Saturday, May 22, 2010


Since 24th January, journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda remains missing. A cartoon exhibition named "Cave Art of 21st Century" was held in Colombo from 18th to 20th May, organized by his family members and friends.

In an interview, Sandhya Ekneligoda, wife of the missing journalist reveals their plight saying: "Both my kids are mentally down. Younger son complaints about various ailments; complaints of chest and stomach pains. Elder son is feeling hatred. I am trying to hold my family together and move".

© Villagemonk's Channel

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Half a million people affected by floods in Sri Lanka

By W.A. Sunil and Kapila Fernando - Floods caused by heavy rain in several areas of Sri Lanka have affected more than half a million people, and taken at least 20 lives. Torrential pre-monsoon rains were worsened by cyclone Laila, which formed in the Bay of Bengal.

The worst-hit districts are Colombo, Kalutara and Gampaha in the west. Many other areas in the south, northwest, east, north-central and inland are also inundated. According to the disaster management ministry, nearly 180,000 people in Gampaha, 140,000 in Colombo and 91,000 in Kalutara are affected.

On Thursday, government officials declared an emergency situation in the Nuwara Eliya district of the central hills. Tea plantations and poor workers there face the threat of landslides.

Although cyclone Laila is moving away from the island, strong windy conditions will continue, leading to showers in the Western, Central, Sabaragamuwa and Southern Provinces, according to the Meteorological Department. Bus and train transport remains severely curtailed because of flooding.

Many parts of Colombo have been flooded, disturbing normal activities. Those most affected are poor shanty dwellers living in low-lying areas, on canal banks and along the Kelani River. More than half the capital’s population live in shanties—many are street hawkers or do odd jobs. In the Kalutara district, south of Colombo, farmers and workers in small plantations have been badly hit. Flood waters have cut off some villages.

The government media reported that President Mahinda Rajapakse held an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss the floods, but allocated just 80 million rupees ($US700,000) for the hundreds of thousands of victims.

Disaster Management Minister A.H.M. Fowzie was forced to acknowledge the inadequacy of the allocation. Saying that he was forwarding a cabinet proposal to increase the meal allowance of 30 rupees per person, he added: “I want to double the amount. It is shameful to give 30 rupees for a meal when I know the present price of food.”

Rajapakse has ordered the authorities to remove the people living along canal banks in Colombo and its suburbs, and to “take prompt action against the unauthorised constructions that led to this situation”.

While these orders were presented as a sympathetic effort to assist flood-affected families, there is suspicion that the government is using the emergency to clear shanties as part of a plan to develop Colombo as a commercial hub. On May 7, the government began to remove poor families from the city when soldiers and police demolished houses at Slave Island in central Colombo.

To divert attention from its own responsibility for the massive toll taken by the floods, the government has started blame-shifting. Minister Fowzie accused the Colombo municipal authority of failing to clear drains and culverts. He also declared that residents were responsible for dumping polythene and refuse in canals, blocking them.

The floods are a result of a natural disaster. However, the responsibility for the severe consequences, particularly for poor people, lies directly with the government. Successive governments have promised housing, sanitary facilities and infrastructure but nothing has happened. At the same time, billions of rupees have been spent on the security forces, first to pursue the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and now to enforce the government’s pro-business and austerity measures.

On Thursday, WSWS correspondents visited flood victims in Kotikawatta-Mulleriyawa, on the outskirts of Colombo. Nearly 300 people have taken refuge in a local school, while 630 families are still living in flooded houses.

They blamed the authorities for their plight. A mechanism to pump excess water from the area to the Kelani River had been abandoned after only one year. Residents had also demanded houses elsewhere but to no avail. The government had ignored several protests against the dumping of garbage by a private company, which had contributed to floods.

At the school, men sleep on the floor while women and children sleep on school desks. Most are ill, suffering from fever and cold. Sanitation facilities are poor, threatening the spread of disease. Seventy families share two toilets. There is not enough clean drinking water, and the school roof is leaking.

None of the affected families had permanent jobs. Some were street hawkers; others did odd jobs. Their now-flooded housing also lacked basic facilities—most houses had no toilets. People generally blamed governments and politicians for not solving these basic problems, despite repeated requests. The most common comment was: “Politicians have done nothing. They only visit us in election periods and provide some roof sheets.”

Santhi, 35, described her experience. Her husband was a street hawker at Pettah in central Colombo for nine years, until the government removed street sellers from that area. They have three children, two of whom are going to school. “After losing his job [in Pettah] he tried to do street hawking in Grand Pass [another area in Colombo]. But the police arrested him and kept him for one day. So I started selling plastic goods and incense sticks, going house to house. Now, due to this flood situation, we have lost that income, and we have no way of sending the children to school. No government has cared for us. We have no confidence on any of them.”

Maneesha, 33, said: “My husband did daily odd jobs. We have two children going to school. He has no income due to the floods, and the children are ill because of the floods. We have demanded that every government make our lands higher to prevent floods or provide alternative land. We have been suffering for the past 20 years.”

A further 125 people who lived on the banks of the Kelani River had been staying at another school in the area for five days. During that time, they had received only three meals from the government, forcing them to depend on the supplies from the Red Cross and neighbours. There is only one toilet, which they must share with the school’s students.

Selvaraj, a three-wheeler driver, said: “I can’t do my job due to this situation. I earn only 500-600 rupees per day. Six of us had to live on that. Although the government promised relief after the war, we have had none. Again they are going to increase fuel prices, so our current income will decline further.”

Rani said her family of six depended on her husband to do odd jobs. “Now we lost even that limited income. Although the government claims in the media to be giving us relief, we have received no such relief. In our homes, we had no facilities and not enough room. There was nowhere for children to play. We also suffer from diseases due to the dumping of garbage in the area. We have not been given deeds for our houses, despite our requests. We are considered unauthorised settlers.”

© World Socialist Web Site

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

International groups call for war crimes inquiry after new photos

Complete photos can be viewed here.

By Andrew Moran - The Coalition to Stop the War in Sri Lanka (CTSWSL) has joined the Human Rights Watch (HRW), the International Crisis Group (ICG) and Amnesty International calling for an independent international inquiry into Sri Lanka's alleged war crimes.

It seems more information is coming out of Sri Lanka as to whether or not the President Mahinda Rajapaksa government committed war crimes and human rights violations.

International reports of war crimes in Sri Lanka

On Tuesday, during the Tamil one-year civil war anniversary memorial remembrance, Channel 4 News published an article that stated the killings of Tamil civilians were ordered from the top of the Sri Lankan government. A Sri Lankan senior army commander and a soldier said the orders were to kill everybody and were “received from the top.”

The ICG also released a report on Monday showing that the Sri Lankan security forces had “shelled civilians, hospitals and humanitarian operations.” The information was gathered through witness testimony, government documents, satellite images and other means.

New photos

On Thursday, a series of five photos were released through the HRW, which showed a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebel with his body covered in blood. Later photos showed the detainee dead, which has brought concerns that the man was killed by Sri Lankan forces while he was in custody.

After closer examination, according to a forensic expert, the back of his head was severely injured, “This would indicate severe trauma to the back of the head consistent with something like a gunshot wound or massive blows to the back of the head with something such as a machete or ax.”

Although it is not conclusive that the man was killed by the Sri Lankan army, who was identified as a long-term member of the LTTE, HRW believes an investigation is needed. There are also concerns that women were raped, tortured or mutilated because there are dead women in the background wearing LTTE uniforms with their shirts pulled up and pants pulled down.

The Tamil community responds

Senthan Nada, a Toronto Tamil and spokesperson for CTSWSL, said the international community and the government of Canada should do its best to ensure justice is brought to the nation of Sri Lanka and convene under the “auspices of the United Nations.”

“How could our sense of human attachments could be rested, knowing that Sri Lankan government and its armed forces were responsible for slaughtering more than 40,000 our kith and kin and maiming a 50,000 more including tens of thousands of our children in matter of few days in the May 2009,” said the Toronto spokesperson.

Nada further explained that truth and justice would eventually lead to indentifying the culprits involved in the recently released images and that the perpetrators “have done nothing but damage the relations between ethnicities in order to hold onto power.”

In the end, says Nada, “true reconciliation” would lead to an ultimate solution for the Tamils who want to have rights, freedoms and the right to self-determination.

© Digital Journal

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Senior Officials Delegation participates in EU-Sri Lanka GSP+ Dialogue

A delegation of Sri Lankan Senior Officials led by the Attorney General Mohan Pieris, which included Treasury Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundara and External Affairs Secretary Romesh Jayasinghe, met with Senior Officials of the European Commission in Brussels on 20-21 May 2010 to continue their dialogue on Human Rights in the context of GSP+.

In an agreed statement issued, the two sides said "the meeting focused on Sri Lanka's recent actions and intentions, in particular relating to those areas highlighted by the report of the European Commission. Both sides agreed to continue with the ongoing dialogue."

Sri Lanka's Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union Ravinatha Aryasinha, Minister (Economic & Commercial) Dr. Dayaratna Silva, Deputy Solicitor General A.H.M.D. Nawaz, Director/Europe Manisha Gunasekera and Assistant Director/UN Poshitha Perera of the External Affairs Ministry, and Second Secretary (Political) Madhuka Wicremarachchi assisted the delegation in the talks.

© Asian Tribune

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sri Lanka likely to get delayed IMF millions soon

The International Monetary Fund is likely to release a delayed bailout loan of more than 300 million dollars to Sri Lanka within four to six weeks, an official said Friday.

The island had asked for a 2.6 billion dollar IMF bailout package, to avoid its first balance of payment crisis, after the island's foreign reserves fell below one billion dollars last year.

The loan was approved in July, two months after the military crushed the Tamil Tiger rebels and ended a 37-year conflict that claimed 100,000 lives according to United Nation figures.

The government delayed presenting its 2010 budget until June 29, due to the April parliamentary polls.

"If things move smoothly, the third tranche, worth about 318 million dollars, could be released within four to six weeks," Brian Aitken, head of the IMF mission to Colombo, told reporters at the end of a 10-day visit.

The tranche was delayed in February, after Sri Lanka overshot its 2009 target of seven percent. The gap came in at 9.7 percent, Aitken said.

He said Sri Lankan authorities had outlined policies to raise revenue, cut spending and move towards a sustainable deficit reduction this year.

President Mahinda Rajapakse, who is also the island's finance minister, had promised to raise tax revenues and introduce fiscal reforms in this year's budget. More fiscal reforms are expected in the 2011 budget.

Aitken said the government has shown progress towards pruning its excessive spending and boosting revenue.

"The numbers we have discussed so far are very encouraging," he said but declined to elaborate.

"Revenue raising measures will come from ongoing tax reforms which are to broaden the tax base, cut down on tax holidays to investors and lower taxes in some areas," he said.

Sri Lanka's 42 billion-dollar economy is forecast to grow at 6.5 percent this year, from 3.5 percent in 2009, Aitken said.

Since the IMF bailout package was approved, Sri Lanka's foreign reserves now stand at a record 5.3 billion dollars, boosted by international investor interest in the island's sovereign bonds.


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