By Gandhya Senanayake - A provincial correspondent of the Daily Mirror newspaper lodged a complaint with the Ampara police today claiming he was threatened over the phone by the former Director of the Civil Defence Force Rear Admiral (Rtd) Sarath Weerasekera. Wasantha Chandrapala had contacted Sarath Weerasekera to get a comment over an incident in Ampara when he was allegedly threatened.
However when contacted by Daily Mirror online Sarath Weerasekera denied the charge that he had threatened the journalist and instead accused the scribe of attempting to create disharmony among the communities.
He further claimed Chandrapala was a person who made life hard for others and that he was involved in printing poster and leaflets that were defamatory.
Moreover Admiral Weerasekera added that he had tried to set an example through his election campaign and that he had no need to threaten the reporter.
© Daily Mirror
Monday, April 05, 2010
Monday, April 05, 2010
Gunmen shot dead a ruling party activist in Sri Lanka as campaigning for parliamentary elections drew to a close, police said Monday.
In the first killing ahead of Thursday's vote, a member of the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) was gunned down in the north-western district of Kurunegala on Sunday night.
"Gunmen travelling in a vehicle sprayed bullets into a crowd killing a UPFA supporter," a police official said.
President Mahinda Rajapakse, who leads the UPFA, is widely expected to consolidate his January re-election by gaining a clear majority at the assembly polls.
Rajapakse won with a thumping 58 percent in the presidential vote.
The private Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) reported 325 incidents of election-related violence by Saturday. Firearms had been used in 46 of the incidents, it added.
Sri Lanka has placed nearly 20,000 troops on alert to reinforce police as violence escalates ahead of voting for the 225-member national legislature.
Monday, April 05, 2010
By B.Raman - On April 1,2010, India and China embarked on a six-month programme to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. S.M.Krishna, the Indian Foreign Minister, is visiting China for four days from April 5 to join the celebrations.
Forgotten - at least for the time being - are the suspicions, distrust and harsh words of last year over the visits of Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh to India’s Arunachal Pradesh State on the Chinese border in the North-East to campaign for local candidates in the elections and of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh at the invitation of the local people. China claims Arunachal Pradesh as its territory and calls it Southern Tibet. It wants India to hand over to China under the border negotiations under way without progress at least Tawang if not the whole of Arunachal Pradesh.
The Chinese have a long memory. They have not forgotten that one of the old Dalai Lamas was born in Tawang and that the present His Holiness fled from Tibet into India in 1959 across the border in the Tawang area. They have made it clear that there will be no border agreement unless India transfers at least Tawang to China. That would mean the exodus of the Indian population from the territory handed over to China. No Indian Government, however popular, may be able to sell such a transfer favourable to the Chinese to the Indian Parliament and people.
2009 was full of alarming reports about the Chinese further strengthening their military infrastructure in Tibet and Chinese military patrols repeatedly intruding into Indian territory. Faced with opposition criticism of its perceived inaction against the growing trans-border assertiveness of China, the Government of India pressed ahead with an already ongoing programme for strengthening its military infrastructure in the Indian territory. India is many years behind China in developing its infrastructure in the border areas.
2009 also saw non-governmental Chinese analysts discussing in seemingly unofficial web sites and blogs the options available to China for teaching India a lesson should it become necessary. A repeat of the humiliating defeat of 1962 was one such option discussed. Taking advantage of the various separatist movements in India in an attempt to balkanize the country was another. An article on possible Indian balkanization by an unknown and insignificant Chinese analyst added to the already strong Indian suspicions of China.
China was active and assertive not only in the border areas. It has been equally so right around India’s periphery. Taking advantage of the suspicions and distrust of India in the other States of the South Asian region, China, which is not a South Asian power, has acquired a growing South Asian presence.
It continues to help Pakistan in further strengthening its nuclear and missile capabilities which are directed against India. After having completed the construction of the Gwadar commercial port on the Baloch coast, it has promised to develop it further into a modern naval base which would be available for use to the Chinese Navy too.
It won the gratitude of Sri Lanka by supplying it arms and ammunition to crush the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and is embarked on the expansion of the Hambantota commercial port, which might one day be developed into a naval base. A grateful Sri Lanka has given a block for gas exploration to a Chinese company without inviting bids. India was given a block for exploration without bids and China was treated on par with India.
There are as many Chinese tourists visiting the Maldives as Indian and a Chinese bank has been allowed to operate in the Maldives to meet the foreign exchange needs of the Chinese tourists.
In Bangladesh, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, despite her strong friendship for India, has continued with the look East policy of her predecessor Begum Khalida Zia and strengthened the links with China. During her visit to China in March, an agreement was signed with a Chinese company for oil/gas exploration in Bangladesh. She also sought Chinese help for the upgradation of Chittagong into a modern deep sea port. Her Government has sought to calm Indian concerns by reassuring India that India will also be allowed to use the Chittagong port modernized with Chinese help.
At least, Sri Lanka and Myanmar have sought to treat India on par with China by granting it equal rights of oil/gas exploration, but Bangladesh has not given any such contracts to India due to strong local opposition to India playing any role in the development of its energy resources.
Sheikh Hasina also discussed with the Chinese plans for linking Yunnan with Bangladesh through Myanmar by a modern road. If the Chinese company finds oil or gas in Bangladesh it is only a question of time before the Chinese production facilities in Bangladesh are connected with those in the Arakan area of Myanmar so that oil and gas from Bangladesh can flow direct to Yunnan through the pipeline connecting Arakan with Yunnan now being constructed.
In Nepal, China is looking for a road link to connect Nepalese roads with those in Tibet and for an extension of the railway line from Lhasa to Nepal.
Thus, the Chinese have been developing their infrastructure of potential military significance around India’s periphery. The Chinese think and plan long-term. Indian response is ad hoc. Just as New Delhi woke up late to the likely threats by land from the North, one realizes belatedly that the threats are from the South, East and West as well.
Whatever limited influence India has in South Asia is in danger of being eroded by the Chinese inroads. India is yet to work out a comprehensive response to it. All the sweet words of the 60th anniversary cannot hide this harsh reality. ( 3-4-10)
B. Raman is Additional Secretary(retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
© Eurasia Review
Monday, April 05, 2010
By Kusal Perera - It was baking hot inside, despite the air conditioner’s effort to cool us on the run. Dusty and dry it was, for straight and long kilometers, behind and ahead of us. We were waved to a stop by a youthful soldier in a “cama” kit. As the driver pulled up by the specially fortified bunker, another young armed soldier came up to the vehicle. I rolled the shutter down, with a slight smile.
«From where ?» He was right, if he guessed I was a Sinhalese and asked where we were heading to, late in the evening.
To Mannar, I said. After a few pleasantries, I asked him whether there is still checking along the route.
«No….no checking….only very random». So, it was a random stop with a bit of Sinhala and we were off again.
After Adappankulam, we entered the Mannar District, on the A-14 route. The 80 km deviation from Medawachchiya town, that almost six months ago, started with a very heavy armed barricade and a check point, had no clue of any, now. No hint(s) of any elections either.
There were war time army bunkers on both sides of the empty road, almost every 50 metres. They looked deserted now, accept for the electric lamp and a clothes line at the rear, never allowed during the long and agonising war.
The “fingerland” which is Mannar, now hooked to the mainland by the “Peace Bridge” declared open by President Rajapaksa on 18th last, had more life. Mannar town was dressed up for the coming elections with an abundant display of posters and cut-outs of the all powerful minister. Now and then there were others too, who claimed they are “a true friend” or “the leader” of the Wanni people. Guess, the people knew these faces, on posters.
North of Mannar town, in Pesalai, fishermen now enjoy their catch, after long years of restrictions. They talk no politics in Pesalai. Yet they had their own strong resentment of Indian trawlers and fishing boats, encroaching their waters.
“Once we caught them and handed to the police. Every week they come…..” said a middle aged fisherman on the beach.
“That was a long time ago…” chipped in another. “Then LTTE warned us not to intervene… they had deals with Indian boats,” he explained.
The war no more and no LTTE either, the Indian boats are no less. The parish priest said they often see Indian boats close to the shore, unhindered. There is some business going on in this sea, the fishermen claimed.
The SL Navy now guards the coast. Rt. Rev. Bishop Dr. Rayappu Joseph had handed over an appeal to the President at the opening of the bridge, that requested Tamil fishermen the right to stay in Mullikulam, the southern most point of Mannar District, close to Wilpattu. The navy is taking over the Mullikulam coast line, displacing these villagers, said Bishop Rayappu.
Meanwhile the IDPs resettled Wanni area, that can be travelled through by any, starts with an army security check point at Uylankulam junction. The checking is strict, stern and tidy. The road thereafter had deserted army bunkers now and then. Coloured posters of smiling men and a woman too, decorated some bunkers. In Tamil, they probably promised prosperity, if voted.
A few kilometres from there towards Vidaththaltheevu, we met a few elderly people, squatting in front of a half shelled old house. On the opposite side, two houses remain shelled into debris.
“That’s my house…” said a faint voice. She meant, one of those totally flattened houses. “We left this area in July or August,” she added. Another added, “in 2008”.
The army from the Thalladi camp had battered the village with heavy artillery, they said. People then started moving to the interior. Thereafter, for over nine months, they have been on the “move”, each shifting of location reducing kith and kin, increasing the wounded and the disabled, dragging in more whole villages. A remnant family we met, had 17 displacements during their trek towards Mullaitivu.
In between these long, hazardous and unpredictable “moving”, some had broken off from the growing waves of human flotsam, to creep into thick jungle. Some to escape military shelling and some to escape LTTE atrocities. Most had nevertheless believed the LTTE would at some point stop the military onslaught. So they kept moving east, in growing herds.
“Those God wanted, are still here…” said a slim old gentleman, looking far into the lonely road that stretched towards Adappan, his eyes cold and menacingly silent.
We wanted to meet some government officer in the area. There was none. These areas are still wild. It is survival of the fittest in this land that no candidate would bother even to promise anything. There are no structured government appendages that rule and no organised social life. They did not know whether they are registered voters in this “Democratic Socialist Republic” or not. Did they bother ?
“If we get some thing proper to start life…..” an elderly gentleman said, looking at me with moist eyes. “…why elections…..for us ?” He wasn’t interested in finding out, if he is a voter.
There is no electricity and no clean water properly distributed. There are no wayside boutiques that sell the ordinary folk their ordinary consumer stuff, even if a relative could send some money.
Some land at odd intervals were greening with paddy. The army provided a tractor for ploughing said the parish priest, who helped translate the dialogue. Seed paddy and some fertiliser came under a UN scheme. Most families don’t have young men to do cultivation, said the elderly person.
They still live on the WFP ration of dry food. It includes rice, flour, sugar, dhal and powdered milk, said the only middle aged lady among the crowd. Any supplementary food ? “In the camp…….some organisations provided…….not now,” she said. “Now, NGOs are not coming……it is difficult now than in the camp…..but we are free….our children are free…..”
Some one asked her, if the ration they get is enough. She tried to smile. She said they cannot cook dhal, because there are no spices.
“How to cook dhal with only water ?” she asked.
Did they get all things promised for resettlement ?
“God gives us what we deserve” said the slim old gentleman. “Not what others promise?”
We moved through Wanni, on the road to Vavuniya. After an hour or so, after passing a sprawling, guarded IDP camp site, we stopped at the Mother Teresa “Missionaries of Charity” centre. They had some left overs of the war under them. The old, the displaced, the orphaned hundreds. Some were mentally depressed.
I asked a ’sister’ about the camps we passed.
“Which one ?” she inquired back. “One for LTTE women?”
So, there was one camp that held young girls as Tiger “cadres” under tight security. The numbers, they didn’t want to guess. A priest is sometimes allowed for service, the sisters told us. But they spoke little else. “We work inside here,” the sisters smiled, politely.
So we moved out again. But with an unanswered question. How long will all those displaced families in Wanni take to breath this fractured freedom, in their own villages ?
“Not that soon” said the parish priest. “They are mostly from east of A-9 road…. where the war was bitterly concluded.”
With no election promises on quick resettlement, we had to leave heaps of untold stories, that some day would glue the bits and pieces we collected, into the larger tragic story of these Wanni people, in this war.
© The Sunday Leader
Monday, April 05, 2010
As Sri Lankans go to the polls to elect members to the fourteenth parliament on Thursday, April 8, police and election monitors say the battle for preferential votes is turning ugly and for the first time in history, intra- party clashes account for the majority of the incidents of violence.
According to the Police Elections Secretariat, of the 300 incidents of election related violence reported by the end of the week, the majority are related to intra party rivalry over preferential votes, directed by candidates of the ruling UPFA against each other.
“Around 50% of the violence has been directed at UPFA members by others in the same party. We fear that in the coming days violence will increase overall in Nawalapitiya, Matale, Dambulla, Eravur, Kantale, Gampaha, Kurunegala and Hambanthota. Since the police are not doing anything to apprehend election law violators, there is a culture of impunity,” the spokesman for the Campaign for Free and Fair Election, Keerthi Tennakone told Lakbimanews.
Thirty five thousand elections monitors would be deployed by ten election monitoring bodies. There will be no foreign monitors.
In addition, a massive security contingent of 78, 2000 would be deployed on polling day and its aftermath. This includes 58,700 police personnel and 19,500 military personnel, head of the police election secretariat senior DIG Gamini Navaratna said. He further said police would deploy the Special Task Force in areas prone to violence. Accordingly, the STF would be deployed in Gampaha, Matale, Kurunegala and Anuradhapura, an election department official said.
Seven thousand six hundred and twenty candidates will contest for 225 seats in parliament, including 29 national list slots.
© Lakbima News
Monday, April 05, 2010
Sri Lanka placed nearly 20,000 troops on alert to reinforce police as violence escalated ahead of parliamentary elections, a police spokesman said Sunday.
The private Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) reported 325 minor incidents of poll-related violence in the run-up to Thursday's vote, with firearms being used in about 50 cases.
Hundreds of people had been wounded in the clashes between campaigners, but no deaths have been reported.
The military will be on stand-by to assist the 60,000 police already deployed for election-related security duties, spokesman Prashantha Jayakody said.
"We are intensifying security in areas where there had been more violence," Jayakody said. "The military will not be deployed inside polling booths but they will help us in places where there could be trouble."
The ruling Freedom Alliance of President Mahinda Rajapakse is widely expected to win Thursday's assembly elections, the first since his government crushed separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in May last year.
Rajapakse won re-election with a thumping 58 percent at the January 26 presidential vote and he called the parliamentary elections two months ahead of schedule.
Police said they had received 270 polls-related complaints and 200 people had been arrested.
Monday, April 05, 2010
Click here to read the Himal article
Click here to read The Economist article
The March issue of the Himal magazine and April 3 issue of The Economist have been detained by the Customs Department due to two articles published in the two publications.
The controversial article in Himal is a comparison of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the late President J.R. Jayewardene while The Economist article deals with funds allocated through NGOs for projects in Sri Lanka. The Himal March issue, which had arrived in the country in early March nor The Economist magazine, which was to go on the stands yesterday (3) have been released by the Customs.
Owner of Vijitha Yapa Bookshops, Vijitha Yapa said that whenever a magazine is imported into the country the Customs Department studies the contents before releasing the consignment. If there are any articles considered controversial, the magazine is referred to the Information Department and the Director General of the Media Center for National Security, Lakshman Hulugalle.
According to Yapa, it is not clear if the Himal March issue and The Economist April 3 issue would be released by the Customs Department.
© The Sunday Leader
Monday, April 05, 2010
Jason Burke in Jaffna - Vanaja Uma Khanta is waiting for the 794 bus to Kodikamam. It has been a long time coming. The queue for the bus stretches all the way down the yellow concrete shelter and mixes with that for the 794 for Kanakamuydady. Despite the crushing heat and the delay – in part caused by the arrangements for a political rally attended by newly re-elected president Mahinda Rajapaksa – the crowd waits quietly.
Khanta, a 45-year-old seamstress, has not attended the rally, which comes ahead of parliamentary elections on Thursday. "I am not interested in politics," she says, before contradicting herself with long and impassioned sentences. "We must have our rights. In whatever system, our rights must be safeguarded."
"We" are Sri Lanka's Tamil minority, between 10 and 15% of the country's 22 million inhabitants. The "rights" are an end to decades of what Tamils say is discrimination in employment, culture and language, as well as freedom of speech and association. Almost a year after the final defeat of militant separatists the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the question for Sri Lankan Tamils now is how these aims should be achieved.
The Tigers' answer had been a separate state – Tamil Eelam – in northern and eastern areas of the island where the Tamils, who are predominantly Hindu, largely live. The Tigers emerged in the 1980s as deep-seated Tamil grievances against the largely Buddhist Sinhalese majority boiled over into violence. They systematically eliminated all potential opposition in the areas they controlled. This, along with the Sri Lankan government also targeting Tamil politicians, means, independent analysts in Colombo say, that there is no one to fill the gap the disappearance of the separatists has left.
Dozens of interviews in Jaffna reveal that few continue to endorse the demand for a separate Tamil homeland, the key aim of the LTTE and one recently endorsed by a "referendum" of the Tamil-origin population overseas organised by activists.
"There is peace now. Before there was war and times were very difficult," said Bimal, a 26-year-old clothes seller in Jaffna's busy bazaar. "We don't want to go back to all that."
Almost all interviewed, some by a local reporter, said a Tamil homeland was now "impossible". Talking about it was "a waste of time", said P Theepan, a 40-year-old administrator.
Many still have deep concerns, however. Some fear a loss of identity. Already, there is resentment at tourists coming from the south."Jaffna is being invaded by Sinhalese. We are losing our culture," said S Kandasamy a 65-year-old farmer.
Others worry what development might mean, saying that "the arrival of mobile phones and CDs" had led to a rise in "unmarried pregnancies and abortions". Almost every interviewee felt that Tamils needed to be represented by Tamil parties and politicians, that their rights needed to be protected and that a federal system was the only solution.
Explicitly calling for separatism is a serious offence in Sri Lanka, but key political leaders have also now distanced themselves from any demands for an independent Tamil homeland. The veteran leader of the moderate Tamil United Liberation Front, 77-year-old Veerasingham Annandasangaree, told the Observer: "If that nonsense starts up again it will be the end of the Tamils."
The main Tamil opposition group, the Tamil National Alliance, long considered close to the LTTE, has said it would accept a "federal structure" in the north and east provinces of Sri Lanka. Only the splinter Tamil People's National Front, launched a month ago, reportedly remains committed to "the Tamil nationhood, homeland, sovereignty and right to self-determination".
However, though some minor reforms are possible, President Rajapaksa has made it clear he prefers economic development to heal the nation's ethnic divides. He told the rally in Jaffna that he had ordered the reconstruction of rail and road links, as well as water projects. It is a recipe that has brought the populist president much support in Sinhalese areas, and Jaffna – depopulated by decades of war and emigration – is well behind the rest of the country in economic terms.
"There are no religious or racial problems. There are no racial politics. You all have a bright future," Rajapaksa assured the crowd.
In the provinces that have suffered decades of conflict – and a terrible climax to the war, with fighting that allegedly saw indiscriminate artillery bombardments of civilians held by the LTTE as human shields – redressing grievances may take more than economic investment. The coming poll will be a test of Tamil sentiment. No one doubts Rajapaksa's ruling coalition will win. However, analysts will be watching to see which parties emerge in Tamil areas as potential voices for their disoriented community.
Whatever the result, the wait in Jaffna – for the 794 bus and for much else – is likely to be long.
Monday, April 05, 2010
By Nadia Fazlulhaq - Journalists were taken by surprise when they received an official letter from the Ministry of Mass Media and Information reminding them to declare their assets and liabilities on or before April 30.
The letter, dated March 23 and signed by W. B. Ganegala, Secretary to the Ministry of Mass Media and Information, said the information was required under the provisions of the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities (Amendment) Act No. 74 of 1988. The deadline given was April 30.
When asked by the Sunday Times why a dormant law was being suddenly implemented, Mr. Ganegala refused to comment, but admitted that neither media institutions nor media personnel have declared their assets and liabilities since the law was enacted in 1988.
In the letter, Secretary Mr. Ganegala said newspaper proprietors, editors and editorial staff were required to declare their assets and liabilities to the Mass Media and Information Ministry Secretary.
According to Chulawansa Sri Lal, convenor of the Free Media Movement, the surprise letter has caused a stir among journalists and media organisations. “This sudden decision on the part of the Ministry Secretary has sparked a lot of speculation,” he said. “Media people are asking whether this could be an attempt to suppress the media. The Secretary owes us an explanation.”
Mr. Sri Lal asked why Mr. W. B. Ganegala had not enforced the declaration of assets and liabilities when he was Secretary to the Media Ministry under a previous administration.
Those covered by the Act include Members of Parliament; candidates nominated for Presidential, Parliamentary and local government elections; officer bearers of recognised political parties; editors and editorial staff of newspapers; and the chairman, directors and staff officers of companies registered under the Companies Act No. 17 of 1982 where the majority of shares are held by the state or by a public corporation.
Other public servants obliged to declare their assets and liabilities are judges and public officers appointed by the President; judicial officers and scheduled public officers appointed by the Judicial Service Commission; public officers appointed by the Cabinet of Ministers; staff officers of ministries and government departments, the chairman, directors, members of boards and staff officers of public corporations; elected members and staff officers of local authorities, and the executives of trade unions registered under the Trade Unions Ordinance.
According to People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) director Rohana Hettiarachchi, only a handful of persons out of the 7,600 candidates at this week’s General Election have submitted their declaration of assets and liabilities.
“Election candidates were given three months from the date of their nomination to declare their assets, and only about five have done so, but no action has been taken against those who haven’t, nor have they been sent any reminders.
“A large number of Members of Parliament have become public representatives without declaring their assets.” Meanwhile, no declaration of assets reminders have gone out to trade unions.
“At the end of each financial year, a total accounts report is submitted to the Labour Registrar, who is the Commissioner General of Labour. But there is no request for the assets of the trade union leaders,” said U. Palihawadane, president of the Joint Public Servants’ Union.
Nihal Jayawardena, a Western Provincial Councillor for the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), said Provincial Council members were expected to declare their assets and liabilities on being elected to the Provincial Council.
Ceylon Teachers Union president Joseph Stalin said final income expenditure reports were usually sent to the Labour Registrar.
© The Sunday Times
Monday, April 05, 2010
A Sri Lankan woman taken into custody last month for writing books about her conversion to Islam for Buddhism is being investigated for possible links to Islamic extremists, police said Saturday.
Last weekend, police said the woman, identified as Malini Perera, was taken into custody under tough emergency laws over allegations of "anti-state" activities but they did not elaborate.
But on Saturday, police spokesman Prashantha Jayakody said Perera was being held while police investigate "possible links to Islamic militants."
"She has not been formally charged yet because police are still investigating the case," Jayakody told AFP.
He accused the writer of "insensitive religious writings."
The author, a native Sri Lankan who is resident in Bahrain, was detained while holidaying on the island after trying to mail copies of her books to undisclosed recipients abroad.
The books are titled "From Darkness to Light" and "Questions and Answers."
Perera's lawyer, Lakshan Dias, said the writer was a victim of religious intolerance.
"Her writings don't insult any religion. They're a collection of opinion pieces on the way Buddhism is being practised," Dias told AFP.
He rejected allegations that his client had any links to religious extremists.
Majority-Buddhist Sri Lanka projects itself as a secular country but is highly sensitive to any debate on Buddhism.
Last month, Sri Lanka refused a visa to US singer Akon after Buddhist monks and almost 12,000 people on social networking site Facebook complained about one of his videos featuring women in bikinis dancing near a Buddha statue.
Home to 20 million people, 70 percent of Sri Lankans practise Buddhism and live peacefully alongside others who follow Islam, Hinduism and Christianity.
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