Posted on November 5th, 2009



WASHINGTON — The number of conflict-displaced people in northern Sri Lanka dropped dramatically in recent weeks to about 157,000, compared to about 288,000 in June, the government reported.

Additionally, another 60,000 people are slated to go home over the next few weeks, the government said. The majority of the IDPs will be resettled by end of this year, according Mahinda Samarasinghe, Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights.

The civilians, most of them residents of northern Sri Lanka, were displaced last spring at the conclusion of the 26-year-long conflict between the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam terrorist group. Many of those civilians were held hostage by the LTTE as a human shield.

Aside from the government’s figures, the Financial Times quoted a Western diplomat in Colombo stating: “We weren’t really expecting such a sudden acceleration in returns.” The Financial Times reported that the diplomat, “confirmed the government’s figures,” and that Rishad Bathiudeen, Sri Lanka’s resettlement minister, “told the Financial Times that 3,000 were being sent home every day.” 

As of Nov. 4, 2009, there were 157,453 IDPs in displaced person centers in Sri Lanka, according to the government.

The government defeated the LTTE in May and freed the civilians, who then moved to newly-established Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) centers.

Parts of the north, however, remain uninhabitable due to landmines, contaminated water and a lack of other facilities. The government has launched a large-scale redevelopment and repair program.

The bulk of the displaced persons are now housed in government centers near near Vanuviya and Pulmudai.

The latest phase of resettlements should bring the total IDP population down to about 120,000 in the near future.  Another 4,390 persons (1,314 families) have been resettled in the Mullaithivu District, a former LTTE stronghold.

The government provides resettled families with household goods, kitchen utensils, agricultural tool kits, six months dry rations, an initial payment of Rs.5,000 (about $45), a shelter grant of Rs.25,000 ($225), roofing sheets, land preparation cost of Rs.4,000 ($36) per acre, provision of seed paddy, fertilizer and transport facilities.

Those who have been resettled have gone to their native communities in the Ampara, Batticaloa, Jaffna, Mannar, Trincomalee and Mullaithivu districts.

Another 2,048 persons (594 families) have been resettled in the Mullaithivu District, a former LTTE stronghold.

The large number of landmines in Northern Sri Lanka remains a primary obstacle to resettlement. Estimates show that about 1.5 million landmines and unexploded ordnance litter more than 400 square kilometers of Northern terrain.

Villages, roads and agricultural fields must be de-mined before people can move back.

Landmines have so far been cleared from all of the main and secondary roads in the north. De-mining units are now moving onto access roads and into villages, where the LTTE buried mines as they retreated to prevent people from returning to their homes.

Seven nations are helping Sri Lanka with de-mining. The United Nations must certify that villages are safe from landmines before residents can return.

19 De-Mining  Machines Now At Work in North

With the arrival of five more de-mining machines last week, Sri Lanka has now deployed a total of 19 of the machines in the North, where an estimated 1.5 million landmines and unexploded ordnance are buried.

Major General G.A. Chandrasiri, governor of the Northern Province, received the new order of five machines at the Bandaranaike International Airport.

The new machines, purchased at a cost of $2.5 million, will be deployed by the Sri Lanka Army in Vavuniya and Mannar.

Security Forces have so far cleared an area of 59 kilometers in the outskirts of ‘Giant Tank’ and ‘Rice Bowl’ areas, where the resettlement of civilians has already begun. Demining has now advanced towards the Vedithalthive area.

Tea, rubber, coconut earnings top US$ 200b,  Providing jobs for over 1.5 million

 (Ceylon Daily News)

Shirley Wijesing

Export  earnings from the three main crops — Tea, Rubber and Coconut — exceeded US$ 200 billion providing employment for over 1.5 million people in the recent past, Plantation Industries Minister D.M. Jayaratne said.

Unlike other export earnings, plantation crops provide the maximum net export earnings in view of the low component of inputs, he added.

He was speaking at the Program Evaluation Workshop of the Plantation Development Project (PDP) of the Plantation Industries Ministry held at Galle Face Hotel on Friday. He said the management of the estates were transferred to the private sector.

This was with the objective of deploying personnel with the required technical knowhow and experience to achieve operational, financial and administration development of the plantation sector.

Minister Jayaratne said the nationalization of the plantations exposed the sector to external assistance by bilateral and multilateral donor agencies such as the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and the Japan Bank of International Cooperation. These donor agencies are also concerned about the economic viability and the living and working conditions of the plantation workers and their human rights to maintain the sustainable development of the plantation industry.

The plantation sector is characterized by erratic profitability mainly due to highly cyclical prices and weather changes. Donor agencies have infused millions of dollars into the plantation sector of the country, he said.

Commenting on the facilities provided to the workers of the plantation sector, Minister Jayaratne said certain Cabinet approvals, such as providing each family with a seven perch plot of land, to change the designations of plantation workers and the Ministry had taken decision to provide flats type houses.

The Minister explained the service facilities provided through the Plantation Development Project to plantation companies specially including provision of long-term credit facilities, assisting the development of worker amenities, provision of grants for tea factory upgrading to obtain HACCP at the workshop.


 More ex-LTTE child soldiers Advance to Colombo school  

The second phase of the rehabilitation program of ex-LTTE child soldiers began last week in Vavuniya as 67 youths left for Colombo to receive a fully fledged education.

Accordingly, 44 boys and 23 girls from Punthottem Rehabilitation Centre will receive an education in Colombo. Under the first phase of the program, 81 boys and 63 girls were brought to Colombo and attached to Hindu College, Ratmalana for their education.

The new group of rehabilitated ex-LTTE child soldiers will join their former colleagues at the same school with facilities that include lodging, clothing and expenses provided by the Government.

The co-ordinating Officer in Charge of their rehabilitation, Colonel Mangala Goonasinghe, said these children received approval from their parents before their departure. Parents will be able to visit them once or twice a month, with food and lodging provided by the Government. 

President Rajapaksa, Other Officials Conduct Series of Bilateral Talks In Asia, Beyond

Top Sri Lankan government officials continued a series of bi-lateral meetings throughout October, strengthening relationships with Asian trading partners and other nations.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa completed a three-day trip to Nepal in late October. During his visit, President Rajapaksa held discussions with President Ram Baran Yadav and Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal. Former Prime Minister and Chairman of Unified Communist Party-Maoist Puspha Kamal Dahal [Prachanda] and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal Sujata Koirala also called on the President. The talks focused on tourism promotion, trade and investment, education and health care, bilateral air services, development of Lumbini and the convening of a Joint Commission between Sri Lanka and Nepal.

The Nepalese leaders congratulated President Rajapaksa on the defeat of the LTTE and elimination of terrorism in Sri Lanka. President Rajapaksa briefed the Nepalese leaders on reconciliation and re-construction efforts in Sri Lanka.

Earlier in October, President Rajapaksa also made a state visit to Viet Nam at the invitation of His Excellency Nguyen Minh Triet, President of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. The President was accompanied by Hon. Rohitha Bogollagama, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Prof. G.L. Peiris, Minister of Export Development and International Trade, Hon. Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Minister of Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion, Hon. Alewi Mowlana, Governor, Western Province, senior officials and a group of business personnel.

Also in October, Foreign Minister Bogollagama welcomed Sergey V. Lavrov, Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, to Sri Lanka.

Ministers Bogollagama and Lavrov discussed expanded economic cooperation, culture, education and tourism and issues of regional and international interests.


EDITORIAL: Undermining Sri Lanka


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sri Lanka is joining Israel as a country facing a war crimes investigation for effectively fighting back against terrorism. America should support the Sri Lankan government or keep its nose out of Colombo’s business.

Last week, Stephen Rapp, U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, filed a report to Congress on incidents during the recent conflict in Sri Lanka that “may constitute violations of international humanitarian law or crimes against humanity.” The report focuses in particular on January to May 2009 when, after 12 years of conflict, the Sri Lankan military surrounded and destroyed the major armed formations of the Tamil Tigers and killed the terrorist group’s leaders.

The report chronicles allegations of war crimes by both Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat whose subcommittee on the State Department and foreign operations requested the report, is calling for “a full and independent investigation” so those responsible can be “held accountable.”

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights joined in the call for an investigation of Sri Lanka’s war, saying there are “too many questions” left unanswered. U.N. Human Rights Spokesman Rupert Colville drew a direct comparison to the Gaza Fact-Finding Mission overseen by South African Judge Richard Goldstone. Sri Lanka and Israel are both pursuing internal investigations and have rejected the idea of international involvement in the process.

The Rapp report is not comprehensive, more a list of allegations than a fully documented indictment. Most of the offenses listed are either directly attributable to the Tamil Tigers, such as forcibly recruiting children to fight for them, or the consequence of terrorist activities, such as Sri Lanka shelling hospitals being used by the Tigers as command posts.

The tone of moral equivalence in the Rapp and Goldstone reports is most objectionable. War is by its nature violent, complex and tragic. Rules exist to mitigate war’s suffering but can never eliminate it. Terrorist groups like the Tamil Tigers, Hamas and al Qaeda do not consider themselves bound by the rules of war and violate them as a matter of doctrine by targeting noncombatants, using civilians as human shields, torturing and executing prisoners, and by using hospitals and religious sites as headquarters and sniper platforms.

Any war against such an enemy will impose a degree of tragedy on people who under other circumstances would be spared war’s horrors. But this is part of the terrorist tool kit, and reports such as these play into their hands. By placing the terrorists’ systematic offenses against human dignity on par with the unintentional or otherwise regrettable actions of the regime trying to defeat them, such reports level a moral playing field that by rights the terrorists have no right even to set foot on.

Mr. Leahy should control his zeal to pursue what he views as justice in Sri Lanka. Any objective comparison of Sri Lanka’s war against the Tamil Tigers or Israel’s offensive against Hamas to America’s struggle against al Qaeda would cast the United States in the same light, and elevate our enemies to a status they do not deserve. It hands the enemies of freedom unearned victories even as they are being defeated.

 Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington, D.C.

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