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June 27, 2008

India Seeks Clarification about Ongoing War in Sri Lanka

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

The Bible relates the tale of how three wise men of the east travelled more than two thousand years ago to Bethlehem and paid homage to the infant Jesus with gifts such as gold, frankincense and myrrh.

In a replay with a twist “three wise men “ of India boarded an Indian Air Force plane in New Delhi and paid a 36 hour visit to Sri Lanka.

The Indian wise men who arrived in Colombo were not seers or sages but experienced , senior bureaucrats from the upper echelons of Indian officialdom.

The Indian trio comprised M.K. Narayanan, the National Security Adviser, P. Shiv Shankar Menon, the Foreign Secretary and R. Vijay Singh, the Defence Secretary.

[M.K. Narayanan]

Narayanan led the delegation, as in terms of protocol the National Security Adviser position is of cabinet rank.

Moreover, Narayanan has in recent times become the chief architect of Indian policy towards Sri Lanka. It is learnt that the mission itself was undertaken on the initiative of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself.

[R. Vijay Singh]

The composition of the special high-level delegation assumed greater significance by the inclusion of Indian Defence Secretary R. Vijay Singh.

Thus, three important spheres – namely defence, foreign policy and national security, etc. – were interlocked on a mutually integrated mission.

The visit by itself was consultative in nature. The objective was to ascertain the exact position of Sri Lanka towards some issues that directly affect India.

[P. Shiv Shankar Menon]

Through a frank exchange of views with different players, New Delhi hoped to obtain an incisive insight into the direction that Sri Lanka was heading.

In the process of consultative discussions, India once again emphasised through polite discourse some well-intentioned ‘advice’ on relevant issues of mutual concern.

The Indian trinity conducted a series of discussions with several people, including President Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the service chiefs, senior bureaucrats, Tamil political leaders like R. Sampanthan, Arumugam Thondaman, Douglas Devananda, D. Siddharthan and Mano Ganesan, etc.

The important ones, however, were the two meetings with President Rajapaksa, the meeting with the Defence Secretary, the meeting with the TNA Leader R. Sampanthan and the candid discussions with the heads of the armed forces.

Contrary to speculation in sections of the media or assertions made by politicians like Dr. Wickramabahu Karunaratne the Indian “trinity” did not reprimand or order Sri Lanka to do anything.

Gung ho diplomacy vis - a - vis Sri Lanka as in the days of the Jyothindra Nath Dixit variety are long gone.
The Gujral doctrine of Asymmetrical reciprocity is also of the past

While little Lanka continues to remain in the sphere of Indian influence the new style and approach seems to be that of “ working around things” quietly rather than resorting to the “iron hand in velvet glove” approach or megaphone diplomacy.

The sudden visit was basically of a fact – finding nature where the Indian trio through a process of inter- active consultations at first hand sought clarification on a number of important issues of mutual concern.

Chief among these concerns was the security situation in Sri Lanka and whether the climate was conducive for holding the South Asian Association of Regional Co-operation (SAARC) in Colombo from July 29th – August 3rd this year.

Of particular importance from an Indian perspective was the safety and security of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. There were also political concerns about the violence and its possible impact on Tamil Nadu.

It appears that New Delhi is trying to explore ways and means of encouraging an undeclared de – escalation of hostilities that could bring about a comparative “lull” in the violence before, during and after the SAARC summit.

This columnist has referred to these issues in greater detail in an article published in our sister paper “The Bottom Line” of June 25th 2008.

Apart from the SAARC summit and ramifications the Indian trio did try and ascertain at first hand the exact situation about the war and related violence.

Needless to say there have been torrents of details in sections of the media about the progress of the war. However in an environment where the free media is muzzled through many ways greater insight is required from the “mouths of horses”.

Thus to the Indian trio the series of meetings were avenues to gain clarification and where necessary, amplification of issues.

It was also an opportunity to “caution and advise” Colombo about relevant issues in a spirit of benign friendliness.

The Indians were well aware of Sri Lankan sensitivities and avoided treading on toes.

Still they did raise a number of pertinent queries providing much food for thought in the corridors of power in Colombo.

If taken in the correct spirit and adhered to the Indian “advice” could alter the current course of war even if an “end” is out of the question at this juncture.

Moreover Colombo could move away from its “obsession” about relying on military means alone to defeat the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and adopt a political project to win the hearts and minds of the Tamil people.

Top priority was given in the discussions about the real situation regarding the war as opposed to the “jayawewa” news items in the media.

The vivid presentations made by the service chiefs and the candid disclosures made by the frank and forthright defence secretary shed much light on actualities rather than optics.

Clarification was also sought on a number of related issues concerning the war.

Some of these hinged around issues of arms procurement necessary for prosecuting the war further. India is already unhappy about Sri Lanka turning to Countries like China and Pakistan.

With the war escalating and expanding, where were the additional armaments coming from and more importantly how was Sri Lanka going to pay for them?

These are questions that would strike responsive chords in all patriotic Sri Lankans who love their country. The pseudo – patriots however would be miffed.

Several news stories and articles in the media suggest that Colombo is getting ready for a final push towards the Wanni citadel of LTTE supreme Velupillai Prabakharan.

This however entails heavy logistical input. Does Sri Lanka possess the military assets and resources necessary for such a broad undertaking?

If not, how does it hope to close this deficit?

It must be remembered that a major area of concern for India about Sri Lanka during the JR Jayawardena regime was its pronounced tilt towards the west.

India then feared the intrusion of forces hostile to India “intruding” into the South Asian neighbourhood under the pretext of helping Sri Lanka combat “terrorism”.

Some of the players have changed since then and India herself has shifted policy to the extent of being engaged in strategic partnerships with some nations perceived as the “enemy” then.

Concerns however remain and now other perceived threats are there.

So it is a legitimate exercise for New Delhi to seek “enlightenment” from its Southern neighbour.

A mighty military push would also bring about in its wake a trail of death, destruction and displacement. The inevitable fall – out could be an influx of refugees to India.

In such a situation does the Sri Lankan government have contingency plans to deal with the inevitable humanitarian crisis that would surely follow military advancement?

The “conquest of the east” demonstrated a lamentable lack of concern for the humanitarian dimension. Thousands of Internally displaced persons (IDP’s) languish in makeshift camps still.

Against that backdrop the Colombo government must realise that it is responsible for the well – being of its Tamil citizens and act carefully and cautiously in pushing its military agenda.

Who better than India to stimulate such thinking?

There is also an issue of paramount importance that is being ignored in the single – minded pursuit of a military victory.

Let us assume that the LTTE is vanquished and Prabakharan is killed but where does that leave the Tamil national question?

The LTTE and Prabakharan are only virulent by – products of the long – festering Tamil problem.

A military solution cannot resolve the “Tamil” problem. Only a just political settlement could.

Does the Mahinda Rajapakse government have a constructive political solution where the legitimate aspirations of the Sri Lankan Tamils are accommodated and their long – standing grievances redressed?

It is in this respect that Colombo needs to think “beyond or outside the military option” and also approach the problem politically.

It is here that the newly set – up Eastern Provincial Council comes in.

India is of the view that the EPC should be allowed to function effectively as a “genuine” unit of devolution.

The Rajapakse regime has a unique opportunity of demonstrating to the world at large that it has weaned Tamils away from separatism by making a showpiece of the eastern province.

Being multi – ethnic it can also prove and show the world that all communities in the Island can live in amity, harmony and equality.

This however requires a visionary, statesmanlike approach. The nation at large must come out of the claustrophobic confines of “Mahinda Chinthana”.

Enhanced devolution must be provided via statutes and generous financial allocations to the EPC must be made.

India will be only too happy to assist and aid the Sri Lankan government to help make the Eastern provincial council work.

If these were some of the salient issues transpiring at the high – level discussions there was also a ray of hope during the visit for the Tamil people.

In the discussions with Tamil National Alliance leader and Trincomalee district MP Rajavarothayam Sambandan the question of North - East merger was raised.

Mr. MK. Narayanan assured Mr. Sambandan that it was still not an invalid option and reiterated that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has often gone on record about the importance of a “Tamil Linguistic Region”.

The TNA has also been invited to visit New Delhi for further discussions.

While the focus last week has been on the Indian trio’s visit there was also another important development that has gone largely unnoticed.

A two – day Indo – Lanka bi – national seminar was organised by the India Centre for South Asian studies based in Chennai on June 18th and 19th.

The Convenor was Prof. V. Suryanarayanan former head of the South and South East Asia studies dept at the Madras University.

The seminar was on the topic “Deepening Political Crisis of Sri Lanka” and held at Hotel Savera with around 60 – 75 participants.

The Sri Lankan contingent included academics, politicians, peace activists, trade unionists and also representatives from two “Hindu” organisations namely the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Rashtriya Swayam Seva Sangh (RSS).

Both the VHP and RSS are aligned to the Hindu right – wing Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) and referred to as being part of the “Sangh parivar”.

It appears that the seminar was a BJP related effort to delve deep into the deepening Sri Lankan crisis and formulate policy.

Among Indian participants were former Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Narendra Nath Jha. NN Jha is currently in charge of BJP policy formulation regarding foreign affairs.

Among other distinguished Indian participants were Dr. Chandrashekharan, Dr, Swaminathan and Col (retired) Hariharan.

Chandrashekharan and Swaminathan were the two senior Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) officials who handled the Tamil militant groups in India during the eighties and nineties of the previous century.

Hariharan was in charge of military intelligence in Jaffna during the time of the Indian Peace keeping Force (IPKF) in 1987 – 1990.

All three are keen observers of Sri Lankan politico – military developments and often write informative papers about contemporary issues concerning Sri Lanka.

Among other participants were Ila. Ganeshan the BJP’s Tamil Nadu state leader and Sugumaran Nambiar the BJP’s national treasurer.

Sugumaran is the son of well known film actor M. N. Nambiar who acted as “villain on screen” to yesteryear stars like MGR, Sivaji and Gemini Ganesan.

The genial Sugumaran Nambiar was the “host” to Lankan participants at the seminar.

The seminar was also remarkable that the usual “Sri Lanka experts” of India both left – leaning and liberal were absent. Many participating academics subscribed to the “Hindutva” ideology.

Given the decline of the ruling Congress and ascendancy of the BJP in some recent state – wise elections there is much optimism that the BJP would form the next government in New Delhi.

The BJP’s Ila. Ganesan summed up the mood and also illuminated delegates when he asserted that the BJP was going to form the next government and that this seminar would help formulate policy on Sri Lanka.

After intense confabulations there was consensus that no formal resolutions be passed but at least two participants told this writer about the general opinion.

There was no military solution for Sri Lanka’s ethnic crisis and only a political solution. Such a settlement could not be between the Govt and LTTE alone but should embrace all stake – holders.

At the same time no solution is possible without the LTTE and if the LTTE was to be excluded. A durable solution is only possible where all stakeholders including the LTTE is included.

During discussions another point of view which found wide approval was that the LTTE should not be totally defeated or destroyed if a solution is to be reached.

It was pointed out that the LTTE was both a “terrorist” and “national liberation” movement.
If the tigers were to be done away on account of the terrorist dimension then the other dimension would suffer it was argued.

It is therefore clear that the Sri Lankan issue would continue to be of interest and importance in India with the BJP showing greater attention.

If indeed there is regime change in New Delhi when elections occur it appears that the abiding concern for Sri Lanka could take fresh forms.

This however does not diminish the role of the Indian bureaucracy which continues to kep a “benign eye” on Sri Lanka regardless of whether overt policy is “hands on” or “hands off”.

The Indian trio’s visit demonstrates that very clearly.

Let me conclude with relevant extracts from my earlier article in “The Bottom Line”.

“A wise, humanitarian and statesmanlike approach towards the issue could be that of ushering in a climate of relative peace and violence free atmosphere before, during and after the SAARC summit.

Given the commitment of the Rajapaksa government to wage relentless war against LTTE “terrorism” and the ferocious determination of the Tigers in resisting it, there is practically no hope at this juncture of the war being called off.

What seems feasible is to bring about a gradual de-escalation of hostilities by both sides. Again there is little chance of such a ‘de-escalation of hostilities’ being a formal one. It has to be a de facto and not a de jure agreement.

What is in the realm of the possible is that both sides scale down their offensive operations on a staggered basis. If the levels of violence are brought down gradually, the SAARC Summit could take place in a period of lull without mishap.

While the Rajapaksa government would be reluctant to go in for an ‘official’ temporary ceasefire or de-escalation of hostilities, the prospect of an undeclared, unacknowledged scaling down of violence leading to a lull could be something it can live with.

Besides, there is the added incentive of being in the good books of New Delhi and deriving support in withstanding Western pressures.

More importantly, Colombo could stage a summit without any hitch with the Indian Premier attending. It is imperative for President Rajapaksa to don the SAARC leadership mantle smoothly.

If the government is indeed amenable to such a course of action, there is also the need to obtain LTTE consent to adhere to related parameters. Again, only India is capable of prevailing upon the LTTE to agree. India has cracked down really hard in the recent past in more ways than one. A relaxation by India could be a welcome respite if not a reprieve for the LTTE.

Having banned the Tigers, New Delhi cannot deal directly with the LTTE at this point of time. But other connections and back channels are always available.

Firstly, there is Norway, the India-approved facilitator. Secondly, there are Tamil Nadu politicians close to the LTTE and acceptable to Manmohan Singh like Vaiko. Thirdly, there the unorthodox contact personnel handled by Intelligence agencies like a flamboyant Hindu ‘God man.’ Fourthly, there are also the more senior members of the Tamil National Alliance like Rajavarothayam Sambandan and others.

The meeting with Sampanthan alone in Colombo and the invitation extended for a TNA delegation to visit New Delhi are by themselves significant developments.

If India is able to persuade the warring parties to agree temporarily to an ‘unofficial de-escalation of hostilities,’ and if both sides implement it sincerely, a comparative lull in violence could prevail. This, in turn, could pave the way for the successful staging of the SAARC Summit in Colombo.

While it would be premature to speculate now, such a lull could also be the first step on the long road to peace. There is no doubt that the coming days would pose an immense challenge to the diplomatic prowess of Kautilya’s land.

A Sri Lankan peace process that has India’s backing has the greatest chance of success.

Whatever the ultimate result of the Indian trio’s visit, one thing has emerged through the mission very clearly: India will no longer adopt a laidback stance regarding a durable peace in Sri Lanka. While it may not be a visible ‘hands on’ approach, it would not be ‘hands off’ either.

This, then, is a harbinger of good news for all those yearning for a just and durable peace in Sri Lanka.

DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at: djeyaraj2005@yahoo.com

China Doing a Myanmar in Sri Lanka?

by B. Raman 

Is China doing a Myanmar in Sri Lanka by capitalising on the policy of President Mahinda Rajapaksa of diversifying Sri Lanka's geo-political options even while professing close friendship with India?  

2.  That seems to have been one of the concerns of the Government of India, which prompted a two-day visit to Sri Lanka by a team of senior advisers of Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh consisting of Shri M. K. Narayanan, the National Security Adviser, Shri Shivsankar Menon, the Foreign Secretary, and Shri Vijay Singh, the Defence Secretary, on June 20 and 21, 2008, for talks with Mr. Rajapaksa and senior Sri Lankan officials and important Tamil leaders.  

3. Officially, the visit was projected as a return visit to reciprocate a similar high-level visit to New Delhi in September last by a Sri Lankan delegation headed by Mr. Gothbaya Rajapaksa, the Defence Secretary, and as a preparatory visit before the forthcoming 15th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) to be held at Colombo from July 27 to August 3, 2008.  

4. Originally, the summit was to have been held at Kandy where the security-related problems would have been less than in Colombo. In March last, the Sri Lankan Government decided to have it in Colombo since, in its view, the infrastructure at Kandy would have been inadequate to host the summit.  The shifting of the venue to Colombo has enhanced the security concerns of India.  

5. Sri Lanka had successfully hosted the 6th SAARC summit at Colombo in 1991 and the 10th in 1998 and had provided effective security to the leaders of the participating countries. The 15th summit will be held at a time when a large number of the Sri Lankan security forces are engaged in an operation to re-capture the control of the Northern Province from the LTTE. Facing increasing pressure from the security forces, the LTTE has stepped up attacks with explosives on soft targets in areas in and around Colombo. Moreover, its bringing into action its planes for air strikes since March last year and the inability of the Sri Lankan security forces to identify where these planes are kept and wherefrom the air attacks are being launched and to intercept them have made the pre-summit security scenario in Colombo worrisome. 

6. While the LTTE is unlikely to target the summit or its participants, the summit could provide it with an opportunity to create drama in order to prove its prowess and disprove the claims of the Government that the LTTE has been weakened beyond recovery. Will the Sri Lankan security forces be in a position to provide effective security to all the participants in general and to the Indian Prime Minister in particular? One of the purposes of the visit of the Indian team seems to have been to make an assessment in answer to this question.

7. Another purpose seems to have been to assess the implications to India of Mr. Rajapaksa's policy of bringing in other external state actors into Sri Lanka in order to give Sri Lanka a more geo-political wriggle room. In the past, India had to worry only about China, Pakistan and the US. Now, Mr. Rajapaksa has started courting Iran, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia. Iran has started playing an important role in the oil refining sector and it is only a question of time before it starts demanding a role in the retail sale of oil, a sector in which the Indian Oil Corporation presently has a pre-eminent role. To counter the fears of the US and the Sunni Arab states over his flirting with Iran, he has also been trying to bring in Saudi Arabia in the oil sector. Malaysia emerged last year as the largest foreign investor in Sri Lanka.  As a result of his moves, India is likely to find its political and economic influence in Sri Lanka gradually shrinking.  

8. In view of India's  improving relations with the US, it is not concerned as it would have been in the past over the increasing US activities in Sri Lanka and the increasing interest of the US Pacific Command in Sri Lanka. The US Navy is eyeing Colombo as a fall-back option in case the continuing use of the Karachi port for logistics and other purposes becomes difficult in view of the anti-US feelings in Pakistan. Presently, India is not highly concerned with the growing economic ties between Sri Lanka and Malaysia either. It can live with it.  

9. What India is concerned is over the increasing activities of China and Pakistan, the entry of Iran and the expected entry of Saudi Arabia into Sri Lanka. While Pakistan's relations with Sri Lanka are largely focussed on military supplies and training, China's relations have greater strategic implications for India----covering military supplies and training, the construction of a modern port at Hambantota in the South and oil exploration in the Mannar area. The expected semi-permanent stationing of an increasing number of Chinese experts in these areas for carrying out these projects will add to the concerns of the Indian security bureaucracy.  

10. The action of the Government of Myanmar in allowing the Chinese to have a semi-permanent presence in the Coco Islands brought the Chinese within monitoring distance of India's space establishments on the Eastern coast. The semi-permanent presence, which the Chinese are now getting in Sri Lanka, will bring them within monitoring distance of India's fast-breeder reactor complex at Kalpakam near Chennai, the Russian-aided Koodankulam nuclear power reactor complex in southern Tamil Nadu and India's space establishments in Kerala.  

11. Reporting on the visit of the senior Indian officials to Colombo, the "Times of India" of June 23, 2008, quoted an unnamed senior Indian official in New Delhi as stating as follows: "The story of Myanmar is being repeated in Sri Lanka. China is already all over the island nation, with a flurry of arms deals, oil exploration and construction projects like the Hambantota port."  

12. The "Times of India" also reported as follows: "Colombo has signed a US $ 37.6 million deal with the Beijing-based Poly Technologies for a wide variety of arms, ammunition, mortars and bombs. Sri Lanka is also getting some Chinese Jian-7 fighters, JY 11-3D air surveillance radars, armoured personnel carriers, T-56 assault rifles ( a copy of AK-47), machine guns and anti-aircraft guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and missiles."  

13. The work on the Hambantota port is progressing fast with typical Chinese efficiency. Sri Lankan sources assert that it will be only a commercial port and not a potential naval base. One has to wait and see.  

14.  The Hambantota port construction is estimated to cost US $ one billion to be lent by the Exim Bank of China. The entire project is expected to be completed in 15 years in four phases. The first phase of construction, which was started in October, 2007, is estimated to cost US $450 million. The entire project, inter alia,   provides for the construction of a gas-fired power plant project, a ship repair unit, a container repair unit, an oil refinery and a bunkering terminal. The bunkering terminal, which   is expected to be completed in 39 months, provides for the terminal to handle up to 500,000 metric tonnes (mt) of oil products a year.  

15.The "Daily News" of Sri Lanka reported on June 19, 2008, as follows: ' A project proposal sent by the China Huanqiu Contracting and Engineering Corporation for building the bunkering facility and tank farm at the Hambantota harbour has been approved by the project committee and the cabinet-appointed negotiations committee.  "The total value of the project would be $76.5 million and it would be completed by 2010.A set of fuel tanks, bunkering facilities, aviation fuel storage facilities and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) storage facilities will be built under  the project at Hambantota, about 230 km south of Colombo. The media has also reported that although the Hambantota port was initially planned as a service and industrial port, it is expected to be developed as a trans-shipment port at a later stage to handle 20 million containers per year.

16.  Neither India nor China has so far started oil/gas exploration work in the one block each in the Mannar area awarded to them by the Rajapaksa Government without bidding as a gesture of goodwill. The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), which was offered the block allotted to India without bidding, said in September last that it was not interested in the assigned block, due to low prospectivity and the fact that Sri Lanka was asking for a big bonus in return for this gesture.  The Sri Lankan Government said it would negotiate with the ONGC for a new oil block with greater prospectivity. It is not known whether the Chinese are satisfied with the block offered to them without bidding and, if so, when they would start the exploration.  

17.  Foreign oil companies have not so far been enthusiastic over the prospects of finding oil/gas in exploitable quantities in the Mannar area. Earlier this year, the Sri Lankan Government invited bids for three blocks. Of these, block No 1, which extends over an area of 3,338.10 square kilometers and is nearest to India, received bids from ONGC Videsh, Cairn India, and Niko Resources of Cyprus. ONGC Videsh is a subsidiary of the state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation of India.Cairn India, is 69 per cent owned by Cairn Energy of London, which has been active in India, Nepal and Bangladesh.Canada-based Niko Resources is active in Canada, India and Bangladesh. Block No. 2 received bids from both Cairn India and Niko Resources while Block 3, the largest being 4,126.51 sq. km in size, received a bid only from Niko. None of these blocks received any bid from China. The Sri Lankan Government announced on June 6, 2008, that after evaluation it has decided to accept the bid of Cairn India for block No. 1 and invited it to send its representatives to Colombo for negotiations. Fresh bids are to be invited for the other two blocks. The rules stipulate that for each block there should be a minimum of three bids before evaluation.  

18.  In response to an invitation issued by President  Rajapaksa  during his visit  to Teheran in November, 2007. President Mahmud Ahmadinejad of Iran paid a two-day official visit to Sri Lanka on April 28 and 29, 2008.Since last year, Sri Lanka has been facing economic difficulties due to the drying-up of economic assistance from countries of the European Union (EU) such as Germany because of what they perceive as the indifferent attitude of the Rajapaksa Government to complaints regarding the violation of the human rights of the Tamils and its refusal to seek a political solution to the problem.  Instead of succumbing to the EU pressure on the subject, the Rajapaksa Government turned for increased assistance to other countries such as China and Iran, which did not raise human rights issues as a condition for such assistance. Assistance from Iran was of crucial importance to Sri Lanka because of the Government's inability to pay for its increasingly costly oil imports.  The Government of Ahmadinejad readily agreed to provide oil  at concessional rates to Sri Lanka and to train a small team of officers of the Sri Lankan Army and intelligence in Iran. It also agreed to provide a low-interest loan to Sri Lanka to enable it to purchase defence-related equipment from China and Pakistan. In addition, it agreed to invest US $ 1.5 billion in energy-related projects in Sri Lanka. One of these projects is for the production of hydel power and the other to double the capacity of an existing oil refinery in Sri Lanka. Work on the construction of the hydel project started during Mr. Ahmadinejad's visit. Iranian engineers have already been preparing the project report for doubling the capacity of the refinery and for modifying it to enable it to refine in future Iranian crude to be supplied at concessional rates. The existing capacity is 50,000 barrels a day.  

19.  Mr. Abdul Hameed Mohamed Fowzie, Sri Lanka's Minister for Petroleum and Petroleum Resources Development, visited Riyadh in Saudi Arabia towards the end of March,2008. He announced at Riyadh on March 23, 2008, that Saudi Arabia had agreed to train Sri Lankans in the field of exploration and refining of oil in the island. He told the media at Riyadh: ?We had fruitful discussions with my counterpart here and we are happy that the Kingdom has agreed to cooperate with Sri Lanka in areas of mutual interests in the field of oil supply, exploration and investments.  We have plans to improve our refining capacity from 50,000 to 100,000 barrels a day and getting Saudi expertise for the proposed expansion will facilitate the successful implementation of the project. Sri Lanka needs a cracker to convert crude into diesel and petrol which would cost the government some $400 million. I have requested my counterpart to recommend that the OPEC Fund assist us in the purchase of this plant."  

20.  Sri Lanka presently gets 70 per cent of its oil from Iran, 10 per cent from Saudi Arabia and 20 per cent from Malaysia and other countries. [saag]

June 26, 2008

Internally Displaced Persons in Puttlam launch new Political Front

By Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

“We lack road, water, and housing facilities. Our children are unable to attend school regularly as there is no proper transport service. We don’t have any facility and leading the same life even now as same as 18 years ago”.

This is a cry of an Internally Displaced single mother from Jaffna, A. Shahula shared her agony while chewing betel. She is living with her two kids in Saltern 2 welfare camp in Puttlam.

Most of them are still leading their lives in welfare camps, and lack the normal living standard of a person. A large number of internally displaced persons from Jaffna are living in Thillaiyady, which is called “Little Jaffna”. These Internally Displaced Persons feel that, there is a discrimination between the Internally Displaced Persons from Jaffna and Mannar. They are frustrated about the long delay in distribution of services and goods.

The People’s Revival Front was inaugurated in order to fulfill the needs of the IDPs, who languish in the welfare camps for nearly two decades. They say that, they have been cheated by the politicians, and they want a political representation for the Internally Displaced Persons from Jaffna.

[Slide presentation: Internally Displaced Persons in Puttlam launch Political Front]

“Our people have lost many of their rights. We want to make a difference in their lives and restore their rights. We like to resettle them back in their own places and solve their hardships. These are the main reasons for us to start a new political party. Starting a new party was a long due, we must have started this party 10 or 15 years ago” says M. M. Kuthoos, the President of People’s Revival Front as a call for prayer was called in the evening.

There were 20,000 Muslims, who got evicted from Jaffna district in 1990. The number and the needs have doubled during nearly two decades. There are about 15,000 registered voters among the Jaffna Internally Displaced Persons in Puttlam.

The part of the trouble that has developed in Puttlam is between the IDPs and the host community, there aren’t enough jobs and resources for both.

“We are living with a lot of hardships in the welfare camps. There is no job opportunity, rations are not given at regular intervals. We receive the rations after four or five months” lamented S. H. Mansoor, who is running a small grocery shop adjoining his thatched house in Saltern 2 camp.

The members of the host community in Puttlam believe that, the beginning of a new party such as People’s Revival Front is a good move to meet the needs of the Internally Displaced Persons.

“When the minority political parties contest along with the majority political parties, there are injustices such as poll rigging” said S.R.M.Muzammil, the Chief Trustee of Puttlam Grand Mosque and a member of the host community as he relaxes and supervises in his coconut grove.

Internally Displaced Persons are hopeful that the People’s Revival Party will be able to solve their problems in the future. According to the President of the People’s Revival Front that, they are planning to register it in the near future.

Puttlam is situated on the coastal belt of North Western Province. According to a survey carried out by the District Secretariat of Puttlam, the total population of the district is 8,14,000. Sinhala population is 5,85,000, Muslim population is 1,49,000, and Tamil population is 80,000. There are currently 75,000 Internally Displaced Persons from Northern Province in Puttlam.

Audio in Tamil:Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai talks to Internally Diplaced Persons in Puttlam on their new effort:

[HumanityAshore.com] ~ Contact Email: dushi.pillai@gmail.com

June 24, 2008

Indian “Trio” Visit and the Colombo SAARC Summit

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

The sudden visit to Sri Lanka last week by a high level three – member delegation from India lasted around 36 hours. The unanticipated mission has brought in its wake a flurry of speculative news items about its aims and objectives.

With both sides remaining tight - lipped about disclosing details about the visit the official communiqués have been quite uninformative.

It has been the lot of scribes to garner bits and pieces of what transpired from diverse sources and assemble together a whole that would as far as possible shed some light on the matter.

The Indian trio comprised MK. Narayanan the national security adviser, P.Shiv Shankar Menon the foreign secretary and R. Vijay Singh the defence secretary.

MK. Narayanan led the delegation as in terms of protocol the national security adviser position is of cabinet rank. Moreover Narayanan has in recent times become the architecht of Indian policy towards Sri Lanka.

It is learnt that the mission itself was undertaken on the initiative of Indian Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh himself.

[R. Vijay Singh, Defence secretary]

The composition of the special high – level delegation assumed greater significance by the inclusion of Indian defence secretary R. Vijay Singh.

Thus three important spheres namely defence, foreign policy and national security etc were inter – locked on a mutually integrated mission.

The visit by itself was consultative in nature. The objective was to ascertain the exact position of Sri Lanka towards some issues that directly affect India.

Through a frank exchange of views with different players New Delhi hoped to obtain an incisive insight into the direction that Sri Lanka was heading.

In the process of consultative discussions India once again emphasised through polite discourse some well – intentioned “advice” on relevant issues of mutual concern.

The Indian trinity conducted a series of discussions with several people including President Rajapakse, Defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse, the service chiefs, senior bureaucrats,Tamil political leaders like R. Sambandan, Arumugam Thondaman, Douglas Devananda, D. Siddharthan and Mano Ganesan etc.

The important ones however were the two meetings with President Rajapakse, the meeting with the Defence secretary , the meeting with the TNA leader R.Sambandan and the candid discussions with the heads of the armed forces.

What was of immediate concern to the Indian delegation was the up – coming South Asian Association of Regional Co-operation (SAARC) scheduled for July 29th – Aug 3rd in Colombo.

While many issues were discussed the most immediate and important one was the SAARC summit. This columnist will therefore devote himself to that issue alone in this article.

The SAARC summit is of paramount importance for Sri Lanka as Premier Man Mohan Singh is expected to hand over regional leadership to President Mahinda Rajapakse.

Sri Lanka would not like any repetition of SAARC related happenings in the early nineties of the previous century where India pulled out of the scheduled summit in Colombo causing immense loss of face to President Ranasinghe Premadasa who had made a name for himself as an India baiter.

An immediate cause of concern and even anxiety for India is the security situation in Sri Lanka. With several heads of state including the Indian premier expected to attend security is indeed a major area of concern.

What is obvious to the outsider and even the enlightened insider is the growing deterioration of security in Sri Lanka.

While aerial bombardment and artillery shelling go on unabated in the battle front violence prevails in other areas also.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) accuses the deep penetration unit of conducting land mine attacks in tiger controlled areas.

Likewise the LTTE is charged of perpetrating many explosions in Colombo and other Southern towns.

Disppearances, Abductions, assassinations etc go on with unchecked impunity in Jaffna, Vavuniya, the Eastern province, Colombo and suburbs etc.

In addition Colombo and many southern towns are becoming “garrison states” with increased security arrangements.

These include mass scale cordon and searches of Tamil residential areas and detention without trial.

While the powers that be are unaware or blissfully ignorant of how exactly the world perceives this once resplendent Island , there is very little doubt externally that the country is in the throes of a serious self – made crisis.

Against that backdrop it is a legitimate question for Indian officials to probe and ascertain whether the “Colombo climate” is indeed conducive for staging the SAARC summit and also for the Indian Premier to participate.

While claims are made of “intelligence” breakthroughs and hundreds of arrests are made in the aftermath of LTTE attacks the fact remains that tiger activity continues on a widespread scale making inroads into strong “Sinhala” territory.

On the other hand the Tamil minority is being victimised both officially and unofficially without any seeming recourse to effective justice.

The progressive rulings by the Supreme Court in some instances being honourable exceptions.

Complicating matters further are the allegations that some of the perpetrators of anti – Tamil violence are closely aligned to agents of the state.

Sri Lanka remains a democracy with a popular president and mega – cabinet to get on with the task of good governance.

Sadly despite all the trappings of order and authority nobody seems in control and “functional anarchy “ seems to be the order of the day

Concern therefore by Indian officials regarding the Indian Premier’s safety is quite legitimate.

It cannot be forgotten that a lowly naval rating dared to strike a crippling blow with his rifle on a visiting Indian Prime Minister 21 years ago while inspecting a guard of honour.

Instead of being ostracised from decent society that naval rating went on to become a local hero and even embarked on a political career.

It also cannot be forgotten that the same Indian premier (now out of office) was brutally assassinated on Indian soil by a Sri Lankan Tamil organization.

In that context Indian apprehensions about their Prime minister’s safety in Sri Lanka cannot be dismissed lightly.

The situation has been compounded further by the recent anti – Indian campaign by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna.

There have also been provocative utterances by government politicians about how India should conduct itself regarding Sri Lanka.

On the other hand the LTTE in recent times has been openly critical of India for aiding Colombo in the war.

This is a departure from earlier tiger practice where the LTTE has refrained from plugging an overt anti – Indian line.

There is also the emerging spectre of Muslim armed groups. Rightly or wrongly New Delhi suspects an Islamabad connection in this phenomenon.

In that context the security of Manmohan Singh during the Colombo SAARC summit is indeed a matter of grave concern for India.

New Delhi needs to be sure at the highest level that security can indeed be effectively guaranteed.

If necessary New Delhi may even break with protocol and precedent and provide its own enhanced security for its leader.

If the assessment is that the security situation is not “safe” then the controversial step of Manmohan Singh keeping away from the summit cannot be ruled out.

A SAARC summit without the Indian Prime minister is like staging the “Ramayana” without Lord Rama.

Moreover it could inflict heavy damage on Sri Lanka’s image globally.

There is rising global pressure on Sri Lanka about its unenviable human rights track record.

Indian support has been of crucial importance for Colombo to ward off western pressure in this regard.

But if India herself keeps away from the SAARC summit in Colombo the international fall – out could be disastrous for Sri Lanka.

Of all the SAARC leaders only the Indian premier is subject to “unique” pressure vis - a - vis Sri Lanka.

This is due to the domestic factor of Tamil Nadu being home to sixty – five million Tamils.

Events in Sri Lanka affecting Tamils could have an impact on Tamil Nadu. We saw this in the eighties of the 20th century.

Thanks mainly to the irresponsible and arrogant conduct of the LTTE the earlier support in Tamil Nadu for the Tamil cause is not prevalent.

Though the LTTE is banned and many Tamil Nadu Tamils hate the LTTE there is still much concern for the overall plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

This Tamil Nadu concern is very much a case of “Neeru pootha neruppu” (embers amid ashes) and the placid ashes could erupt into flames.

So far New Delhi has managed to “contain, manage and divert” Tamil Nadu on this issue.

Yet ethnic passions are a sensitive issue and some major event can whip up people into a frenzy. The New Delhi establishment is quite aware of this situation.

With the sole exception of a reputed media organization most Tamil Nadu media are highlighting the problems of Tamils in Sri Lanka without touching on the LTTE much.

Several organizations and political parties who were hesitant to talk about the Sri Lankan Tamil plight are boldly doing so now.

Already the pro – tiger lobby in Tamil Nadu has criticised the Indian government for aiding Colombo in prosecuting a “genocidal war” against the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

In a recent development the MDMK leader Vaiko has written to Manmohan Singh urging that he should not go to Colombo for the SAARC summit as that would amount to an endorsement of the Rajapakse regime’s war.

There is little doubt that this demand would gather momentum in the weeks to come.

In such a situation it would indeed be a bold gamble for Manmohan Singh to participate at the Colombo SAARC summit.

The danger in this is that if there is a serious conflagration affecting Tamils in Sri Lanka while Manmohan Singh is attending the SAARC summit the political fall – out in Tamil Nadu could be very serious.

This is the 25th anniversary of the July 1983 anti – Tamil pogrom. Escalating violence against the Tamils in recent times is increasing Tamil insecurity.

What most people do not understand is that the Tamils in Sri Lanka are now in a beleaguered state of mind about their safety and security.

The confidence that Tamils had during the times of Premadasa, Kumaratunga and Wickremasinghe that July 1983 will not be allowed to repeat itself is no longer there.

This columnist being a Tamil knows for a fact that such a fear prevails among many members of the community.

Sadly no meaningful steps have been taken to dispel this fear psychosis.

In such a scenario the outbreak of anti – Tamil violence during the time of the SAARC summit is the last thing India would want to happen.

Adding further worry to the Congress led government is the recent string of political success by the chief opposition Bhartiya Janata Party.

In a surprising development the BJP scored in the Southern state of Karnataka and has formed a government (albeit minority).

With parliamentary elections looming on a national scale the Congress would be wary of the BJP making inroads into the Southern state of Tamil Nadu also.

If Tamil Nadu starts boiling over the Sri Lankan Tamil issue there could be a re- configuration of political forces in the state.

This may not necessarily be of benefit to the Congress.

It is possible if not probable that the flashpoint of tension triggering off an anti – congress wave in Tamil Nadu could very well be an issue affecting Sri Lankan Tamils.

It may indeed be a stroke of ill – luck if some event related to the SAARC Colombo summit marks the beginning of this process.

Thus for Manmohan Singh there are two considerations in ensuring relative stability at least for a specific period in Sri Lanka before , during and after the SAARC summit.

Firstly there is the personal security factor and secondly the risk of political fall – out.

Administrations with myopic mindsets focusing on the security dimension alone could respond to this situation in two ways.

One is to provide additional input and enhance security. This however may be an impossible task given the wide- spread scope and scale of violence in Sri Lanka.

The second is to keep away from Colombo citing legitimate security concerns.

Both options may however not be acceptable to India as its recent style of governance has been to “work around things”.

India is indeed the “pivotal” and “pre- eminent “power in the South Asian region and it has duties and obligations it cannot afford to shirk or ignore.

The third alternative in creating a conducive climate for SAARC could be one relying on diplomatic dexterity.

It is in this regard that the sudden visit to Sri Lanka of the three Indian “wise men “ assumes greater significance and importance.

A wise, humanitarian and statesmanlike approach towards the issue could be that of ushering in a climate of relative peace and violence free atmosphere before , during and after the SAARC summit.

Given the commitment of the Rajapakse government to wage relentless war against LTTE “terrorism” and the ferocious determination of the tigers in resisting it there is practically no hope at this juncture of the war being called off.

What seems feasible is to bring about a gradual de – escalation of hostilities by both sides.

Again there is little chance of such a “ de – escalation of hostilities” being a formal one. It has to be a de – facto and not a de – jure agreement

What is in the realm of the possible is that both sides scale down their offensive operations on a staggered basis.

If the levels of violence are brought down gradually the SAARC summit could take place in a period of lull without mishap.

While the Rajapakse government would be reluctant to go in for an “official” temporary ceasefire or de- escalation of hostilities the prospect of an undeclared, unacknowledged scaling down of violence leading to a lull could be something it can live with.

Besides there is the added incentive of being in the good books of New Delhi and deriving support in withstanding western pressures.

More importantly Colombo could stage a summit without any hitch with the Indian premier attending. It is imperative for President Rajapakse to don the SAARC leadership mantle smoothly.

If the Government is indeed amenable to such a course of action there is also the need to obtain LTTE consent to adhere to related parameters.

Again only India is capable of prevailing upon the LTTE to agree.

India has cracked down really hard in the recent past in more ways than one.

A relaxation by India could be a welcome respite if not a reprieve for the LTTE.

Having banned the tigers New Delhi cannot deal directly with the LTTE at this point of time. But other connections and back channels are always available.

Firstly there is Norway the India approved facilitator.

Secondly there are Tamil Nadu politicians close to the LTTE and acceptable to Manmohan Singh like Vaiko.

Thirdly there the unorthodox contact personnel handled by intelligence agencies like a flamboyant Hindu “God man”.

Fourthly there are also the more senior members of the Tamil National Alliance like Rajavarothayam Sambandan and others.

The meeting with Sambandan alone in Colombo and the invitation extended for a TNA delegation to visit New Delhi are by themselves significant developments.

If India is able to persuade the warring parties to agree temporarily to an “unofficial de – escalation of hostilities “ and if both sides implement it sincerely a comparative lull in violence could prevail.

This in turn could pave the way for the successful staging of the SAARC summit in Colombo.

While it would be premature to speculate now such a lull could also be the first step on the long road to peace.

There is no doubt that the coming days would pose an immense challenge to the diplomatic prowess of Kautilya’s land.

A Sri Lankan peace process that has India’s backing has the greatest chance of success.

Whatever the ultimate result of the Indian trio’s visit one thing has emerged through the mission very clearly.

India will no longer adopt a laid back stance regarding a durable peace in Sri Lanka.

While it may not be a visible “hands on” approach it would not be “hands off”either.

This then is a harbinger of good news for all those yearning for a just and durable peace in Sri Lanka.

DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at: djeyaraj2005@yahoo.com

June 21, 2008

It’s the war that is stupid!

by Rajan Philips

It would be stupid to lose sight of any war, but the bigger folly is not to realize that war itself is stupid. War is not a public good; it never was. It may have been a necessary evil in times past, but nothing less than avoidable madness at the present time. It creates more problems than it solves, and wherever it is being waged it is causing public misery while producing private or corporate gain. War is promoted and prosecuted almost always in grand terms associated with state, sovereignty, national self-determination and national security. These categories, in spite of their medieval and modern grandeur, are increasingly irrelevant to the existential challenges of our times and the survival needs of most people. Waging war in the name of outdated categories does not enable people’s security but endangers their survival.

War is no longer a continuation of politics, but a failure of politics. It is an illustration of the evolutionary shortcomings of those who decide to wage war and others who urge and spur the decision makers. Crass political calculations rather than genuine consideration of public interest underlie most eruptions of war. Along the way, it draws and benefits the scumbags of society who have no shame in profiting from the business of killing. The social and economic costs of war are huge and diverse, and the benefits few, if not nil. Those who die fighting are involuntary subalterns; they join the army because they are poor, or are conscripted to a political group under one pretext, or another. The civilian victims, who are caught in the crossfire or suicide bombings, are forgotten after the initial ululations.   

Sri Lankans have seen all of this in one form or another, through the ebb and flow of war for the last thirty years. The people are hurting but the leaders on all sides have become “worser and not wiser” (to borrow Muhammad Ali’s memorable coinage during his opposition to the Vietnam War) for the experience. The current phase of fighting began after the Presidential election in 2005. It began as if the principals on both sides had got tired of the vacuous peace process that was going nowhere, and wanted to exercise their idling war muscles. It began with each side’s cockiness that it could beat the other side and dictate an unfair (government) or disproportionate (LTTE) political solution to end the military conflict.

All the plans of the government and the LTTE have gone awry. First, the Tigers got more than their tail cut in the East, and now the Sri Lankan army is leaping from one quagmire to another in the North. When the Tigers showed off their assembled air planes in Colombo, the government began hammering Tamil areas with aerial bombing. While the army makes incremental advances on the battlefront, the Tigers hit back on buses and trains in the public space. 2008 was heralded as the year of the Tiger annihilation, at least the verifiable destruction of its military apparatus. Six months later, cocky deadline predictions have given way to loud sermonizing about the need for the government to be resolute, stay-the-course, ignore West’s warnings about human rights, cultivate the non-West as a counterweight to the West, intimidate and harass independent journalists and critics of war as infidels, and to keep fighting to the finish. The Tigers, on the other hand, are conditioned to keep on fighting regardless of what the finish might be. By all accounts, the Tigers appear to have been irretrievably weakened. But despite all assertions, the army does not appear to be getting any stronger after 18 months of fighting. 

Neither the government nor the LTTE has the will or the willingness to stop this war of attrition. Worse, they do not seem to know how to stop it even if they want to. There is no avenue or mechanism to bring to bear public protest and political pressure on the two warring entities. The current stalemate of violence and the inability to break out of it are also the result of the flawed and failed peace process that tottered around for three years before the Rajapakse government and the LTTE put it out of misery even as they put all the Sri Lankan people into misery. It was the flaws and the failure of the peace process that let the Tiger off the hook and brought Rajapakse to power.

The peace process really began in 1994, and not in 2002, although the latter version had the longest ceasefire on record since the so called Eelam Wars began. Both phases of the peace process fatally suffered from specific ‘constituency deficits’. The first phase, under President Kumaratunga, could not keep the LTTE engaged for long, as the LTTE broke loose and broke the ceasefire. In the second phase, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe stunned many Sri Lankans by bringing the LTTE into the peace process, but only at the expense of the more nationalist sections of the Sinhalese. They and important sections of the armed forces felt thoroughly betrayed and thought that Ranil Wickremasinghe had sold out to the Tigers. The Kumaratunga-Wickremasinghe tug-of-war did its part to undermine both phases of the peace process. The coup de grace was delivered by Kumaratunga when she dismissed the Wickremasinghe government on the spurious grounds of national security, and turned to the JVP for political support. Rather than producing anything positive, her precipitous actions only accelerated her exit from the presidency.

The political and social undercurrents beneath these palace games need to be highlighted. The unfortunate upshot of the state-led flowering of Sinhalese nationalism and the uplifting of the Sinhalese under-classes has been the state-alienation of the Tamil and Muslim minority nationalist aspirations and economic expectations. This was the meaning of 1956 and has been its legacy. The question is asked even now as to what the minority grievances are. The simple answer is that there are no Tamils or Muslims among the celebrated ‘children of 1956’. 1956 separated the Tamils and Muslims and left them ‘officially’ less than equal. It is no accident that many supporters of the present war in the South consider themselves to be the children of 1956. Equally, the LTTE considers itself to be constituted by the ‘other’ children of 1956.

It is farfetched and revisionistic to suggest now that the B-C Pact that was intended to partially redress the imbalance of 1956 foundered on S.J.V. Chelvanayakam’s description of it as an interim adjustment. The Pact itself embodied the interim spirit, a quid pro quo for the Federal Party to call off its Satyagraha campaign. J.R. Jayewardene who led the march against the Pact, noted in his diary after its abrogation that Prime Minister Bandaranaike should never have abrogated it! Go, figure!!

Thirty years later, as the first elected President, Jayewardene reluctantly brought in the Thirteenth Amendment to provide the redress that the B-C Pact had envisaged. The fact that the LTTE did not endorse the Amendment is no reason why the Rajapakse government should have reneged on it. What was unimplemented as 13th Amendment, was reduced to 13-minus, and is now being promised to be rendered into 13-plus, whatever it might mean.  

Tamil attempts to achieve equality through total separation have clearly backfired, but crushing the only remaining separatist organization by itself will not provide the final answer to the question of 1956. War, or no war, the question of 1956 continues to beg for an answer. That answer has to be of a political and structural nature, and not a hectoring advice to Tamils that they should follow a co-opted Tamil politician, who in turn has been following three Presidents and is all ready to follow more.


June 20, 2008

India, a blundering necessity in Sri Lanka

By Kusal Perera

Most recently, our Foreign Minister who was in India to formally invite the Indian PM Dr. Singh for the SAARC Summit, was reported to have told the Indian media that India should not interfere in Sri Lankan issues. India has been involved in Sri Lankan issues, very many times in the past too, beginning with the citizenship issue of Indian origin Tamil people resident here. The Northern Tamil issue came in lately. With the death of Rajiv Gandhi, that Indian intervention has accrued a new dimension, in that they now show an inclination of eliminating the LTTE, a condition that previously wasn’t there. But the LTTE does have political backing, not necessarily from mega politicians, but from different community groups and trades in Tamil Nadu that give them leverage in organising military backups. All of it may not be happening outside the scrutiny of the Indian Research and Analysis Wing. The Indian State is certainly influenced by RAW scrutiny, though with Tamil Nadu politics in mind.

But then, what worth is it for India that’s on a fast track growth mode, to think of a society that is smaller than its small Haryana state which has a population of 22 million against 19 million Sri Lankans ? Worst is this 19 million as a whole society does not have any significant buying power either, for a foreign State to intervene on economic grounds. With an inflation that’s speeding at break neck speed and zoomed past 40 per cent in real life early this week and bank interest rates on borrowing jacked up to over 22 per cent in the midst of fuel price hikes, there is no sizeable Sri Lankan middle class that could keep affording the luxury of shopping at free will. This leaves the super percentage of wealthy consumers at around 20 that shares or rather grabs 47.3 per cent of the national wealth. What is 20 per cent of 19 million Sri Lankans as a market which is roughly 04 million, for any foreign attention?

If it is this small market that matters, the Indian business men have already taken over that.

What then is the Indian interest? It is not economic power per se. It is geo political supremacy per se. India has always lived with it and worked for it. Even during the more closed era when India was a gentle and exemplary member of the Non – Aligned Movement, Indian subtleties had Nepalese and Bhutanese monarchies behave the Indian way.

India for sure is heading to be the super power in the South Asian region. It would compete with China to be a super power in Asia as well, in the next decade. Economically and culturally none in our region could match the Indians. They now buy over British companies as large as Jaguar and Land Rover, buy all big cricketing stars from any where in the world to play in their premier league cricket and their Bollywood stars are larger than Hollywood heroes. All that supremacy can only be sustained and dominated with political power, if military power is not the rule of the game. Thus it is geo-political supremacy in the region that makes Sri Lanka important to India. And it had always been the Tamil conflict that allowed India to plant its feet in Sri Lankan politics.

But where did it start ? Let’s not forget that during the early stages of the conflict through 1950’s to 1970’s, or more precisely till the constitution of the Tamil political campaigns remained as very democratic campaigns and protests seeking a negotiated place in a unitary State, the Indian government did not see it as necessary to intervene in Sri Lankan politics. There are many reasons; the cumulative impact of which could be adduced as the total reason for such Indian behaviour. First, the democratic Tamil political leaders concentrated overwhelmingly to strike an accord with the Colombo regime in settling their political disputes and no outsider was necessary for that. Two, they did not include Tamil Nadu into their equation, as their perception of a Tamil society did not extend beyond VVT and PP to then Madras. Three, all Colombo regimes too were dependent more on the Sinhala polity to provide them with the extra clout to be in power and did not take democratic campaigns by the Tamil political leadership as a challenge that would require foreign support. Four, the Sinhala leadership in the South was more an introvert leadership, harking back on the past to live a closeted life and therefore its foreign policy remained non aligned, which meant it was more with the non-market, politically centralised countries that did not disturb the Indian palate.

The change in Sri Lankan politics in 1977 led to many changes. A change over to a limitless free economy, shifted trade relations that were dominated by Soviet bloc countries to that of market driven countries in Europe, America and Asia. So did our foreign alignments, to suit that change. It was a shift in alliance, India and Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister did not much fancy.

Hand in glove with that change and growing suspicion, came the political shift in handling the Tamil conflict.

The Jayewardene regime which despotically centralised the already centralised State with an all powerful Executive Presidency, moved to tame Tamil politics with its own political power in the South that then was an enormous five sixth majority in parliament.

This was a period, the emerging new generation of young Tamil political activists were questioning the ability of their elder democratic leaders. They were wary of negotiating with the Colombo based Sinhala leaders who had always taken the elder Tamil political leaders on a ride. Governments in the South never treated with respect the dialogues and agreements the Tamil political leadership honoured on their part. From the betrayal of the 1957 B-C pact to 1965 D-C Pact and then the 1972 Constitution through to Standardising of University Entrance, it was Southern leaders who stood against all Tamil compromises.

 The worst was the massacre of the DDC’s in 1981, after the Tamil political leadership agreed to a provincial administration, even after receiving a 99% mandate for a separate Tamil State.

All that left no reason for this new generation to respect the legitimacy of the Sinhala State that by then had failed them for over 33 years. They therefore shunned the democratic path to encamp in Tamil Nadu to organise their military logistics in order to achieve a separate Tamil State.

The first Indian intervention was possible with this paradigm shift in Tamil politics. India under Madam Gandhi tried to exploit this situation in early 1980’s to teach the Jayewardene regime a lesson for straying too far towards the US. Indians as a rule, did not appreciate any US presence in this part of our region.

That was reason why they worked with the Soviet regime on defence. With the assumption that the Jayewardene regime was getting entrenched in US influence, Madam Gandhi provided Tamil groups with training, weapons and money to pressure President Jayewardene to turn around towards Indian assistance. History proves that Madam Gandhi and her advisors could not lessen US presence here by their decision. In fact US presence is now felt more after two and a half decades. Its more there in India too. [dailymirror.lk]

June 17, 2008

Jaffna Report, Jun 17, 2008

 

by Commission for Justice and Peace

GENERAL

  • The President of the Union of the Jaffna District Fisheries has made an urgent appeal to the Non Govt. Organisations functioning in the district to provide relief for the 2,800 fishing families from Gurunagar, Passayoor and Columbuthurai who are facing death from starvation due to ban on fishing consequent to the attack in the lagoon on 28th May.  Most of the families which were existing on a hand to mouth existence had been badly hit and as such they require urgent relief in the form of dry food rations.
  • On account of the ban and restrictions on fishing imposed in the Jaffna District more than 70,000 persons from 17,000 fishing families have been severely affected according to the President of the Jaffna District Fishermen Cooperative Societies Union.
  • Cost of living and poverty in the district has risen to  a very high state.  In a senior secondary school, the students in a certain class were begging their teachers to arrange to provide the normal noon meals provided by the INGO to be given very early as they were about to faint as they went to sleep the previous night on empty stomach filling it with water.
  • Diabetic patients attending the clinic in the Teaching Hospital are facing a dilemma as the hospital laboratory personnel send away the patients calling for blood tests without assigning any reasons.  Most of the patients who are normally old and poor cannot afford to get these test reports from the private laboratories.  

FOOD, NON-FOOD ITEMS & RELATED ISSUES

  • Prices of most of the essential food items continue to increase and the consumers in the district are finding very difficult to make ends meet.

May 2008

Market price Rs.

June 2008

Market price Rs.

MPCS

Rs.

I kilo of par-boiled Rice

92 - 100

110 - 115

-

I kilo of Chamba Rice

70

80

66

I kilo of sugar

70

77

75

400 g milk powder

285

285

-

300 g coconut milk powder

Not available

290

-

1 litre Vegetable oil

Not available

280

-

1 Kg Onion

80

140

-

I litre kerosene

88.90

88.90

-

I kilo of dhal

140

180

140

1 pair pen-torch battery

300

300

-

1 kilo flour

90

90

82

MPCS – Multi Purpose Cooperative Shop

DISPLACEMENT

  • Displaced life of people in the areas of Mandaitivu, Allaipitty, Mirusuvil and Eluthumattuval are still continuing.

INJURIES, KILLING, SURRENDER AND DISAPPEARANCES

  •  Nadarasamoorthy Ketheeswaran (28) from Pannakam, Chulipuram was kidnapped by armed men in uniform at 10.40 p.m. on 11th June while he was staying at Sharmila Lodge, Kotehena, Colombo , kidnappers have used a white van with registration no. 56-5674.
  • Two youth who had earlier surrendered to the Human Rights Commission for protection from murder threats and were in protective custody of the department of Prisons were waylaid by an armed gang and were shot dead on 13th June while they were transported by the prison vehicle to the Point Pedro prisons.  Armed gang had hijacked a van having bound the driver.  The driver was found in the van which was left on the road.  Selvarajah Leptinraj (17) and Thangarajah Sulosan (17) both of Karaveddy were the murdered youths.  Father, mother and a brother of Leptin were kidnapped by white van during the month of May.  Jerome Raguparan (21) was wounded in the firing as he was also travelling in the van.
  • A person of 34 years with his wife of 33 years and daughter of 4 years from Urelu, Chunnakam have surrendered to the Human Rights Commission of Jaffna on the 16th for protection from murder threats.

CURFEW HOURS:

  • Curfew hours have been changed in the Jaffna peninsula since 7th June 2008.  Curfew has been imposed from 7 p.m. till 5.00 a.m.  the following day in the Jaffna district.

INSI: Ensure Safety of Regional Representative, Frederica Jansz

Statement by INSI

The International News Safety Institute is gravely concerned by the death threat against prominant Sri Lankan journalist and INSI representative Frederica Jansz and seeks immediate government action to ensure her safety.

An unidentified person phoned Ms Jansz at 1130 on 14 June and, speaking in Sinhalese, said she was involved in a lot of unnecessary work and must cease immediately or in a very short period of time see what would happen to her. When asked to be more specific about the so-called unnecessary work, the caller responded that she knew what it was and then repeated the threat before hanging up.

Ms Jansz is former Deputy Editor of the Sunday Leader, Editor of the monthly magazine Montage and a leading investigative journalist. She is also South Asia co-coordinator of the International News Safety Institute, an NGO dedicated to the safety of news media in dangerous situations.

“This latest threat against the life of a journalist, even in Sri Lanka’s turmoil, is completely unacceptable,” said INSI Director Rodney Pinder. “Ms Jansz is a professional journalist simply doing her job of keeping her society informed. In addition, she is engaged for INSI on the entirely peaceful and vital work of trying to make South Asia a safer place for working journalists. This threatens no one and helps many.

“We call on the government of Sri Lanka to investigate this threat swiftly and comprehensively and to ensure Ms Jansz’s safety.”

Ms Jansz received number of indirect threats during the month of May. On one occasion a heavy vehicle was parked outside her residence for an hour, its lights on and engine revving. In early May a headless chicken was left in front of her office.

Any questions on this news release should be addressed to Rodney Pinder, email rodney.pinder@newssafety.com tel +44 7734 709267 [The International News Safety Institute]

June 14, 2008

Tissainayagam: Enough is enough, free him or charge him

By Ameen Izzadeen

As the sun's first rays at 5.55 a.m. today gently stroked this blessed land troubled by three decades of war, wiping out darkness and assuring a better tomorrow, senior journalist Tissainayagam wakes up to the horrible reality that he has spent 100 days in detention in a cell at the Terrorism Investigations Department.

 

He is not the Tissa we last saw. Tissainayagam (right) leaving Colombo’s Magistrate’s Court on Friday after he was produced before it for the first time since his arrest on March 7. With him was N. Jasiharan, the owner of the printing press where Tissa had his web magazine office

For 100 long days and terrible sleepless nights — and who knows how many more days and nights — Tissa has been a terror suspect. If he is a terrorist, then those who arrested him surely must have had a lead by now to proceed with and charge him with the crime he is alleged to have committed. But so far, neither the judiciary nor the people who value freedom — the freedom of thought, the freedom of expression and the freedom of association — have been told why Tissa is being held at the TID.

When asked, the authorities simply say there is evidence. If there is evidence, then charge him in a court of law, so that he could defend himself. During his 100 days of detention, he has been interrogated by not only officials of the TID, but also by others.

At the time of his arrest, he was contributing a regular column to The Sunday Times. One of his last columns dealt with the abominable practice of child recruitment, especially in government-controlled east. Is it this article that made him a terror suspect? One never knows. Ten days ago, the authorities obtained a court order to extend Tissa's detention by another 90 days, bringing disappointment and dejection to all those who know and respect Tissa.

As he marked his 100th day in a TID cell, Tissa, as he is fondly called by friends and family members, looks frail. He has lost weight and his hair is overgrown while a disorderly beard makes a sorry sight to behold. His wife, Ronnate, a former journalist, is virtually fighting a lone battle to free Tissa. She reminds me of the courageous character in Maniratnam's Roja, an Indian film, where the wife of a soldier, taken prisoner by Kashmiri separatists, fights her own battle to free her husband, after the army gives up hopes of freeing him. As a member of the journalistic fraternity, I feel we have not done enough to win freedom for Tissa. There were few, if any, protests or poster campaigns and only occasional statements.

Jayaprakash Tissainayagam, a Tamil by birth and English media journalist, was arrested on March 7 by TID sleuths, a day after they took into custody the owner of a printing press where Tissa had an office. It was from this office that Tissa handled his web magazine — outreachsl.com, a website that gave Sri Lankan news and analyses. I was a regular visitor to the site which was funded by a German non-governmental organisation, FLICT (Facilitating Local Initiative for Conflict Transformation). The objectives of FLICT are to strengthen Sri Lankan civil society to play a more effective and influential role in contributing towards a lasting and positive peace.

I found the website informative and not pro-LTTE. The tool I employed to analyse his website was freedom of expression — not blind patriotism. The authorities now say that Tissa is being held not for his writings, though I understand he has been questioned as to who his journalistic sources were and who funded his website.

Prisoner of conscience

I believe that in terms of the definition of the phrase 'prisoner of conscience', Tissa is more a prisoner of conscience than a terror suspect. According to Amnesty International, the term "prisoner of conscience" refers to anyone imprisoned because of his race, religion, colour, language, sexual orientation, or belief, so long as he has not used or advocated violence.

Tissa never condoned terrorism or separatism. Neither do his writings exhort Tamils to take to violence. His vision was to make this country a land of peace and justice where people irrespective of caste, creed, race or religion could live in harmony as Sri Lankans.

An acknowledged intellectual, Tissa, a Peradeniya University's political science graduate with a master's degree from New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, often has a stimulating counterpoint. Whenever I met him, I made sure that I spent some time with him over a cup of tea to discuss topics ranging from constitutional matters and crises in politics to the media scene and movies.

A quiet human rights activist for the past two decades, Tissa, through his writings, had highlighted the plight of the Sinhala youth, during the 1988-90 JVP insurrection. When I heard the shocking news on March 7 that Tissa had been arrested, the question that flashed across my mind was, "Will he be tortured?"

Ministers may defend the country's case before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, saying that since Sri Lanka has been a signatory to the anti-torture convention, the abominable practice has long been abandoned. But interrogators world over give scant respect for a country's commitment to anti-torture conventions. Even Americans practise waterboarding — a sophisticated form of torture — to elicit information.

But in Tissa's case, I gather that he was treated courteously by his interrogators. I thank those TID gentlemen. But spending 100 days in virtual solitary confinement amidst uncertainty as to how many more days one has to spend within highly fortified walls — the witnesses to many tales of woe, like that of Tissa's — is in itself torture.

In March, he challenged his detention by petitioning the Supreme Court. The next hearing of the case is in September — a long way off for a detainee for whom every minute seems a year in a TID cell.
Tissa's 100-day milestone comes in the wake of a US Supreme Court ruling that cheered up human rights campaigners. The ruling gave terror suspects the right to go to federal courts to seek their release from indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

In a way Tissa should count himself lucky for not ending up like Dharmaratnam Sivaram, whose body was found near the parliament complex a day after he was abducted —or like Keith Noyahr, who was abducted and assaulted mercilessly by a gang recently.

It's true that Sri Lanka is in the midst of a war that is sapping all its human and economic resources. The country's future lies in bringing the war to an early end. Tissa worked within this premise. But his approach was different. Tissa, the peacelover he is, preferred dialogue as a means to bring about a just solution to the national question.

The continuous detention of Tissa without being charged splashes a black mark on the collective conscience of Sri Lanka, a country nurtured by a more-than-2,500-year civilization and the teachings of the Buddha and other great religious leaders and thinkers.

Free him or charge him with the offence he is alleged to have committed is the cry of this colleague as Tissa waits for the day when he could sing the song of freedom, like a bird in the sky.
[sundaytimes.lk]

It's the war, stupid

by Dayan Jayatilleka

Sri Lanka has a bizarre intelligentsia. Some don’t really mind the LTTE. Others do but that’s because they also mind any Tamil who speaks his or her mind. Still others mind the LTTE but think that they aren’t the country’s main problem. There are very few whose threat perception of the LTTE is of the correct dimensions, but are also sensitive to the need for a more enlightened consciousness and drastically improved inter-ethnic relations.

SIPRI, the famous Swedish institute of peace research, the pioneering outfit in the field, classifies Sri Lanka’s conflict as a "major conflict". Some others in this category include Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine and India/Kashmir.

The even more famous FBI classifies the LTTE as among the world’s worst terrorist group.

A major conflict involving one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the world, fighting a secessionist war on a small island, cannot but amount to the main, the most serious, the worst, the most dangerous, the primary and the principal threat facing that country. It cannot but be accorded highest priority.

The great liberal thinker Prof Isaiah Berlin pointed out the painful truth that public goods are not always compatible and that often one has to make choices. In Sri Lanka’s case the choice is the one of the toughest: Guns or butter? In any other country, it would hardly be a choice. If a powerful separatist movement were waging a war against the state, especially a state that had no geographic defense in depth, i.e. is a small country, then the question of priority would not even arise. Nothing would be allowed to compromise the security of the country.

It must be made clear that this is a question of survival in several senses, many of them fairly basic. If the Tigers are not defeated totally, they will continue to murder our people, we and our loved ones will have to live in perpetual insecurity, as we do now.

If the Tigers are not totally defeated, they will continue to murder our leaders until the Sinhalese and democratic Tamils are decapitated, leaderless.

If the Tigers are not totally defeated, they will bleed our resources until the economy is anemic.

If the Tigers are not totally defeated they may make a comeback and eventually achieve their goal with external help as the Kosovo separatists did – and a totalitarian Tiger state on our soil will be transformed into a heavily militarized entity, a Sparta like garrison state, which will launch air-raids and artillery barrages on a shrunken Sri Lanka any time it chooses.

If on the other hand, we win, then our natural endowments alone will revive the economy: the blockaded Cuban economy is buoyed by a million tourists a year.

What we need is to bring this conflict to a close, and given the character of the enemy that can only be by means of a military defeat inflicted upon it. What we need to win is the political will and resolute determination to push on despite all external pressures, and the superior practice of the art and science of warfare.  We also need secure political space externally (regional and international) for our armed forces to do the job. That should be the primary task of our foreign policy and diplomacy.

What we do not need is the wrong set of priorities or a confused mixture.

The reunification of the state, the defense of its territorial integrity and sovereignty, are classically political questions, and as Lenin said replying Bukharin, a brilliant political economist, "politics cannot but take precedence over economics. That is the ABC of Marxism". Mao Ze Dong correctly paraphrased it as "Politics in Command". If Lenin and Mao did not have this clarity, and reduced the politico-military to economics, neither the Russia Revolution nor the emancipation of China would have been possible.

Then again, the dominant if unconscious heritage of the Sri Lankan intelligentsia has been Trotskyism, and that mindset has been critiqued (Regis Debray, Nicholas Krasso, Kostas Mavrakis) for its "sociological reductionism", "economism" and inability to grasp "the radical autonomy of the political instance". This is why the major party of the Lankan Left waged strikes when the world was fighting fascism and Ceylon was threatened by Japanese militarism. This is why the LSSP was launching strikes when it should have been supporting the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam pact of 1957 against the Sinhala chauvinist forces of the UNP and within the ruling coalition.

That is also why the JVP, which Wijeweera injected with neo-Trotskyism in the post 1971 (actually post 1973) phase, has decided on a campaign of trade unionism, de-stabilizing our military’s rear area, just as Tiger bombs do, while decisive battles are looming against the Tigers in the Wanni.

What we do not need is to take our eyes off the ball. Economics is the base but the politico-military (war plus devolution) is the "key link", to use Lenin’s phrase of which Mao was so fond. Or to put in purely Maoist lexicon, economics is the "main force"but the war is the "leading force".

Our finest "development President", Premadasa, whose far-sighted thinking anticipated both Mahmood Yunoos and Amartya Sen, prioritized development over the war and died as a result of that mistake, and with him died the realizable dream of Sri Lanka as another Malaysia. We can ill afford to dwell in the halfway houses of the past quarter century.

The tragedy of Premadasa and the ensuing fate of Sri Lanka confirm that over the past quarter century, the war has not only been the most dramatic or dominant factor in the country’s contemporary history, but also the determinant factor, the motive force of development of the historical process.

A characteristic of Trotskyism is the inability to understand that processes have interlinked yet distinct, distinguishable stages, in which there are different tasks and alignments. We are in the first stage, which is national and democratic, where the tasks are to reunify the state, protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and devolve power through democratic elections to the provincial councils in keeping with the13th amendment. This is being undertaken. As the late Prof Urmila Phadnis’ last student and protégé, Sudha Ramachandran, a trenchant critic of the Sri Lankan government, wrote recently, the dream of a Tiger Homeland encompassing the Northern and Eastern provinces is dead.

The economic development and public welfare agenda will be the second stage. A post war boom may result from reconstruction and inflows of foreign investment. The Human Rights crisis which in wartime follows a tragic situational logic, will drastically improve in the second stage. The reckoning and reconciliation that takes place in post-conflict peace-building situations cannot realistically be expected in the midst of a major, mid-intensity conflict. The electorate will insist on these post-war tasks.

(These are the personal views of the author)

Minister Rambukwella threatens Principal of Royal College

Principal forced to withdraw suspension on Minister’s son after robbery in school

The   Principal of Royal College Upali Gunasekera was last week forced under threat and pressure to revoke an order instituting disciplinary action against the son of Minister Keheliya Rambukwella for committing robbery and mischief in the school premises.

The Sunday Leader learns  five students of Royal College were subjected to disciplinary action by the Principal after they were found guilty of forcibly breaking into the room of Senior Games Master Sudath Liyanagunawardena and stealing some files.

It is learned four of the students had confessed to the crime while Minister Rambukwella’s son Ramith had refused to do so.

However, according to evidence recorded by the school, the other students involved in the incident had implicated Minister Rambukwella’s son as the chief instigator.

Informed sources said, Royal College had also informed the Cinnamon Gardens Police of the break in and that the Police had visited the scene of the crime and taken fingerprints.

Following an inquiry conducted by the school into the crime, it is learned the four boys who confessed to the crime were given a one month suspension from all co-curricular activities including sports, while Minister Rambukwella’s son was given a three month suspension due to his failure to confess.

The Sunday Leader learns, following the suspension order, Minister Rambukwella had visited the school with his security and demanded of the Principal to withdraw the suspension on his son or face court action.

 It is also learned the Principal and the Deputy Principal were informed they would be transferred to Vavuniya if the suspension order was not withdrawn.

Informed sources said the urgency of getting the suspension order withdrawn was for the Minister’s son to be eligible to play in a cricket match today.

These sources said the Principal, Deputy Principal and two school teachers also started receiving threatening calls following this incident but were not able to confirm the source of these threats.

 It is learned that given the emotional and physical pressure the Principal and school came under over the incident, especially the threat of transfer, Principal Gunasekera decided to revoke the suspension order unconditionally Friday evening.

Contacted by The Sunday Leader, Principal Gunasekera declined to comment on the incident.

The Sunday Leader learns however that Attorney General C.R. De Silva who is an old boy of Royal College was informed Friday evening of the circumstances which led to the Principal unconditionally withdrawing the suspension order.

An old boy of the school told The Sunday Leader the Old Boys Union will take up this issue for discussion at the next meeting and take the necessary follow up action.

Last TULF Leader Standing: Sangaree at Seventy Five

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Eighteen Members were elected to Parliament from the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) in 1977 .This was an election of historic importance where the TULF contested on a separatist platform saying a victory at the polls was a mandate for Tamil Eelam.

Three decades and more have passed since then. Thirteen of the eighteen MP’s elected in 1977 are not among the living now.

Of the remaining ex – MP’s three have retired from politics . They are K.P.Ratnam , C. Rajadurai and P. Soosaithasan.

The two veteran TULF leaders who are in active politics at present are Rajavarothayam . Sambandan and Veerasingham . Anandasangaree.

[At the Acceptance Speech of UNESCO/ Madanjeet Singh Prize for Promotion of Tolerance and Non Violence - Mr. V. Anandasangaree, on Nov 16, 2006]

Both are at loggerheads with each other though Anandasangaree is the TULF president and Sambandan its secretary – general

A legal dispute concerning the party has rendered it virtually inactive.

Many leaders of the TULF have in association with three other Tamil parties formed the Tamil National Alliance which contested the last elections under the house symbol of the Ilankai Thamil arasu Katchi (ITAK). Sambandan himself was elected to Parliament from the Trincomalee district.

Anandasangaree or Sangaree as he is generally known remains outside the Tamil National alliance and functions as the TULF president.

The TULF is today a caricature of its former self mainly due to the terror and intimidating tactics of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)

While most of the “nominal” TULF leaders have become puppets of the LTTE the bulk of the rank and file remain loyal to the TULF still. How ever they are unable to assert themselves openly and fearlessly.

Against such a backdrop it has been the lot of party president Anandasangaree to keep the TULF flag flying bravely . In recent times Sangaree has become the personification of the TULF.

In that sense Veerasingham Anandasangaree is today the last man standing of the TULF leaders. One doubts very much whether there would ever be a TULF after him.

Today (June 15th) is a significant milepost for Sangaree as he celebrates his seventy – fifth birthday today.

Born in Point Pedro in June 1933, Anandasangaree grew up in Atchuvely as his father was a school principal at Sri Somaskanda College in neighbouring Puthur. Sangaree himself studied at Sri Somaskanda, Christian College Atchuvely, Hartley College , Point Pedro and also Zahira College , Colombo .

Before taking up law, Sangaree was a pedagogue teaching at Hindu College Jaffna, Poonakari MMV, Kotalawela GTM School , Ratmalana and Christ King College Ja-Ela.

He passed out as a lawyer in 1967 and began practicing till 1983 when the TULF leaders refused to take oaths under the 6th amendment to the constitution. He has not worn the black coat ever since.

Like many political leaders on both sides of the ethnic divide, Sangaree too began his politics as an ardent Trotskyite. He was an active member of the Lanka Sama Samaaja Party (LSSP) Youth League from 1955 to 1965.

His first experience in running for electoral office was in 1959 when he contested the Colombo Municipal Council on the LSSP ticket. His opponent was none other than the uncrowned king of Colombo municipal politics V. A. Sugathadasa who was also mayor then. It was a baptism of fire in Colombo for the 25 year old Jaffna youth.

The March 1960 elections saw the LSSP under Dr. N. M. Perera make a determined bid for political power through electoral politics. The party contested 101 seats in all parts of the island and NM himself was projected as the future prime minister of the country. NM asked Sangaree to contest the newly carved rural constituency of Kilinochchi as a LSSP candidate. Anandasangaree having no links to Kilinochchi was reluctant.

NM encouraged him to plunge in saying that even if the “unknown”Sangaree lost then he would win the seat in 10 years time. NM’s words in 1960 were prophetic and in 1970 Anandasangaree was elected for the first time to parliament from Kilinochchi.

Only he was no longer a Trotskyite but a Tamil Congress candidate having embraced Tamil nationalism. The LSSP however fared poorly winning only 10 seats.

Sangaree contested the March 1960, July 1960 and March 1965 elections in Kilinochchi under the key symbol of the LSSP. He got 1114, 2011 and 1804 votes respectively. He lost both times in 1960 to S. Sivasundaram and in 1965 to K. P. Ratnam who were of the Federal Party (FP).

In 1966, the LSSP now aligned with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) adopted the communal “Dudleyge bade masala vadai” line and opposed the reasonable use of Tamil as an official language in 1966. Sangaree like many Tamil LSSP’ers quit the party.

He joined the All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) led by G. G. Ponnambalam Snr. in May 1966. Earlier, he contested and won the Kilinochchi town ward in the Karaichi Village Council.

He became its chairman from 1965 to 1968. In 1968, it was elevated to Town Council status. Sangaree contested, won and became the first Kilinochchi TC chairman. He functioned in that capacity till the end of 1969.

January 1970 saw Sangaree become Youth Front President of the Tamil Congress. In May 1970, he won Kilinochchi on the cycle symbol of the ACTC and defeated Alalasundaram of the FP by 657 votes. The ACTC got 9049 to the FP’s 8392.

The Tamil United Front (TUF) was formed in May 1972. This became the TULF in May 1976. This period saw Anandasangaree’s stock rising in Tamil politics. The Tamil Congress had three MPs in 1970. They were Arulampalam of Nallur, Thiyagarajah of Vaddukkoddai and Anandasangaree of Kilinochchi.

Arulampalam and Thiyagarajah opted to join the United Front government. Sangaree despite his left leanings and respect for NM refused to cross-over and remained in the ranks of the Tamil nationalists. His stature increased greatly because of this.

In 1977, the TULF swept the elections riding the crest of a Tamil Eelam wave. Sangaree contested Kilinochchi again and polled 15,607 votes obtaining a majority of 11,601.

The 1983 violence and the sixth amendment saw the TULF out in the political wilderness. Sangaree like many other TULF figures relocated to Madras but kept shuttling between India and Sri Lanka .

In 1989, the TULF re-entered the political mainstream. Sangaree contested the Jaffna electoral district in 1989 and the Wanni District in 1994 on behalf of the TULF and lost in both.

In 2000, Anandasangaree was the chief candidate on the TULF ticket again in Jaffna . The TULF got three seats and Sangaree got the highest amount of preferences.

In 2001, the TULF contested as part of the TNA under the party symbol of rising sun. Again Sangaree topped the list gaining over 36,000 preferences.

Anandasangaree was elected senior vice president of the TULF in 1993 and proved to be a tower of strength to the party when it was at the receiving end of systematic violence by the Tigers. He was instrumental in reviving flagging fortunes of the TULF in Jaffna by taking over the Jaffna Municipal Council election campaign in 1998.

At a time when the TULF was under grave threat from the LTTE it was Sangaree who rallied the party around and provided moral strength to withstand the pressure. He planted himself in Jaffna and spearheaded the Jaffna municipal poll campaign. It was this success which helped the TULF restore lost prestige and regain a firm footing in Jaffna politics again.

Yet the very same TULF which owed its current existence to this man’s courage and dedication turned against him when the LTTE wanted him out. The man displayed a rare fighting ability after his defeat.

Instead of slinking into political oblivion with tail tucked between hind legs or going out to pasture with his children in Britain , Canada or Denmark, Anandasangaree chose to remain in Colombo and fight it out. Instead of keeping mum or adopting the path of least resistance Sangaree opted to take the bull by its horns or the tiger by its jaws.

Sangaree has always been a brave fighter. Contesting as a 26 year old man from Jaffna against UNP Colombo Mayor VA Sugathadasa in 1959; parachuting as an unknown outsider into the unknown Kilinochchi in 1960 as LSSP candidate;going against his two Tamil Congress parliamentary colleagues and voting against the 1972 Constitution; combatting the “powerful” campaign of SLFP Tamil cabinet minister Chelliah Kumarasuriar in 1977; engaging in bitter acrimony with fellow TULF members over his demand to carve out Kilinochchi as a separate district from that of Jaffna;defying the LTTE during Jaffna municipal elections and its aftermath;resisting his ouster from TULF boldly instead of caving in to tiger pressure etc are all indicators of his courage and determination.

His finest hours however have come during his twilight years as a septugenarian. Sangaree has been struggling to keep the party alive amidst great adversity.

What has been remarkable about the man is his dogged determination to articulate his viewpoint and advocate a negotiated settlement to the ethnic crisis on federal lines. He speaks out against the war and wants the problem to be resolved peacefully.

Sangaree admires the Indian model and wants Sri Lanka to follow that example. He wants ethnic amity and harmony based on justice and equality.

Anandasangaree is a man with a mission. He has two goals.

One is to ensure that Sri Lankans in general and Tamils in particular live in peace, equality and amity. For this he sees a federal set up on the Indian model as the solution.

Secondly he wants the Tamil people to be truly free. For this he wants the iron grip of the LTTE to be relaxed. He wants the LTTE to reform or face consequences.

While there are many voices within the Tamil nationalist spectrum and among the human rights community to condemn the state and its minions there are comparatively few voices amidst Tamils who criticise the LTTE.

The tiger is a holy cow for most Tamils and few Tamils dare to differ let alone criticise it. It has become in the words of famed Tamil poet Subramania Bharathy the “ Pesaap Porul” or unspeakable theme.

But not for Sangaree. He has been wading into these dangerous waters without hesitation. He has been branded traitor and as one who has sold his soul etc. Yet he firmly stands his ground continuing to do what he thinks is right.

By doing so he has touched on many issues that are “untouchable” among Tamil political and media circles. Sangaree has also succeeded in giving voice to the unexpressed sentiments of the silenced Tamil majority . He is often the voice of the voiceless Tamils.

Sangaree like the mythical Sisyphus keeps trying to roll the boulder upwards not only with Tamil hardliners but also with Sinhala hawks. He has engaged in discussions with the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and Jathika Hela Urumaya.

Sangaree has met with UNP and SLFP leaders. He has interacted with Indian, Norwegian, Canadian and officials of other Countries. His passion is for a federal solution where all communities could co-exist peacefully.

Even recently he re-iterated his commitment to a federal solution before the President despite Mahinda Rajapakse’s preference for a unitary state. Sangaree has also objected strongly to the appointment of Douglas Devananda as head of the special task force for northern development.

His abhorrence of war and espousal of non - violence stems very much from very personal loss, suffering and pain. Sangaree has lost many relatives to political violence and terror.

His elder brother Rajasangaree was the chairman of Chavakachcheri Citizens committee during the Indian Army period. Rajasangaree spoke out against Indian army atrocities and was killed by the EPRLF on Oct 26th 1987.

Anandasangaree’s younger brother Gnanasangaree was killed in Kilinochchi by the LTTE for criticing the tigers publicly. This happened on Feb 10th 1988. Two of Gnanasangaree’s sons spoke out publicly against their father’s killing. They were taken away by the tigers for questioning. They never returned.

Another brother Ganeshasangaree’s son was Yogasangaree. This nephew of Anandasangaree was elected as an EPRLF member of Parliament for Jaffna district in 1989.

On June 19th 1990 Yogasangaree was in Madras for an EPRLF meeting at Kodambakkam with Secretary - General Padmanabha. LTTE assassins suddenly entered and sprayed the hall with machine gun fire. Fourteen including Padmanabha and Yogasangaree died.

On July 7th 2005 terrorists in Britain  set off human bomb explosions in subway trains and a surface bus.

One of those killed was a young girl of Sri Lankan origin. She was Sayanuja the daughter of another brother of Anandasangaree named Parathasangaree.

So when Anandasangaree speaks out against war and political violence and speaks of a negotiated settlement and peaceful co-existence he speaks from the heart. Despite the overwhelming odds he has remained steadfast to his political mission.

In that sense the past few years are perhaps the best and most productive period of his life. The LTTE and its minions may slander and condemn him as a traitor but all right thinking people with a proper understanding of what is going on in Sri Lanka will have only praise for this man’s dedication and courage.

This column wishes him well on this day as he reaches the magical age of seventy – five!

D.B.S.Jeyaraj can be reached on djeyaraj2005@yahoo.com

Caller from +94 11 2424617 threatens journalist

Statement by Free Media Movement

The Free Media Movement (FMM) is deeply alarmed that another well-known journalist received a death threat this morning from an unknown caller. Former deputy Editor of the Sunday Leader, Editor of monthly magazine Montage and leading investigative journalist and South Asia co-coordinator of International News Safety Institute (INSI) Frederica Jansz received the death threat at approximately 11.30am.

The FMM condemns this threat in strongest terms and given the threatening situation in Sri Lanka for independent media and journalists takes this threat very seriously.
 
The caller, calling from +94 11 2424617, had spoken in Sinhalese and first asked if it was Frederica Jansz speaking. Proceeding thereafter to tell her that she was involved in a lot of unnecessary work, the caller told her to stop immediately or that she would see in a very short period of time what would happen to her. When asked by Frederica Jansz to be more specific on what kind of unnecessary work she was involved in he had replied that she knew what it was and then repeated the threat.
 
Journalist Jansz received number of indirect threats during the month of May. On one occasion on 28th May at around 4.30am a heavy vehicle was parked outside her residence for an hour its lights on and engine revving.  In early May a chicken dismembered from its neck had been left in front of her office.
 
As the FMM’s appeals for redress from the government and law enforcement agencies on hundreds of threats to media during the last year have completely failed we appeal to all local and international democratic actors to ensure that the safety of journalists and media freedom is protected in Sri Lanka at a time when just speaking one’s mind out is reason enough to be abducted, beaten up or worse.

CPJ Protest Letter: Press freedom in Sri Lanka continues to deteriorate

June 13, 2008

President Mahinda Rajapaksa
President of Sri Lanka,
Minister of Defense, Public Security, Law and Order
Presidential Secretariat 
Colombo 1 
Sri Lanka 

Via facsimile: +94 11 2430 590

Dear President Rajapaksa:

The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by your government’s policies toward journalists who write critically about the conflict between Sri Lanka’s military forces and Tamil secessionists. We have seen an increase in harassment, intimidation, and detention of reporters, many of whom are columnists in senior positions with well-established careers. Police have failed to investigate threats to journalists who cover elections or expose alleged corruption or misdeeds. They have also never investigated the death of a television journalist.

Those who wish to harass, harm, or even kill journalists can operate with relative impunity in Sri Lanka. Your government, particularly the Ministry of Defense, has done nothing, even as violence escalates in many parts of the country.

Based on our research, we have concluded that your government is stifling news reporting that it finds inconvenient precisely because those reports attempt to accurately reflect the ebb and flow of such a war. Suppressing journalists will neither alter the course of the conflict nor generate more public support for it.

Of particular concern is the fact that the Defense Ministry has repeatedly used its Web site to denounce and even condemn journalists, often individually by name and at other times as a group, for their reporting on the conflict and the activities of the ministry and the armed forces. In recent weeks it has accused eight media outlets of traitorous behavior—an incredibly strong term to use during a time of such intense conflict, and one clearly meant to intimidate, given that no charges have been brought against any of the organizations. The eight named on the ministry’s Web site were Sirasa TV, The Sunday Leader, The Morning Leader, Irudina (the Sinhala-language Sunday weekly of  The Sunday Leader group), the Daily Mirror, The Sunday Times, and the Web sites  Lanka Dissent and Lanka e-news.

The ministry’s May 31 posting was exceptionally chilling. It clearly implies that anyone reporting negative news about the military or the ministry’s activities is guilty of treachery or worse:

“Whoever attempts to reduce the public support to the military by making false allegations and directing baseless criticism at armed forces personnel is supporting the terrorist organization that continuously murder citizens of Sri Lanka. The Ministry will continue to expose these traitors and their sinister motives and does not consider such exposure as a threat to media freedom. Those who commit such treachery should identify themselves with the LTTE rather than showing themselves as crusaders of Media Freedom.”

Our concerns grew deeper after a front-page story ran in the June 3 issue of the Daily Mirror. The story quoted Defense spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella, who said the views expressed on the Web site were the ministry’s own and did not reflect the view of the government. Certainly, your government ministries answer to you, and their official statements reflect your government’s policies. Mr. Rambukwella’s statement is even more disconcerting given that Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is your brother. And as minister of Defense, Public Security, Law and Order, you must also bear responsibility for such statements. 

Beyond these overt attacks from the Defense Ministry, there are many recent incidents that have caused such great concern for us:

• After 90 days in detention, senior journalist J.S. Tissainayagam was detained for another three months without charges, on June 6. Mr. Tissainayagam writes political opinion, particularly on matters relating to the Tamil ethnic minority, for the mainstream Sunday Times and ran a Web site, Outreach, which your government has claimed is maintained “with the financial backing of the LTTE”—the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. He has been held since March 7 by the Terrorist Investigation Division under the Emergency Regulations of 2005. To date he has not been charged with a crime. Several Sri Lankan media reports say he is being held in solitary confinement.

• The killing of popular Sirasa Television reporter Paranirupasingam Devakumar has gone unexplained. Mr. Devakumar was gunned down in the Jaffna peninsula in the Northern Province on May 15, 2008, in an area that is under military control. The unprosecuted and, as far as we can determine, apparently uninvestigated death of one of the few independent reporters still working in that area of conflict has left a bitter scar not only in the journalists’ community but in Sri Lanka as a whole.

• The overnight abduction on May 22-23 and vicious beating of Keith Noyahr, a deputy editor at the English-language weekly The Nation, remains largely uninvestigated, according to several of our Sri Lankan colleagues. We have not been able to communicate with Mr. Noyahr since the incident, but suspect that he was so severely abused because of his writing on military matters. Our colleagues in Sri Lanka tell us they fear he was attacked because of a piece he wrote on irregularities in national awards in the army.
           
• We are also greatly concerned by the ongoing threats directed toward Iqbal Athas, the consultant editor/defense correspondent of The Sunday Times, who has stopped writing his weekly defense column as a result. He has told CPJ that a pro-government radio station has—on an almost daily basis—broadcast slanderous and vituperative statements against him, in addition to attacks on the Defense Ministry’s Web site. Mr. Athas is the 1994 winner of CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award, and has been a longtime CPJ associate. For such a widely respected figure to cease his work in journalism because of threats is a travesty. The personal security detail provided to Mr. Athas by the government was withdrawn last August. He tells us he continues to be followed by people unknown to him, and is greatly concerned that on June 3, on both the state-run Rupavahini national television network and the state-owned Independent Television Network, Defense Secretary Rajapaksa singled out Mr. Athas by name for his reporting for The Sunday Times.

• Also of concern to CPJ are the attacks on Muslim journalists covering elections in the Eastern province, as far as we have been able to determine, have gone uninvestigated by local police. According to Sri Lankan media reports, the most recent attack came on June 5 against M.A.C. Jalees, who was assaulted by supporters of the ruling political party who took away his camera. Journalists T.L.M. Joufer Khan, M.S.M. Noordeen, and Moulavi S.M.M. Musthapha, were either threatened or assaulted in the same area.

President Rajapaksa, we recognize that your government is involved in an ongoing conflict with Tamil secessionists. But the security of the nation will not be enhanced by policies that curtail one of the most basic rights guaranteed in Article 14 of Sri Lanka’s Constitution—the right to freedom of expression. We call on you to reverse the direction in which your government has turned, and restore to journalists throughout the country the right to freely report without fear or intimidation.

 

We eagerly await your reply.

Sincerely,

Joel Simon
Executive Director

Join CPJ in protesting this attack on the press. Write or fax to the address above.

IFJ: Detention of Sri Lankan Journalist Extended, Still No Charge

Statement by International Federation of Journalists:

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is extremely disturbed by a new 90-day extension of a detention order against journalist J.S. Tissainayagam, who has been held without charge in Sri Lanka since his arrest on March 8, 2008.

Tissainayagam is being detained under the Emergency Regulations (2005) Act. The latest detention order was issued by the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) of the Sri Lankan police force on June 5.

TID has refused to provide details of Tissainayagam’s arrest except to say, initially, that he was being held under emergency regulations for 30 days.

The IFJ joins its affiliate, the Free Media Movement (FMM), in demanding that the authorities account for the continuing detention of Tissainayagam without charge or release him immediately.

Tissainayagam, a Tamil and the editor of outreachsl.com website, was arrested following the similar detention of E-Kwality Printers owner N. Jesiharan and his wife Valarmathy, who share the same office building.

Three others associated with the website – reporter Wihesingha, visual editor Udayanan, and cameraman Ranga – were also taken in for questioning and held incommunicado for several days before being released without charge on March 19.

Despite filing a Fundamental Rights case to the Supreme Court on March 19 on the grounds of his medical condition and denial of legal rights, Tissainayagam has been granted limited access to family, legal representation and information pertaining to his case.

TID officials are reported to have repeatedly ignored his scheduled appointments to appear before a Magistrate’s Court to finalise a charge against him, as stipulated by the Emergency Regulations (2005) Act.

“There is an obvious failure by the Sri Lankan police to provide and protect Tissainayagam’s basic human rights to medical attention, personal safety and freedom from unexplained detention,” IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

“Enough time has passed for proper judicial process to have been implemented. The detention of Tissainayagam for 177 days without charge is deplorable. It points to authorities using a journalist as a tool for political game-playing.”

June 11, 2008

Stamp out recent wave of disappearances

United Nations expert group deplores recent wave of disappearances in Sri Lanka

The Government of Sri Lanka needs to stamp out a recent wave of disappearances during which women and humanitarian aid workers have also gone missing, a United Nations expert group said on Wednesday.

The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances said it has formally communicated to the authorities its concerns that over the last two months 22 people have disappeared, 18 of them last month.

"In the past two months alone, the Working Group has sent 22 urgent actions to the Government. Out of those cases, 18 disappearances took place in May. The Working Group is also concerned that both women and humanitarian aid workers are being targeted", the expert group said. That number may be lower than in reality, as the group estimates that many other disappearances may be occurring in Sri Lanka but are not being reported because of fear of reprisals.

Despite the supposed willingness of the Government to address the issue of enforced disappearances, little progress has been made, the Working Group said. "The Working Group calls upon the Sri Lankan authorities to take effective measures to prevent and terminate acts of enforced disappearances, to carry out thorough investigations and to bring the perpetrators to justice", it added.

The Working Group, whose mandate is to determine the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives, "regrets that it has not been able to visit Sri Lanka, and reiterates its request to the Government to extend an invitation to visit the country without delay".

The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances was created by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1980 to assist families in determining the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives. The Working Group endeavours to establish a channel of communication between the families and the Governments concerned, to ensure that individual cases are investigated, with the objective of clarifying the whereabouts of persons who, having disappeared, are placed outside the protection of the law. In view of the Working Group's humanitarian mandate, clarification occurs when the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person is clearly established. The Working Group continues to address cases of disappearances until they are resolved.

[Press Statement by United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)]

June 10, 2008

UN OCHA Situation Report:: North and East

Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Mannar, Vavuniya, Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara districts Situation Report # 129


29 May – 5 June 2008

IDP situation as reported this week by GAs


Location
Number of
Families
Number of
Individuals
Jaffna displaced before Dec 2005
displaced after Jan 2006
23,771
6,725
83,480
23,656
Kilinochchi
14,010
53,615
Mullaitivu
11,116
38,743
Vavuniya
3, 643
12,927
Mannar
6,518
24,032
Trincomalee
1,772
5,971
Batticaloa
5,038
18,664
Ampara
1,377
5,106

JAFFNA DISTRICT

Situation update

The situation in Jaffna has remained particularly tense since 29 May following the LTTE attack on a naval camp on the islet of Chirathivu just off the coast of Jaffna town.

On 2 June around 1400 hrs the Army imposed a curfew in all coastal areas of Jaffna town till 1700 hrs. The curfew followed the midday shooting of a man by unknown gunmen in the vicinity of St. Mary's Cathedral in Jaffna town. The normal curfew time at 2100 hours has since been restored.

Displacement/Returns

No displacements were reported this week.

Sector Developments/Gaps

Three out of four x-ray machines at the Teaching Hospital have been under repair for the past few months. On a typical day more than 225 x-rays are taken in Jaffna.

The Director of the Regional Heath Directorate has announced that three month's stock of Paracetamol has been brought to Jaffna for state hospitals and dispensaries in the peninsular.

PHAST hygiene promotion training facilitated by RDHS and UNICEF was held from 2-5 June with PHIs and participants from welfare centers.

June 09, 2008

Commission for Justice and Peace: Jaffna Report

Jaffna   Peninsula

9th June -   2008

GENERAL

Gang robbery has once again reared its head in the district.  During the night of the 1st June a Hindu priest in Kondavil was attacked with sword and attacked with clubs and robbed a big amount of money and jewels worth nearly a million and burnt a motorcycle on the house of another Hindu priest in Kondavil.

  • Two houses in Sangarathai in Manipay area were burgled during the night of the 4th.  The gang of robbers had broke open the houses and while having robbed cash and valuable jewellery they had attacked and caused serious injuries to the inmates of the houses.
  • Due to the direct confrontation of the LTTE with the Sri Lanka navy stationed in the Sirutheevu naval camp in the night of the 28th May fishermen are not allowed to go fishing in the lagoon. On account of the ban on fishing imposed in the Jaffna District more than 70,000 persons from 17,000 fishing families have been severely affected according to the President of the Jaffna District Fishermen Cooperative Societies Union.  He has further added that some families are unable to afford for at least a rice soup a day. Fishing in the Jaffna lagoon had been banned which have affected the fishing villages of Columbuthurai, Passaiyoor, Gurunagar, Navanthurai and Araly. 
  • The Registrar General has banned the issue of certificates of birth and deaths and marriage registered in the districts of Jaffna , Vavuniya and Mannar district from the office of the Registrar General in Colombo as from the 26th May 2008.  From 1990 onwards thousands of families were displaced from these districts and living in other districts due to the ongoing war situation for more than two decades.  Due to this situation those displaced persons living in outer districts have to go to their own districts to get these certificates which is very difficult and cumbersome procedure burdened on the already affected and suffering people of the northern districts.
  • A harrowing tale was told by a medical specialist regarding the suffering of the people of Mandativu.  On a periodic clinic visit to Mandativu the doctor had noted the legs of some pregnant mothers were swollen.  He had advised the mothers to drink 2 Lit of water so that there would not be any kidney disorders.  The medical specialist was shocked to hear that all the wells in the area except one were found to be with saline composition.  The practice of supplying drinking water by bowzers had been stopped about six months back as  the NGO which provided the funds for this purpose have stopped its funding.

 

FOOD, NON-FOOD ITEMS & RELATED ISSUES

  • Prices of most of the essential food items have sky-rocketed and the consumers in the district are finding very difficult to make ends meet.

May 2008

Market price Rs.

June 2008

Market price Rs.

MPCS

Rs.

I kilo of par-boiled Rice

92 - 100

92 - 100

-

I kilo of Chamba Rice

70

70

66

I kilo of sugar

70

70

70

400 g milk powder

285

285

-

300 g coconut milk powder

Not available

290

-

1 litre Vegetable oil

Not available

250

-

1 Kg Onion

80

100

-

I litre kerosene

88.90

88.90

-

I kilo of dhal

140

140

140

1 pair pen-torch battery

300

300

-

1 kilo flour

90

90

82

MPCS – Multi Purpose Cooperative Shop

DISPLACEMENT

  • Displaced life of people in the areas of Mandaitivu, Allaipitty, Mirusuvil and Eluthumattuval are still continuing.

INJURIES, KILLING, SURRENDER AND DISAPPEARANCES

  • Subramaniam Premaranjini (22) of Sarasalai North was reported being kidnapped on the 23rd May from her home by unknown persons who had come by a three wheeler.
  • Sinnathamby Sinnacutty (71) of Kudamiyan in Varani was hacked to death in his sleep on the first of June
  • Raja Vincent (32) of Cathedral Lane , Jaffna was shot dead by unknown armed men at about 11.30a.m. on the 2nd.
  • Vinayagam Varseegan (24) of Iyankerny, Vannarponnai, Jaffna who was staying in Colombo who was released in April after three month incarceration had been reported kidnapped by armed men arriving in white van on 10.05.08 and  his whereabouts is not yet known.
  • S.Sathiyan (24) third year student of the Management Faculty of Jaffna University was admitted to the Jaffna Teaching Hospital on the 8th with serious injuries.

CURFEW HOURS:

  • Curfew hours have been changed in the Jaffna peninsula since 7th June 2008.  Curfew has been imposed from 7 p.m. till 5.00 a.m.  the following day in the Jaffna district


NPC: Safeguarding civilians is primary calling of both parties

Statement by National Peacce Council of Sri Lanka:
 
In recent days the region around Colombo has been subjected to bomb attacks suspected to be by the LTTE against civilian targets. The most recent was the claymore mine that targeted a bus on Friday in Moratuwa which killed at least 22 persons and injured over 70. This attack represented a step up in the technology utilized, as the bomb was set off by remote controlled means. The previous bomb attacks on civilian targets in the Colombo region, such as the bus bomb in Piliyandala and train bomb in Dehiwela were by bombs left on board. The National Peace Council condemns these dastardly attacks and along with all right thinking people demands their immediate cessation.

There has been a sense of shock and outrage among the general public at this spate of bombings as well as a sense of helplessness. Guarding against bags and parcels being left in crowded public buses and trains and against claymore mines placed on the side of the road is going to be very difficult. Colombo remains an open city, with a multi ethnic and diverse population, representing what Sri Lanka is struggling to remain and to be.  The National Peace Council welcomes statements by government leaders who appealed to the people to remain calm and to be law abiding. We also welcome the immediate declaration of a police curfew in the area of the incident to maintain law and order.  More public education on prevention and early detection and swift action on warnings are also needed.

The National Peace Council is also concerned about reports of claymore mine explosions that have taken the lives of civilians in the LTTE controlled areas. Like in the case of the attacks in Moratuwa and earlier in Kebetigollewa, these have been remotely detonated and targeted against civilians. In the past three weeks, at least three such attacks have been reported in the Wanni. The LTTE has claimed that these attacks have been done by the Deep Penetration Units of the government, which the government has denied. In the absence of opportunities for independent verification it is impossible to know the ground realities.

The National Peace Council has constantly stood by the belief that peace needs to be built by peaceful means and not by war.There is experience from other countries to show that in situations of escalation and reprisal, if one of the parties foreseeing the disaster that is to befall both, decides to de-escalate, and is met by a cooperative response, the vicious cycle of escalation can be reversed. NPC calls on the government, which is responsible for protecting civilian life all over the country, to consider modes of de-escalating the conflict to save civilian lives. As a first step it could obtain the services of trusted intermediaries, either local or international, to communicate with the LTTE its desire to safeguard civilian life in all parts of the country, including the Wanni. We also appeal to the LTTE, to be equally concerned about the fate of civilians, and to consider any governmental initiative to safeguard civilian lives in a positive manner.

Executive Director
On behalf of the Governing Council

June 08, 2008

Tamils of Indian Origin in Myanmar

Legacy of British colonial policy

by Mala Kadar, RN, MPH

It was startling to suddenly come across this young Tamil woman in a busy market in Yangon (Rangoon) -  seated under  hut and making ‘dosa’ - Indian pancakes. She beckoned to me to try one. So began a friendship with a member of the third generation of Tamis who had come to Myanmar during the time of the British Empire to seek their fortune on one of the most noted British ventures - tea and sugar cane cultivation. That was the time when the ‘sun never set on the British Empire’ and big business were hungry for skilled, hard-working labor. India could always supply the growing demand. 

Third generation Tamil woman

Ancient Tamil poetry exhorts that one should ‘cross the seven seas to seek fortune,’ and so it comes as no surprise to find a large presence of Tamils in Yangon (Rangoon). 

This writer had been selected to follow a course in basic Buddhism in the International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University of Myanmar in 2007.   One of the earliest encounters was with the Tamil and Hindustani-speaking people who were living in the villages close by to the University.  The Indians who had been brought to Burma by the British Raj have acculturated, but are disenfranchised. Inevitably, women and children carry the brunt of this political and economic deprivation.  Myanmar – a country the roughly the size of Texas - has been governed by the military for almost 40 years and generations have no concept of democracy.   Buddhism predominates the way of thinking and acting in the daily life of  90% of the population. The Hindus have incorporated Lord Buddha into the pantheon of Hindu gods and it is not unusual to see Burmese throng the Hindu temples seeking the blessings of the Gods, especially the poor women and children.

Her premature twins

The Public Health system in Myanmar is very marginal and access to health care can be a challenge for those with limited income. According to the United Nations, Myanmar’s population is 57.6 million (IMF estimate 2007); no official census has been taken since 1983. The infant mortality rate is 75 deaths/1,000 live births (UNDP 2005 estimate) and Life expectancy is 60.8 yrs. (males: 57.6 yrs. and females: 64.2 yrs.) (UNDP 2005 estimate).  This became very evident when many of the Tamil as well as Myanmar women would communicate that they have lost their husbands or some immediate family members at a very young age.  Dying from Dengue, Malaria, Typhoid, Hepatitis and gastro-intestinal diseases is very common.

The young mother lived with her four siblings, mother and husband in a hut.

The young Tamil vendor much to my surprise was at her final trimester of pregnancy, but malnourished with poor pre-natal care. She shyly explained that her income along with the husband’s was not enough, so only a glass of fresh ‘milk’ was the extra that they could afford. Her daily diet consisted mainly of starch – rice or bread - and one or two vegetables with a small piece of river fish. She would attend a pre-natal clinic in the downtown Yangon, where she would be among the many hundreds who would sit the whole day to be examined by one of the poorly paid medical doctors.  She had not been made aware that she was pregnant with twins and was shocked when she had to give birth in a premature delivery with the help of a local mid-wife.  She sent word for me and it was extremely painful to observe the crushing poverty and uncertainty surrounding this malnourished young woman and her premature set of twin daughters. The fearful rainy season was at its peak and the little hut could not protect this young family from air and water-borne disease. Inevitably one infant’s life was claimed - ‘survival of the fittest’.

Young Tamil woman selling ‘dry fish’ by the roadside with her daughter.

It was not long before many of the villagers wanted me to help them seek care for the myriad of health problems.  The public health structure that had been left by the departing British was functioning, but needed support to care for the expanding young population. Yangon city and its outskirts could not cope with the ferocious rains that made the drainage sewers overflow, leaving thick, stagnant, polluted water that become a breeding ground for mosquitoes etc.

I observed an indifference to the environment - a passive acceptance of what surrounds the villagers. There was no ‘will’ to overcome the obstacles - clear away the debris, wash the drain or the pavement. Chewing betel – betel leaf with Arica nut, pinch of tobacco and calcium chloride - was a national habit.  People spat out the betel juice at random and ‘red spots of spittle dotted the pavement. I became deft at dodging ‘betel spit’ that would ‘shoot’ out from the buses or cars while passing! A virtual red spat!  There is no talk about cancer or promotion to curtail this national public health menace. Where would one start? Explain to a poor woman that betel causes oral pharyngeal cancer when it is well known that, by chewing this leaf and nut, hunger pangs are kept at bay? To the wealthy I suggested replacing the betel with ‘chewing gum,’ as it was available at a price - the only pragmatic intervention to slow down the habit.

Hindustani flower seller

The descendents of the Indians who have now accepted Myanmar as their adopted land continue to maintain their culture and tradition. The women would wear the traditional ‘saris’ to the temple and celebrate important festivals. I was privileged to participate in one such celebration and was astounded to observe the fervor and devotion exhibited. It was explained that, post-independence, the Burmese government passed a series of legislations that created an exodus of the immigrants who had settled in Burma during the time of the British. Their businesses had been nationalized and laws passed curtailing their rights to own lands, etc. So began the economic flight and followed by professionals seeking fresh pastures. Some of the Tamils have established businesses and continue to live and accepted life in Burma as they have no links with India. The very poor who were left behind on the plantations were severely economically deprived - lacking good education or skills, they literally eke out a living.  They have no citizenship papers as well because it was explained to me that hurdles have been placed in the application process and corruption has made it even more beyond their reach.  In Sri Lanka, too, disenfranchisement of the minority has taken place in stages as the majority has not been ready to accept the representation of the minority, in spite of the tremendous economic contribution that Tamils brought by the British make towards the export industry – tea.

Hindustani vegetable seller

Unlike in Sri Lanka where Theravada Buddhsim has mushroomed into a militant Buddhism with monks advocating war, Burmese monks continue to be the backbone of the community by emphasizing meditation, charity and compassion. Most monks live a very acetic lifestyle and are very visible on their daily rounds with their ‘alms bowl’. It is considered a privilege for a Buddhist family to have at least one male child ordained as a monk even for a limited period.

  Tamil woman selling fried food by the roadside
My spoken Myanmar language gradually picked up and I was able to converse with the local women and men who were eager to share their life stories.  They were the most courteous, kind and gentle people and observation of the ‘Way of Life’ as advocated by Lord Buddha was observed.  There were neither thieves nor hooligans, or lewd behavior, but one of respect and reverence. This was truly refreshing as this writer’s former home country was Sri Lanka where Buddhism has promoted hatred, violence and bitterness among the races. The Tamils and Hindustanis living in Burma would have words of praise with no experience of any negative emotions directed against them or instigated by the government, thus far. However, unlike Mahayana Buddhism, Theravada (Way of the Elders) has fostered a rigid, inflexible way of thinking. The schism took place after the demise of Lord Buddha, when Theravadins would insist on a rigorous, fundamental interpretation of Buddha’s teachings as opposed to the Mahayanists more ‘pragmatic’ approach that blended with the culture of the land in which it took root - Tibet, China, Japan, Vietnam. Thus, we can witness the impasse with the military in Myanmar even in a moment of such calamity - negotiate and compromise is not fostered or cultivated in the way of thought of Theravada Buddhism.

Celebration at the Hindu Temple.

The lack of planning by the military government for the future of the education system is also having its dire results, and unemployment is rampant.  The mismanagement of public resources - social grants, education, water, housing and electricity provision are visible in the quality of the life of the people.  The youth simply loiter around or leave for other neighboring countries seeking their fortune. Young boys and girls work as ‘tea boys and girls’, domestic help and other labor-intensive chores that require working well into the night.
A group of Tamil women who had come to the Templ

The villagers became very disheartened when the time came for my departure.  My knowledge in health care and presence had made some difference in their lives and someone had listened to their anxieties about the future. The women would tell me about their mentally ill children or lack of support to feed them and the battle to eke out an existence.  Even while facing such crushing hardship they would smile and be so courteous and warm.  Their personality too reflected tranquility even in the midst of such abject poverty. It was often requested by many mothers, “take my son with you’ as the daughters can always toil as domestic labor in wayside cafes or hotels. It was a depressive experience to observe young Tamil girls in rags toiling in the back drop while the fairer skinned Burmese would be the ‘servers’.  Many Tamil women would insist that I apply Sandalwood paste to prevent sun burn and becoming ‘darker’.  

The hurricane and devastation that has happened recently in the lower Myanmar would bring more severe hardship to these poverty stricken people.  Lord Buddha promoted an ‘enlightened’ way of thought and moderation in lifestyle but the leadership of Burma is very rigid and inflexible in their governance. Those who have ‘power’ keep the masses under a tight ‘leash’ all the while enjoying life to the full with creature comforts- it was ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell complete with ‘Horatio’ the ‘Dictatorial General’. Coincidentally, George Orwell had served as a young Civil Servant in Burma and had written brilliant observations of this land and its people.  My gratitude remains with the Burmese people- they took me into their homes, showed kindness and taught me Lord Buddha’s word of Charity, compassion and meditation can bring peace of mind even when odds are against you.

A hotel managed by Tamil men

 

Hindustani and Tamil men who had served in the British government service- now retired.

Two young boys working as ‘domestic servants’- they were accompanying the employer to market

A busy market scene in the village.

Mahayana nuns who studied with this writer

The writer with friends in front of the International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University of Myanmar.

 [ITS]

RSF: Restore trust to the government’s relations with the press

Full text of RSF's press release follows:

Reporters Without Borders condemns a defence ministry campaign against independent news media, especially journalists who cover military affairs. The ministry’s website is carrying virulent attacks on journalists critical of the government, accusing them of being in cahoots with the “terrorist enemy,” the Tamil Tiger rebels.

“While the civil war continues to claim innocent victims in both communities, defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is lambasting journalists who do not toe the line of his propaganda,” the press freedom organisation said. “He is directly threatening the safety of journalists by accusing them of agreeing with the enemy. The government has turned Manicheism into a state doctrine in which those not with the army are deemed to be with the Tamil Tigers.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “We call on President Mahinda Rajapaksa to restore trust and serenity to the government’s relations with the press.”

Two long articles - headlined “Stop media treachery against armed forces members!” and "Deriding the war heroes for a living - the ugly face of defence analysts in Sri Lanka” - were recently posed on the ministry’s website, attacking news media that dare to contradict official press releases about the fighting in the north of the country.

By blaming journalists for the military’s failure to “eradicate the LTTE terrorists,” the articles directly expose them to the possibility of reprisals. “Media freedom in this country has been encroached upon by few sociopaths that can be found in almost all anti-Sri Lankan outfits,” the website says.

Many local news media, including Sirasa TV, the Daily Mirror and the Sunday Times, and the Free Media Movement (FMM), a local NGO that defends press freedom are explicitly accused of sowing discord within the armed forces in their articles and statements. “Whoever lures disgruntled members of the armed forces to act against the good order and the military discipline of the service is committing treachery against the nation,” the site says.

The defence ministry also accuses the press of putting out false information although the army itself has often tried to minimise its losses, for example, after one of the most violent clashes in recent years in the Jaffna peninsula last April.

Pressure on the independent media is mounting amid repeated incursions by the security forces into LTTE-controlled areas and deadly bombings in the Colombo region that are blamed on the Tamil Tigers.

Keith Noyahr, assistant editor and defence correspondent of the English-language weekly The Nation, was kidnapped and beaten on 22 May in an attack apparently linked to his reporting on the government’s counter-insurgency campaign. TV reporter Paranirupasingam Devakumar and a friend were murdered six days later in an area of the Jaffna peninsula that is under military control. No suspect has been arrested.

Iqbal Athas, a reporter who specialises in military affairs, stopped writing articles for the Sunday Times several weeks ago after being the target of a campaign of intimidation. According to the Free Media Movement, Sirimevan Kasthuriarachchi, a journalist who does defence reporting for the newspaper Divaina, was threatened with reprisals by thugs who forced their way into his home on 29 May.

Frederica Jansz, the publisher of the monthly Montage and a contributor to The Nation, was followed by suspicious-looking vehicles in Colombo a week ago and the body of a bird was found outside her home in what might have been another threatening message.

Press freedom activists have also been the target of intimidation. On 27 May, soldiers went to the Colombo headquarters of the Sri Lanka Press Institute, an organisation that is respected for its defence of media freedom, and asked for the names of its employees.

The defence secretary was added to the Reporters Without Borders list of “Predators of Press Freedom” on 3 May.

UN urges greater protection of civilians after bombs kill 24

The UN has renewed calls for increased protection of unarmed civilians in accordance with international humanitarian law after two attacks on 6 June targeted civilian buses, eight hours apart, leaving 24 dead and more than 80 injured.

In the first attack, a bus full of morning commuters was hit at around 7.30am by a Claymore mine-type explosion at Katubedda, a suburb 15km south of the capital, Colombo. Twenty-two people were killed and more than 60 injured in that incident, according to police.

The second bomb, in the rear of a passenger bus in Polgolla town, Kandy District, about 120km from Colombo, left two dead and more than 20 injured.

"These attacks on civilians are against all standards of international humanitarian law," Neil Buhne, the UN resident representative and humanitarian coordinator in Sri Lanka, told IRIN. "They are against all principles on which the UN is based."

The latest two bombings added to the long list of attacks on civilians, especially targeting public transport, since a ceasefire between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) broke down on 16 January 2008.

 

The bloody aftermath of the 6 June morning attack on a civilian bus that left 22 dead and over 60 injured

Not counting the latest two attacks, at least 14 others have taken place, most in government-controlled areas, killing more than 200 civilians, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The government has blamed the Tamil Tigers for the attacks, while the Tigers have accused teams from the Sri Lankan Army of targeting civilians in areas under LTTE control. Both sides have denied the charges.

Contravening international law

"The targeting of non-combatants is a contravention of international humanitarian law, for which those responsible must be held accountable," UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said in a statement on 29 May.

On 27 May, nine civilians were killed and more than 70 injured when a parcel bomb exploded in a packed evening train, south of Colombo. On 24 May, a roadside bomb in LTTE-controlled Kilinochchi District, 250km north of the capital, left 17 civilians dead.

 

A man walks past a banner in memory of two women from the same neighbourhood who were among the 24 killed in a bus bomb in a Colombo suburb on 25 April-Pics: Amanatha Perera/IRIN

"This despicable behaviour must stop," Holmes stated.

Buhne said the sentiments expressed by Holmes had become even more relevant and important with the latest attacks. He warned that deliberate attacks on civilians not only hampered humanitarian work in conflict areas, but made innocent civilians too scared to lead normal lives.

"What these attacks do is that they make people scared," he said. "There should be a sense of safety for any kind of work to progress, humanitarian or development."

[Report by UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs]