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Archive for November 11th, 2007

LTTE’s breakaway faction leader Vinayagamurthi Muralitharan, better known as Karuna, is likely to be deported to Sri Lanka following his arrest in London for allegedly travelling on a forged passport.

“Karuna, who was booked by the London police for travelling under a forged passport could be deported to Sri Lanka,” Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry sources said on Saturday.

Ahead of Karuna’s arrest on Friday, uncertainty about his whereabouts persisted for long, though it was widely believed that he was in the UK.

Karuna was reportedly on a self-imposed exile after an internal rift in his organisation, known as TMVP, intensified.

Technically, if he is deported, he could be arrested upon arrival to Sri Lanka and charged under immigration and emigration laws.

Unconfirmed reports said he was also in possession of a small firearm when he was arrested in the British capital.

The dissident LTTE leader formed TMVP after breaking away from rebel supremo V Prabhakaran in March 2004. For the time being, TMVP is reportedly under the command of Pullaian, an expert fighter from eastern Sri Lanka.

Karuna was often blamed for attacks on the Tiger rebels since his split from the LTTE, whose leaders accused him of working for the government to disrupt their operations.

The Tigers also charged that the Government was protecting Karuna and his loyalists to carry out attacks against the LTTE supporters.

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Persons such as Gareth Evans should not prostitute themselves

I write to congratulate Minister GL Peiris on his brilliant response to Gareth Evans’ specious argument that the international community has an obligation to intervene in an internal situation in a country when some do-gooders perceive that the legal government is not protecting its people. The grave danger is that the decision to intervene could quite possibly on the basis of some unsubstantiated and cooked up reports/ allegations of persons and organizations which have their own agenda. If not for the fact that the man was the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Australia I would have even conjectured as to whether the man was handsomely paid for his effort which undoubtedly was on behalf of the LTTE. Prof. Peiris refers to an article published recently advocating a UN military intervention and makes a very pertinent point namely that it is extremely important for the public of this country to be made aware of this threat.

We have had a series of visits by UN officials all from the west seeking to reform the natives. I am inclined to think that this could very well be a part of a diabolical plan put together by the very capable Tamil Diaspora to make out that the situation in Sri Lanka is such that it is obligatory on the part of the international community to mount a humanitarian intervention and create another Cyprus. They may perhaps think that it could be in the long term interest of India to allow this to happen for it could later indulge in a Sikkhim type exercise and incorporate the north and east of Sri Lanka into the Indian Union. These bravadoes like Evans pick on small countries to write their names in the good book, but they would dare not take on a big country or a country where their own countries have economic interests.

I am reminded of the period between 1987 July and 1991 when the IPKF was in Sri Lanka. In the period between 1983 July and 1987 July the European Parliament passed a large number of resolutions on the HR situation in Sri Lanka castigating the government but there was not a single resolution after the IPKF took on the LTTE and in the three years they spent fighting in the north and east of the country and this was not because the IPKF was scrupulously careful and ensured that there were no HR violations by them; in fact the LTTE published a three hundred page book titled “The Satanic Force’ documenting, according to them, the atrocities they alleged were committed by the IPKF. This so-called international community and Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and other such organizations said not a word, and this included the ‘Embassy watch’ in Colombo. None of these heroes were prepared to say a word against India for it was not in their interest to do so. On an earlier occasion when the Indian Air Force violated our airspace and our sovereignty, indulging in an act of gross aggression, violating international norms, not a country was prepared to condemn India for it; the European Union issued a statement faulting Sri Lanka for not settling the issue by peaceful means; this incidentally was at the time of the Vadamaarachchi operation when India bailed out the LTTE. Such are the double standards of the west. They only pick on the weak and vulnerable and it appears that many are making a living from this situation.

Evans’ statement as analyzed by Prof. Peiris serves to show that what Evans advocates is a positively dangerous ‘doctrine’, proposing naked intervention, bypassing even the Security Council! He says that it is the absolute responsibility of the government to ‘protect’ its people and if it is perceived by whoever that this responsibility is not being discharged to THEIR satisfaction (the self appointed arbiters nay ‘saviors) then coercive military action is justified ! Who is to decide? These do-gooders have arrogated to themselves the right to decide on intervening in a sovereign country.

For whose benefit does Evans propound his ‘doctrine’? He gives himself away when he states “should the war move into LTTE controlled areas in the north, it is likely to be much more fiercer than the recent fighting in the east and the impact on civilians is likely to be devastating…..” As Professor Peiris states “It is clear then that on the basis of speculative anticipation Evans contrives to present a case for prospective intervention by military means if necessary.”…Prof. Peiris goes on to state that can hardly be a more urgent reason to alert the public of Sri Lanka about the perils attendant on cavalier acquiescence in this doctrine.” To quote Prof. Peiris further “There are many dangers inherent in it. The gravest among these without question is the incurable vague and open-ended character of the suggested principle of intervention. Evans contends that the basis of the doctrine he expounds is practical and principled. Demonstrably, however the opposite is the case.”

Evans seeks to make out that if the military offensive continues the impact on civilians is likely to be devastating, in which war have civilians not suffered Mr. Evans? thirty of the fifty plus million who died in the Second World War were most unfortunately civilians. No, there can be any justification under any circumstances for civilians being targeted nor for civilian deaths consequent to conflict; Evans seeks to make out that a situation such as that in Sudan could arise which would mean that the government has been unable to protect its people and intervention by military means is justified.

Who arrogates for themselves the right to decide this Mr. Evans? Your theory can only cause more havoc than the intervention in Iraq. The one way to ensure that a situation such as that which he anticipates is avoided is for Evans and his ilk to get the LTTE to agree to laying down arms and gives up their endeavour to establish a separate state. That is indeed the role that the international community should play.

If they do that they can ensure that, in the first instance the blood-letting would stop and secondly they would have the moral authority to ensure not only that there would be no victor’s justice but could insist that the government comes up with proposals that ensure that the Tamil people can live in security, dignity and be able to decide on their destiny to the furthest possible extent compatible with the security and integrity of the country and that they also have a say and role at the center in the formulation and implementation of national policy. This is where the international community can play a helpful role, not to make veiled threats such as those made by Evans, no doubt whatsoever, at the behest of those seeking to head off the present military operation to weaken the LTTE. Persons such as Evans should not prostitute themselves. Meanwhile it is of interest to know how much the man was paid for his lecture ( the usual price I am informed is USD 10,000) and by whom in foreign exchange and where he was paid..

(www.island.lk)

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An inquiry has been ordered by the Tamil Nadu fisheries department into alleged sale of over 1,000 litres of diesel by local fishermen to banned LTTE at midsea off this coastal town, officials said here on Friday.

According to officials, 60 fishermen, who had put out to sea from here along with others in around 500 boats in the wee hours of yesterday, allegedly met LTTE cadres who came in four boats and handed over 20 litres of diesel each at a premium price (thrice the price in India).

The other fishermen brought it to the notice of the fisheries officials, they said.

Assistant Director of Fisheries Velpandian told reporters that those found guilty in the inquiry would be arrested and prosecuted and the licence for their boats would be cancelled. They would also be not given diesel supplied by the department to fishermen.

In another related incident, a group of men, wearing Sri Lankan Naval uniform, robbed some fishermen of their catch at mid-sea near Katchathivu, the fishermen told reporters.

The men, who were heavily armed, also warned the fishermen that their boats would be set ablaze if they crossed the international maritime border, they said.

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She is a tragic reminder of the cost of war. ‘Sama’, the Pinnawela elephant who lost part of her right front leg, below the knee to a land mine. Today she hops around on three legs to keep up with the other jumbos at the elephant orphanage. Veterinarians fear that her lifespan may be short as she may develop spinal problems due to her abnormal gait. Wildlife is an overlooked casualty in the country’s two-decades-long civil war. Sri Lanka’s elephant population in the war-torn areas has increasingly become victims of the war. Since the Mavilaru battle last year, nearly 15 elephants have suffered injuries after stepping on anti-personnel mines in the Eastern Province.

Anti-personnel mines damage the foot of the elephant causing an injury that doesn’t heal easily, resulting in most of them succumbing to their injuries. Two elephants had their trunks smashed, maybe while investigating the foreign objects in the soil. Reports of the wounded jumbos have come from Welikanda, Sonikattamadu, Cadjuwatta, Kanchikudichchiaru, Wadumune, Kanthalai and Vakarai areas. Wounded elephants were also reported from the Toppigala area soon after the battle. The locations of these accidents when seen on a map show that these are along the routes that the LTTE withdrew after being ousted from Mavilaru, Vakarai and Toppigala. While withdrawing, they set up anti-personnel mines that have killed the elephants.

The recent battlefields in the East are located closer to some of the populated elephant habitats. Toppigala is near the Maduru Oya National Park, Mavilaru borders the Somawathi National Park and Vakarai is near the Thikonamadu forest reserve. Elephants that know no political boundaries are becoming an unintended target.

Treating these wounded jumbos is a risky mission as veterinary surgeons have to travel to unsafe areas braving enemy fire or the danger of landmines. Often the team needs the protection of an Army convoy.

Veterinary surgeon for the Mahaweli region Dr. W.A. Dharmakeerthi recalls how he had to travel in a Unicorn combat vehicle across a suspected mine field in Toppigala to treat an injured jumbo. The wounded elephants usually go to an open area like an irrigation tank to die. The veterinary surgeons follow the elephant footmarks to avoid stepping on anti-personnel mines that are sometimes washed away when areas get flooded.

Veterinary surgeon Dr. Chandana Jayasinghe who was overseeing the north-western region has come across such injured elephants. The support of the armed forces is always sought and obtained in their treatment missions, which otherwise will be impossible to carry on, he says. However, if the support of a neutral party like the Red Cross could be extended to these veterinary surgeons, the treatment missions may be coordinated more effectively.

Like Sama at Pinnawela, the elephant transit home at Udawalawe also received an injured elephant in 2000. The three-year-old baby elephant had been injured in Thambalagamuwa at Kantalai and lost part of its heel to an anti-personnel mine. Treated by Dr. Suhada Jayawardene, it recovered to a level that it could walk on its own and was later released to Uda Walawe National Park in 2005.

Not only elephants but other animals too become casualties of war. However these cases may not be reported or they may get eaten by predators as in the case of smaller animals. Cattle are also victims of land mines, sometimes driven into the suspected mine fields as a military tactic.

Animal habitats have also been affected by the war directly or indirectly. In the war-torn North and East, the tree cover on both sides of the highways is cleared to avoid the convoys being attacked. Though this is done as a security measure, the wildlife suffers. Clearing a large area fragments the habitat and restricts the movements of the wildlife.

Habitat destruction happens not only in the North-East. Even near the Parliament complex in Sri Jayewardenepura, mangroves and other bushes in the Kotte marshes have been cleared on security grounds. This is one of the remaining wetlands in Colombo and an important habitat.

In many places, the armed conflict has penetrated deep into the protected areas of wildlife. The Wilpattu and Yala National Parks have become the latest victims. Officers assigned to protect the wildlife have also become the victims of the war, Wilpattu Park warden Wasantha Pushpananda among them. Several wildlife officers were wounded in Yala recently.

War often destroys or weakens the institutions that make inclusive and informed decisions about the environment. The northern jungles are totally out of control of the administration of the Department of Wildlife Conservation or the Forest Department. The extent of damage in these areas has not been assessed.

The magnificent tusker known as ‘Dalaputtuwa’, another indirect fatality of the armed conflict, was shot by a home-guard who was assigned to protect a border-village. Issuing of guns to those who are not given a proper training can be problematic. There is evidence that some of these guns are being used for poaching as well. Sometimes, elephants are being shot in self-defence by armed forces who are engaged in military operations who because of the war have to venture into elephant territory. Hence, until the war finishes, the problem will prevail in these areas.

However, this may be a blessing to wildlife from another angle. When the jungles become too dangerous, it may also keep the poachers out. Human activities also decline and provide a greater platform for wildlife to thrive. However, this is not the case in most areas.

The international arena offers numerous examples of the exploitation of the environment during war. During the Gulf war, dozens of oil rigs were destroyed and continued burning for months. Oil that leaked into the ocean polluted the waters and beaches, affecting marine life and birds. In Iraq, wetlands were drained to avoid rebels using them. During the Vietnam war, the US military carried out a massive herbicidal programme in Vietnam for almost a decade. Seventy two million litres of chemical spray known as Agent Orange were used to defoliate the forests which provided cover for guerrillas. The effects of these are still felt even after the wars are over.

Rare and endangered animals have no escape. Recently in the Verunga National Park in Congo, African rebels killed six gorillas, including their large silverback leader. Mountain Gorilla habitats are limited and this endangered species is trapped in the middle of an armed conflict.

The UN’s effort in declaring a day in 2002 for “Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict” is hopefully an eye-opener for all nations caught up in conflict. Amid war’s brutality, death and deprivation, the environment may seem a minor casualty. But it is an important link to the survival of the earth.

 

 

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The Government on Friday presented to Parliament the ‘Api Wenuwen Api Fund’ Bill to provide for the establishment of a fund to provide loans for the construction of houses for armed service personnel.The Bill makes provision for the formulation of schemes for the construction of houses for armed forces personnel as well as make provision for the grant of assistance to obtain and repay loans obtained by them from financial institutions.

Laws will also be formulated to ensure the repayment of the loans, in the event the armed forces personnel dies or is permanently disabled or injured in action or otherwise. President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his Budget speech on Wednesday announced the creation of the Fund and invited Sri Lankans living abroad to contribute to it. He said the Government would allocate Rs750 million to develop the necessary infrastructure for these housing complexes.

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India has assured Sri Lanka that it will look into Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake’s claim of increased LTTE activities along the Tamil Nadu coast.

“We do not have any such information. We will however discuss the matter with the Government of Sri Lanka and take appropriate action based on the information provided by the government,” an Indian High Commission Spokesman, Dinkar Asthana, said here.

The spokesman was reacting to Wickramanayake’s statement in Parliament earlier this week that the activities of the Tamil Tigers had risen along the coast of the southern Indian state.

The Sri Lankan Prime Minister made a mention of this while initiating the debate on extension of the emergency in the country for another month.

He said the Navy was able to intercept an LTTE boat carrying accessories for helicopters and remote controlled aircraft recently.

The Foreign Office officials here in the recent past have maintained that Indian government had been told about the concerns of Sri Lanka regarding LTTE’s alleged links in south India.

In a recent interview the powerful Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the brother of President Mahinda Rajapakse, had said the Sri Lanka government was “conscious of the Tamil Nadu factor in determining New Delhi’s Sri Lanka policy”.

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Sri Lankan troops killed 23 Tamil Tiger rebels in clashes in the north of the island, while a soldier was also killed in the fighting, a military spokesman said on Saturday.

The clashes, in the northern district of Vavuniya and northwestern district of Mannar on Friday, were the latest engagements in a renewed civil war between government forces and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fighters.

“Troops attacked terrorist bunkers in Vavuniya in two separate places. Intercepted communications said eight terrorists were killed,” a spokesman at the Media Centre for National security said.

The spokesman added that a further 15 rebels were killed and more than 20 wounded in a series of small arms engagements and artillery and mortar fire in Vavuniya and Mannar districts, while a soldier was also killed in the fighting in Vavuniya.

The Tigers, who say they are fighting for an independent state for minority ethnic Tamils in the north and east, said the military had exaggerated the figures.

“There is fighting regularly in those areas but the military claim is not correct, they always exaggerate the figures,” rebel military spokesman Rasiah Ilanthiraiyani told Reuters by telephone from rebel-held Kilinochchi.

There was no independent confirmation of how many people were killed in the fighting or what had happened. Military analysts say both sides tend to exaggerate enemy losses and play down their own.

The fighting follows a major battle in the Jaffna peninsula on Wednesday in which the military said they killed 60 rebels. The Tigers said 20 soldiers were killed and more than 100 wounded in the clash, and that just one of their fighters was killed.

An air strike last week killed the leader of the Tigers’ political wing in a body blow to hopes of ending the two-decade conflict soon.

The military has launched an offensive to drive out the rebels from Mannar, after evicting them from jungle terrain they controlled in the east earlier this year.

Around 5,000 people have been killed in fighting between the military and the LTTE guerrillas since early 2006. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced since the war erupted in 1983.

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