Daily Archives: May 31, 2007
BBC – The Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora in the UK donates tens of thousands of pounds every year for relief efforts for conflict-ravaged areas in the country. But authorities are concerned that some of these funds end up in the hands of the Tamil Tiger rebels (LTTE).
Nagendram Seevaratnam, 70, the founder of the London-based charity, Sivayogam Trust, was suspended in March, after a 21-month probe by the Charity Commission following complaints of its alleged links to the rebels.
The rebels are fighting for a separate homeland for the country’s 3.1m-strong Tamil population following decades of alleged discrimination by the majority Sinhalese.
The trust, which also runs Armulmihu Hindu temple in Tooting, south London, funds five orphanages in Sri Lanka, two of which are in the rebel-controlled areas of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu, which the trust says are under investigation.
The commission said it was concerned “about the potential impact on the charity of alleged links with the LTTE” and that “the trustees may not be taking reasonable and adequate steps to monitor the use of the charity’s funds” in Sri Lanka.
“We have restricted payments from the charity’s bank accounts as a temporary and protective measure. The charity is therefore prevented from sending funds overseas.”
Funds ’not monitored’
The LTTE, which stands for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, have categorically denied allegations that funds for charities end up in their coffers.
Mr. Seevaratnam admits he was a senior member of the rebel group and made “substantial financial contribution” to them personally until he was suspended from it in 1990.
But he admitted meeting some top rebel leaders in 2004.
“I have visited twice, during which time I met few senior LTTE members, not as a trustee but as a relative.
“After 1990 when they suspended me, they have stopped talking to me, even if they are my brothers … I’ve no connection with them whatsoever,” he said.
Mr Seevaratnam insisted the trust’s records were properly audited but agreed it is not possible to monitor the orphanages’ spending.
The Sivayogam Trust has categorically denied having any links with the LTTE.
A spokesman for the trust said the orphanages it funds have not received any money since the end of March, which has forced two orphanages, located in government-controlled areas, to contemplate moving about 120 children to rehabilitation centres.
’Heavily fortified bunkers’
Maxwell Keegel, spokesman for the Sri Lankan High Commission in London, said access to the rebel-held territories are extremely restricted, hence all funds or aid for humanitarian purposes were sent through charities that function there.
“We have very good information that a lot of these funds do not get used for humanitarian purposes.
“The proof is not there in black and white but the question is how the funds have been utilised and spent on the projects identified,” he said.
After the military wrested eastern areas from the rebels, which had received funds from the world over after the Asian tsunami, the government was “shocked” to find “heavily fortified bunkers”.
“None of the so-called humanitarian projects they [LTTE] had funded have come to light. God knows where all the money went… this is a good eye-opener,” Mr Keegel said.
In the past the Charity Commission has received similar complaints about some other charities.
In September 2000 the commission launched an inquiry after similar allegations against the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO).
It found evidence of “mismanagement”, “little or no financial control” and no explanation for “funds received from the US and Canada”.
Subsequently the commission took over the management and having failed to find suitable new trustees, its funds were transferred to a new independent charity and the TRO was removed from the register in August 2005.
No definite link
In 2005 a case officer was appointed to look into similar allegations against another charity, White Pigeon, but no formal probe was launched.
Sathiya Moorthy, the charity’s chairman, said: “White Pigeon has been cleared. They looked into the charity’s accounts and activities.”
The UK has listed the LTTE as a terrorist organisation since 2000, while the European Union banned it in 2006.
But much of this ban seems to be on paper, Mr Keegel said.
Human Rights Watch also found rebels intimidate and coerce the Tamil diaspora to ’donate’ funds, a claim which has been vehemently denied by the LTTE.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police’s Specialist Crime Desk said they monitor individuals or groups who allegedly provide financial support to terrorists.
“But in many cases it is impossible to provide a substantial level of proof that the money was intended for terrorist purposes,” said a spokesman.
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The Hindu – Sri Lanka Minister and Defence spokesperson Keheliya Rambukwella said here on Wednesday that Colombo would make an announcement about the fate of the Norwegian brokered 2002 Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) in a `couple of weeks.’
Responding to questions at the weekly news briefing, the Minister said that while the CFA remained on paper, the `objective reality’ on the ground was different. He said in the course of next two weeks the Government would decide on whether to abrogate or strengthen the CFA.
The Minister’s statement came amid stepped up fighting between the Sri Lankan security forces and the Tamil Tigers in the north and east and reported comment made by Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the course of an interview to an international television channel that due to violations by the Tigers, the CFA has become redundant.
The Sri Lanka Air Force (SALF) MiG and K’fir fighter jets pounded on an `LTTE logistic facility’ south of Puthukkudiyiruppu, in the Mullaittivu District, with precision air strikes on Wednesday at 12.30 p.m. “According to available information the LTTE logistic facility was destroyed into rubble, causing maximum damage to the terrorists,” it said.
TamilNet claimed that the Liberation Tigers on Wednesday confronted a contingent of Sri Lanka Army troopers who attempted to advance through LTTE defence line in Madu. “The SLA suffered casualties and fled the battleground carrying their own casualties, Irasiah Ilanthirayan, the military spokesman of the Tigers told the media,” it reported.
In another development International Crisis Group (ICG), an NGO think-tank, in a new report on Sri Lanka, has said that immediate steps should be taken to ensure the security and political involvement of Sri Lanka’s Muslims. It said their views must be taken into account if a lasting peace settlement is to be achieved.
The report titled, `Sri Lanka’s Muslims: Caught in the Crossfire’ examines the plight of Muslims, who have been victims of massacres, ethnic cleansing and forced displacement over the past two decades, largely by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and sidelined at successive peace talks. The growing disillusionment among a new generation must be adequately addressed through an equitable settlement between the country’s Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim communities, it said.
“The Muslims are the forgotten party in the Sri Lankan conflict,” says David Lewis, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst in the region. “The government needs to address the Muslim issue more directly, as part of a comprehensive political proposal that offers real devolution, if there is to be a political settlement.”
One-third of Sri Lanka’s nearly two million Muslims live in the conflict-affected north and east and thus have a significant interest in any future settlement. The resumption of military action in 2006 saw more killings and displacement of Muslims in the east, as well as conflict with the pro-government Tamil paramilitary group, the Karuna faction, it said.
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(UNI) Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) founder-leader S Ramadoss today urged India not to supply any arms or weapons to Sri Lanka and prevail upon that country to come to a negotiating table to resolve the ethnic crisis.
Expressing concern over reports that Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Rajapakse had made a sudden visit to Delhi and held discussions with his Indian counterpart and National Security Advisor, the PMK leader said India should not supply any arms to the island nation as they would only be used against the Tamils in the country.
Quoting reports, he said Sri Lanka has asked India to supply Radars and surface to air missiles and threatened to approach Pakistan, if India refused.
As these arms would be used to wipe out the Tamils in the island, India should not only declare that it would not supply any arms, but pressurise Sri Lanka to come to the negotiating table to find a solution to the Tamils’ issue.
This was the wish of 6.5 crore Tamils in India, he said and appealed to Chief Minister M Karunanidhi to take up the issue with the Centre and take an assurance that it would not supply arms to Sri Lanka.
When the UN assembly and many third world countries like the US were demanding that Sri Lanka should resume peace talks, the Lankan government was stepping up its offensive against the Tamils in a bid to find a military solution to the crisis, he said.
If Sri Lanka failed to heed the advice of India for peace talks, India should boycott Sri Lankan officials, Dr Ramadoss added.
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The highly skilled and literate labour force, the business environment, fiscal incentives and government support and a speedily developing telecom and IT infrastructure make Sri Lanka an attractive destination to harness IT enabled services and importantly to develop its image as an optimal choice for knowledge and business process outsourcing.
This sector can play an important contribution to the economy of Sri Lanka. The expansion of related IT infrastructure and services can help in the development of other economic sectors thereby spurring overall economic growth. Some of the other positive spillover effects are the incentives that are created for education, provide employment for a large number of people, quality of exported services improves, and service processes tend to be more environmentally friendly.
However, to harness the full potential of this industry, some issues and bottlenecks need to be resolved. High rates of telecom and electricity, lack of Internet availability, and weakness in the transport system when compared with the region is attenuating the rate of growth in this segment. The restricted size of the labour force due to the small population of the country and rigid labour laws and regulations make labour also a key issue which needs to be addressed, especially due to the strong competition we are facing from competitors such as China and India.
Recognizing the value of this industry, and the importance of dealing with the issues and obstructions that restrict its growth, this entire session is focuses on three main areas of IT enabled services, those of the software industry, mobile phone connectivity and knowledge process outsourcing and business process outsourcing. The development so far of these related industries and its contribution to the economy and economic development will be looked into. Additionally, the further promising potential of these industries and how this growing potential could be exploited will also be looked into.
A panel of private sector and regulatory agencies’ representatives will help stimulate discussion on what policies will reduce any impediments and help Sri Lanka reach the top as the ultimate BPO destination with quality IT enabled services.The IT session would be chaired by Mr. Kavan Ratnayake, Country Manager, IBM Worldtrade Corporation. The speakers would be Mr. Tony Weerasinghe, Chief Executive Officer, Millennium Information Technologies Ltd (“Dreaming in Software Code: Building World-class applications”), Mr. Avinash Vashistha, Chairman/CEO, Tholong (“Exploiting Sri Lanka’s Off-Shoring Potential”) and Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya, Chief Executive Officer, Dialog Telekom Ltd (“Visioning Tomorrow, Building Today. Leveraging Telecommunication for Today”). The Panelists are: Mr. Reshan Devapura, Programme Director, Information & Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka, Mr. Duminda Ariyasinghe, Executive Director (Promotions), Board of Investment of Sri Lanka, Mr. Dushan Soza, Managing Director, WNS Customer Solutions, Mr. Christie Alwis, Chief Network Officer, Sri Lanka Telecom Ltd, Mr. Mano Wickramanayake, Group Director, Maharaja Organisation Ltd and Mr. Ronnie Peiris, Group Finance Director, John Keells Holdings Ltd. via Financial Times
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