media activists said last year.
Since August 2005, 11 media workers have been killed in Sri Lanka. Ten of them were killed in government-controlled areas and no one has been brought to justice in connection with the deaths.
Sri Lanka is pressing for a military victory over Tamil Tiger rebels and a series of tit-for-tat clashes have left heavy casualties on both sides.
On Thursday the New York-based pressure group Human Rights Watch accused the island's government of being "one of the world's worst perpetrators of enforced disappearances," and called for tough United Nations monitoring.
The same day a team of top legal luminaries also announced they were pulling out of the war-torn nation because Colombo had failed to seriously investigate a string of high-profile rights cases, including the massacre of 17 local employees of a French charity.




Wild elephants hold up Sri Lanka vote: police

Security forces armed with loud hailers were deployed in eastern Sri Lanka Monday to drive away wild elephants blocking access to polling booths, police said.

Villagers in Wellaveli told the authorities that they were unable to vote at the first local elections in 14 years because a herd of elephants had blocked their polling booth, a police official in the area said.

"We sent a team of commandos in armoured personnel carriers and loud hailers and sirens to drive away the elephants," the official said. "The roads have now been cleared."

Security had been stepped up in the area with the deployment of over 6,000 police and soldiers amid fears that Tamil Tiger rebels could try to disrupt the council elections in an area from where they were driven out in July last year.

Source: AFP

Colombo blast kills one, injures four

A time bomb in a flowerpot on the road near Roxy Theater in Wellawatta in Colombo killed one person and injured six others, including four children, on Monday morning.
The army quickly closed the road. Cement and pieces of the flowerpot were scattered and the windows of the offices within 11 meters were shattered, local authorities said.
The ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka has so far claimed the lives of at least 70,000 people.
In the latest round of fighting, government forces destroyed eight rebel bunkers in the Mannar area early Monday. At least 10 rebel fighters and three soldiers were killed, said Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, Sri Lanka’s military spokesman.
Nanayakkara said, The blast was carried out by the LTTE.


Court allows NTT to sell Sri Lanka Telecom stake

Sri Lanka's Supreme Court on Monday allowed Japan's Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (9432.T: Quote, Profile, Research) to sell its stake in Sri Lanka Telecom SLTL.CM after a lengthy legal battle.

"The (court) order was that the NTT has the freedom to sell whatever the shares, in the open market, to anyone they want to," said Nilanthi Peiris, a lawyer who appeared on behalf of petitioners.

On June, 14, 2007, the Supreme Court blocked NTT from selling a 25.3 percent Sri Lankan Telecom stake to a foreign company. (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez)

Source: Reuters

Sri Lanka votes, 9 soldiers, 25 rebels killed in north

Nine soldiers and at least 25 Tamil rebels were killed in clashes in northern Sir Lanka as the country's eastern region held its first elections in 14 years, a military spokesman said. The clashes in the north on Sunday were reported as one civilian was killed and six were injured when a parcel bomb exploded in Sri Lanka's capital Monday.

The bomb, placed inside a flowerbed in the centre of main Wellawatte road, 6 kilometres south of Colombo city centre, went off opposite a boy's school.

"We believe that the terrorist (rebels) set up the bomb targeting civilians," military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said.

The four injured are school children.

Nine soldiers and the 25 rebels were killed in four separate incidents in northern Wanni district on Sunday.

In the east, where elections are being held for the first time in 14 years after the area was brought back under control of the security forces from the rebels a year ago, some 40 per cent of the voters had turned up by noon.

Ahead of the polling a Muslim candidate's house came under a grenade attack, injuring a police officer guarding the house in Valachchenai, Batticaloa, 240 kilometres north of the capital.

But, local election monitors said no serious incidents were reported from the area where the polls are on with the presence of a heavy police and army contingent.

The elections were being held for nine local councils, including the Batticaloa municipal council, and 270,471 voters were eligible to cast ballots.

A break-away faction of the Tamil rebels was the main group contesting the elections while its main rivals are three former militant groups who were contesting as an independent group.

For the Batticaloa municipal council the break-away group of the rebels, known as the Pilliyan group, was contesting under the country's ruling party's name - the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA).

Rivals have accused the Pilliyan group for carrying out abductions and extorting money, allegations denied by the party.

Journalists who have visited the area have confirmed reports that the group has been abducting residents, intimidated voters and extorted money.

The elections are seen as a boost to the image of the government, which has declared its intention to recapture rebel-controlled areas and hand over power to the people in the area.

Military operations are in progress in the north to recapture rebel-controlled areas, but progress in the north has been slow with both rebels and security forces suffering casualties.

The rebels stepped up their attacks on security forces three weeks after the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected to power in November 2005 and five months later the government also stepped up operations, effectively bringing an end to a Norwegian-backed cease-fire which came into operation in February 2002.


Concern Over Abductions in Sri Lanka: Vatican Radio

Soldiers attacked Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka with tanks, mortars and artillery in
fighting that killed 23 guerrillas and seven soldiers, the military said today.Troops backed by helicopter gunships pushed across northern front lines yesterday and destroyed eight rebel bunkers. The fighting killed 10 rebels and four soldiers.As the continuing conflict in the north persists, the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons says it is pulling out of the worn-torn island. The team of foreign judicial and forensic experts says that the government has failed to investigate a series of high-profile abduction cases, including the killing of aid workers.
Rights groups have recently reported widespread abductions and disappearances of Tamil men, children, journalists, aid workers, clergy and teachers. Jehan Perera is the Executive Director of the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka in Colombo. He says that both the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Sri Lankan government are responsible for the abductions.

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Source: Vatican Radio