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Archive for April 8th, 2008

  • Holy statue shifted deep into Tiger Land
  • LTTE digging for a fight in the holy shrine, alleges Army

In the mid 16th century, the miracles of St. Francis Xavier induced the Mannarites (people of Mannar) to sent a deputation to South India, seeking the saint to come to them.
His other obligations prevented himself from visiting, yet, St Francis Xavier sent them a priest who bore his name. Over 600 men, women and children embraced the new faith and “most of them sealed with their blood their belief in Jesus Christ,” states the documents at the Mannar Diocese about the origin of Christianity in ancient Sri Lanka.
This new religion withstood a slaughter of new converts which was carried out on the orders of Sankily, the then King of Jaffna.
By 1583, the number of Christians rose to 43,000 with 26 churches.
One of these churches were situated in Mantai, a village on the mainland and about six miles from Mannar. That church was the original home of the statue of Our Lady of Madhu, which at that time was called Our Lady of Good Health.

For centuries, people gathered annually from the four corners of Sri Lanka at the feet of Our Lady of Madhu, one of the most sacred shrines for Catholics around the country.
Yet, on Thursday night, the disturbing news reached Colombo. The statue of Our Lady of Madhu was removed from the holy shrine as fighting flared up in the close proximity to the shrine.
The Mannar Bishop Reverend Rayappu Joseph instructed the removal of the statue of Our Lady of Madhu on Wednesday afternoon. The statue was taken to the Church of St Francis the Saviour at Thevampiddi in Vellankulam on A 32 road.
On the afternoon, Bishop Rayappu Joseph telephoned Major General Jagath Jayasuriya, the Mannar operational commander to inform of the removal of the holy statue; some security sources alleged that the Bishop was under pressure from the LTTE to move the statue. However, these claims cannot be independently verified.

Painful decision

“This is the first time Our Lady of Madhu has become a refugee in her own land. She has been giving shelter to IDPs, “ Bishop Rayappu Joseph was quoted as saying in the pro- rebel Tamilnet website.
The Bishop earlier told the Media that the church administration was compelled to “ take the painful decision” due to the deteriorating security situation in the area.
Last week, fighting flared up in the vicinity of the church. The Army said three Tiger cadres who surrendered last week had confessed about the presence of the LTTE in the premises of the holy shrine. The three men who surrendered in Kattiadampan had revealed that three battle hardened Tiger units- the Ratha Regiment, Malathy Regiment and Charles Anthony Regiment had a strong presence in the church premises.
The Army said the Tigers were firing heavy calibre guns from close proximity to the church with the sinister motive of drawing counter- battery fire which could hit the church.

The LTTE on its part, blamed the security forces of shelling the Madhu church.
“Sinhalese armed forces are indiscriminately shelling the vicinity of the Madhu Shrine and thus turning the shrine which is sacred to Catholics into a battlefield. The LTTE vehemently condemn the Sri Lankan Government for giving a free reign to its Army and unleashing it in an area that should be free of hostilities according to warfare ethics and UN convention, “ LTTE political leader P.Nadeshan said in a statement.
Early last week, as fighting flared up on the boundary of the No Fire Zone of the Holy Shrine, several thousand civilians staged a peace march in Mannar appealing to the two warring parties to respect the sanctity of the holy shrine and to consider its surroundings as a “peace zone”
“Shells are falling within the Church premises several times and many of those staying there have been compelled to leave, while priests and the other church workers who are still remaining, live in fear and are being forced to seek shelter in bunkers,” Bishop Rayappu Joseph, said in an appeal. On Tuesday, shells fell into the residential quarters of the clergy. However, no casualties were reported. The Army blamed the LTTE for the attack.
The Murukkan hospital located in the security forces controlled area came under shelling from the LTTE. One 120 mm mortar shell fell into the hospital and damaged a new building, situated in a congested area with a number of state buildings including a centre for Internally Displaced Persons,(IDP’s) the Army said.
On Friday, the Commander of the Army, Lt. General Sarath Fonseka visited Vavuniya to oversee military operations in the Wanni front.

Torrential rains

General Fonseka made inquiries regarding torrential rains that inundated operational areas, the sudden outbreak of viral diseases and its effects on the soldiers. He also took stock of developments in the areas where fighting patrols are engaged while Engineer troops are busy unearthing booby traps and explosive devices. Division, Brigade and Unit Commanders were present on the occasion to listen to their Commander.
A military official claimed that the security forces had satellite images and electronic evidence to prove that the Tigers had been firing from the No fire Zone of the Holy shrine. He said satellite pictures had shown one 122 mm artillery gun positioned in the No Fire Zone.
The Army alleged in the past that the Tigers were digging for a fight inside the No Fire Zone. Thus the military strategy was to surround the premises of the holy shrine and cut off the supply route of the Tiger cadres by capturing Palampiddi, which is located 4 km North of Madhu.
Last week, 572 Brigade advanced towards Palampiddi from the direction of Mullikulam. The troops are positioned 2 1/2 km from Palampiddi.
The 571 Brigade which has positioned itself 1 km from Madhu is expected to advance towards Madhu. Troops of this brigade captured Sinnapandirichchan and Periyapandirichchan two weeks ago. On Wednesday, troops beat back an LTTE attempt to recapture Sinnapandirichchan.
“The enemy transmissions said eleven of their cadres were killed and five more injured as a result of this clash,” the Media Centre for National Security said. These figures could not be independently verified. A body of a slain Tiger cadre was recovered and later handed over to the ICRC.
Two soldiers were killed and eleven wounded in the same clash.
On Friday, MI 24 attack helicopters of the Sri Lanka Air Force bombed a suspected mortar launching pad of the LTTE in Anandakulam.
In the Northern front, fighter jets bombed a high value Tiger training base in Pullopalai, South East of Muhamalai.
In the Mannar front, the 58 Division is advancing northeast from Thirukethiswaram Kovil and have positioned themselves ahead of Pallaikuli. Another unit captured Ilanthivan, north east of Pallaikuli. Sporadic Fighting still continues north of Manthai. Another unit of the 58 Division is advancing along the A 32 road.
Many in the political and military establishment are disappointed that the holy statue of Our Lady of Madhu was relocated to the deep insides of ‘Tiger land’. It could have been better if the statue was brought to Bishops’ House in Mannar or Vavuniya, quipped a military official. Yet, it was not to be.
These subtle gestures speak of the total absence of mutual trust between the Tamils and the government. Those in the upper echelons should face up with the bitter reality. But, sadly, they seem to prefer their own interpretation of events over the bitter truth.

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Sri Lankan soldiers patrol along the ‘de facto’ frontline at Muhamalai in the Jaffna Peninsula north of Colombo. Sri Lankan war planes bombed a suspected Tamil Tiger suicide bomber base Monday, a day after a suspected guerrilla blew up a government minister, the defence ministry said.

Sri Lankan soldiers patrol along the ‘de facto’ frontline at Nager Kovil in the Jaffna Peninsula, north of Colombo, on April 6. Sri Lankan war planes bombed a suspected Tamil Tiger suicide bomber base Monday, a day after a suspected guerrilla blew up a government minister, the defence ministry said.

Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) fighter jets bombed a black tiger training facility located in LTTE held territory north west of Mankulam today. The air raid which was launched at 6.15AM was reported to be accurate by fighter pilots.

LTTE is known to train its black tiger human bombers in isolation from other elements of the organization. Black tiger training bases are strategically placed so that the interactions with the outer world is kept to a minimum. Black tigers (Karum Puli) are considered to be LTTE’s primary weapon with over 275 suicide attacks under their belt, both on civilian and military targets. It was only yesterday that a suicide bomber killed a senior government minister and 14 others while injuring around 100 more, almost all civilians.

Meanwhile in the northern front, gunships of the 9th attack helicopter squadron launched attacked the LTTE frontline in Muhamalai at 6.15AM today. Although pilots have confirmed accurate hits on the bunker line, details of exact damages caused to the LTTE are not yet available.

(Defencenet)

(more…)

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The area surrounding the sacred Our Lady of Madhu Church is under siege. The Sri Lanka Army has constructed a temporary FDL in the perimeter of the general area Madhu ahead of Sinnapandivirichchian. They must now liberate Karumpeikulam to get closer to the Church. Reports indicated that Tigers were still holding civilians in this village.

All routes leading to Madhu such as the Mannar-Madhu, Uylankulam-Madhu and Thampanai-Madhu roads are under SLA control. The Army officially entered Madhu last week when the ‘Madhu Thorana’, a welcome sign erected on the Mannar-Madhu road was captured.

Unconfirmed reports indicated that the tigers from Charles Anthony, Ratha and Malathi Regiments have taken GPS coordinates of the church premises when they first entered the premises in full force last Sunday. The parish priests from Thevakutti who were among the last persons to leave the area are inaccessible to troops after they took flight towards LTTE held areas. However, civilians escaping the area have told the Army that the Tigers have booby trapped a campsite for pilgrims next to the small tank at the Madhu Church.

Meanwhile special teams are searching for two persons who entered the Yala jungle 30kms from Ethimale in Monaragala. A witness has claimed he heard shots being fired. It is still not clear whether it was the LTTE or Ganja cultivators or both that were responsible for the disappearance.

(Defencenet)

(more…)

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FOR a quarter of a century, Sri Lanka’s bloody ethnic conflict between the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils has sputtered on, with periods of all-out war and low-intensity insurgency, ill-observed ceasefires and frequent terrorist atrocities.

It had become conventional wisdom that there was no military solution. The government could not be ousted and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which had brutally monopolised the Tamil struggle, could not be defeated.

That is still conventional wisdom outside Sri Lanka. But in Colombo, the scent of victory is in the air. The outside world’s efforts to persuade the government to pursue a peaceful solution are floundering.

Indeed, so confident is the government that its foreign minister, Rohitha Bogollagama, this week gave a speech in London entitled “Post-conflict development: Efforts of a democracy”.

He was talking mainly about the east of the country, where the Tigers have been routed, thanks to a split in their own ranks. The holding of local elections in the area in March for the first time in 14 years was a fillip for the government’s self-confidence.

These elections let the government show that it was possible to “reintegrate” one part of the Tigers into mainstream Sri Lankan politics; the party formed by the breakaway Tigers, the TMVP, did quite well.

Mr Bohollagama was able to point to this as a model for the continuing conflict in the north, where the Tigers still control two of Sri Lanka’s 25 districts.

He stressed that his government was committed to a political process. But it has abrogated the ceasefire it signed with the Tigers in 2002 (which had admittedly become a largely meaningless cover for an intensifying conflict).

And he quoted approvingly the words of Britain’s foreign secretary, David Miliband, that “military victories never provide solutions, but they can provide the space for political and economic solutions to be found. And without military power, the result can be more bloodshed.”

Yet this is somewhat to misrepresent the position of Britain and most other countries on Sri Lanka. They tend to emphasise the first bit of Mr Milliband’s aphorism: that there can be no military solution.

And many are not convinced that the government of Sri Lanka is doing enough to pursue a political settlement. But they are finding it hard to influence it.

They do not want to do anything to give comfort to the Tigers, with its appalling record of murder, terrorism and extortion. So India, for example, helps the Sri Lankan army with some training and equipment.

So does America, despite having earned the wrath of Sri Lanka’s government for the State Department’s annual human-rights report, which this year highlighted the failure to curb assassinations, abductions and disappearances.

In the search for a lever over the Sri Lankan government’s policy, many eyes have lighted on an unlikely instrument: Sri Lanka’s clothing exports.

The European Union gives Sri Lanka preferential tariff treatment under a scheme known as “GSP Plus”. Largely as a result, Sri Lankan garment exports are booming: they make up half of all Sri Lanka’s exports, 67% of its industrial production and 10% its of GDP, employing 270,000 people directly and 700,000 indirectly. The EU accounts for 45% of Sri Lanka’s garment exports.

The scheme comes up for renewal this year and Sri Lanka is engaged in a campaign to ensure that the war does not get in the way.

It has even taken the initiative with a “Garments without Guilt” campaign, advertising itself as an ethical and green producer (if not necessarily the lowest-cost) without child or bonded labour, discrimination or pollution.

Loss of the tariff privileges might not have the disastrous impact the industry claims. But the battle to keep them may at least bring some benefits to those working in the industry—if not to those being killed and injured in Sri Lanka’s war.

(http://www.economist.com)

Read Full Post »

FOR a quarter of a century, Sri Lanka’s bloody ethnic conflict between the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils has sputtered on, with periods of all-out war and low-intensity insurgency, ill-observed ceasefires and frequent terrorist atrocities.

It had become conventional wisdom that there was no military solution. The government could not be ousted and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which had brutally monopolised the Tamil struggle, could not be defeated.

That is still conventional wisdom outside Sri Lanka. But in Colombo, the scent of victory is in the air. The outside world’s efforts to persuade the government to pursue a peaceful solution are floundering.

Indeed, so confident is the government that its foreign minister, Rohitha Bogollagama, this week gave a speech in London entitled “Post-conflict development: Efforts of a democracy”.

He was talking mainly about the east of the country, where the Tigers have been routed, thanks to a split in their own ranks. The holding of local elections in the area in March for the first time in 14 years was a fillip for the government’s self-confidence.

These elections let the government show that it was possible to “reintegrate” one part of the Tigers into mainstream Sri Lankan politics; the party formed by the breakaway Tigers, the TMVP, did quite well.

Mr Bohollagama was able to point to this as a model for the continuing conflict in the north, where the Tigers still control two of Sri Lanka’s 25 districts.

He stressed that his government was committed to a political process. But it has abrogated the ceasefire it signed with the Tigers in 2002 (which had admittedly become a largely meaningless cover for an intensifying conflict).

And he quoted approvingly the words of Britain’s foreign secretary, David Miliband, that “military victories never provide solutions, but they can provide the space for political and economic solutions to be found. And without military power, the result can be more bloodshed.”

Yet this is somewhat to misrepresent the position of Britain and most other countries on Sri Lanka. They tend to emphasise the first bit of Mr Milliband’s aphorism: that there can be no military solution.

And many are not convinced that the government of Sri Lanka is doing enough to pursue a political settlement. But they are finding it hard to influence it.

They do not want to do anything to give comfort to the Tigers, with its appalling record of murder, terrorism and extortion. So India, for example, helps the Sri Lankan army with some training and equipment.

So does America, despite having earned the wrath of Sri Lanka’s government for the State Department’s annual human-rights report, which this year highlighted the failure to curb assassinations, abductions and disappearances.

In the search for a lever over the Sri Lankan government’s policy, many eyes have lighted on an unlikely instrument: Sri Lanka’s clothing exports.

The European Union gives Sri Lanka preferential tariff treatment under a scheme known as “GSP Plus”. Largely as a result, Sri Lankan garment exports are booming: they make up half of all Sri Lanka’s exports, 67% of its industrial production and 10% its of GDP, employing 270,000 people directly and 700,000 indirectly. The EU accounts for 45% of Sri Lanka’s garment exports.

The scheme comes up for renewal this year and Sri Lanka is engaged in a campaign to ensure that the war does not get in the way.

It has even taken the initiative with a “Garments without Guilt” campaign, advertising itself as an ethical and green producer (if not necessarily the lowest-cost) without child or bonded labour, discrimination or pollution.

Loss of the tariff privileges might not have the disastrous impact the industry claims. But the battle to keep them may at least bring some benefits to those working in the industry—if not to those being killed and injured in Sri Lanka’s war.

(http://www.economist.com)

Read Full Post »

FOR a quarter of a century, Sri Lanka’s bloody ethnic conflict between the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils has sputtered on, with periods of all-out war and low-intensity insurgency, ill-observed ceasefires and frequent terrorist atrocities.

It had become conventional wisdom that there was no military solution. The government could not be ousted and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which had brutally monopolised the Tamil struggle, could not be defeated.

That is still conventional wisdom outside Sri Lanka. But in Colombo, the scent of victory is in the air. The outside world’s efforts to persuade the government to pursue a peaceful solution are floundering.

Indeed, so confident is the government that its foreign minister, Rohitha Bogollagama, this week gave a speech in London entitled “Post-conflict development: Efforts of a democracy”.

He was talking mainly about the east of the country, where the Tigers have been routed, thanks to a split in their own ranks. The holding of local elections in the area in March for the first time in 14 years was a fillip for the government’s self-confidence.

These elections let the government show that it was possible to “reintegrate” one part of the Tigers into mainstream Sri Lankan politics; the party formed by the breakaway Tigers, the TMVP, did quite well.

Mr Bohollagama was able to point to this as a model for the continuing conflict in the north, where the Tigers still control two of Sri Lanka’s 25 districts.

He stressed that his government was committed to a political process. But it has abrogated the ceasefire it signed with the Tigers in 2002 (which had admittedly become a largely meaningless cover for an intensifying conflict).

And he quoted approvingly the words of Britain’s foreign secretary, David Miliband, that “military victories never provide solutions, but they can provide the space for political and economic solutions to be found. And without military power, the result can be more bloodshed.”

Yet this is somewhat to misrepresent the position of Britain and most other countries on Sri Lanka. They tend to emphasise the first bit of Mr Milliband’s aphorism: that there can be no military solution.

And many are not convinced that the government of Sri Lanka is doing enough to pursue a political settlement. But they are finding it hard to influence it.

They do not want to do anything to give comfort to the Tigers, with its appalling record of murder, terrorism and extortion. So India, for example, helps the Sri Lankan army with some training and equipment.

So does America, despite having earned the wrath of Sri Lanka’s government for the State Department’s annual human-rights report, which this year highlighted the failure to curb assassinations, abductions and disappearances.

In the search for a lever over the Sri Lankan government’s policy, many eyes have lighted on an unlikely instrument: Sri Lanka’s clothing exports.

The European Union gives Sri Lanka preferential tariff treatment under a scheme known as “GSP Plus”. Largely as a result, Sri Lankan garment exports are booming: they make up half of all Sri Lanka’s exports, 67% of its industrial production and 10% its of GDP, employing 270,000 people directly and 700,000 indirectly. The EU accounts for 45% of Sri Lanka’s garment exports.

The scheme comes up for renewal this year and Sri Lanka is engaged in a campaign to ensure that the war does not get in the way.

It has even taken the initiative with a “Garments without Guilt” campaign, advertising itself as an ethical and green producer (if not necessarily the lowest-cost) without child or bonded labour, discrimination or pollution.

Loss of the tariff privileges might not have the disastrous impact the industry claims. But the battle to keep them may at least bring some benefits to those working in the industry—if not to those being killed and injured in Sri Lanka’s war.

(http://www.economist.com)

Read Full Post »

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