Friday, December 04, 2009

Sri Lanka group counts war casualties

The first results from a Sri Lankan group documenting casualties from the final months of the country's civil war indicate that at least 2,500 men, women and children disappeared during that time and some are feared dead.

The Committee for Investigation of the Disappeared is interviewing civilians from the war zone to determine the full extent of damage suffered by civilians as the military made its push to wrap up the 25-year war earlier this year.

The group said today that it has so far collected from relatives the details of 2,500 people who disappeared. Some of those are believed to have been killed before the end of the war in May.

According to UN reports, more than 7,000 civilians were killed from January to May alone, but the full extent of damage to civilians is unknown because the government barred aid groups and independent journalists from the war zone.

Vikramabahu Karunaratne, an official with the committee, said that the details collected will be sent to the UN requesting action, and compensation will be sought for the victims.

The committee found 121 of the disappeared persons were under 16 years old, including a 3 year old. Another 99 people disappeared while in hospitals receiving treatment for injuries.


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Friday, December 04, 2009

Contradictions and conflicts: a "general" trend in General's politics

Kusal Perera - We are now being made more confused each day with contradictory and conflicting "solutions" thrown at us each day from key players on General Fonseka's platform, including General Fonseka himself.

Not that there are no contradictions and conflicts on the "Mahinda Chinthanaya" version of presidential campaigning. But that is some thing the people are familiar with, seems to have got tired of and therefore shows a need for change.

So the next choice has to be one better than President Rajapaksa, not on contradictions and conflicts, but on sound and honest politics.

But then, just think of these contradictions and conflicting views?

General SF

"My personal view is the majority should provide protection to the minorities. Their political aspirations shall be fulfilled."

"I am not a PhD in History. The 13th amendment which should provide the answer ought to be amended according to the current times. By discussion with all a solution should be sought."


The JVP does not accept any further tampering with the 13th Amendment to "fulfil the aspirations" of the minority communities. They have gone public saying they are against the full implementation of the 13 Amendment which includes police powers and lands.

Their 04 points put forward to General SF do not include anything about Tamil people or on reconciliation after the war. Only that IDPs have to be resettled, but how and on what conditions are never spelled out.

All JVP leaders speaking at the Hyde Park public rally on 30th Monday (one day after General SF spoke about the 13 Amendment) avoided mentioning anything on the 13th Amendment.

UNF/UNP seems very comfortable with anything as long as they could get into a government as the ruling entity.

General SF says thus in his maiden media brief. " ……Somewhere around end of 2007, after about 02 years I commanded the army, I gave a promise, I will not hand over this war to the next Army Commander. To my successor. I gave this promise at a media gathering….I kept to that promise….If I didn't complete the war,…..I would have been the Army Commander still…Most probably"

What he hides from saying is, HIS RETIREMENT DATE was December 17, 2005, BUT was on a "political" appointment with extensions given by President Rajapaksa for 04 years, never ever given to any Army Commander ever before, depriving at least one other (if not two) from being promoted as Army Commander.

In reality, he should have been watching "war" news from home, as a retired Army Officer.


UNP sources made public statements saying they agreed to the proposal of a "Provincial Government" (PG) appointed by General Fonseka, immediately after presidential elections, if he wins and also that Ranil W. has agreed to head that PG as its PM.

General SF

This is what Gen. SF said at the media brief. "…….The executive presidency has to be abolished….to ensure one man can not ruin the country…..any more…..My victory will follow….immediately follow with general elections…. ….in which we would try to get a two thirds majority…." There was no talk of a PG or of any one heading any government as PM.


The JVP at the very outset indicated they are not ready for a PG with Ranil W. as its PM.

JVP parliamentary leader Anura Kumara Dissanayaka (AKD) had told BBC "Sandeshaya" on 02 December, that a plan of action to abolish the executive presidency has been worked out with General Sarath Fonseka. “He will abolish the executive presidency with the approval of the parliament within six months of being elected” according to Dissanayaka.

What it therefore means is, there will be no PG as the UNP says and Ranil W has no chance of being the PM, unless the JVP agrees in the new parliament.

The JVP also says (referring to AKD) that General Fonseka has agreed to remain as non executive president and carry out duties assigned by a new government that is formed after the next general election. (BBC Sandeshaya)

Gen SF would thus be a nominal head of State. Non executive president. One like Gopallawa was, after the 1972 Republican Constitution.

This is the mother of all statements. Why (the hell) should Gen SF go through all these hazards, mud bathing and a possible threat to life as some say, to bring in a government he has no control of and one that would tell him what to do, if they want to?

General SF

He is yet to say what his role would be, after calling for immediate general elections and IF, as he says, the parliament gets a 2/3 majority to abolish the Executive Presidency, or what would be the fall back option, if the parliament does not get the required 2/3 majority required for a constitutional change.

Many big holes for any big Lion to crawl through and lazily yawn, after a hefty meal that some other creatures hunted on!

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Friday, December 04, 2009

Sri Lanka refugees found to have shrapnel wounds

By Swaminathan Natarajan - Bullets and shrapnel have been found in a group of people recently resettled from displacement camps in Sri Lanka.

The bullets were found when 13 students were being checked for tuberculosis, Jaffna's district tuberculosis officer, Dr S Jamunanantha said.

Most of the students were aged between 10 and 18 years. Until recently they were housed in camps in Vavuniya.

Tens of thousands of people have now left camps where they had been detained since May.

Those remaining were recently granted freedom of movement.

Sri Lanka's army defeated Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009 after a 26-year conflict.

'Bullets in bodies'

The students had been displaced from their homes in the Wanni region during the conflict.

"A few students said they are having bullets in their bodies. We immediately conducted an x-ray examination. We found bullets and shrapnel," Dr Jamunanantha said.

They have now been referred to Jaffna's teaching hospital for surgery.

But doctors say they fear that there may be more undetected cases of bullets and shrapnel lodged inside refugees.

"Many of them, who were injured during the final months of war, might have got only emergency first aid in the war zone.

"So it is highly possible some of them may still have a bullet or shrapnel in their bodies. We are urging them to come forward for an x-ray examination," said Dr Jamunanantha.

Although doctors say the presence of bullets may not cause immediate health problems, it could be problematic in the long term, Dr Jamunanantha says.

The authorities say they are hopeful that more people will come forward for screening.

During the final phase of Sri Lanka's conflict a number of civilians were injured in the heavy fighting between Tamil Tiger rebels and Sri Lanka's army.

Many could only receive emergency care from a makeshift hospital in the war zone.

The number of people who were killed and injured during the war is still disputed.

Earlier, the UN said it believed about 6,500 civilians died in the conflict, but later the organisation said there were no confirmed estimates of civilian casualties.

© BBC News

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Friday, December 04, 2009

Hope despite downturn in Sri Lanka

The number of Sri Lankans who think their economy is improving jumped 28 percent to 64 percent, a national opinion poll indicated Thursday.

But the optimism is likely spurred by heightened expectations after the end of a decades-long civil war, rather than by improving economic conditions, the Gallup Organization said in describing the poll results.

Economic growth has slowed considerably in Sri Lanka, to a projected 3.5 percent this year from 6 percent in 2008, Gallup said.

The civil war was declared over May 18 after 26 years of violence between the Sinhalese majority government and ethnic minority Tamil Tiger rebels. The rebels had fought to carve out a homeland for Tamils, which the government opposed.

The conflict had hinged on political rights of the Tamil minority.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa last week called a presidential election for January. The former chief of Sri Lanka's army, retired Gen. Sarath Fonseka, announced Sunday he would challenge Rajapaksa for the post, calling his former ally "a tin-pot dictator."

Confidence in Sri Lanka's government increased nationally to 92 percent from 72 percent a year earlier, the Gallup poll indicated. Confidence in Sri Lanka's military rose to 95 percent from 92 percent.

Gallup's results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults, age 15 and older, in May. The margin of error is 3.3 percentage points to 4.1 percentage points, Gallup said.

© United Press International

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Friday, December 04, 2009

India for revival of political process in Sri Lanka

India Friday said it wanted a revival of the peace process in Sri Lanka and has been assured by Colombo that all people displaced by the two-decade-long civil war would be resettled by the end of January 2010.

“Government is keen to see the revival of political process in Sri Lanka which will meet the legitimate interests and aspirations of all communities, including Tamils and Muslims, within the framework of a united Sri Lanka,” Minister of External Affairs S.M. Krishna said in the Rajya Sabha.

“Revival of such political process and an inclusive dialogue would help bring the minority communities (come) into the political mainstream,” he added.

In making the suo moto statement, the government avoided the calling attention motion which some MPs from the southern states had submitted.

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Venkaiah Naidu had objected to this move just before Krishna got up to read the four-page statement.

Krishna also said India had continued to emphasise to the Sri Lankan government “to put forward a meaningful devolution package that could go beyond 13th amendment. We will remain engaged with them through this process of transition and reform”.

Out of the 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in camps, more than half have been resettled, while about 145,000 still remain in the camps. The travel restrictions on those living in the camps have also been relaxed, Krishna said.

“We have been assured that by end-January 2010, all IDPs would be resettled. We continue to work with the Sri Lankan government to ensure the resettlement of all,” he said.

India has set aside Rs.500 crore for the rehabilitation of the IDPs and welfare of people in northern Sri Lanka.

Four de-mining teams are currently in the island nation, with another three to be sent after suggestion made by the Indian parliamentary delegation.

The Indian delegation had visited Jaffna, plantation areas in central Sri Lanka and IDP camps in October this year. They had also met several Sri Lankan Tamil leaders and called on President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The Indian humanitarian effort included supply of 2.5 lakh family packs, which include dry rations, clothing, utensils, footwear, as well as setting up a 60-member emergency field hospital for six months.

India has donated 2,600 tonnes of shelter material, with another consignment of similar amount to be sent soon. India also plans to supply cement, as well as undertake a project to rehabilitate war widows, Krishna said.

With the aim of reviving agriculture in north Sri Lanka, a team of Indian Council of Agricultural Research visited the region to draw up a blueprint. While 20,000 agricultural starter packs have been supplied, another 50,000 are already “in the pipeline”, the minister said.

The external affairs minister also spoke of the impact of an agreement reached with Sri Lankan government on Indian fishermen straying into Sri Lankan waters.

In 2008, 1,456 Indian fishermen and 334 boats were apprehended by Sri Lanka, while by 2009 November only 124 fishermen and 31 boats have been taken into custody.

“We have continued to emphasise to the Sri Lankan government the need to scrupulously adhere to the October 2008 understanding. However, it is important that our fishermen do not venture deep into Sri Lankan waters for their own safety and security,” said Krishna.

The two-decade-long insurgency by the Tamil Tigers for a separate homeland in the north of the country ended in May after the Sri Lankan army killed the group’s leader V. Prabhakaran and wiped out the entire rebel top leadership.


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Friday, December 04, 2009

After the Sri Lankan Surge

While Washington debates President Obama's Afghan surge, another country not so far away offers a glimpse of the importance, and benefits, of getting it right. No, we don't just mean Iraq. Look also to Sri Lanka.

That island nation is just starting to recover from a 26-year civil war, which the government in Colombo won in May when it crushed the last remnants of the neo-Marxist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Colombo's year-long military offensive against the Tiger terrorists was controversial abroad and costly in blood and treasure on both sides at home.

The most obvious green shoot is the presidential election due for January 26. President Mahinda Rajapaksa called the vote two years earlier than expected hoping to ride a wave of majority-Sinhalese nationalism back into office. Instead he's facing a surprise challenger in General Sarath Fonseka, the military commander who won the war.

Neither candidate is perfect by a long stretch, but the mere fact of competition could benefit ethnic minorities. With Mr. Rajapaksa and Gen. Fonseka splitting the Sinhalese vote, each candidate will need to court Tamils and Muslims.

This is creating political incentives to hasten resettlement of the upward of 250,000 Tamils displaced by fighting in the Northern Province earlier this year. Roughly half of those have already returned home from the refugee camps, according to the United Nations. The government this week finally allowed greater movement in and out of the camps for those who remain.

Meanwhile Tiger extremists no longer menace moderate Tamils, who used to face regular intimidation. Incentives are now better aligned on all sides to resolve longstanding, legitimate Tamil grievances, such as Sinhalese preferences in university places and exclusion of Tamils from the police.

Whether the January vote will be free and fair is an open question. But the country is closer to resolving its problems than at any time since the Tigers started fighting in 1983. Sri Lanka isn't exactly analogous to Afghanistan. But the island does demonstrate the benefits of defeating terrorists on the battlefield.

© The Wall Street Journal

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Friday, December 04, 2009

Telephone threats drive another journalist out of the country

President, Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) and investigative journalist Poddala Jayantha had reportedly left the country with his wife and daughter following continuous telephone threats received by him.

Poddala Jayantha was abducted, brutally attacked and then dumped in a drain unconscious on June 1, 2009. He was the Secretary of the SLWJA at the time. No proper investigation has yet been conducted into the attack.

Poddala Jayantha’s committee was unanimously appointed as office bearers of the SLWJA making him President at the Association’s AGM on October 14. Soon afterwards, he started to receive continuous phone calls from an unknown person who kept saying Poddala Jayantha would be murdered if he did not remain silent as warned. The caller had also threatened to kill his family if he informed the police about the phone calls.

Understanding the severe threat he was in, several members of the diplomatic corps had made arrangements for Poddala Jayantha to leave the country within 36 hours.

A human rights lawyer on the basis of anonymity told Lanka News Web that the action taken by the diplomatic corps to relocate Poddala Jayantha and his family indicated the acceptance of the international community of the political instability currently prevailing in the country.

© Lanka News Web

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Friday, December 04, 2009

Tear gas used to disperse teachers

By Supun Dias - A tense situation prevailed at Kollupitiya Junction last evening, when police used tear gas to disperse a group of protestors from the All Ceylon Assistant Teachers’ Union who staged a demonstration. The assistant teachers were demanding that their appointments be made permanent.

Six protestors were arrested by the police. Twelve persons, including six policemen, were injured during the clash.

Police said they were forced to use tear gas when protestors tried to enter the High Security Zone (HSZ) where Temple Trees is situated.

A majority of the protestors were from the North Central, Uva and Sabaragamuwa Provinces; a few were from the Western Province. The protesters urged President Mahinda Rajapaksa to grant them permanent appointments as teachers at any school in the country.

"A number of permanent appointments were given in the Northern and Eastern Provinces; we should also be treated similarly," said a spokesman for the union.

The teachers said that they had taught children for years without considering the allowance they got -- which was Rs.3000 a month.

"Initially we were given appointments as voluntary teachers as most of the schools, especially in the North Central and Uva Provinces, lacked teachers and principals. At that time an allowance of Rs. 3000 per month was paid," the spokesman said.

The government later appointed 4200 as assistant teachers. The authorities promised to increase the allowance to Rs.6000 when a demonstration was held by the Ceylon Teachers’ Union on World Teachers’ Day, the protesters said.

The demonstrators said that further trade union action would be taken before the Presidential Election if the authorities failed to grant them permanent appointments as teachers.

© Daily Mirror

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