Peace for the World

Peace for the World
First democratic leader of Justice the Godfather of the Sri Lankan Tamil Struggle: Honourable Samuel James Veluppillai Chelvanayakam

Saturday, December 31, 2011

LLRC ignored rape victims in its report

 by Pearl Thevanayagam

(December 22, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) One glaring omission in the LLRC report is the rape and murder of a significant number of detainees in camps by government security forces. No woman would have ever come forward and told the Commission that she had been raped. Sri Lankan culture does not permit a woman to come out with the fact she was raped since there is a heavy stigma attached to a raped woman.

by Pearl Thevanayagam
File Photo: President Mahinda Rajapakse
Apart from a clergyman's submission which states,“As a priest moving with the people I notice that we have nearly 81 widows in our district. Either they have lost their husbands or their husbands are in the detention camps. These women headed families face many difficulties, as the Tamil society is a very traditional society. When a man goes in to help a widow's family undue suspicion could arise and social and moral issues could also come up. They do not have anybody to help”, there is absolutely no mention of rape on Chapter 5 Paragraphs 104 to 117.

Around March this year I wrote a piece to Sri Lanka Guardian titled `The Vanquished People' in which I was witness to an 18 year old asylum seeker with a low IQ who was examined and interviewed by a psychologist and saw with my own eyes the injuries she sustained in her private parts when she was dragged out of her cell along with four other girls and repeatedly raped by several soldiers almost on a daily basis for 18 months. She bore a female child as a result who is now almost three years old.

The psychologist who had been treating her for almost two years told me she was telling the truth and the fact that she ran for her dear life when spotted a uniformed porter confirmed that she was indeed traumatised and it would take many more years for her deep psychological wounds to heal.

Evidence is also surfacing of young boys being raped and tortured in detention camps during asylum claims and human rights groups could do well to interview immigration solicitors and foreign government ministries dealing with asylum claims.

If the LTTE had committed many atrocities rape had never been one of them. Channel 4's Killing Fields' video, evidence given by many female asylum seekers for obtaining refugee status despite many bogus claims, recent UNCAT (United Nations Convention Against Torture) disclosure of rape, torture and murder and UK based human rights group report on the same put these rape victims is reminiscent of South Korea's `Comfort Women' during World War 11 in detention camps who were systematically raped by Japanese soldiers and who needed sexual gratification to keep their morale high. Some seven decades later Japan is still paying compensation to these women who are now well into their nineties.

Despite all this, the UK High Commissioner Dr Chris Nonis ceremoniously handed over the LLRC report - a puerile effort of a few government servants to exonerate the government from the atrocities of its security forces - to UK parliamentarians with pomp and pageant at the House of Commons. The premature release of the LLRC report before the government announced deadline of December 21 smacks of Prof. G.L.Peiris's fingerprints to placate the international community into thwarting war crime investigations and is seen by critics as a damage-control exercise before international war crimes investigations proper begins next year.

UN's choice words that `it welcomes the report' in no way suggest that it accepts the LLRC report as the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Sri Lanka is fast losing its credibility from day one after the war ended when it announced that no civilians were killed by the security forces and later went on to admit some civilians may have been caught up in the offensive against the LTTE.

The reason the refugees abroad are campaigning to bring the government before the international war crimes tribunal is that almost every one of them had either lost at least one member of their family or relatives or seriously affected. Their fight is a just fight and the world is listening at last. It its futile and foolhardy to accuse them of re-awakening LTTE terrorism.

The LLRC report has taken a lassaiz-faire attitude towards the annihilation of a good proportion of civilians and this alone merits international intervention and making the government accountable for war crimes committed. The war victims deserve immediate reprieve if the government sincerely wishes to mend fences with its minorities which include a good proportion of innocent Muslims.

(The writer is Asia Pacific Journalism Fellow at UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, California and a print journalist for 21 years. She can be reached

Sri Lanka’s Ghosts of War

The New York Times

THE Sri Lankan government’s defeat of the separatist Tamil Tigers in 2009 ended a three-decade war that took tens of thousands of lives. But only now is the government beginning to acknowledge its huge human cost. Two weeks ago, a government-appointed reconciliation commission released a long-awaited report, giving voice to the war’s civilian victims for the first time.
From August 2010 to January 2011, hundreds of people appeared before the commission in tears, begging for news of their loved ones, many of whom had last been seen in the custody of security forces. A doctor spoke of how they managed to survive under deplorable conditions in places “littered with dead bodies and carcasses of dying animals.”
In October, I visited a rural school just 6 miles from Mullivaikkal, on the northeast coast of the island, where the army finally crushed the Tigers — an area still off-limits to civilians. The government says there are too many land mines to allow resettlement; critics say there are too many bodies in mass graves.
The classroom had a new roof, but more than two years after the war ended, its walls were still pockmarked with shrapnel, a window was shattered and the floor was cracked. Most students’ uniforms were discolored; many wore flip-flops and carried tattered bags. A 7-year-old with a deep scar across his back stared at me. A shell had landed while his family slept and his sister was killed, he told me in a thin voice.
One child after another spoke of injuries and deaths caused by shelling; of lingering wounds; of forced conscription by the Tigers; of poor widowed mothers; and of family members missing after being taken into state custody.
Since Sri Lanka’s independence from Britain in 1948, members of the island’s Tamil minority have insisted that they face linguistic, educational and employment discrimination from the Sinhalese majority, which controls the government.
The Tigers — a sophisticated, well-financed guerilla group that formed in 1976 and pioneered the technique of suicide bombing — sought to redress their grievances by violent means, with the goal of establishing an independent Tamil state. They routinely recruited child soldiers, killed Tamil dissenters and massacred Sinhalese and Muslims. In 1991, the group went so far as to assassinate the Indian prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, for having sent Indian troops to Sri Lanka in 1987 to enforce a peace accord. The Tigers held out against the Sri Lankan military until they were decisively defeated in May 2009.
Some journalists called Sri Lanka’s final battle with the Tigers a “war without witnesses.” Aid workers were asked to withdraw from the conflict zone months before the government defeated the Tigers. Only handpicked reporters, mostly from state media, were allowed to embed with troops. Those journalists knew what they must not write, for fear of losing access. The others relied on organized tours that were meticulously choreographed by the army — producing sanitized war coverage with the gory bits tucked away. As a result, there was no outside scrutiny of the controversial war.
But that did not mean there were no witnesses. As the army attacked, hundreds of thousands of civilians were trapped in between. They were the Tigers’ “human shield,” and a source for forced conscripts, including children. They were also witnesses.
More than 950 people testified before the commission and nearly 5,000 submitted written statements. Survivors spoke of displacement, incessant shelling and morbid fear. The commission’s report depicts a country where the rule of law is crumbling and where abductions, enforced or involuntary disappearances, protracted detention without charge and attacks on journalists continue. It proposes depoliticizing the police, disarming illegal armed groups and allowing a more independent media.
While the commission makes sensible recommendations and exposes grave atrocities committed by the Tigers against ordinary people, it also demonstrates that government troops shelled no-fire zones in order to neutralize rebel attacks from within.
The report is a valuable document, but regarding the war’s terrible final weeks, it is largely an apologia for the army. The commission admits only that “civilian casualties had in fact occurred in the course of cross-fire,” and blames the Tigers for most of them. The commission asserts that the government was confronted with an unprecedented situation — a massive human shield — that left it no other choice but to respond as it did.
However, on three separate occasions the government declared no-fire zones, giving the illusion of safety to hundreds of thousands of terrified civilians who fled into them. The rebels also went in, set up their heavy weapons among innocent men, women and children and proceeded to attack the military with gusto. The army retaliated and large numbers of civilians were killed.
Sri Lankans no longer need to pretend that the army didn’t shell zones where civilians were encouraged to gather, or subscribe to the fantasy that no innocents died when shells landed on or near hospitals.
If Sri Lanka wants true reconciliation, simply blaming the Tigers is not enough. The government, and the country, must take responsibility for the dead, mend the lives of the survivors — whatever their ethnicity — and stop the vicious cycle of ethnic strife by arriving at a political solution that meets, if not all aspirations, most of them. Until then, the end of the war will not bring true peace.
Namini Wijedasa is a journalist.

Govt. ready to discuss land powers for PCs

Sunday January 01, 2012

  • Major compromise in talks with TNA despite strong protest from JHU
By Chris Kamalendran
In what seemed a marked turn of events, the government is to discuss with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) how to implement limited land powers enshrined in the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
“Not only land, but we will also discuss a number of other issues,” Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, who leads the government delegation told the Sunday Times yesterday.
Earlier, government spokesperson and Minister Keheliya Rambukwella declared that “if the TNA is coming for discussions on land and police powers, it is a waste of time. There is no use of proceeding with the talks if they want to discuss these issues.”
His remarks came at last Thursday’s news conference held after the weekly Cabinet meeting.
The move to discuss police powers and land issues with the TNA also brought an angry response from the Jathika Hela Urumaya, a constituent partner of the UPFA government. Its leader and Minister Champika Ranawaka said the party would strongly opposesuch a move.
Minister de Silva said talks with the TNA would be held on January 17, 18 and 19. He said he would “not speculate” on whether TNA representatives would serve in the proposed Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC). “Today they may so ‘no’ but tomorrow they can change,” he said.
TNA parliamentarian N. Sumanthiran told the Sunday Times, “we will resume talks on land issues from the point where we left it.” He said the TNA would decide whether to serve in the PSC “only when accord is reached on a number of important issues”. He said these included “matters relating to land use, levy of taxes, police powers, powers to the Provincial Police Commission and how the Centre and the Provincial Councils will share power”.
When President Mahinda Rajapaksa met editors and media representatives on December 20, he ruled out any police powers being given to provincial councils. He re-iterated this position in interviews given to different Indian newspapers last week.

Corruption as a tool of Rajapaksa rule

Deccan ChronicleSunday, Jan 01, 2012 

In October this year, President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka used his constitutional powers to grant a special pardon to a politician convicted of misusing public funds. The Appeal Court and the Supreme Court had upheld the conviction of Kesara Senanayake, a former mayor of Kandy. Rajapaksa’s timely pardon saved him from a year in prison and made him a free man.
Corruption as a tool of Rajapaksa ruleThis November, a bipartisan parliamentary committee accused a state entity, controlled by Presidential sibling minister Basil Rajapaksa, of massive financial malpractices. Last year, environmentalists accused the then air force commander of building an eight-roomed luxury house on a Unesco heritage site. Instead of being prosecuted for breaking the law, Air Marshall Roshan Gunatillake received a promotion, as the Chief of Defence Staff; he also got to keep his illegally constructed house.
Former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka, who became transformed from Rajapaksa-ally to Rajapaksa-foe within six months of winning the Eelam War, was found guilty by a military court of financial misappropriation, stripped of his rank, honours and pension and sentenced to a 30-month imprisonment. There was no presidential pardon for him.
These incidents are symbolic and symbiotic of a new Lankan reality. Under Rajapaksa rule, corruption has become systemic. It is ensconced at the core of the Lankan state as an indispensable tool of governance, a way to reward allies and punish enemies, a method of strengthening familial rule and promoting dynastic succession.
The Rajapaksa brothers, President Mahinda, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya and economic development minister Basil, occupy the commanding heights of the Lankan state. Blatant tolerance of official corruption is a key characteristic of this Rajapaksa-controlled state. Though corruption, including in very high places, is not alien to Sri Lanka, the current, openly blasé attitude is rather unprecedented. This attitudinal-shift has created a permissive atmosphere, in which official corruption, freed of the stigma and empowered by impunity, is flourishing.
In 2007, the state-owned Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) contracted hedging deals with five foreign banks. A ministerial sub-committee subsequently revealed that that the contracts were seriously flawed and if enforced would lose the CPC around US$800 million. The CPC chairman who made and defended the deal, Ashantha De Mel, is a Rajapaksa family connection. No legal action was taken against him even though the Supreme Court voided the deal as illegal, and blamed the government for appointing “an unqualified person who had not even passed the GCE Advanced Level examination to a responsible position like the CPC chairmanship”.
The Rajapaksa-tolerance of corruption, by their own, is encouraging opposition politicians to switch sides in order to evade legal action for financial (and other) misdeeds. Milinda Moragoda was a senior minister in the 2001-2004 UNP administration. In 2009, the Supreme Court accused him of acting in a manner “flawed and marred by various improprieties” when privatising the state-owned insurance giant, Sri Lanka Insurance. Despite this damning pronouncement, no legal action was taken against Moragoda. By then he had switched sides and become a minister in the Rajapaksa regime.
In its latest findings, the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) accuses Maga Neguma (Improving Roads), a state-funded entity under control of Basil Rajapaksa, of defaulting road-contractors of “a massive Rs 1.2 billion”. The defrauded contractors have not sought legal redress because they fear Rajapaksa’s ire, according to a COPE member: “We learnt that some of these contractors have paid huge commissions to certain politicians. They are unable to speak against this injustice openly. If they speak, they will be harassed in various ways…”, he told a newspaper.
The officials of Maga Neguma act as if they are above the law. They do not submit their accounts to the Auditor General; according to a COPE member, “they even produced letters from the Attorney General’s department to support their argument that the COPE has no powers to probe them”. Such arrogant insouciance is natural in a familial state. Lankan officials, like Lankan politicians, know that they can break laws and contravene rules with impunity, so long as they do not commit the cardinal sin of opposing the Rajapaksas.
The 17th Amendment to the Constitution set up seven independent commissions to promote good governance. The independent Bribery Commission so born was the entity which investigated the actions of former Mayor Senanayake (who visited Singapore with his wife, using municipal funds granted to him to attend a workshop in Taiwan). By the time the convicted Senanayake got his presidential pardon, the Bribery Commission that enabled his successful prosecution had lost its independence. The Rajapaksa-introduced 18th Amendment turned independent commissions into presidential appendages by empowering the president to hire and fire their members at will.
The 18th Amendment also placed the Elections Commissioner (and the inspector-general of police) under presidential control. The Elections Commissioner was disempowered from acting to prevent the misuse of state resources by government-politicians during election times. As the deputy elections commissioner explained, “With the passage of the 18th Amendment, the commissioner no longer had constitutional powers to appoint a competent authority to ensure balanced media coverage”. The 18th Amendment has thus rendered corrupt electoral practices partially legal, making it easier for the Rajapaksas to win elections.
Under Rajapaksa Rule, Sri Lanka is a state-in-transition from a flawed democracy into a One-Family State. Creating a new legality is an essential component of this transformation. This includes institutionalising and normalising corruption. In the emerging state, corruption is an instrument wielded with impunity by the Rajapaksas to enhance their power.
When rulers tolerate corruption and protect the corrupt, corruption, while remaining a crime in law, ceases being a crime in fact. As corruption flourishes in open sight and the corrupt get away scot-free, public perception of corruption too undergoes a radical transition. From a social-solecism corruption becomes a new norm. People begin to regard corruption as an esoteric issue which is of little relevance to them.
Such a public perception can become an insurmountable impediment to the creation of a mass movement against corruption, unless, and until, people realise that corruption impedes development and undermines their own living standards.
- The writer of this article is a senior political analyst based in Colombo. She declined to give her photograph for use.

Reign of terror by ruling- party mafia politicos

Sunday January 01, 2012

Reign of terror by ruling- party mafia politicos

  • Deadly attack on tourist couple in Tangalle poses threat to hopes of tourism boom
  • Ministers and officials play blame game as 300,000 students agonise over the outcome
  • After LLRC report, new Indo-Lanka dispute looming over devolution of power
By Our Political Editor

How the London Daily Mail reported the story on its website
The New Year dawns with some dim forebodings for Sri Lankans in many spheres of activity.
Two years and seven months after the defeat of terrorist violence, one of the sectors which revived by leaps and bounds was tourism. Arrivals rose and resorts are continuing to mushroom countrywide. Some of the world's leading journals showered plaudits on Sri Lanka, 'the resplendent isle,' as one of the best destinations in the world. It was value for money and a tourist got more than his money's worth, they boasted.
This is why the idyllic Tangalle area, long ignored though endowed with blue waters and sandy beaches, attracts many tourists nowadays. The resorts there were full. The 32-year-old Khuram Zaman Shaikh, a physiotherapist with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at the Gaza Strip and his girlfriend Victoria Alexandrovna (also with the ICRC) felt Sri Lanka was a safer place for their holiday. They should have known better.
The Gaza Strip, 40 kilometres long and ten kilometres wide, is home for 1.5 million Palestinians. Under Egyptian control for 19 years, it was seized by Israel during the 1967 war. The couple has seen deadly clashes between two militant factions — Hamas and Fatah. They have also seen frequent Israeli air strikes targeting militants. They were convinced that with the separatist war in Sri Lanka now over, they would not see violence, ghastly scenes of wounded victims or corpses. They were also convinced that there would be no sporadic bomb explosions or suicide attacks.
Last Saturday night, Khuram and Victoria were enjoying themselves at Nature's Resort, one approved by the Tourist Board. Khuram, who was of Israeli origin, is a British Passport holder while Victoria held a Russian passport. Christmas had dawned and there was much revelry. Suddenly, a local UPFA politician and his gang struck a discordant note. First they fired rapid bursts from a T-56 assault rifle into the air. That was to welcome the dawn of Christmas. Why pay for crackers when 7.62 calibre ammunition is available free?
In the ghastly incident that followed, Khuram's bullet riddled body lay on the beach outside. Victoria was badly injured and was first admitted to the Matara Base Hospital. From there she was transferred to a private hospital in Colombo. The Sunday Times learnt from authoritative sources that Victoria had been sexually abused if not even raped though embarrassed officials in Colombo denied it. The full details of the shameful incident appear on Pages 14 and 15.
More questions than answers
Sri Lanka Tourism Chairman Nalaka Godahewa played down the incident, one of the darkest episodes in recent tourism history. He claimed such incidents — tourists being robbed, mugged and murdered — took place even in developed countries. He predicted it would not have a negative impact on Sri Lankan tourism. He said the culprits had been apprehended. On the one hand, Dr. Godahewa's remarks raise more questions than answers. It is not damage control but a feeble attempt at public relations. The question is whether his remarks would be taken as a credible statement that would dispel fears in the minds of tourists. This was proved on Christmas day when tourists in resorts in Tangalle vacated them rapidly. Fear of harm had gripped them. They were also angry with the way 'local thugs' with seeming political patronage were harassing tourists. Some even cut short their holidays and flew back to their homes.

Tangalle: Paradise lost

  •  British national who helped the limbless in Gaza Strip faces brutal death while holidaying in Sri Lanka
  • Russian partner undergoes surgery, police probing charges of sexual assault
  • Govt. assures justice will be done though chief suspect member of ruling party
  • Tourist industry officials voice concern
By Nadia Fazlulhaq
Firecrackers and gunfire from a beachside hotel in the southern town of Tangalle illuminated the sky celebrating the birth of Christ. As the world celebrated this joyous day, the lifeless body of a British national lay in a pool of blood at the Nature Resort premises in Medilla, Tangalle, while his Russian partner lay unconscious on the beach, her clothes in tatters.
Tangalle: A scenic beach stretch
Khuram Shaikh Zaman, (32) who managed to survive as a physical rehabilitation manager, of the International Committee of Red Cross in the Gaza Strip, died a brutal death in Sri Lanka, while on holiday in Tangalle.

As Christmas day dawned, celebrations continued at the resort with about 60 people on the dance floor, both tourists and locals. Among the locals was the 24 year-old Chairman of the Tangalle Pradeshiya Sabha, Sampath Chandra Pushpa Vidanapathirana.Zaman, a Salford University graduate from Minrow, Rochdale, Manchester who provided prosthetics for those who had lost limbs in the war torn Gaza Strip, died on Christmas eve trying to rescue a local restaurant owner who was being beaten up by a local politician and some of his intoxicated supporters.
Denegama Vitharana Ryan Akalanka (27), the man Zaman had attempted to rescue as a group of people including the Chairman started assaulting him said, “I am an owner of a nearby resort. I came to this place to meet a friend and was there for about an hour. While leaving I knocked against a man who was drunk. He started assaulting me followed by others with flower pots and bottles”.
“The foreigner tried to push aside those who were assaulting me,” he said.
“I managed to escape and run onto the beach. Sadly, in the morning when I came to pick up my motor cycle that I had left behind I heard that the man who came to my rescue had been killed,” he said.
According to eyewitnesses, Zaman’s partner, a 23-year old Russian national Victoria Alexandrovna was assaulted and dragged onto the beach. She was later found with her clothes torn on the beach side.
She was first admitted to the Matara hospital and then transferred to the Intensive Care Unit of the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital in Galle with severe head and bodily injuries.
Villagers say that when she was found her clothes were torn. “The Russian national was admitted with head injuries as a result of assault and underwent surgery at the Intensive Care Unit. After the surgery she was transferred to a private hospital in Colombo,” Dr. Jayampathi Senanayake, Director Karapitiya Teaching Hospital said.

When questioned whether the 23 year-old had been molested, Dr. Senanayake refused to comment stating that the medical reports would be submitted to courts. Police are however probing claims that one of those who accompanied the politician had either molested or raped the young woman.
The circled areas show the number of bullets found at the scene of the crime
After the killing: A blood-stained pool side at the resort
The body of Zaman was sent to Matara Hospital where the post-mortem examination conducted by Dr. H.T.K. Wijeweera revealed that the deceased had been attacked with a sharp weapon and shot. An automatic rifle had been used but the victim had died due to excessive bleeding caused by a slit in the throat.
Photographs taken at the scene of the crime, show blood stains around the pool area.
Eight men, including the main suspect, Tangalle Pradeshiya Sabha chairman surrendered to police. The Criminal Investigation Department has taken over the investigations.
The Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman, his private secretary Mohottige Saman, Nalagama Pradeep Chaturanga, Saman Deshapriya, Obada Arachchige Lasitha, Niroshan Weerakoon, Manoj Prasanna and Buddhika Pradeep are among those in custody. Those suspects were produced before courts and remanded until January 6.
Police Media Spokesman SP Ajith Rohana said, police had recovered a T56 used at the scene from a temple premises in Vitharandeniya, a village in Tangalle. Deputy Economic Development and Tourism Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena addressing the media on Thursday assured that investigations would be conducted in a transparent manner.
“Those who committed this crime will be severely dealt with even if a ruling party politician is involved. The government will not protect those involved in this crime,” he said. “As a Party we condemn the killing and believe that politicians should act more responsibly. As the opposition is split we have no problems with it, it’s our own party people who cause great inconvenience to the government. A politician has no right to keep unauthorized weapons in his possession,” he said.
Meanwhile acting British High Commissioner, Robbie Bulloch told the Sunday Times that they saw this as an ‘extremely’ serious incident and wanted it investigated thoroughly. “The External Affairs Ministry has given us the assurance that investigation will be taken forward and action will be taken against those involved in the crime. As this is an isolated incident we would not make any changes in our travel advisory,” he said.
He said the High Commission had grave concerns as close to 100,000 British tourists arrive in the country annually. Mr. Bulloch said the High Commission had contacted the victim’s family in Rochdale, Manchester and that the body was at a private funeral parlour in Colombo.
Khuram Shaikh Zaman: The victim
The victim’s brother Nasir, (40) told the Manchester Evening News, "The job he was doing took him to some dangerous places – and he was living in Gaza – so there was no concern about a holiday in Sri Lanka. He had been there on a break earlier this year and talked about how beautiful it was."
The brother will be travelling to Colombo to help take back his brother's body with the help of the Red Cross and the Foreign Office.
“The ICRC is grieved by the loss of Mr. Khuram Shaikh, who was killed while he was on vacation in Sri-Lanka and the ICRC is in touch with Mr. Shaikh's family to provide the necessary psychological and administrative support,” a spokeswoman for ICRC, Colombo, said.
She said the ICRC was liaising closely with the relevant authorities- the British High Commission, the Russian Embassy, funeral directors and Mr.Shaikh's family to ensure the speedy transport of his mortal remains to his family in Britain.
Udayanga Weeratunge, the Sri Lankan Ambassador in Russia said that the government had contacted the family of the Russian girl, presently being treated at a private hospital and offered to fly in the family members to Sri Lanka. The hospital expenses will be handled by Sri Lanka Tourism, he said.
Mr. Weeratunge said bout 20,000 Russians had traveled to Sri Lanka this year.
The incident in Tangalle sparked off immediate reactions with some of the tourists leaving the south while those involved in the trade voiced concern. The South is a favourite destination for tourists not only for its picturesque beaches but also for its relatively cheap accommodation. In a recent analysis this winter by UK’s Post Office Travel Network of day-to-day holiday costs in 28 long-haul destinations, Sri Lanka was listed as the least expensive.
By December 23, a total of 819,500 tourists had arrived in the country. The income generated from the tourism industry in 2011 was 760 million US$ and the target is one billion US$ in 2012, the Sunday Times learns.
“Britain sends over 105,000 tourists and they spend about 100 US$ a day and stay longer than Indian tourists contributing more to the economy,” said Anura Lokuhetti, President of Sri Lanka Hoteliers Association,
Tim Fiege:A disapointed tourist
The body of the slain tourist being taken to Matara Hospital. Pix by Mangala Weeraskera and Krishan Jayaruk
Lakshman Yapa AbeywardenaKeerthi Wedaarachchi
He said at present 140,000 locals were directly and indirectly employed in the tourism sector and the target for 2016 was to employ about 500,000. “The Government has taken a lot of measures to popularize tourism by improving infrastructure and promotional events. Tourism is seen as the highest foreign exchange generator. This incident will certainly tarnish the image of the country,” he warned
He said it was also important to educate the local community on the importance of tourism.
“We get many complaints from tourists about harassment. We have to make sure that our people do not put undue pressure on tourists visiting the country. Authorities should ensure tourists safety and promote security which we have been doing since the end of the war,” he said.
Southern Tourist Hoteliers Association President Priyankara Wickremasekare said there were many community-based tourist resorts in the south that need to be monitored. “Tangalle was considered as a popular destination among tourists who come here for long stays. In Unawatuna, Hikkaduwa and Tangalle we see locals mingling with tourists, these kinds of incidents will definitely affect their trust,” he said.
He said that the Tourist Police did not operate in these areas that are known holiday destinations.
Chamber of Tourism and Industry condeming the attack on the British tourist in Tangalle said that such incidents would badly affect the industry which was fast developing to be one of the main foreign exchange earners to the economy.
President A.M. Jaufer in a statement said the killing of a tourist could only jeapordize the image of the country as a tourist destination. Hence it was the bounden duty of all the citizens to support the government in its efforts.
“We appreciated the immediate steps taken by the Government and officials concerned to bring to book those responsible for the attack. The Tourist Police Force too should be strengthened,” he said,
Keerthi Wedaarachchi, President Tangalle Tourist Hoteliers Association, which represents 48 registered hotels and resorts and 20 unregistered hotels said, they fear that this incident may affect the tourism industry in Tangalle.

Tim Fiege, a German tourist who was in Tangalle when the incident took place has decided to leave the premises after the shooting. “I will be leaving this country with much disappointment as Sri Lanka was known for its hospitality. What happened was brutal. This news was also broadcast in British and German media. It is such a shame that a politician from the same area was involved in the killing of a tourist,” he said.“Tangalle has about a 10 kilometre beach stretch where tourists can walk while enjoying the ocean view. But these kinds of incidents can damage the industry. A similar incident took place in Rekawa in Tangalle 10 years ago where a tourist was shot. Today the hotel is closed and tourists still fear to go to the area,”he said.
Gamini Edirisooriya, hailing from the South has been a tourist guide since 1983. “Tourists are afraid to stay on in Tangalle to celebrate the New Year. The government should ensure the safety of the tourists,” he said.
Rukman Wedaarachchi (40) a manager at a resort in Tangalle said, “This year saw an increase in German, British, French, Italian and Russian tourists. After this incident many tourists left our hotels,”he said.
A van driver from the area A.K.P.Ruwan Kumara (38) said he began as a three-wheeler driver but after the end of the war since there was an increase in the number of tourists to Tangalle, he decided to get a van.
H.Vijitha a cook at one of the resorts said, that he usually earned around Rs. 25,000 during the season but this time I feel I won’t earn as much during the New Year season.
An unlicenced pub in Etukale, Negombo
Sexual harassment of foreign women on the increase
By Chris Kamalendran
A string of incidents where tourists were sexually abused or harassed were reported from various parts of the island in recent months with the latest two incidents coming from Negombo. On Thursday night five youth who attempted to molest a 23-year-old Swedish national were arrested by Police.
The tourist was taking a walk on the beach at night when a group of young men had attempted to drag her away but she had screamed prompting people in the area and police to intervene.
E. Croos
The youth were warned by courts and released on Friday. The foreigner did not want to file a case. The incident came a week after two Italians were beaten up in the same area while they were returning to the hotel they were staying in.
They had been surrounded by about eight youth and badly assaulted in the Ethukala area, Negombo.
Paradise Beach Hotel General Manager, E. Croos told the Sunday Times that the two guests were staying at his hotel at the time of the incident and the attackers even entered the hotel lobby and attacked one of the tourists at the lobby.
“Beach traders and touts are the main culprits involved in these kinds of incidents. The main reason for this kind of unruly behaviour is that there are many who sell liquor without licence in the area,” he said adding that the police and authorities should be more vigilant.
Last month a woman from New Zealand had been harassed in Mihintale. Her husband had been away when two youth had attempted to drag her into a public toilet.
They were arrested and remanded. Two months ago a South African tourist was raped by a room boy in a hotel in Kalptiiya. But since the foreigner had left the country Police said they were unable to proceed with the case.

Tourist Police Director SSP Ranjth Padmasiri told the Sunday Times that they were short on manpower. He also said that they held a discussion with the Tourism Authority on preventing any violence against tourists.
“One of our main problems is that we do not have enough personnel to deploy at tourist haunts and only handle direct complaints,” he said.
Tourist Police officer arrested on rape charges
In an ironic twist a police officer attached to the Tourist Police in the Kalutara district was arrested recently and produced in courts for allegedly raping a local woman. The OIC had reportedly arrested the woman who was with two other men on the beach and had taken them to the Police Station.
After questioning the two men they had been allowed to leave, while he had allegedly taken the woman to his rest room and raped her.
The woman, a 28 year old mother of two had lodged a complaint with the Aluthgama police. The case was due to be taken up on January 4 in the Kalutara Magisrate Courts.

Sri Lanka: Paradise lost, post Eelam war

Deccan Chronicle
Chinese holidaying in Colombo.
Chinese holidaying in Colombo.

Driving on the potholed A9 highway to Jaffna that could break the strongest of spines, it was great relief spotting a volleyball match in progress at a wayside playground.
It was in Kilinochchi, which used to be the LTTE capital until President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced its capture by his troops on January 2, 2009. Less than five months later, the forces ended the Eelam war killing the Tiger chief Velupillai Prabhakaran.    Full Story>>>

Kurdish civilians killed in ‘Sri Lanka style’ attack

TamilNet[TamilNet, Saturday, 31 December 2011, 07:26 GMT]
In a deadly strike that was carried out in Uludere of Sirnak province in Turkey’s Southeast region on Wednesday, Turkish F16’s killed at least 36 Kurdish civilians. While the ruling party AKP’s spokesperson called the attack an ‘operational mistake’ and the government has claimed that there will be investigations in to the matter, the PKK said in a statement that the strike was “the result of the all-out war concept developed by the AKP (Justice and Development Party) government against our leader, movement and people. This is the continuation of the system of arrest and torture that aims at intimidating our people”. Even as the PKK called for an uprising, there have been huge protests by the Kurdish people in Turkey’s capital and other places. 

Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey Bulent Arinc said in a televised interview that “Turkey is combating terrorism and in that fight incidents like this may occur. If there’s neglect, a mistake or intent in this event, then the people responsible will be revealed and they will bear the consequences.”

Turkey was one of the states to immediately congratulate Sri Lanka after the Mu’l’livaaikkaal genocide and has provided political and material assistance to Sri Lanka. Also, many military analysts in the Turkish official circles considered the ‘Sri Lanka style’ solution as an effective model for dealing with the Kurdish national question.

Likewise, many Kurdish activists and journalists have also likened their condition to that of the Eezham Tamils. 

The International Community’s silence while Sri Lanka successfully executed its genocidal war manoeuvres in Mu’l’livaaikkaal with deliberate targeting of civilians, and its complicity in the structural genocide of the Eezham Tamils in their homelands by the occupying Lankan colonizers by its failure to address the national question provides an inspiration for states like Turkey to use such methods against similar struggles, commented a Tamil academic.

Sri Lanka's PM commends China for strong support

 2011-12-31 By Che Hongliang
COLOMBO, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- Sri Lanka's Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne said Sri Lanka appreciates China's long-standing support and his government will further developing its relations with China.
Sri Lanka sees China as a close friend and will work with China to strengthen the bilateral ties in all areas, Jayaratne made the remarks in an exclusive interview with Xinhua at his official residence recently.
Jayaratne recalled the long relations between Sri Lanka and China that began over a thousand years ago with the arrival of Chinese monk Fa Xian.
He said Sri Lanka is one of the first countries supporting China's UN membership. He said China and Sri Lanka signed the historic Rubber-Rice Pact in 1952 bringing many benefits to the peoples of the two nations, and the two countries formally established diplomatic relations in 1957 and the bilateral ties have developed steadily since then.
Jayaratne said he had accompanied former Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike to visit China decades ago and met Chairman Mao Zedong. During the visit, China promised to help build an International Conference Center in Sri Lanka.
The prime minister said the International Conference Center, namely Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall together with the recently opened National Performing Art Theater in Colombo have stood as a symbol of the friendship between China and Sri Lanka.
The on-going projects assisted by China, including Norochcholai Coal-Powered Power Project, Hambantota Port, Maththala Airport and highways in the south would give a boost to Sri Lanka's economy, said Jayaratne.
He said that China has always supported Sri Lanka, especially on the issues related to the question of Sri Lanka's Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity. The Sri Lankan leadership has always appreciated China's steadfast support on issues of their concern.
"We are very grateful to China for always standing beside Sri Lanka, especially during times when the west was criticizing the government for ending a three decade war. China is Sri Lanka's largest benefactor supporting many infrastructure programs that are crucial for our development," he said.
Jayaratne said the year 2012 is coming, he wrote an inscription wishing the Chinese people a happy and prosperous new year.

SL ‘special agents’ ransack human rights activist's apartment in Colombo

TamilNet[TamilNet, Friday, 30 December 2011, 02:25 GMT]
Sri Lankan investigation officers claiming to be from the ‘Special Unit’ on Wednesday evening ransacked an apartment where a Tamil human rights activist from the East was residing in Colombo. The agents clad in civil and uniform entered the room of the human rights activist around 10:00 p.m. and took away documents and files without mentioning the intention of the action and without providing any list of what they have taken from the apartment, informed sources said. The Human Rights activist, who was formerly a progamme officer of a Belgium-based international organisation, was living in the apartment with his Sinhala room mate. The Sinhala friend was taken away by the investigating officers, detained for almost 20 hours and harrassed, informed NGO sources in Colombo told TamilNet Thursday.
The ‘Special Units’ attached to Sri Lankan Defence Ministry think that data on human rights abuses in the island is being collected through current or former personnel attached to the international organisations, a Sinhala Human Rights activist in Colombo told TamilNet.
Colombo government deploys various techniques to limit the access of certain international NGOs, while the employees from the island, are harrassed by ransack actions and other forms of intimidations, the activist said while alerting journalists in Colombo and diplomats attached to various missions in Colombo on the recent incident.
The released Sinhalese room-mate has declined to talk to media.