The Indian National Security Advisor N. K.
Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon
met President Mahinda Rajapakse on Friday at
week is proving truly momentous as well as a defining
moment in our history as government forces stand poised
to defeat the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
It is the fervent wish of those who desire a peaceful
and pluralistic society to see an end to the bitter feud
that had dragged on for 26 years and committed around
100,000 from both sides to an early grave.
history is being created, a jubilant President Mahinda
Rajapakse earlier this week declared the LTTE’s defeat
President brimming with confidence in the anticipated
final victory openly rejected a call by the UN Secretary
General Ban Ki-Moon to extend the humanitarian ‘no-fire’
period with a snide remark that the likes of Moon should
be spending there energies on pressurising the LTTE
Leader to grant an hour of freedom to the civilians kept
under his clutches.
However, it is the undiluted hope of every peace-loving
citizen that the war should surely end putting an
effective end to decades of bloodletting, scourge and
destruction. It is also hoped that the government would
now have the prudence to capitalise on military gains
and move into the next phase of rebuilding the long
denied war ravaged zones and to pave the way for
democratic politics in the northeast.
nation eagerly awaits that phase and an opportunity to
heal as a nation.
military advances continued coupled with massive
humanitarian operations, on Wednesday afternoon, LTTE’
former media spokesperson, Daya Master and George, the
translator of slain LTTE Political Head, S.P.
Tamilselvan surrendered to the Sri Lanka Army (SLA)
signifying an end to the Tiger cause as far as the two
government last week issued an ultimatum to LTTE Leader
Velupillai Pirapaharan and his cadres to surrender to
the defence forces by Monday, April 20, mid day.
meantime, what is considered the biggest humanitarian
operation undertaken in recent history is underway with
over 95,000 civilians being rescued by the military
within three days.
people began to flee the last area under the control of
the Liberation Tigers, President Rajapakse’s sentiments
of an imminent LTTE defeat were endorsed by the
international community, currently keeping Sri Lanka
under its microscopic gaze as civilian suffering has
reached an all time high amidst intensified battles to
gain full control over the
President Rajapakse was quoted by AFP having stated that
according to aerial video footage captured by a military
spy plane, non combatants in their thousands were
fleeing the rebel held areas into the government held
weeks, the government had been charging the Liberation
Tigers of holding trapped civilians as a human shield, a
fact underscored by the three suicide attacks carried
out by the LTTE early last week injuring scores of
civilians, including women and children. According to
Military Spokesperson, Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara, three
suicide explosions targeting the fleeing civilians in
the safe zone in Mullaitivu had resulted in over 100
civilians being injured.
Last ditch attempt
it’s over for the Tigers. This was a last ditch attempt.
The hospitals are fully functional and civilians are
being treated for their injuries and other ailments.
Over 5,000 suffer from fever and rashes having escaped
the Tiger brute force under trying conditions,”
Government Defence Spokesperson, Keheliya Rambukwella
final military push came Sunday morning when the
military overran the last bund of the LTTE in
Pudumatalan, east of Puthukkudiyiruppu stretching over 3
kms, leading to the rescue of over 5,000 civilians
within a matter of hours.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Navy units too were deployed in the
northeastern coastal waters of the island. Some 103
boats were used in carrying out rescue operations of
over 1,800 civilians, according to Navy Spokesperson
Capt. D.K.P. Dassanayake.
Navy Spokesperson confirmed that the navy had detected a
cluster of small boats coming out of the No Fire Zone on
April 20 morning.
navy identified that refugees were under attack and
immediately galvanised the sea units to help fleeing
civilians,” Dassanayake said.
military victories and the UPFA administration riding
the zenith of its popularity, as the Tigers’ defeat
appears irrefutably imminent, international
organisations called for caution and restraint to
prevent further hardship to the civilian population, the
innocent victims of a protracted war.
United States last week expressed deep concern over the
humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka’s north where troops
are poised for a final assault against the LTTE.
are very concerned about the humanitarian situation
there. It is dire,” State Department Acting Spokesman,
Robert Wood, told Washington based reporters as he
called on both the warring parties to cease hostilities
and protect the civilians in the No Fire Zone (NFZ).
important that both sides minimise, to the greatest
possible extent, any civilian casualties, protect
civilians, and allow humanitarian organisations to get
food to the people who need it,” Wood said.
similar vein, Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon
in a statement called upon both the government and the
LTTE to take measures to ensure civilian safety and also
called for a resumption of the humanitarian pause that
took place during April 13-14. “Canada is following this
issue very closely, and all Canadians hope for a speedy
resolution to this humanitarian tragedy,” added Cannon.
“Canada calls on the LTTE to discuss with the Government
of Sri Lanka the terms for ending hostilities, including
the renunciation of violence, the laying down of arms,
and acceptance of the Government of Sri Lanka’s offer of
amnesty, as the first step toward an inclusive political
dialogue that can contribute to a lasting peace.”
more crucial note, the United Nations on April 21
expressed dismay over the possibility of committing more
than 4,500 civilians to death in the fighting.
the above argument, Amnesty International’s Sri Lanka
expert, Yolanda Foster in a statement said: “The plight
of these civilians demands that the Sri Lankan
government and the LTTE take all necessary measures
immediately to prevent unlawful killing of civilians and
that they fully comply with their obligations under
international humanitarian law.”
also called for Sri Lankan authorities to allow
international monitors to visit ‘reception centers’ to
help reassure both fleeing civilians and surrendered
LTTE combatants will be treated according to
Further, Foster has also sought to impress upon the UN
Security Council the dire need to express its concern
over the escalating violence as well as the
deteriorating humanitarian and human rights conditions.
Significantly, UNICEF too had called upon the
authorities to de-escalate violence given that children
were among the many thousands that are suffering owing
to a worsening humanitarian crisis in the north.
UNICEF’s South Asia Regional Director, Daniel Toole in a
statement declared: “With the high concentration of
people in a small space, the number of children killed
in this conflict will continue to escalate. This is a
price too heavy to pay.”
the UN agencies sought to pressurise both the LTTE and
the government to cease hostilities with immediate
effect and to extend a humanitarian pause for a
reasonable duration, this call was promptly rejected by
Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse and President
Mahinda Rajapakse unequivocally as untenable.
government does not make any bones about wanting to end
the war through military means and shows little
tolerance for dissenting opinion or international
pressure. In this task, the UPFA appears single-minded
and unwilling to compromise or revise formula.
India that had been shifting stances regularly, calling
for humanitarian pauses at times and at other times
demanding Pirapaharan’s head adopted a more diplomatic
stance following the fall of the last LTTE bastion.
Irrespective of the political considerations back at
home at a time of elections and having to heavily bank
on Tamil Nadu to secure electoral victory, Indian
Premier Manmohan Singh nonchalantly dabbled in quiet
diplomacy as he declared last week that India’s position
has not altered and that Pirapaharan is indeed an
offender and the LTTE, a terrorist organisation.
military concentrates on consolidating its strength and
aiding thousands of civilians to flee the last LTTE
bastion through ground and sea routes, these victories
could not have come at a more opportune time for an
administration that is committed to holding staggered
provincial polls and is scraping the barrel to sustain
an economy that is down in the dumps.
Oxygen from IMF
to contain the depreciation of the rupee which had
dropped by 4% in the past few days and public debt at an
all time high, a staggering Rs. 4,500 billion (some 81%
of the GDP), the government has simply latched on to the
much maligned IMF for economic oxygen.
gloomy local economic backdrop and the worst global
recession since the 1930s, Public Administration and
Deputy Finance Minister, Dr. Sarath Amunugama headed a
special delegation to the IMF and World Bank
Headquarters last week — considered a prelude to the
administration’s pursuit of a crucial US$ 1.9 billion
Amunugama was accompanied by Central Bank Governor,
Nivard Cabraal, the man who is dubbed the architect of
the hedging crisis and Deputy Governor, Ranee Jayamaha.
Meanwhile, the Rs. 92 billion oil-hedging dispute too
has reached international arbitration following
government talks with commercial banks collapsing.
ministerial committee appointed to resolve the payment
crisis held several rounds of discussions with the banks
Bank and Deutche Bank have already filed for
international arbitration for payments due from Ceylon
Petroleum Corporation (CPC.)
CPC owes both banks as well as Standard Chartered Bank,
Commercial Bank and People’s Bank more than US $ 800
million (Rs. 92 billion) over hedging agreements on oil
a public outcry and the opposition crying foul,
petitions were filed in the Supreme Court against the
making of these payments.
case dragged into an issue over petrol pricing and later
terminated when the government refused to reduce oil
prices as per orders of the Supreme Court.
failed to renegotiate the agreements, the government is
now faced with a dilemma, as the banks are only
agreeable to rescheduling of payments or to offer
this backdrop, the government managed to quickly cash in
on the military victories and heightened election fever
to rush through some new tax bills in parliament last
Through this exercise, the government received approval
for an additional Rs. 150 billion through the issue of
resolution under the Local Treasury Bill Ordinance
revised the limit on Treasury Bills by an additional
Rs.150 billion from the current limit of Rs. 600
Additionally, the government sought approval to increase
the Nation Building Tax from 1% to 3% with effect from
May 1 while the increase in the Special Commodity Levy
on several food items should send the already burdened
consumers reeling under the new economic weight.
Special Commodity Levy will bring in increases ranging
from Rs. 15-40 per kg and applies to items such as
potatoes, sprats, Bombay unions, chickpeas, green gram,
chilies, canned fish and similar items.
import duty on wheat grain under Customs Ordinance too
was approved by parliament under which the preferential
rate paid per kilo of imported wheat grain will be Rs. 4
per kg and Rs 10 per kg at the general rate.
Further, Default Taxes (Special Provisions) Bill sought
to write off default taxes of state institutions and
streamline and speed up the process of recovering
the main opposition UNP and the JVP opposed the new tax
bills, the government, as expected, comfortably carried
in such a backdrop that the Western Province voters will
be called upon to vote, with a confident government
poised to convert the military victories to an electoral
victory, notwithstanding the many issues of escalating
election violence and the significant issue of double
registration for over 62,000 voters which may indeed
prove more than sufficient to alter the final electoral
will be worthwhile also to consider what the WPC
administration had offered the people, despite a
staggering Rs. 33 billion being voted last year to run