The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Friday, 13 June 2008

Lankan Foreign Minister to visit India from Sunday

The situation in Sri Lanka, which has been witnessing a spurt in violence recently, will come up for discussion here next week when Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama undertakes a visit here.

The Indian side is expected to convey its worry over the situation in the island nation when Bogollagama holds talks with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and meets Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday.

India has been closely watching the situation in Sri Lanka where violence and clashes between army and LTTE have marked a substantial increase.

The Sri Lankan army has said it has launched a major operation to capture LTTE chief V Prabhakaran "alive".

Commenting on the developments in Sri Lanka, Prime Minister said on Monday that the conflict in the neighbouring country "has given a lot of worries because many times it happens that when ethnic tensions increase, there is a tendency of increased inflow of refugees in our country".

It also creates "both domestic problems as well as foreign policy problems," he said.

Bogollagama will extend a formal invite to the Prime Minister for the 15th SAARC Summit to be held in Colombo in August.

The Summit was originally scheduled to be held in the Maldives but the venue was shifted to Sri Lanka after security concerns following a bomb attack in Male.

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was established in December 1985 by heads of state or government of India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistan, Nepal and Maldives. Afghanistan was inducted as the eighth member of SAARC last year.

Source: Hindu

Fighting in Sri Lanka kills 11 rebels, 4 soldiers

A wave of battles broke out between government forces and Tamil Tiger separatists in Sri Lanka's north and east, killing 11 rebels and four soldiers, the military said Friday.

Fighting erupted Friday in northern Vavuniya district when insurgents fired at a group of soldiers, killing two of them, the military said in a statement.

Several other clashes took place Thursday, with most centered along the front lines separating government troops from the rebels' de facto state in the north.

In Vavuniya, five rebels were killed in two battles, while in the Welioya area, five rebels and two soldiers were killed, the military said.

Meanwhile, police in Trincomalee killed a suspected rebel after he threw a grenade at them, the military said. Trincomalee is a town in eastern Sri Lanka, a region the government wrested from rebel control last year.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not immediately be reached for comment.

The two sides routinely exaggerate their enemy's casualties while underreporting their own.

It was not possible to independently verify the claims because journalists are banned from the jungles where much of the fighting takes place.

The Tamil Tigers have fought since 1983 to create an independent state for the island's ethnic minority Tamils, who have been marginalized by successive governments controlled by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

Source: AP

Stop Tamil Tigers raising money in UK, says President Rajapaksa

Britain stands accused of applying double standards to its counter-terrorism policy because a banned Tamil militant group is being allowed to raise money among expatriates in London.

President Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka said that supporters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were able to raise millions of pounds each year from the Tamil community in Britain, some of whom were coerced into donating the money.

“You can't have two different attitudes towards terrorism,” he told The Times this week during a visit to London for a Commonwealth meeting, where he raised the issue with Gordon Brown. “I don't agree that there are good terrorists and bad terrorists. There is only one kind of terrorist.”

There are about 150,000 Tamils living in Britain, mostly in North London. The Sri Lankans estimate that £70million is sent home every year.

“These are not voluntary contributions, the money is taken by force, usually a percentage of their income,” said Mr Rajapaksa, who attracted Tamil protesters during his stay. “The money is sent back to buy weapons. London is not the only place; money is also sent from Europe, Canada and other places.”

The Sri Lankan leader, who has earned a reputation as a hardliner, came to power nearly three years ago when a fragile ceasefire brokered by Norway was still in place. After a series of clashes — including suicide attacks against the head of the Army and Defence Minister, who is the President's brother — the simmering 25-year old conflict erupted into fresh violence.

Over the past two years government troops have been successful in retaking some rebel-held areas to the east and north of the island, but at a heavy cost. Several Sri Lankan sailors and Tamil guerrillas were killed yesterday when the “Sea Tigers”, the rebel naval wing, attacked a navy base on the island of Mannar. So far this year an estimated 4,000 Tamil Tigers and 357 government troops have been killed.

Many of the casualties are civilians and government troops have been accused of widespread human rights abuses and of allowing a pro-government paramilitary force to commit atrocities.

Mr Rajapaksa said that he was taking steps to protect human rights. He blamed his Government's poor international reputation on “clever propaganda” by the Tigers.

“We have failed in the propaganda fight,” he said.

Mr Rajapaksa insisted yesterday that in spite of the cost in lives and damage inflicted to Sri Lanka's tourist trade he would not resume peace talks with the Tamil Tigers until the organisation agreed to disarm.

“When they are weak they call on the international community to arrange a ceasefire. During this period they train and rearm and then fight back. This time if they want to talk, they should disarm first,” he said.

Even if the Tigers were to meet his preconditions it seems unlikely that he would ever be able to conclude a peace deal with Velupillai Prabhakaran, the charismatic rebel commander.

“This man and the three or four henchmen around him are blood-thirsty killers,” said Mr Rajapaksa. “They have no feelings. It is very difficult to deal with them.”

In another development, Sri Lanka has refused to let a team of Norwegian peace mediators visit rebel territory without a clear “road map” for a democratic solution, fearing a visit coud be used as propaganda. The military said yesterday that it was closing in on the Tamil Tigers' leader.

“The security forces are attacking Mullaittivu, Prabhakaran's hideout, from several directions. The army's aim is to capture Prabhakaran, who is holed up in a bunker, alive,” Lieutenant-General Sarath Fonseka said.

Source: times