Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A just solution to the grievances of the ethnic minorities that would devolve power to the provinces in which they live with greater sense of security

Factors that spoil Sri Lanka’s image

August 23, 2010, 6:29 pm

By Jehan Perera

Over a year and a quarter have elapsed since the end of the war. Sri Lanka ought to be well positioned to successfully project itself as a country that is on the mend. The government’s determination to hold the Indian International Film Awards in Colombo in May this year was to send such a message to the world. This effort turned out to have mixed results. The film industry in South India opposed the event on political grounds. They highlighted the fate of the tens of thousands of internally displaced persons who still remained destitute. On the other hand, the event went off without any security hitch, which showed the world that Sri Lanka was once again a safe country for tourism and investments.

Despite such successes Sri Lanka’s international image is still accompanied by a question mark. The end of the three decade war ought to have brought a sparkle to Sri Lanka’s image. But instead the image is not of a happy and united country, as observed by Singapore’s elder statesman, Lee Kuan Yew. There continue to be controversies that have dogged the country and spoilt its international image. The manner in which the LTTE leadership met its end in the closing stages of the war may yet pose the government leadership with its most formidable challenge. But in the meantime the antics of a minister who tied a public official to trees and the detention of the opposition Presidential candidate will not be reassuring to those who equate democracy with the rule of law.

The latest incident that is harming the country’s international image is the one involving a ship carrying 492 Tamil refugees, including women and children, and which entered the Canadian waters. While Canadian media has given front page prominence to the story, other international media has also been following it. The influx of refugees in such large numbers and outside of established individual asylum procedures poses political problems in the countries to which those refugees seek entry. On the one hand, many in the host population get disturbed at these irregular entrants who jump the queue of other asylum seekers, and who compete with them for scarce welfare resources and jobs. On the other hand, the laws in many developed countries are liberal, with countries like the United States, Canada and Australia being havens for those fleeing oppressive political situations in their own countries.

Boat People

Boat people are frequently a source of controversy in the nation they seek to immigrate to, such as the United States, Canada, Italy, Spain and Australia. Unlike the Vietnamese boat people in the 1970s and early 1980s, most boat people arriving more recently in Western countries, Australia, or the United States have purchased their passage on large but overcrowded and frequently unseaworthy boats from illegal immigration operators, who may demand considerable sums from their desperate clients. Sri Lanka is the latest country from where boat people originate, which is hardly a positive advertisement internationally.

The Sri Lankan government has every reason to be displeased with this development that puts the country into a negative light, as a country from which people are willing to flee at any price, including their lives. The government’s position is that with the end of the war there is a return to normalcy, no terrorism and the prevalence of the rule of law. The boat people however give another message that is more convincing to the international audience as their perilous journey is itself evidence of what they escaped from. The Canadian immigration official hearing the case of the 492 Sri Lankans have permitted the media to come and listen to their evidence. This official ruled that opening the hearings could give the public a better understanding of who the migrants are and how they chose to undertake a difficult, illicit and expensive journey across the Pacific.

Wrong Tactics

The fact that so many people are willing to flee Sri Lanka at grave risk to themselves is a negative reflection on what is happening today in the country. The refugees will obviously claim a maximum of harassment and that their lives will be at risk if they are returned to Sri Lanka. No government of a self-respecting country will wish its citizens to flee and claim refugee status in other countries. The Sri Lankan government is no exception in this regard, and is cooperating with other international governments to prevent human trafficking. Ironically, some of the statements of government spokespersons have made the claims of the refugees appear real.

For instance, in their bid to discredit the sincerity of the claim of the refugees to foreign asylum, government spokespersons have claimed that those aboard the ship are LTTE members, and hard core ones at that. There is evidence that the ship that arrived in Canada is part of an LTTE-linked human smuggling operation. But to say that the Tigers might be trying to regroup in Canada, a country that has historically been a large source of their fund-raising is unlikely to influence the outcome of the decision that the Canadian authorities will make. In a similar incident in October 2009, 76 Tamil refugees arrived on a ship to Canada where they were held but eventually released after none were determined to belong to the LTTE.

While this tactic of linking the refugees to the LTTE might work within Sri Lanka, it will not work so well out of Sri Lanka, where those adjudicating these claims and counter claims are not under Sri Lankan government influence. Further, government spokespersons have said that they were arresting LTTE cadre at a high rate in the welfare centres in Sri Lanka, numbering no less than 1,500 in recent weeks. Such statements can be shown by the fleeing Sri Lankan refugees to be evidence of the dangers that await them should they be returned to Sri Lanka as they too may be considered to the Tiger operatives and imprisoned.

Unmet Challenges

Sixteen months after the end of the war Sri Lanka has much to commend itself to the world. Unlike its neigbouring countries of South Asia, Sri Lanka has been totally free of terrorist attack. People are not been killed randomly or wantonly. Nor are they being persecuted on a mass scale. The government has been improving its relations with the United Nations after it plummeted with the death fast by a government minister regarding the appointment of an UN advisory committee on war crimes. The numbers of internally displaced persons in the camps has been further reduced. The UN recently reported that it helped 852 out of more than 70,000 Tamil refugees based in India to return to Sri Lanka in the first half of this year. Although these figures may be small in relation to the total refugee population, the UN also stated that more than 1,000 refugees in India returned on their own, which indicates improvements on the ground.

However, the government has to so much more to improve its performance with regard to two important issues if it is to turn around world opinion. It needs to show evidence of systematic progress in the resettlement of internally displaced persons. At the moment it appears that the government is satisfied with simply getting them to leave the welfare camps. But this is not enough. They need to be provided with houses to go to and to viable means of livelihood. Although the Indian government pledged to build 50,000 houses for the displaced persons, there has been a failure to facilitate its implementation on the ground. Land for the housing projects and lists of beneficiaries have not been identified by the Sri Lankan government even though more than three months has passed since the Indian offer was made. The appearance of neglect on the part of the Sri Lankan government arouses concern that its interest is more in putting more military bases in the North than in caring about the welfare of the people.

The second major issue where the government is failing to win over the international community is with regard to an acceptable and just solution to the political grievances of the ethnic minorities. Due to this failure, the government is not able to win over the hearts and minds of the Tamil people, either in Sri Lanka or in the Diaspora including Canada. A just solution to the grievances of the ethnic minorities that would devolve power to the provinces in which they live, and the greater sense of control they will enjoy over their security, could win over the Tamil people.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Norochcholai power to steam out in Dec! Govt go ahead with Sampur Coal Power Project in Trincomalee which would add 550 megawatts to national grid.!!!

Important energy source to national grid Yet another historic landmark :

Norochcholai power to steam out in December
By Shirajiv SIRIMANE

Former Deputy Minister, Munidasa Premachandra

Former Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi has said that Electricity is one of the key pillars for a nation to be classified as a developed country.

Sri Lanka too seems to have taken a cue from this and the much awaited and long overdue Norochcholai Coal Power Station is to be opened in December creating yet another historic landmark in the country.

Several political leaders had wanted to go ahead with this project as Coal fired power too was an important energy source to contribute to the national grid.

However, none of them could resolve the controversy the project had created and they thought it was best not to touch this sensitive area.

However, President Mahinda Rajapaksa knowing the importance of the project, after doing a thorough feasibility study decided to go ahead with the project as it would bring about numerous benefits to the country.

New jetty

Conveyor belt to transport coal

The Administrative Building. Behind is the Chimney: Sri Lanka's tallest non-habitable man-made structure

Housing complex for employees
Housing complex for employees

The government also launched several programs to talk to the people and convince them of the environment myth the project had created.

One of the main points put forward was that the fumes and dust from the plant would damage the environment and agricultural cycle of the area.

Another point put forward was that the nearby Talawila Church too would have a negative impact from it. However, environmentalists and engineers have taken great pains to zero the damage the plant would cause to the area and finally people were convinced and the project commenced with their blessings in May 2006.

Many countries have resorted to the technology of Coal Fired Power Plants to overcome power shortages. America generates over 300,000 MW from coal which amount to half of its power demand. India turns out more than two thirds of its electricity from coal power plants with an installed capacity of about 100,000 MW. China produces four fifths of its energy from coal power plants.

The Norochcholai venue was selected mainly as it was adjoining the sea, making unloading of coal easier.

China funds projects
The advantage in the soil too was another plus point while the government also saw that most of the land that would be used for the project belonged to the government making relocation easier and only 80 families had to be provided alternative land. They were provided with modern houses with 750 square feet in Daluwa area on a 20 perch of cultivable land.

The resettled farmer families have been provided with farming equipment, fishing gear and other requirements. They were also provided with schools and other community service facilities.

The funding of US $ 455 million for the first stage of the three phase project which would add 300 megawatts to the national grid too was a major issue until this was ironed out by the government with Chinese Exim Bank proving credit facilities. The second and third stage would add 600 megawatts. This plant will be constructed by West Coast Power (Pvt) Limited .

When all three shares are completed it would be the largest power plant in the country, in terms of capacity. In addition another historic mark of the project would be the 150 metre (492 ft) tall chimney that will be one of the country's tallest non-habitable man-made structures.

This chimney would be used to emit the smoke. Project Engineer R. Lokubalasuriya said that a painstaking procedure to meet international environment standards is being used. "The burned fuel that generates Sulphur Dioxide will be diluted through a FCD Absorber from bottom and sea water too would be sprayed in the process to further neutralise the fumes and gases. These would all happen inside the chimney and the dust would fall to a large water filled basin at the bottom of the chimney."

The plant also uses advance technology which nullifies emanation of soot and smoke and this would then be pumped to the sea through a 300-metre culvert after going through an air pump nozzle.

No damage the sea
"This waste water would not kill the fish nor damage the sea plants in the area." Coal supply to this project will be obtained from Indonesia which is one of the three sources for coal, the other two being Australia and South Africa. Supplies from Indonesia will be cheaper due to its proximity and negotiations have been completed in this regard. The contract was awarded to China National Machinery & Equipment Import & Export Corporation (CMEC), a Chinese Government owned company.

The power plant

The steam turbine
The coal that would be unloaded in mid sea would be transported through Barges to the plant's newly built jetty and would be unloaded by two cranes. Then it would be loaded to a conveyer belt which would bring the coal to the two acre yard that has the capacity to store coal for three months.

The yard has been constructed with a layer of Polyphone, and other chemicals which has a thickness of nearly two feet. Electricity generated from the plant will be connected to the national grid through a 115 km long 220-kilovolt transmission line up to the Veyangoda power transmitting station.

The project would generate over 500 employment opportunities and staff would be provided with special housing units. This housing complex would have recreation facilities such as a club house for indoor sports and other activates.

People happy today
Access roads from the Puttlam Main Road were one of the major concerns with single file traffic and roads were filled with pot holes. Today, thanks to this project newly laid carpeted roads have been built which have come to high praise from the residents.

Relocated families at Daluwa too are happy as the soil which now they enjoy is more fertile.

Former Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Environment Munidasa Premachandra said that the Norochcholai project would be a major boon for the area and would help to spur development.

"Electricity is a gray area in Puttlam and this project is welcomed by the residents," he said.

He added that two years ago a certain area in Bingiriya had only one diesel powered coir mill and with the introduction of electricity 22 additional mills started in 14 months within a radius of three kilo meters".

Similarly, people are now anticipating an economic boon in the area and it would help create more jobs opportunities and self-employment enterprises.

People who said no to Norochcholai power project yesterday have understood the advantages of it and are supporting it whole-heatedly. With the success of the Norochcholai Power Project the Government is now going ahead with the Sampur Coal Power Project in Trincomalee which would add 550 megawatts to the national grid.
Lake House Copyright © 2010 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

SL-Govt denied that SLN had no responsibility in incidents of firing at TN fishermen..!!! They also said that SLN does not enter Indian t.waters..!!!

Move to preserve marine wealth and avoid conflicts:

Call for 'No Fishing Zone' in Palk Straits

Fishermen in the North have called for a “No Fishing Zone” in the Palk Straits and Gulf of Mannar to help preserve marine wealth and avoid conflicts between Sri Lankan and Indian fishermen.

The fishermen from several fisheries associations in the North, made this proposal during a series of meetings now under way with fishermen’s societies in Tamil Nadu. The Sri Lankan fishermen have said that the India-Sri Lanka International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) should be a peaceful area and there should not be any bloodshed among fishermen.

Incidents of fishermen from both countries crossing the IMBL are common. This is the first time that fishermen from both sides are having formal discussions after the 2004 tsunami which devastated the fisheries industries in Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu. The leader of the group, K. Sooryakumar from Jaffna told reporters that the fishermen from both countries had been in constant touch till 2004 and sorted out their issues but the contact was totally lost after the tsunami.

“We want to revive the mutual link and friendship to ensure a peaceful atmosphere in the Palk Straits and Gulf of Mannar,” he said.

The 23-member team from Sri Lanka discussed with their Indian counterparts the damage caused to marine wealth due to the use of trawlers and the need to evolve a strategy to protect the livelihood rights of fishermen of both countries.

“The use of certain fishing gear and trawlers by Indian fishermen is detrimental to Sri Lankan fishermen as it has depleted the fish resources in the Palk Bay area,” Sooryakumar said.

Sooryakumar said, “The depletion of fish resources was affecting the livelihood of Sri Lankan fishermen in the Northern province.”

He said, “Sri Lanka has a demarcated maritime boundary. Whenever there are violations, it should be dealt with according to the law. It is for the governments of both countries to discuss the issue and settle it.

Some Sri Lankan fishermen also alleged that Indian fishermen snapped their fishing nets in the high seas and wanted an “amicable” solution to the problem.

The Sri Lankan fishermen and officials will visit Rameswaram, Jegadhapattinam, Kottaipattinam, Mallipattinam, Velankanni, Nagore, Pattinacherri, Akkaraipetai, Keerchangkuppam and Chennai during their stay in Tamil Nadu. Vivekanandan, advisor to the South Indian Federation of Fishermen Societies, (SIFFS), said that the three-day event would be a serious exercise in understanding each other’s problems and would propose a number of measures of co-operation that could contribute to easing the current problems associated with trans-border fishing.

This visit followed a visit to Sri Lanka last week by members of the Tamil Nadu Fishermen's Federation.

The Indian Government recently cautioned its fishermen against crossing the Sri Lankan maritime border, especially the areas designated as “sensitive” by the Sri Lankan Government.

Informing the Rajya Sabha that the number of apprehensions and firing at fishermen in the waters between India and Sri Lanka has come down significantly since the October 2008 bilateral understanding, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said caution from the Indian side was also important.

“Incidents have taken place in Sri Lankan waters where our fishermen stray across the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL). It is important that we sensitise our fishermen to respect the IMBL and not stray into Sri Lankan waters for their own safety and security, especially in areas designated as sensitive by the Government of Sri Lanka,” he said.

He said India has conveyed a similar request to Sri Lanka to sensitise their fishermen who cross the IMBL and enter the Indian waters.

He said the Sri Lankan Government has denied that its Navy has had any responsibility in incidents of firing at Indian fishermen.

“They have also said that their Navy does not enter Indian territorial waters,” he said.

According to the Understanding on Fishing Arrangements of 2008, both sides agreed to put in place practical arrangements to deal with bonafide fishermen crossing the IMBL.

SUNDAYOBSERVER.LK- Lake House Copyright © 2010 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

Friday, August 20, 2010

In my heart I wish we could wrap our arms around every single person whose world has crumbled, and shelter them from care & share with them the peace!

The Story of the Sun Sea
By: Gisele Gauthier
August 15, 2010

In my heart I wish we could wrap our arms around every single person whose world has crumbled, and shelter them from care, and share with them the peace and safety we are blessed with here in Canada.

While noble in spirit, I realize my fantasy is not possible in life. The sheer number of the world’s 43 million displaced and struggling innocents is overwhelming. Governments everywhere pool foreign-aid resources, and humanitarian groups feverishly scramble to follow in the wake of natural disasters, wars, and tyrants.

As citizens of Canada, many of us have deep personal ties to people who live outside our country, and our concerns and anxieties can’t help but extend beyond our borders. As compassionate human beings it’s only natural that we care about what happens to immigrants and refugees when they do come here.

We also want our national security forces to unfailingly protect the peace and freedom we all so highly value. In addition to overseeing this huge country from within, we expect our officials to protect us from foreign criminals and extremists.

It’s a tall order, and a controversial one. Not everyone in Canada embraces immigration and some even go so far as to say we should close our borders altogether. We pretty much all agree on preventing crime and terrorism, but how it’s done, and how criminals and terrorists are identified as such, also remains controversial.

All these complicated issues came together with the arrival of a small Thai cargo ship called the MV Sun Sea. Crammed in its hold were 490 Tamil men, women and children who had endured a three and a half month journey across the Pacific Ocean in order to escape persecution in Sri Lanka.

The plight of the Sun Sea illustrates the difficulties faced by those who seek refuge in this manner. It was last April when the small thirty year-old ship left Sri Lanka. As a suspected people-smuggling vessel, she was spotted by the Philippine Coast Guard as she left the Gulf of Thailand in May. Loaded with her freight of Tamil families she was approaching Australia when she was turned back by their navy. According to reports, the Sun Sea then changed her course and headed for Canada.

On August 13th, long before daybreak, in a large and varied flotilla, the RCMP and the Navy waited 200 miles from shore to intercept the Sun Sea as she entered Canadian waters. When she was within our jurisdiction, orders were called over to her which were calmly and readily complied with. The Sun Sea was then boarded and secured. Two navy tugs attached to each end of the ship proceeded to guide her towards Vancouver’s harbour.

How the people aboard the vessel must have felt as they waited below deck! After almost four grueling months at sea, to finally reach dry land. In the next few hours the strangers they would be meeting would hold the key to their lives and to their children’s lives. Imagine the hopes and fears they all shared that momentous last night together.

Aside from the large police and navy flotilla which filled the harbour, on shore a wide array of people awaited the passengers. Government, military and federal officials, border protection officers, doctors, translators, advocates, the press, - they all stood fixated, staring at the infamous boat as it finally appeared in the early morning light.

Seeing the distinctive blue and red striped cargo ship for the first time, they gasped in dismay. The two tug boats almost equaled the length of the Sun Sea’s. Reporters marveled that a ship so small, only 59 metres long, and 10 wide, could hold 490 people at high sea for over three months. On deck Canadian officials wore surgical masks for protection against potential health risks. Although most of the Tamil people were still below in the hold, a few curious faces could be seen peaking out from under a tarp, one young man giving people a shy wave.

It was still dawn and the little cargo ship’s blue and red strips reflected in the placid waters of the natural harbour. Above, the blue sky was bathed in a rosy glow. Towering cliffs covered with lush greenery provided a gorgeous backdrop for the gleaming cluster of white tents installed to process the new arrivals. Ambulances stood by to take those who needed medical attention to a nearby hospital. Police buses were on hand to transport all the others to several local prisons where they would remain while being investigated by the Canadian Border Services Agency. Social workers had arrived to take the children into foster care. Members of the Tamil community from across Canada were flying in to volunteer professional services and material aid.

Slowly, slowly, one at a time, officials gently guided the people off the ship and over the gangplank, holding black umbrellas over them, presumably to shield them from the press. From a distance one could see a woman in a flowing white skirt, and a man carrying belongings in large clear plastic bags; slow moving elderly people and young children clinging to their parents’ hands; a little boy frightened to walk on the gangplank being kindly encouraged by the officer who was leading him. As they crossed that walkway, and stepped onto that green shore, one can only imagine their wildly racing thoughts and the pounding of their hearts. Slowly, one by one, they were escorted beyond the trees and beyond the public’s sight.

The Story Behind The Story

I’ve got to stop reading those awful comments, the ones written in response to articles about the Tamil asylum seekers from Sri Lanka. The dehumanizing insults and fear mongering one can find in these crude and mean-spirited ‘have your say’ forums is shameful. If only they were merely representative of a small group of nasty, uninformed ranters. Sadly, I also read blatantly prejudiced and unsubstantiated statements coming from officials within the Canadian government itself, and to me, that is by far more worrisome.

I’ve always felt tremendous pride in Canada for being a decent law-abiding country. The majority, I believe, still values fairness and compassion and, contrary to what I read in these low-brow forums, it does not take delight in ridiculing other people’s misfortunes. It would be good if we could all resist reducing these desperate souls to mere stereotypes and instead allow due process to take place before passing judgment.

Sri Lanka, from which these families are fleeing, is very vocal in charging that these yet to be identified people are all hardcore terrorists. They had claimed the same about 76 other Tamil refugees who arrived last fall on the Ocean Lady, but none of their accusations stood. Now these same alarmists are again ringing the same bell. In the face of the United Nations, Amnesty International, and many other Human Rights organizations, Sri Lanka refuses an independent enquiry into war crimes committed while implementing the gruesome final strategies which brought its 26 year long civil war to an end.

Their Defence Secretary, the President’s brother, has on Canadian television threatened to hang Sri Lanka’s imprisoned Army Commander for treason should he attempt to testify against the Rajapaksa government. It is their usual procedure to discredit anyone whose testimonies could reflect badly on them and their diplomatic representatives are the personification of political interference. In Sri Lanka reporters, aid workers, ordinary citizens, anyone who could cause embarrassment or trouble have been tortured and ‘disappeared’.

They continue to hound Tamils in their adopted countries everywhere and shamelessly attack anyone they feel has sympathy for them, including international politicians and the heads of humanitarian agencies. Toronto’s Sri Lankan consulate blatantly organized several anti-Tamil events over the last two years alone.

Just what is more threatening: the influence of an aggressive foreign government accused of genocide and a full menu of human rights violations in its civil administration, - or a boatful of unfortunates who, along with their precious children have taken a shot at being accepted as refugees in the only way open to them? Let them get visas the normal way, you say? The trouble with that is that Canada’s visa officers have no access to the North in Sri Lanka and the Tamil people of the shattered North are under tight military control and have no freedom of movement.

Last fall when the Ocean Lady arrived off the coast of British Columbia carrying 76 Tamil men, the Canadian government took on an ‘expert witness’, Rohan Gunaratna, to bolster their case against the asylum seekers. Gunaratna bluntly stated that all the claimants were terrorists. This so-called unbiased expert failed to disclose that since 1984 he has worked closely with the Sri Lankan government as an advisor and continues to passionately promote their interests. The 1980’s were notorious for Sri Lanka’s horrific state-supported violence against Tamil civilians. In the long run, none of his unsupported claims against the 76 asylum seekers held up.

Many of Gunaratna’s resume credentials have been disproved. Yet inexplicably he is still advising our government and for weeks politicians have been promoting his biased point of view in anticipation of this new boat’s landing. Gunaratna still doesn’t name his sources nor offer any evidence to back up his dangerous allegations. Without knowing who’s on board, these asylum seekers have already been stigmatized as terrorists on the grounds of their ethnicity. Oh, Canada!

Canada’s top security official, and the lead minister in the current situation, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has been adamant that there are terrorists and human smugglers on board the Sun Sea. He says the Government’s position is that we have to make Canada a less appealing place for smugglers and that we have to send the signal that we don’t tolerate terrorists and criminals.

When people present themselves without having the proper documentation and visas, or have arrived in an ‘irregular’ way, the procedure is for the claimants to be held in custody until cleared of criminal or terrorist association. Two local prisons east of Vancouver were readied for this purpose, the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre and the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women.

The staff at the nearby Victoria General Hospital was prepared to quarantine and treat those suspected of having any communicable diseases. These people had been at sea for over three months in a cramped cargo ship and rumours of raging tuberculosis and deaths were being reported. However the day after their arrival, when officials had had the opportunity to examine the conditions on the Sun Sea, things appeared to be much better than first feared.

The people, they said, were in remarkably good shape and in good spirits. Only twenty seven of the 490 were sent to the hospital and all, or almost all of them were soon discharged. One person had died at sea, but no communicable disease was found. Two of the women are pregnant.

The ship itself was mechanically sound and alterations had been made to accommodate its human cargo. It had been kept clean and organized, and they had a system to deal with waste and garbage. There were a couple of washrooms. Although closely rationed, there had been enough water and food such as rice and dried fish. Tarps had been added to the upper deck to extend living space. Hammocks were hung to provide sleeping space.

The Tamil people were seen smiling and engaged with the officials in a willing cooperative manner. Some women and approximately fifty young children have been placed in the care of British Columbia’s Ministry of Children and Family Development.

From here we can only hope that in spite of the apparent predisposition of our government and its agencies to presume guilt, the rights of these people to due process will be respected. According to International law, those seeking asylum in Canada have the right to a fair hearing on the merits of their individual cases.
The Minister of Immigration, Jason Kenney has issued this statement via his spokeswoman, prior to the ship’s landing: ‘This could end up being a prime example of individuals trying to take advantage of our generous immigration system. Our government is committed to cracking down on bogus refugees while providing protection to those that truly need our help.’ The Harper Government holds the position that Canada is being exploited and being turned into a haven for criminals and terrorists. Amongst many others, opposition politicians Michael Ignatieff and Olivia Chow are asking people to resist prejudging and emphasizing in interviews that due process must take place and Canadian and humanitarian laws adhered to.

Last May, loaded with her freight of Tamil families, the Sun Sea was approaching Australia when she was turned back towards Christmas Island, a practice which leaves asylum seekers without protection and which the UN High Commission for Refugees regards as jeopardizing fundamental human rights.

Like Canada, Australia has signed on to the Refugee Convention which outlines the rights of the refugee and how receiving nations are to treat them. However, Australia pays Indonesia to cut off and hold refugees who attempt to reach her shores, and thereby avoids living up to her responsibilities. Last year Australia only processed 120 of the refugees detained by using this unethical loophole. Australia has suspended asylum claims from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka since early April, 2010 by designating these countries as being ‘safe’. Even if they had been unwillingly towed to shore by the Indonesian navy, asylum seekers usually languish in locked refugee camps for decades waiting for a third country to accept them. As a Canadian I am mortified to hear that there are people here who applaud the ‘Australian solution’ in spite of the disastrous consequences that befall the people who are seeking protection.

The phrase ‘terrorist sympathizer’ is too often used carelessly – or even worse, in a calculated way - by those who, rather than being genuinely concerned with national security, have other motives best served by fear mongering. In anticipation of the arrival of the Sun Sea, some of our officials shamelessly fed the media with inflammatory statements. Is it appropriate to hang the accused before the trial in Canada? That’s not a good trend. Scaring the public, then running to their rescue is an old political trick. Lives are on the line. Politics ought not to be played at the expense of people undoubtedly already traumatized by recent events.

As to what happens now that the asylum seekers are here, Immigration lawyer, Lorne Waldman explains that there are definite procedures and steps which will be taken. As mentioned earlier, health issues were immediately addressed. In anticipation of severe health problems, the order had been given to the Victoria General Hospital to prepare as if for a pandemic. They had opened an unused emergency wing and readied it for the possibility of hundreds of horribly sick people. As it turned out, the migrants had been able to take reasonably good care of themselves and had arrived in surprisingly good health.

The Canada Border Services Agency and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are conducting their investigation looking for the people smugglers responsible for this ship-load of hopeful souls. People smuggling is a very serious offense worldwide, and these individuals, if identified, will face vigorous prosecution.

Each passenger has been photographed, fingerprinted and processed for detention. Their fates will depend on the background checks that the government authorities are conducting. Immigration law requires a Detention Review within 48 hours of apprehension and then a second Review after seven days.

Tracking down missing documents is perhaps the single most helpful thing families and representatives of the asylum seekers can do to help them. Canada Border Services Agency will need to confirm the identities of the passengers to determine whether they pose a security threat. Migrants are under obligation to produce proper identification documents and until they do, they will be held in detention. If the documents can not be found, procedures for deportation will commence. The Government has the broad rights to hold individuals for four or five months while continuing their investigation. Eventually they must conclude whether or not the person is a security threat. Individuals can not be held indefinitely.

When Canada Border Services Agency’s investigation is finalized they must produce evidence if they wish to lay a charge. In this case they are looking for proof of criminal behavior or of connections to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The LTTE, who fought the Sri Lankan government in a civil war for the better part of the last quarter century was, until last May, in control of the northern part of Sri Lanka, from where the asylum seekers are most likely to originate. Because the LTTE formed the government of Tamil Eelam, does it follow that all Tamil civilians living in their traditional homeland are terrorists?

Provided that the individual has his or her documentation, and is cleared of any security-related charges, they are then referred to Immigration officials who will start to process their refugee claim. If it is determined that the person will not be a flight risk, they may be released into the general population, usually with conditions attached.

It may take years to determine whether a claim is accepted and the possibility of deportation hangs over the applicant’s head all that time. The recent reforms designed to accelerate the processing time of claims have not yet come into effect.

The Expertness Of Experts

On August 6, a few days before the Sun Sea’s arrival, the Canadian Tamil Congress organized a forum at beautiful Hart House in downtown Toronto to address concerns about this group of people and about Canada’s role in offering protection to refugees in general.

The first up to speak was John Argue, the Sri Lanka Coordinator for Amnesty International Canada. Amnesty, he said, continues to express concern about those aboard the Sun Sea. Asylum seekers who reach Canada using any form of transportation have the right to a case by case hearing and Amnesty International Canada and the Canadian Council for Refugees had sent a joint letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. At the time a rumour that the ship would be prevented from reaching Canada by our navy not only involved breaking International law but also the condemning of its passengers to a tragic fate. In their letter hope was expressed to the Prime Minister that the rumours were untrue and that Canada intends to follow due process and provide for fair refugee hearings.

‘Expert witness’ opinions aside, the continuing lack of safety for Tamils in Sri Lanka is a far more compelling argument than the unsubstantiated warnings of their constituting a national threat to Canada. Last May Amnesty International, amongst others, requested an independent inquiry into war crime allegations to examine the activities of both sides of the conflict. The Tamils supported the inquiry; the Sri Lankan government refused.

United Nation’s Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon has appointed advisors to continue to brief him about the ongoing situation. As it stands, Mr. Argue continued, Tamils don’t have a chance to help improve their homeland. In Sri Lanka human rights activists, journalists, opposition politicians, anyone, really, can’t express frank opinions under threat of torture and death.
Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa says that asylum seekers are involved with human smuggling and that their claim of being refugees allows terrorists to disguise themselves as civilians. This idea tries to take away credibility from all Tamil people as a group.

Victor Wong, the Executive Director of the Chinese Canadian National Council, which is a member of the Canadian Council for Refugees warned about the attitudes which lead to criminalizing and stigmatizing people, detaining them for prolonged periods of time, which in turn prejudices their refugee claim, leading to deportation back to the very danger they risked their lives to escape. If the people on board the Sun Sea are maltreated as a group, it is conceivable that more groups of people will be marked by decisions driven by political objectives.

The current government’s recent changes to refugee law call for countries to be divided into two categories: countries that are safe, and those that are not. The determination of who falls on which side of the fence appears to be a political decision, rather than one guided by the experience of human rights groups. Those who come from ‘safe’ countries, as Sri Lanka is asserting itself to be, will not be given the same opportunities to defend their case as those who come from countries on the ‘unsafe’ list.

Mr. Wong explained that those agencies which focus on helping refugees need to anticipate media buzz and its dramatic need for a ‘bad guy’ and to try to counter the negative profiling by insisting on rational investigation and due process. When the Ocean Lady’s passengers were detained in British Columbia last year, they were provided with legal council, interpreters, and for those without Canadian relatives, host families by the Canadian Tamil community and by non-governmental organizations. It would be advisable to be prepared to repeat these forms of help to the new arrivals. He spoke of past situations where people were turned away with tragic consequences, and urged everyone to work towards the proper and fair treatment of all immigrant groups.

John Cartwright, President of the Toronto & York Labour Council, and Chairperson of the coalition of human rights groups forming ‘Canadians Concerned About Sri Lanka’ urged that we get involved with building the kind of Canada we want to share together. Canada has a mixed history in dealing with Immigrants and we need to hold it to high standards. Allowing Sri Lanka to whip up hysteria about the asylum seekers is unacceptable and a fair hearing is critical for a just society. In order to overcome the shame of past injustices, certain standards must be met, and no asylum seeker can be branded as a terrorist in lieu of a just hearing.

Liberal Member of Parliament, Rob Oliphant hoped that the information shared at the forum would better equip everyone in reaching the desired goal: that the proper process of refugee determination be extended to everyone. To spontaneous applause Mr. Oliphant said our Government should exercise discretion in accepting the ‘expertness of experts”. It is unseemly that Canada should advance the propaganda of a state almost universally accused of crimes against humanity.

Michael Ignatieff, the leader of the federal Liberal party has said that he frankly wished there be a moratorium on the ‘T’ word as it’s so often used to purposely bias Canadians. Mr. Oliphant reiterated the need for the Canadian public to rally against propaganda. He encouraged lawyers and human rights groups to continue to edify the media and the public by presenting factual information rather than rhetoric. The refugee determination process, he said, is definitely worth the money and effort.

Hadyat Nazami is a Human Rights lawyer currently representing several of the refugees who arrived last October on the Ocean Lady. He thanked the hosting organization of the forum, the Canadian Tamil Congress for the support the community provided for the asylum seekers. They had provided advice, legal council, therapy, translators, and phone cards. Mr. Nazami went on to say that the recent statements made by the Harper Government made the support of the Opposition parties essential to maintain a balanced handling of the situation.

Our Government’s ‘unbiased’ expert witness is sworn to advance Sri Lanka’s interests, not Canada’s. Rohan Gunaratna and his fellow agents have publicly pressured our government to confront the ship before it reaches our waters. That’s internationally illegal. In the past when Canada turned ships filled with refugees around, the people died. Recently Prime Minister Harper extended formal apologies for several such occurrences.

Mr. Nazami deplored the use of the terms ‘bogus refugees’ and ‘queue-jumping’, saying they painted false impressions of how immigration law works. There’s nothing unusual about refugees coming to Canada. There’s nothing unusual about having to check people for security reasons. But political interference can be hurtful and illegal. Although legal caution is understandable, during the Ocean Lady case, laws were broken and people were stigmatized.

Compassion was sadly absent in a haunting memory he shared of a traumatized Tamil man from the Ocean Lady, found crying in his solitary cell as he waited to hear of his fate. The charges against him and others like him were based on the opinions of Rohan Gunaratna and the Sri Lankan Army and months later, when pressed by Immigration Canada to produce evidence, all of the charges were dropped - in spite of earlier claims that they were in possession of ‘secret evidence’.

Gunaratna has been allowed to enter Sri Lankan prisons – a highly unusual ‘privilege’– to interrogate prisoners about the Tamil Tigers. He needed the use of translators as this ‘expert on Tamils’ can not speak their language. Although he claims they answered his questions readily, it has been revealed that prior to his interrogation these forlorn people had been subjected to torture. This is a common practice, resulting in approximately 80% of Sri Lankan prisoners being tortured. The ‘Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture’ has observed that due to fear or trauma, interviewees often hide the fact long after they have left the offending country - which in turn jeopardizes their claim. Mr. Nazami emphasized that the Canadian Government must take care to avoid becoming complicit in torture.

A second Human Rights lawyer, Robert Blanshay was next to speak. His opening comments were about his colleague, Nadyat Nazami who had just addressed the room. Mr. Nazami, he said, is representing several asylum seekers from the Ocean Lady which arrived last fall. He was given ten minutes of preparation time to cross-examine Rohan Gunaratna, the ‘expert witness of choice’ of the Canadian Government. In this short period of time, Mr. Nazami was able to uncover substantial misrepresentation on Gunaratna’s part. He had failed to disclose that he had been closely linked with the government of Sri Lanka since the 1980’s, and still is.

Responding to the discovery, Gunaratna claimed that this revelation was just a simple oversight, that he’d simply forgotten to mention it!! Our government did not react to this incredible conflict of interest. Did anyone think that such forbearance would be extended to any Tamil person, Mr. Blanshay asked. With further investigation, many of the credentials on Gunaratna’s resume turned out to be completely fabricated and he has been discredited internationally. But he’s still our ‘expert witness’!

As people are arriving all the time to seek asylum in Canada, the question of how we treat refugees should not only be focused on the Tamil arrivals. In fact, Canada has reduced the number of refugees over the last few years at a time when the world is full of people needing help. Third world countries take in far more refugees than do Western nations. The game amongst Western countries seems to be how to avoid living up to International standards and conventions by making it increasingly difficult for would-be refugees to qualify.

Far from being an exercise in charity, immigration has always been necessary to Canada and is closely linked to employment needs and foreign trade and policy. Most refugees, the majority being women and children, though having gone through great upheaval and personal loss, never do leave their countries, and are known as Internally Displaced Persons. IDPs as such are not counted as Refugees. The world’s Refugee statistics do not show these people in their tally. The comparative few that do arrive in Canada represent a tiny proportion of the quarter million Immigrants we process each year.

Mr. Blanshay spoke of ‘Risk Assessments’ which examine what the country of origin is like in regards to the safety of the would-be refugees should they be sent back. For many reasons, including monetary ones involving major international loans and grants, Sri Lanka can not afford to be seen as a state which does not live up to its Human Rights requirements. It will do anything it can to discredit any allegations against its record.

To this day President Rajapaksa maintains that there are no minorities in Sri Lanka and that no civilians were killed in the final months of the civil war, that his army had been on a rescue mission. What was left of these ‘rescued’ Tamil people were locked up in appallingly inadequate prison camps. From babies to elders, the survivors were starving and severely wounded from Sri Lankan scatter bombing and heavy weaponry being fired into civilian ‘safety zones’ and hospitals. Minimal medical help was permitted and international aid and journalistic communities were banished. In spite of their efforts, Sri Lanka could not block the harrowing stories from leaking out of the camps which subsequently were heard around the world.

It comes down to this: people must educate themselves in order to avoid falling prey to biased political strategies and to hold our elected officials accountable for how they manage situations such as this. Mr. Blanshay expressed grave concern that the Canadian government is still receiving advice from Gunaratna.

Mr. Wong added that what happened last year with the people aboard the Ocean Lady is actually a good case study on how the process works. The support the asylum seekers received resulted in all 76 people being cleared of terrorist charges and allowed to live amongst the general public while their claims are being processed.

He expressed gratitude to those who helped and didn’t just ignore the Ocean Lady case. What will happen to the next group of migrants if what happens to this group is ignored?, he asked. If false assumptions and rhetoric are not challenged, it makes it progressively difficult for those who follow.

Absolutely no one is suggesting that caution regarding national security be compromised - quite the contrary. The integrity of our security and emergency alertness is crucial. Last year alone, Canada processed 34,000 refugee claims and our government needs to do what it can to prevent violent individuals and organizations from gaining access to Canada. The concern being voiced here involves the ethical application of existing laws and agreements, the quality of the intelligence being used by our Government, and the perception that decision-makers are being unduly influenced by foreign entities whose agendas are anathema to the kind of nation we pride ourselves on being.

None of us know what the future will bring. We all do our best to comprehend this confusing world of ours, and sometimes it seems we are worlds apart in our views and conclusions. We just have to keep trying to be decent people and to mix compassion with caution. I think of those Tamil hopefuls, far away from their families and friends, waiting to see what their future will be. I pray it will be a good and secure one – for all of us.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Canadian Tamil Forum Director tells Tamil diaspora:

Help Govt. in post-conflict peace building

Canadian Tamil Forum Director Dr. Joseph Chandrakanthan has called upon the Tamil diaspora to extend its Cooperation in the post-conflict peace building process in Sri Lanka, instead of Criticising the Sri Lankan Government and working against its humanitarian activities.

Dr. Chandrakanthan made this appeal to the Tamil diaspora when a boatload of Sri Lankan asylum seekers reached the shores of Canada on Friday.

Dr. Chandrakanthan was a key speaker at the Canadian Tamil Forum, which held a symposium on the post-conflict situation in Sri Lanka.

The following is the address by Dr. Chandrakanthan.

“As a community and a collective national entity we, Tamils of Sri Lankan origin must come out of the political illusion we have uncritically built around us. It’s time we realise that our narrow walls of nationalism have caused us and our children and our children’s children untold misery and hardship leading to enormous loss of life and limb, property and resources.

As very ancient communities that have shared our life in Sri Lanka for several centuries, we have to reconcile to the truth that without the Sinhalese, we Tamils have no future, just as the Sinhalese will have a perpetual despair if they treat the Tamils and Muslims in the island as underlings. We should focus on what would unite us as a human community rather than fighting over those factors that divide us from one another.

Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims might have died in this cruel war but it was humankind that was killed. In the twenty-first century we can’t afford to leave a legacy of mayhem and mutilation to our posterity. It’s a common cultural norm among Sinhalese and Tamils, when families that stay away from each other for years due to small or big fueds and disputes re-unite at funerals rather than weddings.

Both Tamils and Sinhalese have had large scale deaths, endless funerals, murders, mayhem, mutilations, mass killings and massive loss of their private and public wealth. In the past thirty years or so we have lost too many of our young sons and daughters, we have smudged our cherished cultural and religious values. We cannot afford a situation like this to surface again.

We have seen as to how the so-called free world responded to the human tragedy that unfolded in our land in the last days of the war. We should not rely anymore on the charity and goodwill of the West. There are many things that are important and there are many more things that are immediate. Cultural rights, linguistic and territorial rights are important issues for all human communities but food and shelter clothing and health are more immediate needs that cannot be postponed.

For instance, the work being done by an organisation such as NERDO may not be up to our expectation but somebody has to initiate this task. Feeding the orphans and widows, providing basic educational facilities for children in refugee camps and visiting those in detention barracks and prisons cannot be left in the hands of foreign organisations. The vulnerable victims are our children and we should take the first step. Our armchair criticism will not benefit those in prisons and camps but we can reach out to them through those who are truly committed to humanitarian exigencies,” he said.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

SINHALA ARMY requested time to conduct the withdrawal from TAMIL Public buildings/Private properties they had occupied in Vavuniya for decades.!!!

Army vacates Thandikulam camp: Land handed over to resettled families
August 11, 2010, 10:27 pm

by Franklin R. Satyapalan

The government commenced the withdrawal of the Security Forces from Public buildings and private properties in the Northern Region in stages. The Military last week vacated the fortified Thandikulam camp situated along the A-9 highway and handed over the 27 acres of land to 20 IDP families to resettle in their original places of residence, The Presidential Secretariat said yesterday.

It said that the withdrawals were being implemented in stages on the direction of Secretary of Defence Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

District Secretary (GA) for Vavuniya Mrs P. S. M. Charles said that the military had withdrawn from the Omanthai Camp and set up camp elsewhere by clearing a jungle area 15 kilometres away.

The Vavuniya District Secretariat sources said that 40 acres of land vacated by the Army will be utilised to resettle IDP families in their original places of residence. One of the recipients was the family of Mrs. P. S. M. Charles, District Secretary for Vavuniya. They had to re-build their ancestral home which had been demolished during the conflict.

The Security Forces have requested time to conduct the withdrawal from public buildings and private property they had occupied in Vavuniya town for decades, District Secretariat Sources said.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The citizens of Thamileelam who struggled out of the inferno of war in Vanni during the months of Jan-May 2009 journeyed on foot or boat.!!!

Omanthai! Omanthai! Succour for the Tamil Thousands in Sri Lanka, May 2009
August 10, 2010, 8:11 pm

by Michael Roberts

The citizens of Thamileelam who struggled out of the inferno of war in the north-east corner of the northern Vanni during the months of January-May 2009 journeyed on foot or boat. During the first few months the escapee refugees got out mostly in dribs and drabs. But circa 20-23 April, and then again in mid-May during the last stages as the LTTE resistance was smashed, two hordes of "Thamileelam people" poured out of the confines of the LTTE corral.

These Thamileelam people, or TEP as I shall present them in shorthand, included Tiger fighters in civilian attire as well as other Tiger functionaries. It is probable that all the TEP were in a state of exhaustion. Bombs and bullets in that context do not distinguish between age, gender, class, or military/civilian status.

Attending to the needs of the TEP from the month of January 2009 onwards within the parameters of the government’s insistence on security precautions was a feat of considerable coordination for combination of military and government personnel, foreign and local INGO personnel, local NGO functionaries, hired local staff and volunteers assembled for the purpose. My focus here will be restricted to the large body of Tamil refugee people whom these agencies had had to deal with in May 2009 and the special operation to feed them mounted at the former border post at Omanthai.

After most of those considered LTTE had been separated out by the army at the edge of the frontlines, the rest of the TEP were driven down to Omanthai in buses from private companies from all parts of the island that had been assembled by the Govt. Agent of Vavuniya (Mrs Charles, a Tamil) in combination with military officers, with each bus being manned by driver, conductor and two military personnel. This was three-four hour journey. So it was that between the 17th and 24th May 2009 an exhausted, hungry and thirsty mass of some 60,000 Tamil refugees reached Omanthai.

The magnitude of the relief-cum-security operation at the staging post of Omanthai is not easy to capture in words. The operation was overseen by the World Food Programme in association with the military. WFP chose the Sewalanka Foundation as its main implementation agency for this task; but they also had funds and assistance from such agencies as IOM, UNICEF, ECHO and government agencies under the G. A. There were few buildings in the village and its school was used as the main shelter on a temporary basis; while about 50 temporary toilets had been quickly built near the school building by ECHO (a European Union NGO) in league with Sewalanka through UNICEF funding.

What requires stressing, and what should not be taken for granted, was the fact that this operation entailed work. Yes WORK, hard labour in organisation, coordination and cooking hot meals for the large number of refugees. I can only provide a partial picture through the eyes of those who worked for Sewalanka, [a Lankan NGO that has been at work since 1992 and one that had developed considerable experience in empowering people to help themselves, in particular through its engagement in tsunami relief activities].

As such, it is also an invidious tale. I have little doubt that the other organisations referred to above devoted as much sweat and blood as the Sewalanka personnel in assisting the Tamil refugees to survive and adjust to life in the new circumstance of the IDP camps. Reports that I have received from sources at ground level in the UN agencies indicate that the work of such NGOS as Caritas, CARE, SEED, Sarvodaya et cetera in their designated spheres of activity was as immense as invaluable.

My choice of Sewalanka is fortuitous. Through a chance reference I stayed for a few days at their model farm on the outskirts of Vavuniya.1 In this non-comprehensive manner I consider it better for readers to be exposed to a sliver of the activities that occurred during the real hard crisis time in April-May-June-July 2009 than to remain in the dark. A one-man exploration in a brief visit cannot cover the whole range of organisations and activities through an in-depth study. So, it is to Sewalanka’s operations at Omanthai in May that I move now.

Succour at Omanthai Staging Post

One day in May, late in the evening as their office was closing shop, the local Sewalanka head received a call asking for urgent aid in feeding busloads of refugees. The unit swung into action immediately. In Vavuniya town they used IOUs to purchase cooking pots and other gear from local wholesalers (e.g. Maliban, Ozone), hired extra cooking staff and purchased the supplementary provisions in bulk, namely vegetables, dried fish and fish.

The system in place was for the World Food Programme to provide the basic dry rations, namely, rice, dhal, oil, sugar and wheat flour, to the NGO’s tasked with cooking meals and for these organisations to supplement these base goods with other supplements through their own funds and/or donor monies.

A critical aspect of this emergency operation was the fact that Sewalanka had been working in Vavuniya and the north for seventeen years and had local knowledge and local networks, besides mostly Tamil staff. The trust generated in the course of this history was central to their ability to cope with the enormous demands of the crisis. Thus, both their model farm and local networks enabled them to collect supplementary vegetables for both the Omanthai operation and the long-term ongoing task of cooking meals within the IDP camps assigned to them.

Armed then with cooking gear and other essentials in three lorries, the Sewalanka team proceeded that very night in a convoy by road to Omanthai where the military had built tent facilities for their work. Their working group amounted to about 40 people and they had eight sets of cooks working in rosters over a 24-hour period for several days at Omanthai. Indeed, some of them did not sleep at all over a couple of days. That is one reason why I underlined the word "work."

Lakshi Abeysekera, the Deputy Chairperson of Sewalanka in Colombo, also travelled down and joined them, while Chairman Harsha Navaratne, parked in Anuradhapura some 90 minutes journey away, joined them periodically (while also reviewing Sewalanka operations in the camps assigned to Sewalanka). The executive staff, Annet Royce and Thamilalagan from the Vavuniya Office and Abeysekera from Colombo, participated actively in the tasks of moving goods and distribution of food parcels, while attending to their primary duty of directing and overseeing. The men, including Thamilalagan, stayed overnight — sleeping on packing cases made into rough beds. The Sewalanka women usually returned to Vavuniya late at night and were back early the next day to continue their labours.

Liaison with the military personnel was a central aspect of the feeding programme at Omanthai. Indeed, the military, UNICEF and IOM provided the other essentials: water bottles as well as energy biscuits; while military men and women were involved in the succour of those emerging from the buses.

These Tamil refugees were hungry. It follows that the rush to food meant that the older and slower were last in any line. Two incidents provide one with a glimpse of the human frailties arising in such circumstances. (A) As one busload hastened to get their food and lined up in a disorderly mass, a Tamil-speaking man in army attire started beating them with a stick to get them into an orderly line. When a Sewalanka worker accosted him and protested, it turned out that he was a former-Tiger soldier who told her that such disorderly queues would never have been tolerated in Thamileelam (or words to that effect). (B) When a Sinhalese soldier entrusted with the task of carrying food parcels to one busload of refugees asked for 105 parcels, one of the Sewalanka supervisors asked him how many that bus carried. He answered sheepishly: "101." Then added: "there are four pregnant women and they could do with two each." Eminently compassionate and sensible one would think right? But, no, an army officer intervened and chastised the soldier with a knock, what would be called a tokka in Sinhala, with the implicit meaning that it was a legitimate act of guti dheema (punishment). Eminently rigid and bureaucratic-harsh, don’t you think?

Concluding Remarks

I have presented this Omanthai sustenance work within the umbrella term "relief operation." It is a catchword that Sewalanka themselves would frown upon. Harsha Navaratne, its Chairman and founder, had insisted that their personnel should not be described as "Relief Officers; rather the titles were to be "Development Officers" because their role was to be directed towards empowering those receiving aid and encouraging them to stand on their own feet.2

I have not followed this dictum because readers would comprehend the description "relief" more easily than the term "development" and because it fits the type of work undertaken at Omanthai and the IDP camps. That said, I add that it was a service to people-in-need that also uplifted the spirits of those providing the services. When I encouraged Lakshi Abeysekera of Sewalanka to send me a memorandum describing her work at Omanthai, she responded thus: "Indeed the exposure at the Omanthai at the last movement is something I will always remember and regard as one of the rarest experiences in 17 years of service" [email, 21 July 2010].

She is not alone. Elsewhere, through BBC’s Hard Talk Programme, the wider world was exposed to the Bernadine Anderson’s captivating emphasis on the upliftment she and her aides had derived from her voluntary work in teaching Tiger captives English at the special facility that had been created in 2008-09 at Hindu College in Ratmalana.3

There are, therefore, reciprocities in such work. But there can be little doubt that the greatest beneficiaries at Omanthai were the exhausted, hungry and thirsty mass of Tamil refugees from the war zone.

[1] This article was made possible through interviews with Mrs Annet Royce nee Rajajohn (2 June 2010), T. Thamilalagan (3 June 2010) and Peter Voegtli (1 June 2010). I also interviewed Singham of SEEDS, two expatriate executives in UN agencies and two of the Sewalanka officers in Jaffna, Harsha Navaratne of Sewalanka in Colombo and C. Soloman of the Health Ministry (now in UNICEF).

[2] Interview with Annet Royce, June 2010.

[3] BBC HardTalk Sri Lanka 8-9: Rehabilitation of Former LTTE Child Soldiers, 9 June 2010, http://

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

SL appears to be following Hindu philosophy’s 4 ways of dealing with people -Saama, Daana, Bheda & Danda - in defusing the Tamil Diaspora Militancy.!!

Sri Lanka’s Diaspora Strategies

August 9, 2010, 5:56 pm

By Col. R. Hariharan

Sri Lanka appears to be following Hindu philosophy’s four ways of dealing with people - Sama, Dana, Bheda and Dand - in defusing the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora’s potential to incubate separatist militancy of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) kind.

While Sama uses logical reasoning and common sense to explain one’s position, Dana is the classical carrot ploy of offering incentives – as Americans say ‘if you can’t win them, buy them.’ Bheda the third option is the one that politicians indulge all the time – create a split to win over a section. Dand, the last resort is to use force (or the stick, the other half of the proverbial carrot ploy).

The recent high profile public projection of the former LTTE international affairs representative and a high security prisoner Kumaran Pathmanathan (KP) is apparently a part of Sri Lanka’s Bheda strategy. It fits in well with the larger Sri Lankan game plan to handle the Tamil Diaspora. Already it seems to have worked as a few known personalities of the Tamil Diaspora (who had supported the LTTE in the past) have agreed to join hands with KP and participate in the reconstruction process in the North.

KP had confirmed this in a series of media interviews recently. According to him his newly formed NGO outfit ‘The North-East Rehabilitation and Development Organisation’ (NERDO) located in Vavuniya, was preparing to play a key role in the rehabilitation, reconstruction and resettlement processes. With years of overseas exposure in his LTTE days, KP had built influential Diaspora connections. While all of them may not join KP’s efforts, he seems to have thrown a spanner in the works of sections of the Diaspora to rebuild a unified organisation to carry forward the LTTE cause. Of course, hard boiled LTTE acolytes would now find justification to call him a quisling.

Justifying his action to collaborate with the government, KP said it was essential for Tamils to realise the ground realities in a post-LTTE era in the island nation and review its strategy to meet the new challenges. His said he was only "concerned about the welfare of the people, particularly children, though some seek fresh funding to cause mayhem. People are fed up with war and every effort should be made to alleviate their suffering without playing politics with a purely humanitarian motive." This is so true. Logical reasoning with LTTE supporters had never worked successfully in the past when the LTTE’s flag was flying high. But words coming from a senior leader like KP in times of adversity would definitely create at least second thoughts in their minds.

In his interview, KP comes out as a man of sound common sense and pragmatism. He attributed the defeat of the LTTE to the change in global political leaders’ attitude to the LTTE after the 9/11 al Qaeda attack and the US led war on Jihadi terrorism in its wake. Prabhakaran did not realise the urgent need to change the LTTE strategy to suit the new environment. KP’s observation "there is a new world order today, which does not tolerate armed campaigns and that is the hard reality," showed a realism much needed by those still voicing LTTE slogans.

The increasing public projection of KP in spite of his detention has caused uneasiness among Tamil politicians who consider it as Rajapaksa’s ploy to destabilise them. This fear is probably justified as KP is no ordinary prisoner. Normally as a member of the inner cabinet of Prabhakaran he should be cooling his heels in the Sri Lankan version of the Guantanamo Bay, where his former colleagues are awaiting prosecution. His arrest in Malaysia and rendition was the biggest story of the year after the defeat of the LTTE.

But even before KP completed his first year of imprisonment, rumours are thick that the elusive former chief arms procurer of the LTTE, may rise like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes of Tamil militancy to join the political mainstream. And if the media space he is already hogging, even as a prisoner, is any indication the process for his political anointment has already started. It fits in well with a series of stories that started with his much publicised visit to Vanni in the company of Tamil Diaspora leaders to look at the state of rehabilitation and the formation of a NGO for canalising contributions from the Diaspora thereafter.

KP’s candid interviews bearing his views not only on the LTTE’s defeat and Tamils suffering but also his favourable comments on the Defence Secretary and the President came as icing on the cake of his publicity blitz. There is no doubt that KP’s privileged public access is part of a Sri Lankan game plan. However, his political rehabilitation may come through only after his evidence as a crown witness is fully milked during the prosecution of 737 LTTE hard core cadres in custody. This process could take a year to complete unless special courts are set up. If this surmise is correct, probably KP is slated to occupy a place in the political firmament in 2011.

Even before the war, Sri Lanka had embarked upon an effort to make it difficult for LTTE to retain its foothold in many countries. The President, prime minister, and the foreign minister in the past had stressed this aspect in their international visits and appearances. Apart from these efforts, Sri Lanka said it was launching with the help of INTERPOL a coordinated effort to dismantle LTTE’s international network. These efforts got a big push when Sri Lankan military intelligence recently unearthed highly classified documents and diaries of Castro, former head of the LTTE’s international wing, at Viswamadu. These documents have provided details of LTTE international activists engaged in human trafficking, arms smuggling and financial bases in East Asia, Western Europe, Canada and Africa.

In this context, it is interesting to note that the Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa touched upon this aspect while addressing the Galle dialogue on maritime security conference over the week end. He said, "no matter how powerful we are individually, so long as we act in isolation, we will be ineffective against threats arising from the trans-national operations of non-state actors."

Can Sri Lanka wean over the Tamil Diaspora from the Eelam cause and support to resurrection of Tamil militancy?

To answer yes to this question would be oversimplifying a complex problem compounded by uneven composition of the Diaspora. And it would also be ignoring the historical realities of how the Tamil Diaspora became the main supporters of Tamil militancy. The Tamil Diaspora is neither uniform nor clearly segmented in their support to the Eelam cause. Basically, they act in two planes. One is on the emotional plane based upon their own bitter experience over the years, having lost their kith and kin. Their inability to directly go the aid of their kin when they are still suffering makes them angry now. Swayed by emotions on happenings in Sri Lanka the majority probably belong to this category. The Sri Lankan strategies aided by KP would probably work on this segment, provided political initiatives are also taken in tandem.

The other segment has a much deeper ideological belief in preserving the Tamil identity and creation the Tamil Eelam as the only process to do it. This segment has its origins even before the LTTE was born. This segment is deeply suspicious of the political intentions of the majority Sinhalese due to historical experience. And it had been the fountainhead of separatism. It would probably be never wholly won over by the reasoning of the type KP dispenses. However, he may make a dent in its system of beliefs.

This segment needs political solutions to disprove their ingrained beliefs. These have not been forthcoming for the last three decades from successive Sri Lankan governments. And even now little has been done, other than talking about implementing even a half way house solution like the 13th amendment to the constitution.

Prof. Rohan Gunaratne, Sri Lanka’s own high profile terrorism analyst of international repute, touched upon this home truth while speaking on post war challenges of Sri Lanka in Colombo last week. He said, "Failure of Sri Lankan leaders to govern a multi-ethnic and a multi-religious society since independence precipitated Sri Lanka’s ethno-political conflict. Sri Lanka’s political masters compromised Sri Lanka’s long term national and strategic interests for short term political gain. Unless Sri Lankan politicians build the understanding to never again to play ethnic and religious based politics, poison the ground by radicalizing its youth, and reinforce ethnic and religious divisions, the country is likely to suffer a repetition of its unfortunate past." The Sri Lanka government and the national leadership would do well to heed his words of caution as there is no indication they are attending to this vital aspect of political confidence building.

Unless this is attended to, mere Machiavellian strategies in handling the Diaspora would not provide a satisfactory solution.

(Col R Hariharan, a retired Military Intelligence specialist on South Asia, served with the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka as Head of Intelligence. He is associated with the Chennai Centre for China Studies and the South Asia Analysis Group. E-Mail: Blog:


Friday, August 6, 2010

Sri Lanka Guardian: V. Balakumaran: Killed or Still Alive!

Sri Lanka Guardian: V. Balakumaran: Killed or Still Alive!

THE PRESIDENT OF USA: HON.BARACK OBAMA : I was overwhelmed by the kind words I received from so many supporters like you..!!!

Thank you, Shan

|Barack Obama to me

Shan --

I want to thank you for signing my birthday card.

Michelle told me that she was planning something a little different this year, and I was overwhelmed by the kind words I received from so many supporters like you.

This job has a way of offering humbling moments. And the support you have shown me, time and time again, has sustained me through any number of difficult days. It is more than any president deserves, and I could not be more grateful.

On my birthday, I spent some time considering what the year ahead will bring -- a new set of challenges and opportunities, some that we can foresee and some that we cannot.

If we continue to stand together, I know we will continue to move America forward and win these fights for change.

Thank you again for taking a moment to sign my card. As far as birthdays go, it is hard to imagine topping this one. But then again, Michelle always has a way of surprising me.



Paid for by Organizing for America, a project of the Democratic National Committee -- 430 South Capitol Street SE, Washington, D.C. 20003. This communication is not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.This email was sent to:

Monday, August 2, 2010

The New Colonisation...........

The New Colonisation...........

One should take great care not to bow down or become enslaved to an object unworthy and base, lest we become sharers of the baseness and unworthiness of the same
— Giodano Bruno (The Heroic Enthusiasts)

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

Protests against lands being occupied

Last week the villagers of Ragamwela in Ampara, engaged in a protest demonstration, accusing the police of occupying their lands. Ragamwela is strategically located close to several tourist hotspots; at midnight, July 17, an armed gang descended on the village, assaulting inhabitants and burning houses. The nearby STF post stayed away, saying that they have no authority to visit the area! Since then the villagers have been banned from their land and the Chief Sanganayake of Wellassa-Digamadulla, has complained to the Human Rights Council that the Pottuvil police is barring him from observing ‘vas’ in the village temple.

Ragamwela villagers are Sinhalese; they can protest against the injustice done to them, still, without being labelled ‘Tiger pawns’. But protests are an unaffordable luxury for the residents of three Tamil villages in Murukkundi, displaced from their homes when the state confiscated 4,000 acres in Kilinochchi to build 12,000 prefabricated houses for military families. According to the Army Commander, “once married quarters of the officers and the other ranks are set up in respective areas, they would be able to live with their families as well while serving in the area.” (The Island – 24.7.2010). The implication is that the soldiers, instead of serving short stints in the North (as is the norm), will become permanent settlers together with their families, ushering in a new wave of state-aided and mandated colonisation.

And as the Tamil North becomes dotted with a network of Sinhala cantonments, other facilities will spring up to cater to the newcomers, from Sinhala shops to Sinhala schools, from Sinhala place names to Buddhist temples. This is similar to the strategy of ‘creating facts on the ground’ used by the Israelis to annex Palestinian lands via state-aided Jewish settlements. That insidious strategy has caused a massive demographic-shift and strengthened extremist forces on both sides of the divide (imagine the harm a JHU-type party can cause by spreading its noxious ideology among the new settlers, who, given their insecurities, will be particularly vulnerable to ‘identity-based politics’).

Panama Mudiyanselage Bandara, a resident of Ragamwela, described the ordeal of the villagers at the hands of a seemingly omnipotent predator: “They took us out and threatened to kill us. They had two T 56 rifles. I managed to flee but by the time I turned back they were setting fire to everywhere” (BBC – 18.7.2010). So far, the regime has maintained a thundering silence while “local media organisations say that the journalists were stopped from visiting Ragamwela by police” (ibid). Is the dispossession of Ragamwela villagers linked to the ongoing campaign by the authorities to confiscate economically strategic land occupied by the have-nots, under the guise of ‘clearing unauthorised structures’?

Is the Rajapaksa ‘nation-building project’ a confluence of a Sinhala supremacist politico-military strategy and an anti-poor economic strategy? Is majoritarian supremacism being used to reconcile Sinhala have-nots to an economic regimen which benefits them only marginally and sporadically?

Multiple Vicious Circles

Post-war, the regime should prioritise resettling the displaced of all communities, including the Jaffna Muslims chased away by the LTTE. Instead, it is unleashing a wave of colonisation which cannot but be a focal point for existing discontents and a breeding ground for new resentments. Set in a deprived North, these ‘privileged’ Sinhala enclaves will act as control centres and as symbols of dominance. They will inspire not friendship and reconciliation but resentment and anger. After all, this massive building programme is taking place in a province teeming with displaced Tamils who lack basic facilities including shelter.

And this officially engineered Sinhala influx into the North cannot be justified by arguing that innumerable Tamils live amongst Sinhalese in the South; that is the result of individual migration, and not of state-planned and funded colonisation.

The new colonisation scheme would not be desirable even from the point of view of the settlers, forced to uproot themselves and live in prefabricated low-quality concrete boxes in an inhospitable environment. If the Rajapaksas really want to assist these soldiers, they should build houses and other facilities for them in their original habitats. Transplanted in an alien territory, their lives will be informed and guided by fear and suspicion. In this context, anything (such as the availability of water) can become a source of ill-will and conflict, between the unarmed ‘natives’ and the armed ‘colonists’, turning the North into a cauldron of phobia and rage.

So a new tragedy of errors is in the making, as Sri Lanka re-opts for a 1956 style nation-building project. We are remaking old mistakes, the hubristic and myopic errors which caused an ethnic problem and a long war. Unfortunately such regression is unavoidable with an administration which denies the existence of an ethnic problem and reduces a complex national crisis to a mere matter of terrorism. This habit of politically infantile reductionism is preventing the Rajapaksas from seeing past mistakes as mistakes and making them embrace retrogression (returning to a ‘happy’ pre-Tiger past) as the ideal way to the future.

The ongoing official attempts to sabotage the final consensus of the APRC (which is not an INGO plant and has the approval of the President’s own SLFP) too stems from this inanely unreal worldview. (Minister Tissa Vitarana’s statement that the APRC consensus cannot be considered ‘final’ until the President has responded to it has placed the ball firmly in the President’s court.)

Displacing and marginalising Northern Tamils to set up Sinhala cantonments will increase disquiet and resentment in the North; the more restive the Tamil gets, the greater will be the need for a large military presence, to maintain stability; this will generate more resentment…. That would be one vicious circle. The strategy of occupation (a huge military presence plus cantonments) in the North will turn exorbitant defence costs into budgetary staples; this will reduce resources available for development and societal welfare in the South, compelling the regime to use force to maintain stability, thereby driving up defence costs still further…. That will be another vicious circle.

In the absence of real and consistent improvements in living conditions, the regime will resort to repressive measures to prevent silent disquiet from burgeoning into violent instability; this in turn will perpetuate the choice of guns over butter…. That will be another vicious circle. Suspicion and resentment among ethnic and religious communities will add to this poisonous brew, undermining developmental hopes still further; “The intelligence takes revenge”, as Camus warns in his ‘Letters To A German Friend’ (Resistance, Rebellion and Death).

These concentric vicious circles will render democracy unaffordable initially in the North and subsequently in the South. Repression will have to become a norm, the only way to maintain a precarious stability (the planed Media Authority fits perfectly into this scenario). Is that the real Rajapaksa plan – to turn Sri Lanka into a land of chronic disunity and fear, where democracy seems unaffordable and the Sinhala majority cling to the Ruling Family, however reluctantly, as the last line of defence against an imaginary jungle?

Related posts:

1.Pro-Ltte Party For ‘Autonomous Rule’ For Tamils In Lanka A pro-LTTE parliamentarian has underlined his party’s resolve for “autonomous rule” for Tamils in Sri Lanka, claiming that TNA’s support for opposition presidential candidate Sarath...
2.IDPs In Need Of Permanent Housing Facilities One year after By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema One year after the end of the war between the security forces and the LTTE, 73,000 displaced persons...

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Posted by admin on Aug 1 2010. Filed under Lead, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
20 Comments for
“The New Colonisation”Sam Perera
August 1, 2010 - 3:30 am
One little note for TG. Sri Lanka has no area reserved for any ethnic group. Anybody can live anywhere at their free will.

Reply Leela
August 1, 2010 - 11:16 am
Sam: This lady is full of venom against Sinhalese and Rajapakses. She thrives from the dollars she gets for it.

August 1, 2010 - 10:10 pm
Colanisation take place when a race from a another country invade another and make settlements .IF THIS IS COLONISATION THEN WE CAN CALL BUILDING APARTMENTS BY TAMILS IN WELLAWATTHA “COLONISATION.
We know thw woman her background her motives SO WOMAN GO TO HELL

Reply Shan Nalliah,Gandhiyist Norway
August 2, 2010 - 5:15 pm

Reply ellepola
August 1, 2010 - 4:28 am
Members of the Sri Lankan armed forces have the same rights as the rest of the citizens of the cointry and they can live antwhere in the country just like any other person. There are no ghettos for any race in Lanka. We need authorities to do everything possible to maintain security and peace in the country. It is essential that armed forces are stationed in the north and east as in other parts and we cannot expect members of armed forces who are risking their lives for the country to live without their families and loved ones. People who cannot understand this simple reasoning or who refuse to appreciate these facts are stupid dangerous and undesirable.

Reply Sam Perera
August 1, 2010 - 4:44 am

The simple truth you mentioned is not comprehensible to the people like TG with degenerative brain disorders.

Reply Ravi
August 1, 2010 - 6:49 am
TG, you seems to be unaware of the suffering of both communities over the last 30 years and the need to ensure that this type of events do not happen again. To the editor – this article is so bias and short sighted that i am surprised that you saw a need to publish it, this is exactly the type of article that makes me want to avoid your newpaper now.

Reply Ravi
August 1, 2010 - 6:52 am
to the editor – just a quick question ? do you allow anybody to write articles of this nature to your paper ? Judging by this TG does not seems to have any type of relevant qualification to make these comments.. sorry your standards have really dropped..

Reply JVP
August 1, 2010 - 7:40 am
why Govt is building houses for Military instead of Tamils there..

I think the Govt is going to make a blunder with so much costs …….European Countries , UN and USA are waiting for building all witness , proof against srilanka…..

like military men rape tamils kill tamils….

One day North & East will be divided by USA,UN Forces like Timor or Kosova…that time these military sinhalas have to be a minority there and get butchered..

Better make Tamils happy instead of making military sinhala happy…as they are going to suffer later…

Reply Sam Perera
August 1, 2010 - 8:34 am
Really JVP? military men kill and rape Tamils? This is the typical song from stateless LTTE terrorists monkey. However, this kazuthai is smart enough label him as a JVP poof. Nevertheless, there is no serious deference between LTTE terrorists and JVP who want to destabilize Sri Lanka by hook or crook.

Reply brain
August 1, 2010 - 9:02 am
my vote now to mahinda

Reply Kiribathgodaya
August 1, 2010 - 2:00 pm
They voted for this Govt to power, so they deserve what they get. Now don’t complain.

Reply Ruwan
August 1, 2010 - 2:43 pm
this women is crying for comfort of our sildiers families.funny.TG doesnt know anything about prefabricated technology.even three floors houses can be built with better facilities than normal houses.and they will be very safe when their husbonds around.and its government duty to provide quarters for they can live with their families where ever they stay.uprooted civilians can be given separate lands.
she says tamils in south are individual it true with estate tamils also?and NE is a traditional sinhala area before ethnic cleansing.there are many buddhist temples there.

Reply James Thenuwera
August 1, 2010 - 3:45 pm
Thisarani is Dayan’s ex. Be careful of her

Reply Gayan
August 1, 2010 - 7:25 pm
Hahaha. What a joker!. Nice comedy article.

Reply Peter
August 1, 2010 - 7:28 pm
Yes! Anybody can live anywhere at their free will. But there is a small print clause for the Tamils. They should register themselves at the nearest Police stations as in Colombo. Because ( not) ‘All the tamils are terrorists and all the terrorists are tamils’. Besides Tamils can be taken in by the forces any time branded as LTTE cadres and endup in Welikada,Boossa and so on, whereas the Sinhalese will have the protection of the Army, NAVY, airforce and the police,as happened to the Doctor who allegedly murdered the female co-worker in Jaffna. He was immediately taken to the Navy base for ‘protection’ and the efforts are being made to push the issue under the carpet to this day. What would have happened if the scenario was in the south and the Doctor was a Tamil,it is anybody’s guess. So just because the somebody has closed his eyes it doesn’t mean the whole world is in darkness. TG you have already become Ex of someone else, so ‘either you are with us or you are against us’, how fitting.

Reply leon
August 2, 2010 - 2:32 am
TG you are perhaps the only sane person in the insane paradise island

Reply Lankawick
August 2, 2010 - 8:07 am
TG – you try to impress us …that you have high intelligence… by various quotes from well known acedemics….

Read about the World history of Colonisation…before writing your usual crap against Sri Lanka !!!!..
.it was State funded Colonisation that populated the USA – Canada – Brazil – Argentina – “White” South Africa – Australia – New Zealand….etc…

Even the transportation of African Slaves to all the nations of the Americas… …
( From Canada in the North to Argentina in the South & add the Caribbean islands ) ….was State Funded Colonisation….

So was the Indented Labourers frm India – China – Indonesia – Japan – Korea…whose descendents are now living in Malaysia – Singapore – South Africa – Peru – Surimane – Guyana – Mauritius – Fiji – USA ( Hawaii & California ) …etc …

TG is well known to “back stab ” SriLanka to earn her $$$ from INGO’s…


Reply kumudini
August 2, 2010 - 1:27 pm
How come Tisaranee has not mentioned the colonisation of Wellawatte by Tamils . ?Has she ever heard of the “Thesa Walame law “which operates in Jaffna , where no Sinhalese can buy lamd ? Is her rantings to please someone who she is reponsible to . Open your eyes a litle wider without quoting Shakespaear , Huxley and who ever comes to your mind as they are not really relevant to SL . This is just to show how well read you are .please remeber that anyone can live wherever they want in SL , This is called democracy . Sinhalaes can live any where they wish just like the Tamils ,get over this .

Reply Shan Nalliah,Gandhiyist Norway
August 2, 2010 - 5:22 pm

Sunday Leader.LK

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Move to accommodate prisoners in open camps
by Uditha Kumarasinghe

Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms Minister D.E.W. Gunasekera said that there are around 7,000 convicts in prisons who had defaulted payment of fines of Rs. 1,500 or Rs. 1,000.

According to the Minister these fines had been imposed by the courts. People from poor families who were unable to pay the fine were compelled to serve a prison term.

The Minister told the Sunday Observer that due to their failure to pay a fine of Rs. 1,500, some of them languished in jail for three months or more.

The Government spends Rs. 261 daily on each inmate in jail. Some of them continue to stay in prisons as they were unable to pay the fine of Rs. 1,000 or less imposed on them, he said.

Minister Gunasekera said at present a number of religious and voluntary organisations pay the convicts’ fines and assist them. This benefited nearly 7,000 convicts who would have been otherwise compelled to stay in prison.

Congestion in prisons is one of the biggest problems. The prisons can accommodate nearly 11,000 prisoners but there are over 25,000 at present.

To minimise congestion in prisons, a decision was taken to accommodate the inmates in open prison camps instead of confining them to prison cells and also give them an opportunity to contribute to the national coffers. The Ministry has already set up two such camps in Weerawila and Polonnaruwa. A decision was also taken to relocate the prisons which are now in the cities.

The Ministry is looking for a location with about 500 acres in Wellawaya to set up an open camp, he said.


During the colonial days, the administrative arm of the Government & the services extended were kept out of reach of the Plantation TAMIL Community.!

Estate Tamils seek adequate political representation
by P. Krishnaswamy

The Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) has presented proposals to the Secretary of the Delimitation Committee on setting up Divisional Secretariat Divisions and Grama Niladhari Divisions in the plantation areas to secure adequate political representation to the plantation community under the new electoral system.

GOPIO Chairman and former Minister P. P. Devaraj in his letter stated that successive Governments had initiated measures, including the appointment of Grama Niladharis from the estate community in the Nuwara Eliya and Badulla districts to mainstream and integrate the plantation community into the administrative system. The measures have made some impact but more needs to be done.

The steps being taken to create new Divisional Secretariat Divisions, Grama Niladhari Divisions and re-demarcate existing boundaries are of great significance in this regard, he said. Implementing these changes can greatly help in absorbing and merging the estate sector into the administrative system.

Being fully aware of the importance of the matter and acknowledging the need for concurrence, political parties, trade unions and social organisations representing the plantation community of Indian origin have joined the GOPIO in submitting the proposals, Devaraj said.

During the colonial days, the administrative arm of the Government and the services extended were kept out of reach of the plantation community thus making them politically and socially backward, he said.

Lake House Copyright © 2010 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.