The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Monday, 7 April 2008

Sri Lanka suicide bombing prompts calls for political solution

The United States, European Union and Canada have condemned Sunday's Tamil Tiger suicide bombing which killed a Sri Lankan minister, saying only a political solution, not violence, would ensure peace.
"The United States denounces this vicious and reprehensible terrorist attack on civilians in the strongest possible terms," a US embassy statement said Monday.

"Its perpetrators have achieved nothing other than to cause further suffering among the people of Sri Lanka. Only a political solution, not continued violence, offers the way forward to end the country's conflict."

A suspected Tamil Tiger suicide bomber killed Sri Lanka's highways minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle as he opened a marathon Sunday in the town of Weliveriya north of the capital.

The attack also killed 13 others and wounded nearly 100, police and officials said.

Fernandopulle was the second minister to be killed this year.

Nation building minister D.M. Dassanayake was killed in a roadside bomb attack in the same district earlier this year.

The Tigers are trying to hit back at the government through bombings after suffering setbacks at the hands of the military in the north and east.

The military went on the offensive after the government scrapped a ceasefire with the Tigers, saying the rebels had repeatedly violated the truce and dodged all efforts to resume peace talks.

Western countries have however appealed to both sides to resume peace talks, saying violence would not solve the problem.

The European Commission also condemned Sunday's attack.

Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, expressed deep shocks over the attack.

"The EU condemns all forms of terrorism and violence against civilians," a European Commission statement said.

"The EU continues to believe that there can be no military solution to the conflict in Sri Lanka and only a negotiated settlement can open the way for a lasting peace."

Canadian foreign minister Maxime Bernier said in a statement that Canada "strongly deplores" the attack.

"Canada condemns all forms of terrorism. We are deeply concerned about the worsening impact of this ongoing conflict on civilians, including humanitarian workers and human rights defenders. It is clear that violence will not bring lasting peace to Sri Lanka."

The EU, US and Canada are among Sri Lanka's key aid donors and have been trying to put pressure on both sides to resume peace talks.

Source: LBN

EU condemns suicide blast which killed minister

The European Commission, the executive of the European Union, on Monday strongly condemned the suicide bombing in Sri Lanka on Sunday which killed 14 people including a government minister.

"I am deeply shocked by yesterday's heinous attack on minister of roads Jeyaraj Fernandopulle near Colombo," said Benita Ferrero-Waldner, EU commissioner for external relations in a statement on Monday.

"I strongly condemn this suicide attack, which not only killed Minister Fernandopoulle and 14 civilians but also injured many innocent bystanders," she said.

Fernandopoulle was killed by a suicide bomber as he flagged off a marathon race near Colombo on Sunday. He was reportedly a vocal critic of the separatist rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The government blamed the LTTE rebels for the attack.

"The EU condemns all forms of terrorism and violence against civilians. The EU continues to believe that there can be no military solution to the conflict in Sri Lanka and only a negotiated settlement can open the way for a lasting peace," said Ferrero-Waldner.

Reports said that Sri Lankan airforce jets on Monday bombed and destroyed a base used by the Tamil Tiger rebels.

The Sri Lankan defence ministry said that the airforce jets destroyed a base suspected of being used to train suicide bombers in the rebel-held north.

Tamil rebels have been blamed for a series of blasts in Colombo and elsewhere in Sri Lanka this year after the government pulled out of a 2002 Norwegian-brokered ceasefire in January this year.

The minister for nation building, DM Dassanayake, was killed in a bombing on 8 January, days after the government pulled out of the ceasefire.

Since 1983, the Tamil Tigers have been fighting for an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils after decades of marginalisation by governments run by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the fighting.


United States Strongly Condemns Terrorist Attack in Weliweriya

The United States strongly condemns the terrorist attack on April 6 in Weliweriya, Gampaha District that claimed the life of Minister of Highways and Road Development and Chief Government Whip Jeyaraj Fernandopulle. Also killed in this heinous attack were National Athletic Coach Lakshman de Alwis, well- known marathon runner K.A. Karunaratne, and several other persons, while scores more were injured. Minister Fernandopulle was a friend and valued colleague for many Americans. We offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the victims and to all Sri Lankans for this tragic loss.

The United States denounces this vicious and reprehensible terrorist attack on civilians in the strongest possible terms. Its perpetrators have achieved nothing other than to cause further suffering among the people of Sri Lanka. Only a political solution, not continued violence, offers the way forward to end the country’s conflict.

Source: US embassy SL

Reliance Communications makes Sri Lanka foray

Reliance Communications (RCom) in its effort to enter the Sri Lankan telecom market has formed a JV, named Reliance Mobile Lanka with a local firm, Electroteks which will begin GSM mobile services in Sri Lanka followed by other telecom services by this year.

RCom will reportedly invest Rs 1200 crore in the JV in the next three years to establish a next generation integrated network.

The new venture is expected to establish a network of about 5 million lines covering nearly 40 percent of the population.

LTTE sets up base in US, says report

The LTTE has quietly established presence in the United States as part of its global expansion plan to raise funds and procure anti-aircraft weapons and other military equipment on a massive scale.

The group's political wing has established "branches" in at least 12 countries, including the US, as part of a global expansion to purchase millions of dollars worth of anti-aircraft weapons, automatic rifles, grenade launchers, ammunition and other military equipment, the Washington Times reported on Monday quoting officials.

The expansion includes operations in Maryland, New York and New Jersey.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has been battling the Sri Lankan military since 1983 to press for a separate homeland for ethnic Tamils in Sinhalese-majority Sri Lanka. Colombo had in January scrapped a tattered ceasefire with the rebels.

On Sunday, a suspected Tamil Tiger suicide bomber hit a marathon event in Sri Lanka, killing 13, including a powerful minister, and wounding 100 others.

A criminal complaint filed in federal court in New York in April last year said the LTTE relied on "sympathetic Tamil expatriates" in the US, Canada, Britain, Australia, France and other countries to raise and launder money; smuggle arms, explosives, equipment and technology to Sri Lanka; obtain intelligence about the Sri Lankan government; and spread propaganda.

The LTTE grabbed the attention of US authorities in August 2006 when eight people were charged in the New York case with conspiracy to provide resources and material support, the paper said.


Sri Lanka military says kills 49 rebels, bombs north

Sri Lanka air force jets bombed rebel positions in the far north on Monday while troops killed 49 Tamil Tiger rebels in fresh fighting, the military said.

The air raids on the black Tiger or suicide-cadre training base, in rebel-held Kilinochchi in the north of the country, came a day after a suspected rebel suicide bomber killed the country's highways minister and 13 others attending a marathon race near the capital on Sunday.

Air raids were also carried out at a rebel bunker line in the northern Jaffna peninsula, the air force said.

The Sri Lankan government has asked VIPs who face threats from the Tigers, and the general public, to be vigilant for more attacks due to rebel defeats in northern battle fronts.

"They (the rebels) are desperate," said Lakshman Hulugalla, director general at the Media Centre for National Security.

"With the defeat that the LTTE is having in north, they will try more. So we have asked politicians who have more threats to be more vigilant." Sunday's attack came amidst an offensive launched by the Sri Lankan military on the northern strongholds of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in which the military said 47 rebels and a soldier were killed. The military said two other rebels were killed in Monday fighting.

The rebels have in the past hit back with bombings in Colombo and in the relatively peaceful south of the island when they have come under military pressure in the north and east.

The Tigers, who are fighting for an independent state in the north and east of the island in a 25-year civil war that has killed an estimated 70,000 people, were not available for comment on the latest fighting, air raids and the suicide bombing.

The government and rebels make death toll claims that are rarely possible to verify independently.


Highways and Road Development Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, 55, was a member of the government negotiating team for failed peace talks with the Tamil Tiger rebels two years ago, and the second minister to be killed since January, when minister for nation building, D.M. Dassanayake, died in a roadside blast.

Nordic truce monitors, who blamed troops and rebels for repeated abuses, were banished by the government after President Mahinda Rajapaksa formally scrapped a 6-year truce in January, accusing the rebels of using it to regroup and re-arm, and vowed to fight them militarily.

Analysts say the military has the upper hand in the latest phase of the long-running war, given superior air power, strength of numbers and swathes of terrain captured in the island's east.

But they see no clear winner on the horizon and rebels still retain the striking capability despite high security and military gains.

"Threats to VIP's, important installations and senior military officials remain," said Iqbal Athas, an analyst with Jane's Defence Weekly in Colombo.

Source: Reuters