By Shamindra Ferdinando
An authoritative Sri Lankan naval spokesman told The Sunday Island: "the visit will promote bilateral relations and mutual cooperation between the two countries and help Sri Lanka to enhance security in a post-LTTE era."
Admiral Verma will be accompanied by his wife Madhulika and a group of senior navy officers. They are scheduled to meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne, External Affairs Minister G.L.Peiris, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Chief of Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal Roshan Gunatilleke and the service commanders.
Admiral Verma is also scheduled to attend a SLN passing out parade at the Naval and Maritime Academy in Trincomalee during his almost week-long stay here. He will grace the occasion as the Chief Guest.
Sri Lankan Navy Chief Vice Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe had an opportunity to meet Admiral Verma during the 19th Sea Power symposium held at the Naval War College in the USA and the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) held in UAE.
With a displacement of 6,700t, overall length of 163m and beam of 17m, the Delhi Class is the largest warship built in India. The ship, which is fitted with sophisticated anti-ship, anti-aircraft and anti-submarine sensor and weapon systems, is commanded by Captain S. Srikant.
During the fourth phase of the Eelam war, India helped Sri Lanka to enhance her offshore patrolling capacity, which enabled the SLN to destroy several LTTE floating arsenals on the high seas. India went to the extent of giving two of her OPVs (Offshore Patrol Vessels) for deployment in the war against the LTTE, though there had been some problems, primarily due to domestic political reasons in India.
Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa says despite annihilation of the LTTE’s conventional military capacity, the Navy will have to be further strengthened to meet any eventuality. The Navy alongside the intelligence services, he says should be the first line of defence to thwart a fresh LTTE threat.
In a brief interview with The Sunday Island, the war veteran emphasized the pivotal importance of developing a cohesive approach as part of an overall strategy not only to tackle the LTTE, but enhance regional security as well.
Sri Lanka’s first priority in a post-LTTE era would be to thwart any attempt to revive the sea smuggling network to bring in arms, ammunition and equipment and trained cadres, he said. A desperate LTTE rump would now do anything to restore at least one sea supply route, he said adding that the country could not ignore that about 12,000 LTTE cadres were either captured or surrendered during the last phase of the war.
"The Somali pirates have caused an unprecedented international crisis by targeting ships over a period of time. A few years ago, no one would have expected a rag-tag force to challenge international sea routes, but today the international community is struggling to contain the threat," he said.
Recently Indian authorities arrested three persons suspected to be supporters of the LTTE with thousands of detonators in Tamil Nadu's Triuchirapalli district. Of them 4,900 were ordinary detonators and 430 electric detonators.
The trio had stayed in Chennai, Tiruchirappalli and Erode without registering themselves as from the island nation, the police said.
The arrests came four days after a member of LTTE was nabbed by the state police.
Sri Lankan military and External Affairs Ministry emphasized the importance of strengthening cooperation to meet any eventuality. Sources pointed out that a recent attempt by the NDTV network to sour Indo-Lanka relations by accusing the SLN of crossing the Indo-Lanka maritime boundary to attack Indian fishermen. It alleged that about 300 Indians had been killed at the hands of the SLN since the conclusion of the war, a charge denied by Navy headquarters.
© The Island
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Sunday, June 27, 2010
According to the army website Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasuriya said this after meeting the most Ven. Thibottuwawe Sri Sumangala, Maha Nayake Thera of the Malwatte Chapter and the Ven. Dr Niyangoda Vijitha, Anu Nayake Thera of the Mallwatte Chapter at the monastery in Kandy today.
“Army personnel arriving in those areas for duty are to be provided permanent houses and allowed to engage in cultivation work if they so desire. A large segment of the Army, including the Engineer Services are constructing highways, bridges, houses, factories, etc in those areas and this will save a lot of money for the government”, the army website quoted the Army Commander as saying.
© Daily Mirror Online
Sunday, June 27, 2010
By Feizal Samath
The UN secretary general Ban Ki- moon on Tuesday appointed a three-member panel headed by the former Indonesian attorney general Marzuki Darusman to look into accusations of war crimes during the last few months of Sri Lanka’s 30-year civil war which ended in May last year.
The UN and western powers have persistently raised concerns over the human rights situation during the conflict, particularly during the last three month when thousands of civilians were reportedly killed. Sri Lanka has vociferously denied charges of targeting civilians and claimed the rebel Tamil Tigers, who were defeated by government troops, used them as a human shields.
In a bid to stave off international pressure, President Mahinda Rajapaksa last month appointed the Reconciliation and Lessons Learnt Commission to investigate accusations of rights abuses between February 2002 and May 2009.
G L Peiris, Sri Lanka’s foreign minister, told reporters on Thursday that the UN move was unwarranted and uncalled for because Sri Lanka had appointed its own commission, and that no visas would be given to the panel members to visit Sri Lanka.
Mr Darusman was quoted as saying the move to bar panel members from visiting Sri Lanka was unfortunate. “Everybody loses out if we cannot go to Sri Lanka. It will make it harder for the truth to be unearthed,” he told the BBC on Friday.
Dr S I Keethaponcalan, the head of the political science department at Colombo University, said that while the UN panel was unlikely to lead to serious international action against Sri Lanka, the move may force the government to take further measures to show it is acting on the abuse allegations.
“The recent appointment of the Reconciliation and Lessons Learnt Commission here is a move to placate the international community,” he said.
Colombo refused entry last year to an investigation team from the European Union (EU). Sri Lanka had applied in 2008 to receive a second round of zero-duty concessions for local exporters, but the EU said it was concerned about the civil and political rights situation in the country and appointed a team to investigate before granting the concessions.
Although the European investigators were barred from entering Sri Lanka, their report was then presented late last year based on submissions by Sri Lankan human rights groups and trade unions while there was no input by the government.
In February, the EU said it was rejecting Sri Lanka’s application for trade concessions but gave Colombo until July to show it was making improvements in the country’s human rights.
Last Tuesday, the EU issued an ultimatum, asking the government to take steps by July 1, including the creation of independent commissions to appoint members to the judiciary and the police; the release of prisoners detained under emergency rule, which is ongoing; and the abrogation of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, under which suspects can be detained without trial for long periods.
The government, in a statement, swiftly rejected the conditions and said it was not prepared to take any of the measures.
Political writers in Colombo said the UN panel was unlikely to change the government’s stance as it is largely toothless. “If it was a probe committee, that would have been a serious issue. But this panel is serving as an advisory committee to the secretary general,” said Mohamed Ayub, a political columnist for the Colombo-based Daily Mirror newspaper.
Mr Keethaponcalan, the political scientist, said Sri Lanka has many friends in the international arena that could counter any adverse impact over the appointment of the UN panel. On Friday, Russia, a staunch Sri Lankan ally, criticised the UN move, saying Mr Ban had not consulted the Security Council or the General Assembly on the matter.
Both the UN panel and the dispute over EU trade concessions have dogged Mr Rajapaksa’s government for several months since the May 2009 end of a bitter and bloody war unleashed by Tamil rebels demanding independence.
© The National
Sunday, June 27, 2010
By Tisaranee Gunasekara
Poverty and unemployment compel many Sri Lankans to seek employment in foreign lands. Many of them leave young families behind. The tragedies which befall these families are public knowledge, their pathetic tales having motivated so many newspaper articles, books and tele-dramas. But the full extent of the dangers faced by the migrant workers themselves is neither well known nor properly documented. A developmental strategy which is not aimed at lessening the economic burden of the lower and middle classes will drive more and more Sri Lankans to seek employment abroad, even at the risk of their lives. For instance, the ongoing spate of price increases will cause a massive hike in real costs of living (as distinct from manipulated official figures); this in turn will result in a drop in living standards, especially of people on the lower end of the economic totem pole.
Given the crucial role these workers play in our economy, ensuring their protection is a duty of the state and the government. And yet, official indifference to their little tragedies is the norm; according to family members of the victims, “authorities were slow in making arrangements to bring the bodies back home or probe the deaths” (The Sunday Times – 2.5.2010). A Lankan expatriate worker dies or is killed everyday but these deaths are invisible in the political and public discourse, in the media and in popular culture; the issue is not discussed in parliament and no commissions or committees are appointed to propose remedial measures. Even our diplomatic representatives often fail to offer help and protection to these migrant workers, as sporadic media revelations indicate.
High growth rates do not necessarily mean higher employment levels or improved living standards for the have-nots (those who posses neither money nor connections, who are often less educated and unskilled). There can be iniquitous growth (growth with an increase in relative and absolute poverty) and jobless growth (growth with an increase in unemployment levels). Available evidence indicates that Sri Lanka is currently experiencing jobless and iniquitous growth. According to a nutrition and food security survey conducted jointly by the Health Ministry, the UNESCO and the WFP, Lankan households spend 37.9% of their monthly income on food while nearly a third of the households borrow money for their purchases. The monthly income of 39.1% of the households is less than Rs. 9,000 while 32% of the households ‘did not have enough food’ at least once during the previous 12 month period. In short, around one third of the Lankan households earn less than Rs. 9,000 a month, spend almost 40% of that income on food, are in debt and find it difficult to make ends meet even then. Men and women from such backgrounds have very little option in terms of employment and it is safe to assume that most of the Lankan migrant workers in West Asian countries are from such backgrounds. So long as this situation does not improve, Lankan men and women (especially the latter) will continue to seek employment in any place they can find it, including in dangerous and distant lands.
Myth and Reality of the GSP+
According to media reports, the EU has imposed strict conditionalities for the extension of the GSP+ concession and the President has rejected these conditionalities as an unwarranted attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of the country. Some Rajapakse loyalists define the conditionalities as a new European invasion which must be resisted by all patriotic Sri Lankans.
If the GSP facility is not be extended, as is very likely, the hardest hit would be garment factory workers, many of whom the sole or the main breadwinners in their households. Given the intensity of the global economic crisis, Lanka’s chances of finding alternative markets for her garments are miniscule. Consequently, many garment factories may have to curtail their operations or close down altogether.
As a result, a considerable number of garment factory workers will either lose their jobs or face severe wage cuts, which in turn would have a deleterious impact on the living standards of their families. Therefore the loss of the GSP+ will have a disproportionately adverse effect on those already at the bottom end of the income totem pole.
According to the latest media reports, the EU is willing to discuss the issue further while the Rajapakse administration is not. Therefore a compromise solution may still be possible if the regime departs from its counterproductive ‘all or nothing’ stand. Since the Rajapakses are willing to compromise with the demands made by International Financial Institutions, why not adopt the same flexible attitude towards the EU? The IFIs lend money after imposing conditionalities. Sovereign governments do not reject IFI funds because of this reason; they negotiate with the IFIs to get the best deal possible. This, for example, is how the Rajapakse administration obtained the last IMF loan; the recent spate of tax hikes and subsidy reductions are aimed at qualifying for the next tranche of this loan by meeting the IMF conditionality about the size of the budget deficit.
Why did the Rajapakses opt not to adopt such a flexible approach towards the EU? Contrary to government propaganda, the main issue in this instance is not national sovereignty. The main issue is that the EU conditionalities, unlike the IMF conditionalities, impact adversely on the Rajapakse project of concentrating all power in the hands of the President, and through him, the Ruling Family. The Rajapakses do not mind national sovereignty being violated so long as it has no impact on their Dynastic project and to their capacity to act with gross impunity. This is the real reason for the regime’s vastly different reactions to IMF conditionalities and EU conditionalities.
One of the main EU demands is the implementation of the 17th Amendment. The 17th Amendment wasn’t a foreign imposition like the 13th Amendment. It was proposed by the OPA and by the JVP. It was approved by parliament with the full backing of the PA and the UNP. President Mahinda Rajapakse, then a parliamentarian, voted for it as well. The 17th Amendment is a part of our constitution and of our law. The regime by failing to implement it, in fact by deliberately delaying its implementation, is acting counter to both the constitution and to the law of the land. A democratic regime cannot use the principle of national sovereignty to violate democratic rules or to justify the non-implementation of the constitution and the law of the land. National sovereignty does not give a government the right to act with impunity, in total violation of a country’s constitution and its national law. Therefore, when it comes to the 17th Amendment, the government is in the wrong and the EU is in the right, because, by ignoring the 17th Amendment the government is acting unconstitutionally and illegally while by upholding the 17th amendment the EU is merely asking the government to act within the Lankan constitution and the Lankan law.
The GSP+ issue is not a heroic battle by a beleaguered government to safeguard the national sovereignty of a small island nation. The issue is far more complex than that. At least to some extent, this crisis has erupted because of the Ruling Family’s iron determination to concentrate all power in its hands, and its willingness to act not just undemocratically but also unconstitutionally to achieve this purpose. The Rajapakse regime’s refusal to implement to abide by the Lankan Constitution is a major causal factor which has jeopardised the vital GSP concession, thereby endangering the livelihoods of tens of thousands of poor Sri Lankans.
Who pays the Bills?
According to media reports, the regime has said that losing the GSP facility will not have a catastrophic impact on the country. Indeed, losing the GSP facility will not have a catastrophic impact on the Rajapakses. However, losing the GSP facility will certainly have a catastrophic impact on the families of garment factory workers who may loose their jobs as a result; or on small scale entrepreneurs who have indebted themselves to start micro export enterprises aimed at European markets. And whatever the impact on the national finances will be passed on to the masses in the form of higher taxes, higher prices and reduced subsidies.
Sri Lanka is rapidly progressing into a government by the Rajapakses, of the Rajapakses and for the Rajapakses. The nature of the Constitutional reforms clearly indicates that their main purpose is neither national security nor popular wellbeing, neither democracy nor development, but the perpetuation of Rajapakse rule. That is why removing presidential term limits forms the centrepiece of the proposed constitutional amendments. Another amendment gives the President the power to appoint members to the independent commissions, thereby effectively turning them from independent commissions to presidential commissions.
Even as the regime paved the way for a spate of price increases by hiking taxes and removing subsidies, the cabinet voted to increase fuel, telephone and rent allowances to the ministers. This is but the latest indication that when our leaders talk about making sacrifices for the country, they mean that the sacrifices will have to be made by ordinary citizens and not the political elite. Though the government is in financial difficulties, this has not prevented another Rajapakse brother from trying to endow himself with a grandiose office building at an enormous cost to the public. Some years ago, Minister Chamal Rajapakse tried to purchase the Intercontinental Hotel to house his ministry; this spendthrift idea was dropped after the media exposed it. Now Basil Rajapakse is said to be negotiating to purchase the former British High Commission building for his Ministry of Economic Development. Obviously Sri Lanka has money enough when it comes to indulging the capricious whims of the Ruling Family.
The IMF conditionalities have a disastrous impact on the living conditions of the ordinary people but they would not have a direct impact on the Rajapakse project; the EU conditionalities will not have a deleterious impact on the living conditions of the masses but they would impact adversely on the Rajapakse project. That is why a government which is willing to abide by IMF conditionalities is not willing to entertain EU condionalities. Because, contrary to propaganda hype, this is not a pro-people government even thought it is still a popular government, at least in the South.
© Asian Tribune
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Thousands of victims went abroad abandoning their homeland and their way of life, making up the critical mass of the Tamil Diasporas now scattered the world over. The atrocities upon them had a profound, lasting, and often a ripple effect on their lives, breaking up their family structures and their ethereal foundations. Very soon will come a time when a Tamil child in Denmark will not be able to communicate with their first cousin in England for Danish would be the only language that they could speak.
The term “reconciliation” used in calling the new commission; namely, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, designed to deflect the allegations of war crimes and genocide by sections of the international community, is a misnomer just as much as its motives are fraudulent. However, the commission affords an opportunity to apologists of Sri Lankan war crimes and the racist war, like Akashi from Japan and others who frequently enjoy the lavish hospitality of the Sri Lankan government, to hang on to it in defence of its war crimes and human rights abuses. Indeed, Akashi would be familiar with the manner that the Japanese treated their prisoners of war during the Second World War but certainly not the abhorrent massacres of non-combatant civilians who were citizens of his own country, if there were any, or, for that matter, in any other country. We are glad that the term “Truth” is not part of what the commission would be called as originally intended for the Sri Lankan State is incapable of the truth.
After Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948 no conciliatory measures were taken by the Sinhala leadership to treat the Tamils as an integral part of a Sri Lankan nation. Guided by xenophobic fears, considerations of racism, and unfounded mistrust, the Sinhala body politic, through its majoritarian politics offering the semblance of democracy, went on to alienate the Tamil people not only through discrimination but also by the use of periodic violence against them, emanating even from parliamentary debate inciting violence against them. Every effort of conciliation between responsible Sinhalese and Tamil leaderships was thwarted by violence engineered by the Sinhala polity unleashed on the Tamil people forcing them to abandon any hope of conciliation thus rendering the need in the minds of the Tamils by the 1970s that they should revert to being a separate nation distinguished by their culture, status quo ante 1833.
What is now happening in the north and the east in reality are a far cry from any reconciliation! The atrocities, the political, economic and cultural oppression of the Tamil people by the military — not permitting the Tamils to resettle in their homes on the pretext of the lack of water facilities and electricity and the need to de-mine their own homes are not without the blessings of the Rajapakse establishment.
The deliberate naming of streets and villages only in the Sinhalese language is not without Rajapakse’s knowledge. The increasing militarization of the north and the east ruled over as a police State by the military amounts only to adding insult to an already devastated and traumatized people claimed to have been “liberated”, trying to retrace their bearings and heal their own wounds. This does not in any way help in the reconciliation process.
Instances of rape by the military, abductions and disappearances keep mounting. Almost 10,000 suspected militants taken away from the IDP camps are said to have been summarily executed with no trace remaining. We are often told of youth being rehabilitated while they are, in fact, persons who have had nothing to do with the LTTE militancy arrested willy-nilly and released.
These are a recipe for the crystallisation of greater hatred for the Government and the Sinhala polity making the conviction for a separate Tamil State and self determination more resolute. The Tamil nation is a secular society as opposed to an ethno-religious entity, embracing all religions but for some strange reason no Tamil is a Buddhist unless one had had aspirations of being the prime minister. To create newly illuminated and glaring Buddhist temples and statues of Lord Buddha like those of Venus de Milo the Aphrodite of the Greek Milos to make a point of triumphalism in the midst of destruction and desolation of the homeless Tamil people and their meager habitation amounts not only to humiliating them but also prostituting the greatest philosopher, the noble Lord Buddha, and his teachings to make a point of Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism. Lord Buddha was neither a Sinhalese nor a Sri Lankan.
It is by an accident of history that Sri Lanka became predominantly Buddhist because the Mauryan king Asoka of India became a Buddhist with the view to expiating his sins of the killing of soldiers on both sides in a war and sending his emissaries to the Sri Lankan king, who was a Tamil, to spread the message of the Buddha. It is not anything like Sri Lanka becoming predominantly Sikh in the present context!
It is said that the Reconciliation commission is to inquire into the causes that led to terrorism, the lessons to be learnt from this, and the path to reconciliation. Even an eighth grade civics student will tell you that that the main cause that led to “Tamil terrorism” was reaction to the terrorism, periodically and systematically unleashed on the Tamil people by the Sri Lankan State, the inequalities, the disregard for their traditional homelands and discrimination. If one refuses to learn from this, then you are not anywhere near the path of reconciliation but only earning their mistrust if that is of any concern.
No mention anywhere is made of the role of the Sri Lankan State and the Sinhala body politic in progressively alienating the Tamil people, giving the impression that it it was all their doing.
The credentials of the commission are, itself, suspect. The Commission is to be headed by the former attorney general whose record in the area of administration of justice when it comes to Tamil issues is far too dubious for any credence to be attached to the commission. He was largely responsible for impeding the course of justice in the special Presidential commission, another sham, appointed to inquire into the wanton killing of 18 Tamils working for the French INGO by the Special Task Force of the military and the killing of the 5 Tamil university students by the security forces in the east of Sri Lanka, making a mockery also of the committee of internationally eminent persons appointed to oversee the working of this commission. They, it would be recalled, disbanded themselves in frustration.
Also, we are informed that as a state counsel he played a major role in preventing further action into the massacre of more than 50 Tamil remand prisoners suspected of being LTTE persons awaiting a judicial inquiry, tortured and bludgeoned to death by some “patriotic” Sinhalese prisoners, released for this purpose, who were also inmates of the Welikade prison the principal State prison in Sri Lanka, during the 1983 State sponsored Pogrom against the Tamils. Rajapakse could not have got a better chairperson.
The best that Mahinda Rajapakse can do to help in the reconciliation process is to abstain from shedding crocodile tears in public, internationally and locally, on the present plight and the misery of the Tamil people which only angers them, rendering any spirit of reconciliation increasingly impossible. It would be unwise to underestimate the intelligence of the Tamil people even in their present state of mind.
© Dissident Voice
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Addressing a seminar organised by the party on finding a solution to problems faced by the Sri Lankan Tamils, he said that there was a huge difference between the terms ‘united' and ‘unitary' as the former referred to a federal Constitutional system akin to the one practised in India whereas the latter was not so.
He went on to state that at present there were two aspects to the issue: one was to immediately address the humanitarian problems faced by the Sri Lankan Tamils and the other was to work towards a political solution to the long pending problem of the Tamil minority in the neighbouring country.
On the humanitarian front, attention should be given to ensure relief, resettlement and rehabilitation of the Tamils. Steps must be taken to cease the poor conditions in which the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) were living in the camps and there must be international supervision for which the Sri Lankan Government must agree.
The Sri Lankan Government should also allow international agencies to create conditions of resettlement of the IDPs and that process must be started forthwith. An early resettlement plan was important to discourage attempts to bring in a demographic change by asking the majority population to migrate to minority dominated areas.
“This will cause future tensions and this must not be allowed by the international community,” Mr. Yechury said.
He added that the government of the neighbouring country must take all efforts to rehabilitate the Tamils by introducing various welfare measures such as advancing loans and subsidised agricultural materials to restart cultivation.
Simultaneously, a political solution should also be worked out on giving complete autonomy to the Tamil speaking areas in the North and East.
“This autonomy must be given on federal principles and not on unitary principles,” he stressed and added that Tamil must be implemented as an official language of the island nation in order to restore confidence among the Tamil speaking population.
“We share an emotional bond with Tamils in Sri Lanka,” he said and added that slogan mongering would not be of any help to the beleaguered population of that country. Only concrete solutions as suggested by the CPI (M) could bring in peace and normality.
© The Hindu
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