Daily Archives: August 7, 2006
Shimali Senanayake in Colombo, Aug. 6th, 2006. NYT A fresh round of Sri Lankan military strikes halted efforts on Sunday to open a contested irrigation canal and dashed hopes, for now at least, of ending the deadly stalemate in the country’s east.
In a separate development, the bodies of 15 local aid workers were found in the battered eastern town of Muttur, according to the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies, a national umbrella group.
Jeevan Thiagarajah, head of the consortium, said Sunday night that the workers, all wearing T-shirts of the French organization Action Contre la Faim, or Action Against Hunger, “were lying face down after being shot at close range.”
The agency’s Sri Lanka head of mission, Eric Fort, confirmed the killings, saying that the agency had lost contact with its Muttur staff members on Friday morning. He could not say who might be responsible for the killings.
Earlier Sunday, the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam announced that they would end their siege of the irrigation channel, which has been at the heart of a 10-day armed conflict with government troops contingent on a host of demands. But they came under fire by the military as they headed toward the channel’s sluice gate, accompanied by the international truce monitors.
“We hold the government responsible for instigating today’s attacks,” said Thorfinnur Omarsson, the spokesman for the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, which oversees the 2002 cease-fire agreement, an effort to end two decades of civil war. “In our minds, this is now for the government not an issue of getting water. It’s something else.”
The government accused the monitors of flouting protocol and failing to inform the authorities that they were accompanying the Tamil Tigers. It also accused the Tigers of bringing weapons to the area, prompting security forces to fire.
The pro-rebel TamilNet Web site said at least 15 Tamil civilians were killed and 20 others wounded when artillery shells fired by the military hit Tiger-held areas in the east. It called the latest attacks a declaration of war but stopped short of saying it would retaliate.
There was no independent confirmation of the casualties.
The government accuses the Tamil Tigers, who for years fought to establish an independent homeland for the Tamil ethnic minority, of blocking water for farmers largely from the Sinhalese majority. The rebels say the blockade is a protest initiated by Tamil civilians demanding more water from the government.
The clash over the waterway has already displaced thousands and renewed an all-out military clash between the sides. The Tamil Tigers, in talks with the visiting Norwegian peace envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer over the weekend, agreed to give the government three to four weeks to comply with its demands for releasing the water and warned that any fresh attacks by the military would be considered a declaration of war.
The government agreed on Sunday to look into Tamil complaints about water but rejected the rebels’ conditions, which include lifting all economic embargos on rebel-held areas and ensuring better access to water.
“The government is not prepared to accept any conditions on the water supply because it’s a humanitarian issue,” said Keheliya RambukwellaÖ, the Sri Lankan Defense Ministry spokesman. “Water is not a negotiating tool. The operation by the military to free the water blockade will continue.”
Via Global Order
Mangal also plays many instruments such as the sitar, guitar, flute and drums. In 1972, after graduating from high school he formed his first band called "Flower Buds", where he was the lead singer. In 1974 he quit this band and formed "Sweet Inspiration", his second band, which was more successful than the previous band and won many laurels. It was ranked as one of the top five bands in the entire nation in a national talent contest held in 1976. As a result, Mangal received a contract to sing in Kandy Lake Club, where he performed with veteran singers such as Rukmani Devi and C. T. Fernando
Mangal Jayakody was born in Sri Lanka as the eighth child in a family of nine. His mother raised her nine children with a lot of love and care after his father, a police officer passed away when Mangal was two years old. Mangal’s grandfather was the village headman in Gampaha. Mangal studied at Maliyadeva Collage, the largest and the most prestigious secondary boys’ school in the North Western Province of Sri Lanka.
His music instructor, Mr. Dayapala was an inspiration and encouraged Mangal to develop his interest in music. As a result, Mangal became an active member of many school-run music organizations, including the collage band, the cadet band, and the orchestra. During that period the school bands and orchestra received several national awards including the national championship.
In addition to being a gifted vocalist, Mangal also plays many instruments such as the sitar, guitar, flute and drums. In 1972, after graduating from high school he formed his first band called "Flower Buds", where he was the lead singer. In 1974 he quit this band and formed "Sweet Inspiration", his second band, which was more successful than the previous band and won many laurels. It was ranked as one of the top five bands in the entire nation in a national talent contest held in 1976. As a result, Mangal received a contract to sing in Kandy Lake Club, where he performed with veteran singers such as Rukmani Devi and C. T. Fernando. In 1979, he landed a lucrative job in Saudi Arabia to perform Calypso music at a five star hotel. Mangal recorded his first album "Mage Kauluwen" with the help of his good friend and music director Rukantha Gunathilake in 1988.
He was also briefly involved with politics in Sri Lanka. His older brother, who was a member of parliament influenced him into getting involve with public service. In 1986, he became the first president of the Polgahawela Chapter of the Lions Club. Later he got elected as a member of the first Providential Council in the North Western Province. As the Sri Lanka political situation worsened. Mangal resigned from his provincial Council membership.
As for his personal life, Mangal married his high school sweetheart Mangala Wimalasiri in 1982, after a five-year affair. They now have two sons, Yoshana and Shehan. Mangal immigrated to the United State in 1989 and is currently working for "CompUSA", a large computer and electronics store in Southern California. He is also an Apple certified computer professional. As for Managala, she owns and operate a Day care center in Van Nuys, California.
|“The Govt. was pushed against the wall.”|
|In the midst of a growing volatile ground situation in the Eastern areas, over the terrorist refusal to allow water to 15,000 families off the Mawil aru for over two weeks, the government maintains it is carrying out its duty as any sovereign government in meeting the basic needs of its people. Special government spokesman on defence affairs, Keheliya Rambukwella speaks to Hard Talk about the situation and the consequences therein.|
HARD TALK By Shakuntala Perera
Q: There has been reports of a massacre of at least 100, predominantly Muslim civilians in Muttur by the LTTE over the weekend with many other civilians still held in hostage.
A: The massacre of these innocent people has been confirmed. We don’t have an actual number yet but eye witnesses say that it’s anything between 100-200 people. The troops and the SLMM monitors are unable to go close to ascertain the figures. This clearly follows the pattern of slaughtering innocent civilians by the LTTE as a means of ethnic cleansing. We have experienced this kind of ethnic cleansing before. They are trying to push the Muslim and Sinhala people from the Eastern areas once again. This is why we concentrated on taking full control of the areas concerned to stop this massacre.
Q: Despite a large majority of those otherwise affected also being Muslim, SLMC Leader Rauf Hakeem last week claimed that the government must take responsibility for the killing of civilians. He asked that both sides stop the attacks immediately and go back to the positions they had before the (2002) truce. Why?
A: Mr. Hakeem is making statements from Colombo on a political agenda. I don’t blame him- he needs to get back his lost pride. But the fact is that it is an insult on the defense authorities because they acted with care. As usual LTTE started going in to civilian areas and started firing. If the troops didn’t care for the civilians they could’ve cleared in a matter of hours. It was because of the civilian concerns that we took such care. The civilians fled because of the LTTE. What the LTTE did in Muttur was ethnic cleansing, which the government tried to stop. Mr. Hakeem can say anything, but the Muslims are grateful for the government intervention. I’m only sorry that he makes these claims without having his facts in place saying it was the government that fired at the civilians. It is the LTTE that fired at the civilians.
Q: But there is no ceasefire in Muttur?
A: The SLL can say anything but the parties concerned have to agree. As far as the ceasefire is concerned there was no discussion to that effect. You can’t have isolate instances where an area is identified where the LTTE has initiated the whole exercise and then to say that someone has called a ceasefire. I don’t know who has called the ceasefire. I don’t think there is anyone who is qualified to call it. There are authorities who have to do so.
Q: Is the Ceasefire Agreement ‘null and void’ as the LTTE claims?
A: Yes, Elilan says that. But the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement is in force. A specific clause in the CFA lays down a procedure if either party wants to move out of the CFA, whereby two weeks notice must be given and intimated to the Norwegian Foreign Minister. The government has not done that. So our position is very clear. Then again Elilan is not qualified to make any such statements even if the LTTE has moved out. But the government is interested in pursuing peace, for the simple reason that the Tamil population has asked for a power sharing mechanism. That is something we want to look at seriously.
Q: So this is not an attempt to look at a military solution to this?
A: Certainly not. It has to be through a dialogue. Look at the Oslo fiasco. Knowing the government delegation to Oslo two weeks prior, the LTTE waited till they were there to say they wouldn’t talk to the government panel. With every move the LTTE have been pushing the government to a confrontation. Government has been patient, despite even criticism against such patience by the people. No government has been this patient or flexible. It has even managed to convince other hard line parties that there was a difference between the LTTE and the Tamil people. We have been pursuing to our best on the peace process.
Q: But LTTE claims this in fact is Eelam 4?
A: LTTE says that the government has started a full scale war, whereby the CFA is out. If you looked at the Dvora attack by LTTE after the Geneva talks, the CFA would’ve been out a long time ago or the April provocation for a backlash and the attempts at the Navy’s Pearl cruiser, the massacre of civilians in Kebathigollawa or the attempt on the life of the Army Commander would all have been sufficient to break the CFA if the government wanted to, but we didn’t.
It’s not only the LTTE but even some responsible political parties who have said this. I’m only sorry because obviously the political game is on. The fact is that the political game must deal with the real issue, but not the national issue. We all need to be responsible with the national issue. What ever our color all governments have to face this issue at some point. This is terrorism and a menace to civilized society. It is time we deal with it. In that sense it is Elilan of the LTTE and others, who have said it- who I would put on the same boat, have to be condemned for making these statements when the country is on fire.
Q: The stand of the LTTE on the Mawil aru issue has changed several times. How do you deal with a situation like that?
A: This is merely the hallmark of any terrorist group. You say one thing in the morning and change it by night. But governments are responsible and can’t do that. Terrorists can give any lame excuse and get out of it. I’m not surprised at their duplicity.
Q: Even in a scenario where the civilians are harassed in this manner the LTTE still makes demands to open the anicut?
A: We will simply not allow the LTTE to make any demands or give in to any demands over water in this matter. There can’t be any negotiations over water. We will be opening the gates within a matter of hours today (Sunday).
Q: Was the military intervention the only option available to the government on the water situation?
A: I think on the water issue any sovereign government would take the stand we took. Water can’t be made a tool for any kind of negotiation. Especially when it is freely available. Mawil aru is a source that has been used by the people for over 100 years. The LTTE had no right to stop that. It’s even beyond terrorism to deprive water to over 15,000 families. I don’t think any sovereign government can tolerate that. The course of action the government took is backed by the statement of the Norwegian government which asked LTTE to open the gates. If they have issues there is a forum for that. They can lay all their grievances on the table at Geneva 2 with all the assistance of the co-chairs and the international community. Why are they fighting in the ground without going to the negotiating table? If they are convinced that their demands are right, why don’t they defend them at negotiations? Why are they avoiding that? Obviously they can’t bring these claims out in the open because they are fabricated and manufactured.
Q: But there has been much criticism against the government’s decision to launch air strikes. Was it a planned course of action, or mere indiscriminate bombardments?
A: When government decided to force open the gates at Mawil aru, and the defense authorities decide on a designed course of action and you need air support. Then you need to get it, It can be condemned but the fact is that when we went without air support seven soldiers died due to mortar fire from the other side of the bank. We needed to have the four km mortar range cleared which could only be done with air support. So you justify that because it’s a humanitarian mission. We first tried to go without air support.
Here was a crime against humanity being committed and we as a government had to act. It’s easy to make accusations, but the ground situation was that civilians were being deprived of water to drink. How do you justify that suffering?
Q: Then on what grounds do the LTTE say that air strikes started when the issue was about to be resolved?
A: Do you really believe that? The fact is that in any kind of dispute you can go on indefinitely into negotiations. But can you do that with water? How can one go without a deadline when children have no water to drink? We went for a week without resolution but to no avail. The government had no real option there. We were pushed against the wall. Many things can have negotiations but not water. To wait a week was more than sufficient. They can say they were about to release after we strike, but after how long is that?
Q: Are you concerned by the withdrawal of the SLMM monitors?
A: If you look at the 2002 agreement, it clearly states that both parties guarantee the security of the monitors. The LTTE have put down their signatures to that. And now after three years they go back on that and threaten the monitors and give them a deadline to move out. SLMM members are not leaving because they are European Union members, but because their safety is not guaranteed. The LTTE said ‘we will not guarantee your safety’. That is violating a complete clause in the CFA. So how should one view that and say that the government is moving out of the CFA? The LTTE is violating the CFA clause by clause. I don’t think even the monitors have pointed this out. There are ten countries monitoring and suddenly from time to time the LTTE say these five countries or some other three countries have to leave. So obviously when there is no guarantee given by the most ruthless terrorist group their decision is justified. But they are not leaving because they are EU members. The government of course has many options- there are many other countries including some EU countries who are willing to come as monitors but that clause has to be worked at again.
Q: In this context how do you view the decision by the UNP to boycott the All Party Conference meeting last week?
A: The excuse is that some of the members of the UNP have been taken by the Rajapaksa administration. But the political game can be played separately. What the UNP needs to do is put their house in order and find out why the members are leaving the party. They need to find out why their system is not working. No political party should play politics with the national issue. It has to be a role where you play a patriotic role with a Sri Lankan identity. We should be able to get together on the national issue while playing other political issues separately. We should not mix these two.
Los Angeles, California – Saffron-robed Buddhist monks, sari-clad women, and men carrying children’s coffins will be among the hundreds of demonstrators reeled recently from 10 am to 12 noon outside the Federal Building, 11000 Wilshire Blvd., in Westwood, to demand that UNICEF take action to bring the leaders of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face charges for war crimes against children.
According to the US State Department, there is credible evidence that the LTTE are holding about 5000 children in combat camps. In 2004 alone the LTTE recruited 1000 children. Children abducted from schools and homes are held in LTTE camps where they undergo training in guerilla combat and prepare for deadly missions such as suicide bombings. The escalation of tension between the LTTE and government security forces in recent months has led to an intensified drive by the Tigers to recruit children, which in turn is forcing hundreds of families to flee their homes.
The Sri Lankan government, under immense international pressure, signed a peace treaty in 2002 with the LTTE which severely restricts its ability to investigate criminal activities in areas deemed to be under the militants’ control.
Rallying under the banner of the local expatriate activist group ‘Sri Lankan Patriots,’ protesters will launch a worldwide petition calling on UNICEF Director Ann M. Veneman to follow the United Nations’ own resolutions and to invoke international laws such as the Rome Statute to bring the Tiger leaders before the International Criminal Court for conscripting children as combatants. Online petition has already been launched.
Spokesperson for the group Hassina Leelarathna said as the world’s leading children’s organization UNICEF has failed in its attempts for over a decade to stop the recruitment of children in the island’s north and east from the predominant Tamil militant group the LTTE. The UN agency is also accused of compromising the welfare of the children by cooperating with the LTTE — a view shared by the leading rights group Human Rights Watch.
"Every year UNICEF officials make a trip to Sri Lanka and extract a promise from the rebels that they will free the children. A token few are released, only to be re-abducted. A few weeks ago, even as UNICEF was making its annual plea, the Tigers stepped up their recruitment drive, taking dozens of children away from their parents."
Leelarathna, who is the editor of the bi-weekly newspaper ‘Sri Lanka Express’, said the arrest by the ICC, in March of this year, of Congolese rebel leader Thomas Lubanga for war crimes, including the conscription and enlisting of children under 15, is a turning point. This is the first such arrest by the ICC and it opens the door for the arrest and prosecution of leaders of all militant groups who use children to fight wars.
"There is overwhelming evidence that the LTTE has conscripted children, some as young as ten, including tsunami victim and we are demanding that UNICEF take the steps needed to bring the LTTE before the International Court,” she said. -Daily Mirror