Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The silent demise of All Party Representative Committee (APRC) of Sri Lanka

(November 04, Colombo - Lanka Polity) “All Party Representative Committee (APRC) Chairman Minister Tissa Vitharana has handed over a document to President Mahinda Rajapaksa. I asked for a copy of this document but Prof. Vitharana declined to give it to me. In fact, he told me not to ask for it fearing he will get into trouble. What is there to hide?” says the leader of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Rauf Hakeem.

He says APRC was a mere charade and little or nothing had come out of its meetings, but his party had also made representations to it.

On August 19, the Chairman of the APRC Tissa Vitharana said to Daily Miror that he handed over to President Mahinda Rajapaksa on August 16 at Temple Trees a document which was a summarised report of the recommendations of more than three years of deliberations of the APRC.“We expect a feed back from President Rajapaksa before our next move. He will go through the summary before he gives instructions to the APRC on the next step,” Prof. Vitharana told.

Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse summoned a All Party Conference immediately after he came to power in 2005. The aim of the conference was to make a consensus among the political parties in the political south of Sri Lanka to table before the Tamil rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) for negotiations for a permanent solution for the country's decades long ethnic crisis.

APRC was formed to compile a set of proposals. Initially, there was a committee of academics assigned to this task but the government abolished it turning down a set of proposals st forth by them suggesting wide devolution of power based on geographical units. Later the APRC took the task to its own hands and the following parties participated in the 150 so APRC meetings.

1. Sri Lanka Freedom Party
2. A rebel group of United National Party 
3. Jathika Hela Urumaya
4. Ceylon Workers Congress
5. Sri Lanka Muslim Congress
6. All Ceylon Muslim Congress
7. Mahajana Eksath Peramuna
8. National Unity Alliance
9. Up-country People's Front
10. Communist Party of Sri Lanka
11. Eelam People's Democratic Party
12. National Congress
13. Western People's Front
14. Lanka Sama Samaja Party

Major opposition United National Party and the People's Liberation Front boycotted the APRC since its inception. The Chairman of the APRC, Minister of Science and Technology Thissa Vitharana represented leftist Lanka Sama Samaja Party. However, he acted the role of the President appointed well understood governor of this affair that was a mere eyewash to divert the international pressure for a negotiated settlement instead of a devastating military solution that both the government and the LTTE were following. After the defeat of the LTTE, the minority communities of the country are dejected and isolated by the entire world that is blind to the chauvinist majority Sinhala dominance in the state and politics in Sri Lanka in which the minorities are practically subjugated to the state of second class citizens.

None of the international community elements that sipped the sweet concoction of the APRC seems have memory of what it was meant as the President Mahinda Rajapakse said in the past.

For many years, the Rajapakse regime manipulated the APRC to tell the international community that it is working for a political solution for the ethnic conflict. However, after May 18, 2009 with the military annihilation of the LTTE and the detaining of their major support base in concentration camps, it dumped the APRC and nobody knows what happened to the report that was submitted to the President by the Chairman of the APRC, Minister Thissa Vitharana.

Now, the government is no more talking about a political solution for the ethnic problem and it acts like there was no ethnic crisis in the country.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Sri Lanka rulers fight back the US move to frame war crime charges; coalition party vows to teach US an unforgettable lesson

(November 03, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Sri Lanka's ruling coalition party, arch Sinhala Buddhist Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) vows to teach US an unforgettable lesson in the country if it continues to take action to frame war crime charges against the country.

In a statement issued with the signature of the secretary of JHU Buddhist monk Rev. Omalpe Sobhitha Thero, the party declines a US attempt to manipulate former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka as a witness to frame charges against Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse. The statement further says that the attempt to detain the former Army Commander during his visit to US is in breach of the sovereignty of the nation.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Minister of Foreign Affairs Rohitha Bogollagama said in a press conference today, " whatever General Fonseka may have become aware of during his service with the Government and in the course of his duties, has the status of privileged information. He has no authority to divulge or share this information with third parties, without the prior approval and consent of the Sri Lanka authorities.”  The government said it would strongly object to any move by the US Homeland Security Department to question Chief of Defense Staff General Sarath Fonsekaa saying the Government of Sri Lanka will under no circumstances, authorize such an illegal act.

Fonseka, a US Green Card holder, is now in Oklahoma and the Department of Homeland Security has asked him to avail himself for an interview on Wednesday and Sri Lankan politicians are in panic since they doubt that Washington is asserting its legal authority over the 'war crimes' report" released last month.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka media reported that Fonseka had written to the Sri Lankan Ambassador in US stating that US officials asked him to testify against the Defense Secretary over war crime charges.

The former Army Commander is slated by media as a probable contender for common opposition candidacy at an upcoming Presidential. He is an arch Sinhala nationalist that stated in an interview to Canada’s National Post in September 2008, he “strongly believed that Sri Lanka belongs to the Sinhalese, but there are minority communities and we treat them like our people”, and of the other communities “They can live in this country with us. But they must not try to, under the pretext of being a minority, demand undue things.”

The 68-page report from the US Department of State to the Congress on October 22 contains details of alleged “atrocities” by both the military and Tiger guerrillas during the final stages of the separatist war in May, this year. The report contains a reference to Gen. Fonseka. It says, “A media outlet reported on July 18 that at a celebrity event in Ambalangoda, Army Chief General Sarath Fonseka stated that the military had to overlook the traditional rules of war and even kill LTTE rebels who came to surrender carrying white flags during the war against the LTTE.”
(Photo: Ruling party MP Ven. Omalpe Sobhitha Thero)

Colombo Tamils protest the public killing of young psychiatric patient by police

(November 03, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Democratic People's Front that represents Western Province Tamils in Sri Lanka will hold a demonstration in front of Colombo Fort railway station on Wednesday 04th November in protest of the brutal killing of a Tamil psychiatric patient publicly before a television camera.

The victim Balawarnam Sivakumar was a 26 year-old youth that hailed from rural Uva Province and worked as a mechanic while staying with his brother's family in the Colombo city outskirt. The brother of the victim says that Sivakumar suffered from a mental illness time to time and underwent treatment from National Mental Health Institute in Angoda as well. The youth lost her mother at tender age since she passed away following an attack by a wild elephant, says Sivakumar's father.

On the ill-fated day, he had been mentally ill and was throwing stones at the passing trains and other vehicles in Bambalapitiya in Colombo city. A four member police team from Bambalapitiya police station arrived in the scene on an information about his behaviour prompting the man to jump into the sea to escape in fear of them.

 Two policemen beat the victim that was in water that was deep to his waist for a long time without allowing him to come back while he pleaded mercy. However, the policeman that has been identified as Dimuthu Somnas finally managed to hit him to drown in the sea.

The body of Sivakumar was found a day after his death. The entire crime was recorded by private television channel TNL.

A month ago, residents of a village in close proximity to the village Sivakumar lived, stoned the police station in Angulana after the officials of the station executed two village youths that were arrested for a minor crime. Their bodies were dumped in nearby places in a time a spate of such killings were reported as underworld goons were killed as they attempted to attack police and escape.

Eight years in remand for 100 miligrams of heorine in Sri Lanka

(November 03, Colombo - Lanka Polity) A suspect charged with having 100 milligrams of heroine was in remand custody without been convicted for eight years in Sri Lanka. 

His case had been diverted to High Court instead of Magistrate Court by mistake and the poor man found no justice until his plight was observed by Wattala Magistrate during an official visit to Mahara Prison.

The man identified as L.A. Sarath Kumara was in remand since August 10, 2001, prison sources said. The Magistrate has directed the court to consult the Attorney General to acquit him. Until then the suspect was granted personal bail of Rs. 50,000.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Sri Lanka in talks to avoid war-crimes quiz in US

(November 02, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Sri Lanka called on US authorities to drop plans to interview the island's military commander over allegations of war crimes against ethnic Tamil rebels, an official said Sunday.

The Colombo government held "very high-level" talks to prevent General Sarath Fonseka, currently visiting Oklahoma, from being quizzed over his conduct during the conflict against the Tamil Tigers, the official said.

The privately-run Sunday Times newspaper here said Fonseka had been asked to present himself for an interview with the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday.

The move "prompted fears in Colombo that Washington is asserting its legal authority over the 'war crimes' report" released last month, the paper said referring to a State Department dossier on alleged war crimes.

The report outlined excesses by security forces and Tiger rebels during the final stages of fighting earlier this year. The report, submitted to the US Congress, refers to Fonseka's having overstepped his brief.

The Sunday Times said the Sri Lankan diplomatic mission there was already providing legal assistance to Fonseka.

Fonseka is a US Green Card holder and travelled to the US last week to visit his two daughters. He also addressed a group of Sri Lankans in Washington last week and took credit for leading the battle to crush the Tigers.

The US embassy in Colombo declined comment.

The State Department report cited allegations that Tamil rebels recruited children and that government forces broke a ceasefire as well as killed rebels who surrendered.

It also cited reports in which it was claimed government troops or government-backed paramilitaries "abducted and in some instances then killed Tamil civilians, particularly children and young men."

The report covered the period from January -- when fighting intensified -- until the end of May, when Sri Lankan troops defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at the end of a decades-old separatist conflict.

Sri Lanka last week announced it was appointing a panel to investigate the allegations after initially dismissing the report as "unsubstantiated."

The island's government managed to stave off a UN human rights council debate on alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity thanks to the backing of veto-holders China and Russia.

The UN has said that up to 7,000 civilians perished during the last four months of fighting and accused both the military and the Tigers of not doing enough to protect civilians.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Petroleum, electricity, water supply and harbor sector trade unions to launch work-to-rule action since November 11

(November 01, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Trade unions of Sri Lanka's state-owned petroleum, electricity, water supply and harbor sectors have decided to launch a joint work-to-rule trade union action since November 11. Sri Lanka state has monopoly in these sectors.

The trade unions of the state-owned Ceylon Petroleum Corporation launched a work to rule campaign alluding overtime on on 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th of October paralyzing the fuel supply in the country creating long queues of angry motorists at fuel stations.

Although the Minister of Petroleum and Petroleum Resources A.H.M. Fowzie admitted that the demand of the workers for wage hike was reasonable, he failed even to grant the discussion with the President Mahinda Rajapakse he promised to the striking trade unions.

Ceylon Electricity Board workers also launched a one day token strike earlier but the government ignored granting the pay hike they demanded.

The government says that it has come to a firm decision to delay the pay hikes of the state sector until January next year. However, the government has delayed the budget too until the Presidential and the general election is held making the promised salary hikes uncertain.

However, the government has granted a pay hike to the state bank employees violating its own policy, the trade unions point out.

Water Supply Board and Ports Authority workers are also agitating for wage hikes since several months. The joint trade union action is expected to put severe pressure on the government to solve 

Jaffna railway station that reads the story of the history of ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka

(November 01, Colombo - Lanka Polity) These photos depict the present situation of the Jaffna railway station in the Tamil dominated Northern Province Jaffna peninsula in Sri Lanka.

The rulers now say that they will reconstruct the northern railway line from Vavuniya to Kankesanthurai and public donations are also sought in this purpose. Now, almost all the TV channels telecast an advertisement stating that a fund had been launched to raise funds from people to rebuild the northern railway line to Jaffna and to repair 27 railway stations.

On 9th of January 1985,  Tamil rebels fighting for the right of self-determination bombed Yal Devi killing 11 civilians. Northern railway line dilapidated due to decades old war and needs complete reconstruction to ply the famous 'Yal Devi' train to Jaffna beyond Thandikulam where the journey ends now.

However, railway lines as well as many other things are needed to restore the romantic, peaceful and joyful ride from Colombo to Jaffna. The rulers that now focus their attention to reconstruct the railway line must also understand the need for integrating the Tamils that dominate the Northern Province to the state of Sri Lanka formed in unitary style by British colonials. After militarily defeating the Tamils' violent fight for rights, the government shuns political dialogues on the ethnic problem and invests lavishly on reconstruction of the economic infrastructure. It appears expecting to militarily eradicate the Tamils' struggle for national rights, a strategy that has not thrived so far anywhere in the world in modern times even through genocides.It is yet to see if the government can succeed in economic development alone in the sense of wiping out the ethnic differences.





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