The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

LTTE asks Norway to halt Sri Lankan military operation

The Tamil Tigers have urged Norway to press Sri Lanka to halt a military drive towards a 400-year-old Catholic shrine in the northwestern district of Mannar. In a letter to Norwegian Minister of International Development Erik Solheim, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) charged that a “part of the shrine is already damaged by Sri Lankan military attacks”.

LTTE political wing chief B. Nadesan said there was continued danger that the church “will sustain further damage because the military is persisting with its onslaught” aimed at hitting the Tamil Tigers.

“We would like to place a request through you, who is looked upon by the Tamil people as a peace envoy, to the Norwegian government to take steps to immediately end the military assault of the holy Madhu shrine,” the LTTE peace secretariat quoted Nadesan as saying.

“The international community together with international institutions that are concerned about protecting the historical treasures of the world must be brought together. We hope the Norwegian government, together with them, will take the necessary actions to end the attacks on the church,” Nadesan has appealed.

As fighting rages in Sri Lanka’s north, the statue of the Virgin Mary has already been removed by the church authorities and taken to a safer place - the first time in 400 years that it has moved.

The Madhu church is a known pilgrimage site for Catholics. The Bishop of Mannar, Rayappu Joseph, said his repeated appeals to both sides to respect the area as a no war zone were of no avail.

Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara rejected the LTTE’s latest charges and stressed that the army was neither shelling nor conducting military operations towards the Madhu shrine.

“Our troops are well aware of the location of the sacred Madhu Church and we are not firing shells towards that area. We are in fact not going towards Madhu even though our radars have detected LTTE firing mortar shells towards the advancing troops from there,” Nanayakkara told IANS.

He said the troops were currently operating at Palampiddi, about 2.5 kilometres north of Madhu, and at Giant Tank area, about four kilometres west of Madhu.

“Unable to face the military thrust, the LTTE is now hell bent on creating some international pressure to stop the ongoing military operations completely by making such false allegations,” Brig. Nanayakkara charged, claiming that nearly 50 LTTE cadres were killed during weekend clashes.


War will not stop Sri Lanka development - president

Sri Lanka would not cut funds for the nation's vital infrastructure development, despite fighting a continued bloody civil war, the country's president said on Tuesday.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa who is also finance minister said economic development and elimination of terrorism should be done simultaneously.

"We will implement all the infrastructure projects to develop the country while successfully facing terrorism," Rajapaksa said after releasing the 2007 central bank annual report.

"We will never take a step back on eliminating terrorism despite some people saying the economy is collapsing due to war," he said.

A suspected Tamil Tiger suicide bomber killed Sri Lanka's highways minister and at least 13 other people attending a marathon race near the capital on Sunday.

The Tigers, who are fighting for an independent state in the north and east of the island, have waged a 25-year civil war that has killed an estimated 70,000 people.

Sri Lanka achieved 6.8 percent economic growth in 2007, down from last year's 7.7 percent and less than the forecast 7.5 percent, the central bank said in a statement on Tuesday.

Sri Lanka has achieved over 6 percent growth for the past three years and forecast growth in 2008 is 7 percent, but the bank said the country needed growth in excess of 8 percent in the medium-term to carry out a 10 year development programme by 2016.

It said investment needed to be channelled into competitively priced energy, telecommunications, drinking and irrigation water, roads, ports, airports, health and education.

"The slow progress in the implementation of some planned infrastructure projects announced in the 10-year vision needs to be addressed as a matter of priority sooner rather than later," the central bank said.

Inflation in Sri Lanka rose to a 17 year high of over 20 percent in 2007, before the central bank introduced a new index. The new inflation index in March was 17.7 percent.

The central bank said it hoped to bring down inflation to 10-11 percent by the end of 2008, but said much depended on external global economic factors. It blamed soaring global oil prices and high food prices for the record high inflation.

But the International Monetary Fund and Asian Development Bank says loose fiscal and monetary policy are behind high inflation.

Source: Reuters