Daily Archives: December 22, 2014

2014 – year of reckoning for Rajapaksa and Sri Lanka


Colombo, Dec 22: Sri Lanka made global headlines in 2014 with few positives as it faced censure from the UN for its human rights record while President Mahinda Rajapaksa ordered snap presidential polls seeking a record a third term amid efforts to address the vexed fishermen issue with India.

If the UNHRC resolution was a disaster, the silver lining came in the form of India’s abstention at the crucial vote in Geneva. Rajapaksa was elated as India had backed both previous resolutions by siding with the US. Colombo was quick to grab the opportunity– with the Indian general election and the emergence of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister.

Rajapaksa immediately ordered the release of 98 Indian fishermen as a goodwill gesture after the UN vote. Rajapaksa also did not waste any time in accepting the invitation to attend Modi’s inauguration and has met the Indian premier twice more thereafter.

His pardoning of five Indian fishermen sentenced to death in Sri Lanka for alleged drug trafficking came in his own words due to “good foreign policy” of the Modi government. However, Rajapaksa’s over reliance on China as his major development partner kept policymakers concerned in New Delhi.

They remain far from being convinced about the bona fides of growing Chinese influence in Sri Lanka. “Keeping Pakistan aside, Indian concerns about the excessive Chinese economic presence and influence in the immediate South Asian neighborhood relates possibly to the kind of political influence that China could bring to bear on those nations at a time and occasion of its choosing,” said N Sathiya Moorthi, a New Delhi-based regional expert.

India officially protested to Sri Lanka over frequent port calls by Chinese naval vessels, including submarines, at Colombo. Sri Lanka has maintained that during the armed conflict the safety reasons did not permit naval support visits from friendly nations. With the civil war with the LTTE over, such naval visits are now possible and New Delhi should not be reading too much into them reassuring that it would not entertain any unfriendly acts on its soil or waters against Indian interests.

India also pitched for an early reconciliation process to meet the aspirations of Tamil community in Sri Lanka and discussed other key issues including fishermen. Indian infrastructure assistance, particularly the restoration of the railway link to northern Jaffna town after 24 years, is also a major step towards addressing concerns of the Sri Lankan Tamils.


Sri Lanka floods displace over 40,000

Colombo, Dec 22: More than 40,000 people have been displaced in the north central and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka as heavy torrential rains made dams overflow and hampered transport services, an official said Sunday.

The town of Batticaloa was the worst hit, with an estimated 30,000 people displaced from their homes, according to a report in Xinhua.

Thousands more had to be evacuated, including those from tourist hot spots such as Anuradhapura, by the army and navy.

The towns of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa in the north central province are also known for rice cultivation and hundreds of dams provide water in the usually arid region.

Lashed by heavy showers for days, as many as 29 big dams and 83 medium ones had reached spill level, forcing sluice gates to be opened, threatening people living downstream.

“The safety of pilgrims and foreign visitors is being given priority. They have been evacuated from hotels near major tanks, while pilgrims were removed from the sacred city,” Anuradhapura District Secretary, Mahinda Seneviratne said.

Severe rain is expected to continue during the Christmas week, dampening relief efforts.

According to the meteorological department’s Jeewan Karunaratne, a disturbance in the upper atmosphere had activated the northeast monsoon.

“We are expecting heavy rains in the coming weeks as atmospheric disturbances are occurring in a wave pattern,” he said. Landslide warnings have also been issued in four districts in central Sri Lanka.

The floods have also hampered road and railway transport services and trains carrying mail from Colombo to the east and north were reportedly cancelled after tracks were submerged at several places.


Use words that heal, not words that harm: Obama to Americans

Use words that heal, not words that harm: Obama to Americans
Washington, Dec 21: US President Barack Obama today appealed to fellow Americans to reject violence and words that harmed others and turn to words that heal, hours after a lone black gunman killed two uniformed New York police officers.

Unconditionally condemning the killing of Wenjin Liu, a seven-year veteran of the New York Police Department, and Raphael Ramos, who joined the force two years ago, Obama said there was “no justification” for their slaying.

“I unconditionally condemn today’s murder of two police officers in New York City. Two brave men won’t be going home to their loved ones tonight, and for that, there is no justification,” Obama said in a statement.

“Tonight, I ask people to reject violence and words that harm, and turn to words that heal,” Obama, who is now on a vacation in Hawaii, said.

“Officers who serve and protect our communities risk their own safety for ours every single day and they deserve our respect and gratitude every single day,” he added.

The 28-year-old gunman, identified as Ismaaiyl Brinsley, a black man, had driven over 300 km from Baltimore to New York.

US authorities said he had written in social media posts that he planned to kill police officers in the wake of the deaths of two blacks, Eric Garner and Michael Brown, by police officers.

“Although we’re still learning the details, it’s clear that this was an assassination, that these officers were shot execution style,” said New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said.


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