The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Lankan court orders release of 12 Indian fishermen

A Sri Lankan court today ordered the release of 12 Indian fishermen and four boats, which had been apprehended by the Sri Lankan Navy on March 7, 2008.

An official release here said Puttlam Magistrate T G S A Perara ordered the release of fishermen belonging to Thoothur, Ehudesam, Chinnadurai hamlets of Vilvancode taluk in Kaniyakumari district.

The fishermen were released following constant follow up and continous efforts taken by the Tamil Nadu government with the help of Minstry of External Affairs, Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan Deputy High Commissioner in Chennai.

The fishermen would be brought to Kanyakumari shortly.

Earlier, 50 fishermen were released on March 10, 2008 based on the request of the Tamil Nadu Government, the release added.



A Provincial Council member brandishing a gun assaulted a security guard at a Bible college in Lunuwila, Puttlam district two weeks after an attack on 10 of the institution’s students seriously injured two of them. A Wennappuwa Provincial Council Member identified in published reports as Winton Appuhamy appeared at the college gate at midnight on March 15 and assaulted the unarmed security guard. A hearing that was scheduled earlier that day regarding the attack by masked men on students of the Believers’ Church Bible College was postponed after Appuhamy led a protest with villagers and some Buddhist monks accusing the school of harboring Liberation Tiger of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) terrorists. Intensified fighting between government troops and the LTTE, bombings of civilian targets, abductions, killings and other atrocities have deepened the mistrust between the country’s majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil ethnic communities. Anti-Christian elements strategically exploit the conflict to provoke and justify violence against Christians.


Sri Lanka values Indian help in battle against LTTE

The Sri Lankan government said Tuesday that India's help was crucial in the island's battle against Tamil Tiger rebels.

"We appreciate the assistance of the Indian government in our battle to defeat terrorism," Keheliya Rambukwella, the government's defence spokesman and the minister of foreign employment, told reporters.

He said the Sri Lankan government was aware of the India's domestic political compulsions of trying to look after the interests of the Tamil community.

Rambukwella's remarks came after a visit by the Sri Lankan Army chief Sarath Fonseka to India, which has been urging Sri Lanka to end the island's conflicts with a political solution.

India had sent its peacekeeping force to the island in 1987 as part of the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord.

But since the mid-1990s the Indian government has adopted a hands-off policy in Sri Lanka's conflict.


S.Lanka conflict raises human trafficking risk: UN

Sri Lanka's protracted and increasingly bloody civil war is making the country more vulnerable to human trafficking, a senior United Nations official said on Tuesday.

People fleeing conflict-torn areas in Sri Lanka's north and east, where fighting between Tamil Tiger rebels and state security forces has raged since 1983, opened the door to people smugglers keen to profit from the vulnerable, the United Nations said.

"The conflict you have is quite clearly going to be a major factor in increasing vulnerability of some of the country's young people," Gary Lewis, representative of the U.N. Office for Drugs and Crime in South Asia, told Reuters.

"Migration is the key in which traffickers and traffic victims meet," Lewis said after a briefing in Colombo.

Sri Lanka, a developing nation of 20 million, has one of the lowest incidences of people smuggling in Asia, despite the ongoing conflict which has claimed 70,000 lives.

Lewis's office estimates at least 150,000 people are trafficked within South Asia each year, led by India and followed by Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

But with fighting intensifying between government troops and the rebels, the U.N.'s refugee agency UNHCR says around 188,000 Sri Lankans have been forced from their homes since April 2006.

There are also tens of thousands of others living long-term in internal refugee camps after two-and-a-half decades of war, many in rudimentary conditions in tents.

"As soon as you disrupt a child from their home environment, there is movement and there is lack of physical contact with those who love and care for them," said Lewis, referring to children living in what were supposed to be temporary tent camps.

"You are going to get increased vulnerability on trafficking and also children being abused," Lewis said.

Though poverty, natural disaster and demand for cheap labour and prostitution also contributed to human trafficking in Sri Lanka, conflict could accelerate the problem.

"You will get dysfunctional families. You will get young men turning to crime," Lewis said. (Editing by Rob Taylor)

Source: reuters

Sri Lanka navy fights Tiger boats

Sri Lanka's navy has fought a battle with a flotilla of Tamil Tiger boats off the island's north-east coast.

It comes days after officials said a navy fast-attack craft was sunk by a sea mine. The rebels claimed it was sunk by a suicide attack.

Meanwhile, fighting is continuing on land too.

Battles have intensified since January when the government pulled out of a ceasefire. It has vowed to crush the rebels by force.

The latest sea confrontation took place in the middle of the night.

A navy patrol spotted a small flotilla of Tamil Tiger boats hugging the coast and opened fire.

Navy spokesman Lt Cdr Rohan Joseph said one rebel vessel was disabled in the fighting but he had no details on whether anyone on board was wounded or killed.

On Saturday a navy fast-attack craft was sunk in the same area.

Ten sailors are missing and now presumed dead.

The navy said the vessel most likely hit a sea mine planted by the tigers, but the rebels say it was destroyed in a suicide attack by the so-called Black Sea Tigers.

On land the fighting is continuing too, despite rains and flooding.

The military claims more than 500 rebel fighters have been killed in the last three weeks, 10 times as many casualties as the security forces have suffered.

Both sides are accused of exaggerating the loses they inflict while playing down their own to maintain morale on the front lines.

Source: BBC

Sri Lankan Prime Minister visits West Bank and meets with Abbas

Ratnasiri Wickremanayake the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka visited the West Bank on Tuesday

The visit started in the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem, where Wickremanayake met Palestinian Authority officials including the Governor of Bethlehem Salah Ta'mari and the Mayor of Bethlehem Victor Batarseh.

Wickremanayake made a short visit to the Church of the Nativity. During his stop in Bethlehem the visiting Prime Minister said that the Israeli illegal wall is "unnecessary" during a time when nations of the world are seeking openness to one another.

Later on Tuesday Wickremanayake headed to the central West Bank city of Ramallah were he met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister of the caretaker government Salam Fayyad as well as Palestinian businessmen.

The Palestinian ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Anwar Al Agha was accompanying the Sri Lankan official during the visit.


Israel's Olmert Advises Visiting Sri Lankan PM Against Giving in to Terrorism

Text of report in English by Israeli Prime Minister's Office website on 24 March

[Press release: PM Olmert Meets With Sri Lankan PM Ratnasiri Wickremanayake"]

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, this afternoon (Monday), 24.3.08, met with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, who is on a working visit to Israel. The two men discussed bilateral relations and enhancing mutual cooperation.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Wickremanayake noted that his country has been dealing with a severe terrorism problem that is affecting both daily life as well as the national economy. Prime Minister Olmert told him, "Do not give in to terrorism because it will only bring destruction to your country. Terrorism must be fought; one must not capitulate to it."

Prime Minister Olmert briefed his guest on Israel's concerns over Iran's attempt to arm itself with nuclear weapons. The Prime Minister said that Iran is currently a global symbol of extremism and added that the international community had to take united action against the dangerous trends that Iran is leading.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Wickremanayake thanked Prime Minister Olmert that Israel was among the first countries to offer assistance to Sri Lanka following the deadly December 2004 tsunami in which approximately 40,000 Sri Lankans lost their lives. Prime Minister Olmert noted that Israel had no hesitations whatsoever about assisting Sri Lanka in wake of the disaster.


2,500 Tigers killed since January 1

Sri Lanka’s military on Monday claimed that at least 18 cadres of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam killed and several others were injured in fighting in the north.

According to statistics released by the Defence Ministry, over 2,500 LTTE cadres have been killed by the military since January 1. More than 7,200 Tigers have been killed since December 2005.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa took office in November 2005.

With the LTTE-controlled areas virtually cut off from the rest of the world and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) having wound up its operations, it is impossible for any independent verification of the claims and counter claims made by the military and the Tigers. The Media Centre for National Security said that on Sunday 11 LTTE cadres were killed on the Vavuniya front. Ten Tigers were killed in two separate clashes in Kallikula while another LTTE cadre was killed in Navathkulam.
Mine explosion

Three army soldiers suffered injuries in anti-personnel mine explosions in the Kokilmoddai, Periyathampane, and Ramanathankulam areas.

The MCNS claimed that five LTTE cadres were killed and 19 others were injured when troops launched an operation to liberate Tamil civilians in the Wanni. Two Tigers were killed in two separate incidents in the general areas north of Welioya and Kokkuthduwai; 12 LTTE cadres were injured.

Source: Hindu