Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cheap labour from IDPs of Sri Lanka changing the labour terrain

By Ajith Perakum Jayasinghe

(August 29, 2010, Colombo - Lanka PolityWorking class of Sri Lanka is facing new challenges following the defeat of the Tamil liberation struggle and the capitalist re-unification of the state structure.

In the latest development, the garment factory owners struggling to survive amidst the loss of GSP Plus tax concessions from European Union are in a mass recruitment drive of Tamil girls among IDPs for cheap labour in factories.

Anton Marcus, President of the Progressive Free Trade Zone and Apparel Union told the Sunday Times, “After many years of war, the people in these areas are ignorant of workers rights, wages and so on and are easy prey for the apparel operators. Most of the big names currently touring the north and east are known to be serious violators of labour laws. There is a huge dearth of factory hands at the moment because many are leaving owing to poor wages and working and living conditions. Therefore the apparel bosses have switched to the north and east where there is widespread unemployment. These people are willing to work for any wage and they care less about the working or living conditions. At the end of the day, these workers will be exploited.”

The trend recalls the history of colonial planters importing low-income group people from South India as plantation workers in the 19th century. Poverty stricken Sinhala villagers that lost their traditional livelihood due to land grab of the colonial companies grew a deep rooted jealousy and hatred with the Indian workers and it still prevails even more than 60 years after gaining independence. To appease them, Sinhala rulers took back the citizenship right of these Tamil workers and deported thousands of them against their wish. Indian origin Tamils are still struggling far behind the other communities to achieve due equality.

The cheap labour available in recently re-unified areas of Sri Lanka may have a greater impact on Sri Lanka's labour market in recent future with the revocation of restrictions of mobility that were imposed on security concerns. Even now, the cheap labour from the workers of minority communities have changed the labour terrain in rice cultivating districts like Polonnaruwa.

This can cause a new challenge to the workers' movements since there is a possibility of emergence of a new wave of racism among workers that clash in labour market for better demand for them. Similar riots took place in some states of India in recent times.

Another kind of manipulated labour migration is also visible in re-unified areas. The state and private companies that carry out development projects in Northern Province take labourers from south to north due to security and other issues instead of recruiting labourers from IDPs.

Media reports say even India is to bring a 20,000 workforce to Sri Lanka to employ in the 50,000 numbers mega housing project for IDPs of Northern Province.

Less attention is paid both by Sri Lanka and India regarding the feeble voice of the IDPs demanding employment in these development projects.

Governments are yet to identify that they are providing breeding grounds for fragmented Tamil nationalist forces that are manipulating the situation to revive Tamil racism among IDPs.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

The article that made The Economist barred entry to Sri Lanka

(August 21, 2010, Colombo - Lanka Polity)The following article was published in 'The Economist' on August 19.

It is a half-baked unprofessional journalistic piece, that portrays half truth regarding present situation in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka.

But it is published in prestigious The Economist that can have an influence in the minds of the possible investors in Sri Lanka.

Overall image created by the article is that Sri Lanka under Mahinda Rajapaksa regime is anti-Tamil, undemocratic, corrupt and nepotist although the country is recovering and on the development path under his rule. The article ended with the following sentence.

The country may be developing after the war, but democracy still looks frail.

Sri Lanka Customs has stopped release of all the copies of The Economist magazine, says the distributor in the island Vijitha Yapa Bookshop.

The government is yet to clarify if it is a formal confiscation under the draconian emergency regulations.

Similar action was taken last year and then the government banned sale of India's popular Tamil magazine Ananda Vikatan and even arrested the manager of the distributor company Poobalasingham Bookshop, Colombo.

Sri Lanka's post-war recovery

Rebuilding, but at a cost

Sri Lanka is developing again. But not all can celebrate

WEARING a crisp blue shirt, Kumaraswamy Nageswaran gestures dejectedly to a towering fence that keeps him from his village and his three acres of farmland on the Trincomalee coast. Five years ago, as Tamil Tiger rebels fought desperately with the Sri Lankan army, thousands of families fled Sampur and adjoining villages. They returned in the six months to January this year, only to find themselves victims of post-war development plans.
Sampur fell within an area demarcated during the war as a “high-security zone”, in an effort to keep fighters from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam at bay. The rebels were defeated in May 2009, but nearly 6,000 people still cannot get to their homes and lands, as the security zone remains in place.
Today, inside the fence, Sampur is being cleared for a 500MW coal-powered plant in a joint venture between India and Sri Lanka. Also planned are a jetty and a special economic zone. The government has started a construction spree. The short journey from Kinniya to Mutur still requires arduous travel over potholed tracks and three short trips by rudimentary ferries with spluttering outboard motors. But roads are being tarred and bridges will soon replace the tedious boat rides.
Along the way, towns and villages are limping back to life. Mutur, a predominantly Muslim township near to Sampur, was the site of a particularly bloody battle in 2006. Gradually it is lifting its head: new buildings, including a school, are rising; paint has been daubed on walls. With a bit more aid money, the recovery would move faster yet. Elsewhere in the district, officials have marked out vast stretches of pristine beach-front for tourist development and plush hotels.
The authorities say that land will be dished out through open tenders. But local leaders fear plots will instead be handed to henchmen of the president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, most of whom come from the Sinhala-dominated south. Demands for preferential treatment for the inhabitants of Trincomalee, whether Tamil, Sinhala or Muslim, may fall on deaf ears.
Mr Nageswaran tries to organise locals, as the president of a welfare group for displaced people. The government has allocated them alternative land, he says, but it is poor, lacking decent soil or water for cultivation, and without the sea to fish in. Nobody asked them before making plans and they have no access to the “family that governs Sri Lanka” to explain their plight.
Ministers know what is happening. A soldier on the road to Mutur says government officials visit regularly, adding disgustedly that he is forced to salute the likes of Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, a former LTTE leader who is now deputy minister of resettlement, whereas “war heroes” like the former army commander, Sarath Fonseka, languish in jail.
Mr Fonseka, the country’s only four-star general, led the war against the rebels. He was cashiered on August 13th after a court-martial convicted him on three counts of using “traitorous” words and of a failure “to obey garrison or other orders”. The stripping of his rank, medals and decorations was endorsed by the president, whom he had dared to challenge at an election in January.
A wider crackdown against the opposition seems to be under way. Also on August 13th two MPs from Mr Fonseka’s Democratic National Alliance were arrested during what they called a “pro-democracy” protest. Police wielding batons and firing tear gas charged the demonstrators. The country may be developing after the war, but democracy still looks frail.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

A massive online campaign by the Avaaz community in Brazil won a stunning victory against corruption.

(August 19, 2010, Colombo - Lanka PolityThis is an email received by us and it describes a people's struggle in Brazil that achieved victory.

The "clean record" law was a bold proposal that banned any politician convicted of crimes like corruption and money laundering from running for office. With nearly 25% of the Congress under investigation for corruption, most said it would never pass. But after Avaaz launched the largest online campaign in Brazilian history, helping to build a petition of over 2 million signatures, 500,000 online actions, and tens of thousands of phone calls, we won!

Avaaz members fought corrupt congressmen daily as they tried every trick in the book to kill, delay, amend, and weaken the bill, and won the day every time. The bill passed Congress, and already over 330 candidates for office face disqualification!

One Brazilian member wrote to us when the law was passed, saying:

I have never been as proud of the Brazilian people as I am today! Congratulations to all that have signed. Today I feel like an actual citizen with political power. -- Silvia

Our strategy in Brazil was simple: make a solution so popular and visible that it can’t be opposed, and be so vigilant that we can’t be ignored.

This victory shows what our community can do - at a national level, in developing nations, and on the awful problem of corruption. Anywhere in the world, we can build legislative proposals to clean up corruption in government, back them up with massive citizen support, and fight legislators who try to block them.

France's Le Monde called our "impressive and unprecedented petition" campaign a "spectacular political and moral victory for civil society." And while this victory may be a first, we can make it the precedent for global citizen action.

Amazingly, our entire Brazil campaign was made possible by just a couple of Avaaz team members, serving over 600,000 Avaaz members in Brazil. The power of the Avaaz model is that technology can enable a tiny team to help millions of people work together on the most pressing issues. It's one of the most powerful ways a small donation can make a difference in the world.

5.6 million of us are reading this email -- if a small fraction of us donate just $3 or $5 per week, or 50 cents per day, the entire Avaaz team will be funded and we can even expand our work on corruption and a range of issues. Click below to become a Sustainer of Avaaz and help take our anti-corruption campaigning global:

We've seen the heart-wrenching movies about street kids and desperate urban poverty in Brazil, and we know that across the world political corruption preys on our communities and saps human potential. In Brazil, our community has helped turn the tide and usher in a new era of transparent, accountable politics. Let's seize the opportunity and begin to fight corruption everywhere it's needed today.

With hope,

Ricken, Luis, Graziela, David, Ben, Maria Paz, Benjamin and the entire Avaaz Team


The Economist, "Cleaning up. A campaign against corruption":

The Rio Times, "Anti-Corruption Law in Effect This Year":

The story of Brazil's Clean Record law has yet to be told widely in English language media. Here are a few stories in other languages that capture the campaign:

Le Monde, "Operation "clean sheet" in Brazil": (French)

Correio Braziliense, "The arrival of 2.0 activists": (Portuguese)

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Being positive of Sri Lanka government's KP operation

(August 07, 2010, Colombo - Lanka PolityAccording to pro-government Business Today of Sri Lanka, 'Kumaran Pathmanathan was the international chief of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE). He was the mastermind behind the arms procurement, shipping and financial networks of the LTTE abroad.' Notably, he is not linked in with any direct crime like the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, although the pro-government media often said so previously.

KP is currently in the custody of the Government, says the Business Today, although the government contradicts this idea. However, KP says in Business Today interview "Even I do not know when I will be released. My life is like this but I do not care about that." He adds. "The Government has given me security but I am under house arrest."

One year ago on August 5, 2009, Thambiaiya Selvarasa Pathmanathan alias “KP” was taken into custody in Kuala Lumpur at First Tune Hotel on 316 Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman Road and he was brought to Colombo the following day. Some government officials have accepted that they had rapport with this then notorious terrorist as they had branded him, since 2007 during the time he was sidelined from the organization in 2003. However with the escalation of the conflict Prabakaran reappointed him in January 2009 as the Chief of International Relations. He claimed himself as the leader of the LTTE following the death of Prabakaran.

KP's role is clearly dubious. Present LTTE elements accuse him of being a double agent. His arrest at a hotel in Malaysia was an arranged affair according to them. It could be a move protect him from his own brethren in LTTE. However, KP said in the Business Today interview that he was arrested.

He said to D.B.S. Jeyaraj, "I was sitting in the Hotel room talking to former LTTE political commissar Nadesan’s brother and son who had come down from England to Malaysia.I then got a telephone call from Canada. It was Ragavan from the CMR radio . The reception was not good. So I excused myself and went out.

"I sat outside on a chair in the lobby and kept talking. Suddenly a group of Malaysian officials surrounded me. One of them said “Very sorry Mr.KP” and grasped my phone. It fell to the ground and was picked up by an officer. They asked me to come with them. I had no choice but to go with them.

"I was taken to the immigration detention centre in KL and kept there for nearly 36 hours for about two days and a night. I had to sleep there in the detention centre room. I realised from their conversation that I was going to be officially deported. But I was not sure whether it was going to be Sri Lanka, India ,USA or somewhere else.

"Then I was taken to the KL airport where a Sri Lankan airlines plane was waiting. Then I knew I was going to Colombo. I was taken into the plane through the economy class entrance and then moved inside to the business class. There I was formally handed over to some Sri Lankan officials and brought to Colombo."

Anyway, according to Business Today during the past few months his persona has changed significantly. He speaks about building trust between all communities and the need for all to live together. He stresses the need to forget the past in order for the country to move forward.

From government side, we see, if it was true, bringing their man KP back home and providing him with an opportunity to join in mainstream politics appears as ending the conspiracy in one sense. He could be manipulated much effectively disintegrate Tamil Diaspora politics if he was planted in it.

LTTE so far had the credit of having sleepers or moles like Babu that assassinated late President Ranasinghe Premadasa. But what if the successor of Prabakaran was a mole of the government?

In an interview with D.B.S. Jeyaraj, KP says, "Let me tell this clearly. When the Sri Lankan intelligence officers began talking to me there were two choices for me. One was to confront them and the other was to cooperate. If I confronted I would have had to face long prison term and not be of any use to anyone. But if I cooperated I could win their trust and confidence. This may have given me an opportunity to do be of some service to our people.

"If the struggle was still continuing and my leader was alive then I would have willingly challenged the govt and not cooperated. I would have faced any consequence. But that was not so. Everything was over. So there was no point in confronting. So I chose to cooperate."

The writer feels KP is genuine at least at this point unless he is the simple man read through his recent media interviews. Many former sympathizers of LTTE now seek him being imprisoned. But the government, especially the Defense Secretary has kept his word so far to KP without betraying him to law. We are living in a country that so many past errors have surmounted the present. We have to hail the unconventional minds if they contribute progressively to social development.

It seems Prabakaran has taken away all the glory of the Tamil struggle with his death. No more heroes. In that sense, Past is the Past as KP says in the headline of the Business Today interview.

'.....when we look at the post conflict situation in our country we have to work hard to bring economic opportunities to the war affected people. We need to rebuild their lives. It is with this aim that we established the North East Rehabilitation and Development Organisation (NERDO) to work and provide facilities to the conflict affected communities.'

Tamils actually need to uplift the lives of the communities that lived long in the island without migrating bearing all the brunt of prolonged war. It is very easy for the rulers to create and maintain hostility between the Tamil Diaspora and the local communities even in an environment the government does not address the political issues of the Tamils if Tamil Diaspora continues to wish the plight of the local Tamils to deepen broadening their opportunities to proceed in the path of struggle they have now chosen.

The avenue opened by the autocratic Sri Lanka government for the Tamil Diaspora is like this as KP points out: "As of now NERDO is only a registerd organisation and we are planning to work with the Government. We need to understand that if any Non-Governmental Organisation wishes to work for the people they should cooperate with the Government. We ensure transparency in all of our activities, including financial accounts. There is no purpose of an NGO if they are corrupt or become involved in politics. We cannot do that. We are 100 percent transparent and whatever projects that we do we obtain approval from the Government. Therefore NERDO is working with the Government because if we do not cooperate we would not be able to work."

Tamil Diaspora activists that has large and reasonable ego will not like to accept these conditions directly. This is where KP can place himself comfortably as a coordinator.

KP highlights transparency and it is a good point in the context the NGOs made the social work sector a mess. One can question the rationality of the corrupt government's search for NGO purity. But it is the NGO's own responsibility to clear their names in whatever the opportunity given to them.

KP says, "NERDO is totally different it has been established entirely for the people. They can come to our office and meet our staff who are willing to give answers 24 hours a day. Anyone who comes to our office will be able to see that we do not have a hidden agenda. TRO (Tamil Rehabilitation Organization) made the mistake, but because of that you cannot say that NERDO is going to make the same mistake. It is entirely for the people."

Keep your trust on his integrity as the mastermind behind the arms procurement, shipping and financial networks of the LTTE abroad even though he could be a double agent. He is still the LTTEman and TRO, surrender your funds or perish. "I will give them some more time. At one time Dr Maheshwaran was also in charge of the TRO; we also know who is in charge of the TRO in every country. Slowly they are changing their minds. They have to answer to the people and if they do not, when the people in the Diaspora ask them what is happening they will have to answer. They cannot be like this for long. It is the people's money. They have to utilise the money for the betterment of the lives of the people. They do not have the right to keep the money."

"Actually I would like to point out that there is a war between truth and lies; two extremes. One section repeats the lies but what we are saying is actually the truth. There are people who are talking about starting the arm struggle and unnecessarily blaming the Government in the pretext of trying to rebuild the LTTE and collect funds. This is not the way to solve the problem or rebuild the lives of our people. We have to accept the reality. The war is over. We have to unite and rebuild our people and our country.

"For more than 2500 years we have been friends and brothers in this country. Some third party came and created this problem and we are the victims. Now we have to use our intelligence to bring back life. We can be an example to the world and show that though once we were enemies, now we understand the war is over and we are working together. We have to listen to what the people want on the ground. They realise that they have to live in this country and that we have to live together. This is the reality and thus we cannot speak lies.

"We cannot continue our lives on a dream, I can say ‘ok, continue the arm struggle' but I do not know for how long I can speak the lie. There are sections of the Diaspora who speak in this way while living in western countries, but they need to understand that it is impossible. They have to understand the reality and the new world order. Internationally the arm struggle will never be accepted, separatism will not be accepted. It is a challenge to convince these people and I do not say it is easy but we need to work on it."

KP's interview displays the pathetic situation LTTE is facing in which the present leadership lacks the caliber KP has. Present Diaspora leaders are pro-moderates that appear to be elements that can be easily lured one by one by KP.

Business Today asks, "Rudrakumaran and Nediyavan have been propagating the idea of separatism and the resumption of the arm struggle while living abroad. They have been silent in the recent months. What are the reasons behind their actions?"

KP says, "Nediyavan is nothing. He joined the movement in the 90s and his loyalty lied with Castro. I do not think about this person. Not only is there the Rudrakumaran group and Nediyavan group there is Father Emmanuel, Tamilnet Jeya and also the ex-MP Jayanandamoorthy who was pushed to carry the LTTE flag and claim the Tamil Eelam separate state.

"Actually, this transnational government was formed because there was a need for a democratic organisation as the LTTE was banned all over the world. That is why Jayanandamoorthy was made the coordinator of this movement. What happened during the past year is that they took a U turn. There are people pushing and threatening him, if he did not make the move he would not have been able to survive. He took the LTTE flag and he spoke about separatism. I passed the message to him through my friends that what he is doing is wrong. The purpose of forming the transnational government was different. I feel that he will realise soon. Rudrakumaran will also realise this soon and will think like Dr Maheshwaran and come back to us."

KP tries to express the feelings of his leader Prabakaran and the others who finally were open to the reality as the time to ponder before coming to decision and the military brutality grabbed their opportunity to change their cause. "Prabakaran, myself and other colleagues we worked together and we sacrificed a lot. Now all of them are dead. At that time we thought we were doing the right thing for our people. These people who live abroad and criticise or write something; they do not know the pain. I have a lot of pain, my sister and my brother, they are dead. My parents, they are dead. My brothers are in the rehabilitation centres. I have a lot of pain. I had many people around me but today I am alone. The LTTE was my family, I lost everyone, my friends and my family. Now again they are talking about an arm struggle, what is that? Are they joking? If they talk about an arm struggle again I will be the first person to say no. Not only in Sri Lanka even abroad and also to the others I will tell them, if anyone wants to start an arm struggle again I will be the first to say no. No more arm struggle and separatism in this country. No more pain. For what?"

Can nationalism irrespective of either it is minority and oppressed or majority and oppressive make any progressive contribution to social development? In the post-war Sri Lanka, the writer personally feels 'no'. KP seems reflecting the same although he has not directly stated. "The people have realised one thing; that is we have to live in this country and we need to live with the majority of the people in order to rebuild our lives. This is their thinking and they do not want a separate state and they know the arm struggle is over," says KP.

KP highlights the need of working to uplift the collapsed lives of the local Tamils before thinking of the next stage of the struggle. "The people were affected for 30 years. They need a life. The Diaspora and the political parties should work together at least for five years. Then they can talk. If they genuinely want to work for the people they have to unite." This itself is the struggle. The next stage can be one beyond nationalism, who knows?

KP recalls the past follies of the LTTE's narrow-minded arrogance: "We were alone. Then Balasingham came here I think it was when they were going to Japan for talks. The LTTE did not agree to the peace talks, but Balasingham tried to explain to them the difficulties because we were already in the peace process. If we did not go, the world would be against that. He tried very hard but he lost hope. At that time he spoke to me and said we have to convince the leadership and explain to them and participate in all peace talks. But he couldn't and he told these people that they do not understand the reality. The whole world is going to knock us out and everyone is going to die. Those were his own words."

He also says, "We met the Norwegian Ambassador in Malaysia. I asked their point of view. They said that if things went smoothly with the peace talks we could achieve some kind of settlement. Maybe the federation, that could have been a good chance but we missed the bus. Even those who worked towards peace, who were involved in the peace talks were of the same view. Unfortunately the LTTE members on the ground did not understand the reality.

Who broke the ceasefire and started the war? It is the LTTE. Then the LTTE will lose, that was the thinking at that time. They said that. If we do not understand the reality, if we do not start to work for the ground reality, we will be the same as the dinosaur. That is the truth. Peace is more difficult than arm struggle. We are a small tiny country we are not Russia or any other big country but a small population."

KP seems to have a vision on which he bases his present actions. Tamils will not achieve the expected political freedom from him. Therefore, it is useless to consider him further as a leader of the Tamil political struggle. He alienates himself from politics. But his struggle is rational and should be upheld. Tamils should first built up normalcy within the community before deciding how to proceed the struggle for a better polity.

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Saturday, August 07, 2010

Who fathered Sakvithi, the Sri Lankan fraudster

Sakvithi poses a photo with the President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
He is believed to taken to meet him by senior journalist
Edwin Ariyadasa who was an accomplice of Sakvithi.
Ariyadasa is also in this photo

(August 07, 2010, Colombo - Lanka PolityMany may get angry when we start this piece saying that Sri Lanka's ill-famous fraudster Sakvithi Ranasinghe was a past student of D.S. Senanayaka College, Colombo, as reported. 

This proves that any such schools that try to maintain 'royal' standards covering almost all their recurrent expenditure with tax payers' monies can produce ruling social elite as well as thieves like this. 

Of course, there is little difference between a thief and a elite person in this country. Business giant Lalith Kothalawala, one time Sri Lankan Bill Gates collapsed into Sakvithi Ranasinghe's level in single night is the best proof for this. 

Sakvithi is a symbol of the ideal of most Sri Lankans. This symbol was shown to us in one of Sri Lanka's most famous 'mega' tele-dramas. In the last episode of Paba tele-drama, the politician-turned trishaw driver Ukku is shown as a powerful Minister that lives in a luxurious house with several comfortable cars are parked near, with an array of servants. 

Most of Sri Lanka's current heroes are the kind of Ukku. Any such hero is prone to the disgrace Sakvithi Ranasinghe if a fraction of justice done. 

Sakvithi hailed from gutter and he had no powerful father to inherit him the right to usurp public money acquired mortgaging generations of countrymen, as ten or twenty percent commissions, legally from the so-called development projects. 

Many Sri Lankans that miss this opportunity usually resort to the businesses of Sakvithi kind to find easy money.

They worship the kind of Sakvithi and become easy pray for them. Actually the most of the Sri Lankans are Sakvithis of different sizes. 

Sakvithi Ranasnghe was finally caught. He seems to have lost much of the money he swindled. Therefore the thousands of victims of Sakvithi scam will not have any money. They may be happy if Sakvithi will be killed in police fire as he tries to grab a firearm from a policeman and escape as he is taken to show a place money is hidden in the way the justice is often done in this island. 

But the Sri Lankan capitalism that promotes swindling money from public or fellow citizens and having an uncultured life of sheer consumerism will produce many more Sakvithis

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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...