Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sri Lanka; a concern for Reporters Without Borders in Press freedom Review 2009

(December 30, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Reporters Without Borders says its concern in 2009 has been the mass exodus of journalists from repressive countries such as Iran and Sri Lanka. The authorities in these countries have understood that by pushing journalists into exile, they can drastically reduce pluralism of ideas and the amount of criticism they attract. “This is a dangerous tendency and it must be very strongly condemned,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said as the review of Press freedom in 2009 was released.

The review says that the Journalists are most at risk in the Americas (501 cases), particularly when they expose drug-trafficking or local potentates. Asia comes next with 364 cases of this kind, chiefly in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

"Media access is not always properly observed, as evidenced in provincial polling in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka," says the report. "The courage shown by journalists this year before and after elections earned them periods in custody, mistreatment and prison sentences that were in some cases extremely harsh. These post-election crackdowns should stimulate the international community to seek better ways of protecting the press after rigged election results are announced.

“This wave of violence bodes ill for 2010, when crucial elections are scheduled in Côte d’Ivoire, Sri Lanka, Burma, Iraq and the Palestinian Territories” said Reporters Without Borders, which often carries out media monitoring during election campaigns."

At least 167 journalists are in prison around the world at the end of 2009. One would need to go back to the 1990s to find so many of them in jail. Although the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression keeps reiterating that imprisonment is a disproportionate punishment for press offences, many governments keep laws that allow them to jail journalists, and continue to abuse these laws. The sentences given to journalists in Cuba, China, Sri Lanka and Iran are as harsh as those imposed for terrorism or violent crime.

For the first time, the Reporters Without Borders annual roundup includes figures for journalists who have been forced to leave their countries because of threats to their lives or liberty. A total of 157 journalists went into exile in the past year, often in very harsh conditions. Among the countries where the exodus of journalists and bloggers was particularly dramatic were Iran, with more than 50 fleeing, and Sri Lanka, with 29.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Is Sri Lanka opposition dare to debate?

(December 29, Colombo - Lanka Polity) The leader of Sri Lanka's National Freedom Front (JNP) has challenged opposition president candidate Sarath Fonseka for a debate on the arms deals Fonseka's son-in-law is allegedly involved. Weerawansa has asked to name other suitable persons, maximum two, to represent Fonseka, if he cannot debate, to the debate that Weerawansa proposes to be held before all media.

Weerawansa's suggestion is timely as reports and rumors point to mass scale corruption in the arms deals under Mahinda Rajapaksa regime. A debate will focus public attention to the issue. The politicians can give out the real information and they can clear their names from corruption charges.

Presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka and the opposition must grab this opportunity readily if they are genuine with their proposals to alleviate corruption under their future rule.

Although Weerawansa is a junior close to the ruling elite, he is one of the most influential orators of the ruling coalition. Therefore, he has opened up a path for a debate between the two macro-level presidential candidates in future.

Go on men! Take this chance! Pave way for President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sarath Fonseka to perform their 'stripping-the-other' politics face-to-face. It will at least be entertaining in this polity where people are natualized with corruption.

Sri Lanka President's son treats his father with Rs. 3.25 billion worth presidential advertising campaign

(December 29, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Sri Lanka President's eldest son, Namal Rajapaksa is treating his beloved father with an advertising campaign worth of Rs. 3.25 billion in which famous persons urge the publc to vote to a 'sensitive' leader at the presidential scheduled to be held on January 26.

Namal Rajapaksa, an unemployed young person as far as we have learnt, spends these monies from the fund of an organization called "A Tomorrow for Youth" that he leads.

The famous persons like sportsmen and actors appearing in these advertisements say they have not charged any money for these commercials.

However, they are broadcast at least 72 times a day mostly in prime time in seven television channels. The campaign includes radio, press commercials and billboards etc. as well.

A recent study on the spending of this advertising campaign estimated the cost Rs. 3.25 billion minimum.

Nobody knows where these moneys come from to the funds of the "A Tomorrow for Youth".

Monday, December 28, 2009

In politics too India's winning formula is hosting bad picthes

(December 28, Colombo - Lanka Polity) You host a cricket team and your countrymen are desperate to see your team win. Since you are the host, you are privileged to prepare a picth as you wish. You make it as hard for the opponent as you can and you then select deadly bowlers to break their noses. You think it is the winning formula. But what happens if the players walk out refusing to play?

This is what happened in Sunday's fifth and final limited-overs international between India and Sri Lanka, leading to crowd unrest and immediate recriminations for Indian cricket officials.

Sent in to bat first, Sri Lanka had crumbled to 83-5 on the difficult Kotla pitch before the third delivery of the 24th over, from India's rookie paceman Sudeep Tyagi, rose dangerously and flew past the face of batsman Thilina Kandamby.

It proved the last straw for Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara, who complained to match referee Alan Hurst and onfield umpires Marais Erasmus and Shavir Tarapore, and players left the field.

As discussions continued between match officials and local organizers outside the boundary, spectators shouted slogans and abuse at the organizers.

Baton-wielding police were called in to clear the stands of spectators, some of whom had vented their anger by smashing chairs. The teams were whisked away from the stadium before the abandonment was announced more than an hour after the suspension.

Later Sunday, confronted with mounting criticism, the Indian cricket board scrapped its pitches panel. (Canadian Press)

This happens not only in cricket but in politics as well. India always hosts the neighboring nations with difficult political terrain since it is desperate in winning the regional dominancy at the cost of the bones of the other nations. The best example is Sri Lanka.

India's approach on the island nation's ethnic problem is always dishonest. One time it sided with the Tamil militancy providing them military bases in South India to train and arm against Sri Lankan state. Through that strategy India caught behind pro-Yankee J.R. Jayawardhana, the first executive President of Sri Lanka. After bundling out the Sinhala players, India wanted to defeat the Tamil nationalism as well that she bred in her bosom. Now India is sided with the Sinhala dominated Sri Lanka government and she has made the Tamil nationalist forces eat shit through its policy of tolerating Sri Lanka’s unorthodox warfare that completely disregarded the lives of the fighters and the civilians.

Even three decades later, the ethnic problem of Sri Lanka remains same. It is still the biggest impediment before Sri Lanka's development. India is silent. India always makes the political pitch for others as hard as rock. Yet, it is not clear India has won the match over Sri Lanka since the match is mingled with walk-outs of the Sinhala and Tamil polities.

Don't be pawns in a deadly game of two war lords - Bahu

(December 28, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Left Front candidate of Sri Lanka's presidential Dr. Vickramabahu Karunarathne warns the Sri Lankan electorate not to be caught in a deadly game of chess played by the two equally blood- drenched, chauvinist representatives of Global Capitalism.

"Once again, at the cost of some Rs 12 billion of public funds, Dr. Bahu said that we have to face a Presidential election where two equally bloody, corrupt and parasitic Capitalist Alliances have come forward for the contest, represented by Mahinda Rajapakse and Sarath Fonseka," says Vickramabahu.

"This Presidential campaign is going to be a bitter and deadly fight between two equally reactionary camps of the ruling class as to who is going to feast on the blood of the Tamil nation, and that of the proletariat and all exploited and all oppressed classes and nationalities and communities, and exercise chauvinist-oppressive dictatorship over the people.

"It is a joke to ask who is the worst of these two. Let us not become mere pawns in a deadly game of chess played by two rival camps of the very same Capitalist ruling class. Let us hold this State and this ruling class accountable for the crimes willfully committed against the people and against humanity.

"Let us do so in order to mobilize mass protest and agitate against the prevailing Capitalist political order which represents the interests of global Capitalism, by building resistance and revolutionary struggle to defeat the militarist-chauvinist- oppressive agenda represented by both ruling class candidates," said Dr. Vickramabahu Karunarathne.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Lessons to be learnt from Tsunami Reconstruction Process for the development of the North and the East of Sri Lanka

Transparency International, Sri Lanka -

(Photo: Baby 81 of tsunami fame, now five years old still lives in a half-built house with his parents in Kalmunai)

On this fifth anniversary of the Tsunami, Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) remembers with great sadness all those who lost their lives, the surviving family members and those who lost their property. It is time to reflect on and learn lessons from the great challenges that we faced with the tragedy when Sri Lanka stands an exponential development potential aftermath of the war. Such reflection would be, in turn the true tribute to those who lost their lives and others who survived with enormous difficulties.

In 2007, TISL obtained complaints relating to the reconstruction process with the principal objective of drawing attention of the relevant authorities to such problems. The complaints received were perused, categorized and forwarded to the relevant government agencies. However, there was no response from any of the government agencies on them. The major issues raised in the complaints were sub-standard quality of the newly received houses, petty corruption by the government officers at the local level and high politicization in the selection of beneficiaries. These problems still lie unexplained undermining the level of confidence among the general public about the state. Thus unfortunately Sri Lanka has failed to learn lessons of governance challenges from post tsunami experience.

The lack of legitimised right to information law or any practice promoting right to information for the people was one of the key problems that marred the tsunami reconstruction process with a significant element of information withholding and a general clamming up by government officials when such information is requested. When information was requested about the utilization of the money received during the recovery process, some government officers refrained from providing them possibly due to fear of persecution by higher authorities in their department and ministries.

It is extremely important to draw attention to these issues in the context of reconstruction in the North and East of Sri Lanka where immense damage is caused on human lives and property together with the fact that huge sums of capital is flowing into the region at present. The three major concerns which the government failed to address in the Tsunami Reconstruction Process will equally be applicable and will jeopardise the post- conflict development in the North and the East unless necessary action is taken immediately. These are: a) the need for participatory development process including planning and implementation through legitimate public institutions based in the areas themselves, b)the restructuring of centralised, narrowly politicised and non-representative administrative mechanisms so that they are more accountable and transparent to local communities, and c)the de-politicisation of the communities at the local level. Similar to the Tsunami reconstruction process, the reconstruction of the North and the East poses a great risk of corruption because of large sums involved, the lack of local accountability or even participation of beneficiaries and the excessive centralization of decision-making.

A brief Financial Analysis

The following table shows the financial situation of Tsunami Reconstruction work by the end of the year
2006. This is the money received through the government approved channels by various donors. This information was obtained from the Development Assistance Date Base (DAD) in March 2007. However, this information is not currently available for the public as the DAD website doesn’t exist anymore.

TISL’s effort to obtain the most recent financial information was met with lackluster responses by the officials. TISL’s observation in this regard was that officials were either reluctant to divulge the proper information or that they did not have the accurate figures about current expenditure status.
Available statistics as per March 2007:

Committed (USD) Disbursed (USD) Expended (USD)

2,126,771,858 1,075,375,348 603,443,908

•Committed funds – Funds promised by the donors
•Disbursed – Funds handed over to the implementing agencies
•Expended – Funds spent on various projects

According to the available information, there is a difference between the committed and the disbursed funds. When inquired about this difference, the implementing agencies informed TISL that the amounts of money initially promised was not disbursed by the donors, mainly due to the deadlines of these projects not being met. Some donors have not been satisfied with the progress of the projects and have therefore withdrawn from their commitment after paying the first installment.

The difference between the disbursed and the expended has been a controversial issue that does not have a credible explanation. While some officials were reluctant to divulge the information, there were some responsible bodies, who implied that the funds have been utilized by the government for other purposes.

There is no precise evidence to explain the missing sum of USD 471, 931,440. Some government officials rejected the fact of such a missing amount though they have failed to give any explanation about the figures produced.

When the higher officials at Auditor General’s Department of Sri Lanka were contacted in December 2009, TISL was informed that there is no audit conducted on funds received for Tsunami Reconstruction process since the last audit by the former Auditor General in 2005.


a. TISL believes that it is a prime right of the people in Sri Lanka to know the true picture of the Tsunami recovery process. Therefore, the government should take every possible step to assure and respect the right to information of the general public of the country. Thus an audit should be done by the government to explain the utilization of the money received and the challenges faced.

b. All steps should be taken to arrest and remedy the existing problems in the recovery process. The participation of the public is paramount in this regard.

c. A special Committee of the Public Accounts Committee or an Independent Commission be constituted to review any remaining issues relating to the Tsunami Recovery Process and make necessary recommendations and lessons leant as related guidelines for the future.

e. TISL reiterates the importance of collating and documenting all the information of Tsunami 2004 in relation to both the relief and recovery process. Such deliberation is important in the context of current development in the North and East of Sri Lanka.

Unless the political leadership is committed to these recommendations, similar unfortunate experience will be repeated in the reconstruction of the North and the East of Sri Lanka.

Time to vote for the truth

By Dr. Wickramabahu Karunarathna -

The local “bourgeois democracy” including Lakthilaka, Victor Ivan and the rump of platform for freedom has decided to save democracy by getting General Sarath Fonseka elected. They have made a pandemonium in educated circles about the prime need to get rid of corruption; and hence pressed the point that the removal of executive presidency is the prime task today, for the Lankan masses. Discussions, seminars, and debates started in practically all the media where they have a say. It was a calculated attempt to push the campaign for devolution and discussion on the Tamil national problem, to the backyard. Sarath has been educated by these gentlemen, to stick to the subject of executive presidency and the corruption flowing from it. It is like going back to the days of autocratic monarchy where democracy had to work in secret societies and whispering messages. But the setback in the armed struggle has not removed the burning interest of the Tamil people for freedom. It is still the most damning attack on the corrupt and unjust regime. If the struggle against executive presidency is an important aspect of the campaign for democracy, then the fight for devolution and autonomy is thousand times more important. What does Sarath Fonseka has to say on that subject? He has said the13th amendment is now obsolete and in consequence he has made the topic of devolution itself obsolete.

Gangrene developing

Just because a tough general has ignored the pressing problem of the Tamil nationality, it cannot disappear like mist. Somebody reminded of the words of the late C.J. Chelvanayakam: “When asked by a journalist [Walter Schwarz of the Guardian] how the TULF would achieve its goal, Chelvanayakam replied prophetically: ‘We would make such a nuisance of ourselves that they [the Sinhalese] would throw us out.’ The trouble with these gentlemen of democracy is that they do not realize that the Tamil national problem is not an isolated problem of the Tamils but a gangrene developing in Lankan society eating into the Sinhalese as well. It will be stupid to campaign for release from the executive presidency and for a new constitution for that purpose, without the necessary item of devolution of power being given to the Tamil nationality. Whether it is in a constituent assembly or the Parliament, the Tamils and consistent democrats will vote only for a new constitution with a devolution acceptable to the Tamil people and the other minority communities.

Devolution itself is a mechanism to arrest the power of the executive presidency. Even the 13th amendment reduced the power of the president in several aspects. In the first place, the president cannot dissolve the provincial councils nor could he remove an elected chief minister. The executive president who could remove any cabinet minister or even the prime minister was humbled by the 13th amendment; at least to some extent. If we give more powers to the provincial councils, particularly in relation to the police, judiciary, land and finance, then to that extent the power at the centre will be reduced. This will be so, whether the power at the centre is in the hands of an executive president or the cabinet of ministers. Why are these gentlemen of democracy, eager to neglect the pressing problem of democracy, namely the national problem, and concentrate only on the executive presidency? Clearly they do not want to take the bull by the horns; Mahinda could be pardoned for his attack on democracy made by his chauvinist war against the Tamil people.The plain truth is, that this war has brought misery and barbarism to all the people of Lanka. Obviously, the general who brags about his heroism in the battle against a rag tag army of the Tamil youth cannot condemn the war. General Fonseka cannot raise a finger against Mahinda and say “you are a war mongering corrupt dictator”. Because both of them are responsible for the hell-hole that we are in today. On the other hand, Mahinda has shown his fraudulent nature, by accepting the 10 points programme of Douglas Devananda that includes autonomy for a Tamil homeland and the right of self-determination to the Tamil peole! It is very necessary to avoid both the fake and the fraud and to vote for the truth.

Indonesia slammed over Tamil death

(December 27, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Indonesian authorities have been accused of acting without compassion following the death of a Sri Lankan asylum seeker on Wednesday.

Friends have been barred from viewing George Jacob Samuel Christin's body in keeping with Tamil customs, while the repatriation has also been delayed without explanation.

The 29-year-old - one of almost 250 Tamils who have spent 11 weeks refusing to leave their boat moored off the Indonesian coast - died of a suspected stomach infection after allegedly being denied medical assistance.

Mr Christin was vomiting blood but was not taken to hospital for several hours, and was later released.

He was losing his vision and lapsing in and out of consciousness before eventually being returned to hospital, where he died, the group's spokesman Sanjeev "Alex" Kuhendrarajah said.

The Indonesian government was still refusing to co-operate, denying access to his body.

"What we expected was that at least Indonesia would act more humanely since (Mr Christin's death), but there have been many insensitive acts," he told AAP.

"We've requested several times to see his body, but they won't.

"They won't let us co-ordinate the funeral because they haven't told us when they will be releasing the body.

"They don't have any heart."

Mr Kuhendrarajah fears the Indonesian government is rapidly losing patience with the asylum seekers, evidenced by continued verbal threats and assaults, as well as increasing disregard for their welfare.

Two men taken to hospital with similar symptoms the day Mr Christin died were transported by taxi rather than by ambulance.

Asylum seekers have also been interrogated heavily by police and barred from completing visa applications, Mr Kuhendrarajah added.

Poor conditions aboard the boat meant it was only a matter of time before there was another serious health issue, he said.

The Refugee Action Coalition's Ian Rintoul, who has met with Indonesia's human rights commissioner to discuss the plight of the Tamil boatload, said the death was preventable.

He called on the Australian government to process the asylum seekers, adding it was responsible because it helped Indonesia originally intercept their boat.

© 2009 AAP

why didn't so much money bring prosperity to tsunami victims of Sri Lanka?

(December 27, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Transparency International of Sri Lanka says that out of 2.2 billion dollars received for relief of the victims of December 26, 2004 tsunami, 603.4 million dollars was spent on projects unrelated to the disaster whille another half a billion dollars was missing.
"There is no precise evidence to explain the missing sum of 471.9 million dollars," said the Transparency International statement issued in Colombo adding an "audit should be done by the government to explain the utilisation of the money received and the challenges faced," the group said.

The death of 31,000 people have become the birth of a new wealth for a bunch of swindlers not related to the victims.Both Sri Lankan public as well as the international philanthropers have a right to know how the aid money was spent as the nation marked the fifth anniversary of the tsunami.

An initial government audit in 2005 found that less than 13 percent of the aid had been spent, but there has been no formal examination since, Transparency International said. Many thousands of tsunami victims still live in temporary camps, IDP camps or half-built houses while the managers of the funds, the project managers and the politicians live in luxury houses.

In 2005,the Criminal Investigation Department sought permission from the courts to investigate the accounts alleging that there was a breach of trust concerning nearly 83 million Sri Lankan rupees (approx 820,000 US dollars).Sri Lankan media had alleged that money transfered by international donors to the Prime Minister's national relief fund was credited to the privately run "Helping Hambantota" fund. The lawyers of the Prime Minister told the Supreme Court that the Cabinet of Ministers were informed of the monies in ‘Helping Hambantota’ fund, which is monitored by Secretary to the PM, Lalith Weeratunga.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Sarath Silva (see photo) ordered Criminal Investigation Department to temporarily halt the investigation after considering a petition by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse.

The Prime Minister then is the President now and the Secretary to the PM is the Secretary to the President now. Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva retired and some of his court rulings have been challenged legally.

Withdrawal of Colombo sea high security zone praised by fisher community

(December 27, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Sri Lanka government has taken steps to withdraw the high security zone in Colombo sea that stretched from Wellawaththa from south of Colombo harbor to Pamunuwa in north. All Lanka Fisher Community Trade Union secrtary M. Vijendra says that the fisher community appreciates the government step that relieved them.

Thousands of small-scale fishermen had lost jobs due to this high security zone, Vijendra said. They included fresh water fishermen of Beira Lake of Colombo city. Now the fishermen can engage in the industry in shallow waters around Colombo harbor except near the two entrances of the harbor.

The sea around Colombo harbor is rich with food for fish and yields good harvest, fishermen say.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sri Lanka's never-ending post-tsunami disaster

(December 26, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Five years ago, on December 26, world wept with tens of thousands of Sri Lankans as tsunami hit the island taking at least thirty thousand lives with the deadly wave. I lived in an area in the southwestern plains many miles away from the coast and the news of sea waves rushing overland did not rouse my enthusiasm as I had never heard of tsunami although I was entering into the fourth decade of my life.

Herath, a friend of mine came in a motorcycle with worried face since his mother was bound Galle in a train while rumors were spreading that a train had been toppled by sea waves. Later, in the evening, I, my wife Esha, Herath and one more friend went on two motorcycles to Paiyagala where our relations lived and we had no information on their fate since telephones were out of order. Their house was invisible in debris. Nihal, one of our relatives was pulling out a mud-soaked mosquito net from the wreckage. Luckily, none of them were hurt although the van they had just started to go for a wedding was found drifted away for hundreds of meters. Few people died in the villages around Paiyagala. But many of the other coastal villages were not so lucky.

Herath later discovered that his mother had reached her destination safely in the train that left earlier than the ill-fated one. However, he left with his video camera to capture the scenes of the disaster, many of what were later punished in the newspaper that we both were working.

While, I was returning home with my wife late in the evening, a night wedding party was underway close to my village and a band was playing 'baila' as the guests were dancing as if they had not heard the news. They had probably watched the TV but it was an auspicious day for weddings. After all Sri Lankans did not weep as much as the big and small philanthropists in other countries did. Sri Lankans transited to the post-tsunami period so lightly.

Even school kids of some countries sent their savings to Sri Lanka to help rebuild the lives of the victims of tsunami. Non-governmental organizations did all sorts of nonsense from buying sports utility vehicles to manage the post-tsunami operations to publishing thousands of copies of numerous reports that had no effect on the lives of the tsunami victims.

Media began to publish heart rending stories and Baby 81 is the best example of media fiascoes. (Photo above: Abilash's grief-stricken parents in hospital / Photos below: Abilash now and a music album that sold his name)

He was brought to the hospital by a villager who found him and, since he had no identification, was named after his hospital admission number: Baby 81.
After his injured parents got out of another hospital two days later and went to claim him, a media storm erupted, which eventually forced Abhilash's parents to go to the police and courts to get their son back.
They were even arrested when they tried to force their way into the hospital to get their son back and could only bring him home after the father supplied a DNA sample -- six weeks after the tsunami.
Subsequent accounts have pointed out the real story was blown far out of proportion -- there were no other couples trying to claim the child.
A TV crew filmed Baby 81 and the rushes were seen by a wire agency reporter. Whether it was a mistake in translation or some other kind of misunderstanding is unknown, but a report then ran that "nine desperate heartbroken women" were all claiming the child as their own.
But for Abhilash's father, Muruhappillai Jeyaraj, the unrelenting media hullabaloo over a vast misunderstanding has been a personal experience almost worse than the tsunami itseslf.
"I wish we all would have died in the tsunami," he told Reuters, holding Abhilash, 5, in his lap. "I would not have to tell this story again and again. Nobody will believe that there is no change in our lives."
Abhilash and his family were flown to the United States for a 13-day trip with an interview on NBC's Good Morning America not long after the tsunami. They were never paid for the appearance, Jeyaraj insists.
An American alternative rock band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club called their 2007 album Baby 81 and sold 14,000 copies in its first week.
What should have brought in help, only brought harm, said Jeyaraj, a barber by profession.
"Abhilash has become a dole for all the media, just to get his picture or visual and give publicity. But that publicity has been useless for him or us," Jeyaraj said.
People assumed he was getting rich off the publicity and began hounding him. He could not get local aid because charities believed he had been paid for the trip to New York. He moved the family from their village in Kalmunai to the city of Batticaloa, on Sri Lanka's east coast. (Reuter)

Politicians were also in the receiving end of the benefits in the post-tsunami period. Their associates, some are even not the victims of the tsunami disaster have received two, three houses and they have rented them now. Many actual victims of the disaster still live in half-built houses while thousands of people still languish in refugee camps in Colombo district. Any traveling along the Galle Road can see such camp in a state building in Blind and Deaf School Junction, Rathmalana in the city outskirts. A dirty two-story building that is near collapse stands shabbily with cloth lines everywhere and people gushing out of it like ants.

In 2005,the Criminal Investigation Department sought permission from the courts to investigate the accounts alleging that there was a breach of trust concerning nearly 83 million Sri Lankan rupees (approx 820,000 US dollars).Sri Lankan media had alleged that money sent by international donors to the Prime Minister's national relief fund was credited to the privately run "Helping Hambantota" fund. The lawyers of the Prime Minister told the Supreme Court that the Cabinet of Ministers were informed of the monies in ‘Helping Hambantota’ fund, which is monitored by Secretary to the PM, Lalith Weeratunga.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Sarath Silva (see photo) ordered Criminal Investigation Department to temporarily halt the investigation after considering a petition by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse.

The Prime Minister then is the President now and the Secretary to the PM is the Secretary to the President now. Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva retired and some of his court rulings have been challenged legally.

Even the populist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) and the People's Liberation Front (JVP) misappropriated the funds raised in the name of the tsunami disaster. Nobody knows what happened to the monies they collected world wide and island wide. Many of those from international donors to local businessmen who lavishly delivered promises to help the victims now remain silent after getting publicity for their philanthropic ideas that did not materialize.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Rajiva's letter and Sri Lanka's presidential

(December 25, Colombo - Lanka Polity) The reply of Wijesinghe has caused controversy in government circles as the Minister of Human Rights declined the responsibility of his secretary's letter at a press briefing held on December 23 .

The Minister said that Fonseka's statement put the armed forces in trouble. Wijesinghe had slipped out of the room when a journalist asked about the letter although he was there at the press conference.

'Patriotic brigade' mainly led by National Freedom Front leader Wimal Weerawansa was upset with the letter written by Rajiva Wijesinghe. The pro-Rajapaksa 'patriots' were elated with the trump passed by Fonseka to them to canvass for floating Sinhala votes. They whisper that Wijesinghe is under a contract of Sarath Fonseka and his letter benefited the retired General whose slip of the tongue put him in trouble in gaining majority Sinhala votes at the upcoming presidential.

However, political sources say that Rajapaksas themselves directed Rajiva Wijesinghe, a professor of English literature, to write this letter to save them from the war crime allegations.Anyway, Wijesinghe's response looked abrupt and unauthoritative since he had not consulted even his Minister. However, Rajapaksas have remained silent so far.

More Chinese aids flowing to Sri Lanka

Three framework agreements amounting to US$ 410 million were signed between Treasury Secretary Dr P.B. Jayasundera and China?s Vice Minister of Commerce Chen Jian Wednesday under which the Chinese Government will provide confessional funding for several projects in Sri Lanka, including the second international airport at Mattala.

The framework agreements were signed during a three day official visit to China undertaken by the Treasury Secretary.

An annual granting agreement was also signed with China?s Commerce Ministry to the value of US$ 7 million during this visit.

Dr Jayasundra apprised Vice Minister Chen Jian of the progress achieved by Government in the field of power.

He also apprised him on the progress achieved in the fields of ports and highways as well as new construction and development initiatives undertaken by the Government, particularly in the Northern and Eastern regions.

He briefed Chinese officials that it is the government?s intention to speed up reconstruction efforts, especially the construction of roads and rail roads, to link the North and South which would contribute to improving the living conditions and livelihoods of the people in those provinces.

The Vice minister of Commerce indicated further development assistance to improve the general living standards as well as to achieve a higher growth rate in Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan delegation also held discussions with China?s Finance (December 24, Colombo - Daily News) Ministry officials and assessed the progress of ongoing projects with Chinese Contractors.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Signs of lakhs of Sri Lankan IDPs losing their franchise: All the 22 Candidates, political parties silent

(December 24, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Media spokesman for Campaign for Free and Fair elections (CAFFE), Keerthi Tennekoon regretted that no political party has taken any action to protect the voting rights of the IDPs in the North.

Not only the Elections Commissioner and the govt. officials, but the political parties too have a grave responsibility to safeguard the voting rights of the IDPs in Jaffna and the Wanni Districts. These parties who are representatives of the people should take crucial measures to provide the IDPs with the right to vote. Yet, a majority of the candidates who are contesting the Presidential elections are indifferent to this need.

The deadline for the IDPs in the North to register for polling expires tomorrow 24th December.Until 22nd Dec. only 2600 had handed over their application forms for the voting in Jaffna. In Wanni only 13, 000 have handed over. Accordingly, lakhs and lakhs of IDPS in the North will be deprived of their franchise for the upcoming Presidential elections.

CAFFE insists that the candidates and political parties must take decisive steps to ensure that these IDPs in the North who have after 30 years got the opportunity to vote shall somehow be secured the right of franchise. Signs of lakhs of IDPs losing their franchise: All the 22 Candidates, political parties silent

Media spokesman for Campaign for Free and Fair elections (CAFFE), Keerthi Tennekoon regretted that no political party has taken any action to protect the voting rights of the IDPs in the North.

Not only the Elections Commissioner and the govt. officials, but the political parties too have a grave responsibility to safeguard the voting rights of the IDPs in Jaffna and the Wanni Districts. These parties who are representatives of the people should take crucial measures to provide the IDPs with the right to vote. Yet, a majority of the candidates who are contesting the Presidential elections are indifferent to this need.

The deadline for the IDPs in the North to register for polling expires tomorrow 24th December.Until 22nd Dec. only 2600 had handed over their application forms for the voting in Jaffna. In Wanni only 13, 000 have handed over. Accordingly, lakhs and lakhs of IDPS in the North will be deprived of their franchise for the upcoming Presidential elections.

CAFFE insists that the candidates and political parties must take decisive steps to ensure that these IDPs in the North who have after 30 years got the opportunity to vote shall somehow be secured the right of franchise.

IFJ mission identifies key challenges for media after war's end

(December 24, Colombo - Lanka Polity) The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today released the report of a press freedom mission to Sri Lanka, identifying key challenges for the country's journalists and media at the end of 25 years of internal conflict and the inauguration of a new phase of political contests.

Media stakeholders who met with the mission during its visit to Sri Lanka in November identified the current political circumstances as embodying numerous threats and opportunities.

The entry of a former army commander into the race for the Presidency next year has thrown the contest open and provided an opportunity for local media to create more space for itself. At the same time, the heightened intensity of the political contest may also engender threats.

Certain new flashpoints have emerged in the always fraught relationship between the media and political power-holders. Any form of reckoning with the tactical decisions made during the final stages of the war earlier this year and the humanitarian consequences is actively discouraged. Despite
this element of coercion on the media, this issue has been coming up in the campaign debates between rival candidates for the presidency.

The opposition's common candidate for the presidency, General Sarath Fonseka, has made special mention about the abuses suffered by the media during the years of war, especially in its final stages. If elected, he has committed himself to addressing these abuses in a spirit of candour and reconciliation. The media community is encouraged by these commitments, though certain among them recall his own far from spotless record, especially when it involved media criticism of his war-time role as Sri
Lanka's army commander.

The actual record of addressing past abuses has been dismal, with little progress recorded in the investigation of the most conspicuous cases, including the murder of Lasantha Wickramatunge in January 2009.

The report documents the current stage of the investigations into this and other cases. It inquires into the conviction of J.S. Tissainayagam on terrorism charges and examines the credibility of the prosecution case, especially in view of the unconditional discharge of two of his co-accused.

In a climate of intolerance, several journalists are being induced to give up efforts to obtain redress for violations of their rights. The mission observed that journalists are being required to withdraw applications under the fundamental rights provisions of the Constitution merely to be set at
liberty after prolonged periods in wrongful detention. In the judgment of the mission, this is a grossly unequal exchange.

Recent moves by the Government to revive a coercive form of media regulation, embodied in a 1973 legislation, have been opposed by journalists and publishers, who have renewed their commitment to a code of self-regulation.

The mission report concludes with recommendations that would set the relationship between the media and the Sri Lankan state on a different course. These include the return of all exiled Sri Lankan journalists, the unfettering of state media institutions so that they are able freely and fairly to report on the ongoing election campaign, the conversion of these institutions into a public service trust, the enactment of right to information legislation, and the addressing of all past abuses in a spirit of truth and reconciliation.

The mission report will soon be released in Sinhala and Tamil.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sri Lanka government begging for UN action against war crime charges agaisnt officials

(December 23, Colombo - Lanka Polity) In a very extraordinary move, Sri Lanka government is anticipating harsh action from the United Nations against the state heads. officials and Army even before the UN has considered such a move.

Government leaders campaigning for the re-election of the President Mahinda Rajapakse in the presidential scheduled to be held on January 26 is trying to seek political mileage from a detrimental statement made and later denied by the opposition presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka at the cost of the future of the politicians, officials and soldiers. It is actually begging for action from UN even before replying to the letter of the UN seeking a clarification.

Former Sri Lankan Navy Commander Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda, who is now the presidential adviser on national security, has warned that the recent allegations raised by presidential candidate and former Army Chief General Sarath Fonseka could affect the opportunity for Sri Lankan troops to be selected for UN peace keeping operations in Haiti and for overseas training, reported Daily Mirror newspaper.

Speaking on State television Karannagoda, who was known to be at serious rift with Fonseka when both were serving as chiefs of their respective forces, said that the allegations raised by Fonseka, though false, could open the doors for a fresh bid by the international community to level war crimes charges against the Sri Lankan military.

Sri Lanka state-owned Sinhala daily Dinamina said today quoting government leaders that the Army 58 division of which the ex-commander was ordered by Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse to kill the leaders of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) was also facing a 'risk'. However, the newspaper did not describe the risk factor.

Karannagoda said to Dinamina newspaper that Sri Lanka would have to face a war crime trial and cited that the leaders of Bosnia were punished similarly by international war crime tribunal.

Sri Lankan law professor and Minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris told a news briefing at the Mahaweli Centre yesterday that UN special Rapporteur Philippe Alston’s letter to Sri Lanka’s ambassador Kshenuka Seneviratne seeking an explanation on the highly damaging charges against Sri Lanka put the nation on the level of a pariah state that has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity that should be meted out strict punishments.

“It is clear that the detractors of Sri Lanka want to take the country before an International Tribunal like the Nuremburg Trials that tried Nazi leader Adolph Hitler and his accomplices for their war crimes during World War II. This will result in any Army, Navy or Air Force personnel being arrested in Europe, US, Canada or even in Japan for war crimes,” Prof. Peiris stressed.

Prof. Peiris said the other danger was that any US or European court could pass an order against Sri Lankan leaders and armed forces personnel and issue a warrant for arrest on charges of ‘Crime against Humanity’ in a similar manner they arrested late Chili strongman Augusto Pinochet.

There was a warrant against General Pinochet by a Spanish Court on charges of extrajudicial killings committed during his regime as the President which had also been adopted by England. He was arrested when he arrived in England for medical treatment and languished in jail for more than 4 1/2 years.

There is a direct threat against President Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Commander in Chief, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the then Brigade Commander of the 58th  Brigade Major General Shavendra Silva and all members of the 58th Brigade according to the charges levelled against them by General Fonseka, he said.

Responding to a question raised by a journalist as to what would happen if Sri Lanka refused to give an explanation to the UN special Rapporteur, Prof. Peiris said it was obligatory for Sri Lanka to explain as she is a member of the UN.

“We are bound to explain or they will accept it as an acceptance of the charges if not. Besides, the Security Council and the EU may pass resolutions against Sri Lanka if we did not respond positively. The government is doing its utmost to minimize the damage caused. A team of legal experts headed by Attorney General will look into the modalities in preparing the explanation,” he added.

Socialist candidate of Sri Lanka presidential launches website

(December 23, Colombo - Lanka Polity) The release of the election Manifesto of Mr. Siritunga Jayasuriya, Presidential candidate of the United Socialist Party (USP) will take place at National Library and Documentation Services Board, No 14, Independence Avenue , Colombo 7, at 10.30a.m. today (Wednesday).

Launching of the Lanka Socialist website of the USP will also take place at the same occasion.

A media briefing will be held by Mr. Siritunga Jayasuriya following this event on issues impacting upon the presidential election, says a USP spokesman.

Two other left wing candidates are also contesting the presidential scheduled to be held on January 26, 2010. They are Dr. Wickramabahu Karunarathna of the Left Front and Wije Dias of Socialist Equality Party. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sri Lanka president to use the UN war crime charges to bank sympathetic votes

(December 22, Colombo - Lanka Polity) The interview given by opposition presidential candidate of Sri Lanka Sarath Fonseka to the Sunday Leader newspaper on December 13, 2009 wherein he alleges that three Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) leaders who came to surrender with white flags during the final stages of the battle were shot dead by ground troops that were following the orders of Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, has opened an UN probe into possible war crimes charges against the government.

However, the government ahead of an unexpected competition in the presidential on January 26 has decided to manipulate the scenario to rouse patriotism among masses and to bank the floating votes disregarding the risk factor. The government has assigned Sinhala nationalist ex-Marxist Wimal Weerawansa, the leader of the National Freedom Front (JNP), to run a campaign to grow hatred among security forces against Fonseka. He also begs to people to come to streets in defense of the Rajapaksas to show gratitude for the service they rendered in wiping out terrorism.

Weerawansa, who has begun to advise the government in legal affairs since recent times urged issuing a press statement, to bring Sarath Fonseka before the martial court and punish him under martial law.Weerawansa is delivering a series of fiery speeches in this regard and urges the government to forget the presidential and to take action to avoid further betrayals. 

However, the more responsible government politicians including arch Sinhala nationalist militant leader of the National Heritage (JHU) Champika Ranawaka have been instructed by the government to be prudential since the government has been advised to face the problem diplomatically.

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Philip Alston in a letter to President Mahinda Rajapaksa has demanded an explanation regarding the allegations made by Fonseka that the Defence Secretary has instructed the Commander of the 58th Brigade of the Sri Lanka Army to shoot those surrendering.

The United Nations is inquiring particularly “the circumstances of the death of three representatives of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Balasingham Nadeshan, Seevaratnam Pulidevan and Ramesh, as well as members of their families, in the night of 17 to 18 May, 2009.”

In his letter, Alston says that the information that he has received are based on the allegations made by Sarath Fonseka in the above mentioned interview. He also says “accounts of journalists embedded with the SLA 58th Brigade confirm some of the alleged circumstances of the deaths of Nadeshan, Pulidevan and Ramesh and their families.” Referring to “fundamental legal rules applicable to all armed conflicts under international humanitarian law and human rights law”, particularly Article 5 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the Special Rapporteur has inquired about the accuracy of the allegations and demanded information and documentary proof in the event that the accusations are inaccurate.The letter also seeks information on the family members of Nadeshan , Pulidevan and Ramesh.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Freedom offered by Sri Lanka government to Tamil IDPs backlashes

(December 21, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Sri Lanka government says it has opened the main highway from Colombo to Jaffna and people now can travel on the road without passes issued by the Ministry of Defense. The government has sped up the resettlement of Tamil refugees and say they provide all facilities to the people 'liberated' from the iron arm of the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE).

President Mahinda Rajapakse has called an early presidential to get himself elected for a second term before the warmth of the war victory wanes. However, with the ex-Army Commander Sarath Fonseka's coming forward as the opposition common candidate, Sinhala polity is divided and the winner of the presidential depends on minority votes.

President Mahinda Rajapakse has directed his powerful brother Basil Rajapakse, an adviser, for bargaining votes for freedom among the desperate Tamil IDPs. As a result, the Tamils of Vanni now enjoy better treatment from the 'liberator.'

But the 'freedom' also has repercussions. People are on the verge of opening their mouths on the experiences in the hands of the 'liberators' who are now facing war crime allegations due to the inhuman conduct in the final phase of war.

At least one Tamil woman who lived in the government declared 'no fire zone' until 'liberated' by the 'humanitarian operation' of the state security forces has opened her mouth to global media. Thamilvani Gnanakumar, 25, was in the 'no-fire zone' assisting people in health care and she was released after confining her for several months in Manik Farm 'welfare village' what she calls a concentration camp. Vani, a biomedical graduate, is a Sri Lankan origin UK citizen and talked to The Observer from her house in Essex describing her harrowing experience.

She says she waited until now to reveal the full scale of her ordeal in the hope of avoiding reprisals against friends and family held with her. They have now been released after the Sri Lankan government bowed to international pressure this month and opened the camps.

Following are several excerpts from her interview with the UK newspaper:

"It was a concentration camp, where people were not even allowed to talk, not even allowed to go near the fences.

"They were kept from the outside world. The government didn't want people to tell what happened to them, about the missing or the disappearances or the sexual abuse. They didn't want anyone to know.
"Sexual abuse is something that was a common thing, that I personally saw. In the visitor area relatives would be the other side of the fence and we would be in the camp. Girls came to wait for their relatives and military officers would come and touch them, and that's something I saw.

"The girls usually didn't talk back to them, because they knew that in the camp if they talked anything could happen to them. It was quite open, everyone could see the military officers touching the girls," she said.

"Tamil girls usually don't talk about sexual abuse, they won't open their mouths about it, but I heard the officers were giving the women money or food in return for sex. These people were desperate for everything.

"One time I saw an old man was waiting to visit the next camp and this military officer hit the old man. I don't know what the argument was, but the officer just hit him in the back.
"In the same area people were made to kneel down in the hot weather for arguing with the officers. Sometimes it lasted for hours.

"They were asking people to come in and take their names down if they had any sort of contact [with the Tamil Tigers]. They did an investigation and then a van would come in and they would take them away and nobody would know after that. I know people still searching for family members.

Kumar said that on arrival at the camp, near the northern town of Vavuniya, she was put in a large tent with several people she did not know. The camp was guarded by armed soldiers and ringed with high fences and rolls of razor wire. "The first two or three days I was alone there still scare me. When I arrived at the camp I put my bag down and just cried. That feeling still won't go. I just don't want to think about those two or three days in the camp, the fear about what was going to happen to me.

"For the first few days I didn't eat anything. We didn't know where to go to get food. I thought, 'Am I dreaming or is this really happening?' I never thought I would end up in a camp." Tens of thousands of people were crammed into flimsy tents which provided little respite from the intense heat. Toilets and washing facilities could not cope with the demands and food and water were in short supply.

"You have to bathe in an open area in front of others, which I find very uneasy. I stayed next to the police station, so every day I had a bath with the police officers looking at me, men and women. Everyone can see you when you are having a bath. So I would get up early in the morning about 3.30am, so it was dark," she said.

Kumar was held in the best-equipped part of the camp, but even there conditions were dire. "It is not a standard a human being can live in. The basic needs like water and food [were] always a problem. Most of the time you were queuing for water.

"The toilets were terrible, and there was not enough water, so we could not clean them. There were insects and flies everywhere. After two or three days of continuous rain, the sewage was floating on the water and going into the tents and everyone [was] walking through it, up to knee height." She was finally released into the custody of the British High Commission in early September.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sri Lanka President to dissolve parliament by early January?

(December 20, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Sri Lanka President is likely to dissolve the parliament by early January, government sources say.

The parliament meetings are now adjourned till January 5. Opposition protested this move of the government to cancel the meetings stating that it would undermine he accountability. The President has reportedly taken this step to deploy his mega cabinet in his presidential campaign island wide. President Mahinda Rajapakse is running for the second term in the snap presidential to be held on January 26,  

The parliament is to debate the proposal to extend the emergency regulations by one month on January 5. Sri Lanka is ruled under emergency for decades and the extension month by month without strict opposition is customary in the parliament.

The President is expected to dissolve the parliament after January 5, sources say. The term of the current parliament ends in April 2010 and the Election Commissioner and the political parties need time to go for a general election.

Sri Lanka's major opposition has united to campaign for the victory of the common opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka. However, both capitalist United National Party (UNP) as well as Marxist People's Liberation Front (JVP) have announced that they will run individually in the general election.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Obama’s speech disappoints and fuels frustration

COPENHAGEN (AP) US President Barack Obama stepped into the chaotic final hours of the Copenhagen summit on Friday saying he was convinced the world could act "boldly and decisively" on climate change.

But his speech offered no indication America was ready to embrace bold measures, after world leaders had been working desperately against the clock to try to paper over an agreement to prevent two years of wasted effort — and a 10-day meeting — from ending in total collapse.

Obama, who had been skittish about coming to Copenhagen at all unless it could be cast as a foreign policy success, looked visibly frustrated as he appeared before world leaders.

He offered no further commitments on reducing emissions or on finance to poor countries beyond Hillary Clinton’s announcement yesterday that America would support a $100bn global fund to help developing nations adapt to climate change.
He did not even press the Senate to move ahead on climate change legislation, which environmental organisations have been urging for months.

The president did say America would follow through on his administration’s clean energy agenda, and that it would live up to its pledges to the international community.

"We have charted our course, we have made our commitments, and we will do what we say," Obama said.

But in the absence of any evidence of that commitment the words rang hollow and there was a palpable sense of disappointment in the audience.

Instead, he warned African states and low island nations who have been resisting what they see as a weak agreement that the later alternative — no agreement — was far worse.

"We know the fault lines because we’ve been imprisoned by them for years. But here is the bottom line: we can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward, and continue to refine it and build upon its foundation," he said.

"Or we can again choose delay, falling back into the same divisions that have stood in the way of action for years. And we will be back having the same stale arguments month after month, year after year – all while the danger of climate change grows until it is irreversible."

He also took a dig at China, drawing attention to its status as the world’s biggest emitter and reinforcing America’s hardline on the issue of accountability for greenhouse gas emissions.

The lacklustre speech proved a huge frustration to a summit that had been looking to Obama to use his stature on the world stage – and his special following among African leaders – to try to come to an ambitious deal.

The president was drawn into the chaos within minutes of his arrival at Copenhagen, ditching his schedule to take part in a meeting of major industrialised and rapidly emerging economies.

Responding to Obama’s speech, a British official said: "Gordon Brown is committed to doing all he can and will stay until the very last minute to secure a deal... but others also need to show the same level of commitment. The prospects of a deal are not great."

Tim Jones, a spokesman for the World Development Movement, said: "The president said he came to act, but showed little evidence of doing so. He showed no awareness of the inequality and injustice of climate change. If America has really made its choice, it is a choice that condemns hundreds of millions of people to climate change disaster."

Friends of the Earth said in a statement, "Obama has deeply disappointed not only those listening to his speech at the UN talks, he has disappointed the whole world."
The World Wildlife Fund said Obama had let down the international community by failing to commit to pushing for action in Congress: "The only way the world can be sure the US is standing behind its commitments is for the president to clearly state that climate change will be his next top legislative priority."

The extent of crisis in the talks has taken leaders by surprise. The Brazilian leader, Lula da Silva, told the conference that the all-night negotiating sessions took him back to his days as a trade union leader negotiating with his bosses.


(Editorial of Daily Mirror 2009-12-19)
Just a few of us remember the historic Non Aligned Conference also called the Bandung Conference held in April 1955 - historic since it was the first time in the history of the world that leaders of Asian and African peoples met together in one of their own countries for a dialogue on matters of common concern.  The conference was the precursor of the non aligned movement. It was largely the initiative of President Sukarno of Indonesia and was co-sponsored by Burma (now Myanmar) Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) India and Pakistan.Perhaps the most important paragraph in the Final Communiqué of the Bandung Conference was a call for collective action to stabilize the international prices of primary commodities. Unfortunately subsequent international arrangements to do so have been scuttled by developed countries. The economy of almost all developing countries depend on the export of commodities such as rubber, sugar, tea, cocoa, coffee and coconut.

In the decades following the Bandung Conference, the need to resolve the low prices, the volatility in prices and demand for commodities was a major part of international economic discussions and initiatives.

A major part of the work of UNCTAD in its first two decades focused on hosting negotiations between commodity producing and consuming countries giving rise to several producer-consumer commodity agreements and the establishment of a Common Fund for commodities. 

However in the 1980s major developed countries, led by the United States and United Kingdom decided that these commodity agreements clashed with their new free market philosophy and withdrew their interest and support for these agreements.  By the end of the 1980s, the organization running these arrangements were unable to carry out their most important functions relating to the purchase and maintenance of stocks and the management of prices which were to remain within an agreed band. 

In December 2002 the United Nations General Assembly called on UNCTAD to convene a group of independent eminent persons to examine and report on commodity issues.  The report presented to the UN Assembly in October 2003 came up with several proposals including the following:

Developing countries are the victims of subsidy policies in the developed countries which harm producers of many agricultural commodities who are facing unfair competition from developed country farmers. The report called for the speedy resumption of negotiations leading to agricultural liberalization in the North.Unfortunately up till today the negotiations are deadlocked in the World Trade Organization (WTO).

There was no comprehensive and systematic consultative framework to share information and use expertise among key actors in reviewing the commodity situation. Efforts of all interested stakeholders should, therefore be put together and focus on breaking the cycle of poverty in which commodity producers are locked. Therefore UNCTAD adopted a decision to establish an international task force on commodities.

Compared to the enormous work done by UNCTAD in the 1960s to 1980s when initiatives to attain fair prices for commodities and maintain commodity agreements, the agenda for the international task force was mild and limited. However the decision to setup the task force was a major step forward given the absence of a venue or mechanism in the international system to discuss the problem, let alone address it.  But like several other international initiatives to promote the economic and commercial development of the Third World and reduce poverty, the task force has been largely ignored by the developed countries and the international community.  The “inequal exchange,” described at the Bandung Conference in 1955 continues today with developing countries having to sell their commodities at low prices to the World Market whilest having to import manufactured goods at high prices with declining terms of trade.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Live coverage of nomination day by Sri Lanka public media bias and partisan to Rajapakse , election monitors say

(December 18, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Amidst Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse's blatant illegal misuse of public property in his run to elect for the second term, one of the major election monitoring movement has written to the Election Commissioner regarding the bias and partisan live telecast of the nomination day by the public television channels. The television channel did not give equal importance to all candidates and gave an unethical prominence to the President Mahinda Rajapakse.

The content of the letter is as follows:
In Relation to the Live Telecast of Nomination Day for the 2010 Presidential Election
The Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) would like to strongly protest against the biased and partisan nature of the Nomination Day Live Telecast for the 2010 Presidential Election shown today the 17th of December 2010.
The access and rights to telecast this important national occasion had only been granted to the State owned Rupavahini Channel. They have used this honorable occasion in a very biased and partisan manner currently.
Although every Presidential Candidate should get an equal amount of importance during the Live Telecast of the Presidential Nomination Event only ONE candidate was given importance. Not displaying the names of some candidates and their picture next to their name while displaying the name and picture of select candidates was a glaring obvious example of this biased and partisan conduct.
Furthermore, during the live telecast television presenters repeatedly mentioned the campaign slogan of one particular candidate. This biased and partisan reporting goes beyond the accepted norms and ethics of unbiased media reporting.
CaFFE observes that the situation was made into a totally partisan scenario and this situation arose because the rights to the live telecast were given to only one television channel. It is essential that Election Department take responsible charge of the situation and ensures that no single candidate gets an irregularly high amount of media time in the future Presidential Election period.
The situation has arisen again in which the requirement for a Competent Authority for State Media has once again been created by the partisan approach adopted the National State Television Channel of Sri Lanka when telecasting the nationally important nomination day. CaFFE would like to request you to look into this matter urgently.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Why do Sri Lankan presidential candidates go back to history to launch their campaigns?

(December 17, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Today the nominations are closed for the January 25 presidential of Sri Lanka. Both the government and the major opposition will have their inaugural rallies tomorrow.

President Mahinda Rajapakse's first propaganda rally is held in Anuradhapura while major opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka will climb the hill to address his inaugural rally held in Kandy.

The two venues chosen by these two candidates to launch their campaigns officially has connotations linked to the past.

Anuradhapura is an ancient capital of a kingdom that ended at the beginning of the second millennium around 1000 AD. Later the colonial archaeologists and the historians unearthed the glorious city in late 19th century until what times it was covered by thick jungle.However, as Sinhala nationalism was formed in the modern times with its primary focus to the Sinhala dominance in the post-colonial state, Anuradhapura was chosen as the ideal capital of the Sinhala polity.

Kandy is the capital of the last Sinhala kingdom that fell to the English colonials in 1815 basically due to internal mutiny.

Both cities are equally significant for the Buddhists. Buddhism is the majority religion of the island. Sri Maha Bodhiya, a tree believed to hail from the ancient tree that provided shade to Lord Buddha to attain enlightenment is in Anuradhapura.

The sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha, a symbol of kingship is in Kandy.

Another significance is that the Tamil nationalist rebels have attacked both these cities and killed people.

What do you think about the historical ramifications of selection of these two cities by the two major candidates for the launch of their campaigns instead of Colombo, the natural nerve center of politics.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cleaners 'worth more to society' than bankers - study

By Martin Shankleman,
Employment correspondent, BBC News

Hospital cleaners steaming beds in a hospital
Hospital cleaners play a vital role, the study found
Hospital cleaners are worth more to society than bankers, a study suggests.
The research, carried out by think tank the New Economics Foundation, says hospital cleaners create £10 of value for every £1 they are paid.
It claims bankers are a drain on the country because of the damage they caused to the global economy.
They reportedly destroy £7 of value for every £1 they earn. Meanwhile, senior advertising executives are said to "create stress".
The study says they are responsible for campaigns which create dissatisfaction and misery, and encourage over-consumption.
Waste recycling worker standing by a pile of plastic bottles
Waste workers promote recycling, researchers note
And tax accountants damage the country by devising schemes to cut the amount of money available to the government, the research suggests.
By contrast, child minders and waste recyclers are also doing jobs that create net wealth to the country.
The Foundation has used a new form of job evaluation to calculate the total contribution various jobs make to society, including for the first time the impact on communities and environment.
Eilis Lawlor, spokeswoman for the New Economics Foundation, said: "Pay levels often don't reflect the true value that is being created. As a society, we need a pay structure which rewards those jobs that create most societal benefit rather than those that generate profits at the expense of society and the environment".
Ledger sheet and pen
Tax accountants are said to destroy £47 in value for every £1 generated
She said the aim of the research was not to target individuals in highly paid jobs, or suggest people in low paid jobs should earn more.
"The point we are making is more fundamental - that there should be a relationship between what we are paid and the value our work generates for society. We've found a way to calculate that," she said.
A total of six different jobs were analysed to assess their overall value. These are the study's main findings:
  • The elite banker
"Rather than being wealth creators bankers are being handsomely rewarded for bringing the global financial system to the brink of collapse
Paid between £500,000 and £80m a year, leading bankers destroy £7 of value for every pound they generate".
  • Childcare workers
"Both for families and society as a whole, looking after children could not be more important. As well as providing a valuable service for families, they release earnings potential by allowing parents to continue working. For every pound they are paid they generate up to £9.50 worth of benefits to society."
  • Hospital cleaners
"Play a vital role in the workings of healthcare facilities. They not only clean hospitals and maintain hygiene standards but also contribute to wider health outcomes. For every pound paid, over £10 in social value is created."
  • Advertising executives
The industry "encourages high spending and indebtedness. It can create insatiable aspirations, fuelling feelings of dissatisfaction, inadequacy and stress. For a salary of between £50,000 and £12m top advertising executives destroy £11 of value for every pound in value they generate".
  • Tax accountants
"Every pound that a tax accountant saves a client is a pound which otherwise would have gone to HM Revenue. For a salary of between £75,000 and £200,000, tax accountants destroy £47 in value, for every pound they generate."
  • Waste recycling workers
"Do a range of different jobs that relate to processing and preventing waste and promoting recycling. Carbon emissions are significantly reduced. There is also a value in reusing goods. For every pound of value spent on wages, £12 of value is generated for society."
The research also makes a variety of policy recommendations to align pay more closely with the value of work.
These include establishing a high pay commission, building social and environmental value into prices, and introducing more progressive taxation.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Expert with ties to FBI and Vancouver Police authenticates “Sri Lanka War Crimes”-Channel 4 Video

Rhys Blakely in Mumbai

Video footage that appears to show Sri Lankan troops committing war crimes by summarily executing captured Tamil Tiger fighters on the battlefield was not fabricated, as claimed by the Sri Lankan Government, an investigation by The Times has found.

The findings come after General Sarath Fonseka, the former head of the army, alleged that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the Defence Minister, had ordered that surrendering Tiger leaders be killed rather than taken prisoner in the final days of the brutal 26-year civil war that ended in May.

The claims, vehemently denied by the Government, added to a lengthy list of war crimes allegations against it.
The video of the alleged battlefield executions, which was aired on Channel 4 in August, shows a naked man, bound and blindfolded, being made to kneel.

Another man, dressed in what appears to be Sri Lankan army uniform, approaches from behind and shoots him in the head at point-blank range. “It’s like he jumped,” the executor laughs. The camera then pans to show eight similarly bound corpses.

It is impossible to confirm when and where the filming occurred or the identities of the men shown. Pro-Tamil groups alleged that the video was filmed by troops on a mobile phone in January, when they overran the Tiger stronghold of Kilinochchi in the north of the country. Those claims were denied by government officials, who said they had “established beyond doubt” that the footage was fake.

An analysis for The Times by Grant Fredericks, an independent forensic video specialist who is also an instructor at the FBI National Academy, suggests otherwise. He found no evidence of digital manipulation, editing or any other special effects. However, subtle details consistent with a real shooting, such as a discharge of gas from the barrel of the weapon used, were visible.

“This level of subtle detail cannot be virtually reproduced. This is clearly an original recording,” said Mr Fredericks, who was previously the head of the Vancouver police forensic video unit in Canada.
There was also strong evidence to rule out the use of actors. “Even if the weapons fired blanks, the barrel is so close to the head of the ‘actors’ that the gas discharge alone leaves the weapon with such force it would likely cause serious injury or death,” Mr Fredericks said.

The reactions of those executed was consistent with reality, he added. “The victims do not lunge forward . . . [they] fall backward in a very realistic reaction, unlike what is normally depicted in the movies.”

In Mr Fredericks’s opinion “the injury to the head of the second victim and the oozing liquid from that injury cannot be reproduced realistically without editing cuts, camera angle changes and special effects. No [errors] exist anywhere in any of the images that support a technical fabrication of the events depicted,” he said.

The Sri Lankan Government said in a statement in September that the footage was “done with a sophisticated video camera, dubbed to give the gunshot effect and transferred to a mobile phone.”

Mr Fredericks’s research showed that code embedded in the footage appeared to match with software used in Nokia mobile phones.” He said: “The recording is completely consistent with a cell phone video recording and there are no signs of editing or alterations.”

The strong evidence that the footage does show real executions could reinforce international calls for an independent war crimes investigation — something that the Sri Lanka Government has resisted. A Sri Lankan army spokesman requested that a copy of Mr Fredericks’s report be sent to him yesterday, but did not reply when it was.

Mr Fonseka, who resigned from the army last month after being sidelined, is campaigning to unseat President Rajapaksa, the Defence Minister’s brother, at elections next month. [courtesy: Times.UK]

White handkerchief marks protest against forcible cremation by the government of Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan civil society is silently but strongly marking their protest against the government's inhuman  forcible  cremation of a 20-da...