Sri Lanka has rejected a call to allow Indian fishermen to fish in Lankan waters on a permit system for three years, days ahead of a meeting in Delhi to find an amicable solution to the contentious fishing issue.
These are all critical issues that need to have been thought out because urban regeneration is not just about resettlement and freeing up land for development. There is a rewriting of the socio-economic DNA of these communities and there needs to be help to negate the shock to the body that comes from it this rewriting.
In his trip to Sri Lanka, that will take place between the 13th and the 15th of January 2015, before proceeding to the Philippines, Pope Francis will visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu and will thus be the first Pope in history to set foot in a territory where most inhabitants are Tamil. Francis chooses to touch on the sore point of the civil war between the Sinhalese and the Tamil people that devastated the island for 26 years (1983-2009) and has left deep wounds.
The speed with which evictions are underway in a post war setting with scant regard for rights and obligations should come as no surprise. Nor should we be surprised by the lack of regard shown towards affected communities, by the State, its agents, developers and the larger public. National security and development continue to be good reasons that justify the grabbing of lands in the North and East. Now with Colombo under siege, why would it change?
Since ending its civil war in 2009, Sri Lanka has become increasingly financially dependent on China, receiving an estimated $4bn worth of loans, grants and aid.
The drought has emerged a serious challenge in Sri Lanka, hitting as many as 1,11,459 families living in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Hambantota, Puttalam, Mannar, Vavuniya, Moneragala and Ampara districts across the country, according to official estimates. The crisis prompted President Mahinda Rajapaksa to announce an LKR 1,300 million (USD 10 million) development programme recently, seeking to provide temporary income to families facing acute shortage of water for cultivation and daily needs.
In Features: Recent allegations that a naval officer in the northern city of Jaffna raped an 11-year-old girl have cast a spotlight on the growing problem of sexual violence in Sri Lanka. According to police figures, incidents of rape have increased by nearly 20 percent in the last two years, with 4,393 cases registered during 2012-2014 as compared to 3,624 in 2010-2012. “While this particular case has received significant media attention, thousands of others do not,” said Professor Savithri Fernando, who counsels victims of sexual abuse.
The United States led Western criticism of Sri Lanka on Tuesday after pro-government activists broke up a meeting of US diplomats and ethnic Tamils who lost loved ones in the island’s separatist war.
“I would invite the members of the international community to come to Kanniya in Trincomalee and see for themselves what is happening; see for themselves the situation. We do not want these types of things to happen. But, you are compellingus to make such an appeal to the international community. I wrote to the President; I wrote to the Hon. Basil Rajapaksa. I have raised this matter in Parliament. You do not reply. You do not respond. But, you quietly carry on with your programme of work and your programme of work is being completed. Why is all this being done?. All this is being done because you want to change the demographic composition of the North and the East and you want to change the cultural and linguistic identity of the districts in the North and the East.”
Last year we ran a campaign around the Government of Sri Lanka’s seizure of land belonging to Tamil families forced from their homes by the civil war. Over 7,000 acres of land – potentially up to $2 billion worth at current prices – was seized in the Northern and Eastern provinces using land acquisition notices which gave little justification for the seizures. The vast majority of this land, 6,381 acres of it, is contained within the Valikamam High Security Zone in the northern Jaffna peninsula.
Just like in Burma, the recent years have seen the unrest between the Buddhist majority and the Muslim minority on the upswing in Sri Lanka. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, general secretary of the Sri Lankan ultra-nationalist Buddhist organisation Bodu Bala Sena (BBS)—Sinhalese for Buddhist Power Force—actually claims to perceive an international Islamic conspiracy that aims at marginalising the Buddhists in Sri Lanka. He believes his organisation can unite all the Buddhists of the island and turn them into a nationalist force, thus countering this ‘foreseen’ Islamic threat. He has been widely accused of being the mastermind of many anti-Muslim riots in Sri Lanka and gained notoriety for publicly avowing his racist inclinations.
“There’s no place quite like Slave Island,” Nizar Doole announced to us within minutes of meeting us for the first time. As an example, he urged us to look to his own community, the Malays, who speak most if not all of the country’s languages: English, Sinhala, Tamil along with their own dialect, Ja. A gentleman in his late 60s, Doole himself spoke all four; conversing easily with us in English, hailing his neighbours in Tamil, addressing his children in Ja but preferring to be interviewed in Sinhala.
These are the stories, homes, neighborhoods and lives of people the Ministry of Defence lumps together as slum and shanty dwellers.
Sri Lanka will deny visas to United Nations’ investigators probing accusations of war crimes as it strengthens a domestic panel looking into allegations related to its 26-year war, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said on Tuesday.
Michael Freund, a former official in Bibi’s government, argues for the application of the “Sri Lankan model” of counter-insurgency in Palestine. Whether to laugh or cry?
Former Sri Lankan Ambassador to the UN Dayan Jayatilake insists that the government is not taking concrete measures to curb the activities of extremist Sinhalese Buddhists in the country. “Everybody talks about the role of the Buddhist clergy in mobilising the mobs. And yet I don’t see sufficient robust efforts being made by the government or even voicing critique of such organisations as the BBS. Rioters and looters have been rounded up but nobody really knows how the investigations are proceeding.”