The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Friday, 18 April 2008

Southern Sri Lanka facing rice shortage

While the Tamil-speaking north is being subjected to a full-scale war with night air raids, the predominantly Sinhalese-speaking south is facing a severe rice shortage and the highest rate of inflation in the history of Sri Lanka.

According to the Colombo Consumer Price Index (CCPI), the current rate of inflation in Sri Lanka is a dizzying 24 per cent. Even the revised index (CCPIN) estimates it at 21.6 per cent. On both counts, it is significantly higher than in other countries in the region, where the rates of inflation vary between 5 per cent and 7 per cent.

The Island daily reported on Thursday that this year, the average increase in the price of rice varieties in Sri Lanka is 68 per cent. For example, the price of parboiled imported Indian rice has gone up from SLRs.40 to SLRs. 85 per kg in only a few weeks. Prices are expected to further rise because of an increasing local shortage due to bad weather, unwise import policies and increasing world prices.

Timely imports from neighboring India would have saved the country from the present plight, a knowledgeable trade source told this website’s newspaper. The government should have placed orders with foreign suppliers (ideally from India) when prices were low and a rise was on the cards, he said.

Interference in private trade by the Mahinda Rajapaksa government in recent times has harmed the economy and social welfare, traders said, as they shut down Colombo’s wholesale market on Thursday in protest against the new, uneconomical administered prices.

Rise in food prices is worrying because food accounts for 80 per cent of household expenditure in Sri Lanka. An average family has to spend as much as SLRs.4,000 ($37) per month on rice alone, making it unaffordable. Many may have to resort to cutting down on food, but this will only worsen the already worrying nutritional status of the population.

According to the Department of Census and Statistics, only half of Sri Lanka’s total population of 20 million receives the minimum daily intake of 2,030 calories. The actual intake is 1,696 calories per day in the case of the poor, and 2,194 in the case of others.

The Rajapaksa government proudly proclaims that Sri Lanka has a per capita income of US$1,599. But according to the UNICEF, 14 per cent of children under the age of five show signs of wasting or acute undernourishment, and 29 per cent are underweight.

The government this week began forcing traders to sell at prices it had fixed. But this is causing an enormous loss to trade. The controlled price of a 65-kg sack of “samba” rice is now SLRs.4030, but the purchase price is SLRs.5400, traders point out.

Source: newindpress

Lanka-IOC urges govt to revise petroleum prices upwards

The Sri Lanka subsidiary of the Indian Oil Corporation has urged upon the Lankan government to revise petroleum prices upwards in view of the global crude oil prices veering towards 110 dollars a barrel.
"We are losing 750 million Sri Lankan rupees (about 6.94 million dollars) a month due to the high international crude oil prices and look forward to a hike in petroleum prices in the Island country," Lanka Indian Oil Corporation (LIOC) Managing Director K Ramakrishnan told PTI.

The parent company, Indian Oil Corporation, is also worried over surging global oil prices and said it is losing Rs 320 crore (Indian currency) per day on fuel sales in India.

According to top officials of IOC, the oil retail marketing and the borrowings have already touched Rs 34,000 crore as on March 31, 2008.

Meanwhile, the Lankan IOC chief said the situation in 2007 was manageable in the Island country as the government raised petrol prices whenever the global prices surged and thereby saved the company from making high losses.

Ramakrishnan said currently LIOC was losing SLR 31 per litre on diesel which was a worrying factor.

According to the interim results, Lanka IOC has made a net profit of 282 million SLR for the quarter ending December, 2007 whereas it incurred loss of 327 million SLR in the same period during the previous year.

However, the profit was much lower than 677 million SLR, the company earned during three months ending September, 2007. In the nine months ending December 2007, the company made a net profit of 1,450 million SLR. Whereas the company registered a loss of 1,516 million SLR in the year-ago period.

Turnover of LIOC, during the period, is estimated to have risen to 32.3 billion SLR from 23.8 billion SLR during the same period of 2006.

Source: chennaionline

French relief organization pulls out of Sri Lanka

A French relief organization that operated in conflict areas in Sri Lanka and lost 17 of their local workers in a single incident two years ago has decided to withdraw, a statement from the organization said Friday.

Action contre la Faim (ACF or Action against Hunger) said it was withdrawing a decision by a group of international experts observing the proceedings of a presidential commission probing 15 violent incidents including the killing of the aid workers.

The international group cited the slow progress of the investigations carried out by the Presidential commission for its decision to pull out.

The ACF statement said it believed that the presence of the international grouping known as IIGEP was an essential condition for the credibility of the process of the commission.

The 17 local aid workers were killed when the military was taking over the rebel controlled area of Muttur, 260 kilometres north east of the capital on August 4, 2006.

Investigations have not established whether the Tamil rebels or the military killed them.

The ACF has been involved in providing relief to the war affected in the north and eastern provinces. Troops recaptured the eastern province last year and are currently fighting the rebels in part of the northern province.

Source: monstersandcritics

Vaiko meets PM on Sri Lanka Tamils issue

Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary Vaiko on Thursday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here and requested the government to mount diplomatic pressure on the Sri Lankan government to stop its military offensive and initiate peace talks for a workable solution to fulfil the aspirations of Sri Lankan Tamils.

Mr. Vaiko told The Hindu that he had explained to Dr. Singh the outcome of an international conference on ‘Peace and Reconciliation in South Asia’ held in Oslo on April 10 and 11 under the auspices of the International Association for Human Values.

Mr. Vaiko said he had told the Prime Minister that the situation in Sri Lanka was becoming grave day by day, endangering the life and security of Tamils. Innocent Tamils were being killed by the military. He explained the plight and misery of Tamils living in jungles without food and medicine. He requested that India should not provide arms to Sri Lanka.

Mr. Vaiko said the Prime Minister told him about India’s stand —that there could be no military solution to the problem. Dr. Singh assured him, saying: “We are not supplying arms to Sri Lanka. I will discuss the matter with the Foreign Minister [Pranab Mukherjee] and see what best can be done.”

Mr. Vaiko said he would meet Mr. Mukherjee.

Mr. Vaiko, in a memorandum submitted to the Prime Minister, said: “I draw your kind attention to the most painful scenario of gross violation of human rights subjecting the Tamils to indescribable hardship and misery. There have been indiscriminate killings, abductions and disappearance of Tamils. The innocent Tamil youth, who are not engaged in armed struggle, are also not spared. They are abducted by armed forces and thereafter [there is] no further news about them. It is feared that they are murdered.”

Source: Hindu

Sri Lankan gov't says 399 rebels killed in April

The military in Sri Lanka said Thursday that 399 Tamil Tiger rebels have been killed in clashes with government troops in the north so far in April.

Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, the military spokesman, told reporters that 34 soldiers have also been killed while 236 soldiers injured in this period.

Nanayakkara added that 16 civilians were killed and 83 civilians were injured in the violence.

The spokesman said 75 civilians have crossed over to the government controlled areas in the north from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam LTTE) held regions so far this month totaling the number to 308 since January.

The Army is currently engaging the rebels in at least three different fronts in the north aimed at crushing the rebel group.

The government claims that the LTTE are now confined to just two districts in the north as the rebels have been completely evicted from the Eastern Province.

But analysts say the present military campaign may extend over a longer period with the rebels expected to put up stiff resistance than it was the case in the Eastern Province.

More than 70,000 people have died in the island's separatist armed conflict since the mid-1980s.

Source: Xinhua