Friday, November 13, 2009

Figure of IDPs reduced further

The total number of IDPs remaining in welfare villages in the North and East is down to 143161 as of today (13). The total remaining in Vavuniya welfare centres is 132748, stated the Minister for Disaster Management and Human Rights, Mahinda Samarasinghe at a press briefing today.

It is a significant improvement from last week when the figure of the total number of IDPs was over 153,000. The Minister said that resettlements are taking place every day.

24 flailing machines are used as of today for the de- mining process where 19 of them were purchased through government funds.

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Months of tension culminated in Fonseka’s resignation

B. Muralidhar Reddy
The resignation by the Sri Lanka Chief of Defence Staff, Sarath Fonseka, to President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Thursday is a culmination of tension building up for at least five months.

It began on what initially appeared to be a case of communication gap between the office of the President and the office of the Army chief during the last phase of Eelam War IV.

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Rajapaksa not deterred by opposition plans

B. Muralidhar Reddy

COLOMBO: Besides getting endorsement from the leader of the 12-party opposition front led by Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe, the man who escaped death in the hands of a LTTE woman suicide bomber in April 2006 has the indirect backing of the ultra-national Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). JVP, which backed Mr. Rajapaksa in the 2005 presidential election, in the last few months has been openly campaigning for his ouster.

Following a call for “work to rule” by JVP-affiliated trade unions, from Wednesday, Mr. Rajapaksa early this week had said he would counter attempts to create anarchy in the island nation.

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Sri Lanka Says Emergency Rule Needed for ‘Shadows of Terrorism’

Nov. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Sri Lanka will retain emergency rule as it faces the “shadows of terrorism” after the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in May ended a 26-year civil war, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake said.

The state of emergency and the presence of security checkpoints are “absolutely necessary as the shadows of terrorism haunt in the background,” Wickramanayake said, according to the government’s Web site. Security forces will have to study whether some of the measures may be relaxed, he said.
The government has cited the need to establish security and clear mines from the conflict zone in the north as a reason for delays in settling more than 280,000 displaced civilians housed in transit camps after the war ended.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tamils economic refugees: Sri Lanka

SRI Lanka has dismissed any suggestion Tamils are oppressed within its borders, saying those aboard the Oceanic Viking were drawn to Australia by its "magnetism" rather than the need for asylum.
Sri Lankan Ambassador to the UN Palitha Kohona last night denied the Tamils aboard the vessel had started their journey from his country, describing them as "economic refugees looking for greener pastures".

Speaking on the ABC's Lateline program, Mr Kohona said there were no push factors forcing boatpeople to leave Sri Lanka, only pull factors from Australia.

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President says he will accept a resignation letter of Sarath Fonseka

President Mahinda Rajapkse had stated that if General Sarath Fonseka tenders his letter of resignation, he will accept it.

President added that he is not prepared to violate the fundamental rights of anyone. He can face any challenge he may have to encounter following the resignation of Gen.Sarath Fonseka.

The media reported recently, that Gen. Fonseka had informed the Defense Secretary one month ahead that he does not wish to extend his services any longer. At any rate, if Fonseka is to send in his resignation papers, there is room for the President to reject, reports further said.

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Don't be pawns, Sri Lanka President tells country's youth

"This is the time to take decisions intelligently"

Nov 10, Colombo: Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa today said that he will not allow anyone to destroy the country, a nation liberated by the sacrifice of thousands of brave lives.

Speaking at a special function held this afternoon to open the Ruwanpura Technical Science Faculty, President Rajapaksa said there is a certain conspiracy in the country to topple the government at this moment.

Addressing the young technical students, the President urged them not to be pawns of any person as some political parties are attempting to use the country's youth core to attain their own political ambitions.

The President said he would protect the pride of brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the independence of the nation.

"This is the time to take decisions intelligently," the President added.

He asked the youth of the country to join hands and give him the support to develop the country.

Education Minister Susil Premajayantha, Minister of Youth Affairs Pavithra Wanniarachchi, and Minister of Power and Energy John Senaviratne also participated in the ceremony.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

President opened Ruwanpura Technical College

Ban Tamil Tigers, Sri Lanka urges

OFFICIALS in Sri Lanka are urging Australia to ban the militant group the Tamil Tigers and strike a clear distinction between genuine refugees and economic opportunists.
As Foreign Minister Stephen Smith flew to Singapore following talks with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Foreign Minister, Rohitha Bogollagama, aimed at stopping the flow of boats, officials in Colombo told The Australian Sri Lankan people fleeing their country did not need protection.

Yesterday, Mr Smith announced Australia would provide $11 million in funding to Sri Lanka. Most of the money, $6m, will fund de-mining and rehabilitation in the nation's north after decades of violent conflict, while the rest will go towards housing, food and resettlement services.

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"Alex" discovered to be a Toronto gang member

The Police in Toronto recognized "Alex" as Sanjeev Kuhendrarajah who is a Toronto gang member. When a migrant smuggling ship bound for Australia was seized in Indonesian waters last month, 27-year-old Alex stepped forward to speak for the boat people. He said that he was Alex and that aboard the wooden cargo ship were Tamils fleeing Sri Lanka. He spoke in a distinctly Canadian accent.
Kuhendrarajah admitted he had been deported from Canada in 2003 for violent crimes, reported the National Post.

At Australia has been trying to figure out how to handle similar migrant ships headed its way. At Australia's request, the Indonesian Navy intercepted a boatload of 255 Sri Lankans early last month and brought them to Merak, in Western Java. Australia is reluctant to admit the asylum seekers, and the discovery that a convicted Toronto gang member is on board may only make matters worse.

During his 16 years in Canada, Kuhendrarajah had participated in a campaign of alleged violence against Tamils as a member of AK Kannan, a Tamil street gang behind a rash of drive-by shootings in Toronto.

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EU says no move to impose sanctions on Sri Lanka

The European Union (EU) says there is no move to impose any form of sanctions on Sri Lanka over alleged human rights abuses but on the contrary the EU is keen to maintain constructive dialogue with the Sri Lankan authorities.

Dismissing reports that a travel ban might be imposed on Sri Lankan military and other government officials from visiting EU countries, a top EU official in Brussels speaking to Daily Mirror online on the condition of anonymity said there is no discussion underway in the EU to that effect.

The EU official asserted that what is at stake today is whether the preferential trade scheme known as GSP plus will be renewed or not adding that even if it is not renewed, this would mean that Sri Lanka would still fall under GSP -- like many other countries.

“Imposing a travel ban EU-wise would legally necessitate a council decision. The European Commission is keen to maintain a constructive dialogue and engagement with the Sri Lankan authorities. All these point out that we are not in a logic of sanctions, which would be the more general context in the case of a travel ban,” the EU official told Daily Mirror.

Just last week Sri Lanka delivered its formal response to a European Union probe that found it in breach of international human rights laws and said it was hopeful of retaining a lucrative trade concession with the bloc.

"We will be setting out to clarify the points they have raised," Reuters last week qouted Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe as saying. "We are continuing the dialogue with the EU and we are hopeful that finally that GSP+ is granted."

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Monks call on Fonseka to reconsider moves to enter politics

The Maha Sangha says they will issue a decree(Sangha Ágnya) objecting to CDS General Sarath Fonseka’s acceptance as the Common Candidate of the opposition at a forthcoming Presidential Election, Ven. Medagama Dammananda Thero said at a press today.

Ven. Medagama Dammananda Thero on behalf of the Asgiri Chapter today requested CDS General Sarath Fonseka not be become the Common Opposition Candidate as that would waste a valuable leader who led the war against terrorism.

A group of monks as well as National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa today expressed concerns over moves by Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Sarath Fonseka to enter politics and urged him to reconsider. The monks also said they would brief the Chief Prelates of the Kandy chapter over their concerns. They expressed these views at a press conference held at BMICH.

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General Fonseka and the Election

Last week, in the first three paragraphs of this column, I made the point that despite rumours of General Sarath Fonseka’s impending entry into politics, there was a legal impediment to him doing so, because serving military officers are not allowed to resign as and when they want. What I said last week was that According to article 3(3) of the Chief of Defence Staff Act No 35 of 2009, the CDS may at any time resign from his position by letter addressed to the president.

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Lessons from Military strategies

The word "Strategy" is a military term derives from the Greek word "stratagem" which means "art of the general". Being strategic means, one must know where he presently stands, and next one must know where he wants to be, and finally one must find ways how to get there. Sri Lanka's President & Commander in Chief Mahinda Rajapaksa and his team of defence officials headed by Secretary Defence Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, provide a perfect example of being strategic for they accomplished a mission that was deemed impossible a quarter century. With the strategy they devised, not only they could defeat the most ruthless terrorist outfit seemed to the world but also they were able to paralyze international network that backed terrorist in this country.

The importance of strategies used during the humanitarian operations now have been top listed to integrate with the context of Marketing by one of the most acclaimed Marketing specialist Dr. Uditha Liyanage in the Financial Times today.

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Times Political Column...

Club brawl

A close relative of Gen. Fonseka's son-in-law is reported to have got entangled in a club brawl, which saw him being 'bounced' from the club by its owner. The next day, the club owner had received a threatening telephone call. The club owner seems to have influence himself - he had reported the matter to Major General Shavindra Silva, Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) and Maj-Gen. Mendeka Samarasinghe, Chief of Staff of the Army, because the number of the call was traced to an officer from the Artillery Regiment at Panagoda. An inquiry was promptly called into the matter.

At this stage, the Defence Secretary got to know that the officer concerned was possibly acting on other's behalf and seems to have wanted to sort the matter out without allowing it to proceed too far when it transpired that the case involved a relative of Gen. Fonseka.

Defence Secretary Rajapaksa then asked the Army Commander Jagath Jayasuriya not to proceed with the inquiry, and merely warn and discharge those behind the threatening call. However, the matter did not seem to end there.

The Army officer had gone to the Homagama Police station to lodge a complaint that he himself had received a threat from Maj-Gen. Shavindra Silva. The police refused to entertain the entry on the footing that this seemed to be a matter involving the Army, and therefore something for the Military Police to handle.

By now the Police were shivering in their boots at the high-profile exchanges within the Army, and all the Police stations were refusing to entertain the officer's complaint. Ultimately, he ended up at Police Headquarters to make an entry.

When the complaint reached Police Headquarters, President Mahinda Rajapaksa became privy to what was happening. He had asked the Defence Secretary Rajapaksa to settle the issue, but the Defence Secretary instructed the Army Commander to take tough disciplinary action at this stage because the officer was now going around making serious allegations against a very senior officer in the Army. He was told to suspend the officer and to subject him to a full probe.

Instructions went to the Regimental Commander thereafter with the suspension orders, as the Defence Secretary took up the position that "we won't be able to run the Army this way". He was alluding to a breakdown of discipline if junior officers were going to be intimidating senior officers.

On his return to Colombo, Gen. Fonseka was to complain to the defence Secretary saying "Sir, balanna. May Major-wa suspend karala thiyanawa ne" (Sir, see, this Major has been suspended).

At this point the conversation got heated, with the Defence Secretary lecturing Gen. Fonseka about discipline in the Army, and reminding him of the number of people he (Gen. Fonseka) sent out on disciplinary grounds, and often for lesser offences.

The Defence Secretary was to say that Maj-Gen. Shavindra Silva was Director Operations of the Army, and "a General", and asked how a junior officer could do this even after an internal inquiry.

At this point the Defence Secretary Rajapaksa told Gen. Fonseka, "Sarath, don't come to teach me about discipline", at which point Gen. Fonseka barked back "This is not justice" and terminated the conversation. The harsh exchange between the men who jointly succeeded in prosecuting the war against the LTTE, speaks for itself.

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We live in interesting times. Very interesting times. Even just waking up in the morning is a voyage of discovery, not knowing what the day brings! For here in Sri Lanka, everyday some tragi-comedy takes place in our little island! It's a reality show of the extreme kind - and every day, as yet another drama unfolds, we Sri Lankans have no idea whether to laugh or cry!

Take the happenings of last week, for instance. The whole of the country was speculating on many things, on many fronts. First, it was all about GSP+, with anybody and everybody jumping on the bandwagon. Then came the EU report. All sorts of allegations - facts be damned! After that the US report titled "Report to Congress on Incidents During the Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka", which also cites alleged crimes during the final stages of the war. All these intrusions were then forgotten with the talk of upcoming elections. What would come first, the Presidential or the General Election? If the former, then who would field whom to take on the President? Everybody in the country has an opinion on the merits and demerits of possible candidates, and this was the HOT topic till last Sunday, when we were astounded by the extraordinary news that a top official of this country has been summoned for a 'voluntary' interview with a superpower country whilst there on a brief visit, ostensibly to discuss events that took place during the last days of the war.

Which leads us to face the fact that having won the war against terrorism, it now seems that everybody out there is out to get us! For some bizarre reason, Sri Lanka, the little Pearl of the Indian Ocean now seems to be the centre of the Universe! Everybody from the North Pole to the South Pole is concerned about us. Whilst war rages and ravages in the continent just next door, all the nations responsible for these wars are now honing on our little country, hell bent on punishing us for 'winning' our war against terror!

We have won this war at great cost. The human cost of this three decade war alone is sufficient to justify any means to end the horrors that we had to live with for the past thirty years. Many young lives were sacrificed by both the parties to the conflict - so many bright young lights were extinguished before they had lived a full life. After thirty years of nonstop violence, someone had to take a tough decision to somehow conquer terrorrism, and standby that decision! This was a war that vested Western interests always tried to impress upon us that was 'unwinnable'. That the terrorists can never be defeated. The country as a whole was extremely fortunate to be led by persons who were determined to erase this menace, once and for all, from our soil. And it was this unity of purpose that guided us to victory, a victory never dreamt by the people of Sri Lanka.

Now five months have gone past. For many of us, it seems, that the hard won war is a thing of the past, and taken very much for granted. After all, we Sri Lankans are famous for having very short memories! But how could we forget the very recent past so easily? Have we forgotten the bad old days, when we would get out of the house in the morning, not knowing whether we would make it back home alive in the evening? How our hearts were in our mouths every time an explosion rocked the city not knowing who was hurt or killed?

Let me remind all those who suffer from a 'recollection disease' - a sort of 'selective loss of memory' where all the LTTE atrocities were concerned! * The Central Bank mega bomb. * The Dalada Maligawa bomb. * The Sri Maha Bodiya massacre. * The Kebitigollawa bomb. * Rows and rows of very young priests laid out in lines after the Arantalawa massacre, shot in cold blood. * One long trench dug to bury all those who died in the Kebitigollawa massacre. * Young schoolboys killed in the Fort railway station blast. * Three bus bombs in the South. These are but a few examples of attacks on civilians, on innocents. LTTE also targeted and killed most of our leaders. * From President Premadasa to former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar. And Indian President Rajiv Gandhi.

The list is endless.

But the LTTE is no more. Therefore, report after report emanating from the West chronicling atrocities and alleging war crimes to 'both' parties have no value. These reports demand that 'a full and independent investigation' be held so that those responsible can be 'held accountable'. A pretty lop-sided argument since one party accused of these crimes, is now for all purposes 'virtual'. After all, the Supreme Terrorist is dead. So are most, if not all, his top leadership. Then just how is one supposed to hold a full and independent investigation to find the LTTE accountable for thirty years of war crimes? Unless of course, those who funded terrorists are held responsible.

One fact is crystal clear. These reports, posing as 'balanced' accounts of what took place, become in reality, documents which allege atrocities and crimes ONLY against the State. Why is it that the Western powers are on a veritable witchhunt? Why is this little island of such paramount importance to the West? Why is it so important to destabilize Sri Lanka when we are just coming out of a thirty year war, instead of supporting us to get back on our feet?

We must realize that powerful nations will always try to strangle us economically, destabilize us politically, insert puppet regimes that they control and try their best to subjugate us in any which way they can! They will chase us, and hound us for alleged war crimes and accuse us of many atrocities. They will try their best to stop aid and withhold concessions, maybe just to get a few votes from their constituents!

Whatever their reasons may be, we have to beware. Be very aware. United, we won an unwinnable war. Let us not forget what we achieved at such a great cost to the nation. Let us not forget that Sri Lanka is on the brink of realizing her full potential!

The need of the hour is not to find a 'common' or the garden variety type of candidate for the Presidential election. The need of the hour is to unite, and fight the 'common' enemy.

For united we stand. Divided we fall.Let sanity prevail.

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