Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sri Lanka’s first six star hotel coming up

Work on Sri Lanka’s first six star hotel project has begun. It is the first of its kind ever designed for the tourist trade in the country.

The Ministry of Tourism has declared Kalpitiya as a Tourist Resort. Several projects are planned on the Kalpitiya islets, which is a popular location of tourist attraction. The laying of the foundation stone for Sri Lanka’s first Six Star tourist hotel took place at the Dutch Bay Islandin Kalpitiya and organized under the patronage of Minister Naveen Dissanayake.

This is a joint venture between Sri Lanka and Bahrain. It is expected to cost 130 million US Dollars. This will be an environmental friendly project. There will be 420 suites.

The tourists have the opportunity of viewing the large corals which span about 400 square miles near the islets. The Hotel is expected to accommodate tourist by November 2011.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Duplicitous Canadians

An article by Stephen Long, Los Angeles

I have refrained from writing much about Sri Lanka since the end of the war on terrorism – although there have been a number of topics on which I could have commented. I am convinced that President Mahinda Rajapaksa has things pretty much under control, and that he is moving the country and its diverse populations forward toward the unity and harmony he has promised.

One incident, however, just came to my attention that I feel I must address – because it personally involves someone I am very close to, and reflects an old, bad attitude that must be fixed. Here’s the story:

A Nayake Thero, Ven. Haupe Somananda Nayake Thera, Chief Incumbent of Sri Mahavihariya, Pamankada, Dehiwala, who is 72 years old, is one of the kindest, most innocent people I have ever met. I have learned a great deal from this revered Buddhist monk over the years, and I have benefitted greatly from my association with him.

One of his students, now the Abbot of a Sri Lankan Buddhist temple in Ohio, invited Ven. Somananda to come to the US to attend the dedication of a new international Buddhist center that has just been built on his premises. He prepared the appropriate sponsorship documents for his visa to the US, and this was obtained with no difficulty. Nayake Thera had been to America before, and had just returned from a lengthy pilgrimage in India. This senior monk is no stranger to travel, and during his long life he has experienced a great deal of the world.

Subsequently, a Buddhist temple invited Ven. Somananda to visit their vihara in Canada while he was in North America. Nayake Thera, armed with proper documentation and sponsorship letters, then went to the Canadian Embassy in Colombo to get his visa so he could enter this liberal, democratic country. It seems, however, that this Embassy is still staffed with Tamils from the old school British system, and it also seems that they are prejudiced against Buddhists – particularly Buddhist monks. I’m referring to the “local” Embassy staff – not the Canadian nationals.

The first time Nayake Thera went to apply at the Embassy he was told that he had to produce bank statements from the temple in Canada he wished to visit. He promptly had these faxed to him.

The next day he approached the counter in the Embassy and produced the bank statements – only to be told that he had to provide a copy of the monk’s passport in Canada that he intended to visit. He promptly had this faxed to him.

The following day he handed over the photocopy of the monk’s passport – and was told that his own passport had to be changed before a Canadian visa could be issued. The counter agent said he had to have the words “Reverend” and “Thero” removed. Can you believe this nonsense?

At this point Nayake Thero informed the counter staff that his passport had been accepted by the US Embassy for a visa – and that there had been no problem with his name and title. The staff person rudely exclaimed, “This is not the US – this is Canada! Your visa application is rejected!”

Ven. Somananda suddenly lost interest in visiting Canada, and gave up his quest for a visa to enter that proud land, a mosaic of free people from all over the world.

Nayake Thero told me that he had the feeling that he was up against the LTTE when he stood before the counter staff at the Canadian Embassy. I’m sorry, folks, but this just doesn’t work for me…

First of all, the Canadian Embassy in Colombo has every right to reject visas to Sri Lankan nationals with good reason, but it has no right to dictate to the Sri Lankan Passport Office how to issue its passports to members of the Buddhist clergy. Secondly, the Canadian Embassy in Colombo should teach its local staff members how to show some respect – and withhold their personal views about Buddhist monks – as well as their political leanings.

I doubt that Ven. Somananda will ever want to visit Canada after this humiliating ordeal. I don’t blame him – I wouldn’t either. I suggest that something be done to prevent this kind of ill treatment in the future. Wise up Canadian Foreign Office! The war is over in Sri Lanka – even if you’re still struggling with it back home.

>> Full Story

Another 9,000 IDPs to be resettled today

Another batch of nearly 9,000 Internally Displaced Persons now living in the welfare villages of Vavunia will be resettled in their own villages in the North and East today, senior official sources told the Daily News yesterday.
>> Full Story

De-mining expedited under Uthuru Wasanthaya Program

The Government has taken the initiative to import more de-mining machines to expedite the de-mining process in the North and to facilitate the speedy resettlement of the displaced civilians now living in welfare centres in the Menik Farm, sources from the Ministry of Nation Building told the Daily News yesterday.

The latest addition to the de-mining activities, five de-mining machines costing Rs. 270 million, will arrive in Sri Lanka from the Republic of Croatia. The five de-mining machines (MV-4 Flail machines) from the Republic of Croatia will be airlifted to Sri Lanka on September 12.

The Police Special Task Force too had engaged in de-mining activities to make the areas in the Vavuniya district safe for the public. The Police Special Task Force engaged in landmine clearing and de-mining operation under the Uthura Vasanthaya program has completed the clearing of a 27 km stretch of road along the Omanthai-Welioya road.

>> Full Story

Sri Lanka's top envoy hits out at EU as cut in £1bn trade concession looms

Damning review accuses the country of failing to honour human rights pledges after end of the war against Tamil rebels

Sri Lanka's top diplomat today hit out at the European Union for "punishing" the country, after EU investigators recommended cancelling a £1bn trade concession over the country's failure to honour human rights commitments.

Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka's ambassador to the UN, said the country would "handle the loss" of the export privilege, which allows businesses on the island to export 7,200 items to Europe duty free.

The trade concession, known as GSP Plus, depends on compliance with human rights standards – and a damning 130-page review handed to the Sri Lankan government last month makes it clear that the EU should withdraw preferential treatment for the Indian Ocean nation.

The report includes allegations that the government backed Tamil paramilitary groups who were involved in "child abductions, torture and killings of civilians".
>> Full Story

Court refuses to restrain Indian cricket team from touring SL

The Madras High Court Bench on Wednesday declined to pass interim orders restraining the Centre and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) from sending the Indian Cricket team to play the ongoing tri-series in Sri Lanka.
A Division Bench, comprising Justice P. Murgesen and Justice C.S. Karnan, dismissed a miscellaneous (sub) petition by a lawyer in India on the ground that the BCCI had no statutory obligation towards the petitioner.

The judges pointed out that the Supreme Court had, in 2006, held that courts should not interfere in matters related to government’s foreign policy. Earlier, BCCI counsel argued that preventing the team from going to Sri Lanka might affect the relationship between the countries, the Indian media reported.

The first match between India and Sri Lanka is set to begin on Friday, September 11 in R. Premadasa stadium.
>> Full Story

Thursday, September 10, 2009

“The West has to help Sri Lanka instead of being critical” - President to Le Figaro

In his first interview to a leading European journal since the victory against the LTTE in May this President Mahinda Rajapaksa has defended himself against the many attacks on him in the West for alleged negligence of human rights and has called on the West to help Sri Lanka rebuild and resettle the people affected by the 30 year long war against terror in the country, which had impacted other countries in the region, too.

Asked how he would restore peace in the country, President Rajapaksa said the absolute priority was to permit displaced people to go back to their villages, especially in the North. “We first need to finish the mine clearance for people to be able to go back home and cultivate their land. Then, we need to develop the country and we are calling upon foreign investors to do so.”

Asked why the persons displaced by the war are still confined in camps the President emphasized they were not in camps by our own doing but because the LTTE took them hostages. “We can’t leave them outside and let them step on a mine. We also have to sort out the ones who are linked with terrorists and those aren’t. They are not in camps by our own doing but because the LTTE took them hostages.”

The wide ranging interview by Pierre Rousselin covers, among other matters, the recent Channel 4 fabrication of a summary execution of civilians by Sri Lankan forces, the verdict and sentence on journalist J. Tissainayagam, the President’s plans for a political solution and the next Presidential Election.

Here is the translation into English of the interview published in French, conducted in Colombo on September 4, 09 and published in Le Figaro of September 08.

Le Figaro. – In May, you won the victory against the Tamil Tigers, putting an end to a thirty-year-old conflict. How are you going to bring peace in your country and rebuild it?

Mahinda RAJAPAKSA. – First of all, we have to permit displaced people to go back to their villages, especially in the North. We first need to finish the mine clearance for people to be able to go back home and cultivate their land. This is the absolute priority. Then, we need to develop the country and we are calling upon foreign investors to do so.

Why is the return of refugees so slow? Will you be able to honour your commitment to repatriate 80% of them by the end of the year?

The obstacle resides in mines. It’s a more serious problem than we expected. The Army works relentlessly from morning till night to remove them. Over one thousand families are home now, and so are the eldest people. Currently, there are 220,000 refugees. By mid-September, 50,000 are likely to have left the camps.

Why are displaced people locked into camps?

We can’t leave them outside and let them step on a mine. We also have to sort out the ones who are linked with terrorists and those aren’t. They are not in camps by our own doing but because the LTTE took them hostages.

The western countries criticize your army for having killed many civilians towards the end of the war. What is your answer?

I do not accept these criticisms. I don’t know how another country would have coped. We fed, we paid the salary of civil servants who were fighting with the terrorists. When we took over the Eastern Province, there were no civilian victims. There were in the North. But we wouldn’t have lost so many men in the army if we had used heavy weapons. We did not tell it publicly at the time because the military officers would have rebelled. But this is a fact and the opposition criticized us for this.

You are still criticized even though the war came to an end. The recent condemnation of a journalist, J.S. Tissainayagam, to a twenty-year sentence gave rise to a broad disapproval…

The judge gave the verdict in all independence. I can’t interfere in court orders. There are still possibilities of appeal before the Appeal Court of the Supreme Court. People say the freedom of the press is threatened, but they do not say a group of journalists was demonstrating in front of the court even before the judgement was given.

Should the sentence be confirmed, could you use you right of reprieve?

We need to wait until all the recourse procedures have been used. I’ll take my decision when the time will have come, but we can’t consider that journalists are above the law.

You do know that this question is an international issue for your country…

This is due to the LTTE propaganda. For the West, the LTTE can do whatever they want, kill whoever they want, murder Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi (in 1991) without anybody to protest. This is a shame, but that’s the way it is. There are two sets of rules. The journalist we talked about has not been tried because he is a journalist but because of his ties with the terrorists.

The war is over. When are you going to raise the state of emergency?

As soon as possible. We have to sort out the people displaced to see how many of them are linked with the LTTE leaders and have to be prosecuted. Terrorists do not wear uniforms; they become civilians as soon as they lay down arms. But we can’t let them free.

How long is it going to take? Weeks, months, years?

It depends of the return of the refugees. It could take six months, one year. I don’t want to make promises I would not keep. The West has to help us and stop criticizing us so unfairly.

From November onwards, you will be able to call for presidential elections. When will they take place?

As soon as possible.

At the beginning of next year?


Will you campaign with a program of settlement of the Tamil issue?

Yes. We are ready to apply the 13th Amendment of the Constitution which provides decentralization and the establishment of local [provincial] councils. This provision was not enforced because of the war. We are even ready to go a little bit further.

Will this satisfy the Tamil leaders?

There will always be people asking for more. But what the population wants is peace and security. They want schools. They’ve had enough of the war. Politicians are interested in these other questions.

Are you satisfied with the help brought by the West?

The aid for the return of refugees goes through NGOs, who are spending about 40 to 60% for administrative matters. We saw this with the tsunami.

You don’t like NGOs…

Some of the NGOs helped the LTTE. Others did their work. But even the UN agencies slow down the process of normalization.

A video broadcasted in Great Britain showed what looked like summary executions by soldiers of the Army. How do you retort to the sharp criticisms it gave rise to?

We have elements showing that this video is a set-up. This is not the first time members of the LTTE use Army uniforms to stage events with propagandist aims.

You met Colonel Gaddhafi and Hugo Chavez in Tripoli. You went to Burma. Why do you carry on openly with leaders who are not the best friends of the West?

No western country is inviting me! But when I’m invited in a friendly country, I go. We are a founding country of the non-aligned movement. I also go to India when I have the opportunity…

Journalists disappear, others are assassinated. Sri Lanka does not embody a very rigorous democracy…

This is all propaganda. The press is free, criticism is free. The opposition can even go to Brussels to do lobbying against the renewal by the European Union of the GSP + system. As for journalists disappearing, most of them reappear to claim visas in consulates. We want to develop this country. We want to avoid any kind of discrimination against Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims. We want western countries to help us, to trust us and stop listening to the LTTE propaganda. France has been fairest than many other countries. It supported us in our fight against terrorism and never aligned itself on the LTTE.
>> Full Story

"Uthuru Wasanthaya" develops 35 villages in Vavuniya

Thirty five villages in the Vavuniya district are being developed under the "Uthuru Wasanthaya" to help 180-days accelerated program launched by the government to resettle the Tamil civilians.
Under the development project it will improve the pre-identified infrastructure of these villages to provide more facilities for the Tamil civilians to be resettled in the area shortly.
>> Full Story

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Ready to work together for peace and prosperity – TNA tells President

We are ready to work together with the government to achieve peace and prosperity in the country, and the welfare of then country and its people, said representatives of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) at a meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees last evening (Sept 07).

Seven members of the TNA led by Mr. Sampandan met with President Rajapaksa to discuss issued facing the country, particularly matters concerning the Internally Displaced Persons in the north, and national reconciliation.

President Rajapaksa informed the TNA representatives that the Government had given the highest priority to the early resettlement of the IDPs, and to this end it has taken action to expedite the de-mining process, and that emphasis had been given in government policy on the need to ensure the security and welfare of the people.

In the meeting that lasted three hours where the current economic, social and political developments in the country were discussed, the President apprized the TNA delegation that the policies of the government would lead the resettlement of IDPs in the near future giving the TNA and all political parties to carry out their democratic activities freely, and that there would be no opportunity for the LTTE or any other terrorist organization to sacrifice the people for their narrow and sectarian goals.
>> Full Story

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Asia’s main Shippers Council shifts to Colombo

Taking into consideration the significance of its geographical location on maritime routes, the Asian Shippers Council (ASC) - the largest maritime representative body in the world-is to shift its Asian region’s permanent Secretariat from Singapore to Sri Lanka.

The Council consists of shippers from all parts of Asia and is the global component of the Global Shippers’ Forum. This includes Greater China, North East Asia, South East Asia, South Asia and Oceania.>> Full Story

Dr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksha: The man who tamed the Tigers

By Dr.Levins T.C.Rajaratnam
(September 08, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) He is both a historical figure and a legend—and it is sometimes difficult to separate the two. For the first time in the history of this country we have an efficient, meticulous, brilliant Secretary of Defence. As Sri Lankans we should be proud of this Patriot. As a Tamil and as a Citizen of Sri Lanka who owes allegiance to the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and the President, I consider it my duty to pay tribute to a worthy gentleman and hero of our times.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa assumed duties as Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law & Order on 25th November 2005.

Gotabaya joined the Sri Lanka Army in 1971, spent twenty years in service, and held the appointment of Deputy Commandant of Sir John Kotelawala Defence University in 1991 and, as a Lieutenant Colonel was Coordinating Officer of Welioya area from 1990 to 1991. Prior to that, he was the Coordinating Officer of Matale District and the Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion, Gajaba Regiment from 1989 to 1990. He has also held numerous other positions in the Sri Lanka Army such as Instructor, Adjutant, and Staff officer to the Operations Officer commanding contingents.
>> Full Story

Colombo University confers President and Defence Secretary with "Honorary Degrees"

President Mahinda Rajapaksa was conferred with the honorary degree (honoris causa) "Doctor of Law" and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa with the honorary degree "Doctor of Letters" by the University of Colombo yesterday, (06 September).

The Senate of the University of Colombo with the approval of the Council of the University resolved that these Degrees of Doctorates be conferred on President Rajapaksa and on Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa,

The University of Colombo conferred the titles on President and Defence Secretary in recognition of their services to the country in safeguarding its territorial integrity, sovereignty and defeating the LTTE by restoring peace and harmony among all Sri Lankan communities and uplifting the image of Sri Lanka within the international community, the Senate of the Colombo University stated.

The titles were conferred by the former Arch-Bishop of Colombo and present Chancellor of the Colombo University Most Rev.Oswald Gomis.

The awarding ceremony took place with the Postgraduate Convocation of the University of Colombo held at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH) attended by distinguished guests and invitees.

>> Full Story

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Hambantota - way to city hub of Lanka

Hambantota was once considered an area frequented by elephants, robbers under developed to such an extent that there wasn't even a decent tea kiosk to quench your thirst.

There was no drinking water available, let alone sanitation. "Many people passed Hambantota on their way to Kataragama, but no one wanted to stop over at Hambantota as it did not have anything to offer," said Ports, Aviation and Water Resources Minister Chamal Rajapaksa.

This is the past. But, today a 'Development Tsunami' spearheaded by the government, has hit Hambantota and the South.

"We have just started the development and in two years Hambantota would be one of the most developed districts in Sri Lanka," he assured.

"The other neighbouring districts, Matara, Galle and especially Moneragala will also reap the benefits by this development and would turn prosperous", he said

>> Full Story

Sri Lanka Expelling Senior UN Official

Sri Lanka's government is ordering the spokesman for the U.N. Children's Fund to leave the country. Our correspondent reports the expulsion stems from comments by the official that appeared in the international media in recent months.

The United Nations confirms the spokesman for UNICEF in Sri Lanka has been ordered to leave for what the government says were adverse remarks he made.

The visa for James Elder, an Australian, has been canceled effective Monday (Sept. 7), but officials say after an appeal from the United Nations he will be allowed to stay there under September 21.

>> Full Story

Sri Lanka Tamils fear UK deportation

Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers in the UK have accused the British government of double standards - trying to send them back to Sri Lanka on the one hand while accusing the island's authorities of human rights violations on the other.

Nadarajah, a former Tamil Tiger rebel, says the British government tried to deport him to Sri Lanka before the High Court granted him permission to apply for a judicial review against the decision to remove him.

"My father was abducted in Colombo in 2007 while I was here. I was abducted and badly tortured while I was in Sri Lanka in 2002 and am still getting counselling and medication," he told BBC Sinhala.

Nadarajah, a resident of Velvetithurai, Jaffna, left the rebels before the abduction incident and says there are no circumstances in which he could return.

>> Full Story