Monday, November 30, 2009

Sri Lankan who led fight against Tamils seeks Presidency

By LYDIA POLGREEN - The former chief of Sri Lanka’s army formally announced Sunday that he would seek to replace his onetime ally, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in elections to be held in January.

Gen. Sarath Fonseka retired from the army in mid-November after months of tension with Mr. Rajapaksa, who has staked his re-election campaign on the resounding military victory over the Tamil Tiger insurgency in May.

General Fonseka led a tough counterinsurgency strategy that took small teams of fighters deep into the jungles of northern Sri Lanka, striking a mortal blow to a rebel army that had battled the government for more than two decades.

“We have done away with the terrorists,” General Fonseka told reporters at a news conference on Sunday. “But now you can’t leave the country in the hands of a tin-pot dictator.”

After the war was won, Mr. Rajapaksa moved General Fonseka into a largely ceremonial post, and the uneasy alliance between the two men crumbled. A coalition of nationalist and left-wing opposition parties named General Fonseka as its candidate to face Mr. Rajapaksa.

The general has been withering in his criticism of the president since stepping down, accusing him of eroding Sri Lanka’s democracy.

But critics of the general say he oversaw a military strategy that killed thousands of civilians. According to the United Nations, at least 7,000 people died in the final bloody battle against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or Tamil Tigers, who were fighting for a separate state for the ethnic-Tamil minority in northern Sri Lanka.

Western countries and human rights organizations have accused the government and the Tamil Tigers of war crimes and have demanded an independent international investigation, but Sri Lanka has rebuffed the demands.

When the fighting ended, 300,000 Tamils who had been displaced by the fighting were herded into closed camps, where they were detained in poor conditions for months.

In his resignation letter, General Fonseka criticized what he described as “appalling conditions” at the camps. He promised to shift to Parliament much of the power that comes with the office of the president. He also accused Mr. Rajapaksa of failing to bring Sri Lanka together after the long and bloody war with the Tamil Tigers.

Still, many of Sri Lanka’s Tamils and other minorities remain skeptical of General Fonseka because of his role in prosecuting the war and his strong alliance with the nationalists from the ethnic-Sinhalese majority.

© The New York Times

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Monday, November 30, 2009

"We will be compelled to resort to other methods, if the General does not return his vehicles': Army Spokesman

By Munza Mushtaq - Military Spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara yesterday warned that the army will be compelled to resort to ‘other’ methods if former Chief of Defence Staff Sarath Fonseka does not comply with their ‘diplomatic’ pleas to return the vehicles and security he is still using without authority.

“We have written and asked him to hand back the vehicles and troops which he is using unauthorised but so far he has not yet responded to our request,” Nanayakkara said.

He emphasised that because Fonseka was a former Army Commander and Chief of Defence Staff, the military would like to sort out the issue in a ‘diplomatic manner’ even though the army has various ways and means of recovering such items and troops.

“Taking his stature we are trying to resolve this diplomatically, but if he doesn’t cooperate then we will have to resort to ‘other’ methods,” Nanayakkara warned.

His warning came amidst reports that around 50 military police officers and soldiers had tried to force their way into General’s House last week and take Fonseka’s vehicles, however the General had intervened and stopped them from carrying out their orders which allegedly came from Army Commander Jagath Jayasuriya.

According to the Army, Fonseka is currently retaining a total of 103 security personnel and vehicles not authorised for his present use, this includes; four commando officers, 24 commando other rankers, three administration and signal officers, 17 other rankers, 55 cooks, drivers, riders, seven soldiers of the Medical Corps and three cars, seven Land Rovers, a double cab, one bus, one ambulance, four vans and nine motor cycles.

© The Sunday Leader

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Associates close to the Rajapaksa brothers push hoteliers to purchase large tracts of lands

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema - Leading hoteliers told The Sunday Leader that they were being approached by “associates close to the Rajapaksa brothers” pushing them to purchase large tracts of land at Kuchchaveli in the Trincomalee District. The land is held in the names of companies registered “overnight” they said.

A leading hotelier requesting anonymity told The Sunday Leader that a “bogus businessman” who had received a plot of land in the coastal area of Kuchchaveli had requested him to invest Rs. 5 million to construct a hotel in the area.

He said most of the businessmen who have applied for land in the Kuchchaveli coastal area were either from the Hambantota District or supporters of the Rajapaksa administration.
Collaborating these charges, Eastern Province Chief Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan said he has objected to a proposed tourism development project in the Kuchchaveli coastal area in the Trincomalee District claiming it did not have the official approval of either the Chief Minister or the Provincial Land Commissioner.

Chandrakanthan told The Sunday Leader that the UDA, Trincomalee GA and the Tourism Ministry had decided the project without receiving the necessary approval from the Chief Minister.

According to the proposal about eight acres of prime land in the Kuchchaveli coastal area are to be distributed among 132 businessmen to develop the area as a tourist destination.

“I objected to it and stopped the project as neither the Provincial Land Commissioner nor I were informed of it. According to the prevailing laws, it is necessary for any project to be launched in the Province to receive necessary approval from the Chief Minister,” Chandrakanthan said.

© The Sunday Leader

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Commonwealth vetoes Sri Lanka bid to hold 2011 gathering

Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent - Sri Lanka has been blocked from hosting the next meeting of Commonwealth leaders in protest at Colombo's military repression against the Tamil population earlier this year.

Australia will instead host the next biennial Commonwealth heads of government meeting in 2011 after Canberra and London joined forces to block the Sri Lankan bid.

The decision, made at the summit in Trinidad and Tobago over the weekend, is a victory for Gordon Brown and his Australian counterpart, Kevin Rudd.

Brown faced down advice from the Foreign Office to issue a strong briefing on the eve of the summit last week that Britain would block the Sri Lankan bid.

British diplomats were nervous when the British media, including the Guardian, reported that Brown would tell Commonwealth leaders that it would be unacceptable for a gathering of one of the world's largest collection of democracies to be hosted by Sri Lanka. Officials in Colombo, who had expected to be able to host the 2011 summit after formally submitting a bid in 2007, were said to be alarmed by the strength of the No 10 briefing.

A Downing Street source said on Thursday: "We simply cannot be in a position where Sri Lanka – whose actions earlier this year had a huge impact on civilians, leading to thousands of displaced people without proper humanitarian access – is seen to be rewarded for its actions."

Colombo ended a 26-year civil war this year in a campaign against the Tamil Tigers. Up to 300,000 people were held as they fled the last days of the fighting.

The Australians are expected to hold the 2011 summit in Perth.

Brown and Rudd, who are natural political allies on the centre left, joined forces on a series of fronts at this year's meeting. They worked closely on climate change and persuaded the 53 Commonwealth members to accept a $22.5bn (£13.6bn) climate change finance package.

British officials regarded the blocking of Sri Lanka and the climate change package as triumphs. They were particularly pleased that Stephen Harper, the centre-right Canadian prime minister, who is regarded in London as an "outlier" on climate change, signed up to the package.

But Harper only accepted the package in a one-to-one meeting with Brown, shortly before a banquet on Friday hosted by the Queen. Brown told Harper he should drop his concerns about the cost of funding climate change initiatives in the developing world because it would end up costing more if the $22.5bn package, covering 2010-13, was rejected.

Brown then asked Harper to persuade John Key, New Zealand's centre-right prime minister, who also had doubts. Harper agreed and succeeded.

Britain was also encouraged by support for its proposal to readmit Zimbabwe to the Commonwealth in 2011. Harare will be allowed back if Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party implements a series of reforms.

© Guardian

Related Links:
SL to host CHOGM in 2013 - Ceylon Daily News
Commonwealth 'did itself some good' at summit - BBC News

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