War or peace?
These policemen appear to be amused by the message posted by peace activists last week at Lipton's Circus. Amusement aside, given the escalating humanitarian crisis, the nation must decide now whether it wants war or peace
Jaffna humanitarian crisis
Govt. blasts relief agencies
By Amantha Perera and Jamila Najmuddin
International relief agencies last week came under government fire for exaggerating the humanitarian crisis in the Jaffna peninsula. ......
Jaffna civilians suffering
> RI blames SL for massacre of aid workers
> Muttur Muslims warned to leave
> Govt. and LTTE both violating CFA
> Hartal in
Ampara against killings
Jaffna humanitarian crisis
Govt. blasts relief agencies
By Amantha Perera and Jamila Najmuddin
International relief agencies last week came under government fire for exaggerating the humanitarian crisis in the Jaffna peninsula.
Essential Services Commissioner, S.D. Divaratne told The Sunday Leader that the government was fully in control of food distribution in Jaffna and that there was no reason to be alarmed.
"The country is not facing a humanitarian crisis as there is ample food. No one has complained to date and it is only obvious that the UN agencies are talking absolute rubbish. They have done nothing other than criticise the government," Divaratne said. He said that 9000 metric tonnes of food were due to arrive in Jaffna
by week's end. On Friday (22) another vessel, Liverpool arrived in Jaffna with 1285 tonnes of essential items including 300 tonnes of sugar and 50 tonnes of oil.
However, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that only 5000 metric tonnes of food, half the peninsula's need, had reached Jaffna in the last month. "This is against a need of more than 10,000 metric tonnes for the whole population for a month. If food shortages continue, children and mothers will face serious health problems. We are on the verge of a serious problem," UNHCR quoted the UNICEF representative in Jaffna, Judit Burno as saying. UNHCR said that half the 60,000 refugees in Jaffna were children.
Organisations such as the ICRC maintained that while road traffic between the Jaffna peninsula and the rest of the country has been cut off since August 11, the civilians in Jaffna were concerned that their isolation would persist.
"While the government has continued to send food and other supplies, the situation remains a cause of humanitarian concern," the ICRC said.
The UNHCR also added that while access to the civilians in the northeast has improved in several areas, the security situation in the country prevented them from reaching many displaced families in Jaffna, Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Mannar.
"As food, medical and other supplies run low in some locations, UNHCR and its partners continue to work closely with the government to address these issues and deliver humanitarian assistance to all displaced communities as soon as possible," UNHCR Spokesperson, Lyndon Jeffels said.
Meanwhile, the army said that as long as clashes continued the only land route to Jaffna would remain closed.
"This inhuman and indiscriminate firing by ruthless Tiger terrorists will continue to pose threats to supplies along the A - 9 road by the government to Muhamalai area," the Media Center for National Security said.
Clashes erupted twice last week near the southern forward defence lines, once when a group of journalists were in the Mirusuvil area on August 12 and then again on August 14 when the Tigers and government forces exchanged artillery fire.
Jaffna civilians suffering
By Arthur Wamanan
The civilians in Jaffna are frustrated due to the present situation prevailing in the peninsula, Jaffna Bishop Rt. Rev. Thomas Soundaranayagam said.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader he said the scarcity of essential items had also affected the civilians a lot.
"Jaffna is isolated from the rest of the country. The only route of bringing in items into the peninsula was the A9 road and it was closed from August 11. Now none of the private traders have goods in their shops. The prices of the essential items are also increasing everyday," he said.
He also said the peninsula was experiencing a shortage of fuel as well.
"Kerosene is also running out. The people cannot even light a lamp these days," Rev. Soundaranayagam added.
He also said the seas were too rough these days for the items to be brought to the peninsula.
"The LTTE has also said that they will not take any responsibility for sea transportation. That also is affecting the items being brought here," he added.
Speaking further Rev. Soundaranayagam added he had written to the LTTE encouraging them to take part in the negotiations.
He said the civilians are unsure as to what the future would be like.
"There are conflicting statements made by the relevant parties after the Co-Chairs statement. That also frustrates the civilians a lot," he added.
He also said he had written to President Mahinda Rajapakse to take steps to open the A9.
"I have written to the President, asking him to take the necessary steps to open the A9. Something has to be done, because thousands of people are affected due to the closure of the road. I hope the President will take the necessary steps on this issue," he said.
RI blames SL for massacre of aid workers
By Kumutu Amarasingham
The US based organisation Refugee International (RI) in a shocking report on Sri Lanka's human rights situation has blamed the government for the killing of 17 aid workers in Muttur last month, while hitting at both the government and LTTE for the deteriorating human rights condition in the country.
"At the time of the murders, Muttur had been the scene of fighting between government troops and the LTTE, which resulted in the forced displacement of more than 50,000 residents of the town and the surrounding area.
"Both parties denied responsibility and accused the other side of carrying out the executions. It has now been established, however, that government forces had re-taken control of Muttur at the time of the executions. Government commanders prevented ACF staff from accessing the area to retrieve the bodies. And the government,
while extending an invitation to an Australian forensic team to assist with the investigation, has refused to allow the team to visit the site of the killings," the RI report said.
The report further stated that there was evidence the aid workers had been shot at close range, and said they had been wearing ACF T-shirts, making misidentification impossible.
On the issue of human rights the report gave mixed messages, alternately praising the government and LTTE for complying with human rights regulations, and blaming them for causing grievances both to aid workers and the public.
The LTTE was accused of holding up fleeing civilians and executing Muslim men.
"During the battle for Muttur (in Aug/Sept 2006), the LTTE held up fleeing civilians and hid in civilian locations, inviting damaging government shelling. As the residents of Muttur fled, the LTTE reneged on its promises of safe passage and targeted young Muslim men for execution," the report said.
The government on the other hand was accused of harassing aid workers and preventing the smooth execution of their duties.
"As for the government, it is allowing the military in the east to harass and obstruct the work of international and local humanitarian aid organisations. The harassment consist of stopping the marked vehicles of aid organisations at numerous checkpoints and asking staff for individual and organisations work permits, neither of
which is required under Sri Lankan government regulations; forcing the off-loading and inspection of humanitarian supplies; targeting aid workers of Tamil ethnicity in particular, blocking their passage through checkpoints and conducting strip searches," the report stated.
Muttur Muslims warned to leave
By Amantha Perera
Muslims in Muttur were warned to leave the town as soon as possible by an unidentified organisation on Friday morning.
An organisation calling itself Thyaga Meedpu Padai (The Force to Regain the Homeland) distributed leaflets warning Muslims to leave the town or face the consequences.
The leaflet said that there will not be any warnings before attacks are launched and that people remaining in Muttur would have to face the consequences.
Similar leaflets had been distributed in Muttur just before the LTTE launched an attack on the town in August. It warned civilians to evacuate within 72 hours.
40,000 civilians fled Muttur when fighting erupted between the LTTE and government forces in early August. According to statistics maintained by the Muslim Information Center, atleast 47 Muslim civilians were killed while fleeing and scores more injured.
The LTTE launched an attack in the town while government forces were engaged in wresting control of the Mawilaru anicut further south.
Civilians had only returned to Muttur in the last two weeks. However there was no reported fleeing of civilians after a leaflet was distributed on Friday.
Meanwhile, the military had called for an emrgency meeting with the community leaders on Friday.
Norwegians tell LTTE
Govt. and LTTE both violating CFA
Norwegian Ambassador Hans Brattskar met with LTTE Political Wing Leader S.P. Tamilselvan in Kilinochchi on Friday at the LTTE Political Headquarters.
The statement issued by the Co-Chairs in Brussels on September 12 and the increasing number of killings and disappearances, especially in Jaffna were discussed during the meeting.
The opening of the A9 road was also among the topics discussed by both parties.
The Co-Chairs in their statement had called both parties for talks in Oslo, at the beginning of October.
It also said the parties should cease all violence immediately.
The LTTE said it was the responsibility of the parties in the south to acknowledge the ceasefire and abide by it.
Hartal in Ampara against killings
Muslims in Ampara staged a hartal and protested on the streets after Jumma prayers on Friday criticising the government's reaction to the massacre of 10 Muslim civilians in Pottuvil.
Ampara Police told The Sunday Leader that the protesters took to the streets shouting slogans against the government for holding the LTTE responsible for the massacre without conducting an investigation.
"When the IGP and his investigating team arrived in the area of the massacre, they promised they would keep an open mind and would not hold any party responsible till such time an investigation was conducted. However within hours after their arrival, they blamed the LTTE for the massacre without conducting a thorough
inquiry," a resident from Pottuvil told The Sunday Leader.
He added that although the CID was now conducting investigations into the murders, the government had already reached its decision of holding the Tigers responsible, which the Muslims in the area termed as "absurd."
Ampara Police added that despite the removal of a high ranking STF officer from the area against whom the Muslims had protested, the Muslim population continued to stage a hartal throughout last week and all steps were being taken by the police to maintain law and order in the area.
Hours after the massacre last week, Pottuvil and the surrounding areas were tense with the Muslim civilian population demanding security guarantees.
According to the Ampara Police, the lone survivor and the only known witness to the massacre, Meera Mohideen (55) is still in a critical condition and is receiving treatment at the Ampara Hospital.
Meanwhile the British Foreign Office on Friday advised all British nationals to avoid travel to Ampara and Pottuvil.
The Foreign Office had included Ampara town and Arugambay into the list of areas that travel was not advised after taking into consideration the deteriorating security situation. The northeast had already been in the list.
India in a war of words with Pakistan over SL
India is extremely wary of military ties between Sri Lanka and Pakistan, the Asia Times reported last week.
Even as fighting between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rages in Sri Lanka, a war of words has broken out between India and Pakistan over issues related to the island's civil war.
The online publication quoted unnamed Indian officials as saying that Sri Lanka is leaning more on Pakistan as India is unwilling to meet its needs with regard to lethal weaponry.
They also reported officials as saying the Pakistan-Sri Lanka cooperation with regard to charting strategy is based on a meeting of minds.
Asia Times further stated India had avoided aerial bombing of its insurgency-racked regions, even in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, where Pakistan is seen to have waged a proxy war against India. "However, neither Sri Lanka nor Pakistan has had any compunctions about bombing their civilian populations, Sri Lanka of the Tamils
and Pakistan of the Balochis," the publication stated.
The 'war of words' broke out between the two rival nations when Pakistan accused India of having a hand in the August bombing of Pakistan's outgoing High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Bashir Wali Mohamand vehicle convoy in Colombo, where the high commissioner escaped unhurt, though four Sri Lankan commandos accompanying him were
After the attack, the Sri Lankan government issued a statement that the Pakistani envoy had been targeted by the LTTE because of the defence cooperation between Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Not surprisingly, the attack on the envoy brought the military cooperation between the two countries under greater scrutiny.
Two weeks later, on his return to Pakistan, Bashir Wali Mohamand, a former director general of Pakistan's Intelligence Bureau, alleged that India's external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), was behind the August 14 blast. He accused RAW of "starting a proxy war in a third country (Sri Lanka)by carrying
out this lethal attack." India dismissed Pakistan's allegation as "preposterous" and "absurd."
An Indian Defence Ministry official reportedly told Asia Times Online that India did not have a problem with the Sri Lankan government purchasing weapons from anyone, including Pakistan. And this apparently has been made clear to the Sri Lankans.
What is of concern to New Delhi, however, is that "as Sri Lanka's relationship with Pakistan deepens, the Lankan government is moving further and further away from pursuing a negotiated settlement of the conflict."
Delhi's quarrel with the Lankan-Pakistani defence deals is that "it has encouraged Colombo to persist with the military option to tame the Tigers, rather than pursue a political settlement that meets the aspirations of the Tamil people while retaining the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka."
What has set alarm bells ringing in Delhi now are reports that Pakistani air force personnel are deeply involved in directing Colombo's air strikes on Tamil areas.
B. Raman, a former director of RAW, has pointed out that "about 12-15 members of the Pakistani armed forces, including four or five from the Pakistan air
force, are stationed in Colombo to guide the Sri Lankan security forces in their counter-insurgency operations. The Pakistan air force officers have reportedly been guiding the SLAF officers in effectively carrying out air-mounted operations against the LTTE. They have also been reportedly involved in drawing up plans for a decapitation strike from the air, with bunker-buster bombs, to kill (LTTE Leader Velupillai) Pirapaharan."
"Not only are the Pakistanis guiding the air operations, there are reports too that Pakistani pilots are flying SLAF jets," an Indian official alleged according to the online publication.
The bombing of civilian targets could have been carried out by some of these pilots, he pointed out.
Even at the start of the armed conflict in the 1980s, India had been wary of any move by the Sri Lankan government to inject foreign military personnel or allow the setting up of 'listening posts' in any part of the island, especially the northeast, given its proximity to Indian shores. "Delhi had made this clear to the Lankans
decades ago, and the Lankans have in the past been mindful of Indian sensitivities on the subject," said the Defence Ministry official.
This respect for Indian sensitivities appears to have diminished considerably in recent years. Indian officials claim that Pakistani personnel have been involved in planning offensives against the LTTE since 2003.
Sri Lanka launched air strikes on the Jaffna Peninsula as far back as 1986. That the Lankans and the Pakistanis would work together in militarily stamping out the insurgency in the island's north and east is therefore not surprising. The embrace has been mutually beneficial. It has provided Colombo with Pakistan's military muscle.
And it has provided Pakistan an opportunity to sit at India's southern doorstep.
This is a concern for India. For years India has watched Pakistan encourage anti-India activities on the soil of its other neighbours - Bangladesh and Nepal, for instance. Now this is happening in Sri Lanka - long regarded by India as its sphere of influence - as well.
India is concerned that Pakistan's influence on Sri Lanka's counter-insurgency operations will grow. Islamabad's new envoy in Colombo is Air Vice Marshal Shehzad Aslam Chaudhry, who recently retired as the deputy chief of air staff (operations) of the Pakistani air force. He is believed to be the architect of the air strikes
launched on Balochistan last year and is said to have drawn up the plans of the operation that resulted in the recent killing of Baloch leader Nawab Bugti. Colombo it is believed could draw on his expertise in aerial bombing of insurgency-racked areas.
Blackout if salary increments are not met, warns CEB union
By Nirmala Kannangara
More than 13,000 employees of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) are to go on a sick note campaign on Friday (29) to protest against the government's failure to pay the promised salary increments.
In the event of a further delay in granting the increment CEB employees are to stage a token strike in the coming week.
CEB employees were due to get their salary increase from January but considering the country's present situation the unions claim they did not raise the issue but as a result of the escalation of the cost of living (CoL), CEB employees are now demanding
the increment or to pay an allowance of Rs. 5000 to meet the rising CoL.
"Unlike any other institution the CEB workers receive salary increments once in three years and the employees were to receive the increased salary from January 2006, but the government has so far failed to pay the increments over which the CEB employees are agitating since August," claimed Convenor, Lanka Viduli Sevaka
Sangamaya, Ranjan Jayalal.
Power and Energy Minister John Seneviratne last month had assured the CEB employees that the increased salary would be paid before September 7, but since failing to do so a massive protest was held last week with the participation of more than 10,000 CEB employees to pressurise the
government to pay the allowance or their increment with the September salary.
"Minister Seneviratne is adamant in this regard. We waited for nine months to get our dues but still he wants us to stay for two more weeks.
"At a time when the CoL is skyrocketing how can the working class survive with the salary decided in 2003? The government should understand the workers' plight. If the Minister cannot interfere then we have to show the might of the CEB workers by leaving the country in total darkness," Jayalal pointed out.
CMC introduces eco schools project targeting students
By Risidra Mendis
The Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) has introduced an eco schools project to encourage school children to collect and dispose of recyclable waste.
A decision to introduce this programme in Colombo schools was taken by the CMC to reduce the quantity of solid waste generated in the city.
The CMC introduced the eco schools project at St John's School, Mattakkuliya on September 21 and at Sangaraja Maha Vidyalaya, Panchikawatte next month.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader Director (Engineering) Solid Waste Management, CMC Lalith Wickramaratne said at present the eco schools project has been introduced in Dudley Senanayake Vidyalaya, Narahenpita.
"At present 670 tonnes of garbage is collected by the CMC per day. By introducing this programme to schools we hope to reduce the collection of garbage to 600 tonnes per day in the next two years," Wickramaratne said.
Wickramaratne stressed that teachers have been adviced to encourage children to separate paper, polythene, glass and plastic at their homes.
"The teachers advice students to bring these recyclable waste to the school. The idea is to educate students and for students to educate their parents to separate these waste products. The CMC will give students a small prize for collecting and disposing of recyclable waste in this manner," Wickramaratne also added.
Wickramaratne added that depending on the quantity, the CMC will collect the waste products once a week or once a month from these schools.
"The eco schools project will reduce environmental pollution, reduce the cost of garbage collection by the CMC and encourage the future generation to dispose of solid waste in a methodical manner. Any schools interested in following this programme can contact me," Wickramaratne said.