Daily Archives: August 3, 2006
Associated Press, Thu August 3, 2006 09:56 EDT . COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Tamil rebels said Thursday they are preparing to hand over the bodies of 40 Sri Lankan soldiers killed in heavy fighting in the northeast, a pro-rebel Web site said.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are “making arrangements to hand over the dead bodies of around 40 Sri Lanka Army troopers,” through the Red Cross, TamilNet Web site reported, quoting rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan.
Source: Global Order
Associated Press, Thu August 3, 2006 03:00 EDT . DILIP GANGULY – Associated Press Writer – COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – (AP) Dozens of Tamil Tiger rebels infiltrated a small, government-held town during fierce fighting in northeastern Sri Lanka – , and soldiers were trying to flush them out, a government spokesman said Thursday. It quoted residents as saying intense fighting was under way in Muttur as “hundreds of heavily armed (Tamil Tigers) who have taken control of the town center laid siege to four Sri Lanka – army camps on its periphery.”
Some residents have taken shelter in mosques and churches, TamilNet said.
The clashes have been among the fiercest since a 2002 cease-fire deal was signed between the government and the Tigers.
The latest violence was sparked by a rebel move last month to shut down a reservoir and cut off water to nearby government-held villages. The military responded with airstrikes and a ground assault.
Norwegian envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer, who is scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka – on Friday, was to meet with Sri Lankan government and rebel leaders in an effort to settle the dispute, Norwegian embassy spokesman Tom Knappskog said Thursday.
Separately, New York-based Human Rights Watch said a boosted international monitoring presence was needed in Sri Lanka – after three of the five Nordic countries overseeing the 2002 cease-fire decided to withdraw observers.
The group described “the urgent need for a strong international human rights monitoring presence to help ensure civilian protection.”
“The lives of countless civilians are at risk at this critical time,” Brad Adams, the group’s Asia director, said in a statement.
Sweden, Finland and Denmark have said they were pulling out for security reasons. The rebels had demanded that EU members withdraw after the 25-nation group labeled the Tamil Tigers as terrorists in May
Source: Global Order
Last afternoon, for a period of time, the sound of incoming shells landing among naval personnel could be clearly heard by all in Trincomalee town. The irony was that, exactly at that time, staff of UNHCR were engaged in discussing a Government approved programme to institute confidence building measures in localities where people had fled due to violence and threat, in the past seven months. For some witnesses yesterday, it was the recurrence of sounds and sights they thought they would never experience again. The town emptied rapidly. It, though, was hardly surprising that insecurity had become the norm, rather than an aberration, for people living in the East.
A report prepared by an agency which has worked closely with many grass root groups, has very troubling findings. Avoiding children from being abducted by armed groups, is a significant pre occupation for parents. Children have been hidden in wells, in paddy stacks and on roofs, in extreme situations. The loss of childhood is aptly captured in this quote:
“Youth is the first victim of war; the first fruit of peace. It takes 20 years or more of peace to make a man; it takes only 20 seconds of war to destroy him.” King Baudouin I, King of Belgium
More generally, the stalled peace process, increasing activities by all concerned parties, to act in a manner in breach of the CFA, violent public face of disputes between the LTTE and groups sponsored and acting against them and the lack of mechanisms which can articulate the sentiments of the affected citizens, troubles many ceaselessly.
Compliance with violence and acting with impunity, further enhances a culture of impunity. In an environment where hostile acts are a daily feature, protecting civilian lives is less of a priority, since the preoccupation is dealing with constant threats and violence directed at soldiers and cadre.
The LTTE controls swathes of territory, as is well known, whilst the Government forces and the ‘Karuna’ phenomenon, control another set of territory. All have the capacity to penetrate and engage in violent acts. Government and humanitarian agencies work in all areas in varying degrees of effectiveness. Local government officials tend to be irregular in their presence, while government activity, in some instances, stop mid afternoon to allow civilians to engage in military training. Many find it difficult to distinguish between the Wanni and ‘Karuna’ groups.
A sample of recent events, over a three-week period, shows up narratives on many ugly forms of violence and intimidation. A mentally deranged, elderly man, who could not comprehend orders to stop his movements, had been shot, a grenade kept by his side and public announcement made as him being an LTTE operative. Thirteen civilians had died in a claymore attack suspected to be the work of a para military group or a deep penetration mission. Fishermen used as human shields to escape firing across lagoon by the LTTE, displacement due to conscription with those affected unwilling to be identified for fear of reprisals, conscription and training in government held territory by armed group, about which the youth say they would go with whoever conscripts them, first, since they have no defense from such groups, open movement and functioning of white van engaged in abductions, those engaged in daily earnings suspending travel to outlying areas due to fear and insecurity, killing of civilians with impunity, by all parties, beach front occupied by armed groups preventing normal fishing activities, enhancing facilities of camps restricting activities of farmers, proliferation of small arms, harassment at checkpoint when crossing between territory held by opposing parties, drop in school attendance, training facilities in non conflict areas with knowledge of security forces and the inability of agencies such as the police to act in most complaints relating to much of these issues which affect civilians, are incidents that deeply trouble the people.
Overall community concerns include the stretching of community coping mechanism, which in the past include moving from territorial control of different groups, which now is not possible with ‘nowhere to run’ situation.
Human rights protection, extended through institutional mandates and action, have become less effective due to periods of non activity and loss of institutional memory on the ‘how’ of protection in difficult circumstances in the midst of what has been described earlier. Compliance with violence and acting with impunity, further enhances a culture of impunity. In an environment where hostile acts are a daily feature, protecting civilian lives is less of a priority, since the pre occupation is dealing with constant threats and violence directed at soldiers and cadre.
Active inclusion of civilians in military training, placement in modest but nevertheless, active military roles means the distinction of being civilians is eroded and they face the threat of being harmed in any early stages of operations, whilst civilian terrain becomes less of a consideration, having become a ‘legitimate target’.
The hope of rapid recovery from the tsunami, the use of the goodwill and resources to deal with scars of the conflict, have all become an elusive dream. The situation now is fending off suggestions of, whether war has begun in earnest again or, if one may see war off for the moment. The current state is symptomatic of the freeze on peace and active destabilization of the parties acting in concert with vested interests. The current configuration of staying in power in Parliament, precludes any serious peace initiatives. Would we care to seriously believe in these beautiful words:
“Without free, self-respecting, and autonomous citizens, there can be no free and independent nations. Without internal peace, that is, peace among citizens and between the citizens and the State, there can be no guarantee of external peace,” Václav Havel, writer and dramatist, last President of Czechoslovakia and first President of the Czech Republic
By the day, nationalistic and chauvinistic calls ring louder, with communities being polarized on lines of ethnicity. Though, war has not been officially declared, the parties to the CFA have essentially gone to war already. The impact on human rights of civilians is anything but inspirational.
Even if considered idealistic, some suggested ways forward, in reliving protection, include: raising awareness of the rights of civilians in particular situations, as defined by international conventions, making widely known redress mechanisms which could be accessed and measures to follow up, facilitating safe and credible channels of communication, linking local, regional, national and international mechanisms, dialogue focusing on keeping structures accountable and keeping them alive to risks and limitation, publicising successes and failures of public mechanisms mandated with protecting civilian interests, documenting requirements which enable compensation for losses, addressing community constrains impeding effective action, including lack of awareness, language barriers, attitudinal barriers, transport limitations, risks and threats, and allowing community base multi ethnic deliberations to deal with issues affecting them.
A suggested agency agenda includes: Coordination of agencies with protection mandates, enhanced field presence, Human Rights Commission is looked to give leadership, general enhancement of concepts of human rights amongst agency staff, regular review at local NGO consortia, meetings, systematic documentation, dialogue to promote best practices adherence by all parties and overall, utilising every possible means to ensure all parties are made to account for their actions now, in the future.
“Cowardice asks the question: is it safe? Expediency asks the question: is it politic? Vanity asks the question: is it popular? But, conscience asks the question: is it right? And there comes a time, when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular- but, one must take it, simply because it is right,” Martin Luther King Jr.
This is a call to all who should have the courage to do what is right, now, in the face of the gross abuse to human dignity, narrated from the report referred to in this column.
In the face of great failure, one still looks to inspirations and live in the hope that men and women in public service, particularly politics, can look to salvage us from the precipice into which we are descending once more. As this column is closed, this week, more ominous overnight developments in Trincomalee have come to light. This column hopes that our leaders will do what is right because it is right. -Daily Mirror
The business community now has more than a low-intensity war to contend with, thanks to a renewed surge in global oil prices, spiralling inflation, higher interest rates and growing industrial unrest. So reveals the latest instalment of the LMD-ACNielsen Business Confidence Index, which will be released via the business magazine’s August edition – out at the end of this week.
In a sneak preview – exclusively to the Financial Times – LMD reveals that business confidence nose-dived from a 14-month high of 143 in April, to 88 basis points, in just three months. It is now at a 21-month low. This comes in the wake of a host of negative indicators, which suggest that the Sri Lankan economy is beginning to falter.
The latest edition of the unique monthly survey reveals that nearly 60 per cent of the sample population feels that the economy will "get worse", whereas less than half of the sample population said so in May.
"There are many ominous signs, of course," says a spokesperson for LMD, speaking exclusively to the Financial Times. "First and foremost, the recent flare-up in the Middle East has sent global oil prices through the ceiling once again. Add to this what’s transpired at home, following the resolution of a dispute between the government and Lanka Indian Oil Company. All this could mean higher prices at the pump."
The forthcoming issue of the business magazine also observes that LIOC will set its own prices in line with the global market, with the state-owned Ceylon Petroleum Corporation likely to follow suit – in collaboration, it has been surmised, with LIOC. Recent industrial action in key utilities – including the petroleum sector – has made matters a lot worse, as LMD notes.
Meanwhile, inflation is also on the rise. At the last count, the point-to-point change has nearly doubled in the last 12 months, to as high as 17.7 per cent. The bottom line, as the business magazine points out, is that the cost of living is rising at a rapid rate – and there is only one direction in which it can head from here, when the impact of higher oil prices and interest rates start to take effect.
ACNielsen’s analyses for LMD reveal that sales volumes in the last three months have plummeted. In excess of half the respondents acknowledge that business has decreased. The last time 50 or more per cent said so was in October 2004.
Thus, it appears that the current investment climate continues to be viewed with pessimism, with more than two-thirds of those polled saying that our prospects are "poor" or "very poor". LMD opines that unless there is a breakthrough of some sort with regard to peace talks of any kind, business confidence will be hard-pressed to maintain even its present level.
"The reality, then, is that the nation’s engine of growth will have to prove that its resilience is stronger than perhaps ever before," says the LMD spokesperson, adding: "And not for the first time either!" -Daily Mirror
In the midst of violence and terror, the innocent had only one cry; water. “All we ask for is water. Please give us water. We don’t want anything else. Our children are suffering and so are we. Please help us.” These are the cries of Serunuwera and its surrounding villages who were denied water for more that two weeks following the forceful closure of the Mawilaru sluice gates by the LTTE.
The LTTE in Trincomalee has refused to open the Mawilaru sluice gates citing a water crisis of its own by claiming that villages in rebel controlled areas of Echalampattu have been deprived of a water tank since 2002.
The closure has now led to what the government calls a “humanitarian operation” by the military to force open the anicut in an unprecedented offensive code named ‘operation watershed.’
But while both the government and the LTTE continue to fight over the rights of “their people” to decide who should be the first to get ‘water’, the people themselves are continuing to suffer with no respite in site.
In government controlled Serunuwera and some 15 other villages including Muslim and Tamil dominated areas in Muttur and Thopur more than 60,000 people and 30,000 acres of paddy is without water owing to the closure of the Mawilaru anicut.
Interestingly the immediate areas surrounding the anicut was initially under government control during the war but was termed as ‘uncleared areas’ just prior to the signing of the cease fire agreement.
To put it in the words of the chief prelate of the Serunuwera Raja Maha Vihara that move led to the “head of the anicut to remain in LTTE controlled areas and the body to flow into government controlled areas. The LTTE has now shot on the head. So, obviously the body is dying,” the Ven Saranakeerthi thera told the Daily Mirror. He said the government was solely responsible for the current water crisis.
The timing of the closure of the anicut by the LTTE two weeks ago hurt the farming community of Serunuwera as it came just as they were preparing to harvest their crop which is the main source of their income.
“We are farmers and the closure of the anicut is really hurting us. Our crops have all run dry and with no paddy to sell we might as well leave our villages and go somewhere else or die,” K.G. Navachandra said.
The paddy in most parts had visibly turned yellow, a sign that it was drying up with no water while in some areas the paddy had already turned brown with the scorching heat and lack of rain adding to the woes of the farmers.
An angry Mr. Navachandra said that if the Mawlirau anicut crisis was not resolved soon the Serunuwera people might even consider coming to Colombo to occupy state owned land until relief is provided.
“People in Colombo are living happily while we are suffering. We might have to come to Colombo and build our homes there if nothing is done very soon,” he said adding that the action by the LTTE had led to the suffering of Tamil farmers in government areas as well, the very people the rebels claim to represent.
The Serunuwera people not only depend on the water that runs through the anicut for their paddy but they also use it for drinking and bathing purposes as there is no other source of water supply for the area.
Villagers were seen last week bathing in the puddles of water remaining in the drying up canals while the same water was also being used for drinking purposes raising the threat of a serious health crisis.
Several village schools have been temporarily closed as there was no drinking water for the children and some already have developed rashes on their skins as a result of bathing and drinking contaminated water.
The Kallaru army camp which is also dependent on the water from Mawillaru is now as a temporary measure drawing water directly from the Mahawelli River to ensure the throats of the soldiers and home guards do not run dry.
The government has also taken measures to supply water to the villagers from bowsers but the supply is still inadequate to meet the needs of more than 60, 000 people whose patience had almost ran out last week.
In an attempt to take matters into their own hands the villagers led by Buddhist monks staged a protest in Serunuwera and later attempted to march their way into rebel controlled Mawilaru to force open the anicut.
However following the advice of the military the villagers decided to rethink their decision which if continued would have been disastrous with the surroundings of the anicut said to be heavily mined.
Alainair Mohomad from Thopur said some people were now hiring out water pumps to draw water from drying out wells and canals to feed at least parts of their paddy hoping that it will help fill their stomachs for at least a few more days.
The venerable Serunuwera Saranakeerthi thera, the chief priest of the Serunuwera Rajamaha Vihara Temple, said the move by the LTTE to close the anicut is the worst ceasefire violation since the agreement was signed in 2002.
The thera himself staged a hunger strike in protest of the closure of the anicut but later decided to call it off as it was only adding to the troubles faced by the Serunuwera people.
He was of the view that the whole crisis could have been resolved much earlier if the government had acted as soon as the anicut was closed and avoided the military action as the LTTE had initially shown signs of re-opening the sluice gates.
For the moment though the people of Serunuwera are in despair hoping and praying the water crisis will come to an end very soon as every minute that passes by, is further aggravating their suffering.
-Daily Mirror By Easwaran Rutnam in Serunuwera