Sunday, February 28, 2010

UNP includes 15 minority members – more than UPFA’s 8 in its National List! SF led DNA doesn't include the names of any minorities!SEE THE DIFFERENCE!

UNP includes 15 minority members – more than UPFA’s 8 in its National ListBy Franklin R. Satyapalan

The National Lists of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) includes the names of eight minority members, the incumbent Prime Minister, eleven Ministers, two deputies and the former Speaker.

The United National Front (UNF) List includes 15 minority members — nine Tamils and six Muslims while the General (Retd) Sarath Fonseka led Democratic National Alliance does not include the names of any minorities, political sources said yesterday

The minorities in the UPFA list are M. H. Mohamed, Mutthu Sivalingham, Shanmugam Jegedeswaram , Mohamed Shawul Mohamed Muzzamil, Muralidharan Vinayagamoorthy, Chandrasekaran Shanmugan-athan, A. H. M. Azwer and U. L. Shawul Hameed.

The others are Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake , D. M. Jayaratne, Dulles Alahapperuma, Prof G. L. Pieris, Prof. Wisva Warnapala, Dew Gunasekera, Prof Tissa Vitharna, Geethanjan Gunawardena, Achala Jagoda, W. J. M.Lokubandara, Ven Ellawala Medananda Thera , Ven Omalpe Sobitha Thera, J. R. P. Suriyaperuma, Anuruddha Ratwatte, J. M. J. Janaka Bandara, Prof. Rajiv Wijesinghe, Leslie Devendra, Malani Fonseka, Sarath Kongahage, Dr. Harischandra Wijetunga and Mrs Kamala Ranatunga.

The United National Front National List includes UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake, Eran Wickremaratna, Joseph Michael Perera, K. N. Choksy, Rukman Senanayake, Tilak Marapona, Harsha De Silva, UNP Treasurer D. M. Swaminathan, R. Yogarajan , Ahamed Hassen Mohamed Alavi, Mohamed Nizam Kariapper, S. L. Manotharan, M. T. Hassen Ali, Swarna Obeysekera, Ruwan F. Guruge, Mailwaganam Thilakaraj, Prof. Wimal Gunawardene, Anoma Gamage, Aruna Soyza, Masoor Sinnalebbe, Manikkam Logasingham, Mangaleswari Jeyeratnam, Ammer Mohamed Faiz, M. S. Sellasamy, Abdul Karim Mohamed Asmin Marikkar, Cyril Dharmawardena, P. Ganeshan, P. V. Gunaratne and S. Manoharan.

The National List of Democratic National Alliance: Anura Kumara Dissanayake, Tiran Alles, Sanjeewa Ranatunga, Sirimasiri Hapuarachchi, Ariyawansa Dissanayake, Prof. S. B. Hettiarachchi, Prof. K. Kapila Chandana Perera, Athula Chandragupta Thenuwara, Dr. Jinasena Watogala Hewage, Karunaratne Herath, Chandima Pieries, Suvinitha Weerasinghe, Binduhewa Sarath Chandrasoma de Silva, Kingsley Clyfford Loos, Mahinda Thennakoon, Dr. Suriya Gunasekera, K. S. Dissanayake, D. M. G. Ekanayake, Bimal Asuntha Perera, Jayanthi Renuka Sumanasinghe, Dudeesa Duminda Nagamuwa, M. H. Shanthilal Fernando and Pathiranage Wasantha Malani.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Racism rears its ugly head EVERYWHERE...!!!

Racism rears its ugly head
Veera Pandiyan
The Star/ANN

I sure envy the 25 Indian journalists currently in Australia on junkets paid by the Australian government, as part of a public relations move to counter negative impact of violent attacks on Indian students.

While I’m writing this from the Atwood Motor Inn in Warrnambool, a windy coastal town located 263km away from Melbourne, they are staying at the posh Windsor or Sofitel hotels in the city.

Apparently, the Australian government is spending A$250,000 (US$222,538) on the writers or A$10,000 (US$26,945) on each of them for the "familiarisation tours".

The splurging on their flights, lodging, cricket matches and even tickets for Slumdog Millionaire composer AR Rahman’s concerts in Melbourne and Sydney is aimed at convincing the journalists that Australia is not a racist country.

But will the reports filed by these journalists erase the horrors of "curry bashings" and change the perception?

The Herald Sun has opined that wasting A$250,000 of taxpayers’ money to persuade Indian journalists is a futile effort.

"The community would be better served by a greater police presence to combat crime generally," it said in an editorial.

Many here feel the same way, including students from India, many of whom moonlight as taxi drivers and work as waiters or cleaners, opting for the late shifts to earn more money.

The secretary of the Federation of Indian Students of Australia Gautam Gupta feels that the entertainment being lavished on the Indian journalists and their carefully planned itinerary are designed to "gloss over" the attacks on Indian students.

And so, is Australia a racist country?

As a Malaysian who has been here on many working trips and now back Down Under to enrol my daughter at the Deakin University’s Warrnambool campus, I’ve never personally experienced any form of racism.

But I’ve always been reminded that it exists, by migrants and even Australians themselves, including former diplomat Bruce Haigh who wrote recently that the attacks on Indian students had thrust the issue of racism in Australia into the mainstream news again.

"Of course Australia is racist. It is still viewed by mainstream Australia as wrong, so it is practised with some guilt and in polite company circumspection."

"Quiet soundings at social gatherings of what appear to be like-minded people, eventually leading to (once credentials seem to have been established) ‘I have nothing against them but...’."

Most Australians don’t share his views, however.

While they admit there are racists in Australia, they defend that the country has always championed its multi-culturalism and that there are stringent laws against racial discrimination and vilification against anyone.

To be fair, the spate of bashings in Melbourne and Sydney have mainly happened in the northern or western suburbs "where violence is endemic and involves many different ethnic combinations", as described by one journalist.

A close friend who has studied and lived in Australia since he was 15 says the culture among the young and not-so-young in such areas mostly involves "blades and binge drinking".

But if the problem is social decay, it is one that we share with Australia.

In Malaysia, too, there are lots of unsafe neighbourhoods with social problems like the Mat Rempit menace, unemployment, vandalism, juvenile crimes, alcohol and drug abuse, etc, all borne out of poor policies, lack of enforcement and inequalities in the system.

As for racism, Malaysia is in no position to call the kettle black.

Perhaps we should be more shameful because unlike in Australia, our racists and bigots are everywhere - in political parties, among elected representatives, the civil service and much as we pretend not to see, even in the corporate sector.

Regardless of whether the junkets for Indian journalists will result in better perceptions, Australia is taking the matter seriously because the education sector plays a vital role in the country’s economy.

There are currently about 500,000 international students in Australia and they spent an estimated A$15 billion (US$13.3 billion) last year.

The number of Indians applying for student visas to Australia has since plunged by 46 per cent.

Over the past week, a number of stabbing cases made the headlines in Australia, including a 13-year-old boy who knifed his 12-year-old schoolmate and the bizarre story of a man stabbed in a fight but went to bed not realising he had a knife embedded in his neck.

As a Malaysian parent and one of Indian origin, I’m naturally worried about my daughter’s safety in the country.

But after spending three days in Warrnambool and the nice people we have met, there is less anxiety over her safety.


We need to remind ourselves & our leaders of this undermining of our social & political standards and values particularly at this time of G.Election.!

The political culture of our times
by Shanie

"The distempers of our times would make a wise man both merry and mad. Merry, to see how vice flourishes but a while, and, being at last frustrate of all her fair hopes, dies in a dejected scorn; which meets with nothing, in the end, but beggary, baseness, and contempt. ..To see how men buy offices at high rates, which, when they have, prove gins to catch their souls in, and snare their estates and reputations....Mad, on the other side, to see how vice goes trapped with rich furniture, while poor virtue hath nothing but a bridle and saddle, which only serves to increase her bondage. To see Machiavelli’s tenets held as oracles; honesty reputed shallowness; justice bought and sold."

Owen Felltham, the seventeenth century essayist and poet, got it right when he referred to the erratic and idiosyncratic ways in which wise and intelligent people conduct themselves when faced with the challenges and often unsavoury ways of the world. What he wrote nearly four hundred years ago of man’s frailties still remains very valid. The diminishing ethics and values of that time are being further eroded with each passing generation. We need to remind ourselves and our leaders of this undermining of our social and political standards and values particularly at this time when we prepare for a General Election in just over a month’s time.

In his now famous address in Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln defined the democratic objectives of a nation as a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Any nation that emerges from an internal conflict should have a new birth of freedom and all her citizens should dedicate themselves to the task of ensuring the survival of liberty and equality as the continuing foundation of that nation. That is also why the founders of the United Nations Organisation felt it proper, at the end of the last great War, for the nations of the world to subscribe to a Charter that ensured our common commitment to the rule of law and to basic freedoms and human rights. It was to provide for a new beginning of peace and reconciliation at the end of a conflict that engulfed the whole world.

What was good for the world body should have been equally good for a country like Sri Lanka. We came through three periods of internal conflict – two insurgencies in the south and one in the north, the first of which was almost exactly thirty nine years ago to the day of the date fixed for the forthcoming General Election in our country. But the end of all three conflicts did not result in a new beginning. Although it must be acknowledged that whilst the crushing of the first insurgency did take away many young lives, it was also followed by some attempt at reconciliation and rehabilitation. But each of the two subsequent insurgencies has resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of lives, including many non-combatant civilians. There can a new beginning or a new reconciliation only if there is a commitment on the part of the nation and its leaders to liberty and equality that Lincoln referred to. Worse is when the nation and its leaders are in a state of denial that non-combatant civilians have been killed. Reconciliation and peace becomes possible only if we resolve, in view of pictures and credible stories that are increasingly coming out, to have something on the lines of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a means of healing the nation.

Is Sri Lanka a real democracy?

Sri Lanka has been holding periodic General Elections since 1947, with one unfortunate aberration in 1982. But the mere holding of elections does not mean that we are a truly functioning democracy. It is not democracy when the governments in power violate the election laws of the country with impunity; it is not democracy when leaders of government quite brazenly state that the prevailing Constitution of the country, or parts of it, are defunct; it is not democracy when law-enforcement are so politicised that they do not apply the law equally; it is not democracy when media and civil society personnel are arm-twisted, intimidated and subject to violence, arbitrary arrests, disappearances and even assassinations, if they do not conform or engage in writing that is critical of those who wield political power. Instead of a new political culture that takes us forward to our becoming a fuller democracy, we have the sad spectacle of some academics and professionals turning apologists and sycophants to justify the unjustifiable. Owen Felltham refers in the essay from which we have quoted to the ‘idle compliments current among some that affect the fantastic garb, as if friendship were nothing but an apish salute, glossed over with nothing but the varnish of a smooth tongue.’

Sri Lanka must move forward. To move forward, all political parties and all leaders of society must accept that the basic pillars on which our country can be built is ethnic, religious, gender and social equality and economic equity. There cannot be mere lip service to upholding these principles. At the last presidential election, communal slogans were raised that Sarath Fonseka had a secret pact to sell out to the Tamils. This did much to divide our people when they were called to exercise the vote. We know that no evidence was ever presented, during the election campaign or after, of the existence any such pact. Unscrupulous politicians will no doubt raise similar slogans to confuse and mislead our voters at the forthcoming election too. We need to guard ourselves against such mischievous allegations by mischievous politicians.

Questions for the political parties

At the last Presidential Election, CIMOGG, the citizen’s initiative that works towards good governance, presented a questionnaire to the candidates seeking their response to certain important questions concerning good governance. Prior to the 1977 General Election, the Civil Rights Movement made a plea for firm commitment from the contenders for governmental power on human rights and democratic rights. "We feel that the citizen, whatever his or her political persuasions and whatever party he or she wishes to support must take the utmost precaution to ensure that all contenders for power make the firmest commitment to the protection of our basic rights, and that such a commitment must be made in terms not of sweeping utterances or loose generalisations but of particular enactments and governmental practices.

"To this end, the CRM has decided to propose an open and broad discussion of some matters vital to the issues we have raised – that is civil liberties and democratic freedoms. We invite the rank and file and the leadership of all parties to study these questions seriously, honestly and critically and to reach conclusions which they are prepared to state publicly in the form of firm pledges. And we invite the citizen in turn to pose these questions to all parties, their members and candidates, in order to draw out specific commitments."

We have combined some of CRM’s questions with those of CIMOGG and present them as being relevant to the choice the country is required to make at the forthcoming election:

1. What amendments, if any, to our Constitution do you consider necessary to more adequately define and secure fundamental rights? Do you consider it necessary to pass laws conforming in full to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its Optional Protocol and the Second Optional Protocol which have been ratified by Sri Lanka?

2. Will you undertake a serious review of the whole question of the exercise of emergency powers? Do you agree that a strict check is necessary to prevent the abuse of emergency powers?

3. Do you feel the rights and grievances of the minorities, and the rights of the persons of Indian origin (in particular the plantation workers), are adequately provided for at present. Do you feel that the 13th amendment (devolution of powers to the Provinces) and 16th amendment (implementation of official languages acts) are being adequately implemented? If not, what measures do you propose to grant and secure these rights as a political solution to minority grievances?

4. Do you consider the independence of the judiciary to be adequately safeguarded both in law and practice? If not, what steps do you propose?

5. Do you feel that an executive President should enjoy legal immunity for his executive actions? If not, will you take steps to press for the repeal of this clause in the Constitution.

6. How will you tackle the continuing problem of police assaults and deaths in police custody? Do you agree that the 17th amendment providing for the setting up of an independent effective machinery for good governance should be implemented?

7. Do you think that at present there is sufficient provision for the citizen to seek redress against arbitrary or unfair acts by government officials? If not, what provision are you prepared to make for this?

8. Do you regard the present situation satisfactory as regards the freedom of the press and the functioning of the state media, both print and electronic? If not, what particular reforms do you advocate or what specific undertakings are you prepared to give on these matters.

9. Do you feel that adequate steps are being taken to tackle the growing problem of bribery and corruption? Do you agree that the Permanent Commission to investigate allegations of bribery and corruption should be independent and be provided with adequate resources? Do you agree the law should be amended to make it compulsory for anyone seeking elected public office to make a declaration of assets and liabilities, and once elected, to annually update this declaration?

10. Are you prepared to give a solemn and public promise that should your party come to power no person will be victimised whether in respect of his/her employment or otherwise on account of his/her political beliefs and allegiances, and that there will be no discrimination as between those who supported and those who worked against you?

As the CRM and CIMOGG would agree, these questions are not exhaustive nor are they the only questions that arise at this moment. But these questions focus on the broad general issues that are relevant at this time. There will be specific issues that arise, mainly on the abuse of state resources, the violation of election laws, the ethics of the arrest and detention of Sarath Fonseka and his associates, etc. In the weeks leading up to election date, those issues will also become open to public debate.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Poor Sri Lanka that relies on foreign donations and long term low interest loans to build institutions, and finance many public works..!!!

Can Sri Lanka ever be a Singapore?

Recently I was reprimanded for comparing Sri Lanka to Singapore. Poor Sri Lanka that relies on foreign donations and long term low interest loans to build institutions, and finance many public works. It also accepts help from neighbouring India, despite India being a country with the largest number of people living in dire poverty. If more people and especially government ministers took an in depth look at Singapore they would find that;

a) There is almost an absence of rubbish, not because of the watchful eyes of policemen, but because it has now become part of the culture to maintain a clean environment.

b) No one eats or drinks on public transport, though there are no patrols to enforce it.

c) There are no giant loudspeakers blaring distorted music, religious chanting, speeches of frenetic politicians, or non-stop commentaries for sports meets and so on.

d) There are no posters stuck on every available surface, advertising politicians and tuition centres, but neat information displays outside housing blocks.

e) Most schools have modern facilities with separate classrooms and high standard sports facilities.

f) The majority of students go to local schools and do not need to carry heavy bags since books and sports clothing can be left at school.

g) The standard of cleanliness and hygiene in the numerous food courts is regulated and very high.

h) All motorists, including buses, stop in good time to allow anyone to cross on a pedestrian crossing.

i) Most public transport is air-conditioned and people use a pre-paid transport swipe card for their fares.

j) Public transport is very efficient and most students do not rely on private vans and three wheelers to get them to school. Outside of the centre, bicycles are widely used by people of all ages.

k) There are numerous art galleries, museums, concert halls, theatres, nature reservations, parks – all well cared for and well up to first world standard.

l) Drivers are courteous and all wear seat belts, and obey traffic regulations as far as speed, parking and maintenance of vehicles.

m) No vehicle can be seen at night without proper lighting.

n) English is widely spoken and understood as a second language and language of administration.

o) The National University of Singapore is a first – world academic institution. It boasts superb museums, art galleries and theatre and concert venues, as well as excellent sport facilities. Peradeniya University cannot begin to compare.

p) No giant advertising hoardings on the side of roads or plastic decorations hanging from trees and lamp posts.

q) Corruption exists only at a very low level.

r) Singapore welcomes 15 million visitors each year.

s) A network of cycling tracks enables safe cycling in many areas.

t) No bigwigs in luxury cars speed on roads pushing others out of the way and risking accidents.

u) There is a vast range of free information booklets, maps, guides available at the airport and other places.

v) The cultural traditions of the various communities are celebrated but without excessive numbers of public holidays.

No doubt there are many other positive things to say about Singapore. There may be justified criticism of its style of democracy, but it is not a police state and armed soldiers and road blocks are not to be seen anywhere.

50 years ago Singapore looked in envy at the progress of Sri Lanka and vowed to emulate it. The President recently may have promised that Sri Lanka will be a leading first world Asian nation within five years, but if it can get its garbage problem sorted out and the eyesores of posters, signs and hoarding, within five years, that will be an achievement. Every minister should put on simple western clothing and spend a week incognito in Singapore without special privileges. When they return they will know what they must aim for in Sri Lanka. The previous tourist slogan was "a country like no other" certainly held true, and the present slogan "small miracle" will not help. A huge miracle might be a lot better.

Do compare Sri Lanka with Singapore and realise what must be done.

David Bandara


When a finger is pointed, a fool looks at the finger. The wise man looks at the direction...!!!

Tamils distancing themselves from IndiaBy S. Sivathasan

In the Asian region, hardly any people have had such close cordiality as the Tamils of Sri Lanka with the people of Tamil Nadu and by extension with India. Ethnic affinity, linguistic homogeneity, cultural identity and physical proximity, all conduced to a remarkable harmony if not solidarity. Today all what remains is an edifice in ruins. Friends have turned foes. Admirers have become detractors. Where a bridge stood, there is now a chasm. Never the twain shall meet is the verdict of the percipient. Forget the North, turn East to China is the voice of those who dare.

Intellectual nourishment of the Tamils when they are young, commences with Tamil literature. Poets of high intellect spanning two millennia nurtured us. Judged by any standard, Thiruvalluvar of the first century and Bharathy of the twentieth were of world calibre. In between them were poets and scholars of great renown. The independence movement in India brought forth a galaxy that dazzled us with their brilliance. Gandhi and Nehru, Patel and Bose, Tagore and Aurobindo were scholars and leaders who commanded our admiration. We coveted their aura and lived in a world of make belief.

From such an India steeped in idealism, the Tamils of Sri Lanka looked for a perfect dispensation to the ethnic problem. Expectations were high, but what we got in 1987 was military invasion, though by invitation. The army of occupation certainly brought in negative benefits. Firstly, its brutality knocked the scales from our eyes. Destruction without restraint, death with unconcern and merciless assaults brought the people down from their ethereal heights. In the period October 1987 to march 1990, indignities of every description were visited on over 50 percent of the Tamil population in the North East of Sri Lanka. Tamils have vowed, never again to look back. India stands banished from their consciousness. The void is now clear for the most formidable power of the future-China-to enter. Benevolence will replace malevolence.

What caused this change of stance? Dissipation of trust. A whole picture fell into place with a series of events. A quarter century of space gave sufficient opportunity to the Tamil intelligentsia to read, discuss, interact, reflect and arrive at a clear consensus.

Facts were gathered and their veracity ascertained. Strands of discernment when woven together made the motivation of India clearly visible. The overtones became apparent and there was evidence. It is idle to talk of the permanent nature of interest, permanence of friendship or impermanence of enmity. The emerging reality is the distancing of Tamils from India.

At the height of the war in 2008-2009, the defence advisor of India made a special visit to Sri Lanka with one message. Buy arms from India only. Never from China or Pakistan. It was tantamount to saying kill the Tamils only with Indian bullets. Could a more grotesque demand have ever been made? What has been the drama from the eighties? When a leaf rustles in Sri Lanka, the sabre rattles in India. Pretence was the posture. Inaction was the actuality. Forcing concessions to Tamils was prated loud. With what results? Under what law? By what authority and through what means? One is wont to ask.

It turned out that an aggrieved minority clamouring for justice, had expected assistance from an imagined benefactor. That foreign government however unleashed its military might on an unsuspecting and battered people. "Know your friends, know your enemies." This simple truth cryptically presented by Mao Tse Tung, is fundamental in political or military strategy. It eluded the grasp of Tamils. The enemy having clearly calculated every step, feigned friendship. Tamils danced attendance upon the counterfeit from 1983. In 2009, they lamented that the vengeful had wreaked vengeance. What else could have happened?

The objective was clear. Destabilise the country — Sri Lanka. Identify the aggrieved ethnic entity—Tamils. From this premise events followed in logical sequence. Select impressionable youth, make them militants, train them and promote infiltration. Be conscious of the need to manipulate them at will. Therefore keep them on a tight leash. When the dominant group did not lend itself to manipulation, other groups were proliferated. When the latter were found to be Lilliputians, they were decreed to be on par with Gulliver and conferred equal stature at Thimpu. To resolve the Tamil problem, fake discussions were held to give the appearance of serious talks. Beneath the veneer was the red claw. An agreement was forged with the government of Sri Lanka for the ostensible purpose of enforcing peace. The Indian army however launched its mission only to eliminate militancy and to subdue the people whom militancy represented. True to purpose, it became a Frankenstein. The occupation army killed, pillaged and destroyed. Not even a semblance of remorse was shown either then or up to now. The people at large suffered the loss and shared the privation helplessly.

Germans compensated the Jews in full for the loss sustained by the latter during the Nazi regime. It was a gesture of admission of guilt and acceptance of responsibility for cruelty inflicted. The aggrieved were assisted to rebuild their lives, develop the nation and move on with a fund of goodwill. Humanity admired the culture and refinement of the Germans. To compensate the Tamils and others who suffered loss, should India await a request? Justice demands it. Honourable conduct will be appreciated. Those subjected to indignity and deprivations know well their cruel nature. Their goodwill will help forward movement.

There was a category of thought which outlined certain ideas. When a danger to Tamils is sensed, India will swoop in on Sri Lanka, upbraid her, pretend to rescue the Tamils, foist an instant solution and march back to Delhi after its mission is accomplished. Why should India intervene? So questions the cynic. The charlatan answers—the security of India is tied up with the stability of Sri Lanka. Therefore India is obliged to assuage her (India’s) concerns. Courting the Tamils composing 13 percent of the population is a surer bet than getting 75 percent Sinhalese to their side. The question arises: why? The Tamils of Sri Lanka have an umbilical chord relationship with the Tamils of Tamil Nadu. The latter will rather embrace immolation than see the Tamils suffer. New Delhi unable to withstand needling from Tamil Nadu will intervene in Sri Lanka, whatever the norms governing international relations. So runs the argument. The reasoning is weird logic at its convoluted best. How well has this worked and what has India contributed to the Tamils in the last quarter century, the cynic asks. The charlatan is dumbfounded, but stutters 13th Amendment.

India has a quasi-federal constitution. The most inappropriate model to frame a political arrangement for the Tamilian predicament in the Sri Lankan situation! Yet the commencing point of political deliberations from the Indian side was that no devolution for the Tamils would go beyond the devolutionary parameters of the Indian constitution. With this preconceived and unrealistic limitation, all discussions were skewed from the very beginning. The devolution exercise was thus poisoned at its very source. The result was a caricature of a settlement that was embodied in the 13th Amendment. It is basic that any political solution should be home grown. The contending parties have to thrash out issues and evolve strategies which can be worked out only over time. There can be no finality as if a perfect document with the last comma in place and the last ‘i’ dotted were an eternal guarantor of Tamil expectations. Experience and bitter knowledge mandate that Tamils have to disengage their sights from foreign capitals, particularly from Delhi and Chennai. What has been realized in 30 years? Only shameful failures and shameless betrayals! "Was the 60 year domestic experience any the better?" Tamils more particularly would ask with cogent logic. An alternative needs to be evolved. It is left to fresh initiatives.

Bickering needs to be drowned in a sea of economic activity and social growth. A good beginning has been made with the advent into Sri Lanka of the foremost Asian power, China. Aid for power plants will make a significant impact when all three phases are complete. Harbour development is great in itself, but the direction it points to is far greater. At Hambantota lies a potential Shenzhen and China can make it happen. Part of the Northern railway and the road network to be delivered in the North by China are sure to resonate well with the Tamils. They will whet the appetite of the people of North East for more aid, more projects, more growth and greater Chinese presence. Special Economic Zones concept is a vehicle to lift the NE from its present state. Closer rapport for a century at least will be good for the nation and better by the Tamils.

When a finger is pointed, a fool looks at the finger. The wise man looks at the direction. So goes a Chinese saying. ‘The God That Failed’ can no longer evoke homage or even respect. Temples of worship are wanted anew. The need for this change can be seen conspicuously.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rebuilding lives....!!!

Lest we forget: Ten reasons to be happy

Just under a year ago, we were still worried about a bomb here or a bomb there. Threats of terror attacks were still a stark reality. Mother and father of the same family went to work by different modes of transport or at different times, to ensure that their children will have at least one parent left to care for them, in case the life of one was taken away in a bloody incident.

Mothers were losing their sons, wives, husbands, children their parents, those in love their loved ones, soldiers and LTTE cadres lost their lives in active combat, while others died in most unexpected circumstances. Today, thankfully that is over. That to me is reason number one, we could be happy.

Rebuilding lives
Over 400,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs); our own brethren stamped with a label, had to be looked after and cared for under most trying conditions.

Back to school but war-torn lives have to be rebuilt soon. File photo

That was less than ten months ago. Most of them are back in their own areas now, slowly but surely rebuilding their lives once again. Around 50,000 of them are still awaiting better conditions. Although they are free to leave the temporary shelters at their will, they continue to remain for want of a more solid and hopeful future. What we should be happy about, is that all this happened under the supervision of the very Armed Forces that ended the suffering and pain caused by the LTTE. Most of these people had earlier been in a state of captivity.

Working together with several key civil society organizations, INGOs and individuals giving their time, energy and resources, an end to their suffering was brought about. We should be happy that this happened without politicians being allowed to make opportunistic visits to the IDP camps to make ‘hay while the sun shone’ or give empty promises, that would have never been honoured.

Irresistible lure
The fighting was over and the calm set in. European winters were unusually severe and tourists began to arrive on our shores again, showing double digit growth. They demonstrated that the slogans sung of accusations of violations of rights, could not hold the lure of the sun, sand, green and the smiles of the Sri Lankans they knew. Presidential elections or the politics of vengeance that were on did not bother them. Except for the few stung by hornets (believed to be incarnations of the keepers of Sigiriya), the rest of them returned with fond memories of time and money well-spent. To me, that would be reason number three to make us happy.

Reaching out
Reason number four, relates directly to our Head of State, who had by now become quite a fluent speaker of the Tamil language.

The example set by him, even had the most ardent of his critics dumbfounded at times. Some even went on to suggest, he was using tele-prompters to make an impression.

But now we know that it was hard work done with tutors that made him in the least, be able to reach out to his Tamil speaking constituency.

The fact that they did not vote for him en-mass is not the issue here. It is the effort made and the honest intention, while some other leaders, after long years in politics struggle even today, to communicate in their Mother Tongue.

‘Learn and speak English your way’ campaign and the ‘IT for all’ program through the ‘Nane Sala’ centres need be seen also as attempts at national unification. Needless to say, that what make us all truly happy, will be when we see those words spoken transform into solid action, to make our nation entirely prejudice-free, where all communities will be able to live in harmony, celebrating our diversity to the fullest.

Due legal process
We get to the halfway mark on our reasons to be happy list, with assurances made to the Leader of the Opposition, by the Head of State that due legal process will take effect, in dealing with any alleged misdeeds committed by the former Commander of the Army.

We saw how convinced and confident, the Leader of the Opposition was of the validity of that assurance, when he spoke about it to the media upon his returning from the meeting. It even made us wonder if there was more on the discussion agenda, on that day. Whatever may have been, when political opponents meet for cordial discussion that must make us happy, for when they agree to work together, that indeed would be a ‘win-win’ situation for all Sri Lankans.

Independent supervision
We should be happy that our Election Commissioner is performing his duties without fear or favour, in difficult circumstances. We should not hold anything against him, when in extreme stressful conditions he confessed that he wished he had taken on early retirement.

We must be thankful and happy that he has agreed to remain in office to see another election happen under his independent supervision. We should be happy that conditions for that to happen has been facilitated by the powers that be, contrary to the statements made by the katakatha (rumour mongering) brigade just after the completion of the last election.

Wisdom of rural folk
For my seventh reason to be happy, I choose to salute the wisdom of our rural folk. In spite of wide-spread electronic media coverage, short message systems (SMS), the katakatha and door to door campaigning, they have remained loyal and grateful and supported the cause of taking on future development of the country based on a region centred approach.

They had seen through much of the ‘noise’ we urbanites hear, read and even believe to be true. Our rural folk have chosen to vote, not for rhetoric but for substance. While that should make us happy, we will be elated, if they choose to weed out the bad and elect only the good as our representatives at the upcoming general election.

Good governance
Pledges made to end nepotism, placing full-stops on bribery and corruption, drug dealing, consumption of alcoholic beverages, taking on mechanisms to establish transparent ways of running Government business, ending the waste and raping of our natural resources, bringing discipline on our roads and making the rule of law prevail, together make the eighth reason for us to be happy. But these may remain only pipe-dreams if our executive, legislator, the judiciary and right action by our civil society leaders, do not all gel to make the right commitments.

We know that there will be a way, if there is a will. Getting that will solidly behind the intent will not only make us happy, but also make us proud to be sons and daughters of Mother Lanka.

Without givers no takers
The ninth reason touches on our business community. The day they realize that seeking devious ways of beating tender procedures, applications for allocation of land, logging permits, privileges based on who knows whom and old school ties etc. not to be the right way forward for us, that should give us ample reason to be happy.

The dictum of ‘without a giver, there can not be takers’ must prevail at all times and that should help clean up much of the mess, we see around us.

Waste not
Last but not least, there is cause for happiness in the fact, that there is realisation that much is wrong in our midst.

The leadership has openly acknowledged that there is wasteful use of resources in carrying a burdensome Cabinet of Ministers and the hoard of privileges and facilities bestowed on those who are supposed to serve us. Expressions of power, pomp and pageantry without adequate hard work to show for it, has been the hallmark of many. The day these end, we can be happy for we may see a restoration of public confidence re-emerging on our system of governance.

The list can not be more exhaustive, for there is much weight on the ‘what makes us unhappy’, side of the scale. But then, we all know that, focusing on the positives can to a greater extent also help mitigate the negatives.

What we need to venture to do is to collectively lend our hearts and our hands, in whatever way we can, to make it happen. For such effort is not for the benefit of anyone or for any particular group, but for the well-being of all of us; sons and daughters of Mother Sri Lanka.

DR:Strict disciplinarian who did not tolerate injustice and foul play! He was a mild-mannered soft-spoken man and no harsh word ever escaped his lips!


Major General (Retired) D. Ratnasabapathy

It is indeed sad news that D. Ratnasabapathy who served the Sri Lanka Army as a Major General, passed away prematurely. Known fondly as Saba among his colleagues, he served the Sri Lanka Army for a considerable period and won many accolades for his commendable performance. Having fulfilled his duties creditably, he retired a few years ago. But soon he was handpicked for civil administration, in recognition of his distinguished service and his close rapport with civil society.

He served in different parts of the country. When he was posted to a new station, the first thing he did was to visit the places of worship in that area, mainly a Buddhist temple in the near locality to pay his obeisance and get the blessings. Thus he built up a cordial relationship with Maha Sangha, clergy and the people of the area.

He moved with high-ranking service personnel, members of the elite, intelligent and educated class and officers of lower ranks and rural villagers with no difference to any but with deference to all. Whatever station he served, he was held in high esteem by all his associates and friends.

Among his relatives, he was affectionately addressed as Ratna, he was really a Ratna, a gem, a precious gem of rare quality. A simple man with simple habits he lived an unostentatious life replete with acts of benevolence and compassion. Despite his busy programs as a senior Army officer, he maintained a close rapport with his relations particularly with those who are less privileged and helped them generously.

Although he held prestigious posts in the Army and was highly connected, he was very humble and did not lose the common touch. But he was a strict disciplinarian who did not tolerate injustice and foul play. He was a mild-mannered soft-spoken man and no harsh word ever escaped his lips.

He served in the battlefield at the height of terrorist activities. When the barbaric terrorists committed atrocious crimes assassinating hundreds of innocent human beings in some areas he served, he was lucky enough to escape unhurt. But the ruthless deadly disease that caught him inescapably snatched him mercilessly leaving all those near and dear to him in utter grief and sorrow.

- K. Samathapala

Under US law, more than 20 individuals have been successfully prosecuted for providing support to the LTTE! WHO WILL PUNISH THE SINHALA PERPETRATORS?

US response to The Island editorial

I write in response to points raised in your editorial "Making a mockery of Patriot Act" that appeared in the February 19th edition of The Island.

The editorial describes a pending case before the US Supreme Court, "Holder vs. the Humanitarian Law Project". Since the case is ongoing, we cannot comment on the points the author raises regarding the case. We take great issue, however, with the characterization of the US position toward the LTTE. The United States was one of the first countries to designate the LTTE as a foreign terrorist organization. Subsequently, under US law, more than twenty individuals have been successfully prosecuted for providing support to the LTTE, including four individuals who were sentenced to lengthy prison sentences by a US federal court last month. Additionally, to counter the LTTE terrorism threat, the United States provided: counterterrorism training for hundreds of Sri Lankan law enforcement officials; a radar-based maritime surveillance system and several Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) to the Sri Lankan Navy to help them detect, interdict, and destroy LTTE arms shipments; and the US Coast Guard Cutter "Courageous" to the Government of Sri Lanka that intercepted and destroyed several LTTE vessels that were smuggling weapons. It is grossly inaccurate to suggest that the US somehow turned a blind eye to the LTTE.

Equally disturbing is the editorial’s characterization of US policy toward the end of the conflict. First, no US military plane landed in Sri Lanka without prior permission from the Government of Sri Lanka. Second, there was no US plan or attempt to evacuate LTTE leadership from the country. The truth is that the United States publicly urged the LTTE to "lay down its arms". We were deeply concerned for the safety of the roughly 300,000 civilians trapped in the no-fire zone, and all of our actions, public and private, aimed to minimize the civilians’ suffering and hardship. In no way whatsoever, did the US try to "rescue an outlawed terrorist organization".

Jeff Anderson
Press, Cultural and Educational Affairs
U.S. Embassy Colombo

Editor’s Note:

As regards US assistance, this is what former US Ambassador to Sri Lanka (2003-2006) Jeffrey Lunstead told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Feb. 24, 2009, among other things: "The US military relationship with Sri Lanka is almost nil, with the military assistance terminated. US development assistance is relatively small."

Our reference to an abortive attempt by the US to negotiate the evacuation of trapped Tigers a few weeks before the decimation of the LTTEleadership in May was based on an exclusive news item, How Lanka averted a US move to evacuate LTTEleadership, in this newspaper on Dec. 24, 2009. It read, "About two months before the final battle on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon in May, the United States offered to evacuate top LTTE leaders and their families.

The unprecedented proposal had been made by the then US Ambassador in Colombo Robert Blake after the Co-Chairs of the Sri Lankan peace process, spearheaded by the Norwegians, agreed that the LTTE could no longer halt the army advance.

Although a section of the press in March 2009 speculated that the US was exploring the possibility of evacuating civilians trapped in the war zone, it can now be revealed that the actual move was to evacuate the LTTE leadership. Well informed sources told The Island that the US plan envisaged taking over 100 persons, including Velupillai Prabhakaran, Sea Tiger leader Soosai, Intelligence Wing leader Pottu Amman and their families.

Sources said that Ambassador Blake went to extent of calling US experts to Colombo to work out modalities regarding the deployment of US assets to evacuate the LTTE leadership and discussed the possibility of deploying US vessels to carry out the evacuation.

Sources said that an aircraft from Hawaii carrying US experts touched down at the Bandaranaike International Airport following a dispute over formalities regarding landing rights. Sources said that the US embassy had alerted the government to the impending arrival of the aircraft only after it was airborne.

Responding to The Island queries, sources said that at one point the Sri Lankan government had suggested that Ambassador Blake also consult New Delhi regarding the controversial evacuation plans."

Strangely, nobody sought to dispute our news item at that time. Why ?


If such is the case, why did India interfere and mould Sri Lanka to be what it is today?

A valuable insight into Sri Lanka’s peace process (IANS Book Review)
February 23rd, 2010 - 10:41 am ICT by IANS -
By M.R. Narayan Swamy

The book, “A Powderkeg in Paradise”, is not a historical account of the Tamil separatist campaign that bled Sri Lanka for a quarter century before the military finally decimated the Tamil Tigers in May 2009. In nearly 250 crisp and easy to read pages, Jon Oskar Solnes delves into his rich and intimate knowledge of the conflict, gained as an official of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), to tell the world why and how the once seemingly indestructible Tamil Tigers lost it so badly.

On that score, the book is an invaluable story of the Norwegian-sponsored and internationally backed peace process that took the most dramatic twists and turns before collapsing amid bloodshed.

Unlike many Westerners, Jon does not hesitate to apportion most of the blame for the fracture of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) of 2002 on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and its anarchist leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. This is the result of the intimate opportunities he got to study the LTTE closely on behalf of the SLMM, the Nordic body whose mandate was to oversee the truce. But he shows no bias for Colombo. He details the vanity of different interlocutors, the many terrible incidents that derailed peace, and “the appalling and often cynical lack of concern for civilian casualties on both sides of the (ethnic) divide”.

Yet, it is Prabhakaran whom he calls “a very difficult interlocutor in (the) quest for peace”. Referring to the resumption of hostilities after Mahinda Rajapaksa became president in November 2005, the author is clear that “the return to more heavy-handed search operations was to a large extent sparked by and was a consequence of the tactics of the LTTE”. These included the killings of senior Sri Lankan military and civilian figures, including Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, “which made the peace facilitation of Norway even more difficult”.

International actors seeking to end the conflict became frustrated because the LTTE “basically wanted administrative powers for the whole of the north and the east to be handed over to them on a silver plate and without significant limitations”. This was akin to asking for Tamil Eelam from Colombo!

In the process, the LTTE came to be seen as “a fundamentalist organization lacking the will of problem-solving through compromise, led by a deeply reclusive autocratic leader”.

Like everyone, Jon says the LTTE hugely blundered by cutting off irrigation water supply at Mawil Aaru in the eastern province, starving the farms of thousands of mainly Sinhalese farmers. The military grabbed the opportunity to launch a punishing offensive - led by army chief Sarath Fonseka, “a very determined and gifted military man” - that led, first, to the loss of the east and, later, the whole of the north, burying one of the world’s most ruthless insurgent groups. Prabhakaran “bore a large responsibility for the suffering of thousands of Tamil civilians who were being killed and maimed in the fighting”.

Jon makes only passing references to India, which played an overt and covert - as well as controversial — role in Sri Lanka right through the blood-soaked conflict. He strangely remarks that the “LTTE was not well understood by the outside world”. I disagree. Both in and outside of Sri Lanka, many have always known what the LTTE stood for. The author feels that Colombo should “invite international human rights commissions and monitors to bring Sri Lanka back into the fold of civilized democracies”.

Jon may be well meaning but it is such recurring homilies that pushed Colombo to reject the CFA and the SLMM. And it is this western worldview that led countries as diverse as India, Pakistan, Cuba and China to back Sri Lanka when it came under western attack on the human rights issue. Ultimately, no outside power can mould Sri Lanka; only its people can do that. If there is a will, there has to be a way.

Book: “A Powderkeg in Paradise”; Publisher: Konark Publishers, New Delhi; Author: Jon Oskar Solnes; Price: Rs. 750
1.Rajah Says:
February 23rd, 2010 at 11:14 am
‘He strangely remarks that the “LTTE was not well understood by the outside world”. I disagree.’

And in doing so, you only expose your own bias.

“Both in and outside of Sri Lanka, many have always known what the LTTE stood for.”

If such was the case, the LTTE would not have lasted that long. The fact that there exists a tamil diaspora that is vociferously pro-LTTE in a host of nations that call it a terrorist organization should clearly spell out that not everyone agrees on or understands the LTTE, especially those that matter the most - the tamils.

‘The author feels that Colombo should “invite international human rights commissions and monitors to bring Sri Lanka back into the fold of civilized democracies”.’

‘And it is this western worldview that led countries as diverse as India, Pakistan, Cuba and China to back Sri Lanka when it came under western attack on the human rights issue.’

You do realize that you only strengthened Jon’s previous statement of bringing Sri Lanka back to the fold of civilized democracies. The host of “diverse” nations you listed are not even close to being called “civilised democracies” by any stretch of the imagination.

‘Ultimately, no outside power can mould Sri Lanka; only its people can do that.’

Its people can do that only if they are free. Otherwise, there is no way. Consider for example Cuba, Iran and North Korea. Outside powers can certainly help by providing support to those that wish to empower democracy and freedom within those countries. I don’t see anything wrong in that.

2.Nathan Says:
February 23rd, 2010 at 11:27 am
“And it is this western worldview that led countries as diverse as India, Pakistan, Cuba and China to back Sri Lanka when it came under western attack on the human rights issue.”

Only an Indian like Narayan Swamy can call the west’s concern for human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, an “attack” on Sri Lanka. What did he expect the west to do? Sit down and say nothing about the 40,000 tamil civilians unneccessarily massacred by the Sri Lankan Sinhalese army? If such be the case, why even have a UN Human Rights Council? Is it any wonder that India is not a permanent UN Council member?

“Ultimately, no outside power can mould Sri Lanka; only its people can do that. If there is a will, there has to be a way.”

If such is the case, why did India interfere and mould Sri Lanka to be what it is today? Had India not supported the SL Government, the LTTE would still have existed - certainly a different mould than today no? Typical Indian hypocrisy.

3.Jo Logan Says:
February 23rd, 2010 at 3:41 pm
Indian’s sponsored book to re write the true event which lead to 40,000 Tamils being killed in 2009

The responsibility is with India and Sri Lanka. Who engineered the failure of the CFA and watched thousands of people murdered.

4.pillayan Says:
February 23rd, 2010 at 4:48 pm
thank you very much atleast now everybody know about the tamil tigers.they are worst than the alkaida.been a tamil person i shamed on our tamils people,because go to colombo and the other part of srilanka,how tamils and singhalis live peacefully together,tamil tigers they create present human crises in srilanka,all the world must think and help to rebuild srilanka.

5.haris Says:
February 24th, 2010 at 9:32 am
This is another ignorent person who has put his signature on a LTTE document. There are a lot of unemployed Westerners who become experts by reading a couple of books on the subject matter or interviewing an individual with his own biases. These are good for consumption in the writer’s own land. It not even worth the time reading this garbage. Jon stick to something you know about like dynamite or fish!

More at : A valuable insight into Sri Lanka’s peace process (IANS Book Review)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The govt’s moral stature will also continuously be diminished when, on the contrary, it needs to be increased to solve the problems of the people.!!!

Missed opportunities for reconciliation and Jehan Perera

The end of the three decade old war that pitted the government against the Tamil militant movements, and divided the population created a reasonable expectation that Sri Lanka would be able to reach reconciliation and healing that would pave the way for rapid economic progress. But unexpectedly the country appears to be getting more divided and polarized than ever before. The lines of ethnic division that existed are now being supplemented by lines of political division even as political conflict escalates. A situation that is reminiscent of the decade of the 1980s and early 1990s is now threatening to re-emerge. The crisis may not leave any institution unscarred, with not even the Buddhist clergy being untouched.

Conflicts are inevitable in any society. This is because people have varied interests and requirements that often clash with one another. One important method of conflict resolution in a functioning democracy is elections. Well established democracies, such as the United States, have conventions of their own to deal with divisive political issues, and to heal the wounds of the election campaign thereafter. The victorious side at the elections is generally entitled to have their views prevail. Those who lose accept the verdict of the polls. One of the most bitterly divisive elections in recent US history was the one that saw President Barrack Obama win. Both his victory speech and the concession speech of his defeated opponent Senator John McCain were designed to heal the wounds of the election campaign.

The second inaugural address of President Abraham Lincoln after being re-elected President of the United States in 1865 is widely viewed as a classic in reconciliation and healing. Throughout history it has been great efforts such as this that have made the world a better place for its people and contributed to make governance more humane. When President Lincoln made this speech, the American civil war was drawing to a close and victory for the government forces was in sight. But even before the war ended, the President had given thought to the post-war situation and the need to induce a compassionate attitude in the victorious Northern states and confidence in the defeated Southern states. It is said by historians that Lincoln did not speak of happiness, but of sadness and that he sought to avoid harsh treatment of the defeated Southern states.

President Lincoln’s speech is in contrast to those of other victorious leaders who have preferred to describe their opponents as terrorist supporters or traitors. He said, "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphanto do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." President Lincoln focused on the sorrow of his country’s citizens regardless of whether they had fought against or for his side. He set the stage for the reconstruction of the South that not even his assassination could stop.

Gandhi’s example

This speech by Abraham Lincoln was referred to by Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, during a visit last week to Sri Lanka at the invitation of the local branch of Moral Re-Armament, now renamed as Initiatives of Change, an internationally respected movement for peace and reconciliation with its headquarters in Switzerland. Professor Gandhi also referred to the resolution of 1919 of the Indian independence movement that his grandfather came to head in the decades that followed. This resolution of the Indian National Congress was in response to the massacre of between 400 to 1000 unarmed Indians, including women and children, by the British army who fired on them while they were at a peaceful pro-independence public rally in Jallianwala Bagh.

After the massacre the Indian National Congress debated a resolution that condemned the massacre of the 1000 Indians by the British. There was no controversy about that part of the resolution. However, a controversy erupted on a second part of the resolution that also regretted the killing of 5 British people by a pro-independence mob a few days prior to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. As popular anger towards the British was so high the majority at that meeting was in favour of dropping the reference to the killing of the five. One speaker even went so far as to say that no son of an Indian mother would dilute their resolution condemning the British by talking also of the faults of the Indians. The resolution was passed after dropping all reference to the killing of the 5 Britishers.

In 1919, Mahatma Gandhi was not yet the undisputed leader of the Indian independence movement. He was still only one leader among many giants. However, as the meeting commenced the next day he stood up to dissent. He asked that the resolution be reconsidered. He said he had thought deeply about what had been said, that no son of an Indian mother would have drafted a resolution that regretted the killing of the 5 British people. He said he disagreed, for he now realized that only a son of an Indian mother would indeed draft such a resolution. He said it was he who had drafted that resolution. After listening to him, and the argument he made for being self critical, and for holding to higher moral standards than those they fought against, the majority in the Indian National Congress changed their minds. They passed the resolution as it had originally been drafted.

The message that Rajmohan Gandhi conveyed during his short stay in Sri Lanka was that the most powerful way to bridge divided societies is through the power of being self critical and seeing the problems of others as well as of one’s own side. It is important for all parties to acknowledge their own faults as a part of the reconciliation process, and for all to work towards building bridges to overcome past divides. His reflections on the life of Mahatma Gandhi emphasized the power of empathy that surpasses boundaries of race, class or caste to overcome oppression and revolutionize social and political institutions. While difficult times present difficult decisions, the greatest of leaders are those who maintain a sense of morality and who see those around them through the lens of a common humanity.


Unfortunately, the political crisis after the Presidential election in Sri Lanka continues to grow with no sign of subsiding. The opposition led by the defeated presidential candidate General Sarath Fonseka has fielded a legal challenge to the verdict of the Presidential election by means of a petition to the Supreme Court. Although President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been able to claim a handsome 58 percent majority at the election, neither he nor his government appear interested in being magnanimous to their defeated opponent. This may be due to the campaign amongst the opposition parties to cast doubt upon the integrity of those elections, which no independent election monitoring organization called free and fair. Magnanimity requires confidence in one’s victory.

It is not only political activists at the national level who are feeling threatened by the latent violence in the political environment. The government’s apparent unwillingness to soften its approach to General Fonseka who continues to be incarcerated in solitary confinement is a frightening example to other dissenters, including those far from the national scene and living amongst grassroots communities. Not even the protests of religious leaders, including the highest ranking Buddhist and other prelates, has persuaded the government to relent with regard to the prosecution of the retired General. The fact that the Buddhist prelates felt constrained to summon a meeting of Buddhist monks that they later postponed on the grounds of security is an indication of the growth in the crisis.

Sri Lanka has now lost the second opportunity it had for healing the wounds of conflict, both ethnic and party political. The first opportunity came more than 8 months ago, in May of 2009, with the defeat of the LTTE. This was an opportunity for the government to have swiftly reduced its security measures which had mainly been targeted on Tamils and to show concern for those who had been the worst victims of the war in the battle zones. However, what happened was the incarceration of 300,000 displaced persons in government welfare centres from which they were not permitted to move out of, even though families had been broken up and some were in different camps without the knowledge of the others. The bitterness amongst the larger Tamil community was seen in the result of the Presidential election that saw the ethnic minority areas of the North and East vote against President Rajapaksa.

The arrest of General Fonseka’s daughter’s mother-in-law and the abortive police raid on the JVP head office, is indicative of the determination of the government to build its case against its party political foes, whom it has made the focus of a vast conspiracy against the government. The charge of attempted coup against the government appears to be shifting to other areas, including those of nepotism and corruption. The government might succeed in convincing the majority of people on the basis of these allegations to vote for it at the forthcoming General elections. But the problems that divide the country will not be solved. The whisperings and misgivings amongst dissenting sections of the general population about the actions of the government will continue to grow although they are not publicly voiced at this time due to fear of those who are above the law. The government’s moral stature will also continuously be diminished when, on the contrary, it needs to be increased to solve the problems of the people.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Police methods have not changed much over these years. On the contrary, the politicisation of the Police is perhaps worse than ever...!!!

Of whom shall we speak?
For every day they die among us

by Shanie

"When there are so many we have to mourn,
when grief has been made so public; and exposed
to the critique of a whole epoch
the frailty of our conscience and anguish.
Of whom shall we speak? For every day they die
among us, those who were doing us some good,
who knew it was never enough but
hoped to improve a little by living."

As this column is being written, it is twenty years to the day when Richard de Zoysa, a young playwright and human rights activist, was abducted from his home in Rajagiriya, despite pleas from his mother with whom he lived. His bullet ridden body was found on the beach at Moratuwa the next day. It is believed that his abductors were the so-called guardians of the law, who formed a death squad acting under instructions of the then defence establishment, who no doubt thought this extra-judicial killing of a critic would please the President of that time. The case brought against some Police officers in connection with de Zoysa killing was, not unexpectedly, collapsed because the evidence presented by the prosecution was contradictory and could not be sustained.

Many of those suspected of having been responsible for de Zoysa’s abduction and killing themselves later died a violent death, as also his friend ‘Taraki’ Sivaram, who had the unpleasant task of identifying de Zoysa’s dead body. But the culture of impunity enjoyed by the killers of de Zoysa, Sivaram and hundreds of other journalists, political activists and dissidents continues. Politicians who protest at extra-judicial violence when in opposition seem to have no qualms about condoning or providing immunity to goon squads and death squads when in power. This has been so over the last two decades and seems likely to go on. That is why the opening two verses from W H Auden’s poem in memory of Sigmund Freud, quoted above, has so much meaning for us today. Chandana Sirimalwatte and Sarath Fonseka were only the more prominent of those who were arrested without any charges brought against them in terms of the law of our land. Sirimalwatte has been freed on a Court order; the legitimacy of Fonseka’s arrest and detention is being challenged under a fundamental rights petition but Ekneliyagoda, unlike Richard de Zoysa whose dead body was found the next day, has simply disappeared without trace for over four weeks. And who will speak for the scores of others who have also been abducted or disappeared, who will speak for the grief and anguish of their wives, mothers and children. Does the frailty of our conscience prevent us from voicing our concerns for all such among us?

The role of Civil Society

Sadly, not many of us seem concerned about the right to life and liberty of others. It is not only politicians who are selective in their opposition to injustice. As the politicians become defenders of human rights when in the opposition and perpetrators of violence and injustice whilst in power, many of us (including the media) are also selective in our opposition to injustice; ethnicity, party politics and class interests have defined our attitude to injustice. Even religious leaders, who should be taking the lead in promoting ethical and moral values in society, have, with a few notable exceptions, remained largely silent in the face of repression. It is good that leaders of all religions have now spoken out against the unjust treatment being meted out to Sarath Fonseka. But one hopes that the same sense of outrage will be expressed when persons other than former Army Commanders are subject to similar repression.

The University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) and the Civil Rights Movement of Sri Lanka have been two civil society organizations that have consistently over the years taken a stand, much to the chagrin of politicians and warlords in power, against repression and injustice. The UTHR was formed in the late eighties after the emergence of LTTE’s fascism in the North and the excesses of the Indian peace-keeping forces. Despite losing one of their leading founder-members Rajani Thiranagama, less than a year before the killing of Richard de Zoysa, to an LTTE gunman, the UTHR have courageously exposed terrorism by all actors in our ethnic conflict. They have seen their work as creating space for the people to fight injustice. For those who wish to clone the LTTE’s methods of terror, what the UTHR wrote on the fifteenth anniversary of Thiranagama’s killing is relevant to us today, even after the demise of the LTTE leader: "Where a people has even marginal democratic choice to change its rulers or even the way they act, prediction, especially long term, is hazardous. But when the leader is utterly intolerant of allowing the people any choice, presides over material and social catastrophe, and a disappearing and increasingly suffocated population, his prospects are trivially predictable."

The Civil Rights Movement was formed in the in the early seventies in similar circumstances in the south – after the failed insurgency of 1971 and the repression that followed. Over the years, the CRM has, like the UTHR, consistently protested violations of human rights and urged an adherence to certain standards of political conduct. Emergency regulations had been enacted in March 1971 when intelligence reports warned of the impending insurgency. In December of the same year, the CRM wrote to the then Prime Minister Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike urging a relaxation of the stringent clauses of the emergency regulations. They warned of the grave dangers to which any government is exposed when it prolongs such powers unduly. "From the point of view of persons in authority, emergency powers may come to appear a convenient, speedy and efficient instrument in comparison with the uncertain and dilatory processes of democratic government. In these circumstances, emergency rule can be a dangerous addiction which, if persisted in, may undermine democratic institutions. "

The misuse of emergency powers

The CRM’s fear of emergency powers becoming an addiction and being used for purposes other than for which they were enacted, was realised in a case they took up twenty months later. At 6.30 am one day, three CID officers had called on Mrs N at her home and told her that there had been a complaint against her and her daughters that they had threatened the life of her brother-in-law, who was a politically influential Chairperson of a State Corporation. Mrs N protested her innocence and said that there had been displeasure between the brother-in-law’s family and hers but neither she nor her daughters had made any threats against him. After a search of the house, she and her children were nevertheless taken to the fourth floor of the Police Headquarters where the CID officer spoke to her in a threatening manner. She was told that the her brother-in-law was an influential person and that she and her children could be detained up to 14 days and that an adverse police report could result in her younger daughter having to leave Law College where she was then a student. In the meantime, the husband who was away from home, had also arrived at the fourth floor. After eight hours detention on the fourth floor, the family were finally released to go home. The CRM wrote to the then IGP raising several questions regarding this arbitrary arrest and the ordeal faced by an innocent family but received no reply.

That was nearly forty years ago. Police methods have not changed much over these years. On the contrary, the politicisation of the Police is perhaps worse than ever. During the last Presidential election, there were reports of senior Police officers canvassing for one candidate and reports of officers being penalised for not doing politics. Judicial officers have on many recent occasions rapped the Police for not pursuing investigations or for being partisan either on account of political pressure or to please politicians in power. It is true to say that the image of the Police for impartiality and diligence in the performance of their law-enforcement functions is today a negative one.

But all is not lost. There still are professional Police personnel who take pride in their uniform. It is our duty to support them as they seek to create a new image for the Police. We need to speak up for them while condemning those who bring disrespect to the service by their servility to the politicians in power. As Martin Luther King said: "We shall repent in this generation not so much for evil deeds of wicked people but for the appalling silence of the good people."


Friday, February 19, 2010

If a significant nr of Tamil reps become members of the next government, and they come to a settlement through discussions, that will be a start..!!!

We now have an opportunity to dream dreams
- Victor Ivan

In this wide ranging interview, Victor Ivan, editor of Ravaya, speaks to C.A.Chandraprema about last month’s presidential election and the post election tensions that have gripped society. Among the matters discussed are what we would and would not like to see happening in the future and how the next six to seven years of stable government can be made use of to ensure that the mistakes and undesirable aspects of the recent past are not repeated.

Q. What we have observed in this country over the past several decades, is that when one crisis is over, it’s followed by an even bigger crisis. Once the LTTE problem was finally dealt with, we had to face what was in my view the biggest threat to democracy in the post independence history of this country in the form of last month’s presidential election. This country seems to be just going from one crisis to another, with no real peace and quiet anywhere in sight.

A. Some may have criticisms about the things that have taken place after the presidential election. My concern however, is what would have happened if things had gone the other way? There would have been a blood bath. One of the limitations of the joint opposition at the presidential election was that they did not have a vision that went beyond hate and revenge. This is one of the greatest tragedies in our post independence history. Why did things end up in this manner? In my view, fielding a military officer at this election was wrong. Why did a mature political party like the UNP agree to such a thing? Some may ask at this stage, whether a retired military officer has no right to contest elections. But when someone comes fresh from a war, fresh out of the military into politics, especially to contest the position of head of state, a crisis is unavoidable. Divisions will appear in the military. In this case, the candidate himself appeared to be deliberately fomenting such differences, through his speeches and through his election advertisements. There were appeals addressed to the armed forces and he publicly stated that the families of armed forces personnel would vote for him. I believe that there should be some arrangement to ensure that such things do not happen in the future. What is happening now is that no government will allow those who supported an opposing candidate at a presidential election to stay on in the army because there would be fears of a coup. If someone has created splits within an army that has gained a great deal of prestige by winning a major civil war, that will not conduce to the wellbeing of the nation. The way I see it, this was by far the most emotionally charged, and acrimonious presidential election campaign in this country ever. Incumbent presidents were criticized at previous elections, but none so venemously as the present president.

Q. The growls and threats from the opposition was because they were so cocksure. They failed to judge the mood of the people accurately.

A. In the urban areas, a groundswell against the president was visible. In the urban areas, there was a debate on who should get more credit for winning the war. But in the rural areas, there was no such debate. As far as the rural people were concerned, it’s the president who won the war. In my view, the decision to go to war, and implementing that decision successfully is of such magnitude that it can be described as biggest achievement by any political leader since independence. Giving emphasis to rural upliftment was another aspect of the government’s success. Though I work in Colombo, I go back to my village on the weekends. In the old days, a major issue was housing in the rural sector. Today, there are almost no cadjan thatched houses even in the rural areas, but the rural road network was a very important matter to the rural masses. In my experience, no government has put so much emphasis on improving the rural road network. During the past few years, there was also an emphasis on the highways network, on constructing power plants, and various other infrastructure projects. There are whisperings about corruption, but then there were corruption charges about the Mahaweli project as well. During the short space of four years, even while fighting the war, the government has also done a significant amount of development work.

Q. This is my point, given the facts you just mentioned, this country should be now headed for a period of peace and stability. But soon after the earth shaking events that led to the climax of the 30 year war, came this earth shaking presidential election. After the dust settles on that, the Mahanayakes began playing up. What is wrong with this country? Is it the system of governance in this country or the political culture?

A. I wouldn’t be too pessimistic. But there is a problem in the system. Except for a brief period between 2001 and 2004, the UNP has been in opposition since 1994 almost continuously. So the aim is to come into power by good means or bad. In this country, a member of a political party has a special status. He is in a better position to have a child admitted to a school, to deal with the police, or to find employment. When one section of the population enjoys these benefits for a long time and another section is left out, the struggle between these two segments of the population, tends to assume a very acrimonious form.

Q. The opposition clearly overdid the aggression and acrimony part…

A. At last month’s presidential election, the opposition failed to give the signal that if they won, there would be a peaceful transfer of power. The signal was given to the opposite effect. The idea conveyed was that they will seek revenge. It is said that they had even given phone calls to certain key individuals and told them to prepare for long jail sentences. The opposition candidate’s statements added to the violent and acrimonious character of the whole campaign. Had the opposition candidate been Ranil Wickremesinghe or Karu Jayasuriya or a conventional politician, the presidential campaign would never have assumed such an acrimonious form. Bringing an army commander fresh out of the armed services into a contest for the position of head of state, meant that he would bring everything he had, his warlike temperament, his tendency to bulldoze through things, into the fray. And the government itself, will respond in a manner appropriate to who they are confronted with. The nature of the candidate was in large part responsible for the form the presidential election took.

Q. From the beginning, people did expect a heated campaign. But it went beyond that and careerd out of control...

A. The General was not an experienced political leader. He knew how to wage war. When he saw large crowds at election rallies, he may have been led to believe that the people had already elected him their leader. He was thinking only of victory and not of defeat. Their campaign not only misled the people, they also deceived themselves. When we were in the JVP, we would go on push cycles and put up posters everywhere. There would be only one or two activists in each village, but posters were to be seen everywhere. The next morning, we would go around and see our own posters everywhere, and we ourselves would get carried away by this sign of ubiquity. The impression created that our people were present at every junction. But that was not the truth. Our attempt was to deceive the people, but we ourselves were misled by it in the morning. We saw similar tendencies within this presidential election campaign as well. In the JVP, the same people go for meetings in Warakapola in Ginigathhean and even Colombo. They wave flags and shout encouragement - that is the nature of the JVP. An inexperienced person seeing this may arrive at wrong assessments about what the result of the election is going to be. The people of this country are very intelligent. The people thought that if they go for a change at this moment, the country will face an unprecedented crisis. There would have been reprisals and bloodshed. That such a situation was averted is good for the country. I don’t believe that in today’s situation, anyone can change anything by coming out on to the streets and shouting slogans. There may of course be some people who think they can achieve something through this, so this shouting will last for some time. Then events will be overtaken by the parliamentary election and it will gradually fizzle out. This is now Mahinda Rajapakse’s turn. He has now won a bigger victory than even he anticipated. Now he can take a look at things calmly and examine the people’s concerns. He must look at a way of doing things without being swayed by petty political considerations. I believe he should seek the cooperation of the opposition.

Q. The opposition has been out of power for a long time and are chafing and resentful...

A. The presidential system was designed in such a way that the holder of that position stands even above the constitution. While J.R.Jayewardene thus concentrated power in his hands, he allowed those below him be they ministers or officials to make money. What has prevailed to date is this system. This has to change. Today politics is bound up with making and spending money. You need a lot of money to get into power. This money has to be made by some means. I don’t say that corruption can be ended completely. But the president can without continuing as we have done in the past, initiate a change. What is most important is asking for the cooperation of the opposition. Today, we see a situation where the antagonism between the government and the opposition is as intense as the hatred that existed between the LTTE and all those opposed to them. This is not good for the country.

Q. If you compare Mahinda Rajapakse with some previous holders of that position, he is by no means an oppressive or dictatorial president, yet, as you say the tensions between the UNP and UPFA very intense. It’s not only he who has to come halfway…

A. This system that we are talking of was created by the UNP. This system was designed in such a way that it is extremely difficult to dislodge an incumbent government. Once power went to a different party, the problem confronting the UNP was how to get it back. Both these parties have suffered under this system. The SLFP suffered from 1977 to 1994 and the UNP has been suffering in the same way since 1994. So while there should be a signal for change from the president, an even bigger signal to this effect has to come from the opposition. Now for quite a while, no change of government will be possible. We now have an opportunity to dream dreams of a less antagonistic political culture where people will be able to work together. Even if these dreams are never realized, merely dreaming such dreams will serve to reduce the antagonism between us. When a president wins an election, he is the president of those who voted against him as well. There are many challenges confronting this government. One is the challenge coming from the western countries over human rights and so on. The way to face this challenge is for all of us to get together to rebuild this country. The way we can face criticisms from the international community is not by appealing to them or making excuses, but by showing that everybody has got together to rebuild the nation.

Q. That antagonism you mentioned between the haves and have not’s in terms of political power, is very much a part of the political landscape. In this situation of conflicting aspirations, how do you achieve such an outcome?

A. This is why we need political debate in this country. In India, before the last election, the main topics of discussion were, where India was going as a nation and what the future India should be like. I believe such a debate in necessary in Sri Lanka as well. Ranil Wickremesinghe can’t be simply discounted as irrelevant. He is also an experienced leader. He has a responsibility to do away with the politics of hate, and to create a situation where he can work together with the president. By working together, I don’t mean a national government. Most ordinary people would not think twice of discarding litter in an untidy environment. But in a clean and well ordered place, he will not do so, because he will see that there is no litter around. This is what we mean by a system. Ordinary people can’t create systems – that the domain of the politicians. If politicians think less narrowly and take the big picture into account, our future will be quite bright.

Q. Conflict in this country can be seen at various levels. At one level is power politics. The other is the rankling mistrust between the various ethnic groups.

A. We have now ended one era. At one stage Tamil youth wanted a separate state and that they thought they could achieve that through armed struggle. After the war ended, the Sinhala people demonstrated that they did not view the Tamil people with hate. Tamil people were not set upon by the Sinhalese or harmed in any way. This is a beginning. The Sinhala Tamil, and Muslim people can live together in this country. The problems have been created by politicians. Some people say that Mahinda Rajapakse represents rabidly chauvinistic political forces. I don’t accept that. Mahinda Rajapakse is a nationalist, but he is not a chauvinist. Even the forces aligned with him are not necessarily chauvinistic. Even the JVP which supported Mahinda in 2005, have since demonstrated that they can work together with the TNA for a political purpose. What the nationalistic forces aligned with Mahinda opposed was separatism. I don’t think any of these forces will oppose equal rights for all ethnic communities. Mahinda Rajapakse represents the Sinhalese. But he takes a very enlightened view of the other ethnic communities. One day before the presidential election I asked him whether the Tamil people would vote for him. His answer was that the war caused a lot of problems and that he does not expect the Tamil people to vote for him all at once, and that they may perhaps vote for him at a later election. It was during Mahinda’s period that the most emphasis was given to implementing the language act. A record number of candidates sat for the Tamil proficiency exams. Even at the height of the war, there were attempts made to man the checkpoints with officers who knew Tamil. The president never had plans to win the war and colonise the north and east. Such plans were not made by even the ordinary Sinhala people. One day, I was having a discussion with R.Sambandan, Mavai Senathraja and others when a well known Tamil personality joined the discussion. What he told us was that when the LTTE had stepped up attacks on the military in 2006, he was phoned by the president and told to go to the north with Lalith Weeratunga and to talk to the LTTE. On the way, Lalith Weeratunga had taken precautions not to be seen even by the soldiers at the checkpoints lest the news of discussions got out. In Killinochchi, they had met the Sea Tiger leader who had been brusque and dismissive towards them and they had come back empty handed. When the crisis escalated to the Sampur showdown with the LTTE building bunkers outside their area of control established by the CFA, he once again was asked by the president to go to meet the LTTE leadership, this time with Jeyaraj Fernandopulle. Once again they had been met by the Sea Tiger leader and he had been just as dismissive and as brusque as before. But Jeyaraj had argued with him. On the way back, Jeyaraj had told this gentleman that war was inevitable. The president had listened to what they had to say with his head on his hands and he had said at the end – "If war cannot be avoided, let’s go to war". So he tried his best to prevent war. This Tamil gentleman then told Sambandan myself and the others present that the president tried to take a step backwards, but he was thwarted by the arrogance and the stubbornness of the LTTE. It is now time to leave all that behind and look to the future. If a significant number of Tamil representatives become members of the next government, and they come to a settlement through discussions, that will be a start. We can’t of course, go for simplistic solutions. The Vaddukkodai and resolution and the Thimpu principles are no longer valid this should be accepted by the Tamil leadership.


Anniversary of Richard de Zoysa who was abducted,tortured & shot dead by a uniformed goon squad of the then UNP Govt led by President R. Premadasa..!!

Richard de Zoysa - 20th death anniversary:

A voice for the voiceless


Today is the twentieth death anniversary of Richard de Zoysa who was abducted, tortured and shot dead by a uniformed goon squad of the then UNP Government led by President R. Premadasa.

Richard was whisked away from the home of Dr Manoranee Saravanamuttu, at Welikadawatta, Rajagiriya in the middle of the night and his remains with tell-tale marks of torture, a broken jaw, burn marks, shot in the neck and head, was found on the beach near Moratuwa the next day.

Richard de Zoysa

The UNP who are espousing or championing human rights and the JVP who are pretending to be advocates of non-violent politics today were both killers at that time.

Richard, an eminent journalist, actor, broadcaster along with his friend Lakshman Perera were going to produce a play, Me Kavuda, Monavada Karanne a skit on the powers that be at the time. Today these pseudo patrons of human rights and democracy cannot get behind their past nor can they escape the judgment of history.

Richard was murdered and Lakshman Perera disappeared and was never heard of again. As a human being Richard had a very large heart. He would go out of his way to help people who needed help. For him there was no social distinctions of rich or poor, high or common. His hand was always stretched out in friendship.

Often he came to see us on his trail motorbike. Always with some humorous remark and his smile. Later he would be riding away to various places out of Colombo to meet one or another of his wide circle of friends or acquaintances.

The day he was abducted from his mother’s home she had identified a senior Police officer who had served Premadasa’s Security Unit. Though she had informed the Police about it and a prominent politician of the Government had known it the murder case did not come to a conclusive end.

As late as 2005 after long postponement with the usual law’s delays, the case ended with the observation that the evidence led before court was contradictory and all the accused were acquitted.

Prior to Richard’s killing he received a letter of appointment promoting him as Inter Press Service Bureau Chief in Rome. But he had loved the country and the people so well he had been telling his friends that he did not wish to leave the country. Ominous as it was Richard did not imagine that he would meet such a fate.

His writing was on the fate of voiceless unknown people. He stood up for these people and he wrote of the fate of the helpless people during the spate of killings going on under the autocratic regimes, various para military groups that had killed at least 60,000 people from 1988 to 1990.

He often met the then Opposition member of Parliament Mahinda Rajapaksa

who was the only politician leading the agitation and struggle against the appalling violation of human rights and kangaroo court killings of the JVP killers and extra judicial killings of the UNP Premadasa regime. His death highlighted the unabated killings.

Then Opposition member present President Mahinda Rajapaksa organised a mass movement opposed to the killings with his Padha Yathra march from Colombo to Kataragama.

Next he organised the Mothers Front where Richard’s mother Dr Manoranee Saravanamuttu also played an important role. Finally when Premadasa was killed allegedly by an LTTE suicide bomber Babu who was in the Premadasa’s personal staff, the killing spree ended.

However there still are some elements in the UNP and the JVP who were either hand in glove with the para military killers or the kangaroo court judges and hit men posing off as champions of democracy. But they will never usher in the world that Richard dreamed about.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

EU punishes Sri Lanka for rights abuses....!!!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

EU punishes Sri Lanka for rights abuses

Sri Lanka has been condemned over its delay in freeing displaced Tamils
The European Union has decided to suspend Sri Lanka's preferential trade benefits because of concerns over the country's human rights record.

The Sri Lankan government has criticised the EU's decision.

It said it would intensify its efforts to engage in negotiations with Brussels to reverse the decision.

Sri Lanka's garments industry will be hit hardest, as it enjoys tax breaks to sell to retailers in Europe, a BBC correspondent reports from Colombo.

The EU decision is set to take effect in six months' time, to give Sri Lanka a chance to address the "shortcomings".

Besides garments, fisheries products are the most important Sri Lankan exports to the EU under the scheme, the European Commission says.

The temporary withdrawal of benefits follows a year-long investigation by the European Commission. It identified "significant shortcomings" in Sri Lanka's adherence to UN human rights conventions.

The foreign ministry said it will continue its dialogue with the commission but the discussions should be "sensitive" to the sovereign prerogative of the people of Sri Lanka.

It said that the setting of "unattainable targets and the shifting of goal posts" will only hamper the efforts of the two sides.

The EU's decision to temporarily withdraw preferential trade tariffs followed a year-long investigation, which found significant shortcomings in Sri Lanka's implementation of international human rights conventions.

It means that the trade benefits worth about $135m will be temporarily withdrawn in six months' time unless the EU's concerns are addressed.

The government is facing increasing international calls for an independent investigation into allegations of war crimes committed in the final stages of the war between security forces and Tamil Tiger rebels last year.

The UK government said it "fully supports the EU's decision" to remove trade preferences from Sri Lanka.

"Failure to implement core human rights conventions in the country is unacceptable and the European Commission's report into these failures made the decision a straightforward one," said Gareth Thomas, Minister of State in the Department for International Development.

"I hope the seriousness of this EU decision will encourage Sri Lanka to take necessary action to implement its human rights obligations," he said.

Meanwhile, defeated opposition presidential candidate Gen Sarath Fonseka has filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging last month's election result.

His lawyers said the result should be annulled because of what they describe as vote rigging and other electoral malpractices.

Gen Fonseka is currently in military custody and is accused of plotting to overthrow the government. He denies the allegations.