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Two SL students receive bravery

Image - Two SL students receive bravery

Two Sri Lankan students who overpowered a gunman during a McDonalds robbery are among dozens of courageous Victorians to be

Wednesday, 20 August 2014


‘Gota preventing president from going

Image - ‘Gota preventing president from going

The minister has said the president might be listening more to his brother, the defence secretary, than him. The government had

Friday, 2 May 2014


UNP responds to MR on

Image - UNP responds to MR on

The main opposition United National Party (UNP) today responded to a comment made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa recently and called

Friday, 2 May 2014

News - National

The minister has said the president might be listening more to his brother, the defence secretary, than him.

Gota vasu 410px 30-04-14

The government had ignored a list of proposals put forward by a group of ministers, including himself, to implement the LLRC recommendations, introduce a political solution and to cooperate with the northern provincial council, he has said.
Defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is preventing president Mahinda Rajapaksa from implementing the recomendations of the LLRC, government minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara has said in an interview.

The minister has said the president might be listening more to his brother, the defence secretary, than him.

The government had ignored a list of proposals put forward by a group of ministers, including himself, to implement the LLRC recommendations, introduce a political solution and to cooperate with the northern provincial council, he has said.
Defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is preventing president Mahinda Rajapaksa from implementing the recomendations of the LLRC, government minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara has said in an interview.

News - National


A group of government parliamentatians has commenced collecting signatures of fellow MPs to a petition, addressed to Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, requesting that the live telecast of parliamentary proceedings be stopped.

The MPs have observed, in their petition, that the decision to have live telecasts was a step in the right direction, but it had been abused by the Opposition MPs to sling mud at government members.

The MPs have requested the Speaker either to stop the live telecasting of parliamentary proceedings or to take steps to stop mud slinging.

Mass Media and Information Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, too, making a special statement in Parliament yesterday, requested the Speaker to make laws to enable the aggrived MPs to institute legal action against defmation.



News - National

Education Minister Bandula Gunawardena said the Grade 5 Scholarship Examination will probably be scrapped from 2016 as a result of the secondary school development project, which is in progress. The minister addressing the media at the Education Ministry yesterday said however the Grade 5 Scholarship Examination will be replaced by an evaluation test. "The knowledge gathered during the Grade 3, 4 and 5 years by students will be evaluated at this evaluation test. This test will not be a competitive examination but a normal examination aiming to evaluate the performance of students. Students will be given one hour and 15 minutes to answer the test," he said.

"The test will measure the knowledge of mathematics, environment, and general knowledge aptitude of students," the minister said.

Minister Gunawardena said it will not be necessary to conduct the Grade 5 Scholarship Examinations from 2016 onwards, since the high demand for certain popular schools will fade away by then with the completion of the '1000 secondary school development project'.

The project has been scheduled for completion by 2016 by the Education Ministry, he said.

Minister Gunawardena said all secondary schools will be well equipped under the '1,000 secondary schools development project' enabling the ministry to discontinue the scholarship examination.

"The secondary school development project is carried out under the theme 'Transforming School Education Project' (TSEP). The objective of the TSEP, was to enhance access and quality of primary and secondary education to provide a foundation for the knowledge-based economic and social development of the country, the Minister said.

"The Transforming School Education Project would support Sri Lanka's Education Sector Development Framework and Program (ESDFP) 2012-2016," he said.

"Under the first phase, 405 secondary schools have been selected for upgrading covering the entire country. The schools, which come under the 1,000 school development program will have all facilities for teaching, and the learning process since the program commenced aiming to develop thousand selected secondary schools with the objective of solving the education related issues and shortcomings in disadvantaged rural schools, Minister Gunawardena said.

At least three secondary schools will be developed within every Divisional Secretariat division under the TSEP program covering the entire country. With this program, equal opportunities are provided for every child in the country, he said.

The minister said nine model schools will be constructed in every province apart from the 1,000 secondary schools. According to ministry statistics, 30,746 students, that passed the Grade 5 scholarship examination will be enrolled to popular schools for next year (2014). The figure was 29,955 for 2013.


News - National

Speaker National Assembly of Pakistan, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq arrived in Sri Lanka on 19th December, on a two days official visit, undertaken on the invitation of Sri Lanka’s Speaker of Parliament Chamal Rajapaksa. The invitation was conveyed by the Deputy Speaker of Sri Lankan Parliament Chandima Weerakkody, during his recent visit to Pakistan. Speaker National Assembly of Pakistan, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq

During his visit, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq will call on his counterpart and also observe the ongoing proceedings of Sri Lankan Parliament. The Speaker will also hold a meeting with members of Sri Lanka Pakistan Parliamentary Friendship Association and attend a luncheon hosted by the Association in his honor.

The Sri Lanka-Pakistan Parliamentarians Friendship Association is a multiparty caucus of 42 members, which was established in Colombo in November 2007. The inaugural session of the Association was held on November 21, 2007, in Colombo under the Chairmanship of the Speaker of Sri Lanka’s Parliament. The Association is bi-partisan as it includes members from almost all political parties. On similar lines, a Sri Lanka-Pakistan Parliamentary Friendship Group has been established in the National Assembly of Pakistan with the Speaker as its President.

The formation of parliamentary Friendship Associations in the national parliaments is another manifestation of cordiality and multifaceted nature of bilateral relations between the two countries.

- Asian Tribune -


News - National

The Venerable Kobawaka Dhamminda Thera was today appointed as the Chief Incumbent of Kirivehera Rajamaha Viharaya in Kataragama by the Sangha Sabha led by Malwatu Mahanayaka, the most Venerable Thibbotuwawe Sri Sumangala Thera the Ministry of Buddha Sasana  and Relligious Affairs said.

The Ven. Dr. Aluthwewa Soratha Nayaka Thera, the former chief incumbent of the Kataragama Kirivehera Temple and Chancellor of the Uva Wellassa University passed away at the age of 70 years on September 27, 2013.

The Ven. Kobawaka Dhamminda Thera is a senior student of the late Ven. Dr. Aluthwewa Soratha Nayaka Thera.

The Commissioner General of Buddhist Affairs had overseen the Temple affairs until the new Chief Incumbent was appointed.


News - National

This week’s BT-RCB poll on the issues relating to the emergence of a new casino culture drew the largest ever response seen so far.

The Business Times, and lately in collaboration with Colombo-based Research Consultancy Bureau, has been conducting email polls for many years on issues of national interest. The RCB poll is conducted in Colombo city while some are conducted across the country. Both polls have become a popular outlet to express the people’s voice.

The email response to the ‘casino’ poll was the bigger ever since the newspaper started this trend of polling. People from all walks of life responded to the poll, articulating their views on an issue that has stirred debate in Sri Lanka with religious groups, jointly and individually, opposing this kind of development.

The core of the issue is the James Packer-mixed development project on D.R. Wijewardene Mawatha that would include an upmarket casino aimed at enticing high-spending Indians, Middle Easterners and other Asians away from traditional hotspots like Macau and Singapore, to Sri Lanka. Along with this are two other casino-related developments by business magnate Dhammika Perera and conglomerate John Keells Holdings. Opponents say that this high-stakes gambling could encourage anti-social activity like illegal drugs and prostitution and ruin Sri Lanka’s culture.

The debate however is silent on the many betting shops, horse racing centres and the casinos that already exist and have encouraged drugs, escort girls and prostitution, particularly through many Chinese and Russian women found in the casinos.

While the respondents on the BT poll were mixed on whether casinos should be allowed or not, the RCB street poll had a clearer message: Casinos are negative to society.

Interestingly, however, in both polls the respondents who were positive in opening Sri Lanka to mega casinos, were also cautious. The majority said foreign-operated casinos should be properly regulated and strictly open for foreigners only.

But in this category, most were also not too confident of the regulatory mechanism and questioned whether it would be properly implemented.

In essence the argument came back to the perennial question of ‘does the rule of law work in Sri Lanka; is it properly implemented”.
On that score, Sri Lankans positive on casinos as a growth sector in post-war Sri Lanka, were unsure whether the regulatory mechanism would be strictly enforced or restricted only to the masses while exempting a select few.

That’s nothing new. That the law works only for some people (mostly middle and rural classes) is a fact however much the police or the authorities try to put on a bold face to say that ‘everyone is equal before the law’. In recent times, people went to court to seek justice through constitutional means like human rights and/or fundamental rights petitions, if all what the police delivered was ‘injustice’. Even that course now is raising some doubts in society.

Corruption and the rule of law are invariably linked. Large-scale corruption happens because the law doesn’t take its course and serves only one segment of the population. Take the recent controversy of an officer working in the Prime Minister’s office issuing a letter seeking a duty waiver for a particular consignment that was later found to contain heroin. The whole trial is in the media with the police yet to step in and take whatever action against the culprits. If it was an ordinary citizen, he or she would have been jailed by now! The irony is that the PM’s officer says – rather casually – that these letters, seeking waiver or providing favours are given all the time! Isn’t this tantamount to a bribe? Isn’t this a corrupt act, using one’s high office to get favours done or seek undue advantage? The Prime Minister is also answerable for allowing this to happen. His integrity comes into question.

Integrity and its lack were also stressed by eminent jurist Prof. C.G. Weeramantry when he delivered the keynote address at the National Integrity Awards ceremony by Transparency International Sri Lanka on Monday.

“Somehow it (integrity) has been lost sight of the world over and that is for valid reasons. One is that the law by itself is unable to detect every instance of breach of confidence or breach of promise and so on, and it’s quite easy to find the loopholes in the law,” he was quoted as saying.

He said integrity and total honesty is absolutely essential in the discharge of affairs that are undertaken, particularly in public affairs. His message was clear: “There is no room for corruption. It has to be fought at all levels. The people have a duty and an obligation to expose corruption.”

Brave words indeed but who is listening? In today’s world, corrupt individuals also happily justify their actions. “Why are people picking on me? Everyone has been doing this (a particular dubious action) in the past, so why am I only targeted?” said an arrogant officer of a state-controlled institution. The “two wrongs don’t make a right” argument is old hat and no more pricks the conscience of society.

The success of this week’s BT-RCB poll reflects the desire of Sri Lankans to express their views without fear built mainly on the credibility of the paper not to expose the identity of the respondents. People don’t freely express their views on a national issue but BT-RCB polls have triggered an avalanche of comments based on trust and confidentially.

So even if the public is losing confidence in the law and its keepers, they have not lost faith in the media to act as their trusted watchdog, as the BT-RCB polls have repeatedly shown.


News - National

Rough landing

“The drive initiated by Ministry of Defence & Urban Development and the Urban Development Authority (UDA) to dump residents in housing units in Weligodawatta, expecting them to adapt to life in apartment complexes is fraught with risk”

For several years now, the Government has been undertaking a massive development drive in Colombo and suburbs. Part of this development drive includes moving people from slums and shanties in the city and providing them with permanent housing at apartment complexes nearby. While the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development and the Urban Development Authority (UDA), which are spearheading this drive, are touting this program as a success, the situation on the ground, and academic opinion, paint a strikingly different picture.

There are some 68, 000 families living in so called ‘underserved settlements’ within Colombo city limits. This is 53percent of the city’s total population. Out of these, 40, 000 families live in settlements that are classified as slums and shanties, according to Head of the UDA’s Urban Regeneration Project, E.A.C. Priyashantha. The underserved settlements are distributed at some 1500 locations around the city and cover just over 870 acres, he revealed.

As part of the program to provide better housing facilities to these persons, the UDA plans to provide them housing at apartment complexes within a 3km radius of their original houses, Priyashantha said. The first of these settlements, named the Mihindusenpura housing project in Dematagoda, was declared opened on November 18. This complex houses 500 families who were all from the surrounding area. He said the UDA’s target was to build 10,000 housing units per year for the next four years, thereby achieving the goal of resettling the 40, 000 families currently living in slums and shanties.  
“When you include all the costs, the UDA spends some Rs.6.8 million on each housing unit. We have a 20 year recovery plan for these units, whereby the owners would be granted ownership of the units. The inmates would be asked to pay a one-time fee of Rs.50, 000 for each unit,” the UDA official said.

A total of 350 acres have been earmarked to resettle those in underserved settlements, he added. When queried as to what was going to happen to the around 500 acres that would still be left when the resettlement process was concluded, he stressed the UDA’s first priority is to resettle these persons and decisions on these lands would be taken later.

The Nation visited one of these settlements that had been ‘cleared’ in Slave Island. We found only a handful of houses left standing. The inmates of one house, who spoke to us, said they too were moving out by the end December.
“We went to court against the attempt to relocate us. In the end, they gave us a settlement where we were given rent money for 1 ½ years. However, the rent charged at houses in this area is far too high for us. As such, we have no choice but to move to Makola,” one resident said. However, she said they had been given written assurances that they would be provided with alternative housing at the same location as their original house.     

We were also told the majority of those awaiting relocation from their settlements in Slave Island were housed in Weligodawatta, Thotalanga.
However, when The Nation visited Weligodawatta, the situation was nothing short of pathetic.

Inmates who spoke to us told of how they had been virtually ‘dumped’ in this area by the Government with promises to be provided with alternate housing within two years. However, all those who spoke to us claimed they had been living in the wooden houses constructed for them for 5-6 years.
Many of those who were moved out from Slave Island had been given apartments at the Mihindusenpura complex, they acknowledged. However, the inmates vented their fury at the UDA and the Government claiming officials had continually neglected to look into their plight.
The people showed us toilets which were overflowing. Only one toilet was currently functioning properly for an entire line of 72 houses, they claimed.

“It’s the same with the government and the opposition. No one looks into our plight. They come and make promises, but they promised us houses in two years and we’re still here after six,” one woman, who declined to be identified, lamented.  The people also pointed out the unsanitary conditions at the location had made the entire place an area where disease and infection spread rapidly. A large number of children at this settlement were often getting sick, they complained.
They also pointed out it was difficult for most people to pay the large amounts of money that was demanded of them if they were to move into these apartment complexes.

While the Government is touting the apartment complex model as the best way to relocate those from underserved settlements, academics have cautioned that forcing people who have moved freely in slums and shanties and expecting them to adapt to a life in an apartment complex was fraught with risk.  Professor RMK Ratnayake of the Department of Geography, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, said the apartment complex program ‘would not be a 100percent  success,’ if it was implemented in the current way.
“These people are used to living an informal life, so to suddenly expecting them to adapt to a very formal environment such as living in an apartment complex, is too much”.

Prof. Ratnayake cited a research conducted around inmates of the ‘Sahaspura’ high-rise housing project in Borella. He said researchers had a large number of the low-income families, for whom the complex had been built, had in fact rented out these apartments to others and moved to locations that were similar to their original environment both within and outside the city limits.

Prof. Ratnayake said the best solution was for authorities to ‘upgrade’ the underserved settlements first by providing them with better infrastructure facilities and enable them to continue with their livelihoods in a more ‘civilized and systematic manner,’ where they could earn a decent living without turning to illegal activities. He said such projects had been implemented successfully in settlements located in Kirulapone and Mattakkuliya.

“There should be a change in mentality among these communities. However, one should not attempt to do this overnight. The transformation should be gradual,” he observed.



News - National

The Prince of Wales's tour of the Indian sub-continent draws to a close today with visits to a tea plantation, a major Buddhist shrine and a botanical garden.

Charles and Camilla began their trip in India where they spent nine days travelling the length and breadth of the country visiting Dehradun, New Delhi, Mumbai and Kochi.

The prince yesterday opened the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka which has been overshadowed by accusations that the host nation's regime committed human rights abuses when it ended a civil war.

Later today the prince will tour the historic Labookellie Tea Estate in Nuwara Eliya to learn about the tea production process and view its new tea museum.

He will also visit the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, the most significant Buddhist shrine in Sri Lanka, where a religious relic said to be Buddha's tooth is kept.

Charles will also tour a centre for mentally and physically disabled children, and the British Garrison Cemetery - the final resting place for 195 early British colonial officials, soldiers, adventurers, teachers, doctors, engineers and their families.

Camilla will carry out her own engagements in the capital Colombo visiting a children's hospital and a crisis centre for women who are victims of sexual attacks or domestic violence.



News - National

Teams from two trade bodies- DCCI and ICCB on Monday left Dhaka for Colombo to attend the Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF) to be held in the Sri Lankan capital on November 12-14.

The three-day forum is a premier business event in the Commonwealth, aimed at bringing together heads of governments, ministers and top business leaders from around the world.

The delegations from the Bangladeshi trade bodies will have several meetings with local chambers in Sri Lanka on bilateral trade and investment, said a press release.

At the event, they will mainly explore market opportunities for the Bangladeshi products.

The ICCB and DCCI members will participate in seminars on renewable energy, RMG, textile, agriculture, infrastructure, education and skill development on the sidelines.

In addition, DCCI President Md Sabur Khan will present a keynote paper on “Digital Growth and ICT” at the forum.

The team of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) is comprised of 21 members.

The team includes among others DCCI’s senior vice president Nessar Maksud Khan, directors Khairul Majid Mahmud, Humayun Rashid, convenor Raquib Md Fakhrul, co-convenors Syed Almas Kabir, Md Nurul Haque and Sumon Talukder.

The members of the delegation from International Chamber of Commerce, Bangladesh (ICCB) are its executive board members Barrister Rafique-ul Huq, Bengal Fine Ceramics Limited chairperson Rashed Maksud Khan and president of Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry Mahbubul Alam.



News - National

Your Excellency, Distinguished Delegate, Dear Visitor,

Ayubowan! Vanakkam! Welcome to Colombo!


You may have heard of how General Potemkin primed Crimea for the pleasure of Catherine the Great and her foreign ambassadors on their southern trip in 1787. Likewise, our own Potemkin, Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapakse, presidential sibling and Secretary Defence and Urban Development, has personally overseen the makeover of Colombo for your pleasure. And we do hope you will enjoy it.


Many Sri Lankans are referring to CHOGM as ‘Show-GM’ and Colombo has been meticulously prepared and curated to ensure the right image is conveyed. One hopes you will agree that the parts of the city you see are indeed looking beautiful. However there is much more to this beatification. After all, even the CHOGM signboards across the city say ‘Sri Lanka: A world within’, which you will be hard pressed to discover without a guide. So here is one.


On Arrival


At the airport, Your Excellency, Head of Government, will be picked up in one of the more than 50 brand new bullet-proof S400 Mercedes Benz cars imported for the summit. For the comfort of your delegation there is a large fleet of brand new Nissan Teanas, Toyota Corollas, 100 forty-one-seater luxury buses and 60 Land Rover Defender jeeps that have all been imported.


Naturally, the total costs of all this is unknown but runs into millions of dollars. While all vehicles will bear special CHOGM number plates they will not reveal to you that Sri Lanka’s public debt has risen alarmingly, to Rs. 3 trillion or nearly 80 per cent of GDP. At a recent meeting of the Sri Lanka Economic Association, economists were reportedly of the view that “the debt incurred was too much, at too high a cost and used excessively on low productive purposes.”


En route


While you race into Colombo on the shiny new 26 kilometre expressway, you will not be told that it cost 1.8 billion rupees or 14 million US dollars per kilometre, amongst the most expensive in the world, and that it was mostly financed by a loan from China, whose terms are unknown. As you near the city you will come across neatly erected green-coloured screens along the expressway, these are not sound barriers but visual barriers, to ensure the sight of low-income settlements does not disturb you.


The main venues


The primary venue is named after Mahinda Rajapakse himself and to ensure ruthless efficiency it is run by the military; so no worries for you there. And just in front of the venue you can admire the newly redeveloped and spruced up lush green Viharamahadevi Park. However, you will not be told that like much else this was the work of the military not the municipality. And that the daily wage workers employed by the municipality to clean the park lost their jobs when the Navy took over. Like in every other instance of redevelopment none of the local residents or users of the park were meaningfully consulted.


Right in the front of the second main venue, the BMICH, is an imposing tall stone-sculpted standing Buddha. Indeed, you will notice a large number of Buddha statues all over the city. The official guide handed out to you will tell you about how Sri Lanka is the land of tolerance and ethnic harmony upholding the ideals of the Buddha but they will omit to tell you that there is a systematic attempt to ritually stamp the city and country’s landscape with Buddhist icons. The guide will almost certainly not tell you that Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism is riding high with the blessings of the regime, and that religious minorities and Muslim and Christian places of worship and businesses in particular are the targets of systematic attacks.


In and around Colombo


In the city itself, residents and occupants on routes to be used by our distinguished guests have received letters requesting that we paint our exteriors and beautify our properties. Brand new fancy bus-shelters have been put up on routes to be taken by you, but the pictures in these shelters will not tell you that little has been invested in improving public transport though prices of tickets have just been raised significantly. For the record, in most other parts of Colombo there are in fact no bus shelters of any kind at all, usually just a little sign.


You will be pleased to see that the streets of Colombo are clean but much of this is thanks to a large force of mostly poor and elderly daily wage-workers employed on harsh terms by private contractors to whom solid waste management has been outsourced. Of course you will never meet these people, they are not invited to the CHOGM banquets. Again, no one will tell you that a clean Colombo does not mean there is no corruption. Forget about the corruption in high value land and property deals, even the custom-made brooches your distinguished first ladies are to be presented with are at the heart of an alleged 15 million rupee scandal.


During your stay you will meet many young and old Sri Lankans who will tell you Colombo is shining thanks to the Rajapakses. However, none of you (or even them for that matter) are likely to meet one of the 70,000 families who will be forcibly evicted and moved to northern and eastern parts of the city to ensure Colombo becomes a world-class garden city. They will certainly not meet Madonna (name changed), a domestic worker, who has lived in a low income settlement near Castle Street in Borella for more than 30 years but whose family is being forcibly moved into a much smaller flat in a high-rise located further away. She will not be able to tell you that rather than receive any compensation for her house that is to be demolished, she actually has to pay just over a million rupees to the state over the next 20 years to secure a title to this flat, starting with a down-payment of 50,000 rupees very soon, which she does not have. Nor will she able to tell your distinguished selves that the Urban Development Authority (UDA) did not even heed her community’s simple request to resettle them together in the high-rise blocks.


Many of you are likely to drop in or pass-by the renovated Dutch Hospital, the mini-stand of the old Race Course, and the Independence Square—initiatives the UDA loves to boast about. And for once, without anyone having to tell you, if you spend enough time to look carefully you will see yourself that though projected as ‘public’ spaces, these are in fact spaces where the less privileged come to labour and the well-heeled to slake their thirst for a life-style.


Perhaps you will also notice that many of these ‘public’ spaces are not gated but no one will tell you that internal frontiers, far from disappearing are only becoming more aestheticised. With low-income communities being pushed out, the city is heading towards becoming more segregated. And not everyone can actually even enter Colombo, like the hundreds of family members from the North of those disappeared who were prevented from coming to Colombo for a demonstration some time ago. Again, you may not meet any of them for they too are not invited to the CHOGM dinners and parties.


Things you should miss


The little of Colombo and Sri Lanka that will be on display for Your Excellency, Distinguished Delegate and Dear Visitor, fortunately does not include some sites and events of ugly importance. One such you should avoid is the Supreme Court in Hulfstdorp. But you may run into Chief Justice Mohan Peiris who until just a few months ago was serving as a loyal Attorney General before being suddenly elevated to Chief Justice after the unconstitutional impeachment of the former Chief Justice.


Make sure you don’t attend the discussion organised by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka on commonwealth values and the rule of law. Fortunately, the current and a former UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers and a senior representative from International Bar Association won’t be there either as their visas, granted in August, have now been revoked.


Well, that’s that, almost. This guide would be incomplete if it did not recognise the glorious achievements of our military in transforming Colombo’s landscape. Under the leadership of President Rajapakse and his beloved brothers and family, they are being used to fundamentally restructure the Sri Lankan public and political sphere. Isn’t it wonderful that despite all the accusations of egregious brutalisation during and after the war they are now a force for extensive beautification? This is just one of the many steps on a uniquely Sri Lankan path to post-war reconciliation, about which we hope you will try and learn more.


‘Imagine, explore and discover the Island of endless opportunity.’


News - National

Speculation is rife that a low level Canadian delegation, arriving here for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo next week, too, would seek to visit the Jaffna peninsula.


The military brought the peninsula under government control in early 1996.

External Affairs Ministry sources told The Island that Commonwealth countries with large population of Tamils, of Sri Lankan origin, were likely to send their delegations to Jaffna. The government was ready to facilitate such visits in accordance with the post-war policy of openness, sources said.

As Canada remains the country with the largest, as well as the most influential Diaspora grouping, The Island queried the Canadian government whether its delegation would be visiting Jaffna.

Canadian spokesperson, Béatrice Fénelon said that an announcement would be made if or when Canada had something to say.

Canada is represented by Deepak Obhrai, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Human Rights.

The Canadian High Commission in Colombo said that all queries, regarding  CHOGM should be directed to the spokesperson.

Canadian Premier Stephen Harper and Foreign Minister John Baird are boycotting the Colombo meet alleging that the government was yet to address accountability issues.

Tanzania-born Obhrai is the senior most Indian origin MP in the Canadian parliament. He has represented Calgary East since 1997.

Ministry sources said that the Canadian MP had the opportunity to visit the Vanni shortly after the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009. The government facilitated the visit in the wake of at least two Canadian passport holders, of Sri Lankan origin, fighting for the separatist terrorist LTTE being captured on the battle front. Sources recalled the circumstances under which Obhrai toured the war zone subsequent to Sri Lanka turning away Canadian Liberal MP Bob Rae at the Bandaranaike International Airport.

Defence sources said as a one of the few foreign dignitaries who had an opportunity to visit the Vanni, immediately after the end of war, MP Obhrai would be able to comprehend the developments taking place on the ground. At the time the Canadian visited the North, there had been over 300,000 war displaced and nearly 12,000 ex-LTTE combatants in government custody, sources said. Four years later, both civilians and ex-combatants had returned to their villages to lead a normal life, sources said.

Sources said that there couldn’t have been a better person than MP Obhrai to examine the situation on the ground. "We expect the Canadians to visit the Northern Province," a senior official said, adding that in addition to the British, the New Zealand delegation wanted to visit Jaffna.

Sources based in Canada said that in the wake of Harper’s government downgrading Canadian participation at the CHOGM, an LTTE rump had launched a project to boost up those politicians backing the boycott call. About 300 LTTE activists gathered opposite the Canadian parliament on Oct. 28 to express their gratitude to Premier Harper’s government. Sources said that the vociferous crowd was joined by at least four ministers as well as a dozen MPs. Much to the surprise of those opposed to LTTE antics, Canadian Conservative politician, Patrick Brown was seen with Nehru Gunaratnam, widely believed to be a member of the group led by Perinpanayagam Sivaparan alias Nediyavan. Sri Lanka denied visas to MP Brown and his colleague, Paul Calandra, to visit the Vanni at the end of the conflict. Sources pointed out that Gunaratnam had been the spokesperson for the Canada based World Tamil Movement, at the time it was proscribed in Canada.

Well informed Tamil sources said that Gunaratnam had been to the Vanni twice in 2002 and 2003 during the Norwegian arranged Ceasefire to meet LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. Prabhakaran named Gunaratnam to a political committee comprising one representative from countries home to large Diaspora groups. In addition to that, Gunaratnam was appointed to a 15-member committee headed by ‘Castro,’ overseeing Diaspora activities.



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