Sunday, May 30, 2010

How Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa can stop war crime charges keep haunting

(May 30, Colombo - Lanka PolityIn a recent interview with Al Jazeera, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa displayed how weary he is over the allegations against his government regarding the war crimes during the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE).

The President perturbed by the repeated questioning by Al Jazeera correspondent Fouziah Ibrahim, lost his temper and asked why Al Jazeera repeatedly harassed Sri Lanka with war crimes charges just because the country defeated terrorism, while sparing countries like the USA and Britain.

On May 27, Sri Lanka's Minister of External Affairs, G.L. Peiris, who was on a public relations tour through the United States, left a scheduled meeting with journalists at the National Press Club Thursday morning without speaking.

It is learnt that he was advised not to meet media at the National Press Club that recently awarded the organization's 2009 International Freedom of the Press Award to slain Sri Lankan journalist Lasantha Wickramatunga, editor of the Sunday Leader.

Meanwhile, Amnesty international website says, "One year after Sri Lanka's civil war came to a bloody end, the evidence that both parties to the conflict committed serious human rights violations, including war crimes, continues to pile up. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group and the US State Department have compiled extensive reports on the human rights violations that were committed by both the Sri Lankan army and the armed Tamil Tigers. To date, not one single individual has been held accountable for the crimes committed."

During a talk at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Minister Pieris stubbornly refused to answer a question of a representative of an Amnesty International that questioned about the human rights impact of the most recent presidential commission of inquiry (established in 2006) into several high level human rights cases, including the execution style murder of 17 aid workers of the French organization Action Contre la Faim (ACF). The question was on how many individuals were actually tried as a consequence of the work of the commission, or why the findings that were sent to the President have not been made public to this day.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has to understand that the pressure on his government over war crime charges will last until when or if he will change the sense of euphoria of his rule following war victory into a more down-to-earth policy especially towards Tamils.

Although he defeated the Tamil militancy in Sri Lankan soil, he is yet to apprehend the full potential of the powerful Tamil Diaspora which is far beyond his simplistic version of a people that want to extend their stay in green pastures of developed West as he suggested in the Al Jazeera interview.

The Tamil Diaspora is too well able to keep the fires of the campaigns on war crime charges against him burning within the framework of Western democracy subtly manipulating the numerous international human rights organizations and even the UN. No power has ever undermined the mandate of these organizations to appear for human rights and the Rajapaksa's are far inadequate to do so. The ability of the Tamil Diaspora to sustain the lobby is free from their internal divisions.

If he is unwilling to deal with the mighty Tamil Diaspora, what he can do to regain the due respect for his defeat of terrorism is to establish good relationship with at least the local Tamils whose lives are in complete disarray as a result of war. The President and his government are in the vision that rapid economic growth facilitated by infrastructure development and private sector engagement will demoralize the Tamil nationalist sentiments.

Even for this, he needs some kind of meaningful power sharing with the leaders of local Tamil community. The undeclared 'Give Nothing to Tamils' racist Sinhala chauvinist policy that is masterminded by the ultra nationalist elements in his government will not lead him anywhere.

Power sharing with Tamils is a taboo subject among many of the Sinhala nationalist elite. Rajapaksa is in a powerful position and he can break it, if the pragmatic leader, as identified by Velupillai Prabakaran in his Mahaviru speech in 2005, can see beyond his nose tip, the time is ripe for reforms since the Sinhala racists have lost to him.

Development plus power sharing will make him really closer with local Tamils, not in the superficialway of meeting and talking with them when he visits north and east, as he said to Al Jazeera.

This is the only way available for him to widen the gap between the local and Diaspora Tamils. Only then, he will be able to actually delegitimize the din of the war crime charges against him. Sheer rhetoric against Diaspora Tamils will lead him nowhere.


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Friday, May 28, 2010

Sri Lanka President's move to levy tax from MP's vehicle import permit is a sham

Hummer H2 off roader valued at over US$ 55,000
without duty in Sri Lanka for a VIP son
(May 28, Colombo - Lanka Polity)  Sri Lanka President has proposed to levy a tax of 18% to 20% from the parliamentarians privileged so far to import vehicles once in five years.

This proposal appears outwardly as a progressive move although it actually increases the amount of taxes the politicians can evade. On the other hand, it will also provide an argument for the rulers to rationalize increase of taxes.

The cabinet approved to increase the maximum value of a motor vehicle imported by MPs from $ 35,000 to $ 45,000.

An MP can import a vehicle that is close to the market value of Rs. 20 million in Sri Lanka. It is a public secret that many MPs sell the licence to import a vehicle tax free and pocket a handsome income scot-free.

Average citizens of Sri Lanka have to pay more than 100% tax for motor vehicles. In some instances the tax is close to 200%.

High taxes on buses cause lack of development in Sri Lanka's public transport.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bloody funny politics of Jaffna

Jaffna Mayor
(May 23, Colombo - Lanka Polity
I know the gravity of my crimes and how serious they are.
-WANDA BARZEE, speaking Friday in court, where she was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the 2002 kidnapping of then 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart.

Fifteen years for kidnapping a child! In Sri Lanka, you believe, especially in the Northern Province, this is not a crime but a part of normal life. Yes, even in the post-Prabakaran period.

Sometimes, you even elect child killer suspects to represent you. T. Illango, Sri Lanka's ruling coalition Deputy Mayor of Jaffna is an example. He was arrested along with several others for alleged complicity in the abduction and brutal murder of a 17-year-old school boy in a botched ransom bid. He was later given conditional bail and told to appear in courts every Monday.

Later, he was found outside the Magistrate Chavakacheri Magistrate T. J. Prabhakaran's house armed with a pistol along with one of the suspects involved in the abduction and murder. Now he is in remand for threatening the Magistrate.

Meanwhile, the Mayor of Jaffna, Ms. Patkunaraja Yogeswari, a mother too, placed an advertisement in a local newspaper calling for the dropping of the charges against Deputy Mayor T. Illango. Jaffna Chief Magistrate A. A. Anandaraja has severely reprimanded the Mayoress for interfering in judiciary matters.

It is bloody funny to see how things happen in liberated Jaffna under the democratic rule of the Colombo government.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Disaster capitalism and Sri Lanka government's moves to resettle Colombo flood victims

(May 20, Colombo - Lanka PolitySri Lanka Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resource Development has taken swift action to identify land to resettle the dwellers of canal banks in Colombo city. Most of these canal side dwellers are displaced now due to floods.

While the Minister of rrigation and and Water Resource Development is attending in the World Health Assembly in Geneva, the Secretary of the Ministry Ivan de Silva says that the land is being identified now on the instructions of the President Mahinda Rajapaksa. He said that the President instructed the officials to find them land close to Colombo city.

Perhaps the President might have understood that these people had dwelled in the city for a long time and their livelihoods are connected to it. Most of the people of these low income groups render a yeoman service in city cleaning and other services hard work is needed. Nice words of the President we have to wait and see the realization. Hope the 30,000 plus families now in camps will not be chased away when they go back to their houses once the floods recede.

Colombo Municipal Council Chief Engineer said recently that the sudden flow of water due to downpour is beyond the capacity of drainage channels of the city. The drainage system of Colombo city was constructed by British colonial rulers in 1910 and it has been used with slight improvements.

The unauthorized slum dwellers on canal banks actually contribute to pollution and blockade of water flow in canals while living in most unhealthy conditions. They are needed to be resettled in better places with better livelihoods for them.

But, the government has to really show that it is going to uplift their lives. This should not be another action similar to the uprooting of Colombo payment hawkers without providing them alternative to make a living.

Sri Lanka government is busy in its attempts in making Colombo city attractive for tourists and foreign direct investors. In this process, the government has forgotten the basic fact that Colombo is a traditional native place of diverse communities. Colombo is not only buildings and roads. Colombo residents and other people are also a part of Colombo. Developing Colombo should be developing its people too. Real city beautification is beautifying the lives of the city dwellers, especially the poor masses, whom the government always claims to be representing.

In her book THE SHOCK DOCTRINE, Naomi Klein explodes the myth that the global free market triumphed democratically. Exposing the thinking, the money trail and the puppet strings behind the world-changing crises and wars of the last four decades, The Shock Doctrine is the gripping story of how America’s “free market” policies have come to dominate the world-- through the exploitation of disaster-shocked people and countries.

"At the most chaotic juncture in Iraq’s civil war, a new law is unveiled that would allow Shell and BP to claim the country’s vast oil reserves…. Immediately following September 11, the Bush Administration quietly out-sources the running of the “War on Terror” to Halliburton and Blackwater…. After a tsunami wipes out the coasts of Southeast Asia, the pristine beaches are auctioned off to tourist resorts.... New Orleans’s residents, scattered from Hurricane Katrina, discover that their public housing, hospitals and schools will never be reopened…. These events are examples of “the shock doctrine”: using the public’s disorientation following massive collective shocks – wars, terrorist attacks, or natural disasters -- to achieve control by imposing economic shock therapy. Sometimes, when the first two shocks don’t succeed in wiping out resistance, a third shock is employed: the electrode in the prison cell or the Taser gun on the streets." (http://www.naomiklein.org/shock-doctrine)

Beware! Talks about resettling Colombo canal bank dwellers that are now displaced due to floods can also be a move of this disaster capitalism.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

He was legendary Volleyball Sira of cricketing Sri Lanka

No action photos for media
Only this one with his son
(May 18, Colombo - Lanka PolityW.L. Siriwardhana of Gampaha, who was known as legendary ‘Volleyball Sira‘ bade farewell to Sri Lanka.

Mr. Siriwardhana was the captain of Sri Lanka’s national volleyball team for 12 years in 1950s and 60s. He was renowned in the Asian region as a gifted dasher. He was popular among Sri Lankans as much as the brilliant cricketers were among cricket fans. However, he was not among the sportsmen the President Mahinda Rajapaksa recently awarded for their lifetime achievements. His funeral was also unattended by political bigwigs.

Volleyball is still the national game of Sri Lanka although it never reached to professional level.

Volleyball is a sport Sri Lankans can play anywhere in the island with low capital cost since the equipments and standard courts do not cost a fraction of expenses for a game like cricket.

Cricket is the most popular sport in Sri Lanka although less than thousand people play standard cricket. Few turfs are available even in Colombo except what are available the international cricket grounds. Most of the outstation schools and clubs play cricket on matting made of coir string. Tennis ball cricket that is played by the majority of the ordinary cricketers is far below cricket standards.

Most Sri Lankans do not play any kind of cricket although they are ardent fans of the game. Most of these fans are not healthy people since they do not play or exercise at all. One of them died in a heart attack recently when Sri Lanka beat India in a thrilling match to enter the semi-finals of T-20 World Cup.

Sports must be promoted as a human exercise and not as a way having sheer thrill or betting if a nation needs healthy and fit populace.

Sri Lanka can promote volleyball among people easily if it really needs it to be made the national sport. The chairmanship of Sri Lanka Volleball Federation itself reflects the pathetic situation of the national sport. The federation has failed to seek a powerful person to lead it.

Present Chairman Dilan Perera is a Deputy Minister of the government and he laments he has been denied a cabinet portfolio despite his presence in the parliament since 1994. Sri Lanka's national sport is also like him.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sri Lankan village woman Kawamma the real miracle of Somawathi

(May 17, Colombo - Lanka PolityKawamma, a 79-year-old village woman and a mother of three from Wariyapola in Sri Lanka’s Northwestern Province, is the real miracle of Somawathi, a Buddhist temple in the Eastern Province. However, she is an ordinary village woman apparently uneducated.

More than 800,000 devotees flocked in this forest-locked temple to see the body rays of Lord Buddha from the dagaba in the temple on May 09th. Torrential rains and heavy traffic jam caused a stampede in which at least three persons were dead. Over 25 persons were hospitalized and some were missing for days.

Kawamma lost contact with her group of devotees and finally lost in the jungle and survived there for eight days until two Muslim fishermen that were fishing in Mahaweli River at Sungawila found her.

She had bruises in her body but she was healthy, Police said. Police admitted her in the hospital. She said to media that she did not eat anything but drank water from puddles and roamed chanting Buddhist ‘Gatha’.
The woman told the police she survived in jungle without any food for eight days drinking only water. She is a resident of the address Netiya, Malagane, Nuwarakanda, Wariyapola in the Kurunegala district.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tamil Diaspora fail to find a sick bed for slain LTTE leader's mother

(May 13, Colombo - Lanka PolitySeventy nine years old Parvathi Velupillai is a partly paralyzed, diabetic, hypertension patient. she, the widow of a late junior public servant of Sri Lanka that hailed from an ordinary family of Velvetithurai, Jaffna was (would you believe?) a threat to national security of mighty India, that boasts about the forth biggest Army of the world.

This woman lived with her husband for nearly two decades in India without being a security threat before 2002.

She is the mother of the slain leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) Velupillai Prabakaran. While the Sinhala polity celebrates the killing of her son an year ago, ending a three decade of bloody war, this sick woman has been admitted to Velvetithurai hospital in Jaffna with a minor paralysis in her body, said a medical officer of the hospital.

Mrs. Parvathi was brought to India from Malaysia for treatment few weeks back but India denied her entry on the basis she was a threat to national security. Later, with the intervention of the Tamil Nadu government she was offered conditional visa to admit into a hospital in Chennai.

Indian media reports said Parvathi's party rejected India's offer for conditional visa to visit Tamil Nadu for her treatment.

However, former Jaffna district Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP M.K. Sivajilingam, a close relative of Prabakaran’s family said that she was admitted to the hospital of her home town on the request of the family members.

India gave refuge to a young Prabakaran in her soil when he was a busy young man organizing a violent movement for national liberation of Sri Lankan Tamils. The war in Sri Lanka led to a massive outflow of Tamils to developed West and a Tamil Diaspora was formed. It pumped blood to the LTTE that played a vibrant role in global politics although it was a banned terrorist organization in many countries.

Sri Lankan Tamils were always on the lookout for the good of the international community to save them from the Sinhalese they branded as evil-minded and hell-bent on hunting the Tamils. For them, Sinhala polity was a single unit of oppressors. Their strategy forced them not to look beyond that. There were some good individuals among Sinhalese, but the polity is wicked to them as a whole, they propagated.

Now, their slain leader Prabakaran's paralyzed mother cannot actually find a hospital bed from the societies they thought they would find good someday.

Eventually, it is Velvetithurai, her village by the sea in Jaffna peninsula that is now a military colony guarded by Sinhala soldiers, seems to be the place where she can lay to rest one day as same as many thousands of other Tamil men and women did without leaving tombstones.

Once and for all, Tamils have been disillusioned another time by the so-called saviors in the international community and the Tamil, Sinhala polities sit face to face once again with eyes full of hatred. Following three decades of war, we have again come to the starting point. There is no one to save us. We the Sri Lankans have to find a way to share this country respectfully without fighting.




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...