The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Thursday, 20 March 2008

25 rebels killed in Lankan clashes

In an ongoing fierce clash between the LTTE and government forces, at least twenty five militants have been killed in the restive northern Sri Lanka.

Six militants were killed in clashes in Muhamalai and Nagarkovil in Jaffna peninsula on Wednesday, the army said in Colombo on Thursday.

In north-western Mannar, at least two rebels were gunned down in Adampan and Munakkathirichchi on Wednesday, the Media Centre for National Security said.

Meanwhile, reports received from north-eastern Welioya front said seven Tiger militants were killed during intermittent clashes with troops in Kokkuthuduvai and Andankulama.

On the Vavuniya battlefront, the army said it engaged artillery and mortar fire at “terror” locations in the general area of Arachchivankulama, killing six LTTE cadres.

As many as three militants were killed in Kallikulam in Mannar on Wednesday, the army said.

One militant was gunned down in Kirichudankulam in the rebel stronghold of Wanni, it added.


JVP demands disarming of TMVP

The JVP today called for the disarming of the TMVP and warned that the group would use the weapons to win the Provincial Council election in the Eastern Province.


Heavy rains and floods continue

At least eight persons were reportedly killed and over 170, 000 affected countrywide from heavy floods caused from torrential rains of the North-Eastern monsoon season.

-daily mirror

Ranatunga wants Hair to umpire all matches

Controversial Australian Darrell Hair should be allowed to umpire all international matches, Sri Lankan Cricket Board chairman Arjuna Ranatunga said on Thursday.

Hair, who has fallen out with Sri Lanka and Pakistan during his career, was reinstated as a test and one-day umpire by the International Cricket Council (ICC) on Tuesday.

The 55-year-old had been dropped from the ICC's elite umpires' panel for his role in the Oval test between England and Pakistan in August 2006.

"At the ICC meeting (in Dubai this week) we mentioned our concerns about the Darrell Hair issue," former Sri Lanka captain Ranatunga told Geo television in Lahore.

"But the important factor is if he is eligible to umpire I think he should do all matches featuring India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, otherwise he won't be tested."

Hair called Sri Lanka's record breaking off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan for "throwing" in 1995.

Pakistan became the first team to forfeit a test when they refused to return to the field after tea on the fourth day of the fourth test at the Oval because they had been penalised five runs for alleged ball tampering.

"I just hope the ICC realises the potentially explosive situation it could create by posting Hair for any matches involving Pakistan," Shaharyar Khan, head of the Pakistan Cricket Board at the time of the Oval test, told Reuters.

Source: Reuters

DishTV now in cars

Direct-to-home (DTH) major Dish TV has rolled out its on-the-move services in Kolkata, after Delhi and Mumbai.

The aim is to tap the niche, upwardly mobile consumers who could watch television while moving in a car, bus, aeroplane or train.

According to Ramesh Balinga, regional sales manager of Dish TV, “This service will be available for Rs 1,60,000, with a monthly subscription of Rs 300.”

For usage in cars, a set-top-box will be installed along with an antenna on the car. The six-inch thick antenna, instead of sticking out, will be a flat lying plate on the car. It will constantly move to align itself with the satellite.

Currently, Dish TV has a subscriber base of 1.7 lakh in West Bengal and 28 lakhs in the country.


Neo Sports spices up cricket

Neo Sports is poised to narrow the bridge between cricket and entertainment by announcing a bouquet of cricket based shows. These shows will commence with the upcoming India versus South Africa three-Test series, starting in Chennai on March 26.

The shows would be launched over the next one month with the first show going on air on Monday, March 24.Neo Sports will air shows that will engage the viewer on a larger level with the sport.

Dial C for Cricket a unique viewer centric interactive show, where viewers can call in to discuss the various issues of the game, player performances, match conditions etc. This show has been inspired by the blogging culture which exists and will be positioned as Your cricket blog on TV. Viewers can call to take part in various topics of discussion on cricket or ask questions about their favourite cricketer or the sport and get their queries answered by the panel of experts on board.

Baat and Bowl which would be hosted by Vineet Malhotra would take viewers up-close and personal with their cricket idols. The show would have informal interviews with the stalwarts of the game, off the field and in the studio. Sports Zone gives viewers their daily dose of sports updates. Everything that's happening around the globe in sport can be caught on this show.

Besides these shows Neo Sports has also woven the lighter side of the sport into the shows. Popular Neo Sports anchor Archana Vijaya would bring to the fore the fun aspect of the game and also give viewers a sneak peek into behind the scenes happenings of the teams. Tour Diary will see Archana following the teams at different venues across the country and cover the excitement at the stadiums, her interactions with cricketers, fans etc.

Cricket Tadka Marke as the name suggest would dish out the sport with a dash of spice. This show focuses on crazy fans, gossip about cricketers, fun trivia and other happenings in the world of cricket. The Cricket-Bollywood connection would be exposed here.

Then there are shows for the true cricket fanatic bringing those glorious old days of the past right into his living room. Encounter as the same suggests is about the greatest encounters in the history of cricket. These are classic matches, threaded with a theme, filled with insights, dramatizations, and anecdotes and behind the scenes drama. Each match is treated like a real story -- with a beginning middle and an end punctuated with its dramatic twists and turns along the way that ends in an exciting finish.

Ballebaaz showcases the best performances of Indian batsmen peppered with a unique filmy twist. The spotlight is on a great performance by a different batsman each week. Catch Dhoni's [Images] Dhamakas, Ganguly's Dadagiri, the Sabse Bada Khiladi- Sachin, Yuvi- The prince and Dravid-The Wall only on Ballebaaz.

Extra Cover will give an insight on the finer nuances of the game as well cover the fun aspect of it. It would encapsulate all aspects of the sport, from comprehensive cricket analysis and news, to lighter behind the scenes stories. The studio segment of Extra Cover will give viewers the latest updates, previews, reviews, statistics and expert opinions. Indian Test cricket legend Mohinder Amarnath and former South African Test cricketer Peter Kirsten would also be part of the show as guest panelist for the upcoming series against South Africa.

The news shows launched are:

1. Dial C for Cricket
2. Sports Zone
3. Tour Diary
4. Tadka Marke
5. Baat and Bowl
6. Encounter
7. Ballebaaz
8. Jaya He
9. The Great Indian Run Chase


South Africa Joins Sri Lanka Conflict Resolution Conference

South Africa is to attend an international conference aimed at ending the conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Representing the South African government, Deputy Minister of Communications Roy Padayachie will address the two-day International Seminar on Ethnic Conflict, taking place in London on Saturday.

"The South African Government has consistently sought to encourage and lend support to the creation of a climate conducive to a finding a lasting solution to the Sri Lankan conflict.

"Our effort at this international gathering will once again call upon the leadership of all of Sri Lanka's diverse people to recommit to a ceasefire and to use all possible endeavours to return to the negotiating table.

"We mourn the loss of life as a result of the intensification of violence and we will make every effort to share our experiences in the peaceful settlement of conflicts, reconciliation and nation building that we have learnt from our own transition process from apartheid to democracy with the Sri Lankan people.

"We have been consistently urged by the South African Tamil groups and organisations and the broader South African public to play a role in support of Sri Lanka's return to peaceful reconciliation and development," Mr Padayachie said.

The seminar will contribute to the growing world opinion urging Sri Lankans to observe the 2002 ceasefire and return to the negotiating table to seek a lasting solution to the conflict emanating from the LTTE's struggle for the creation of an independent state.

The seminar will also focus on discussing effective mechanisms that will tackle the issues of racial and ethnic discrimination and ways in which these could be addressed through inclusive constitutional development.

The conference is being organised by the Global Peace Support Group, a charity organisation based in the United Kingdom.

According to the Department of Communications, the conference will mobilise politicians and ministers, jurists and other eminent scholars and dignitaries from Sri Lanka, Australia, India, Malaysia, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, United States of America, Norway, United Kingdom and South Africa.

South Africa is internationally hailed for stepping out of the apartheid era into democracy without a civil war.

In terms of conflict resolution on the continent, South Africa has engaged in various support and peacekeeping operations in 12 countries.

These countries include Uganda, Burundi, the Comoros, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Rwanda, Eritrea/Ethiopia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Cote d'Ivoire.

At a Post-Cabinet briefing on Thursday, Government spokesperson Themba Maseko announced Cabinet has approved the deployment of South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members to northern Uganda as part of an African Union (AU) mission there.

Mr Maseko highlighted that the east African country has been plagued by violence in one of the continent's longest-running conflicts.

This has been perpetrated largely by a group of rebels, the Lord's Resistance Army, who have been accused of committing widespread and gross human rights violations utilising thousands of child soldiers. -


Sri Lanka to play Pakistan

Sri Lanka have agreed to play a five-match one-day series in Pakistan to help fill the gap created by the postponement of Australia's tour over security fears, officials said on Thursday.

"We are thankful to the Sri Lankan board, who have agreed to tour for a series of five one-day internationals on our invitation," Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Nasim Ashraf told reporters.

The series is likely to take place after Mahela Jayawardene's Sri Lankan team ends a tour of the West Indies on April 15. The only hitch could be the Indian Premier League for which top Sri Lankan players have signed up.

The inaugural IPL is due to be held from April 18 until June 1.

Pakistan have already convinced Bangladesh to take part in a tour that includes a five-match one-day series and a Twenty20 international from April 7 to 22.

The two unscheduled tours will fill the gap created by Australia, who were due to be in the country between March 27 and April 29.

Cricket Sri Lanka chairman Arjuna Ranatunga praised Pakistan's support for his country and said he was ready to send his team.

"India and Pakistan have always supported us in our needs like big brothers so I am ready to send my team whenever Pakistan want," Ranatunga said.

The PCB said dates of the series will be finalised shortly.


Sri Lanka's Caribbean tour live on Ten Sports

A young Sri Lankan side, led by the vastly experienced Mahela Jayawardene, will be hoping to make all the right moves against hosts West Indies during their two-Test matches and three ODI tour of the Caribbean Islands starting this month.

And Ten Sports, the most watched sports channel in the Sub-continent, will be present at each and every spectacular venue to ensure ball-by-ball coverage of what promises to be an intriguing series for both teams. Sri Lanka are hoping for a clean sweep to get over the disappointment of their tour Down Under, while the West Indies will be eager to build up on their good show in South Africa.

The first of the two Test matches start at Providence from Saturday, March 22, while the second Test is at Port of Spain from Thursday, April 3. The first two ODIs are at Port of Spain on 10 and 12 April, and the final ODI will be a day-night affair in St Lucia on 15 April.

Live telecast of the first Test match starts every day at 7:15 pm IST.

Sri Lanka lost both their last two tours of the West Indies, but with a much more experienced and varied bowling attack than the hosts this time – led by world record holder off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan and veteran seamer Chaminda Vaas – the visitors will be hoping for a first tour win in the Caribbean.

Sri Lanka will also be delighted with the batting form of skipper Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara on top of the order.

But the islanders are sure to run into a determined home side. Led by Chris Gayle, who is fit and raring to go, West Indies will like to put in a good performance to put to rest any talks about demoting them to a proposed ‘second tier’ Test status.

Ten Sports recently renewed its partnership with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) for another five years to distribute television coverage of all cricket played in the West Indies between 2008 and 2012.

Ten Sports has the broadcast rights to the Middle-East and South-East Asia and will also distribute the events worldwide, with the exception of the UK, Ireland and Caribbean.


China denies supplying heavy weapons to Sri Lanka

By P.K. Balachandran

Colombo, March 20 (IANS) China has reportedly denied supplying heavy weapons to Sri Lankan armed forces fighting Tamil Tiger guerrillas, a Tamil MP said Thursday. The denial, reported in the Tamil media Thursday, came during a meeting between Chinese ambassador Dabo Ye and Tamil MP and rights activist Mano Ganeshan here Wednesday evening.

“The ambassador told me that his government was well aware of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, and that it wished that the people here lived in peace and harmony with each other. He denied that China was a major arms supplier to Sri Lanka and asserted that only some light weapons were being supplied,” Ganeshan, who is chairman of the Civil Monitoring Commission (CMC), told IANS.

“The ambassador made it clear that China did not want to take sides in the ethnic conflict, and that it did not favour any particular political party or community in its dealings in Sri Lanka,” Ganeshan said.

“He maintained that Chinese arms supplies to Sri Lanka could not be interpreted as an anti-Tamil act.”

Pro-Tiger Tamil politicians and rights workers often ask why many countries including the US and India give military assistance or sell weapons to Sri Lanka even while seeking a military solution to the ethnic conflict.


UN: Civilians at risk in Sri Lanka

As fighting intensifies in northern Sri Lanka, the UN and advocacy groups say there is grave concern for the state of human rights in the war-torn country.

A US State Department report issued on March 11 said that in 2007, "The government's respect for human rights continued to decline."

It then cited "numerous reports" that the army, police, and pro-government paramilitary groups had "participated in armed attacks against civilians and practiced torture, kidnapping, hostage-taking, and extortion with impunity."

Since the 1980s, the conflict between the government and the LTTE, who are fighting for a separate Tamil homeland on the island, has left some 70,000 dead. The fear among many Tamils is that their community is now being targeted by the authorities as part of a 'dirty war' against the LTTE.


Wild elephants fall victim to Sri Lanka war strategy

PIMBURELLEGAMA, Sri Lanka (Reuters) - Shaking his head at an elephant carcass rotting by a lush paddy field in north Sri Lanka, park warden J.A. Weerasingha counts the cost of a state initiative to arm villagers against Tamil Tiger rebels.

While Sri Lanka has long wrestled with a human-elephant conflict that kills dozens of animals and people annually, elephant deaths are up sharply -- and it's clear why.

In what the military says is a bid to protect villages in the far north as the government and its Tiger foes wage a new phase of a 25-year civil war, farmers have been given shotguns and a civil defense force semi-automatic weapons for protection.

But the plan has backfired. The recipients are turning them increasingly on pachyderms who stray onto their crops or damage their homes in search of food -- with elephant deaths up 13 percent in 2007 from a year earlier.

"They are shooting my animals," Weerasingha lamented on a visit to this remote village on the periphery of Wilpattu National Park in the island's northwest. "They had the chance to just scare the elephant away. It had only come to the boundary of the paddy field. Instead they shot it."

"It was an automatic round. Definitely it was shot by a homeguard," he added, referring to village residents, some of them also farmers, who are given T-56 assault rifles by the state and act as a rural defense force.

In 2007, 193 elephants died in Sri Lanka, the vast majority shot, poisoned or electrocuted. Some were run over by trains, others fell down wells. Only a few died of disease.

That compares to a total population estimated at around 3,000-4,000 elephants, and is up from 171 deaths in 2006.

In Sri Lanka's northern and northwestern districts alone, home to an estimated 1,500 elephants, 63 elephants were killed -- 27 of those directly by gunfire.


Others died of septicemia from gunshot wounds, some were poisoned with chemical-laced pumpkins and a few electrocuted by wires connected directly to the electricity grid.

Elephants, the vast majority of which roam wild in forest and jungle areas, are increasingly straying into human settlement areas in search of food, as their habitat is encroached upon by development projects, the war and man.

Some have fled their habitats because of artillery battles between the military and rebels.

What is now the Tigers' northern stronghold was full of elephants in the mid-18th century according to one antique map. It is unclear how many there are in that area now.

"The human population is increasing, the forest is decreasing. You can't stop it," said Manjula Amararathna, northwest region assistant director of Sri Lanka's Department of Wildlife and Conservation.

Elephants killed 50 people in 2007, some trampled, others smashed against the ground using their trunks -- and at least one woman was torn limb from limb.

Outside Amararathna's office in the northern town of Anuradhapura, elephant skulls sit on the porch. One has a round hole in the middle of its forehead made by a shotgun.

"To protect villages from terrorists, guns have been given to homeguards and villagers," Amararathna said. "We can't protest, because it is very important to protect the people."

"I think at the moment there's no alternative."

Instead, officials are erecting electric fences and planting vegetation unpalatable to the animals in a bid to minimize human-elephant contact and conflict. Catching culprits is an uphill task.

With up to five years in jail and a fine of up to 300,000 rupees ($2,785) facing those who kill an elephant, there are no ready confessions, and there is often little evidence to go by.

The military admits arming civilians is part of the problem, but says it has no choice.


"We have to increase supervision on this, that's the only way," Army Commander Sarath Fonseka told Reuters.

"We give strict instructions, but there will be a couple of culprits because they are from the villages, elephants come and start destroying houses and various things, and they get shot."

"They have to have the guns, otherwise we can't guard each and every village ... The Tigers come and start killing people."

Officials say the Tigers have long used Wilpattu park to transport weapons and explosives to the coast and then run them to the capital Colombo to mount attacks.

Wilpattu's previous park warden and several employees were killed in an ambush blamed on the Tigers inside the reserve in 2007.

The park has remained closed to the public since a group of local tourists, including renowned Sri Lankan author Nihal de Silva, were killed when their vehicle ran over a suspected Tiger-planted mine while tracking wild elephants in 2006.

But it is not all doom and gloom. Officials estimate the elephant population -- which is down from around 12,000 in 1900 -- is stable, with birth rates offsetting the kill rate.

In the eastern wildlife park of Minneriya, 'Ha Ha' the elephant has been a regular fixture on the threshold of Lilian Jayasinghe's roadside shop and cafe for years.

Rubbing his head against a wooden post at the entrance, he waits for customers to feed him buns, cakes and bananas. Passing soldiers patrolling the area stop to stroke his trunk.

On his legs and body, round welts of thickened grey skin are tell-tale signs of healed gunshot wounds.

"Once he came with a gunshot wound to his stomach. We made a paste of chili powder, pepper and turmeric and rubbed it on the wound," Jayasinghe said. "Then he used his trunk to massage the paste in!"

"It is a bad thing that they are killing elephants," she added, as tourists jumped out of a passing minivan to take photos. "Thieves don't come here because the elephant is here. He's like a security guard. We think of him as a pet."

(For more information on humanitarian crises and issues visit

(Editing by Megan Goldin)

Source: Reuters

ICRC accuses Sri Lanka of manipulating rights data

The International Red Cross on Wednesday angrily accused Sri Lanka’s government of releasing confidential communications and manipulating information from the organisation to defend its rights record.

In rare public criticism of a government, the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Colombo has been “misrepresenting its findings” to stave off allegations it was behind abductions and disappearances. The row surrounds Sri Lanka’s use of a confidential report by the ICRC, which did not give a figure for disappearances on the war-torn island, to dispute ongoing allegations that hundreds of people had gone missing on the island.

The ICRC, known for its strict rules of confidentiality and neutrality, said it “deplores” Sri Lanka’s “publication and sharing of confidential reports submitted exclusively to the Sri Lankan authorities.” Turning the tables on the Sri Lankan government, the organisation also said extra-judicial killings and disappearances were part of a pattern of abuses in Sri Lanka that need to be stopped.

“The ICRC strives to bring this about through its confidential and direct dialogue with the authorities concerned. For this reason, we prefer not to enter into a public debate on the number of disappeared in Sri Lanka,” said Jacques de Malo, ICRC’s head of operations in South Asia. Colombo has come under fire for its rights record, with Human Rights Watch saying recently that at least 1,500 people “disappeared” between 2006 and 2007 - mostly ethnic Tamils living in the island’s restive north and east.

The European Union has told Sri Lanka it has “very serious concerns” about civil war human rights abuses and that lucrative trade concessions could be at risk if they continue. “The EU continues to harbour very serious concerns about continuing reports of human rights abuses,” senior officials said in a statement issued late on Tuesday after a three-day visit to Sri Lanka to discuss concerns.

The so-called EU Troika, representing current president Slovenia, incoming president France and the European Commission, also told the government to get serious about prosecuting abuses through the courts and allowing independent monitoring.