The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Britons attacked in Sri Lanka

A British High Commission employee and a journalist were assaulted in Sri Lanka on Monday, prompting media groups to say they feared it was the latest in a series of attacks against journalists.

A Sri Lankan attached to the commission and a defence journalist at the Sri Lanka Press Institute were attacked by a group in their car in the capital Colombo, witnesses said. Both were wounded but hospital workers said they were not in danger.

The High Commissioner condemned the "despicable act" and urged the government to bring those responsible to justice.

"We will be working with the authorities to do everything that we can, to make sure that happens," Peter Hayes said at the private hospital where they were being treated.

Media Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, who also visited the hospital, promised an impartial investigation.

Police sources said they were investigating the attack.

Journalist and media rights groups say the government has done little to stop the violation of media freedom and attacks against journalists in Sri Lanka.

"This is related to the suppression of media," said Sunanda Deshapriya of the Free Media Movement. "We hope the government will do something to stop this. If government can't do that, we should hold government responsible for the attack."

The Free Media Movement said seven journalists, including a defence columnist, had been assaulted since May 1. One journalist was hacked to death in May in the island nation's northern district of Jaffna.

President Mahinda Rajapakse's government has been accused of taking an increasingly heavy-handed approach towards critics of its military policy, both at home and abroad, after Sri Lanka's 25-year-old civil war reignited two years ago.

Fighting between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has intensified since the government formally pulled out of a six-year-old ceasefire pact in January.

Sri Lanka has intermittently censored media reports of the civil war since it began in 1983, and it has restricted access to Tamil Tiger-held areas.

Source: Reuters

India to train Lankan soldiers

Even as it pushes Sri Lanka to renew political efforts towards resolving its bloody ethnic strife, India is virtually throwing open the doors of its different military institutions to train Sri Lankan soldiers.

In 2008-2009 alone, over 500 Sri Lankan officers and other ranks will receive training in institutions ranging from Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School at Vairengte (Mizoram) to School of Artillery at Devlali (Maharashtra), apart from undergoing specialised naval courses in gunnery, navigation, communication and anti-submarine warfare, say sources.

This comes even as India has also stepped up military supplies to Sri Lankan forces, even though they are "largely defensive" in nature, as reported first by TOI.

This twin-prolonged strategy of arms supplies and military training, coupled with intelligence sharing and "coordinated" naval patrolling, is primarily aimed to counter China's ever-growing strategic inroads into Sri Lanka.

In fact, the high-level delegation led by national security advisor M K Narayanan, which also included foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and defence secretary Vijay Singh, to Colombo 10 days ago expressed India's concern over Sri Lanka increasingly turning to China and Pakistan for weapons.

Though India has not gone ahead with a long-pending military pact with Sri Lanka due to domestic "Tamil sensitivities", it has reversed its earlier policy of not supplying arms to Colombo.

The arms transfer process, which really began with a Sukanya Class offshore patrol warship in 2002, has been speeded up in recent times, as has been the case with military training.

Though India trains soldiers from several countries, ranging from Maldives, Mauritius and Mongolia to Botswana, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, the facilities extended to Sri Lanka are far ahead of others.

The premier Indian Military Academy at Dehradun, for instance, is running two "special courses" in 2008-2009 for as many as 100 "gentlemen cadets" from Sri Lanka.

Moreover, 39 Sri Lankan officers will undergo courses at College of Military Engineering at Pune, 15 in School of Artillery at Devlali, 29 in Mechanised Infantry Regimental Centre at Ahmednagar, 25 in College of Materials Management at Jabalpur, 30 in Electronics and Mechanical Engineering School at Vadodara, 14 at Military College of Telecommunication Engineering at Mhow.

Source: times of india

Army will defeat LTTE in a year

Sri Lankan Army Chief on Monday claimed that the troops had wiped out the "conventional military capability" of the LTTE by inflicting heavy losses on the rebels through a changed strategy that focused on killing as many of them as possible rather than bother about mere territory. He said the Army would "completely" defeat the Tigers in about a year.

"From about the beginning of the year, the LTTE has lost its conventional capability. In less than one year, the LTTE will lose the present capability too," Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka told foreign correspondents here. He said the rebels were no longer able to use conventional tactics to resist the advancing troops and were resorting increasingly to hit-and-run attacks.

Gen. Fonseka said for the first time in decades, the Army was working "to an overall military plan" that decimated the rebels like never before and reduced their numbers by over 9,000 since August 2006. In contrast, the Army had lost 1,700 soldiers in the last few years. "We do not just go for terrain, but we go for the kill. This is the difference between the military operations in the past and the present," he said, who had escaped an attempt on his life with injuries when a Tiger suicide bomber hit the army headquarters in April 2006, just four months after he assumed charge.

Source: howrah