Daily Archives: October 18, 2006

Rebels launch suicide attack on Sri Lanka naval base in south, 1 sailor killed

ERANGA JAYAWARDENA – Associated Press Writer – GALLE, Sri Lanka – (AP) Suspected Tamil rebels posing as fishermen blew up two of their boats in a suicide ambush on a naval base, killing at least one sailor in the first such attack on Sri Lanka – ‘s touristy southern coast, the military said. Police imposed an open-ended curfew in the town. The suicide bombing in Galle could signal a major shift for the Tamil Tiger rebels, whose decades-long campaign for a separate homeland for minority ethnic Tamils has largely focused on Sri Lanka – ‘s north and east, which they claim as their cultural heartland.

It also could be a major blow to Sri Lanka – ‘s tourism industry, with peak season about to begin in Galle and its nearby beaches, a major draw for travelers. Galle, 110 kilometers (70 miles) south of the capital, Colombo, also is home to Sri Lanka – ‘s main southern naval port.

The suspected Tamil Tiger rebels blew up two of their boats after entering the harbor area posing as fishermen, while the navy destroyed the remaining three boats, the Defense ministry spokesman said, speaking on condition of anonymity, citing agency policy.

All the rebels were killed, but it was not immediately clear how many insurgents were aboard the boats, he said.

The rebels did not make any immediate comment, but the pro-rebel TamilNet Web site reported that a 15-member rebel attack team had entered Galle harbor in five boats and that three boats exploded.

The attack also was expected to further damage peace efforts ahead of scheduled talks between the government and rebels starting Oct. 28 in Switzerland. Both sides this week committed themselves to the talks.

Sri Lanka – ‘s top security spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella accused the rebels of launching deadly attacks to provoke a backlash against ethnic Tamils that could help them win international sympathy ahead of the talks.

“We ask the people not to fall into the trap that has been laid by the LTTE,” he told reporters.

A violent backlash by the majority Sinhalese against Tamil civilians could strengthen the Tigers’ claim that the Tamil people can live in peace only if they achieve a separate homeland.

It was the second attack on the navy this week.

On Monday a rebel suicide bomber rammed a truck filled with explosives into a military bus convoy in central Sri Lanka – , killing at least 95 sailors and wounding more than 150 others the deadliest insurgent attack since a 2002 cease-fire temporarily halted the country’s civil war.

Last Wednesday, fierce battles on the besieged northern Jaffna Peninsula killed at least 129 soldiers and more than 200 rebels, and left hundreds of others wounded.

The surge in violence comes as Sri Lanka – faces increasing international pressure to return to the negotiating table.

Japanese peace envoy Yasushi Akashi was scheduled to hold talks with rebel leaders in the north Wednesday, while Norwegian envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer arrived in Colombo on Tuesday for meetings with government and rebel officials.

U.S. envoy Richard Boucher will make a two-day visit to Sri Lanka – starting Thursday.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for a separate homeland for the Tamil minority in the north and east, citing decades of discrimination by the majority Sinhalese. About 65,000 people were killed before the 2002 cease-fire.

Associated Press writers Bharatha Mallawarachi and Krishan Francis contributed to this report.

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Danny Davis’ opponent warns further alienation for LTTE

By Walter Jayawardhana

Los Angeles: A rising political star of the ruling Republican Party of US challenging a pro-Tamil Tiger Congressman in the coming November elections said truck bomb suicide attacks by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) will further alienate the terrorist group from the civilized world.

Charles Hutchinson, the young Republican candidate who is now locked up in a close race with incumbent Democratic Congressman Danny Davies who is a close friend of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said in a strongly worded press statement referring to the Habarana suicide truck attack that “Acts like these have no roll in the civilized world and only further alienate groups such as the LTTE from people who promote peace, democracy, and tolerance.”

“ I condemn the actions of the LTTE and their roll in the efforts to destabilize the government of Sri Lanka, and the region overall” stated Charles Hutchinson.

Danny Davis ,the Congressman from the Illinois 7th Congressional District is severely handicapped in this election since he is entangled in a serious political scandal after the prestigious metropolitan daily Chicago Tribune accused him of making a trip to Sri Lanka paid by the LTTE.

The August 24 2006 issue of the Chicago Tribune said, “ Chicago congressman Danny Davis and an aide took a trip to Sri Lanka last year that was paid for by the Tamil Tigers, a group that the U.S. government has designated as a terrorist organization for its use of suicide bombers and child soldiers, law-enforcement sources said.”

Issuing a press statement the Republican candidate said, immediately after the terrorist attack , that it is reported another deadly attack by the terrorist group known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the group visited by Congressman Danny Davis in 2005, the group on the U.S. State Department’s list of Known Foreign Terrorist Organization since 1997.

His press statement further said, “In an attack similar to that that crippled the USS Cole, and killed several brave United States servicemen, the LTTE attacked a Sri Lankan Naval convoy of buses, killing over 90 naval personnel.Once again using the cowardly form of a suicide bomber, the LTTE drove a truck of explosives into a group of unarmed men.”

As a candidate for U.S. Congress, Charles Hutchinson uses this as a classic example of why the United States must continue its war on terror, not provide aid to any terrorist organization, and not take any terrorist group lightly.

Sri Lankan students excel at Cathay Pacific wilderness expedition in Johannesburg

For the first time two students from Sri Lanka were offered the unique opportunity to participate in the International Wilderness Experience 2006 in Johannesberg, South Africa, recently. This trip of a lifetime, which is considered as an "Educational Safari," was sponsored by Cathay Pacific Airways and co-sponsored by James Finlay & Co Colombo Ltd, the General Sales Agent for Cathay Pacific Airways in Sri Lanka.

This "Educational Safari” which took place for the 12th consecutive year, saw the participation of 48 student ambassadors from countries and territories such as Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Pakistan & Japan. The Cathay Pacific International Wilderness Experience is a tailor made programme for youngsters that gives them an opportunity to interact with students from other countries and to learn from each other’s diverse cultures. The main objective of conducting this programme every year, is to educate students from around the world, on how human activities have an impact on earth’s ecology and to develop bonds between man and nature and between students from different cultures through cross cultural activities.

Mr. Julian Lyden, Country Manager – Cathay Pacific Sri Lanka & Maldives, said, "I took up duties in Sri Lanka only a few months ago and was very happy and proud to be associated with this project as one of my initial duties in this beautiful country. We at Cathay Pacific believe it is our responsibility to connect people’s lives around the world and it is most prudent to start with the younger generation as they are going to be the future leaders of planet earth."

Sharing the same views, Mr. Kumar Jayasuriya, Chairman James Finlay said, "Young people are the future of this world and as responsible corporate citizens it is our duty and responsibility to come forward and engage in activities that broaden their intellectual horizons and expose them for new challenges."

Cathay Pacific Airways, after much scrutiny and a stringent interviewing process selected two very talented Sri Lankan students to represent Sri Lanka at this international event. 17 year olds, Vinod Malwatte and Jehan Nalin Goonaratne from Royal College and St. Thomas’s College, Mount Lavinia, respectively were the two lucky students who were selected for this "Trip of a Lifetime."

The participants stayed in Botshabelo, a nature reserve in Johannesburg, which boasts of a rich history. During the programme the participants were guided by a team of highly qualified Educational Officers and took part in activities to learn more about man’s impact on the environment during wilderness safaris, camping trips, wildlife observations and expeditions. They also shared their cultural traditions with each other through a mock wedding ceremony, a cookery demonstration, role-play activities, songs and dances. A much-loved part of the programme was the local community service initiative, which gave the students an opportunity to interact with the natives of Botshabelo.

The two delighted students had much to say about their diverse experiences in South Africa. Vinod, said, "The Cathay Pacific International Wilderness Experience has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet fellow students from around the world, to learn about and appreciate their cultures and traditions, explore the wilderness of South Africa and to grow as an individual. The programme encouraged us to question stereotypes and ask challenging questions-and showed us how to have fun even while thinking about serious issues! I think that everyone who participated in the experience walked away with some wonderful memories, newly developed skills and of course, some great friendships! "

Jehan said, "South Africa I found a land of gold and fascination indeed! The memories of the friendships we made, activities we did, spectacular dances we saw and performed were awe-inspiring. Sleeping under the twinkling stars , escaping into the great, vast African wilderness; the colourful cross cultural activities; all gave us an opportunity to learn something and it’s those moments that I will treasure". -Daily Mirror

Dialog Telekom wins ‘Best Stall’ at Infotel 2006

Sri Lanka’s pioneer telecommunication company Dialog Telekom, was adjudged the winner of the Most Creative Stall and Best Stall at the recently concluded Infotel Lanka 2006 Exhibition at the BMICH.

Commenting on the awards, Nushad Perera, General Manager Sales and Marketing at Dialog Telekom said ‘Naturally we are very proud that our stall was recognized in this way. I would like to congratulate our in house team on their achievement. While we were complimented on the international look of the stall this was actually a truly Sri Lankan effort since the stall was designed and built by Sri Lankans using local equipment and technology. The aim of the stall was to provide visitors with a comprehensive, interactive and instructive experience of the innovative products and services we have to offer. As always we look at Infotel as an opportunity to build relationships, share knowledge and connect with the people who come to the exhibition in search of the latest information and application solutions.”

The Dialog Telekom stall was praised for its abstract design that housed 5 interconnecting yet individual zones that allowed visitors to enter and exit via the zone of their choice. Visitors strolled seamlessly from one area to the other experiencing the latest in Enterprise, Tracking and Gateway solutions. The stall also featured an area devoted to the latest mobile phones, where visitors could do anything from purchase the Worlds first Sinhala language phone to obtain a 3G SIM card. The vibrant and interactive nature of the stall, which explored the multiple dimensions of mobile telecommunication, ensured that it was the dynamic and exciting hub of the exhibition.

Hailed as the “ultimate one-stop communication application outlet”, the stalls main feature was the worlds’ first 100% Sinhala mobile phone. The Sinhala mobile phone, manufactured by Nokia in collaboration with the Dialog University of Moratuwa Research Laboratory, offers Sri Lankan mobile users the opportunity to own a phone with a Sinhala keypad and software. Visitors also experienced 3G technologies including video conferencing, TV on the phone, video streaming and much more. Service professionals provided visitors with information and details regarding Blackberry and Wimax solutions. Other attractions included ISP solutions, Dialog Internet, Dialog Global and a guide through the Download Zone. In addition the stall featured a Customer Service Arcade that offered a variety of special packages, services and phones. -Financial Times

Gem, jewellery exports on uptrend

COLOMBO (Dow Jones)–Sri Lanka expects gem and jewelry exports to climb 9.5% to $373.3 million this year helped by an expansion into new markets, said the chairman of the National Gem & Jewelry Authority.

And to build on the momentum, the authority is planning an Internet platform for exporters by next year. It has also started offering training programs at discounted rates to help jewelry designers and manufacturers improve their skills and the quality of output.

"We have been posting satisfactory export growth and the outlook is good. We expect revenue to climb further by between 18%-20% in 2007," Hasitha Tillekeratne told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview.

The gem and jewelry sector currently accounts for around 5% of the country’s total exports.

The authority expects this figure to climb to around 6%-7% in 2007.

Last year, exports grew 1% to around $341.1 million.

In the first nine months of this year, exports rose nearly 20% on year to around $270 million, helped by a promotional campaign launched in many countries.

The last quarter of the year is a traditionally slow period for gem and jewelry exports.

Tillekeratne said the higher revenue this year is due to "demand for finished products from new markets following a series of recent international exhibitions."

New buyers added to Sri Lanka’s portfolio this year include Malaysia, Russia, Austria, and China.

Sri Lanka is famous for its blue sapphires, star sapphires, star rubies, cat’s eyes, rubies, alexandrites, topaz, amethysts, tourmalines and garnets. Blue sapphire is the country’s most popular gemstone.

Sri Lanka’s biggest gem and jewelry market is the U.S., which buys around 40% of the island’s total output, followed by Europe, Thailand, and Hong Kong. Its main competitors include Madagascar, Italy, and France.

Although the industry’s exports have been growing since 2000, the sector still accounts for less than 1% of gross domestic product.

Tillekeratne said the industry plans to focus on expanding the value-added and finished jewelry market due to the potential for revenue growth.

He said Sri Lankan manufacturers now lack the facilities and expertise to compete with other countries in the gem-studded jewelry business.

"This is an area we are looking to develop because there is a big demand for these products and potential revenue growth. We are starting with upgrading the skills of manufacturers," said Tillekeratne.

The Internet trading facility will enable foreign buyers to place orders with Sri Lankan exporters with a government guarantee, he said.

The authority also plans to expedite the setting up of a Gem Trading Bank next year at an initial cost of LKR500 million. The bank will specialize in extending loans to industry players using precious stones and metal as collateral.

"We already have parliamentary approval for this project and we are looking to include it in our 2007 corporate plan," said Tillekeratne.

Meanwhile, the industry is lobbying for some favorable measures in the 2007 budget proposals to be unveiled next month.

Tillekeratne said key recommendations include a reduction in the Value Added Tax to 5% from 20% currently for locally manufactured jewelry and the exemption of a 2.5% levy on gem imports.

Sri Lanka imports various stones and diamonds, usually in rough form, for re-export after value addition like cutting, polishing and heat treatment.

The authority is also spearheading a project launched this year to revive mining operations in Sri Lanka which have been on a declining trend since 1997.

Industry players have estimated that around 90% of primary gem deposits on the island remain untapped due to a lack of technical expertise.

Tillekeratne said: "We have identified 19 new locations suitable for mining and are working with experts" to determine the cost and new methods to explore and extract precious stones. -Financial Times

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