Sunday, August 21, 2011

What lankans ...sinhala,tamil,muslims think about present situation in srilanka ...???

What Sri Lanka really thinks – Dr. Dayan Jayatileka
August 20, 2011, 4:40 pm

"Seek truth from facts" (Deng Xiaoping)

There is an extensive survey of public opinion, the results of which will up-end all conventional assumptions about what the Sri Lankan people think and therefore how they are likely to act or react.

This is the Survey on Democracy in Post-War Sri Lanka, Topline Report July 2011, conducted and published by the Social Indicators unit of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), in association with the Friedrich Neumann Stiftung of Germany. Headed by Dr Paikiyasothy Saravanamuttu, a well-known civil society critic of the administration, the CPA is and has been a trenchant critic of government policy. Therefore, its findings cannot be tainted by association with government. Those findings will, to put it colloquially, blow your socks off.

Significantly, the statistics show a remarkable degree of congruence between Sinhalese and Tamils on key issues, and a surprisingly positive opinion being held by a fairly large percentage of Tamils on the most contentious and polarising issues.

"On the subject of the general security situation in the country, majority of Sri Lankans think that it has got better in the last two years. 68.2% said it has got a lot better while 23.1% said it has got a little better. When comparing the opinions of respondents across the four communities, it is mostly the Sinhala community (77.5%) and Upcountry Tamil community (57.8%) who said that the security situation has got a lot better. "

The solid commitment of the Sri Lankan citizenry to democracy as a system, and rejection of any suggestion of military rule as a form of government, comes through unambiguously in the Survey data. Furthermore, the commitment to democracy is one major issue on which there is NO significant ethnic differentiation, let alone polarisation. "A majority from all four communities (Sinhala – 68.2%, Tamil – 70.3%, Upcountry Tamil – 70.8%, Muslim 87.8%) stated that democracy is preferable to any other kind of government. 52.7% of Sinhala respondents, 76.3% of Tamil respondents, 71.1% of Upcountry Tamil respondents and 70.1% of Muslim respondents strongly disagreed with the suggestion of having the army rule a country."

Interestingly it is the Sinhalese who disagreed most with the notion of a strong, yet undemocratic leader, even if the situation necessitated it.

"Having a strong leader who does not have to bother with parliament and elections – Respondents from all four communities mostly disagreed with this statement with 50.7% of the Sinhala community, 44.2% of the Tamil community, 41.7% of Upcountry Tamil community and 40.3% of the Muslim community strongly disagreeing... Having a democratically elected political leader – Around 80% of those from Sinhala and Tamil communities and around 85% from the Upcountry Tamil and Muslim communities agreed with this type of leader governing a country. 72.7% of urban respondents and 70.5% of rural respondents said that they strongly agreed with having a democratically elected political leader." (pp 21-22)

The advanced character of the civic consciousness of the Sri Lankan people is demonstrated by their preference for a non-military, non-theocratic, civilian, elected democratic leadership, with a more meritocratic, expert driven decision making /policy process.

"Having experts, not government, make decisions according to what they think is best for the country – Agreement was high for this form of governance, with more than 62% of respondents from all four communities agreeing with this statement." (pp 21-22)

The people, irrespective of ethnic identities, feel that Sri Lanka is more, not less democratic in the post war period. "Most respondents from all four communities believe that Sri Lanka is now more democratic, with 31.2% of Sinhala, 20.8% of Tamil, 32.8% of Upcountry Tamil and 33.8% of Muslim respondents stating that Sri Lanka is much more democratic." Furthermore, the people of all ethnic communities believe that their vote counts, irrespective of all propaganda about vote rigging and stolen elections. The Survey says that "It is noteworthy that most respondents from all four communities believe that their vote has an impact on the outcome of an election."

Notwithstanding a noteworthy degree of alienation among the Tamil citizens of the Hill Country — most respondents in the Upcountry Tamil community (41.2%) believe that they have no say in what the government does—"most in the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities disagreed and believe that they do have a say in what the government does".

What about the freedom of expression? "When asked if in Sri Lanka they are free to express their feelings about politics, irrespective of where they are and who they are with, most of those from the Sinhala community (50%) and Upcountry Tamil community (38.8%) believe that they are completely free to do so, while a much smaller percentage of the Tamil and Muslim communities believe the same."

What do the majority of our citizens say about democracy during the administration of President Mahinda Rajapaksa? "58.8% of Sri Lankans think that the country has been the most democratic under President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s period. This view is shared by 69.9% of Sinhalese respondents. On the other hand, only 23.6% of Tamil respondents, 13.1% of Upcountry Tamil respondents and 21.9% of Muslim respondents concur."

Which political party do most Sri Lankans feel closest to? What is the picture in the South and North respectively? The results are striking, stark and massive.

"Respondents were asked about which political party (specific party, not alliance) they felt that they are close to. 74% of Sinhalese respondents said the Sri Lanka Freedom Party while 19.8% said the United National Party. 53.9% of Tamil respondents said they felt close to the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi party while 22.4% said the United National Party."

Meanwhile the TNA is not as hegemonic among the Tamils as the SLFP is among the Sinhalese, but it has emerged clearly ahead, and is far more popular among the Tamils than the UNP is among the Sinhalese.

On the problem of a political solution and reconciliation, social opinion does seem divided. "On the topic of a political solution for Sri Lanka’s ethnic problem, 29.7% of Sinhala, 59.1% of Tamil, 30.8% of Up country Tamil and 53.5% of Muslim communities agreed that the Constitution should be changed based on recommendations made by an all party committee to produce a political solution to the country’s ethnic problem. However, 17.6% Sinhala, 4% Tamil, 11.1% Up country Tamil and 14.2% Muslim communities said that there is no need for a political solution as the LTTE was completely defeated militarily. Most respondents from the Tamil (40.9%), Up country Tamil (32.5%) and Muslim (42.9%) communities agree that power needs to be devolved to the Provincial Councils while reducing the power of the central government. Only 15.3% of the Sinhala community concur...On the topic of reconciliation, 32.3% of people from the Tamil community are of the opinion that the government has done nothing with regard to addressing the root causes of the conflict which resulted in thirty years of war. On the other hand, 41.1% of people from the Sinhala community believe that the government has done a lot."

Though this is an extract from the CPA’s ‘Key Points’ summary, the body of the main text provides the real ‘key’ to the solution: "...On the other hand, 31.3% of Sinhala and around 20% of Tamil, Upcountry Tamil and Muslim communities stated that it is alright to decentralise certain powers but powers of the central government should not be reduced. Once again, 37% of Sinhala and around 20% of Tamil, Upcountry Tamil and Muslim respondents said that they have no opinion regarding this." (pp.23-24)

Paradoxically, the CPA statistics make it easier to formulate a political settlement, because the parameters of the possible are brought into sharp relief.

The cold, hard facts revealed by the CPA Survey prescribe the avoidance of Constitutional change drastic enough to reduce, or be credibly perceived (before the Supreme Court, in the first instance) as reducing the powers of the centre and therefore necessitating a referendum. Logic and reality combine to dictate that any political settlement must be limited to that which averts a Sinhala veto at a referendum, i.e. it must remain within the overall framework of the Constitution and must be limited to the actual implementation of its existing provisions for devolution of power to the provinces with perhaps a degree of ‘stretching’ by way of re-adjustment in the list of powers shared concurrently between centre and provinces

In another surprising development, there is a broad consensus cross cutting ethnic fault lines, and belying the critique by oppositional economists, that the Rajapaksa administration is doing a good job on the macro economy. This of course narrows the political space for the UNP, whose strong suit has been economic growth and development. The Survey states that "Looking at the assessment of the economy, most of the respondents from all four communities believe that the government is doing a good job...50.4% of Sinhala, 49.2% of Tamil, 54.4% of Up country Tamil and 60.6% of Muslim communities agree that the government is doing a good job in managing public services. 71.7% of Sinhala, 74.4% of Tamil, 55.9% of Up country Tamil and 64% of Tamil respondents who said that the Government is doing a good job in managing public services also stated that this favourable opinion increased since the end of war. 5.5% of Sinhala, 2.3 of Tamil, 20.3% of Up country Tamil and 7.9% of Muslim respondents said that it has decreased."

This does not however, mean that the people, including the Sinhala people have no clearly identifiable problems, criticism and grievances. The big issues are those of Human Development or Physical Quality of Life including unemployment, inflation and poverty. The big three are the Cost of living, corruption and unemployment. "65% of Sri Lankans, mostly from the Sinhala community, do not think that corruption can be ignored...According to a majority of the respondents, the most important area the Government needs to pay attention to is the cost of living. When it comes to the second most important area, respondents in the Tamil and Upcountry Tamil communities said it should be reducing poverty while the Sinhala community said agriculture and the Muslim community said unemployment. When asked about the main results that people would like to see from the current development process, once again cost of living ranks as the top priority for respondents in all four communities. For the Sinhala community, improved infrastructure is the second result they would like to see while for the other three communities it is addressing unemployment and the creation of more jobs. "

Public opinion is enlightened, across the ethnic communities on the need to prioritise the development of the former conflict areas. "Most respondents from all four communities believe that priority should be given to rebuilding conflict affected areas, with the Tamil (73.6%) and Upcountry Tamil (65.2%) being the highest among the four communities who think so when compared to the 49.6% of Sinhala respondents and 46.1% of Muslim respondents who believe the same. ``The Sri Lankan citizenry displays the same pragmatic enlightenment on two important civic issues, namely women’s representation and the role of the news media. "72.6% said that the news media should constantly investigate and report on corruption and the mistakes made by the government while only 5.6% said that too much reporting on negative events, like corruption, only harms the country... Support for the idea of allocating a fixed quota for women candidates per district at the elections was high among respondents from all four communities."

Lenin once said that "serious politics begins where tens of millions of people are". It is therefore very difficult to take seriously, those who try to do serious politics or urge serious political change with no awareness of or respect for the opinions of tens of millions of Sri Lankan people. Perhaps things are simpler still. The best known injunction of the man who launched China’s economic miracle, Chairman Deng Xiaoping, was ‘seek truth from facts’.

Eventhough muslims were with sinhalese during the separatist war, they treat muslims as foreigners..!!!

Muslim Fear Psychosis?
August 20, 2011, 4:44 pm

BY Izeth Hussain

Just before I started writing this article I had an email from a usually reliable and well-informed Muslim friend stating that a campaign has been going on trying to turn the Sinhalese Buddhists against the Muslims. In that connection he provided some supporting details, but I don’t want to go into them because what seems to me important is to find out why Sinhalese-Muslim relations are too often troubled. There could be several reasons for that fact, not just Sinhalese racism as many Muslims tend to assume. In this brief article I will comment on two possible reasons: one is the Muslim fear psychosis, and the other is the tendency of Muslims to immure themselves apart from the mainstream of national affairs.

I can provide a very convincing illustration of the Muslim fear psychosis based on what has been told to me by my friend Nawaz A. Rahim. Sometime in the early fifties, he and other devotees who used to go for prayers at the Wellawatte mosque were disturbed by a Buddhist procession which halted in the vicinity and engaged in drumming precisely at the hour of prayer. It was obviously meant as an act of hostility towards the Muslims. I must clarify that in those days there was no loudspeaker call to prayer, nor were traffic problems caused outside mosques, which later became familiar irritants to non-Muslims. What Nawaz and the others were experiencing was therefore entirely unprovoked gratuitous hostility towards the Muslims.

Nawaz and a group of Muslims therefore went to meet Sir Razik Fareed to request him to intervene in the matter. I must explain that at that time Sir Razik had the reputation of being the only Muslim leader who was prepared to speak out on Muslim grievances. The other Muslims with a politically representative capacity were for the most part notorious for their silence on Muslim grievances, which was the consequence of both selfishness and the Muslim fear psychosis. But Sir Razik would have nothing to do with the matter. He held that it was precisely the problem of a Buddhist procession going past a mosque that led to the 1915 anti-Muslim riots. He was factually right about that, but he was deliberately ignoring the context in which those riots took place, about which I cannot go into details here. Suffice it to note that he was clearly displaying the Muslim fear psychosis.

But Nawaz and his fellow devotees were not content. They went to see Dr Colvin R. de Silva who was at that time a Parliamentarian. After listening to them Colvin said something like this, "Nothing is more important than religion in this country," meaning more important politically. That surprised and pleased those Muslims because for most of them Marxism had to be anathematized as a godless creed. He next proceeded to telephone the OIC of the Wellawatte Police Station who happened to be a Malay Muslim by the name of Miskin, and after faulting him for not being aware of the problem, requested him to go to the Buddhist temple in the area and on Colvin’s behalf request the Chief Priest to take action to stop the nuisance. Colvin expected a reply within half an hour and a positive response from the Chief Priest came quickly. Colvin then told those Muslims that if nevertheless the nuisance continued they should come to him, and he would personally lead a mass demonstration to stop the nuisance. Those Muslims decided among themselves that they would attend Colvin’s funeral when it took place. Only Nawaz did so, because the others had passed away or were not in Colombo.

Was Sir Razik in the wrong in refusing to intervene? Many Muslims will still hold that he was quite right because his intervention would have complicated matters whereas the intervention of Colvin, a prominent Sinhalese politician, led to an immediate solution. It is an outlook that still persists widely – how widely I don’t know – as I have found in writing about alleged anti-Muslim racism in cricket etc. Many Muslims believe that I am only aggravating a difficult situation, while others are strongly supportive. The obvious question to be asked is this: if the Muslims themselves fail to speak up on discrimination against them, how can corrective action ever be taken? In indulging their fear psychosis they are not serving their own legitimate interests, nor are they making any contribution to the promotion of ethnic harmony and nation-building. In effect, they are self-declared aliens. It was a realization of that fact that led to the formation of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress in the eighties. It is significant that it quickly established itself as a force to be reckoned with in our national politics, though its performance has been well below potential because of its internal divisions.

I will now provide a very convincing illustration to show that speaking out on anti-Muslim discrimination can have very positive results. From the seventies to part of the nineties there was a widespread perception among Muslims that the press was strongly prejudiced against them, even to the extent that that they were not allowed the right of reply when unfavorable material about the Muslims was published. Some Muslims went to the Press Council and got redress. Siddiqe Ghouse for instance told me that on a decision of the Press Council several of his rejected articles had to be published by a prominent newspaper. After 1994, that is after the return to power of the SLFP, such complaints ceased, or rather they became far less insistent and persistent. There are still complaints, as for instance over a recent superb article which could not find publication. But I believe that anti-Muslim prejudice is not the major factor leading to such complaints. It is rather the constraints imposed on the "free media", here and all over the world, by governments, the advertisers, special interest groups etc.

It may strike many readers as extremely odd that I should make out a case at all to establish the efficacy of speaking out against anti-Muslim discrimination. After all, everyone knows that throughout history and all over the world the underprivileged – such as the blacks, the feminists, the gays, some ethnic minorities – have got their rightful place under the sun only by speaking out against discrimination and campaigning for their legitimate rights. Why have the SL Muslims been allergic to doing so? The reason of course is the Muslim fear psychosis, But that fear psychosis is excessive as it cannot be warranted by the facts. The average Sinhalese may be ethnocentric and have prejudices like every ethnic group under the sun, but he is not innately anti-Muslim and is surely appreciative of the fact that the Muslims stood by the Sinhalese in the struggle against separatism. The crucial fact is this: the Muslims have no claim to a homeland and cannot ever take to separatism, and consequently they can never pose a serious threat to the legitimate interests of the Sinhalese.

We now have to seek an explanation for the excessive fear psychosis. I must add parenthetically at this point that the Sinhalese racist, just like racists everywhere, is nasty, brutish, and almost totally impervious to reason in relating to the Other. But he is in a minority, and the fear psychosis is therefore excessive. I believe that it had its origin in the 1915 riots, but the memory of those riots has largely faded over the decades. By the time of Independence there was a Muslim perception that D.S. Senanayake and other Sinhalese leaders were out to push Sinhalese interests at the expense of the minorities, but at the same time there was a Muslim perception that those leaders were essentially decent, humane, and well-meaning people, and there was a basic confidence that the Muslims could live happily in Sri Lanka in reasonable accommodation with the Sinhalese. But that confidence has been eroding in subsequent decades, mainly I believe because of the root-cause underlying most ethnic problems: the mass aspiration for upward mobility and the struggle for scarce resources. After 1983 a Muslim fear arose as a consequence of assiduously promoted covert propaganda that it would be the turn of the Muslims next. That fear is being revived at the present moment.

But what I am describing above are familiar features of most ethnic problems, which cannot explain the excessive fear psychosis. For that I have to turn to another paradigm: the tendency of Muslims to immure themselves apart from the national mainstream. It is a complex problem requiring another article. In the meanwhile I will refer to a visit paid to me around 1980 by the late Bishop Lakshman Wickremesinghe to discuss what he saw as the essential Muslim problem. He had extraordinary prescience about the ethnic horror that was to descend on us, and was therefore holding meetings to promote ethnic understanding. He said that he was struck by the fact that Muslim participation in the meetings was of a perfunctory order with no real commitment to the process. A Tamil representative, he said, saw that as an expression of Muslim selfishness, whereas I would see it as an expression of their fear psychosis. Anyway, Bishop Lakshman forecast that the tendency to hold themselves apart would result in the Sinhalese coming to see the Muslims as no different from the Tamils, as people who did not belong to the nation. Retrospectively it seems to me that he was right.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The healthiest option is peace building & reconciliation through a political solution in which ALL CAN DECIDE ABOUT PAST MISTAKES & FUTURE SOLUTIONS!

No meeting point of the two war narratives?
August 8, 2011, 6:35 pm

By Jehan Perera

There are two narratives of the end phase of the war that are battling for dominance. The first is that of the Sri Lankan government that emphasizes the victory over the LTTE and terrorism and the securing of the country’s unity and sovereignty. It also asserts that the war was conducted according to international law with a policy of minimising civilian casualties. The other is the account of the expert panel appointed by the UN Secretary General, which is a severe indictment of the Sri Lankan government’s lack of adherence to international norms in the conduct of the war. This report has drawn on the information available within the UN system and also the reports of human rights organizations.

The UN panel report, also known as the Darusman report in deference to its chairman, is over 200 pages in length. It was issued to the public in March this year. Although well written, not many would wish to labour many hours to read it unless especially motivated as students of the Sri Lankan conflict or as advocates of a position. This is not the case with the UK Channel 4 video titled "Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields" that made its appearance in June this year. It is of one hour’s duration and provides a graphic account of what is presented as the last days of the war. It is readily accessible on the internet to those who wish to see it, if they are prepared to brave its warning that it contains scenes that could be very disturbing.

The Sri Lankan government’s response to the UN expert panel report and to the UK Channel 4 video has, from its inception, taken the form of denials and denunciations. The material in them is described as fabricated, biased and ill motivated by a desire for revenge at the defeat of the LTTE. The sources of information are also accused of being tainted, being either NGOs or Tamil Diaspora. As a result, the notion of an international conspiracy has a wide acceptance within Sri Lanka.

In such a situation of opposing versions of the same event, the solution would seem to be a third report of an in independent group. The government has, however, sidestepped the increasingly vociferous international demand for an independent international investigation into the alleged human rights violations and war crimes by referring to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission it has appointed.


The Sri Lankan government has presented the LLRC as a legitimate and viable mechanism that precludes the need for an international investigation at this time, and even in the future. This is on the basis that international remedies are only necessary when national ones have failed. The LLRC has already issued an interim report and its final report is expected in November this year. The US government has given importance to the LLRC by officially informing the Sri Lankan government through a diplomatic note that it expects the LLRC’s final report to be presented for discussion next year at the UN’s Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva.

However, with the LLRC’s final report yet to be published, the government has taken additional action to counter the UN expert panel report and the UK Channel 4 video at the international level. Last week’s government launch of a book titled "Humanitarian Operation A Factual Analysis" and a video titled "Lies Agreed Upon" was the government’s reply to the UN expert panel report and the UK Channel 4 video. They were both launched at a large gathering in which high ranking members of the Sri Lankan security forces were present in large numbers.

In addition, a sizeable number of foreign diplomats and media were also present. There were also a few NGOs also present who had previously been excluded from government events that had anything to do with national security and counter terrorism. Their presence could be taken as evidence of a greater willingness on the part of the government to positively engage with other perspectives in a more accommodative spirit.

The government’s report and video provide an opposite perspective to that found in the UN expert panel report and the Channel 4 video. They focus on the LTTE and on its brutal methods. The government narrative goes back in time to cover the period in which the LTTE first engaged in acts of terrorism. It does not start where the international narrative starts from, which is the last phase of the war. As a result the government narrative provides a context in which the ferocity of the war in its last phase can be better understood from the nature of the LTTE which took a population of over 300,000 hostage during that period. It is worth noting that the government’s willingness to concede that civilian deaths were unavoidable and did occur during the last phase of the war has come along with the release of this report and video.


There is no doubt that the government narrative will be the one that dominates and prevails within Sri Lanka. It will prevail regardless of the content and quality of the government report and video. This is because most people within the country experienced at first hand the fear of the LTTE’s brutal terrorism even if they did not suffer directly at its hands. The government report and video will further strengthen the feeling of people within the country that the international community is biased and anti-Sri Lanka in its targeting of the government. This will lead to a further hardening of anti-Western sentiment as it is generally perceived that the West that is seeking to punish the government for ridding the country of the LTTE.

On the other hand, that section of the international community that is urging an independent international mechanism to investigate the last phase of Sri Lanka’s war is not likely to change its position either. The government report focuses on the LTTE, its methods and actions over the years. There is no mention at all of the excesses of the government’s counter terrorism strategy of which there were so many, and also of the impunity, elements of which continue to the present time The politically partisan nature of the government report can also be seen by its failure to even mention the break-up of the LTTE by the defection of its eastern commander during the period of the much maligned Ceasefire Agreement which was signed by the present Leader of the Opposition and was brokered by the Norwegian government.

So what remains are two narratives, one that dominates internationally and the other that is dominant within the country. These two narratives are at loggerheads with each other and appear to have no meeting place. Neither of these narratives is going to be a vehicle for reconciliation in the future, as each will be fiercely resisted and debunked by the other. Therefore it is unlikely that there will be peace building and reconciliation by going down the road of trying to prove whether or not war crimes took place.

In this context of polarization, the healthiest option is peace building and reconciliation through a political solution in which Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and others of smaller ethnic and religious communities, such as the Burghers, Malays and Borahs decide together what to do about the past and what the country’s shared future should be. This is what the government together with the opposition political parties ought to be working hard at achieving.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

SINHALA GOVT of Sri Lanka has spent a staggering Rs. 2.5 bn on the rehabilitation of TAMIL ex-LTTE cadres since the conclusion of the conflict in 2009

Rehab of ex-LTTE cadres costs Rs. 2.5
August 5, 2011, 12:00 pm

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The government of Sri Lanka has spent a staggering Rs. 2.5 bn on the rehabilitation of ex-LTTE cadres since the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009.

Commissioner General of Rehabilitation Maj. Gen. Sudantha Ranasinghe yesterday said that in spite of constraints, the government had provided the funds needed for post-war rehabilitation process.

Responding to a query, the official said that the first year (May 2009 to May 2010) had cost the Sri Lankan taxpayer Rs. 1.8 bn and about Rs. 700 mn since then.

With the release of 150 ex-LTTE cadres, the total number released so far would exceed 8,000 with some 2,000 LTTEmembers, including about 100 women still undergoing rehabilitation.

Maj. Gen. Ranasinghe alleged that those shedding crocodile tears for the ex-LTTE combatants hadn’t supported the rehabilitation project, though some foreign governments and INGOs were backing the government’s efforts.

The rehabilitation Chief said that at the beginning of the programme there had been 11,664 personnel at 24 rehabilitation facilities and those who accused the military of war crimes should talk to former members of the LTTE and ascertain their views. He said: "We have over 11,000 witnesses who either surrendered or were captured and then released following rehabilitation. Besides them, there are some 300,000 civilians.Unlike faceless men in fake videos produced by Channel 4 News, we have over 300,000 witnesses."

"At one time we brought 1,500 of those undergoing rehabilitation to Colombo and its suburbs. No one tried to escape as they knew no other army would have treated them the way we did," the official said.

Asked whether ex-LTTE cadres would be given an opportunity to support reconstruction and rehabilitation similar to the projects undertaken by the military, the Major Gen. said that two weeks ago former combatants had helped villagers at an isolated village in the Kilinochchi District. The official expressed confidence that ex-LTTE personnel could play a pivotal role in rehabilitation and reconstruction projects.

Military spokesman Maj. Gen. Ubaya Medawela emphasised that the military had a crucial role to play in the post-war development plans. Although some interested parties had expressed concern over their involvement, the military would continue with projects undertaken in the northern and eastern provinces. "Our troops built over 7,000 new houses and repaired about 10,000 others since the end of the war," the outgoing military spokesman said. He estimated that the SLA had completed projects worth approximately Rs 6.3 bn and more projects were in the pipeline.


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She knows that forgetting the past is the best remedy, but sometimes bitter memories continue to haunt her. Erasing those painful memories is serious!

Sunday, 31 July 2011

A new lease of life for former LTTE cadre
By Shanika Sriyananda

She likes fashion just like any young girl. Newly applied red nail polish shines on her nails and her handbag matches her outfit - the shalwar. The new pair of high heels she wears still makes her slightly uneasy. Used to a rough life since 2004, Devakumari Esmini needs time to adjust to her new life as a normal youth.


She knows that forgetting the past is the best remedy, but sometimes bitter memories from the past continue to haunt her. Erasing those painful memories which are firmly buried in the back of her mind is as serious to her as her struggle to find a job suitable for what she had learnt.

Devakumari forces herself to smile when she recalls her story, but tears make her vision blurred. It was on a fateful day in 2004 that terrorists dragged her away; she had just returned from school - Udayarkattu Maha Vidyalayam. The pleas of her Amma had fallen on deaf ears. The white van, where eight girls in school uniforms had been packed in, carried them to the Puhalini Training Base at Wattakachchi, Ampakamampuram, where over 175 children were being given weapons training.

Devakumari was hand-picked for the special two-months training at the Kutti Sri Mortar Brigade under the leadership of Bavanithi. She was deployed to a base in Pallai and after a one-month stay she was sent to Nagar Kovil.

The ill-trained cadre, especially child soldiers, died every day on the battle fields. The same way the LTTE had brought us for the training, they had abducted many small children since 2008 as the government had intensified attacks on the LTTE. The LTTE had to fight in several fronts and there was a severe shortage of man-power to fight. Some parents who came in search of their children were threatened and some were shot dead”. Devakumari who was deployed in Mannar in 2008 to prevent the military thrust, said.

The girls and boys with special training were deployed in batches. Devakumari was injured twice - in Mullankavil and Thewapuram. Her services as an LTTE child soldier were discontinued when she got a serious leg injury.

During the final months of the last battle in 2009, when the LTTE kept nearly 300,000 displaced people as hostages in a small stretch of land - Puthumathalan, Devakumari who was isolated by the LTTE, found her family. She says even when all the people were running for their lives, the LTTE continued to snatch small children who could hold a gun or throw a grenade, to fight with the Army.

Ready to fight
“We had to obey our group leader; if she deploys us to fight, the cadre should be ready to fight. If we refused we would be either punished or assaulted. Those who continued to be stubborn and refused to go to the battle front would be killed. Or else, they would be dropped at the Forward Defence Lines to fight. Those poor children did not want to fight. They were not trained enough to face the trained Army soldiers. But in fear of death, they fought despite knowing only how ti gikd a T-56. Whenever they got a chance to abandon the LTTE, they surrendered. But many who were caught while trying to run away were killed by the LTTE police”, she explains.

Devakumari says many children starved as there was a severe shortage of food. “We never ate three meals a day. We got only one meal with dhal curry, but during the final months the LTTE completely neglected us. When the small children cried in fear of going to the battle front or in hunger, the LTTE hit them with wooden poles. Some were not given food to eat and treatment for their wounds”. Devakuamri who still aspires to make her childhood dream - to become a teacher - a reality one day, says.

Her mother, Thewakumar Ranjani weeps when she listens to her daughter’s ordeal. She loses her voice for a moment. Tears gush down her face. After a pindrop silence, she says she did not know that her child had undergone such risks. “I pleaded with them not to take her, but they threatened me that they would take my other children. We really thought that she was dead and prayed to the gods to save my other children. But my family is lucky, we got reunited, Ranjani says.

Ranjani says all mothers, like her, now have a common wish and pray for to the gods. It is, not to leave space for a future Prabhakaran to be born to destroy the future of their children. “We don’t want such a dark era again.

We want peace for our children and we are now happy as there is no one to snatch our children,” she says.

Devakumari brushed up her skills on sewing while undergoing vocational training at the Thellippalai centre for rehabilitation of ex-cadre in Vavuniya.

After a one and a half year stay at the centre, she returned home to Iyattalai, Varani in Jaffna, with a novel challenge - sitting for the Advance Level examination. Now she is fully engaged on catching up her missed lessons.

She says there is no chance for the LTTE or any similar organisation to make a comeback. “We were misled by the LTTE. They from the school to the training centre, created hatred towards the Sinhalese and the Sinhala Army. We the schoolchildren did not know why we were fighting with the soldiers. They told us that soldiers are coming to capture our land, to rape girls and kill boys as the Sinhala government want to sweep out Tamils from the country. So they asked us to fight for a separate land which they were going to create for Tamils,” she says.But, Devakumari says, like her, thousands of other Tamil youth felt that they were misled by the LTTE towards an unwanted cause and they lied to them about the Army soldiers. “For over one and a half years, I was at the centre run by the Army. They save us when we were running for our lives. They never harmed us. We were well looked after by the soldiers and they taught us about the value of living and saving lives,” she says adding the ex-cadre in the North are now looking forward to a better future and knows the value of peace.

Devakumari who used to wear oversized shirts and trousers in combat, now wears fashionable shalwars and kurthas and gold jewellery. A gold pendant - with the letter “T” on her chain. It seems her young heart which had forcibly shut out love is gradually opening up. She smiles shyly.

Pic: Thilak Perera

Thursday, August 4, 2011

That’s why Sri Lanka has been so dismissive of international criticism.!!!

May 2, 2009

Chinese billions in Sri Lanka fund battle against Tamil Tigers

Jeremy Page, South Asia Correspondent

On the southern coast of Sri Lanka, ten miles from one of the world’s busiest shipping routes, a vast construction site is engulfing the once sleepy fishing town of Hambantota.

This poor community of 21,000 people is about as far as one can get on the island from the fighting between the army and the Tamil Tiger rebels on the northeastern coast. The sudden spurt of construction helps, however, to explain why the army is poised to defeat the Tigers and why Western governments are so powerless to negotiate a ceasefire to help civilians trapped on the front line.

This is where China is building a $1 billion port that it plans to use as a refuelling and docking station for its navy, as it patrols the Indian Ocean and protects China’s supplies of Saudi oil. Ever since Sri Lanka agreed to the plan, in March 2007, China has given it all the aid, arms and diplomatic support it needs to defeat the Tigers, without worrying about the West.

Even India, Sri Lanka’s long-time ally and the traditionally dominant power in South Asia, has found itself sidelined in the past two years — to its obvious irritation. “China is fishing in troubled waters,” Palaniappan Chidambaram, India’s Home Minister, warned last week.

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The Chinese say that Hambantota is a purely commercial venture, but many US and Indian military planners regard it as part of a “string of pearls” strategy under which China is also building or upgrading ports at Gwadar in Pakistan, Chittagong in Bangladesh and Sittwe in Burma.

The strategy was outlined in a paper by Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher J. Pehrson, of the Pentagon’s Air Staff, in 2006, and again in a report by the US Joint Forces Command in November. “For China, Hambantota is a commercial venture, but it’s also an asset for future use in a very strategic location,” Major-General (Retd) Dipankar Banerjee of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies in Delhi said.

The British Navy used the Sri Lankan port of Trincomalee as its main regional base until 1957 and still shares a naval base with the US on the nearby island of Diego Garcia. China has no immediate plans for a fully fledged naval base but wants a similar foothold in the Indian Ocean to protect its oil supplies from piracy or blockade by a foreign power, analysts say.

Beijing sent three ships on an unprecedented anti-piracy mission to the Gulf of Aden in December, and in January a Chinese defence White Paper said that the navy was “developing capabilities of conducting co-operation in distant waters . . .”

China has cultivated ties with Sri Lanka for decades and became its biggest arms supplier in the 1990s, when India and Western governments refused to sell weapons to Colombo for use in the civil war. Beijing appears to have increased arms sales significantly to Sri Lanka since 2007, when the US suspended military aid over human rights issues.

Many of the arms have been bought through Lanka Logistics & Technologies, co-headed by Gotabhaya Rajapksa, the Defence Secretary, who is also the President’s brother.

In April 2007 Sri Lanka signed a classified $37.6 million (£25 million) deal to buy Chinese ammunition and ordnance for its army and navy, according to Jane’s Defence Weekly.

China gave Sri Lanka — apparently free of charge — six F7 jet fighters last year, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, after a daring raid by the Tigers’ air wing destroyed ten military aircraft in 2007. One of the Chinese fighters shot down one of the Tigers’ aircraft a year later.

“China’s arms sales have been the decisive factor in ending the military stalemate,” Brahma Chellaney, of the Centre for Policy Research in Delhi, said. “There seems to have been a deal linked to Hambantota.”

Since 2007 China has encouraged Pakistan to sell weapons to Sri Lanka and to train Sri Lankan pilots to fly the Chinese fighters, according to Indian security sources.

China has also provided crucial diplomatic support in the UN Security Council, blocking efforts to put Sri Lanka on the agenda. It has also boosted financial aid to Sri Lanka, even as Western countries have reduced their contributions.

China’s aid to Sri Lanka jumped from a few million dollars in 2005 to almost $1 billion last year, replacing Japan as the biggest foreign donor. By comparison, the United States gave $7.4 million last year, and Britain just £1.25 million.

“That’s why Sri Lanka has been so dismissive of international criticism,” said B. Raman of the Chennai Centre for China Studies. “It knows it can rely on support from China.”

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