Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sri Lanka tourist arrivals overtake Maldives

Dec 19, 2012 (LBO) - Sri Lanka's tourist arrivals which rose 16.5 percent to 883,353 in the 11 months to November 2012 from a year earlier, has outstripped that of Maldives which welcomed 866,310 tourists up only 2.4 percent.

Sri Lanka has experienced a tourism boom since the end of a war in 2009, while the Maldives has seen political turmoil and also a more up market model dependent on Europe which has taken a hit with economic troubles in the region.

Analysts say Sri Lanka has an inclusive tourist industry more in the style of an egalitarian capitalist-liberal model embracing less-affluent tourists, with many small hotels mushrooming up and boosting competition.

Maldives has a feudal-artisan type model catering to affluent customers. Many Sri Lankans work in the Maldives industry and Sri Lanka hotel groups also run resorts.

Before the birth of capitalism in the West with industrialization and mass production, goods were painstakingly hand-made by artisans priced at many months of their own salary that could only be afforded by rich aristocrats.

But with the birth of capitalism, the workers of businesses could themselves afford the output of their own workplace, whether it was clothing or a model T-Ford, and more recently a mobile phone or a budget air ticket.

Internet booking engines such as has seen an explosion of new listings from Sri Lanka in the past two years which can be directly purchased by independent travellers, especially from areas like Hikkaduwa, a smaller version of Bali or Penang.

Such tourists spots date their origins to the so-called 'hippie trail' of the 1960 and 70s made up of small business owners and budget travellers.

The phenomenon revolutionized global tourism before the advent of privately owned budget airlines when air travel was constrained by state-run full service carriers.
The 'hippie trail' died down after the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union.

Visitors from Britain fell 13.8 percent to 7,164 in November to the Maldives.

Tourists from Germany fell 13.2 percent to 8,729 and from Italy by 35.9 percent to 3,551, data from the Maldives tourist promotion office showed.

But Sri Lanka saw a 16.6 percent rise in German visitors to 8,161 in November while visitors from UK rose 12.9 percent to 10,828.

Some of Sri Lanka's up market hotels have been offering credit card discounts in December, usually the peak season. Up market hotels have expensive infrastructure, despite tax breaks and building materials imported duty free.

Chinese arrivals rose 9.2 percent to 18,450, a trend also seen in Sri Lanka.

>> Source

Steep drop in city’s Sinhala population

The Sinhala population in Colombo city has dropped to 24 percent in 2012 from 50 percent in 1971, according to the latest statistical records.

The preliminary data of the 2012 Census indicates that the percentages of the Tamil and Muslim populations in Colombo had increased to 33 percent and 40 percent respectively.

In 1971 the Muslim population in Colombo stood at 19 percent and in 2012 it had increased to 40 percent. The percentage of the Tamil population in Colombo in 1971 was 24.5 percent and in 2012 it had increased to 33 percent.

The Sinhala population in the city now stands at 79,468, while Tamil and Muslim populations stand at 106,325 and 126,345 respectively.

>> Source

Friday, November 9, 2012

2013 Budget Highlights

 ·         Government allocates Rs.1000 million for three year housing loan scheme for security forces personnel.

 ·         Government targets a US $ 100 billion GDP by year 2016 to make the country a middle income country.
 ·         Re-forestation will be carried out to increase the forest coverage up to 35%.
 ·         Guaranteed price for paddy will be increased to Rs.35 and Rs.37 per kg.
 ·         Interest on loans obtained by farmers in the drought stricken areas will be fully abolished.
 ·         In order to popularize the organic fertilizer the government will purchase the from the local producers at Rs 400 per bag and duty on items used for organic fertilizer will be removed.
 ·         Kelani River and Deduru Oya will diverted to provide irrigation facilities to North Western Province.
 ·         Rs 126 billion to provide drinking water facilities to1.58 million families in various districts including North and east.
 ·         Fallow paddy land will not be allowed to be reclaimed and if the owners do not engage in production it will be obtain under and a govi scheme.
 ·         No permit needed for Kithul and coconut tapping for the purpose of producing jaggery and other products in future.
 ·         Subsidy o tea small holders will be increased from Rs.300,000 to Rs.350,000 per hectare. Subsidy for New plantation will also be increased.
 ·         In order to increase the coconut and rubber productivity, plants will be given free of charge for replanting on lands up to 5 acres.
 ·         The fee on Motor vehicle revenue license will be increased from 2013.
 ·         Rs 300 million to improve  indigenous medicinal systems.
 ·         Rs 100 million allocated to support media involved in tourism coverage.
 ·         Selling lands to foreigners will be completely prohibited.
 ·         All equipment needed by people with special abilities, will be made duty free.
 ·         Rs 900 million will be allocated for Provincial Teacher Training.
 ·         Additional allocation of Rs 4000 million will be made to enroll 5000 students additionally to universities as per Supreme Court order.
 ·         Heavy tax on Imported milk powder.
 ·         Urban housing allocation increased to Rs 750 million.
 ·         Allocation for research for university academics and medical professionals increased by Rs 250 million.
 ·         Nena Sala centres will be set up in every Grama Niladari Division utilizing the buildings of government and religious places.
 ·         Rs 200 million to implement the interest free loan to journalists and artistes in 2013.
 ·         Education sector allocated 4.1% of GDP - Rs 306 billion.
 ·         Sri Lankans working abroad to get Rs 250,000 housing loan at 10 % interest.
 ·         Supermarkets with revenues of over RS 50 million annually will be imposed NBT and VAT tax.
 ·         Airport tax and online visa tax will be increased by 10% and  5 % respectively.
 ·         All financial firms to pay 1% of their profits to National Insurance Fund.
 ·         Dairy farmers will be paid Rs 50 per litre of milk.
 ·         Livelihood allowance of Rs.5,000 per month to the victims of the 1980 July strike who haven’t been able to adopt to an acceptable livelihood source and are above 65 years on January 1, 2013.
 ·         Taxes on imported liquor will be increased by 25%.
 ·         Cost of Living allowance for pensioners will be increased by Rs.500/-.
 ·         Monthly allowance of minimum Rs 1500 will be paid to every public servant, of which Rs 750 will be paid as CoL allowance.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Whose problem is Sri Lanka to solve - Sri Lankan Tamils or All Tamils

A country of 20m people, a majority of close to 15m people (the Sinhalese) is into its 3rdyear having militarily eliminated 30 years of LTTE terrorism. What has confused matters is the manner in which elected Tamil leaders have claimed that the LTTE terrorist demands and those of the Tamil people are one and the same on the grounds that the LTTE was the sole representative of the Tamil people – something that the Tamil people did not deny or disassociate from and nothing that the Sinhalese can be blamed for quoting. Now that terrorism is no more, several questions emerges –  whose grievances are to be solved, how internal are these grievances, are these grievances exclusive to Tamils and whether Sri Lanka is in a position to solve the grievance that All Tamils of the World have. It is not Sri Lanka but India that holds the key to unlocking what the World Tamils really desire.

Over the years Sri Lanka has been inundated with voices all lining up to be “speaking on behalf of the Tamils” – our question is – which Tamils are they referring to? If it is Sri Lankan Tamils, our next question is what are the grievances of the Tamils that are exclusive to them and denied to them legislatively and constitutionally? Is there any grievances that are not common to Sinhalese, Muslims, Burghers and Malays – does the world think that these people do not have grievances themselves or are their grievances not important and only those of Tamils that should matter? We cannot get anywhere unless these fundamental questions are answered. With 15m Sinhalese no one can deny they will have more grievances than any other.

No wonder even Sri Lanka’s Government is confused – Karunanidhi and Tamil Nadu politicos are calling for an Eelaam for all Tamils, the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora is also making different calls that one wonders why they would need to have so many different organization names if they are all asking for the same thing, then they have managed to rope in Tamils of different citizenry, then some cyberspace e-Government has been set up known as a Transnational Government….we really don’t know who is wanting what and for whom. These calls are perfect reasons for nothing to be done except to be dragging issues hurling accusations at different times all part of a game in politics called delaying tactics – unless this really is the modus operandi and explains why these parties are in existence – which doesn’t give much benefit at the end of the day to those who really matter. As for those who really matter – did they ever matter? To Prabakaran, they didn’t. The reasons are simply enough.

Here was an organization making USD300m profit annually and througout 30 years Prabakaran and his LTTE did not make a single road, did not construct a single house for poor Tamils, did not create a single bright child except teams of child killers, did not put up a single school, did not build a single hospital or health center but Prabakaran did make a magnificent swimming pool deep in the jungles, an amazing underground house going 3 storeys underneath with tiled toilets and all the amenities – he was even served restaurant style food…. This is not how the Indian Maoists carry out their rebel movement, that’s for sure. The Tamil people need to know that Prabakaran did not aspire for any Tamil Eelam – he did aspire for an LTTE Eelaam where he and his stooges and their families would reign over all other Tamils and the rest of Sri Lanka.

In reality Prabakaran and the LTTE dug a grave in the pursuit for a global Tamil Eelaam drive because what he did was to ensure that no such Eelaam would ever be given and who better than India to realize this, because whatever India’s faults India is one nation that will not take too kindly to being broken up. That is why India will never allow a Tamil Eelaam which is why Tamil politicians in Sri Lanka, Tamil Diaspora the world over are slowly distancing themselves from verbally using Eelaam as a reference alongside their grievance malady because they know it will not get them anywhere. More so because Sri Lanka is in a position to prove statistically that hardly 500,000 live in the North (which includes the 300,000 the Sri Lankan military rescued) negating the “we can’t live with Sinhalese because of discrimination” chant because over 1.2m are presently living and working amongst the Sinhalese – and not one can claim genocide if according to the BBC Channel 4 Sinhalese have nothing to do but ethnically cleanse Tamils! Let it not be forgotten that it was these very Tamil leaders who were against poor low caste Tamils enjoying education when the Government brought legislation in 1957.

What is presently obviously clear is that the Sinhalese people have stopped waiting for its Government to be putting the story straight internationally. It is because Sri Lanka’s representatives have failed to address questions with proper answers that we find ourselves humiliated and not meeting the challenges head on. People are welcome to ask questions and they must also be prepared to accept the answers. We are getting a little tired with all these fancy words and notions flung at diplomatic discussions all to make merry-go-round type solutions that would be detrimental for the sovereignty of a nation and realistically speaking having nothing to do with any Tamil grievance either.
We do not need to continue to remind that Tamil Nadu people and politicians made numerous attempts even appeals to the British to consider allowing a separate Tamil state at the time of independence to India which was denied by both Britain and Indian leaders. This was the first “self-determination” attempt for Tamils to have a separate Tamil Homeland in Tamil Nadu – Tamils remain the ONLY significant minority race without its own homeland especially when the state of Tamil Nadu – (land of the Tamils) is 95% Tamil, Tamil is the official language and Tamil culture, heritage and religion enjoy greater Tamil freedom than anywhere else in the world). Therefore no sooner Tamil Eelaam is referred to we are only going to be directing that solution to India and Tamil Nadu – therefore it is best that if Tamils really want anything to stop the fairytale Eelam in Sri Lanka and get down to the real issues if any.

When asked direct questions the defence has been to quickly say that the demand for Eelam in Sri Lanka has been forced because of bad rule…I think it is the Sinhalese containing 74% majority who would have first grievance over bad rule because being the majority everything affects them first. The most unfair observance is that it appears to be perfectly agreeable for Tamils to go atop international platforms, use electronic media, lobby politicians and decision makers and promote falsehoods and lies all associated with Tamil grievances and when any Sinhalese puts the story straight with facts – it is described as being racist and tantamount to causing greater animosity and distancing any forms of reconciliation!

The continuance of bringing up riots is outdated because no such event has happened in over 30 years and quoting such is irrelevant in the present context. If some of the arguments are applicable to the Black Americans then they should be asking a separate state in USA as well! Then there is reference to Mahinda Rajapaksa promising not 13 but 13plus – the country is not run by only Mahinda Rajapaksa, he is elected by the people to ensure that the sovereignty and integrity of the country remains undivided and undevolved.

Then those apologists of TNA say that they are not demanding a separate state – please read their 2010 election manifesto which is the most credible reference to what the TNA is all about – what does the TNA want :

a) a Tamil Nation in the island of Ceylon (Ceylon is being used in 2010 when it should be Sri Lanka)
b) The Call for a Federal Constitution – reference to “self-determination”
c) Abandoning the unitary model – shared sovereignty
d) Our Lands and Our People exploited – aspiration “for genuine autonomy”
e) the Tamil people are entitled to the right of “self-determination”.
f) Power-sharing in a unit of MERGED Northern and Eastern Provinces based on a Federal structure
g) Devolution of power over land, law and order, socioeconomic development including health, education, resources and fiscal powers.
h) Direct foreign investment in the North and East
i) De-militarization – removal of armed forces, military apparatuses and High Security Zones from Northern and Eastern provinces.

This is the TNA manifesto of 2010 with TNA appealing to the Tamil people for the “right to self-determination” which clearly indicates what the wishes of the Tamil politicians are, therefore when to whitewash this others say “we are for a united Sri Lanka … as Sri Lankans.. and we don’t want separatism” … we want to know who is saying what and who are we to really believe? Unless that assurance comes the Governments of Sri Lanka are not going to have it easy from the majority people –the Sinhalese for under no condition is the country to be divided or devolved – the simple logic to this is what Tamil Governance in the North – when the majority of Tamils are living amongst the Sinhalese including the TNA politicians! What Tamil Eelaam when 72m of the worlds 77m already live in a state where Tamils are the majority, Tamil is the official language – isn’t this what the Tamil people want, or do they still not know what they want?

However, the Sri Lankan Tamils can change this scenario – they must finally stop putting one foot here and another foot there. If the Tamils can firmly say that they are not for any division of the country – we can finally get rid of these leeches out to divide the country. The call must come from the Tamil people. The Tamil people of Sri Lanka must finally realize that Tamil Nadu is not concerned about them nor is India – they have enough of issues to resolve.  More importantly, Sri Lanka is not part of India, we have different cultures, different beliefs and certainly different behaviors. The Tamil people must also realize that the Tamil Diaspora most of whom are today involved in fisticuffs amongst each other are doing so only to gain greater control of the LTTE illegal kitty – they were no where when the LTTE was running the show. The Tamil people must also realize that just like the Sinhalese and the Muslims we all agree that politicians are the same whatever party they belong to.

But what is true is that the Sinhalese, the Muslims, the Malays, the Burghers and the Tamils do have problems – their problems are no different from the other and they are all related when one looks closely to administrative fallacies and administrative hiccups which can easily be addressed if we, that is the people stand together and demand actions from the people we have elected to office irrespective of any politics… this is the only way to move forward, for in aligning with the selfish games that politicians play we are simply being used to advance their agendas.

It is up to the Tamil population living in Sri Lanka to decide…. If they continue to go with the Tamil Eelaam theme – the road leads to Tamil Nadu, if they go with the Tamil Diaspora confusing rhetoric – they are losing the opportunity to start a new chapter with the Sinhalese – the people must come together for a country to prosper.

by Shenali Waduge

Monday, October 8, 2012

Lessons from President Premadasa for Sri Lanka’s current leadership

There are many lessons from the rule of President Premadasa that will help to avoid repetition of making the same mistakes if properly adhered to. The quality of governance has deteriorated over the years and it is unlikely to change unless the present culture of governance carried down by successive governments and politicians does not change. Let all politicians remember that all governments have ended up falling short of people’s expectations because they have removed themselves away from the people trusting in only their henchmen of advisors and no sooner governments moves away from the masses it becomes the beginning of the end.

The culture to depend on the underworld and goon squads have passed down from one government to the other resulting in unnecessary bloodshed and a spate of criminal activity that has brought the country into disrepute over the years. Until such time this trend to depend on thugs ceases to be we are unlikely to bring any semblance of good governance to Sri Lanka since the law of the country needs to apply to all equally and officials implementing laws should not have to bow their heads down to lowlife gangsters who thinks they can brandish a weapon and people have to worship them.

Sri Lanka’s mobsters
Gangster rule and good squads started with the UNP and its legacy has continued unabated. The Wikipedia has a separate of Sri Lankan mobsters starting out with Gonawala Sunil involved in a spate of activities including rape of a 14 year old girl for which he was given a presidential pardon by then President J R Jayawardena and ended up obtaining an all-island justice of peace and bodyguard to Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe then Minister of Education. Need we say more about the culture that was being slowly created. Then came Sothi Upali said to be a close ally of Sirisena C, then Minister of Housing under President Premadasa. Sri Lanka’s police had to address Sothththi Upali as “Sir”. Taking over from Soththi Upali was his arch rival Chintaka Amarasinghe who is said to have been aligned to the People’s Alliance. His brother Dhammika Amarasinghe is said to have had a hand in over 50 murders and countless bank robberies and as is always the case when their notoriety gets too linked to their patrons they end up being gunned down to conceal that links. Then comes Kalu Ajith who killed Chintaka Amarasinghe and was killed by Chintaka’s brother Dhammika. Next to enter is Kaduwela Wasantha who after a decade of terror was gunned down by another rival Karate Dhammika. We will all remember Baddegane Sanjeewa who was a police sergeant for President Kumaratunga. The other notorious underworld figures with fascinating names are Moratu Saman, Thoppi Chaminda,, Nawala Nihal, Kalu Ajit, Vambotta, Olcott, Thel Bala, Kimbulaela Guna, Dematagoda Kamal, Colum, Anamalu Imtiaz, Potta Naufer, Neluwa Priyantha, Kudu Lal and the latest to enter Julampitiye Amare.

The Good and Bad of Premadasa
If no human is perfect then no leader is perfect either. In the case of a President there are certainly good times and bad times though no leader can make the entire population happy with the decisions taken.

It is good to wonder how much of the legacy Premadasa had to deal with was of his own making. If we recall the late 1980s and early 1990s it is nothing but bloodshed and gruesome killings with a country torched from North to South. It was Ranjan Wijeratne who took on the task of eliminating the JVP which gave a sigh of relief to the people of the South though many innocent Sinhala youth perished as a result. No human rights organizations cried foul play not even the local NGO bandwagons or their mouthpieces.

It was J R Jayawardena who introduced neo-liberal economy to Sri Lanka which Premadasa continued while also carrying out his own program of bringing the villages to a reasonable level and managed to transform the UNP often described as the party of relatives into what he termed a people oriented party. He deregulated trade, financial services and privatization, he created massive zones of small industries giving employment to women in rural villages through garments, shoes, toys and revived tourism. He had started well over 15,000 small industry-based projects all over the island.

What no leader has been able to match was Premadasa’s passion for precision and his attention given to details. He work up at 4a.m. did his yoga, read the newspapers and would even call his staff and ask for updates and no one could say “later”! – he was behind every project personally monitoring and supervising them and never forgot a single project he started. During Premadasa’s presidency not a single Government office was spared unannounced visits and all offices were clean and staff always on alert not knowing when the President might walk in. After Premadasa, the Government offices have cared little to continue those good practices and most offices function in a don’t care attitude.

Where did Premadasa go wrong. Coming from humble beginnings and working his way up the political ladder it was natural that he would suffer internal complexities which were manipulated by the people he kept around him as his inner circle. However those economic advisors did not want to make real Premadasa’s vision of making the poor richer and instead the rich got richer and the poor got poorer and people started to develop hate for the man they hoped would change their future.

The lessons
A leader is brought down by his advisors and it is no different in the case of President Premadasa which reiterates the need for the present leadership to be wary of those they solicit advice from. It was the rumors the tales and lies fed into the ears of President Premadasa that turned an iconic figure into a demon distancing him from parliamentary colleagues, sane advice by surrounding him with henchmen who turned Premadasa into a dictator killing off all opposition. In a country as small as Sri Lanka once sealed as a dictator it is difficult to remove that name from people’s minds. The poster mania started with the UNP and there was never an empty wall without a picture of Premadasa, the culture of news reflecting only politicians and their daily openings is another factor that has been carried down by successive governments over the years. Street smart, Premadasa definitely was but it takes far more to lead in a world where leaders are led by greater leaders. It is for this reason that leaders need to have intellectuals who love the nation and its sovereignty advising them and certainly not intellectuals ready to hand over the nation to foreigners.

While we cannot forget the manner that President Premadasa stood up against India demanding that the IPKF pack their bags and leave forthwith was overshadowed by the manner he lavished arms to the LTTE which killed countless innocent civilians and troops. We will not forget the lives of 500 innocent policemen who had to give up their arms on instructions of the Premadasa Government and watch each comrade being shot by the LTTE. It is said that President Premadasa had even threatened India that he would abrogate the 1987 Indo-Lanka Agreement and we wonder why he did not. The public have had enough of threats made to only please the public. It is now time for action.
Premadasa’s tenure of leadership was certainly marked with highs and lows and the manner that people celebrated his death with crackers and fireworks does not project any of the good he did during his 5 years in office as President. It does convey perfectly to all future leaders that people forget the good and will judge only on the bad and this is a lesson that needs to be remembered and not ignored. Leaders who accept this fact with a don’t care attitude are in for greater shocks.

Premadasa led a country in one of the most violent phases of Sri Lanka’s history. His advisors manipulated his paranoia, his weaknesses were tapped turning him into a man hated by the masses. He compared himself with great Dutugemunu and his closest confidant became the second most powerful man in the country but a man whose connections to LTTE terrorism remains to be investigated to understand how terrorism was created in Sri Lanka and why it remains a threat to this day with his connections to the Tamil Nadu “Eelam factor”.

It is often the advisors that build up animosities amongst politicians creating political rivalries. We all remember the animosities that prevailed between Premadasa, Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake and their advisors will know how they played one against the other.

We may also like to remember President Premadasa’s plead of innocence “You can assassinate me…but don’t assassinate my character…” claiming he had nothing to do in the murder of Athulathmudali.

The view of most during Premadasa’s rule was that “you cannot rule a country by killing its people” though he chased out the Indian’s he did nothing about the Provincial Council system and judged the PCs as a means of generating a political base which is the same situation unfolding currently.
We are well aware that regime change is a top priority in the political scene prevalent in Sri Lanka. The strikes, the protests are all part of the ploys being used to test the type of change to be further manipulated. These are all testers before the real plan is set into motion and is meant to test how a government is able to handle situations. Governments do not help the situation by playing footsy with governance by setting different rules of laws to favored people and the malpractices building up over the years end up creating a mass of people unhappy with the type of governance not helped in the least by media which is often anti-government projecting situations far worse than what they are.
Devolving powers is not the answer
It is therefore upto the Government to face the situation realistically without functioning in a state of denial. No regime change operators will touch a country that has its masses behind its Government. This is why attempts are afoot to make the Government and the leadership to be projected as dictatorial and unsuited to lead. The reaction is not to make the situation worse but to take measures to address these properly.
What is evident is that advisors have managed to make Sri Lanka’s leadership think that by devolving powers the war crimes probe will be swept under the carpet. This is nothing but a carrot being dangled to get the President to agree to devolution. Agreeing to devolution is to destroy the sovereignty and unitary status of Sri Lanka and it is a quicker exit for the President from power and will leave him forgotten in history as a man who defeated terrorism but destroyed the nation – and it will be nothing he can ever be proud of. Therefore, it is good for the President to start to move closer to the people for they would never allow the country to ever fall into pieces for any peace that external forces are promising. In a country that has summers and springs we do not need further springs! 
by Shenali Waduge

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Another Success : All IDPs resettled in North Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s success story comes after suffering 3 decades of terrorism, loss of close to 80,000 lives, rejection of numerous local and international bids of ceasefires and peace talks, refusal to stop killings of innocent civilians, continuance of child conscription to finally decide on a military solution to ending the conflict. It took just 3 years to complete the military elimination of the LTTE including its ground leadership in May 2009 becoming the first nation to eliminate terrorism from its soil freeing the people from suicide attacks and indiscriminate LTTE bombings. It took just 3 year to achieve another feat – that of resettling all the 295,873IDPs who were all rescued by the armed forces in a humanitarian rescue operation that left 5000 soldiers sacrificing their lives to bring Tamil civilians to safety. This last resettlement of 1186 persons from 361 Tamil families puts Sri Lanka on top of an exclusively single position of being the only country to resettle its IDPs given that there are 27.5m internally displaced people worldwide. The number of refugees is said to be over 62m more than half of whom have become refugees because of war.

IDPs in Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghantan …..differs from Sri Lanka
At the outset it is extremely important to understand that the IDP situations that arose in Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and a host of other nations throughout the world has been solely as a result of foreign invasion and foreign military intervention. The situation in Sri Lanka arose as a result of a terrorist organization functioning within Sri Lanka on a killing rampage that lasted 3 decades eliminating people of all ethnic groups and religions including their own.

We do not need to tell the US or NATO since it has been involved in many foreign invasions of the need to plan how to proactively program for the issue of population displacement and refugees. That they have failed to look into this all important area even after every invasion foretells its lack of concern for these natives. The situation in Sri Lanka when it took the bold decision to militarily defeat came not suddenly but after 6 foreign backed peace negotiations and countless ceasefires which had been ignored or abused by the LTTE. Alongside the military onslaught using land, naval, air forces the military also designed an indigenous program to cater to the people who were likely to be displaced. That program incorporated the objectives of Reconstruction, Resettlement, Rehabilitation, Reintegration and Reconciliation. Despite being a Third World country the merits of that achievement in so far as detailing out what needed to be done must gain applause over lack of planning by First World nations in the countries they have invaded.

Too often we are mesmerized into thinking that all of the invasions have been solely to bring about democracy to nations demonized by dictators. Unfortunately, of the 18 regime changes US has advocated during the past few decades its success rate is less than 30% success to nations they have invaded – it is not a record to be proud of for a First World nation. The failure of successfully rebuilding Iraq and reforming it weighs heavily and is now used against the US and its allies by the Muslim world. A confidential UN report by the UN Commissioner for Refugees Rudd Lubbers warned that 5.4m Iraqi’s would require food and basic needs, 39% would need portable water in the first months of the war. The Center for Humanitarian Cooperation claimed that 100,000 Iraqi’s would need immediate food on day 1 of the invasion and the numbers would rise by the day – what NATO did was to bomb the railroads, bridges, ports, electricity and the water systems that Iraq depended upon. If a humanitarian crisis occurred in Iraq, US and NATO were solely responsible. This same type of infrastructure destroying was used by NATO in Libya most recently. It is poignant to know what timeslines the UN bodies have placed upon these nations to resettle the natives that they have unsettled due to the foreign invasion. This type of IDP resettlement has to take precedence over cases like Sri Lanka because most often the invasions have been without global or UN consent and purely as a result of corporate motives to plunder the natural wealth and resources of these nations.

Internally Displaced Person (IDP):
What is an IDP? An internally displaced person (IDP) is an individual who like a refugee is fleeing from persecution or violence, but the difference is they stay in their country of nationality.

List of Countries with a considerable amount of IDPs:
·       Africa has 11.8 million IDPs in 21 countries
·       Sudan: 5-6 million
·       Iraq: Over 2.5 million
·       Colombia: 2-3 million
·       The Democratic Republic of Congo: 1.5 million
·       Pakistan: 1 Million
·       Azerbaijan: 1,000,000
·       Uganda: 869,000
·       Cote d’Ivoire: 709,000
·       India: 600,000
·       Burma (Myanmar): 503,000
·       Zimbabwe: 560,000-960,000
·       The Philippines (US invaded in 1945): 300,000
·       Kenya: 250,000-400,000
·       Serbia: over 225,000
·       Georgia: 220,000-300,000
·       Cyprus: 210,000
·       Indonesia: 200,000-350,000
·       Ethiopia: 200,000
·       Israel: 150,000-420,000
·       Gaza and the West Bank: 2 million
·       The Central African Republic: 197,000
·       Chad: 178,000
·       Afghanistan: 132,000-200,000

Sri Lanka’s other achievements

While attempts to belittle Sri Lanka’s achievements continue through propaganda campaigns that finds its strength from the illicit funds raised by foreign LTTE representatives, it is important to sieve the lies by recognizing the achievements.  

The success of Sri Lanka’s post-conflict includes the completion of demining of land, rehabilitating and reintegrating 11,989 surrendered LTTE combatants. Only 636 LTTE combatants remain who are not ready to be reintegrated while 383 ex-combatants are likely to have formal charges filed against them for terrorist activity under Sri Lankan law. Of this number 594 were child combatants and a policy decision was taken by the Sri Lankan Government not to take legal action against them. Today these reintegrated children are continuing their education or following some vocational training – these were children who were taught nothing other than to hold a gun and nothing more than to kill. In another first, 53 LTTE couples were married in a mass wedding ceremony organized by the military.

Can anyone doubt there is normalcy in a country that knew nothing other than to expect bombs and suicide missions!

Can anyone visiting the North today deny that these towns and villages have been brought to a level on par with the rest of the country when during LTTE de facto rule not a single road, infrastructure, school or hospital was been built despite LTTE making $300m annual profits. LTTE lived off confiscating state provisions sent to the people of the North inflating population figures to ensure more provisions are sent. In the East too various programs for development has been launched with industries coming up and people slowly picking up the pieces.

Civil services as well as military involvement has enabled the restoration of irrigation infrastructure, canals, tanks and the revival of agriculture and farming. Over 1000 schools have been restored and healthcare facilities upgraded. The military personnel have together renovated and even built several new kovils and gifted them to the people of the North. The soldiers most of whom do not have proper homes themselves have built hundreds of houses for the Tamil civilians.

The number of checkpoints has reduced from 2000 in 2009 to hardly a handful. Despite calls to reduce the military in the North the people feel far safe having them stationed there visible by the popularity of the services in North especially in the Mullaitivu areas – the main hub of LTTE activity. In a sovereign country, no one has the right to dictate where it chooses to locate its military given that the security of the country remains a key concern until the full reconciliation process is over. These achievements for a developing country is something that should not be brushed aside based on the power of money that the LTTE proxies are extending.

The journey is not over ….we are talking about decades of distrust that needs to be rebuilt and that journey cannot be done according to time lines or be remote controlled be foreign Governments or international bodies. It must take place internally by society itself and even the Sri Lankan Government should not involve itself too much in this process because healing must take place slowly with people traveling North to South and South to North learning to re-appreciate the other and to change their perceptions on their own. It cannot be legislated and it cannot be dictated.

Therefore it is extremely important that the people of Sri Lanka be given time to heal on their own at their own pace. The world wanted the elimination of terrorism – Sri Lanka has achieved just that. Sri Lanka has moreover resettled all of the IDPs which should earn this small island nation the appreciation it deserves.

by Shenali Waduge

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Over 1000 US foreign military bases yet commotion over Sri Lanka’s internal military

“I emphasized the importance of progress in reducing the role and profile of the military in the North, and full respect for human rights” – thus said Robert Blake, an US official flying regularly to Sri Lanka bringing messages from his Government. Interesting as the statement is, it raises one simple question – in which international law book does it say that the US can have over thousands of foreign military bases while US can dictate to a sovereign nation on how to place its military inside its country? This is the question Sri Lankans like to ask and have answered. When the nations legally made to host these US foreign installations oppose US presence, what “accountability” does the US have for respecting the calls of these natives – since The “Status of Forces Agreement” has guaranteed that US cannot be held accountable for their crimes in any country that the US has bases in.

Exact US foreign military bases: Keep Guessing
It is believed that the US has over 1000 foreign military bases in over 120 nations and territories while UK and France have a further 200 in their former colonies. Inside these territories and nations the US bases and outposts are equally shocking. The number of US personnel currently stationed number over 160,000 and excludes US personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico and Kwajalein Atoll. All bases functions as storage facilities for weapons including nuclear arms, training, intelligence gathering, “echelon” bases monitor all email, phone and data communication traffic, extra-judiciary transport, imprisonment and torture of which Guantanamo Bay is the best example.

World War 2 gave US the excuse to strategize and establish a global network of military bases to protect its interests and those of its allies. Ironically, much of the security concerns US has today results from its own self-destructive actions and bullying approach. But, the “security factor” has been used to install bases in East Asia, Europe, Latin America, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. Thus, the bases are crucial for US, NATO and EU and are perfect to overthrow governments diplomatically or militarily. The shocking military invasions numbering over 300 over the past century have been launched from these foreign bases thus the need to understand the threat posed to national security of any country entering the “enemy” list or “economic target” list.

The US has divided the world into 6 territories – 4 are located in the US and the other 2 in Stuttgart where the European Command territory stretches from Greenland to Alaska including Turkey, while the AFRICOM oversees military operations in Africa. EUCOM and AFRICOM is authorized to command US missions from Germany. Germany is the center of US military intelligence in Europe. Its not just foreign bases that the US has secured. What about the buildings, the heavy infrastructure, the storage tanks, the runways, rail lines and even pipelines that the US secures in all of these nations and territories?

To add to the confusion has been the numbers of private security contractors like Blackwater (Xe) who are based in all of the locations that the US troops are in. It is they who carry out the drone attacks and have been responsible for much of the mayhem taking place in the Middle East through their mercenary services.

Bases in Iraq and Afghanistan
The number of US bases in Iraq (505) were revealed only after US troops were preparing to leave Iraq. Officially, we are told that the US has removed troops from Iraq but does this not include the Dept of Defense staff currently in Iraq? The bases in Afghanistan is over 1500 counting all the forward operating bases, checkpoints, mega-bases, military installations and other logistical support facilities. The number of US troops stands at over 100,000 if not more. In 2002 NATO had 800 bases in Afghanistan. We may never know the exact numbers as at present but the Afghan bases are not reducing! Another question is why would US and NATO desire to have bases with sophisticated offices and gigantic airbases only along the gas and oil pipeline that is being built?

Why is it that the entirety of US bases in Afghanistan are all located along the route of the gas/oil pipeline? Why has opium production increased by a staggering 3100% (from 185tons before arrival of US in 2001 and now 5800tons in 2011) – Afghanistan accounts for 90% of opium and cannabis supplies to the world? What about the precious minerals like lithium, gold, iron, copper and cobalt that has also been discovered? Opium, morphine, cannabis, heroin, codeine, thebaine are all sought after by pharmaceutical companies.

Unknown to most of us Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush region is the home to rich soil – uranium, copper, lithium, gold and iron ore worth upto $3trillion. Hajigak area is said to contain 1.8tons of iron ore. Lithium is rare but needed for cell phones, portable computers, electric car batteries and so Afghanistan certainly has much to offer the mining industries!

The 9/11 attackers were not Iraqi’s nor had they links to Al Qaeda, neither did Iraq have WMDs but Iraq was attacked. US attacked Iraq to secure 115billion barrels of oil reserves! US spends $900billion per year on destruction when 49m Americans live in poverty and 46million depend on food stamps to survive and 4m are homeless.

Are there geological treasures in Sri Lanka in particular the North and East apart from the natural harbor?

US has 293 bases in Germany  – why is it necessary for the US and UK to have bases in Germany or Japan 65 years after World War with over 70,000 US troops currently in Germany, more than 45,000 US soldiers in Japan and close to 30,000 US troops in South Korea?

The largest overseas US base is in Ramstein Air Base where US sent 40,000 troops to Afghanistan in 2009 – soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan are flown and then sent to Landstuhl the largest  US military hospital. Ramstein is used to cover 3 continents (51 nations) and has the largest US military shopping center and a 350 room hotel. There are 20 nuclear weapons at Buchel guarded by 50 US special forces troops.  Over 80% of supplies of weapons, troops and other logistical requirements are routed via Germany. In 2008, there were over 1350 military transport landings in Leipsiz including 500,000 GIs en route to or from Iraq and Afghanistan. German-owned DHL has the exclusive US Army contract for courier services in Afghanistan and Iraq. Commercial airports like Hahn and US training at Grafenwohr is also provided.

Though the reunification agreement of the early 90s gives Germany the right to cancel US bases the Stationing of Forces Agreements with the US makes it unlikely that Germany would prohibit or restrict US military bases as Turkey did following the Iraq invasion though majority of Germans opposed the Iraq invasion.

The Netherlands is another US ally and hosts 7 US bases with nuclear warheads including 2 undisclosed locations that functions are reconnaissance flights over Colombia. All US arms and materials enter US without going through Dutch customs. All pilots flying on KLM have signed contracts that declare they have to take direct orders from the US air force in case of a war.

Asia – Countering China and Pilfering Resources
Following the Korea war the US has over 100 bases and facilities in Korea. Cases of US crimes in Korea are many yet US soldiers are never accountable and are instead repatriated where military court generally declares them “not guilty” or passes the most lenient of judgments. No damages can be claimed by the victims as the guilty enjoys legal immunity.

Iran and Pakistan have also begun building an oil and natural gas pipeline traversing Afghanistan and the pipeline has completed the Iranian portion and is now at the Pakistani border. Iran, Pakistan and even Afghanistan are all looking to push US away. While the US has been doling blood and money into these nations the people hate the US and are now looking for partners in China. US is seeking to include India into its periphery.

Rising demand for closure of US bases   
Much of the outcries to close foreign military bases is due to their impact on land, water resources, communications, environment and health, cultural identity and the crimes that take place with foreign troops violating humanitarian international laws but having a carte blanche and immunity.

The military bases are located in strategic places, not only from the political and economic point of view, but they are placed near natural resources such as oil, water and biodiversity.

The US appears to care less over the rising numbers of calls for the closure of its military bases on the grounds that the facilities are undermining international peace and security as they are stations meant to prepare for war. Let us not forget that it was the US bases in Germany, Turkey, Diego Garcia, Saudi Arabia and other pro-US Gulf States that facilitated the Iraq invasion. Aerial bombings on Pakistan are launched from Diego Garcia, Ecuador base is used for covert military actions on Colombia, Iraq and Turkey bases functions as intelligence missions for Iran and Syria.

Iran is aware that it is being watched from US-occupied Iraq and Afghanistan while 8 of its neighbors are also hosting US/NATO bases. Moreover Iran is also faced with threats from US-backed nuclear powers of Israel, Pakistan and India and nuclear warheads in Turkey.

These foreign bases are causing social and environmental problems – rises in rapes by US soldiers, crimes, pollution, health hazards caused by testing conventional and non-conventional weapons are grounds for the opposition. The tragedy is that the agreements signed to enable the presence of US troops in these countries makes US soldiers unaccountable and immune from all local laws.

Nevertheless, it has not deterred residents from crying foul – activists and locals protested against expansion of US base with a new landing strip in Italy, the people of Okinawa, Japan are continuing their opposition that 30% of the island of Okinawa is being used by the US military since World War 2 and Okinawans even blocked the construction to a new base which was stopped in 2008 by a US court on ecological grounds. Residents of Okinawa have increased their opposition due to 12 MV-22 Osprey aircrafts operating in highly populated areas (Iwakuni, Yamaguchi, Ginowan and Okinawa) following crashes in Morocco and Florida. The Status of Forces agreement is a hindrance to the Japanese Government taking any action though US moved 4700 marines to Guam and 3000 to Hawaii, Philippines and Australia. Okinawa is important to the US because of its vantage on China, Taiwan and North Korea. However Futenma base (in the city of Ginowan which has over  90,000 residents) is unlikely to be ever moved off Okinawa. The plight of the Okinawians is made worse because Okinawa has only 4 seats in Japan’s lower house therefore the people’s verdict is of little consequence to political decisions.

Africans strongly opposed the US Africa Command with a headquarters costing over US$500m with close to 2000 US troops in Djibouti.

Natives from Puerto Rico (Vieques) were expelled from their homes to make way for a US bomb testing range that used 2/3 of the island and protests resulted in US navy withdrawing in 2004.

In 1973, under the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) all citizens of Diego Garcia were rounded up, put on ships and sent to Mauritius following a US-UK deal allowing US to have an airbase in Diego Garcia. However, the Chagossian natives have won court cases in the UK to their right to return by that right has been blocked by British executive orders.

A RAND Corporation study reveals that 57% of all Germans want a complete withdrawal of US troops from Germany.

There are numerous local campaigns and movements like the International Network for the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases and the No Bases Network that are continuing the fight to resist military bases overseas and making progress internationally. The closure of the Manta military base in Ecuador is one such success story.

Costs Incurred
The cost of running over 1000 military bases overseas is over $100billion annually and excludes costs for Iraq and Afghanistan.  

Of the 2012 Federal Budget 59% - USD553billion has gone towards military and homeland security. 2% on Agriculture, Justice and Energy, 4% on Dept of State, Urban Development & Housing, 6% on education and healthcare &15% on other. In 1990 the national debt was $3.2trillion today it is a whopping $15.7trillion and counting (a 500% increase in 22 years).The next question is how or who has benefited from $11.5trillion spending on war?19 hijackers who pulled off 9/11 has resulted in US spending $3trillion on wars and denying the American people their own freedom and liberties. Yet the irony is that since 1941 the US has NOT being attacked by any foreign power to warrant spending on the military. It then appears that much of the hate the US administrations and its media enjoy promoting amongst the masses are self-created. With the creation of nuclear missiles that should be ample security! The current reliance of pre-emptive wars has made the US financially defunct and internationally mocked by those aware of the truth.

Meanwhile, globally the world spends $1.7trillion annually on designing new ways to kill, 13m die every year from starvation, 925m are undernourished, 1 child dies every 5 seconds due to hunger (16,000 daily deaths and 6m deaths cer year) – the cost taken to make a missile could give lunch to a school for 5 years! Does US elect representatives to allocate 44% of taxes towards killing?

It is the Politicians and not the military that start wars often coerced to do so by the super rich whose avarices and sadisms forces Governments to leave the fighting role to the poor. People are simply pawns and they die like dogs while millions is spent on devising lies to feed the world. Then comes the patriotic speeches for the bravery of the troops who had been sacrificed.

Over 6500 US soldiers have died while close to 50,000 are badly injured. Suicide rates of soldiers have increased by 80% - 300,000 that returned from Iraq and Afghanistan suffered post-traumatic stress disorders.

The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform has suggested to cut US troops in Europe and Asia by one-third which would save America $8.5billion in 2015 will the US close its bases?

The Violent Truth
What America needs to understand is that if it thinks the world hates America it is because American Governments are killing innocent people – none of them are “terrorists”. America is spending trillions for the past 11 years and who has benefited? American taxpayers are footing the bill, American soldiers are sacrificing their lives and body parts to enable a handful of companies to reap gigantic profits from drugs!

The US became the sole superpower in 1989 with the collapse of the Soviet Union – why would it want to go to wars without provocation and spend trillions? What kind of an acceptable excuse is it to argue that the US arms industry is employing millions and benefiting the US when all that they are doing is to make weapons that are meant to kill and create a supply for those weapons?

Invasions with military action has nothing to do with security of nations but everything to do with pilfering nations by a handful that uses politicians to order wars and invasions so that their corporations could walk in and plunder the natural resources of nations is what todays wars, terrorism and R2P is all about.

US tax payers are paying for numerous foreign invasions putting their country in debt while a handful of elite global powers are reaping the benefits and US envoys play puppet diplomatic dictators to former colonies!

We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security.”  
Dwight D. Eisenhower

We know more about war than we know about peace, we know more about killing than we know about living. We need to now change.

by Shenali Waduge