Saturday, February 12, 2011

Food shortage looms for flood-hit Sri Lanka

By Hellene Hoffman | ABC News

A major food shortage is looming on Sri Lanka's east coast after heavy flooding.

Thousands of hectares of farmland, 75,000 cattle and several thousand more chickens have been lost to this year's flooding.

In the costal districts of Trincomalee and Batticaloa the season's rice crop has been destroyed.

Surrounding areas are already reporting major increases in the prices of fresh produce, while some of the worst affected villages are surviving on dry rations.

The government has just released 25,000 metric tonnes of rice from its buffer stocks to keep prices stable.

© ABC News

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Violence still plagues my Sri Lankan homeland

By Emil Van Der Poorten | Edmonton Journal

If anyone told me 10 years ago that I would be sitting down at a keyboard to produce a piece such as this, I would have said they were nuts.

I was born before the Second World War in Sri Lanka and lived the first 35 years of my life in an affluent, landowning family. As a consequence, I was saved the usual challenges that most citizens faced in a developing country in southern Asia.

The imposition of land reform that severely restricted the extent of land I was permitted to own had a serious negative impact on my ability to earn a livelihood because the division of plantation land into a maximum of 50-acre parcels did not provide an economical agricultural unit. In addition, there was the clear and present danger of that 50 acres being appropriated by a government that saw anyone who had opposed it in the previous election as being fair game for victimization.

Off to Canada I went, with a wife, a young daughter and an infant son, at the end of 1973.

While the travails of integration into a new society and economy did present challenges, we had those challenges significantly cushioned by family already established in Ontario and by English being our first language. After two years in Toronto, we moved west; first to southern Alberta and then to the north-central part of the province.

When we first arrived in Ontario on a snowy December night, questions about culture shock were more than relevant, and they were asked. We answered, quite honestly then, that it wasn't an issue. A part of it "not being an issue" could well have been the fact that grappling with the challenges of a new life in a new country -- inclusive of earning a living -- consumed whatever energy we could muster.

However, when we moved, in 1981, from Claresholm to Slave Lake, there was need for acculturation and adaptation to a different life. Here, in the isolated communities of northern Alberta, getting water from a hole in a frozen lake to one's home before the pail froze over constituted "running water." I do exaggerate, but not too much.

Despite the often desperate conditions of the Cree of the North, with whom I worked in a preventive social services program, I count the six years I spent among them and the white folks of the area as the greatest of my 32 years in Canada. My lasting impression of the northern aboriginal people was of their warmth and great sense of humour, a very necessary attribute if one was to survive in often desperate circumstances.

In 1989, we moved, after 15 years in small-town Alberta, to Edmonton.

A political junkie from early in life, it wasn't long before I became active in the New Democratic Party. Beginning with presiding over a constituency association in Slave Lake in the heady days of the mid-to late-'80s when the NDP's popularity peaked, I went on to employment as an organizer for the provincial party and then to manage provincial, federal and territorial election campaigns in several parts of Western Canada.

Then, for a variety of personal reasons, I decided a few years ago to return to the land of my birth and, specifically, to my ancestral home. Despite protests, particularly from a new partner in life, I was soon contributing articles with political content to four of Sri Lanka's Englishlanguage Sunday papers.

As anyone who has been politically active in Canada will vouch, getting a rude reception at the door or over a phone line when canvassing for a candidate is a disconcerting experience until one puts things in perspective and realizes that such hostility comes only from a small percentage of the Canadian electorate.

While I had also experienced the mild violence of Sri Lankan politics in the '60s and '70s, I certainly wasn't prepared for what I encountered in terms of murder and mayhem when I returned.

The Mahinda Rajapaksa government ran a superb public relations campaign when they had the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam on the run and in the last year of "Eelam War IV." This included demonizing any and all "peaceniks" and declaring open season on anyone having the temerity to criticize them. This continued after the war ended and, in fact, its pace has accelerated.

"Human rights" has become a term of opprobrium and anyone championing the concept, in even its mildest form, is immediately branded an anti-national traitor and in the pay of the "western, imperialist, capitalist powers of the international community."

The founding editor of the Sunday Leader (the last independent English-language paper standing) was gunned down by assassins, widely believed to be from the security services, within sight of an armed services roadblock, and the killers have not been apprehended yet, despite two years having elapsed.

An additional chilling fact is that the government continues to maintain the same level of armed personnel -- estimates range from 350,000 to 500,000 -- despite the war being over.

Under the circumstances, "going home again," in its fullest sense, really is problematic.

Emil van der Poorten is a former Edmontonian struggling with the political strife in his homeland of Sri Lanka.

© Edmonton Journal

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

"Sri Lanka expects a billion dollars of FDI in 2011" says BoI Chief

Lanka Business Online

Sri Lanka is expecting more than a billion US dollars in foreign direct investments in 2011 led by a booming leisure sector, after the end of a three decade war made the country more attractive, an official said.

"Our expectations (for 2011) are well over a billion (US dollars)," Board of Investment chief Jayampathy Bandaranayake said.

A three decade war ended in 2010 but actual FDI disbursements were 'very close to' 2009, he said. In 2009 when the intensity of the conflict reached its height foreign direct investments fell to 384 million dollars.

In the first quarter of 2010 there was a 30 percent drop in FDI due to a series of elections in the island, Bandaranayake said.

The International Monetary Fund earlier forecast at least 725 million US dollars of FDI this year.

On Friday Bandaranayake signed a 150 million US dollar investment agreement with Dialog Axiata which is expected to invest the money in expanding its network over the next two years.

Dialog had become the top foreign investor in the country clocking up a billion US dollars by December 30, and the latest investment will push it to 1.2 billion dollars, officials said.

BOI director Duminda Ariyasinghe said most of the cash would come into leisure and infrastructure.

Though information technology and business process outsourcing was generating high quality jobs and attracting a lot of interest the actual dollar values were smaller, he said.

Several high profile foreign leisure and property investments have already been announced, including 500 million dollar projects by Hong Kong based Shangri La and a CATIC, a Chinese state firm.

The two firms also will spend 500 million US dollars to buy state land.


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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sri Lanka: Will developmental projects solve political problems?

By Gulbin Sultana | The Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses

Much water has flown down the Mahaveli since President Rajapaksa made his swearing-in speech, on November 19, 2010, wherein he indicated that he would adopt a developmental approach to ‘enhance Sri Lanka’s greatness in the world’, and his first task would be to ensure lasting national unity and sustainable, permanent peace in Sri Lanka. After a brief exhortation to ‘move towards a future that is trilingual’, he returned to the theme of ‘development’ and inferred that his government had “carried out development work in the North and East as never before in the history” and this process had led to “a closure of the highways to terrorism”.

Rajapaksa also stated that he “strongly believe(d) that this infrastructure to banish poverty [was] major part of a political solution”. Will it really work? Or will it alienate the Tamils further?

The President intends to expand roadways, install power projects, modernize all areas of employment, and turn Sri Lanka “into a hub of development” in the fivefold areas of maritime capability, aviation, commerce and trade, power and energy and knowledge. Sri Lanka, under Rajapaksa, is aiming to become one of the top thirty countries most attractive for doing business by 2014.1

In this regard, Rajapaksa’s entire team is busy strengthening relations with old friends (India, China, Japan, Pakistan, UK, South Korea) and cultivating new ones. During his visit to New York in September 2010 to attend the 65th UN General Assembly session, he met the leaders of Iran, Qatar, Turkey, Germany, Norway, Hungary, Portugal, Malaysia, Jamaica and Spain and sought assistance in the field of energy, infrastructure development and investment in housing and tourism. Sri Lanka is also trying to improve trade and economic relations with Kuwait, Serbia, Ukraine, Egypt, Brazil, South Africa, Oman and Singapore.

President Rajapaksa received a positive response from these countries because Sri Lanka is considered one of the best places to do business with in the post-LTTE period. Sri Lanka’s economy is growing at a considerable rate and in the year 2010, the economy grew at 8 per cent, the unemployment rate fell to 4.9 per cent in the third quarter of 2010.2 UNDP’s Human Development Report 2010 placed Sri Lanka at 91 in the human development index among 169 countries surveyed. According to the New York Times it is among the top ten growth economies in the world. An additional attraction for FDI in Sri Lanka is its Free Trade Agreement with India and Pakistan whereby the investing countries can avail of the Indian and Pakistani markets.

In his first term Rajapaksa vowed to end terrorism and achieved that objective. Going by that record, he should be able to achieve his stated objectives for the second term as well. Numerous development activities have been already initiated in the entire country with assistance of India, China and Japan. Some of the important development projects in the North and the East under Uthuru Wasanthaya program (Northern Spring), Nagenahira Navodaya (the Eastern Awakening) are: Iranamadu (development of road and irrigation projects), Maga Neguma (road development), NECORD, TARRP etc.

Undoubtedly, these development activities will solve many of Sri Lanka’s socio-economic problems. But the question needs to be asked whether these developmental projects are good enough to resolve all the problems the country is facing today?

President Rajapaksa does not seem to focus on solving the Tamil problem, which has shattered the country for thirty years and has the potential to revive yet another militant movement if the root causes are not addressed soon. Earlier on May 19, 2009, in his address to the nation Rajapaksa had promised to come up with a political solution if he was elected for a second term. However, the fact that he chose not to touch on this issue during his second swearing-in ceremony indicates that he does not accord enough importance to this issue any longer.

Let us briefly dwell on the issues raised by the Tamils for a long time. One of the major causes of Tamil resentment was the government’s language policy. Rajapaksa had indeed recognized it and tried to address it with his trilingual policy. His government apparently started working on it with Indian help. It was hoped that he would take this up seriously and implement it soon. Some efforts have been taken in this regard but the pace of progress seems to be too slow to convince the targeted audience of the sincerity of his intentions. Moreover, it is still unknown how the radical parties like JHU and JVP would react to this issue. Even if Tamil language has been given official status since the 1990s, the progress on this front has been very poor. The ten year master plan announced by the government will require lot of devotion and commitment for its successful implementation.

There are other factors which need to be addressed as well, such as, the lack of Tamil representation in the military and police. Reportedly, 500–600 Tamil police officers have been recruited from Jaffna peninsula for the first time this year since 1978.3 This is commendable, but no Tamils have been recruited yet into the armed forces. Another sensitive issue for the Tamils was the case of state sponsored colonization of the Tamil areas by the Sinhalese population. It seems similar kind of feeling is again coming to the fore among the Tamils. According to a recent TamilNet report, civil society circles in Jaffna feel, “Sri Lanka government is using Sri Lankan Army to grab lands in the North with the view of colonizing them with Buddhist Sinhala families”.4

Development activities in the Tamil majority areas should aim at winning the hearts and minds of the Tamil people. Sri Lanka does need development, but development has to be people-centred, driven by the people themselves. However, the people in these areas seem to be alienated from the developmental activities. In fact, the representatives of the Tamil Political Parties Forum (TPPF), during their meeting with President, registered their grievance that the people of the North and East were being ignored in the many developmental projects. A section of Sri Lankan Civil Society also echoes the same view.

There is a widespread belief among the people of Sri Lanka that the Tamils need to have equal access to education and employment opportunities for their children which will enable them to lead their lives with dignity and without fear. The development of the North and East is important but mere emphasis on “infrastructure development to banish poverty” cannot be a “major part of a political solution”, as has been pronounced by Rajapksa. Apart from economic development, the Tamils also require social and political rights. Emphasizing on economic rights alone will not solve the problem.

There is a view in Sri Lanka that “assessing Sri Lanka through the lens of the Tamil question is misleading”. However, assessing Sri Lanka’s overall development without laying due emphasis on the problems faced by a sizable section of the people will not lead to the results desired.


1. “Sri Lanka Pursues Nation-Wide Agenda of Renewal”, President's Address at the 65th UNGA, UN Headquarters in New York, September 23, 2010 at

2. Central Bank, “Roadmap: Economic and Financial Sector Policies for 2011 and Beyond”, January 4, 2011 at

3. Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe, “Tamil Perspectives on Post-war Sri Lanka, the LTTE and the Future”, November 12, 2010 at

4. “SLA Active in Grabbing Strategic Lands in North”, TamilNet, November 23, 2010 at


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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sri Lanka: HSZ lands in Jaffna sold to Sinhala businessmen

Tamil Net

Large stretches of lands in Jaffna Peninsula in the so-called High Security Zones and in other areas where people are not permitted to resettle in the guise of landmines are hurriedly sold to Sinhala businessmen ostensibly to start ‘industrial estates’. 100 acres of land near Ezhuthumadduvaa’l railway station along the A9 Highway has been recently sold to an influential Sinhala businessman. Another Sinhalese attempted buying 80 acres between Ki’laali and Puloappazhai. Occupying military officials are also said to be interested in buying lands. Industrial estates are a smokescreen, but Sinhala colonisation in that stretch to completely seal off the people of Jaffna within their own peninsula is the strategy, political circles in Jaffna said. Meanwhile, in Valikaamam HSZ, a Sinhalese is said to be running a farm at Vasaavi’laan and another indiscriminately quarry limestone near Keerimalai.

Occupying Sri Lanka is aiming at creating an Israeli model situation as fast as possible. This is going to prolong the crisis indefinitely for the entire region, commented a diaspora Tamil academic in Canada.

The stretch of land under question at Thenmaraadchi in the Jaffna Peninsula was earlier the frontline of occupying SL military during the war, and was a ‘High Security Zone’.

People were removed from that part and only military camps existed.

387 families were recently permitted to resettle the northern part of Ezhtuhu-madduvaa’l after claiming that the landmines were removed. But they were again chased out saying the landmines still exist, with promises that they would be permitted resettle within a month.

Within that time, the sales of the 100 acres of land, from a Tamil to the ‘influential’ Sinhala businessman has been ‘arranged.’

After the purchase was over, the SL military now hurriedly declares that landmines have been removed from the 100 acres of land.

The Sinhala businessman has announced that he would start a mega industrial estate there. But all expect a Sinhala colonisation.

In the stretch from Ki’laali to Puloappazhai, the occupying military doesn’t permit people to even visit their houses and lands, saying that the landmines have not been removed. But there was an attempt to ‘arrange’ sales of 80 acres of land to another Sinhala businessman through a Tamil businessman.

Even this purchase attempt was in the name of ‘industrial estate’. But as news leaked, the attempt was foiled.

From the eastern coast of the peninsula to the western coast, by settling Sinhala fishermen in Veththilikkea’ni, by industrial settlement of Sinhalese at Ki’laali- Ezhuthumadduvaa’l and by settlements at Naavatkuzhi- Ariyaalai East, a ribbon of land within the peninsula is going to seal the densely populated parts of the peninsula. Even the peninsula is not going to belong to the Tamils soon.

This is not ‘development’ strategy, but naked military strategy against an unarmed nation of people, aiming at their genocide, political observers in Jaffna said.

Stretches of land in this part of the peninsula are coconut palm groves.

Many of their Tamil owners are away, and many of them are not aware of the strategic significance of their lands.

In an organized way many Sinhala traders have been brought in recent times to purchase the lands after terrorising the people of the land.

In a systematic way, people are psychologically made to feel that they could never get back to their lands or there is no point in them going back to their lands, to facilitate the sales.

People who are hopeless of the situation come forward to sell the lands

The occupying military is effectively used in achieving this psyche. This is why the Sinhala military has come to stay, political observers say.

The entire process of making the people of a nation to lose the sense of belongingness, participation and enthusiasm and then making them the slaves for the development of the ‘conquerors’ is what claimed loudly as the ‘post-war development’ by Colombo and the abetting establishments in New Delhi, Washington and elsewhere, political observers in Jaffna further said, adding that this is why New Delhi and Washington neither recognize the need for Tamil independence nor see what is taking place as genocide.

© Tamil Net

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