Friday, April 30, 2010

Setting up of 'Sri Lanka Sea Police'; a far-sighted decision

(April 30, Colombo - Lanka Polity)  Sri Lanka Coast Guard Department has decided to set up coast guard units in each fisheries harbor of the island, said the Director of Department Rear Admiral Daya Dharmapriya.

Sri Lanka is an island that has a large sea area in its control. The country's sea is now seven times bigger than the land area and after 2027 Sri Lanka will own a sea area of 25 times of the landmass. The island has made requests to the UN authorities to claim for the sea above the continental shelf of the island and the request will be considered after 2027.

The island communities were seafarers since ancient times. However, the sea around the island was a dangerous place in past three decades since the activities of the Sea Tigers of Tamil rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam and the counter-terrorism measures of Sri Lanka Navy. Fishing was also thoroughly restricted for many years before the end of war.

But, in the post-war era Sri Lanka government seems understood the potentials of the island nation to fish prosperity from the sea around the island.

Therefore, the decision to set up a 'Sea Police' can be considered a far-sighted initiative.

The Coast Guard Department will establish main coordinating centers in Colombo, Mirissa in South, Oluwil in Ampara district, Kalpitiya and Mannar in northwestern coast, Trincomalee in the Eastern Province, Point Pedro and Punarin in Jaffna peninsula.

The Coast Guard Department is now equipped with 250 personnel and four crafts. The Director of the Department said that the proposals have been mooted to recruit 2000 more personnel to the coast guard and fast moving crafts also will be acquired.

Recently established Sri Lanka Coast Guard is not an armed force. It is considered as a ‘Sea Police’ that is empowered in prevention of smuggling, piracy, sea pollution and it is also expected to act in lifesaving, protection of property and sea species conservation in the 485000 square kilometer sea area belonged to Sri Lanka.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A corpus for Sri Lankan English

(April 28, Colombo - Lanka Polity)  In linguistics, a corpus (plural corpora) or text corpus is a large and structured set of texts. They are used to do statistical analysis and hypothesis testing, checking occurrences or validating linguistic rules on a specific universe.

Now, a corpus for Sri Lankan English is being compiled under the International Corpus of English project (ICE). The International Corpus of English (ICE) began in 1990 with the primary aim of collecting material for comparative studies of English worldwide. Twenty research teams around the world are preparing electronic corpora of their own national or regional variety of English. Each ICE corpus consists of one million words of spoken and written English produced after 1989. For most participating countries, the ICE project is stimulating the first systematic investigation of the national variety. To ensure compatibility among the component corpora, each team is following a common corpus design, as well as a common scheme for grammatical annotation.

The Sri Lankan component of the International Corpus of English (ICE-SL) is conducted by the university of Giessen in Germany, with the coordination of several Sri Lankan Universities.

As research assistant Tobias Bernaisch mentioned to Daily News, the written component of the ICE-SL is completed and the compilation of the spoken data will start in June.

'ICE-SL project is considered as the first systematic investigation of the Sri Lankan English (SLE). It reflects how SLE is actually being used by the competent speakers of it,' says Daily News adding 'This will be of immense use for investigations on how SLE is really used in various communicative contexts and will help to identify characteristics of SLE.'

A debate is ongoing among Sri Lankan academicians about the legitimacy of SLE as a separate dialect.

Michael Meyler that wrote 'A Dictionary of Sri Lankan English' highlights the need to codify standard Sri Lankan English and draw up a guide for English teachers. 'With the added advantage of taking ownership of the language, and stripping away the colonial baggage which comes with the traditional British model,' he says.

Following is what Wikipedia says about Sri Lankan English.

Sri Lankan English (SLE) is the English language as spoken in Sri Lanka.

The earliest English speakers in present-day Sri Lanka date back to the days of the British Empire, the era of Royal Navy dominance, and the British colonial presence in South Asia.

An SLE consultant for the Oxford English Dictionary and author of the book Knox's Words[1][2] notes that British readers first encountered loan words from Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon) in a book published in 1681 entitled An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon in the East Indies. Words from that book became used internationally: the best known is Buddha but others include Anaconda[3], betel leaf, bo tree, puja, rattan, rillow, Vedda, and wanderoo.

SLE became more indigenous in the mid-19th century. In addition to the usual terms for flora and fauna, new idioms, referred to as Ceylonisms, emerged.

Some years after independence in 1948, English ceased being the only official language of Sri Lanka, but it remained in use across the island's ethnic groups. It evolved to incorporate more Sinhalese vocabulary and grammatical conventions such as the use of "no?" as a tag question at the end of a sentence.

In spite of English's long history in Sri Lanka, 21st century Sri Lankans academicians debate about the legitimacy of SLE as a separate dialect.

A significant difference between British English and Sri Lankan English usage is its use of particular tenses. Many educated Sri Lankans would use past perfect tense to talk about things that happened at a fixed time in the recent past instead of past simple. Many Sri Lankans still use words such as frock (to scold) and the question form 'to whom' which are not familiar to modern British English speakers. Another example of typical Sri Lankan English is posing questions by changing the intonation, e.g. "you are hungry?"

There are certain nouns added to English by Sri Lankans and therefore a native English speaker coming to Sri Lanka for the first time would not know what Shorteats (snacks) and string hoppers (a typical Sri Lankan food) mean. If you read a daily newspaper, you may find a number of typical Sri Lankan usages, which may not be accepted in standard British English: such as 'lots of equipments', 'information system', 'education minister'.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Re-'regaining Sri Lanka', LTTE and the JVP

(April 28, Colombo - Lanka PolityTamil nationalist politics appears to moving towards a further distant goal that is apparently building of a Tamil nation in a broader perspective in a global context.

What is the reason for this drastic shift? Do the leaders of the Tamil nationalist movement think they were betrayed by Sri Lankan Tamil polity?

The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea, Mao Tse-Tung said.

Were the slain leaders of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) among people in their last phase of struggle? If they were not, was it a fault of the people? If the answer is yes, who decided the nature of this polity in the last thirty years?

Tamil polity of Sri Lanka is in the most pathetic situation of their history now. No need to mention the harsh conditions they undergo in the present context.

The remnants of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) that are well-secured in the economic and social fortitudes in the green pastures of Western Europe have betrayed them. They are let alone to deal with the Sinhala dominated Colombo government on their own. The 'knowledgeable' expatriate patriots that are called Tamil Diaspora wait and see until the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) that won 14 parliamentary seats in the recent elections fail to achieve a negotiated settlement with the Rajapaksa regime. They wait until Rajapaksa regime fails and an anarchy is built up in the state.

TNA may fail not because they are foolish to trust the Sinhala chauvinist rulers. They may fail because of the folly of the Sinhala polity and their leaders that fail to build up trust among the communities that live in the island.

Rajapaksa regime will definitely fail if they will not change and if they will proceed in the ways they are in now. However, they will fail in a different context after exposing the country into a rapid capitalist growth and a social change that follows it.

This is the same change the LTTE and the brethren Sinhala peasant movement People's Liberation Front (JVP) were terrified by the United National Party (UNP) regime during 2001 - 2004. These two forces joined hands in political underneath to defeat the UNP's 'Regaining Sri Lanka' programme that was launched in a neo-liberalist pro-Western context.

Now the same capitalist programme is set forth by the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime but in a very anti-democratic and a propagandistic anti-Western outlook.

As same as the UNP targeted to obtain a massive loan of Rs. 4.5 billion from West, the Rajapaksa regime is obtaining massive loans from China and open financial markets chaining generations of Sri Lankans in a massive debt burden. Growth strategy is same, developing infrastructure to attract foreign investment. One visible deviation is the existence of strong state enterprises. But one should not mistake them as public enterprises. They are sheer companies from which the political and official elite profit.

The final solution of the UNP and the Rajapaksa regime for the ethnic problem is the same, i.e., liquidizing the Tamil nationalist armed forces. UNP wanted to do it through a negotiated settlement but the Rajapaksas resorted to ethnic war although the pundits argue the peace achieved through it is not sustainable.

The social change that is to follow the targeted rapid growth is yet to be observed. All in all, the mass movements like the LTTE and the JVP have to go for a serious retrospection and they have to review and make drastic changes in their strategies if they want to re-emerge as deciding factors of the politics of Sri Lanka.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Police coming before growth in Sri Lanka

(April 27, Colombo - Lanka PolityTwo news stories that were published in media today can be outlined to show an aspect of the path the Sri Lankan rulers are taking now in the post-war period.

In the first story Sri Lanka Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa says that the police have been directed to launch an operation to eliminate the crime network that erupted through terrorism and spread island wide.

The first and foremost question that arises is this. Are the authorities targeting only the crime network that erupted through terrorism? What about the crime network that was fed by the politicians to maintain politically motivated terror or sheer state terrorism?

Anyway, when the police actions are initiated the goons will have a difficult time. We can expect more incidents of arrested suspects trying to escape when they have gone to show weapons to be shot dead by police in the middle of the night.

One cannot isolate and safeguard the politically influenced crime network since it is intertwined with the other networks. Many of the rowdies that were riding in jeeps of the vehicles of the election candidates of the ruling party will have to go in hiding. Will their bosses risk their lives to save them? Who knows and who cares to recycle these lumpen waste? They will bring new elements from gutters when they want them again. Until then, it is safe to see them gone with all the secrets they know.

The Defense Secretary said addressing a meeting held yesterday after opening a newly set up Sri Lanka Police Academy in Katana that a wave of crime related to arms, drugs, underworld and ransom taking is spread around the country.

The Defense Secretary further stated that the police had to assist the armed forces during the war in the last three decades and police powers could not be fully implemented in taking actions against the crime network.

Mr. Rajapaksa also said that the police official needed to be trained systematically since most of the present officials were recruited during war and they were trained basically on anti-terrorism actions.

The Police Academy opened yesterday in Katana can facilitate training for 600 officials in one batch. The academy is attached to Kelaniya University.

The rulers need to police the country even before they put the economy properly to the track of growth. They have a good chance now to establish and their own past and present of promoting lawlessness seems haunting and policing seems needed thoroughly right from the beginning.

The second news story is related to private buses. This time the author is not a state actor. He is a leader of a small and mediums scale business forum.

The Chairman of Sri Lanka Private Omnibus Owners’ Association Gemunu Wijerathna says that steps will be taken since May 01 to stop begging and hawking in private buses.

He pointed out that these kinds of actions are illegal in accordance with the license issued by the Sri Lanka Central Transport Authority to the private bus owners. However, they continue since the law enforcement authorities do not act with force. Sometimes, bus employees are threatened by the elements that profit through begging and hawking, Mr. Wijerathna said.

Sri Lanka’s private bus industry is ailing due to many problems. The service is low in standard due to reasons like undisciplined behavior of the bus employees, break of road regulations, poor condition of buses, overloading etc. The bus owners have no solutions to these urgent issues. Instead, they want swift action against a lumpen class that make living from the industry.

The private bus industry is also intertwined with the crime network in many ways. Ransom takers run the bus stands. Thugs run buses. Most of the buses were 'decorated' with the posters of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his general election candidates in the past few months.

Sri Lanka's upper and middle classes look interested in getting rid of the gutter elements that they were engaged in the past. So they need policing against the lumpen elements of the society.

These can be the preliminary actions of a police state. Suppressing of crime network may raise the popularity of the rulers among the middle classes. But the dire need of the government is to police the working classes so that they may not raise the salary issues in future. A 'disciplined' or a silenced working class is the basic need for the government for the rapid economic growth it is targeting in the island.

That is why the police coming before growth.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Upeka Nirmani; Sri Lanka's first woman 'Super Star'

(April 26, Colombo - Lanka PolityMany TV stations of Sri Lanka run various kinds of Super Star programmes. Tens of thousands of ambitious youth take part in them and many of them toil for the TV channels without any kind of payment for around a year. However, the finalists get a good training and an experience in entertainment industry while one or two Super Stars become instant millionaires.

Many of these Super Stars have failed to continue their career as creative artists. But many of them sing other artists' songs appearing as the original singers and earn some money before they disappear into nowhere where they came from.

Upeka Nirmani Silva, the Derana Dream Star of the Season 2 is a highly talented young girl from Negambo. She is the daughter of Chandu de Silva, a singer popular as Jolly Seeya (grandfather).

Her stardom is significant since she is the first young woman in Sri Lanka to crown as a Super Star. In Derana Dream Star Season 1 as well, a brilliant female vocalist was among the finalists. But this girl Nilupuli Dilhara failed to secure her place in the grand finale through short messages of the TV fans. The Super Star was a brilliant guy but the runner-up was no match to Dilahara's talent.

Similar phenomenon took place this year as well. Upeka sang very nicely while Nimesh Chamika performed in his Sinhala rock style brilliantly giving her a good fight. However, Nimesh failed to become the runner-up. The runner-up Udesh Manoj was far back compared to the vocal skills of the other duo.

Udesh marketed his identity as an Army soldier to come this far. He had brought a set of aggressive fans into Sugathadasa Stadium. Even Defense Secretary and President's brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was also in the audience giving a powerful impression to the SMS senders. However, Upeka won the crown. Otherwise, I would have written about militarization of performing art in Sri Lanka.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Giving powers to an unwanted lot; the dilemma of Sri Lanka President

A cartoonist's view on the previous cabinet of Sri Lanka
(April 25, Colombo - Lanka Polity'Epa waheta hodi bedanna wage' is a Sinhala proverb that means serving curry to the husband that the wife is no more in love. Traditional  Sinhala housewife was bound to treat the husband well although she no more liked him. The husband could be either too old or weak since usually there was a wide age gap between husbands and wives in the past. In such circumstances, she showed her resentment either by serving curry insufficiently or overwhelmingly, inconvenient in both cases.

Sri Lanka President also behaves like that housewife when allocating powers to his Ministers. First of all, he helped himself with a huge spoon retaining defense, finance and planning, highways, ports and aviation for himself in addition to media subject a Minister has not been appointed so far. Hair to the throne President's son will be trained to run the country via these ministries. One of the President's brothers Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa will act as the actual Minister of Defense.

President's younger brother Basil Rajapaksa has been given a newly created Ministry of Economic Development with wide powers. He will handle work carried out by a number of ministries earlier. The workload will practically stuck him and Namal Rajapaksa can be expected to shift to his role in the President's intermediate circle. Namal will need no title like Senior Presidential Adviser since everybody knows he is the 'future of the country'.

Chamal, the elder brother of the President had to exchange the actually powerful position he held as the Minister of Ports and Aviation to the ceremonious Speaker title that he did not like to assume earlier. The brothers seem unable to settle the issues one to one now and the sisters of the President reportedly had to mediate the issue during a dinner they hosted for the family.

Thus, the President got the family issues solved getting the way cleared for Namal to ascend to power after him.

He seems inclined in giving the other powerful ministries to the individuals that have crossed over to the ruling alliance  from the United National Party or to the leaders of the splinter groups such as National Freedom Front and the Jathika Hela Urumaya because they cannot claim the leadership legitimately. Instead, the seniors of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the major party of the ruling coalition, appear to legitimately challenge the Rajapaksa family authority in state.

SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena, a leader with good name, is the major challenge to the Rajapaksas and he has been given the portfolio of Minister of Health. This position was earlier held by SLFP senior Nimal Siripala de Silva whose administration was heavily criticized by state backed media. It is a well-known secret that some of the leaders of the powerful trade unions of the health sector are in the pocket of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Sirisena will have to blame his predecessor for the pieces of broken glass that are being recovered regularly from vaccine vials. Recovering the shattered image of the Health Minister is not an easy task for Maithripala Sirisena.

Nimal Siripala de Silva has been given the Irrigation and Water Management, another subject one can face people's protests due to the government's long standing attempts to liberalizing the water resources.

Elderly D.M. Jayarathna was appointed as the Prime Minister, a ceremonious post that has no real value sans been the legitimate successor to the post of President in case of an emergency.

Former Prime Minister Rathnasiri Wickramanayaka has been given a new Ministry of State Management and Reforms that appears to cross with the powers of the Ministry of State Administration and Home Affairs that is held by another party stalwart John Senevirathna.

Dilan Perera is another prominent SLFPer that represents Badulla since 1994 but without been appointed into the cabinet. This time as well, he is the deputy of John Senevirathna's ministry.

A notable person that was not given a cabinet portfolio is Reginald Cooray, former Chief Minister of the Western Province.

Most of the above mentioned SLFP leaders have been a challenge to the leadership of Mahinda Rajapaksa in one or the other way. They have also been loyal to President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumarathunga, the arch rival predecessor of the present President.

Even Dallus Alahapperuma that is targeting SLFP leadership through the loyalty to the Rajapaksa family has failed to get a senior position in the cabinet. He was prevented from contesting the general election from Mathara district from where he could have gained huge amount of preferential votes. But his nomination via national list tarnished his image and he was given the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Employment, that cannot be considered a powerful position.

Sarath Amunugama and S.B. Disanayaka, two powerful figures of the SLFP in certain times were also not given cabinet portfolios citing an investigation is underway to ascertain their involvement or non-engagement in election malpractices in Nawalapitiya electorate in Kandy districts. But the President cannot keep them in hold for a long time since they can influence the President via the Buddhist monk leaders.

However, a number of other SLFPers like Susil Prema Jayantha, Kumara Welgama and Anura Priyadarshana Yapa that have less potential to rise into the state leadership have been given fairly good positions.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Some notable features of Sri Lanka's new cabinet

(April 24, Colombo - Lanka PolitySri Lanka President has appointed a new cabinet. As promised, he has pruned the jumbo cabinet at least for the moment. The number of cabinet portfolios have been slashed to 39 and the number of Deputy Ministers are 37.

It can be easily speculated several additions to the panel of Ministers in recent future. Previously there were 51 cabinet Ministers and the final number can be close to it. Several opposition MPs are too eager to strengthen the hands of the President who is desperate for two third majority in the parliament.

Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa retained several most powerful Ministries under himself. The cabinet portfolios that are in the President's hand are Minister of Defence, Minister of Finance & Planning, Minister of Ports and Aviation and Minister of Highways.

Significantly, a Minister of Media and Information has not been appointed. As a result the subject has automatically come under the purview of the President.

However, Gampaha district MP Mervin Silva has been appointed as the Deputy Minister of Mass Media and Information.

The Deputy Ministers of the Ministries held by the President are as follows:
Chandrasiri Gajadeera – Deputy Minister of Finance and Planning
Rohitha Abeygunawardena - Deputy Minister of Ports and Aviation
Dayashritha Tissera - Deputy Minister of Ports and Aviation
Nirmala Kothalawala - Deputy Minister of Highways

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s younger brother Basil Rajapaksa has been appointed into a powerful position of the Minister of Economic Development.

Basil Rajapaksa, identified as a hard worker, a meticulous planner and an astute manager is expected to handle the prospects of economic growth of Sri Lanka in the post-war period.

With the formation of the new Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministries of Nation Building held previously by five non cabinet Ministers have been scrapped. The Ministries for the development of certain Provinces have also been taken under this new Ministry.

The Ministry of Economic Development is so powerful that three Deputy Ministers have been appointed to it. They are Lakshman Yapa Abewardhana, Ranjith Siyambalapitiya and Muttu Sivalingam.

Several notable persons have been omitted from the cabinet newly appointed by the President.
One of the most prominent absentee is Ceylon Workers’ Congress leader Arumugam Thondaman that held cabinet portfolios in all parliaments since 1994. However, CWC national list MP Muttu Sivalingam sore in as the Deputy Minister of Economic Development.

Former Science and Technology Minister Thissa Vitharana that represents the leftist Lanka Samasamaja Party has also been omitted from the cabinet. Sri Lanka Communist Party has been given one cabinet portfolio and a post of Deputy Minister for D.E.W. Gunasekara and Chandrasiri Gajadheera respectively. Communist Party elected one MP and it was given a national list slot too. Samasamaja Party also won one seat and Vitharana was appointed to parliament via national list. He was the Chairman of the All Party Representative Committee that the President appointed to seek solution for the ethnic problem.

Jathika Hela Urumaya that won two seats was given a national list slot as well but only Champika Ranawaka was given a cabinet post. Many expected Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thero would swear in at least as a Deputy Minister.

A number of prominent figures of the ruling coalition that contested from Kandy district have not been given Minister posts citing a disciplinary investigation is underway regarding the election malpractices in Nawalapitiya electorate prompting the Election Commissioner to summon a re-poll. Former cabinet Ministers Keheliya Rambukwella and Sarath Amunugama are among them while S.B. Disanayaka and former non-cabinet Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage that topped the preferential votes in the district and Faizer Mustafa also expected Minister or Deputy Minister positions.

Former non-cabinet Minister Naven Disanayaka, a son of late United National Party stalwart Gamini Disanayaka, was also omitted from the panel of Ministers and Deputy Ministers.

Expect more interesting facts about the new cabinet.

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

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