Daily Archives: August 28, 2006
By K. Ratnayake
Amid open fighting between the military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) over the past month, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse has been actively negotiating for the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) to join his ruling coalition. While a deal is yet to be struck, the fact that discussions are proceeding is one more clear sign that the government is preparing for all-out war against the LTTE and a savage assault on the democratic rights and living standards of working people.
The JVP, which is based on a mixture of Sinhala chauvinism and populist demagogy, supported Rajapakse during last November’s presidential election. The backing of its 39 parliamentarians has been crucial for the survival of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) government. The JVP’s price for its support was a more aggressive stance against the LTTE—the revision of the 2002 ceasefire agreement, the bolstering of the military and a distancing from the so-called international peace process.
During the current discussions, the JVP has proposed a 20-point "common program" with Rajapakse’s Sri Lankan Freedom Party (SLFP) as the basis for joining the ruling coalition. The common program amounts to the complete repudiation of the "peace process" and an open declaration of war to destroy the LTTE militarily. Key points include:
* The immediate scrapping of the 2002 ceasefire as soon as the common program is signed. The JVP has been bitterly critical of the truce since it was agreed for granting too many concessions to the LTTE and has constantly sought to undermine it.
* The dismissal of Norway as the formal facilitator of the peace process within a week of signing. The JVP has repeatedly accused the Norwegian facilitators and the Scandinavian-led Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission (SLMM), which currently oversees the ceasefire, of "LTTE bias".
* Immediate steps to impose government rule over areas that are presently under LTTE control, if necessary through the deployment of the armed forces.
* The de-merger of the north-east province into two separate provinces, which were combined in 1987 under the Indo-Lanka Accord—the first attempt at a negotiated peace deal. Following the 2002 ceasefire, the LTTE renounced its demand for a separate statelet of Tamil Eelam in return for negotiations on a significant devolution of powers to the north-east province within a federated Sri Lanka. The de-merger would effectively destroy the basis for further peace negotiations.
The JVP’s proposal for talks with the LTTE fails to address any of the grievances of the country’s Tamil minority. It simply denies that there has been any discrimination or that this was the reason for the outbreak of war. JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe told the press last month that there was not a communal problem, only a "terrorist problem." Its plan to solve "administrative problems" among Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese is for very limited decentralisation up to the village level—a proposal that the JVP knows is completely unacceptable to the LTTE.
Rajapakse has since November been implementing significant aspects of the JVP’s program. For months, the army and its allied paramilitaries waged a covert war in the North and East aimed at undermining the LTTE and provoking retaliation. The government has accused Norway and the SLMM monitors of bias and at talks in Geneva in February called for the revision of the 2002 ceasefire, leading to a virtual collapse of negotiations.
On July 26, the president ordered a major offensive to capture the Mavilaru irrigation sluice gate in LTTE territory on the pretext of providing water to farmers downstream. The operation in open breach of the 2002 ceasefire agreement rapidly provoked fighting in other parts of the East and North of the island. The military seized the opportunity to launch air raids on key LTTE positions and installations.
The JVP has collaborated closely in the war with the government providing JVP parliamentary leader Wimal Weerawansa with helicopter transport to tour the war zones in the North and East. He visited several military camps and villages seeking to whip up support for the war among troops and Sinhalese villagers.
Rajapakse has, however, been reluctant to openly embrace the JVP’s program. Talks on the JVP entering the government have dragged out since early July. Last week the president responded to the JVP’s demands by saying that the government would not be "rushed to" abrogate the ceasefire or dismiss Norway as formal facilitator. As for the de-merger of the North and East, he pointed out that the JVP had filed a case in the Supreme Court over the issue and thus "it is a matter for the courts to decide."
Rajapakse wants to keep the JVP on side. The SLFP, which is also mired in Sinhala chauvinism, is susceptible to criticism that it is not taking a tough stance against the LTTE. At the same time, the government is hesitant to openly declare war on the LTTE. Rajapakse has continued to posture as a man of peace in order to maintain the support both of the major powers and within the country. Despite the lack of an antiwar movement, the majority of the population is fearful of, and hostile to, the return to a civil war that has already cost more than 65,000 lives over the past two decades.
As well as its support for the war, Rajapakse also wants the JVP’s backing for the suppression of popular opposition to the country’s social crisis. There is growing unrest among workers, as well as the urban and rural poor, over the privatisation, the loss of jobs and increasing prices. The rising costs of the war will inevitably fall heavily on working people, raising the prospect of a social eruption. The government is seeking to use the JVP’s influence, particularly among the rural poor, to block such a movement.
The JVP, which had its origins in a guerrilla movement in the 1960s, still occasionally postures as "socialist" and demagogically denounces "imperialist" interference. The preamble to its 20-point program calls for a fight against "foreign enemies" and their local collaborators. It opposes the "peace process" because it gives the LTTE equal status to the government and denounces Norway for dictating terms to a sovereign country and treating it as a colony. While condemning Norway, the JVP remains silent on the criminal activities of US imperialism in Afghanistan and Iraq, as the Bush administration is tacitly supporting the war against the LTTE.
The most significant aspect of JVP’s program is its explicit call for all social issues to be subordinated to the war against the LTTE. It calls for "industrial peace" between employers and employees "in order to realise the aim of defeating terrorism". JVP leaders have already opposed a number of strikes as part of their chauvinist campaign to "defend the motherland".
In an interview on August 20, JVP parliamentary leader Wimal Weerawansa told Lakbima: "Today the central issue of our country is this terrorist question. Because of that a large number of secondary problems have been concealed… We admit the people are under severe burden because of the increasing cost of living in the country … However, surpassing all these problems, the terrorist problem has come to the fore."
Appealing to big business, Weerawansa argued that the war would not deter foreign investors. "If the global investors can see that the government is working on a tough stand to implement law and order that will also be one reason to encourage investors," he declared.
The JVP’s opposition to the strike action by workers is part and parcel of its broader attacks on democratic rights. In the name of defending the motherland, the JVP has supported tough media censorship and has campaigned against anyone who criticises or opposes the war as a traitor.
Rajapakse is seeking deals, not just with the JVP, but with other political parties in order to shore up the shaky ruling coalition. Last week the Ceylon Workers Congress and the Upcountry Peoples Front, which are based among Tamil speaking plantation workers, joined the government, giving it a parliamentary majority. The president has made an appeal to the United National Party (UNP), the largest opposition party, for a national unity government. However, whether it finally joins the cabinet or not, the JVP will continue to have a major hand in setting the government’s agenda, as it has done over the past ten months.
[World Socialist Web Site]
Telekom Malaysia Berhad (TM), an emerging leader in Asian communications with operations in nine Asian countries including Sri Lanka, has recorded an average compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of some 38 per cent in its Asian investments in revenue terms over the past five years (2001-2005). This growth has been led by its Bangladesh operations (at CAGR of 60.4 per cent), followed closely by its Sri Lankan operations (at 41.2 per cent).
In terms of cellular subscribers, TM’s international investments have seen exponential growth – with just over 500,000 cellular subscribers as late as 2001, TM now has more than 15 million subscribers in nine countries – Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Iran. This brings its total regional subscriber base, including its domestic operations, to some 24 million.
TM, headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, attributes this significant growth to the pent-up demand for communications services from emerging countries throughout the region, which has started liberalizing the telecommunications sector, recording rapid gross domestic product (GDP) growth and enjoying higher purchasing power amongst its populations. They also say this growth is due to aggressive marketing and innovative products and services provided by its subsidiaries particularly in key markets such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Cambodia.
In Sri Lanka, TM is represented via its 87.7 per cent stake in Dialog Telekom Limited, the largest communications provider in the country and provider of innovative corporate and consumer solutions under the popular brand Dialog. Listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Dialog has a subscriber base of 2.5 million and has been a TM company since 1995.
TM has a string of other subsidiaries in Asia where it has substantial equity control over several key mobile operators such as TM International Bangladesh (70 per cent) and Cambodia’s Hello (100 percent). TM has also successfully clinched a 49 percent equity stake in Indian network operator Spice Communications this year.- The Island
A lasting solution to Sri Lanka’s ethnic question can only emerge out of a protracted peace process with interim agreements, rather than a quest for an up-front final solution, one of the country’s leading political scientists argued this week. "Protracted ethnic conflict always requires a protracted peace process. The peace process should [aim] for an interim settlement rather than a big-bang solution. We may have to go through a series of interim managements," said Professor Jayadeva Uyangoda, Head of Department of Political Science and Public Policy, University of Colombo.
Prof. Uyangoda, who is also Founder-Director of the Centre for Policy Research and Analysis (CPA), made his comments in an extensive interview with Rediff.com last week.
Prof. Uyangoda argues that attitudes in Sri Lanka are not conducive to reaching agreement on a final settlement early on in a peace process.
"A final solution of Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict requires reconstitution of the post-colonial unitary State.
"[But] the Sinhalese political class is not yet ready for the radical reconstitution of the State power structure. Even after 25 years of conflict the Sinhalese political class have not come to that stage yet.
"Sri Lanka’s complexity is something like this: you have a majority ruling class which is not yet ready to work out the settlement that would give equality to the ethnic minority of Sri Lanka.
"Second, they do not, they cannot, acknowledge and accommodate the minimalist position presented by even the non-LTTE Tamil groups.
"Any workable solution will require recognition that Tamils are a distinct community and the North and East will require what we may call asymmetrical autonomy.
"And that is not yet recognized in Sri Lanka."
"The LTTE’s vision of political settlement, even an internal political settlement, would be one that would be defined within the framework of extensive regional autonomy that would go far beyond the existing 1978 Constitution."
"But the present government wants to work this out within the 1978 Constitution.
"The existing Constitution defines the Sri Lankan state as a unitary state, while the LTTE’s vision of a solution is far beyond even the conventional notion of federalism.
"The point here is that the LTTE is for maximalist regional autonomy and the government of Sri Lanka is for minimalist degree of regional autonomy. There is a vast gap between the visions of the two sides.
"[Even]the most advanced Sinhalese politicians would say that when provincial powers are given to the Northern region (where the Tamils are in a majority) and the Eastern region (where Muslims and Tamils are dominating), they should have equal powers as the rest of the areas in the country."
"But that idea won’t work. And the Sinhalese have not even agreed to those equal powers."
Prof. Uyangoda, a strong advocate of the Norwegian facilitated peace process from its outset in 2002 under the then UNP government, has sometimes been criticised as being insufficiently critical of that initiative.
But he argues flaws are inevitable in any peace process and there has to be a starting point.
"Protracted ethnic conflict always requires a protracted peace process. That’s why perhaps, initially, one has to have an incomplete and imperfect peace process. Some may call it negative peace.
"We need a credible ceasefire agreement to begin with.
"[Just like the present government,] even the previous government which started this negotiation [process] in 2002 didn’t have a clear political agenda or a roadmap of the outcome of negotiations with the LTTE.
"The present government has come into power in the wake of the collapse of the 2002 peace process. The challenge before [it] is to initiate the new peace process.
"[But] I don’t think the present Sri Lankan government is in a position to take any of the fresh new set of political initiatives which are necessary to reinvigorate or reconstitute the peace process.”
Prof. Uyangoda says there considerable mutual mistrust.
"The Sinhalese want political guarantees, while the Tamils and LTTE believe that no agreement will be fully implemented by the Sinhalese political class. They quote past experiences.
"The argument forwarded by the LTTE is that until the terms of full and final settlement is fully and comprehensively implemented, there is no guarantee that the State run by the Sinhalese ruling class would honour the terms of agreement.
"The LTTE thinks that political guarantee given within Sri Lanka won’t work, it has to come from outside. That political and security guarantee can’t come from US, Japan or France but from South Asia.
"In the case of the Mozambique peace agreement the guarantee came from the South African region."
Prof. Uyangoda said the LTTE’s strategy is “unique” as there are no comparable examples to its concept of a solution – which, he argues, is ultimately envisioned within a single state in Sri Lanka.
"The LTTE knows that a separate state in South Asia is not feasible. They know it very well. The LTTE is quite shrewd in understanding regional and global geo-politics."
"Eventually, the LTTE wants a political strategy to work for a Tamil regional sub-state. They are driving at a regional subnational [entity] in Sri Lanka which they can call Tamil Eelam, but it may not be a separate state."
"The Sinhalese will find it extremely difficult to accept this [idea]."
Prof. Uyangoda’s analysis challenged suggestions that a shift in the balance of forces would facilitate a new peace process.
"The LTTE today is no longer what it was in 1987 or 1990. My own understanding of the LTTE is that it is seriously interested and committed to what one may describe as the nation-building and state-building."
"The LTTE is not going to allow the Sri Lankan State any regional or global military alliance to destroy what they consider as achievements of the Tamil liberation struggle."
Via… Editorial News
Google, the popular Internet search engine company, has donated $25,000 to the Lanka Software Foundation (LSF) in recognition of its open source software development efforts.
LSF is a not-for-profit organisation that facilitates global open source projects and has been a stepping stone for many local software developers.
In a statement LSF said open source software such as the Linux operating system where users can view and access source code to customise IT solutions, has gained a lot of attention as an alternate way to develop and distribute software. Because open source software comes under extreme public scrutiny, it is most often more flexible and secure than closed proprietary software.
Sri Lankan developers have also been active in driving a number of open source projects, especially at the Apache Software Foundation (ASF).
It said this year Sri Lanka will be on the software developers’ map when it hosts ApacheCon Asia for the first time in Asia this month, bringing together over 300 Sri Lankan and international open source software developers to Colombo.
The conference will be a meeting ground for the big players, project leaders, inside experts and independent innovators. In addition the participants will be able to share their knowledge, hit upon new ideas, find solutions and connect with peers at this gathering of users, developers, and vendors.
It is organized locally organized by the Lanka Software Foundation, the Lanka Linux Users’ Group and The Linux Center, all of which are non-profit organisations driving the Sri Lankan FOSS community.-Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.
By Frederick Noronha, LinuxWorld
The Apache Software Foundation works on the principle that a good community will make good software. Open source organizations are taking root in Sri Lanka, a hotbed of Apache coding.
It’s a small scenic and tropical island strategically located along major sea trade routes in the Indian Ocean. But to get there, global hackers had to battle London’s bomb plots, encounter geckos that "make alarming noises at night", and more blasts in Sri Lanka itself. Yet, against the odds, Asia held its first ApacheCon ever and tiny Sri Lanka played proud host.
The outcome? "ApacheCon Asia 2006 totally rocked," blogged IBM’s Ken Coar, best known for his association with The Apache Software Foundation and the ApacheCon series of user conferences.
Buoyed by the event, voices from India’s southern neighbour of 20 million people turned optimstic. Some announced a 2012 target for turning into a "competent center for free and open source software".
Sri Lanka’s unlikely history with the free software/open source web server makes Colombo feel that it could well surf its way into the major programming league. Organisers noted mid-August’s was the first time Asia was hosting an event of this kind. And Sri Lanka isn’t shooting in the dark; it certainly knows where it wants to go.
In an Asia which still finds it difficult to get enough of its contributors putting back into global free and open source software (FOSS) projects, Sri Lanka already draws some envy. This tiny island nation has built up, in a short time, more than 50 SriLankan developers who became active Apache committers. An Apache committer is an individual who can directly modify code in Apache’s version control system.
Apache is credited with a key role in the growth of the World Wide Web, and remains the most popular web server in use. Apache Software Foundation’s projects are managed by a self-selected team of technical experts who are active contributors to the project. The ASF is a meritocracy, with foundation membership granted only to volunteers who have actively contributed to Apache projects.
Dr Sanjiva Weerawarana, Ph. D said: "We’re trying to get the larger message of FOSS out to the people. Overall we targeted touching more than 1000 people during this week … not bad for our size and for an all volunteer group!"
Weerawarana, who spent an eight year stint in IBM Research where he was one of the founders of the Web services platform, returned back home to found the Lanka Software Foundation.
This non-profit foundation aims to promote "open source development, not usage, by Sri Lankan developers". He is currently LSF’s Executive Director. Their success is more creditable considering the little funding they operate on.
ApacheCon Asia’s goal was to "create a unique platform for the open source community in Asia to come together and gain an insight into techniques and methodologies critical to the advancement of open source technologies". This, say organisers, is now growing into a force to reckon with in the international IT industry.
Birds-of-a-feather sessions looked at the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) stack, Apache Axis 2 and the J2EE application server Geronimo, fields which are popular among developers in Colombo itself. Danese Cooper of Intel conducted the five-minute lightning talks, which many thought were fun.
Taking economic-political ideas to the world of computing, Sri Lanka’s own returned expat Sanjiva Weerawarana spoke on ‘The World Is Flat At Apache’. He shared his experiences as a contributor in a no-bosses world.
Other sessions focussed on Axis2, Geronimo, BSF4Rexx, Velocity and Single Sign On. Another panel discussion turned to Apache And Asia, Bridging the Gap.
Like other South Asian countries-including neighbouring India, Pakistan and Bangladesh-Sri Lanka too would like to have a growing share of the promising IT pie.
Dr Weerawarana, himself a member of the Apache Software Foundation, said: "The Apache Software Foundation is the home of many market leading open source products, starting with the Apache Web server. It is an honor for Sri Lanka to host the first ever Asian gathering of this prestigious group."
For instance, ASF projects are characterized by a collaborative, consensus-based development process, an "open and pragmatic" software licence, and a desire to create high quality software that leads the way in its field. Apache, as the organisers of this event note, considers itself not simply as a group of projects sharing a server, but rather a community of developers and users.
Here’s another lesson for this part of the world, which needs organising structures for FOSS: Apache believe that if one builds a good community then that community will make great software.
"ApacheCon is one of the most comprehensive technical conferences for the open source community. My experience in several ApacheCons including Europe and US, both as a speaker and a participant is that it is a very useful conference to learn the Apache technologies." says Ajith Ranabahu, a Senior Software Engineer at WSO2 and a frequent participant at international ApacheCon Conferences.
"There was a car bombing in Colombo but that doesn’t seem to have had any impact on the enthusiasm of the participants. However the security situation has perhaps led to this being a primarily Sri Lankan event with low participation from rest of Asia," cmplained Harshad Oak, a techie from Pune in central India.
This conference was locally organized by the Lanka Software Foundation, the Lanka Linux Users’ Group and The Linux Center, all of which are non-profit organizations promoting the Sri Lankan FOSS community.
Sri Lanka, overcoming its smallness and leveraging its expat community and global focus, has been working on some innovative projects. These include FOSS-School, a unique event catering to students, which paves the way for the introduction and use of FOSS at the grassroots level.
On another front, the prominent internet search engine Google recently donated US $25,000 to the Lanka Software Foundation in recognition of their open source software development efforts. LSF said the funding would reduce cash-constraint restraints, and announced plans to use Google’s donation to seed a series of new R&D projects — starting with an effort around Apache Geronimo and also the popular open source database MySQL.
Sri Lanka lies off the southeast coast of the Indian subcontinent, about 31 kilometres (18.5 mi) south of India. A British crown colony for over a century, Sri Lanka (known until 1971 as Ceylon) gained independence in 1948. (www.linuxworld.com)
Via… Daily Mirror