Daily Archives: February 10, 2007

US Counter terror expert attacks LTTE and says prospects for peace were never better like now

By Walter Jayawardhana – Lanka Page Exclusive

PROSPECTS FOR SRI LANKAN PEACE IS IN BETTER TRACK NOW THAN IN ANY TIME BEFORE SAYS US ANTI-TERROR EXPERT

The prospect for peace in Sri Lanka is in a better track today than ever before said Dr. Peter Leitner, President Counter Terrorism Research Center and Professor National Center for Bio Defense of the George Mason University.

He was delivering the keynote address of Sri Lanka’s 59th Independence Day celebrations organized by the Sri Lanka Patriots at the Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium in Culver City, a suburb of Los Angeles California.

Dr. Leitner said prospects for an eventual accommodation for peace are very bright and there is reason for great optimism.

He said the reasons for his conclusions are the increasing economic prosperity for the country, increasing global intolerance for terrorism, greater international problem solving efforts, particularly in the non-proliferation area, a slow but dawning realization among the larger global powers that their fate is inescapably linked to developments in nations far from their shores, an increasingly local awareness that the long term insurgency will not succeed in partitioning the nation and a growing sense that a violent, corrupt, self-perpetuating insurgent movement like the LTTE is not the avenue to building a harmonious society.

The counter terrorism expert said these developments must be carefully nurtured with tangible incentives for all.

Drawing his final conclusions Leitner said a unitary state is vastly preferable to fractious micro states with incomplete economies.

Dr. Leitner said Sri Lanka, an area as big as the US state of West Virginia has lost 63,000 lives since 1983 due to the insurgency created by the terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). It is an equivalent of losing 9, 90,000 people when compared to the US. That equates an innumerable amount of 9/11’s, he pointed out. Read the rest of this entry

President ready to revert back democratic rights of Tamils taken away by flawed pact

By Walter Jayawardhana

PRESIDENT MAHINDA RAJAPAKSA TELLS BBC THAT HE IS DETERMINED TO REVERT BACK TO THE TAMIL PEOPLE THE DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS ROBBED OF THEM BY A FLAWED PACT   

President Mahinda Rajapaksa said he is determined to revert back the democratic rights of  the Tamil people of Sri Lanka which were robbed of them by an agreement that was basically flawed.

He was speaking about Sri Lanka’s controversial Ceasefire Agreement brokered by Norway that would be five years old on February 22  2007.

It was wrong on the part of Sri Lanka to enter into a Ceasefire Agreement with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam  ( LTTE) depriving a section of the citizens of Sri Lanka their fundamental democratic rights said President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka.

In an interview partly broadcast by the Sinhala Service of the BBC, Sandeshaya with the radio’s Colombo correspondent Ronald Buerk the Sri Lankan President said that he was determined to give back the rights of the Tamil people of the Eastern Province so deprived as soon as possible and said while the other citizens of Sri Lanka were voting governments in and out of power the Tamil people who are living under the jack boot of LTTE terrorism have not seen a ballot paper for ages.

He said he would supply the fundamental needs of the Tamil people now liberated from the LTTE in the East like water, electricity and the roads and the government would do everything that could bring their lives to normalcy. He said such development work would start as soon as the troops were able to remove the thousands of land mines buried in the area by the LTTE.

When the President was asked whether it was his idea to bring such democracy to the North of the country too President Mahinda Rajapaksa said it was the duty of  any government to bring back the lost democratic rights to sections of its citizenry.  He reiterated that it was wrong on the part for anybody to demarcate parts of a sovereign nation calling them LTTE controlled areas.

He said in those areas the people have been deprived of their rights to perform their normal political rights as having political parties and elect their representatives. Their children are being conscripted to the terrorist army.

The President said such a situation prevailed only in two districts in the country, namely Kilinochchi and Mulathivu. The voice of the people in those areas is to restore their lost political rights, the President told the BBC. He said he was determined to grant back the lost political rights of the people.

He said he would give those people a political solution and the LTTE, basically a terrorist group cannot, under any circumstance could accept a democratic solution, he said. The president said when he gave the Tamil people a democratic political solution the LTTE will have to accept it.

Saying that he was always ready to negotiate with them the President was quoted having said, "I’m trying to negotiate with terrorists for the first time and I’m feeding them. Even now I am feeding them. I am giving them medicine, I am giving them food, I am giving them all that. Education, teachers are sent by me, doctors are sent by me and paid by our government. I’m making their roads – so I’m doing that all."

He reminded the BBC correspondent that right at the moment the majority of the minorities, namely the Tamils and Muslims were united under his government and has become part of it.

He said only the TNA which is compelled to operate under the intimidation of the LTTE is not part of the government. On the Independence Day, the President said, he publicly invited them to enter into a dialogue with the government.

He said at the last Presidential election he received a mandate from the people to share power with the minorities. He said the people wanted such devolution under one country. He was not hesitant for such a devolution, the President said.

President Rajapaksa said by March he would see the proposals for such a devolution. By then his own political party the SLFP would have such proposals he said. By considering all those resolutions, they could come to a conclusion the President said.

When the cooperation of Karuna with the government troops was raised the President said it was ridiculous for certain sections to say that the government needed the child soldiers of Karuna to fight. He said Karuna is essentially a breakaway group of the LTTE. Using any child as a soldier was against the culture of the country, the President insisted. He said one could visit the government exhibition now at the BMICH and see how many thousands of young adults try to join the government troops so enthusiastically.  In that kind of a situation the government did not have a dearth of adults to serve in its armed forces the president said and there was no necessity to go for Karuna’s child soldiers.

The President said when this was told to him he demanded some evidence to go into a full investigation of the matter. He said the army also conducted its own internal investigation and said they could not find any thing to support the charge. But up to this day the President said the people who raised the accusations have failed to provide any evidence at all.

He said basically he would not allow any child of any ethnic group to be made a child soldier. Period. President Rajapaksa said he was prepared to devolve power to the provinces as part of a settlement, as long as Sri Lanka remains one unitary country.

"The Tigers must take up our solution and must lay down their arms and negotiate with us," he said.

"If they don’t attack us, if they don’t kill anybody – then we may have peace, but if they do that we have to react for self-defense."

He said India is the closest neighbor of Sri Lanka. They are the closest culturally too, the President said. They are the people who could understand Sri Lanka’s problems in the most sensitive manner, more than any other nation in the world. So, a bigger participation of India in the national problem of Sri Lanka is always welcome, the President said.

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Anura Mangala and Sripathi stripped off portfolios

By Walter Jayawardhana

ANURA BANDARANAIKE, MANGALA SAMARAWEERA AND SRIPATHI SOORIYAARACHCHI STRIPPED OFF THEIR MINISTERIAL POSITIONS.

National Heritage Minister Anura Bandaranaike, Ports Minister Mangala Samaraweera and a Projects minister Sreepathi Sooriyaarachchi were stripped of their ministerial portfolios by President Rajapaksa on Friday.

Anura bandaranaike’s differences with President Rajapaksa were developing ever since Rajapaksa received the party nominations to contest as the Presidential candidate of the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party. He is known to have been in a secret alliance with his sister former President Chandrika Bandaranaike and was involved in a secret campaign to defeat him at the last Presidential election.

Samaraweera and Sreepathi Sooriyaarachchi are considered to be close allies of the former President Chandrika Bandaranaike but was vigorously campaigning for President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the last Presidential elections but were disappointed since Mangala wanted to be the Prime minister and Sreepathi wanted to be a powerful cabinet minister unsuccessfully.

Their differences with the President were developing gradually but culminated when in a cabinet reshuffle mangala lost his prestigious cabinet portfolio of Foreign Affairs and Sreepathi never was elevated from a non cabinet ministerial portfolio.

Mangala Samaraweera also was angry that his Southern opponent Mahinda Wijesekera was taken in to the cabinet in the cabinet reshuffle.

Making a statement to the BBC Sandeshaya Anura Bandaranaike said, "It is better to be out from the cabinet and independent rather than to be a party to a hellish government,"

Ports minister Samaraweera,  was one of the the main campaigners for President Rajapaksa during November 2005 presidential elections. He is also the Treasuerer of the ruling Sri lanka Freedom Party.

Related News Article: Love Hate relationship of two former political colleagues coming to an end?

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Minorities have equal rights

by Shanie

As we begin our sixtieth year of independence from western colonial rule, it is appropriate to take stock of our achievements and of our failures over the years. If we can honestly do this, we will then be able to chart a path for the future that will move away from our failures and build on our achievements. Honesty demands that we look at ourselves through the eyes of an outsider. There are many areas where we can be proud of what we have accomplished in our journey. But we keep moving forward only when we recognise and admit to our shortcomings. In areas where we have gone wrong, we need a change of direction. We need to take one step back to take two steps forward.

The Economy

In 1948, the British handed over to us a reasonably stable economy with reasonably stable monetary reserves. This, of course, was not due to the benevolence of our colonial masters, but to fortuitous circumstances. Ours was then basically a plantation economy that was developed because it brought economic benefit to the British. The tea plantations were almost entirely controlled by British companies; while the Sri Lankan land-owning class had significant investment in rubber and coconut. We had emerged from the second World War with healthy foreign currency reserves. This was further boosted by the Korean War that followed soon after, when our plantation crops, particularly rubber, fetched good prices.

But the cultivation of food crops and the promotion of paddy production, which had sustained ancient Ceylon over the centuries was sadly neglected. This did not bring any commercial gain to the colonialists. It was left to the indigenous leaders to start, on regaining independence, massive programmes to advance peasant agriculture. The Gal Oya was the first of many river basin development projects that gave a tremendous boost to agricultural production. However, other problems arose. With the development of vast acres of land in the Dry Zone, new peasants had to be settled in the newly opened lands. The new colonists were brought in from the west and south of the country and this changed the demography of the area. From being an area populated by Muslims and Tamils, Gal Oya became a Sinhala majority area. With hindsight, we can now say that the scheme of colonisation could have been handled with acceptance to all communities. Over the years, this has been symptomatic of our political problems. What could have been achieved by dialogue and consultation, was allowed to deteriorate into crisis proportions.

Over the years, our economy has diversified to some extent, but not as much as was necessary. From being almost totally a plantation economy, our earnings now come from garment exports, remittances from labour employed abroad, export of non-traditional agricultural products, etc. But these are so volatile, that they do not give stability to our economy. Agriculture is one area where we have not had sustained developed. Individual policy makers have had their own programmes – the result is that growth in this sector has been only sporadic. We need a national policy that does not have to depend on changes in government to take forward.

Education

The same goes for education. In the forties, the State Council introduced universal free education. This made us far ahead of other countries in the global south. The Central Schools that were developed provided education of a very quality. In the fifties, the switch-over to Sinhala and Tamil as media of instruction, even though poorly implemented, enabled many to receive tertiary education previously restricted to the urban English-speaking class. The statistical percentages of literacy may have gone down over the years, but we are still way above the global average. It was a pity that the language policy of the State was so much mixed up with linguistic emotion that we did not encourage the whole population to be literate in all three languages. Had that been done, the educational standards of the country would have been high even by the standards of the developed countries. It augurs well that this is being gradually implemented but past neglect means that we do not have the teaching resources for this. The criticism in respect of economic policy, holds good for education as well. We need a national policy that will not change with every change of government.

Health Care

There has been a decline over the last sixty years in the provision of health services. All our regions used to have good health care with the medical institutions manned by very competent personnel. Sadly, this has declined over the years. One tends to get the feeling that this has been the result of privatisation. Health care in state institutions was and is still free and since competent personnel in all areas of medicine were available in the provinces, the people living in the country and those with limited income still had access to good care. But with the growth of private medical institutions, adequate health care is increasingly becoming restricted only to the affluent. It is not easy now to reverse this trend, but a re-thinking of public health policy is now needed. The cost of major surgeries, followed by necessary care, is now simply beyond the reach of the average citizen. The formulation of a policy that ensures affordable and sound health care for all people and in all regions is a vital need.

Social Cohesion

The other area where we have slid down remarkably is in discipline, law and order and this is also tied up with the decline in ethnic relations and the politicisation of our public, police and security services. From the mid-fifties we have had a series of ethnic pogroms, at different levels. When the first violence broke out in the Gal Oya valley in 1956, the alarm bells should have rung and we should have taken urgent steps to prevent their recurrence. It was in that year that the victory of the Bandaranaike led political grouping swept into power. It was a revolt by the vast majority of our people who had suffered deprivation at the hands of unimaginative government policies. Despite free education, it was the English-speaking elite who enjoyed all the plums. This social uprising should have been directed to a national awakening that was inclusive of all our people. There was a cultural renaissance among both Sinhala and Tamil people that has enabled a home-grown and revived arts to develop. But the political fall-out from a narrow linguistic policy has resulted in the country not developing in comparison to other countries of Asia. This was because some of the leaders of the 1956 political “revolution” were simply not visionaries. It was these elements who conspired to assassinate Bandaranaike, one of the few visionaries in that government but who lacked the political muscle to rein in these elements. Fellow visionaries like Philip Gunawardene in his Government and N M Perera in the Opposition were allowed to be politically isolated.

Ethnic Relations

The deterioration in ethnic relations is what continues to keep the country down. The Tamil and the Muslims must be made to feel that they are part of the country’s development march; that they have equal rights and equal opportunities in all areas of public life. There must be a conscious policy to ensure that the minorities have equal access to employment in the state sector. Offering cabinet portfolios to minority leaders only marginalizes them. The way to tackle terrorism is not through counter-terrorism. It is a pity that we are unable to learn from the experience of other countries, and indeed from our own country, on the way forward. The message must be consistently stated and implemented, that the minorities have equal rights. via … The Island

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Musings on a bang

Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle has burnt a gasket over what is being described as police harassment. A policeman escorting a VIP, a furious Fernandopulle has said, stopped his vehicle and threateningly banged on it, ordering him to stop and make way for the VIP concerned, on Tuesday. Sri Lankan ministers being an omnipotent breed, over whose heads not even a crow is supposed to fly, Mr. Fernandopulle’s consternation is understandable. “Who on earth dares block my path?” he may have thought.

In a way, it is good that politicians, too, are made to undergo, at least occasionally, the difficulties and hardships that the ordinary people are made to face everyday. In this land where there are governments of politicians, by politicians for politicians, all politicians—from the sublime to the ridiculous—get armed escorts. Some of them use their security personnel as bogeymen to harass their opponents. And when those worthies use public roads, their guards behave savagely. They wave menacingly and shove all others off their path almost at gunpoint. Why they move at breakneck speed, causing so many difficulties to the public is the question. If only they had the same urgency to honour their promises to the people!

Most politicians are trying to have us believe that their lives are in danger. Yes, the LTTE is zeroing in on some of them and they need to be protected at any cost. But, even the confirmed jokers in politics are behaving as if they were being pursued by the terrorists. They need not fear the enemies of the state, whose purpose they are serving by ruining the country through political means. The whole caboodle of such ignoramuses is an asset to the LTTE, which, instead of killing them, might want to protect them. With them active in politics, the LTTE need not expend its energy and explosives to blow up economic targets. Politicians have been doing it far more effectively in a different way. Over the years they have brought this country to such a pass that today it has to seek permission of aid donors before defending itself! We make no bones about our aversion to the Tigers but on no grounds can we bring ourselves to think that they are so stupid as to slay those southern politicos who are of great help to them.

Apart from the leaders who have the courage to take on the LTTE without squeaking gobbledygook and dithering on the question of dealing with terrorism, the real endangered species is not the politicians but the ordinary citizenry. They are the ones who run the risk of being blown to smithereens in public places, as has happened in bomb blasts at Pettah, Maradana, Dehiwela, Kebithigollwewa etc. over the past so many years. It is from the resilience of those heroes and heroines that whatever campaign to protect the country derives strength and sustenance.

The best way to end a war, it is said, is to send generals to the front. Similarly, politicians who are making only a half-hearted effort to deal with terrorism must be stripped of their security and made to live like the ordinary people. Then only will they realise the real danger and the need to ensure public safety.

The extraordinary security measures that are being adopted to protect VIPs much to the inconvenience of the people have failed to be effective, if the successful terror strikes in the past are any indication. If the Army Commander is not safe inside the well fortified Army Headquarters, it is doubtful whether those on the terror hit lit could be protected on public roads with the help of escort vehicles, which are as fragile as cardboard boxes against powerful bombs. Threats to political leaders and the people are only the effect, the cause being the conflict, which has spilled over into all parts of the country. So long as the cause remains intact and terrorism manifests itself in various forms—now we hear of ‘Sinhala Tigers’ working for the LTTE for a fee—neither politicians nor the ordinary masses are going to be safe. Prabhakaran’s Murder Inc. seems to be outsourcing terror attacks with a view to unleashing anarchy in the southern parts of the country through its hirelings. Some trade unionist are alleged to have discarded the strike weapon and taken up assault rifles and grenades to boot by courtesy of the LTTE. The day may not be far off when trade unionists will begin to talk through the barrel of the gun!

It is time politicians stopped worrying about policemen banging on their bonnets, took cognisance of the real danger of terror and did something to root out the scourge.

The policeman who made a powerful minister feel like an ordinary citizen, at least temporarily, deserves plaudits. Three cheers!

-The Island Editorial

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