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December 31, 2008

Anandasangaree complains to President about EPDP activity in Jaffna

Tamil United Liberation Front president and veteran politician Veerasingham Anandasangaree has in a letter sent to President Mahinda Rajapakse complained about certain activities of the Eelam Peoples Democratic Party (EPDP) in Jaffna.

Although he has not explicitly referred to EPDP by name and only uses the description “a political party” the contents of the letter leave no doubts about the fact that the TULF leader is referring to the EPDP.

One point raised by Sangaree is about how the EPDP is compelling Jaffna residents to but a copy of the EPDP weekly “Thinamurasu” sold at 30 rupees per issue

The TULF leader who returned after a visit to Jaffna has written a letter about the Jaffna situation and problems faced by the people to the president.

It is in this letter that Mr. Anandasangaree refers to the EPDP indirectly

The full text of the letter is given below:

26.12.2008

His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa,
President of Sri Lanka.

Your Excellency,

The Problems Of Jaffna That Need Urgent Attention

Since I met you last about six weeks back, I had paid two visits to Jaffna. During my first visit in November, I had a public meeting attended by over thousand people, as estimated by a local daily published in Jaffna. The people have innumerable problems and hardly anyone had attended to them. I strongly urge you to listen to the problems of the civilians from various people without depending on one or two persons. I have nothing against any individual. But to what extent you can depend on one or two for matters relating to the North and whether you should also consult people like Mr. D. Sithardthan, Mr. T. Sritharan, me and such others is a matter for you to decide.

Army Check Points:

The people of Jaffna are deeply concerned of many matters, some of which I refer to here. Their main grievance is the presence of offices of a political party, adjoining very many check-points manned by the Army. This, they feel, curtails their freedom of movement and is also one of the reasons why and how certain culprits escape after committing offences. There is absolutely no need for any political party, especially with arms, to have too many offices here and there, giving opportunities for harassment of civilians.

Compulsory Sale of News Papers:

One General complain by many is that a political party forces people to buy their weekly. Arriving home the father or mother sees three or more copies of the same paper compulsorily thrust on various members of the house hold. Each paper cost Rs. 30 per copy. Army personnel at these check points have no control over these matters and the people buy the paper out of fear of the army who are normally very cordial in their movements with the civilians.

Detention Orders:

The detention orders served on suspects’ causes a lot of inconvenience and injustice to many. I can assure you that if any one is arrested on suspicion of aiding and abetting anybody, such person in most cases is innocent and in same cases acted out of fear for the LTTE and the real culprits slip out. There are some unfortunate instances in which very old people and innocent ladies had been detained under detention orders for long periods. Serving of detention order in such cases, if avoided, will improve the relationship of the Government with the civilians, to a great extent.

Missing Persons:

During the past few years a lot of people, men and women, young and old, are either being killed or abducted by some unidentified persons. The whereabouts of the abducted persons are not known. Some people think that a few of them might have been detained some where by somebody illegally or legally by some Government Authority. Their expectations may not be true in all cases and may be true in respect of some. To put an end to their agony and anxiety, kindly instruct all concerned persons to kindly disclose the names and addresses of all those who are in the custody of Government Authorities. What the parents want to know is whether they are alive and in safe custody. Hence kindly prepare a list of such persons and have it released to the press.

Escapees from the LTTE’s Grip in Vanni:

Another matter that will bring good name to the Government is to honour the promise given by the Government, that all those who escape from the LTTE’s grip and come into the areas under the control of the Government, will not be harassed or detained. I have very reliable information that the LTTE’s propaganda in Vanni is that the Government forces are detaining and harassing those who are escaping and coming into cleared areas. Who ever is suspected, as having had links with the LTTE, also will have to be treated as an LTTE deserter and conditionally released to the parents. If such escapees from the LTTE area are detained people will be reluctant, to come out. A clear announcement should be made by the Government to this effect.

Fishing in and around Jaffna.

Fishing by trawlers is banned in Jaffna. The various fishing co-operatives and fisheries co-operative union in the area have no objection for trawler fishing, because they have agreed with the small scale fisherman to do trawler fishing only on three days in a week and leave the other four days for the small scale fisherman. I understand that the Indian trawler operators too operate their trawlers on three day in a week leaving the other four days for the minor fisherman. I hope that allowing this arrangement in Jaffna will not interfere with the security of the Sri Lankan Navy, since Indian trawlers also fish there. The Navy’s advice may by sought in this matter.

I strongly urge that you should give serious consideration for these requests which if adhered to will be a great boon for the suffering civilians.

Thanking you,

Yours Sincerely

V. Anandasangaree,
President - TULF.

Army takes Paranthan while moving closer to kilinochchi and Mullaitheevu

Sri Lankan Armed forces registered a military triumph on the last day of year 2008 when they began moving into the strategic northern Town Paranthan situated 385 km away from Colombo.


View Larger Map

The conquest came a day before the target date of New years day on Jan 1st 2009 because troops of 58 division took the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam by surprise in athe early hours of the morning on December 31st.

Soldiers from the 2 commando corps moved through some paddy fields and the waters of a “Villu” or pond under cover of darkness and attacked tigers defending Paranthan from the rear.

With the soldiers moving in to the rear on one side soldiers of the 10 Gemunu watch who were located about 800 metres away from the key Paranthan “Santhi” or junction also intensified their drive.

Both the 2 commando corps and 10 Gemunu watch are key components of 58 division or Task Force one commanded by Brigadier Shavendra Silva.

Despite stiff resistance the soldiers were able to move forward and entered the Paranthan Town from two directions from the North – west and west.

The LTTE led by Kilinochchi area commander “Col” Velavan launched a series of limited counter – attacks to dislodge the soldiers but failed.

At least 25 tiger cadres attached to the Imran – Pandiyan infantry brigade were killed and about 50 – 60 injured.

The Air Force provided tremendous air support by conducting a series of regular air strikes in the Paranthan, Murasumottai- Kilinochchi area.

In the process several civilians in the Murasumottai area were killed and injured. At least five bodies were admitted to the hospital while about 16 were hospitalised for injuries.

Soldier who withstood LTTE counter attacks are now in the process of expanding control over the entire town which is also called Periya Paranthan.

Soldiers have also mounted the Jaffna – Kandy road known as A- 9 highway on two points to the north and south of Paranthan town and are encircling it.

Paranthan is 4.5 km to the north of Kilinochchi along the A – 9 highway.

Despite the army being on the ascendant it is learnt that LTTE cadres were yet in possession of the town’s central area around the key Paranthan “Santhi” or junction.

The tigers were however retreating gradually from their positions towards Murasumottai and Vatakachchi on the Paranthan – Mullaitheevu road.

The Paranthan “Santhi” or junction comprises two inter-sections within 125 metre distance of each other.

One intersection is where the Paranthan – Poonagary road reaches the A – 9 highway. This road commences in Poonagary in the west and reaches Paranthan in the north.

The other inter-section is where the Paranthan – Mullaitheevu road begins at Paranthan and then proceeds east.
The road goes east , south – east and then south to Mullaitheevu via places like Murasumottai, Vatakachi and Puthukudiyiruppu.

Both these intersections in close proximity on the A – 9 highway are called collectively as Paranthan “santhi”.

The 58 division commanded by Brigadier Shavendra Silva has been able to take Paranthan mainly through its strategic manouevering that has enabled it to make several remarkable victories in the past.

Before moving into Paranthan troops proceeding east along the axis of the Poonagary – Paranthan road reached the general area of Kunjuparanthan after crossing the Kudamurutty Aaru river.

Thereafter some soldiers cut across in a north – eastern direction and seized areas like Kamalakaddukulam, Komarikoodakulam and Thadduvankoddi. The LTTE defending positions further south and south – east of these areas were taken by surprise.

The troops were given intensive air support by the Air Force that conducted nearly twenty air strikes.

After reaching positions north and north – west of Paranthan the troops began changed course and moved south and south – east.

These moves placed the soldiers to the rear of tigers defending Paranthan and environs.

This was followed by the pre-dawn manoeuvre through fields and the pond under cover of darkness.

Paranthan is a key town with roads running to Elephant Pass in the north, Kilinochchi in the South, Poonagary in the West and Puthukudiyiruppu – Mullaitheevu in the east running through it.

The now defunct Paranthan chemicals factory was its economic mainstay with hundreds of residents being employed there.

Paranthan was considered important for the safety of Elephant Pass when the strategic isthmus was under military control.

So “Operation Sathjaya” was conducted in 1996 to take Paranthan.

But the LTTE also aware of Paranthan’s importance took the town in 1999 as part of its “operation Oyatha Alaigal”. The fall of Paranthan in 1999 was a prelude to Elephant Pass’s fall in 2000.

Now the capture of Paranthan will be a kind of precursor to the re-taking of Elephant Pass by the army.

By controlling Paranthan the armed forces would be ale to restrict LTTE supplies to the Muhamaalai front within the Jaffna peninsula.

Troops could also move very close to Elephant pass from the South. Thus LTTE cadres within the peninsula would find it difficult to maintain their positions being wedged in from both sides.

With the seizure of strategic Paranthan the soldiers have three options.

They can move north towards Elephant Pass or move South towards Kilinochchi or move east towards Murasumottai – Vatakachcchi – Puthukudiyiruppu.

Analysts say that soldiers are likely to pursue all three options simultaneously by launching advances and pushes on a rotational basis.

With the troops taking Paranthan tiger defences around Kilinochchi will be further weakened. Also tiger defences around Elephant Pass will be assailed from the rear.

While Elephant pass would be captured through a “double envelopement” strategy , Kilinochchi could be surrounded from several directions. Troops could move towards Vatakachi and then turn around and close in on Kilinochchi.

Thus the de – facto tiger administrative capital would be encircled and assailed on many fronts.

While 58 division enjoyed its triumph over Paranthan on New Year’s eve the divisions 57 commanded by Gen. Jagath Dias and 59 commanded by Brigadier Nandana Tudawatte also made significant strides.

57 division troops succeeded in breaking through the “L” shaped LTTE earth bund cum trench in the Adampan south area and moving forward towards the outskirts of Kanagapuram.

57 division soldiers also moved a short distance forward in Thirumurugandy and Iranaimadhu.

Thus tropps are now poised to move towards Kilinochchi from the north, west and south.

This makes Kilinochchi extremely vulnerable . It is likely to fall within a few days as soldiers edge closer.

In East Wanni soldiers of 59 division advanced on two fronts towards the Mullaitheevu town and in another direction towards Puthukudiyiruppu.

Proceeding along the coast from the north of Alambil soldiers advanced about a km north in the Silavathai area. Another column advanced eastwards from Thanioootru towards the Nandhikadal lagoon area.

Meanwhile other troops moved from the north of Mulliyawalai on the A – 34 highway through jungle areas in the direction of Puthukudiyiruppu.

According to analysts the chances of Kilinochchi falling before mid – January and Mullaitheevu town falling before end of January is very high.

These military victories will boost the government’s fortunes in the forthcoming Provincial council elections

400 Traders in Dambulla forced to pay two lakhs each to UPFA

The Sri Lankan government headed by President Mahinda Rajapakse has been accused of forcibly demanding money from traders in Dambulla for election expenses of the ruling United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) in the forthcoming Central Province elections.

Prominent Dambulla political leader Asoka Bandara Tennekoon who crossed over to the United National Party (UNP) from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) some days ago has charged openly that 400 hundred traders and businessmen have been asked to pay Rs two lakhs each to the UPFA election fund by Government bigwigs.

The intimidatory campaign is backed by thugs and criminal elements operating with impunity due to political backing.

Dambulla bus station

[Dambulla bus station-pic by: Hanming Huang]

The UNP Provincial Council candidate for Matale District ais the son of former SLFP Social Services minister TB Tennekoon and brother of present Local Government and Provincial Council Minister Janaka Bandara Tennakoon.

Asoka Bandara Tennakoon addressing a media briefing accused the government of suppressing the business community in the Matale District and said that all the traders in Dambulla Town were urged to pay Rs.200,000 towards the fundraiser to carry out the UPFA provincial council election campaign.

“In Dambulla town centre alone there are 400 small and medium traders and each one has been asked to pay Rs.200, 000 towards a ‘worthy cause’ – for the UPFA election campaign work in the province. It is disheartening to note that the present regime which is a people’s government has over stepped its boundaries and is in the process of suppressing the innocent people in the country,” claimed Asoka Bandara Tennakoon.

According to Tennakoon, the traders in Dambulla who are facing severe hardships due to the present financial crisis in the country are now under pressure from the group who have been appointed by the UPFA to collect money.

“Never in the history of the SLFP was money demanded from the innocent people but the present Mahinda Rajapakse regime has now started to do so by hook or by crook,” added Tennakoon.

“It’s surprising to note that the police in the Matale District are inactive although several complaints have been made by the UNP supporters. The UPFA thugs mercilessly assaulted four UNP members recently and one party office was damaged, but the police have failed to take any action so far. The group led by Nandimithra Ekanayake and his brother Sarath Ekanayake, Minister Janaka Bandara’s son Pramitha Bandara Tennakoon, Nimal and Yasamanna are leading the thugs in the area and have received the blessings of the local police as well,” alleged Tennakoon.

He further accused the Rajapakse administration of bribery and corruption and said that the present regime would not survive even for six months and said that the people in the Matale District are keenly waiting to teach a lesson to the people who have robbed public money.

“When these jokers entered parliament in 1994 most of them did not even have push bicycles but now all are having their own palatial houses and luxury vehicles. This clearly shows that they have not entered politics to serve the people but to serve themselves. That was the reason for me to contest from the UNP to change the political culture as I know, it is only the UNP that could change this failed state to a prosperous nation,” Tennakoon further stated.

Army poised to capture Paranthan by January 1st, 2009

Latest reports from the Northern battlefront state that the Sri Lankan Armed Forces are poised to capture the strategic village of Paranthan on or before the new year day of January 1st 2009.

According to battlefront reports soldiers of 58 division are now about half a mile away from the key Paranthan junction along the Jaffna – Kandy road known as A – 9 highway.

The Paranthan “Santhi” or junction comprises two inter-sections within 125 metre distance of each other.

One intersection is where the Paranthan – Poonagary road reaches the A – 9 highway. This road commences in Poonagary in the west and reaches Paranthan in the north.

The other inter-section is where the Paranthan – Mullaitheevu road begins at Paranthan and then proceeds east. The road goes east , south – east and then south to Mullaitheevu via places like Murasumottai, Vatakachi and Puthukudiyiruppu.

Both these intersections in close proximity on the A – 9 highway are called collectively as Paranthan “santhi”.

Troops of 58 division also called Task Force one are now about 800 metres away at a point north – west of Paranthan junction.

The 58 division commanded by Brigadier Shavendra Silva has achieved this position mainly through its strategic manouevering that has enabled it to make several remarkable victories in the past.

In this instance , troops proceeding east along the axis of the Poonagary – Paranthan road reached the general area of Kunjuparanthan after crossing the Kudamurutty Aaru river.

Thereafter some soldiers cut across in a north – eastern direction and seized areas like Kamalakaddukulam, Komarikoodakulam and Thadduvankoddi. The LTTE defending positions further south and south – east of these areas were taken by surprise.

The troops were given intensive air support by the Air Force that conducted nearly twenty air strikes.

After reaching positions north and north – west of Paranthan the troops began changed course and moved south and south – east.

These moves placed the soldiers to the rear of tigers defending Paranthan and environs.

The 58 division troops have now reached positions only half a mile to the north – west of Paranthan junction. Soldiers are capable of mounting the A – 9 highway at any time in the north of Paranthan.

With the seizure of strategic Paranthan the soldiers have three options.

They can move north towards Elephant Pass or move South towards Kilinochchi or move east towards Murasumottai – Vatakachcchi – Puthukudiyiruppu.

Analysts say that soldiers are likely to pursue all three options simultaneously by launching advances and pushes on a rotational basis.

With the troops poised to take Paranthan junction tiger defences around Kilinochchi will be further weakened. Also tiger defences around Elephant Pass will be assailed from the rear.

While Elephant pass would be captured through a “double envelopement” strategy , Kilinochchi could be surrounded from several directions. Troops could move towards Vatakachi and then turn around and close in on Kilinochchi.

Thus the de – facto tiger administrative capital would be encircled and assailed on many fronts.

The imminent capture of Paranthan by New Year day and possible capture of Kilinochchi by Thai Pongal day (Jan 14th) is likely to boost the image of the Government in forthcoming Provincial elections

Muslim female students in traditional attire are being denied entry to schools

By A Special Correspondent

The Muslim community in Sri Lanka is upset and agitated over some Colombo schools denying entry to Muslim female students in traditional attire.

While two schools have gone public with the so called dress code ban at least four other schools have also commenced implementing the ban quietly it is alleged.

The Jathika Hela Urumaya is allegedly behind the “no – Entry” move in Schools and is plotting to expand the move to schools in the Island.

Lindsay Balika Vidyalaya and Sir Baron Jayathilake Vidyalaya in Colombo have instructed their Muslim students not to attend school in traditional Muslim attire.This is now public knowledge

Kantalai11-03-08_0274

[School girls in Kantalai singing the National Anthem of Sri Lanka-pic by: drs. Sarajevo]

Four other schools have also begu implementing the “ban” without going public it is alleged.

Altogether Six govt. schools have banned Muslim girls from wearing Punjabi – style school uniform on orders of Principals of these schools according to Human Rights and Women Rights activists.

Posters and banners have come up in Colombo city to protect Buddhist schools from cultural interference of political elements.

Adding fuel to fire has been Muslim woman minister Ferial Ashraff’s ill – advised comments.

NUA leader and Minister Ms. Ferial Ashraff in a private TV interview answering a question on the school uniform of Muslim girls said that people of different communities have the right to maintain their religious and cultural identity that should not be made an issue or problem for political reasons.

Pointing out her dress to the female compere of the program Ms. Ashraff said, " I am wearing this head scarf and an attire in line with my belief. I attend Parliament, official events and cabinet meetings and I never had any problem and nobody made it an issue".

Concerned Citizens Groups have in statements drawn attention to the Ministry of Education circular No37/95 dated 15/12/1980 permitting Muslim girls to wear their traditional dress to schools.

In a further development , the Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF) has strongly condemned the conduct of certain schools while holding the JHU responsible.

"It is the right of the Muslims to wear their traditional attire wherever they go. Who is behind this new ruling and what is the reason for the two government girls’ schools to deny Muslims students their rights?" Convener, IUSF, Upul Premaratne said.

According to Premaratne the unseen hand behind the new regulation was the Jathika Hela Urumaya’s (JHU) Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thero and Environment Minister Champika Ranawaka who on many occasions have questioned as to why the Sinhala children were not allowed to attend school in lama sariya when the Muslim children were permitted to come in their traditional attire.

"How can they claim that the Sinhala children have been denied entry to schools in lama sariya when such a complaint has never been made before? They could raise the issue if there was a request from the Sinhala Buddhist community. Unless there is such a demand the JHU cannot blame the schools for allowing Muslim children to attend school in their traditional attire," Premaratne said.

Accusing the Education Ministry of failing to take action against the two schools that have denied the Muslim students their fundamental rights, Premaratne said that Education Ministry Circular No. 37 of 17/12/1995 has laid down that all schools in the country should permit Muslim students to attend school in their traditional dress.

"The Former Secretary, Education and Higher Education Ministry, M.D.D. Peiris in his circular had clearly instructed all heads of schools in the country to permit Muslim students to attend school in their traditional attire. If the Education Ministry has not introduced a new regulation, who has authorised these two principals to deny the Muslim students that right," queried Premaratne.

December 30, 2008

Govt holds emergency meeting as economy faces imminent collapse

By A Special Correspondent

The Sri Lankan Government held an emergency meeting as the economy faced imminent collapse. The emergency summit was convened by President Rarajapakse on Monday December 29th evening as the Lankan Rupee plunged to an all – time low and the share plummeted.

With key industries on the verge of collapse and private banks saddled with bad debt gasping for survival even as deposit withdrawals sky rocketed and loan repayments and credit card debt remained unsettled by cash strapped customers, the situation was threatening to destabilise the country’s entire financial framework.

On Monday Sri Lanka’s rupee fell to an all-time low surpassing its life low of 113.45/65 hit on September 19, 2007 and shares hit a four-year closing low on negative economic outlook.

The Colombo All-Share Index (CSE) fell 9.72 points to 1496.38, its lowest close since December 29, 2004. The market it is reported has fallen 41.1 percent so far this year due to poor earnings, high borrowing costs, and the global recession.

Analysts pointed out that investor sentiment is dismally negative even as top companies like John Keells’ and LIOC’s shares plummeted this week.

Commercial Bank shares also fell drastically after Fitch Ratings said Commercial Bank and People’s Bank which were engaged in the controversial hedging deals were exposed to counterparty defaulting risk.

Against this backdrop President Rajapakse convened the emergency cabinet meeting to discuss among other things the acute financial crisis which set to overpower the government and prevent imminent collapse of the economy.

After deliberations the Government on Tuesday December 30th offered Rs.16 billion stimulative economic package in the form of a ‘mini budget’ to benefit the entire country in 2009.

TCPC1230.jpg

[A special post cabinet press briefing-Dec 30th, 2008-pic: courtesy of DailyMirror.lk]

Media and Information Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa along with the key Ministers in the Government briefed the media about this stimulative package after the special Cabinet meeting convened by the President on December 29th at 6.30 p.m in which the ‘mini budget’ was unanimously endorsed after it was presented to the Cabinet by the President.

“The objective of this package was to strengthen and stimulate the economy in the face of a global economic crisis situation.

The President has offered this stimulative package considering the economic sector without considering each sector individually”, the Minister added.

He also said while providing a relief package for the consumers, agriculture, service and industrial sector the Cabinet also unanimously decided to reduce the Government expenditure; five per cent each from the state institutions and Members of Parliament, 10 per cent from the Cabinet of Ministers 15 per cent from the allocations for the President and the Prime Minister and 50 per cent from the allowance given for the Minister to rent houses.

The reduction in the Government expenditure will cost Rs. three billion, the Minister added.

“The main objective of this stimulative package is to ensure that the economy will perform at six per cent growth rate in the face of current tendencies in the global economy”, Enterprise Development and Investment Promotions Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama said.

“This is a proactive approach to ensure that the stipulated growth targets in the 2009 budget are achieved in 2009.

If not for these measures we would not be able to achieve these set targets in 2009 and it is part of the continuously evolving process of the economy in the face of downward tendencies in the global economy”, Dr. Amunugama added.

He said the relief package given for the services sector and the industrial sector will ensure that those sectors will perform with the same rate as in 2008 without disruption in their services and reduction in their employment.

The inflation rate has shown a drastic reduction this year with a recorded reduction from 30 per cent during mid this year to 13 per cent in December, Minister Amunugama pointed out.

Amidst providing all these reliefs the Government intends to maintain the 6.5 per cent budget deficit which is in a declining trend, Minister Amunugama added.

The overall impact of this relief package will benefit the consumers with the drastic reduction in the gas prices. Laugfs Gas reduced by Rs.276 and Shell gas by Rs.166 with immediate effect from mid night yesterday.

The fuel prices will also be reduced with Rs. 10 reduction in Kerosene, diesel and industrial oils and Rs.2 reduction in the petrol prices, Trade, Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Bandula Gunawardana said.

The petrol prices will be reduced by Rs.20 for three wheelers with a maximum of 75 liters per month and four litres a day.

“A coupon system will be introduced to provide this relief for the three wheeler operators.

According to Minister Bandula Gunawadana the overall impact of the reduction of fuel prices will benefit consumers as it could reduce bus fares by 4 per cent.

The tea plantation sector will also greatly benefit from this relief package as Government decided to provide 50 Kg bag of mixed fertilizer at the rate of Rs.1,000 a bag and to maintain Rs.45 price for one kilo of tea leaves with the intervention of the Tea Board.

“The Government intends to cover the cost of this fertiliser subsidy after imposing 2 per cent cess on export tea once the price of tea exceeds Rs.300. Further the Government will also cut off the loans given for the tea factory modernisation for 2009.

The rubber industry also got a stimulus as Government decided to maintain the rubber price at Rs.150 rate.

Export Development and International Trade Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said the Government has offered this stimulative economic package as an additional strength to the industrial sector to perform in the same breath whilst addressing the global economic issues.

“The reduction in the fuel surcharge from the tourism and industrial sectors and the excemption of economic service charge from the export of rubber and tea will greatly benefit the tourism and industrial sector”, the Minister added.

The business sector will also benefit from the decision to reduce the VAT refunding period to maximum of six months in the proposals submitted by the President to the Cabinet.

Central Bank Governor Dr. Ajith Nivad Cabral and Finance Ministry Secretary Sumith Abeysinghe were also present.

Sri Lanka will be affected if war breaks out between Indian and Pakistan

Analysts and commentators with expert knowledge of South Asian affairs have begun speculating about the distinct possibility of war erupting between India and Pakistan and how that would affect Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is caught in the middle with Pakistan helping it greatly to prosecute the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) while India has been evincing great concern about the beleaguered Tamil civilians of the North.

The Rajapakse regime has to tread lightly as Sri Lanka’s two giant neighbours, India and Pakistan get set for a possible military showdown.

Relations between the old enemies, both nuclear powers, are so fragile that conflict remains a constant threat.

The two nuclear-armed nations have already traded angry barbs since India accused elements in Pakistan of planning the three-day siege in Mumbai last month.

The Sri Lankan armed forces depend on Pakistan for their weapons supply and other military equipment. The government relies on India for logistical support. The LTTE has vowed it would never give up its armed struggle. But Rajapakse’s war may be relegated to a less vital position in Islamabad’s list of priorities come the dawn of the new year.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani though earlier ruling out the possibility of a war in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks was last Friday quoted in the media as saying his country was prepared to ‘respond in a befitting manner’ if attacked.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh though under pressure from domestic quarters for military action even as Pakistan’s air force conducted war training exercises with fighter jets last week, played down the possibility reportedly saying, the issue was not war but terror and territory in Pakistan being used to provoke, aid and abet terrorism.

Singh last week called on Pakistan to "dismantle the terror machine," adding Islamabad "knows what that implies."

India accused the banned Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) of masterminding the attacks.

Meanwhile there is growing concern in intelligence circles that LeT, a group which was originally backed by Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency before it was banned in 2002, now has an autonomous organisation within India’s large Muslim population with the capacity to strike without back-up from Pakistan.

Nonetheless, the impact for Sri Lanka will be disastrous. Pakistan’s weapons supply may dry up or slow down.

Already, Pakistan’s political and military leadership cooperation to arrest LeT members and close down an Islamic charity with links to the group has been seen as a significant climb down in order to avoid a conflict that the almost bankrupt country can ill afford to engage in. Islamabad has also told NATO and the US forces that the war on terror won’t be its priority if something happens at the front.

Reportedly Pakistan has warned it may need to relocate 100,000 troops from the Afghan border in northern Pakistan to the Indian border if tensions erupt.
India too will be preoccupied with its own military battles, Sri Lanka’s 350,000 refugees will be cast aside and human rights abuse in Sri Lanka will fall off the international radar screens as the world focuses on more pressing events.

Sri Lanka’s intractable war and its thousands upon thousands of victims will be forgotten as a government of impunity and a band of Tiger brigands rage forth violating the rules of war, and the rule of law. There will be increased activity by both RAW and ISI as Sri Lanka inevitably becomes enveloped by both Pakistan and India in their own war, analysts say.

In that context the course of Sri Lanka’s own war is likely to be affected drastically, they conclude.

Is Seylan a predicament for more choppy financial waters?

by A Special Correspondent

"The bank is functioning normally and we are stable,” CEO of Seylan bank Ajitha Pasqual said today Dec 30th. But the matter continued to unnerve the financial markets today in Colombo.

The second largest listed lender Hatton National Bank plummeted 7 percent to 69.75 rupees a share in thin trade, while development lender DFCC Bank shed 7.52 percent to 52.25 rupees, according to Thomson Financial News.

Analysts said investors were concerned about the banking sector after a credit crunch created by large number of withdrawals from banks following the credit card scam reported last week.

GC1230.jpg

[Golden Key customers at the BMICH premises last week-pic: Virakesari.lk]

Ceylinco Consolidated reported a credit card scam last week in one of its non-listed companies. Analysts estimate the amount to be around 26 billion rupees. ($228.8 million).

The central bank on Monday Dec 29th said it had decided to dissolve Seylan Bank's board of directors with immediate effect to maintain the stability of the financial system after the liquidity crunch prompted by the scam.

Trading in Seylan Bank resumed on Tuesday -- having been suspended for Monday -- more than three hours after the bourse opened. The shares jumped 28.57 percent to 20.25 rupees in thin trade.

On Saturday parent group Ceylinco Consolidated said it had decided to sell its stake in Seylan Bank to pay depositors of the credit card company.

The decision was made because of increased deposit withdrawals and suspected liquidity problems, the Central Bank said.

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[Lalith Kotelawala, listening to Golden Key customers]

Lalith Kotelawala, chairman of Ceylinco Group said last week he would sell his shares to repay investors in failed Golden Key Credit Card Company. Both Seylan Bank and Golden Key are subsidiaries of Ceylinco Group.

However, the main opposition United National Party (UNP) has demanded a Parliamentary select Committee to investigate the role of the monetary Board and the Central Bank.

The UNP has said the move is to probe whether these Institutions responsible for the protection of public funds and regulating the activities of the Financial Institutions have duly and legitimately discharged their duties.

Mr. Anura disssanayake, Member of the Political Bureau of the Jantha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) has pointed out that people have lost confidence in private banks and as a result there is a threat that financial institutions would breakdown and emphasized that breakdown of banks would jeopardize the whole financial sphere.

He further pointed out that taking over Seylan Bank by the Central Bank only would not solve the issue. A statement should be made by the government regarding who would be responsible for its depositors and whether a valuation has been made or not regarding its assets.

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[A Seylan customer coming out from a branch on Tuesday, Dec 30th-pic: Virakesari.lk]

The bank won't lend you money for a house and stand by while you use that money to buy a car. Shouldn't some one do the same and track every rupee the Government is spending through the Central Bank and Bank of Ceylon to "steady" Seylan, said a Seylan bank customer.

Has the government failed to anticipate a crisis in the financial sector in its broad outline even though independent writers and economists, apart from the main opposition parties had been warning of the coming collapse for a period of time,? an analyst with a Colombo Brokerage house said.

He further said the most important economic anchor of any economy – the finance sector is being challenged today even in the most versatile and dynamic economies of the world, and Sri Lanka with several other multiple issues at hand must navigate these conditions with transparency and zero corruption.

December 29, 2008

Tigers say 2009 will not be "Year of Trimph" but "Year of Destruction" for Army

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have responded to President Mahinda Rajapakse ‘s challenge by declaring the forthcoming 2009 as the year of destruction or “Azhivu”.

Senior LTTE military commander speaking at a ceremonial function in Puthukkudiyiruppu announced in the presence of LTTE supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran that the next year would be a year where the armed forces would undergo great destruction.

Hence the year of destruction declaration for 2009 , Bhanu said.

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[Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa (L) lays flowers at a memorial for fallen soldiers in Ambepussa on December 13-pic: via Yahoo! news-Lakruwan Wanniarachchi-AFP]

The President in a function held on December 22nd had announced that the year 2009 would be a “year of Triumph” for our heroic soldiers.

Bhanu explicitly referred to that announcement of “year of triumph” and said that the LTTE would change the situation by converting the so called year of triumph into the year of destruction for the armed forces.

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[Bhanu at the recently held LTTE commendation event -pic:puthinam.com]

Bhanu delivered the keynote speech at a ceremony held to award certificates of commendation to tiger cadres who had distinguished themselves on the battlefront in fighting in Mannar district.

The certificates prepared by the military analysis division of the LTTE were signed by the LTTE leader.

Prabhakaran however left the venue shortly after Bhanu’s speech due to security reasons

The certificates were then distributed to tiger cadre recipients by Bhanu, northen military commandr Theepan, senior tiger leader Yogi and Thamilanban

Bhanu in his address admitted openly that the armed forces had encircled the LTTE in many places and scored significant victories.

The LTTE had lost much of its territory, Bhanu said.

However with the dawning of the new year 2009 the situation would be reversed.

“Not only would we inflict heavy losses to the army but we will win back lost territory", proclaimed Bhanu in the presence of Prabhakaran.

He said the President’s year of triumph proclamation would be transformed into year of destruction on the battlefield. President Rajapakse was speaking on victories achieved in year 2008 and goals for the new year to a gathering of religious dignitaries, intellectuals, professionals, politicians, artistes and others at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo on Dec. 22nd

The year 2009 will be the year when our motherland would be finally liberated from the LTTE," President Mahinda Rajapaksa said.

"There will be many attempts to stall the forward march of the security forces. Malicious elements have already begun to create political unrest by making many problems for the government in an attempt to save terrorists from their imminent defeat. Therefore, I expect that there would be testy times ahead. For this very reason, I would like to declare 2009 as a year of victory for heroic soldiers.” He said.

At this meeting, Chief Minister of East Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan and MP Vinayagamurthi Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman were seen strongly backing the sentiments of the President.

Several months earlier, President Mahinda Rajapaksa declared 2009 as an elections year.

Accordingly, the north western and central provincial councils were dissolved in a bid for fresh polls.
Giving a brief about the military victories achieved in the year, the President invited all patriotic political parties to join him in order to defeat the conspiracies against the year of victory for heroic soldiers.

The President called on "patriotic forces in the UNP" to assist him to win the war against terrorism and to take the country to prosperity, thereby safeguarding the prestige and honour of the grand old party.

"I invite all political parties, be it Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims or of any other community, to join us in the future to defeat terrorism," President Rajapaksa said.

Douglas decrees that National Anthem be sung in Tamil in Jaffna

Social services minister and Eelam Peoples Democratic Party (EPDP) secretary – general Douglas Devananda has given instructions that the Sri Lankan national anthem should be sung in the Tamil language as well as in Sinhala during official functions held in Jaffna.

Earlier “Sri Lanka Matha” was sung only in Sinhala.

SLFLAG1229.jpgThe minister has stated that the national anthem should be sung in Tamil also in areas where the Tamil speaking people are in a majority.

As a result the national anthem was sung in both languages on all three days during the Future minds Jaffna exhibition.

It was a rare sight to see members of the armed forces and Police stand to attention when the national anthem was sung in Sinhala and Tamil Devananda who was the chief guest on the exhibition’s third day was given a standing ovation by the crowd for his action.

Many went up to the minister and requested that the national anthem should be sung in the Tamil language not only in Jaffna but in all parts of the Island.

Both Sinhala and Tamil are on equal status as both are accepted as official languages by the Constitution they pointed out.

The Future Minds Jaffna exhibition drew a crowd of over 100,000. The mega industrial and educational exhibition ‘Future Minds of Jaffna’ was held at Vembady Girls College and Jaffna Central College grounds with 100 exhibition and trade stalls.

All Government institutes and private banks in Jaffna as well as the local business community will be participating in this exhibition including many business companies from Colombo such as CBL, Hayleys Agro, Lanchem, Solex, Abans, Mobitel, Dialog, Caltex, Richard Pieris, Pure Beverages, Elephant House and Rankoth Enterprises.

Participation of leading book shops and publishers from Colombo is significant since it addresses a greater need in the Jaffna education system.

Human Rights Commission issues summons on Gota, Sarath and Lalith

The Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission (SLHRC)has accepted that there are valid grounds to inquire further into a complaint by UNP Colombo district Parliamentarian Dr. Jayalath Jayawardane that his fundamental rights were violated by an order of Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse.

Dr. Jayalath has alleged that he was physically removed from the Our Lady of the Rosary Church at Madhu while he was meditating by the army because of an order by Gotabhaya.

The Human Rights Commission which met on December 24th decided to inquire further into the petition filed by Dr. Jayalath Jayawardane against the Defence Secretary in respect of the violation of his fundamental rights by depriving him to perform his religious observances inside the Madhu Shrine.

Retired Justice of the Court of Appeal G. W. Edirisuriya decided to inquire into the petition filed to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka by Dr. Jayalath Jayawardane and the Assistant Secretary of the UNP against Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and several others.

Consequent to this the HRC has issued summons against Gotabhaya Rajapakse, Army Commander Sarath Fonseka and Maj - General Lalith Daugala.

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[Sri Lanka soldiers at the Madhu church-file pic]

In his petition Dr. Jayawardane has alleged that by an order of the Secretary of Defence, Mr. Rajapaksa, Major General Lalith Daulagala of the Sri Lanka Army caused the removal of him in person from the Holy Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu on August 14, 2008 whilst he was in a prayer and meditation in the inner chamber of the Holy Shrine.

He stated by this act the Secretary of Defence and other respondents named in his petition have violated the fundamental rights guaranteed to him by Articles 10, 12 and 14 (2) of the Constitution of Sri Lanka.

The presiding judge ordered summons to be issued on the added respondents, Major General Lalith Daulagala and the Army Commander returnable on January 23, 2009.

The judge also ordered that copies of all documents marked as exhibits to the petition be sent to the first respondent by registered post.

Attorney-at-Law Indunil Bandara appeared for the Defence Secretary who was not present. The second respondent was neither present nor was legally represented at the inquiry.

Desmond Fernando PC with K.D.C. Kumarage, S.S.M. Samsudeen and Lasitha Muhandiramge, Attorneys-at-Law instructed by Attorney Suranga Bandara for Dr. Jayawaradane who was present at the inquiry.

President tried to talk on telephone but Chief Justice refused to answer

A major contributory factor to the prevailing conflict between the Sri Lankan executive and judiciary is the egoistic clash on a personal level between President Mahinda Rajapakse and Chief Justice Sarath Silva.

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The President has been uttering the phrase “Mang Moota Honda Paadamak Ugannang Ko” meaning “I will teach him a good lesson”.

Though the President has refrained from naming anyone explicitly , it is generally understood that the reference is to the CJ.

The President during the cabinet meeting displayed a very hostile attitude and shot down all attempts by some ministers to resolve it amicably.

A Cabinet minister speaking on condition of anonymity revealed the reason for the Presidents belligerence.

According to the minister the President had at the outset wanted to placate the Chief Justice and prevent a crisis erupting.

Being tipped off by intelligence officials that the Chief Justice was contemplating the issuance of a controversial ruling on the matter , President Rajapakse wanted Chief Justice Silva not to proceed in that direction.

Initially the President tried to contact the Chief Justice but Sarath Silva sensing what was coming made himself unavailable.

Then the President had sent a mutual friend to meet the CJ and make the request.

MR1229B.jpg When the “friend” a senior lawyer met the Chief Justice and conveyed the President’s message the chief justice had been visibly angry and had ticked off the mutual friend that as a senior lawyer he should not be seen as trying to interfere with the judiciary or obstruct the course of justice.

When the lawyer reported this, the President was annoyed but tried to call the Chief justice on the telephone and explain matters.

Despite several attempts to talk the President had been unsuccessful as the Chief Justice refused to talk to him.

Thereafter the Supreme court went ahead and delivered its controversial ruling.

Even after the ruling the President had repeatedly attempted to talk on the telephone to the Chief Justice but Mr. Sarath Silva had not answered.

Speaking further the minister said that this adamant refusal by the Chief Justice to talk to him had angered the President.

“Our President is not one who is angered easily but when he is aroused there is no stopping him” the minister said.

This is the reason why the President has taken this matter personally and seriously , he said

December 28, 2008

President Rajapakse and Minister Fowzie in heated argument over Chief Justice issue

by Special Correspondent

Interesting details have come to light about a heated argument during the cabinet meeting between President Mahinda Rajapakse and Petroleum minister AHM Fowzie with consumer affairs minister Bandula Gunewardena also intervening.

Despite Fowzie's entreasties that the Government should abide by Chief Justice' Sarath Silva's ruling that the price of petrol be reduced by 22 rupees per litre a defiant President firmly ruled out any flexibility on the issue.

Fowzie apparently fought a lost battle for a sensible approach towards the Supreme Courts ruling but found an aggressive President vetoing all such proposals.

HC with Petroleum Minister

[Minister of Petroleum A.H.M. Fowzie and British High Commissioner HE Dr. Peter Hayes, at an event in June 2008 -pic by: ukinsrilanka]

When Petroleum Minister A.H.M. Fowzie told the cabinet the government must comply and then complain the Supreme Court order without going for a confrontation he found little support from his fellow ministers.

It was now a question of protecting the interest of the government and the President saw in the Supreme Court order to reduce oil prices a dangerous trend and decided to confront the Judiciary head on.

The President went on the offensive at the previous week’s cabinet meeting and followed it up with a fiery speech to a cross section of religious, political and business leaders on Monday at the Presidential Secretariat, thereby setting the stage for Tuesday’s special cabinet meeting with the ministers getting a preview of Rajapakse’s thinking on reducing the fuel prices.

Thus, when the ministers met Tuesday, December 23, only Minister Fowzie took up the cause of justice, arguing strenuously not to confront the Supreme Court but his was a voice in the wilderness.

At the outset, the President circulated copies of the Supreme Court order and told the Ministers to come up with their views at the next cabinet meeting scheduled for January 7. The timing was such the ministers were to once again consider the order before the Supreme court meets next on January 12.

Soon after that Minister Fowzie opened up and urged the President not to go for a head on collision with the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court considering the judgment itself being popular with the people.

"Let us comply and complain. Let us reduce the prices and then revise the prices later. Don’t go for a confrontation," Fowzie pleaded.

But the President was defiant. "No, lets not rush it. We will postpone the decision till the ministers study the order and come back," the President said.

Countered Fowzie – "What is there to study? The Supreme Court order is very clear. When you read the judgment, you can easily understand that the Chief Justice has said this is a fundamental rights case. And the Chief Justice has very clearly said the Executive action is arbitrary, illegal and unreasonable. What is there to study in it."

Not stopping at that, Fowzie said the Supreme Court has very clearly stated the people have a right to seek relief in terms of the constitution when there is arbitrary executive action and that it was silly to want time to study such a simple order.

Added Fowzie – "The Attorney General appeared on behalf of the President. The Treasury Secretary was present in court and took notice of the order. It is the Treasury Secretary that submitted the formula and the Supreme Court has acted on that formula. Therefore it is we who gave the formula. Now how can we challenge our own formula and say we need time to study it. This is all wrong. Don’t do it."

The President however would hear none of it and insisted on not caving in and coming into support the President was Consumer Affairs Minister Bandula Gunawardene, who said only parliament could determine tax structures and not the judiciary.

Said Gunawardene – "Parliament is supreme and in terms of the constitution, fiscal powers are with the legislature. No one can take that right."

That said Minister Gunawardene quoted from a report submitted to Parliament by former Auditor General S.C. Mayadunne in his capacity as consultant to COPE and said the report clearly states under Article 147 and 152 of the constitution, the financial powers are vested in Parliament.

He said, accordingly, the power to increase, decrease or amend taxes as opposed to prices was exclusively within Parliament.

"It clearly states no institution, or individual can increase, reduce or change taxes except Parliament. Therefore even the President as Finance Minister, cannot do it. Only Parliament can. If the President wants to change the taxes, he must get cabinet approval and come to Parliament. Therefore the Supreme Court also cannot ask taxes to be reduced," Gunewardene said.

The Consumer Affairs Minister went on to explain the problems he had in reducing prices of essential food items in the past due to the tax formula and said finally a new special Commodity Levying Act had to be introduced in Parliament to meet the situation.

Explained Gunawardene, "Mine is a legal argument. Take this example. There are thousands of farmers in the country. Now we have a tax on a kilo of rice imported. That is Rs. 25. It is a deterrent for imports because the price will then be prohibitive. That was done to protect the farmer. Otherwise we can get rice for Rs. 100 from overseas. There are starving people in the country. Now they can go to court and say, because of this tax, they can’t get cheaper rice and as a result their fundamental right to be free of hunger is violated. If that happens the farmers in our country will be finished. Same for potatoes and onions. That is why only Parliament can levy and alter taxes. The Supreme court cannot do it."

The case made out by the Consumer Affairs Minister saw the President nodding his approval despite the inherent flaws in it because the Supreme Court order itself refers to arbitrary Executive action through special Gazette notifications as opposed to legislative action and it took the layman in Fowzie to point that out.

Replied Fowzie – "The Chief Justice and the Supreme Court know the constitution more than you. They are the people who interpret the constitution. That is their role. The Chief Justice knows what powers the Legislature, Judiciary and the Executive have. Are you trying to teach the Chief Justice the law and how to interpret the constitution."

Added Fowzie – "It is with the full knowledge of their powers that the Supreme Court has formulated their order. The Chief Justice has cited specific laws on excise duties and customs levies. The Legislature and the Executive have their own powers but the Executive cannot use those powers arbitrarily. That is what the Supreme Court has said."

However, others disagreed, including Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogallagama, Power Minister John Seneviratne and Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva all laywers, who held with Minister Gunawardene and said only Parliament has the power to decide on taxes.

Putting to shame all the lawyers, was Fowzie who gave them a lesson in law, based on the Supreme Court order, while reiterating his earlier position that the interpretations of the constitution was for the Supreme Court and not for individual ministers, learned as they may be in the law.

With that said Fowzie read copiously from the judgment and told the ministers, what the Supreme Court had done was not interfered with the powers of the Legislature but referred to arbitrary executive action, which falls within the fundamental rights jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

Minister Fowzie then quoted this paragraph from the Supreme Court order to buttress his argument – "According to the report of the Secretary at the Benchmark importation price of 56.05 US$ per barrel, the cost of a litre of refined petrol is Rs. 39.06 and the overhead costs and profit margin of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation is Rs.9.71 totaling Rs. 48.77. The current selling price of a litre of petrol is Rs. 122. Hence a total of 7 government and fiscal levies amount to Rs. 73.23. Accordingly, when a Consumer purchases a litre of petrol of which the total cost is only Rs. 48.77 he in fact is paying Rs. 73.23 by way of government taxes and levies. Viewed from another perspective government and fiscal levies amount to over 180% of the actual price of petrol.

The petitioners have thus established a strong prime facie case that as many as 7 different levies are imposed in an unreasonable and arbitrary manner. These levies are imposed in terms of the applicable law by way of executive orders published as regulations and remain in force unless revoked by Parliament. The impugned executive orders being prima facie unreasonable and arbitrary and deny to the petitioners and the people the equal protection of the law and excessive prices have a serious impact on the cost of living, the petitioners are entitled to the grant of interim relief. Accordingly, we made order on 15.12.2008 that the secretary to the Treasury should prepare a price formula in terms of which at the benchmark referred above, the totality of government and fiscal levies will not exceed 100% of the cost."

Said Fowzie – "It is therefore clear, what the Supreme Court is ruling against is arbitrary executive action."

And to drive home his point, Fowzie, quoted another paragraph from the judgment, which read as follows – "As noted above, the imposition of the Excise Duty in terms of Section 3(1) of Act No. 13 of 1989 and the imposition of customs duties and the grant of partial waivers as stated in Annex ‘A’ in terms of section 10A and 10A of the Customs Ordinance are executive functions that come within the purview of the fundamental rights jurisdiction of the court. The alleged infringements result from illegal, arbitrary and unreasonable executive action. The Secretary being the appropriate functionary and the Attorney General who represents the President in terms of article 35(3) of the Constitution have been heard on the several days this matter was considered. Accordingly we direct that necessary orders be made in terms of the applicable law to give effect to the content of Annex ‘A’ which has been prepared by the secretary to the Treasury."

Asked Fowzie of his ministerial colleagues – "Is this not plain enough for anyone to understand. The Chief Justice and the Supreme Court are talking of executive action and a formula we submitted. Let us implement this order now."

Still unmoved, the President said, all the facts detailed can be considered on January 7 when the Ministers meet which saw Fowzie once again urging for caution.

Said the Petroleum Minister – "The Chief Justice is coming back on January 1. He is not going to keep quiet because we have challenged a judicial order. He will take drastic action. My Chairman is worried. He wants to resign."

Shot back the President – "Then tell him to resign."

Responded Fowzie – "Then I will tell my chairman I took up the matter in cabinet and the cabinet says to wait till January 7th and for him to do what he thinks is correct."

The President however would not budge and insisted there will be no price reduction until the cabinet meets again on January 7 to consider all viewpoints.

The UPFA tie-up and the truth behind Wimal Weerawansa's trip to Italy

by A Special Correspondent

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) defector and leader of the National Freedom Front (NFF), Wimal Weerawansa is known to be a manufacturer of news from time to time.

However, the level of appeal of the news generated by Weerawansa is an issue that needs to be considered as well.

The various exposes done by the media on Weerawansa as a public figure has opened the people’s eyes on his true nature. People are now aware of the truth behind all the patriotic statements made by Weerawansa.

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[At the event today, Dec 28th - signing of MOU between UPFA & NFF - pic: courtesy of Daily Mirror.lk]

Weerawansa once again generated news last week. According to the said news item, Weerawansa organized a meeting in Italy in order to gather Sri Lankans living overseas for the sake of the country.

However, the truth behind Weerawansa’s visit to Italy has now come to light.

The reason for the visit was not to gather Sri Lankans to fight to save the motherland, but to spend the December holidays with his wife and family. It is also learnt that he had spent hundreds of thousands of rupees for the purpose.

While in the JVP, although there was a code of conduct that needed to be followed by party members from engaging in overseas trips of this nature, Weerawansa then too managed to tour foreign countries with his family.

This time around Weerawansa left for Italy with his family to spend the vacation and a meeting was also organized by his wife Sashi’s sister in Italy.

Under the guise of gathering Sri Lankans to fight to save the motherland, Weerawansa’s real intention was to collect funds for his newly formed NFF did not come to light.

The task of collecting funds for the party was given to wife Sashi and her sister.

When organising the meeting, it was perceived that since Weerawansa was to address the crowd, a large number of people would attend it and be willing to donate funds for the party. The organisers booked a large hall for the meeting.

In the midst of the whole organizing process, they understood that they were not gathering the crowd they had anticipated initially.

The organisers immediately arranged a small room for the meeting and ensured that all seats were filled to create the impression of a packed audience.

However, on the day of the meeting, when Weerawansa was to address the gathering there was a small crowd of less than 300 people there. Weerawansa went ahead with his speech and after addressing the crowd with his usual patriotic speech, he ended it by asking for funds for the NFF.

Afterwards, Weerawansa left on a sight-seeing trip with his family in Italy.

After returning to the island, Weerawansa started on another project. That is to work on a MoU to be signed between the NFF and President Mahinda Rajapakse.

Weerawansa planned to hold a massive event to celebrate the signing of the MoU like when the JVP signed one with the SLFP to form the UPFA in 2004.

Weerawansa met with Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake to discuss the MoU. The NFF was represented by Weerawansa, Nandana Gunathileka, Piyasiri Wijenayake and Kamal Deshapriya at the meeting.

The NFF group who went for the meeting was disappointed to see the government representatives. Wickremanayake was accompanied by Ministers D.M. Jayaratne and Dulles Alahapperuma.

Weerawansa expected seniors like Ministers Maithripala Sirisena, Susil Premajayanth and Basil Rajapakse to attend the discussion.

During the discussion, Weerawansa on several occasions tried to break off half way to meet on another day, hoping that the individuals he expected would attend the next meeting.

Wickremanayake, who understood Weerawansa’s actions said there was no need for another round of discussions and said a final decision, should be arrived at on that day.

He added that the President had given him the power to make decisions with regard to the MoU and that the NFF should join the government by the first week of January.

The PM also said that if Weerawansa was not agreeable to it, there would be a problem with regard to the ministerial portfolios that would be allocated to the NFF.

Weerawansa immediately asked if he could know the portfolios his party would receive.

"No, that will be decided by the President. He will give you what he wants. The President has asked me to get any proposals you have on the matter," Wickremanayake said.

All efforts by Weerawansa to go for another round of talks failed and the NFF group had to walk out disappointed.

The group decided not to hold any media conference on the discussion and even decided to hold the details from fellow party members.

Subsequently Weerawansa and the NFF decided to tie up with the government.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and the National Freedom Front (NFF) was signed at a simple ceremony at Temple Trees on Sunday Dec 28th.

The MoU was inked by UPFA General Secretary Minister Susil Premjayantha and NFF General Secretary Nandana Gunatilaka, amidst an august gathering of party stalwarts, members, friends and well-wishers of both parties, to the chanting of seth pirith.

Addressing the ceremony, SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena underscored the importance of forming the broadbased alliance, at a time the country was confronting daunting and multi-faceted challenges and conspiracies of both local and international reactionary forces.

"This alliance is formed at a watershed moment in our history, when our motherland is emerging victorious over the scourge of ruthless terrorism and separatism which has plagued it for several decades. Our Government under the strong and able leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has integrated a fragmented country and is moving on the path to prosperity. Nonetheless, there is more work ahead of us to be accomplished," Minister Sirisena noted.

He was of the view that following the resounding victory of President Rajapaksa at the 2005 Presidential election, the Government relied much on the JVP and regarded them as a tower of strength and inspiration to the Government.

Nevertheless, the estranged relationship and their eventual divorce was indeed a formidable loss to the Government, he lamented.

"This separation of the JVP was a great blunder which gave rise to an expanded jumbo Cabinet. This need would never have arisen if the JVP stood with us. When the JVP left us, enlarging the Cabinet was inevitable, to continue a stable Government," he said.

Minister Sirisena warned that both local and international reactionary forces were behind diverse conspiracies to topple the Government, jeopardise and disrupt its development and called for vigilance.

NFF leader Wimal Weerawansa recalled as a pioneer who worked for the victory of President Rajapaksa at the last Presidential election, he was happy that of the 12 proposals forwarded at the last Presidential election under the Mahinda Chintanaya, at least six of the national issues have already been implemented.

"Our broad-based alliance had over-whelmingly succeeded in unifying our fragmented motherland and protect its unitary character.

"We were able to annul the PTOMS agreement, the so-called Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) and reject the facilitator role played by the Norwegians," Weerawansa said.

Wattala suicide bomber had "Kola Kenda" at "Irida Pola"

by A Special Correspondent

The suicide bomber who caused havoc at Wattala by exploding a bomb strapped to his body was seen devouring a dish of “Kola Kenda” (leafy porridge) at the “Irida Pola” (Sunday fair) minutes before the attack occurred.

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[Police personnel investigate at the site of a blast in Wattala-pic: AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena-via Yahoo! News]

After having kola kenda at the Sunday fair near St.Anne’s church the killer had tried to enter the Civil Defence Force camp in the adjoining premises.

When prevented from doing so he had detonated the explosive device attached to his body.

Had he been able to enter the premises nearly 60 other CDF personnel sleeping at the camp dormitory would have been killed or injured.

At least eight people including seven Civil Defence Force personnel were killed and 18 injured in the suicide attack in Wattala near the Civil Defence Force (CDF) camp Sunday (Dec 28th) morning.

The suicide bomber had apparently tried to penetrate the CDF security and cause major damage to the camp by entering it through the nearby weekly Sunday Fair adjacent to St. Anne’s church,

Ragama Hospital Deputy Director Dr. Lalani Gurusingha said that four bodies were brought to the hospital from the scene of the carnage and another 11 people were being treated at the emergency ward.

“Three people are in critical condition and arrangements have been made to transfer them to the National Hospital,” Dr. Gurusingha said.

A CDF member identified as P.A.D.Dushanta who was among eight admitted to the national hospital, succumbed to his injuries on admission.

Supdt of Police, Premalal Ranagala said it was Dushanta who was manning the gate at the camp preventing the suicide bomber from entering it.

CDF personnel J.M.Ratnayaka said he was off duty and was about to leave for home when the incident occurred.

“When I came out I saw a young man attempting to enter the camp from the closed gate without responding to questions of my colleague Dushanta. When the young suicide bomber entered through the gate by force, Dushanta pushed him aside and he exploded the suicide jacket instantly killing himself, Dushanta and many others,” Ratnayaka said.

“Our camp is situated at the Zonal Education Office at Wattala. There are about 150 personnel there. When I was coming out of the wash room of the camp around 8.30 a.m. I heard a loud explosion. I was thrown a few feet away and when I stood up I felt a burning pain on my left arm. I later found myself at the emergency ward at the National Hospital with my arm heavily bandaged,” CDF member D.M. Sunil Jayanta (32) said from his hospital bed

Explaining his harrowing experience another CDF member C. Chandrasiri, (31) of No. 347, Medirigiriya, Meegaswewa said he was having breakfast when he heard the huge explosion.

“When I rushed towards the gate there were several people fallen on the ground near the gate, some of them already dead or seriously injured,” he said.

D.M.Sunil Shanta 32 of Ihala Puliyankulama said there was a fairly big crowd at the weekly Sunday Fair near the St. Anne’s church Wattala last morning.

“The time was around 8.30. The gate of the camp had been closed. I saw a young man of medium built who came from the side of the statue of the St. Anne’s statue attempting to walk past the closed gate. But Dushanta wanted to stop him and the suicide bomber did not listen to him. When Dushanta pushed him he exploded his suicide kit killing and injuring many,” Sunil Shanta said.

The post mortems of the seven CDF personnel were held at the Ragama Hospital by Consultant JMO Dr. Keerti Gunatilaka, Deputy Director Dr. Lalani Gurusingha said.

The CDF personnel who were killed in the blast were identified as Capt. Shanta Kumara, Karunasingha Nimal Seneviratna, S.P.Sunil Padmasiri, M.G.I.P.K. Abeyratna, Ajith Samaratunga, A.H. Hemachandra and P. T. Vijayananda.

The body believed to be that of the suicide bomber is lying at the hospital morgue, Dr. Gurusingha said.

Among the others warded at the National Hospital are Punsiri Amarajeewa (33) of Medirigiriya, Sunil Jayanta (31) of Puliyankulam, J.M.Ratnayaka (33) of Galgamuwa, H.M.Herath (23) of Saliyapura, K.V.Podiappuhami of Colombo14 all of the CDF and T. Mahadeva (16) of Negombo.

December 27, 2008

Tigers constructing strong defenses around 300 sq. km zone in Eastern Wanni

The beleaguered Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) organization is rapidly constructing and fortifying defences around a 300 square kilometre area in the Eastern Wanni region.

This move of setting up a strong defensive ring around areas of strategic importance comes in the wake of decisive defeats suffered on Christmas and Boxing day when soldiers of 59 division seized the important villages of Mulliyawalai and Thaniyootru along the Mankulam – Mullaitheevu road known as A – 34 highway.

After these areas were captured the LTTE now controls only about 800 sq kilometres area in the northern mainland known as the Wanni.

According to intelligence, out of about 800 square kilometers , the Tigers are now preparing an inner 300 square kilometer defensive fortification behind Iranamadu, Kalmadu, Viswamadu and Muttyankaddu tanks, and also covering Oddusudan North, Mulliyawalai north and stretching to Mulaitivu coast.

The estimated 200,000 trapped civilians too, come within this new fortification as a defensive shield.

As the end of the year neared so did the intensification of security Forces operations, and despite some of the bloodiest fighting they are continuing to make gains.

Brig. Nandana Udawatte led 59 Division made two important gains when they entered Mulliyawalai and Thaniootru u regions by Christmas Day. This resulted in day long fighting and exchange of artillery and mortar fire from morning till evening.

In the history of this conflict, this was also the first time these two towns in the Mulaitivu District have come under the dominance of the Army. The biggest LTTE war cemetery is also situated at Mulliyawalai, and it is at this war memorial that Tiger Leader Velupillai Prabhakran had his annual Maveerar Day ceremonies during the ceasefire period.

Lt. Col. Chaminda Lamahewa led Seventh Gemunu Regiment, fought their way to both towns. On the way they had to overcome three defensive bunds . They were ably supported on a flank by 15th Infantry Regiment led by Maj. Sujeewa Hettiarachchi. It was the same 15th Infantry that first fought its way to A-34 Mulaitivu - Mankulam route from among the units of the 59 Division.

Lt. Col. Keerthi Bandara led First Sinha Regiment, which advanced along an axis south of A-34 also linked up with Seventh Gemunu.

With the Army domination of Thaniootru , it is now only a matter of time before the much venerated Wattappalai Kovil situated in the region, where even Prabhakaran is known to worship, comes under the Security Forces.

The LTTE first made its air wing public by dropping flowers over this Kovil from a helicopter during a festival.

From Mulliyawalai everything points to the 59 Division next training its guns on the biggest target in the region, the Sea Tiger main training area, the Nandikadal lagoon It was in this lagoon in July last year that Sea Tiger Leader Soosai was watching a training exercise with his five year old son, when an explosion killed the boy and his body guard. The blast also injured the Sea Tiger leader.

Maj. Gen Jagath Dias commanded 57 Division this week once again resumed assaults on the Tiger defence bund on the approaches to Kilinochchi. By Friday it began pounding the entire 12 kilometre stretch of the bund. Only about four kilometers remained on this bund that had still not been over run. In the eight kilometers or so it had overrun, troops were busy clearing mines fields, booby trapped buildings etc. After that they have yet another enemy defence line to surmount within the town limits.

Ninth Gajaba, Fourth Sinha and Ninth Wijayaba Regiments belonging to 57-1 and 57-2 Brigades broke through the bund once again this week and resumed their advance. In the previous week’s Tuesday amidst heavy rains they broke through many places in this defensive bund, but had to fall back later under heavy enemy fire, especially mortar and artillery attacks.

Special Forces veteran and Lt. Col. Harendra Ranasinghe who just assumed command of 57-1 Brigade, resumed the fight back last Sunday at 5:35 am. The Ninth Gajaba and Fourth Sinha together smashed through two kilometer stretch of the bund containing 44 bunkers. The fighting for these troops raged non stop till 6:30 pm on Christmas day. They were supported by MI-24 helicopter gunships and artillery fire.

Similarly 57-2 Brigade under the command of Lt. Col. Dhammika Jayasundera overran about 1.5 kilometre stretch of the bund.

Troops of the 57-4 Brigade under the command of Lt. Col. Senaka Wijesuriya, who successfully captured the stretch of the bund between Iranamadu tank and the Iranamadu Road last week using smart tactics, were at the receiving end of some fierce assaults on their positions this week due to Tiger fears that they would rush Kilinochchi town from the south.

Using about 400 cadres broken into 18 teams, they launched assault after assault on the positions of the troops of the 57-4 Brigade on Monday from 6:15 am to 1:00 pm, backed by a non stop rain of artillery and mortar fire. Tigers even said to have fired from a captured battle tank from a previous Eelam war, and also provided back up fire to their assault cadres from seven boats stationed in the reservoir. These Tiger units were commanded by their frontline commanders Swarnam, Theepan, and Lawrence.

Maj. Samantha Wickramasena led Tenth Infantry and Lt. Col. Ipshitha Dissanayake commanded Eighth Infantry faced the brunt of these assaults. As pinpoint enemy mortar and artillery fire became too intense, these two regiments were forced to fall back.

In this fight two of the best young officers Capt. Mahesh Kumara Narangoda and Capt. Tharanga Thelis, who have successfully taken part in many other frontline operations sacrificed their lives along with 13 other brave men.

Capt. Narangoda had bravely led his men till the very end in Monday’s battle, while Capt Thelis had played a leading role in the capture of the same bund in the previous week.

With Saturday’s fall of strategically located Mulliyawalai on the eastern flank, the offensive directed at Mullaitivu town on the north-eastern coast has reached the final stage.

The infantry secured the town after a series of bloody battles over one and half days after receiving a setback on the Kilinochchi front.

Although the government has repeatedly dismissed opposition claims of exploitation of battle-field victories for political advantage, the Rajapaksa administration was expecting a major victory ahead of the forthcoming PC polls for Wayamba and Central Provinces, political sources said.

The government was of the opinion that it could offset any damage caused by its refusal to pass on the benefit of cheap petrol as directed by the Supreme Court to the masses by scoring a significant battle-field victory, the sources said.

A senior army officer directing operations on the Vanni front said that that the fall of Mulliyawalai and Tanniyootru also on the Mankulam-Mullaitivu A 34 road would make Mullaitivu vulnerable.

Large groups of people are believed to have abandoned Mullaitivu fearing a heavy attack on the town.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, he said that fighting elements of 59 Division were now closing in on Nanthikadal lagoon and the liberation of the town which the army lost in July 1996 to the LTTE would be a reality soon.

The LTTE killed over 1,400 officers and men in a devastating assault on Mullaitivu garrisoned by an Army Brigade.

The army yesterday called in air support to neutralize a heavy LTTE concentration about five kilometres south of Mullaitivu. Mi 24 helicopter gunships zeroed-in-on the group at 8.45 a.m. along the Alampil-Mullaitivu road stretch causing damage to the enemy.

The army had confirmed a successful rocket attack on a tractor load of LTTE cadres by Mi 24s.

Responding to questions, the senior officer said that the army took advantage of heavy commitment of LTTE assets to defend Iranamadu-Kilinocchi-Paranthan stretch of the A9 to swiftly advance on Mullaitivu.

The bottom line was that ferocious Tiger resistance on the Kilinochchi front had been at the expense of Mullaitivu, he explained. By the time the Tigers realized that the army had taken advantage of the situation, 59 Division had reached the outskirts of Mullaitivu.

Realizing their mistake, the LTTE had strengthened the Mullaitivu defences, he said, acknowledging that troops had experienced what he called ``an increased level of resistance.’’

``Now they have realized that both Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu were equally vulnerable and couldn’t be defended,’’ the official said.

He declined to comment on the perception among a section of the armed forces that Mullaitivu could fall ahead of Kilinochchi. He offered no estimate the LTTE strength on the Vanni front or discuss a time frame for the collapse of remaining bases.

He was confident that whatever the LTTE did, they will not be able to alter the ground situation.

According to him, the deployment of Task Force I (TF I), 57 west of A9 and south of Iranamadu and TF II, TF III and TF IV and 59 Division east of the A9 had essentially made one Vanni front against the LTTE.

"We never had a similar situation before," he said, adding that this had facilitated the swift movement of armour, artillery and other supplies from one theatre to another.

The official speculated that the LTTE would have to decide on its strategy on the Jaffna front where it had a sizeable force to thwart an advance by 53 and 55 Divisions across the neck of the Jaffna peninsula towards Elephant Pass.

(Compiled from newspaper articles and reports)

Actress Sangeetha embarrasses President by holding hands in public

The hot topic buzzing in Colombo’s grapevine is all about how President Mahinda Rajapakse was visibly embarrassed by the antics of well – known Sri Lankan actress Sangeetha Weeraratne.

SW1228.jpgThe bold and beautiful actress defying decorum had in a vulgar exhibition aimed at demonstrating her affinity to the president held on to his hands for quite a long time for an unusually long time in an over – friendly manner.

According to some cinema artistes who were disgusted by this behaviour Ms. Weeraratne apparently was attempting to create an impression of her closeness to the Country’s executive president.

The incident happened on December 24th at a ceremony held at the Presidential secretariat in Colombo to honour veteran actress Malini Fonseka.

The Queen of the Sinhala cinema had won the Silver peacock award at the Indian Film Festival held in Goa for her fantastic portrayal of a senior actress Sandha Devi in the film “Akasa Kusum” (Flowers in the sky) that was directed by her brother in law ,Prasanna Withanage.

The manner in which Sangeetha Weeraratne behaved with the President. at the event made onlookers laugh at the scene and cast amused looks.

The President himself was visibly uncomfortable by this third – grade performance by the attractive actress and was heard to complain later she was an embarrassment to him.

The smooth functioning of the programme was further hampered when the organisers caused a factionalising of the artistes.

The event was to be held in the ground floor of the Presidential Secretariat. The organizing committee consisted of Dulles Alahapperuma, Ravindra Randeniya, Rohana Weerasinghe and Jackson Anthony.

At the event organized by a committee consisting of artistes themselves, the organisers managed to divide the local artistes as VIP artistes and Non-VIP artistes.

The VIP artistes were allocated the ground floor of the Secretariat while the non VIP artistes were assigned to the upper floor.

However, the important factor is that several artistes who worked for the President during the last presidential election were seated on the upper floor in the non VIP artistes section.

Sriyantha Mendis, Budhdhdasa Vithanachchi, Anarkali Akarsha, Dharmasri Wickremasinghe, Tennyson Cooray were among those seated on the upper floor. G.R. Perera, Sangeetha Weeraratne, Bandhu Samarasinghe and Sanghadasa were seated on the ground floor among the VIP artistes.

Although there were several empty seats on the ground floor, no one invited the non VIP artistes to take seats among the VIP artistes.

However, after a few minutes, the non VIP artistes on the balcony started to criticize the situation. They started to whisper about it and the news immediately reached the organizing committee.

Weerasinghe, from the organizing committee immediately went up to the balcony and invited the artistes to take seats on the ground floor after apologizing for the faulty seating arrangement.

"No, no we will watch from up here since we are no longer important. The important people downstairs can continue with their work," Vithanachchi said.

Weerasinghe quickly turned and went back down. After presenting Fonseka with the award, all artistes were invited for high tea at the Presidential Secretariat.

The artistes who were seated on the balcony kept silent and stayed aside during the tea party.

Govt. may reduce petrol price to Rs. 100 and then raise it to 117 Rupees

By a Special Correspondent

Moves are afoot within Government circles to reduce the price of petrol to Rupees hundred per litre as stipulated in the Supreme courts ruling and then raise the price again within weeks to rupees 117 per litre.

According to reliably informed sources this idea has been mooted by several ministers after obtaining legal advice.

This temporary price reduction is expected to help greatly in moves iniated to counter the adventurist judicial activism of chief Justice Sarath Silva.

Such a reduction on a temporary basis would enable the newly appointed Attorney – General Mohan Peiris to draft a comprehensive report for filing before the Supreme courts it is learnt.

Meanwhile several ministers are on the warpath against the chief justice and are urging that he be impeached through Parliament.

Several senior ministers had urged the president to have an impeachment motion drawn up against the Chief Justice Silva. They stressed that parliament is superior to the judiciary and that the judiciary cannot interfere in local taxation and or fiscal policy, government sources revealed. One senior minister had reportedly complained that the chief justice is misusing his limited judicial power and that the time was right for an impeachment move against him.

The president’s economic advisors and other senior ministers such as Sarath Amunugama had highlighted the possible impact a tax reduction could have on the local economy. The president had advised all his cabinet ministers to launch an aggressive campaign to “educate the public on this issue.”

Port Development Minister Dilan Perera has publicly criticized the judiciary saying “the Supreme Court acts as a one man show today and parliament cannot be made a puppet”. He said parliament should be summoned immediately to decide if the powers of the legislature should be divested to others. He warned that parliament was in danger of being turned into a “rubber stamp” without any powers of its own. He added he was ready to go to jail over his comments

Minister of Youth Affairs Pavithra Wanniarachchi and Minister of Mass Media and Information Anura Priyadarshana Yapa have proposed to cabinet that “the government should not obey the Supreme Court’s writ.” They had reportedly said they did not “mind being imprisoned over this defiance."

The prime minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake has also been adamant, saying: “We need to decide here whether we will govern this country according to orders of the judiciary or to govern in keeping with public interest. You will recall that the judiciary has given several controversial decisions such as this in the recent past. But we need more money at this moment.”

Some ministers also feel that obeying the Supreme Court decision on the petrol price would be an embarrassment to the government. They also pressed for the assertive use of executive power.
The cabinet secretary had explained that the government had two options. Cabinet could either obey the Supreme Court or use the president’s executive power to overrule it.

While many ministers want an impeachment on the issue, Prof G L Peiris wants Parliament to summon the chief justice.He has proposed to cabinet that this problem be sorted out through parliament.

He explained that several chief justices in Sri Lanka’s history had been summoned before parliament. The best place to find a remedy was, therefore, parliament, he said.

Meanwhile, cabinet ministers and the president are waging a campaign to seek to educate the people about the repercussions of slashing taxes. They are using every public and political opportunity to emphasize that the government will have to immediately cut off several welfare programmes if they were forced to reduce taxes

Sunanda Deshapriya, Free Media Movement and Financial Irregularities

By Namini Wijedasa

Allegations of swindling levelled against former Free Media Movement (FMM) Convenor Sunanda Deshapriya have rocked the media industry and left the government grinning from cheek to cheek. Some sources now claim that the questionable financial transaction which Deshapriya had carried out as head of the Centre for Policy Alternatives’ media unit is “only the tip of the iceberg”. Implicating other FMM office bearers, they claimed that an ongoing audit by the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) will reveal more irregularities in how the FMM had used money from a safety fund for journalists set up with grants from Sweden, Norway and Denmark.

Highway robbery

Created in 2007, the safety fund is administered by the SLPI but handled by a steering committee which approves the release of money for projects related to the security of journalists. The first steering committee comprised representatives of the Fojo Institute for Further Education of Journalists, International Media Support, SLPI, Sunanda Deshapriya as FMM convenor and Lionel Fernando from civil society.

This committee had reportedly approved a proposal from FMM for a project worth 8.2 million rupees to provide safety training for journalists, among other things. The project also envisaged the creation of an ‘emergency phone network’ among journalists and a safe-house for journalists under threat. Half the proposed amount-around 4.2 million-was released to the FMM bank account in early 2008. In return, the FMM agreed to provide the SLPI with financial and narrative reports and original receipts by October 31.The receipts, financial and narrative reports did not come by October 31 despite repeated reminders. In the meantime, Deshapriya had resigned from the steering committee citing conflict of interest (as he was both a member of FMM and the committee).

Receipts for the first six months, up to October 31, were finally submitted on December 13 but sources claim that the financial or narrative reports have not been provided to date.LAKBIMAnEWS learns that the SLPI has suspended payments to the FMM from the safety fund pending the submission of financial and narrative reports.
Contacted for comment, SLPI Chairman Kumar Nadesan confirmed that they had stopped payments to FMM and that an audit was in progress. Pushed to elaborate, he said: “The FMM had not conformed to conditions that we had put down with regard to reports and accounts. We suspended payments because of this and not because of any allegations.”

Of allegations, there are plenty. Authoritative sources say that some of the receipts smack of “highway robbery” while various allowances have reportedly been paid to certain FMM office bearers on the claim that they require heightened security. Details have been handed over to the auditors and the SLPI is expected to proceed on the basis of their findings. Judging by past events, the audit report will most likely be leaked or released to media, after which all hell will break loose again.

CPA

What had transpired at the CPA to cause Deshapriya to resign? CPA Executive Director Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu says he had accepted Deshapriya’s resignation over a transaction that had lacked clarity. He reveals that Deshapriya had personally returned in full money owed to the organisation after an investigation into financial anomalies of a project he was responsible for.

Further inquiries revealed that Deshapriya had been directing a team that was organising the 2007 National Public Service Journalism Prize Awards Ceremony. At the event which was held in December at the Galle Face Hotel, promotional material was distributed on compact disks. The allegation levelled against Deshapriya is that he had got a sidekick to submit an over-valued invoice for the production of these CDs and claimed a difference of Rs 180,000 for himself. A subsequent probe found the invoice to be fraudulent. It also revealed that payment had been made for 1,500 CDs but only 200 copies had been produced.

Consequences

The fallout from this dishonest deed has been great. Deshapriya was famous enough for the CPA to issue a public statement on the controversy which has thrown into the open ugly, personal differences among various players in the ‘media freedom’ industry. Deshapriya had been at the forefront of the campaign against media repression, against government interference, against threat and intimidation and, significantly, against corruption, waste and the whole gamut of state misdeeds.

The government was elated. They used the story on prime time news and dedicated space for it in state newspapers. Somebody put it up on YouTube while news.lk, the official government website, also carried a story that called Deshapriya a ‘media rights czar’ and just stopped short of gloating over his fall from grace.
The very foundations of Sri Lanka’s press freedom movement were shaken. Successive governments had been accusing the FMM and other journalists’ organisations of dishonesty in financial matters. Were they being proven right? And how much of this is the result of an internal power struggle within the FMM?

Internal clash

Deshapriya and individuals loyal to him in the FMM have been clashing recently with members loyal to Uvindu Kurukulasuriya (the new convenor) and Varuna Karunatilleka.

Information has been leaked from within the FMM to media about the questionable financial transactions of Deshapriya loyalists. Now, an email is being circulated calling Kurukulasuriya a “snake” that has set out to destroy Deshapriya and the FMM. It provides a link to the site www.colombosnakewrangler.

blogspot.com which makes more allegations against Kurukulasuriya. It says that the predicament Deshapriya finds himself in is the result of a power struggle and a conspiracy. Speaking on Wednesday, Kurukulasuriya shot back that nobody had asked Deshapriya to be dishonest and that he was not interested in a power struggle.

With the government and it supporters waiting eagerly on the sidelines for more juicy morsels, media rights activists are concerned that journalism will ultimately be sacrificed. “They must all realise that if they start a bloodbath here, the beneficiary will be the government,” said one senior academic.

LAKBIMAnEWS contacted Sunanda Deshapriya for his side of the story. Excerpts from the interview:

What is your response to the allegation that you swindled money while you were attached to the Centre for Policy Alternatives?

SP1228.jpg I have already accepted that I spent some money without going through due process but it was done with the consent of the groups we were working with. Not a cent was taken for personal use. We used that money for some other activity we were doing. Even the person who exposed this story knew what was happening. He was part of it. We discussed it among ourselves.

What was that activity?

We used it to pay the airfare of an international expert. There is no allegation from CPA or from anyone at CPA that I had used this money personally.

Who is that expert?

I haven’t discussed this so far. I only want to say that we used the money for some other activity. There is still an investigation in progress by FMM.

Why did you not follow due process?

There was no other alternative to do that. At the end of the project, we found that something was missing. So we discussed among ourselves and decided to do it the way we did, without cheating the money but by using the excess money for something else. Ninety per cent of NGOs work like this. I know that other NGOs have had much bigger issues and there has been internal disciplinary action. But Sara (Saravanamuttu) and some others have gone to the press. I accept their right to go to the media.

But you fight on the side of honesty, don’t you?

I accept that this was not the right way to do it. I paid the penalty. I paid the whole amount, 180,000 rupees, to CPA out of my personal funds.

How has your reputation been affected by this controversy?

I try to do what I have to do. That is how I have always worked but in the process I have made mistakes. I have paid the penalty. I had to leave my well-paid job, where I earned Rs 70,000 a month, and all other things related to the job.

But I don’t think this can affect what I have been doing for media freedom. When a journalist is killed, I will go on the street and shout. I have made other mistakes in my life but I don’t think my right to media activism should be taken away. I may not have followed due process but I haven’t cheated a cent from anywhere. I will leave it to the FMM membership to decide. If they want me out, I will resign. If they decide I should continue, I will do so. My positions have not been taken away. I am still the spokesman and I’m in charge of international relations for the FMM.

Was there a misuse of funds from the SLPI safety fund?

It is the FMM safety fund. It was the international donors that decided to channel it through the SLPI. We never sent any proposal to the SLPI. We got some money and we spent the money. We paid 900,000 rupees for Jaffna journalists who lost their jobs and to families of Jaffna journalists who were killed. We paid 10,000 rupees for 30 other journalists for three months. We have paid money to journalists to survive and live in Colombo, and to leave the country, to relocate and so on. We run a safe house for journalists to sleep in. We paid for the urgent travel of journalists. There came a time when none of us knew who will be attacked next. This is the first part of the safety fund. SLPI has a separate fund from which they spend for Ranga Kalansooriya. All his expenses come under that.

Why did the FMM not provide the steering committee with narrative and financial reports?

We are all voluntary workers. We are not paid by the safety fund or FMM. We submitted the narrative report one week after the deadline and we still have to clarify their questions. We have sent the financial report. There can be some issues here and there but we can discuss and sort it out. We have not received any allegations from SLPI about our safety fund. [courtesy: lakbimanews.lk]

How Indian High Commissioner Alok Prasad lost his temper

by V.Sudarshan

Our man in Colombo is apparently under a lot of stress these days. People who have known High Commissioner Alok Prasad for a long time say that the reasons are varied. Some say the DMK’s episodic attempts to put pressure on Colombo are a part of it; others say it has to do with his inability to coax Sri Lanka to conclude the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. The document was finalised for signature around the SAARC summit. On July 9 the Commerce Secretary even made an announcement to this effect.

AP1228.jpg

[HE High Commissioner Alok Prasad]

Yet, the event didn’t take place. Obviously people see a lack in our local reading of the political dynamics. Many are asking questions about the quality of conversations that are happening between our man in Colombo and the political leadership. New Delhi is still living down the embarrassment. Yet others say the High Commissioner is already consumed with thoughts about his next posting. Others say the stress factors lie elsewhere. But when I spotted him on the manicured lawns of a diplomat’s house in Colombo last Friday I had no idea.

There he was detailing to his audience what they would be treated to at a light music programme he was going to arrange at India House. It was just past a quarter to nine in the evening and it looked like a convivial gathering, and I had made my way towards him, made eye contact and waited for the conversation to subside. I wanted to get some insights on our policy vis-à-vis the Tamils issue. Operations had entered a trickier phase in the north; the population density was one aspect; the Essential Services Commissioner told this reporter that the Government got distorted figures as far as the population and the Internally Displaced People went but even he put it at 2,50,000 in Kilinochchi and Mulaitivu. It was common knowledge the LTTE had merged with the human shield in some areas; Colombo’s intelligence on a lot of ground parameters was not so hot; the air force didn’t have laser guided bombs; their planes bombed ‘targets’ manually; estimates of how much explosives are air dropped vary wildly but in a television interview on September 18 the Defence Secretary reportedly remarked: “We have launched 700 aerial attacks this year alone. Every day 10 sorties launch attacks and each one drops four or five bombs. Some of them weigh around a ton. Some weigh around 500 kilos. Then think how much they (the LTTE) are affected.” The casualty figures are perplexing; it is a war where hardly any prisoners were being taken, a situation which in Tamil Nadu could easily be seen to mean that the guiding philosophy was “one Tamil less is one Tamil less.” Who better to seek appropriate clarifications than our pointsperson in Colombo? There he was, our man, pausing after every sentence and breathing in deeply. Sometimes he paused mid sentence and breathed in deeply as well. Too much nicotine in his system I thought. When the group was breaking up I asked Alok if he could spare me a couple of minutes, off-the-record. An off-the-record conversation is usually the best way to talk reasonably candidly with diplomats as the conversation would not get attributed or quoted. But Alok had other ideas. “Why can’t we talk right here?” he asked challengingly. “Okay”, I said, pleasantly taken aback, and came straight to the point: “Are there any red lines that we have drawn for Colombo to be mindful of ?” The High Commissioner looked at me for a moment then cited a couple of red lines that he said had been in operation for some time: one, that there should not be unacceptable civilian casualties; two that the Internally Displaced People should not be wanting in terms of essential supplies. I wanted to know what exactly New Delhi would consider unacceptable: did New Delhi’s unhappiness trigger have a numerical value or would it be the nature of a collateral incidence or disproportionate use of force or a mixture? After all, the position repeated like Polly the parrot was that there was no solution through violence, the solution had to be political. So I asked him: “This civilian casualty red line — can you quantify it a bit, give some idea of a number that will be unacceptable to us?” He smiled at me sardonically and said: “Why don’t you give me a number?” I sensed he was falling back on an old trick so I asked him: “How can I give you a number? I am asking you. You are our man here.” After the three-drink standard some people get stuck on a point and refuse to budge. Alok seemed to have got there early. He insisted that I give him a number.

“Okay,” I said to move things along, “250”.

It was an arbitrary number but I needed to see where Alok was going with this. In public.

“What?! 250?! When did this happen? Where did they get killed? I want to know.

Where did you get such a figure? You should be better prepared with your facts,” Alok exploded. The disconnect was obvious. He glared at me glassily and looked around at the people who had come up to hear what was going on: diplomats, socialites, journalists.

There ensued a really pointless conversation in high decibel during which he accused me of being an “expert” which is laughable because all I wanted to do was take notes off the record. It was when he began to use the word “genocide” — inappropriately since I never even uttered the word —that it struck me that the conversation had gone so completely contrapuntal and surreal that it would not have been out of place in a less accessible Samuel Beckett absurdist play. Our conversation ended when I told Alok bluntly that he was wasting my time and he also expressed similar sentiments, and then the man whom his colleagues refer to as Napoleon marched off in surprisingly quick little strides to another corner in a most imperious manner.

You might wonder what this has to do with our Sri Lanka policy. I cite this not to highlight the behaviour of one of our brightest foreign service officers who has had the plumiest of postings. I highlight this to stress the difficulty in getting a straight answer from our policy enforcers on where we stand on a question that a lot of people are asking. Helping to destroy the LTTE is one thing; losing control over the process is completely another.

The policy planks that New Delhi espoused have fallen one after another, whether it is on the question of merger of the north and east, the elections in the east, the continuing inability to help cultivate a credible alternative to the LTTE, the failure to get the 13th Amendment implemented….

One diplomat explained it this way: “Our policy is we think we can play chess against ourselves like Vishwanathan Anand and come out the winner.” I don’t think its chess exactly. More like strip chess. You know you’ve won when you are stark naked.

V Sudarshan is the Executive Editor of the New Indian Express, from which this article is reproduced

We will never leave our land. We will fight to the last" - vows LTTE leader Prabhakaran

Elusive Tiger supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran was interviewed on line by the Colombo English daily "Lakbima News". The "Lakbima News" exclusive in question and answer form is given below:

LN1228.jpg

Many people say that the LTTE has reached the end of the road. Despite what you have told an Indian magazine, it is clear that the army is on the verge of capturing Kilinochchi. What are your views?

In the history of our struggle, we have faced much bigger military operations and one-sided Sri Lankan Government propaganda. When we displaced from Jaffna and came to the Vanni mainland, the Sri Lankan Government carried out intensive propaganda claiming that we will not be able to function as a conventional army ever again. But it was only after this, that we captured Mullaithivu through Unceasing Waves—1,2 and 3, Elephant Pass, and large sections of Vanni. Even now, Sri Lankan Government is carrying out propaganda that we will soon lose Kilinochchi. Recent heavy losses faced by the Sri Lankan military in Kilinochchi battles, however, foretell the future LTTE victories.

You have said capturing Kilinochchi is Mahinda Rajapaksa’s daydream. But yet you acknowledge that there is a humanitarian crisis in Kilinochchi and there is displacement of civilians there. So what is the truth?

We are a people-based liberation movement. We have been waging the struggle for the last thirty years with the blessing and the strength of support of the people. It is because of this we were able to face and overcome many hurdles and challenges. The entire Tamil people are with us. They are the force behind this struggle. It is the desire of the people that Kilinochchi should be defended and they are also working hard in the background to achieve this. Enraged by the support people have given for our struggle and fuelled by the ensuing hatred of the Sri Lankan Government towards the Tamil people, it is carrying out aerial bombing and shelling on the people. The economic blockade has also been imposed on the same people. Our people know this truth. That is why the people are moving to safer areas to protect themselves.

India will not come to the rescue of the Tamil people in Kilinochchi because India is happy to have the LTTE eliminated because of the killing of the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi also finally abandoned his campaign launched in support of you due to the pressure exerted by the central government. This proves that you have lost the Indian support. Isn’t that the true position?

I reject this fully. The people of Tamil Nadu and its politicians support our struggle irrespective of any political differences among them. None of the leaders there have given up their struggle in support of us. On the contrary, they are continuing to stage protests in support of us. Also, we are working to rebuild our contacts and relationship with the Indian Central Government through political and diplomatic channels. The environment, in which the Indian Central Government too will support our struggle, is in the making. Most people may not know this but I believe some people are aware of this.

Chief Minister Karunanidhi took up the plight of Sri Lanka’s internally displaced people (IDPs) in Kilinochchi, all of a sudden. Karunanidhi and all other South Indian political leaders kept mum when Sri Lanka security forces carried out operations to liberate the East. Many say that they tried to capitalize on the issue in order to get reelected because they are in bad wicket. Don’t you think this is the real reason or are they so concerned about the plight of the Sri Lankan Tamils?

All the political leaders of Tamil Nadu are supporters of our freedom struggle. They have immense love for our people and us. I would say that they raise their voice in support of our freedom struggle without any ulterior political motives.

Karuna and Pillayan have joined the government and with the development in the East they are making the LTTE look small. They have drawn a great many Tamil people to their “cause” which is the government’s cause. What is your view?

All the Tamil people in the East support only our liberation movement. Members of our political wing are doing political work there even now. They are protected by the people. The Sri Lankan Government is maintaining people like Karuna with the help of its military and it is conducting excessive propaganda using them through its state media. This is the ground reality.

You have said recently that the LTTE military power remains the same. But it is obvious that the LTTE is fighting back to the wall. The LTTE has not scored any military successes in the recent past. You say this is government propaganda, but even the international media acknowledges the LTTE is weak because they know the LTTE is back to the wall. Your views?

We have not been weakened. Our strength is our people. Recent battles in Kilinochchi have demonstrated the answer to this question. Future battles will further demonstrate that we have not lost our strength.

There are rumours that you are planning to seek asylum in various countries. Eritrea and South Africa were mentioned. Will you desert your cadres?

This is a blatantly false propaganda manufactured by the Sri Lankan State media. We will never leave our land. We will fight to the last for the rights of our people.

In your estimation how many LTTE cadres are remaining?

There are many thousands of them.

You are getting older. There is no sign of Eelam becoming reality. Any thoughts?

Ours is a freedom struggle. Our movement is a national movement. It has no time limits or age limits that determine the future of our freedom struggle.

All that this war is doing is heaping more suffering upon ordinary Tamil people. Why are you not thinking of laying down arms and coming to settlement, purely in the interests of the Tamil people have suffered for far too long?

VP1228E.jpgOur struggle will continue until the political aspirations of our people are achieved and the security of our people is ensured. No one can suppress this freedom struggle through bargaining or by threats. Our people are making all types of sacrifices to win their rights. If everyone concerned understands this truth, finding a solution to the ethnic problem will become easy.

Do you regret helping to elect the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government by forcing the people to boycott the last presidential election? A UNP government would not have attacked the LTTE in this way.

People boycotted the elections on their own. We respect the feelings of the people. There is a false propaganda going on regarding the people’s boycott of this election.

The international community has abandoned you. It is because the international community is not attracted to your tactics of terror. You cannot lose on all fronts internationally and locally. Isn’t that correct?

The international community has started to realize that our struggle is a just struggle. We do not carry out terrorist actions. International community must realize whether actions of the Sri Lankan Government that carries out aerial bombardments and imposes economic blockade on a people are terrorist acts or whether a struggle waged to protect a people and win their rights is a terrorist act. I appeal to the entire international community, including the Sinhala people, to understand this.

The LTTE killed retired Major General Janaka Perera recently. Was it as an act of revenge or a desperate attempt to confuse the people who might think the government had a hand in it?

There is no connection between this and us. In recent times there were serious conflicts between the Sri Lankan Government and Janaka Perera. The Sinhala people also know this very well. The time when the Sinhala people will start to wage protests against such murders by their government is not very far away.

There are allegations that you engineered the boycott of the last presidential election because top persons who are in the government now, paid you off handsomely. Any comment?

Our freedom movement is a righteous movement. We cannot be bought with money, bribes or perks.

The LTTE “air force” has not achieved anything except inflict minor damage here and there. Aren’t your tactics backfiring, because India doesn’t like this “air force” in its backyard, however irritating and insignificant it may be?

It is the Sri Lankan Government that has launched the military offensive on the Tamil homeland using its armed forces. The Sinhala state is the aggressor in this war. Engagement of our military forces in our defensive and counter-offensive measures, only target them. All our armed forces, including the naval and air forces, are aimed at safeguarding our people and the defence of our homeland. There is no threat posed to anyone else. It is only the Sri Lankan state and its head Mahinda Rajapaksa, who are outraged by the efficiency of our forces.

Who is your second in command? Do you have any succession plan at all - if so what is it?

Our people have accepted me as their national leader and the leader of our movement.

You have said that the government’s propaganda machine is making it look as if the Sri Lankan forces are winning the war. Even assuming that’s correct you are in effect saying that the government has superior propaganda. Why is the LTTE failing in every front?

This is your wrong judgment. We are functioning successfully in several political, diplomatic and military fronts.

It appears that the Sinhala people are sure of two things one of which is that you will not settle for anything less than Eelam and the second of which is that you have repeatedly attacked innocent Sinhala civilians. If not the LTTE who carried out the bombings in buses of civilians in the South?

We are a people’s freedom movement that is struggling for the freedom of the people. We are not against the Sinhala people and we do not kill Sinhala people. We are not racist either. We expect their support for our struggle. Most of the Sinhala people have started to realize the justice behind our struggle. However, they fear openly demonstrating this, due to fear of the Sri Lankan Government’s oppressive tactics. However, in the future, many of the Sinhala people will raise their voice in support of our right to self-determination.

Even organizations such as Amnesty International have accused the LTTE of using human shields in the face of army attacks. Why are you inflicting such suffering on helpless Tamil civilians?

We totally reject this allegation. We have never used our people as human shields. Concerned people must understand the truth that we are struggling for the rights of our people.

Sri Lanka’s development has severely hampered due to the war. Every democratically elected government since 1978 tried its best to find a solution but failed due to the time limit on such governments. But terrorism has no time limit but it buys time always, for its survival. That is why the war is still going on. Isn’t that the true position?

If the successive Sri Lankan governments have fully understood the reality of the Tamil national question and tried to find a solution with a broad and progressive outlook, the economy of this island would not be in such a bad state.

If the political parties that came to power had given up their old and discredited tendencies and followed the solutions to ethnic problems adopted in the modern world to find a solution to the Tamil national question the economy of the island would not have reached such a sorry state. [courtesy: lakbimanews.lk]

December 26, 2008

Journalists in Jaffna ordered to assemble before Douglas

Media personnel working in Jaffna district have been ordered to assemble before Social Services Minister and Eelam Peoples Democratic Party (EPDP) leader Douglas Devananda for a special meeting at 3 pm on Saturday December 27th 2008.

An “invitation” has been sent out to all media personnel in Jaffna to attend a conference organized by the ministry at the office located on 373 Stanley road, Jaffna.

The invitation states that minister Devananda wants to consult and exchange views with journalists and other media workers about the proposed development plans for Jaffna.

It has been said that minister Devananda is very keen to obtain the opinion of media personnel on this important subject and so every one is expected to “definitely” attend the meeting in the interests of the Jaffna public.

The invitations have been followed up by EPDP cadres telephoning journalists individually and insisting in intimidatory language that if anyone fails to assemble before Devananda he or she would have to face serious consequences.

It was emphasised that the “honourable” minister wants to advise media personnel on how they should conduct themselves in the future and so it was essential that journalists should attend.

The EPDP sponsored exercise has caused much anxiety to the journalists working amidst tremendous difficulties and pressure in Jaffna.

They are between a rock and a hard place as they would be subjected to intensive pressure on a personal level if they attend but will have to face drastic consequences if they don’t.

There are also rumours that the EPDP wants to form a union for the media in Jaffna.

Many Jaffna based journalists have fled the country following the assassinations and abductions of many of their colleagues.

The EPDP has been implicated in many of these incidents.

EPDP imposes "Mahindapuram" name on housing scheme

A new housing scheme in the outskirts of Jaffna city is to be officially named “Mahindapuram” in honour of President Mahinda Rajapakse.

As a prelude to this move all recipients of houses through the particular housing project were ordered by the Eelam Peoples Democratic Party (EPDP) to place signatures on a mass petition demanding that the scheme be named Mahindapuram after President Mahinda Rajapakse.

The act of compelling householders to sign a petition is seen as a disgustingly sycophantic action by EPDP leader and Social Services minister Douglas Devananda to curry favour with the President.

Earlier at a cabinet meeting where Douglas mooted the proposal to name the scheme as “Mahindapuram” the President declined the honour gracefully and advised Douglas to name the project in accordance with the wishes of the people living in the housing scheme.

Other cabinet ministers joked loudly asking the EPDP leader to call it “Douglaspuram” or “Devanandapuram”.

Douglas Devananda in his steely determination to name the scheme after the president has got his EPDP minions to force allotees to sign the mass petition asking for the name “Mahindapuram”.

Presumably Devananda hopes to persuade the President to go along with the proposal on the grounds that the housing sceme residents desire it.

“These are the lengths to which Douglas would go to in holding “Pantham” to mahinda” commented a northern journalist.

The project known as “300 Houses scheme” is located at Navatkuli adjoining the municipality limits of Jaffna has now reached completion.

Minister Devananda distributed deeds to the houses to recipients at a ceremony in Jaffna on Friday December 26th.

Coastal areas from Nayaaru to Nilaweli to be declared a security - economic zone

The Government has drawn up elaborate plans to intensively excavate mineral resources acailable in the coastal areas of northern Trincomalee district and Southern Mullaitheevu district.

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[Nilaveli shore-pic by: drs. sarajevo]

The vast resources available in these lands from the South of Naayaaru lagoon in Mullaitheevu to north of Nilaweli in Trincomalee district were not tapped extensively in the past due to the on going war and the dominance exerted by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the region.

With the LTTE being forced to withdraw from these areas now the Government has decided to go ahead with speedy lans to exploit the available resources.

Apart from intensive mining and processing of ilmenite, rutile and zircon there are plans to mine heavy beach minerals also and utilise it for value added products like Ferro Titanium,Titanium slag,Titanium sponge, Ti2 pigments and welding erodes.

The Govt is entering into a joint venture with an Austrian firm “Stork Handelsges” to set up an upgraded project with the Lanka Mineral Sands limited for this purpose.

The Government also wants to declare a security cum economic zone on the coastal areas extending downwards to Nilaweli in Trincomalee from Naayaaru in Mullaitheevu district.

The coastal land area from Nilaveli to Mullaithivu is to be reserved exclusively for Lanka Mineral Sands Limited(LMSL), to explore and mine heavy beach mineral sands.

All Tamil and Muslim civilians in the area will be gradually re-located from this areas.

Already many residents have fled from the area due to the fighting.

The coastal strip will be developed and modernised to facilitate mineral deposit exploitation.

Heavy security arrangements will be made too.

Japan is tipped to be the chief beneficiary of these envisaged economic exploitation.

Media Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa said that land reservation for the project has been approved by the Cabinet on a proposal by Industrial Development Minister Kumara Welgama. LMSL will enter into a joint venture with Stork Handelsges of Austria to ensure a constant and uninterrupted flow of raw materials for the successful implementation of the project.

Since LMSL was established in 1960, operations were limited to mining and processing of ilmanite, rutile and zircon,he said . The government has now decided to expand the activities of LMSL by investing and upgrading the mining and processing of heavy beach minerals, which can be used for value added products such as Ferro Titanium, Titanium Slag, Titanium Sponge, Ti2 pigments and welding electrodes.

S.T.F. Kills two siblings of LTTE cadres in Batticaloa on Christmas Day

Members of the elite Special Task Force (STF) in Batticaloa district have on Christmas day (Dec 25th) killed siblings of a past as well as present member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The killings are regarded as part of an on going cycle of murders where members of the STF, military intelligence and cadres loyal to Vinayagamurthy Muralitharan alias “Col” Karuna have been engaged on a killing spree targeting civilians with alleged LTTE connections.

The bulk of the victims in these incidents have been family members or close relatives of past and present LTTE members.

This is part of a systematic exercise of “state terrorism” in which siblings, parents and kinsfolk are being exterminated to inculcate fear into civilians suspected of being sympathetic to the LTTE.

The state is worried about a resurgence of LTTE activity in the East which was officially declared free of the LTTE.

The victims in the Christmas day incident were Ravi (32) and Poobalapillai (59).

Both were livestock breeders from the village of Pothaanaivadichal in Batticaloa district.

Ravi’s brother who was in the LTTE was killed recently in a confrontation and regarded as a great hero.

Poobalapillai’s younger brother is yet an active member of the LTTE and operating in the area.

The murdered Poobalapillai is also blind in boteyes.

Army delivers upper cut and hook to LTTE on Boxing Day

The Sri Lankan armed forces have delivered two decisive punches to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on Boxing Day.

In what could be termed a left hook in boxing parlance soldiers of 59 division smashed through tiger defences in the Kodalikallu area and entered the strategically located Mulliyawlai town on the Mankulam – Mullaitheevu road known as A – 34 highway.

Even as fighting raged in the general area of Mulliyawalai town other 59 division troops delivered a right upper – cut to the tigers by moving further up in a north – eastern direction and entering Thaniyootru village which is also on the A – 34.

The twin punches delivered on December 26th or Boxing day have enabled the army to gain the upper hand in a decisive day of fighting.

Though hostilities are continuing in both Mulliyawalai and Thaniyootru it is presumed that the army would be able to secure both places in a matter of few days and consolidate.

The military advantage gained would increase tremendous pressure on Mullaitheevu town that is situated on a promontory further to the east on the A – 34.

It would also help the army to move northwards to Puthukudiyiruppu a stronghold of the LTTE.

Soldiers have also captured and de – commissioned a 40 ft tall communications control tower of the LTTE that was in North Mulliyawalai.

Achievement 2008, Challenge 2009

The organic identity of the people, armed forces and political leadership

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Sri Lanka closes out its 60th year of Independence , though in the strictest sense it lasts till the beginning of next February when we celebrate our 61st Independence Day. It is a moment to take stock. Due to all the wrong turnings we took and the right ones we did not at and since our Independence six decades ago, we have spent a quarter century commemorating our independence in conditions of a separatist civil war. This will in all probability be so next year too. However it may not be so the year after, and from then onwards, because of what we have achieved this year. And I do mean “we”: the leadership, the government, the military, the vast majority of people, the dissident Tamils.

What has been the balance sheet of 2008? It is that we are winning but have not yet won. Victory is on the horizon but it has not yet been achieved. 2008 was the year in which the Sri Lankan political leadership decisively reversed the balance of forces between the state and the LTTE. It is the year in which the country feels itself on the strategic offensive while the enemy is on the (admittedly dogged) defensive.

The main achievement of 2008 was the shift in the balance of forces between the Sri Lankan state and the LTTE and the maintenance of the posture of strategic offensive by the Sri Lankan armed forces. The Lankan military has succeeded in squeezing the LTTE into parts of two contiguous districts and the peninsular neck. The LTTE was unable to make any territorial gains this year. Nor was it able to regain any territory it lost. As importantly or even more importantly, the Tigers lost thousands of valuable fighting cadres. The corresponding losses by the Sri Lankan forces are affordable given the discrepancy in size of the two armed formations as well as the vaster discrepancy in the population base of recruitment. Voluntary recruitment to the Sri Lankan armed forces kept rising throughout the year, while forced conscription in the LTTE controlled areas brought in ill-motivated fighters into the ranks of the enemy.

The main result of 2008, that of the maintenance of the offensive posture of the Sri Lankan armed forces, was a unique one on the part of the Sri Lankan governing elite over the decades since the conflict erupted. As Karuna, ex-LTTE rebel commander turned parliamentarian –who was double-crossed by President Kumaratunga when she allowed Prabhakaran’s seaborne attackers a landing behind his lines at Verugal-- points out, these achievements would have been impossible if not for the leadership provided by President Mahinda Rajapakse, Secretary of Defense Gotabhaya Rajapakse and Army Commander Sarath Fonseka. I would add the Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake and the Service chiefs Wasantha Karannagoda and Roshan Goonetilleke to the list. A half a dozen good men. But these men would have been unable to turn the tables on the Tigers as they have, and no one else before had done sustainedly, strategically, if not for the morale of the officer corps and rank and file of the armed forces. This morale itself is drawn from the supportive population base, whose active support for the war is manifested in popularity pools which range from a low of a 75% approval to a high of 83%-93%. Thus it is the people, chiefly but not exclusively the Sinhala people, who by their support and sacrifice have provided the foundation for the military success.

What this reveals is an organic identity between the people, the armed forces and the political leadership; an identity between state and society, which is a historic rarity. For the first time we have a leadership that listened to the people on this central issue, that turned itself into an instrument of the people’s will. This is the secret of the success of 2008 and one of the main features of this year.

The Tiger’s Police Chief has clearly indicated to the BBC last week that economic targets will be high on the list of terrorist priorities. What the man and his leaders obviously do not understand from their own record of destructive achievement is that such attacks only clarify matters and swell support for a war to a finish. They do not diminish or erode popular support. The erroneous thinking is based on the parliamentary elections of 2001 in which Mr. Ranil Wickremsinghe won, seemingly on the back of the economic damage caused by the attack on katunayake airport and as a result of the emergence of a lobby of corporate fat cats calling itself Sri Lanka First. What this interpretation fails to take into account is that the real secret of that election is something that has been known since 1952, namely that if the forces of the Centre (the SLFP) and the Left (be it MEP, LSSP, CPSL or JVP) remain disunited, the Right wins. In 2001, the SLFP and JVP ran against each other. The combined SLFP – JVP vote was larger than the UNP vote. Today, the JVP will run against the SLFP, but it is a divided and diminished party, whose main orator will run with the governing coalition.

If the outstanding achievement of 2008 has been the shift to and maintentence of the strategic offensive against the LTTE, what is the main task of 2009? President Rajapakse has, in his remarks to a civil society gathering on December 22nd, already identified it correctly in its historic, military and political dimensions:

"The year 2009 will be the year when our motherland would be finally liberated from the LTTE…There will be many attempts to stall the forward march of the security forces. Malicious elements have already begun to create political unrest by making many problems for the government in an attempt to save terrorists from their imminent defeat. Therefore, I expect that there would be testing times ahead. For this very reason, I would like to declare 2009 as a year of victory for heroic soldiers”. (Lanka Dissent)

The challenge of 2009 is to conclude the war victoriously and do so in a manner that precludes to the extent possible, a prolonged guerrilla war. This is by decapitating and destroying the LTTE’s fighting forces in the battles to liberate Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu. The finest military mind of the post WW2 20th century, Vietnam ’s General Vo Nguyen Giap calls this definition of the military goal as “the annihilation of the living forces of the enemy”. It is a myth of the misinformed that a powerful irregular force, especially if based on some collective identity or social constituency, can never be fully defeated, and that even if conventially defeated they revert to or are reborn as guerrilla movements which are impossible to eradicate. Take three well known examples: Chechnya , Angola ’s UNITA and Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge. All three were defeated and decapitated, never to be reborn as guerrillas.

Part of the challenge of 2009 is that the large unit war will have to be won within a fairly compressed time frame, before the impact of the world economic crisis manifested in collapsing commodity prices combines with the burden of military expenditure to damage the economy. A victory and the restoration of normality will spontaneously generate an economic upsurge.

Having won the quasi-conventional war, the Sri Lankan armed forces will have to eradicate the infrastructure of a residual or resurgent terrorist campaign. This cannot be done and must not be attempted by the Sri Lankan forces alone. It will require the legitimate, large scale engagement of Tamil allies and auxiliaries, and this legitimacy can result only from the constitutionally ordained devolution of power to the Eastern Provincial council and its Northern counterpart. A genuine measure of autonomy and self government, and joint operations with elected local allies has always been the secret of effective counterinsurgency.

The real challenge of 2009 then is twofold and indissolubly twinned: the liberation of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu in such a decisive and comprehensive manner as to pre-empt to the maximum degree the survival of the LTTE as a guerrilla/terrorist force and the redrawing of the Sri Lankan social contract in so enlightened and reformist a manner that the Tamil people feel included as fully fledged citizens enjoying equal rights and genuine provincial autonomy. 2009 must be the year of the full and final liberation and reunification of Sri Lankan territory and upon that reunified territory, the beginning of the construction of a truly Sri Lankan identity, an authentically Sri Lankan nation.

(These are the strictly personal views of the writer).

December 25, 2008

Peace on earth good-will to all, especially the helpless and the harassed

A Christmas message for 2008: by the Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera, Bishop of Colombo

This year, Christmas brings mixed feelings. All around a sense of helplessness, sorrow and hard questions prevail. What hope does the birth of Christ bring those trapped and threatened in the Vanni? Will there ever be economic stability for those trapped and threatened in poverty and want? What respect is there for those trapped and threatened by social prejudice and suspicion because of their ethnicity? When will the majority of our people trapped and threatened within an insensitive and selfish political culture experience dignity and freedom?

For too long sustainable peace has eluded us.
For too long dignity, stability, and security have been denied us.
For too long appeals for integrity, impartiality and non-violence have been ridiculed.
For too long the helpless and the harassed have been crushed by our own.
For too long the drive for power designed by a few has benefited the few.
For too long war has been romanticised and its horrors hidden.
For too long it seems that God has hidden Gods face from us.

And yet in-spite of the gloom Christmas reminds us that God is in our very midst to reconcile, transform and to save. Just as God was present in the vulnerable baby born to become the Prince of peace, so God is also present in all our strivings for justice, reconciliation and freedom, no matter how insignificant, tentative or insecure these initiatives may seem. This is why Christmas brings the promise of hope and renewal. As we reflect on Gods humble intervention for the liberation of humankind through Jesus, we are encouraged to never give up but to keep pressing on for reconciliation and peace. Change will come if we remain faithful.

So, may the peace of the Lord descend upon us this Christmas as we turn away from our selfish and oppressive ways.

May the peace of the Lord descend upon us as we forgive and bless one another.

And may the peace of the Lord descend upon us as we journey together towards peace and goodwill here on earth in our beloved Sri Lanka.

With Peace and Blessings to all.
Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera
Bishop of Colombo

If Jesus was to be born in Sri Lanka on December 25th, 2008....

by Ruki Fernando

Its Christmas day. For a change, I was at home with my family.

Early morning, I went for Christmas Mass in my parish. Many years ago, I had been active in the church, as a student and teacher in the Sunday School, as an Alter Server and in the Young Christian Students Movement. But I had not gone to my parish for a long time, though I have been visiting and staying in churches all over Sri Lanka , especially in the war ravaged North. I thought I will go today, as it was Christmas, also because of my family.

You Tube Video: Celine Dion - 'So this is Christmas' - For peace in Sri Lanka - where War is [not] over

Unlike most people, I didn’t go to the crib in the Church. But I did have images of Jesus being born in a cattle shed 2008 years ago. That Mary was compelled to give birth to Jesus away from her home, as she and Joseph were forced to leave her hometown, while she was pregnant, due to an order of the rulers of that time.

I sat quietly in the church and said a silent prayer for the baby that I saw few weeks ago in Menik Farm, Vavuniya. She would be 40 days today. She had no name when I visited her. A baby born as her parents fled the advancing Army in Vanni. A baby who is forced to live in a mosquito infested, muddy and murky camp, as her parents are not allowed to live with their relatives, but confined to a defacto prison by the military, even though they are not charged with any crime.

The Christmas Mass was taking longer than the usual Sunday service, many prayers and long preaching by the priest.

There were prayers for the rulers and the military that they will soon bring about an end to the conflict with their ongoing military operations, which is on the verge of “victory”.

But there were no prayers for a negotiated, just, political solution that will meet aspirations of all communities.

There was no mention of a call for ceasefire by the two Anglican Bishops and three Catholic Bishops.

There were no prayers or mention of hundreds of thousands of displaced, men, women and children, with inadequate shelter, food, medicine, education, water and sanitation.

There were no prayers for children and adults conscripted as soldiers, their families.

There were no prayers for families of disappeared, those killed.

No remembering churches that were shelled and bombed, as they offered shelter to people fleeing the war, and no prayers for priests killed and disappeared as they were helping the war affected.

No remembering those tortured, those being detained merely on suspicion in inhumane conditions, worse than conditions that some animals are kept.

I wondered whether I was living in the same country, whether I was part of “one Catholic Church”.

Amidst my frustration and gloom, some gave me hope and inspiration.

A Catholic sister told me a while ago that she and a priest had shared about the plight of the displaced in the North during a Christmas Mass and asked people for their prayers and donations. People had donated more than Rs. 50,000.

After the mass, I visited three journalists being detained, one of who had written about children being conscripted as child soldiers just before he was detained. I went with a diplomat attached to an embassy in Colombo ; she brought chocolates, and stood patiently in the sun with me for close to an hour, while waiting to get in. I will remember the smiles of the people we met and chatted briefly.

I also remembered the wife of one of the journalists, with who I had been in close contact. What would Christmas mean to her? What Christmas greetings, what Christmas gift could I offer her? Will my usual greeting, “Happy Christmas” have any meaning to her?

I met some Catholic sisters who were coming from the prison as I was about to go in. Several other priests - Anglican, Methodist and Catholic – as well as some other friends, who had got my text message, also told me they will visit detainees in the coming days.

So this is Christmas in Sri Lanka , 2008 December.

I could not help reflecting that if Jesus was to be born in Sri Lanka , he would not be born in the Church I went for the Christmas Mass.

It is possible though that Jesus might be born in a Church in the battle zones in the North, that offers shelter to people fleeing bombing and shelling from the sky and around them. Or probably in the prison I visited. Or in the house of a family member of a disappeared. Or amongst the hundreds of thousands of displaced people.

Happy Christmas from Sri Lanka

December 24, 2008

Arjuna Ranatunga fired for not giving into Gamini Lokuge's corruption

HT1224.jpgThe sudden dissolution of the Sri Lanka Cricket interim committee by Sports Minister Gamini Lokuge which resulted in the virtual sacking of its chairman Arjuna Ranatunga was because the ebullient “captain cool” stood up to the minister and did not give in to his alleged corrupt activity.

The above revelation was made by another former Sri Lankan cricket captain Hashan Tilakaratne at a media conference on December 24th that was organized by him at Rajagiriya in his capacity as media co-ordinator of “Development Watch”.

"Arjuna had refused to pay the tea party bill at the BMICH given by Gamini Lokuge to mark the completion of his 25 years in politics. He has also questioned the Sport's Minister's granting Rs. 1.4 million to Piliyandala Sports Club, and exposed frauds in the broadcasting rights pact with Taj TV. “ Tilakaratne said.

“Arjuna also appointed Ranjith Madurasinghe as manager for Bangladesh tour after refusing to give the place to Don Arunasiri as requested by Sports Minister in a letter to him. These also had a direct effect on Arjuna Ranatunga's removal."he further said.

Continuing further Tilakaratne said "Once Arjuna told Parliament that he could not work with corrupt officials in the interim committee. Not just that, he wrote to the Sports Minister and President Mahinda Rajapaksa, calling for an inquiry against Duleep Mendis, K. Mathivanan and Sujeeva Rajapaksa because there are accusations against them. To date, he has not received a response to that letter."

"SLC has the highest number of staff in a cricket governing body in the entire world. Recently, a decision was taken to remove employees recruited through political backing. But, before the implementation of the decision, he was removed."he added.

The former Test captain, also said, "For the past three and a half years, we had been having interim committees. The chairmen of these interim committees came through the back door of the sports ministers. All of them made a mess of the broadcasting agreements. This time, SLC is set to lose more than Rs. 1.4 billion."

Another factor in this controversy is the broadcasting deal between Sri Lanka cricket and Taj TV.

At a media conference held earlier on December 15th by “Development Watch” Hashan Tilakaratne had referred explicitly to it.

“The renegotiation of the broadcasting deal between Sri Lanka Cricket and Taj TV has a hidden hand, “Hashan Tilakaratne.

At a time when a three-member committee appointed by the sports minister has found deal to be without transparency, Lokuge has tasked a four-member panel to renegotiate it, Mr. Tilakaratne told a media briefing titled "Sri Lanka Cricket & Taj TV agreement & future of cricket" in Rajagiriya on Dec. 15th)

He noted that it was unfortunate that the President has given his consent to the sports minister to act with double standards.

Even Bangladesh has secured 80 million dollars for broadcasting rights of its national team, but our team has been given a 28 m dollar price, which is a show of total disrespect, he said.

"Today, the selection committee has persons who haven't at least played a Test match. Some have been there for around seven years continually. The selection committee we had in 1996 when we won the World Cup had former international level cricketers as its members. Arjuna had no problem of selecting the final 11 from the 15-member squad chosen by them. Today, the selection committee selects squads to the wishes of others in a biased manner. This will be a big problem for the future of cricket." Tilakaratne charged then.

Sports Minister Gamini Lokuge defended his action in an interview given to a Colombo newspaper.

“I decided to dissolve the SLC interim committee I appointed an year ago. There were so many charges of poor handling of affairs and failure to adhere to instructions. I finally ran out of patience. You know the reasons for dissolution better than me” Lokuge said.

The Minister said that he would appoint Sports Ministry Secretary S. Liyanagama as the competent authority in charge of SLC until he appoints a fresh interim committee or call for an election of office bearers. Sources however said that a fresh interim committee would be appointed on Friday December 26th.

Speculation was rife that a top official with previous experience of handling SLC affairs would be appointed the new SLC interim committee chairman.

There was also speculation that National Olympic Committee (NOC) chairman Hemasiri Fernando would also be appointed to the new interim committee. Fernando denied any knowledge of the prospects of such moves, but said that he would accept it if he is invited to be an SLC interim committee member.

“I have played cricket at the highest level when I was in the university. So, I would be glad to give something back to the game as an administrator” said Fernando.

Interestingly Arjuna Ranatunga criticised the (NOC) affairs severely in a recent speech in the parliament making several allegations all which had been denied by the NOC in a media release later.

The dissolved interim committee comprised nine members Arjuna Ranatunga (Chairman), K. Mathivanan (Secretary), Sujeewa Rajapakse (Treasurer), Sidath Wettimuny, Aravinda de Silva, Guy de Alwis, Ashok Pathirage, Premasara Epasinghe and Lalith Wickremasinghe.

“There were no friendly relations between the chairman and the rest of the interim committee, chairman was taking arbitrary decisions without informing the interim committee, relations between the chairman and the players became strained, there was a move to sack some employees and they wanted to do it despite an order from me to stop it. There was a situation that they were going out of control, so I had no alternative but to dissolve it”. explained the Minister.

Apart from the failure to adhere to the Minister’s instructions, the Minister said that some actions of the SLC interim committee has put the future of the game in a bleak position.

Among other reasons he gave were SLC creating unnecessary problems for the players, antagonising powerful neighbours India who had always been supportive of Sri Lanka’s cricket, refusal to send player Ajantha Mendis to Bangladesh as an additional player in time for the second cricket test during the current tour, Taking major and controversial decisions without informing the minister.

SLC Media Manager Shane Fernando said that Ranatunga had been invited by President Mahinda Rajapakse for a special meeting at Temple Trees . He said that Ranatunga would only get in touch with the media after that meeting.

Meanwhile, sources said that a member of the dissolved interim committee Guy de Alwis who had left for Bangladesh yesterday morning as the official on tour to be with the national team, would be called back home today as he is no longer an SLC interim committee member.

Meanwhile, national selector Don Arunasiri left for Bangladesh to be selector on tour.
Ealier there was a controversy due to an attempt by SLC officals to replace Minister Lokuge’s appointeee Arunasiri with another selector Ranjith Madurasinghe.

LTTE wants to enlist GCE (O/L) students for "shramadana" work in building air-raid shelters

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) wants to enlist all students in the Kilinochchi and Mullaitheevu districts who had just sat for the General Certificate of Education (Ordinary level) examination into a “volunteer corps” for constructing underground shelters to protect innocent civilians against indiscriminate aerial bombardment and artillery shelling.

The LTTE “request” cam in the wake of the GCE (OL) examinations being over on December 19th.

More than 8,000 students sat for the examination in the Kilinochchi and Mullaitheevu districts amidst great hardship due to displacement, lack of shelter and schooling. Aerial attacks, artillery bombardment, adverse weather including rain, storms and floods and also intensified conscription by the LTTE.

The latest LTTE call is for a GCE OL student “volunteer corps” to be formed for constructing underground shelters to protect innocent civilians.

The LTTE has said the students will assist experienced persons in constructing the shelters speedily.

They will not be paid but food and refreshments and also a merit certificate would be given to participants.

The LTTE has pointed out that with hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons being crammed into a limited space chances of being victimised in aerial attacks and artillery shelling by the Sri Lankan armed forces is very high.

The LTTE has pointed out the rising incidence of bombing and shelling killing and injuring a number of innocent civilians.

The LTTE wants to construct a large number of underground shelters to protect the ivilians who could take refuge there.

Presently the LTTE is only calling for student volunteers but may be forced to compulsorily reruit if enough students do not volunteer.

The LTTE move of student enlistment has raised suspicion of a massive conscription campaign being on the cards.

Meanwhile LTTE political commissar Balasingham Nadesan made a stirring speech emphasising the importance of student participation at a meeting in Tharmapuram.

Nadesan was the chief guest at the 21st remembrance meeting of “Major” murali the pioneering head of the LTTE student wing

Govt. Arm - Twists LIOC to increase petrol price from 100 to 122 Rupees per litre

In a flagrant act of political arm- twisting the Sri Lankan Government of President Mahinda Rajapakse has arm twisted the Lanka Indian Oil Company (LIOC) into restoring the price of petrol from Rs 100 to Rs 122 per litre.

LIOC1224.jpgThe LIOC in a move welcomed by the vast majority of the Sri Lankan people had decreased the price by 22 rupees to 100 from the earlier 122 Rs.

This followed a ruling by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka.

President Mahinda Rajapakse who is at loggerheads with the Chief Justice Sarath Silva has treated the ruling with scant respect and is leading a determined effort to resist what is described as encroachment by the judiciary into the legislative and executive spheres.

As a result the cabinet has not complied with the Supreme court ruling and officially lowered the petrol price.

In an exhibition of childish pique the President and some of his ministerial sycophants (not all) are resorting to delaying tactics in implementing the price decrease.

The public mood is against the Government for not honouring the Court ruling. There is widespread popular support for the populist verdict by the chief justice.

With rising cost of living the price decrease came as a small yet welcome respite.

While the Govt was engaged in a “fuel stand – off” wuth the Supreme court the Lanka Indian Oil Company in accordance with the SC ruling went ahead and lowered the price by 22 rupees in outets run by it.

This was a virtual slap in the face for the Rajapakse regime.

The LIOC reduction was widely welcomed by the general public and also fuelled mounting resentment against the Rajapakse regime.

The Government resorted to arguments like the price increase was for financing the war and insinuated that the courts was helping the LTTE.

This blatantly false charge has found no resonance among people.

The Govt embarrassed by the LIOC price reduction began applying tremendous pressure on the LIOC and the Indian High Commission that the prices be restored to former levels.

There was a subtle threat that a massive campaign could be unleashed against the LIOC which in turn waould sour Indo _ Lanka relations.

As a result the LIOC was advised by Indian bureaucrats to adopt the path of least resistance. Hence the price decrease.

The LIOC General Manager Suresh Kumar has strongly denied that there was pressure was exerted.

“There has been no pressure from the Sri Lankan government” he has asserted.

THE LIOC decision has angered public sentiment further as it is perceived as being due to governmental arm – twisting notwithstanding LIOC denials.

Meanwhile the Government indicated that it was continuing on its confrontational course against the Supreme Court by announcing that it was taking action to file objections to the Supreme Court order to bring down the price of petrol to Rs.100 a litre.

Minister Susil Premajayantha told the weekly Cabinet press briefing held at the Government Information Department that anybody could submit objections to a Supreme Court order within three weeks of the delivering of the order.

Responding to a question about the Government's delay in implementing the Supreme Court order, the Minister said that the Government was working towards filing objections.

Asked whether the Lanka Indian Oil Company (LIOC) filling stations selling petrol at the reduced price had affect the sales at the Petroleum Corporation controlled filling stations, the Minister said it was not so as there were only a very few LIOC filling stations countrywide.

He also stated that a company like LIOC could have taken the risk of selling petrol at such a low rate as it is a subsidiary of the massive Indian Oil Company, which is a giant in the Indian oil industry.

Rejecting allegations that the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation would have lost its business due to the issue he said only one third of the oil distribution network had been given to the IOC but earlier there was an attempt to sell two thirds of the network to Indian companies.

The minister also stated that the fuel price issue will be further discussed at the next Cabinet meeting on January 7.

Captured soldier ready for hospital discharge

Sri Lanka Army soldier, R. A. Nishan Ranasinghe is ready to be discharged from Kilinochchi hospital, according to information from health officials in the district today, Dec 25th.

SLA1225.jpg

R. A. Nishan Ranasinghe is from 108, Lologaswewa, Bullnawa, Gulnawa, Anurathapura.

Dr.T.Sathiyamoorthy, Regional Director of Health Services at the Kilinochchi Hospital said the soldier “had through and through injury on back of the neck to left scapula and has left scapula fracture; he under went surgery after admission and he is ok now”.

Kilinochchi Regional Director further said “We can pray for the peace and early release to rejoin his family”.

Fierce fighting continues as LTTE launches counter attack on Kunchup (Sinna) Paranthan

P12246B.jpgIn a remarkable see- saw type fluctuation of fighting in the northern Wanni battlefront the newly captured area of Kunchuparanthan (also known as Sinnaparanthan) became the theatre of savage conflict that threatened to continue even through Christmas day.

Cadres of the LTTE special force unit known as “counter – offensive forces” commenced a pre-dawn counter – attack on Sri Lankan army positions in Kunchuparanthan at about 4.00 am in the morning of Thursday December 24th.

Soldiers of the 58 – 2 brigade had battered through tiger fortifications on Wednesday December 23rd and expanded control of the Kunchuparanthan area.

58 – 2 soldiers had breached the “L” shaped earthbund cum trench defences of the LTTE for a gap of about 300 metres initially and then expanded further.

Security personnel were engaged in consolidating their hold on Kunchuparanthan area also known as Sinna paranthan which means small or little Paranthan.

The name is in contrast to the main town of Paranthan which is also called Periya paranthan meaning big or large Paranthan.

In what is seen as an intrepid manoeuvre the tiger special force cadres had waded through the Kudamurutty Aaru or river in the dark and surprised the soldiers by attacking them in the rear.

The Kudamurutti river flows into the Jaffna lagoon in the Kunchuparanthan area.

Tropps though surprised initially managed to rally soon and commenced defending their newly set up positions resolutely.
P12247N.jpg
The Sri Lankan Air Force was called in to provide aerial support to the besieged soldiers.

Several air strikes were conducted.

Some resulted in civilian structures like Churches etc being damaged.

Livestock herds were also killed or maimed.

With bitter fighting continuing to rage even in the late hours of Christmas eve , it is expected that fighting will continue during Christmas day too.

Was a conspiracy hatched to victimise Sunanda Deshapriya?

Was “disgraced” media rights activist Sunanda Deshapriya, a victim of a diabolical conspiracy hatched by certain vested interests ?

This is the question buzzing in media and human rights activist circles right now.

Deshapriya the well – known media rights fighter stepped down from his position as Free Media movement (FMM) convenor in a “cloud” following allegations of financial impropriety and ethical misconduct.

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[Sunanda Deshapriya-Reuters file pic]

Dr. Packitasothy Saravanamuthu of Centre for Policy alternatives (CPA) said that a probe was underway to seek “clarity” in certain transactions entered into by Sunanda Deshapriya.

Deshapriya was head of the media unit at the CPA and the FMM also continued to be affiliated to the CPA.

There were also reports that Deshapriya had paid back a “disputed” sum of Rs. 200,000 rupees in order to clear up matters.

With Deshapriya being inaccessible to the media there was an atmosphere of stunned disbelief about the alleged fraud among most people who had inter- acted with him as Sunanda was admired and respected widely as a doughty, fearless fighter for media freedom and rights.

He was a tower of strength to most media personnel as he stood up for them in cases where their rights were violated or where they were intimidated by the state and its agencies.

Deshapriya was indeed a thorn in the flesh of the Rajapakse regime by his courageous and consistent stance.

It was against this backdrop that the “fraud” allegation incident burst upon the scene resulting in Deshapriya fading away from the public domain.

Meanwhile several pro – government media organs pitched into Deshapriya with some notorious “Sinhala fascists” attacking Deshapriya with customary vulgarity.

Now some friends and colleagues of Deshapriya have struck back and are launching a campaign in Sunanda’s defence.

A website launched under the name www.colombosnakewrangler.blogspot.com has taken up cudgels on Sunanda’s behalf and accused a person described as a “snake in the grass” as being involved in a conspiracy to blacken Sunanda’s good name.

There are a few posts on the website defending Sunanda and levelling charges against individuals allegedly involved in the purported conspiracy.

One of the posts on the website that makes a public appeal states as follows:

Sunanda Deshapriya, seen here at a protest against the suppression of the media is a fearless journalist and media activist who has personally sacrificed his time, money and energy to fight for the freedom of expression in Sri Lanka. In this lawless country where being in journalism is one of the most dangerous professions one can be in, Deshapriya has personally been responsible for saving the lives of many journalists.

All this while other journalists have been able to stay silent because Deshapriya fought YOUR fight for you. The media still has whatever space it has because of the work of Deshapriya. He fights for the public's right to know. He fought for your rights while you remained silent.

He did this even when he was not getting paid to fight against the suppression of the media. He challenged the government so that you would be able to know the truth. Now it's your turn to speak up for him. It's your turn to demand that Sunanda Deshapariya is treated fairly.”

Jayalath hauls Gotabhaya before Human Rights Commission

After persisting strenuously for several months, nited National Party (UNP) Parliamentarian, Dr.Jayalath Jayawardana has succeeded in his efforts to haul Defence secretary and Presidential sibling Gotabhaya Rajapakse before the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission.

DRJJ1224.jpgDr. Jayalath Jayawardana said Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had been called for a hearing by the Human Rights Commission on Friday December 26th.

He said the Defence Secretary would have to make submissions before the commission for denying him (Dr. Jayawardana) permission to stay overnight at the Madhu Shrine in August this year.

Dr. Jayawardana said that he had requested permission from the Defence Secretary to spend three days at the shrine of Our Lady of Madhu during its two-day festival in August this year. He said he had been planning to stay over from August 14 to 16.

Dr. Jayawardana complained to the Human Rights Commission on August 27.

Dr. Jayawardana wanted to spend a three-day pilgrimage at the Shrine which had been occupied by the army and handed back to the Catholic Church, Dr. Jayawardana’s Lawyer and Human Rights activist, Chandrapala Kurage said.

Therefore there was no question of a security threat in the shrine area as the place had been cleared of mines and a Police post had been established close by especially in view of the Madhu feast.

"Therefore we can call this a gross violation of human rights. The Sri Lankan Constitution sanctions citizen to practice his or her religion without a hassle such as this," he said.

The Defense Secretary was not available for comment.

Jesus Christ : Buddha was his predecessor, Mahatma Gandhi his successor

by V.R. Krishna Iyer

Jesus, born of humble parents in Bethlehem, rose as a glorious phenomenon. He became a world wonder of spiritual-temporal revolution against an imperial establishment and a corrupt priestly order. Judas Iscariot betrayed his master for a few pieces of silver. Every barbarity from those treacherous days still exists, indeed in magnified malignancy, to victimise the have-not humanity and slay the radical humanist and activist.

Lofty testament

For all of humankind, Jesus’ magnificent, yet militant, teaching was a lofty testament of egalitarian liberation from obscurantist faith, authoritarian politics, theological orthodoxy and big business freebooting. Similarly, the ring of his message constituted a de facto revolt against Roman imperialism, absolutist injustice and priest-proud godism. He stood for a higher culture marked by a sacred, sublime, compassionate ethos, and a divinity of humanity that is free from crass, class-mired materialism and gross, greedy, grabbing riches. This rare man of Nazareth resisted Jewish ecclesiastical domination, opposed discrimination among brothers and demanded, in God’s name, socio-economic justice. This is the essence of the Jesus jurisprudence of human dignity, inner divinity and fraternal obligation to help every brother in distress.

Born into a carpenter’s family, Jesus lived a sage and simple life and chose his disciples from a weaker section of society — indigent fishermen. He symbolised a revolutionary change in the theological-temporal establishment and advocated social justice and divinity, dignity and equity in the social order. Such a transformation was the truth of the kingdom of heaven, which was a challenge to the Roman Empire, the Jewish priestocracy and the arbitrary justice system that then prevailed. H.G Wells wrote: “This doctrine of the Kingdom of Heaven, which was the main teaching of Jesus, is certainly one of the most revolutionary doctrines that ever stirred and changed human thought. It is small wonder if, the world of that time [and of our time, if this writer may add] failed to grasp its full significance, and recoiled in dismay from even a half apprehension of its tremendous challenges to the established habits and institutions of mankind.”

Rare daring

Jesus, the glorious rebel, proclaimed the reality of a universal moral order. He called it the kingdom of heaven and told the people that the kingdom of god was indeed within them. He outraged the hypocrites who did their commerce inside the temples and the shrines. He drove them out with rare daring. Now, right before our eyes, our temples and churches are again centres of big business.

Jesus, to the anger of the proprietariat, resisted the commercialisation of god and the commoditisation of man. Big temples, great churches, god-men, bishops, mullahs and acharyas are a mundane part of the capitalist establishment and are anti-Jesus in spirit. India’s Constitution mandates equality, secularism and economic democracy. What a marvel it was that Jesus preached ages ago — that God was equal in granting his favours to all, as was the sun. Jesus was a raging egalitarian, an invisible socialist, an economic democrat. Proof of this lies in his parables and preaching.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus cast scorn upon that natural tendency we all obey, to glorify our own people and to minimise the righteousness of other creeds and races. In the parable of the labourers he thrust aside the obstinate claim of the Jewish people to have a sort of first mortgage upon God. All whom God takes into the kingdom, he taught, he serves alike. There is no distinction in his treatment, because there is no measure to his bounty. There are no privileges, no rebates, and no excuses. H.G. Wells has presented these propositions in The Outline of History.

Barabbas jurisprudence

The abolition of poverty is a socialist feature of the societal structure. In order to wipe every tear of grief from every eye, you need a social transformation and an economic regeneration, a special concern for women and children, and a rage against those who rob the people’s resources. This is the majesty and humanity of true spirituality that was absent during the era of Emperor Tiberius. It was his administration and justice delivery system, presided over in the region by Pontius Pilate, which decreed, with perverse judicial power and under pressure from the priestly class and in exercise of state authority that Jesus, who argued for the kingdom of heaven, be put to the cross. When treason was the charge and the priestly order was exposed by the accused, there was terrific pressure on the Governor-judge to sentence him. The same judge set free Barabbas. Even today innocence suffers state punishment and robbery rides state power. Barabbas jurisprudence is in currency even today.

Jesus spoke for all time and all mankind when he, bed-rocked on the spiritual philosophy of the kingdom of god, told that court this truth of human rights and social justice. His advocacy of the humanist culture as the ultimate value, as against obscurantist godism, is evident from the admonition that sabbath is for man, not man for sabbath.

Advocate of unity and fraternity

Jesus advocated the unity and fraternity of humanity, like the doctrine of Advaita that Adi Sankara propagated as an upanishadic fundamental. Not only did he strike at patriotism and the bonds of family loyalty in the name of God’s universal fatherhood and the brotherhood of all mankind, his teaching condemned all the gradations of the economic system, all private wealth, and personal advantage. He said: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.”

To my mind, this glorious dimension of the kingdom of god is the forerunner to socialism, social justice, secularism and democracy. The life of Jesus was absolute simplicity, matchless humility, compassionate humanity, gender reverence and pro-poor egalite. He washed the feet of his disciples, he defined godist superstition. To share and care for your neighbour, even your enemy, were the fundamentals he taught. He was thus a pioneer of world brotherhood, who advocated freedom from dogmas and obscurantist cults. Such a universalism is the testament of Jesus. This is the Christianity to be practised daily — not the Christianity for a Sunday ritual, or for an alibi to hold the world under imperial might and big business power. Not showy charity coupled with mighty rapacity. The Buddha was a predecessor of Jesus. The Mahatma whom Churchill called “the half-naked fakir” was his successor.

Yet, Jesus if born today will meet Pilate’s justice yet again. Barabbas is in power everywhere again. Judas the pretentious disciple and arch-betrayer is a subtle and slight presence practising diplomacy — the Cross in one hand and nuke bomb in the other. The terrorist incarnation today masquerades as the ruler of the earth.

The resurrection of the world and the elimination of the sufferings and slavery of millions are desiderata for many a million honest disciples of Jesus. Even so, the finest teachings of Jesus have perished, and the world today suffers a grave decline in the values of humanism, compassion, morality and divinity. Greed, vulgarity and the collapse of the public good have been a shock and a shame, a terror and a horror.

Structural splendour

Resurrection, not in the lexical or biblical sense, but in the grand moral dimension of the term conveying the spirit of trans-material mutation, is the structural splendour of the world order. Peace, not war; stability, not subservience; high morality, not any grab-based acquisitive success, is the new ethic. Exploitation has become the rule of law, and equity and justice have become the vanishing point of international jurisprudence.

The hidden agenda after a unipolar world is the malignant methodology of insatiable accumulation of wealth. This terrible trend must be trampled under the foot by a triumphant and dynamic generation. This should be done with socialist convictions and a profound prognosis — of work, wealth and happiness for every human being. This should be the ‘developmental drama’ of the New World Order.

(The author, 93 years old, is a retired Supreme Court Judge of distinction, a former Cabinet Minister in the Kerala government, a great humanist, and a regular contributor to The Hindu.)

[Courtesy: The Hindu]

December 23, 2008

EPDP gunmen killed Red Cross employee alleges Citizen's Group

A citizen’s group from the Vadamaratchy area in the Jaffna peninsula has alleged that gunmen belonging to the Eelam Peoples Democratic Party (EPDP) were responsible for the killing of an employee of the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) in Jaffna on Tuesday December 23rd.

The organization called Vadamaratchy Civil Rights Association (VACRA)has in a letter sent to the ICRC , several diplomatic missions, human rights and media organizations charged that the EPDP was responsible for the assassination of 42 year old Sivasundaralingam Gangatharan.

Media reports about the killing have generally stated that unknown persons riding a motor cycle were responsible for the killing. Gangatharan had been working as a vehicle driver for the Red cross for nearly nine years.

The father of two children, Gangatharan was a resident of Karaveddy in Vadamaratchy division.

According to the letter set by VACRA , Gangatharan had boarded the 750 route number bus at Nelliaddy junction early morning to go to his workplace (ICRC) in Jaffna town.

Four youths on two motor cycles had been following the bus from Nelliaddy.

Gangatharan had got down from his bus at the Nallur Kandaswamy temple junction, worshipped the temple Gopuram” from the road and then begun walking towards his office.

Just as he was walking opposite the UNHCR office one motor cycle that had started speeding went up to him. The youth on the pillion had jumped down and fired at point blank range.

The motor cycles had then gone away without a hitch despite the area being intensively high – security.

The killing happened at 7. 10 am

The VACRA alleges that the EPDP was responsible for the killing and that eye – witnesses had identified at least one of the assassins.

There had been friction between Gangatharan and the EPDP because of a demonstration orchestrated by the EPDP in Point Pedro – Manthigai, charges VACRA.

The citizen’s group has expressed dissatisfaction over the reluctance of ICRC spokesperson Sophie Romanens to openly identify the killers when asked by the media.

The BBC Tamil service “Thamil Osai” which interviewed Sophie Romanens on Tuesday December 23rd asked her pointedly whether the ICRC had any specific information about the killers to which she replied that she did not want to answer because an inquiry was on.

The VACRA has said that no independent, honest inquiry was possible in Jaffna because of the “oppressive hegemony” of the EPDP and its close association with the Police and armed forces.

The VACRA has implored the ICRC to take a proactive role and initiate steps to exert pressure on the EPDP and ensure justice is done.

The ICRC playing a non – committal passive role would not serve the cause of justice for a colleague’s death says VACRA.

The ICRC statement on the killing was as follows:

ICRC1223.jpg Geneva/Colombo (ICRC) - A staff member of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was killed in a shooting incident in Jaffna today. He was the father of two children and had been working with the ICRC since 1999.

"We are shocked by the news of the death of our colleague Sivasundaralingam Gangatharan and extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends," said Anthony Dalziel, the ICRC's deputy head of delegation in Colombo.

The incident occurred on the morning of 23 December while the staff member was exiting a bus on his way to work. The police authorities are investigating to ascertain the exact circumstances that led to this tragic death.

The ICRC continues its essential activities to help conflict-affected people throughout the country.

58-2 Brigade batters through LTTE defences at Kunchuparanthan a.k.a. Sinnaparanthan

Soldiers belonging to the 58 – 2 brigade of the Sri Lankan armed forces have succeeded in battering through Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the area of strategic Kunchuparanthan that is also known as Sinnaparanthan.

The 58 division commanded by Brigadier Shavendra Silva is also known as Task Force – one.

58- 2 brigade soldiers were continuing with their phase of the five – pronged offensive launched on Monday December 22nd.

Continuing to fight overnight and on Tuesday December 23rd the 58 – 2 soldiers broke through a 300 metre area in the “L” shaped earthbund cum trench defence fortification of the tigers.

The LTTE earthbund extends from the Jaffna lagoon shores in the north – west to to Iranaimadhu reservoir banks in the south – east.

The 18 km long structure is shaped like the letter “L”.

On Monday the 57 and 58 divisions launched an offensive on five fronts against the LTTE.

At nightfall troops had returned to former positions on two fronts but were fighting on in the other three.

Task Force – one troops who were engaged in two offensives pulled back on one but went on with the other.

Soldiers had withdrawn in the Kunchuparanthan – Uruthirapuram sector but were continuing in the Nivil – North Adampan sector.

With troops punching through a gap in tiger defences on Tuesday after prolonged fighting for nearly 30 hours further re-inforcements from 58 – 2 were pumped in.

With many tigers fleeing the earthbund defences after the breakthrough the soldiers were able to expand their sphere of control rapidly.

This enabled the 58 – 2 to establish greater control over the area known as Kunchuparanthan or Sinnaparanthan.

This area adjoins the Kudamurutti Aaru stream that falls into the Jaffna lagoon.

This success has made it possible for troops to move further into the Uruthirapuram area and from there to the Karadipokku junction between Paranthan and Kilinochchi.

The LTTE was reportedly constructing a second, smaller trench cum bund in the vicinity to prevent further movement by the army.

Soldiers are also vigilant about a sudden counter attack by the LTTE.

On Saturday December 20th the tigers launched a swift counter strike and re- captured territory taken by the army earlier on Dec 16th and 17th in the Thirumurugandy – Iranaimadhu sector.

Casualty figures for Dec 23rd fighting was not available though 160 were killed and 350 injured from both sides on Monday December 22nd.

President and cabinet preparing for showdown with Chief Justice and Judiciary

The on going confrontation in Sri Lanka between the executive and judiciary shows no sign of abating with the Government of Sri Lanka led by President Mahinda Rajapakse resolving not to give in to the ruling by Chief Justice Sarath Silva that the price of petrol be reduced to 100 rupees per litre.

The cabinet meeting on Tuesday December 23rd 2008 that was presided over by Mahinda Rajapakse adopted a hostile approach towards the issue and decided not to “budge even an inch” to what was described as blatant interference in governance by the Chief Justice.

“The judiciary is overstepping its limits and invading the executive sphere.We wont give in”

Moreover the Government seemed to be preparing for a major showdown on the matter with the Chief Justice.

However the chief justice is reportedly riding the crest of a popular wave in the country ass economically hard – pressed citizens are delighted with his judicial activism.

Some ministers however were worried about the turn of events but were spparently suppressed into silence by the President who is taking the issue very personally.

If we give in now there wont be an end to this. Judicial interference will continue. We must stop this here and now” the President reportedly told ministers.

The President wants to obtain legal advice from the Attorney – General and political advice from his ministers on the matter.

Accordingly Cabinet, , put off its decision on the revision of the price of petrol for another two weeks, so that the government could consult the Attorney General on the Supreme Court ruling.

The court ruling was delivered on December 17. Cabinet met on the same day, and again on December 18, but did not revise the price in compliance with the order -- on the grounds that the government had not been officially notified of the ruling.

The issue was taken up at the meeting held last evening, and the court ruling was discussed as a Cabinet paper. Political sources said that the cabinet of ministers had decided to consult the AG on this matter.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa had also requested the ministers to submit their views on the matter to the Cabinet.

The next Cabinet meeting is scheduled for January 7, 2009, and the petrol prices will remain unchanged until then.

In a related development Treasury Secretary Sumith Abeysinghe filing an affidavit before the Supreme Court stated that he still has not received the Cabinet response with regard to the fuel price reduction.

Abeysinghe noted that he received the certified copy of the Supreme Court order on December 18 around 9.45 pm and forwarded it to the Cabinet as soon as possible but the Cabinet meeting was over by that time.

He further stated in his affidavit that he received a letter from the Cabinet Secretary stating that the Cabinet could not responded to the Supreme Court order on the same day because the Cabinet meeting was over by the time he received the certified copy of the Supreme Court.

He also assured that he will implement the revised prices as soon as the Cabinet inform him about its decision on Petrol prices.

PT1223.jpg

[Long lines for petrol - on Dec 18th in Colombo, pic: Virakesari.lk]

However, the Lanka Indian Oil Company (LIOC) reduced its prices last week, in keeping with the court ruling. The situation triggered a crisis throughout the country, with vehicles parked in long lines for petrol at the lower price, near petrol sheds run by the LIOC.

LIOC Managing Director Suresh Kumar said that his company operated only around 150 sheds, and could not keep up with the demand at present.

Asked how the company would meet the increased demand, Mr. Kumar said that the company would study the situation and take appropriate action.

Meanwhile, the UNP vowed to continue its legal battle until the prices of petrol, diesel and kerosene were reduced by the government, in keeping with the downward trend in the world market.

UNP MP Ravi Karunanayake told Daily Mirror yesterday that he would pursue the ‘legal battle,’ since the government was levying unreasonably huge taxes on petroleum imports.

Mr. Karunanayake said that the cost of a litre of refined petrol was only Rs. 29, but it was sold at a huge profit -- at more than Rs. 100 a litre -- in the local market.

“The imported cost of a litre of refined diesel is Rs.43, If it were refined here, it would be only Rs. 35. We refine 60 percent of our requirements here. Yet, the market price is Rs. 80 a litre,” he said.

He said that the prices were unreasonable, and the UNP would seek a legal remedy to win a price.

Meanwhile, responding to UNP’s request to summon Parliament to discuss the fuel price crisis, Media Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene affirmed that government has ‘no intentions’ whatsoever to summoned Parliament before January 6.

“Parliament was adjourned for January 6 and there is no need to summon it before that date since we have come to the end of the year. We will brief the House on fuel prices when the sittings take place in next year,” he added.

The UNP handing over a motion to Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake on Monday requested him to take necessary measures to summon parliament to discuss the fuel and economic crisis facing the country saying the UNP was unable to wait till January 6 next year when parliament sessions are scheduled to begin.

Meanwhile, JVP expressing its disappointment over the government decision not to reduce Petrol prices said they will take tough action against the government.

“We demand that the government should abide by the Supreme Court order and reduce prices. It is a very lame excuse to say that they are still studying the Supreme Court order as it is only a tome consuming tactic followed by the government. We will do our best within the democratic frame work to do justice to the public,” JVP Propaganda Secretary Vijitha Herath said while noting they will announce their future actions today.

Wanni Tamil civilians denied relief and freedom of movement - Human Rights Watch

The Sri Lankan government should stop arbitrarily detaining civilians fleeing fighting in the northern Wanni region and urgently allow humanitarian agencies to return to provide desperately needed aid, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today.

The 49-page report, “Besieged, Displaced, and Detained: The Plight of Civilians in Sri Lanka’s Wanni Region,” documents the Sri Lankan government’s responsibility for the plight of the 230,000 to 300,000 displaced persons trapped in the Wanni conflict zone. They face severe shortages of food and other essentials because of government restrictions on humanitarian assistance. Individuals and families who have managed to flee areas controlled by the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have been detained in poor conditions in army-controlled camps.

“Hundreds of thousands of civilians are trapped in a war zone with limited aid because the government ordered the UN and other aid workers out,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “To add insult to injury, people who manage to flee the fighting end up being held indefinitely in army-run prison camps.”

The report is based on research conducted by Human Rights Watch in northern Sri Lanka from October through December 2008. In-depth interviews were conducted with officials from United Nations agencies and humanitarian organizations, diplomats, religious leaders, and civilians affected by the conflict, among others. Because of blanket government restrictions, the Wanni conflict zone is inaccessible to independent observers and journalists.

On December 12, Human Rights Watch released a 17-page report, “Trapped and Mistreated: LTTE Abuses Against Civilians in the Vanni,” which documents the separatist group’s brutal treatment of the ethnic Tamil population in its northern stronghold (http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/12/15/trapped-and-mistreated-0 ).

The report details how the LTTE has refused to allow civilians in areas under its control to leave the Vanni conflict zone and how it has increased forced recruitment and forced labor practices, placing civilian lives at risk.

In September, the government ordered all United Nations and humanitarian agencies to withdraw their staff and operations from the Vanni, allowing only the International Committee of the Red Cross and the locally staffed Caritas to continue operations. Human Rights Watch research details severe humanitarian shortcomings: food deliveries for trapped civilians may be as low as 40 percent of the minimum amounts required, tens of thousands of families are in desperate need of plastic shelters, and sanitation facilities are virtually nonexistent. In November, Cyclone Nisha destroyed the shelters of an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 displaced persons, but the government refused to allow aid groups to bring in necessary shelter materials (http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/11/29/sri-lanka-allow-aid-groups-help-cyclone-victims ).

Since March 2008, all Tamil civilians fleeing the Vanni, as well as Tamil refugees returning from India by boat, have been detained on the assumption that they are a security threat. Approximately 1,000 civilians are being indefinitely detained under military guard at “welfare centers” in Mannar and Vavuniya districts. The government’s policy violates the basic rights of displaced persons. Conditions in the camps are sub-standard, with inadequate shelter, a lack of sanitation facilities, and limited humanitarian assistance.

“The government’s ‘welfare centers’ for civilians fleeing the Vanni are just badly disguised prisons,” said Adams . “The sad irony is that many of those now detained by the government were fleeing LTTE abuses. This detention policy is hurting the very people that the government should be helping.”

Human Rights Watch’s research found that government efforts, contrary to its claims, to fill the massive humanitarian gap caused by ordering aid agencies to leave have fallen far short. Available information, including from government-appointed officials in the Wanni, shows that the civilian population faces drastic shortages in food, shelter, water and sanitation supplies, and other life-sustaining services.

“The government’s empty claims are not reflected on the ground, where even government officials in the Wanni are constantly sounding the alarm bells about humanitarian needs,” Adams said.

GIVEN BELOW ARE EXCERPTS COMPRISING THE SUMMARY, BACKGROUND

Summary

Several hundred thousand ethnic Tamil civilians are currently trapped in intensifying fighting between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the LTTE’s northern stronghold, known as the Vanni.1

As the LTTE has lost ground to advancing government forces, civilians have been squeezed into a shrinking conflict zone. The encroaching fighting has left many homeless, hungry, and sick, and placed their lives increasingly in danger.2

The war in northern Sri Lanka receives little attention in the international media, in part because foreign journalists have not had independent access to the Vanni since fighting intensified in mid-2007. Independent human rights monitors are similarly prevented by the government and the LTTE from going to the area. As a result, the continuing suffering of the people of the Vanni remains largely unknown to the rest of the world.

This report details the Sri Lankan government’s responsibility for the plight of displaced civilians in the Vanni, focusing on the humanitarian crisis created by sweeping government restrictions on humanitarian access and the government’s policy of indefinitely detaining virtually all civilians fleeing from LTTE-controlled areas in military-guarded camps.

The LTTE has forcibly blocked civilians in areas under its control from crossing into government-held territory, compelling them to move with retreating LTTE forces. As a result, only about a thousand civilians from the Vanni have managed to reach non-combat zones—and most of these, including many families, have been detained in government camps. The LTTE also has continued to force civilians, including children, to join LTTE ranks and to carry out abusive forced labor.

In September 2008, Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa ordered the United Nations (UN) and international humanitarian agencies to leave the Vanni. This policy has drastically worsened the plight of the civilian population, significantly reducing prospects that essential food, shelter, water, sanitation, and health care would reach affected individuals. Cyclone Nisha, which hit the area to devastating effect in late November, had a greater impact because of these restrictions.

With humanitarian and civilian movement in and out of the Vanni greatly restricted by both the Sri Lankan authorities and the LTTE, affected communities find it increasingly difficult to obtain desperately needed humanitarian assistance.

While the government claims the withdrawal of UN and humanitarian agency staff was necessary to ensure their safety, such agencies work in many conflicts around the world where their security is at greater risk. Sri Lankan officials also have shown overt hostility to outside agencies and humanitarian staff in recent months, suggesting that political considerations or a desire to remove independent observers from the scene might also have been behind the ouster. Human Rights Watch recognizes that continuing fighting in the region raises legitimate security concerns, but urges that UN and humanitarian agencies be allowed to make their own, professional assessments of the risks. Instead of a blanket ban, any restrictions should be implemented on a case-by-case basis and only where there is a situation-specific reason for the restriction. The government should urgently engage in good faith discussions with the UN and humanitarian agencies about allowing them back to assist civilians in need.

Civilians seeking to flee the fighting in the Vanni also continue to be fearful of their treatment by government authorities. The Sri Lankan government has established a policy of detaining civilians fleeing LTTE-controlled areas in search of safety. Most of the families and individuals stopped while crossing into government-controlled areas have been detained indefinitely in military-run camps.3 Virtually all Vanni residents are ethnic Tamils who have relatives—by choice or compulsion—in the LTTE.

Officials have reason to vet new arrivals to ensure that LTTE fighters are not disguised among them, but at present all who cross, including entire families, are being detained indefinitely in camps with little prospect of joining relatives or host families elsewhere in Sri Lanka. This makes them particularly vulnerable to extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and other human rights abuses rampant in government-controlled territory.4 Forced to remain, and too fearful to flee, many are now also beyond the reach of the humanitarian agencies who seek to assist them. The government should immediately end the arbitrary detention of civilians seeking to flee the conflict.
As noted above, the Sri Lankan government does not bear sole responsibility for the plight of civilians in the Vanni. On December 15, 2008, Human Rights Watch issued a report documenting LTTE abuses against the civilian population, including preventing civilians fleeing combat zones, and the use of forced recruiting and abusive forced labor.5 But the government’s policies are greatly exacerbating what has become a desperate situation for many. Donors and other governments should press Sri Lanka to immediately reestablish full humanitarian access and allow civilians freedom of movement.

Note on Methodology

This report is based on research conducted by Human Rights Watch in Sri Lanka between October and December 2008, including in Vavuniya and Mannar districts in October 2008. More than 35 in-depth interviews were conducted with officials from United Nations agencies, international and local humanitarian organizations, regional and local analysts, diplomatic representatives, religious leaders, and ordinary civilians affected by the conflict.
Human Rights Watch also obtained and reviewed internal and public documents related to the crisis in the Vanni. Following the research mission, follow-up interviews were conducted over the telephone and other secure means of communications. Because of concerns of official backlash and security considerations, we have withheld the names of some sources.

1 Sometimes also spelled “Wanni.” The Vanni comprises parts of the districts of Kilinochchi (to the north), Mullaitivu (east), Mannar (west), and Vavuniya (south).
2 At the time of writing, the majority of LTTE fighters and the civilian population of the Vanni (who were forced to flee with the LTTE, see below) are mainly based in a small area of land east of the main A9 highway, between the A35 and A34 roads, east of the road that runs from Puthukkudiyiruppu and Oddusuddan (see map).
3 When displaced persons from the Vanni began arriving in Jaffna district in November 2008, the Sri Lankan authorities detained dozens in the regular Jaffna prison alongside convicted criminals, as discussed below.
4 Human Rights Watch, Recurring Nightmare: State Responsibility for “Disappearances” and Abductions in Sri Lanka, March 5, 2008. Human Rights Watch interview with humanitarian official, Vavuniya, October 14, 2008; Human Rights Watch interview with priest who works in the Vanni, Vavuniya, October 16, 2008.
5 Human Rights Watch, Trapped and Mistreated: LTTE Abuses Against Civilians in the Vanni, December 15, 2008, available at http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/12/15/trapped-and-mistreated.

Background: Return to War

By mid-2006, the 2002 ceasefire agreement between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE was in tatters, as major military operations by both sides resumed in the country’s north and east. Initial fighting occurred in the northern Jaffna peninsula and Trincomalee district, before the Sri Lankan army undertook an offensive against LTTE-controlled areas of Batticaloa district in the east.

In July 2007, the Sri Lankan government announced the “liberation” of eastern Sri Lanka from the LTTE6 and refocused its military offensive on the LTTE’s stronghold in the north, the Vanni. The Sri Lankan armed forces first sought to take control of the western seaside district of Mannar, and by early 2008 they began retaking territory in the Vanni itself. Sri Lankan forces made significant gains against the LTTE, and by October 2008 had recaptured most of the territory west of the main north-south A9 highway that divides the Vanni.

As government forces advanced, the LTTE withdrew to fortified positions in the jungles east of the A9 highway. With most of western Vanni under government control, Sri Lankan forces converged on the LTTE administrative headquarters of Kilinochchi. Despite numerous government claims that Kilinochchi would soon fall,7 at the time of writing, government and LTTE forces remained dug in. Casualty information from either side is rarely credible, but the government decision in mid-October to stop releasing its military casualty figures suggests that its own losses may be high.

Concerns about Civilian Casualties

All parties in Sri Lanka’s armed conflict are obliged to abide by international humanitarian law, the laws of war.8 Because of the sharp restrictions on humanitarian agencies, the media, and human rights groups in the Vanni, there is very little information available on the numbers and causes of civilian casualties from the fighting. The Sri Lankan armed forces have used heavy area shelling and aerial bombing against the LTTE, including numerous attacks on Kilinochchi.9 The LTTE has frequently shelled areas held by the government, including near the district capital of Vavuniya.10 Religious officials and others have reported a significant number of incidents with single-digit civilian casualties (see below); despite the wide use of artillery and airpower during the recent offensive, there have been no credible reports of individual attacks causing high civilian casualties, and nothing comparable to the November 8, 2006, shelling of the Kathiravelli School in Batticaloa district, investigated by Human Rights Watch, which killed 62 civilians.11

A number of civilian deaths from Sri Lankan artillery and air attacks have been reported to Human Rights Watch. Human Rights Watch does not have information whether LTTE forces deployed among the civilian population or the extent to which their restrictions on civilian movement have contributed to the civilian casualties. A Sri Lankan armed forces artillery attack on August 8, 2008, in the vicinity of the Mullaitivu General Hospital and district offices, resulted in the death of an 18-month-old child and injuries to at least 16 civilians, including the Mullaitivu Government Agent, Imelda Sukumar. An August 30, 2008, artillery attack hit the Puttumurripu displaced persons camp, nine kilometers from Kilinochchi, killing five displaced persons, including two infants.12 A Sri Lankan air force bombing around Kilinochchi on October 10 killed three female civilians, including Arumainathan Chadrathevi, a 46-year-old teacher, her nine-year-old daughter Achchika, and Usha Manokaran, 33, and wounded several others.13 Other reported incidents of civilian casualties have been difficult to confirm because of the virtual prohibition on access to the Vanni put in place by both sides.

Sri Lankan military authorities have insisted that they abide by the requirements of international humanitarian law by taking measures to avoid civilian casualties. So long as access to the region is denied to independent observers, such claims cannot be verified. Vanni residents have in any case become accustomed to the conduct of hostilities, knowledge they have used to reduce death and injury from the fighting. Sri Lankan army area bombardments are somewhat predictable—shells are fired in a slowly advancing grid pattern, giving civilians familiar with this tactic time to flee in advance of the shells. Aerial bombings are often preceded by spotter planes, effectively warning the population of impending attacks. In addition, almost all civilians in the Vanni have constructed rudimentary “bunker” shelters, often on the orders of the LTTE. And the LTTE in September relocated all civilians from its embattled administrative center Kilinochchi after the town came under sustained government bombardment; Kilinochchi’s hospital functioned until late October, when its patients and staff were transferred to Dharmpuram.

Civilians trapped in the Vanni also face battlefield dangers beyond the bombardments, including from ground combat between the LTTE and Sri Lankan armed forces; incursions by so-called Deep Penetration Units of the Sri Lankan army that have been blamed for a number of killings of civilians; and the widespread use of Claymore mines, often triggered by tripwires that do not distinguish between military targets and civilians.14 And humanitarian agencies have expressed concern that continual displacement and constant exposure to shelling, bombing, and ground-fire have caused large-scale psychosocial trauma among the displaced population, particularly children.15

As the civilian population becomes more concentrated in a smaller area of land, and the fighting moves towards them, the potential for large-scale civilian casualties will greatly increase. Both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan security forces have an obligation under international humanitarian law to allow civilians to leave areas where combatants are deployed, and to take all feasible precautions to minimize the risk to the civilian population.

6 Human Rights Watch press release, “Sri Lanka: Human Rights Situation Deteriorating in the East: Armed Faction is Killing, Kidnapping Civilians,” November 24, 2008, available at http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/11/24/sri-lanka-human-rights-situation-deteriorating-east.

7 C. Bryson Hull, “Sri Lankan aid workers to return to north soon,” Reuters, September 16, 2008, quoting President Mahinda Rajapaksa as saying, “We can crush [the LTTE].” Many such euphoric statements about the anticipated “liberation” of the Vanni are available on the Ministry of Defense website, www.defence.lk.

8 The conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE is considered a non-international armed conflict under international humanitarian law. Applicable law includes article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and customary international humanitarian law. Common article 3 provides minimum standards for the treatment of all persons in custody, including prohibitions on murder, torture, and other cruel treatment, and the taking of hostages. Customary international humanitarian law sets out, among other things, rules on the means and methods of warfare, including prohibitions on deliberate, indiscriminate, or disproportionate attacks on civilians. International human rights law, such as found in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, is also applicable.
9 At this writing, aerial bombing has been largely suspended because cloud cover during monsoon season prevents identification of bombing targets.

10 For example, on September 8, 2008, the LTTE fired artillery shells at the Vanni military headquarters and launched a commando raid on the headquarters. No civilian casualties were reported. Center for Policy Alternatives, “Field Mission to Vavuniya,” September 2008.
11 Human Rights Watch, Return to War: Human Rights Under Siege, vol. 19, no. 11 (c), August 2007.
12 The dead were: Karuppaih Anatharajah, 28, and his son Anatharajah Gowtham, 2; Thilakeshvari Visvathan, 27, and her one-month-old baby; and Alagesan Luka Pathamalatha, 28. Several others were wounded.
13 Human Rights Watch interview with religious official, Mannar, October 17, 2008; Internal humanitarian briefing note on the Vanni, September 18, 2008, on file with Human Rights Watch.
14 A claymore mine is placed above ground, and when it detonates it sprays deadly shrapnel in one direction. Although the limited use of command-detonated claymore mines against military targets under strictly prescribed conditions is permitted under the treaties governing the use of mines, the use of “victim-detonated” claymore mines—in other words, those detonated by a victim touching a tripwire—is strictly prohibited. International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Landmine Monitor Report 2008: Towards a Mine-Free World, Sri Lanka country chapter, November 2008.
15 Presentation on UN interagency assessment mission of October 17-18, 2008, on file with Human Rights Watch.

Recommendations

To the Government of Sri Lanka

. Immediately lift the September 2008 order barring humanitarian agencies from the Vanni conflict area in northern Sri Lanka and allow humanitarian agencies to return to assist at-risk individuals and reach all civilians in need. Restrictions on relief should only be made on a case-by-case basis and only when there is a specific and justifiable security reason for the restriction. Refusals for valid security reasons should only be for as long as necessary and should not block legitimate humanitarian assistance.

· Immediately end the arbitrary and indefinite detention of civilians displaced by recent fighting at the Kalimoddai, Sirunkandal, and Menik Farm camps in northern Sri Lanka, or at other proposed camps in Sri Lanka.

· Make public the names of all persons detained by the military and police under Emergency Regulations and other laws, and provide those detained prompt access to their families and legal counsel.

· Instruct security forces to respect and protect humanitarian aid personnel and their facilities, supplies, and transportation. Personnel who commit abuses against humanitarian organizations and their staff should be disciplined or criminally prosecuted as appropriate.

· Ensure that nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are able to perform their work without arbitrary government interference: regulation of NGO activities should comply with international standards, be transparent, and follow clearly defined procedures. Registration should ultimately facilitate the work of NGOs and should neither disrupt legitimate NGO activities nor put NGO workers at risk.

· Allow independent observers, including journalists, access to conflict zones so that accurate and timely information about the situation of civilians in such areas is publicly available.

· Work with donor governments to establish an international human rights monitoring mission under United Nations auspices to monitor violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict.

To the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) (see our report Trapped and Mistreated for additional recommendations)

· Stop preventing civilians from leaving areas under LTTE control. Respect the right to freedom of movement of civilians, including the right of civilians to move to government-controlled territory for safety.

· Provide humanitarian agencies and UN agencies safe and unhindered access to areas under LTTE-control, and guarantee the security of all humanitarian and UN workers, including Vanni residents working as humanitarian or UN staff.

To the co-chairs of the Tokyo Donors’ Conference (Japan, the European Union, Norway, and the United States) and the World Bank, India, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations

· Speak out publicly, as well as privately, on the situation in the Vanni and other human rights concerns in Sri Lanka. Insist that the government adhere to its international legal obligations on human rights and humanitarian matters.

· Urge the government to withdraw its September 2008 order and allow humanitarian agencies access to the Vanni so that they can provide urgent humanitarian assistance and help provide civilian protection.

· Urge the government to ensure the protection of displaced persons, regardless of ethnicity, and end arbitrary detention. The government should be pressed to follow the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which provide that consistent with the right to liberty, internally displaced persons “shall not be interned in or confined to a camp.”

· Urge the government to allow the UN and its agencies to conduct a strategic, long-term needs assessment of displaced civilians in the north and permit a follow-up program to implement these needs.

· Press the government to allow independent observers, including journalists, access to conflict zones so that accurate and timely information about the situation of civilians in such areas is publicly available.

· Work with the Sri Lankan government to establish an international human rights monitoring mission under United Nations auspices to monitor violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict

Acknowledgements

The report was researched and written by the Emergencies Division of Human Rights Watch, and was edited by Brad Adams, Executive Director of the Asia Division; Charu Lata Hogg, South Asia researcher; James Ross, Legal and Policy Director; and Joe Saunders, Deputy Program Director.

Human Rights Watch thanks all the courageous individuals who agreed to cooperate with its research in Sri Lanka. We admire their heroic efforts to alleviate the suffering of the civilian population of the Vanni. Many of the persons we interviewed for this report spoke of their personal frustration in not being able to speak out more forcefully about the abuses they witnessed because of the hostility of the Sri Lankan authorities and the LTTE to criticism of their practices. We hope this report gives a voice to the concerns of the humanitarian and protection community in Sri Lanka, and that it will result in greater humanitarian access and better protection of the human rights of the civilian population of the Vanni.

To read the Human Rights Watch report, “Trapped and Mistreated: LTTE Abuses Against Civilians in the Vanni,” please visit:

http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/12/15/trapped-and-mistreated-0

For more information, please contact:

In London , Brad Adams (English): +44-20-7713-2767; or +44-790-872-8333 (mobile)

In London , Charu Hogg (English, Hindi): +44-790-626-1291 (mobile)

In Mumbai, Meenakshi Ganguly (Hindi, English): +91-98-200-36032 (mobile)

In New York , James Ross (English): +1-646-898-5487 (mobile)

Govt. puts civilians fleeing Wanni in detention camps

Further excerpts from the Human Rights Watch Report on Wanni Tamil civilian Predicament:

Kalimoddai and Sirunkandal detention camps

In the past year, despite the massive forced displacement of civilians in the Vanni, only about a thousand people have crossed LTTE lines into so-called “cleared areas” under government control. Civilians in the Vanni who manage to elude LTTE forced recruitment and labor, and other restrictions on their movement,16 and reach government areas find they face great risks to their life and liberty. These include the danger of extrajudicial killing and enforced disappeance by government security forces and allied paramilitary groups, and long-term detention in poor conditions in government camps.

Since March 2008, Sri Lankan security forces have detained almost all ethnic Tamil civilians fleeing the Vanni, intercepting them when they approach government-controlled areas. Active fighting around the main A9 road and numerous government and LTTE checkpoints, and the widespread use of landmines by both sides have made travel overland extremely difficult and dangerous. As a result, until the mid-November 2008 LTTE withdrawal from northern Vavuniya district, most civilians fleeing the Vanni did so by sea, bribing local fishermen to take them by boat to the port town of Trincomalee or other government-controlled areas. Small numbers of civilians fleeing the Vanni still attempt to bypass the government security cordon to live in the predominantly Tamil areas of Mannar or Vavuniya, but they face arrest if identified. Following the mid-November 2008 withdrawal of the LTTE from northern Vavuniya district, several hundred civilians who approached the official government checkpoint at Omanthai just north of Vavuniya town were promptly detained and placed into camps (see below).

Tamil civilians seeking to flee fighting in Sri Lanka’s north during the 25-year-long civil war have long been subject to arbitrary detention in camps and other restrictions on their freedom of movement.17 Still, most could hope to stay with relatives or host families in other parts of Sri Lanka. The government’s March 2008 decision to establish new camps seems intended to eliminate that possibility entirely.18 Since then, all Tamils—including whole families—fleeing the Vanni have been detained on the apparent assumption that they are a security threat. No attempt is made by Sri Lankan security forces to distinguish between persons with suspected LTTE links and ordinary civilians. The only exceptions appear to be for some local humanitarian workers and clergy, who have been able to enter and exit the Vanni.

The security forces send Tamils taken into custody to two so-called “welfare centers” in Mannar district (additional camps in neighboring Vavuniya district, as discussed below, have also been established). Kalimoddai camp opened in March 2008; Sirukandal camp opened in July 2008. As of December 15 , 2008, Kalimoddai housed 461 persons (202families)19 and Sirukandal housed 345 persons (153 families).20 There were 226 children (persons under 18) in both camps.21 Many of those detained are young single men who fled the Vanni to avoid forced LTTE recruitment, and families who fled to prevent the forced recruitment of their children.22

Since the establishment of the internment policy in March 2008, Sri Lankan authorities have also detained Sri Lankan Tamil refugees who have sought to return from India via sea, and placed them in the Kalimoddai and Sirukandal camps.23

Despite repeated assurances from Sri Lankan authorities since April 2008 that many of the displaced persons detained in the two camps, particularly those originally from Trincomalee and Vavuniya districts, would be permitted to leave, as of December 15, 2008, only 65 persons had been released.24 On October 23, two persons from Kilinochchi district detained in Kalimoddai were allowed to move out of the camp to a host family in Vavuniya; on October 24, 25 persons, including three families who had been detained after returning from India, were released from Kalimoddai and Sirunkandal camps and returned to their home area of Trincomalee.25

The civilians in the two camps are being held against their will. The camps are completely fenced, and are closely guarded by Sri Lankan navy and army personnel, and the police. The security forces have refused to allow the civilians to leave the camps—except under tight restrictions described below—and integrate into local communities or live with host families.

In echoes of LTTE population controls, individuals wishing to leave the camp for work or other reasons must request a daily pass from the security forces and leave behind another relative as “guarantor” to ensure their return.26 The security forces limit the total number of day passes given out each day and those who receive a pass must return by evening. There are also restrictions on where detainees can go. Previously they could only go to nearby Murunkan, but in November, some camp residents—but not young single detainees—were allowed to travel to Mannar town.

Camp residents who are not with families cannot provide relatives as “guarantors” and are thus almost permanently confined to the camp. In order for single men to leave the camp, they must request special permission for a critical situation such as a medical emergency. Ordinary daily needs such as shopping, visiting relatives and friends, or collecting firewood do not usually qualify. On one recent occasion, a group of single camp residents were escorted to go shopping, but such cases are the exception. Only when enough such special individual requests have been made by single detainees is a group allowed to leave the camp. These restrictions have at times put the lives of detained displaced persons in danger: in September, a detained displaced person with a heart condition had to wait three days before being allowed to leave the camp for medical attention.27

Available information indicates that the restrictions on movement for displaced persons in the camps are increasingly becoming stricter, particularly for single men. After security incidents such as escape or suicide attempts, the security forces have prohibited young men from leaving the camp altogether for extended periods. After a young man went missing from Kalimoddai in October—it remains unclear whether he escaped or was abducted—virtually no single detainees were allowed to leave the camp under any circumstances, a restriction still in place at the time of finalization of this report on December 15, 2008.28 The Sri Lankan security forces claim that 13 camp residents have “escaped,” but detainees told humanitarian workers the men may have been abducted or “disappeared.”29

At least five camp residents, all young men, have been arrested from the camps and taken into police custody. Nothing is known about what happened to them thereafter, creating fear among other camp residents, particularly young men.

Conditions in the camps are dire and need urgent attention. Most of the detainees live in temporary emergency tents, and Kalimodai camp is built in a low-lying area prone to flooding in the monsoon season. There are significant concerns about privacy and hygiene in the camps, particularly at Kalimoddai, where there is insufficient space and facilities to house so many families. A request to move the camp residents to a more appropriate location was submitted by the Government Agent of Mannar, but was declined by the Sri Lankan navy on security grounds.30

No schools operate in the camps. Children allowed to attend the nearby schools in Murunkan and Parikarikandal are only offered a limited curriculum. On November 2, a number of students were released from Sirukandal to attend schools in Mannar, but their parents were required to remain in the camp. At least four children—down from at least 20 children earlier—in Kalimoddai and Sirunkandal are currently not attending school at all because of the difficulties they face in accessing educational opportunities.31

Detainees in the two camps have very limited ability to pursue livelihoods. Most are farmers and fishermen but have no opportunity to engage in work, making them dependent on the assistance provided.

Humanitarian agencies operating in the camp need prior authorization to visit the camps, and are often questioned about the purpose of their visits. Despite the dire needs of the detainees at the two camps, many humanitarian agencies face a difficult dilemma. The military nature of the camps and the restrictions on freedom of movement imposed by the government are inconsistent with international law and basic principles on the treatment of displaced persons. Many agencies feel that providing humanitarian assistance to displaced persons under such circumstances would legitimize unacceptable government detention policies. As a result, humanitarian agencies took a joint decision to limit their assistance to relief assistance, providing emergency water and sanitation facilities, but no infrastructure support that could make these camps permanent.32 Instead, the agencies decided to focus on advocating for changes in the way the camps are run, particularly allowing freedom of movement for the displaced persons.

The decision by humanitarian agencies to limit their involvement with the detention camps was also motivated by the wishes of the camp residents themselves, who articulated a clear position during a series of consultations. The detainees said they did not want the humanitarian community to provide any kind of assistance that would result in more than a temporary stay in the camps. They did not want their detention legitimized or made more permanent by the building of longer-term camp structures.33

The detainees wish to leave the camps as soon as possible. On May 10 and 11, local authorities conducted a survey in Kalimoddai camp (then the only camp for displaced persons from the Vanni). Out of the then camp population of 257 individuals (115 families), only five families indicated they were undecided about remaining in Kalimoddai. The other families indicated they wanted to leave the camp and had alternative places to stay, including with relatives and nearby host families, a much healthier and secure environment for displaced families.34 Though these findings were presented to the Government Agent of Mannar at the Consultative Committee on Humanitarian Activity (CCHA) meeting held on May 15, no action was taken.

International law on detaining displaced persons

International human rights law and international humanitarian law during internal armed conflicts prohibit arbitrary detention.35 The UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, an authoritative framework for the protection of displaced persons derived from international law, provides that, consistent with the right to liberty, internally displaced persons (IDPs) “shall not be interned in or confined to a camp.” The principles recognize that “exceptional circumstances” may permit confinement only for so long as it is “absolutely necessary,” but the Sri Lankan government has not demonstrated that such circumstances exist.36

In his May 21, 2008, report to the UN Human Rights Council on his December 2007 visit to Sri Lanka, Walter Kälin, the UN secretary-general’s representative on IDPs, emphasized that displaced persons in Sri Lanka, “as citizens of their country,” remained “entitled to all guarantees of international human rights and international humanitarian law subscribed by the State.”37 His report noted that, “while the need to address security may be a component of the plan [to receive IDPs], it should be humanitarian and civilian in nature. In particular, IDPs’ freedom of movement must be respected, and IDPs may not be confined to a camp” (emphasis added).38 The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has similarly reaffirmed the rights of IDPs in an Aide Memoire to the Sri Lankan government dated August 19, 2008 (discussed below).

The Sri Lankan security forces have a legitimate right to identify and apprehend suspected LTTE militants found with civilians fleeing the Vanni. Suspected LTTE militants must be treated in accordance with international standards, and not abused, “disappeared,” or executed—a continuing problem in Sri Lanka. However, the current blanket detention policy of the Sri Lankan government, placing anyone fleeing the Vanni into camps, violates Sri Lanka’s obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law.

Proposed expansion of the detention policy

The problems faced by the approximately 800 persons displaced from the Vanni who are currently interned in the Kalimoddai and Sirunkandal camps are not unique in Sri Lanka. Although the vast majority of the more than 20,000 persons displaced during the 2007 government military offensive in Mannar district were allowed to stay with host families or in IDP camps without strict movement controls, the Sri Lankan security forces continue to hold an estimated 400 displaced persons from the Musali area under similar movement restrictions in the Nanattan Rice Mill and Church Land “welfare” sites, denying them freedom of movement.39 A planned return of Musali displaced persons to their areas of origin was suspended in early October 2008 because of concerns about the presence of uncleared mines and ordinance.40

In September 2008, the Sri Lankan authorities informed the UN and humanitarian organizations that they were in the process of drawing up contingency plans to keep up to 200,000 displaced people from the Vanni in new camps in Vavuniya district, in case a mass outflux from the Vanni materialized.41 The government has identified both transit sites and permanent welfare sites that it would like to use to house the displaced persons from the Vanni around Vavuniya. Although the identification and preparation of sites is still in process, the sites include several active schools,42 public halls,43 and three large tracts of land in Mannik Farm, Karuvalpuliyankulam, and Kalwadinakulam that are in the process of being cleared and turned into large “welfare centers.”44 Despite repeated requests from humanitarian agencies, government officials have refused to clarify if the same restrictive internment policies adopted in the Mannar-area camps would be extended to the new Vavuniya camps.

Whether the Sri Lankan authorities, the UN, and humanitarian organizations will be able to meet the shelter, water and sanitation, food, education, medical, and other needs of the displaced population in the new camps is an open question, particularly in light of the humanitarian community’s decision to limit their involvement in the Kalimoddai and Sirunkandal camps. Addressing these concerns depends in large measure on whether the Sri Lankan authorities will adopt the same unlawful restrictions on freedom of movement for the planned Vavuniya camps, turning them into large-scale internment camps rather than IDP camps that are in accordance with international standards.
According to humanitarians who have attended government meetings on the issue, the current government plan is to receive displaced persons fleeing the Vanni at the Omanthai military checkpoint, where all displaced persons will be screened.45

The government agreed to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and UNHCR to monitor the screening process.46

Those suspected of LTTE involvement will be taken into custody, but the remaining displaced persons will not be allowed freedom of movement; they will be first sent to military-guarded transit camps for a period of around five days, and will then be transferred to the permanent “welfare centers,” where they will remain for an unknown period of time under close military guard. Sri Lankan organizations have already expressed concern that the displaced persons will be indefinitely detained, like those at the Kallimodai and Sirunkandal camps.47

In response to the government plan to create further camps for displaced persons around Vavuniya, as well as in response to significant protection problems in other IDP sites and with resettlement programs in the east and north, UNHCR wrote an Aide Memoire to the Sri Lankan authorities on August 29, 2008, stating that it wished “to take this opportunity to reiterate that it can only support IDP sites, in which the physical safety and security, protection and well-being of the IDPs is ensured.” The Aide Memoire states that the Sri Lankan government “should ensure that IDPs enjoy full and unhindered freedom of movement within, as well as in and out of IDP sites,” and reaffirmed that the “preferred option for emergency shelter is the host family arrangement,” rather than restrictive camp options.48
The LTTE also bears responsibility for the plight of civilians fleeing from the Vanni. The LTTE has frequently used civilian cover to move LTTE combatants into government-controlled areas, either to avoid capture or to carry out attacks, including targeted killings and suicide bombing attacks. For example, Human Rights Watch documented a case in which the LTTE allowed a family to leave the Vanni on condition that they take an LTTE cadre along as a “family member” to escape scrutiny by the security forces.49 In the case of a mass civilian outflux from the Vanni, there is little doubt among humanitarian officials and Sri Lanka experts that the LTTE would attempt to disguise a large number of LTTE combatants among civilians in order to move them out of the Vanni.

As noted above, the Sri Lankan authorities have an obligation to ensure the security of the civilian population, including by taking into custody suspected LTTE combatants and prosecuting them for cognizable criminal offenses in accordance with international legal standards. Arrivals of large numbers of displaced persons heighten such security concerns, but in no way lessens the obligation to abide by international law.

The LTTE also has international legal obligations towards civilians. Placing LTTE combatants within groups of fleeing civilians at a minimum violates the international humanitarian law requirement to take constant care to spare the civilian population, including by taking all feasible precautions to minimize loss of civilian life and protect civilians under their control from the effects of attacks.50 Depending on the circumstances, such practices may amount to using civilians as “human shields” (deliberately using civilians to protect a military target from attack)51

or acts of perfidy (deliberately feigning civilian status in order to carry out attacks), which are war crimes.52

Detention of recent arrivals in Vavuniya and Jaffna

The question of how the Sri Lankan authorities will handle new arrivals from the Vanni is no longer just one of future planning; since late November, an increased number of displaced persons from the Vanni have fled directly towards Vavuniya and Jaffna districts. The restrictive policies currently being implemented by the Sri Lankan authorities with these new arrivals confirm that the Sri Lankan government is indeed expanding its internment policy towards displaced persons coming from the Vanni.

Since November 21, a growing number of displaced persons have been detained by Sri Lankan security forces at the Omanthai checkpoint—at least 419 individuals (174 families) by December 15,53 almost all of them from northern Vavuniya district.54 This is due to a combination of factors. The LTTE withdrew from some formerly LTTE-controlled areas of northern Vavuniya, including its own checkpoint at Omanthai on the A9,55 allowing greater numbers of displaced persons to reach the government checkpoint. Secondly, instead of letting civilians through the checkpoint, the Sri Lankan security services since mid-November have closed it completely, and detained civilians who arrive there.56

So far, the government has not complied with the most important agreements made with humanitarian agencies on the procedures to be followed should there be an influx of displaced persons towards Vavuniya. The government has not allowed the ICRC and UNHCR to observe the procedures used to screen out suspected LTTE militants at the Omanthai checkpoint, as had been previously requested (see above). Given the Sri Lankan security forces’ disturbing record of “disappearances,” the inability of the ICRC and UNHCR to monitor these screening procedures is a cause for grave concern. The government also did not implement an agreed-upon registration of the newly arrived displaced persons by civilian authorities that would have helped ensure all displaced persons remain accounted for. The transit sites used by the military were not those agreed upon and assessed by the humanitarian community, and do not have adequate water and sanitation facilities.57

The displaced persons screened and detained at the Omanthai checkpoint have all been taken to the Manik Farm area, where some areas of land have been cleared by the authorities, and to Nellukulam. The families are currently staying at a school building and a community hall, where they have been kept under close guard by a heavy military presence. As at Kalimoddai and Sirukandal camps in Mannar, the displaced persons have not been allowed to leave the camps, and some agencies, including the Sri Lankan National Human Rights Commission, have had difficulty accessing the camp.58 The military commander at Manik Farm has required that all organizations visiting the camp, including UN agencies, the National Human Rights Commission, and all NGOs, have prior written permission from the Vavuniya Government Agent. The Government Agent has indicated to the BBC that the army told her not to allow anyone to visit the camp.59

By December 15, at least 155 individuals from the Vanni had attempted to flee by small boats towards the northern Jaffna district, and were intercepted by the navy at sea.60 Since their arrival, the families have been kept under military guard at the former court complex in Jaffna, with only the ICRC and UNHCR allowed access to them. On November 2, a group of 28 displaced persons fleeing the Vanni were intercepted at sea by the navy and moved to Jaffna town. There they were brought before the Jaffna magistrate, and then sent to Jaffna prison. No legal justification was given for detaining them at the prison, which houses convicted criminals and is notoriously overcrowded and filthy, and so is not an appropriate facility to house displaced persons.61

After interventions from lawyers for the displaced persons, they were transferred from the prison on November 25 to the former court complex, where the other displaced from Vanni were already being kept.62

In early December, the displaced persons were moved from the courthouse premises to the Kopay Teachers’ Training Complex, where they are still kept under military guard and not allowed to leave the complex.63
______________________________________

16 See Human Rights Watch, Trapped and Mistreated: LTTE Abuses Against Civilians in the Vanni, December 15, 2008.
17 See, e.g., University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) (UTHR). Trincomalee: State Ideology and the Politics of Fear, Special Report No. 8, March 7, 1997 (“[T]he most unusual step taken by the Defence Ministry [is] confining Tamil refugees arriving from the North (Vanni) in so called welfare centres in Vavuniya. Conditions for them to move out and go to a place of their choice in Vavuniya town, the South or East of the same country where they are fellow citizens is governed by extremely stringent conditions.”); UTHR, A Sovereign Will to Self-Destruct: The Continuing Saga Of Dislocation & Disintegration, Report No. 12, November 15, 1993, p. 3.1.3.3.
18 United Nations Human Rights Council, “Report of the Representative of the Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internallly Displaced Persons, Walter Kälin, Mission to Sri Lanka (14 to 21 December 2007),” May 21, 2008, UN Doc. A/HRC/Add.4, para 17.
19 For the purpose of the count, “families” are defined as either family units or individuals who arrived alone—the count is used to establish the number of “units” of persons, rather than the numbers of families in a traditional sense.
20 Human Rights Watch communication with UN official, December 15, 2008; Human Rights Watch communication with humanitarian official, December 15, 2008.
21 This figure was last updated on November 7, 2008. Internal humanitarian report on file with Human Rights Watch.
22 Human Rights Watch interview with priest, Vavuniya, October 16, 2008.
23 Pax Romana, “Statement on the IDP Situation in Mannar,” 8th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, June 2, 2008; Minutes of Inter-agency Emergency Shelter Coordination Meeting, Colombo, May 26, 2008 (noting that 4 families of 12 persons total continued to be detained at Kalimoddai camp following their return from India); Internal humanitarian report on file with Human Rights Watch.
24 Human Rights Watch communication with UN official, December 15, 2008.
25 Human Rights Watch communication with humanitarian official, December 16, 2008.
26 Ibid.
27 Ibid.
28 Human Rights Watch communication with UN official, December 15, 2008.
29 Human Rights Watch communication with humanitarian official, December 16, 2008; Internal humanitarian report on file with Human Rights Watch.
30 Internal humanitarian report on file with Human Rights Watch.
31 Human Rights Watch communication with UNICEF official, December 5, 2008.
32 Human Rights Watch communication with humanitarian official, December 2, 2008.
33 Human Rights Watch communication with humanitarian official, December 2, 2008.
34 Human Rights Watch press release, “Sri Lanka: End Internment of Displaced Persons: Government Illegally Holding Civilians Fleeing Fighting in the North,” July 1, 2008.
35 See International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), G.A. res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 52, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 999 U.N.T.S. 171, entered into force Mar. 23, 1976, article 9; International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Customary International Humanitarian Law (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005), rule 99 and accompanying text.
36 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/1998/53/Add.2 (1998), noted in Comm. Hum. Rts. res. 1998/50, principle 12.
37 United Nations Human Rights Council, “Report of the Representative of the Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Walter Kälin, Mission to Sri Lanka (14 to 21 December 2007),” May 21, 2008, UN Doc. A/HRC/8/6/Add.4, para. 8.
38 Ibid., para. 79.
39 Internal humanitarian report on file with Human Rights Watch.
40 Human Rights Watch interview with Muslim community official, Colombo, October 8, 2008; Internal humanitarian briefing document on file with Human Rights Watch.
41 Internal September 2008 humanitarian contingency plan meeting notes, on file with Human Rights Watch.
42 These include the Gamani Maha Vidayalayam School (active student population: 120) where three halls in disrepair could be repaired and accommodate 120 displaced persons, and the Kalaimahal Maha Vidiyalayam School in Nellukkulam (active student population: 2050) where one hall could accommodate 50 displaced persons. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has raised concerns about the use of active schools with the Government Agent in Vavuniya, and reportedly received assurances that active schools would only be used as a last resort. Internal September humanitarian contingency plan meeting notes, on file with Human Rights Watch.
43 These include Muttaiah Hall, with space for 120 displaced persons, and Suthananda Hall, with space for 80 displaced persons. Internal September humanitarian contingency plan meeting notes, on file with Human Rights Watch.
44 Center for Policy Alternatives, “Field Mission to Vavuniya,” September 2008.
45 Internal humanitarian contingency planning document on file with Human Rights Watch.
46 Human Rights Watch interview with UN protection official, Vavuniya, October 19, 2008; Internal humanitarian contingency planning document on file with Human Rights Watch; Letter of UN resident coordinator Neil Buhne to Minister of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Mahinda Samarasinghe, dated November 28, 2008, on file with Human Rights Watch.
47 Center for Policy Alternatives, “Field Mission to Vavuniya,” September 2008.
48 UNHCR Colombo, Aide Memoire, August 29, 2008.
49 Human Rights Watch interview with Tamil journalist, Colombo, October 11, 2008.
50 See ICRC, Customary International Humanitarian Law, rules 15 and 22.
51 See ICRC, Customary International Humanitarian Law, rule 97.
52 See ICRC, Customary International Humanitarian Law, rule 65.
53 Human Rights Watch communication with UN official, December 15, 2008; Human Rights Watch communication with humanitarian official, December 15, 2008.
54 Human Rights Watch communication with UN official, September 26, 2008, on file at Human Rights Watch.
55 At most entry and exit points to the Vanni, the LTTE and government forces operate separate checkpoints in relative proximity to each other. The Omanthai checkpoints were formally established under the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement.
56 On November 18, the ICRC withdrew its presence from the Omanthai checkpoint, which was established following the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement, stating that they could no longer “obtain all the necessary guarantees for the safe passage of civilians and goods.” This was also the date the LTTE formally withdrew its presence from the Omanthai checkpoint, leaving behind a 50 kilometer no-man’s land between the government checkpoint at Omanthai and the nearest LTTE presence. Normal civilian movement has virtually stopped through the Omanthai checkpoint. Human Rights Watch communication with humanitarian official, December 2, 2008.
57 Letter of UN resident coordinator Neil Buhne to Minister of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Mahinda Samarasinghe, dated November 28, 2008, on file with Human Rights Watch.
58 Human Rights Watch communication with humanitarian official, September 26, 2008, on file with Human Rights Watch; BBC Sinhala language service, “HRC denied access to IDPs,” September 25, 2008.
59 Ibid.
60 Human Rights Watch communication with UN official, December 15, 2008.
61 The prison also houses a large number of persons who have sought protective custody fearing threats from the LTTE or the security forces.
62 Human Rights Watch communication with Colombo-based human rights activist, November 24, 2008.
63 Human Rights Watch communication with UN official, December 16, 2008.

How Forced departure of UN and NGO Aid workers Affects Displaced Wanni Civilians

Further excerpts from the Human Rights Watch Report on Wanni Tamil civilian Predicament:

The government-ordered withdrawal of all United Nations and international humanitarian staff in September 2008 (detailed below) has had a severe impact on the humanitarian situation in the Vanni. There are an estimated 230,000 to 300,000 displaced persons currently trapped in the Vanni conflict zone, as well as a smaller number of Vanni residents who remain in their homes. Government claims that humanitarian agencies were not necessary because the government itself was able to meet the needs of the Vanni’s population proved to be untrue, and reflect a failure to recognize that timely humanitarian assistance depends as much on efficient logistics and distribution systems as on simply delivering the necessary supplies.

The most acute needs have been in the areas of food, shelter, water, sanitation, health care, psychosocial counseling, and education. It is in the non-food sectors that the impact of the ordered withdrawal has been felt most severely; it is these sectors that are not included in the permitted UN shipments into the Vanni and which are most impacted by the absence of qualified humanitarian personnel on the ground.

The provision of basic assistance to IDPs in the Vanni is made more complicated by the fact that many families have had to move multiple times to escape approaching fighting. Each time, new shelters and sanitation facilities need to be constructed and new supply lines established. The monsoon rains continue from October until January or February, so the impact of heavy rains on shelter and sanitation will remain particularly acute during this period.
The government of Sri Lanka has repeatedly asserted that the humanitarian needs of the population in the Vanni are being met, claiming that its own efforts are filling the gap left by the humanitarian departure. For instance, in a December 3, 2008, statement, the secretary-general of the governmental Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process, Rajiva Wijesinha, argued that the government was actually providing too much food to the Vanni, and that international criticisms reflected a lack of understanding about available government services: “The free health care and education services Sri Lanka provides are not common elsewhere, which is what doubtless led international commentators to assert that these services were collapsing.”70

Such statements claiming that the Sri Lankan government is meeting the humanitarian needs of the population in the Vanni are issued regularly by Sri Lankan officials. They appear eager to downplay the extent of humanitarian suffering in the Vanni, particularly after India, which has a substantial Tamil community and has previously intervened militarily in the LTTE conflict, expressed concerns in October about the humanitarian situation in the Vanni.

However, these government statements have not been backed up by convincing statistics that show the level of assistance provided by the government, nor are the distribution mechanisms explained. Most significantly, the rosy picture the government seeks to paint of the humanitarian situation in the Vanni is directly contradicted by the reports of their own government officials on the ground and by the assessments of the United Nations and humanitarian organizations, as discussed below.

The obstruction of humanitarian assistance documented in this report, and the efforts by Sri Lankan officials to downplay the extent of humanitarian suffering in the Vanni, should be distinguished from the exemplary and often courageous efforts made by Vanni-based officials, civil servants, and humanitarian workers who continue to do everything within their power to address the needs of the population. For example, despite the challenges they face, teachers continue to try and provide a stable educational environment for the children in the Vanni, setting up temporary schools and attempting to take their school materials along with them when they are displaced. Human Rights Watch’s concerns about the humanitarian situation in the Vanni should in no way detract from these genuinely heroic efforts.

Food

Some food stocks remained in the Vanni at the time the government ordered the humanitarian withdrawal, giving the authorities some buffer before its impact would be felt. But those stocks are now being depleted. Much of the humanitarian effort is now focusing on meeting the essential food needs of the displaced population. Seven large UN food convoys were dispatched to the Vanni between October 2, 2008, and December 15, 2008, carrying a combined load of 4,120 metric tons of food (another food convoy is scheduled for December 18).71
Local food prices, particularly for vegetables, have risen sharply, and purchasing capacity for most displaced persons and local communities has decreased because of loss of livelihoods like fishing, farming, and day labor.
The UN World Food Program (WFP) and the government estimate that at least 750 metric tons per week are needed to meet the minimum nutritional requirements of the displaced population in the Vanni—a figure assuming an efficient distribution system with minimal waste or siphoning off of aid—difficult to monitor without a humanitarian presence in the Vanni.72

Even the 750 metric tons is an underestimate, since the basic minimum WFP rations per person of 0.5 kilograms73 for 230,000 persons (the smallest credible estimate of the displaced population) would require a total of 805 metric tons per week, or 3,450 metric tons per month.74 Based on this formula, the IDP population of the Vanni would require a total of at least 10,350 metric tons of food for the three months between the withdrawal of the UN on September 16, 2008, and the time of finalization of this report, December 15.75 However, the seven food convoys combined only delivered a total of 4,120 metric tons of food, a shortfall of 6,230 metric tons of food over the minimum nutrition requirements of the displaced population, or 60 percent of the minimum nutrition requirements. Again, these are figures based on the lowest credible estimate of 230,000 displaced persons in need of food aid; the actual numbers of people in need of aid may be significantly higher.

At a December 10, 2008, Inter-Agencies Standing Committee (IASC) meeting, WFP officials estimated that the food deliveries into the Vanni since the September 2008 withdrawal had been 38 percent below the minimum nutrition requirements, but this estimate is based on an estimate of 200,000 IDPs, which is lower than the 230,000 number used by other UN agencies, and also uses the date of the first convoy, October 2, as the starting date for its needs assessment, ignoring the fact that no food deliveries were made in September.76 Because of this, the WFP figures underestimate the actual food shortcomings in the Vanni.

As a result, a very large gap exists between the minimum daily nutritional requirements of the population and the food being brought into the Vanni. According to humanitarian officials, some of the camps they work in are already down to distributing just two meals per day, and one camp is reportedly surviving on just one meal a day.77

Most of the international food assistance is in the form of rice and flour, and does not include other food items that are in critically short supply, such as vegetables, whose prices have skyrocketed. For example, a humanitarian assessment mission found that the price of one kilogram of onions, a staple in Sri Lanka, had risen five-fold from Rs.60 to Rs.300.78 In a mid-October letter to the humanitarian community, the Government Agent of Vavuniya described “the availability of essential supplementary food items” as “remaining critical.”79

The government is also sending in additional convoys of non-UN food through Government Agents, but the food on those convoys is destined partly to be sold at the government-organized Multi-Purpose Cooperative Society (MPSC) stores, and not for free distribution to displaced persons. Although these convoys may boost the amount of food locally available, many displaced families do not have the financial resources left to purchase food and so are entirely dependent on free distributions. Some humanitarian agencies have been able to send supplementary food items on two Government Agent-organized convoys, but only in small amounts that will not affect the overall food shortages.80

The government has repeatedly claimed that these food convoys are sufficient to fill the gap in needs, but has not provided any details even to the humanitarian agencies on the amounts of food aid it has provided, how it is being distributed, and who it is reaching, normally just publicizing the number of trucks it has sent into the Vanni.81 Greater transparency by the government on exactly what it is sending into the Vanni would allow the humanitarian community to better assess the needs in specific areas, but it is clear that the food convoys sent in by the authorities come nowhere near to providing the thousands of tons that are needed.

More significant has been the 1,700 tons of humanitarian assistance, including food, clothing and hygiene items, that were contributed by the Indian government in late November and distributed by the ICRC in early December. The Indian assistance aimed to provide 80,000 family parcels of assistance, designed to meet the essential needs of those families for three to four weeks.82

Furthermore, the departure of much of the farming community from the productive paddy fields in western Vanni, now under control of the Sri Lankan security forces, means that long-term food security for the Vanni is also at risk.

One of the most important functions of the humanitarian agencies was to fill the gap in food distribution for families who were newly displaced; even before the humanitarian withdrawal, it often took up to eight weeks to register newly displaced (or re-displaced) families in their location and put them on the regular WFP food distribution system. Humanitarian agencies provided these newly displaced families with the rations necessary to survive during this critical period. That emergency food ration capacity has been severely affected by the humanitarian withdrawal from the Vanni, putting newly displaced families at increased risk.

Shelter

Since the start of the monsoon season in October, the shelter needs of the displaced population have rapidly increased. Tens of thousands of displaced persons are currently living without adequate shelter. Many displaced families are currently living in low-lying paddy fields and along river banks. Makeshift shelters from cadjan (palm leaf) are not a substitute for properly constructed shelters, and such local materials are anyway not available in sufficient amounts to meet the shelter needs of the population.83

The vulnerability of the displaced population in the Vanni was dramatically illustrated by the impact of Cyclone Nisha. When Cyclone Nisha struck on November 25, 2008, an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 persons, the vast majority of them already displaced from their homes, were forced to relocate to escape the flood waters. Local authorities were reportedly instructed not to publicly release any data on the impact of the cyclone on the Vanni population.84 An estimated 13,382 shelters were destroyed in Mullaitivu district alone.85 Thousands of tarps and shelter kits were already stockpiled by the United Nations and humanitarian agencies in Vavuniya, but the authorities insisted that only tarps without humanitarian or United Nations logos would be allowed to enter the Vanni. Sri Lankan officials said they were concerned that tarps with UN or humanitarian logos would be abused by the LTTE to shield their military installations from attack. The practical result was that persons in dire need were denied available assistance.86

The lack of adequate shelter has a severe impact on the living conditions of displaced persons: living exposed to the elements, families are unable to keep themselves, their clothes, and food stocks dry, and they suffer from increased rates of disease. A mid-October interagency humanitarian assessment—the most recent one conducted, prior to the devastation of Cyclone Nisha—estimated that as many as 70 percent of the displaced persons in Tharmapuram were living in inadequate makeshift shelters, and concluded that more than 8,000 shelters were urgently needed in the neighboring Puthukudiyiruppu area.87 Government Agents in Kilinochchi and Mulaithivu districts estimated prior to Cyclone Nisha that at least 24,000 families (some 80,000 persons) were in need of proper shelter.88

Water and sanitation

In the crowded conditions in which displaced persons are living, ensuring access to clean, uncontaminated water and properly constructed sanitation facilities becomes a priority to prevent the outbreak of water-borne and communicable diseases. While clean water is generally available to displaced persons, the severe lack of properly constructed latrines means that open defecation is widespread, leading health authorities in the Vanni to express serious concerns about the outbreak of waterborne diseases. As one humanitarian worker explained to Human Rights Watch, “When someone is displaced, they don’t bring their toilet with them.”89

An October humanitarian assessment mission found an urgent need to construct 4,000 new latrines in Tharmapuram and Puthukudiyiruppu areas alone.90 The November floods further damaged water and sanitation facilities in the Vanni, causing increased concern about the potential outbreak of water-borne diseases.91 The long-standing blockade on cement shipments entering the Vanni—reportedly to hinder LTTE efforts to build reinforced military defenses—hampers the ability to construct proper latrines.

The inadequacy of proper latrine and washing facilities also increases the danger of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) against women, because they are forced to use open-air facilities, often in isolated jungle areas, instead. The dangers posed by the lack of proper shelters is illustrated by the unusually high number of snake bites reported since the withdrawal of the humanitarian community; 194 snake bite patients were admitted to the Tharmapuram hospital in October alone, including two that were fatal.92 Most of these snake bite incidents are reportedly due to the widespread practice of open defecation caused by the lack of toilet facilities.

Health care and psychosocial counseling

The heavy concentration of displaced persons in a relatively small area of the Vanni has severely taxed existing health care facilities in the area. There has been a sharp increase in diarrhea due to water contamination, fever and cough due to exposure to the elements, snake bites due to inadequate shelter and sanitation facilities, and traffic accidents caused by panicking civilians seeking to flee (540 traffic accidents, including two fatalities, were reported during October in Tharmapuram alone).93 The caseloads of the few functioning medical facilities has tripled,94 while the number of medical staff available to respond to this rising caseload has diminished.

While the ICRC plays an important role in supporting the medical system in the Vanni,95 the withdrawal of other assistance to the medical sector from humanitarian agencies has weakened the medical response capacity. Because of restrictions on movements on certain goods and services into the Vanni, acute shortages of essential medicines including snake serum, antibiotics, pediatric medicines, vaccines, and diabetic medicines have been reported.96

UNHCR and UNICEF did include some items with the World Food Program convoys that addressed some of the medical needs of the displaced persons, including two trucks of mosquito nets to prevent the spread of malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases, hygiene kits, medical kits, and pre-natal kits.97

One urgent need, particularly for children, is psychosocial support for the stress caused by the nearly continual bombardment and shelling many people have experienced from the fighting. Many independent observers in the Vanni have noticed signs of severe psychological stress among the displaced population.98

A child protection official explained to Human Rights Watch:

Children in the Vanni are currently suffering stress, and the symptoms are very visible: children crying, screaming, easily [frightened], suffering nightmares, food disorders, and many other symptoms.99

Psychosocial counseling and support was traditionally provided by humanitarian organizations that have now been ordered out of the Vanni. The capacity of government agencies and teachers to respond to the high level of psychological stress in the Vanni is severely limited by the lack of trained persons who could provide such support and counseling—some of the only trained counselors present in the Vanni at the moment are teachers (an estimated 5 percent of teachers in the Vanni have received psychosocial training).100

Education

Continuity in education is important not only so that children can learn, but also because the school environment creates an environment of relative safety and stability that helps children cope with the strains of living in a conflict zone. Ensuring continuity in education limits the amount of psychosocial trauma experienced by children during conflict.101

Because of the massive displacement and concentration of displaced persons in the Vanni, the educational system has become severely stressed. The limited number of schools that continue to function (including schools that are themselves displaced from their original location) have to cope with an influx of tens of thousands of additional students displaced from their original schools. In Puthukudiyiruppu, the authorities have reported an additional 7,848 displaced pupils, while in Tharmapuram the authorities estimate an additional 26,000 displaced pupils.102

The ability of the authorities to cope with this massive influx of displaced students is further compromised by the fact that dozens of schools in the Vanni are also being used to house displaced persons, and so can no longer be used for their original educational purpose. The situation was further affected by the November floods, when many school buildings were used to provide emergency shelter to people who lost their shelters from flood waters.103

The influx of students has strained not only the shelter capacity of the schools, but also their water and sanitation capacity, and has led to an acute shortage of textbooks, stationary, uniforms, and school furniture at the schools.104 UNICEF did include a number of blackboards and educational materials for primary and secondary students on one of the WFP convoys, but in small quantities.105

Government orders the UN and aid agencies to leave

On September 5, 2008, Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa ordered all UN and humanitarian agencies to withdraw from the Vanni, stating that the intensification of the fighting meant the government could no longer guarantee the security of aid workers in the conflict zone.106 In a directive to the NGOs, he ordered the withdrawal “with immediate effect” of all NGO equipment and non-resident staff from the Vanni. Henceforth, “in consideration of the prevailing security situation,” no expatriates or NGO workers, including Sri Lankan nationals who are not residents of the Vanni, would be allowed to pass the Omanthai checkpoint into the Vanni,107

As the deadline approached, Minister of Human Rights and Disaster Management Mahinda Samarasinghe issued a statement that “we will refuse to treat as relief workers [those] who still remain in the [Vanni]”—a chilling warning to humanitarian workers in a country where at least 29 aid workers have been killed since 2006.108

The UN agencies agreed to an almost immediate withdrawal of their staff from the Vanni, announcing on September 15 that it had “been compelled to temporarily relocate from Kilinochchi because of our security assessment that the situation has become too dangerous to remain working from there at this time.” No mention was made that their withdrawal was due to the September 5 government directive.109

To the frustration of some humanitarian workers, the UN did not seem to have contested the forced withdrawal of humanitarian organizations from the Vanni, or attempted to seek a delay to put alternative humanitarian structures in place. Despite the approaching government offensive on Kilinochchi, the site of its operational humanitarian headquarters for the Vanni, the UN did not implement contingency plans to relocate the UN operations and essential staff to safer locations in the Vanni, such as Puthukudiyiruppu. There was in any case no question about remaining in Kilinochchi because of the heavy shelling and aerial bombing of the town.

Faced with the UN decision to withdraw its staff from the Vanni, humanitarian organizations were also forced to comply with the government order. In the following days, CARE International, the Danish Refugee Council, OXFAM GB, Save the Children, World Vision, the Sewa Lanka Foundation, the Solidar Consortium, and FORUT all closed down their humanitarian programs in the Vanni and withdrew their international and local staff who were not Vanni residents from the conflict zone.110 The LTTE refused repeated requests by humanitarian agencies and the UN to allow Vanni residents working for the UN to leave the Vanni as well, so humanitarian groups were forced to leave behind more than 300 national staff who were Vanni residents. Concerns remain about the security of these national staff, most of whom currently work as humanitarian “volunteers” under the direction of the Government Agents in the Vanni. The LTTE has attempted to forcibly recruit some former humanitarian workers to join their forces (see below).

Government hostility toward the humanitarian community

The almost immediate withdrawal of the UN and NGOs from the Vanni following the order of the defense secretary remains controversial.111 One factor that likely weighed heavily on the humanitarian organizations was the August 2006 execution-style slayings of 17 Sri Lankan aid workers working for Action Contre la Faim (ACF), a Paris-based humanitarian organization, in the eastern town of Mutur following the withdrawal of LTTE forces. There are strong indications of the involvement of government security forces in the killings.112 An inquiry by the attorney general and then a slow-moving investigation into the killings by a Presidential Commission of Inquiry established soon after the killings to examine this and other serious cases have faced government interference and obstruction.113 To date no one has been held accountable for the killings.

Many humanitarian workers and human rights activists believe that government security forces may have targeted the ACF workers because ACF had ignored other forms of pressure on NGOs to withdraw from the Mutur area. Prior to the killing of ACF staff, the Mutur offices of ZOA Refugee Care, INTERSOS, and the Nonviolent Peaceforce had received threatening anonymous letters or had been attacked with grenades.114

Defense Secretary Rajapaksa specified that he wanted to avoid a repeat of the 2006 ACF killings when he ordered the withdrawal of humanitarian staff from the Vanni, saying, “We don’t want to get into a situation like that, so we are giving [the aid groups] adequate notice [to withdraw].”115 The fear of a repeat of such an incident certainly added to the haste with which the UN and NGOs withdrew from the Vanni.

However, the fear of targeted attacks against humanitarian workers was not the only reason for the speedy withdrawal; almost immediately after the withdrawal order, the Sri Lankan forces greatly intensified their shelling and aerial bombing of Kilinochchi, risking the physical security of humanitarian staff.116 A humanitarian aid worker based in Kilinochchi later described his ordeal to the BBC:

Day after day, the constant rumble of heavy artillery got closer and closer. Twenty-four hours a day, my office, bedroom, kitchen and bunker would be shaking with the thumps of shells landing. The sensation of approaching doom was all too real with this kind of warfare.117

One aid official refused to immediately withdraw from the Vanni. Giovanni Porta, the Vanni coordinator for the Dutch aid group ZOA Refugee Care, attempted to remain in the Vanni after the UN withdrawal, and to continue ZOA’s vitally important humanitarian programs. Porta did exit from the Vanni prior to the government deadline for the withdrawal of all humanitarian staff on September 29, but Porta and ZOA were immediately accused by the government of supporting the LTTE for his refusal to leave earlier. Defense ministry officials falsely accused Porta of having “joined the LTTE,” and falsely suggested that he had informed ZOA of his decision to become “an LTTE fighter.”118 ZOA, which has humanitarian programs throughout Sri Lanka, was threatened by government officials with closure of all of its operations if Porta didn’t end his defiance of the government order to withdraw.119 As explained above, Porta did leave the Vanni prior to the government’s deadline for withdrawal, so did not in fact disobey any government orders.

The government’s vilification of Porta ignored that he was an experienced and well-respected humanitarian official in the Vanni who had a reputation for being willing to confront the LTTE on its abusive practices.120 He had his visa cancelled almost immediately after his departure from the Vanni, forcing him to leave Sri Lanka by October 5.121 The government’s attack on such a respected humanitarian official was doubtlessly intended to send a strong message to the rest of the humanitarian community.

The Sri Lankan government was correct in stating that, “as the UN and INGOs [international nongovernmental organizations] are working in the Vanni at the [government’s] invitation, the Government has an obligation to ensure the safety and security of all those working there.”122 However, the claim by the authorities that the withdrawal of humanitarian organizations was necessary for the safety of their staff seems hollow given that the ICRC and the locally-based CARITAS workers of the Catholic Church were allowed to continue operations in the Vanni and have not had any significant security incidents since the withdrawal.123 The UN and humanitarian agencies work in many conflicts around the world where their security is at greater threat than in the Vanni region.

The UN has also shown that it is able to operate in the complex humanitarian environment of the Vanni should the government allow it to do so. At least seven UN food convoys and one interagency UN assessment mission have gone into the Vanni since the withdrawal, with only minor problems (one food convoy had to return after shelling broke out on its route, but managed to reach the area the next day). Humanitarian organizations have similar capacity and experience. Hence, the security of the UN and NGOs themselves is not the main obstacle to continuing humanitarian operations in the Vanni, but rather the government’s order to the UN and NGOs to withdraw.

Instead of striving to provide a secure climate for humanitarian assistance, Sri Lankan civilian and military officials and pro-government newspapers have intensified their verbal attacks on the humanitarian community. Humanitarian organizations, particularly those that engage in advocacy and raise human rights concerns, are frequently accused of being pro-LTTE and supporting terrorism, charges that put the physical security of their staff at risk.

For example, on November 21 and 23, 2008, the Lanka newspaper published a series of articles falsely claiming that humanitarian agencies had constructed a bunker system in Kilinochchi for the LTTE (the bunkers, at all UN and NGO offices, had been constructed for the safety of the staff), and had supplied the LTTE with funds, vehicles, and communications equipment.124 On November 21, several Sri Lankan newspapers quoted Defense Secretary Rajapaksa as stating that he would expel all international NGOs from Sri Lanka if he could: “If I can, I will ban all NGOs [from] coming to Sri Lanka, and also turn back those [who are] already here. None of these NGOs have done anything for the northern people[.]”125 The government has also asked several prominent humanitarian organizations to end their operations in Sri Lanka and leave the country, and have increasingly refused visas to foreign aid workers.126 On several occasions, government officials have intimidated humanitarian agencies to prevent them from publicizing critical information, in one case pressuring UNHCR to call off an NGO presentation to the donor community on an extensive Vanni household study.127 In such a climate of intimidation and threats to their operations, humanitarian actors are reluctant to carry out any kind of public advocacy on the fate of the Vanni’s displaced population.

Humanitarian impact of the UN/NGO withdrawal

The government-ordered humanitarian withdrawal from the Vanni is having a serious impact on the remaining population. As already discussed above, there is some controversy over the total number of displaced persons currently in the Vanni, with the most reliable estimates in the region of 230,000 to 300,000, about 70 percent of the present civilian population in the area. The remaining local (non-displaced) population living in LTTE-controlled areas of the Vanni faces almost identical security concerns and humanitarian problems, so the total affected population—displaced and non-displaced—is well over 300,000, even by conservative estimates. Many of the displaced have been displaced since March 2008, and have had to move as many as 10 times since then because of shifting frontlines. They are increasingly in need of food aid, shelter, medical assistance, and other essential services.
Government authorities have stated repeatedly that in the absence of humanitarian agencies present in the Vanni, the government itself will assume primary responsibility for the humanitarian needs of the war-affected population, even though that population is in LTTE-controlled territory.128

Under international humanitarian law, the government is indeed responsible for meeting the humanitarian needs of the war-affected population. Parties to an internal armed conflict must allow humanitarian relief to reach civilian populations that are in need of food, medicine, and other items essential to their survival.129 If the government is unable to fully meet this obligation, they must allow the humanitarian community to do so on their behalf. Parties to a conflict must ensure the freedom of movement of impartial humanitarian relief personnel—only in cases of military necessity may their activities or movements be temporarily restricted.130

The UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement provide authoritative standards on the obligations of governments to internally displaced persons. Under the principles, the authorities are to provide displaced persons “at a minimum” with safe access to essential food and potable water, basic shelter and housing, appropriate clothing, and essential medical services and sanitation.131 Many of these needs are not currently being met in the Vanni, as documented above.

According to Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe, the government intends to distribute food through its network of Government Agents and District Secretaries, using the existing Multipurpose Cooperative Society (MPCS) stores to distribute the rations.132

However, this approach ignores the fact that prior to the departure of the humanitarian organizations from the Vanni, government officials administered the distribution system, but NGOs and their local staff carried the actual distribution of most items.133 Further, the capacity of the government to assume primary responsibility for humanitarian delivery in the Vanni—again, a capacity the government did not assume prior to the September 2008 humanitarian withdrawal—has been further weakened by the large number of government officials who themselves have been forced to flee the conflict in the Vanni. A mid-October UN assessment mission found, for example, that eight of the 16 Grama Sevaka (GS) officers responsible for registering displaced persons in Tharmapuram had fled the area, even though there were still more than 84,000 displaced persons in the Tharmapuram area.134

The Sri Lankan authorities, even assuming the best of motives, simply do not have the capacity to meet the immediate and long-term needs of hundreds of thousands of displaced persons in the Vanni. There are serious concerns that Sri Lanka lacks the capacity to handle a possible humanitarian crisis of this scale on its own. Walter Kälin, the representative of the UN secretary-general on the human rights of internally displaced persons, noted in his May 2008 report that the government of Sri Lanka relies heavily on international organizations to supply food and non-food humanitarian assistance, and that most immediate emergency assistance is provided by international agencies and NGOs.135 Prior to the closing of the Vanni, international agencies had provided significant aid and programming to assist victims of the ongoing conflict there. Similarly, in other parts of Sri Lanka, international agencies have performed a vital role in assisting civilians at risk.

To date, the Sri Lankan government has not demonstrated that it has the capacity to cover the whole range of assistance needed by the civilian population in the Vanni. In particular, the provision of water and sanitation facilities in IDP camps, supplementary feeding, and distribution of non-food items are areas of assistance historically borne by UN agencies and international NGOs. Other areas, such as protection and extra care of vulnerable groups such as separated children, victims of trauma, the elderly, and nursing and pregnant women, are also fields where international actors have specialized expertise.

There are important mitigating factors, including the continuing presence of the ICRC and Caritas, as well as continued presence of more than 300 local staff of the UN and international humanitarian agencies in the Vanni, working as “volunteers” under the direction of the Government Agents.136 These “volunteers” are UN and INGO national staff whom the LTTE did not allow to leave with the rest of the humanitarian community at the time of the government-ordered withdrawal. With their agencies absent, they are now at greater risk of forced LTTE recruitment and other abuses, and are in part now working for the Government Agents’ offices as “volunteers” as a limited form of protection against these risks.

For many of the “volunteers,” their situation is fraught with contradictions and challenges; as former employees of non-governmental organizations, they now find themselves working for the government, and are unable to coordinate their work with their former UN and NGO supervisors. Many INGO and UN officials who were allowed to leave the Vanni were devastated by the experience of having to abandon their long-time local staff, and are deeply worried about their long-term security. But with the Sri Lankan authorities refusing to allow humanitarian and UN agencies to operate in the Vanni, or to recognize the status of the national workers as humanitarian workers, those left behind in the Vanni had no choice but to go seek safety by “volunteering” to work for the Government Agents.137

These ad-hoc mechanisms are not a substitute for a multi-sectoral humanitarian operation addressing the food, medical, shelter, water and sanitation, education, and other needs of the population. Further, during the fighting in eastern Sri Lanka in 2006 and 2007, the government was not prepared to meet the needs of the war-affected population and the UN and humanitarian NGOs provided the vast majority of humanitarian assistance. It is not at all clear that the government has since developed the capacity and resources to provide assistance on the scale currently required in the Vanni.

Forcing out expatriate humanitarian organizations in the Vanni may also have removed one of the best means of providing some measure of protection from abuses by LTTE and government forces. Protection officials from the UN and humanitarian agencies played a valuable role documenting abuses and advocating, often quietly, for an end to abuses by both the LTTE and the government security forces, particularly in trying to end forced child recruitment by the LTTE.

As one international aid worker commented to the BBC, discussing the local protests that briefly delayed the withdrawal of the humanitarian community from Kilinochchi:

The demonstrators were so polite and respectful to us. They were not angry, they were desperate. They understood that we needed to end our operations, and told us that they would manage themselves with shelter and water. It was the prospect of our physical departure that terrified them. With no international presence and no witness to the conflict, they believed that many atrocities would occur and no one would see this.138

Since the withdrawal of the UN and humanitarian presence from the Vanni, such protection monitoring, limited as it was, has virtually disappeared. Protection officials say that they have little idea about what is happening in the Vanni today, particularly regarding abuses against the civilian population by the LTTE.

By forcing the UN and humanitarian agencies to withdraw from the Vanni, the government has virtually shut the door on direct, independent reporting on abuses committed by all sides in the conflict (the ICRC operates on the basis of strict confidentiality). The absence of an international humanitarian presence stops any independent checks on the abuse of LTTE influence in the distribution of aid, or the politicization of aid distribution (for example, by using food aid to direct the movement of displaced persons).139

The restrictions on independent reporting from the Vanni are so severe that no foreign journalist has gained independent, unrestricted access to the Vanni since the conflict intensified in January 2007, in stark contrast with most other conflicts in the world. Monitoring and reporting of human rights abuses and violations of the laws of war are fundamental to ensuring the protection of the civilian population in times of conflict.

The order to the UN and humanitarian agencies to withdraw from the Vanni appears to be based on the over-optimistic beliefs of Sri Lankan government officials that they would capture the LTTE administrative headquarters of Kilinochchi almost immediately, and score a decisive victory over the LTTE throughout the Vanni soon thereafter. For this reason, the withdrawal order was characterized as a temporary measure to allow the government to finish its offensive. President Mahinda Rajapaksa told journalists on September 16 that the withdrawal order was “a short-term measure. Very soon [the humanitarians] can go back,” adding that he was confident that his army could “crush” the LTTE.140

However, the government optimism has not been borne out; two months of heavy fighting later, the LTTE remains in control of Kilinochchi, and the Sri Lankan security forces are likely to face a drawn-out counterinsurgency operation in the LTTE jungle strongholds of Mulaitivu even if Kilinochchi falls. At the time of writing, three months after the government order, no humanitarian organizations have been allowed back to the Vanni and there is no sign that the government plans to change its stance. The order to withdraw the humanitarian community needs to be rescinded.
____________________________
70 Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process, “Government Services to All in Sri Lanka and Especially to Internally Displaced Persons,” Government of Sri Lanka, December 3, 2008.
71 Human Rights Watch communication with humanitarian official, December 15, 2008.
72 Human Rights Watch interview with humanitarian official, Colombo, October 8, 2008.
73 The WFP food ration includes 400 grams of cereals, 60 grams of pulses, 20 grams of oil, and 20 grams of sugar. Human Rights Watch communication with UN spokesperson, December 12, 2008.
74 The formula used by WFP to estimate nutritional needs is: (number of persons) x 0.5 kg WFP daily ration x 30 days /1,000 (to obtain tonnage). Human Rights Watch communication with UN spokesperson Gordon Weiss, December 13, 2008.
75 ((230,000 IDPs) x (0.5 kg ration) x (90 days)) / 1,000 = 10,350 metric tons.
76 Human Rights Watch communication with humanitarian official, December 12, 2008; Human Rights Watch communication with humanitarian official, December 15, 2008.
77 Human Rights Watch communication with humanitarian official, December 2, 2008.
78 Presentation on UN interagency assessment mission of October 17-18, 2008, on file with Human Rights Watch.
79 Letter of Government Agent of Vavuniya to NGO Consortium, dated October 14, 2008, on file with Human Rights Watch.
80 Human Rights Watch communication with humanitarian official, December 2, 2008.
81 Human Rights Watch communication with humanitarian official, December 2, 2008.
82 ICRC press release, “Sri Lanka: Conflict-hit population to receive Indian government aid through ICRC,” November 20, 2008; ICRC operational update, “ICRC distributes aid in the Vanni, assists Jaffna flood victims,” December 11, 2008; Government of Sri Lanka press release, “50 truck convoy dispatched to Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu,” December 2, 2008.
83 Human Rights Watch communication with protection official, December 2, 2008.
84 Human Rights Watch communication with protection official, November 27, 2008. The Vanni-based Government Agents later did provide figures to the humanitarian community. According to the Government Agents, 45,000 families were affected by the floods in Kilinochchi district, including 23,000 families who were displaced by the floods, and 21,200 families were affected in Mullaitivu district. Inter-Agency Standing Committee Country Team (Sri Lanka), Situation Report 155.
85 Inter-Agency Standing Committee Country Team (Sri Lanka), Situation Report 155.
86 Human Rights Watch communication with protection official, November 27, 2008.
87 Presentation on UN interagency assessment mission of October 17-18, 2008, on file with Human Rights Watch.
88 Figures presented by GA of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu at November 4, 2008, meeting with humanitarian officials in Vavuniya.
89 Human Rights Watch communication with humanitarian official, November 23, 2008.
90 Presentation on UN interagency assessment mission of October 17-18, 2008, on file with Human Rights Watch.
91 Inter-Agency Standing Committee Country Team (Sri Lanka), Situation Report 155.
92 Inter-Agency Standing Committee Sri Lanka, Situation Report 151, October 30-November 6, 2008.
93 Ibid.
94 Presentation on UN interagency assessment mission of October 17-18, 2008, on file with Human Rights Watch.
95 ICRC operational update, “Sri Lanka: As Rains Arrive, ICRC steps up help for civilians fleeing conflict in the Vanni,” November 14, 2008.
96 Presentation on UN interagency assessment mission of October 17-18, 2008, on file with Human Rights Watch.
97 Human Rights Watch communication with humanitarian official, December 15, 2008; Human Rights Watch communication with UNICEF spokesperson, December 16, 2008.
98 Human Rights Watch communication with UN official, December 16, 2008.
99 Human Rights Watch communication with UN official, December 16, 2008.
100 Presentation on UN interagency assessment mission of October 17-18, 2008, on file with Human Rights Watch. For the moment, the proper psychosocial response would include counseling parents about the effects of the stress on their children, so that parents understand that the behaviors exhibited by the children are expected behaviors under stress, and aiming to provide, to the extent possible, a stable environment for the children, with regular schedules, normal school attendance, recreational opportunities, and explanations to the children about what is happening around them. Human Rights Watch communication with child protection official, December 16, 2008.
101 “Report of Graça Machel, Expert of the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children,” August 26, 1996, UN Doc. A/51/150, para. 185.
102 Presentation on UN interagency assessment mission of October 17-18, 2008, on file with Human Rights Watch.
103 Inter-Agency Standing Committee Country Team (Sri Lanka), Situation Report 155.
104 Presentation on UN interagency assessment mission of October 17-18, 2008, on file with Human Rights Watch.
105 Human Rights Watch communication with humanitarian official, December 15, 2008.
106 Ranga Sirilal, “Sri Lanka Orders Aid Workers Out of War Zone,” Reuters, September 8, 2008; Government of Sri Lanka, “INGOs asked to quit LTTE-held area, UN ‘relocations’ to start,” September 10, 2008.
107 Secretary to the Ministry of Defense, Public Security, and Law and Order, Letter dated September 5, 2008, SMOD/320/DEM/GEN(45).
108 “Sri Lanka sets deadline on aid agencies to quit rebel stronghold,” Xinhua, September 29, 2008.
109 United Nations Office of the Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator, “Statement,” September 15, 2008. An earlier UN statement on September 9 “acknowledges the announcement by the Government of Sri Lanka that they can no longer ensure the safety of aid workers in the Vanni, and their request that UN and NGO staff should relocate to government-held territory,” and said that the UN was “now evaluating its options.” United Nations Office of the Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator, “Statement,” September 9, 2008.
110 Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies, “Final Report of NGO/INGO from Vanni,” November 2008. ZOA Refugee Care did not immediately withdraw its staff, but did leave the Vanni before the expiry of the government deadline.
111 See, e.g., University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Pawns of an Un-heroic War, Special Report No. 31, October 28, 2008.
112 See University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Unfinished Business of the Five Students and ACF Cases – A Time to call the Bluff, Special Report No.30, April 1, 2008.
113 Ibid; International Commission of Jurists press release, “Sri Lanka: ICJ Inquest Observer Finds Flaws in Investigation into Killing of ACF Aid Worker,” April 23, 2007, http://www.icj.org/news.php3?id_article=4151&lang=eng.
114 Human Rights Watch, Return to War: Human Rights Under Siege, pp. 93-94; University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Pawns of an Unheroic War, Special Report No. 31,October 28, 2008.
115 Ravi Nessman, “Aid Groups Ordered Out of the Vanni,” Daily Mirror (Colombo), September 8, 2008.
116 Human Rights Watch correspondence with humanitarian official, December 2, 2008, on file at Human Rights Watch.
117 “’Pain’ of Sri Lanka Aid Pullout,” BBC, September 23, 2008.
118 “INGO Kingpin with Italian passport joins LTTE as fighter,” The Island, September 28, 2008.
119 Human Rights Watch interview with humanitarian official, Colombo, October 8, 2008.
120 Ibid; Human Rights Watch interview with humanitarian official, Vavuniya, October 16, 2008.
121 “Foreign Aid Worker Asked to Leave Sri Lanka,” Xinhua, October 1, 2008; Human Rights Watch interview with humanitarian official, Colombo, October 8, 2008.
122 Statement of Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe, Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights press release, “UN, INGOs to relocate humanitarian operations to Vavuniya,” September 9, 2008.
123 International Committee of the Red Cross press release, “ICRC continues humanitarian work in LTTE-controlled area,” September 19, 2008.
124 “The Inside Story of the NGO Operation to Protect Tiger Power in Kilinochchi,” Lanka, November 21, 2008; “Here is the NGO Operation to Protect Kilinochchi: Secret Bunkers in NGO offices for the safety of the Tigers,” Lanka, November 23, 2008.
125 “All NGOs other than the UN and ICRC should be banned: Defense Secretary,” Divaina, November 21, 2008; “If I have the power, I will ban all NGOs in Lanka except ICRC and UN Agencies,” Virakesari, November 21, 2008.
126 On December 2, the defense ministry reportedly refused to renew the visa of Guy Rhodes, the coordinator of the SOLIDAR NGO consortium. “Chief of SOLIDAR SL ordered to leave,” Divaina, December 2, 2008. Ironically, Rhodes had presented a paper entitled “INGO Operational Constraints in the Vanni” in February 2008, focusing on issues such as visa restrictions imposed by the defense ministry. On November 30, the Sunday Times newspaper reported that the Sri Lankan authorities had decided to ask three INGOs—the Norwegian Peoples Aid, the Norwegian-Swedish FORUT, and the Dutch ZOA—to cease their operations in Sri Lanka for their “poor record.” All three affected organizations had prominent operations in the Vanni. Leon Berenger, “3 INGOs to be sent home,” Sunday Times (Colombo), November 30, 2008.
127 Human Rights Watch interview with humanitarian official, Colombo, October 10, 2008.
128 Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights press release, “UN, INGOs to relocate humanitarian operations to Vavuniya,” September 9, 2008.
129 See ICRC, Customary International Humanitarian Law, rule 55.
130 ICRC, Customary International Humanitarian Law, rule 56, citing the First Additional Protocol of 1977 to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, article 71(3), which is viewed as reflective of customary law.
131 UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, principle 18.
132 Government of Sri Lanka press release, “Relocation of NGOs and INGOs will not stop relief activities—Minister Samarasinghe,” September 16, 2008.
133 Human Rights Watch interview with humanitarian official, Colombo, October 8, 2008.
134 Presentation on UN interagency assessment mission of October 17-18, 2008, on file with Human Rights Watch.
135 United Nations Human Rights Council, “Report of the Representative of the Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internallly Displaced Persons, Walter Kälin, Mission to Sri Lanka (14 to 21 December 2007),” May 21, 2008, UN Doc. A/HRC/Add.4.
136Human Rights Watch communication with humanitarian official, October 10, 2008.
137 Internal draft report on humanitarian volunteers operating in the Vanni, on file with Human Rights Watch.
138 “‘Pain’ of Sri Lanka pull-out,” BBC, September 23, 2008.
139 Human Rights Watch interview with humanitarian official, Colombo, October 8, 2008.
140 C. Bryson Hull, “Sri Lanka says aid workers to return to north soon,” Reuters, September 16, 2008.

December 22, 2008

Intense fighting on five different fronts in Kilinochchi: 160 killed, 350 injured on both sides

Intense fighting that began in the Kilinochchi sector around dawn on Monday December 22nd 2008 continues to rage even after nightfall, informed sources said.

Nearly 160 have been killed and more than 350 injured from both thew Sri Lankan armed forces as well as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) the sources said.

The fighting on Monday morning commenced following a massive operation being launched by the 57 and 58 divisions of the Army on fife different fronts.

The 18 km long “L” shaped earth bund cum trench constructed by the LTTE to safeguard Kilinochcgi and its environs was the chief target.

Soldiers from the 58 division or task force one attacked tiger positions near the Kunchuparan and Uruthirapuram area on the first front.

Soldiers of the same division attacked LTTE positions in the Nivil – North Adampan area on the second front.

Soldiers of the 57 division attacked tiger positions in the Adampan South area on the third front.

57 division troops also moved north of Thirumurugandy on the fourth front.

57 division soldiers also attacked tiger positions in the Iranaimadhu area on the fifth front.

All five fronts however pertained to the Kilinochchi sector and any progressive military movement was aimed at the ultimate objective of Kilinochchi town.

After prolonged fighting on all five fronts troops from the 58 division withdrew to former positions in the Kunchuparanthan – Uruthirapuram area.

Likewise soldiers of 57 division also pulled back by evening in the Iranaimadhu sector.

Fighting on the other three fronts raged on throughout the night.

The Sri Lankan Air Force also conducted six aerial bombardments on the battlefront.

The Army had breached the earthbund in the Adampan north and South areas and established a hold on about two km lengths of the bund.

According to informed sources the army has lost around a hundred men while the LTTE lost around 60 cadres in the fighting pn Monday.

About 260 soldiers and 90 tigers were injured said sources.

The single day of fighting had resulted in the combined loss of nearly 160 deats and more than 350 injuries.

Army or LTTE the casualties are all Sri Lankan, lamented a journalist in Colombo.

The fighting was continuing in three of the original five fronts during night hours.

December 21, 2008

Sinhala refugee couple jailed in Tamil Nadu

By A Special Correspondent

The newly married Sinhala couple that sought landed off Arichamunai coast in the Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu state and sought political asylum in India have been denied refugee status by Indian authorities.

The authorities were not satisfied with the bona fides of the couple during interrogation and have decided to charge both husband and wife as offenders under the Indian passport act as neither of them had any proper travel document in their possession.

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Sharuha Bilkani and Dushra Chandana

While thousands of Tamils fleeing persecution in Sri Lanka were afforded refugee status by India this is the first instance of a Sinhala person or persons doing so.

The couple originally from Colombo, claimed to have eloped because of parental opposition, stayed with Tamil friends in Vavuniya and made their way to Arichamunai with other Tamil refufees from Talaimannar coast.

Authorities were also intrigued by the extraordinary interest shown in the case by Sri Lankan deputy – high commissioner in Chennai, PM Amsa.

Amsa has initiated efforts to assist the couple and also told the media that all possible help would be given

This is seen as extremely unusual because no diplomats from any country accredited to a foreign country intervene in cases where nationals of their country seek political asylum in the country concerned claiming to flee the mother country.

In this case the Sri Lankan deputy high commissioners interest in the couple has raised doubts about the genuineness of the couple’s claim

Though thousands of Tamil refugees are on Indian soil Mr. Amsa has bever shown any concern or care in their welfare so far.

Ramanathapuram Police superintendent KA Senthilvelan said that the couple had orally requested asylum first but later after interrogation changed their story and claimed it to be an incident of elopement.

As such no formal asylum application was signed.

They had marrived with a group of Tamil refugees and made a group claim but had later amended their stance.

No Sinhalese had made a refugee claim before.

As such they were charged under the Passport act said Senthilvelan.

30 year old Thushara Chandana was produced before Rameswaram judicial magistrate Vijay Kumar and then sent to the Madurai jail.

His wife 18 year old Sharuha Bilkani was escorted by Women Police to Madurai to be produced before a juvenile court in Madurai.

Meanwhile the Sri Lankan deputy high commission in Chennai has retained lawyers to watch the interest of the Sinhala couple

Solution lies in the internal self-determination of the Tamil people in areas of historic habitation

TNA Leader R. Sampanthan expresses his views on the situation in the Wanni, the rumblings in Tamil Nadu and the role of the minority communities in Sri Lanka on the eve of another delegation of the TNA is planning to leave for India to address the concerns on the situation in the Island:

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[R. Sampanthan MP]

Q: A broad alliance of Tamil political parties, minus the TNA, was formed with the intention of addressing the concerns of the Tamil community in the country. How do you see this development?

Anyone has the right to form an alliance. Neither we; the ITAK nor the TULF, will be a party to such an alliance. I don’t claim any exclusiveness to Tamil concerns or to undermine the right of anyone else to speak for these rights. If anyone has a different political outlook they have every right to obtain that verdict through the people. It is no one’s prerogative to say that its their right to represent anyone. But what is crucial is that they are committed to winning the aspirations of the Tamil people. There is broad agreement in the community that a solution must lie in internal self-determination of the Tamil people in their areas of historical habitation. It is my hope that anybody wanting to speak about these rights understand these realities.

Q:A delegation of the TNA is again going to meet the Indian Premier on bringing some pressure on the government’s military exercises. How confident are you in being successful this time?

When the PM came to Sri Lanka for the SAARC summit it was agreed that there would be further discussion in New Delhi. That hadn’t happened yet. We are therefore hoping to meet him and also the Indian Foreign Minister. We will also meet political leaders from the BJP , the left parties etc. We have raised sufficient awareness in the Indian people of the situation in Sri Lanka and the violations of human rights. There is now a wide discussion on what’s happening in the North.

Q:How serious is the deportation notice issued on your MP Sivajilingam. Where does it leave your support base in Tamil Nadu?

I don’t think anything has happened to him. He has been in India for sometime trying to explain the plight of the Tamil people to the people there. I don’t think anything would happen to affect the policies of our party or the opportunities we have to discuss this situation with the Indian political hierarchy in any way.

Q:The TNA has been working extremely hard to get the support of the Indian government towards some form of intervention on the military exercises in the Wanni. Can you honestly say that the Central government has taken the rumpus in Tamil Nadu seriously?

I don’t want anyone to draw any inferences in regard to our thinking. India has always been concerned about the Tamil question. There is no doubt about that. All that happened in the past is a sign of that commitment of the Indian governments towards a political resolution to the problem of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. On the southern tip of India is a population of 70 million Tamil people . So they are very concerned about the plight of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. There has never been any need for us to evoke any great concern in regard to India’s commitment. India clearly wants the problem resolved in an amicable way. In that situation we would endeavour to do anything we can to help that process. There’s however no sense of euphoria or disappointment on what has or hasn’t happened. On the upsurge of the political environment in Tamil Nadu, a discussion has taken place in the Tamil Nadu assembly and a resolution passed and TN politicians headed by its Chief Minister have met the Prime Minister of India and certain commitments have been made.

Q:You accuse the government of continuing to harass the Tamil people in the Wanni despite an assurance to the Central Government in New Delhi that Tamil civilians will not be harmed by Special Envoy, Basil Rajapaksa in New Delhi had given. How do you support such claims?

I have placed facts before the Parliament on incidents after Mr. Rajapaksa’s visit to New Delhi where innocent civilians have been killed or injured, houses and temples have been destroyed by the military exercises and the situation in the war zone. Almost every day there are people getting killed and injured and property destroyed. This is a daily feature and there is no question about the facts. Some of the supporting material I placed before the Parliament are press reports. Our position is that there is no moral justification for the prosecution of the war as the govt. hasn’t come up with an acceptable political solution and for that reason the govt. solely places its faith in a military solution.

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Q:How can you say the government is purely looking at a military solution when there is a political process by which an All Party Representative Committee is tasked with looking at a political solution to the question?

We are not concerned with the APRC because we have not been consulted. We have not ever been invited to take part in that process. The President himself has said that he will not invite the main Tamil political party ITAK until he has the consensus of the Sinhala community. Anyway we know how the APRCs functioned in the past. We know that the UNP and JVP are also not in the process. If they really want then the government can come up with a proposal. But instead even the Majority experts report that came out was resigned to the dustbin despite it being one of a committee appointed by the President himself.

Q: “In the report "Trapped and Mistreated," the HRW called upon the LTTE to allow civilians to leave areas under its control; to respect the right to freedom of movement and the right to move to government-controlled territory for safety; end all recruitment of children under the age of 18; and stop forcing civilians to engage in labour directly related to the conduct of military operations. Isn’t this an indication that world opinion is finally changing towards the LTTE and are these also concerns you share?

I am not a member of the LTTE so I don’t have to answer on their behalf. And I am not contradicting the HRW report. They could have used facts frankly. And all I can say is that all killing and suffering must come to an end and for that the war must end. For that to happen there must be an acceptable political solution. Why can’t the Sri Lankan state come up with a proposal like that in many other multi ethnic, multi cultural pluralistic societies in the world? I am not for a moment saying the report is wrong. Why are you asking me anyway? The fact is that they have said the same things against the Sri Lankan government as well. They have criticized the manner in which Tamil civilians are forced to live under trees and the sufferings inside the refugee camps. The tragedy is that these things are happening on both sides. It is Sinhala and Tamil youth the future of this country who are dying in this manner. And the money that should be used for development of the country is being wasted in this manner. I don’t want to comment further or add anything to this. The fact is that both the LTTE and the govt. have come under their criticism.

Q:Concerns have risen on the attitude of the government towards the minorities, despite the President on several times maintaining that he was ‘absolutely clear that Sri Lanka belongs to all its citizens - Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, others.’

I have expressed my views on this on several occasions in the Parliament. We have always been concerned about grave human rights violations of Tamil people. This is not a new thing. These have been happening since 1956. It continued through 58, 77, 81 and 83 and it was always the Tamils who were the victims. Wasn’t the LTTE created by this very situation? We are therefore not happy with the policies of the government with regard to this question, because they are not committed to arrive at an acceptable resolution to this problem. The fact remains that the human rights situation in Sri Lanka is horrendous. In fact it is one of the worst in the world. War can’t be a justification for subjecting non-combatants to violence and grave human rights violations in this way.

Q:You accuse the govt. of believing on a military solution on the basis that once the LTTE is destroyed there will be no force that can compel the Sri Lankan Government to arrive at a political solution. But the government has pledged to the international community and India that it will indeed seek a political solution once the LTTE is weakened.

We don’t accept that position. I am in no way speaking for the LTTE but we have no reason to believe that the day the LTTE is weakened the government will look at a political solution. The government believes that if the LTTE is weakened there will be no Tamil aspirations to be met. We have heard of a number of such commitments made to the international community and India. India, the co-chairs, USA, EU and the international community have called for radical changes in the constitutional arrangement pertaining to the structure of government giving Tamil and Muslim people the rights to determine their destiny in areas of historical habitation according to their distinct identity. But what has happened? Nothing. But I don’t think either are convinced there will be a viable political solution. We don’t know what will happen to the Tamil rights if this trend continues.

Q:You have continued to blame the government’s development programme in the East, on grounds that it was a ‘gigantic deception on the whole world and to say that “we are doing development, we do not need devolution”. But the success of administration of the TMVP in the East paints a different picture doesn’t it?

The achievement of a merged North and East region under the Indo Sri Lanka agreement was the result of a long struggle by the Tamil people. The Tamil people need to be convinced that their future could be secured in a merged NE. The President gave a commitment to the international community that this system will not be dismantled. It is the inalienable right of the Tamil speaking people to continue to live in areas of historical habitation under a constitutional arrangement that gives them substantial power of governance. Development must be decided by people in the area and not someone sitting in Colombo. The present arrangement in the East doesn’t live up to our expectations. It’s a down right farce.

Q:You challenge the government to hold an internationally-sponsored referendum and ask the Tamil-speaking people in the North and the East what they want, accept their verdict, and give them what they want. Wasn’t the verdict in the East sufficient to note the priorities of the Tamil people?

Do you call it an election? It was a down right disgrace. The ballot boxes were stuffed and numerous other election violations took place. Why is the government so afraid to hold an internationally sponsored referendum? What are they worried about?

Q:On what grounds do you allege that the govt. policy indicates that it wants to exclude minority communities from all power sharing arrangements, in a meaningful away? The administration in the East seems to be having positive results.

Absolutely. The institutionalization of the purported de merger is a diabolic attempt to keep the Tamil people out of any kind of meaningful participation. It can only get worse now. I can’t speak about the administration in the East because I have no connection to that system. But I hear that there are already rumblings there. Those poor chaps didn’t know what they were getting in to. We knew.

Q:You recently said in Parliament that if the government cannot give you the right to internal self-determination in your areas of historical habitation, then, international law says that you shall be entitled to the right of external self-determination. How do you plan to carry out this threat?

There is no threat as such. But take the situation in Quebec for instance. When they went to courts, it was ruled that if the right to internal self-determination was persistently denied to a distinct people over a long period of time then the right to external self-determination would be accrued to such people. It would also accrue in instances of military suppression. My view was based on that interpretation of law and in order to urge that the grant of self-determination was necessary to keep the country united. If that wasn’t done there could be other consequences. In the case of Quebec when the court held that in view of the constitutional arrangement that prevailed in Canada the French speaking Canadians in Quebec; a distinct people weren’t denied the right to internal self- determination

(This an interview conducted by Shakuntala Perera for “Hard Talk” column in the “Daily Mirror”. )

December 20, 2008

Senior Tiger commander from East "Col" Ramesh injured in Kilinochchi

Latest reports from the Kilinocchi battlefront stated that one of the senior tiger commanders “Colonel” Ramesh sustained injuries in fighting on Saturday December 20th.

The incident occurred in the Murigandy – Iranaimadhu area of Kilinochchi district when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) launched a “commando” type raid on military positions.

The attack which amounted to an effective counterstrike succeeded in pushing military positions two km back claimed pro – tiger websites.

The LTTE also stated that about 60 soldiers were killed and about 150 injured.

Authoritative sources in Colombo confirmed that a tiger counter strike had indeed occurred but denied that the forces were compelled to pull back 2 km.

The sources also claimed that the casualty figures given by the LTTE were highly exaggerated but refused to reveal the actual numbers of those killed or injured.

Defence ministry sources however said that senior tiger commander “Col” Ramesh was seriously injured in the fighting which took place for six hours from 5. 30 am to 11.30 am.

“Col” Ramesh who hails from Batticaloa was in charge of a LTTE special forces brigade.

He was earlier the special commander for Batticaloa – Amparai districts under former eastern regional LTTE commander “Col” Karuna.

After Karuna’s revolt Ramesh relocated to the Wanni. Later he led an eastern cadre contingent back to the Batticaloa district Kudumbimalai/Thoppigala region.

After the Sri Lankan forces established full control of the Eastern province Ramesh returned to the Wanni by a clandestine land route called the “Beirut trail”.

He was later placed in charge of a special force brigade that received “commando” type training.

Ramesh is the brother in law of LTTE Sea Tiger special commander “Col” Soosai

Eastern Party Splits:"Kay" for Karuna, "Pee" for Pillaiyan

By a Special correspondent

Former LTTE eastern regional commander Vinayagamurthy Muraleetharan alias “Colonel” Karuna and his deputy Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillaiyan have split formally and will run separate political parties respectively.

The bitter feud raging inside the LTTE breakaway faction came to a head with “Col” karuna opting to form another new political party instead of continuing with the old set up.

Karuna has formed a new party called Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Koottany (TMVK) which means the Tamil peoples Liberation Front.

Pillaiyan will continue with the existing Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP) which means the Tamil peoples Liberation Tigers.

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[Vinayagamurthy Muraleetharan alias “Colonel” Karuna and Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillaiyan-file pic]

Karuna has dropped the word “puligal” or tigers from his new party and chosen Koottany or Front instead.

The first three letters TMV in the party acronyms would be the same for both.

The difference is in the last letters just as the scorpions sting lies in its tail.

TMVP will have “Pee” or P as the last letter while TMVK will have Kay or K as the last letter.

Interestingly the last letter of Karuna’s party “Kay”(K) can denote the name Karuna (K for Karuna) while the last letter of Pillaiyans party “Pee” (P) can denote the name Pillaiyan (P for Pillaiyan).

Thus the leaders of both parties can be easily identified through their respective party acronyms.

It was formally announced that the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) had split with Karuna Amman forming a new political party called the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Kooddani (TMVK).

When contacted, the Secretary of the TMVP Kaileshwara Raja said “we are aware that Karuna Amman had formed a new political party, but the TMVP will remain unchanged and Pillayan will take over the leadership in the party”.

The new party’s official address has been given in a location in the Thenagam area in Batticaloa. Karuna had informed his followers in Batticaloa about his new move and the first letter has been sent to the Eastern Provincial Council member Pradeep Master.

The letter has been signed by the new party’s media spokesman Kanchchana Moorthi Kamalanadhan.

The letter says that the president of the TMVK is Karuna Amman, the secretary Iniya Bharathi, and Treasurer Sinna Thamby.

Many internal conflicts flared after Karuna tried to capture power in the party as his leadership post did not give him enough powers to function.

Meanwhile, the Pillaiyan faction did not accept Karuna as its sole leader and identified as its president as Kumaraswami Nandagopan alias Ragu. The TMVP has been registered under his name when Karuna was in prison, and Karuna was referred to in the party constitution as being only a ‘leader’ who did not have any authority in the party.

“After the assassination of Ragu by Karunas henchmen in Colombo, Karuna had claimed the post of party president but the Pillaiyan faction rejected his request; This led to Karuna forming a new party,” a TMVP spokesman said.

Sri Lanka Refuses to sign UN declaration de-criminalising Homosexuality

by A Special Correspondent

Sri Lanka has refused to sign a historic UN declaration that urges member-states to decriminalize homosexuality. Sixty six countries were signatories to this UN declaration which condemns all forms of violence against homosexual persons and urges UN member states to take necessary measures to put an end to all criminal penalties against them.

Homosexuality is an offence under the Penal Code in Sri Lanka and carries a punishment of upto two years in prison. Sponsored by France, the declaration was backed by the 27 member European Union. The US, the Vatican, Russia and China, along with all Islamic countries, refused to sign the declaration.

The non-signatories also included seven of the eight members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC): Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka. Nepal was the only SAARC signatory.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch said that more than half of the world's remaining legislation against sodomy and homosexuality were mostly relics of British colonial rule going back to a single law on homosexual conduct that the British imposed on India in 1860.

Local gay rights activist and director and founder of Companion on a Journey, Sherman de Rose said they strongly opposed the move by the Government. "We are against the fact that we are being called criminals in our own land. We are not criminals, we are citizens. It is totally incorrect to call us criminals. We have the right to live and be treated as normal human beings," he said. "We have no right to stand by British law of the colonial era".

Sri Lanka's laws, however, are silent on female homosexuality. The 66 signatories to the General Assembly declaration were: Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Montenegro, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

Sri Lanka also refused to sign a counter-declaration by Syria, which warned that decriminalizing homosexuality may "legitimise paedophilia". This declaration was signed by 57 countries, mostly from Catholic and Muslim countries.

The unprecedented gay rights declaration was submitted to the UN General Assembly by Argentinean ambassador Jorge Arguello, representing a third of the world body's 192 countries.

"We urge states to take all the necessary measures, in particular legislative or administrative, to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests or detention," the draft document says.

The appeal is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states in Article One that "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."

The document reaffirms "that everyone is entitled to the enjoyment of human rights without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."

The 66 countries that signed the document "are deeply concerned by violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms based on sexual orientation or gender identity," it said.

They are "disturbed that violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatization and prejudice are directed against persons in all countries in the world because of sexual orientation or gender identity."

The signatories "condemn the human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity wherever they occur," especially "the use of the death penalty on this ground," as well as their "arbitrary arrest or detention and deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to health."
After the draft was read, Netherlands Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen and French Human Rights Minister Rama Yade held a high-level meeting to support the resolution.

"In this 21st century, how can we accept that people are hunted down, jailed, tortured and executed because of their sexual orientation?" asked Yade. Yade, a Senegalese-born Muslim, acknowledged that the task would be "difficult." Efforts to gather support for the text sometimes faced outright hostility, she said.

"The funeral pyres of intolerance are and have always burned everywhere," she added before noting that homosexuality is still banned in 77 countries. Homosexuality is punishable by death in seven countries -- Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Verhagen hailed the document's historical significance. "For the first time in history, a large group of member states speaks out against discrimination based on sexual orientation," he said.

"With today's statement, this is no longer a taboo within the UN. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is firmly on the agenda of the United Nations."

European Union member states, Brazil, Israel and Japan were among the signatories. But China, the United States and Russia refused to accede the declaration.

The Vatican considers the declaration a legitimate effort to stop the crackdown on homosexuality. But it worries that condemning anti-gay discrimination and biases will favor gay marriage, gay adoption or artificial insemination.

Sinhala couple seek politicl asylum in Tamil Nadu

by C. Jaisankar


The Colombo-based couple were accommodated by a Tamil family in Vavuniya after their marriage. War forced them to flee and seek asylum.


The newly- married Sinhalese couple, who landed at Arichamunai under the guise of refugees.

Arrival of Sinhala refugees from the Talaimannar coast in Sri Lanka to Dhanushkodi in the southern coast of Tamil Nadu is a rare phenomenon.

Sharuha Bilkani (18) and Dushra Chandana, Sinhalese hailing from Colombo, landed at Arichamunai on Friday night with the hope of starting a new life in a new environment. Though their arrival is termed first of its kind by officials who have been dealing with the Sri Lankan refugees for the last 10 years, it has generated curiosity among refugees and officials. They were reportedly given asylum by a Tamil family in Vavuniya when their parents opposed their love marriage. On arrival, they initially told the police that Chandana was a Tamil from Vavuniya. However, interrogation revealed that both were Sinhalese and had eloped from Colombo.

They claimed to have met at a driving school in Colombo, where Sharuha was taught driving by Chandana. Later, they decided to marry. In the wake of parental opposition, Chandana’s close friend, a Tamil, sent them to his house in Vavuniya. The ongoing war forced them to seek asylum in Tamil Nadu. Vasantha Mari, with whom the couple landed at Arichamunai, told the police that they did not want to go back to Colombo fearing danger to their lives. They had come to India with a group of 19 refugees.

Authorities have decided to file a case against them for violating the Indian Passport Act. S. Kamalabai, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Rameswaram, told The Hindu that if they were Tamils they could be granted the status of refugees. In this case, it was not possible to treat them as refugees. [courtesy: the Hindu]

Boston Globe highlights plight of vulnerable populations from their own governments

Expressing hope that President Elect "Obama will stretch the definition of the national interest to include a panoply of actions, short of war, to defend universal human rights,” a Boston Globe Editorial today said, "the United States and its European allies have gone only so far in trying to halt the Darfur genocide - or the current atrocities in eastern Congo, the Sri Lankan government's abuses of civilians in its counter-insurgency war against the Tamil Tigers, or the horrific rights violations by the military dictatorship in Burma".

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Dec 20th Boston Globe Editorial titled, "Human rights and state power":

IN A MAJOR turnabout, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said recently he had been wrong to press for a new post of minister of state for human rights within the foreign ministry. Kouchner co-founded the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders. But he has come to understand, he explained, that "there is a permanent contradiction between human rights and the foreign policy of a state, even in France."

Kouchner's change of heart originates in a parochial French squabble: President Nicolas Sarkozy has turned against his Senegal-born minister for human rights, Rama Yade, because she declined to leave her post and run for the European Parliament, as Sarkozy requested. But the issue has reverberations in many countries, including the United States.

Successive American administrations have been no less ambivalent than France about the proper role of human rights in government policy. President Gerald Ford and his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, were initially reluctant to include a so-called human rights basket in the 1975 Helsinki Accords with the Soviet Union. But inclusion of that "soft" provision on human rights helped set off processes that led to the peaceful collapse of communism. This was a case of human rights serving US national interests - perhaps more effectively than the entire arsenal of nuclear warheads.

In the last few years, however, there have been several disturbing examples of the US national interest - as conventionally defined - standing in the way of actions to defend human rights. The ongoing genocide in Darfur is the most blatant example. China, as a major investor in Sudanese oil, protects the genocidal Sudanese regime at the UN Security Council. The United States and its European allies have gone only so far in trying to halt the Darfur genocide - or the current atrocities in eastern Congo, the Sri Lankan government's abuses of civilians in its counter-insurgency war against the Tamil Tigers, or the horrific rights violations by the military dictatorship in Burma.

There is now an assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor, and President-elect Barack Obama is also expected to have someone in his National Security Council responsible for human rights. But the problem illuminated by Kouchner's candid remark is not really about bureaucratic posts. It is about how willing the governments of the world are to protect vulnerable populations from their own governments. We hope Obama will stretch the definition of the national interest to include a panoply of actions, short of war, to defend universal human rights.

December 19, 2008

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Spreads Among Soldiers Serving in Norh-East

by Ranjith Jayasundera

AS the government's war against the LTTE enters the bloodiest phase in the country's history, our research has found that the costly war of attrition is irreparably scarring an entire generation of Sri Lanka's youth.

A draft copy of a study circulated for peer review by Dr. Rohan M. Jayatunge and army psychiatrists provides some insights into the trauma that soldiers faced after combat before 2008, a year in which over 1,200 soldiers have been killed from just six divisions.

According to the scientific study, there is a severe spread of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) amongst soldiers who have served in combat in the north and east and survived to tell the tale.

The paper, titled Psychological Management Of Combat Stress - A Study Based On Sri Lankan Combatants, reveals that over 17,000 soldiers were killed in combat up to 2001, and interestingly enough, it also claims a similar number of LTTE cadres killed in the same period, indicating a 1:1 kill ratio.

Further, the army claims to have killed over 9,000 Tigers in 2008 to date. Coupled with media reports of over 350 civilians killed in combat this year, Eelam War IV has cost Sri Lanka over 10,500 lives in 2008, the highest number of people killed in any one year during the conflict's 25 year history.

It must be remembered that even these figures are only accurate up until the end of October, when the military officially stopped giving out casualty figures for its own losses or those of the LTTE for "security reasons."

In the last month however, it is well known that gruelling battles have taken place with heavy casualties on both sides as the army pushes harder to surround and capture Killinochchi, and bridge the gap between its forces in Muhamalai and those on the northern tip of the country's mainland.

In one particularly fierce three day bout of fighting, Defence Watch Spokesman and SLFP (M) Parliamentarian Mangala Samaraweera told journalists that over 200 soldiers had been killed in fighting, between November 15 and 18 alone.

Never in any one month this year has the government ever admitted that it lost more than 200 soldiers, thus the increase in intensity of the combat action in the month of November, with the budget debate looming, and many deadlines having been missed for the capture of Killinochchi, is alarming.

Journalists researched the available data on conflict related deaths in Sri Lanka since 1994 and the data confirms that the country has just endured the bloodiest year in its 25 year history of waging and surviving war.

The second bloodiest year in the conflict was 1995, when Jaffna was recaptured by the army, with the deaths of approximately 5,000 soldiers and LTTE cadres in total. This is less than half as many as had been killed by November 2008, when the army's casualty count began to skyrocket as losses peaked by coincidence on President Rajapakse's birthday, just days after he awarded a one year extension to Army Commander Sarath Fonseka.

We have no choice but to await with baited breath the final tally of men, women and children who would have been laid to rest this year by the war. What is remarkable is that the government has managed to hide the human cost of the battle by maintaining tight control of what is published in the media.

However, several excerpts from the yet-unpublished military trauma report show that this war is not as glamorous as the government makes it out to be in its glitzy recruitment and propaganda campaign. Rarely enough do we stop to think of the trauma undergone by the families of soldiers who lost loved ones in this campaign, and never at all does the level of stress undergone by war survivors occur to anyone.

The report highlights the experience of a 32 year old lance corporal who witnessed a fellow soldier die in a landmine explosion. "Even though he managed to escape without a single injury, he saw how his friend died in the blast. His depressive features appeared as survival guilt, self blame, hopelessness, grief and bereavement."

There is also another account of a private who witnessed his best friend, another soldier in his unit, being killed in a sniper attack. "After the confirmation" of the death, the private "was ordered to bury the body," but felt that the body was warm to the touch, possibly due to hot weather.

"After some years he had an irrational feeling that he buried the man alive," the report said, before spiralling into depression. The report is jam-packed with similar instances of surviving soldiers having their lives wrecked for good by what they experienced in the 'glorious' liberation crusade.

A lieutenant who witnessed seven soldiers explode due to an incoming enemy mortar and became schizophrenic, a sergeant who lost a leg and became violent and addicted to cannabis, and a captain who served for 20 years being "exposed to heavy combat" who felt a "misfit to civil society" and found it "uneasy to work with civilians," are the stories scattered throughout the study.

All of these examples are from soldiers who were in combat prior to 2008, which has now turned out to be the most deadly year in the history of the war by the government's own statistical killing claims.

Most importantly, this was before the armed forces were committed to a war of attrition over a year-long campaign in which over 1,200 of their own were slain and over 7,000 permanently maimed and scarred. At least some senior officers will recall and recant the fact that several hundred soldiers did not have to die to capture Pooneryn in 1992, and also that the capture was inconsequential as the base was recaptured by the LTTE but one year later. They will also remember that Killinochchi was captured by the army in 1996 without 1,000 soldiers dying trying, and that Madhu - and its now infamous shrine - was also captured in 1999.

In that campaign as in this one, the army held Jaffna and attempted to corner the LTTE into the Mullaitivu jungles, before they sprang out of nowhere and wreaked havoc across the island, seizing both Madhu and Killinochchi - and everything in between - in a blitzkrieg of Nazi proportions.

Although the Tigers may not have such a capability any longer, they need not strike so hard in order to cripple the country, a fact that has now been lost on every major political party in the country including the UNP, which just announced its tacit support for the war in its bloodiest ever phase.

The Tigers need do little more than let the country drag itself further into debt with the cost of its war, while believing they are closer to success, and inflict maximum casualties upon the army and terrorise Colombo with suicide bombs, to bring Sri Lanka to a position where barely a country will turn to help.

With every nation in the world reeling from the shockwaves of the global economic crisis it is unlikely that there will be any country willing to come to the aid of an island that is pursuing an internationally condemned war of attrition and territory as its first priority.

The recent accusations that the air force has been using cluster bombs against civilian targets in the Wanni, would also prove devastating if it can be proven. To its credit, the government has denied the allegation, and the LTTE and its proxies have been unable to find any evidence of actual unexploded cluster 'bomblets' that such weapons always leave behind.

Alongside the revelation made by Mangala Samaraweera in parliament that the air force has dropped over 14 kilotonnes of explosives in the Wanni this year, if cluster bombs were to be used, Sri Lanka's air force would set a second world record.

The SLAF already holds the unenviable record of being the first, only and thus most frequent dropper of bombs on its own citizens, and the government would gain little from being seen in the eyes of the world as having used cluster munitions on a refugee camp as alleged by some NGOs and the LTTE.

Factors such as this are what bring memories of how the United States lost the war in Vietnam not in the Viet Cong jungles but in the living rooms of Americans at home who witnessed the brutality that the war inflicted to all sides, and pressured that government to abandon Vietnam.

The lines that the army is now holding are stretched across several hundred kilometres and with every advance the terrain becomes more favourable to the LTTE due to their familiarity with the combat environment.

As the campaign gets longer, the troops on the frontline will become wearier and a lot of them must already be under immense psychological stress from prolonged exposure to combat conditions. The study of military combat stress says as much.

"The percentage of study subjects whose responses met the screening criteria for major depression, generalised anxiety, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was significantly higher after serving" in the north and east.

"There was a strong reported relation between combat experiences such as being shot at, handling dead bodies, knowing someone who was killed or killing the enemy, and the prevalence of PTSD," the study concluded, adding finally that there was "a significant risk of mental health problems especially regarding combat related PTSD."

These are exactly the kind of poor conditions that the late Major General Janaka Perera warned would imperil the military campaign should it drag on for months through the monsoon and beyond.

In order to maintain its popularity and war fever in the south, the government would have to prevent the LTTE from repeating their Eelam War III performance of materialising out of the Mullaitivu jungles and smashing through army lines like so many dominoes.

For the sake of the next thousand soldiers who are now on the front line, we can only hope that the military leadership is as competent at protecting its own as it is at marketing and fighting wars of words and propaganda

Temporary truce call by five bishops is most timely

by Shanie

It has been a distressing week in Sri Lanka. The war not only dragged on but hundreds of our young men (and perhaps women) have lost their lives. The numbers maimed or injured reportedly runs into thousands. The heavy casualties are from both sides to the conflict. On the economic front, the ordinary people are facing increasing hardships, not just by mismanagement at home but due to a looming global recession caused by mismanagement by those in authority in the world’s largest economic power.

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[Cyclist pasing church on A9 road in Kilinochchi-file pic: by HA]

There is also a political crisis at home with emerging signs of open disenchantment with the government. Karu Jayasuriya’s cross back to the opposition is just one symptom of this. This political crisis is exacerbated by recent Supreme Court rulings which seem to have struck a chord with the public. These rulings may have blurred the traditional view we have had of a strict separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers. But it is clear that the man (or woman) in the street has welcomed the Supreme Court rulings as not only bringing much needed relief but also as being the only check on growing political authoritarianism.

Sixteen years ago, Queen Elizabeth of England described that year as being annus horribilis, or a year of great misfortune or sorrow. We may justifiably borrow this phrase for the year that is just ending in our country. Certainly, the country as a whole welcomes the successes in the war that has pushed the LTTE against the wall. But that seems to be the only thing to cheer about. The continuing war is taking a very heavy human toll. The total death toll among the security forces, the LTTE cadres and the civilians perhaps runs into thousands for the year. Thousands more have been maimed and injured. As the war nears Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Puthukudiyiruppu, the strongholds of the LTTE, the casualties are increasing to alarming levels.

This is why the call by a representative group of five Bishops for a temporary truce over the Christmas/New Year period is a timely one. The country, the soldiers and the LTTE fighting cadres must be war-weary. It is a traumatic to experience the loss of a loved one, a colleague or friend, even if it is for a cause one believes to be right. The security forces have re-captured territory and it will not go back to LTTE control. Eventually, the entire territory will be fall back to state control, with the writ of the Government of Sri Lanka applying throughout the country. A pause now is not going to prevent that happening. It will not only bring some respite to the war-weary but also halt the alarmingly heavy loss of lives. As the Bishops say, ‘Nothing should prevent us from our highest priority of enabling life and safeguarding humanity.’

The Bishops have offered to act as facilitators to bring about a truce. A truce is not a sign of weakness but, as the Bishops say, a sign of political maturity. The Bishops can help to bring about a temporary peace that will halt the rising death toll. But it will require other facilitators to bring about a political settlement that bring permanent peace to our country. There is no doubt the country yearns for peace. The current war has and will continue to weaken the LTTE but it is not going to bring about the peace and unity that the country wants and needs, unless there is a political settlement acceptable to the majority of the three major communities. Sadly, there seems no sign of such a consensus settlement coming up.

The Rule of Law

The Government now appears intent on embarking on a confrontational course with the Supreme Court by defying the order to reduce petrol prices. At the time of writing this column, the cabinet has postponed a decision to comply with the order until a written copy of the order is received. President seems intent on defying the order: some Ministers support him but some others, sensitive to public opinion, have urged compliance, with one Minister reportedly suggesting that the cabinet even goes beyond the suggested reduction, to take the wind off the sails of the Supreme Court ruling. It will be a sad for the country if this confrontation were to escalate as happened during the J R Jayawardene era. It will have disastrous consequences for good governance.

We trust the personal remarks President Rajapakse is reported to have made against Karu Jayasuriya, when he was still a Cabinet Minister, and Dinesh Gunawardene this week at a cabinet meeting are not true. That would be a reflection of political arrogance that is quite out of character for a President. It could also create a political crisis with unpredictable results. The President must have the maturity to take any ruling of the Supreme Court with calmness. Imputing motives and talks of conspiracies might encourage the faithful cheer leaders but it will not go down well with the ordinary people. They are not going to accept the war against the LTTE as an excuse for every action, when huge sums are being spent on a bloated cabinet, with state ministers, deputy ministers and advisors ad lib, and a support staff for all of them.

The looming economic crisis

Several factors, domestic and external, portend an economic crisis of serious proportions for our country. Our major export commodities are experiencing a slump in prices. The effect of the disastrous hedging agreement will soon be felt. A global recession seems unstoppable and will have a critical effect on our country. All this will mean that the rupee depreciates in value and the cost of imported goods becomes that much dearer. Compounding these is corruption and waste. The people who feel the pinch will be the ordinary person on the street. Major changes will therefore have to be made on the way we manage our economy. Professionalism, not politics, will be needed for this.

That professionalism can only come only about, at least to some extent, if President Rajapakse performs his constitutional duty of implementing the 17th Amendment and appoints the Constitutional Council. The looming economic crises, and perhaps political crises as well, can most effectively be managed only by setting up independent commissions through an independent Constitutional Council. It is politicisation of these commissions that has led to a lack of confidence in these instruments of governance. Even at this late stage, the President will be wise to implement fully the provisions of the 17th Amendment.

A change of strategy is needed

If our political leaders have the interests of the country at heart, they need to face reality. We are heading towards a grave economic and political crisis. To overcome or mitigate it, they need to have the wisdom and the courage to change direction. Whistling in the dark by coming up with conspiracy theories and denying the harsh reality will only lead to an even bigger crisis. An opportunity to change course has been presented by the timely appeal of the Bishops. It is an opening which if not taken now is going to be a huge gamble. The country just cannot afford such gambles. The hedging fiasco is a result of an ill considered gamble. The country’s future cannot just be gambled away in this manner. Our political leadership must pause to think if uprooting and traumatizing the lives of so many civilians and the loss of so many young lives justifies the continued pursuit of a strategy, well intentioned but clearly not going according to plan.

The LTTE, we are all aware, does not care for the future of our country – not even for the future of the Tamil people for which they claim to be fighting. Their single minded objective is the continued exercise of power in the territory they control. To this end, they have and will continue to engage in the elimination of anyone standing in their way or in strategy that will disrupt civilian lives, even killing innocent lives, both within their territory and without. But the strategy to defeat such an outfit must take into account the reality on the ground. The leadership must be willing to change strategy as required by the ground situation. The Bishops’ call presents an opportunity towards such a change. It will be a sign of political maturity to seriously consider taking it. There are parties and people supporting the President who have the same mindset as the LTTE. They will no doubt advise rejection of the Bishops’ call. But the President and the senior SLFP ministers must ponder as to which is the better course for the future of our country and our people.

(This article is from the column NOTEBOOK OF A NOBODY written by Shanie in "the Island".)

War in Wanni: Why the Tigers are down but not out

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

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[LTTE female cadres in Wanni, Dec 16-Photo: LTTE]

In writing about the on – going war in the Wanni northern mainland, I have been regularly emphasising a salient point that goes against the view propagated by upper echelons of the power structure and dominant sections of society. [click to read the article in full in ~ the daily mirror.lk]

LTTE ceasefire call is insincere says President Rajapakse

Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse has stated in an interview to the New Indian express review that the recent LTTE call for a ceasefire was rejected because it was insincere.

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[Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa (L) lays flowers at a memorial for fallen soldiers in Ambepussa on December 13-pic: via Yahoo! news-Lakruwan Wanniarachchi-AFP]

Here are Excerpts from the interview:

Q. Thank you for this opportunity to meet you Mr President, despite your very busy schedule. Let me begin with a most interesting aspect of current developments. You have mentioned that there can be no military solution to the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka. How do you propose to solve this problem?

You are right in quoting me. I firmly believe that there is no military solution to the current conflict in Sri Lanka. I have been consistent in maintaining this position. While we are militarily tackling the terrorists, we are keen to pursue a political solution for the people of Sri Lanka. I would like to reiterate our firm commitment to a negotiated political solution within an undivided Sri Lanka, taking into account the aspirations of all the communities, including the Tamils. As an extension to the political process that is currently underway through the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) we have also now invited the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to join this process and we welcome their suggestions and proposals to achieve fairness to all within an undivided country.

While I am awaiting the final proposal from the APRC, I wish to state that we are in the process of implementing the interim proposal submitted to me by the APRC, based on which the elections in the Eastern Province were held, after its liberation from the clutches of terror, and a Tamil chief minister was elected to office. We are now in the process of devolving more powers to the Eastern Province and as a part of this process a DIG of Police from the Tamil community has been appointed to the province. We are hopeful of replicating this success in the East in the Northern Province as well.

Q. We hear reports that the arrangement with Karuna and Pillaiyan are not really working as well as they should…

Having followed Sri Lankan affairs and the conflict in the North and East, you must be aware that both chief minister Chandrakanthan (Pillaiyan) and Member of Parliament Mr Muralitharan (Karuna) spent many years fighting the government while they were members of the LTTE. The fact that they have renounced violence and chosen the democratic path to the extent of becoming part of the electoral process and government is an achievement by itself. Differences of opinion between two leaders of the same party are common in democracy; you will see it in most democratic parties, and I hope that they will sort out these differences in the better and larger interests of the people they represent.

Q. There is a perception in Tamil Nadu that the civilian population is being killed collaterally or otherwise in the military campaign. How do you respond?

Let me be very clear, this is a wholly wrong perception. I have consistently maintained that our military actions are strictly directed at the LTTE terrorists and not against the Tamil people. I have given strict instructions to the forces to ensure that there should not be any civilian casualties; and the forces have also exercised maximum caution on this aspect.

However, I acknowledge that due to the nature of the conflict there has been damage to civilian properties which will be rebuilt and normal life restored no sooner the area is freed from the terrorists, as in the case of the Eastern Province where the government is in the process of spending $ 1.8 billion for development during the next three years. However, the LTTE has been known to use innocent civilians as human shields and is preventing them from moving into safer areas especially using the safe corridor to the South provided by the military and government.
Perhaps the political leaders who have been expressing concern over the safety of civilians in the conflict areas could coax the LTTE to allow the civilians to move towards the safe corridor.

Q. There is concern in Tamil Nadu that the relief materials are not sufficiently provided in the conflict areas. What has been done to address this?

It is difficult to address the concerns of anybody that are not based on fact. The total number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) mentioned in the media is factually exaggerated.

According to available statistics, the number of IDPs is approximately around one lakh. However, taking into account the hardships of the people living in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts and part of the Vavuniya district, I have ordered that relief items be provided to all the civilians of those areas free of charge, knowing very well that a portion of the food items will be taken by the LTTE.

From September this year to date we have dispatched 11,058 tonnes of food and 598 tonnes of non-food items to the Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts. This is apart from 4,370 food items distributed by the World Food Programme during the same period. These are easily verifiable facts and figures to those genuinely interested. We also appreciate the gesture by the Indian government of sending relief items sent by the people of Tamil Nadu, all of which have now been distributed among the civilians in the conflict areas. Hence, there is no shortage of food and other essential provisions in the conflict areas. There is a need for more shelter and we are in the process of addressing this.

Q. On the influx of refugees to Tamil Nadu, do you think this could be a problem?

I am not aware of any such influx today. Let me put this in perspective. During the liberation of the Eastern Province last year we had 1,70,000 IDPs and at present there are about 1,00,000 IDPs in the North. According to statistics complied by the Tamil Nadu government, the total number of refugee arrivals from Sri Lanka since January 2006 is only 22,800. Out of this 22,800 about 5,429 have voluntarily returned to Sri Lanka. This illustrates that there is no severe influx of refugees into Tamil Nadu. I understand that following the clearance of the Eastern Province a number of refugees from the Eastern Province who are in Tamil Nadu are now willing to return.
My government is prepared to extend all possible assistance for such returnees. I trust this answers your question adequately.

Q. You have been the Minister of Fisheries. Can you give me a candid assessment of how much of fishing goes on in your waters by boats from Tamil Nadu on a daily basis?

According to the information from the Navy, on an average about 500 fishing vessels enter Sri Lankan waters daily and engage in fishing. The entry of fishing craft from Tamil Nadu to Sri Lankan waters has been going on for some time, as you suggested from the time I was Minister of Fisheries, too. This is a matter that has to be resolved in a spirit of friendship by two neighbours.

Q. What about the element of smuggling by boats from Tamil Nadu? How serious is that concern? How widespread do you think that practice is?

The movement of smugglers and other illegal entities in the sea is certainly a threat to any country’s sovereignty and security.

Sri Lanka takes serious note of this, especially as they could be, and most likely are linked to terrorism that we are committed to eradicate.

Q. Why do you think all this happens even though the navies of the two countries are ostensibly doing coordinated patrolling?

The Sri Lanka Navy has taken all steps to prevent such activities. It is also a well-known fact that there is a nexus existing between the smugglers and the LTTE and perhaps even other terrorist organisations. I believe the answer is more concerted and coordinated action.

There are welcome signs that India is also taking note of the dangers to its own coastal security today.

Q. The LTTE is obviously ready for ceasefire. The Tamil Nadu chief minister has backed the call. Yet you dismissed the suggestion out of hand. Why?

One must understand the background to the LTTE’s call for a ceasefire. The LTTE has a track record of announcing ceasefires when they are militarily weakened and are in need of fresh of supply of arms and ammunition, and need to re-group and recruit fighters. After I assumed the presidency in November 2005, the LTTE leader in his Hero’s Day speech described me as a ‘pragmatic’ leader and he stated he would give my government one year’s time to find a solution to the ethnic issue.

However, he never gave me the smallest opportunity to demonstrate my pragmatism as he launched attacks on the armed forces followed by terrorist acts against innocent civilians within two weeks of his speech.

Despite these provocations I was committed to the ceasefire agreement signed by former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in 2002, which had many flaws that favoured the LTTE. Just look at the record of that ceasefire. It was monitored by the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission which comprised Nordic countries, which conclusively reported that the LTTE had violated the ceasefire agreement 3,850 times, mostly serious violations, while the violations by the security forces was only 351 times, which were mainly instances of harassment.

Therefore, based on this and our other past experiences of the behaviour of the LTTE in this regard, we don’t think the LTTE is sincere in its call for a ceasefire, especially in view of the fact that once again this new call comes when they have been drastically weakened by the forces. It is necessary to be realistic when dealing with a terrorist force as the LTTE.

Q. What are the conditions that require to be met before you declare a military victory? Does it end with Kilinochchi?

As I have already stated I am not for a military solution though it has become necessary to use force that is rightly available to the State and the democratically elected government, to curtail terrorism in order to bring democracy to the people. Therefore, the fall of Kilinochchi will only be a step towards restoring democracy to the people of that area where the people have been subjected to the brutalities of the LTTE. Far from being a military victory, it will be the beginning of the restoration of democratic freedoms. That will be the real victory.

Q. How soon do you see it happening?

I don’t wish to give a time frame though it is my earnest hope that it will be in the near future. You must be able to judge it from the reports you receive.

Q. The locals and refugees in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu comprise, I believe, roughly four lakh. Given this ground reality, is there a military way to address this dense population scenario? How do you propose to wean away people from the LTTE?

The figures you give are questionable. But I will not go into that. There is an error in the thinking that there is a need to wean the people away from the LTTE. There is nothing to show that they are fully committed to the LTTE, or are nurtured by it, although a small misled minority, mainly indoctrinated by terrorism and given false hopes may still be with it.

The LTTE has at no time been the genuine representative of the Tamil people. We know that the Tamil people left in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu are held there in thrall of the LTTE’s arms. Once that power is effectively broken the Tamil people will be free to choose their leaders, and join the democratic system. That is what we have already begun doing with the development programmes for the North.

As I said recently, we will be looking towards a new Spring of Development in and for the North. We will restore democracy and ensure that the people there are treated equally under the Constitution. Don’t forget that almost all the democratically elected leaders of the Tamil people, their trade union leaders, teachers and intellectuals were killed by the LTTE. I do not think that there will be any need to wean away such people from their oppressors.

Q. Gen Fonseka referred to some politicians in Tamil Nadu as political jokers who receive monetary help from the LTTE. Do you share this view?

I was briefed that it was an inadvertent report in a newspaper. I understand that the Secretary, Ministry of Defence, has expressed regret for whatever had been reported, if it was as stated. I also learn that the management of the newspaper has removed the editor concerned, for lack of editorial discretion.
Whatever had been reported inadvertently is not the view of the government, and I believe the matter rests there.

Q. Do you as the President of a country fighting terrorism believe that Pakistan has a responsibility to curb terrorist activities from any part of the territory that it controls and that India has the same right to self-defence that you exercise in your fight against terrorism?

Terrorism is an international phenomenon and it has to be curbed collectively. Sri Lanka as the present Chair of the SAARC would like to reiterate our commitment to the declaration made in Colombo recently on the need for the strongest possible cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Every country should be free to defend itself against terrorism, wherever it comes from, whatever its manifestations, or whoever its leader.

COURTESY: Express Buzz

Humanitarian workers angry over Gotabhaya bullying WFP Director about Somalia comparison

Resentment is spreading among Sri Lanka based Humanitarian aid workers from Non – governmental organizations(NGO), international non – governmentl organizations (INGO) and international humanitarian agencies and organizations over what is being referred to as the Gotabhaya – Campbell affair.

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[Children in Kilinochchi have few places to run when the bombing and shelling starts - they are particularly vulnerable during and after an attack and many are left shaken from the experience]

Many humanitarian workers including several expatriates are deeply perturbed over the way in which the Defence ministry and its secretary handled the issue of an aid worker from the UN Word Food Program (WFP) comparing northern Sri Lanka to Somaia in a BBC interview.

John Campbell of WFP who accompanied a food convoy into LTTE controlled territory spoke to the BBC Sinhala service from Tharmapuram in Kilinochchi district by telephone where he compared prevailing conditions to Somalia .

Campbell said conditions were “as basic as can be” and that they were “much less than ideal”.

Campbell said that many of internally displaced people in Dharmapuram were living in flimsy shelters soaked by recent heavy rainfall.

"They are extremely uncomfortable in waterlogged camps and depending almost entirely on international aid for food," Campbell told the BBC.

“ It is basic as it can be. I haven't seen anything so basic since when I was in Somalia."

While Campbell gained much kudos among fellow humanitarian aid workers for telling the plain, simple truth the Defence ministry reacted strongly to it.

The official defence ministry reprimanded Campbell, WFP and the BBC Sinhala service in harsh terms describing the interview as an “abominable attempt”.

This was followed by Defence secretary Gotabhaya summoning WFP country director for Sri Lanka , Adnan Khan , and reading the riot act to him.

Gotabhaya threatened to expel John Campbell instantly and also warned that WFP food convoys to the Wanni would be suspended.

What has irked many aid workers was the meek surrender of Khan and the abject apology tendered by him to the defence secretary.

Disassociating the WFP from Campbell’s statement Khan stated that it was his personal opinion.

The defence ministry then said in another report that the WFP director has refuted the BBC report and had apologised.

Later WFP officials issued a press release saying the BBC report as a "regrettable statement based in the form of a personal opinion".

"Statements given by staff members do not necessarily reflect the official policy of WFP", the communiqué‚ further read.

Despite the WFP apology it is reliably learnt that moves are afoot to send John Campbell away from Sri Lanka.

This has caused much disgruntlement among International aid workers who strogly object to the bullying tactics adopted by Gotabhaya and the defence ministry.

Many feel that Campbell was absolutely correct and have strongly objected to what is regarded as a betrayal by WFP country director of a beleaguered colleague.

Adnan Khan’s abject apology instead of standing upo to the defence secretary with a modicum of self – respect is also being criticised.

Apologists of the WFP coutry director say he was acting in the best interests of the organization and the IDP’s in the Wanni.

Otherwise Gotabhaya Rajapakse would have barred WFP food convoys to the Wanni, they say.

Some sections don’t buy this excuse and say the WFP director should have stood his ground and called Gota’s bluff.

The defence secretary would not have dared to ban WFP food convoys as it would have got the opprobrium of the civilised world they say.

The incident has left a bad taste and may aid workers are in a state of acute dissastisfaction and resentment.

Meanwhile a Somalian website has observed that John Campbell has insulted Somalia by comparing it to northern Sri Lanka.

“Somalia at its worst was never as bad as Sri Lanka” the website says

December 18, 2008

Hard or soft line?: Govt in two minds about How to deal with Chief Justice

The Sri Lankan government headed by President Mahinda Rajapakse is caught in two minds about fashioning an effective response to the “unconventional” approach to Chief Justice Sarath Nanda Silva.

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These rulings amount to virtual policy directives by the Judiciary in a manner that is seriously challenging the clearly demarcated principles relating to “separation of powers” within the legislative, executive and judicial organs.

The Chief Justice is brazenly intervening from the bench into issues and laying down decisions into matters that have not been the judicial preserve traditionally.

Sarath Silva, however is fast evolving into a “folk hero” as most of these decisions are helpful in providing justice and alleviating injustice.

The public is delighted with the “populist” judgments laid down by the Chief Justice.

The government is fat acquiring a negative image due to its corruption, nepotism, misgovernance and gross inefficiency.

The Chief Justice by his “no – onsense” style is making the Govt really look bad and subjecting it to ridicule.

The latest was the ruling that Petrol prices should be reduced from 122 Rs per litre to 100Rs per litre.

The Supreme Court issued an interim order directing that the price of petrol be reduced to Rs. 100 per litre operative from midnight yesterday on the basis of the formula worked out as directed by the Court.

The Bench comprising Chief Justice Sarath N.Silva, K.Sripavan and P.A.Ratnayake also directed that the report of the Monetary Board be forwarded to the Bribery Commission.

Treasury Secretary Sumith Abeysinghe submitted the formula worked out, with two options, pursuant to the direction of the Court.

Court directed the Treasury Secretary, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation and the Lanka Indian Oil Company to reduce the price of the petrol to Rs 100 per litre and Minister of Petroleum Products to make the duty waiver.

Despite the Spreme court ruling Govt has not brought the price down as decreed by the Supreme Court.

A press release issued by Director, Government Information Department Anusha Pelpita said: "H.E. the President informed the Cabinet of Ministers that the Supreme Court has taken a decision on fuel prices.

It was decided to obtain a copy of that decision and afterwards the Cabinet should meet again tomorrow. There will be no change in fuel prices for the time being."

The Govt it is learnt “discussed” the Chief Justice issue with “heat and passion”.

With two schools of clashing thought emerging the govt itself is deeply divided on the matter.

The hardliners advocate a hawkish line towards the Chief Justice.

They want to unleash a propaganda campaign against the chief justice by getting sections of the Jathika Hela Urumaya and the Wimal Weerawansa faction of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna to spearhead it.

It is to be argued that the higher difference in petroleum prices is to be channelled into the war effort and that by his “high – handed” actions the CJ is aiding the LTTE.

A nation – wide campaign to denigrate the CJ as a tiger stooge is being mooted.

This campaign is to be followed by an impeachment motion in Parliament.

The Soft liners in Govt do not favour this approach.

They want the matter to be handled tactfully and suggest friendly dialogue with the Chief Justice to resolve prickly issues.

They are strongly against a confrontational approach towards the Chief Justice fearing a grave Constitutional crisis would occur.

Complicating matters further is the love – hate relationship between Mahinda Rajapakse and Sarath Silva.

A viable decision will be taken in the next few days about how to handle the Chief Justice.

Northern Fighting at a Standstill Due To Heavy Rains

There was virtually no fighting on the Northern warfront on Thursday December 18th due to heavy and incessant rains in most parts of the Northern province.

Despite expectations that heavy fighting would continue for the third successive day in the Kilinochchi. Paranthan sector , there was practically no fighting because of the weather.

Torrential rains resulted in flash floods and also many bunkers and trenches getting waterlogged.

Both the armed forces and tigers adopted a “stand – off” position preferring to stay put on their positions and engaging infrequently in artillery duels and sniping
It was widely reported that the past two days of fighting had resulted in massive casualties for the army.

The military however has refuted claims that the Army had suffered another ‘debacle’ in its latest push to capture the Kilinochchi town and also asserted that a time frame to accomplish the mission cannot be specified.

Military Spokesperson Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara told the media in Colombo that although the Army had suffered casualties in battle the numbers were far less than that suffered by the LTTE.

Brigadier Nanayakkara added that the Army was also able to break open the bund and defence lines situated on the outskirts of Kilinochchi and was able to capture five km of land along that stretch.

“We have not suffered a debacle. Instead we were able to capture more land. The fighting lasted for several hours in which the LTTE suffered heavy casualties,” Brigadier Nanayakkara said.

Rajiva Wijesinha ready to debate “Gotabhaya-Sarath Genocide” issue with Bruce Fein

Prof.Rajiva Wijesinha, Sri Lanka’s peace secretariat secretary – general and secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights , has announced his willingness to engage in public debate with US lawyer Bruce Fein over the “Genocide” issue .

Bruce Fein in his capacity as counsel for the US based “Tamils against genocide” group has prepared a 400 + page model indictment against US citizen and Sri Lankan defence secretary Gotabhaya and US Green card holder cum Sri Lankan army commander Sarath Fonseka for genocide in violation of section 1091 of the US criminal code.

Prof. Wijesinha wrote some critical comments of the envisaged action in a signed article in the peace secretariat website.

Following this ,Bruce Fein in a letter challenged Prof Wijesinha or any other Sri Lankan official for a debate on his model indictment “any time” or at “any venue”.

Responding to this, Prof. Wijesinha has in another signed article asked Bruce Fein to send him a copy of the model indictment first and that he would be “delighted to debate its contents ” with him as well as various other points made by Fein to substantiate his case.

We reproduce below the articles written by both Bruce Fein and Rajiva Wijesinha in this regard:

BRUCE FEIN:

“ I have prepared an approximately 400+ page model indictment against United States citizen and Sri Lankan Defense Minister Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and United States green card holder and Sri Lankan Lt. General Sarath Fonseka for genocide in violation of the Section 1091 of the United States criminal code. The United States law applies irrespective of the location of the genocide or the nationality of the genocide defendant. The model indictment is scheduled for publication and presentation to the United States Congress, the Department of Justice, and the Department of State in less than two weeks. The crime of genocide under United States law exposes the genocide defendant to the death penalty.

The model indictment elaborates a genocide narrative in the following manner. The politically and numerically dominant Sinhalese Buddhists have embraced and celebrated a culture of genocide against non-Sinhalese Buddhists since at least Sri Lankan independence in 1948. The genocide culture was informed by the Mahavamsa, the teachings of Dharmapala, and contemporary dogmas of Buddhist monks. Their common idiom is that Sri Lanka is an island for Sinhalese Buddhists only; and, that all others are intruders who must be either exterminated, expelled, or reduced to vassalage because of their ethnicity or religion. Thus, the Mahavamsa pays homage to King Duttugemenu for massacring Tamils who are described as sub-human.

The genocide indictment summons three types of evidence to establish guilt based on incidents since November 2005: approximately 3,000 incidents of extrajudicial murders or disappearances; approximately 1,000 incidents of causing serious bodily injury; and, approximately 2,000 incidents of creating conditions of life intended to cause the physical destruction of Tamils that affected 1 million, for example, starvation, deprivation of medicine, never-ending displacements that engendered permanent feelings of physical, economic, and psychological insecurity.

On December 15, 2008, Professor Rajiva Wijesinha, Secretary General, Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process, an echo chamber instrumentality of the Government of Sri Lanka, sallied forth on his website (www.peaceinsrilanka.org) with an awesome arsenal of irrelevancies and non sequiturs to confute my model genocide indictment. The Professor’s sophistry builds on the casuistry taught to every first year law student: If the law is against you, argue the facts; if the facts are against you, argue the law; and, if the law and the facts are against you, confuse the issue. Accordingly, Professor Wijesinha’s delivers an indictment against the LTTE as a purported defense to the Rajapaksa-Fonseka genocides. The genocide prosecution sought against Sudanese President Omar Bashir has rejected such a defense theory to a charge of genocide. In addressing the model genocide indictment I have prepared, this is what Professor Wijesinha adduces to persuade the reader to return a verdict of not guilty: not a single word or fact.

Indeed, the Professor never denies the Rajapaksa-Fonseka genocides. He simply bloviates: “Fein may see himself as an expert in pressing the right buttons, but [Tamils Against Genocide] should rethink squandering its funds on such characters.”

I challenge Professor Wijesinha or any official in the Government of Sri Lanka to debate me over the model genocide indictment at any time and in any venue of his or their choosing, including Colombo. I promise to arrive armed only with the truth; but my opponent may choose to come protected by the Sri Lankan Army and Pillaiyan. I am eager for a reply to my debate challenge. Silence will speak volumes of guilt.

Bruce Fein
Counsel for Tamils Against Genocide

RAJIVA WIJESINHA:

Bruce Fein has it seems used his contacts on TamilNet to challenge me for a debate over what he terms his model genocide indictment. A couple of days ago this indictment had been announced on TamilNet in an interview with Mr Fein, which prompted a response from me that drew attention to Mr Fein’s moral confusion.

I have now been sent yet another article from TamilNet which suggests that Mr Fein’s confusion was deliberate. He declares that part of what he claims is ‘the casuistry taught to every first year law student’ is the principle ‘if the law and the facts are against you, confuse the issue.’

I’m afraid that I went to a very different type of school to Mr Fein’s, and was not taught such casuistry. However, if Mr Fein believes that, at any rate in the circles in which he moves, casuistry is obligatory for lawyers, then clearly any moral criticism of his latest effusions will be like water off a duck’s back.

However, I would have thought that, since Mr Fein was educated at Harvard, he would have been taught - assuming indeed that Harvard encouraged casuistry, which I would not want to accept without confirmation from less biased sources - that he was taught to be careful even in casuistry. Sadly that capacity now seems to elude him. He seems to think that my article was designed ‘to persuade the reader to return a verdict of not guilty’, obviously not concerned with the fact that I have not yet seen the indictment and cannot therefore take issue with what purports to be its substance.If Mr Fein were to send me a copy of the indictment, I would be delighted to debate its content with him, as well as the various points he makes in trying to substantiate his case.

I am not sure why his ‘challenge’ is issued through TamilNet, but I will certainly respond positively to an invitation sent to the Peace Secretariat, the website of which he has evidently consulted. He can fax an invitation to the address given there, suggesting a venue of his choice, though if he prefers the United States I hope he or his backers will finance my travel. Otherwise perhaps an academic centre in Delhi would be appropriate, or the Maldives if he enjoys warmth. Certainly I would prefer not to travel West until spring (unless a place like the Carter Centre in Atlanta could be relied upon for reasonable weather), but he would doubtless prefer the debate to take place earlier.

Meanwhile I should perhaps point out a few other instances which suggest either that his little grey cells are in decline, or else that he has such contempt for his audience that he thinks they will not understand the extravagant nature of his casuistry. In his latest attack, entitled ‘Professorial Nonsense on Stilts’, he spends even more space than before on declaring that there is a culture of genocide that dates back to the Mahavamsa, the ancient chronicle of Sri Lankan history. He asserts that ‘the Mahavamsa pays homage to King Duttugemenu for massacring Tamils who are described as sub-human’, which is a strange statement since Dutugemunu is specifically described as ordering homage to the Tamil King he overcame, King Elara, who is described as a just king. Incidentally I should note that, when I was Chairman of the Academic Affairs Board of the National Institute of Education, the history syllabus was amended to specifically mention the need for all students to learn about Elara as one of the great kings of Anuradhapura.

Whilst it is likely that such assertions spring from ignorance and myopia, his sleight of hand regarding Madeleine Albright is more sinister. Having referred to the New York-based Genocide Prevention Project that included Sri Lanka as a ‘red alert’ country, he says that ‘the Obama administration was handed a policy report on genocide with specific recommendations from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. This is likely to bring Sri Lanka's genocide into U.S. focus.’ The implication, though there is not actual falsehood, is that the Albright report referred to Sri Lanka. This is not the case, but of course Fein believes his case will be strengthened by introducing Ms Albright’s name.

Finally, he claims that I have delivered ‘an indictment against the LTTE as a purported defense to the Rajapaksa-Fonseka genocides’ and that ‘The genocide prosecution sought against Sudanese President Omar Bashir has rejected such a defense theory to a charge of genocide’. This is obviously an attempt, like his misleading invocation of Ms Albright on his side, to use a name that might sound a ‘red alert’ to his chosen audience so as to denigrate his own chosen victims.

What he fails to mention is that what he considers my ‘indictment against the LTTE’ was that of Human Rights Watch. I cited them to show that his attempt to use them to denigrate the Sri Lankan government was singularly crass since, the day after the Fein 400+ page excursus, which he sought to shore up by invoking HRW in addition to Ms Albright, HRW delivered a forceful indictment of the LTTE. Mr Fein’s latest diatribe fails to register this fact. I will not suggest that this obfuscation is his attempt to defend the LTTE from the HRW indictment, because that would be stooping to his level. But his inability to escape from the culture of obfuscation that has now taken him over is a sad reminder of how even Harvard training cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.

Prof Rajiva Wijesinha
Secretary General
Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process

Kilinochchi: The kiss of death

by B Raman

"Kilinochchi within kissing distance".

So said the disinformation warriors of Lt.Gen.Sarath Fonseka, the Sri Lankan Army Commander, more than a week ago.

So said the disinformation warriors of Lt.Gen.Sarath Fonseka, the Sri Lankan Army Commander, more than a week ago.

It has been a long and fatal kiss----more for the Army than for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). It has been a long kiss of death for the young hastily-trained Sinhalese recruits to the Sri Lankan Army who were rushed to the battle front by the General in his keenness to keep his promise of "In Kilinochchi before the New Year".

Similar to the promise which Gen. Douglas McArthur, commanding the allied troops in South Korea during the Korean war, repeatedly made to the US troops fighting against the North Korean and Chinese Armies.

"To home before Christmas", he used to promise.

Christmas came and Christmas went, but the North Koreans and the Chinese fought fiercely. McArthur's promises were repeatedly belied. 'Which Christmas?" people started asking sarcastically.

Ultimately, there were neither victors nor losers in the war. It ended in a stalemate after the loss of thousands of lives on both sides.

In bitter fighting on the outskirts of Kilinochchi since the beginning of this week, the SL Army and the LTTE have sustained heavy casualties. As normally happens in military conflicts, both sides are playing down their own casualties and exaggerating those of the adversary. However, the claims of the LTTE seem to be nearer the truth than those of the Army.

The LTTE claims to have killed 170 soldiers of the SL Army, but the Army insists that only 25 of its soldiers have been killed. However, the LTTE has been able to release the photographs of at least 36 soldiers killed, thereby proving that the fatalities sustained by the Army are many more than the 25 admitted by it.

Reliable accounts show that both sides have been fighting fiercely and losing many young people. The Army has lost many more arms and ammunition and other equipment than the LTTE. The fighting has been a bonanza for the LTTE, which has been able to replenish its dwindling stocks of arms and ammunition.

The odds are still against the LTTE. It has well-trained and well-motivated cadres, who have been fighting with great determination, but it is running short of arms and ammunition despite the seizures from the Army. It has no air cover against the repeated air strikes by the SriLankan Air Force.

The SL Army has the advantage of numbers and arms and ammunition procured with funds from China and Iran, but its soldiers are not as well-motivated and as well-trained as those of the LTTE.

The LTTE had shifted its offices from Kilinochchi many weeks ago in anticipation of the battle. Kilinochchi has now nothing but the deathtraps for the SL Army laid by the LTTE. The LTTE knows where those death-traps are, but not the Army. This gives an advantage to the LTTE.

The battle being fought for Kilinochchi is a combined miniature version of the battles of Stalingrad in the erstwhile USSR and El Alamein in North Africa. At Stalingrad, the Soviet Army beat back the Nazis after inflicting repeated heavy casualties on them. At El Alamein, the allied troops commanded by Gen. Bernard Montgomery (later a Field Marshal) beat back the advancing Nazi Army commanded by Gen. Rommel with heavy casualties. These two battles marked the turning points in the Second World War.

Making a statement on the defeat of Rommel's army at El Alamein, Sir Winston Churchill, the then British Prime Minister, told the House of Commons: "There was no victory before Al Alamein. There will be no defeat after El Alamein." He was proved right.

Will Kilinochchi prove a similar turning point in the battle being fought between the SL Army and the LTTE? If the LTTE loses the battle, It could mark the beginning of its end as an insurgent force, but not as a terrorist organisation. If the SL Army wins, it will be a Pyrrhic victory.(18-12-08)

(To be read in continuation of my earlier article of Oct. 21, 2008, titled "The Spectre of Stalingrad")

Three catholic, two Anglican Bishops call for a Christmas truce

We are now approaching Christmas, a world festival of peace. At this time many Christians and even persons of other faiths will be encouraged by the birth of Christ, the Prince of Peace, to review and strengthen relationships. It is consequently expected that family ties will be renewed, communities will gather for fellowship, strangers will be welcomed, the marginalised included and the oppressed set free. Where relationships are strained or hostile it is expected that dividing walls will come down and healing will take place through forgiveness and reconciliation.

It is this spirit of Christmas that compels us as Christian leaders of the country to urge the GoSL and the LTTE to declare a truce to include Christmas and the New Year. There should be no fighting or movements during this period. We trust that our appeal will be treated with dignity by both sides and urge the GoSL to take the initiative in setting up this truce. Such an initiative will be seen the world over as a sign of political maturity and generosity.

Even though temporary, such a truce will bring immense relief to the people of the LTTE controlled areas of the Vanni. It will also enable the Christians of these areas to worship and engage in their religious practices with less anxiety, as well as bring some respite to the war weary soldiers and cadres and some peace of mind to their parents and loved ones.

We also earnestly appeal to both parties to seriously consider setting up safe zones for civilians with the assistance of the ICRC; and urge that these arrangements be honoured by all. Religious leaders of all faiths are also available to help facilitate this process. We are of the opinion that this war must stop, but till that happens such an arrangement will demonstrate our respect for humanity and save some innocent lives from further trauma or even death. We can and must assert that it is possible to care for people even in times of war. Nothing should prevent us from our highest priority of enabling life and safeguarding humanity.

May the Peace of Christ fill our hearts and nation.

The Rt Revd Thomas Savundranayagam, Roman Catholic Bishop of Jaffna
The Rt Revd Rayappu Joseph, Roman Catholic Bishop of Mannar
The Rt Revd Norbert Andradi , Roman Catholic Bishop of Anuradhapura
The Rt Revd Kumara Ilangasinghe, Anglican Bishop of Kurunagala
The Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera, Anglican Bishop of Colombo

15th December 2008.

Video: Protest in Hindu Temple Against Draconian Malaysian Law

By A special Correspondent

A. S.Jayathas, a 41 year old Malaysian Hindu Tamil political activist was admitted to hospital on Wednesday December 17th due to deteriorating health after he participated in a protest fast for four days.

[1 minute clip of HINDRAF coordinator taken by ambulance to hospital after 4 days of hunger strike]

Fifteen Malaysian Hindu activists including Jayathas - most of them Tamils - have been conducting a hunger strike at the Sri Mahakali Amman temple in Seri Gombak since Sunday December 14th.

Participants have been consuming only water during the hunger strike.

HINDRAF coordinator S Jayathas who had been on a hunger strike with 14 others to protest the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) was admitted to hospital , organisers said.

The strike began on Sunday at the Sri Maha Kaliamman Temple in Seri Gombak to commemorate the first anniversary of the detention of five Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) leaders under the draconian Internal Security Act.

The five, one of whom is a state lawmaker, were arrested last December after enraging the government by mounting a mass rally alleging discrimination against Malaysian Indians who are pre-dominantly Hindu Tamils.

Although the hunger strike is a protest against the detention without trial of five HiNDRAF activists the participants engaged in action under the aegis “Makkal Sakthi” or People Power.

P Waytha Nayagi, another participant in the hunger strike which began on Sunday, said Jayathas was taken by ambulance to hospital.

Waytha Nayagi is the sister of P Uthayakumar, one of HINDRAF 5, who are being detained without trial.

Waytha Nayagi said that Jayathas, 41, collapsed while performing a special 24-hours prayer or yagam which started at 8.30am today.

The hunger strike is being staged at a small Hindu temple in Seri Gombak.

The strike was initially planned to take place in Shah Alam but the organisers failed to secure the location.

Waytha Nayagi explained that they had also approached over 30 temples in the vicinity of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor but were denied permission.

"They were afraid and some of them were threatened by the police...when they (temples) face demolition, makkal sakthi (people power) is always there... that's the irony of this, you see," she added.

The yagam is being held for "divine intervention in securing our goals", said Waytha Nayagi.

Waytha Nayagi said the group would end their hunger strike on Thursday 18th.

"But we will continue our struggle in other forms until the ISA is abolished and all detainees are freed," she said.

Explaining the situation about her hospitalised comrade “ Jayathas became weak after four days. He also missed two rounds of dialysis treatment. He is a kidney patient," Waytha Nayagi said

He missed his treatment on Monday (15th) and Wednesday (17th) ... his last dialysis was on Friday (12th) and he was very weak," she added.

She said that Jayathas avoided his dialysis treatment as he would have to consume food after undergoing the treatment.

She also said i that Jayathas had initially refused medical care because he wanted to continue with the strike but the others had convinced him to change his mind.

When contacted ,, Jayathas said i that he was being treated at the emergency ward in Selayang Hospital.

I'm feeling much better now and I will be undergoing dialysis in a while," he said.

Explaining his earlier condition, Jayathas said that he first felt giddy while performing the prayers and that his legs began to cramp.

"My blood had become toxic because I had avoided the (dialysis) treatment," he said.

Nevertheless, he is determined to continue the strike once he is well enough to return to the temple.

Indians make up less than eight percent of the population of 27 million. Tamil – speaking Hindus of Indian and Sri Lankan origin constitute the pre-dominant majority of this “ethnic” group classified as “Malaysian Indians”.

The HINDRAF has been in the forefront of political agitation aimed at preventing discrimination at the hands of the Islamic “Bhumiputra”rulers of “democratic” Malaysia.

[15 people on hunger strike]

The Government clamped down ruthlessly on HINDRAF and jailed five top leaders of the organization.

The ISA, a relic of the British colonial era when it was used to fight a communist insurgency, allows for renewable two-year periods of detention without trial.

The government says it is a vital tool to fight terrorism, but rights groups say the law has been improperly used to silence government critics, and that detainees are mentally and physically tortured.

Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar said last week that since he took over the portfolio in March, the number of ISA detainees - most of them alleged Islamic militants - had been reduced from 70 to 46.

December 17, 2008

Revealed: Tamils' terrifying plight

by Jonathan Steele

Behind a wall of censorship horrendous battles are under way in northern Sri Lanka. The details are unclear since no independent reporters have been allowed access, and both sides – the government army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam – give out bombastic and unverifiable casualty figures.

But through the fog of war a dreadful outline emerges. According to international aid agencies about a quarter of a million people have been made homeless by conflict in the area which the Tigers once controlled behind officially agreed ceasefire lines. The government repudiated the ceasefire a year ago, and its army has made major advances towards the Tigers' political capital, Kilinochchi, as well as its military stronghold, Mullaitivu, on the north-east coast.

The government's boast of finishing the Tigers off in this high-casualty war has not yet been fulfilled. The army was bogged down for several weeks in monsoon rains in October and November, and in a typical battle on Monday the military admitted losing 25 soldiers even as they claimed to have killed 120 Tiger troops.

With its back to the jungle, the Tigers are stepping up pressure on civilians to defend their dwindling area of control, according to a Human Rights Watch report this week. "Trapped in the LTTE's iron fist, ordinary Tamils are forcibly recruited as fighters and forced to engage in dangerous labour near the front lines", Brad Adams, HRW's Asia director said on Monday. "It has recently gone beyond its longstanding 'one person per family' forced recruitment policy and now sometimes requires two or more family members to join its ranks. The LTTE claims to be fighting for the Tamil people, but it is responsible for much of the suffering of civilians".

The government, meanwhile, urges civilians to flee the Tiger areas and houses them in so-called welfare camps, which independent sources describe as detention camps. There government-paid informers wearing masks walk through the ranks of the displaced, identifying people as alleged Tiger supporters who are promptly detained.

Caught in the middle politically, civilians are also suffering massive privation. Since September, all foreign aid workers with the exception of the International Committee of the Red Cross have been barred from Tiger areas. The government has only let a handful of food convoys in.

The government's military advance has changed the political balance in Colombo. A rising tide of Sinhalese chauvinism has led the army commander to claim the island belongs to the Sinhalese Buddhist majority, while leading members of the political party founded by Buddhist monks describe all non-Sinhalese as descendants of visitors. The long-accepted consensus that Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic home for several communities – Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian, is becoming politically incorrect in the minds of the country's current power holders. The United National Party, the official opposition that brokered the 2002 ceasefire which now lies in tatters, has succumbed to the dangerous new mood. It, too, supports the government's goal of "military victory".

Were it to be achieved, Sri Lanka's problems would not be solved. The Tigers have always turned to suicide bombings and other atrocities in times of trouble. Forcing them out of their areas of territorial control will not produce peace. It will only condemn Sri Lanka's towns and villages to terrorist reprisals. Moderate Tamils do not support the Tiger's methods but they share the Tiger view that the island's current constitution does not offer fairness to non-Sinhalese populations. There has to be a devolution package which goes beyond the stale token concessions which various Sri Lankan governments have offered over the past two decades

Ironically, the only constructive proposals made since the crisis started came from the LTTE in 2003. Their suggested Internal Self-Governing Authority is over-ambitious but it has never been matched by a detailed blueprint from the government side. Until the government comes up with a realistic offer, which will have to involve elements of a federation, there will be no cause for celebration and no chance of compromise and peace.

India and Sri Lankan Tamil leaders:Then and Now

by M.S.M.Ayub

There are reports that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian MK Sivajilingam had been asked by the Indian authorities last week to leave India or face deportation. This report comes against the backdrop where India is said to have expressed concern over a remark made by the Army commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka concerning Tamil Nadu parliamentarians and state assembly councilors

Neither the TNA nor the Indian officials including Indian High Commission in Colombo denied or confirmed the report. However, only one Tamil newspaper published in Colombo had claimed that it contacted Mr. Sivajilingam in Chennai and he had denied any such move by the Indian authorities to “order him to leave or to be deported”.

It is not a surprise if the Indian central government had taken such an initiative, despite the report of Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukharjee’s possible visit to Colombo to discuss the ceasefire request by the Tamil Nadu politicians. New Delhi does not appear to anticipate a rift now with its southern neighbour on the Tamil problem as it had manipulated the Sri Lankan situation in par with its geo-political needs throughout eighties.
One can witness a vast difference between the times when India viewed the Sri Lankan Tamil problem as a blessing in disguise to penalize JR Jayewardene government in Sri Lanka for pursuing a foreign policy that was anathema to it. That was a time when a bipolar cold war was on and India had sided with the socialist camp led by the then Soviet Union or the United Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

In the contrary the Jayewardene government chose to strengthen ties with the opposite camp, the capitalist bloc led by the United States. President Jayewardene turned to Pakistan and Israel, two of the closest allies of the US then for military aid to combat the Tamil rebellion which was at an early stage then. . The present elite police commando unit, the Special Task force (STF) was an outcome of the Jayewardene government’s link with Israel.

With two US allies, Pakistan and Bangladesh on her country’s northwestern and northeast borders the then Prime Minister of India Mrs. Indira Gandhi took Sri Lanka’s allegiance to the US bloc as the completion of encircling her country by imperialist forces and challenging its hegemony in the region. She also took umbrage when thousands of Sri Lankan Tamil civilians opted to take refuge in her country following the 1983 communal pogrom in the southern part of Sri Lanka.

It was in this context that India opted to arm, train and motivate the Tamil rebels belonging to around half a dozen armed organizations. Therefore it was not Indira’s isolated vicious thinking that prompted her to milk the serpent to assassinate her own son a decade later. The open pretext India cited for its meddling in Sri Lankan affairs was the influx of around two hundred thousand Sri Lankan Tamil refugees to India owing to the ethnic conflict in the island and to the pressure from the Tamil Nadu politicians.

Tamil Nadu politicians at that time competed with each other in supporting the Sri Lankan Tamil armed groups with Chief Minister, AIADMK founder leader and film idol MG Ramachandran, commonly known as MGR supporting the LTTE and present Chief Minister and DMK leader Muththuvel Karunanidhi aiding TELO headed by Sri Sabaratnam who was considered to be a relatively more cultured rebel leader. The LTTE ideologue Anton Balasingham once explained to the Tamil daily Sudar Oli how MGR took him to an underground safe house to hand him over forty million Indian rupees packed in several trunks.

The Indo-Lanka accord in 1987 and the Rajiv Gandhi assassination in 1991 by the LTTE created a totally different scenario when India proscribed the LTTE and launched a crack down on the outfit. Even Tamil Nadu leaders except for hardcore LTTE supporters such as Vaiko, Nedumaran and Dr. Ramdoss had until recently been accusing each other for aiding and abetting the Rajiv Gandhi’s killers.

Throughout the decades long Tamil rebellion in Sri Lanka India had been in a dilemma in handling the Tamil issue though it was not overtly visible. Indian leaders wanted to appease the Tamil Nadu politicians whose support they were relying on during national and state elections by tolerating their support for the Sri Lankan Tamils and their armed struggle. On the other hand it also feared that its own actions would get out of hand and Tamil separatism in its southern most state which was crushed by Jawaharlal Nehru in the early sixties with a heavy hand might raise its head again.

Though India ignored the dangers of Tamil separatism when Sri Lanka aligned herself to the US bloc in the eighties, now, in a relative uni-polar world Delhi authorities who have also embraced the open market economy of the US bloc are more concerned about the repercussions of separatism and terrorism than in pacifying Tamil Nadu. If India has taken action against Sivajilingam, it could be interpreted as a manifestation of India’s present mindset.

The CPI of late has been complaining on the emergence of separatism in Tamil Nadu while expressing solidarity with the Sri Lankan Tamils. Therefore India’s caution in expressing its views on the situation of the displaced Tamils in war ravaged Wanni due to the LTTE’s fight for a separate state is understandable. . One has to view the “urgency” shown by the Indian Government in sending its External Minister to Sri Lanka in the light of this context.

Transport Minister Dullas Alahaperuma and the "late" Train From Nanu-Oya

by Fouzer Sheriffdeen

It was the late evening of Saturday the 14th, December. I was a passenger in the Colombo bound intercity train from Nanu Oya. When it reached Ihalakotte, a small station situated between Kadugannawa and Kadigamuwa, the train was stopped by the control room to give way to a Kandy bound train, which should have reached this station in a matter of 17 minutes, but it never came.

As time passed by I could hear screams and angry yelling from infants to adults, who are in a "No way out" situation at a place which is situated in middle of the nowhere. The main reason for the anger was that when they reach Colombo, they will not have the means of transport to reach their destinations.

I, as another passenger having obtained the transport minister’s telephone number, initiated a call never having any hope whatsoever, that I will get any response. But to my utmost surprise it was the minister himself who picked the phone. Having listened to me he obtained my number, then I thought, this is a typical Sri Lankan pacification tactic.

The second surprise came my way, when I received a call from Nalin, the Minister’s secretary, who by that time had obtained all information regarding the incident and related it to us. The prediction was that the train will only reach Fort close to midnight, as the engine of the other train had failed and it had to be towed.

Again without having any positive hopes, on behalf of the commuters I urged him if he could, to arrange some busses for all passengers to get to their destinations, and the answer was as usual, "I will look into it". Ten minutes later he (Nalin) called to inform me that four SLTB buses destined to Negombo, Horana, Awissawella and Kalutara will be stationed opposite the Fort station. This made me and the staff of the train to wonder whether we were in Sri Lanka. Isn’t this a praiseworthy case of setting an example by a Minister and his personal staff on how to serve the public?

It did not stop at that, I was contacted by one Dammika Hewapathirana, who introduced himself as the CEO of the SLTB and informed me about the transport arrangements.

Finally the train reached Colombo Fort by 11.45 pm, and the four busses were kept ready there. The dedication and commitment of the Minister’s secretary and the SLTB CEO didn’t end there. Both of them phoned me to ensure the buses were sufficient and that there was no passenger who was stranded.

I reached my destination by 1 a.m., and before I could enter my house I received another call from the great secretary of a great leader Minister Dallas Alahapperuma, to find out if everything was okay, and to ensure that no passenger was stranded.

I think all newspapers will publish this story, as an eye opener to all other politicians and those who hold public office.

Also, in our beautiful country, whenever we call a Minister, some joker claiming to be the secretary to the respective minister, denies us access, saying the minister is busy at meetings etc. But in this instance, Minister Alahapperuma himself picked the phone with just one ring, and instructed his staff to ensure the safety of the commuters, which was very well attended to by his staff.

Seven airstrikes against LTTE: 2 civilians killed, 13 injured

The civilian casualty toll mounted in the north as two were killed and thirteen injured during aerial bombardment undertaken by the Sri Lankan Airforce.

Airforce spokesman said that the Airforce Sri Lankan Airforce conducted seven airstrikes in the suburban areas west and north of Kilinochchi town and in Iranaimadhu.

Nanayakkara said that the strikes were in support of the 57 and 58 divisions fighting in the area and that the first airstrike occurred at 11. 30 am on Tuesday December 16th.

The others were on Wednesday December 17th.

According to informed sources there had been collateral damage as bombs had fallen in areas populated by civilians and internally displaced persons .

At least four of the seven airstrikes resulted in bombs falling in the Vattakachchi area.Vattakachchi is a suburb to the north- east of Kilkinochchi town.

Of the four airstrikes in the Vattakachchi area two had proved lethal.

One airstrike at 7. 30 am on Dec 16th was on Hudson road in Vattakachchi and the other at 10.00 am was near the Vatakachchi hospital. Both had caused civilian casualties.

A five month old baby Rajithan Ravishankar and a 29 year old male Jeyasuthan Selvaratnam were killed. Rajithan Ravishankar. The male killed in the bombardment was identified as Jeyasundraram Selvaratnam.

One child, 10-year-old Midhushan Sriranjan had his leg amputated at the hospital and his 8-year-old sister Sinthuja Sriranjan was wounded badly in her stomach.

Other ther civilians wounded in the bombardments are Joseph Dharmadevi, , Nallathambi Nandakumar, , Mahendran Ravishankar, , Yogarasa Yogeswaran, , Ravishankar Sujanidhi, Raja Mahendran, and , Sinnaththambi Luxmy.

The official reports regarding those brought to the Vattakachchi and Tharmapuram hospitals are given below –

Admitted toTharmapuram Hospital on 17 December 2008 following aerial attack at Vaddakachchi

Name-Age-Conditions

Nallathambi. Nandakumar-44 M abdominal injury

Sivaranjan. Mithushan-10 M Lacerated right thigh

Sivaranjan. Sinthuja-8 F Lacerated chest and abdomen

Mahendran. Ravisangar-36 M Lacerated left leg and scalp

Yogarasa. Yogeswaran-30 M Lacerated limb

Ravisangar. Sujanithi-28 F Lacerated leg, body and left eye vision lost

Sinnathambi. Jeevan-28 M Lacerated left face

Rasa. Mahendran-59 M Lacerated both chest and leg

Sinnathambi. Luxmy-57 F Multiple lacerated face

Admitted to Vaddakachchi Hospital

Satgunanathan. Nanthini-21 F

Josep. Tharmadevi-15 F

Balasubramanium. Thangamalar-55 F

Karan-32 M

Death bodies were brought to Vaddakachchi hospital

Ravisangar. Rajithan-5/12 M

Selvaratnam. Jesuthan-29 M

More casualties on Wednesday but Army expands hold on Tiger earthbund

Fierce fighting continued for the second successive day in areas south- west and north – west of Kilinochchi and west of Paranthan on Wednesday December 17th.

Soldiers of the 57 and 58 divisions sustained casualty rates numbering nearly 250 but managed to both retain and expand their hold on the earthbund constructed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE)as a defensive measure.

According to Defence ministry sources who spoke on condition of anonymity around 80 army personnel from both 57 and 58 divisions were killed on Wednesday.

A further 145 were injured while another 24 were reported as “missing in action”.

Wednesday’s fighting was of two types and centered around the 18 km long “L” shaped earthbund erected by the LTTE from areas west of Paranthan in Kunchuparanthan to areas south of Kilinochchi in Iranaimadhu, sources said.

An offensive was launched in the early hours of the morning in the Puthumurippukulam area by the army with the intention of breaching the bund – oriented tiger defences in the south – western region.

This offensive was resisted and repulsed intensely by the tigers who inflicted massive losses on the army.

The LTTE has claimed they retrieved 12 bodies of soldiers in Puthumurippukulan.

In the second type of fighting several onslaughts were directed against the army in areas north – west of Kilinochchi and areas west of Paranthan which is 4 miles to the north of Kilinochchi town along the A – 9 highway.

The LTTE was mainly targeting soldiers who were holding a portion of the tiger earthbund in that vicinity.

The army despite heavy casualties had seized about 5 km of the 18 km long bund on Tuesday December 16th.

The tiger assaults on Wednesday were aimed at dislodging soldiers from these positions.

Despite many attacks the soldiers not only managed to retain their hold on the earthbund but also succeeded in expanding their hold on the bund from 5 km to 7 km.

The army also advanced into the areas of Sorikkernukulam to the west of Paranthan town.

The LTTE also incurred casualties amounting to about 100 with 30 killed and 70 injured.

Fighting is expected to continue for the third successive day on Thursday December 18th.

The armed forces have incurred nearly 900 casualties in two days of fighting while the LTTE suffered nearly 170 casualties in two days.

With Defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse having set a deadline of December 31st for capturing Kilinochchi the armed forces are determined to meet that deadline in spite of stiff LTTE resistance.

It is also a matter of prestige for the tigers as LTTE chief Velupillai Prabakharan told an Indian journal that Kilinochchi would not fall.

"Black Tuesday" for Army: Nearly 650 casualties in North

The Sri Lankan forces have suffered major losses at the hands of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on a single day of fighting in the North.

MARS1217.jpgTuesday December 16th turned out to be a “Black Tuesday” for the armed forces as they incurred around 650 casualties in fighting against the LTTE in both the Northern mainland of Wanni as well as the Jaffna peninsula.

Tuesday is the day of Mars regarded as the God of war in Greek mythology.

According to informed defence ministry sources who want to remainin anonymous for obvious reasons , about 170 soldiers were killed and 480 security personnel were injured.

The sources however said about 300 of injured personnel had sustained minor injuries and are classified as “walking wounded”.

Official pronouncements have placed army casualties at a very low number not exceeding three digits.

Likewise the official government position was that about 120 tigers were killed and 250 injured.

The LTTE however reportedly lost around 70 cadres. The figures for injury are not known.

The armed forces launched a co-ordinated attack on LTTE positions in the peninsula and mainland before dawn on December 16th.

Soldiers of 53 division broke out from Kilaly in the Jaffna peninsula and targeted the LTTE’s second line of defence along the Kilaly – Eluthumadduvaal axis.

The army had demolished the LTTE first line of defence in fighting some days ago.

After fierce fighting throughout the day the soldiers withdrew without realising their objective.

The Army lost more than 40 men in the fighting within the peninsula while the LTTE lost around 25. Around 160 soldiers were injured.

Simultaneous to the Kilaly assault within the peninsula soldiers of the 57 and 58 divisions also launched a four – pronged operation.

Soldiers moved out from Kunchuparanthan on the Paranthan – Poonagary road towards Paranthan on the A – 9 highway.

In a second move soldiers broke out from Pulikkulam and moved towards Kilinochchi.

In a third manoeuvre soldiers moved from Malaiyaalapuram towards Kilinochchi.

In the fourth move soldiers broke out from Thirumurugandy on the A – 9 and tried to reach Iranaimadhu.

Though fighting on four fronts the soldiers had a common obstacle to surmount.

This was the 18 km long earthbund constructed by the LTTE to strengthen defences around Kilinochchi and Paranthan.

The “L” shaped bund extended from Kunchuparanthan to the west of Paranthan to Iranaimadhu to the south of Kilinochchi.

After a day of fighting the soldiers managed to seize and hold about 5 km of the earth bund in the areas south of Adamban.

The soldiers however incurred heavy losses in the attempt with about more than 130 being killed and around 320 getting injured.

The LTTE lost about 45 – 50 cadres in the fighting.

“Black Tuesday” ended with about 170 soldiers getting killed and around 480 getting injured thus bringing the casualty toll to nearly 650.

The Tamil People's Right to Self-Determination

by Deirdre McConnell

Cambridhe Review of International Affairs.

Abstract

"This article provides an overview of the crisis in Sri Lanka and states why an armed conflict has developed in the northern and eastern parts (north-east) of the country. The Tamils' accusations—of discrimination, denial of the right to self-determination, abrogated agreements and violations of international human rights and humanitarian law amounting to genocide by successive Sri Lankan governments—are supported by specific evidence given by international human rights and legal experts, international human rights non-governmental organizations and other relevant entities. The democratic parliamentary efforts and the non-violent resistance struggle of the Tamil people prior to the outbreak of war are traced over several decades. The article includes an outline of social and law and order achievements in the north-east under the de facto administration of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and concludes with some current international dimensions of the situation."

Introduction

The United Nations (UN) Charter of 1945 supports the view that self-determination is a legal principle, and as such the right to self-determination is placed crucially in the first article of each of the two major human rights covenants of 1966: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) (UN 1996).

The recognition of self-determination rights was first applied in the 1960s to countries hitherto ruled by colonial powers, for example several countries in Africa—during the decades that followed, the right to self-determination of several other peoples has been internationally recognized. Despite the fact that the principle and fundamental right of self-determination is firmly established under international law, consideration of the Tamil people's right to self-determination and, importantly, the outright denial of this right for many decades are frequently omitted in discourse pertaining to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. Therefore, this article includes a descriptive analysis of the conflict. The main objective is to focus on the violations that have occurred.

If the international community desires to support the search for a just and equitable solution to the island's bloody conflict which will benefit all of the island's population, then an analysis of the root causes of the conflict is required. It is logical to start with a consideration of the historical background prior to colonization. We will then consider how the situation has evolved over the pre- and post-independence periods. This will be followed up by a description of the factors contributing to the conflict.

Two peoples colonized by Europeans

Historians have asserted that the ancestors of the present-day Tamils were the original inhabitants of the island (Williams 1950). Indigenous Tamil people have lived for more than 2,500 years in the northern and eastern parts of present-day Sri Lanka (north-east), known as the Tamil hereditary area. In precolonial days there was the Tamil Kingdom in the north-east (Jaffna) and two Sinhalese kingdoms in the south, called Kotte and Kandy. Drawings and maps from the time of the Greek explorer Ptolemy, and later from the period when the British came to the island, show how the areas of the Tamils and the Sinhalese were recorded separately from antiquity (Emerson 1859).

The Tamils are predominantly Saivites (known as Hindus), whose religion and written language date back more than 2,500 years.[1] There are also Tamils who are Christians (converted from Saivism during the colonial era) and Muslims (through trade migration), sharing much of the Tamil culture, including the language. The highly acclaimed period of Sangham literature extended from 100 bc to ad 250, and is part of Tamil culture, which is immensely rich in art, literature, philosophy and history. The Sinhalese speak Sinhala, a language consisting fundamentally of Pali words, with many Sanskrit and Tamil loanwords. Historians agree that the Sinhalese community emerged after the assimilation of various ethnic groups in southern and western Sri Lanka, around 200 bc. The Sinhalese people are predominantly Buddhists but there are also Christians (Ponnambalam 1983).

The Portuguese (1505) and the Dutch (1658) colonial powers ruled the kingdoms of the Tamil and Sinhalese peoples separately, each people having a distinct culture, religion and language. In 1796, Britain conquered the island and in 1815 captured the Kandyan Kingdom (hitherto unconquered by the two previous colonial powers). For administrative convenience, the British then amalgamated the Tamil and Sinhalese kingdoms in 1833, creating a 'unitary state', later named Ceylon .[2] Of note, Britain used the concept of Tamil homeland, utilizing the distribution of Tamil and Sinhala place names, as the basis to demarcate the boundaries of two Tamil provinces in 1873 (Manogaranand Pfaffenberger 1994; Manogaran 1997). The British brought across around a million Tamils from South India to work mainly on tea plantations in the Central Hill Country.

The island's total current population is about twenty million. According to the most recent island-wide census, conducted in 1981, nearly three-quarters of the population were Sinhalese, whereas Tamils, including Muslim Tamils, comprised about one-quarter of the population. There are also burghers (dual-heritage descendents of the Europeans), Malays and the Vedas. Proceedings before the Donoughmore Commission in 1930 and the Soulbury Commission in 1946 were testimony to the failure of attempts by the British to create a homogeneous single Ceylonese nation. Measures adopted for multiracial colonies to ensure that no single community would be able to outvote all other communities combined, and proportional representation agreed between the Sinhalese and the Tamils (such attempts were made in colonial times to defuse the gathering crisis) were dropped without any reason being given:

By abolishing communal representation altogether, the [Donoughmore] Commission removed a delicate and pivotal balancing mechanism built into the political system to mirror the nationality structure in the country … The abolition of communal representation would have been a progressive step only if suitable institutions, with adequate powers, were brought into being within the unitary structure, for the full development and realization of the aspirations of the separate nations. Perhaps with this in view, the Commission recommended limited devolution of power to new district councils. But these were never created and hence territorial representation without devolution of power at once exposed the Tamil nation to the overwhelming majority of the Sinhalese. Hence, subsequent Tamil attempts to redress this imbalance. (Ponnambalam 1983, 53)

The Soulbury Commission attempted to entrench safeguards into the colonial constitution to protect minority rights. Section 29(c) of the 1946 Soulbury Constitution stated,

No law shall … make persons of any community or religion liable to disabilities or restrictions to which any persons of other communities or religions are not made liable; or … confer on persons or any community or religion any privilege or advantage which is not conferred on persons of other communities or religions. (Ceylon Constitution Order in Council 1946)

Although Parliament was prohibited from introducing discriminatory legislation, laws that discriminated against Tamils, discussed later, were introduced and implemented. Meanwhile, a policy of colonizing the Tamil homeland areas was already underway.

Colonization of Tamil homeland

Extensive research has shown that one of the ways in which the relationship between the government and the Tamils was altered to the disadvantage of the Tamils was a programme of systematic colonization of parts of the Tamil homeland area. The nature and extent of Sinhalese colonization in Tamil provinces and their impact on those provinces' ethnic composition and political character have been well documented. According to Sachithanandan (1980, 10), 'within 162 years, the Sinhalese had plundered 50 per cent of the Tamil ancestral homeland and are still attempting to colonise more and more lands'. Initially covert, then operating overtly, these programmes were executed with methodical precision and calculated aggression, employing sections of the army and the Land Development, Irrigation and Agricultural Departments. Prior to and after independence, the government employed strategies to appropriate the land from the Tamils by settling armed Sinhalese families in forest areas between Tamil villages.

To many observers this was a process of internal colonization to change demographic patterns and performed two important functions: to lend weight to the false argument that the Tamils never occupied any part of the island exclusively and to eventually alter electoral boundaries and create new Sinhala electorates for the rapidly increased number of Sinhalese settlers (Manogaran 1997). The District of Trincomalee is a notable example. In 1881, 4.2 per cent of the population were Sinhalese and 89.5 per cent were Tamil-speaking. However, by 1981, the Sinhalese had increased to 33.6 per cent of the population, whereas the Tamil-speaking population had decreased to 62.8 per cent. [3] Commenting on the purpose of the government's policy on colonization and its impact on the Tamil-speaking people, Moore (1985) writes,

For not only have large-scale irrigation schemes intruded Sinhalese settlers into areas formerly occupied by Tamil speakers—Sri Lanka Tamils or Muslims—but this has been the conscious and admitted intention. There is thus the territorial dimension to what has been termed, in relation to Sinhalese political and cultural resurgence, 'the Myth of Reconquest'. Land policy, and the ideologies which support it have in general focussed more on the control of the land than the cultivation of or use of land. (Moore 1985, 45)

The colonization of the Tamil homeland areas continues today. Before discussing the acts of violence that underpin this policy, it is necessary to examine legislation introduced to position the Tamils as subordinates.

Post-colonial Sinhalese-Tamil relationship

Independence was granted to Ceylon in 1948. Urging the minorities to accept the Soulbury Constitution, the first prime minister of Ceylon, Sinhalese leader DS Senanayake, had assured the minorities that 'no harm need they fear at our hands in a free Lanka'. Appealing specifically to the Tamils, he asked, 'do you want to be governed from London or do you want, as Ceylonese, to help govern Ceylon?' (State Council Debate on the Soulbury Constitution 1945). Tamil leaders thought the Sinhalese would treat their people as equals. However, once Senenyake became prime minister he passed legislative acts that discriminated against Tamils. Under the provisions of the Ceylon Citizenship Act 1948, almost all the Tamils in the Central Hill Country were denied citizenship, leaving them stateless. They were then disenfranchised by the Ceylon (Parliamentary Elections) Amendment Act. This led to conditions of hardship for Tamils whose position was already depressed in terms of housing, health and education—despite their enormous contribution as labourers to the national income. Another consequence of disenfranchisement was the expansion of the already large majority of Sinhalese voters, as noted by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ):

In 1948, at independence, the Tamils had 33 per cent of the voting power in the legislature. Upon the disenfranchisement of the estate Tamils (in 1950), however, this proportion dropped to 20 per cent. The Sinhalese obtained more than a 2/3 majority in the Parliament, making it impossible for the Tamils to exercise an effective opposition to Sinhalese policies affecting them. (Leary 1983, 11)

Due to political reasons, the Sinhalese leader SWRD Bandaranaike converted from Christianity to Buddhism and learnt the Sinhala language. He promised two changes that would undoubtedly attract the support of the Sinhalese Buddhist majority. These were to change the official language from English to Sinhala (hitherto both Tamil and Sinhala were recognized as official languages) and make Buddhism the exclusive state religion.

In 1956, one of the first acts of the newly elected Bandaranaike government was the passing of the 'Sinhala Only Bill', which declared Sinhala the only state language:

In the eyes of the Tamils, they were discriminatory provisions adopted by the majority population which placed their language in an inferior position, [and] required them to learn the majority language; it also became more difficult for Tamils to enter government service. (Leary 1983, 10-11)

Tamil public servants were forced to learn the Sinhala language or face dismissal from public service. The professional middle class was affected in every sphere of life, fuelling a great deal of resentment. Together with the violence directed against the protestors, the Sinhala Only Act marked a historical watershed in the relationship between the Sinhalese and Tamil people.

Further discriminatory legislation

If the intention of the Sinhala Only Act had been purely to replace the colonial language of English, the genuine solution would have been to introduce both Sinhala and Tamil as languages with equal status—restoring the situation to that of the precolonial era. However, it was not only this Act but also the disenfranchisement legislation and the colonization process as a whole which were designed to marginalize the Tamils' rights under the guise of democracy. The reasons for this will be explained later below.

Further erosion of the Tamils' rights took place over the following decades. 'Standardization', a system of marks required for admission to university, was introduced in 1971 and required Tamils to gain higher marks than Sinhalese students. In 1972 a 'district quota system' was implemented whereby admission was based no longer on merit but on ethnic origin. Also in 1972, the Sinhalese leadership brought in a republican constitution. This new constitution introduced measures to further disadvantage the Tamils. It abolished the right to appeal to the Privy Council and it also abolished Section 29 of the 1946 constitution, which, as noted earlier, had been intended to protect numerical minorities. Furthermore, it renamed the island 'Sri Lanka' (a Sinhala name) and, in a clear move away from the secularism that had underpinned the British constitution, proclaimed that 'Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place' (Sri Lanka Constitution 1972, chapter 2).

This last move constitutionally secured the ability of the Buddhist clerics, alongside Sinhalese politicians, to maintain Sinhalese control. The ethno-religious identity of the Sinhalese was thus advanced over the minorities. Far from the assertion of a Sinhala identity that could respect diversity and pluralism, in effect a threatening and pernicious system of oppression developed. The origins and ideology of the oppression meted out against the Tamils derive from a distorted interpretation of the Buddhist religion.

On the origins of racism

Given Buddhism's presumed non-violent philosophy, the question arises, how could committed Buddhist monks and their wider community in Sri Lanka actively take part in the political violence of the Sinhalese against the Tamils? The nature of the participation of monks in national politics became increasingly volatile from the 1940s. Some Buddhist monk ideologues have been seeking to establish an 'ideal Buddhist-administered society' (Tambiah 1992). In this, they refer to and rely on the 'Myth of Re-conquest' (Mahavamsa), which eulogizes the ancient victories of the Sinhalese Prince Dutugemunu over the Tamil King Ellalan in which thousands of Tamils were killed, and makes a virtue of killing in defence of Buddhism. It also inculcates the belief that Sinhala Buddhists are racially superior to the Tamils. In the early 20th century, the leading proponent of these ideas was Anagaraka Dharmapala (1864-1933). In Dharmapala's view, the Tamils and other non-Sinhalese did not belong on the island. This exacerbated friction and contributed to riots as early as 1915 between Muslims and Sinhalese (Ponnambalam 1983). It is this ideology that influences the policies and actions of the Sinhalese government.

Non-violent resistance

As each new policy of discrimination was introduced, the Tamil people organized dignified protests based on satyagraha (non-violent civil disobedience in the Ghandian manner), inspired by the belief that it would bring forth positive change in the political arena. These non-violent actions continued for thirty-five years after independence and were invariably crushed with hostile and repressive measures taken by the police and army on the direction of the government. Often anti-Tamil riots would follow state intervention. For example, in the non-violent protests against the Sinhala Only Act, some 300 Tamil protesters were attacked, and in some cases stoned, by a government-supported Sinhalese mob numbering in the thousands. Simultaneously, 150 Tamils were killed in the east. Vittachi (1958) records how rumours (later established as false) that a Sinhalese woman and baby were killed had been used to ignite violence and anti-Tamil pogroms. In these attacks on the non-violent Tamil protests, no Sinhalese people were killed.

Alongside the non-violent resistance movement in the 1950s and 1960s, Tamil politicians proposed political solutions. However, agreements for peace, based on a quasi-federal system devolving certain powers to the Tamils in the north-eastern province signed between the Sinhalese leaders (prime ministers) and the Tamil leaders (parliamentarians) to resolve the political turmoil in the country were unilaterally abrogated by the prime ministers then in power. At the Trincomalee Convention of the Federal Party in August 1956, demands were made to the new Prime Minister, after extensive discussions, for a federal constitution, parity of status for Tamil and Sinhala languages, repeal of citizenship laws that had discriminated against Tamils of Indian descent, and an immediate halt to the colonization of the Tamil homeland. The result of this was the Banda-Chelva Pact, signed by Prime Minister Bandaranaike and the Tamil leader Chelvanayagam in 1957. But it was then abrogated by the Prime Minister due to vehement protests staged by Buddhist clergy and Sinhalese political leadership. The Senanayake-Chelvanayagam pact of 1965 also failed. In this agreement, the Federal Party extended support to the United National Party to form a government in which a Federal Party nominee would be appointed to the cabinet as minister of local government. However, the agreement was not implemented by the Dudley Senanayake government and this led to the withdrawal of the Federal Party from the cabinet in 1968.

During the period between these agreements, over 500 Tamils were killed in political violence and anti-Tamil riots, and the Tamils' socioeconomic structures were also damaged by government-sponsored arson, vandalism and looting (Sivanayagam 2005, 68). By this time the Tamil civil society, non-violent movement and its political counterpart, the Federal Party, had started to consider that it was time to exercise their right to self-determination, as they had been consistently denied the right to freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development as provided for in international law in Article 1.1 of the ICCPR and ICESCR.

Right to self-detemination and democratic expression

Although the UN Charter endorses the right to self-determination, one of the ironies of the 20th century is that such 'peoples' frequently suffer from the lack of an international mechanism that supports a people's legitimate aspirations for the right to self-determination. Such a mechanism would clearly need to take into account the fact that countries where peoples seeking self-determination reside invariably circumvent negotiations. Tamil politicians were persistent in their efforts to find a peaceful solution, although attempts to secure a federal arrangement through democratic processes have been shown to be futile, as described above. There is demonstrable evidence that the Tamils had exhausted all possibilities through dialogue before they were driven to demand their right to self-determination. In July 1977, the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), the representative party of the Tamils, declared in its election manifesto (which served as a form of referendum to the electorates in the Tamil areas),

What is the alternative now left to the nation that has lost its rights to its language, rights to citizenship, rights to its religions and continues day by day to lose its traditional homeland; The Tamil Nation must take the decision to establish its sovereignty in its homeland on the basis of its right to self-determination … to establish the independence of Tamil Eelam … either by peaceful means or by direct action or struggle. (Quoted in Hot Spring 1999, 1)

In the north-east, 86 per cent of the electorate turned out to vote in this election, of which 68 per cent voted for the TULF. Overall, 65.9 per cent voted for candidates who stood for an independent Tamil Eelam.

Clearly, the Tamil people had voted overwhelmingly in favour, showing the majority of the Tamil people's desire for self-determination to be defined by external self-determination. However, the government did not respect the popular mandate verified by this democratic and legal process. On the contrary, the government introduced the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibited peaceful advocacy of independence. The constitution itself further denied Tamils an effective role in the decision-making process. This explains why most Tamils boycotted elections for many years afterwards, as their views were simply not taken into account. There ensued heavy, well-documented vote-rigging on the part of successive governments who encouraged discredited Tamil groups to stand for election.

Genocide

We can observe that, based on historical and sociopolitical evidence, the Tamils of the north-east fulfil all the criteria to be recognized as a distinct people: not only a culture that possess a native language, but also one that has inhabited a traditional settlement area, has a shared history and has democratically expressed a collective will. Furthermore, they have a shared lived experience as a people that has been systematically and collectively discriminated against and persecuted by successive Sri Lankan governments. In the early 1980s the persecution intensified. In 1981 the library in Jaffna was burnt to the ground by Sinhalese policemen. Some 95,000 ancient texts and manuscripts were destroyed. In July 1983, over 3,000 Tamils were killed, many of them burnt alive. Electoral lists were used to identify Tamil homes. The police and army encouraged the killings (Sivanayagam 1987).

Judicial experts have repeatedly asserted that the political violence and killings directed against the Tamils constitute genocide. The ICJ stated, 'the evidence points clearly to the conclusion that the violence of the Sinhalese rioters on the Tamils amounted to acts of genocide' (MacDermot 1983). The allegation of genocide is based on the following points: (1) the Tamils represent a clearly defined group and those who kill the Tamils do so with the intent to wipe them out as a group, (2) the killers are encouraged or implicitly supported by state authorities, and (3) the acts of violence and mass killing inflicted upon Tamils are criminal and systematic.

The first international genocide trial in history, the Rwandan Akayesu case, considered the scope and elements of genocide and defined what constitutes a protected group. [4] It also recognized individual criminal responsibility for acts committed by subordinates. The trial chamber concluded that the victim 'is the group itself and not only the individual'.[5] Noting the definition of each protected group, it is clear that the Tamil people are a group 'whose members share a common language or culture'[6] and are also 'a stable and permanent group'. [7] Regarding the definition of crimes against humanity, the chamber noted that certain inhumane acts must be part of a widespread or systematic attack, 'committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group'.[8] These acts included extermination, murder, torture and rape. The historic conviction of rape as a crime against humanity and as an instrument of genocide was a significant step for women's rights. Hitherto, the definition of rape in international criminal law had been limited to that of an act of torture.

Documentation and evidence of widespread attacks, including rape, against the Tamil civilian population over several decades have been collected by international human rights organizations. For instance, as corroborated by Amnesty International, on 11 February 1996 Sri Lankan army soldiers raped and killed two young women during an army mass killing of 24 villagers in Kumarapuram. Thirteen women and seven children below the age of 12 were among those killed. Some of the soldiers shouted, 'Death to the Tamils.' Only soldiers of lower rank faced charges and they were released on bail (Amnesty International 1996). The court-case of Krishanthy Kumaraswamy, a 17-year-old girl who 'disappeared' on 7 September 1996 and was gang-raped and murdered by Sri Lankan soldiers, was held in Colombo due to intense international pressure. The case led to the revelation of the mass graves at Chemmani, where some 600 bodies are believed to be buried. Detailed evidence of exact locations of burials in shallow ground, within a Sri-Lankan-government-controlled area, was given in court by an accused junior military officer, who also stated that he was not guilty and named a commander and senior captains who had ordered the killings. In Batticaloa on 17 May 1997, Murugespillai Koneswari, a mother of four children, was raped and killed by Sinhalese police in front of her two-year-old daughter (Amnesty International 1997b; 1997c).

The above cases of systematic rape and killing of Tamil women and girls by Sinhalese security forces fit the recognized definition of genocide. The Tamils are a protected people. Rape has been used as an instrument of genocide against them with the intention of destruction. Over 80,000 civilian Tamil people, including many women and children, have been killed or have 'disappeared' since 1983; more than 12,500 Tamil women have been raped and killed; torture is routinely committed against Tamils (Tamil Centre for Human Rights 2005). In November 2003, the UN Human Rights Committee stated, 'the Committee remains concerned about persistent reports of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of detainees by law enforcement officials and members of the armed forces' (UN Human Rights Committee 2003, 3, paragraph 9). For over two decades, the Sri Lankan government has imposed an economic embargo on the Tamil areas by blocking access to food and medicine. Such an action is listed as an element of the crime of extermination under the Statute and Elements of the International Criminal Court. Sri Lanka has, however, abstained from voting in favour of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

In 1998, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances stated that Sri Lanka had the second-highest number of disappearances in the world, ranking next to Iraq. [9] Also Sri Lanka is the only country that the Working Group has visited three times. So far, no proper remedies have been found for these disappearances. More than 2,500 Tamil church and temple buildings have been destroyed in aerial bombings and artillery shelling, and billions of rupees' worth of material damage has been caused by the Sri Lankan government. Vast areas of the north-east have been declared 'High Security Zones' (HSZ) and all dwelling places, schools and places of worship have been destroyed, with the exception of large houses commandeered by the Sri Lankan forces. The livelihoods of the people—farming, fishing, small-scale industries and trading—are denied. About 500,000 Tamils have sought political asylum in European and other countries.

The presidency of Chandrika Kumaratunga, 1994-2001, was a time of immense fear for Tamils. Using her executive presidential powers she declared and waged her 'War for Peace', in which hospitals, churches, temples, schools and marketplaces were bombed from land, air and sea, with a huge toll on civilian life; and over 800,000 Tamil people were internally displaced in the north (Emmanuel 1997). A few years of cessation of hostilities followed the Ceasefire Agreement between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which was facilitated by the Royal Norwegian government and signed by the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Ranil Wickremasinghe, and the leader of the LTTE, Vellupillai Pirabakaran, on 22 February 2002. However, the onslaught of human rights violations resumed under President Mahinda Rajapakse. The economic embargo—preventing food and medicine from reaching Tamil civilians—has been renewed and infant mortality has risen. Bombing of Tamil civilians by land, air and sea by Sri Lankan forces and extrajudicial killing of Tamils are happening with disturbing frequency. Humanitarian aid workers, including 17 local workers from the French organization Action Contre la Faim, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) staff and many others, have been killed by Sri Lankan armed forces. Ethnic cleansing of Tamils is rampant in the east and a further 300,000 Tamils have been displaced in that region. Successive governments of Sri Lanka have continued to commit violations of international humanitarian law, war crimes and crimes against humanity (Humanitarian Law Project 2006). There is growing alarm currently, both in the north-east and internationally, due to the fact that on 16 January 2008, the Sri Lankan government withdrew from the Ceasefire Agreement.

Impunity

The lack of interest by successive Sinhalese governments in addressing the Tamils' complaints has fostered impunity. The problem of impunity is at the very heart of the conflict. Since not a single member of the security forces has been successfully indicted, it seems the Sri Lankan security forces have no restraint on their conduct. More than 90 mass killings of Tamils by the Sri Lankan security forces have taken place in the north-east since 1956 (Tamil Centre for Human Rights 2005). Tamils and human rights organizations have brought many of these cases to the attention of the authorities in Sri Lanka, but to no avail. There has been a well-recorded tactic of delay, court transfers and intimidation of witnesses. The absence of any effective means of bringing perpetrators to justice has helped to fuel the conflict. The UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings, Bacre Waly Ndiaye, has stated,

Effective impunity encourages political violence and is a serious destabilizing element in all contexts of the Sri Lankan socio-political system … This culture of impunity has led to arbitrary killings and has contributed to the uncontrollable spiralling of violence. (UN Commission on Human Rights 1998, 27, paragraph 119)

A few cases have been brought before the Sri Lankan authorities. For example:

In Kokkaddicholai, near Batticaloa there were two 'massacres'. In 1987, 80 unarmed Tamil civilians, including women, were shot dead by special police task forces. The bodies were hauled away in tractors, and have not been seen since. In 1991, Sri Lankan Army soldiers killed 152 Tamil civilians including women. A formal enquiry was held, which found 19 soldiers responsible, but the perpetrators were not punished and returned to active duty (Trawick 1999).

At Mylanthanai village in the Batticaloa district, 35 Tamil civilians, including women and 14 children, were 'massacred' by Sri Lankan Army soldiers on 9 August 1992. After ten years of advocacy, 18 soldiers were brought to trial. At the soldiers' request, the case was transferred from Batticaloa to Colombo and tried before an all-Sinhalese jury, which returned a unanimous verdict of not guilty on 25 November 2002 (British Refugee Council 2002).

In the case of the Bolgoda Lake killings of 21 Tamils in custody, whose bodies were found in lakes around Colombo, 'the 22 Special Task Force (STF) members arrested in connection with the killings in September 1995 and released on bail three months later had allegedly returned to active duty' (British Refugee Council 1997).

The proceedings of the Chemmani mass graves case have been subject to continuous delays. Amnesty International stated that there was a clear pattern of the security forces carrying out disappearances: 'Between 1983 and mid-1987, we recorded 860 disappearances in the area, nearly all of whom are still unaccounted for. Now we have 600 in one year' (Amnesty International 1997a). Amnesty International called on the President to allow international and national observers to visit Jaffna and assist the government in enforcing measures to bring an end to 'disappearances' (Amnesty International 1997a). The organization reported that 'it is now feared that nearly all of those who remain disappeared after their arrest by the security forces about a year ago died under torture or were deliberately killed in detention' (Amnesty International 1997d, 1).

In a rehabilitation centre near Bindunuwewa, 28 Tamil youths were killed by Sinhalese mobs and Sri Lanka police on 25 October 2000. Condemnation of the 'massacre' by Tamil organizations and others, as usual, was swift. Concerns raised by international organizations led to a presidential commission of inquiry. Eight police were found guilty, but none of them was punished, all were acquitted. In fact, one was a police inspector who was subsequently promoted (Satyendra 2007).

The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) of 1979 gives unlimited powers to the Sri Lankan security forces to arrest, detain, torture, rape, kill and dispose of the bodies of Tamils with impunity. Introduced with the specific aim of subverting the rule of law in the north-east, and made permanent in 1982, the PTA provides for detention for up to 18 months with neither trial nor access to lawyers or relatives. It allows confessions under torture as admissible evidence in court. Tamil detainees are forced to sign confession documents written in Sinhala which implicate them in a language that the vast majority of them do not understand.

Academics, human rights defenders, educationalists, parliamentarians, journalists, businesspeople and others have been killed by security forces with impunity. Prominent human rights defender Kumar Ponnambalam, who was well known in international human rights fora, was assassinated in January 2000 in Colombo. Most of these murders of members of civil society, including human rights defenders, have taken place in the government-declared HSZs.

In the absence of domestic remedies and the absence of a regional human rights mechanism in Asia (for example, an equivalent to the European Court of Human Rights or the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights), it became an imperative to take the fight against impunity directly to global international fora.

Sri Lanka's response

Accusations against Sri Lanka regarding its human rights record have been consistently voiced in the major human rights fora, including the UN Human Rights Commission (now the UN Human Rights Council) and the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, later named the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. Many statements have been made under the right to self-determination for more than two decades. In 1996, 53 international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) took up the issue in a joint statement. Treaty bodies have also taken up the issue, and extensive reports from special rapporteurs have documented the human rights violations. In the inaugural session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), despite Sri Lanka's attempts to block the discussion, the European Union drafted a decision on the situation in Sri Lanka (UNHRC 2006). Soon thereafter, a recommendation was made for the establishment of a human rights monitoring mission (UN General Assembly 2006).

The Sri Lankan government has repeatedly denied responsibility for serious breaches of its obligations under international law and has placed all the responsibility for the conflict on the Tamil people. Sri Lanka's Human Rights Ministry's Inter Ministerial Committee and other human rights' entities appear to be designed to give the impression that the government is active on human rights issues. However, these bodies do not take meaningful action to combat impunity. They challenge neither the root causes nor the continuing violence. Increasingly, the accusations against the government of Sri Lanka are that it not only has no interest in protecting the rights of Tamils, but also has no real interest in a peace settlement because it has no wish to grant regional autonomy to the Tamils. For instance, the Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA), proposed by the LTTE in November 2003, was welcomed by the international community as a constructive starting point in talking about a settlement to secure rights through internal self-determination. It was formulated in the spirit of the Oslo Declaration of November 2002. The LTTE clearly voiced their preparedness to talk on the basis of internal self-determination and, if that failed, to call for external self-determination—the mandate of 1977.

The ISGA presented by the LTTE is similar to the Bougainville (2001) and Sudan (2005) peace agreements-both of which are based on internal self-determination. It also contains some features similar to the Sri Lankan government devolution proposals formulated by Gamini Laksman Peiris in 1995, for example, the consideration of police, revenue and land. The ISGA was ignored by then President Chandrika Kumaratunga. In fact, three days later, she sacked the Ministers of Defence, Interior and the Media and dissolved the government. The negotiating stances of successive governments are considered, by the vast majority of the Tamils and many commentators, to be a charade for public consumption rather than a serious engagement in conflict resolution. Academic commentator Robert Oberst noted in December 2003 that,

It is not surprising that when the LTTE presented their Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA), a number of Sri Lankan political parties immediately rejected the proposal arguing that there should be no negotiations over the proposal. This has been a sad pattern of the Sri Lankan conflict. (Oberst 2003)

Oberst states that it would be 'foolhardy' for the Sri Lankan government to fail to at least talk with the LTTE about the proposals, adding that several issues raised in the ISGA were 'relatively easy to resolve' and other serious issues needed to be resolved during negotiations between the two sides. Political commentators have remarked that after the round of peace talks, in Oslo in 2004,

[The LTTE] issued a demand for 'internal self-determination'. Mr Rajapakse however, has proposed as his solution a modest devolution at the village level. This idea, modelled on India's system of Panchayats, was aired, and discredited, in the early 1980s. It is hard to exaggerate how inadequate, and depressing, most Tamils considered this … After so long a struggle, they [the Tamils] also require a fair apportioning of power to a united north-eastern province. (The Economist 2007)

In that same article, the writer states that 'President Chandrika Kumaratunga, had also tried to please [the Sinhalese] majority. She waged a policy of “war for peace” against the Tigers—as unsuccessful as it was illogical' (The Economist 2007).

In the aftermath of the devastating tsunami of 24 December 2004, there was hope that joint humanitarian work would be possible. However, on 15 July 2005, the Supreme Court issued a stay order on four main points of the Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS) responsible for coordinating the administration of aid to tsunami-affected persons in the north-east. This opened the eyes of many to the reality that Tamil victims of the tsunami were denied humanitarian assistance. On 7 January 2005, the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan made a humanitarian visit to Sri Lanka to see the tsunami-affected areas. When he requested to visit the north-east, the area of the island most affected by the tsunami, Sri Lankan authorities prevented him from making a humanitarian visit. This incident illustrates how the government is continuously displacing matters concerning the Tamils from the international community.

National liberation movement

As discussed earlier, the Tamil people had given an overwhelming mandate for a separate state in 1977. Frustrated by the lack of progress through politics, diplomacy and non-violent protest, Tamil youths started to form militant groups, including the LTTE, also known as the 'Tamil Tigers'. The ever-increasing brutality inflicted on the people was a significant factor leading to the growing popularity of the liberation movement and its armed struggle. The pogroms of 1983 led to mass support for the liberation movement.

Comprehensive studies have been made of the complex evolutionary history of the LTTE, the emergence of women fighters, the hitherto unknown characteristics of the leadership of the LTTE, the peace talks during the period of the Indian Peace Keeping Force 1987-1989 and the Jaffna talks of 1994-1995 (Balasingham 1993; 2001; Balasingham 2000, 2004).

The legitimacy of the LTTE lies in the Tamils' right to self-determination under international law. Excluded from the democratic process after 1977, the vast majority of Tamils did not vote again until the general election in 2004, when once again they had the opportunity to vote and exercise their right to self-determination. By this time, the Ceasefire Agreement, signed in February 2002 and facilitated by the Norwegian government, had conferred an official, de jure recognition of the LTTE as one party to the armed conflict-recognized by the Sri Lanka government (which accordingly de-proscribed the LTTE) and the international community. In the 2004 general election, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), a grouping together of the majority of Tamil political parties, won overwhelmingly in 22 electorates in the north-east (TNA won 22 out of 25 north-east seats). Their manifesto stated that the TNA accepts the 'LTTE's leadership as the national leadership of the Tamil Eelam Tamils and the Liberation Tigers as the sole and authentic representatives of the Tamil people'. The Tamil National Alliance election manifesto of October 2004 stated that the LTTE should be the sole negotiating partner with the government. The people elected them and showed real determination to vote despite restrictions and obstacles imposed on them by the government. The humanitarian needs of the people were of the utmost concern, and the TNA pledged to work for the lifting of the embargo, an end to the HSZs (areas of the Tamil homeland area occupied by Sri Lankan armed forces) and a halt to the atrocities against Tamils.

The TNA gives the Tamil people a voice in Parliament. Over the last three years, the TNA has made many satyagraha (non-violent) protests in Parliament opposing the continuation of the Emergency Regulations, the PTA and ongoing human rights violations. However, this has been very costly, as two TNA members of Parliament and two former Tamil ministers of Parliament have been assassinated by government forces since 2002, and many more have been threatened. The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is currently investigating these incidents (IPU 2007a; 2007b). Also, reports of extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations against the Civil Monitoring Committee have been lodged. The LTTE has been the negotiating party on behalf of Tamils in many series of talks with the government since 1985. It is widely acknowledged that the LTTE has evolved as a de facto administrative body and is the most powerful force representing the Tamils. Several reports have been published by international observers after their visits to the north-east of Sri Lanka, including Australian member of Parliament Virginia Judge. [10] Many of the visiting dignitaries met and appreciated the qualities of the chief political negotiator in the most recent peace talks, SP Tamilchelvam, who was assassinated by Sri Lankan government forces in an aerial bombing of his residence in the north, on 2 November 2007.

As has been demonstrated, the Tamils are a distinct people with their own culture and language and a contiguous homeland territory, which has been occupied forcefully by the military of successive Sri Lankan governments. The Tamil people have been and continue to be subjected to acts of genocide. The LTTE is engaged in an armed struggle based on the right to self-defence and right to self-determination, carrying out the democratic mandate given by the people in the 1977 election (Humanitarian Law Project and UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group 1997). The majority of the Tamil people have accepted the armed nature of the struggle and actively support it. This is evidenced by the de facto government that remains, and the fact that more territory has come under the control of the LTTE within the last two decades (approximately two-thirds of the north-east), with assistance and support from people in the area. Tamil people, within the homeland territory and internationally, have frequently demonstrated their support for the LTTE, which is perceived by the majority of Tamils as the organization that is most effectively defending them.

A self-governing, self-managing administration

Tamil Eelam institutions have been established over the last 18 years and have developed into fully functioning systems to meet the basic needs of the people. As well as a police force founded in 1990, there is a legal system founded in 1993 with penal code, law school, courts and court of appeal. There are also education and health systems as well as welfare organizations.

However, whilst Tamil Eelam has established judicial and civic institutions as well as social services, development has been slow, as years of conflict and war have imparted a devastating effect on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. More than a million people have been displaced multiple times and are living in conditions of extreme poverty. The Sri Lankan army still occupies their homes, schools and places of worship, preventing them from returning home—contrary to the stipulations of the Ceasefire Agreement. Development has also been hindered by the post-tsunami recovery operation—or rather the lack of it, as discussed previously. International NGOs working in the LTTE-administrated areas have regularly informed the international community about the lack of government relief sent to those affected areas in the north-east. Funds for the development of the north-east have never been utilized for their intended purpose in the past and this pattern continues. The blocking of tsunami aid is a disturbing example of how government aid earmarked for the north-east does not arrive. It was largely the Tamil diaspora who sent aid and ensured it actually reached the people in need.

International recognition

It is significant that for more than twenty years negotiations between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government have taken place in countries outside Sri Lanka. A third party has officially hosted the formalities on each occasion. The international community has facilitated talks in Thimpu, Bhutan in 1985; Bangalore, India in 1986; Sattahip and Rose Garden, Thailand, Oslo, Norway and Hakone, Japan in 2002; Berlin, Germany in 2003 and Geneva, Switzerland in 2006. The international community needs to recognize the LTTE as a partner for peace, and as an equal party to the talks, otherwise there will be no progress and the failures of past, abrogated agreements will be repeated. The main sticking point has always been that the government goes for negotiations outside the country with the LTTE, but returns and claims that the LTTE does not represent the Tamil people. This contradicts the recognition of the LTTE as a legitimate peace partner by United States (US) Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and the co-chairs (US, European Union, Norway and Japan).

Conclusion

"This article has provided an overview of the relationship between the Tamil and Sinhalese peoples, in first Ceylon and then Sri Lanka. It has also tried to show how the government has used its democratic majority to discriminate against the Tamils over the years since independence, gradually depriving them of all their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and ultimately committing acts of genocide. The article shows how the Tamils used every available parliamentary method to attempt to restore their rights and all of these attempts were ignored by the government. Tamils then voted in democratic elections to express their demand to exercise their right to self-determination. Extensive evidence points to the fact that violence was adopted reluctantly and only as a last resort.

The LTTE has been categorized by some countries as a terrorist organization, while holding a groundswell of support in the Tamil homeland areas. The Sri Lankan government has recognized the LTTE's de jure nature, by de-proscribing it and entering into negotiations. What the international community needs to do now is to demand that the government of Sri Lanka talk to the LTTE to bring about a permanent, durable and just solution. With the current political climate framed by the war against terrorism, maybe it is timely for the international community to review its assessment of the LTTE as a terrorist group, as it would seem clear that it is resorting to the right to self-defence while struggling for the right to self-determination. The international community needs to take a balanced account of the conflict. It also needs to give diplomatic support to the LTTE to negotiate with the Sri Lanka government. If the international community wants peace in the area it must encourage this process."

References
1. Amnesty International (1996) 'Sri Lanka: wavering commitment to human rights', ASA 37/08/96, August, 1996

2. Amnesty International (1997a) 'Sri Lanka: highest number of'disappearances' reported since 1990', News Service 62/79, ASA 37/10/97, 11 April 1997

3. Amnesty International (1997b) 'UA 147/97 extrajudicial execution/rape, ASA 37/13/97, 21 May 1997

4. Amnesty International (1997c) 'Further information on UA 147/87 (ASA 37/13/97, 21 May 1997)— extrajudicial execution/rape and new concern: fear for safety', ASA 37/14/97, 13 June 1997

5. Amnesty International (1997d) 'Sri Lanka: government's response to widespread "disappearances" in Jaffna', ASA 37/024/1997, 27 November 1997

6. Balasingham, Adele A. (1993) Women fighters of Liberation Tigers (Jaffna, Sri Lanka: Thasan)

7. Balasingham, Adele A. (2001) The will to freedom: an inside view of Tamil resistance (London: Fairmax)

8. Balasingham, Anton (2000) The politics of duplicity: re-visiting the Jaffna talks (London: Fairmax)

9. Balasingham, Anton (2004) War and peace: armed struggle and peace efforts of Liberation Tigers (London: Fairmax)

10. British Refugee Council (1997) 'Death squad trial abandoned', Sri Lanka Monitor, accessed 4 November 2007

11. British Refugee Council (2002) 'Jury finds Mylanthanai massacre accused not guilty', Sri Lanka Monitor, 178, November 2002, accessed 9 November 2007

12. Census of Population and Housing (1981) Sri Lanka Preliminary Report Number 1, Colombo

13. Department of Census and Statistics (1882) Census of Ceylon, 1881, Table IV, Colombo

14. The Economist (2007) 'A war strange as fiction', 9-15 June, 21-23

15. Emerson, Tennent J (1859) Ceylon, Volume 2 (London: Longman Press)

16. Emmanuel, Reverend SJ (1997) Let my people go: the Tamil struggle for self-determination and survival in Sri Lanka (Osnabrueck, Germany: Tamil Catholic Chaplaincy)

17. Hot Spring (1999) Tamil Eelam: a state of mind—Eelam debate 1977 — (London)

18. Humanitarian Law Project (2006) Letter to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 10 November, , accessed 20 January 2008

19. Humanitarian Law Project and UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group (1997) 'Armed conflict in the world today: a country by country review', April, accessed 12 November 2007, accessed 12 November 2007

20. Inter-Parliamentary Union (2007a) 'Sri Lanka: case no SRI/49—Joseph Pararajasingham', resolution adopted unanimously by the IPU Governing Council at its 180th session held in Nusa Dua, Bali, 4 May

21. Inter-Parliamentary Union (2007b) 'Sri Lanka: case No SRI/53—Nadarajah Raviraj', resolution adopted unanimously by the IPU Governing Council at its 180th session held in Nusa Dua, Bali, 4 May

22. Leary, Virginia (1983) Ethnic conflict and violence in Sri Lanka: report of a mission to Sri Lanka in July-August 1981 on behalf of the International Commission of Jurists International Commission of Jurists , Geneva

23. MacDermot, Niall (1983) The Review of the International Commission of Jurists, International Commission of Jurists (Geneva), December

24. Manogaran, Chelvadurai (1997) 'Sinhalese-Tamil relations and the politics of space', Symposium on the Plight of the Tamil Nation, London, 29 June 1997

25. Manogaran, Chelvadurai and Bryan, Pfaffenberger Manogaran, Chelvadurai and Pfaffenberger, Bryan (eds) (1994) Colonization and politics: political use of space in Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict. The Sri Lankan Tamils : Ethnicity and Identity, Westview Press , Boulder, Colorado

26. Moore, Mick (1985) The state and peasant policies in Sri Lanka Cambridge University Press , Cambridge, United Kingdom

27. New South Wales (2005) Hansard, Legislative Assembly, 15 September 2005

28. Oberst, Robert C (2003) Federal solutions among Sri Lankan government chaos: the LTTE's ISGA and federalism', Daily Mirror (Colombo), 19 December 2003, accessed 15 November 2007

29. Ponnambalam, Satchi (1983) Sri Lanka: the national question and the Tamil liberation struggle (London: Zed Books)

30. Sachithanandan, K (1980/2000) Sinhala colonization (Garges les Gonesse, France: Tamil Centre for Human Rights)

31. Satyendra, Nadesan (2007) 'Indictment against Sri Lanka', <>, accessed 15 November 2007

32. Sivanayagam, Subramaniam (1987) Sri Lanka: 10 years of Jayewardene rule (Madras: Tamil Information and Research Unit)

34. Sivanayagam, Subramaniam (2005) Sri Lanka: witness to history—a journalist's memoirs, 1930-2004 (London: Sivayogam)

35. Tambiah, Stanley J (1992) Buddhism betrayed? Religion, politics and violence in Sri Lanka (Chicago: University of Chicago Press)

36. (2005) — State Council Debate on the Soulbury Constitution (1945) Hansard, 8 November

37. Tamil, Nation (1995) Salient facts of the history of the Tamils and of the Sinhalese. Thinakaran Daily — 9 November

38. Trawick, Margaret (199 'Lessons from Kokkodaicholai, paper presented at International Conference on Tamil Nationhood and Search for Peace in Sri Lanka, 21-22 May, < cat="22&id">, accessed 9 November 2007

39. UN Commission on Human Rights (1998)'Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr Bacre Waly Ndiaye, submitted pursuant to Commission on Human Rights', Resolution 1997/61, E /CN.4 /1998 /68 /Add.2, 12 March 1997,

40. UN Commission on Human Rights (1999)'Report of the Special Rapporteur, Sir Nigel S Rodley, submitted pursuant to Commission on Human Rights', Resolution 1998/38, E/CN.4/1999/61, 12 January 1999

41. UN General Assembly (2006) 'Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions urges establishment of human rights monitoring mission in Sri Lanka', GA/SHC/3859, 20 October

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Notes
1 - Sinhalese ethnologist Paul Peiris describes the five Saivaite shrines on the four cardinal points of the compass, located on the shoreline of Ceylon and predating the birth of Buddha, as evidence of the ancient Tamil habitation of the island (Tamil Nation 1995).

2 - In June 1799, Sir Hugh Cleghorn, the first colonial secretary of Ceylon, wrote to the British government, in what is now known as the Cleghorn Minute: 'Two different nations, from a very ancient period, have divided between them the possession of the island: the Sinhalese inhabiting the interior in its Southern and Western parts from the river Wallouve to that of Chillow, and the Malabars [another name for Tamils] who possess the Northern and Eastern Districts. These two nations differ entirely in their religions, language and manners' (Ponnambalam 1983).

3 - Census of Ceylon, 1881, Table IV, Colombo 1882, Dept of Census and Statistics, and Census of Population and Housing, Sri Lanka Preliminary Report No 1, Colombo 1981.

4 - Ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda Case No ICTR-96-4-1.

5 - Ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda Case No ICTR-96-4-1, paragraph 521.

6 - Ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda Case No ICTR-96-4-1, paragraph 531.

7 - Ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda Case No ICTR-96-4-1, paragraph 702.

8 - Ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda Case No ICTR-96-4-1, paragraph 168.

9 - UN Document E/CN.4/1998/43, 62-64.

10 - New South Wales, Legislative Assembly, Hansard, 15 September 2005.

December 16, 2008

Prabakharan's sister knows that Army wont be able to catch her brother

By P. Shanthikumar

The interview - feature of Ms. Vinodhini Rajendran makes interesting reading indeed.

This may be simple, yet a very effective piece of public relations exercise. Whoever pulled this interview off should be congratulated! The inclusion of stunningly beautiful picture of Arjuna – the consummate archer at his moment of peak performance – riding into battle at Kurushetra with Lord Krishna, no less, as his Saarathi (charioteer) captures the exuberance of his skill as depicted in Bagvad Gita, is very appropriate to the moment.

Arjuna’s skill in archery and mental prowess reached such unimaginable heady heights to seek justice from Kauravas who refused even a "needlepoint of territory", having deceived Pandava’s of their kingdom in a game of dice. The latter-day Kauravas too haven't learnt a single lesson from what went on at Kurushetra all those millenia ago. Reluctantly, latter-day Arjuna too had to retrieve the "Kandeepam" – Arjuna's bow, the one that he holds so expertly in his hands in the above picture – from the attic and away he went to meet the Kauravas at the battle field of Kurushetra. The rest, as they say, is history!

AK1216.jpg

[Krishna and Arjuna riding into battle at Kurukshetra]

Bagavad Gita, Chapter Three, states what Karma-yoga is:

Everyone must engage in some sort of activity in this material world. But, actions can either bind one to this world or liberate one from it. By acting for the pleasure of the Supreme, without selfish motives, one can be liberated from the law of Karma (action and reaction) and attain transcendental knowledge of the self and the Supreme.

Quite heady stuff, philosophically speaking, for a bunch of ruthless terrorists to commit themselves to, considering there are many senior ministers in the Sri Lankan government who are busy creating "Dickensian workhouse" conditions of poverty in the south whilst robbing the national coffers in broad daylight.

Prabaharan's sister is right when she says that her brother won't be caught by the Sinhala Army, who have been recruited under "worst form of conscription" by depriving them and their families "food" for long time. The only way for the Sinhala youth to put food on the table for their families and close relatives is by joining the Sinhala Army, and go to the war-front to fight the Tamils. So, by keeping the country in poverty by depriving the needy of food, the Sinhala Political Establishment is able to beef up the military numbers. But, Prabaharan’s sister knows that this army of poor Sinhala conscripts, whose only motivation is to earn a living to feed the family, are not going be up to the task of catching her brother.

I believe the real need of the hour is to restore the February 2002, Ceasefire Agreement, and refrain in future from resorting Collective Grand Deception in matters pertaining to Tamils by the Sinhala Political Establishment. If Lal Kantha hasn't got an iota of decency to honour an agreement reached with the Tamils by the government of which the JVP was party to, he should at the very least learn to shut the hell up and never ever interfere in Tamil affairs in future until he is able to honour agreements reached with the Tamils in the past!

How long can political war help postpone economic crisis ?

by Muttukrishna Sarvananthan

In any democratic country, the Annual Budget of the Government is, by and large, a political economic document rather than purely economic, as most economists would like it to be. Hence, economic rationality and economic prudence gives way to political opportunism and manoeuvring. The Government of Sri Lanka’s Budget for 2009 presented to the Parliament on 06th November 2008 is no exception to this.

Basking on the relentless successes in the battlefields of the North and electoral successes in three Provinces for which elections were held during this year (2008), politically astute Chief Executive Officer (President) cum Chief Financial Officer (Minister of Finance) of the Government unveiled a populist budget aimed at further wooing the masses keeping in mind the upcoming five Provincial Council elections early next year (2009), which could perhaps lead to a snap Parliamentary election. Although the budgetary allocation of just LKR 1,100 million (or 1.1 billion) for the Department of Elections in 2009 is not adequate for a snap Parliamentary election (on top of the five provincial council elections already in the pipeline), the government could always allocate more money to the Department of Elections through a supplementary budget.

The budget was presented amidst growing gap between the government revenue and expenditure in the domestic sector of the economy, and huge increase in trade deficit and declining total foreign exchange reserves (i.e. deteriorating balance-of-payments) in the external sector of the economy. Thus, the budget deficit increased by 22.5% to LKR 249.3 billion in the first nine months of 2008 from LKR 203.5 billion in the same period last year. Similarly, trade deficit increased by 88% from USD (-) 2,453 million in the first nine months of 2007 to USD (-) 4,613 million in the corresponding period this year. Total foreign exchange reserves stood at USD 4,543.5 million at the end of September 2008, marginally higher (0.7%) than at the end of 2007 (USD 4,511 million), but have been declining since the end of July 2008. Moreover, annual economic growth, in terms of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), has been declining to 6.8% in 2007 and 6.5% in 2008 (anticipated) after peaking to 7.7% in 2006.

The global financial crisis is taking a toll on the balance-of-payments of Sri Lanka due to the withdrawal of some foreign portfolio investment in the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE). However, rapidly declining fuel prices in the world market (crude oil price dipped to less than USD 50 a barrel during November 2008) is expected to offset the partial withdrawal of foreign portfolio investment by way of reducing the trade deficit during the last quarter of this year. Besides, inflation dropped dramatically to 16.3 in November after peaking to 28.2% in June 2008, although the former figure appears to be questionable.

Despite the tight fiscal and external economic environment, the Finance Minister announced pay hikes to public servants and pensioners (by way of cost of living allowances) and reduction in public & private transport fares (bus and rail) due to declining fuel prices aimed at appeasing the masses reeling under sustained rise in cost of living until the middle of this year, which has been declining since July but still remaining high. There is a call for import substitution in the budget that has resulted in imposing import duties on additional products and hiking the existing rates of import duties of many goods in order to contain the huge rise in trade deficit. Though this strategy seems economically irrational, politically it could be rewarding for the government. It is this conflict of interest between the politics and economics of government budgets that makes governments get away with irrational and imprudent economic policies. The present government of Sri Lanka is no exception to this norm.

The overall public expenditure would increase by 15.6% to LKR 1,719 billion earmarked for 2009 from LKR 1,487 billion earmarked for 2008, which is expected to be more or less the same as the rise in inflation during 2009 but more than double the expected rate of economic growth. However, the budgetary allocations for the top twelve high spending ministries (see Table 1) are expected to decline in real terms, i.e. the rates of increase in budgetary allocation are lower than the anticipated rate of increase in inflation. For example, expenditure on defence is expected to rise by only 6.4% in 20092, which would be lower than the anticipated rise in inflation during 2009 (that could still remain in double digit). Besides, the earmarked rate of increase in defence expenditure for 2009 is expected to be almost the same as the anticipated growth in GDP in 2009 (6-6.5%).

However, during the past 20 years or so, the actual defence expenditure has surpassed the earmarked allocation in every single year (see Table 3 for past three year figures). In contrast, the actual expenditures of other Ministries have been lower than the earmarked expenditures, including for education, health and poverty alleviation. Further, defence expenditure does not include pensions for the retired armed forces personnel (which is covered by the Department of Pensions under the Ministry of Public Administration) and disability benefits for the injured soldiers (which is covered by the Ministry of Social Services and Social Welfare). Therefore, the actual expenditure on the armed forces would be much greater than that is reflected in the budgetary allocation for the Ministry of Defence.

Table 1 catalogues the highest spending Ministries in terms of absolute amounts (both recurrent and capital expenditures):

MS1216A.jpg

Table 2 catalogues their respective shares in total public expenditure. The top twelve high spending Ministries3 would account for 77% of the total public expenditure in 2009 (out of a total of 55 Ministries):

MS1216B.jpg

Almost one-third of the total public expenditure in 2009 would go for repayments of public debt (both amortisation and interest) as reflected in the allocation for the Ministry of Finance & Planning. Second highest share of total expenditure is for Defence, which is little over 10%. Ministry of Provincial Councils & Local Government (6.4%), Ministry of Public Administration & Home Affairs (5.2%) and Ministry of Highways & Road Development (4.5%) account for the third, fourth and fifth highest shares of public expenditure (see Table 2).

The top four highest spending Ministries (Finance, Defence, Provincial & Local Government and Public Administration) have remained the same for a very long time. Bulk of the budgetary allocation for the Ministry of Finance & Planning goes for public debt repayment. We also have to remember that bulk of the defence expenditure goes for the payment of salaries and allowances for the personnel of the armed forces and the police and not for capital expenditure. Likewise, bulk of the budgetary allocation for the Ministry of Provincial Councils and Local Government is spent on salaries and overtime payments to public servants at the provincial and local tiers of government. Similarly, bulk of the budgetary allocation for the Ministry of Public Administration and Home Affairs goes for the payment of pensions of retired public servants including armed forces personnel, which is growing fast due to an ageing population. In contrast, bulk of the budgetary allocation for the Ministry of Highways & Road Development would go for capital expenditure, i.e. 99.8% of the total.

Thus, in the five year period under consideration (2005-2009), about two-thirds of the public expenditure had gone for the salaries and allowances of public administration personnel, pensions of past personnel and public debt repayments. Moreover, significant amount of the budgetary allocations of the Ministries of Education and Health are spent on salaries, overtime payments and cost of living allowances of the personnel employed in these Ministries. Therefore, the total cost of all public services would be even higher. However, public debt repayments include capital expenditure of the government (public investment) in the past as well. Total government revenue (tax plus non-tax revenue) has not been sufficient to meet even the recurrent expenditures of the government in the past twenty years (since 1989).

The foregoing facts and figures indicate that a crisis has been brewing in the economy for a very long time under different governments. The approach of successive governments has been to differ the crisis to the future, except during the period 2002-2003 when a genuine attempt was made to rein in public expenditure and public debt by the then short-lived government. In many democracies incumbent governments attempt to pass the buck on crises in public finances to future governments. The present government has been very successful in using or abusing the political war dividend to differ the looming economic crisis, which to a large extent was created by the enduring civil war.

In spite of double-digit inflation for more than two years now, the government has been successful in weathering public unrest because of the political war dividend created by sustained successes in the theatres of war in the East and North, which continues to date. In sum, political war dividend has been able to postpone the economic crisis. However, it remains to be seen how long the political war dividend could differ the economic crisis.

(Muttukrishna Sarvananthan, Ph.D. (Wales) M.Sc. (Bristol) M.Sc. (Salford) B.A. (Hons) (Delhi), is the Principal Researcher of the Point Pedro Institute of Development, Point Pedro, Northern Sri Lanka and a Fulbright Visiting Research Scholar at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, Washington, DC, U.S.A. Corrections, comments and suggestions are welcome to sarvi@gwu.edu )

Prabakharan's sister in Toronto speaks about her brother to Canadian mainstream newspaper

Reclusive leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)Velupillai Prabakharan’s sister has spoken candidly about her younger brother to a Canadian mainstream newspaper in a rare interview.

Vinodhini Rajendran, the tiger leader’s eldest sister now living in Toronto was interviewed by Stewart Bell at her 11th floor apartment for Canadian English daily “National Post” in what is perhaps a world exclusive as the LTTE leader’s sibling has never gone on record in a public interview to a mainstream newspaper before.

Ms. Vinodhini Rajendran told Stewart Bell that the Sri Lankan army would never be able to catch her brother though government forces were reportedly nearing Kilinochchi.

She also told “National Post” that she believes her brother would never give up the fight for Tamil independence.

She observed that Prabakharan feels obliged to “see it through” because he started it. She said that her brother always finishes whatever he begins.

AK1216.jpg

[Krishna and Arjuna riding into battle at Kurukshetra]

Her husband Rajendran who was also associated in the interview compared his brother in law with the epic hero Arjuna.

Stewart Bell’s scoop in “National Post” has sent shock waves within sections in the Canadian Tamil community who support the LTTE.

These elements in the past have been extremely critical of “National Post” in general and Stewart Bell in particular with accusations that they were partial towards the Sri Lankan Government and hostile to the LTTE.

With the tiger supremo’s sister preferring to grant an exclusive interview to

Stewart Bell of National Post there is quite a lot of “muttai” (egg) on many faces.

The exclusive published in the “National Post” of Tuesday December 16th 2008 is reproduced below:

Rebel in the family:

Guerrilla leader's Canadian Link; In a National Post exclusive, the sister of the Tamil Tigers' leader speaks to Stewart Bell about her life in Toronto

Vinothini Rajendran's 11th-floor apartment is decorated with plastic flowers, a poster of Lord Krishna and framed photos of the little brother she left behind in Sri Lanka.

NPPS1216.jpg

[Vinothini Rajendran says she has had no contact with her younger brother, rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, since moving to Toronto in 1997-pic:Peter J. Thompson, National Post]

It has been years since she saw him. He never writes or calls, but she accepts that is just the way it is when your brother is Velupillai Prabhakaran, one of the world's most notorious guerrilla leaders.

"It must be God's wish that he should become such a man," says Ms. Rajendran, who immigrated to Canada more than a decade ago and lives with her husband, Bala, in a modest apartment in east Toronto.

Despite being the sister of the Supreme Commander of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Mrs. Rajendran has lived incognito in Toronto since 1997, but she agreed to tell her story to the National Post.

For 25 years, her brother has led the LTTE, or Tamil Tigers, in a civil war in Sri Lanka. His objective: independence for the ethnic Tamil minority.

A folk hero to Tamil nationalists, Prabhakaran is wanted by Interpol and has been condemned internationally for his tactics, which have included hundreds of suicide bombings and the assassination of senior politicians, including India's Rajiv Gandhi.

Yesterday, Human Rights Watch accused the Tamil Tigers of forcing civilians to fight and preventing them from fleeing the war zone. The abuses come as the rebels are attempting to repel an intense government military offensive.

"During the past 25 years, the LTTE has killed large numbers of civilians, committed political assassinations in Sri Lanka and abroad, and carried out suicide bombings," wrote the New Yorkbased rights group. "It has systematically eliminated most political opposition within the minority Tamil community and is responsible for killing many journalists and members of rival organizations. In the areas under its control, the LTTE has ruled through fear, denying basic freedoms of expression, association, assembly and movement."

Sri Lanka has vowed to kill Prabhakaran and wipe out the Tamil Tigers over the next few months. Last week, the military said it was within "kissing distance" of the rebel stronghold, Killinochchi, but Ms. Rajendran says her brother is in no danger.

"They won't be able to catch him," she says.

Variously known as the Sun God, Supremo and Thambi ("Little Brother"), Prabhakaran, 54, is the son of a middle-class bureaucrat who served in Ceylon's post-colonial government.

Ms. Rajendran describes her father as "very kind and soft talking." He was highly disciplined. He never took bribes and abstained from all vices, alcohol and cigarettes included. He worked as a district land officer and volunteered as a trustee at the local temple. "He was a religious-minded man, a Hindu," she says. The family lived in Valvettithurai, a coastal village on Sri Lanka's northern Jaffna peninsula, in a small house with a veranda and a banana tree, enclosed within a fenced compound.

Vinothini was the third-born child. She was two years old when Prabhakaran was born at Jaffna Hospital on Nov. 26, 1954. "As a child, I was the pet and the darling of the family," Prabhakaran told the magazine Velicham in 1994. "My childhood was spent in the small circle of a lonely, quiet house."

Vinothini would play with her baby brother, and fight with him. "He was as normal as any boy," she says. "Normal, only he was reading a lot." The house was full of books. Their mother was "a voracious reader," Ms. Rajendran says. They would borrow books from friends or the library.

Like his mother, Prabhakaran devoured history books, particularly stories about the Indian fighters who fought the British for independence. "It was the reading of such books that laid the foundation for my life as a revolutionary," he once said.

The Tamil-dominated northern region of Sri Lanka is a dry zone; much of the soil is ill suited to farming. "So the people depended on education and government jobs," Mr. Rajendran explained.

But following independence from Britain in 1948, the island's ethnic Sinhalese majority tried to limit Tamil access to universities and civil service jobs. Tamil youths grew disillusioned with the government and turned to militancy.

Around the same time Prabhakaran took up arms, his father spoke to a friend and they agreed that Vinothini and Bala would marry. The family erected a temporary building in their compound to accommodate wedding guests and shelter them from the sun and rain. The ladies prepared vegetarian dishes in the kitchen. No invitations were required; everyone knew they were welcome.

Prabhakaran was the best man. As is customary, he came by the groom's house the day before the wedding to pay his respects. "He was a very quiet man," Mr. Rajendran says. "He was smiling and his eyes were piercing. He was lean."

A few months later, Prabhakaran formed the Tamil New Tigers, or TNT, to wage an armed struggle against the Sri Lankan state security forces. The group would later evolve into the Tamil Tigers.

"At that time, we knew he was doing

something, but we didn't know it was so serious," Mr. Rajendran says. They thought he was only putting up political posters. They only learned of his paramilitary activities when police came calling at the family home in 1972. Prabhakaran slipped out the back and disappeared.

"After that he stopped coming to the house," Ms. Rajendran says. Prabhakaran told the Indian journalist Anita Pratap that, "As soon as the Tiger movement was formed, I went underground and lost contact with my family ... They are reconciled to my existence as a guerrilla fighter."

The Rajendrans were living in the capital, Colombo, when Prabhakaran ignited the civil war with an ambush attack against Sri Lankan soldiers. Mr. Rajendran promptly lost his job at an import-export firm; his employer found out about the family connection and didn't want any trouble.

"I was asked to leave," he says.

They spent a week at a refugee camp and then sailed back to Jaffna. Six months later, Mr. Rajendran went to Jeddah to work as a deckhand on a ship on the Red Sea. Mrs. Rajendran stayed in Jaffna, but the police gave her a hard time about her notorious brother so the family decided to leave for India.

Thousands of Sri Lankan Tamils had sought refuge around Madras. The Rajendrans registered with the police and rented a house. Mr. Rajendran taught English and ran a consultancy service that helped Tamils submit applications to immigrate to Canada and Australia.

Prabhakaran was also exiled in India at the time, running his guerrilla war from a Madras safe house. The Rajendrans saw him there at a family function, a cousin's wedding. "He came in a jeep with four or five boys," Mr. Rajendran says. They saw him again just before he returned to Sri Lanka. "He talked to us and said he is going."

Tired of refugee life in southern India, the Rajendrans travelled to Canada, arriving on Oct. 27, 1997. They have returned to Sri Lanka only once, in 2003, to help Ms. Rajendran's parents move back to Sri Lanka from India. It was the first time she had seen her homeland in almost two decades. The north was a desolate landscape of ruined buildings, destroyed by incessant shelling. The lush gardens of her youth had gone to weeds.

A red-and-yellow Tamil Tigers flag hangs in her living room in Toronto, but Ms. Rajendran says she is not politically active. Neither she nor her husband attends Tamil community events in Toronto, with the exception of Heroes Day, the annual commemoration of fallen rebels.

Ms. Rajendran does not work; her English is awkward. Her husband works part-time at a furniture store. His hands shake like he is nervous, but he explains he has Parkinson's Disease.

A poster of the Hindu hero Arjuna hangs on the wall. The Tamil script below tells a story from the Bhagavad Gita about a conversation between Lord Krishna and Arjuna, who is reluctant to go to war.

"Arjuna says, how can I fight my relatives?" Mr. Rajendran explains. "Then Krishna says, it is your duty. I am the God and I am telling you, you do it. Then he decides to fight."

It was one of Prabhakaran's favourite childhood stories.

Every so often, Ms. Rajendran gets a letter from her parents in Killinochchi, but she has had no contact with her younger brother since coming to Canada. She only hears stories about him.

She believes he will not give up his fight for Tamil independence. Because he started it, he feels obliged to see it through, she says.

"Once he accepts something, he always finishes it," she says.

"Father was like that."

Confronting Terrorism no Reason For Undue Curtailing of Human Rights and Individual Liberty

by K.G.Balakrishnan (Chief Justice of India)

From our recent experience, we have learnt that terrorist attacks against innocent and unsuspecting civilians threaten the preservation of the rule of law as well as human rights; and terrorism can broadly be identified with the use of violent methods in place of the ordinary tools of civic engagement and political participation.

It has become an increasingly recurrent strategy for insurgent movements as well as identity-based groups to make their voice heard through armed attacks and bomb blasts in place of public dialogue. Independent India is no stranger to the problem of tackling armed terrorists and has faced long-running insurgencies as well as sporadic attacks in many parts of the country.

However, in the age of easy international travel and advanced communications, terrorist networks have also assumed cross-border dimensions. In many instances, attacks are planned by individuals located in different countries who use modern technology to collaborate for the transfer of funds and procurement of advanced weapons. This clearly means that terrorism is an international problem and requires effective multilateral engagement between various nations.

For the international legal community, this poses a doctrinal as well as practical challenge. I say this because from the prism of international legal norms, prescriptions against violent attacks have traditionally evolved under two categories — firstly, those related to armed conflict between nations, and secondly, those pertaining to internal disturbances within a nation.

While the conduct and consequences of armed conflicts between nations — such as wars and border skirmishes — are regulated by international criminal law and humanitarian law, the occurrence of internal disturbances within a nation are largely considered to be the subject-matter of that particular nation’s domestic criminal justice system and constitutional principles.

It is often perceived that these doctrinal demarcations actually inhibit international cooperation for cracking down on terrorist cells with cross-border networks. In the absence of bilateral treaties for extradition or assistance in investigation, there is no clear legal basis for international cooperation in investigating terrorist attacks — which are usually classified as internal disturbances in the nation where they took place. Since there are no clear and consistent norms to guide collaboration between nations in acting against terrorists, countries like the United States have invented their own doctrines such as ‘pre-emptive action’ to justify counter-terrorism operations in foreign nations.

However, the pursuit of terrorists alone cannot be a justification for arbitrarily breaching another nation’s sovereignty. In this scenario, one strategy that has been suggested is that of recognising terrorist attacks as coming within a new ‘hybrid’ category of armed conflict, wherein obligations can be placed on different countries to collaborate in the investigation and prosecution of terrorist attacks that have taken place in a particular country. This calls for a blurring of the distinction between the international and domestic nature of armed conflict when it comes to terrorist strikes.

Another suggestion that has been made in this regard is that of treating terrorist attacks as offences recognised under International Criminal Law, such as ‘crimes against humanity,’ which can then be tried before a supranational tribunal such as the International Criminal Court (ICC). However, the obvious practical problem with this suggestion is that prosecutions before this Court need to be initiated by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the latter body may be reluctant to do so in instances of one-off terrorist attacks as opposed to continuing conflicts.

Yet another practical constraint that has been brought to the fore with the Mumbai attacks has been the question of holding governments responsible for the actions of non-state actors. While one can say that there is a moral duty on all governments to prevent and restrain the activities of militant groups on their soil, this is easier said than done. For example, several terrorist groups are able to organise financial support and procure weapons even in western nations where the policing and criminal justice systems are perceived to be relatively stronger than in the subcontinent.

Coming to the domestic setting, I must state that the symbolic impact of terrorist attacks on the minds of ordinary citizens has also been considerably amplified by the role of pervasive media coverage. In India, the proliferation of 24-hour television news channels and the digital medium has ensured that quite often some disturbing images and statements reach a very wide audience. One of the ill-effects of unrestrained coverage is that of provoking anger among the masses. While it is fair for the media to prompt public criticism of inadequacies in the security and law-enforcement apparatus, there is also a possibility of such resentment turning into an irrational desire for retribution.

Furthermore, the trauma resulting from the terrorist attacks may be used as a justification for undue curtailment of individual rights and liberties. Instead of offering a considered response to the growth of terrorism, a country may resort to questionable methods such as permitting indefinite detention of terror suspects, the use of coercive interrogation techniques, and the denial of the right to fair trial. Outside the criminal justice system, the fear generated by terrorist attacks may also be linked to increasing governmental surveillance over citizens and unfair restrictions on immigration.

In recent years, the most prominent example of this ‘slippery slope’ for the curtailment of individual rights is the treatment of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay who were arrested by U.S. authorities in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. It is alleged that they have detained hundreds of suspects for long periods, often without the filing of charges or access to independent judicial remedies.

For its part the U.S. administration has defended these practices by asserting that the detainees at Guantanamo Bay have safeguards such as appeals before military commissions, administrative review boards and combatant status review tribunals. A follow up to this in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (126 S. Ct. 2749 (2006) led to the ruling that the terror suspects could not be denied the right of habeas corpus and should be granted access to civilian courts. The rationale for this was that the various military tribunals did not possess the requisite degree of independence to try suspects who had been apprehended and detained by the military authorities themselves.

Even in the United Kingdom, the House of Lords in the Belmarsh decision (A v. Secretary of State for the Home Department, [2004] UKHL 56) ruled against a provision in the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act, 2001, which allowed the indefinite detention of foreign terror suspects. This ruling prompted the enactment of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2005, which was fiercely debated. The British Parliament accepted a 42-day period as the maximum permissible for detention without charges, subject to judicial checks. Evidently, the judiciary in these two countries has played a moderating role in checking the excesses that have crept into the response against terrorism.

In some circles, it is argued that the judiciary places unnecessary curbs on the power of the investigating agencies to tackle terrorism. In India, those who subscribe to this view also demand changes in our criminal and evidence law — such as provisions for longer periods of preventive detention and confessions made before police officials to be made admissible in court. While the ultimate choice in this regard lies with the legislature, we must be careful not to trample upon constitutional principles such as ‘substantive due process.’

This guarantee was read into the conception of ‘personal liberty’ under Article 21 of the Constitution of India by our Supreme Court. (This idea of ‘substantive due process’ was incorporated through the decision in Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, AIR 1978 SC 597.) The necessary implication of this is that all governmental action, even in exceptional times, must meet the standards of reasonableness, non-arbitrariness, and non-discrimination.

This implies that we must be wary of the use of torture and other forms of coercive interrogation techniques by law enforcement agencies. Coercive interrogation techniques mostly induce false confessions and do not help in preventing terrorist attacks. Furthermore, the tolerance of the same can breed a sense of complacency if they are viewed as an easy way out by investigative agencies.

The apprehension and interrogation of terror suspects must also be done in a thoroughly professional manner, with the provision of adequate judicial scrutiny as mandated in the Code of Criminal Procedure. This is required because in recent counter-terrorist operations, there have been several reports of arbitrary arrests of individuals belonging to certain communities and the concoction of evidence — such as the production of similarly worded confession statements by detained suspects in different places. The proposal for the admissibility of confessional statements made before the police is also problematic since there are fears that such a change will incentivise torture and coercive interrogation by investigative agencies in order to seek convictions rather than engaging in thorough investigation.

The role of the judiciary in this regard should not be misunderstood. Adherence to the constitutional principle of ‘substantive due process’ is an essential part of our collective response to terrorism. As part of the legal community, we must uphold the right to fair trial for all individuals, irrespective of how heinous their crimes may be. If we accept a dilution of this right, it will count as a moral loss against those who preach hatred and violence. We must not confuse between what distinguishes the deliberations of a mature democratic society from the misguided actions of a few.

(This essay is derived from Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan’s presidential address at the inaugural session of the international conference of jurists on “Terrorism, Rule of Law & Human Rights” in New Delhi on December 13, 2008)

Three - way Partition Creating India, Pakistan and Bangla Desh was a Tragic Blunder

by Sarfraz Manzoor

I had not been to Mumbai before this year, and, aside from two weeks in Goa a decade ago, had never set foot on Indian soil. That in itself is not surprising; for Pakistanis, India exerts a compelling but complex fascination. It is the enemy in cricket, in two wars and in the long rumbling dispute over the contested territory of Kashmir — and yet it is also the ancestral homeland with a shared language and history.

My fascination with India was not because it offered a tantalising taste of the exotic other — the appeal to those westerners who come to find themselves — but because it was so close to Pakistan, the land of my parents, the country where I was born.

Earlier this year I was invited by the Kitab book festival to visit Mumbai. I arrived on a searing February afternoon and took a taxi to my hotel, the Taj, in Colaba on the southern tip of the city. From my window I could see the Gateway to India, the giant stone arch through which the last British troops to leave India passed 60 years ago. Born in Lahore, I was slightly nervous about being in India; I had a faint suspicion that my Pakistani heritage would be instantly identifiable to every passerby.

The truth was, of course, that I blended in as well as any other person who did not truly belong; I spoke Urdu to the street vendors and they replied in Hindi, which is practically the same; I ordered saag aloo, which my mother makes for me at home; and everywhere I inhaled the city’s wild, chaotic energy. And as I sat in the back of a speeding rickshaw and soaked up the sight of Hindus and Muslims and Sikhs living in the city, I kept wishing I could take my mother to Bombay.

Like my late father, my mother was born Indian in what 14 years later became Pakistan under the 1947 Partition. I wondered how she would feel about being in India and whether it would feel like home. She left Pakistan in 1974, bringing me and my siblings to join my father, who had come to Britain 11 years earlier. For second-generation British Pakistanis, home is a complicated question.

I see my generation as the casualties of a double fracture: ripped out of India and then torn from Pakistan. The enmity that is meant to lurk inside every Pakistani towards India has therefore always seemed ridiculous to me; it is like being asked to hate one’s own past. It seems natural that my best friend of the past 20 years is a British Indian Sikh: what is different is so much less important than what is shared.

Last month (November) I returned to India for a six-week trip. I was back in Mumbai, working on a Radio 4 documentary. My producer and I had a free Saturday morning, and I showed him the Taj. It was Saturday 22 November. As we walked through the metal detectors I remember thinking they were not in position on my previous visit. We sat briefly by the pool before returning to the heat and noise, wandering past the Leopold cafe, where I had eaten stuffed parathas nine months earlier. The next morning I flew to Bangalore and at the airport I picked up a newspaper.

The front-page headline was a quote from the Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari, talking of the links between India and Pakistan. Quoting his late wife, Benazir Bhutto, the president said, “there is a little bit of India in every Pakistani.” The words appeared to usher in a new era of Indo-Pakistani relations, in which the tensions, suspicions and hostility of the past were finally put to rest.

You know what happened next. Within hours, it was reported that Pakistan, or Pakistanis, were implicated in the Mumbai attacks; Mr. Zardari’s remarks already felt overtaken by appalling events. Muslims in Mumbai, fearful that the attacks would incite hatred against them, were quick to show their solidarity with the rest of the country.

The city’s largest Muslim graveyard refused to bury the nine slain gunmen who carried out the attacks and last week’s Eid celebrations were appropriately muted, with some of Bollywood’s leading Muslim stars wearing black armbands to express their sadness. Meanwhile, polling across India revealed an unambiguous suspicion that Pakistan was behind the attacks, with more than two thirds of Indians wanting to sever all ties with its troublesome neighbour.

The attacks were inevitably dubbed “India’s 9/11” and there has been talk of a “war on terror” against the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Lahore-based outfit thought to have carried out the killings. But this second war on terror seems as ill-conceived as the first. The danger is that it distracts from the truth of how much the two countries share. I am convinced that the attacks are further evidence that the partitioning of India and Pakistan has proved a tragic mistake. It was prompted for laudable reasons — to protect Muslims from Hindu dominance — but it caused the death of millions in the greatest migration in human history, and 60 years on what has it achieved? Two nations — three including Bangladesh, which gained independence in 1971 — whose leaders have shed blood and spent billions fighting each other while their people have starved and suffered.

But in loving India I do not hate Pakistan. I find myself agreeing with the Delhi street vendor who, when I told him I was originally from Pakistan, said with a wave of a hand, “India, Pakistan, it is all one.” Pakistan is like a severed leg, hacked from the body and expected to run on its own.

The Mexican author, Carlos Fuentes, described the border between the U.S. and Mexico as “an enormous bloody wound, a sick body, mute in the face of its ills, on the point of shouting, torn by its loyalties, and beaten, finally, by political callousness, demagoguery and corruption.” The words strike me as sadly all-too appropriate to the India/Pakistan border, another bloody wound that can only begin healing when we acknowledge the personal and political tragedy of Partition.

Legal luminary P.Navaratnarajah Q.C.: A Birth Centenary Tribute

by Maureen Seneviratne

I was privileged to enjoy a close friendship with one of Sri Lanka's most eminent lawyers, the late P. Navaratnarajah, Queen's Counsel, who will go down in the annals of legal history as a counsel par excellence.

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In recognition of his outstanding performance at the University College where he read Mathematics and obtained a first Class Honours, he was awarded a scholarship enabling him to proceed to Cambridge University to sit his Mathematical Tripos.

Thereafter, he pursued his legal studies at the Middle Temple where he was called to the Bar in 1934, and in the same year called to the Bar in Ceylon as an advocate of the Supreme Court.

It was in Hulftsdrop that he spent the whole of his professional life, where from a promising junior he blossomed into the eminent Queen's Counsel, despite the fact that when he commenced his career at the Bar, he had none of the hallmarks of the preferred class. He was comfortable, but had no wealth, influence or elite social status.

He was not only brilliant in legal argument, but an indomitable fighter and his particular force was in his reply to his opponents, for which he reserved his most telling points.

To have him as an opponent was an awesome experience. One knew that one had to deal not so much with shrewd tactics or the cross-examining skill, but with one who ruthlessly stripping the case of camouflage would come clearly and crisply to the essential weakness of his opponent's case and the essential strength of his.

He had a legal mind of the highest order and applied it with painstaking thoroughness to every matter which he had to deal with in a clear discernment of legal principles and a fine sense of distinction which govern their applicability, rarely seen in our courts. He made an abiding contribution to the development of the law.

In his relationship with his clients, he had a touching concern for the indigent which followed him to his grave. He despised extortion as a way of life. Indeed, it was said of him that he was one of the front line counsel of his time one could retain with no risk of bankruptcy. He was charitable, but his charity was unknown to others. The poorest of the poor had a place in his heart and home.

To the innumerable juniors who worked in his Chambers, he was kind, sympathetic and generous, particularly to those who had neither influence nor affluence to support themselves during the lean years of their career at the Bar.

As a human being, despite his brilliance and erudition, he was simple with the simplicity of greatness. He shunned public office and neither sought nor cared for public adulation. He was a man of incredible humility-always accessible to the rich and poor alike.

His essential goodness left an abiding impression on all those who were privileged to have known him. He was disappointed and sad when some people who were known to him on assuming high and responsible office lost their bearings. Commenting on such conduct he would remark:

"Why can't they be nice to people on their way up.
They have the intelligence to realize that they
Are bound to meet them on their way down.
When they are on their way down, it is only the good
Will of the people that they take along with them."

When Mr. Navaratnarajah died, not only did we mourn the loss of a great and brilliant lawyer, but of a great friend.

His passing away left a great void in our lives which was not possible to fill.

But our sorrow was tempered with gratitude that the fates allowed us to number such a man as Mr. Navaratnarajah among our friends.

( This birth centenary tribute for eminent Queen's counsel P. Navaratnarajah was penned by Maureen Seneviratne, herself a distinguished President's Counsel.)

December 15, 2008

Restrictions by LTTE on Freedom of Movement in Wanni - HRW Report

Freedom of movement is essential for civilians in times of conflict. The ability to move is often the only way to avoid becoming a casualty or to gain access to relief assistance. Yet, between 230,000 and 300,000 civilians,36 most of them already multiple times displaced (some as many as 10 to 12 times), remain trapped inside the Vanni war zone. The main reason so many civilians are trapped is because the LTTE has forced civilians to flee with them, often to remote locations into LTTE-controlled territory, and refuses to allow civilians to freely leave areas under their control for government-controlled territory.

One international humanitarian official explained LTTE restrictions on movement, its pass system, and its impact on local humanitarian staff:

The LTTE has a pass system for those who want to leave the Vanni for government areas. Many of our staff members were simply refused a pass for one reason or another… The passes are granted to individuals, not families, so those who were granted one had a heartbreaking decision to make, whether to leave their spouse and children behind under a barrage of shells and air attacks to come with us to continue to work and earn money, or to stay behind with their family and face the possibility of being forced to join the LTTE and sent to fight.

To manage, advise and counsel our staff through this process was the hardest thing emotionally I and many of us had ever dealt with. As the roar of the shells got ever closer to Kilinochchi the urgency of the decision-making increased and staff had to begin to move to government areas, leaving their loved ones behind.37

The LTTE has long used a coercive pass system to prevent civilians from leaving areas under its control. Strict regulations on movement of civilians have been in place since at least 1995. Ordinarily, persons of recruitment age (between 12 and 35 years old, male or female, more recently extended to 45 years) wishing to temporarily exit LTTE-controlled areas are required to leave a relative behind as a “guarantor.” A “guarantor” is normally a relative who ensures that the person leaving the Vanni will return to the Vanni as promised. If the individual fails to return to the Vanni as promised, the “guarantor” is arrested and normally subjected to forced labor.

Prior to the current phase of the conflict, if families wanted to leave LTTE-controlled areas permanently, they had to hand over their land, home, and property to the LTTE (an option only available to the relatively wealthy). Once permission is granted by the LTTE’s Transport Monitoring Division (TMD), the person or family wishing to move is given a one-time travel pass by the TMD.

Movement restrictions were somewhat relaxed during the ceasefire agreement period from 2002 until 2006, when the TMD issued everyone over the age of 10 in LTTE-controlled areas a Transport Admission Card (TAC), which allowed individuals and families to move relatively freely in and out of LTTE-controlled areas during this period.

After the closure of the LTTE’s Jaffna peninsula checkpoint on the A9 road leading to the Vanni on August 11, 2006, the LTTE again began to issue increasingly restrictive travel regulations. As before the ceasefire, the LTTE again started requiring individuals to apply for a one-time pass from the TMD and leave a relative behind as a guarantor. Passes are now only issued on the day of travel and authorize travel outside LTTE-controlled areas for a period of one day to three months.

These strict travel policies also have allowed the LTTE to implement its “one person per family” forced recruitment policies for military service in the LTTE, as they prevent persons the LTTE wishes to recruit in the future from leaving LTTE-controlled areas.

Following the closure of the LTTE’s northwestern Uyilankulam checkpoint in Mannar district in September 2007, even more restrictive policies were implemented. Anyone wishing to travel outside the Vanni now had to apply to the TMD with an application that included a letter from the LTTE recruitment office certifying that the family had complied with the “one person per family” recruitment policies; the reason for travel had to be supplemented by supporting documentation such as hospital records (for medical cases); and all persons aged between 10 and 55 years old had to leave a “guarantor” behind.

Since being under increased military pressure from Sri Lankan forces, the LTTE has virtually stopped giving out passes, except for a few urgent medical cases. This has effectively trapped the several hundred thousand displaced persons remaining, as well as a smaller number of nondisplaced persons, inside LTTE-controlled territory. As one humanitarian official, an ethnic Tamil native of the Vanni, told Human Rights Watch in October 2008:

The LTTE no longer gives people passes to go [out of the Vanni.] At the moment, only medical cases or the elderly will get an LTTE pass. Before this time, you could hand over all your assets to the LTTE and you were free to go. But now they stop everyone, saying, “We are fighting for the people, but the people have to stay with us.”38

The restrictions on movement also affected many humanitarian organizations during the September withdrawal. Despite earlier agreements that the LTTE would not interfere with the freedom of humanitarian workers and their families to leave the Vanni, the LTTE refused to allow most Vanni residents employed by humanitarian agencies to leave when the government ordered the UN and humanitarian agencies to leave. Even those individuals allowed to leave by the LTTE often had to leave their immediate families behind. One humanitarian agency official told Human Rights Watch that out of their eight local staff members, only one who was not a Vanni resident was allowed to leave without conditions; four staff members were allowed to leave but not take along their immediate relatives; one staff member was allowed to leave because another family member had been forcibly recruited by the LTTE; and two staff members were forced to remain behind by the LTTE, possibly because the LTTE wanted to forcibly recruit them.39

In another case involving a humanitarian worker, a local ethnic Tamil humanitarian staff member not from the Vanni who had been working in the Vanni for several years was prevented from leaving even though she had been issued a pass by the TMD. The LTTE argued that she had become a resident of the Vanni during her several-year stay, and insisted on forcibly recruiting her for military service. Constant efforts by the humanitarian agency to get her released from military service, and allowed to leave the Vanni, have been unsuccessful to date.

The LTTE’s restrictions on the movement of civilians in the Vanni violate international humanitarian law. Parties to a conflict must, to the extent feasible, remove civilians under their control from the vicinity of military objectives.40 This obligation is considered especially relevant “where military objectives can not feasibly be separated from densely populated areas.”41 Thus parties to a conflict deploying in populated areas should take measures to ensure that civilians move to safer areas.

It is also unlawful under international humanitarian law to deny freedom of movement to civilians seeking access to humanitarian relief.42 Holding civilians as “guarantors” for family members allowed to leave the Vanni would constitute a form of hostage taking and arbitrary deprivation of liberty.43 Collective punishments are also prohibited.44 Those who commit such acts deliberately or recklessly are responsible for war crimes.


36 At a meeting for humanitarian agencies convened by the Government Agent of Vavuniya on November 4, 2008, the Government Agents for Mullaittivu and Kilinochchi stated that they had counted a total of 197,103 displaced persons in Mullaittivu (96,135 persons displaced since August 11, 2006, and 100,968 persons displaced before that date), and 151,000 displaced persons in Kilinochchi (148,109 since August 11, 2006, the remainder before that date), for a total of 348,103 displaced persons. UNHCR’s most recent (November 2008) estimates are 230,000 displaced, but this does not include the more than 100,000 registered displaced persons who were displaced prior to August 11, 2006, and which are included in the counts of the Government Agents. There is no clarity on how many of the pre-2006 displaced persons are also included in the post-2006 displaced persons count, because many of the pre-2006 displaced persons have again been displaced by the conflict. Responding to an Amnesty International report on the humanitarian situation in the Vanni, the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights claimed that the actual number of persons displaced after April 2006 was only 207,000 persons. Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights press release, “AI Statement on Sri Lankan IDPs Subjective and Misleading,” November 21, 2008. During a November 21 ceremony accepting India government aid for the civilian population of the Vanni, Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohana gave an even smaller number, arguing that the figures of displaced persons in the Vanni were “grossly exaggerated,” and stating that he believed there were “around 100,000” displaced persons in the Vanni. B. Muralidhar Reddy, “Aid Distribution: Red Cross, India differ with Sri Lanka,” The Hindu, November 21, 2008. It’s not clear why the foreign secretary gave a figure only half that estimated by the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, but the humanitarian plight of the Vanni displaced population has greatly concerned neighboring India, with a large Tamil population in Tamil Nadu state: lowering the figures of affected persons may be an attempt to limit Indian pressure.

37 “‘Pain’ of Sri Lanka aid pull-out,” BBC, September 23, 2008.

38 Human Rights Watch interview with humanitarian official, Vavuniya, October 14, 2008.

39 Human Rights Watch interview with humanitarian official, Vavuniya, October 16, 2008. See also, Center for Policy Alternatives, “Field Mission to Vavuniya,” September 2008 (On file with Human Rights Watch).

40 See Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I) of 8 June 1977, 1125 U.N.T.S. 3, entered into force December 7, 1978, article 58(a).

41 See ICRC, Customary International Humanitarian Law, p. 76.

42 See, e.g., Protocol II, art. 18(2).

43 See article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949.

44 See ICRC, Customary International Humanitarian Law, rule 102.

LTTE Use of Forced Labor in Wanni – HRW Report

The LTTE’s demands on the civilian population under its control are not limited to forced recruitment of fighters: all families are also forced to “donate” labor to the LTTE, mostly in projects involving the hazardous task of building LTTE military defenses. According to a confidential humanitarian report: “Civilians, including IDPs, are also required to do forced labor for the LTTE of 10 days every 3 months, duties include building bunkers close to areas of military activity.”30 A humanitarian official confirmed this practice to Human Rights Watch: “The LTTE call it ‘voluntary service’—you have to go work on military projects, or you pay Rs 5,000 (US$50) to be exempted.”31 A UN interagency assessment mission in mid-October found that forced labor by the LTTE was continuing.32

According to a protection official familiar with current LTTE forced labor practices, the LTTE has increased its forced labor requirements in recent months. Currently, the LTTE requires each family to provide one family member to work between five and seven days per month, mostly constructing bunkers and other forms of military defensive structures for LTTE forces. The LTTE also has stopped accepting exemption payments from families in many areas of the Vanni, requiring each family to contribute labor.33

The LTTE also uses forced labor as a form of punishment. For example, when the LTTE was still providing passes to civilians to leave the Vanni, persons who obtained passes often had to leave other family members behind as “guarantors” to ensure they would return. If the person with the pass did not return as agreed, the “guarantor” would often be detained until the person who had left the Vanni returned, and in some cases would be required to engage in dangerous forced labor, such as digging military trenches, for months.34

International humanitarian law during internal armed conflicts places prohibitions on the use of forced labor. Relevant provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which is reflective of customary international law, provide that civilians may not be compelled by the parties to the conflict to engage in work “directly relative to the conduct of military operations” or work that would involve them “in the obligation of taking part in military operations.” For any work, payment of a wage is required.35

30Confidential humanitarian briefing document dated September 18, 2008, on file with Human Rights Watch.

31 Human Rights Watch interview with humanitarian official, Vavuniya, October 14, 2008.

32 Briefing presentation on UN interagency assessment mission of October 17-18, 2008, on file with Human Rights Watch.

33 Human Rights Watch communication with protection official, November 19, 2008, on file at Human Rights Watch.

34 Human Rights Watch interview with humanitarian official, Vavuniya, October 16, 2008.

35 See Fourth Geneva Convention, arts. 40, 51 and 95; see also, ICRC, Customary International Humanitarian Law, rule 95 (uncompensated or abusive forced labor is prohibited).

Forced Recruitment of Adults and Children as Soldiers In Wanni –HRW Report

The LTTE’s demands on the civilian population under its control are not limited to forced recruitment of fighters: all families are also forced to “donate” labor to the LTTE, mostly in projects involving the hazardous task of building LTTE military defenses. According to a confidential humanitarian report: “Civilians, including IDPs, are also required to do forced labor for the LTTE of 10 days every 3 months, duties include building bunkers close to areas of military activity.”30 A humanitarian official confirmed this practice to Human Rights Watch: “The LTTE call it ‘voluntary service’—you have to go work on military projects, or you pay Rs 5,000 (US$50) to be exempted.”31 A UN interagency assessment mission in mid-October found that forced labor by the LTTE was continuing.32

According to a protection official familiar with current LTTE forced labor practices, the LTTE has increased its forced labor requirements in recent months. Currently, the LTTE requires each family to provide one family member to work between five and seven days per month, mostly constructing bunkers and other forms of military defensive structures for LTTE forces. The LTTE also has stopped accepting exemption payments from families in many areas of the Vanni, requiring each family to contribute labor.33

The LTTE also uses forced labor as a form of punishment. For example, when the LTTE was still providing passes to civilians to leave the Vanni, persons who obtained passes often had to leave other family members behind as “guarantors” to ensure they would return. If the person with the pass did not return as agreed, the “guarantor” would often be detained until the person who had left the Vanni returned, and in some cases would be required to engage in dangerous forced labor, such as digging military trenches, for months.34

International humanitarian law during internal armed conflicts places prohibitions on the use of forced labor. Relevant provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which is reflective of customary international law, provide that civilians may not be compelled by the parties to the conflict to engage in work “directly relative to the conduct of military operations” or work that would involve them “in the obligation of taking part in military operations.” For any work, payment of a wage is required.35

30Confidential humanitarian briefing document dated September 18, 2008, on file with Human Rights Watch.

31 Human Rights Watch interview with humanitarian official, Vavuniya, October 14, 2008.

32 Briefing presentation on UN interagency assessment mission of October 17-18, 2008, on file with Human Rights Watch.

33 Human Rights Watch communication with protection official, November 19, 2008, on file at Human Rights Watch.

34 Human Rights Watch interview with humanitarian official, Vavuniya, October 16, 2008.

35 See Fourth Geneva Convention, arts. 40, 51 and 95; see also, ICRC, Customary International Humanitarian Law, rule 95 (uncompensated or abusive forced labor is prohibited).

How LTTE mistreats trapped Wanni civilians

by Human Rights Watch

Sri Lanka's separatist Tamil Tigers are subjecting ethnic Tamils in their northern stronghold, the Vanni, to forced recruitment, abusive forced labor, and restrictions on movement that place their lives at risk, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

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[Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, during a news conference in Srinagar in India in September 2006-AFP pic via Yahoo! News]

The 17-page report, "Trapped and Mistreated: LTTE Abuses against Civilians in the Vanni," details how the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which have been fighting for an independent Tamil state for 25 years, are brutally abusing the Tamil population in areas under their control.

"The LTTE claims to be fighting for the Tamil people, but it is responsible for much of the suffering of civilians in the Vanni," said Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch. "As the LTTE loses ground to advancing government forces, their treatment of the very people they say they are fighting for is getting worse."

In the face of an ongoing government military offensive, the LTTE has increased the pressure on the civilian population under its control. Having long used a coercive pass system to prevent civilians from leaving areas it controls, the LTTE has now completely prohibited movement out of the Vanni, except for some medical emergencies. By refusing to allow displaced persons to leave for government-held territory, the group has severely restricted their access to essential humanitarian relief. Only about a thousand people have managed to flee the conflict zone since March 2008.

"By refusing to allow people their basic rights to freedom of movement, the LTTE has trapped hundreds of thousands of civilians in a dangerous war zone," said Adams.

The LTTE has a long history of forced recruitment. There has been a dramatic increase in the practice of compelling young men and women, including children, to join their forces. The group has recently gone beyond its long standing "one person per family" forced recruitment policy in the territory it controls and now sometimes requires two or more family members to join its ranks.

"Trapped in the LTTE's iron fist, ordinary Tamils are forcibly recruited as fighters and forced to engage in dangerous labor near the front ines," said Adams.

While increased international pressure and other factors had led to a decrease in its recruitment of children, recent reports indicate that the group has stepped up child recruitment in the Vanni. LTTE cadres have urged 14- to 18 year-olds at schools to join. The group often sends 17-year-olds for military training, apparently calculating that by the time such cases are reported to protection agencies, the youths will have turned 18 and no longer be considered child soldiers.

"Last year they were taking the people born in 1990 - now those born in 1991," a humanitarian official from the Vanni told Human Rights Watch. "They look at the family identity cards and take the young ones. If people of military age go into hiding, they will take younger children or the father, until they get the boys or girls they want."

During the past 25 years, the LTTE has killed large numbers of civilians, committed political assassinations in Sri Lanka and abroad, and carried out suicide bombings. It has systematically eliminated most political opposition within the minority Tamil community and is responsible for killing many journalists and members of rival organizations. In the areas under its control, the LTTE has ruled through fear, denying basic freedoms of expression, association,
assembly, and movement.

GIVEN BELOW IS A SUMMARY OF THE REPORT – AND ALSO RECOMMENDATIONS MADE TO THE LTTE BY HRW:

Summary

Last year they were taking the people born in 1990; now [they are taking] those born in 1991. They look at the family identity cards and take the young ones. If people of military age go into hiding, they will take younger children or the father, until they get the boys or girls they want.1

The LTTE no longer gives people passes to go [out of the Vanni.] At the moment, only medical cases or the elderly will get an LTTE pass. Before this time, you could hand over all your assets to the LTTE and you were free to go. But now they stop everyone, saying, “We are fighting for the people, but the people have to stay with us.”2

Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Tamil civilians are currently trapped in intensified fighting between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the LTTE’s northern stronghold, known as the Vanni.3 As the LTTE has lost ground to advancing government forces, civilians have been squeezed into a shrinking conflict zone. The encroaching fighting has placed their lives increasingly in danger. Many spend their day under the constant sound of nearby small-arms fire, shelling, and bombing. Because of a near total government ban on access by humanitarian agencies and the media, the suffering of the civilian population of the Vanni receives scant attention outside Sri Lanka.

This report addresses abuses committed by the LTTE against civilians during the current fighting in the Vanni. Given the sharp limitations on access to the Vanni imposed by the LTTE and the government, we do not suggest that this is a full picture of the situation there. Yet Human Rights Watch research in Sri Lanka shows that the LTTE has brutally and systematically abused the Tamil population on whose behalf they claim to fight, and that the LTTE bears a heavy responsibility for the desperate plight of the civilians in the Vanni.4 The LTTE, which has been fighting for an independent Tamil state—Tamil Eelam—has a deplorable human rights record. During the past 25 years it has committed innumerable murders of Sinhalese, Muslim, and Tamil civilians, political assassinations in Sri Lanka and abroad, and suicide bombings with high loss of life. The LTTE has frequently targeted civilians with bombs and remote-controlled landmines, killed perceived political opponents including many Tamil politicians, journalists, and members of rival organizations, and has forcibly recruited Tamils into its forces, many of them children. In the areas under its control, the LTTE has ruled through fear, denying basic freedoms of expression, association, assembly, and movement.

During the current fighting, abuses have again mounted. In research conducted by Human Rights Watch in Sri Lanka from October through December 2008—including 35 interviews with eyewitnesses and humanitarian aid workers working in the north—we found extensive evidence of ongoing LTTE forced recruitment of civilians, widespread use of abusive forced labor, and improper and unjustified restrictions on civilians’ freedom of movement.

The LTTE continues to systematically compel young men and women, including children, to join their forces, and have dramatically increased their forced recruitment practices. The LTTE has recently gone beyond its long-standing “one person per family” forced recruitment policy in LTTE-controlled territory and now sometimes requires two or more family members to join the ranks, depending on the size of the family. Notably, after a significant decrease in reported LTTE use of child soldiers in recent years, recruitment of children under 18 may be on the increase since September 2008, particularly of 17-year-olds. LTTE militants still use schools and displaced person camps to encourage children to join their ranks.

The LTTE continues to force civilians to engage in dangerous forced labor, including the digging of trenches for its fighters and the construction of military bunkers on the frontlines. It also uses forced labor as punishment, often forcing family members of civilians who flee to perform dangerous labor near the frontlines.

By shutting down its pass system for travel, the LTTE has banned nearly all civilians from leaving areas under LTTE control (with the exception of urgent medical cases), effectively trapping several hundred thousand civilians in an increasingly hazardous conflict zone, with extremely limited humanitarian relief. The trapped civilians provide a ready pool of civilians for future forced labor and recruitment of fighters. In doing so, the LTTE is unlawfully seeking to use the presence of the large civilian population in areas under its control for military advantage.

Human Rights Watch calls on the LTTE to stop its widespread abuses against the Tamil civilian population under its control, and to respect their human rights. In particular, Human Rights Watch urges the LTTE to stop preventing civilians from leaving areas under its control, to stop forced recruitment, as well as any recruitment of children, and to bring an end to abusive forced labor. More detailed recommendations are contained at the end of this report.

The government-ordered withdrawal of the United Nations (UN) and virtually all international humanitarian agencies from the Vanni in September 2008 has drastically worsened the plight of the civilian population. The forced withdrawal has also made it more difficult to protect the rights of the Vanni population: with a greatly restricted presence on the ground, protection agencies like UNICEF have lost the ability to monitor and act on abuses committed by all parties to the conflict in the Vanni. The government’s policy of detaining those who flee from the Vanni has made many civilians fearful to seek safety in government-held areas. The massive flooding caused when Cyclone Nisha struck Sri Lanka on November 25 caused 60,000-70,000 persons to lose their homes and shelters. Although the Sri Lankan government denies it, state relief efforts have been inadequate and restrictive government policies on UN and other assistance have exacerbated humanitarian suffering in the Vanni.


1 Humanitarian official in the Vanni describing LTTE forced recruitment practices, October 14, 2008.

2 Humanitarian official, Vavuniya, October 14, 2008.

3 Also sometimes spelled “Wanni.”

4 The conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE is considered a non-international armed conflict under international humanitarian law, or the laws of war. Applicable law includes article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and customary international humanitarian law. Common article 3 provides minimum standards for the treatment of all persons in custody, including prohibitions on murder, torture, and other cruel treatment, and the taking of hostages. Customary international humanitarian law sets out, among other things, rules on the means and methods of warfare, including prohibitions on deliberate, indiscriminate, or disproportionate attacks on civilians. International human rights law, such as found in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, also remains in effect.

Recommendations

Human Rights Watch calls upon the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to:

* Stop preventing civilians from leaving areas under its control; respect the right to freedom of movement of civilians, including the right of civilians to move to government-controlled territory for
safety;

* Stop all forced recruitment into the LTTE; end all abductions and coercion;

* End all recruitment of children under the age of 18; cease the use of children in military operations; release all child combatants currently in its ranks, as well as all persons who were recruited when children but are now over the age of 18;

* Stop all abusive or unpaid forced labor, including labor it characterizes as "voluntary"; cease demanding that all families provide labor to the LTTE; stop forcing civilians to engage in labor directly related to the conduct of military operations, such as constructing trenches and bunkers;

* Provide humanitarian agencies and UN agencies safe and unhindered access to areas under the LTTE's control, and guarantee the security of all humanitarian and UN workers, including Vanni residents working as humanitarian or UN staff.

HRW Report: "Trapped and Mistreated: LTTE Abuses against Civilians in the Vanni"

December 14, 2008

Malayalee Actresses Dominate Tamil Cinema

by Pushpa Iyengar

They have had temples built in their honour, love letters written in blood. On Kollywood’s film sets, the hero may be the next neta-in-waiting, but it’s the heroine (aka "the love interest") who gets the box-office pulse all aflutter. And for a while now, there’s been a new buzz going. Apparently Punjabi season is out, the new wave has a distinct Kerala flavour to it. Yes, yesterday's dowdy ducklings have on the sly bloomed into swans. As one big-ticket producer put it, "Mallu girls are rocking!"

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Asin

The accolades aren't surprising, considering the star turn by Malayali actresses like Asin and Nayanthara. Other stars like Meera Jasmine (2004 National Award winner for the Malayalam film, Padam Onnu Oru Vilapam), Kavya Madhavan, Navya Nair, Priya Mani, Bhavna (a hit in Telugu films) and Sneha also have Malayali roots and a growing market outside Kerala. Having honed their craft in Mollywood, they have been lured to Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh where the moolah is a lot more attractive and the audience base a whole lot bigger.

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Nayanthara, Vishal in Sathyam (Telugu)

Meera Jasmine, for instance, gets Rs 10-15 lakh for a role in Malayalam cinema but rakes in Rs 40-50 lakh in Tamil and Telugu films. Asin (star of Aamir Khan's soon-to-be-released Ghajini) and Nayanthara are in the big league already, commanding between Rs 75 lakh to Rs 1 crore for a film.

What caused this late migration? Well, besides the pay and the fans, the truth is that since the late '90s, Malayalam has witnessed a startling drop in quality cinema (one reason being the void created by the deaths in quick succession of auteurs like Aravindan, Padmarajan and Bharathan). Tamil cinema, meanwhile, was seeing a surge of new talent in scriptwriting and directing, making it a magnet for talented actresses.

Navya Nair, Darshan in Gaja (Kannada)

The Malayali actress, though, is an unlikely candidate for the dominant-force-in-South-Indian-films title, more because they couldn't be further from the typical Bollywood heroine, known for her bikini-worthy bod. In fact, there was a time when Malayali actresses were caught between two boats—the sati-savitri or the Her Nights tramp, a figure further perpetuated by the Mollywood soft porn factory films of the '80s. (The latter enjoyed a brief revival in movies starring Telugu actress Shakeela in the mid-'90s but has since died out again.) Nowadays, there's an altogether different buzz about the Malayali heroine. Art critic Sadanand Menon says "there is a demand for acting and emoting capabilities, in addition to dancing skills, in South Indian cinema now". He adds, however, that historically it hasn't taken long for South Indian heroines making the crossover to Mumbai to get slotted into "the plastic image that Bollywood heroines have". He cites the case of Sridevi "who could even trump Kamalahaasan, but once she went to Bollywood became known as 'Thunder Thighs'."

But in Tamil and Telugu films too, acting talent alone isn't enough. Which is where Mallu girls are scoring again—they are now perceived to be more glamorous, something even Bollywood is waking up to. Asin, who has done just one Malayalam film, and Nayanthara, who has done 4-5, are already looking beyond South India and blithely embracing the world beyond. Asin is all set to take on the life of a Bollywood superstar after Ghajini; Nayanthara has emerged as a no hang-ups hottie wearing a bikini in Billa, doing a sexy number with Vishal in Sathyam, even doing a lip-lock with Simbhu in Vallavan.

Says Nayanthara, who was quick to drop her village belle image after the crossover: "One has to be modern. In the glamour game, you can't have boundaries." Megha Nair, a lissome 20-year-old who debuted earlier this year opposite Satyaraj in Thangam, takes it all in stride. "Mallu actresses today are cool and bold," she says. It's the same with "accidental actress" Padmapriya, an MBA who in an earlier avatar worked with General Electric: "For me, wearing a mini-skirt is as easy as wearing a sari. Sex sells whether you are size zero or size 10."

Meera Jasmine, Bharath in Nepali (Tamil)

Padmapriya also points out that Malayali heroines find it easy to make an immediate impact in Tamil/Telugu cinema because "it's easy to adjust—there's a similar culture, similar thought process, similar language". Making the move to Bollywood, though, is not as simple. Megha agrees, "Things are different in Bollywood...the audience is different, the films revolve around style. The stars have to be physically fit and in shape."

Yes, size still matters. While Kollywood heroes like Surya and Vishal are into six-pack abs, the audience here still prefers its heroines to be "gundu-gundu" or buxom. "When I even mention that I am going to lose weight, there is a chorus of disapproval," says Megha.

The "Mallu girls" are also not bound by the constraints imposed on local girls (a fact true for actresses from North India too). As a successful Tamil TV show producer says, "Outside heroines have always dominated here. We are still a conservative society which frowns on girls joining the industry. The Mallu brigade is the latest, they have taken over...."

Thiruvananthapuram-based film writer C.S. Venkateshwaran points out there was a time in Kerala too when girls were stigmatised for joining films. He recalls a period when Sharada, a "Telugu outsider", ruled Malayalam cinema. But girls from newly affluent families, with their Gulf money and upbringing, have shed these inhibitions. Attitudes in general have also changed since the '90s. Actresses like Asin, Nayanthara and Megha started as models. Their previous careers were not just stepping stones but also conditioned them into accepting that "exposing" comes with the territory.

Says Kerala-origin actress-turned-director Revathy, who's done a range of films across languages: "I have never thought in terms of regional labels. But Kerala has a culture of state competitions for dance, music and theatre. This brings confidence and an easier entry into films. That's why you see more Malayali girls in films nowadays."

Kollywood actor-director R. Parthipan, one of Asin's co-stars in her debut Malayalam film Narendran Makan Jayakanthan Vaka, has the final word: "Bharatiyar (the Tamil poet) said Kerala girls were very beautiful. The writer Sujata too has commented on the same lines. We can't help it, we are a culture that respects our elders

[Courtesy: OutlookIndia]

In Pictures at Trincomalee: Marking the 60th Anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Human Rights Day and 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec 10th was marked in Trincomalee by The Centre for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (CPPHR).  

CPPHR's vision is "To build the society on a solid foundation of human dignity; respect where justice is never denied or delayed, equality acknowledged and equal opportunity afforded, rights of everyone is recognized".

CPPHR marks 60 years since Declaration of Human Rights in Trincomalee

 

Pictures by: Drs. Sarajevo

"Don't you know politics, Karu"? was how Mahinda Rajapakse scolded Karu Jayasuriya

The return of UNP Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya back into the party fold was the focal point in the local political scene last week.

Jayasuriya, along with 16 other UNP members joined the government early 2007, claiming to support the President's war effort to liberate the country from the clutches of Tiger terrorists. Many believe that if not for the 17 UNP defectors, the Mahinda Rajapakse administration may have fallen some time ago.

The President and government considered the 17 UNP defectors to be the saviors of the administration especially with the exit of the JVP.

However, the manner in which the Rajapakses show gratitude towards those who have stood by them is now fairly well known.

The treatment meted out to the likes of Mangala Samaraweera, the late Sripathi Sooriyaarachchi, the Fowzie family and former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who stood by Rajapakse through difficult periods and later shouldered the burden of a presidential campaign and made him victorious, stands testimony to how the Rajapakses re-pay their loyalists.

So desperate are they that the Rajapakses have now allowed those who stood against them and conspired before and during the presidential election campaign, to be the voices, power brokers and deal makers in government.

During the last presidential election campaign, Mervyn Silva held many discussions with the UNP to plan a strategy to defeat Rajapakse. It were the likes of Mahindananda Aluthgamage who stood at the SLFP executive committee meeting to voice disapproval on the nomination of Rajapakse as the party's presidential candidate in 2005.

Aluthgamage even went to the extent of saying that he would not even go to the polling station to cast his vote for Rajapakse. It was an open secret in Nawalapitiya that Aluthgamage did not cast his vote for Rajapakse at the 2005 presidential election.

The Silvas and the Aluthgamages are now the President's closest confidants. Apart from carrying tales about senior SLFPers to the Rajapakses, they are also used to attack the party seniors like Maithripala Sirisena, Samaraweera and Fowzie.

Likewise it took only a few months for Rajapakse to act true to form in showing his gratitude to Jayasuriya and the UNP defectors who had come to save the government.

After receiving the necessary support from Jayasuriya and the clan to liberate the east and launch a military offensive to capture the Wanni, Rajapakse began to dish out the standard treatment to the 17 defectors.

Rajapakse also began to criticise Jayasuriya and several other UNP defectors in their absence.

Jayasuriya meanwhile launched a massive programme under his Public Administration and Home Affairs Ministry. Under the programme, 2,500 grama sevakas were to be appointed islandwide.

At the outset of the programme, Jayasuriya informed his Ministry officials that the appointments must be made based on the performance at a competitive exam and not on political affiliations. The Ministry officials therefore did not have much difficulty in launching the programme.

However, after some time, various stories on the programme started to reach Temple Trees. The likes of Aluthgamage told the President that the programme launched by Jayasuriya's Ministry has prevented party loyalists from being favoured when appointments are made.

Whenever the President inquired about the programme from Jayasuriya, he said it was done independently without any interference.

A few weeks back, Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa visited Temple Trees and said, "Look at what has happened Mr. President, by trying to make appointments in a fair manner, Karu has even appointed UNP's Akila Viraj Kariyawasam's brother to a position. If appointments are made in this manner, we would not be able to win any elections."

Yapa till then was a well respected politician among his colleagues and one who was not recognised as a tale carrier. However, Yapa left Temple Trees in a hurry after the President said, "I will give him the works. Karu is coming to meet me in a short while."

A few minutes later Jayasuriya arrived at Temple Trees where several local businessmen were also present.

Unaware of the events that had taken place at Temple Trees a few minutes earlier, Jayasuriya walked up to the President with a smile, only to hear the President speak to him in a rude manner.

"What have you done Karu? When you start giving appointments like this what will come of our people? Don't you know politics?" the President asked.

Jayasuriya quickly asked the President what was wrong.

"The problem is that UNPers have been given many appointments," the President said.

"Mr. President, do not speak in this manner. The appointments were given to those who passed the exam. We did not give them according to their political affiliations," Jayasuriya responded.

"Why not? Anura Yapa came and told me a little while ago that even UNP's Akila Viraj's brother had been given an appointment," the President said in an angry voice.

"Mr. President, you can hold an inquiry and find out if you like. He would have been appointed to the position after passing the exam. It is wrong of you to speak in this manner," Jayasuriya said in a calm and collected tone.

The President continued to reprimand Jayasuriya and speak to him in a humiliating manner. "Karu, your problem is that you don't understand politics. Now I will have to teach you politics in the presence of everyone," the President went on.

Jayasuriya remained silent and listened to everything the President had to say. Little did the President know that Jayasuriya's silence was the beginning of a new challenge he would have to face.

After the meeting with the President, Jayasuriya went to President's Additional Secretary, Gamini Senarath's office at Temple Trees and requested for a pen and paper. He wrote the letter of resignation in his own handwriting and gave it to Senarath to hand it over to the President.

Jayasuriya walked out and the atmosphere at Temple Trees changed after Jayasuriya's resignation came to light.

The President summoned brother Basil and asked him to meet Jayasuriya to resolve the issue. Jayasuriya however was uncontactable as he had switched off his phones.

No one had any idea where Jayasuriya was.

The President by this time had called Milinda Moragoda, Gamini Lokuge and Rajitha Senaratne who defected to the government with Jayasuriya to request them to ask Jayasuriya to withdraw the resignation letter. They were not successful.

Basil somehow managed to contact Jayasuriya through a Los Angeles contact now working for the State Trading Corporation and went to his residence to meet him. At the beginning of the meeting, Basil asked Jayasuriya not to be disturbed by what the President said when he was angry. He then asked Jayasuriya to withdraw the letter he had handed over to Senarath.

Jayasuriya responded by presenting Basil with a list of issues highlighting the treatment meted out to him and those who joined the government along with him.

He informed Basil that the President had on several occasions criticised him and his group in a degrading manner. Jayasuriya expressed his displeasure at the manner in which the President had been treating the group of MPs who had acted to save the government from falling.

He also said that through the programme to appoint grama sevakas he intended to do well by the country and not engage in petty politics.

"No, the problem is that various ministers have said various stories to the President. He has a great weakness of listening to such stories and then taking decisions based on them. I will ensure that such things do not happen in the future," Basil said.

Jayasuriya however said that a wrong committed in front of so many people could not be corrected that easily. He then explained to Basil how the President had insulted him at Temple Trees in front of several local businessmen and state officials.

Basil however continued to plead with Jayasuriya to withdraw his resignation letter.

Jayasuriya stood firm on his stance and said he would do no such thing and asked Basil to ensure that the President does not treat the other senior ministers in the government in such a manner.

As the relations between Jayasuriya and the President went from bad to worse, the attitude of the UNP towards Jayasuriya also began to change.

Since provisions were made in the party constitution for the appointment of a deputy leader and assistant leader, several senior UNP members requested the party leadership to get Jayasuriya and the defectors back into the party fold.

Party Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe did not object to the request and said he had never told anyone to leave the party. He also said that he would gladly welcome any member who left the party due to a misunderstanding if they were willing to return.

Wickremesinghe assigned several members to discuss the matter with Jayasuriya. Following the Party Leader's instructions discussions between the UNP and Jayasuriya commenced.

Disheartened by the President's ill-treatment, Jayasuriya accepted the UNP's invitation to hold discussions and said he did not expect any post in the party.

However, a few days before the party convention, Wickremesinghe summoned several party seniors including Rukman Senanayake, Joseph Michael Perera, John Amaratunge, Gamini Jayawickrema Perera and Tissa Attanayake, and made a special statement.

"I have decided to amend the constitution and reappoint Karu Jayasuriya as the party's deputy leader. What are your views on it?" he asked.

Jayawickrema Perera, Attanayake and other senior members said they had no objection to re-appointing Jayasuriya as the party's deputy leader. Senanayake even offered to propose Jayasuriya's name for the post.

The Opposition Leader then said that he had also decided to appoint Rukman Senanayake as the party's assistant leader and Jayawickrema Perera as the party chairman.

Wickremesinghe also requested the relevant parties to discuss the proposal with Jayasuriya.

By this time many government ministers began to request Jayasuriya to change his mind. Even a party leader in the government on Presidential instructions, met Jayasuriya.

However, after hearing all what Jayasuriya had to say, he said, "I believe that you have made the right decision. I have been with this man over a greater period of his political career. But I never believed that he would act in such a low manner after assuming office. Not only with you, he even interferes with the work in our ministries. Apart from the President, even his family members interfere with ministry work. Therefore, I believe that this decision you have taken considering your dignity is right. Apart from the low lives like Wimal Weerawansa, the rest of the respectable senior ministers would join Ranil before long. It would be a great surprise if it does not happen."

The Opposition Leader thereafter summoned the UNP working committee and informed it of the decision to reappoint Jayasuriya as the deputy leader.

Dayasiri Jayasekera then inquired if it would not be suitable to make the appointments after holding an election for the posts as there were several applications already forwarded for the posts.

It was Karunasena Kodithuwakku who made an important statement to the working committee at this point. He said that everyone should act with the future in mind with lessons learnt from the past. He explained that the party had to be strengthened at this time and not be pushed towards an internal conflict.

Palitha Ranga Bandara in lighter vein inquired from the working committee if disciplinary action would be instituted against those who spoke against Jayasuriya when he defected to the government.

Wickremesinghe responded with a smile and said that a disciplinary inquiry would be held against Ranga Bandara and a promotion would be given to him as punishment.

Thalatha Athukorale inquired from the Party Leader, "Sir, then why not take Susantha Punchinilame and Mahinda Rathnathileka back to the party, make one of them the Ratnapura District leader and solve that problem as well."

"Ok, tell me whom do you want back. Tell me whom you want. If Thalatha says so we will finish that job as well," Wickremesinghe said.

Abdul Cader then raised a question. He asked if he was not being appointed as the assistant leader of the party, a post requested by him, because he was a member of a minority ethnic group.

Wickremesinghe responded by saying that 'Cader Hajjiar' was the leader of the Muslims in the UNP. "Let's discuss the matter after eating Hajjiar's biryani," he said with a smile.

Meanwhile, the necessary arrangements were made for Jayasuriya's return. Before returning to the party, he made two requests from the party leadership.

He requested for permission to cast his vote in favour of the budget at the third reading vote of the 2009 budget, as he voted for it during the second reading vote. The second request was for him to personally hand over his letter of resignation to the President.

The Opposition Leader agreed to Jayasuriya's requests.

Although Jayasuriya tried to leave the government in gentlemanly fashion, the Rajapakses did not leave room for any such thing.

As soon as Jayasuriya informed the President that he would be coming to Temple Trees to hand over his letter of resignation, Rajapakse decided to summon the 16 remaining UNP defectors to Temple Trees and hold a media show. The President also made sure that the 16 defectors held a press briefing against Jayasuriya the following day.

Rajapakse decided to use the services of the ever willing Rajitha Senaratne, to attack Jayasuriya.

However, since there were several among the 16 defectors who were of a better standing, they did not participate in the media briefing. Around five did not show up. Of those who attended, five opted to remain silent. They did not utter a word against Jayasuriya.

Jayasuriya is once again the deputy leader of the UNP and through his return he has sent a message to the country - that the country would be soon faced with a great economic crisis as never witnessed before.

Govt and LTTE Show Callous Disregard For Civilian Life and Lives

By Frederica Jansz

The people of Sri Lanka have plenty on their minds these days. With military clashes between the government and the Tamil Tigers proceeding apace and major floods destroying thousands of homes and displacing tens of thousands of people, many of whose lives already had beenÿdisrupted by the ongoing fighting, Sri Lankans can hardly focus on an economic catastrophe the likes of which we have not seen in the last one hundred years.

As Sri Lanka is thrown further into war, the siege against independent attempts to bring out the "truth" grows tighter. The suppression of 'truth' has led to the deterioration of political culture and the criminalisation of the state.

It applies to those concerned with the 'truth' about human rights abuses, the 'truth' in relation to the suffering of civilians affected by the war or for that matter safeguarding the very institutions including the media that are responsible for unearthing the truth that is essential for a democratic and just society.

Playing with the "truth"

There are sections both in the government and the public sphere who claim that the war effort, and particularly a "war against terrorism," should freeze certain rights and delay the deliberations seeking "truth" until after the war.ÿ The LTTE has consistently suppressed "truth" over the last 20 years, including by systematically eliminating dissent and opposition to its fascist agenda.

There is no recourse to justice for the hundreds of thousands of people living under the jackboot of the LTTE.ÿ However, a government that claims to be democratic should never descend to such levels, and if the war and militarisation entails suppression of the 'truth,' the legitimacy of the government itself is necessarily at risk.ÿ The commissions and omissions of the current government are doing irreparable damage to the confidence of the minorities in the Sri Lankan state and their rights as citizens.

In a time of war, more than at any other time, the government should be under greater scrutiny, both through government appointed bodies as well as a vibrant and free media.

The absence of such checks is leading to the state losing the minorities' confidence and could have long-term repercussions of polarising the communities beyond repair. This has been one lesson from the last 25 years of the conflict, which the current government seems to disregard.

Precisely when the state lacks the commitment towards minorities and its citizens at large, civil society needs to act; the clergy, academics, trade unions, professional organisations, the NGOs and the business community should take on the formidable responsibility of defending the truth.

Over the last 18 months, a whole shadowy network of armed groups are believed to have been involved in abductions, threats and murder of media personnel. In all of these attacks, the perpetrators are as yet to be apprehended - police investigations are never concluded or pursued.

Independent defence reporting is virtually non-existent following the assault and attacks on two defence correspondents. All war related news is restricted to information disseminated by the military via different arms of the Ministry of Defence.

Access to covering the war is almost entirely confined to arm chair reporting as journalists are barred from war zones. The media have no way of independently confirming or verifying information on the war.

Staple diet

Instead what can be dispensed is what is vetted and handed out courtesy the Ministry of Defence.

Last week this is what the military said: Sri Lanka Army officials on Tuesday, December 9th, handed over 11 dead bodies of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) cadres, killed in confrontations in Olimadu in the general area of Mankulam, to the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC). The ICRC was making arrangements to transport the remains of seven females and four males to the uncleared areas via Omanthai Entry/Exit point.

Sri Lankan security forces said 23 civilians escaped from the LTTE controlled areas and reached the troops at Nedunkerni in Mullaitivu District also on the 9th. The group of 12 women, 10 men and a child from deeper in the north in LTTE held areas has reportedly left their villages the previous night.

Sri Lanka Army Commandos intercepted an isolated group of LTTE terrorists infiltrated into the Bakmitiyawa jungle in the Ampara area on 8th December. According to the army, four LTTE terrorists were killed and bodies were found along with four T-56 assault rifles in a subsequent search operation conducted in the area.

Attacks

Facing stiff resistance from the LTTE guerrillas, the Sri Lanka Army has launched concerted attacks on the rebel stronghold of Mullaitivu, which borders the rebel's political capital Kilinochchi, killing at least five Tamil Tigers, officials said on Tuesday the 9th.

Tamil Tiger rebels have been trapped in a single district in Sri Lanka's Northern Province, the state radio said Tuesday, December 9. The Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation quoted defence officials as saying that Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels are now entrapped in the Mullaitivu District.

Nearly 53 Sri Lankan fishermen who had strayed into Indian waters off Chennai coast in the last two days were arrested and 10 boats seized from them, the police said. According to police, 42 fishermen were arrested and eight boats recovered on Sunday, December 7th, while 11 fishermen and two boats were detained the next day on Monday night by the Coast Guard, following which they were handed over to the police and later lodged in the Puzhal jail near here.

The Sri Lankan military on Monday claimed that three 'senior LTTE cadres' who fought for the outfit for more than a decade have surrendered to the army. The Defence Ministry said here the three LTTE cadres aged between 25-30 years showed themselves up to soldiers operating in the Pooneryn area and laid down their weapons.

Disarm

Meanwhile, the Thamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal Party (TMVP) also on December 9th reassured that they will disarm in the near future. The Eastern Province Chief Minister and the senior member of the party, Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan had given this assurance during a meeting with the Deputy British High Commissioner in Sri Lanka Mark Gooding.

Given the heavy losses the LTTE continues to incur in northern Sri Lanka, entering into a ceasefire agreement and peace negotiations with the Sri Lankan government might be the only opportunity it has to rebuild its offensive capability. With the escalation of violence, the Sri Lankan government did come under pressure from the international community and especially from India, to resort to a political solution. Even though Indian pressure hiked in October 2008, given the present security situation in India, pressure to go into peace talks may recede temporarily.

Fighting meanwhile continued in northern Sri Lanka where Sri Lankan security forces are moving in on the LTTE stronghold of Kilinochchi. On November 25, security forces captured the village of Olumadu near the town of Mullaitivu which remains under LTTE control.

On November 29, troops of the 59 Division were able to enter the area of Otiyamalai which is also in Mullaitivu. Security forces had been engaged in fighting for several days prior to entering the area. According to the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence, Otiyamalai is a key LTTE fortification and the loss of this fortification is likely to weaken the LTTE garrisons at Nedunkerni, Nainamadu and Oddusudan.

Heavy fighting

On 30 November troops of the 57 Division moving towards Alampil were engaged in heavy fighting with the LTTE. Alampil is located about 10km south of Mullaitivu, and is also where the LTTE's main Sea Tiger base is located. Troops of the 59 Division are presently focused on capturing the Kumalamunai-Alampil road by clearing the northern bank of the Nayaru lagoon.

The Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) carried out several attacks in northern Sri Lanka. On 29 November MI-24 helicopter gunships targeted LTTE positions in Piramanthalkulam, south of Adampan, Kilinochchi. According to SLAF Spokesperson Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara, the targets were LTTE training camps.

On 30 November 2008, jets of the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) bombed several LTTE targets in northern Sri Lanka. According to the SLAF Spokesperson, MI-24 helicopter gunships of the SLAF targeted LTTE resistance positions in Murukandy, East of Akkarayankulam.

There were several incidents of violence reported from the Eastern Province. On 25th November, seven civilians were killed by unidentified gunmen. The victims belonged to two Tamil families in the Batticaloa District. More killings were carried out on 26 and 27 November. Some reports stated that almost 23 people were gunned down but the exact number of killings has not been confirmed.

Warning

Prior to this on 25 November, Human Rights Watch had warned that killings and abductions in the Eastern Province had increased. According to HRW, 30 extra-judicial killings were documented in September 2008, including the case of two men detained by Batticaloa Police who were found dead on the beach six days later. HRW has attributed most of the killings and abductions to the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP). However the government has accused LTTE gunmen of carrying out most of the killings in the province.

In light of these developments, security forces carried out large scale combing operations in the eastern district of Batticaloa on 30 November 2008. The operation which lasted the whole day had Batticaloa town under curfew. According to the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence, 11,963 people were screened.

The Defence Ministry stated that the search operations were carried out after it received intelligence reports about LTTE infiltrators and criminal activity in the wake of the killings and criminal activities in the areas of Batticaloa, Valachchenai, Karadiyanaru, Vakarai, Aithiyamalai, Vavunathivu, Kokkadichcholai, Kattankudi and Kalawanchikudi.

On 28 November 2008 police recovered a pair of shoes laden with C-4 explosives at Kapuwatte, Kandana. The shoes which were left along the Negombo-Colombo main road and were discovered by Kandana Police. The shoes had been filled with about 1.2kg of C-4 explosives.

According to Police Media Spokesperson Ranjith Gunasekera, it is believed that the shoes may have been left behind to avoid being detected at a nearby police checkpoint. The army bomb disposal unit defused the explosives while police launched a cordon and search operation in the area.

Another cycle

The country is mired in another brutal cycle of war, the effect of which is particularly made worse by the scuttling of the political process to address minority grievances.ÿ The rampant killings, abductions, enforced disappearances, and attacks on the media - all have worsened the prevailing climate of fear and the culture of impunity; these developments, coupled with the government's increasing authoritarianism, debilitate democratic institutions and the democratic fabric of society.

President Rajapakse's interference in the political process has undermined the All Party Representative Committee's efforts to produce credible proposals for a political solution, which would have also provided the opening to address broader concerns of human rights and rule of law in the country.

Instead, the escalation of violence inherent to a military approach, the targeting of civilians and the virulent nationalist rhetoric espoused by both the state and the LTTE are further polarising the communities and eroding the possibility of a sustainable peace.

On the other hand, the LTTE's agenda seems to be one of further polarizing the communities, including the instigation of a backlash against the Tamil community, as a way of gaining legitimacy for its bankrupt separatist politics. The reports coming out of LTTE-controlled territory in the Wanni also point to horrific repression of the civilian population there.

Identical position

Dayan Jayatilleke, Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the UN in Geneva assures us, "human rights violations will drop off drastically when the war is over, when the enemy has been defeated - just as human rights violations in the South of Sri Lanka dropped off sharply when the JVP had been militarily defeated."ÿ

The LTTE's position is identical - human rights certainly, once the war of liberation ends. There is an eerie similarity between the two positions and a callous disregard of civilian suffering.

Both positions treat civilian life as an expendable commodity valuable only as a means towards the objective of winning the war. This perspective is in direct contradiction of the "laws of war" or better known as international humanitarian law, the violation of which is a war crime.

Editor sacrificial goat for Tamil Nadu jokers

by Gamini Weerakoon

Some Sri Lankan editors and other varieties of journalists entertain the mistaken belief that even though anyone on two legs is fair game for them, not so themselves. Two weeks ago UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe came under attack from a fair cross-section of the media for being harshly critical of a columnist in the Daily Mirror and on the next day for coming down on the editor of the paper.

Even though it is not prudent these days in this country for politicians to be critical of the state media and the so-called 'independent media,' Wickremesinghe bashed the Daily Mirror, giving his own reasons.

We are not defending Wickremesinghe's criticisms but wish to remind one and all that politicians have the right to be critical of the media just as much the media has the right to be critical of politicians.

There is a fatuous school of thought being built up that the Sri Lankan media comprises of some sacred knights in shining armour who can do no wrong and can bash anyone freely under the banner of the 'freedom of the press' but any criticism of them amounts to sacrilege. The fact that we of The Leader give as much as we get and at times give much more, needs no illustration.

Sacking editors

In contrast to this strong bond of media brotherhood, last week we had two editors of the two leading English language newspapers sacked from their posts and sent down to some nondescript posts in the bowels of the Lake House bastion. But till the time of writing these comments we have not seen any effective, save, for some short, bland news items in the inside pages of some of the 'kept independent press' announcing their removal and an editorial comment attempting to shift the focus on Tamil Nadu politicians.

Apparently even chosen editors for the two flagships of Lake House are pawns to the press tsar and commissars in the stupid power game for which the newspapers are harnessed.

We are not blaming the press commissars for they too are pawns on the chess board and can suffer the same fate of the two editors. This is also not the first time that editors were fired without rhyme or reason since Sirima Bandaranaike took over the once mighty press bastion in the name of 'broadbasing' ownership.

The executioner who presses the button to send editors into space is the Head of State - the tsar. That is the freedom of the press that our media enjoys.

Cap and bells

What was the reason for the two editors to be fired on the same day? The Chairman of Lake House who is also the headline reader in an early morning TV show did not give reasons, officially or on his TV show.

Some journalists of the two papers had leaked out the news that the reason for sacking of the Observer editor had been the publication of the alleged comments of the Army Commander Sarath Fonseka to the effect that some 'jokers' in Tamil Nadu were demanding military operations in the Wanni be stopped.

Gen. Sarath Fonseka's shooting from the lip appears to be as effective as shooting from the hip. He shouldn't be called upon to apologise for describing jokers as jokers. Withdrawal of the alleged comments would be an affront to our armed forces. He should tell the jokers: Put on the cap if it fits you and also offer bells to hang on the cap to make it a perfect gift for the festive season

However, to go on the offensive against the Tamil Nadu jokers is to evade the issue of the shabby treatment accorded to the editor of a national newspaper. The government at times takes the position that Lake House is an independent organisation where journalists have the freedom of expression. Indeed under the law they are not bound by government regulations although the press tsars and commissars for over three decades have made independent newspapers propaganda sheets of the ruling party.

Did India protest?

A point to ponder is whether the Indian government protested against the publication of this news item about Tamil Nadu jokers in the Observer. India it is well known enjoys complete freedom of the press and journalists have the freedom to say anything about any politician, Indian or foreign, although they could be liable under the laws of libel.

If New Delhi did take the position that the Observer was under state control, Sri Lanka could have referred to many instances over the years where successive governments including this government had maintained that Lake House was not state-controlled. Even though the defence of the fig leaf of independence of the press was a trifle too thin it could have been a diplomatic defence.

Cringing

Or is it that the Sri Lanka government has been reduced to the pathetic position of cringing before New Delhi and agreeing to whatever ordered by the New Delhi Brahmins? Is it that even our Army Commander should be made to eat his words?

Another aspect is: Where oh! where is the much flaunted freedom of expression of the Sri Lanka press? Recently the Editors Guild was making much song and dance about the 'progress' made on the freedom of expression. Much was made of the 10th anniversary of a 'Weligama Declaration' which apart from the exclusive cabal of editors know little about.

There is also the Code of Ethics for journalists, now a part of the law of the land. But this code is the chain which journalists have shackled themselves with. A code of ethics for journalists without a code of ethics for press commissars and barons is an open licence to hire and fire journalists as the tsar, commissars and barons want.

Private sector barons can take directorships in exclusive government boards which would be beneficial to their business interests. It's a 'you scratch my back I scratch your back' game between the tsar, commissars and barons. Editors will be sacked. [Courtesy:The Sunday Leader]

December 13, 2008

"Justice" or "Civil war"? We Must Choose!

by Arundhati Roy

We've forfeited the rights to our own tragedies. As the carnage in Mumbai raged on, day after horrible day, our 24-hour news channels informed us that we were watching "India's 9/11". And like actors in a Bollywood rip-off of an old Hollywood film, we're expected to play our parts and say our lines, even though we know it's all been said and done before.

AR1213B.jpg

[Arundhati Roy]

As tension in the region builds, US Senator John McCain has warned Pakistan that if it didn't act fast to arrest the 'Bad Guys' he had personal information that India would launch air strikes on 'terrorist camps' in Pakistan and that Washington could do nothing because Mumbai was India's 9/11.

But November isn't September, 2008 isn't 2001, Pakistan isn't Afghanistan and India isn't America. So perhaps we should reclaim our tragedy and pick through the debris with our own brains and our own broken hearts so that we can arrive at our own conclusions.

It's odd how in the last week of November thousands of people in Kashmir supervised by thousands of Indian troops lined up to cast their vote, while the richest quarters of India's richest city ended up looking like war-torn Kupwara—one of Kashmir's most ravaged districts.

The Mumbai attacks are only the most recent of a spate of terrorist attacks on Indian towns and cities this year. Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Guwahati, Jaipur and Malegaon have all seen serial bomb blasts in which hundreds of ordinary people have been killed and wounded. If the police are right about the people they have arrested as suspects, both Hindu and Muslim, all Indian nationals, it obviously means something's going very badly wrong in this country.

If you were watching television you may not have heard that ordinary people too died in Mumbai. They were mowed down in a busy railway station and a public hospital. The terrorists did not distinguish between poor and rich. They killed both with equal cold-bloodedness. The Indian media, however, was transfixed by the rising tide of horror that breached the glittering barricades of India Shining and spread its stench in the marbled lobbies and crystal ballrooms of two incredibly luxurious hotels and a small Jewish centre. We're told one of these hotels is an icon of the city of Mumbai. That's absolutely true. It's an icon of the easy, obscene injustice that ordinary Indians endure every day. On a day when the newspapers were full of moving obituaries by beautiful people about the hotel rooms they had stayed in, the gourmet restaurants they loved (ironically, one was called Kandahar), and the staff who served them, a small box on the top left-hand corner in the inner pages of a national newspaper (sponsored by a pizza company I think) said 'Hungry, kya?' (Hungry eh?). It then, with the best of intentions I'm sure, informed its readers that on the international hunger index, India ranked below Sudan and Somalia. But of course this isn't that war. That one's still being fought in the Dalit bastis of our villages, on the banks of the Narmada and the Koel Karo rivers; in the rubber estate in Chengara; in the villages of Nandigram, Singur, Lalgarh in West Bengal; in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa; and the slums and shantytowns of our gigantic cities. That war isn't on TV. Yet. So maybe, like everyone else, we should deal with the one that is.

There is a fierce, unforgiving fault line that runs through the contemporary discourse on terrorism. On one side (let's call it Side A) are those who see terrorism, especially 'Islamist' terrorism, as a hateful, insane scourge that spins on its own axis, in its own orbit and has nothing to do with the world around it, nothing to do with history, geography or economics. Therefore, Side A says, to try and place it in a political context, or even try to understand it, amounts to justifying it and is a crime in itself.Side B believes that though nothing can ever excuse or justify terrorism, it exists in a particular time, place and political context, and to refuse to see that will only aggravate the problem and put more and more people in harm's way. Which is a crime in itself.

The sayings of Hafiz Saeed, who founded the Lashkar-e-Toiba (Army of the Pure) in 1990 and who belongs to the hardline Salafi tradition of Islam, certainly bolster the case of Side A. Hafiz Saeed approves of suicide bombing, hates Jews, Shias and Democracy, and believes that jehad should be waged until Islam, his Islam, rules the world. Among the things he has said are:

"There cannot be any peace while India remains intact. Cut them, cut them so much that they kneel before you and ask for mercy."

And, "India has shown us this path. We would like to give India a tit-for-tat response and reciprocate in the same way by killing the Hindus, just like it is killing the Muslims in Kashmir."

But where would Side A accommodate the sayings of Babu Bajrangi of Ahmedabad, India, who sees himself as a democrat, not a terrorist? He was one of the major lynchpins of the 2002 Gujarat genocide and has said (on camera):

"We didn't spare a single Muslim shop, we set everything on fire...we hacked, burned, set on fire...we believe in setting them on fire because these bastards don't want to be cremated, they're afraid of it.... I have just one last wish...let me be sentenced to death.... I don't care if I'm hanged...just give me two days before my hanging and I will go and have a field day in Juhapura where seven or eight lakhs of these people stay.... I will finish them off...let a few more of them die...at least twenty-five thousand to fifty thousand should die."

And where, in Side A's scheme of things, would we place the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh bible, We, or Our Nationhood Defined by M.S. Golwalkar 'Guruji', who became head of the RSS in 1944. It says:

"Ever since that evil day, when Moslems first landed in Hindustan, right up to the present moment, the Hindu Nation has been gallantly fighting on to take on these despoilers. The Race Spirit has been awakening."

Or:

"To keep up the purity of its race and culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races—the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here...a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by."

Of course, Muslims are not the only people in the gun sights of the Hindu Right. Dalits have been consistently targeted. Recently in Kandhamal in Orissa, Christians were the target of two-and-a-half months of violence which left more than 40 dead. Forty thousand people have been driven from their homes, half of whom now live in refugee camps.

All these years, Hafiz Saeed has lived the life of a respectable man in Lahore as the head of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which many believe is a front organisation for the Lashkar-e-Toiba. He continued to recruit young boys for his own bigoted jehad with his twisted, fiery sermons. On December 11, the UN imposed sanctions on the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and the Pakistani government succumbed to international pressure, putting Hafiz Saeed under house arrest. Babu Bajrangi, however, is out on bail and continues to live the life of a respectable man in Gujarat. A couple of years after the genocide, he left the VHP to join the Shiv Sena. Narendra Modi, Bajrangi's former mentor, is still the chief minister of Gujarat. So the man who presided over the Gujarat genocide was re-elected twice, and is deeply respected by India's biggest corporate houses, Reliance and Tata. Suhel Seth, a TV impresario and corporate spokesperson, has recently said, "Modi is God." The policemen who supervised and sometimes even assisted the rampaging Hindu mobs in Gujarat have been rewarded and promoted.The RSS has 45,000 branches, its own range of charities and seven million volunteers preaching its doctrine of hate across India. They include Narendra Modi, but also former prime minister A.B. Vajpayee, current Leader of the Opposition L.K. Advani, and a host of other senior politicians, bureaucrats and police and intelligence officers.

And if that's not enough to complicate our picture of secular democracy, we should place on record that there are plenty of Muslim organisations within India preaching their own narrow bigotry.

So, on balance, if I had to choose between Side A and Side B, I'd pick Side B. We need context. Always.

In this nuclear subcontinent, that context is Partition. The Radcliffe Line which separated India and Pakistan and tore through states, districts, villages, fields, communities, water systems, homes and families, was drawn virtually overnight. It was Britain's final, parting kick to us. Partition triggered the massacre of more than a million people and the largest migration of a human population in contemporary history. Eight million people—Hindus fleeing the new Pakistan, Muslims fleeing the new kind of India—left their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Each of those people carries and passes down a story of unimaginable pain, hate, horror, but yearning too. That wound, those torn but still unsevered muscles, that blood and those splintered bones still lock us together in a close embrace of hatred, terrifying familiarity but also love. It has left Kashmir trapped in a nightmare from which it can't seem to emerge, a nightmare that has claimed more than 60,000 lives. Pakistan, the Land of the Pure, became an Islamic republic, and then, very quickly a corrupt, violent military state, openly intolerant of other faiths. India on the other hand declared herself an inclusive, secular democracy. It was a magnificent undertaking, but Babu Bajrangi's predecessors had been hard at work since the 1920s, dripping poison into India's bloodstream, undermining that idea of India even before it was born. By 1990, they were ready to make a bid for power. In 1992, Hindu mobs exhorted by L.K. Advani stormed the Babri Masjid and demolished it. By 1998, the BJP was in power at the Centre. The US War on Terror put the wind in their sails. It allowed them to do exactly as they pleased, even to commit genocide and then present their fascism as a legitimate form of chaotic democracy. This happened at a time when India had opened its huge market to international finance, and it was in the interests of international corporations and the media houses they owned to project it as a country that could do no wrong. That gave Hindu Nationalists all the impetus and the impunity they needed. This, then, is the larger historical context of terrorism in the subcontinent, and of the Mumbai attacks.

It shouldn't surprise us that Hafiz Saeed of the Lashkar-e-Toiba is from Shimla (India) and L.K. Advani of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is from Sindh (Pakistan).

In much the same way as it did after the 2001 Parliament attack, the 2002 burning of the Sabarmati Express and the 2006 bombing of the Samjhauta Express, the Government of India announced that it has 'incontrovertible' evidence that the Lashkar-e-Toiba backed by Pakistan's ISI was behind the Mumbai strikes. The Lashkar has denied involvement, but remains the prime accused. According to the police and intelligence agencies, the Lashkar operates in India through an organisation called the 'Indian Mujahideen'. Two Indian nationals—Sheikh Mukhtar Ahmed, a Special Police Officer working for the Jammu and Kashmir Police, and Tausif Rehman, a resident of Calcutta in West Bengal—have been arrested in connection with the Mumbai attacks. So already the neat accusation against Pakistan is getting a little messy.Almost always, when these stories unspool, they reveal a complicated global network of foot-soldiers, trainers, recruiters, middlemen and undercover intelligence and counter-intelligence operatives, working not just on both sides of the India-Pakistan border, but in several countries simultaneously. In today's world, trying to pin down the provenance of a terrorist strike and isolate it within the borders of a single nation-state is very much like trying to pin down the provenance of corporate money. It's almost impossible.

In circumstances like these, air strikes to 'take out' terrorist camps may take out the camps, but certainly will not 'take out' the terrorists. And neither will war. (Also, in our bid for the moral high ground, let's try not to forget that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the LTTE of neighbouring Sri Lanka, one of the world's most deadly terrorist groups, were trained by the Indian army.)

Afghan revenge: America’s debris, our headache

Thanks largely to the part it was forced to play as America's ally, first in its war in support of the Afghan Islamists and then in its war against them, Pakistan, whose territory is reeling under these contradictions, is careening towards civil war. As recruiting agents for America's jehad against the Soviet Union, it was the job of the Pakistan army and the ISI to nurture and channel funds to Islamic fundamentalist organisations. Having wired up these Frankenstein's monsters and released them into the world, the US expected it could rein them in like pet mastiffs whenever it wanted to. Certainly it did not expect them to come calling in the heart of the Homeland on September 11. So once again, Afghanistan had to be violently re-made. Now the debris of a re-ravaged Afghanistan has washed up on Pakistan's borders. Nobody, least of all the Pakistan government, denies that it is presiding over a country that is threatening to implode. The terrorist training camps, the fire-breathing mullahs and the maniacs who believe that Islam will, or should, rule the world is mostly the detritus of two Afghan wars. Their ire rains down on the Pakistan government and Pakistani civilians as much, if not more, than it does on India. If at this point India decides to go to war, perhaps the descent of the whole region into chaos will be complete. The debris of a bankrupt, destroyed Pakistan will wash up on India's shores, endangering us as never before. If Pakistan collapses, we can look forward to having millions of 'non-state actors' with an arsenal of nuclear weapons at their disposal as neighbours. It's hard to understand why those who steer India's ship are so keen to replicate Pakistan's mistakes and call damnation upon this country by inviting the United States to further meddle clumsily and dangerously in our extremely complicated affairs. A superpower never has allies. It only has agents.

On the plus side, the advantage of going to war is that it's the best way for India to avoid facing up to the serious trouble building on our home front.

The Mumbai attacks were broadcast live (and exclusive!) on all or most of our 67 24-hour news channels and god knows how many international ones. TV anchors in their studios and journalists at 'ground zero' kept up an endless stream of excited commentary. Over three days and three nights, we watched in disbelief as a small group of very young men armed with guns and gadgets exposed the powerlessness of the police, the elite National Security Guard and the marine commandos of this supposedly mighty, nuclear-powered nation. While they did this, they indiscriminately massacred unarmed people, in railway stations, hospitals and luxury hotels, unmindful of their class, caste, religion or nationality.Part of the helplessness of the security forces had to do with having to worry about hostages. In other situations, in Kashmir for example, their tactics are not so sensitive. Whole buildings are blown up. Human shields are used. (The US and Israeli armies don't hesitate to send cruise missiles into buildings and drop daisy cutters on wedding parties in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.) But this was different. And it was on TV.

The boy-terrorists' nonchalant willingness to kill—and be killed—mesmerised their international audience. They delivered something different from the usual diet of suicide bombings and missile attacks that people have grown inured to on the news. Here was something new. Die Hard 25. The gruesome performance went on and on. TV ratings soared. Ask any television magnate or corporate advertiser who measures broadcast time in seconds, not minutes, what that's worth.

Eventually the killers died and died hard, all but one. (Perhaps, in the chaos, some escaped. We may never know.) Throughout the stand-off, the terrorists made no demands and expressed no desire to negotiate. Their purpose was to kill people and inflict as much damage as they could before they were killed themselves. They left us completely bewildered. When we say 'Nothing can justify terrorism', what most of us mean is that nothing can justify the taking of human life. We say this because we respect life, because we think it's precious. So what are we to make of those who care nothing for life, not even their own? The truth is that we have no idea what to make of them, because we can sense that even before they've died, they've journeyed to another world where we cannot reach them.

Gujarat ’02: The elephant in the room

One TV channel (India TV) broadcast a phone conversation with one of the attackers, who called himself 'Imran Babar'. I cannot vouch for the veracity of the conversation, but the things he talked about were the things contained in the 'terror e-mails' that were sent out before several other bomb attacks in India. Things we don't want to talk about any more: the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, the genocidal slaughter of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, the brutal repression in Kashmir. "You're surrounded," the anchor told him. "You are definitely going to die. Why don't you surrender?" "We die every day," he replied in a strange, mechanical way. "It's better to live one day as a lion and then die this way." He didn't seem to want to change the world. He just seemed to want to take it down with him.

If the men were indeed members of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, why didn't it matter to them that a large number of their victims were Muslim, or that their action was likely to result in a severe backlash against the Muslim community in India whose rights they claim to be fighting for? Terrorism is a heartless ideology, and like most ideologies that have their eye on the Big Picture, individuals don't figure in its calculations except as collateral damage. It has always been a part of—and often even the aim of—terrorist strategy to exacerbate a bad situation in order to expose hidden fault lines. The blood of 'martyrs' irrigates terrorism. Hindu terrorists need dead Hindus, Communist terrorists need dead proletarians, Islamist terrorists need dead Muslims. The dead become the demonstration, the proof of victimhood, which is central to the project. A single act of terrorism is not in itself meant to achieve military victory; at best it is meant to be a catalyst that triggers something else, something much larger than itself, a tectonic shift, a realignment. The act itself is theatre, spectacle and symbolism, and today, the stage on which it pirouettes and performs its acts of bestiality is Live TV.Even as the Mumbai terrorists were being condemned by TV anchors, the effectiveness of their action was magnified a thousand-fold by TV broadcasts.

Forgotten man: Former PM V.P. Singh’s death passed without a mention

Through the endless hours of analysis and the endless op-ed essays, in India at least there has been very little mention of the elephants in the room: Kashmir, Gujarat and the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Instead, we had retired diplomats and strategic experts debate the pros and cons of a war against Pakistan. We had the rich threatening not to pay their taxes unless their security was guaranteed (is it alright for the poor to remain unprotected?). We had people suggest that the government step down and each state in India be handed over to a separate corporation. We had the death of former prime minister V.P. Singh, the hero of Dalits and lower castes and villain of upper-caste Hindus, pass without a mention. We had Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City and co-writer of the Bollywood film Mission Kashmir, give us his version of George Bush's famous 'Why They Hate Us' speech. His analysis of why "religious bigots, both Hindu and Muslim", hate Mumbai: "Perhaps because Mumbai stands for lucre, profane dreams and an indiscriminate openness." His prescription: "The best answer to the terrorists is to dream bigger, make even more money, and visit Mumbai more than ever." Didn't George Bush ask Americans to go out and shop after 9/11? Ah yes. 9/11, the day we can't seem to get away from.

Though one chapter of horror in Mumbai has ended, another might have just begun. Day after day, a powerful, vociferous section of the Indian elite, goaded by marauding TV anchors who make Fox News look almost radical and left-wing, have taken to mindlessly attacking politicians, all politicians, glorifying the police and the army, and virtually asking for a police state. It isn't surprising that those who have grown plump on the pickings of democracy (such as it is) should now be calling for a police state. The era of 'pickings' is long gone. We're now in the era of Grabbing by Force, and democracy has a terrible habit of getting in the way.

Dangerous, stupid television flash cards like the Police are Good, Politicians are Bad/ Chief Executives are Good, Chief Ministers are Bad/ Army is Good, Government is Bad/ India is Good, Pakistan is Bad are being bandied about by TV channels that have already whipped their viewers into a state of almost uncontrollable hysteria.

Tragically, this regression into intellectual infancy comes at a time when people in India were beginning to see that the business of terrorism is a hall of mirrors in which victims and perpetrators sometimes exchange roles. It's an understanding that the people of Kashmir, given their dreadful experiences of the last 20 years, have honed to an exquisite art. On the mainland we're still learning. (If Kashmir won't willingly integrate into India, it's beginning to look as though India will integrate/disintegrate into Kashmir.)

It was after the 2001 Parliament attack that the first serious questions began to be raised. A campaign by a group of lawyers and activists exposed how innocent people had been framed by the police and the press, how evidence was fabricated, how witnesses lied, how due process had been criminally violated at every stage of the investigation. Eventually the courts acquitted two out of the four accused, including S.A.R. Geelani, the man whom the police claimed was the mastermind of the operation. A third, Shaukat Guru, was acquitted of all the charges brought against him but was then convicted for a fresh, comparatively minor offence.The Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of another of the accused, Mohammad Afzal. In its judgement, the court acknowledged that there was no proof that Mohammad Afzal belonged to any terrorist group, but went on to say, quite shockingly, "The collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender. " Even today we don't really know who the terrorists that attacked Indian Parliament were and who they worked for.

More recently, on September 19 this year, we had the controversial 'encounter' at Batla House in Jamia Nagar, Delhi, where the Special Cell of the Delhi police gunned down two Muslim students in their rented flat under seriously questionable circumstances, claiming that they were responsible for serial bombings in Delhi, Jaipur and Ahmedabad in 2008. An Assistant Commissioner of Police, Mohan Chand Sharma, who played a key role in the Parliament attack investigation, lost his life as well. He was one of India's many 'encounter specialists', known and rewarded for having summarily executed several 'terrorists'. There was an outcry against the Special Cell from a spectrum of people, ranging from eyewitnesses in the local community to senior Congress Party leaders, students, journalists, lawyers, academics and activists, all of whom demanded a judicial inquiry into the incident. In response, the BJP and L.K. Advani lauded Mohan Chand Sharma as a 'Braveheart' and launched a concerted campaign in which they targeted those who had dared to question the integrity of the police, saying it was 'suicidal' and calling them 'anti-national'. Of course, there has been no inquiry.

Only days after the Batla House event, another story about 'terrorists' surfaced in the news. In a report submitted to the court, the CBI said that a team from Delhi's Special Cell (the same team that led the Batla House encounter, including Mohan Chand Sharma) had abducted two innocent men, Irshad Ali and Moarif Qamar, in December 2005, planted 2 kg of RDX and two pistols on them, and then arrested them as 'terrorists' who belonged to Al Badr (which operates out of Kashmir). Ali and Qamar, who have spent years in jail, are only two examples out of hundreds of Muslims who have been similarly jailed, tortured and even killed on false charges.

This pattern changed in October 2008 when Maharashtra's Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), which was investigating the September 2008 Malegaon blasts, arrested a Hindu preacher, Sadhvi Pragya; a self-styled godman, Swami Dayanand Pande; and Lt Col Prasad Purohit, a serving officer of the Indian army. All the arrested belong to Hindu Nationalist organisations, including a Hindu supremacist group called Abhinav Bharat. The Shiv Sena, the BJP and the RSS condemned the Maharashtra ATS, and vilified its chief, Hemant Karkare, claiming he was part of a political conspiracy and declaring that "Hindus could not be terrorists". L.K. Advani changed his mind about his policy on the police and made rabble-rousing speeches to huge gatherings, in which he denounced the ATS for daring to cast aspersions on holy men and women.

On November 25, newspapers reported that the ATS was investigating the high-profile VHP chief Praveen Togadia's possible role in the Malegaon blasts. The next day, in an extraordinary twist of fate, Hemant Karkare was killed in the Mumbai attacks. The chances are that the new chief, whoever he is, will find it hard to withstand the political pressure that is bound to be brought on him over the Malegaon investigation.

While the Sangh parivar does not seem to have come to a final decision over whether or not it is anti-national and suicidal to question the police, Arnab Goswami, anchorperson of Times Now television channel, has stepped up to the plate.He has taken to naming, demonising and openly heckling people who have dared to question the integrity of the police and armed forces. My name and the name of the well-known lawyer Prashant Bhushan have come up several times. At one point, while interviewing a former police officer, Arnab Goswami turned to the camera; "Arundhati Roy and Prashant Bhushan," he said, "I hope you are watching this. We think you are disgusting." For a TV anchor to do this in an atmosphere as charged and as frenzied as the one that prevails today amounts to incitement as well as threat, and would probably in different circumstances have cost a journalist his or her job.

So according to a man aspiring to be India's next prime minister, and another who is the public face of a mainstream TV channel, citizens have no right to raise questions about the police. This in a country with a shadowy history of suspicious terror attacks, murky investigations, and fake 'encounters'. This in a country that boasts of the highest number of custodial deaths in the world and yet refuses to ratify the International Covenant on Torture. A country where the ones who make it to torture chambers are the lucky ones because at least they've escaped being 'encountered' by our encounter specialists. A country where the line between the Underworld and the Encounter Specialists virtually does not exist.

How should those of us whose hearts have been sickened by the knowledge of all of this view the Mumbai attacks, and what are we to do about them? There are those who point out that US strategy has been successful inasmuch as the United States has not suffered a major attack on its home ground since 9/11. However, some would say that what America is suffering now is far worse. If the idea behind the 9/11 terror attacks was to goad America into showing its true colours, what greater success could the terrorists have asked for? The US army is bogged down in two unwinnable wars, which have made the United States the most hated country in the world. Those wars have contributed greatly to the unravelling of the American economy and, who knows, perhaps eventually the American empire. (Could it be that battered, bombed Afghanistan, the graveyard of the Soviet Union, will be the undoing of this one too?) Hundreds of thousands of people, including thousands of American soldiers, have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. The frequency of terrorist strikes on US allies/agents (including India) and US interests in the rest of the world has increased dramatically since 9/11. George Bush, the man who led the US response to 9/11, is a despised figure not just internationally but also by his own people. Who can possibly claim that the United States is winning the war on terror?

Homeland security has cost the US government billions of dollars. Few countries, certainly not India, can afford that sort of price tag. But even if we could, the fact is that this vast homeland of ours cannot be secured or policed in the way the United States has been. It's not that kind of homeland. We have a hostile nuclear weapons state that is slowly spinning out of control as a neighbour, we have a military occupation in Kashmir, and a shamefully persecuted, impoverished minority of more than a hundred and fifty million Muslims who are being targeted as a community and pushed to the wall, whose young see no justice on the horizon, and who, were they to totally lose hope and radicalise, end up as a threat not just to India, but to the whole world. If 10 men can hold off the NSG commandos and the police for three days, and if it takes half-a-million soldiers to hold down the Kashmir Valley, do the math. What kind of Homeland Security can secure India?

Nor for that matter will any other quick fix.Anti-terrorism laws are not meant for terrorists; they're for people that governments don't like. That's why they have a conviction rate of less than two per cent. They're just a means of putting inconvenient people away without bail for a long time and eventually letting them go. Terrorists like those who attacked Mumbai are hardly likely to be deterred by the prospect of being refused bail or being sentenced to death. It's what they want.

What we're experiencing now is blowback, the cumulative result of decades of quick fixes and dirty deeds. The carpet's squelching under our feet.

The only way to contain (it would be naive to say end) terrorism is to look at the monster in the mirror. We're standing at a fork in the road. One sign says 'Justice', the other 'Civil War'. There's no third sign and there's no going back. Choose.

(This article was originally published in "Outlook India" magazine under the title "9 is not 11 and November isn't September")

Merely re-capturing LTTE controlled territory will not bring peace and unity

by Shanie

The war drags on and on. On the eve of the North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council elections in August, Government spokespersons announced that Government troops were poised to enter the Kilinochchi town. The Prime Minister himself at an election rally stated that it could possibly take place before polling day.

Four months have passed and at the beginning of this month, we were told that the troops are now within "kissing distance" of Kilinochchi. Four months ago, they could even see the town from the positions they held on the outskirts of the town. Now, there are reports that the focus has shifted to first taking Mullaitivu, quite some distance away on the eastern coast.

We do not doubt that these statements, conflicting though they are, were made in good faith. But we question the maturity and wisdom of he spokespersons who make these extravagant statements.

War reporting in Sri Lanka is a hazardous risk. Defence columnists, even with their own sources within the security forces, dare not report what they have learnt. Responsible journalists will normally exercise reasonable self-censorship so as not to undermine the war effort. But they are not allowed even that independence.

So the public have access only to political and military spokespersons. That is why it is so very important that these spokespersons exercise prudence and care on the claims and statements they make. If they continue to make extravagant statements which are later found to be incorrect, they will inevitably lose credibility with a discerning public. And that will undermine the war effort to a much greater extent than any unfavourable report from independent journalists.

In the conventional war operations that are now going on in the Vanni, there can be no doubt that the ragtag LTTE cadres will be no match for the vastly superior Sri Lankan forces with superior arms and superior air/sea/ground coordination. They may put up stiff resistance here or even launch an occasional assault there, but eventually the security forces will gain the territory that the LTTE now control. The LTTE may remain but only as a guerrilla force, as they do now in the East.

This columnist has no doubt that the vast majority of the people of this country – Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim – will be happy if the LTTE is deprived of the control of any part of the country. Sri Lanka is one united country and the people of the country of all ethnic communities should be able to travel freely without fear and live in security in any part of the country.

Unfortunately, this has not been possible after 1956 when Sinhala nationalist forces unleashed violence against the Tamils. But this columnist has also no doubt that the vast majority of our people – Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim – will not want the LTTE replaced by another armed or extremist group. Or even by the security forces taking on the role of an occupying force. This has been the tragedy of the East and it is not too late for the Government to learn the lessons of past mistakes.

The Government must not only be ready now to present a political package that is just and fair by all communities but it must also be ready to implement it. Extremists on both sides of the ethnic divide will be unwilling to compromise, to give and take in the best traditions of democracy. But the vast majority of the people of this country are represented by the two major national parties. In dialogue with the non-extremist elements among all three communities, it is possible for the two major parties to arrive at a consensus package that ensures justice to all communities.

This must be worked out and implemented despite extremist opposition. Had they the wisdom and maturity to do so many years ago, the country would have been spared the loss of thousands of young innocent lives. All these years, the people of this country have remained hostages to extremist forces on both sides of the ethnic divide and our political leaders must have the courage to break free from this.

In today’s context, it is not necessary to declare a ceasefire for the war to end. All that is required is for a consensus political package to be offered to the minorities and the war will end by itself and with it the loss of innocent lives. To do that, President Rajapaksa must have the will to find a solution to the National Question by political means and with fairness to all communities. Unless there is that political will, we will keep blundering our way around with no hope of an end to the ethnic conflict. And that political will must also include taking the people into confidence and not remaining hostage to chauvinists.

This goes for political parties representing the minorities as well. They must have the courage to break free from being hostages to extremists. We realise this is easier said than done. Extremists have in the past resorted to assassinations in eliminate courageous leaders who posed a threat to their extremist agenda – Lakshman Kadirgamar, Vijaya Kumaratunga, Neelan Tiruchelvam, Joseph Pararajasingham et al. But politicians have no right to claim leadership if they lack the courage of their convictions and meekly succumb to threats from extremists.

Sri Lankans have remained hostages to chauvinists for far too long. It is now time to say enough is enough. Let us be clear on what we want for the future of our country. Conflicts will continue to be part of our lives if we continue to remain hostages to extremist forces. The time to eliminate extremism is now.

We need a Sri Lanka where people of any ethnic group can live and work without fear in any part of the country. For that to happen, every community must be made to feel that they are part of this country (not visitors!) and they enjoy the same rights as every other citizen. Only a political package that ensures justice to all can provide that.

In 1993, R M A B Dassanayake, a resident of the Trincomalee District, wrote an article in the newspapers which has been reproduced in Rajan Hoole’s Sri Lanka – The Arrogance of Power. Dassanayke’s father had been the Korale Mahatmaya of the Sinhala villages in the area and his grandfather had been a Rate Mahatmaya. His village was situated in the former revenue division of Kattukulampattu which was a mix of Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim villages. In these times, it is worth re-reading the entire article. But we quote some relevant sections:

"The simple unhampered free flow of life of these villagers caused no rift, division or commotion in any way amongst themselves or with the visiting traders…. The trust, confidence and the sincerity those simple Sinhala and Tamil people had for one another were incomparable and almost unbelievable at a time like this. Such was the spirit and camaraderie. They shared their meals and even lodgings among themselves as near and dear kinsmen… In short, the Sinhala and Tamil people in that area during those halcyon days interacted very much like members of a closely knit family. Those who lived in that region then would endorse this statement which is no exaggeration but the simple truth.

"Pondering the present war situation between our two communities, it is somewhat inconceivable how some of our people rose up in bloody revolt against one another culminating in this ongoing seemingly implacable ethnic violence. It may be due to the hegemonic and monopolist views preached and propagated by a few designing politicians and some ultra-nationalists and also due to the non-appeasable demands for aggrandisement launched by an equally implacable extremist group on the other side of the ethnic divide.

"Going by the saying ‘every cloud has a silver lining’, can we not work out a way of reconstructing and restoring the past and thus effect the much needed reconciliation we are all yearning for, even at this stage? It is left to the good office of the enlightened and broadminded intelligentsia of both communities to take the lead in a spirit of goodwill to strive and create a ‘live and let live’, ‘give and take’ policy of human affairs in relation to our dealings with our own countrymen."

Dassanayake’s plea fifteen years ago remains unfulfilled but the plea still remains very valid. As he says, let us hope that the enlightened from all communities will have the discernment and courage to tell our political leaders that there is no future for our country unless there is peace and unity among our people.

Merely recapturing territory controlled by the LTTE will not bring that about. Nor will appeasement of chauvinistic forces on the other side of the ethnic divide bring that about. We need the political will of the major parties to provide a consensus solution that will draw together the people of our country – people belonging to all ethnic, religious and social groups.

COURTESY: THE ISLAND (Notebook of a nobody column)

December 12, 2008

A.R. Rahman wins Golden Globe nomination for best original score (music) category

By Mrinalini Ramachandra

India’s music composer maestro Alla Rakha Rahman (AR Rahman) became the first Thamizhian to be nominated for a prestigious golden globe award.

AR Rahman won a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score for his music in British director Danny Boyle's uplifting underdog tale "Slumdog Millionaire".

Earlier this week, "Slumdog Millionaire" won two awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association - Best Director for Boyle and Best Music for Rahman. It also won the runner-up prize for Best Cinematography for Anthony Dod Mantle.

The film, set and shot in Mumbai, has also won the Best Cinematography prize from The New York Film Critics' Circle and earned six Critics Choice Award nominations for Picture, Director (Boyle), Writer (Simon Beaufoy), Young Actor (Dev Patel), Composer (Rahman), and Song ("Jai Ho").

Apart from AR Rahman getting nominated for “Slum Dog Millionaire” the other nominees for the music award in the best original score – motion pictures category are Clint Eastwood (Changeling), Alexander Desplat (The curious case of Benjamin Button),James Newton Howard (Defiance), Hans Zimmer (Frost/Nixon)Nominees:

The Golden Globe award for Best Original Score is being given since its institution in 1947. The organization Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HEPA) is an organization of journalists who cover the United States Film Industry but are affiliated with publications outside North America.

The prestigious GG awards are regarded as the forerunners of the Oscar awards.

[A.R.Rahman Dil se Re live]

Forty – two year old AR Rahman was born on January 6th 1966 in Chennai as A.S. Dilipkumar. His father RS Shekhar was of Thamizhian descent and a one – time assistant to music composer Sutharsanam and also composed music for Kerala movies.

Dileepkumar was nine years old when his father died. Two years later the Hindu family converted to Islam .His name was changed to Alla Rakha Rahman.

Rahman who studied western classical music in London got his first big break in composing music in cinema for the Tamil film “Roja” in 1992.

Thereafter he never looked back and went on to score music for scores of movies in different Indian languages.

He has won numerous wards for his music composition and was hailed by “Time” magazine as the “Mozart of Madras”.

[thaay koduththa thamizhukkillai thattuppaadu-from 1994 movie Duet - Thamizh (language) bestowed by (my) mother has no scarcity]

Tamil fans have dubbed him as “Isaipuyal” (Musical storm)

Several films became blockbusters mainly due to Rahman’s music.

His filmscores and soundtracks have sold more than 100 million records and 250 million audiocassettes.

Rahman is one of twenty – five all time top –selling recording artistes.

Unlike Sri Lanka where Tamil speaking Muslims regard themselves as separate to that of Tamil speaking Hindus and Christians Muslims of Tamil Nadu perceive themselves as ethnic “Thamizhians” whose religion is Islam.

Tamils worldwide are excited by the news and hoping that AR Rahman would become the first Tamil to get a golden globe and hopefully an Oscar.

Sri Lanka - Change we must

By Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

Change, is the slogan of the early 21st century. Adverse climate changes, the failure of poorly regulated free market economies, ill effects of unbridled consumerism, the scourge of poverty and genocide, rampant abuse of human rights, wide disparities in standards of governance and the pressures on ever shrinking natural resources, are forcing the world to seek changes to the way we live and conduct our affairs. We are however yet to fathom the scope and depth of what is rapidly unfolding. The need for change in values, attitudes and approach, the world over, has assumed an urgency that would have been unimaginable a few years back. Humankind is about to take another giant stride in its evolutionary progress.

On the other hand, in countries such as Sri Lanka, we are yet groping to find a firm footing in the modern world. We have one foot yet in a largely agrarian economy and the values that went along with it, while trying to place our other foot simultaneously in both the industrial economy and what Alvin Toffler calls the post-industrial economy of the future. This post-industrial economy and civilization is expected to be more humane, more nature-friendly and more democratic. While the west and the more developed nations in the east are in the initial stages of this transformation, we in Sri Lanka are fortunate to be yet living in a largely nature- friendly environment, though unfortunate to be not living in a more humane environment. If we can direct our national energies towards establishing a more human friendly system of national governance- by accepting the principles that all humans are equal within the state and in the eyes of the law; every human has a right to be what he/she wants within boundaries set by law; bribery, corruption and nepotism are social evils; the popular will should be expressed freely; and diversity, the right to differ and to be different are basic human rights- we would be able to make the transit into the post- industrial civilization that is beginning to unfold, with ease.

Change is evolution. Change is extinction. Change is the essence of life. Change is natural. Change is also inevitable. If we are unable to change, we will not survive in an evolutionary sense. Nature also ensures that changes are forced upon life. Evolution and extinction are two complementary sides of life. While we are in a position to intelligently participate in the evolutionary process, we have no influence over extinction in a cataclysmic sense. Cataclysmic events at periodic intervals have forced the face of the earth and its life forms to dramatically change. Old has disappeared and the new has appeared several times over. Dinosaurs that dominated and roamed the earth are long gone and the very geography of the earth has changed at intervals. Ice ages have come and gone. Continents have drifted, disappeared and appeared, during the four billon odd years the earth has been estimated to have existed. The seas have evaporated and then re-appeared in new locations. The earth, its environment and its life forms are also changing continuously, right in front of our eyes, although we fail to discern it. Change is the norm on this earth and in the galactic system. Unfortunately, most humans find it difficult to change. To change is to adapt to changing circumstances. We are mostly forced to change by circumstances beyond our control. When we fail to recognize this reality in time, we are doomed. This may be our biological imperative. Hindus recognize the creative and destructive cycles ordained by nature, in the garland of skulls worn by Lord Siva- each skull representing a cycle of creation and destruction. Hindus also recognize the evolutionary forces at work through their belief in the karmic cycle. However, when these concepts are not understood from religious and/or scientific angles, and related to our lives, we are bound to suffer the consequences. Refusal to change will consign us to the dust bin of nature.

The on-going military contest between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE is in its final overt phase. It is likely the LTTE will be the loser in this overt contest and will revert to a covert action plan to achieve its objectives. The support of the Tamil population will be crucial to both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE in this covert phase. The LTTE will need the whole hearted ideological, moral and financial support of the Tamils in Sri Lanka, and in the Diaspora, to survive and fight as a guerilla force. On the other hand, the Sinhalese and the government have to win over the Tamils to the cause of a united Sri Lanka, by making them wanted and respected citizens within the island, if the residual Tamil support for the LTTE is to be undermined. The LTTE will try everything in its power and bag of tricks to prove the Tamils have no future within a united Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government and the extremists within the Sinhala polity inebriated by the success of their military campaign, may also help drive the Tamils once again into the hands of the LTTE (or its successor), by sounding and acting triumphalistic while attempting to impose their solutions on the Tamils. Such an eventuality will prove foolhardy and counter productive for the Sri Lankan government and the Sinhala polity, from a moral perspective and in a global context.

The Tamils are proud of their heritage and lineage as much as the Sinhalese are. Tamils believe Sri Lanka is their own as much as the Sinhalese do. The civil war of the past thirty years has proven that the Tamils are capable of resistance and are not the cowards they were assumed to be. The rationale for Tamil resistance was unquestionable, while the bull-headed and immoral manner it was led by the LTTE was very unfortunate. It will be largely up to the government and the Sinhala people to make the Tamils victors in the struggle to preserve their identity, culture and rights, ordained by history and as citizens, within Sri Lanka. A serious change of heart and modus operandi is required from the Sinhala polity and the Sri Lankan government as a matter of urgency. There should be no pussyfooting about this. It should be made clear Tamils need not become Sinhalized to be Sri Lankans. Tamils should be given the space to be Tamils and yet be Sri Lankans to the fullest extent possible.

A ‘Marshall plan’ on the lines of what was done after the Nazi’s were defeated in Germany, should be put in place for the north and east with international help. The Tamil Diaspora should be called upon to lend a helping hand. The Tamil paramilitary forces that have assisted the government and the armed forces should not be imposed on the Tamils as an alternate leadership, even as an interim measure. They should be absorbed into the armed forces and the police or disarmed. Any paramilitary leader who aspires to a political role should do so independently of the government and the armed forces and win the trust of the Tamils. The history of these paramilitary forces nurtured by the government, their motives and their ethos are suspect in the eyes of most Tamils and their imposition will prove counter-productive. Play acting in the name of democracy will not be acceptable to the Tamils any more. This is the trap the LTTE would very much expect the government to fall into and which should be avoided at any cost. The Sri Lankan government has to change its strategies with regard to these paramilitary forces, if it is genuine in winning back the trust of the Tamils.

Interim Administrative Councils for the north and east should be established for at least five years, with non-elected Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese, of proven ability and bonafides, acceptable to the populations in these provinces. These interim councils should be bestowed with considerable powers to rebuild the social, economic and security structures in these provinces, untrammeled by hidden objectives such as creating divisions within and between the Tamil and Muslims, engineering demographic changes and Sinhalizing the Tamils. While any citizen of Sri Lanka should have a choice to live and own property where he/she wants in the country, government sponsored attempts at colonization and changing demographics will not be accepted, under whatever guise. Well known ‘Old tricks’ should not be played any more, by the Sinhala polity and the Sri Lankan government. Intensions should be impeccable and above board. The Tamils (and the Muslims) should be won over to trust the Sri Lankan government and Sinhala people, if the scourge of militancy and terrorism among the Tamils is to be uprooted lock, stock and barrel. The onus will be definitely on the Sinhalese and the Sri Lankan government to make the required attitudinal and policy changes an immediate reality.

The peace dividend following the defeat of armed militancy and terrorism should be felt by every Tamil as soon as possible. The Sinhala polity should embrace the Tamils whole heartedly and without any reservations. Even the ex-Tigers should fall within this embrace. We are estranged relatives, who have to forgive each other, to rebuild badly damaged relationships. The Sinhalese have to be magnanimous in the eventual triumph of the armed forces over the LTTE and its mission to establish a separate state in the north and east, and welcome the Tamils into the national main stream as trusted and respected fellow citizens. Nothing less will do.

Tamils have to clearly decide what they want. Any ambiguity as to the merits of a separate state should be overcome. Tamil Eelam, as an independent state, was neither a realistic possibility nor a visionary bargaining tool. It was only a vote winning tool for a bunch of ageing and failing politicians caught up in a time warp, and the dream of aggrieved adolescents with a surge in testosterone, who lacked foresight and wisdom. There was neither a popular demand nor a need for this extreme position. The whole concept was doomed to failure from its inception, because most Tamils were passive participants and were carried by the initial current of emotionalism and thereafter the flood of a militancy over which they had no control. The concept of Eelam did not fire the imagination of most Tamils to a degree it had to- the critical mass-, to make it a reality. The Tamils also knew instinctively that an independent Tamil Eelam totally divorced from the rest of Sri Lanka was not a viable possibility. The multi-dimensional destruction unfolding around them, the need to be dependent on the government for their very survival and the cavalier manner in which the militants behaved confirmed their instincts. An unrealistic dream seeded by failing politicians and spearheaded by brave, but unwise militants, had inevitably become a nightmare for the Tamils! Nationalism, a natural sentiment provoked in a besieged community, was subverted and turned cannibalistic by a vain glorious militant movement! Tamil grievances though genuine and quite grievous, demanded a different civilized approach towards resolution, especially after the open economy instituted by the Jayawardene government.

What the Tamils principally needed were solutions to their economic problems, which arose as result of severe restrictions on government employment and higher educational opportunities that were available to the Tamils previously. Unfortunate circumstances have fortunately conspired to kill the Tamil desire for secure government employment and a few favoured professions. These same circumstances have made the Tamils an adventurous people, who have sought their fortunes in the wider world and succeeded. The Tamil Diaspora has become a major resource, financially, exposure-wise and skills-wise, for the Tamils and other peoples in Sri Lanka. The Tamils have to exploit their present strengths to re-build their lives within a united Sri Lanka. The whole concept of an independent Tamil Eelam should be cremated and the ashes scattered. Whether, acceptable political accommodations are forth coming from the Sinhala polity and the Sri Lankan government or not, Tamils have to mobilize their resources to rebuild their lives and their economic and social structures once the current overt conflict ends. This is possible even under the existing political dispensation. The resources available to the Tamils should not be dissipated on a futile struggle for a nebulous concept, any longer. Resources should be harnessed and directed to resurrect the Tamil community that is on its knees at present. The Muslims who were run out of Jaffna have to be welcomed back and re-integrated. The Sinhalese who want to make their living in the north and east should be welcomed to do so. Tamils have to work towards re-integrating their lives with the rest of Sri Lanka and avoid re-igniting antagonisms of old. The fact that the short sightedness of the Sinhala leadership was matched by the imbecility of the Tamil leadership should be accepted from a historical perspective.

The opportunity to step back and re-evaluate the stances of the Sinhalese and Tamils has arisen now. The Sinhalese as the national majority aspired to assert their identity in the newly emergent nation, but unfortunately did not have the leadership to avoid the path that led to minority alienation. The Tamils –particularly from the north, were intent on holding on to the status quo of the colonial past as long as possible and did not have the leadership to guide them on a new path mandated by the times. These are the fault lines of our unfortunate past. The Tamil demand for justice, security, respect, equal opportunities, equal citizenship and the right to be Tamils are just and should be accommodated by the Sinhala polity and the government. The Sinhalese as the national majority will always dominate national affairs and this should be accepted by the Tamils. However, the Sinhalese and their political leadership should evolve political mechanisms to accommodate the desire of the Tamils and Muslims, to participate meaningfully in national affairs and influence decisions that matter to them as peoples particularly in areas where they predominate.

Unlike in the first four or five decades of independence the Sinhala majority is comfortable with itself, having found their place under the sun. Although much was gained by the Sinhalese in their blinkered mission to assert their identity in the newly emergent nation, they have in the process not only estranged the minorities but also lost in terms democratic values, rule of law, human rights, good governance and social values. The Tamils have not only been the victims of an assertive Sinhala nationalism, but also the victims of their own misguided, reactive and self-destructive nationalism spear headed by the LTTE. Neither the Sinhalese nor the Tamils have been absolute winners or losers in this struggle. Both have lost, though the Tamils much more. Both have also gained, though differently. Both should have by now learnt their lessons. Except for the extreme fringe, accommodation of the minorities within a united Sri Lanka has become an acceptable proposition for the majority of the Sinhalese. This window of opportunity should be used by the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims to re-evaluate national priorities and set in motion the systems for peaceful and fruitful co-existence.

Covert efforts underway to win reprieve for Sivajilingam

By Mrinalini Ramachandra

Frantic, behind the scenes efforts are currently on in India to gain a reprieve for Sri Lankan Tamil Parliamentarian MK Sivajilingam and enable him to stay on in India without having to depart or be deported to Sri Lanka.

While some Tamil Nadu politicians regarded as being aligned or sympathetic to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are promoting a move to make Sivajilingam seek political asylum in India formally other influential Tamil Nadu leaders are currently engaged in behind the scenes discussions with New Delhi in order to win a reprieve for the Sri Lankan Tamil National Alliance Jaffna district MP.

MK Sivajilingam was ordered to leave India within 72 hours voluntarily or face deportation.

What irked Indian officialdom was Sivajilingam’s open advocacy of a separate state –Tamil Eelam – being set up with Indian support in the Island of Sri Lanka.

Sivajilingam has also openly supported the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and its leader Velupillai Prabakharan.

The LTTE is proscribed as a terrorist movement under Indian law and anyone suspected of supporting such a proscribed terrorist entity is regarded as an “offender”.

Moreover Indian security officials were perturbed over Sivajilingam moving closely with Tamil Nadu politicians sympathising with the LTTE .

He is suspected of aiding, abetting and instigating many political demonstrations and meetings in India that demand a removal of the LTTE ban and extending support for establishment of Tamil Eelam.

Sivajilingam openly participated in Indian political meetings and spoke in support of Tamil Eelam and the LTTE.

This is seen as both “interference” in the domestic politics of India as well as using “Indian soil” to undermine a friendly country like Sri Lanka.

Since Sivajilingam is an elected MP the Indian authorities gave him “Time” to depart voluntarily instead of forcibly deporting him.

Instead of complying with Indian orders some Tamil Nadu politicians initiated moves to make Sivajilingam defy the order and seek formal political asylum in Tamil Nadu.

These politicians hoped to make a political issue out of Sivajilingam and create more embarrassment for the Central Government under Manmohan Singh and state government of Muttuvel Karunanidhi.

More responsible and mature Tamil Nadu political leaders were aghast at this move and are now dissuading Sivajilingam not to co-operate with these rash efforts.

Instead these influential politicians with DMK and Congress links are involved in covert discussions with authorities in New Delhi about getting a reprieve for Sivajilingam.

These circles are trying to get the “quit India” order rescinded or not be implemented thus enabling Sivajilingam to stay on in India.

Sivajilingam himself has been advised to keep silent over the issue and not seek publicity that could be negative to India.

The Sri Lankan MP has been given well – intentioned advice that it is in his own interest to downplay the issue instead of politicising it publicly.

Informed sources said that authorities in New Delhi were becoming increasingly irritated at Sivajilingam’s irresponsible conduct and that the straw which broke the camel’s back was a recent, unfounded claim by the Tamil parliamentarian.

Sivajilingam announced to the media that all 22 Tamil National Alliance MP’s from Sri Lanka would meet with Indian premier Manmohan Singh on December 10th in New Delhi.

According to informed sources there was absolutely no truth to this announcement and no such appointment had been given by the PM.

It was this instance of Sivajilingam shooting his mouth off that prompted authorities on Dec 10th (his alleged day of TNA meeting the PM) to order him out of India.

Tamil nadu politicians seeking a reprieve for Sivajilingam have done so on humanitarian and political grounds.

They have pointed out that three other TNA MP’s have been summoned before courts.

If Sivajilingam were to be deported to Sri Lanka he too would be under grave threat it was said.

If anything untoward was to happen to Sivajilingam it would cause a problem to India in general and the Prime minister in particular.

Pazhaniyappan Nedumaran, India’s Tamil National Movement (Thamil Thesiya Iyakkam) leader, and well – known staunch supporter of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has stated that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would be held responsible for the safety of Sri Lankan Tamil Parliamentarian MK Sivajilingam.

Nedumaran made this comment while addressing a protest demonstration near the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission in Chennai.Sri Lanka’s Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarian MK Sivajilingam was also present when Nedumaran referred to the Jaffna district MP being ordered to depart from India voluntarily or face deportation.

Sivajilingam also addressed the meeting along woth other Tamil Nadu politicians.

Continuing further Nedumaran announced publicly that Sri Lankan Tamil MP Sivajilingam who had been exposing the genocidal activities of the Sri Lankan government had been told by the Indian Central government to leave India immediately because he was engaged in political propaganda on Indian soil.

If Sivajilingam is compelled to return to Sri Lanka and any danger to his life occurs then Indian Prime Minister Shree Manmohan Singh would be held responsible said Nedumaran.

“The Indian Prime Minister is answerable”he warned.

Under these circumstances it would be better to let Sivajilingam stay on instead of implementing the order it has been argued.

Besides the danger of extremist politicians making a controversy out of this by encouraging Sivajilingam to seek political asylum was also pinpointed.

According to some reports there were plans afoot to make Sivajilingam seek refuge in a temple or public building and then surround it with political volunteers preventing law – enforcement authorities from taking him into custody.

Instead of aggravating the problem it is advisable to grant Sivajilingam a reprieve and also let the Sri Lankan MP downplay the issue.

An overseas source reportedly close to Sivajilingam said that Sivajilingam had been advised to lie low and if necessary deny news reports about the matter.

Meanwhile the DMK’s TR Balu met with Foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee in new Delhi on Thursday.

Balu who is central minister for shipping and surface transport announced after the meeting that Mukherjee will be visiting Sri Lanka in a week’s time to discuss a ceasefire.

It is not known whether the Sivajilingam issue transpired in the discussions.

December 11, 2008

Nedumaran holds Indian P.M. responsible for Sivajilingam's safety

by Mrinalini Ramachandra

Pazhaniyappan Nedumaran,India’s Tamil National Movement (Thamil Thesiya Iyakkam) leader, and well – known staunch supporter of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has stated that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would be held responsible for the safety of Sri Lankan Tamil Parliamentarian MK Sivajilingam.

PN1211.jpg

[P. Nedumaran-pic:thenseide.com]

Nedumaran made this comment while addressing a protest demonstration near the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission in Chennai.

The demonstration and public meeting was in protest of recent comments made by Sri Lankan Army commander Lt.Gen Sarath Fonseka that political leaders of Tamil Nadu like “Vaiko” (V.Gopalaswamy) and P. Nedumaran were “jokers” bribed by the LTTE.

Sri Lanka’s Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarian MK Sivajilingam was also present when Nedumaran referred to the Jaffna district MP being ordered to depart from India voluntarily or face deportation.

Sivajilingam also addressed the meeting along woth other Tamil Nadu politicians.

Nedumaran 0bserved that the Sri Lankan army commanders comments have insulted all Tamil Nadu politicians as well as all Indian political leader.

He called upon the Indian government to express its strong protest to the Mahinda government on this.

Continuing further Nedumaran announced publicly that Sri Lankan Tamil MP Sivajilingam who had been exposing the genocidal activities of the Sri Lankan government had been told by the Indian Central government to leave India immediately because he was engaged in political propaganda on Indian soil.

But if Sivajilingam were to leave India and return to Sri Lanka the Sri Lankan Tamil MP would lose his life the very next minute he landed in the Island, Nedumaran further said.

Because of the danger to his life , Sivajilingam has sought refuge in his “motherland” Tamil Nadu stated Nedumaran.

If Sivajilingam is compelled to return to Sri Lanka and any danger to his life occurs then Indian Prime Minister Shree Manmohan Singh would be held responsible said Nedumaran.

“The Indian Prime Minister is answerable”he warned.

Related nees on Express Buzz India: The TNM leader said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would be responsible if "something happens to Sivajilingam"

Related excerpt from Puthinam.com ~ புதினம்.கொம் இல் இது விடயமாக வெளிவந்த செய்தி:

தமிழர் தேசிய இயக்கத் தலைவர் பழ. நெடுமாறன் உரையாற்றிய போது தெரிவித்துள்ளதாவது:

சிறிலங்கா தரைப்படைத் தளபதி சரத் பொன்சேகா பேசியிருப்பது தமிழகத்தில் உள்ள தலைவர்களையும், ஒட்டுமொத்த இந்தியாவில் உள்ள தலைவர்களையும் இழிவுபடுத்தும் செயலாகும். இதனை இந்திய அரசு மகிந்த ராஜபக்சவிடம் கடும் கண்டனத்தை தெரிவிக்க வேண்டும். இலங்கையில் உள்ள தமிழ்த் தேசியக் கூட்டமைப்பின் நாடாளுமன்ற உறுப்பினர் எம்.கே.சிவாஜிலிங்கம், இந்தியாவில் ஈழப் படுகொலை குறித்து பரப்புரையில் ஈடுபடுவதால் அவரை உடனடியாக இந்தியாவிலிருந்து வெளியேறுமாறு இந்திய அரசு அறிவித்துள்ளது.

ஆனால், அவர் இந்தியாவிலிருந்து சிறிலங்காவுக்குச் சென்ற அடுத்த நிமிடமே அவர் உயிர் பறிக்கப்படும் என்பதால் அவர், தாய் தமிழகத்தில் அடைக்கலம் புகுந்துள்ளார். அவர் சிறிலங்காவுக்குச் சென்றவுடன் அவர் உயிருக்கு ஏதேனும் ஆபத்து ஏற்பட்டால் அதற்கு இந்திய பிரதமர் மன்மோகன்சிங்தான் பொறுப்பேற்ற வேண்டும் என்றார் நெடுமாறன்

Related: Sri Lankan Tamil MP Sivajilingam ordered to "quit India', may seek "political asylum" in Chennai

Sri Lankan Tamil MP Sivajilingam ordered to "quit India', may seek "political asylum" in Chennai

By Mrinalini Ramachandra

A fresh controversy has erupted in Tamil Nadu state of India after the Indian central government issued orders that Sri Lankan Tamil Parliamentarian MK Sivajilingam must “Quit India” voluntarily within 72 hours or face deportation.

MKS1211A.jpg

[MK Sivajilingam M.P]

The official reason given for such orders by New Delhi is due to the controversial political conduct of Sivajilingam on Indian soil it is learnt.

The Tamil National Alliance MP who contested under the “House” symbol of Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) in the 2004 April elections has been very active in India engaging in political propaganda.

What has irked Indian officialdom is Sivajilingam’s open advocacy of a separate state –Tamil Eelam – being set up with Indian support in the Island of Sri Lanka.

Sivajilingam has also openly supported the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and its leader Velupillai Prabakharan.

The LTTE is proscribed as a terrorist movement under Indian law and anyone suspected of supporting such a proscribed terrorist entity is regarded as an “offender”.

Moreover Indian security officials have been perturbed over Sivajilingam moving closely with Tamil Nadu politicians sympathising with the LTTE .

He is suspected of aiding, abetting and instigating many political demonstrations and meetings in India that demand a removal of the LTTE ban and extending support for establishment of Tamil Eelam.

Sivajilingam has openly participated in Indian political meetings and spoken in support of Tamil Eelam and the LTTE.

This is seen as both “interference” in the domestic politics of India as well as using “Indian soil” to undermine a friendly country like Sri Lanka.

Since Sivajilingam is an elected Mp the Indian authorities have given him “Time” to depart voluntarily instead of forcibly deporting him.

Some years ago a Sri Lankan Tamil political activist MK Eelavendhan was deported to Sri Lanka for indulging in political activity supporting the LTTE.

In what could be regarded as blatant defiance of the Indian “order” Sivajilingam who was staying at the Jawarhalal Nehru University hostel in new Delhi has immediately gone to the Tamil Nadu capital Chennai instead of complying with the official instructions and leaving India.

Sivajilingam had the “chutzpah” to participate brazenly in a MDMK sponsored protest near the Sri Lankan deputy – high commission in Chennai.

MDMK leader Vaiko (V. Gopalswamy) revealed while speaking at the meeting that Sivajilingam had been asked to leave India for engaging in political propaganda on Indian soil. Vaiko stated cryptically tht Sivajilingam had now sought “political asylum” in Tamil Nadu as he feared returning to Sri Lanka.

Vaiko stated that Sivajilingam would be killed if he went back to Sri Lanka.

Political observers opine that Sivajilingam may seek political asylum in India as an effective political statement.

With significant Tamil Nadu backing the issue could become a major political issue in the state.

Both the Indian central government and Tamil Nadu state governments could face severe political embarrassment if that happens.

Sivajilingam who hails from Valvettithurai in northern Sri Lanka is formally attached to the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO) before.

Related: Nedumaran holds Indian P.M. responsible for Sivajilingam's safety

Conditions in Sri Lanka's north 'like Somalia'

By Peter Foster

SO little independent, verifiable information is coming out of northern Sri Lanka at the moment that I thought I should share this BBC report based on an interview with a World Food Programme employee, John Campbell, broadcast on the network's Sinhala service.

PF1211.jpg

[Peter Foster]

Speaking from a waterlogged village in a rebel-controlled area, he made this observation about conditions being endured by many of the estimated 230,00 people displaced by the fighting.

"It is basic as it can be," he said, stepping unwittingly into the minefield of Sri Lankan politics, "I haven't seen anything so basic since when I was in Somalia."

Although weekly WFP food convoys are getting through, tens of thousands of people are sheltering under little more than tarpaulins at a time when the annual rains are now drumming daily on the jungles of northern Sri Lanka.

Both sides must share part of the responsibility for this misery which is unfolding largely behind closed doors.

On the one hand, the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) actively want to keep the people there as a buffer or 'human shield', that will check the full-on use of force (particularly air power and cluster munitions) by the Sri Lankan Army.

On the other, the Sri Lanka government, which now controls access to the north, could do much more for these people, but since it wants them to move on, it also doesn't want to give them any reason to stay put.

So why is so little written or heard about this conflict? The answer is simply because both sides have effectively imposed a news blackout so that they can get on with the business killing and recruiting without interference or scrutiny.

And without independent words and (more importantly) pictures, the story remains forever untold.

Reading between the lines, I suspect this WFP employee is already in trouble for shooting his mouth off to the Beeb to judge by the comments from Adnan Khan, the WFP country director for Sri Lanka.

He said, rather icily, that Mr Campbell's comments were merely a "personal opinion" and that such "statements given by staff members do not necessarily reflect the official policy of WFP".

This piece of mealy-mouthism [observations from personal experience are more than 'personal opinions'] reflects the invidious position of all aid agencies in Sri Lanka, and particularly the UN which I know from personal contacts has a rocky relationship with the Sri Lankan government.

The trouble is, if the agencies speak out (and there are journalistic back channels, but off-the-record frustration is no substitute for someone speaking by name) they risk losing the scant amount of co-operation they do receive from the Sri Lankan authorities and on which those 230,000 people depend for their the food convoys.

But if they remain silent, then no-one takes any notice of the unfolding misery which groups such as WFP, UNICEF and the Red Cross are trying to mitigate.

It is a dilemma that has never been satisfactorily solved, although in the vast majority of cases it has been resolved in favour of keeping quiet and trying to work 'within the system' for the long term benefit of those in need.

The pure journalist in me wishes some of the lead-iNGOs in Sri Lanka would speak more boldly. The ordinary human being in me (not that these two guises are necessarily incompatible!) wonders if that would be a good idea.

There are no simple answers. [blogs.telegraph.co.uk]

U.S. thinks right time for political solution in Sri Lanka is now says American Envoy Robert Blake

The American Ambassador in Colombo has said the right time for political solution in Sri Lanka is now. The Ambassador spoke today Dec 11th on"The US Perspective on the Situation in Sri Lanka" at the Luncheon meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce.

 

[Ambassador Blake at the 'AmCham' Luncheon today]

Ambassador Blake further said, "An important part of achieving a political solution and reconciliation between all of Sri Lanka’s communities will be to improve human rights in Sri Lanka. The high number of extra-judicial killings, abductions, and other human rights violations in Sri Lanka have disproportionately affected Tamils.  A concerted effort to end such practices and bring the culprits to justice would not only hasten reconciliation in Sri Lanka, it would allow countries like the United States to do more in Sri Lanka."

Full text of remarks by Remarks by Ambassador Blake:

Good afternoon—thank you Gordon, and the rest of the AmCham board and members, for welcoming me here today.  It’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to address AmCham again and see so many old friends. 

All of you represent the best of Sri Lanka’s business community---companies large and small that cover a range of sectors and collectively employ tens of thousands of Sri Lankans.  Beyond being successful businesspeople, you also have something very important to me in common.  That is a connection to the United States.  All of you do business with my country and help build people to people ties that are so important to our bilateral relations.

I’d like to build my remarks today around three themes that go to the heart of U.S. policy toward Sri Lanka.  They are:

  • First, the need for a political solution and improvement in human rights to help end the conflict and achieve national reconciliation;
  • Second, new directions in U.S. assistance in Sri Lanka; and
  • Third, how the U.S. and Sri Lanka can weather the current financial turmoil.

With respect to the first question, there are many in Sri Lanka who argue either that there is no need for a political solution in Sri Lanka or that such a solution can await the end of the conflict.  U.S. policy has remained consistent on this important point:  we think the right time for a political solution is now.  American policy toward Sri Lanka has been dominated for the past twenty-five years by the civil conflict that has plagued and terrorized this nation. From investment to trade to military support to development assistance, the conflict influences nearly each and every aspect of our relationship.  And for the past quarter century, the United States has remained committed and actively engaged in supporting an end to the conflict.  Our position has remained constant and unwavering:  LTTE terrorism cannot be tolerated and the rights of all Sri Lankans can best be protected and promoted through a political solution to Sri Lanka’s conflict that meets the aspirations of Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese.   

One important way forward is for Sri Lanka to complete the work of the All Parties Representative Committee, which has reached agreement on 90% of a blueprint for constitutional reform that most Sri Lankans believe offers great promise.  However, it remains for the country’s two main Sinhalese parties, the SLFP and UNP, to agree on the document, which has proved a significant hurdle thus far.  

Pursuing both a political solution and achieving a military victory are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, reaching a political solution now could significantly weaken the LTTE in several ways.   

  • It would disprove the LTTE’s claim that they are the sole representative of Sri Lanka’s Tamils and are the only ones who can address and safeguard their interests. 
  • It would diminish support for the LTTE, both within LTTE-controlled areas and among the Tamil diaspora community abroad. 
  • And it would help reassure the more than 200,000 displaced by the conflict in the Vanni that they can move south where they could aspire to a better future.  

An important part of achieving a political solution and reconciliation between all of Sri Lanka’s communities will be to improve human rights in Sri Lanka. Yesterday was Human Rights Day---the 60st anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The high number of extra-judicial killings, abductions, and other human rights violations in Sri Lanka have disproportionately affected Tamils.  A concerted effort to end such practices and bring the culprits to justice would not only hasten reconciliation in Sri Lanka, it would allow countries like the United States to do more in Sri Lanka.   

This leads me to my second policy theme:  US aid to Sri Lanka.  Over the past half century, the United States has provided more than two billion dollars worth of assistance to the people of Sri Lanka.  We have done this for several reasons – to help Sri Lankans increase their economic opportunities and improve their quality of life, and to help ease the hardship caused by this brutal conflict. 

One immediate assistance question for the United States is:  with the Government liberating large parts of former-LTTE controlled territories, how can my country best support the urgent needs of the people in those areas?

The answer to this question focuses on our development program, led largely by the US Agency for International Development.  USAID has undertaken several important initiatives in recent years.  First, AID recently concluded the last of its projects aimed to help the Sri Lankan people in the tsunami-affected areas of the south and east to recover from this terrible tragedy.  Our $135 million program enabled the reconstruction of the Arugam Bay Bridge, the reconstruction or rehabilitation of nine vocational training schools, the upgrading of three fishing harbors which were damaged by the tsunami, and even the construction of 87-playgrounds to help children recover from the trauma, among many other good activities.

Now, geographically, the focus of our assistance programs has shifted and our development efforts are concentrated in the recently liberated regions of eastern Sri Lanka.   Over the next four years, we will focus our development efforts on two programs: “Connecting Regional Economies” or CORE and “Supporting Regional Governance” or SuRG (we Americans love our acronyms!).

The CORE program is designed to increase social and economic security in Eastern Sri Lanka. By addressing the disparity in economic development between Eastern Sri Lanka and the more prosperous Western Province, CORE aims to establish conditions whereby sustained economic development can be launched.

Projects funded under the CORE initiative are designed with five goals: 
 -First, support livelihood development for vulnerable populations;
 -Second, promote the development of agriculture-based value chains;
 -Third, ensure that groups in conflict-affected areas benefit from participation in    these value chains and our other efforts;
 -Fourth, implement a workforce development strategy;
 -and finally promote a business enabling environment.

The SuRG program aims to support and facilitate increased citizen engagement in regional and local government, strengthen inter-community reconciliation, and promote social equality by, for example, promoting citizen interaction with government institutions, and strengthening the capacity of journalists and media outlets in the East.

Programs like CORE and SuRG are essential to connecting and integrating the Eastern Province with other provinces.  At the end of the day, if the young people of the East, have a job, can care for their families, and have their voices heard by elected representatives, it will reduce the chance the LTTE could ever reconstitute itself in the east and will help to promote economic, social and political stability in the country.

Another important component of the Connecting Regional Economies project of interest to all of you is USAID’s resolve to works with the business community to create public-private partnerships to generate jobs and growth. 

This model already has enjoyed success in USAID programs with companies like AmCham Members Hayleys and Brandix.  We are actively expanding the scope of our partnerships with private companies to help leverage resources and create sustainable jobs.  Such programs are at the core of U.S. official assistance to Sri Lanka.  I hope that we will be able to expand such programs to areas of the North such as Mannar once conditions permit. 

Before I continue to the next policy question, I want to make another important point about U.S. development assistance.   U.S. support to development projects in Sri Lanka is not limited to projects funded by USAID or other U.S. Government agencies.  In fact, globally, donations from private individuals in the United States to charities, NGOs, and foundations dwarf official U.S. Government development assistance.  To put a number to this, 85 percent of all U.S. –originated assistance toward development activities around the world is funded by such private donations.

Here too, in Sri Lanka, you can see just how active International NGOs ---the organizations funded largely through such non-governmental sources---are. 

Of course, it’s not just the work of American INGOs but also a whole host of INGOs from around the world.  They are not motivated by profit, they are not here to gain financially from the conflict, and most importantly, they are not here to support terrorists or undermine national security as some have wrongly alleged.  They are in Sri Lanka because they are committed to working with the people of Sri Lanka to provide new opportunities and renewed hope for the future, and they are doing an excellent job.

This brings me to third area of U.S. assistance, which is emergency humanitarian aid for those displaced and affected by the conflict.  So far this year, the United States has donated $32 million dollars in food and other commodity assistance to help those affected by the fighting in the north.  Last week, we donated an additional $100,000 in non-food aid to help victims affected by heavy floods in Jaffna and other parts of the North.  In both instances, the Government of Sri Lanka has provided us with assurances that urgent relief supplies can and will move safely and quickly to those who need them most.

Any discussion about development and growth in Sri Lanka is irrevocably tied to a discussion about the global economy.  Thus, with markets in turmoil and a global recession casting a shadow over the world’s economy, how can the United States and Sri Lanka weather the current financial crisis?

On Tuesday, I delivered a speech outlining the global response to the financial crisis.  In a room full of businesspeople I won’t go into detail about the causes and official actions by the global community.  You know all this and deal with it on a daily basis. 

But I would like to say a few words, about how the U.S. is weathering the storm because the U.S. economy helps drive global growth and is one of Sri Lanka’s most important markets.  Under President Bush’s leadership, we have adopted numerous measures to boost the US economy, including the $700 billion Emergency Economic Stabilization Act to purchase distressed assets and provide capital injections into banks.  That has helped, but markets remain under stress. 

Just about one week ago, the U.S. announced that our economy is officially in a recession. The U.S. Congress is now considering a $14 billion package of loans to America’s big three automakers—an industry that directly or indirectly employs over six percent of our manufacturing workforce. 

President-Elect Obama also has been very active.  He announced last weekend that his Administration -- once it takes office on January 20 -- will undertake the largest public works construction program since our interstate highway program 50 years ago.  The program will include infrastructure projects to repair roads and bridges, and create green jobs that reduce energy use and global warming emissions.  The President-elect’s goal is to create 2.5 million new jobs in the first two years of his administration, which would more than offset the number of jobs lost in American in 2008.    

Sri Lanka, although not as immediately affected by the crisis as other countries, nonetheless faces economic challenges of its own.  Foreign exchange reserves are low, which make it more difficult to maintain trade flows and meet payment obligations.  Recent developments in the financial sector are also likely to result in increased difficulties for Sri Lanka in accessing short term trade financing, as well as large commercial loans in 2009.  Within both our societies, there is a temptation among some to turn inward.  To levy barriers against imports or to "creep away from," if not outright abandon, international agreements that help facilitate the flow of goods and services would be shortsighted and ill-advised.

Let me conclude my remarks on a positive note.  We, Sri Lankans and Americans alike, are faced with tremendous challenges.  But both our countries also have the promise of a better future.  In Sri Lanka, an end to the conflict could bring unprecedented opportunities and prosperity.   In my country, the election of Barack Obama has given us great hope and optimism.

For both of our countries, hope and optimism can translate into peace and economic prosperity.  Sri Lanka faces important questions today.  What path will lead to a lasting end to the conflict; how can the international community best work with Sri Lanka to foster growth and development; how can our countries avoid the temptation of economic isolationism and work together to overcome the current economic crisis; and perhaps most importantly, how can you overcome terrorism and still protect and promote human rights?

The answers to these questions are not simple, but the United States remains committed to working with Sri Lanka to tackle these enormous challenges.

Barack Obama waged and won his campaign on the message “Yes we can.”  For Americans, this was more than a campaign slogan.  The words project optimism, teamwork, and perseverance.  This “Yes we can” attitude doesn’t just apply to individuals, but also to partnerships like that between the people of the United States and Sri Lanka.  Yes we can address our challenges and Yes we Will continue to work together.

Thank you. 

December 10, 2008

Karu Jayasuriya Says More UNP dissident “MP”s will Return Soon

Karu Jayasuriya, who officially rejoined the UNP as Deputy Leader yesterday, said that he was in touch with the other 17 UNPers who had defected to the government along with him and hopefully many of them would return to the party.

Addressing a press conference at Sirikotha, Jayasuriya said that his decision to quit the ruling coalition wouldn’t hinder the war against terror.

RWKJ1210.jpg

[Opposition UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe is pictured here being shown his seat by UNP deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya during a media briefing-pic dailymirror.lk]

Flanked by UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and UNP Assistant Leader Rukman Senanayake, Jayasuriya who had held the Public Administration portfolio in the Rajapaksa administration said that some of the UNPers in government have already confirmed their return and it was possible the numbers would increase.

Asked if he did not have a duty to ensure the return of all 17 UNPers whom he led into government, Jayasuriya said that he was doing his best to bring them back.

When referred to UNP MP Dayasiri Jayasekera’s objection to those who quit the party and also vilified it, being taken back and given prominent positions, Jayasuriya said "that is his personal opinion."

Jayasekera maintains that it was very unfair to sideline UNPers who have stood by the party in good and bad times, to accommodate those who after crossing over to government ranks, had publicly criticized the party and its leadership.

Speaking further The Former Public Administration Minister claimed that he had not betrayed the party, by joining the government along with 17 others in January 2007.

Asked, about allegations by his critics that by leaving the UNP he had let down the party and the voters who had placed their faith in him, Jayasuriya said "that is a matter of opinon. The reason I left was because our demand for democratic reforms was not implemented."

When asked if he would now continue to agitate for his demands to be implemented, Jayasuriya said "Well, we are looking into that. I have just returned. It has to be dicussed further."

He also denied having ever said that the UNP lacked vision. "The reason,I joined the government was to help crush terrorism, but I have since realised that its economic policies are wrong. Non implementation of the 17the Amendment was another factor that guided my decision to quit the government and rejoin the UNP."

"The deteriorating economic situation has affected a large number of people and I believe the UNP under Ranil Wickremesinghe can resuscitate the economy and usher in a prosperous era," Jayasuriya said.

Asked if the real reason for him leaving the government was the humiliation he had been subjected to by a VVIP, Jayasuriya said that one has to learn to deal with such situations in politics and he was mature enough to come to terms with it.

“Along with me, group of MPs joined the government with the collective stand that support should be given for the war. With our support, the war effort had progressed successfully since then. I should say that I am very happy about that."Karu said.

Commenting on battlefront victories, Mr. Jayasuriya said, "The entire Eastern Province and Mannar have been liberated. War is now confined to Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu. We were also able to support the restoration of civilian administration in these areas within 180 days."

Speaking further he said, "Considering prevailing situation, I saw that the UNP had made it clear that there was no need for a ceasefire. Therefore, none of us will allow the betrayal or surrender of this country to terrorists."

"Similarly, I firmly believe that we should pay more attention to economic development of the country. The World Bank has said that Sri Lanka's economic growth rate will be limited to four per cent as a result of the global financial crisis."

Mr. Jayasuriya said, "Therefore, it is evident that the country will have to face a formidable challenge. It is only through a strengthening of the economy that the people's living standards could be uplifted. As such, major steps will have to be taken to develop the economy. The government has a responsibility to ensure proper management for economic upliftment."

Addressing the press conference along with Layasuriya, Leader of the UNP Ranil Wickremesinghe called on all UNPers who left the party to return before the end of this year.

Addressing the news conference at ‘Sirikotha’ with Karu Jayasuriya, Rukman Senanayake and Jayawickrema Perera by his side, he said that the UNP took a decision some time back, to give all UNPers who left the party, time until the end of this year to come back. "It was also resolved to terminate any disciplinary inquiries that were pending against them."

Wickremesinghe said that his invitation extends to all political parties as well, since the process of nation building has to begin in earnest.

"While other countries developed, Sri Lanka over the last fifty years has been lagging behind. Some countries were ready for the global melt down. But we cannot be giving excuses all the time. A fresh race has begun and Sri Lanka should at least this time round, win it. That is why I am inviting everyone who wants to rebuild the country to join us."

This is not about the UNP’s survival, but the country’s future. The war has to be ended and the economy has to be developed. It is not just another slogan. We will present our nation building proposals shortly and everyone is welcome to submit their ideas, he added.

Meanwhile twelve UNP dissident MP’s held a joint press conference separately to explain their position.

“As long as Ranil Wickremasinghe is the leader of the UNP the 17 UNP Democratic Group members will never join the party because his leadership left much to be desired. Although the UNP Democratic Group Leader joined the UNP as Deputy Leader, the 17 members will remain with the UPFA Government, Construction and Engineering Services Minister Rajitha Senaratne said at a media briefing yesterday.

Minister Senaratne said that the original letter sent by Karu Jayasuriya to President Mahinda Rajapaksa did not contain any criticism of the UPFA Government’s failure to implement correct economic policies. But the letter prepared by the UNP media unit contained severe criticism of the economic policies of the UPFA Government.

He said that the two letters were contradictory. The latter was prepared by Ranil Wickremesinghe and read by Karu Jayasuriya without looking at the contents.

Plan Implementation Minister P. Dayaratne said that the 17 UNP Democratic Group members would never join the UNP because the current UNP leadership was extremely bad. Even the UNP Working Committee members were not satisfied with the leadership, but they were not in a position to express their feelings in front of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. It was evident that the UNP Working Committee members were in favour with President Rajapaksa’s governance.

Minister of Sports and Public Entertainment Gamini Lokuge said that the 17 UNPers decided to support the UPFA Government unconditionally because since the signing of the MoU between Ranil Wickremesinghe and President Mahinda Rajapaksa, no action had been taken to do any sort of work. Having waited nearly one year, the 17 UNPers decided to support the UPFA Government in order to put an end to the war, terrorism and economic prosperity of the country. The 17 members were disappointed over lack of reforms in the UNP Constitution and policies. The UNP leadership lacked democratic principles and was a typical dictatorship and the authoritarian rule of the party had mentally inflicted pains on the members.

Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Bandula Gunawardena said that the 17 UNPers decided to support the UPFA Government for a few important reasons. The war with the LTTE had devastated the country for 30 years and it was President Mahinda Rajapaksa who valiantly faced the challenge to crush the LTTE. When it was at the climax we though of strengthening the Government by joining the Government and the support of the 17 UNPers was a big weight to President Rajapaksa to go ahead with his plans to crush the LTTE. The 17 members would not leave the UPFA Government under any circumstances.

When asked whether the UNP Democratic Group would contest on UPFA ticket, Minister Mano Wijeratne said that the UNP Democratic Group would contest all elections on UPFA ticket.

The UNP Democratic Group yesterday said that veteran parliamentarian M. H. Mohammed would succeed Karu Jayasuriya.

Serious political disagreement between Karu Jayasuriya and son-in-law Navin Dissanayake

Serious disagreement has erupted between UNP deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya and his son in law Navin Dissanayake over the question of dissident UNP parliamentarians leaving the government and returning to the grand old party.

It is reliably learnt that both Karu Jayasuriya’s daughter and her husband Navin were strongly opposed to his decision of returning to the UNP.

Despite strong pressure from his close family members “Gentleman” Karu haad remained firm in his principled decision to go back.

Navin who is the son of former UNP cabinet minister and opposition leader Gamini Dissanayake has informed his father in law that he would not follow in his footsteps by returning to UNP folds.

Gamini Dissanayake was brutally assassinated along with many other UNP stalwarts by the LTTE in October 1994.

Navin Dissanayake said in a statement yesterday that he would continue to remain with the Government and support President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

“The objective conditions that were prevalent at the time we decided to join the Government remain unchanged. In such a context, one’s sense of responsibility should necessarily override the narrow political gains; in such a context, one’s sense of patriotism must prevail over the petty squabbles one might have with party policy. Therefore I am left only with one course of action. I will remain with the Government and continue to render my maximum to the courageous efforts of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to eradicate this country from the squalor of terrorism which has gripped this nation for the past several decades,” Navin said.

The statement further said: “The recent decision by Honorable Karu Jayasuriya to quit the Government and rejoin the United National Party as its Deputy Leader, a position he held prior to his first departure from the UNP, has created a new political reality in Sri Lanka. In this context, it is incumbent upon me to issue this statement, firstly as a member of the group of seventeen UNP MPs who crossed over and secondly as an active parliamentarian concerned about the welfare of the country.

“Two major factors played a pivotal role in the decision taken by the group of seventeen. Firstly, a total absence of democracy within the UNP. Arbitrary decisions taken by the leadership, without paying any heed whatsoever to the wishes of the broad membership in the Party, created an unhealthy environment within the Party. The many protestations and numerous requests made by the membership were suppressed time and again by the leadership. I take pardonable pride in stating that I was mainly instrumental in creating an atmosphere within the UNP to promote free expression of ideas and thinking by the general membership. However, the incessant attempts made by the leadership to keep the common man at bay and rule the Party as a private property of the leader ultimately led to the seventeen MPs to cross the proverbial Rubicon and join the Government.

“Secondly, the courageous decision by His Excellency the President to uproot, once and for all, the brutal terrorism and free the country of’ the throttling shackles of the northern secessionist forces with a view to establishing and maintaining our social, political and territorial integrity. At the time the country was gripped by mass fear, attempts were made on the lives of Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka. The need of the country was unconditional support to the Government in its attempts to eradicate terrorism and establish a peaceful environment so that the common man could attend to his day-to-day endeavors without any fear of reprisals or vendetta. The group of seventeen took a selfless decision to support the Commander-in-chief in his valiant efforts to strengthen the nation’s backbone amidst such an atmosphere.

I must state here most unequivocally that the decision to join the Government was solely and wholly driven by this abiding desire to end the war, not in any manner, shape or form influenced by the various privileges that accrued to such a cross over as some UNP insiders allege.

“In this context, what should be my stand? What should be my considered position? What has become of the crying requests of the UNP stalwarts like Thalatha Athukorale, Johnston Fernando, Ravi Smaraweera and Jayalath Jayawardena? Has the UNP leadership made even an attempt to establish some semblance of democracy, freedom of thought or fresh enterprising ideas? The answer is a definite ‘no’. In such a quagmire of political uncertainty what I should do is not so difficult a one to make.

“Secondly, at a time when the entire progressive leadership of the country is joining hands with the President and at a time when most of the political leaders are eager to strengthen his hands in order to bring a closure to the three-decade-long war in the north, it is the responsibility of each and every citizen irrespective of his or her party affiliations to lend his or her mite. It is encouraging to see that senior UNP leaders such as Mr. Lakshman Senaviratne stating that unconditional support should be given to the Government to end the war. I hasten to note that shift in position has come about because of the bold and courageous stance we have taken in supporting His Excellency the President at this most crucial hour of our motherland.”

Govt cracks down on UN in Sr Lanka for "Somalia-Wanni" remark by WFP official

The Sri Lankan government has begun cracking down hard on the UN in Sri Lanka over a remarks made by a WFP official John Campbell to the “Sandesaya” BBC Sinhala Service.

Campbell speaking from Tharmapuram in Kilinochchi district had highlighted the civilian plight and compared the situation prevailing in the LTTE held areas to those existing in Somalia.

The Government angered by this has commenced an inquiry into the incident with the clear objective of cancelling John Campbell’s visa and expelling him from the Country.

World Food Program (WFP) Sri Lanka country director Adnan Khan was summoned by Defence secretary Gotabhaya to the ministry and ticked off strongly.

An “apology” was also extracted.

Defence Affairs cabinet Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella dismissed comments made by Campbell and revealed that A Govt probe is underway.

A BBC Sinhala service report stated as follows:

John Campbell, from the World Food Programme (WFP), told the BBC Sinhala Service that conditions were "as basic as can be" and "much less than ideal".

Mr. Campbell was speaking from the rebel-held village of Dharmapuram. The WFP is one of the few foreign agencies allowed to deliver aid to the area.

Mr Campbell said many of the internally displaced people in Dharmapuram were living in flimsy shelters soaked by recent heavy rainfall.

"They are extremely uncomfortable in water-logged camps and depending almost entirely on international aid for food," Mr. Campbell told the BBC.

Sri Lankan officials say the rain had also brought much of the fighting in the north to a halt and only "intermittent skirmishes" between the Tamil Tigers and the army have recently taken place.

Mr. Campbell insisted that displaced people were getting enough food, despite their miserable living conditions.

"It is basic as it can be. I haven't seen anything so basic since when I was in Somalia."

Somalia has been without an effective central government since President Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991.

The UN estimated that there were about 230,000 displaced people throughout the rebel-held areas in the north.

A UN aid convoy comprising 50 trucks arrived in the rebel-held areas on Tuesday after being given clearance by the Tigers and the Sri Lankan military.

Mr. Campbell told the BBC the supplies included rice, flour and school equipment.

He said the convoy was only the seventh to bring food to rebel-held areas during the past two months.

Meanwhile the Defence ministry in a post on its official website said that the WFP had apologised to the govt over Campbell’s comments.

“World Food Program (WFP) country director for Sri Lanka , Mr. Adnan Khan today (Dec 10) apologized to the Sri Lankan government over a story filed by the BBC Sinhala service calling Sri Lanka a Somalia.

The BBC Sinhala service , had quoted a comment made by one Mr. John Cambell, a WFP representative in non-liberated areas that "conditions for displaced people there are as basic as in Somalia".

Mr. Khan meeting with Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa today at the Defence Ministry treated with disdain this diabolical lie disseminated by the BBC Sinhala Service and said he would launch a special inquiry to the matter.

Also, he said the WFP would issue an official statement clarifying the facts in the near future” stated the defence ministry website.

In a further development Keheliya Rambukwella also commented on the incident to the Colombo media .

Excerpts are given below:

“The government is to inquire into an allegation made by a WFP official from a rebel-held area stating that the IDPs in the region were depending entirely on international aid for food, the Defence Spokesperson said yesterday.

Defence Spokesperson Keheliya Rambukwella, dismissing the situation in the Wanni war in par with Somalia said the government had been continuously transporting food and essential items to the IDPs in LTTE-held areas, which clearly proved that food was in abundance.

“There is absolutely no shortage of food for the IDPs in the Wanni areas and this has been conveyed to us by the government agents in the respective regions. The government has continuously supplied food and medicines to the IDPs which is why it is absurd to compare the situation to Somalia,” Minister Rambukwella said.

The Minister further said many IDPs had arrived to government controlled areas and were being looked after by the security forces and many more were expected to arrive next week.

Since January this year, hundreds of IDPs have fled the LTTE controlled areas and have sought refuge in areas controlled by the security forces and many more were expected to cross over by the end of this year, the Defence Spokesperson said.

Is Lt.Gen Sarath Fonseka nurturing a Political Ambition After Retirement?

by Col. R.Hariharan

On Sunday December 7, the security forces were within "kissing distance" of the outer defence lines Kilinochchi, announced the defence spokesman. On Monday, December 8, it became "Troops in Kilinochchi are targeting the town and they are in the vicinity of the town." However, by December 9 it seems the security forces' strategic focus had shifted from Kilinochchi to Mullaitivu according to the defence ministry. This contradicts what the army commander Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka said in his Sunday Observer interview on the same day; he said "after capturing Kilinochchi the security forces will definitely capture Mullaithivu..."

Arms left behind by the SLA.jpg

[Arms left behind by Sri Lanka Army near Kilinochchi-Dec, 10 2008-pic:LTTE]

In military parlance, this kind of shift in 24 hours takes place only in tactical rather than strategic focus. Somebody is not getting the terminology right or the army is facing major problems in turning the "kiss" into reality in Kilinochchi. Its two pronged offensive on Kilinochchi by Task Force-I from the west and by 57 Division from the southwest was reported facing very heavy LTTE resistance. Could this have compelled them a change in the security forces' strategy? The defence spokesman had acknowledged this at least on the Task Force-I front. In the Muhamalai sector also there appear to be no substantial progress in spite of 53 Division's claims of having captured 800 m long and 8 km wide line of defences there. All these bits put together would indicate stalling of offensive.

A second possibility is that 59 Division was making better progress having captured Alampil on December 8. With Task Force-III making good progress on A34 Mankulam-Mullaitivu road branching off eastwards from A9 road 59 Division's offensive to Mullaitivu would be benefited. So a tactical shift of immediate focus from Kilinochchi to Mullaitivu is understandable.

But such a shift in axis would still be a tactical shift. Ultimately the security forces have to either capture Kilinochchi or force the LTTE to vacate it after they pay a heavy price. Then only the A9 Kandy-Jaffna road can be opened to restore some form of normal life for most of the population of Northern Province. Regaining A9 road from the LTTE control by evicting them from Kilinochchi –Elephant Pass would always remain the strategic objective of the entire operation.

But these are all military semantics; in the absence of independent sources to verify operational information, semantics of both the defence spokesman and the LTTE become important; they indicate the issues hidden behind the words.

After the capture of Pooneryn on November 15, crossing Akkarayankulam bund on October 31, and capture of Mankulam on November 17, it is a month. Evidently since then, momentum of advance has been stalled due to adverse weather on a few days, and stiff LTTE resistance that had been progressively increasing. This would contradict repeated Sri Lankan assertion that the LTTE was on the run. If this is not so, what is holding up the troops?

Loss of momentum in an offensive means more time for the opponent to recoup, rest, repair and readjust defences, reinforce positions, launch counter offensives and inflict more casualties. And cost of war in terms of men, material and money goes up as the clock ticks in days and days become months. The more it is prolonged the better it is for the forces on the defence.

Fortunately, the army commander has cleverly put himself in an advantageous position with multiple options of axes to pick and choose. He also has adequate troops for achieving the strategic objective. Even granting the monsoon rains that affected both sides comes in fits and starts the progress is becoming slow and taking too long. This raises a few operational questions:

Why the offensive to Kilinochchi ending up as a slow crawl?

Has the LTTE built up its strength beyond the ken of four divisions?

Is the army commander facing a major operational dilemma or political rider interfering with his operations for reasons not known to the public?

In this context, Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka's comments on India's role in Sri Lanka in an interview to the Sunday Observer is interesting for more reasons, than his derogatory description of Nedumaran and Vaiko,(Tamil Nadu politicians who head the pro-LTTE political lobby in Tamil Nadu) as jokers who receive money from the LTTE. Regarding the operations he sounded quite confident of capturing both Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu. He was not unduly worried about the slow progress or any casualties. There was apparently no operational stress. Does it mean operations are going on smoothly at an accepted pace? In the absence of access to information our questions still linger, unanswered.

The interview had a political content not usually found in interviews of army chiefs. His sarcastic comment was clearly provocative. As anticipated it drew widespread condemnation from political parties in Tamil Nadu and Government of India protested to Sri Lanka on the issue. There was quick apology from the Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse the General's remarks. And in the corrective action that followed, Colombo axed the editor of Sunday Observer while the errant General went scot-free. One cannot imagine the army commander casually tackling a political issue involving a sensitive neighbour without some tacit official acceptance of his perceptions. The freedom of operation given by the President to Lt Gen Fonseka appears to go well beyond the military kind.

And this is not the first time Gen Fonseka has made a politically controversial remark His interview inn October 2008 to the National Post, a Canadian daily, created enough concerns among Tamils when he said: "I strongly believe that this country belongs to the Sinhalese but there are minority communities and we treat them like our people…We being the majority of the country, 75%, we will never give in and we have the right to protect this country…We are also a strong nation … They can live in this country with us. But they must not try to, under the pretext of being a minority, demand undue things."

While that remark did not endear him to Tamils and caused more concerns in the ethnically polarised nation, Sinhala right wing lobbies applauded him.

Why is Lt Gen Fonseka making such controversial remarks repeatedly? Does he nurture political ambitions after he completes his extended tenure next year? His latest remark on Tamilnadu politicians in the Sunday Observer interview definitely raises this question.

But whatever be the reason, such provocative remarks of the army commander only strengthen the Tamil suspicions of the ulterior objective of Sri Lanka government's war against the LTTE.

(Col. R Hariharan, a retired Military Intelligence specialist on South Asia, served as the head of intelligence of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka 1987-90.He is associated with the South Asia Analysis Group and the Chennai Centre for China Studies. E-mail: colhari@yahoo.com)

December 09, 2008

How Mahinda Forced Karu Jayasuriya To Return to the U.N.P.

Colombo political grapevine is buzzing busily about the return of “gentleman” Karu Jayasuriya’s return from his newly acquired “mistress” the Rajapakse regime back to his one and only “true love” the UNP.

Karu Jayasuriya had become more and more frustrated by his inability to work within the tight framework of the war agenda of the Rajapakse government.

Humiliated in public by officials of the Rajapakse administration and unable to bring forward the Constitutional Council despite being the father of the 17th Amendment, the senior politico faced ignominy on many fronts despite leading a group of 18 UNP dissident MP’s to government ranks.

Karu Jayasuriya clashed with the SLFP hierarchy on many occasions including on the appointment of all important grama sevakas and government agents on merit rather than on political affiliation.

However Rajapakse’s 2005 presidential campaign allies who once used grama sevakas and local government agents to disenfranchise some 350,000 voters who found themselves struck off the electoral lists, were well aware of how useful political stooges were in such posts during an election and a meritocracy pushed for by Jayasuriya did not find favour.

Meanwhile Ranil Wickremesinghe worked out a plan of negotiation as he invited Jayasuriya to return to the UNP fold by name, and also the rest of the dissidents to follow suit.

The strategy was part of a process of negotiations and intense behind the scenes back room chat that commenced a few months ago.

The UNP Working Committee on Monday appointed Public Administration Minister Karu Jayasuriya as the Party’s Deputy Leader following a public invitation extended to Karu Jayasuriya by Ranil Wickremesinghe to rejoin the party.
The decision to invite Jayasuriya and the defectors back to the UNP was reached after several rounds of negotiations between the UNP leadership, Jayasuriya and his emissaries.

Jayasuriya had in private expressed his displeasure at the trajectory of the government on several aspects including the failure to implement the 17th Amendment to the Constitution and the appointment of government agents and grama sevakas on merit as opposed to political criteria.

The straw which broke the camel’s back was President Rajapakse’s verbal tirade in foul language against Karu Jayasuriya.

The telephonic abuse angered the gentlemanly Karu who was not used to this type of conduct.This was the turning point.

President Rajapakse however sensed the simmering tension in Karu Jayasuriya but preferred to continue attacking rather than appease Jayasuriya.

At the parliamentary group meeting he was to make sarcastic remarks of Jayasuriya in the presence of his son in law Naveen Dissanayake indicating he had already got wind of events to come.

Sources close to Karu Jayasuriya revealed that it was Mahinda Rajapakse’s oral onslaught and subsequent sarcastic remarks which forced him to re-join the UNP

Earlier he had been wavering though extremely unhappy over the situation.

Public Administration and Home Affairs Minister Karu Jayasuriya who resigned from his portfolio on December 9th will formally accept the post of deputy leader of the UNP at a press conference with Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe at Sirikotha on December 10th.

The press conference, scheduled to l be held at 11 a.m. will be addressed by both Jayasuriya and Wickremesinghe, where they will spell out the future steps they intend to take to face the political challenges ahead.

In a statement issued after resigning his cabinet post yesterday Jayasuriya said that though he joined the cabinet to support the war, the economy has become more important.

The statement added that he extended support without conditions with the fervent wish to strengthen the President’s hand to defeat terrorism.

"Our decision to support the government for a period of two years is almost at an end. In contrast to military victories, the economy is being seriously challenged in every way.

"While I approve of the government’s conduct and approach to the war, I cannot agree with the government’s policy on economic management which not only impacts on the government but on the people in a big way," he noted.

The statement added that Jayasuriya took the decision to quit the government as the period for supporting the government was almost at an end and especially because there was an economic crisis that far exceeded the war to which only the UNP had the capacity to find solutions.

The UNP Working Committee on Dec 8th unanimously accepted the appointment of Jayasuriya as Deputy Leader, Rukman Senanayake as Assistant Leader and Gamini Jayawickrema Perera as Chairman.

It was also decided at the Working Committee that the party’s national organiser S.B. Dissanayake would be nominated as the UNP’s chief ministerial candidate for the Central Provincial Council.

It is reliably learnt that Jayasuriya’s re-entry into the UNP will be followed by several other defectors returning on a staggered basis.

UNP International Affairs Secretary and Parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayake said that the party was happy to see Jayasuriya return to the party fold.

"Although there may have been differences of opinions when he left the party, we are happy that he has decided to return," he said.

Karunanayake said that Jayasuriya’s return to the party should be looked at in a positive sense, as it was a move forward for the UNP.

"There has been a projection that everyone in the UNP was moving out of the party. Now Jayasuriya has decided to come in and it would clear the initial projection of people moving out," Karunanayake said.

KJ129.jpg

[Karu Jayasuriya]

The full text of the special statement issued by Karu Jayasuriya is given below:

I have passed several significant milestones in my life. At each of these occasions, I have taken historic decisions that proved beneficial to my country and the people. Oftentimes these decisions would have appeared as mere political decisions but they were decisions taken in support of sovereignty, good governance and lasting peace.

I have reached yet another historic and politically important decision which is taken with the welfare of the country and people at heart.

Thirteen years ago, I was unanimously elected chairman of the country’s largest political party, the United National Party (UNP). Within two years, I received an unprecedented mandate and became the Mayor of Colombo. Next with another special mandate, I was elected to the Western Provincial Council (WPC).

A year later, I was elected to parliament with the highest preferential votes from the Gampaha District, became the deputy leader of the UNP and appointed the power and energy minister at a time when the country was faced with an energy crisis.

What is important to note here is not whether I was elected to a local body, the provincial council or parliament or whether I was elected from Colombo District or Gampaha District but the fact that irrespective of those issues, a large number of people flocked around me. They also supported my political decisions. Therefore I feel bound to represent them and I have put aside my privacy and taken those decisions for the people at the appropriate time and consider it my duty to do so.

Almost two years ago, I announced another historic decision. That was to extend support to President Mahinda Rajapakse together with 17 other UNP colleagues to defeat terrorism. I decided to extend unconditional support at a crucial moment when the President was doing his utmost to defeat LTTE terror and the war itself was at a crucial juncture. Even today I recall that decision with happiness and I believe the President’s burden would have been eased by the support extended by us.

Without stopping at that, my group extended unstinted support to pass the previous and the 2009 budget when passing the appropriation bills became a challenging task. I also discharged my duties as a minister with due diligence and commitment. I do believe that during my tenure as minister of public administration, I have managed to make revolutionary changes in the sphere. I take this opportunity to extend my heartfelt gratitude to all those at the Ministry who extended their cooperation to me.

I believe that I am yet again faced with a similar historic people friendly decision. The two-year period for extending support to this government is almost expended. In contrast to the military victories, Sri Lanka’s economy is faced with serious challenges.

While I am able to endorse the government’s policy with regard to the conduct of the war effort, I am unable to endorse the policy on economic management.

This economic crisis is not only impacting on the government but is seriously impacting on the people and is reaching crisis proportions.

Therefore I feel compelled to go for an alternative that may help prevent the country’s economic crisis. I am not only pained that the government in which I held a cabinet portfolio has failed to implement the 17th Amendment which I have seriously worked for and initiated for the depoliticisation of our society.

I have been criticised for this failure. I have seriously contributed to the setting up of a Citizen’s Committee after which the concepts of the 17th Amendment were to be practically implemented at the periphery. I have faced serious criticisms from civil society for the failure to secure a depoliticisation process through the implementation of the vital constitutional amendment.

Considering all of the above, if I continue to remain silent, I run the risk of people losing their trust in me completely. To keep that trust and to do what is right on their behalf, I have once again embarked on a new journey by taking another historic decision.

I have never left the UNP. I have never criticised the UNP or the party leadership. At a crucial time for the country, the UNP leadership did not agree with my stance that compelled me to extend support to the government together with a group of colleagues.

Besides that decision, I had no differences with UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s stance or the party’s stance on national economic management. I still believe there is ample opportunity to nurture the same. At a time like this, I therefore consider it my duty to once again aid an initiative to introduce economic prosperity to this country.

Therefore, as the two year period for extending support to the government is almost at an end, the country is presently faced with a massive economic crisis that is far beyond the war and because it is only the UNP that is capable of giving leadership to salvage the economy, I have decided it is important to rally round all the UNP supporters.

Therefore, it is with a strong sense of commitment as well as happiness that I accept UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s invitation to rejoin the UNP as its deputy leader. In order to give expression to that decision, I have decided to resign both from the portfolio as well as the government.

From henceforth, I will rededicate myself to the task of establishing a UNP government under the leadership of Ranil Wickremesinghe.

This decision is not made for any parochial political gain but for the benefit of the country and its people at a time when we are faced with the task of salvaging our economy from the present abyss and to help create a prosperous Sri Lanka.

As a citizen who loves this country immensely and a former military officer who remains committed to curb terrorism and finally as a citizen who desires economic prosperity for the motherland, I wish to rededicate myself to the tasks and challenges ahead.

Deshabandu Karu Jayasuriya
Member of Parliament for Gampaha District

Observer Editor and not Army Commander Fired for Angering Tamil Nadu

In a bizarre twist the Sri Lankan government of President Mahinda Rajapakse has fired the editor of state – controlled “Sunday Observer” newspaper instead of Army commander Sarath Fonseka for making remarks angering political leaders of Tamil Nadu in India in an interview given to the journal by the outspoken general.

The action came in the wake of strong protests by Indian envoy in Colombo Aloknath Prasad to President Mahinda Rajapakse, Defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse and foreign minister Rohitha Bogollagama.

New Delhi was compelled to protest as the remarks by General Fonseka had stirred a hornet’s nest in Tamil Nadu where political leaders of different parties including DMK chief minister Muttuvel Karunanindhi reacted angrily to the remarks.

If the LTTE is wiped out, those political jokers like Nadumaran, Vaiko and whoever who is sympathising with the LTTE will most probably lose their income from the LTTE,” the army chief had said in the interview published in The Sunday Observer.

Fonseka had also alleged the politicians were “bribed” by the LTTE to make allegations that Tamil civilians were being killed by the army in Sri Lanka.

The army chief’s comments elicited strong condemnation from political parties in Tamil Nadu who demanded that the central government extract an apology from Sri Lanka.

“Leaders criticising one another in Tamil Nadu is different, but we cannot accept someone from outside the country saying such things about our leaders,” Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi said in Chennai.

Tamil Nadu political parties also threatened massive protest demonstrations demanding recall of Sri Lankan diplomats to Colombo.

With Sarath Fonseka’s derogatory remarks against Tamil Nadu politicians sparking outrage, India said on Dec 9th that Colombo had expressed regrets and promised to look into the issue:

“Our high commissioner in Colombo took up the issue strongly with the Sri Lankan defence secretary,” External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash told reporters.

The defence secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa, is a a brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, he said.

The spokesman was responding to a question on remarks by Fonseka dubbing Tamil Nadu politicians as “jokers” for seeking a ceasefire between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). “The defence secretary promised to look.

While tendering apologies in private Sri Lanka has refused to issue a public apology or reprimand Sarath Fonseka.

The Indian spokesperson’s comments are seen as a feeble attempt to salvage the situation.

Commentators however were doubtful whether the exercise would help contain Tamil Nadu passions.

In another clumsy and patently unfair attempt to appease Tamil Nadu the Rajapakse regime came down hard on the editor of the newspaper to which Sarath Fonseka made the offending comments instead of penalising the army commander himself.

Pramod de Silva and Dinesh Weerawansa, the Editors of Lake House publications the Daily News and the Sunday Observer, were removed from their posts with effect from December 8th.

They are tipped to be appointed as Senior Associate Editors.

De Silva has been transferred to the Observer and Weerawansa to the Daily News, insiders said.

Jayatillake de Silva, who was appointed editor of both the Observer and the Daily News with effect from Dec 9th , told the media "I was asked to take over the job and here I am".

He refused to comment on the reasons for the removal of the two former editors.

A few years ago Jayatillake de Silva functioned as the editor of both Daily News and Observer in two different periods but was shown the door by the political hierarchy later.

It is learnt that the demotion drama in lake house newspapers was engineered as a ploy to help New Delhi satisfy Chennai politicians.

The action against Pramod de Silva was taken to convey an impression that Weerawansa was not being punished at India’s behest.

Pramod de Silva is a close kinsman of Jayatilleke de Silva the new editor.

But his double appointment is also seen as a stopgap measure with the government looking out for two other persons to fill the slots in due course.

According to Lake House circles though the reason given for De Silva and Weerawansa’s removal was the drastic drop in circulation of the newspaper, the real reason was the article that appeared in the Observer quoting the Army Commander as saying that veteran Tamil Nadu politicians are ‘Political Jokers’.

Both Pramod de Silva and Dinesh Weerawansa were on leave after being removed.

Interestingly no action has been taken against Shanika Sriyananda the journalist who conducted the interview with Sarath Fonseka.

Despite causing all the damage by his “foot in the mouth” remarks the Army commander remains unaffected while Editors have been unfairly removed from their posts.

The Rajapakse regime is in awe of the army commander who is a sacred cow to the government.

Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited Chairman Bandula Padmakumara was also not available for comment when media persons tried to contact him

War, poverty cause high rates of mental illness in Sri Lanka

By Sampath Perera

A recent World Health Organisation (WHO) report and a survey conducted by the country's health ministry reveal a high incidence of mental illness in Sri Lanka. Both reports identify the main causes as the island's protracted civil war combined with poor socio-economic conditions—that is, poverty, unemployment, poor nutrition and a lack of basic services.

The mental health update for the WHO country office in Colombo commented: "More than three decades of conflict and the effects of the tsunami [in December 2004] are having a strong impact on the mental well-being of the Sri Lankan population, very especially, on its most deprived sectors. Mental health data from Sri Lanka shows an increase in severe and common mental disorders, in times of armed conflict. This country has one of the highest suicide rates in the world."

The report continued: "It is estimated that 3 percent of the Sri Lankan population suffer from some kind of mental disease." This figure is low compared to other data, mainly because it is limited to those receiving some form of treatment.

The Health Ministry survey, which was conducted in 2007, is yet to be released publicly. However, Dr. Hiranthi de Silva, director of the mental health service department, gave a speech to a seminar in October that provided some of the results. Overall, 12.3 percent of the population suffered some form of mental illness, broadly defined to include not only depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but also binge eating, panic attacks and chronic anxiety.

The government's relaunching of the war against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2006 has greatly increased the physical hardships and psychological stress facing broad layers of the population. The civil war has claimed at least 70,000 lives since 1983 and hundreds of thousands have been displaced in recent fighting.

The worst affected districts in the North and East of the island were not included in the survey due to ongoing military operations. Their inclusion would have increased the survey's findings. In provinces adjacent to the war zones, the stresses produced by the war are evident.

In Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura districts, which border the northern province, the prevalence of PTSD was 4.2 and 3.6 percent respectively, compared to 1.7 percent overall for the country. De Silva pointed out that PTSD could be caused by many types of exceptionally stressful events. She called for special attention to be given to those suffering the impact of war.

The incidence of serious forms of mental illness was also high in the north-western district of Puttalam. The prevalence of people suffering major depression was 4.2 percent and 11.9 percent for other forms of depression, nearly twice the national figures of 2.1 percent and 7.1 percent. The district also recorded the highest incidence of somatoform disorder—physical pain produced by psychological factors—at 8.9 percent compared to the overall figure of 3 percent.

In a speech last month, health minister Nimal Siripala de Silva claimed that the country's suicide rate, previously second only to Finland, had significantly improved. He provided no figures, however. The latest WHO report indicates that Sri Lanka's suicide rates remain among the worst in the world.

According to the survey, 4.2 percent of the population registered passive suicidal ideation, or wishing they were dead. Some 1.6 percent, or more than 300,000 people, exhibited active suicidal ideation, or persistent thoughts about suicide together with a plan to carry it out.

Speaking at last October's seminar, Dr. Hiranthi de Silva said: "The rate of crime, violence and civil strife, the rate of alcohol and other drug use, the rate of suicide and deliberate self harm" were some indicators of the deteriorating mental well-being of a society. Unemployment, low-income, human rights violations, stressful work conditions and limited education all contributed to stresses that led to depression and anxiety, as well as making it more difficult to cope with these conditions.

Chris Underhill, former director of the non-government organisation Basic Needs, addressed the same seminar. He noted that 42,433 persons were under treatment in Sri Lanka for some form of mental illness. He said the main handicap facing health services was the chronic shortage of trained psychiatrists. There are only 130 qualified psychiatrists and 63 diploma holders for the entire country.

On its web site, Basic Needs declares: "Sri Lanka is a country with a large mental health problem. As well as the fact that mental health services have been ignored and under funded in the health system, the long-term, ongoing, violent civil war has caused lots of mental trauma and one of the highest suicide rates in the world."

The government's health budget for 2009 is just $US533 million, up by only $8 million from $525 million last year. With inflation running at about 30 percent, this figure represents a sharp cut in real terms, even as the government is boosting military spending. The allocation of mental health services is a small fraction of the overall health budget, which fails to address the country's pressing needs.

The lack of basic services and trained professionals only compounds the psychological trauma facing hundreds of thousand of people. Significantly, the six districts identified by WHO as having limited mental health services are directly affected by the country's ongoing war or recently have been active war zones. [courtesy: WSWS]

What has gone wrong with Sarath Fonseka ? Is he“Nuts”?

By Malladi Rama Rao

Generals are not jokers. Nor do they brand politicians they don’t like as jokers. Because, the generals know they cannot hope to get away with such disparaging remarks.

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General Sarath Foneska appears to be an exception. He is on a one year extension — some thing rare in the annals of military history. And the government of the Rajapakse troika is reposing trust in his ability to deliver Pirapaharan dead or alive. Yet, Mangala Samaraweera, a senior politician and former minister, opines that this ‘highly’ decorated soldier qualifies only as the head of the Salvation Army, not as the Commander of the Sri Lanka Army.

Samaraweera is not alone in holding a mirror unto the General. All because he suffers from Foot-in-Mouth (F-i-M) disease. Generally, politicians are afflicted by the disease the world over in these days of ‘sound byte’ journalism and 24x7 live TV.

S.B.Chavan”isms”

There is the outgoing President of the United States of America, George W. Bush, Junior, who has enriched the political lexicon with his guffaws. Bushisms as these ‘gems’ have come to be known have provided comic relief, lifting the mood in a depressing economic scenario.

India has its own share of senior politicians who suffer from F-i-M. S.B. Chavan, whose son Ashok has just taken over as the chief minister of Maharashtra, belonged to this tribe, though he had earned the nickname of headmaster for his no-nonsense attitude as a chief minister and then as a union home minister.

Leader writers poked fun at his F-i-Ms but he remained unmindful till the end, prompting a wag to remark that such leaders are a necessary adjunct of the political system to make it alive and interesting. As far as one can make out, this F-i-M syndrome has not hit the bureaucrats and generals in India and the US as they prefer to carry out their tasks far removed from the glare of TV lights.

Defence secretary

The Lankan Army Chief, General Sarath Foneska has been shooting his mouth wide, indeed very wide, with every passing day. The Defence Secretary should have pulled him up by now.

But that gentleman refuses to forget that he was a junior army officer till his fortunes turned for the better and he became a part of the ruling Troika and its self-propelled TINA ( there is no alternative) syndrome. Any how, the Secretary is no stranger to F-i-Ms, and has been landing his government in hot water from time to time with loose comments that have a bearing on relations with India and on events in India.

Either the President’s Office or the Foreign Office should have stepped in to ‘set the record straight’ since tiny Colombo cannot afford to ruffle the Delhi feathers. It did not happen.

Obviously, Colombo believes that it can get away with whatever it does because it has perfected the art of playing the Pak-China card against India and Iran card against the United States.

Super powers are like sleeping jumbos and can afford to take things in their stride. But only up to a point.

Anyone familiar with the pachyderms knows one home truth and it is that when a jumbo gets up, it walks majestically, trampling upon whatever comes its way. Sisupala in Mahabaratha learnt this the hard way.

Any how, bravado has a limited shelf life. General Foneska should know it better. Discounts for military speak notwithstanding.

Rajapakse Troika

When his army and the airforce fail to act on the Indian managed radar alerts, he should know it is time for him to keep his trap shut and stop offering pious platitudes like, for instance, ‘If we are supported by India we also could finish the LTTE faster than this.’ This gem is a part of the interview he gave to the Sunday Observer (December 7), which will form a classroom text for generals for an altogether different reason.

In the course of the interview, Fonseka harps on his 37-years of service in the army. That long stint should have taught him some dos and don’ts and one of the don’ts is not taking on the political class at home.

Surprisingly, he not only takes on the political class at home but also the political class in Tamil Nadu, going to the extent of calling them ‘jokers,’ ‘mad’ and ‘corrupt.’

In his considered view, ‘Mangala Samaraweera must be working on a contract given by the LTTE and the anti-war people in the south who want to see the army losing the war and the LTTE winning it.’ And the allegation that the security forces of Sri Lanka don’t have concern about civilians is made, ‘only by corrupt politicians in Tamil Nadu who have been bribed by the LTTE.’

Reading these remarks and noticing the ‘Mauna Vrata’ of the Rajapakse troika, one is tempted to ask what has gone wrong with the General and his political bosses? Has he gone nuts? By extension his political masters. More so because gloves are off against them too with every politico gearing up for a battle of wits and nerves.

Mudslinging

It is Fonseka’s privilege to get locked in a slanging match with political leaders currently out of favour with the ruling dispensation. But what business has he got to indulge in mudslinging on politicos of a neighbouring country?

It is not that they (TN leaders) are paragons of virtue and are lily white. Whether they are or not is not the concern of a General who is part of an administration which has its own quota of corruption and bribe scandals that range from the December 7 disclosure of a massive foreign liquor racket to the weeks old Rs. 2.5 billion muddle in import of Chinese rail coaches. In between there are millions of dollars worth of Pakistan imports that have hurt Lanka’s war machine and have become subject matter of a battle with the media.

From the turn of events, it is clear that General Foneska has become a one-man pack of sledge-hammerers to wreck India-Sri Lanka relations.

He knows and admits that the ‘Indian government cannot just look the other side when it comes to Tamil sentiments’ and yet holds out a homily to Tamil Nadu politicians, going, in a manner of speaking, beyond the call of his duty. What else should one construe from the remark: "The Indian government has already expressed its stand on the Sri Lanka issue and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has enough problems after the Mumbai terrorist attack… Nothing in favour of LTTE would happen."

General Fonseka has enough problems on hand. He should concentrate on addressing them. For instance, his casualty figures and the LTTE toll don’t match. The military claims to have killed 11,000 LTTE cadres since July 2006 though the estimated strength of the Tigers in mid-2006 was 10,000. The current guesstimate of LTTE cadres is under 5,000 and they are being pursued with all the might of nearly 200,000 Sri Lanka forces.

Army desertions

Another issue that should grip his attention is what the ISN Security Watch says; ‘the deaths and desertions’ of the Sri Lankan army.

Also about the likely blood bath as ‘Eelam War IV’ reaches full-throttle for Kilinochchi.

There are about 150,000 civilians currently trapped in the battle zone. ‘If the Tigers force the civilians to flee in all directions then the army will not be able to separate 15,000 or so Tigers from civilians. This may lead to a bloodbath and help the LTTE to escape to another part of Sri Lanka,’ says the ISN assessment.

Generals, particularly serving army chiefs, even on extension, are expected not to become jokers and mavericks and thus become a laughing stock. Will someone advice Gen. Foneska?

He has no need to worry about India and its Tamil dilemma, even if they appear to him from a distant shore as impossible and ‘Damned if we do, damned if we don’t’ category. India and Tamil Nadu know how to take care of themselves. No gratuitous advice needed!

"Auction " (Commonwealth Short Story Award Winner)

by Vikram Kapur

The ancient radio at the pakora stall came on to shake in the throes of a monstrous cough, after which it calmed down to cough quietly for a while, before winding up another big one. It had been that way as long as anyone could remember.

Everyone expected it to heart fail any moment. But it simply kept on coughing, spitting out its phlegm of the news, Bollywood songs, the cricket commentary…......

The day of the Indian Premier League’s player auction it was coughing out U.S. dollars. Big ones. Hundreds of thousands. Millions. The knot of men fastened round it couldn’t have been more entranced if it was the last over of a one-day international.

The general merchant shopwallah instantly multiplied the dollar figure by forty. When he announced the rupee equivalent there were sighs, exclamations, rolling of the eyes…....

The next player is Mahendra Singh Dhoni,’ the radio coughed.

‘Five lakhs, at least,’ the juicewallah said.

‘Five lakhs?’ the cycle repairwallah sneered. ‘That Australian went for over a meelion. Our team captain can’t go for less.’

Thanks to the broadcast, the men now knew a million was ten lakhs.

‘Bhaisahib,’ a man and a boy approached the pakora stall. Their skin was blackened by the sun. They had calloused hands and feet. There was dust on their clothes….........

They looked like they had been working at a construction site.

The pakorawallah didn’t pay them any heed. The bidding had begun.

‘Chennai bids five hundred thousand.’

‘Mumbai five hundred and fifty.’

‘Delhi six hundred.’

‘Bhaisahib,’ the man said again.

The pakorawallah made a dismissive gesture with his hand.

‘Jaipur seven hundred and fifty.’

‘Hyderabad eight hundred and fifty’

‘Chennai nine…’.....

The voice died, as the radio went into its hacking cough mode. There were groans of disappointment.

‘What do you want?’ the pakorawallah demanded from the man.

‘How much is a bread pakora?’

‘Four rupees.’

The man and the boy looked at each other. The pakorawallah waited for a few seconds. Then he snapped, ‘Either pay up or get lost.’

‘Quiet,’ the cycle repairwallah hissed.

The radio had got over its spasm.

‘Mahendra Singh Dhoni has just been bought by Chennai for 1.5 million U.S. dollars.’

Jaws dropped, even lower as the general merchant shopwallah announced the currency conversion.

‘If I were that filthy rich,’ the juicewallah sighed, ‘I bet I could land Miss India in a flash.’

‘Miss India?’ the cycle repairwallah scoffed. ‘With that much filth I would settle for nothing less than Miss Universe.’

‘She’d never go for an ugly mug like yours.’

‘With that much filth I could get a plastic to make me better-looking than any Hollywood hero.’

They became quiet, as the radio gasped, ‘The next player is Matthew Hayden.’

‘Baba, four rupees is way too much,’ the boy was saying. ‘Maybe we should get one and share it.’

‘No, we have to have something,’ the man said. ‘Here we won’t get anything for less.’

He handed eight rupees to the pakorawallah who gave them the two bread pakoras, splattered with tomato sauce, in tiny paper plates, before returning to the auction.

The two of them walked away to sit down on the edge of the pavement.

‘Baba, we have only two rupees left,’ the boy said, ‘and the foreman was saying he may not have work for us tomorrow. Then what will we eat?’

The man bit into his bread pakora.

‘Filth,’ he spat.

Sri Lanka among top eight countries undergoing genocidal conflict

Genocide and other mass atrocities are underway or risk breaking out in at least 33 countries, says a new comprehensive watch list slated for release on the 60th anniversary of the United Nations prevention of genocide convention.

The list by the New York-based Genocide Prevention Project for the first time combines the findings of five leading independent watch lists to create a "watch list of watch lists."

"Red alert" countries include Afghanistan and Iraq alongside commonly known regions currently experiencing genocidal conflict such as Sudan's Darfur and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These and Myanmar, Pakistan, Somalia and Sri Lanka all made the list's top eight because they appear in each of the five "expert" indexes.

A report filed by Steven Edwards of Canwest News service states as follows:

[United Nations] Genocide and other mass atrocities are underway or risk breaking out in at least 33 countries, says a new comprehensive watch list slated for release Tuesday - the 60th anniversary of the United Nations prevention of genocide convention.

As reports indicate UN peacekeeping efforts are in crisis amid dwindling contributions of both cash and well-trained forces, the authors of the new study call for an international focus on genocide prevention in countries they've identified.

Since the world pledged "never again" in the wake of the Holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia-Herzegovina are but three examples of places where mass slaughter has occurred.

The list by the New York-based Genocide Prevention Project for the first time combines the findings of five leading independent watch lists to create a "watch list of watch lists."

"Red alert" countries include Afghanistan and Iraq alongside commonly known regions currently experiencing genocidal conflict such as Sudan's Darfur and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These and Myanmar, Pakistan, Somalia and Sri Lanka all made the list's top eight because they appear in each of the five "expert" indexes.

The next 25 "orange alert" countries appear in at least three of the indexes and include China, Colombia, Philippines and Indonesia as places where ongoing or simmering violence could flare to genocidal proportions.

"It is possible to identify early indicators of mass atrocity crimes. But what happens now is the international community sees what's going on, gets paralyzed and, if it acts, really only acts after the fact," said Jill Savitt, project executive director.

"You don't see assertive proactive diplomacy in the earliest possible moments, when the bloodshed isn't widespread or before arms have come into the region."

The report says prudent application of "carrots and sticks" - which it describes as the panoply of economic, diplomatic and legal measures available to nations and the UN Security Council - can result in "averting an escalation of violence."

Savitt said what's been lacking in the past was "political will," but added that may change because of a convergence of recent factors.

One is the stated determination of Susan Rice, U.S. president-elect Barack Obama's choice for U.S. ambassador to the UN, to prevent future genocides after witnessing the after-effects of the 1994 Rwanda slaughter.

Another is current discussion around the 60th anniversary of the genocide prevention convention, which calls on countries to prevent and punish actions of genocide. Finally, there is what Savitt called the public "guilt" over what occurred in Rwanda and Bosnia, and what she additionally called public "hunger for a response" to the Darfur crisis.

"There are things states can do like dispatching the highest-level envoy - someone of great stature who can call (British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's residence) 10 Downing Street, or the UN secretary general, or President Obama," she said. "There are all kinds of penalties and inducements, including trade and aid, membership in political bodies, or expulsion from them. And even simple public criticism can work.

"Still, many analysts agree the international community has long had difficulty trying to change state behaviour purely using sanctions or diplomatic pressure.

Among countries in the project's list of 33, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe all face varying UN or state sanctions aimed at convincing them to obey the international will.

The list comes as Irwin Cotler, former justice minister and attorney general, Monday released a petition calling on countries that have signed the genocide convention to "hold Iran to account for its genocidal incitement."

"The enduring lesson of the Holocaust and that of the genocides that followed is that they occurred not simply because of the machinery of death, but because of the state-sanctioned incitement to hatred," Cotler said.

"In the case of Iran, there is no justification for inaction," he added, citing statements by Iranian leaders calling for the destruction of Israel.

Sri Lanka must suspend diplomatic relations with "terror state" Pakistan

By Gamini Rohan Bandarage

The murder and mayhem unleashed by Lashkar –e – Toiba (LET) terrorists in Mumbai, commercial capital of India has been strongly condemned by all civilised countries of this world.

Our able president his excellency honourable Mahinda Rajapakse is one of first heads of state to criticise horrible terrorist act and convey sympathy and support to India and her people.

HC129.jpg

[Students and teachers made a human chain inside the premises of their school to pay homage to the victims of Mumbai's recent attacks, in the northern Indian city of Lucknow. Fresh evidence unearthed by investigators in India indicated that the Mumbai attacks were managed from at least two Pakistani cities by top leaders of the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba.-more pics-ny times.com]

All Indian people are brothers and sisters of Sri Lankan people most of whose ancestors came from the sub – continent.

In addition majority Sri Lankans are followers of India’s greatest Son,the Lord Buddha.

During past years we in Sri Lanka are affected badly by the scourge of terrorism.

But thanks to the bold leadership of his excellency Hon. Mahinda Rajapakse ,our valiant armed forces are defeating the LTTE terrorists in fighting.

If India is affected by LET terrorists we have one letter more in our terrorists – LTTE.

As fellow victims of terrorism we understand the feelings of our Indian brethren over ravages of ruthless terrorism.

Sri Lanka is fighting against terrorism of the LTTE and not against Tamil people.

Our struggle is a noble one based on high principles.

In this, our country though small has given inspiring leadership to the world in fighting terror.

This is because we take a high, moral, principled stand.

We are against terrorism of any kind practised by any entity or country , for whatever reason.

Any country that knowingly supports and sponsors terrorism is our enemy.

We ,as a principled country cannot condone acts of terrorism by any state be it friend or foe.

There is no good terrorism or bad terrorism. Terrorism is terrorism.

This is the basis on which Sri Lanka is giving principled leadership in war against terrorism.

Any country victimised by terrorism is our friend.

Any country supporting terrorism is our enemy.

What is more such countries should be given “pariah” status.

Today Sri Lanka is facing a difficult choice.

Pakistan, another good friend of Sri Lanka is being convicted in court of international public opinion as being the entity behind terrorists responsible for Mumbai carnafe.

From Washington to New Delhi the charges are loud and clear.

Islamabad through Pakistan occupied Kashmir based LET is responsible for Mumbai massacres.

In this climate Sri Lanka which is the moral leader of worldwide fight against terrorism has to demonstrate its principled , impartial position to the world.

Despite our traditional friendship with Pakistan we must tell that Country we do not approve of its involvement in active terrorism.

Sri Lanka must demand that Pakistan immediately stop sponsoring LET terrorists and take strong action against terrorists.

To show that we are serious Sri Lanka must immediately suspend our diplomatic relations with Pakistan.

We must recall our envoy and send back their envoy.

All work should cease in the diplomatic missions.

We must declare that we will resume relations only after Pakistan takes firm action against terrorism.

By doing something which even USA or India has not done Sri Lanka can prove to the world that we are the true and genuine leaders of the world in the war on terrorism

India will be happy about us and extend all goodwill and support to us economically and politically in fight against LTTE.

Tamilnadu politicians will have to shut their mouths and stop supporting LTTE

We will prove that we are not against Tamil people but only against terrorism.

Our sincerity will be seen by all because we are ready to even break off with Pakistan our friend as the country is promoting terrorism.

World will stop talking of our so called human rights situation and stop all economic sanctions.

His excellency the honourable president will be praised as a honest, fair world class leader.

In case any one has doubts about Pakistan involvement in LET terrorism let me give you some reading material to study.

Well – known terrorism and security affairs expert Mr. B. Raman has this to say by way of questions and answers in a recent informative paper he wrote:

How strong is the evidence of the involvement of Pakistan's Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) ?

It is very strong.The evidence collected till now is partly direct and partly circumstantial. The direct evidence has come from the interrogation of one of the perpetrators (Mohammad Ajmal Amir, son of Mohammad Amir Imam, of village Faridkot in the Okara District of Pakistan's Punjab), who has been arrested and who is under interrogation. He has given details of the entire conspiracy and the involvement of the LET in it. The circumstantial evidence has come from the interrogation of four Indian Muslims arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police in February,2008, during their investigation of the terrorist attack on a camp of the Central Reserve Police Force in Rampur on January 1,2008.

They had reportedly spoken of the plans of the LET for future terrorist strikes, one of which was planned in Mumbai. One of them, Faheem Ahmed Ansari, was carrying a fake Pakistani passport and a list and maps of nine targets in southern Mumbai, including the Taj Mahal Hotel and other sites attacked on November 26,2008. Some other circumstantial evidence has also come from technical intelligence reportedly collected by the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) in September,2008, which spoke of the plans of the LET to launch a sea-borne terrorist strike in Mumbai.

The LET is reported to have denied its involvement?

This does not mean anything.In fact, it is not the LET which has denied involvement. It is the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD), of which Prof.-Hafiz Mohd.Sayeed is the Amir, which has denied involvement. Indian and American intelligence professionals look upon the JUD as the political wing of the LET. The Americans have included the LET as well as the JUD in their list of terrorist organisations. The Musharraf Government, which banned the LET as a terrorist organisation on January 15,2002, refused to ban the JUD on the ground that it has nothing to do with the LET. In fact, it was the contention of the Musharraf Government that the LET had ceased to exist in Pakistan as a result of the actions taken by it and that what operated in India under the name of the LET was a purely Indian organisation. However, even large sections of the Pakistani media have refused to accept the Govt's contention and describe the JUD as the political wing of the LET. While the LET sometimes accepts responsibility for successful strikes in J&K, it never claims responsibility for terrorist strikes in Indian territory outside J&K, lest it embarrass the Pakistan Government.

What are the links of the LET with Al Qaeda? Is there a possibility of the involvement of Al Qaeda in the Mumbai terrorist strike?

The LET is a member of the International Islamic Front (IIF) for Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People formed by Osama bin Laden in 1998. Abu Zubaidah, then projected as No.3 in Al Qaeda, was arrested from the house of an LET operative in Faislabad in Pakistani Punjab in March,2002. In 2002, when the command and control of Al Qaeda was disrupted by the US military strikes in Afghanistan, the LET took over the responsibility for the co-ordination of the operations of the IIF.Subsequently, suspected individual members of the LET in the local Muslim communities were arrested in a number of countries and an LET cell getting itself secretly trained in the US with the help of some local Muslims for operations in India was neutralised in the US. A press note issued by the US Department of Treasury on October 16,2003, after designating Dawood Ibrahim as a global terrorist said: "Dawood Ibrahim, an Indian crime lord, has found common cause with Al Qaida, sharing his smuggling routes with the terror syndicate and funding attacks by Islamic extremists aimed at destabilizing the Indian government. He is wanted in India for the 1993 Bombay Exchange bombings and is known to have financed the activities of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (Army of the Righteous), a group designated by the United States in October 2001 and banned by the Pakistani Government -- who also froze their assets -- in January 2002. Ibrahim's syndicate is involved in large-scale shipments of narcotics in the UK and Western Europe. The syndicate's smuggling routes from South Asia, the Middle East and Africa are shared with Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist network. Successful routes established over recent years by Ibrahim's syndicate have been subsequently utilised by bin Laden. A financial arrangement was reportedly brokered to facilitate the latter's usage of these routes. In the late 1990s, Ibrahim travelled in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban.Ibrahim's syndicate has consistently aimed to destabilise the Indian Government through inciting riots, acts of terrorism and civil disobedience. He is currently wanted by India for the March 12,1993, Bombay Exchange bombings, which killed hundreds of Indians and injured over a thousand more.Information from as recent as Fall 2002, indicates that Ibrahim has financially supported Islamic militant groups working against India, such as Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LET). For example, this information indicates that Ibrahim has been helping finance increasing attacks in Gujarat by LET. " [External Link] . The meticulous planning and execution of the Mumbai atrike and the targeting of Israelis and other Jews and the use of shocking brutality against them indicate strongly an Al Qaeda mind. The mind that planned and orchestrated was Al Qaeda's, but the hands that killed were of the LET.

What about the involvement of the ISI?

The terrorist organisations operating from Pakistani territory fall into four groups: Al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, which is mainly active in Afghanistan from sanctuaries in Pakistan, the Pakistani Taliban, which poses a threat to Afghanistan as well as Pakistan, and the LET and other organisations, which are operating against India from sanctuaries in Pakistan. Pakistan has been acting only against the Pakistani Taliban known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and co-operating with the US against Al Qaeda. It has not taken any action against the Afghan Taliban and the anti-India organisations, which it looks upon as strategic assets to promote its national interests in Afghanistan and against India. It has not taken any action against their terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory. There are two old definitions of what constitutes state sponsorship of terrorism given by George Shultz, the Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan, and George Bush, the father of the present President, who was Vice-President under Reagan. They gave these definitions after the terrorist strikes against the US Marines and the French commandoes in Beirut. They said that any State that provides sanctuaries or training or arms and ammunition, or funds or travel documents to terrorists is a state-sponsor of terrorism. In subsequent years, the State Department clarified that these facilities must have been provided by the guilty State repeatedly. One or two isolated instances would not bring a State under this category. The LET entered India via J&K in 1993. Before that it was active only in Afghanistan. Since 1993, it has been enjoying all these facilities in Pakistani territory with the co-operation or at least the connivance of the ISI. The accumulated evidence of nearly 15 years collected not only by the Indian intelligence, but also by the agencies of the US and many West European countries clearly shows the involvement of the ISI in propping up the LET and using it against India. There is, therefore, enough evidence to act against it.

How about the denials of President Asif Ali Zardari? He has even denied that the arrested LET perpetrator is a Pakistani?

This is nothing surprising. By his denials, Zardari has shown that he has the same reflexes as the previous Pakistani rulers. In 1999, regular Pakistani troops posing as militants infiltrated into indian territory. the Indian Army killed many of them. The Pakistan Army refused to accept the dead bodies of its own soldiers and contended that they were indian militants and not Pakistanis. It is immature on the part of us to expect that Zardari or any other Pakistani ruler would do a mea culpa.

Zardari says that India has not been able to produce any evidence against persons living in Pakistan whose arrest and handing-over it has been demanding.

The people, whose arrest and handing-over India has been demanding fall into four groups. In the first group are the Khalistanis, who hijacked Indian aircraft to Lahore. Pakistan terminated the hijackings and returned the aircraft, but refused to hand over the hijackers to India for trial. The hijackings were covered by the internatinal media, including the press conferences addressed by the hijackers. Pakistan did try Gajendra Singh, the hijacker of the Dal Khalsa. The court found him guilty and sentenced him to imprisonment, but he was allowed to spend the period in a gurudwara instead of in a jail. He used to meet and address the Sikh jathas visiting the Nankana Sahib in the Lahore area. When Pakistan was asked to re-arrest him and hand him over to India for trial in cases pending against him in Indian courts, it denied that he was in Pakistan.In the second group are Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon, who are wanted for trial in India in connection with the March,1993, Mumbai blasts. The evidence against Dawood Ibrahim has been produced not only by the Indian intelligence, but also by the US intelligence as could be seen from the press release dated October 16,2003 of the US Treasury Department. The third group consists of terrorists from J&K operating from Pakistani territory such as Syed Salahuddin, the Amir of the HM. The fourth group consists of Pakistani nationals such as Maulana Masood Azhar, the Amir of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), Hafiz Mohd Sayeed, the Amir of the JUD etc. Pakistan's stand has been consistent, whoever might be the ruler. In the case of the Indian nationals in the first two groups, it denies their very presence in Pakistani territory even though sections of the Pakistani media have been reporting about their presence and activities in Pakistani territory. In the case of the Kashmiris in the third group, it denies that they are Indian nationals and projects them as freedom fighters and not as terrorists. In the case of the Pakistanis in the fourth group it says that India has not been able to produce any evidence against them.

Since India and Pakistan became independent in 1947, there has not been a single criminal case involving a Muslim in which it has extended mutual legal assistance to India---- whether it was a case of terrorism, robbery, cattle-lifting, narcotics smuggling, rape or even child sex. It has had no hesitation in handing over nearly 200 Muslims suspected by the US as Al Qaeda members to the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the US without following the due process of law, but it has never handed over a single Muslim criminal to India for trial. Even in the case of the US, it avoids handing over persons whose interrogation might bring out their links with the ISI.A typical example is the case of the accused in the Daniel Pearl murder case. Another typical example is that of Dawood Ibrahim. The ISI is worried that his interrogation outside Pakistan might bring out his involvement in the nuclear proliferation activities of Pakistan.

How about the role of the Pakistan Army?

There are two defining characteristics of the mindset of the Pakistan Army. It thinks that its nuclear and missile capabilities have given it a psychological parity with India and will enable it to continue to indulge in terrorism against India without fear of a retaliation by India. It thinks that the Indian policy-makers are not prepared to take the risk of a military option for fear of provoking a nuclear confrontation. It has also convinced itself that the US will not allow India to choose a military option due to the same fear of a nuclear confrontation. It thinks that its strategic position and its role as the so-called frontline state in the US-led war against Al Qaeda will guarantee that the West will not exercise too much pressure on it to respond to Indian concerns. This mindset has to be changed through appropriate actions by India.

Mr. Raman has explained the matter clearly.

Let us all Sri Lankans against terrorism demand that diplomatic relations with Pakistan be immediately suspended.

May our illustrious President go down in world history as the leader who fought a moral, principled fight against international terrorism.

December 08, 2008

Tamil Tiger Links with Islamist Terrorist Groups

by Shanaka Jayasekara

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is known to have an active presence in several informal sectors such as credit card cloning, money laundering and human smuggling in Europe and North America. However, the LTTE has emerged as a formidable force and influence within the informal arms market and such has attracted collaborative arrangements with other terrorist groups. The LTTE has developed close relationships with several Islamist groups operating in such networks in a mutually beneficial manner.

In the early years of the Tamil militancy in Sri Lanka several Tamil groups received advanced military training from Palestinian factions in the Middle East. The first known contacts were established around 1978-1980 between London members of the Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students (EROS) and Syed Hameed of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) London branch. The PLO connection provided weapons training opportunities for a limited number of Tamil youth in PLO camps in Lebanon[1]. A member of the early batches that received training in 1978 from the PLO backed Al Fatah group, currently leads a Tamil political party[2]. In the period between 1980-1984, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), headed by George Habash, provided weapons training to several batches of PLOTE members (People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam) in PFLP camps located in Lebanon and Syria[3]. The Palestinian leaders provided much of the initial international exposure and support to the fledgling Tamil groups.

International expert on suicide terrorism Dr. Robert Pape, examining the proliferation of suicide operations, points out that the exposure to Lebanese training and tactics by Tamil groups influenced the adoption of suicide operations in Sri Lanka[4].

By the mid 1980s the Tamil Tigers had eliminated all other groups and emerged as the most ruthless Tamil group in Sri Lanka. It also absorbed the trained combatants of other groups. The Tamil Tigers which until then had received most of its training and weapons from the Indian Intelligence Services (RAW and Third Agency), found the experience and knowledge of Palestinian trained combatants compatible with its ruthless tactical repertoire. On the 5 July 1987 the Tamil Tigers conducted their first suicide operation. In the period between 1990 and 2000 the Tamil Tigers had conducted over 168 suicide operations[5].

Prior to the current conflict in Iraq, the LTTE carried out the largest number of suicide operations by any terrorist group. The LTTE transformed suicide operations which terrorists had considered an esteemed tactical approach used exclusively against high-value targets, to a production-line approach. The formation of a standing suicide army known as the Black Tigers is a reflection of the mass-scale production line approach of making the human bomb a common everyday weapon. The LTTE introduced the concept of "soft target suicide operations" that effectively delivered a low-cost high visibility outcome to boost the image of the group. This radically transformed the tactical nature of all future suicide operations globally. Suicide operations were less about the target, and more about building profile and augmenting the image of the group. The LTTE innovated and improved detonation devices and concealment methods contributing significantly to the advancement in the technology used for suicide operations. With the beginning of the second Intifada in Gaza and the West Bank in September 2000, the use of mass-scale "soft target suicide operations" proliferated as part of the tactical repertoire of terrorist groups in the Middle-East. Thereafter from 2004, the Jama Al Tawhid wal Jihad, headed by Sunni cleric Al Zarqawi, which later affiliated itself with the Al Qaeda and conducted the largest number of soft target suicide operations in Iraq.

The LTTE maintained close relations with the Kurdish Support Group in France in the 1990s. The European network of the LTTE was modeled largely on the diaspora support networks operated by the Kurdish groups[6]. The former head of the LTTE international office, Lawrence Thilagar received a special invitation to speak at the inauguration of the Kurdish Parliament in Exile (KPE) on 12 April 1995 in The Hague, Netherlands. It is reported that the close contact between the LTTE and PKK resulted in the LTTE acquiring 11 surface to air missiles of Greek origin from the PKK[7].

During the period 1998 -2001 the Taliban regime in Afghanistan operated a major weapons procurement operation based at the Ariana Airline office in Sharjah. Much of the military hardware that the Taliban acquired through the Sharjah network was supplied by the infamous Russian arms dealer Victor Bout also known as the Merchant of Death. Victor Bout and his business associate Sanjivan Ruprah have supplied weapons and training to several West African rebel groups and are accused of involvement in the illicit diamond trade[8]. Victor Bout operated an air cargo service at the Sharjah airport known as Air Cess, which together with Ariana Airlines co-handled most of the military deliveries between Sharjah and Afghanistan[9]. It is estimated that the Sharjah network operated 3 to 4 flights daily between Sharjah and Kandahar transporting weapons and supplies to the Taliban[10]. During this period 17km away in Dubai, the LTTE also operated a cargo company known as Otharad Cargo, headed by Daya the younger sibling of Nithi a Canadian based member of the LTTE's KP Unit. It is suspected that Otharad Cargo acquired several consignments of military hardware as part of consolidated purchase arrangements with the Taliban's Sharjah network. It was also the function of Otharad Cargo to service the operations of the LTTE shipping fleet in the Gulf region. Officials of an Asian security agency believe Kumaran Pathmanadan (KP) head of the LTTE procurement unit (KP unit) traveled from Bangkok through Karachi to Kabul on 19 May 2001 and had meetings with Taliban officials on matters relating to the Sharjah network.

Information recovered from a Laptop Computer of a LTTE procurement agent now in the custody of a Western country provided detailed information on LTTE activities in Pakistan. The LTTE had registered a front company in Karachi which had procured several consignments of weapons for the LTTE and several other Pakistani groups. A shipment of weapons procured by this front company and en-route to Sri Lankan waters was intercepted by the Sri Lanka Navy and destroyed in September 2007.

Brian Joyce in an article in the Jane's Intelligence in November 2002 on Terrorist Financing in South Asia states that the LTTE shipping fleet provided logistics support to Harakat-al Mujahideen, a Pakistani militant group with Al Qaeda affiliations to transport a consignment of weapons to the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the Philippines[11]. The LTTE used a merchant vessel registered by a front company in Lattakia, Syria until 2002 to service most of the grey/black charters.

Since the United Nations arms embargo on Eritrea and Ethiopia, the Horn of Africa has evolved into a major hub for the informal arms trade. In opposition to Ethiopian military support to the Transitional Government in Somalia, the Government of Eritrea is accused of providing material support to the Islamist rebels in Somalia led by the Islamic Courts Union (ICU)[12]. The Islamic Courts Union which controls areas in Southern Somalia is a constituent member of the Union of Islam (Al Ittihad al Islamiya) headed by Hassan Dahir Aweys having close affiliations with the Al Qaeda. The Bakaaraha arms market near Irtogte in South Mogadishu is considered the central distribution point for the informal arms trade in the Horn of Africa. A report by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia under Security Council Resolution 1724 (2006) dated 18 July 2007, provides explicit evidence of Eritrean involvement in the transport of weapons to Somalia. The report provides evidence relating to the purchase of cargo aircraft by Eriko Enterprises in Asmara which is believed to be a front company of the Eritrean government to make regular weapons deliveries to Somalia[13]. The same company is also referred to by The London Times in a February 2007 article in which it claims to have evidence that General Tambi, of the Eritrean Defence Forces used Eriko Enterprises to charter several Antonov and Ilyusion transport aircraft from Aerolift Aviation to move large quantities of men and material to Somalia[14]. In addition, the UN report also states that the Eritrean government delivered a consignment of six SA-18 surface-to-air missiles to the Islamic Court Union in Somalia.

Eritrea has emerged as a major transshipment point and sanctuary for key players in the informal arms trade. The LTTE established a presence in Eritrea primarily to operate in the informal arms market. It is believed the LTTE maintains regular interactions with many armed groups including groups affiliated to the Al Qaeda operating in the Eritrean Network. The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee report dated 15 December 2006, explicitly stated that the Government of Eritrea provides direct support to the LTTE[15]. The Eritrean connection is extremely important to the LTTE, in fact LTTE leader Velupillai Prabakaran sent a personally signed fax to President Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea on 24 May 2006, communicating directly with a Head of State[16]. President Afewerki, prior to the secession of Eritrea from Ethiopia in 1993 led the Eritrea People's Liberation Front (EPLF) a rebel movement for the independence of Eritrea.

The UN report also indicates that most of the weapons flights to Somalia originate from the port city of Massawa in Eritrea. The report documents several Aerogem Aviation aircraft operated by Fab Air making regular deliveries to Somalia[17]. The LTTE shipping fleet is known to have a presence in several East African ports. In fact, on 23 May 1997, the LTTE vessel MV Limassol took delivery of a consignment of Motars from Zimbabwe Defence Industries at the Port of Beira in Mozambique [18]. The sea access from Massawa port in Eritrea provides convenient shipping facilities for the LTTE to transport weapons to international waters off the coast of Sri Lanka.

The LTTE had established a longstanding business relationship with Islamic groups in the Philippines. In 1990s, LTTE procurement agent Dharmakulaseelan was responsible for transferring funds from Canada to the Philippines for the procurement of specialized weapons[19]. Dr. Rohan Gunarantna in an article in the Jane's Intelligence in July 2001 on Islamist Rebels in the Philippines states that the LTTE sent two Combat Tacticians and Explosive Experts to Southern Philippines to train members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)[20]. In April 2007, Police Supt. Rodolfo Mendoza, of the Philippines Police stated that intelligence reports had alerted the Philippine authorities to several Tamil Tiger members visiting Abu Sayyaf camps in Southern Mindanao[21].

Unlike in Europe and North America, LTTE front organizations have not actively engaged in publicly mobilizing the Tamil expatriate community in the Middle East. This was mainly due to the less permissive environment and low tolerance regimes in the region. However, over the last two years LTTE members in Qatar have engaged in regular fundraising events. In November 2007, the LTTE cell in Qatar held a public celebration for LTTE Heroes Day in the Ar-Rayyan area in Doha. The LTTE members are also involved in violent intimidation of dissident Tamil supporters in Qatar. It is alleged that LTTE member Sukasan had brutally murdered a member of the Karuna Group in Sanya, Doha in February 2006 [22]. The LTTE has also established an embryonic cell to promote fundraising and shipping activity in Nicosia, Cyprus.

Conclusion

The links between the Islamist terrorist groups and the LTTE are not driven by ideological compatibility, but by the need to influence factors of pricing and convenience in the informal arms market. In most cases the LTTE has developed links with Islamist groups to organize consolidated purchasing opportunities. The LTTE with an annual budget of US$ 200-300 million, supported by an institutionalized procurement network, diaspora based technical expertise and a shipping fleet is a valued partner to other terrorist groups in negotiating procurement deals. The LTTE has the capacity to provide logistical support and facilitate training to partner entities. The LTTE has used its shipping fleet and technical expertise for the delivery of weapons and transfer of competencies most often driven by financial motives and lucrative commercial opportunities. (ENDS)

Courtesy: International Institute for Counter-Terrorism
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Footnotes:

[1] Gunaratna., Rohan, Indian Intervention in Sri Lanka, 1994, South Asian Network on Conflict Research, Colombo. (p137)

[2] EPDP Official website –Biography Section

[3] Gunaratna., Rohan, Indian Intervention in Sri Lanka, 1994, South Asian Network on Conflict Research, Colombo. (p156)

[4] Pape., Robert, Dying to Win : the Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, 2005, Random House, New York. (p142)

[5] Rohan Gunaratna, Suicide Terrorism : A Global Threat, Jane’s Intelligence (20 October 2000)

[6] Gunaratna., Rohan, Sri Lanka’s Ethnic Crisis and National Security, 1998, South Asia Network on Conflict Research, Colombo. (p243)

[7] Anthony David, Proliferation of Stingers in Sri Lanka, Jane’s Intelligence Review (01 September 1998)

[8] Farah., Douglas & Braun., Stephen, Merchant of Death, 2007, John Wiley & Sons Inc, New Jersey. (p156)

[9] ibid (p117-136)

[10] Gunaratna, Rohan, Inside Al Qaeda, 2002, Berkley Books, New York. (p189)

[11] Brian Joyce, Terrorist Financing in South East Asia, Jane’s Intelligence Review (01 November 2002)

[12] UN Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, Overview of DDR Process in Africa, 14 June 2007 (p13)

[13] Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia pursuant to Security Council resolution 1724 (2006) dated 18 July 2007 (p9).

[14] Jon Swain and Brian Johnson-Thomas, UK Sunday Times (18 February 2007)

[15] Senate Foreign Relations Committee Report, 15 December 2006 (p16)

[16] Copy of the Fax is available with an Asian security agency.

[17] Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia pursuant to Security Council resolution 1724 (2006) dated 18 July 2007 (p38).

[18] Vijay Sakhuja, The Dynamics of LTTE’s Commercial maritime Infrastructure, Observer Research Foundation, April 2006 (p5)

[19] Peter Chalk, CSIS Preliminary Analysis of the LTTE (Commentry No 77), 17 March 2000

[20] Rohan Gunaratna, Evolution and Tactics of the Abu Sayyaf Group, Jane’s Intelligence, 01 July 2001

[21] Cynthia Balana,Tamil Rebels sent Arms to Abus, The Inquirer (Manila), 08 April 2007

[22] Asian Tribune, News Report dated 8 February 2006 -

December 06, 2008

Notorious Track Record of Rajapakse Regime In Governance

Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe will under his own name submit a motion of no confidence against the government on December 8th citing primarily the controversial hedging deal.

The government has run into a storm of controversy over the hedging deal which will cost the state over US $ 400 million in losses.

The deal had led to infighting in the government with some ministers blaming Petroleum and Petroleum Resources Minister A.H.M. Fowzie and former Chairman, Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC), Asantha de Mel while Minister Fowzie told parliament last week that the entire hedging deal was the brainchild of Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal and cabinet approval was later obtaine d for the same.

Meanwhile, the UNP submitted a separate motion to parliament bearing the signatures of Chief Opposition Whip, Joseph Michael Perera and Parliamentarians Ravi Karunanayake and Dayasiri Jayasekera seeking two full days parliamentary debate on a host of items ranging from corruption to abductions.

The motion was originally a no confidence motion but at the last moment, Chief Whip Joseph Michael Perera had on his own initiative deleted the no confidence aspect of the motion and called for a debate.

The original motion approved by the UNP leader said in the concluding paragraph that, "This House resolves that this House has no confidence in the ability of this government to continue in office any longer."

The motion submitted to the Secretary General of Parliament on December 5th reads as follows:

We, the undersigned Members of Parliament do hereby give notice of the following motion to be placed on the Order Paper of Parliament and for necessary action thereafter.

Whereas the Government of President Mahinda Rajapakse through the implementation of the dubious Mahinda Chinthana has brought the country into a state of misery and to the brink of disaster and

Whereas the government through the corrupt "MIG aircraft" deal caused our defence establishment to purchase outdated aircraft jeopardising the air force and its personnel and

Whereas the government through the wasteful and irresponsible Mihin Lanka Project has committed a colossal sum of rupees, Rs. 6,000 million to resurrect the insolvent Mihin Lanka airline which has already squandered Rs. 3,250 million of public funds in all totalling to Rs.9, 250 million and

Whereas the government through the highly suspicious 'Hedging' deal entered into by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation with foreign commercial banks and our own Peoples' Bank, without the supervision of the Auditor General to purchase the fuel requirements of this country when the oil prices in the world market rose to 147 dollars a barrel in September 2008 which dramatically slumped to 47 dollars a barrel in December 2008 thereby depriving the public of enjoying the benefit of the declining oil prices in the oil market as the Sri Lanka Petroleum Corporation had committed itself and this country to a massive foreign debt of Rs. 2.5 billion to the banks and

Whereas if not for the timely intervention of the Supreme Court, the government in order to recoup the losses running into billions of rupees incurred in the 'Hedging' deal and would have imposed a further burden on the already suffering masses and

Whereas the Central Bank and the Finance Ministry are implicated in this "Hedging' transaction and

Whereas this government in furtherance of maintaining its precarious balance of power in parliament has dubiously, willfully and surreptitiously changed the peoples' mandate by purchasing corrupt Members of Parliament and

Whereas the government in order to maintain its political balance has created a jumbo cabinet of 110 ministers hereby making the people to bear the burden of maintaining these ministers by expending billions of rupees to sustain its flagging artificial majority in parliament and

Whereas all the monies which is being robbed from the people and squandered on wasteful exercises could be better used to alleviate the sufferings of the masses and

Whereas the government through intimidation, harassment, terror, abduction and the white van scourge has muzzled the media and unleashed a spate of violence and

Whereas the government through its notorious record of human rights violations has brought this country into disrepute in the eyes of the international community thereby pushing the European Commission to consider blacklisting the country resulting in the danger of losing the GSP + facility afforded to the garment industry of this country causing an imminent threat to nearly 250,000 persons employed in this sector, and

Whereas over the last three years the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse, has inflicted nothing but misery and agony on the people ad installed a culture of bribery, corruption, waste and nepotism and

Whereas the government has callously and surreptitiously increased the President's allocation to as much as Rs. 6,800 million for the year 2009 whilst denying the people their welfare benefits such as 'Samurdhi,' health, education and transport, and failed to give the promised salary increase to the public sector, the estate sector and the private sector and

Whereas the government has failed to provide any relief to the victims of the tsunami who are still living in refugee camps and

Whereas the government has failed to provide any relief for the thousands and thousands of internally displaced persons distributed in several refugee camps and

Whereas despite the fact that the government is fully aware that the opposition is fully supportive of the government in its war effort, it goes on to rely on the war to camouflage its misdemeanors and mismanagement and continues to foster ethic hatred and violence through the state controlled media.

We hereby request that the opposition be given two full days at the earliest opportunity to debate the matter set out above.

'Manmohan Singh Has Same Mindset Like Mahinda Rajaakse About Sri Lankan Tamils' -D.Pandian (C.P.I.)

PCPI126.jpg
The Tamil Nadu General Secretary of the Communist Party of India, D. Pandian says the unity of India will be at stake if the Congress Party Government does not address the Tamil issue in Sri Lanka and ensure a ceasefire.

In an interview with The Sunday Leader, Pandian could not give an assurance the LTTE Leader Velupillai Pirapaharan will agree to a negotiated settlement within a united Sri Lanka but said they will use their good offices with the Tigers to persuade them to enter into a peaceful settlement.

He also said if India fails to address this issue speedily the youth in Tamil Nadu may question the viability of continuing within the union of India.

Following are excerpts of the interview.

By Lasantha Wickrematunge in Chennai

Q. Mr. Pandian, you have been agitating for a ceasefire and a negotiated settlement for the Sri Lankan issue, particularly with regard to the devolution of power for the Tamil people. What is the basis for this push on your part?

A. The whole world knows the basic reasons for it. For more than five decades, the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka has not been resolved. If only the government had really wanted to settle the problem, it could have been done a long time ago. Instead, they thought that the people who demand certain political rights can be subjugated through force and that they can be kept under their thumb.

Such an attitude in any country particularly in the modern period will not yield results however mighty the power might be. Even if the opposite side is less in number, less in equipment, it can continue the battle using different methods. Because, the war methods have changed. The whole world knows it. Even a handful of individuals can terrorise an entire society and a nation. Should we promote it and encourage it? Is not the Sri Lankan government inviting such terrorist attacks against them?

The root cause is to settle the ethnic problem. If they think that the problem should be settled according to their terms, they can spell out. So that the other countries and the other side can express their opinion. They may demand some modification or amendments here and there. The world also can talk to both. They can appeal to the Sri Lankan government to concede a little more, and also appeal to the other side to accept it for the time being and restore peace.

Q. The Sri Lankan government is arguing that this is an internal matter and an issue of national sovereignty and that international players should not get involved in this process and that there are terrorist problems in several countries including in India and therefore, the government will deal with this situation, as it seems best. How would you respond to that?

A. We agree that Sri Lanka is an independent country and we don not want to infringe upon the sovereignty of that country. We respect it. But, if they think it is purely an internal matter, why are they seeking military aid from India, China, Pakistan, Israel and using not only the arms, but their personnel as well? If it is an internal affair, it is for them to fight and settle it.

The moment they started receiving military training in India, on our soil, and inviting our armed personnel to assist them, because, we do not know what they are doing on the ground, how they are operating. Such details, we do not know.

Q. But is India really helping militarily in that respect, except giving logistical support?

A. When the Sri Lankan President recently visited India, he openly said that 1200 Tamils have been inducted into the Sri Lankan army and they were all trained by India. What does it mean? It is like using my finger to pierce my own eye.

Q. So what do you intend to do about this situation?

A. That is why, when you started saying that I'm agitating. I will substitute that word. We are not agitating. We are only pleading, requesting and then demanding basic human rights and democratic rights, and we do not want any special power or special right to any linguistic sections. What the Sinhalese people are enjoying on the soil of Sri Lanka, let it be extended to the sons of Sri Lanka who are speaking Tamil. Nothing more.

Q. The position of President Mahinda Rajapakse in that respect is that he has already liberated the east of LTTE terrorism, and has given provincial council powers to a council elected, where a former militant, in fact, a former child soldier has become the Chief Minister. And he says that after clearing the north, he will also establish a provincial council there. Would you say that it would satisfy the aspirations of the Tamil people?

A. He is an elected President. And we respect him, as he has been elected democratically. When he says that 'I have liberated an area', what is the country that had committed aggression and captured the area? Let him say openly to the world from where and from whom did he liberate that territory. If he is the President of Sri Lanka, and speaks of sovereignty, I would like to know, wherein comes a liberated area within Sri Lanka? What happened to his sovereignty? What happened to his power?

Q. Mr. Pandian, given your experience with regard to the Sri Lankan situation, are you convinced that the LTTE, which is banned in India, will agree to a negotiated settlement within a democratic framework?

A. We will also plead with them. Because, in any event, even during the first world war, a peace treaty was signed. Even during the most cruel second world war, a treaty was signed. Even after any bitter, bloody war, there must be a peace agreement. Why is it for 50 years no such agreement has come in Sri Lanka?

Q. The Indo-Lanka Agreement came in 1987, but the LTTE did not accept it and continued to fight with the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF)?

A. What you say may be true. Let them resume it now. We will plead with the LTTE to accept it, come to the table and negotiate. Tamils all over the world will compel and persuade them to argue with the other side to attain all the rights they want and demand. When we say not to use arms and that a military solution will not do good, it applies to both.

Q. Would you say Mr. Pandian that it is your position and that of your party that there cannot be a separate state in Sri Lanka, that the LTTE's struggle or fight for a separate state is unjustified?

A. On that question, what we want now is the war to end. The primary duty rests with the Sri Lankan government to come out with a package with any programme and agenda to solve that problem. We will go through it and see whether it is satisfactory. And we will persuade the Tamil sections also to consider it seriously and try to avoid this internal quarrel.

Q. You in fact made an inquiry on what the LTTE's position is with regard to the ceasefire and the LTTE said in a statement that they were agreeable to a ceasefire. Following which you wrote to the Indian Prime Minister as well. What was the response that you got from the Indian Prime Minister to that request?

A. That is the crux of the problem. That is a very good question. The banned organisation operating under very serious constraints replies to our demand made in a public paper. But, a citizen, writing to our own Prime Minister is not getting even an acknowledgment.

Q. Does that mean that the position of the Prime Minister and the rest of the Congress government is that there should be no ceasefire?

A. They are not acting. At least they can speak out and say whether they want peace in Sri Lanka or not. Let us forget the quarrel between the LTTE and the government for a moment. Do you want peace in Sri Lanka or not? Does the President think that Sri Lankan can progress without restoring peace? For the development and even for the Sri Lankan Sinhalese to live, there must be peace in the island. Restore peace in that island. When peace is restored, it will do good to the Sinhalese and equally to the Tamils.

Q. How would you respond to the position of the Sri Lankan President on that very issue? He said that it is to restore peace and ensure economic development that he wants to militarily defeat the LTTE. Because the LTTE will never agree to a negotiated settlement and once the LTTE is destroyed, he will introduce a political package for the north as well.

A. I think he must be reading all the papers. Chechnya is a small place in Russia. And the Russian army is known for its ability and power. Even such a red army couldn't subjugate Chechnya. And they had to enter into an agreement to restore peace.

In today's world, the size and the number of population does not decide the whole thing. Rajapakse should understand that. He thinks that he can achieve. He says that he has liberated an area. He can also say that they have liberated the whole area and hoist the flag and say that his army has overrun the other side. Let him remember that the next day there will be some quarrel somewhere. I'm not an astrologer. But, as a politician, I can say that it will continue in different forms.

Q. President Mahinda Rajapakse has already ruled out even a resolution adopted unanimously in the Tamil Nadu State Assembly when he met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, where the President had stated that he is agreeable to a ceasefire provided the LTTE lays down their weapons. Going by the statements made by the LTTE, it is not willing to do so. Therefore, we have an impasse with regard to that issue. How do you think that deadlock can be overcome?

A. Now the main dialogue is between the central government and the Indian citizens. Because, we cannot directly speak to Rajapakse. But as a friendly nation, the Indian government should speak and exercise its influence. And in the name of humanism and humanitarian aid, they should call for a ceasefire. That is the duty of the Indian government. So, we are going to press the Indian government to speak out.

Q. But, hasn't the Indian government by implication rejected that call when you yourself say that the Indian government is training Tamil youth to join the Sri Lankan army, that they are giving military aid and logistical support? Doesn't that indicate that the Indian government would also want the LTTE militarily defeated?

A. I don't want to plunge into the motive. But, in Tamil Nadu, if the central government does not take speedy action to solve that problem, the political repercussions will be very bad for all the political parties in Tamil Nadu, not only for the Congress.

Q. Are you talking on electoral terms?

A. Not only in electoral terms. But for the unity and integrity of India. Because, the Tamil people feel, despite the unanimous resolution passed in parliament, despite speaking through the Chief Minister and all the political parties, when the central government is turning a blind eye to all these requests, then comes a big question as to where are we as Indians in India.

Q. Are you saying that there might be a demand for a separate state within India?

A. I may not raise it because I belong to the Communist Party of India (CPI). I may keep mum. The Congress Party may keep mum. But, we can't keep the mouths and the hearts of the people of Tamil Nadu.

Q. There is a perception Mr. Pandian that this issue is being agitated now because of the upcoming elections here in India scheduled, they say, around April?

A. Let me tell you, if they don't take speedy steps and try to resolve it quickly, those parties in Delhi who are now sharing power or ruling India will be wiped out of Tamil Nadu.

Q. Mr. Pandian, the question would arise that a similar situation to what is happening in the north where it is reported that over 200,000 people are internally displaced because of the conflict, a similar situation prevailed in the Eastern Province when the government was fighting the LTTE last year, using the government's terminology, to liberate the east from the LTTE. But, there was no outcry from Tamil Nadu or any other place at that time. Why now, when the government claims it is on the verge of defeating the LTTE in the north?

A. True. As responsible all India political parties, we have been raising it in the parliament assembly, and thought the government will respond and take speedy steps to solve it. When we found that nothing was happening, and the cries of the affected people reaching our ears, we cannot keep quiet.

Q. President's brother, the Senior Presidential Advisor, Mr. Basil Rajapakse was in New Delhi recently before President Mahinda Rajapakse's visit. Following which, a joint statement was also issued regarding certain agreements that were reached including the issue of the Indian fishermen who were shot. Are you satisfied with that agreement?

A. Not at all. They have shot four or five fishermen last week. Wounded fishermen are in the hospitals. They have not stopped it. They only shoot and deny. Then what is the mysterious force that is shooting and killing them? At least that must be revealed.

Q. Now some of these issues Mr. Pandian, you have raised in your letter to the Prime Minister. The CPI was until recently, till the dispute over the nuclear agreement, was part of the alliance government. Are you taking the position now that the Prime Minister and the Congress government are not responding to you because you had withdrawn from the government?

A. No. That may not be the reason for that. Because, not only the CPI, the entire Tamil Nadu is demanding, the central government's partner, the DMK is demanding.

Q. But, there has been at least some positive response to the claims made by Mr. Karunanidhi.

A. The mindset of Delhi is against the Tamil people. Not only Rajapakse, but Manmohan Singh also has a closed mindset.

Q. Is that because of the murder of Former Prime Minister Mr. Rajiv Gandhi?

A. What did they do in Tamil Nadu or in India after that murder? For your information, just to refresh your memory, I was the most seriously injured man in that blast. Because I was next to him. I should not respond to any issue subjectively simply because I was wounded or hurt. That is not the way. Innocent people are being slaughtered. Is it not a fact? Why don't you allow the media to go there?

When we want to send relief materials, we clearly stated that we do not want to send any politician or our volunteers to accompany the goods. We said that religious leaders will be sent to watch, supervise and console those affected people. Why is it that both, the Indian government and the Sri Lankan government, which prays to Lord Buddha had not responded to that request?

Q. But, haven't they agreed to allow the relief supplies?

A. No. It goes to them. Through them.

Q. Not to the government. According to the official statement issued, the relief supplies will be delivered to the Indian High Commission in Colombo, which will in turn distribute it through the UN agencies and the ICRC. That is the official position. Are you disputing that position?

A. I'm suspecting that position. I'm not disputing it. Because, the Indian government is also not very sympathetic towards the Tamils. I don't think these people will help them. They are sending arms. How will they feed them? Even if they go and supply very delicious food, do you think that the Tamil people will accept it?

Q. Is the Indian government in your view opposed to the Tamil people or to the LTTE?

A. That feeling is increasing in Tamil Nadu, which we want to prevent. But, despite all our efforts, it is gaining. That is the signal we are giving to the central government to wake up. Indian unity is going to be at stake.

Q. Because of, according to you, the lack of response from the Congress government?

A. Yes. Because India has been demanding for peace. Not only here, but, everywhere in the world. When the Suez Canal was bombed, it was our prime minister who issued a statement to stop the bombing. Wherever it happens in the world.

Q. But, isn't the Indian government in fact pushing for greater devolution? In fact Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had repeatedly called for an improvement on the 13th Amendment saying that there must be an improvement on the 13th Amendment when devolving power. Doesn't that indicate that the Indian government wants the Tamil people's political aspirations fulfilled?

A. You are helping me to simplify the answer. They said it is an internal affair. The Indian government's position is also that it cannot interfere, as it is an internal affair. How did Rajiv Gandhi go there? Why did he go there? Why did he sign an agreement with his Sri Lankan counterpart? He was then, the prime minister of India.

Similarly Jawaharlal Nehru and Lal Bahadur Shastri and so many had gone to Sri Lanka and had discussed with their Sri Lankan counterparts and signed agreements. Because, the problems are interlinked. It is not only a Sri Lankan problem, but an Indian problem as well. Inseparable Indian problem.

Q. How is it an Indian problem?

A. Your refugees are in camps here. We have been feeding them for the last 30 years. They are homeless people. What will happen to that generation? Where will they study? How will they go back?

Q. Mr. Pandian you made a very important and significant statement when you said that the people of Tamil Nadu are beginning to realise their status in the union of India is in question, because of the lack of response to the resolution by the Tamil Nadu state Assembly. Where would this situation lead to in Tamil Nadu?

A. That is what we are really afraid of. As a disciplined political party due to our ideology and commitments, I may not speak for separ