Daily Archives: August 18, 2006
Yahoo News, Friday, August 18, 2006 – 08:05 EDT. COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lankan jets hit the Tamil Tiger front line on Friday as fighting raged on the northern Jaffna peninsula, cut off by the rebels, and residents with foreign passports begged their embassies to get them out.
Almost three weeks of ground fighting, the first since a 2002 ceasefire, has left the government-held Jaffna enclave largely cut off and areas near the port of Trincomalee under intermittent artillery fire.
"In Jaffna, it’s becoming almost a First World War type of battle," said a Western diplomat. "They are sitting in the ground shooting at each other without much real movement."
The military said it had bombed selected targets on the front line where the two sides have now been fighting for a week. Communication with the area is virtually impossible, with curfews in most civilian areas and shortages rising.
Across the island, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says more than 160,000 people have fled their homes — 41,000 of them in Jaffna. Aid staff say there are queues for fuel, shortages of food and a desperate scramble to get cash from banks whenever the curfew is lifted for a few hours.
Fearing robbery as crime rose along with violence between government and rebels earlier in the year, many Jaffna residents sold their jewelry and valuables and put their money in banks. Getting access to it is now almost impossible, aid staff say.
"We need both sides to stop fighting so we can get proper access to the area," said UNHCR representative Amin Awad. "Food is getting low and we have worries about water and sanitation."
No fixed-wing aircraft are flying out of the enclave and sea movement seems to have been curtailed. Diplomats say Jaffna’s airbase is under artillery fire and possibly damaged, leaving the military largely unable to resupply except by helicopter.
WANTING TO GET OUT
Jaffna has long been seen as a key rebel objective in the LTTE’s two-decade war for a separate Tamil homeland, but diplomats are unsure whether the Tigers aim to take it soon.
Aid workers say columns of army troops and vehicles have been moving up to Trincomalee, just north of where fighting initially began around a rebel-held waterway. It was unclear whether they would be used in the area or taken by ship toward Jaffna, where the army says more than 100 soldiers died this week.
Truce monitors say more than 800 had died this year even before the ground war began. Diplomats say a similar number may have been killed in the last three weeks alone. The European Union and United States urged both sides on Thursday to stop the fighting.
The EU and the United States will discuss the worsening conflict with the other key donor, Japan, and mediator Norway in Brussels around mid-September, officials said.
There are a handful of Western aid staff in Jaffna, many intending to stay, but embassies say several hundred Tamil residents with foreign passports want evacuation. With road and air links blocked, diplomats hope a Red Cross ship can get in.
"We have British Tamils, German Tamils, Norwegian Tamils, Canadian Tamils," one diplomat said. "They all seem to want to come out."
Some international agencies — as well as unarmed Nordic ceasefire monitors — are also moving their staff south out of Trincomalee after artillery fire hit within a couple of miles of the beachfront hotels where many were staying.
After 17 mainly Tamil staff from Paris-based aid group Action Contre La Faim were murdered after fighting south of Trincomalee, few want to take chances. It was the worst attack on aid staff since the 2003 bombing of the United Nations compound in Baghdad.
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Lyons)
Via Picture Politics
Colombo, Aug 18. (UNI): A spectacular fireworks display will be the highlight of a grand opening ceremony as Sri Lanka prepares to welcome over 2,000 athletes from eight nations for the 10th South Asian Games today.
The Games will be declared open by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, who is also the chairman of the Games’ steering committee, and the opening ceremony promises to showcase the island nation’s culture and tradition in all its grandeur.
The fireworks are being planned with the Chinese Government’s assistance, a local daily says but the rest of the show, which will be performed in front of a packed Sugathadasa Outdoor Stadium, will be run by the Lankans as they host their biggest ever multi-port event.
Most of the athletes for the 20-discipline event have already arrived and the rest are expected to reach in the next two days.
Security remains a major concern, especially after the bomb blast in the Lankan capital, which led to South Africa’s pullout from the ongoing tri-series against the hosts and India.
The organisers say every possible effort is being made to ensure foolproof security and assured the participants of maximum safety.
Commonwealth Games gold medallist pistol shooter Ashok Pandit will be India’s flag bearer in the event. The Indians will be competing in 17 sports and are favourites to top the medals tally.-www.hindu.com
The Tenth South Asian Games begin today in Colombo amidst gloomy weather conditions and a tense security situation.
The ten-day regional sporting showpiece which has cost the host country over a billion rupees will feature 20 sporting disciplines, the highest ever at a South Asian Games and will be competed by athletes from all eight South Asian countries. The total number of athletes and officials would exceed 5000, according to official estimates.
The weather that has taken a turn increasingly for the worse, and the grave security situation that has seen several terrorist bombs exploding in the capital resulted in the cancellation of the planned triangular cricket tournament which would have co-incided with the Games, but the Games organizers have decided to go ahead with their plans ignoring the setbacks.
Regional powerhouse India has been fielding the biggest contingent to the Games ever since they were started and have claimed the highest number of medals in each of all previous nine editions. India would field a contingent of 418 and the host country has done even better by fielding a massive contingent of 462 that includes over 200 officials.
Pakistan would field 375, Nepal 277, Bangladesh 240, Maldives 98 and Bhutan 71. Afghanistan which is taking part in only their second games would send a contingent with an admirable number of 123.
Archery, Athletics , Kabaddi, Badminton, Boxing, Cycling, Football, Hockey, Judo, Karatedo, Rowing, Shooting, Squash, Swimming , Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Volleyball, Weight lifting, Wrestling and Wushu are the sporting disciplines that would be featured.
Colourful paper lanterns, festoons and banners have come up around the city of Colombo and suburbs attempting to cheer up the locals within Games’ atmosphere and remove a mentality of fear and apprehension over terrorist bombs.
The Games are scheduled to be declared open today at a gala function by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is also the Chairman of the Steering Committee for the Games, at the Sugathadasa Stadium. But it was not clear whether the President would attend the opening ceremony in person due security concerns as it begins at 6 p.m.
A special fireworks display and a cultural program highlighting the rich Sri Lankan tradition is expected to be the highlight of the opening ceremony. Among the items featured would be a special Pora-Pol (Ancient local sport of coconut fighting) exhibition by a local dancing school. Pora-Pol is featured as the official Games logo while Wali-Kukula (jungle fowl) has been named the official mascot.
Tight security measures in place at Games venues and around the whole city of Colombo, and the presence of a massive number of security Forces personnel and policemen had given the city an appearance of a war front.
Two star athletes of yesteryear Nagalingam Ehitrweerasingham and Sriyani Kulawansa would have the honour of lighting the Games lamp in today’s ceremony after the Games torch which went around the country on a 2000 kilometre journey during the past few weeks, finally reaches the stadium at the hands of the country’s most elite athletes.
The torch would be handed over to the President Mahinda Rajapakse at a special ceremony scheduled for 10 am at his officials residence Temple Trees this morning. National Olympic Committee Chairman Hemasiri Fernando, Sri Lanka team captain Susanthika Jayasinghe and several top local athletes would also attend this function. The final phase of the torch relay from Temple Trees to the stadium will start at 4 p.m.
The opening ceremony will culminate with a magnificent fireworks display at 9.30 p.m. tonight, and the government of Peoples Republic of China has presented fireworks worth Rs. 17 million for the event.
The majority of the expenditure for the Games costing over Rs. one billion would be borne by the government while the principal sponsor Sri Lanka Telecom has contributed Rs. 50 million.
Most of the athletes and officials of other participating countries had reached Colombo by yesterday and were greeted by utterly chaotic organizing which was still struggling with the basic function of issuing accreditation. Even the infrastructure preparation had not been complete by yesterday, and gave inauspicious signs of things to come during the next ten days of the Games. -Daily Mirror