Saturday, July 25, 2009

IMF approves 2.6 bln dlr loan for Sri Lanka

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The International Monetary Fund approved a 2.6-billion-dollar loan for Sri Lanka to support its economic reform program and help the country weather the severe global downturn.

The IMF executive board approved the loan as the Asian country emerges from a 37-year civil war.

The so-called Stand-By Arrangement is in an amount equivalent to 1.65 billion Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), an IMF asset that is based on a basket of currencies -- the dollar, yen, euro and pound -- and calculated daily.

The 20-month loan is worth about 2.6 billion dollars, the IMF said.

A first installment of about 322.2 million dollars is immediately available to Sri Lanka, while the remainder will be phased in "subject to quarterly reviews," the multilateral institution said.

"The key objectives of the authorities' economic reform program supported by the fund are to strengthen the country's fiscal position while ensuring the availability of resources for much needed post-conflict reconstruction and relief efforts."

The IMF said the program also was intended to rebuild international reserves and strengthen Sri Lanka's domestic financial system, "and to protect the most vulnerable in the country from the burden of the needed economic adjustment."

Britain abstained from voting on the loan after politicans indicated they could not support it.

British Financial Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Timms said it was "not the right time for the program," in light of the political situation on the island threatening its success.

>> Full Story

Massive development in Postal services in East

Postal services in the East mainly in Trincomalee district are being developed under the "Eastern Reawakening" ("Neganahira Navodaya") Programme which is launched by the government after liberating the entire Eastern Province from the LTTE terrorists.

Accordingly, new buildings for the post offices are now being constructed in Pulmodai, Kuchchaveli and Kurinjankerni areas, Trincomalee district Postal Superintendent Ranjith Karunanayake said.

70 million rupees are being spent for the development of the postal services in the east, the Postal Superintendent added.

Massive postal development projects come under the Eastern Reawakening Programme to restore the administration in the east to normalcy.
>> Full Story

Obama says words ill chosen, calls white policeman


US President Barack Obama speaks in the press room of the White House in Washington, DC. Obama Friday telephoned a police officer and regretted his choice of words when talking about the arrest of a black Harvard scholar, which has fanned a race row here.
>> Full Story

Friday, July 24, 2009

ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK INCREASES ITS LOAN TO SRI LANKA BY FIFTY PERCENT NEXT YEAR FOR REBUILDING

Source: Onlanka News - By Walter Jayawardhana

To rebuild the ruined economy of Sri Lanka by the 26-year old war with the Tamil Tigers Asian Development Bank (ADB) has decided to increase its loan for 2010 by 50 percent , the bank sources said.

Accordingly Sri Lanka’s annual allocation of US 0 million has been increased to US $ 300 million, the same sources revealed.

The bank’s lead economist for South Asia, Narhari Rao who is in Colombo these days said, the loan will fund roads, power, water and sanitation projects in the North and the East among other projects.

The favorable increase of loan from the ADB came in the same week the IMF has reached a staff level decision to grant a US 2.5 billion standby loan to Sri Lanka following much speculation that it would not be granted.

The aid and investments are sought by the Mahinda Rajapaksa government for an ambitious development program Uthuru Wasanthaya to rebuild the economy of the North and other development schemes in the South.

Bank official Rao said, that the ADB is trying to push ahead on various fronts to develop the country as it is the right time to do so.
>> Full Story

Sri Lanka's Air Force Turns To Tourist Flights After War

COLOMBO (AFP)--Sri Lanka's air force announced Wednesday it would run domestic flights to meet an expected surge in tourism following the end of nearly four decades of fighting with Tamil rebels.

Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara said fixed-wing aircraft would operate from the capital Colombo to the northern peninsula of Jaffna and the eastern coastal resort of Trincomalee.

A helicopter service will also operate to Sigiriya, a 5th century rock fortress declared a world heritage site by Unesco.

"Initially we will operate a thrice-weekly service," Nanayakkara said, adding the flights would start within a week.

Sri Lanka's air force has a fleet of transport helicopters and aircraft that played a key role in the military's victory against Tamil Tiger rebels in mid- May.

Military officials said the air force was gearing up for a peace time role serving an expected increase in tourists visiting the island nation.

At the height of fighting, the government banned all domestic commercial flights fearing that Tamil rebels could use a hijacked aircraft to carry out attacks.


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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fresh rubber plantation project in Moneragala

The Ministry of Plantation has taken steps to cultivate 40,000 hectares of rubber in the Moneragala district.

Already over 1,500 hectares had been cultivated. It is to be continued till 2016, ministry sources revealed.

According to these sources, this project carried under the Rubber Small Holders Entrepreneurship Development Program in keeping with the Mahinda Chinthana policy of bringing in economic development to under developed rural areas.

The Ministry has also planned to cultivate rubber in 2,500 acres newly during this year and provide required infrastructure facilities with the latest technology to the cultivators under the project, sources added.
>> Full Story

Prudent management pays dividends

Debunking all doomsday predictions by the many cassandras, the IMF has awarded the much awaited stand by facility to Sri Lanka even surpassing the originally US Dollars 1.9 billion applied for. The first tranche of $ 313 million of the $ 2.5 billion pledged will be available immediately according to Finance and State Revenue Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya who made the announcement in Parliament.

This certainly is a remarkable achievement by the Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa given the bleak picture painted in many quarters against the chances of Sri Lanka succeeding. Particularly, so after the remarks of the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the time was not yet appropriate for Sri Lanka to qualify for the loan, with the US being in the top among the movers and shakers in the matter. There were many local interests with pro-West leanings who nodded wisely and gave Sri Lanka no chance.
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A9 opened to public

The A9 highway was ceremonially opened to the public this morning with Basil Rajapaksa, MP and Senior Advisor to the President, gracing the occasion.

The highway was declared open by transporting 210 passengers from Jaffna to Medawachchiya in five buses provided by the Government.

Secretary Defence responds to Bar Association's selective concerns

Secretary Defence Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa has responded to the concerns underscored by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka on an article published on the defence.lk.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka, a non-governmental body that claims to represent the Attorneys - at- Law in the country, in a letter has condemned the news article titled "Traitors in Black Coats Flocked Together?" on 10th July 2009, and also called the article an endeavour to prevent lawyers appearing for clients and/or clients having the service of lawyers.

In a letter addressed to the President of the Bar Association, the Secretary Defence highlights that the defence media is equally free to comment on certain publicly known features as the lawyers are free to appear for any cause. He states that it is for the public to decide on the appropriate classification of patriotism or terrorism or otherwise, if that is material or relevant. `

Also, the Secretary Defence points out the selective nature of the Bar Association's concerns, as it has never appealed on behalf of any of its members who were often labelled as "xenophobic", "racist", "extremist" and "chauvinistic" by media whenever such individuals stood up for the country.

>> The Defence Secretary's letter in full: defence.lk

Rajapaksa says he would defend his Army's actions in any court

Colombo (PTI) President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said he is prepared to face any court to defend Sri Lankan military commanders on charges of human rights violations during the recently concluded war with the LTTE.

"The President emphatically stated that he was prepared to appear before any Court on behalf of the Military leaders," an official release said.

Mr. Rajapaksa was addressing a election rally in the Central Sri Lankan Uva province on Tuesday.

Certain powers who killed all young men above 18 years following the great rebellion in Uva Wellassa in Sri Lanka are ridiculously trying to teach us human rights today, Mr. Rajapaksa said.

He said they were targetting Sri Lanka for alleged violations of human rights today to cover up their own sins in these massacres of the past.

He said that today, to protect the same country which was rescued by the modern heroes of the county`s armed forces, every citizen will have to put in a certain amount of hard work. The President said his government would reconstruct the great irrigation works in Uva Wellassa region.

Colombo Stock Market rally on IMF loan deal

The Colombo Stock Market continued its positive momentum with the market following the reports that the IMF loan is approved.

Sri Lanka’s share market rose to its highest in more than a year on Wednesday, after the island reached a $2.5 billion loan deal with the IMF, Reuters data showed.

The all-share index was up 20.38 points at 2493.95 at 0410 GMT, its highest level since June 10 last year.

The IMF loan could boost investor confidence and bring in more foreign investors, said brokers.
>> Full Story

Sri Lankan blood on Liberal hands



On Tuesday, the National Post's Stewart Bell reported on the contents of an intelligence report, prepared by Canada's Integrated Threat Assessment Centre (ITAC), on fundraising in Canada for the LTTE terrorist group (better known as the Tamil Tigers) in Sri Lanka. The report was formally labelled "secret," but its general outlines have been no secret in Canada for many years now. Nor, indeed, have Sri Lankans themselves been unaware that the Tamil diaspora in Canada has been a major source of cash for the now-defunct Tigers, a group that for more than 30 years repeatedly astonished the world with its bloodthirsty ruthlessness, its penny-ante valuation of civilian lives on both sides, its assassinations and suicide bombings and its readiness to hold economic development in Sri Lanka hostage to its dream of creating a Tamil dictatorship in the northern and eastern parts of the country.

ITAC estimates that Canadian funding for the Tamil Tigers -- secured, in part, by coercive "taxation" of Tamil-Canadians and their businesses -- reached levels of up to $12-million a year, or about $1-million each month. That may not sound like a lot. Then again, terrorist groups don't need that much money to kill people. The 9/11 terrorist attacks, for instance, were thought to have required only about $600,000.

Shortly after Canadians elected a Conservative government that had the political backbone necessary to finally declare the Tigers a terrorist group in 2006 (thereby criminalizing LTTE fund-raising), Sri Lanka's civil war ended in utter defeat and disaster for the Tigers. It is difficult to say how much Stephen Harper's decision affected the balance of power in the last three years of this conflict. But we'd bet the effect was significant: The money that the Canadian Tamil diaspora remitted to the Tigers, as we now know, comprised a large portion of the LTTE's budget.

It therefore has become difficult to deny that the protection and sympathy extended to the cause of Tamil militancy until 2006 -- most notably, by Liberal politicians -- prolonged Sri Lanka's civil war, and increased the scale of the bloodshed.

Which throws a rather startling new light on recent history. The Conservatives have been much criticized, in a wouldacoulda counter-factual way, for having at one time been willing to commit Canada to a multinational invasion of Iraq. Some of the criticisms are fair; but if Canada had gone to war, it would at least have been Canadians doing the fighting and, no doubt, some of the dying. How much worse was it for the Liberal political leaders who were actually in power to look the other way -- for years -- while terrorism and destruction, in a country where we have no discernible foreign-policy interests, were bankrolled through extortion and fanaticism on our own streets?

>> Full Story

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Canada a key source of Tamil Tiger funding


Stewart Bell, National Post
Canada was one of the top sources of funding for Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers rebels, providing up to $12-million a year, says a secret intelligence report obtained by the National Post.

The Tamil Tigers were defeated in May, ending Sri Lanka's long civil war, but in a classified report last year federal officials wrote that the rebels were getting much of their money from Canada.

The rebels are also known as the LTTE.

"Canada's Tamil community has been among the LTTE's largest sources of funds, having contributed up to $10- to $12-million annually in past years," the report says.

A copy of the report was released to the Post under the Access to Information Act. It was written last June, during the final months of a decisive Sri Lankan military offensive.

Until recently, the Tamil Tigers controlled a quarter of Sri Lanka, a former British colony once known as Ceylon, situated off the southern tip of India. The rebels were fighting for independence for the country's ethnic Tamil minority, a cause shared by many in Toronto's large Canadian Tamil diaspora.

The RCMP began investigating Tamil Tigers fundraising efforts in Canada in 2002. Police believe the rebels raised money in Toronto and Montreal to finance weapons purchases, but investigators have never said the dollar figures were so high.

"The LTTE through its many front organizations in other countries, including Canada, has conducted extensive fundraising and other activities to support its efforts in Sri Lanka," the report says.

The tactics used to collect money were "often coercive," it said, naming the Toronto-based World Tamil Movement as the rebels' leading front in Canada.

"As such, the WTM has been instrumental in fundraising in Canada on behalf of the LTTE."

Police searched the World Tamil Movement offices in Ontario and Quebec in 2006. Last year, the government banned the group under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Federal lawyers are now in court trying to seize its properties and bank accounts. The organization has denied any wrongdoing.

The Intelligence Assessment was written by the Ottawa-based Integrated Threat Assessment Centre, which consists of representatives of CSIS, RCMP, Foreign Affairs, the military and other agencies.

A second intelligence report written last year downplayed the possibility of violence in Canada stemming from the Sri Lankan war, noting rebel activities in this country were limited to fundraising and propaganda. "The LTTE's primary interest in Canada is as a major source of funds, mostly contributed by the large Canadian Tamil population," said the report, classified "Secret" and titled "LTTE Threat to Canada."

In May, demonstrators waving flags bearing the Tamil Tigers emblem blocked streets in downtown Toronto to draw attention to human rights abuses by the Sri Lanka Army. A Buddhist temple and Sri Lankan restaurant suffered fire damage but police have not made any arrests.

The civil war ended May 18, after the Army captured thousands of rebels and killed their top leaders. Some 300,000 ethnic Tamils are now detained in government-run camps, awaiting permission to return to their homes.

Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs says four Canadians are among them. George Julius of Brampton, Ont., is being held at a camp for ex-combatants. His parents said he left Canada in 2007 to visit his aunt and find a bride in the rebel capital Kilinochchi.

From the camp where he is now held, he told British journalist Kath Noble he had been forced to join the rebels. Another Briton, Felix Vicet said he had also met the Canadian.

"In the course of this conversation he mentioned the fact that he had come to Kilinochchi to visit relatives and had been forcibly recruited by the LTTE," he wrote in a letter.

Mr. Vicet wrote that Mr. Julius "seemed keen to talk" and that the "the conversation was entirely free." But the Canadian Tamil Congress has detainee confessions should be treated with caution since they could have been made under duress.

>> Full Story

Minister’s daughter’s B’day bash in USA cost Rs.4.5 million

Minister of Foreign Affairs Rohithe Bogollagama is in a dilemma as the American Embassy has refused to pay the bill of Rs.4.5 million the minister has spent for the birthday celebration of his daughter held during Minister and his family’s tour to the USA.

The birthday of the minister’s daughter had been celebrated when the minister and his family toured the USA recently . The birthday cake and sweets had cost US$19,000 while US$25,000 had been paid for the photographer got down to cover the event. With all other expenses the birthday party had cost Rs.45,00,000 and the request made by the minister from the US Embassy asking them to pay the bill has been turned down. It is reported that the minister has now asked the government of Sri Lanka to settle the bill.

Minister Bogollagama is known for his extravagant living and he used to go with his family and relatives in all his official tours. He spent the one year’s vote for his ministry within six months and attempted to get more money passed for his ministry from the Parliament.

On 24th May Minister Bogollagama admitted in Parliament that during the period from January, 2008 to May this year he had gone on 25 foreign tours and spent Rs.10 million. When the opposition questioned the minister regarding the high expenses he said his tours enabled Sri Lanka to correct wrong views many countries had regarding the war in Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka was able to get support of many countries.

>> Source

Monday, July 20, 2009

Rajapaksa could be champion of pluralism and economic liberalism – TIME


“His popularity remains undiminished”

"Rajapaksa could reinvent himself once again as a champion of pluralism and economic liberalism. With few other political options, that may be Sri Lanka’s best hope for the future. There is a hint of it in the President's dining room. Three years ago, he co-opted two former leaders of the LTTE, who fed intelligence to the army and helped bring the eastern provinces under its control. They had spent their whole lives fighting for the destruction of the Sri Lankan state but are now ministers in Rajapaksa's government, states the latest issue of TIME magazine (July 18) in an interview with President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

“They [former LTTE leaders] stood in the buffet line with everyone else, and then quietly sat down to discuss the afternoon's committee meetings over lunch. The real world may be less civil and much more complicated, but at this table there is room.”

The interview by Jyoti Thottam titled “Rajapaksa: The Hard Liner” also states: "Rajapaksa's political biography was crucial in maintaining support for the final military offensive against the Tigers. The LTTE pioneered suicide bombings, and a generation of Sri Lankans lived in fear of random attacks on buses and markets, and relentless political assassinations. Four Presidents before Rajapaksa had tried a combination of military action and negotiation against the Tigers; within a year of his presidency, he abandoned talks and bet everything on force."

“Who is the man who tamed the Tigers? Above all, he represents Sri Lanka's Sinhalese Buddhist heartland in the rural south. His sarong and tunic are the spotless white of a devout Buddhist; his reddish brown scarf the color of korakan, a rough grain eaten as the staple diet of poor farmers. Everything about Rajapaksa — his big laugh, his rough-and-ready English, his bejeweled fingers and ink-black hair — marks him as part of the rural bourgeoisie, not the urban √©lite educated abroad. This is more than just an image. He was elected to Parliament as its youngest member in 1970 and moved slowly up through the ranks of his party while building a base of support in his home district of Hambantota,” the interview adds.

Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa sits at the head of a long banquet table, presiding over what looks like a hotel's lunch buffet. The mood is informal as Cabinet ministers, their clerks and assorted relatives and friends line up patiently to eat in the main dining room of Rajapaksa's official compound. Outside, on the streets of Colombo, he is the all-conquering hero. In May, Rajapaksa's government ended Sri Lanka's 26-year-long civil war against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and the capital's broad avenues are dominated by enormous banners glorifying him: "You are a divine gift to the country. May the gods bestow their blessings on you." But here, inside, Rajapaksa seems more like a down-to-earth family patriarch, nourished as much by the red rice, jackfruit curry and spicy fried fish as by the praise and demands of the supplicants who interrupt him. At one point, a young couple present him with a stack of betel leaves to be blessed. He chats casually with them; they show off their infant son.

A barrel-chested rugby fan, Rajapaksa, 63, will need that common touch to bring Sri Lanka to a true and lasting peace between the island nation's Sinhalese majority (which is mostly Buddhist) and Tamil minority (mostly Hindu). The civil war began in earnest in July 1983, after nearly 3,000 Tamils were killed in several days of systematic anti-Tamil violence. It was the low point of what Sri Lanka's Tamils felt had been decades of official discrimination and military repression in Tamil-majority areas in the north and east. The LTTE took up arms in the name of those grievances, raising the call for a separate Tamil homeland and eventually becoming one of the world's most feared terrorist organizations. Over the years, moderate Tamil political leaders worked to reach a political solution, and several governments in Colombo tried talks with the LTTE, but by 2006 a shaky cease-fire had fallen apart. The army pushed full-bore to finish off the Tigers, particularly its charismatic leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, and Rajapaksa would not brook questioning, by the press or his opponents, of his government's tactics. But now that the fighting is over, Rajapaksa's overwhelming military victory could prove Pyrrhic if he fails to give equal attention to reconciliation

Rajapaksa faces questions about human-rights violations over the targeting of civilians in the final offensive, unexplained disappearances of Tamils and controls on the media. He must revive an economy that has been badly strained by military spending. Most importantly, he will have to restore to their homes and livelihoods some 300,000 Tamils in the north, a major chunk of the population of that region, who fled the fighting only to be detained in overcrowded internment camps. Without that crucial first step toward peace, Sri Lanka's alienated Tamils may never feel truly part of the nation. "If that does not happen, we are in a downward spiral in every way," says Vasudeva Nanayakkara, a Sri Lankan politician who has known Rajapaksa for more than 40 years as a friend and frequent ally in Parliament. "The way in which the state treats the victims of the conflict — that will be the basis on which national unity will be forged."

In a rare interview with TIME on July 10, Rajapaksa made no apologies about how he prosecuted his war with the Tigers. "We showed that you can defeat terrorism," he said. The U.S. and Europe, his biggest trading partners, publicly criticized his apparent disregard for human rights, but he dismisses the West's objections. "Some people think we are still colonies," he said. "That mentality must go."

Roots of Ambition

Who is the man who tamed the Tigers? Above all, he represents Sri Lanka's Sinhalese Buddhist heartland in the rural south. His sarong and tunic are the spotless white of a devout Buddhist; his reddish brown scarf the color of korakan, a rough grain eaten as the staple diet of poor farmers. Everything about Rajapaksa — his big laugh, his rough-and-ready English, his bejeweled fingers and ink-black hair — marks him as part of the rural bourgeoisie, not the urban √©lite educated abroad. This is more than just an image. He was elected to Parliament as its youngest member in 1970 and moved slowly up through the ranks of his party while building a base of support in his home district of Hambantota. One minister in his government, who has known him since his early days in politics, says his desire to be President was obvious: "He was methodical."

Rajapaksa's political biography was crucial in maintaining support for the final military offensive against the Tigers. The LTTE pioneered suicide bombings, and a generation of Sri Lankans lived in fear of random attacks on buses and markets, and relentless political assassinations. Four Presidents before Rajapaksa had tried a combination of military action and negotiation against the Tigers; within a year of his presidency, he abandoned talks and bet everything on force. He appealed to Sinhalese nationalism to recruit soldiers, promising them good salaries, pensions and respect. The cost was high. At least 6,200 troops were killed in the last three years of the war — more than the total U.S. military deaths so far in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet Rajapaksa's popularity remains undiminished. In his victory speech to the nation on June 3, he spoke a few lines in Tamil as a gesture of reconciliation, but most of the oration was spent in praise of "our armed forces who astonished the world by their skill in war." He linked their effort to the nation's heroic past defending itself against invaders. "The lessons we learnt from those great battles of the past are ingrained in our flesh, blood and bones."

When asked about the future of Tamils in Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa says all the right things: that Sri Lanka is one nation, which respects all peoples and faiths. Yet the strident Sinhalese nationalism, in Rajapaksa's party and in his more extreme allies, helped mobilize support for the war and influenced the way it was conducted. The U.N. issued several warnings — which Colombo ignored — about civilian casualties as the Sri Lankan army closed in on the Tigers, and estimates Tamil civilian deaths at 7,000. Nearly 300,000 Tamils from the northern war zone — including 45,000 children — have been detained in internment camps beginning in early 2008, without freedom to leave.

Weighing Options

In the face of pressure, Rajapaksa has hardened his position, interpreting criticism as a product of either LTTE propaganda or neocolonial sermonizing. He rejects the U.N.'s civilian-casualty figures and insists that conditions in the camps are good. But he has refused — even after declaring victory — to allow the press or international observers to verify those claims. No journalists or U.N. agencies have been permitted into the former war zone (with the exception of an entourage flying over it with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon), and journalists are allowed into the camps only on government-sponsored tours. The U.N. and other international agencies — "58 of them!" Rajapaksa points out — do have some access to the camps, but they are not permitted to talk to the people inside to monitor their conditions. He insists that restrictions in the camps will be loosened eventually: "This is 1 1/2 months, my dear. Just give me some more time."

Still, Rajapaksa's instincts are sharp, and he is well aware that resettlement from the camps will be a big issue in provincial elections in August and the next presidential election, which could be held as early as November. His reasoning for keeping northern Tamils in detention is constantly shifting. At various points in our interview, Rajapaksa says he is waiting until the screening of LTTE fighters is complete; until the north has better roads, electricity and water supply; or until the land mines are cleared. "As soon as we do that, we will send them," he says. But he will not commit to a timeline. He says he hopes that 60% would be resettled by the time of the presidential election. "It's not a promise, it's a target," he says.

Rajapaksa has been similarly noncommittal about Sri Lanka's economy, particularly in the north, which has suffered not just war but two decades of neglect. Aside from an application for an IMF loan, Rajapaksa's only major economic initiatives are a $1 billion port in his hometown in the south and a $26 million loan scheme for small businesses in the north, both of which, critics say, may be politically popular but are unlikely to make an economic impact.

Difficult to Read

That lack of conviction has angered Rajapaksa's opposition and deeply troubles Sri Lanka's peace activists, who worry that Tamils may face even worse repression and hardship than they did before the war. Their original concerns — for the protection of Tamil language and culture and self-governance in Tamil-majority areas — are not even on the agenda.

Advocates for press freedom, too, are outraged that even after declaring victory, Rajapaksa has not lifted the restrictions on the press imposed as war measures. On July 12, the government banned a popular news website that had run stories critical of the government after the war's end, and it has not yet found those responsible for the murder in January of a prominent Sri Lankan journalist and critic of the government, Lasantha Wickrematunge, who was also a freelance reporter for TIME. But those who know Rajapaksa well say that his pragmatism may, in the end, win out. He never took a strong position on the LTTE until he ran for President, and he has supported privatization as President despite his long history as a left-leaning trade unionist. Most surprisingly, he was once a passionate advocate for human rights, speaking out against the government in the late 1980s during a notorious time of disappearances and killings. "Ideologically, he is not well formed," says Nanayakkara.

However unlikely it may seem, Rajapaksa could reinvent himself once again as a champion of pluralism and economic liberalism. With few other political options, that may be Sri Lanka's best hope for the future. There is a hint of it in the President's dining room. Three years ago, he co-opted two former leaders of the LTTE, who fed intelligence to the army and helped bring the eastern provinces under its control. They had spent their whole lives fighting for the destruction of the Sri Lankan state but are now ministers in Rajapaksa's government. They stood in the buffet line with everyone else, and then quietly sat down to discuss the afternoon's committee meetings over lunch. The real world may be less civil and much more complicated, but at this table there is room for everyone.

>> Full Story

HSBC pledges Rs.4.1mn to assist IDPs


HSBC pledged Rs 4.1 Million to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), to assist the displaced civilians in Sri Lanka’s North and East.
The funds will be utilized for the procurement of non-food relief items such as bed sheets, mosquito nets, jerry cans, towels, slippers and clothing for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the North and East, said a UNHCR press release issued in Colombo.

The agency is currently focused on supporting the Government of Sri Lanka with responding to the needs of some 280,000 persons displaced in parts of the north in the last several months, with the ultimate objective of ensuring their safe return home.

Chief Executive Officer HSBC Sri Lanka and Maldives, Nick Nicolaou also appreciated the ongoing efforts undertaken by UNHCR in managing the current humanitarian situation.

>> Full Story


President Mahinda Rajapaksa is seen here partaking in a traditional meal with Sri Lanka’s indigenous community (Veddah) during a visit to Mahiyangana. Veddah Chief Uruwarige Vanniyela Aththo and other senior community leaders participated.
Pic by Sudath Silva

>> Full Story

Sunday, July 19, 2009

New York Times: Justifying a Costly War in Sri Lanka

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — More than 2,000 years ago, a Sinhalese king named Dutugemunu saddled up his elephant and headed north to fight and kill Elara, an invading Tamil king from India. The battle between the men is one of the most celebrated moments in Sri Lankan history, and the last time, until two months ago, that a Sri Lankan ruler won such a decisive victory over a mortal threat.

Perhaps it is no wonder, then, that fans of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the president of Sri Lanka, have taken to calling him a modern-day incarnation of King Dutugemunu. After all, he presided over the defeat of the Tamil Tigers, among the world’s most enduring and vicious guerrilla separatists, hardened fighters who have humiliated four presidents over nearly three decades.

Asked about this comparison earlier this month, Mr. Rajapaksa laughed it off, insisting that the legend was misunderstood as a triumph of one ethnicity over another. After his victory, the story goes, Dutugemunu made peace with the Tamils and honored the memory of Elara, who was beloved by his people.

History will decide whether Mr. Rajapaksa will be remembered as a nationalist avenger or a unifying peacemaker.

>> Full Story

North-South traders, investors meet

The Sri Lanka Chamber of Commerce and the Jaffna Traders Association met for the first time in Jaffna on Friday in order to enhance the trading and investment activities in the war-torn North.

"The meeting between the traders and investors of the North and the South is significant as President Mahinda Rajapaksa is determined to rebuild Jaffna with extensive investments, agricultural and trading activities." Minister of Industrial Development Kumara Welgama who presided over the meeting between the North-South traders said. A 42 member delegation of the Sri Lanka Chamber of Commerce comprising traders, investors, industrialists and bankers from the South is currently in Jaffna exploring ways and means of bridging business and industrial communities of the North and the South.

The Jaffna Traders Association represented by a 60 member delegation engaged in the meeting with the Chamber of Commerce members at the office building of the Jaffna Traders Association.

Minister Welgama speaking at the event said that President Rajapaksa was very keen that the development activities in the North should be commenced without leaving room for any discrimination.

The Minister also assured that the government would provide its fullest cooperation to investors and traders in their efforts in rebuilding Jaffna.

The delegation of traders and investors also visited several sites to explore possibilities of making investments for their industrial and trading activities.

They also met academics and students of the university of Jaffna and members of the Jaffna Civil Society. The North-South traders unanimously agreed on the need for expanding commercial transportation via the A-9 highway and urged the Industrial Development Minister to expedite the process of allowing more interaction between the North and the South.

Sri Lanka Chamber of Commerce Secretary, E. M. W. Wijetillake and the Jaffna Traders Association President, M. Janak Kumar conducted the meeting where it was agreed to have follow up action with regard to trading and investment activities between the North and the South.

>> Full Story

New scope for Malaysian investment in Sri Lanka


The defeat of the LTTE and the extended period of terror in Sri Lanka had opened new opportunities for investment in Sri Lanka said the Malaysian Prime Minister Dato Mohamed Abdul Razak in discussions with President Rajapaksa in Egypt yesterday (16).
The two leaders met at Sharm El Sheik where they had come to participate in the 15th Non Aligned Summit.

Prime Minister Abdul Razak who congratulated President Rajapaksa on the successful defeat of the LTTE and its terrorism, said that with the dawn of a new era of peace in Sri Lanka, he would recommend to Malaysian investors that Sri Lanka provided good scope for investment in many areas of enterprise.

The two leaders discussed South and South East Asian issues and the responses needed by the countries of these regions to the challenge posed by the global financial and economic crises, and the need to safeguard the people of the developing countries from the harsh effects of these crises.

President Rajapaksa expressed the need for a common position and pragmatic approaches by the Non-Aligned and developing countries to meet the challenges of Climate Change and Global Warming, which would adversely affect both South and South East Asia.

The possibility of improved activity in the areas of economic activity such as Tourism Development was also discussed.

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Major changes in Sri Lanka Army ranks

Newly appointed Army Commander Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasooriya has made several changes in the top positions of the Sri Lanka Army with immediate effect.

According to the Sri Lanka Army 26 officials, comprising seven Major Generals, 11 Brigadiers, and eight Colonels have been given duty promotions under the recommendation of the new Army Chief.

Among those officials are few officers who made valiant sacrifices and led their troops during the final battle with the LTTE in the North.

According to military sources, Jaffna Security Forces Commander Major General Mendaka Samarasinghe has been appointed as the Chief-of-Staff of the Army, effective Monday, July 20th.

Commander of the Army's 58 Division Brigadier Shavendra Silva has been appointed as the Director Operations of the Army Headquarters while the Commander of 59 Division Major General Kamal Gunarathna is to take the post of Security Forces Commander Wanni, the old post of the new Army Chief.

Brigadier Chagee Gallage is to assume duties as the General Officer Command (GOC) of the 53 Division. Major General Jammika Liyanage is appointed as the Commanding Officer of the Volunteer Force while Major General. G. P. R. Silva has been appointed as the as Jaffna Security Forces Commander.

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