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Extinction of jellyfish likely

Environmentalists warn of consequences of over-exploitation of a natural resource

By Lakwi Perera

Jellyfish Exports……
(Update by Sunday Times, 21st September, 2008)

The jellyfish export business has caused a stir, with the government and environmentalists arguing for and against the harvesting and export of the marine creature. At a news conference last week, environmentalists said the bulk export of jellyfish was detrimental to Sri Lanka’s eco-system, while the Minister of Fisheries, Felix Perera, insisted that the processed jellyfish export trade was necessary for the country’s economy.

Jelly Fish
Jellyfish processed in Sri Lanka are exported to China. Some 20,000 fishermen make a living from the harvesting of jellyfish.

The processed jellyfish is exported to China, where it is considered a delicacy, as well as an aphrodisiac. According to environmentalists, the mass harvesting of jellyfish is harmful to the marine environment.

Environmentalist and lawyer Jagath Gunawardena told The Sunday Times that jellyfish harvesting is seasonal. Harvesting is now under way in seas off Panama and Komariya, in the Ampara district, and in the Kirinda area in Hambantota district. Under present procedures, processed jellyfish is exported on “no-objection” letters issued by the government, while a license is required to catch, process, and export jellyfish.

The Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act, No. 2, of 1996 does not cover jellyfish. Regulations covering jellyfish exports have yet to be gazetted, and this is the Fisheries Minister’s responsibility. Till then, matters relating to jellyfish come under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance and the Director General of the Department of Wildlife Conservation.

The jellyfish species exported is commonly referred to as “mushroom jelly”. It is caught in bulk by fishermen and sent for processing. The jellyfish are immersed in a mixture of alum and salt to extract their water content; in the process the creature shrinks to five percent of its original size.

More than 100 to 150 tons of jellyfish are processed daily. According to Minister Felix Perera, some 20,000 fishermen make a living from the harvesting of jellyfish. According to informed sources, Sri Lanka’s jellyfish trade is largely a monopoly controlled by three firms; two are registered as exporters of ornamental fish and plywood, and the other is a British firm.

Minister Perera maintains that marine ecosystems are not being threatened by the jellyfish trade, and denies that the ocean’s jellyfish resources were being “over-exploited”.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, Minister Perera explained that there were different species of jellyfish, and that only two species were suitable for export purposes.

Jelly Fish Tank
The jellyfish is processed by immersing catches in a mixture of alum and salt.

“These two species are available in our seas only a few weeks of the year. We have to harvest these jellyfish at this particular time, before the jellyfish shoals drift away, either towards India or the Maldives. If we don’t act in a timely way, we will lose out,” the Minister said. “The country needs foreign exchange, and this is a good source.”

A source at the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said the no-objection letters required for the export of processed jellyfish are issued at the request of the exporters, following a brief assessment conducted by the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency.

According to the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources source, the jellyfish population density is high, and there is no urgency for imposing controls on the harvesting of jellyfish.

The official also told The Sunday Times that the department had not received any jellyfish export data from the exporters. A Sri Lanka Customs official said exporters of processed jellyfish should have a permit, and that a “no-objection” letter alone was insufficient for documentation purposes.

According to the official, the first consignment of processed jellyfish for export arrived in two 40-foot containers at Colombo port in October 2007. The consignment was detained by Customs, but later released on the intervention of the then Treasury Secretary, Dr. P. B. Jayasundara, the Fisheries Minister and the Director General of Customs, Sarath Jayatilaka.

“Over-exploitation of a resource will only result in the demise of that resource,” said environmentalist Mr. Gunawardena, citing the pearl oyster, spiny lobster and sea cucumber, which have either died out or whose numbers have been much diminished by over-exploitation.

By Lakna Paranamanna

The Nation
The illegal jellyfish exporting racket discovered several months ago has once again raised its head in the suburbs of the Eastern Province.
(There at at least three operations at Arugam Bay as well at present)

Jellyfish on Beach

An environmental expert told The Nation that this trade is mostly being conducted in the lagoons of Okanda and Komariya in the Eastern Province and also in areas such as Godawana and Kirinda. “As we warned when this was conducted last time, the poachers have moved down to the southern coastal areas too,” environmental expert, Jagath Gunawardena pointed out.

“About 2,000 kg of jellyfish are being brought from the sea twice a day and this is once again causing severe damage to the coastal areas of the Eastern Province,” said Gunawardena. The jellyfish in these areas are reduced at a rate and if this continues, Gunawardena warned these animals will become extinct in these coastal areas.

Last year, the Customs Department took into custody about 15 containers which contained about 249 kg of jellyfish, which were being exported by a private firm in Ja-Ela. These jellyfish are mainly exported to China because they are considered a popular delicacy. “After several raids in areas like Tangalle, this activity was ceased for quite some time, but now it seems as if they have started it on a larger scale than before,” asserted Gunawardena.

Jellyfish Gotham

source:
http://www.nation.lk/2008/07/20/news12.htm

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Skyrocketing prices cause baby gloom

The Sunday Times
By Rohan Abeywardena

With essentials like rice, milk powder, vegetables, fish and meat increasingly going beyond the reach of many Sri Lankans, indications are already pointing to the country having acutely undernourished and wasted children.

The UNICEF office in Colombo is now gearing up to do a thorough study of the nutrition status here next month. Even the country’s staple food, rice, despite the price controls clamped on the commodity by the government recently, is selling on average nearly 80 per cent more than the prices recorded in 2007, according to the Weekly Food Commodities Bulletin published by the Agrarian Research and Training Institute.

UNICEF’s nutrition official Dr Renuka Jayatissa told the Sunday Times, the grave situation was already apparent from a just released report of a government study. The Demographic and Health Survey 2006/2007 has come up with some shocking findings.

President Rajapaksa’s home district of Hambantota is one of the worst affected. Nationally it is placed second with 20.9 percent of the district’s children being found to be acutely undernourished. The Tricomalee District is the worst affected district with 28.1 percent of its children being deemed acutely undernourished.

The other districts with sizeable percentages of children who are acutely undernourished are: Moneragala 19.8 percent, Batticaloa 19.4 per cent, Ampara (incl. Arugambay & PottuVille) 19.3 per cent, Polonnaruwa 17.9 per cent, Badulla 17.5 per cent, Matara 17.4, Anuradhapura 14.6 per cent and Galle 14.3 per cent.

Asked why districts like Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara registered such high rates of undernourishment despite there being a plethora of NGOs operating in the three districts, Dr Jayatissa said most of the NGOs were not involved in nutritional work and the high incidence was mainly the result of lots of people getting displaced due to fighting there in the last two years.

Though these shocking preliminary statistics have now been published on the Census and Statistics Department’s web site, they are couched in such technical jargon an average person may not be able to spot them. For example the acutely undernourished children are listed under the heading “below-2SD” and those who are severely undernourished are listed under “below-3SD”. And the country too has a share of severely undernourished children, with 6.8 percent of the babies below the age of six months nationally being in that category.

These figures have been arrived at after studying random sample groups of children in each district, but the UNICEF Nutrition official insisted that they were fully representative samples. Dr Jayatissa said the thorough nutritional survey would be conducted in August/September in collaboration with the World Food Prgramme and it would be reviewed every three months considering the situation in the country.
She said the problem now could be far worse and the children’s growth already affected with animal products, which provide protein and micro nutrients being very high in price. Plantation sector is considered one of the worst affected. In Nuwara Eliya alone 30 percent of the children are being born with low birth weight.

Fortunately UNICEF has already begun to reverse the sad situation in Batticaloa and Trincomalee as it had begun to observe the problem last year in the two districts. In Batticaloa, UNICEF had launched a Nutrition Rehabilitation Programme by distributing an imported high protein biscuit called BP100 among the severely malnourished through government health workers. Now government health staff is being trained in Trincomalee to launch a similar programme in the entire district from this month, Dr Jayatissa said.

Similarly, she said an Integrated Nutrition Package was being launched in the districts of Badulla, Moneragala and Nuwara Eliya, with the main focus being anemia control and improving feeding practices. It also covers a whole span from children under fiv to adolescents, pre-pregnant women, pre-natal women and lactating mothers.

Asked why they had not lined up similar projects in districts like Hambantota, the UNICEF official said no one had reported to them about the problem gripping Hambantota. And now that the Ministry of Health had requested help, the UNICEF needed three months to get down the required high protein biscuits.
Last year the UNICEF on observing wasting among children in Jaffna at about 30 per cent had reduced the problem to 11 per cent with the distribution of BP100, but the programme has been halted in the last three months due to the security situation, Dr Jayatissa lamented.

source:
http://www.sundaytimes.lk/080706/News/timesnews002.html

Storm clouds over SAARC summit

  • Police and defence spokesman go crude or cynical over attacks on journalists
  • Ranil rows through party crisis but squabbles continue
By Our Political Editor

A volley of probing questions by Muralidhar Reddy, the Colombo correspondent for India’s national newspaper Hindu, brought some revealing answers from defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella.
This week’s brutal attack on journalist Namal Perera and British High Commission staffer Mahendra Ratnaweera, the journalist noted, were not isolated ones. Perera is acting Manager, Media Advocacy and Media Freedom at the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) and Ratnaweera, Political Officer at the High Commission.

“These incidents have been occurring regularly and the Police have not got any lead. How do you ensure security during the summit later this month of leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC)? Those attending the summit could become possible targets,” he said. The loquacious defence spokesman and Minister, Rambukwella, who has “ready made” answers to questions, responded, “What does SAARC have to do with this? It could even be a personal issue.”
The assault by goons who came in a white van with tinted windows occurred barely 100 metres outside the Military Police Headquarters at Kirullapone. It was also the same distance from the Ministry of Information (and the Government Information Department) from where many a dignitary of the Government piously pontificates on media freedom and vows to protect both democracy and journalists.
Details of the latest incident appear elsewhere in this newspaper. However, Reddy’s question and the answers Rambukwella gave are among major contributory factors that have triggered off concerns in the diplomatic dovecotes of SAARC countries. With only 22 days to go for the summit, some of the key players, The Sunday Times has learnt, are re-assessing the security environment and whether the climate would be safe for their leaders.

New IGP’s assurance

In the case of the assault of the duo, as has been in many other similar incidents, contradictions in statements by those in Government are galore. Medical personnel at a private hospital were still fighting to stop blood oozing out of the wounds of Perera and Ratnaweera, when then senior DIG Jayantha Wickremeratne arrived at the scene that Monday night. In the next few hours, he was assuming duties as the Inspector General of Police.

Speaking to British High Commissioner Peter Hayes outside the rooms of the two victims on the first floor of a private hospital, Wickremaratne said Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, had sent him there. That was to assure that a full investigation would be carried out to arrest the assailants. The same assurance was given to the two victims. He said the owner of the white van had been traced. It later turned out that the number plates (with different numbers in the front and the rear) were fake. One vehicle for which the number was assigned lay at a garage with its engine removed several months earlier. Another, was from a vehicle a hundred miles away.

The bashful or hearty laughter of UNP national organizer S. B. Dissanayke in response to a remark by President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Frday may add fuel to the political rumour mill which is already awash with speculation about his political moves. Mr. Dissanayake along with Ministers Mahinda Wijesekera and Bandula Gunawardena met the President to discuss events related to the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Vidyodaya University from which the trio graduated and the President was a young library assistant.

Later, as Police Chief Wickremaratne was to tell the media it was difficult to track down white vans. At any given time over a 500 of them were moving around in city roads. The Police spokesman held another view. SSP Ranjith Gunasekera told the media that some media personnel were using reported threats or assaults to claim asylum abroad. However, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who declared open the US aided bridge at Arugam Bay said the assault was part of a conspiracy to embarrass the Government.
His remarks were to heighten concerns. If there were indeed conspirators who moved around with impunity past checkpoints and the presence of troops/policemen in the City, and could successfully evade arrest, whether security in the City of Colombo and suburbs was adequate was the question. Therefore, could those conspirators endanger the SAARC delegates and the large media contingent who will be there to cover the event?

Of course, security during SAARC has become the nightmare of the authorities. Latest proposals under consideration are to severely restrict entry and exit into the City of Colombo. Ministers and officials taking part in the SAARC summit are also likely to be booked into City hotels and provided security cover during their journey to the conference venue. Among the other security concerns for some SAARC countries is whether Tiger guerrillas will trigger any incidents either before or during the summit. Government officials have allayed their fears with assurances that fighting now is restricted to the Wanni. They have said the guerrillas will no longer be able to carry out any major attack.

Yet, the incident where the guerrillas fired at a helicopter of the Air Force VIP squadron over the skies of Kokkadicholai this week was also cause for concern. This helicopter was one of the ‘chasers’ to the helicopter in which President Rajapaksa flew for the ceremonies connected with the opening of the bridge at Arugam Bay. It had later flown to the SLAF base in Ampara (Uhana) to re-fuel when it was hit by small arms fire and forced to make an emergency landing.

Election fever

On the political front, Government leaders believe that the successful conduct of the SAARC and the “imminent successes” in the campaign against Tiger guerrillas in their stronghold of Wanni would augur well for the upcoming elections in the North Central Province and Sabaragamuwa provinces.

ominations concluded on Friday and both elections will be held on August 23. The twin issues, Government leaders argue, will be disadvantageous to the main opposition United National Party (UNP), which is already plagued by an internal crisis.

In the Opposition UNP, the rumblings seem to simmer down a bit, though its leader Ranil Wickremesinghe is not entirely out of the woods. On Tuesday, the Working Committee met, and it was former Health Minister Dr. Ranjit Atapattu from Beliatte who interrupted Wickremesinghe to ask him what the Committee of party seniors set up to study the grievances of a reformist group had come up with.

This Committee comprises those elected to Parliament in 1977 or before that, and is headed by John Amaratunga, a former Minister of Interior. Amaratunga himself was abroad, and Wickremesinghe had to stop in mid-stream and say he would deal with the subject later.

When later came, Wickremesinghe said the Committee was finalising its report, and that he was prepared to go along with its recommendations – provided there was unanimity in the way forward. Differences of opinion and pitting one against the other are now becoming legendary — and Wickremesinghe knows only too well that personality clashes will prevail over issue-based politics.
For instance, the recommendations of the three chief ‘reformists’ – Lakshman Seneviratne (Moneragala), Johnston Fernando (Kurunegala) and Jayalath Jayawardene (Gampaha) are to change the party constitution and clip the powers of the all-powerful party leader; and for the appointment of a new party chairman, deputy leader and three assistant leaders.

The vexed issue of whether Wickremesinghe should continue as both, the Opposition Leader and party leader has now been all but settled, with the demand to oust him from the latter post now fizzling out.
For party deputy leader (the post held by Karu Jayasuriya before his defection), the name recommended is incumbent party Chairman Rukman Senanayake. He was not present on Tuesday, but while there is no apparent objection to this move, the suggestion to make Joseph Michael Perera, the party chairman has run into a wall.

Jayalath Jayawardene had originally objected to this move. Both are from neighbouring constituencies of Ja-ela and Negombo, but the good doctor had later relented. However, Perera’s nomination was opposed on the grounds that he is a Catholic and the party is already under a cloud with the Buddhist majority having lost their confidence to some extent.

Then, there was the suggestion to make S.B. Dissanayake, the National Organiser who spends most of his time in Australia nowadays, Jayawickrema Perera from Kurunegala and young Sajith Premadasa from Hambantota as assistant leaders. There again, while Jayawickrama Perera was not an issue, there were some murmurs about Dissanayake because of his civic disability, and Premadasa due to his young age.

Dissanayake has been asking the leadership for a place in Parliament once his civic disability period is over – and the vacant seat of Muslim Congress (SLMC) leader Rauf Hakeem, but Hakeem seems to want to return the National Legislature, and this will put paid to Dissanayake’s re-entry to where he once held forth.

In the meantime, he has kept a line open with President Rajapaksa, earning the displeasure, and mistrust of UNPers. The point that young and not-so-young MPs who see themselves as future leaders were not even in the running for these posts – Ravi Karunanayake, Vajira Abeywardene etc., was also a matter for consternation in some quarters.

And so, the debate went on in the corridors and within the Working Committee of the Grand Old Party, and Wickremesinghe thriving on the differences said that the discussions should not revolve around persons but positions. But what he did not say, nor the party think of discussing, was that what was most important was neither persons nor positions, but the issues that the UNP had to take cognizance of if it was to reverse the losing trend, and start winning elections once again.

Lakshman Seneviratne, one of the frontline ‘reformists’ said he wanted to clarify matters. He had been talking behind closed doors that he felt the party leadership had ‘planted’ a story in a popular Sinhala daily that he was acting as the cat’s-paw for the 17 UNPers who abandoned the UNP and joined the Rajakapsa administration. Inside the Working Committee he rose to deny this, and said that he was a UNPer, would stand by the leadership and only wanted to ensure the party’s victory at future elections.
In this general state of confusion, Ranjit Atapattu, the elder statesman who raised the issue first, could only say that he had his own views to make to the Committee, and he was asked to convey them in due course. Wickremesinghe said the Committee should identify common issues and the party must come to some general agreement on these common issues, and with that neatly rode the rough waves against him to beach safely.

One of the most vociferous critics of Wickremesinghe, Johnston Fernando, a former Youth and Sports Minister had his lips sealed. There was not a word, not a hum from him right through the proceedings. Clearly, someone had advised him to keep mum.

Campaign funds

As the coming weeks will see heightened activity in the Sabaragamuwa and North Central Provinces in view of the August 23 elections, it was natural for the party hierarchy to discuss how best they were going to meet the challenge.

For the NCP, the UNP had a fairly powerful candidate in Major-General (Ret.) Janaka Perera, who was returning from Australia (this is not a new phenomena – most modern Sri Lankan politicians, Government and Opposition, seem to be having homes in foreign lands and politicking here) to his baptism in politics.
Perera had been testing the murky political waters for some time, dipping his toe, and running back to Australia. But now he has committed himself to the deep end of Sri Lankan politics, and he has taken upon himself an assignment no second to those he would have faced fighting the LTTE during his career in the army.

Before his arrival in Colombo, Perera has been asking whether he will have the financial resources from the party to mount what would be a fairly expensive campaign. He was assured party funds, but later began complaining that tight-fisted party managers were depriving him of funds. Now that he has got some of it, he has been told not to squander all of it in the first month itself, and to save some for closer to the polls date.

To face fire with fire, the government has put forward a wounded soldier, the sole survivor of the 1992 deaths of the country’s top-most Generals in the island of Kayts off Jaffna. This is proof that the government is not taking Maj-Gen. Perera’s entry into politics from the UNP lightly.

Sabragamuwa scenario

The UNP’s nominees for the Sabaragamuwa province however had a little coup de theatrics. Taken unaware by the announcement of the election, the UNP was obviously caught flat-footed. Its MPs from the area, Ms. Thalatha Atukorale and Dunesh Gankanda were thrust into the forefront by the party in the absence of a second rung of politicians. Atukorale had just returned from a visit to the US, and neither she nor Gankanda were keen to sacrifice their parliamentary seats, even if it meant being an apparent Chief Minister candidate for the entire province.

In to this vacuum, actor Ranjan Ramanayake threw his hat in from the blues – or in this case, the greens. According to party insiders, his candidature has been supported by Sudath Chandrasekera, a personal friend of his, and who wears the hat of private secretary to Wickremesinghe. A press interview had been arranged for Ramanayake where he said he was willing to come forward.

The party leadership, desperately searching for a team leader for Sabaragamuwa was delighted at the response. Atukorale and Gankanda were the first to lend their support, but it seemed that was more to get out of the situation themselves rather than any love for Ramanayake.

Former Diyawadana Nilame Neranjan Wijeyeratne also offered to contest if he was to be given the Chief Ministership should the UNP win. His long years as DN of the Sri Dalada Maligawa, the temple of the Tooth, would stand him in good stead in a mainly Sinhala-Buddhist province, whose centre of gravity is the holy Maha Saman Devale’ in Ratnapura.

However, Wijeyeratne’s candidature was shot down as soon as it took off. Those supporting Ramanayake, who ironically hails from the Catholic belt of Katana in the western province, with no connections whatsoever in Sabaragamuwa argued that should Wijeyeratne contest, the incumbent DN, Neelanga Dela Bandara would throw his weight against Wijeyeratne.

This is going on the basis that Bandara will not otherwise throw his weight behind the Rajapaksa administration, which fully backed his own candidacy when he was elected for the post he now holds.
The UNP hierarchy insists that Ramanayake can win the youth vote and with the traditional party votes, can make the difference.

Others think otherwise, and fear the party coming a cropper. To make matters worse, the party left out an up-and-coming grass-root level politician named Manju, a Praadeshiya Sabha member from Mawanella, whose inclusion was reportedly objected to by Kabir Hasheem, MP from Mawanella.

The UNP has to contend with some heavy-weights like Ministers John Seneviratne, Pavitra Wanniarachchi, Susantha Punchinilame and Mahinda Ratnathillake, seasoned politicians working the government machinery in the province.

The UNP was crowing over the fact that Punchinilame’s brother cum private secretary is going to be a UNP candidate. “He has crossed over”, said one prominent UNPer, but others said that the Punchinilames are UNPers anyway, just that Susantha Punchinilame joined the government, and it makes good insurance policy to hedge the bets.

The UNP also appointed two committees to spearhead the campaign in the two provinces. Rukman Senanayake will be the chief campaign coordinator for the North Central Province with Gamini Jaywickrema Perera being the Anuradhapura district coordinator and Lakshman Kiriella being the Polonnaruwa District coordinator. Others in the NCP campaign committee are Sajith Premadasa, P. Harrison, Earl Gunasekera, Chandrani Bandara and Dr. R. John Pulle.

The UNP’s Sabaragamuwa campaign committee is headed by National Organiser S. B. Dissanayake with Ravindra Samaraweera being the Kegalle District coordinator and John Amaratunga Ratnapura coordinator.

Others in the Sabaragamuwa campaign committee are: Thalatha Athukorale, Kabir Hashim, Dunesh Gankanda, Champika Premadasa and P. D. Kurukulasinghe. Not to be distracted though from the main objective of the Opposition, to oppose the government especially in Colombo, the UNP has also worked in a frenzy-like mood.

It has appointed its Kandy leader Lakshman Kiriella to ‘carry the party message’; Wickremasinghe himself will take charge of the ‘Ops Room’; there will be people tasked for ‘Fund Raising’; and next Wednesday (July 9) they will start recruiting volunteers who will take an oath to engage in Gandhian style (or JR style?) non-violent protest “until freedom is obtained”, as one party leader acclaimed.

Meanwhile, the violence has already begun. In Anuradhapura, three UNPers have been attacked, and in the recently liberated Dimbulagala, a sub-inspector of police and a police party arrived to arrest a UNP organiser – one policeman wearing the telephone number of the Opposition leader on his uniform lapel instead of a real number.
source:
http://www.sundaytimes.lk/080706/Columns/political.html

Security concerns hold back foreign traveller to the East

By Dilrukshi Fernando

The tourism industry is expected to thrive on a targeted paltry figure of around 1000 domestic tourists in an effort to boost travel to the East within the next quarter, a top government official told the Daily Financial Times yesterday.

The expected number is relatively low due to security concerns which is a factor preventing domestic tourists from touring the area, the official added.

“The Ministry of Tourism hopes to engage in large scale infrastructure development and transportation to ensure a growth,” the official said. The reason for targeting domestic tourists is a stratagem adopted by the Ministry of Tourism and the Sri Lanka Tourist Board (SLTB) through which they hope to reach the international market, the official pointed out.

With emphasis on the Eastern Province, a decline in tourist arrivals has been recorded in the Southern District. However the figures show a growth of 8.6% when compared with 2007 according to Tourism Ministry Secretary George Michael. “Last year the number of tourist arrivals for March stand at 35,031 while this year it is 38, 049,” he pointed out adding that the existing travel advisories and the prevalent security situation in Colombo might be discouraging factors. “The industry has made plans to have round table discussions regarding this matter and we hope to meet in Hambantota in June to hold discussion with officials from the hotel trade, representatives from the Chambers of Commerce and Small and Medium Enterprise officials,” he added.

In the meantime the transportation sector is to be developed by enabling railway facilities for domestic tourists at Arugam Bay according to Deputy Minister for Tourism, Faizer Musthapha. His comments came at the monthly discussion on tourism held at the Ministry yesterday. “The ministry plans to work closely with the Provincial Council which plans to fund certain projects of the Tourism Ministry and SLTB. Finances will also be directed from donor funds.

The tourist police will be deployed in the resorts to ensure the safety of the tourists. A comprehensive website including information of the Arugam bay tourism prospects can be located at www.arugambay.com.

Meanwhile, in a technologically advanced initiative a web cam project will be initiated to monitor the wave pattern of the Arugam Bay which is considered one of the top ten surfing destinations in the world. “Through this project, surfing enthusiasts all over the world can access the facility on the internet and tour the island for the much loved sport,” Musthapha added. Plans also are underway to bring back the international surfing competition currently held in the Maldives back to Sri Lanka.

Steps will also be taken to work closely with the fishing community in the area and ensure that they are provided with basic toilet facilities. A hotel school will also be set up in the areas of Uppuweli and Arugam Bay on government property. “This is part of the long term programmes while short term plans include training and skills development of youth whose employment in the Middle East will be ensured,” Roy Jayasinghe said. A programme to launch a tourist guide training programme and a ‘Home Stay’ programme where housewives will be trained on how to entertain guests will also be part of the steps to be taken to boost the Eastern Tourism industry.

source:
http://www.dailymirror.lk/DM_BLOG/Sections/frmNewsDetailView.aspx?ARTID=15541

He loved the wilds as much as he loved people

Tony Gabriel

This appreciation is about Tony Gabriel in the last ten years of his life, when he resumed his love of the jungles and wildlife parks by joining ‘Venture Forth’, a group of ten whose only claim for recognition is that they all came from the same stables, and consequently have the same sense of values. Others will write about his great achievements as a surgeon, of his versatility as an actor, and his pride and joy of being a Volunteer Medical Officer in the Sri Lanka Army, where he retired as a Colonel and the Commanding Officer of the Sri Lanka Army Medical Corp (Volunteers).

Tony Gabriel was a unique character. He played many parts in life, and in all of them achieved a rare degree of distinction. As a young lad he was taken by his father to all parts of the country – the East coast, Trincomalee, Arugam Bay and down to Kumana; the wildlife parks of Yala, Udawalawe, Wilpattu and Minneriya; Continue reading ‘He loved the wilds as much as he loved people’

Local bombs to kill elephants

An elephant has died in Hambantota after an explosive device which it swallowed exploded inside its mouth. This is the eleventh elephant death due to this locally made device called by ‘Hakka Patas’, reported from the area in the last few months, the Forest Department officials said. The farmers coat the bombs with animal fodder.
source:

http://www.dailymirror.lk/DM_BLOG/Sections/frmNewsDetailView.aspx?ARTID=6173

Arugam Bay Master Plan

Rebuilding Sri Lanka for Tourists:
A Report on the Latest Situation
Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR), Sri Lanka

After the December 2004 tsunami struck, devastating the countries of South and Southeast Asia, the Sri Lankan government moved quickly to announce the launch of a grand plan not just to rehabilitate the affected areas but to rebuild the whole country. They have since gathered commitments of over $3 billion from the international financial institutions and foreign governments to carry this out.

Within days of the disaster, the government had announced that people should not rebuild their houses on the coast. Within weeks, an exclusion zone of up to 200 metres inland from the coast had been announced, displacing fisherfolk and other coastal communities from their land and effectively severing them from their livelihoods. Shortly afterwards, exceptions were announced for tourist businesses, and the government has been talking about the need to promote tourism. In the meantime, non-governmental agencies have been carrying out almost all of the work in cleaning up the destroyed areas, building temporary shelters, regenerating livelihoods and so on.

The Sri Lanka Tourist Board website says, “In a cruel twist of fate, nature has presented Sri Lanka with a unique opportunity, and out of this great tragedy will come a world class tourism destination.” However, this “unique opportunity” seems to be reserved solely for developers and those who can afford a “world-class tourist destination,” but for the majority of tsunami survivors, the opportunity for rebuilding their lives with dignity and sustainability will be lost. For them, the “cruel twist of fate” was not in the tsunami, but lies in the government’s tourist- and business-oriented rebuilding plan.

The Master Plans: Arugam Bay, a Blueprint for Sri Lanka

Plans are now being developed to transform 15 coastal towns all around the island into tourist resorts as part of the post- tsunami rebuilding process. The 15 towns under discussion, Wadduwa, Beruwala, Bentota, Hikkaduwa, Galle, Unawatuna, Koggala, Matara, Hambantota, Tangalla, Yala, Arugam Bay, Passikuddah, Nilaweli and Kalpitiya, have been singled out for redevelopment according to different themes.

The first plan to emerge was that for the redevelopment of Arugam Bay, a small town nestled on the edge of a 300 hectare lagoon on the east coast of Sri Lanka, which just happens to be one of the best surfing spots in the world with beautiful beaches. There are indications that this will serve as a model for all the other areas.

Redevelopment Plans “ Grandiose and Inappropriate”

The Arugam Bay Resource Development Plan covers a stretch of land 17km by 5km between Komari and Panama, including Pottuvil Town. It envisages the total reorientation of the area away from the current fishing and agricultural communities, supplemented by seasonal guesthouses, into a large development of hotels (“low cost budget windsurfer to 5-star tourist”), a commercial centre (“shoppers’ paradise”), a yachting marina, floating plane pier and helipad. According to the plan, while only 9 out of 25,000 hectares are currently being used for tourism, this figure is set to increase exponentially through the redevelopment.

Consultants contracted to work on the redevelopment admit that they, “have drawn heavily upon past plans (esp. the Tourism Master Plan)…which was widely recognised as being ‘ grandiose’ and ‘inappropriate’,” referring to a report of the Asian Development Bank. The disconnect between the planned development and the interests of the people is illustrated in the following quote, ‘the location of the helicopter pad near the new pedestrianised road will bring a new vibrant life in to Arugam Bay town centre’.

Government Coercion Forces Out Coastal Communities

In the name of “ redevelopment,” the Sri Lanka Tourist Board is ready to acquire not only all the land within the buffer zone declared by the Taskforce for Rebuilding the Nation (TAFREN) of 200 metres from the high tide line, but also a stretch up to a kilometre wide running along 3 kilometres of the coast beyond the buffer zone, as well as a belt of land over 600 metres wide in places around the edge of the lagoon. In addition, an area of sea next to the lagoon entrance will be appropriated for the yachting marina and a strip across the middle of the lagoon for the floating plane landing pier.

This proprietary sentiment was reflected in statements made by the Sri Lanka Tourist Board Chairman at a meeting organised by Sewalanka Foundation between the community and the Sri Lanka Tourist Board. Saying, “The land belongs to the government. Maybe your forefathers lived in that area, but the 860 acres belongs to the government. It will be developed as a tourist zone. We will put up buildings and develop the area and we will ask you to come and work there… After I became the Chairman I captured 5,000 acres of land for the Tourist Board. My target is 15,000 acres,” the Chairman left no room for doubt about the true nature of the plans for reconstruction.

There are plans for new housing for the estimated 5,000 displaced families in 5 separate inland locations, in all cases behind areas zoned off for tourism. These resettlements are located well over 1km from both the sea and the lagoon, which are rendered practically inaccessible by the new tourist infrastructure. The plan proposes to allocate houses in the resettlement districts by drawing lots, and there is blatant coercion to move from the government, saying through the Tourist Board that “these houses will be given to people who support our program.” Further threats from the Tourist Board hint at state oppression of non- compliants, threatening communities that “if you built any illegal structures in Arugam Bay, the army and the police will have to come and remove them.”
The document also says that the over 70 existing guesthouses and numerous other small enterprises that will have to be relocated would, if they were already registered businesses, be given the option of leasing land within the zones for a period of up to 30 years, while unregistered businesses would have no such rights. None of the businesses will receive compensation.

$80 Million of Tsunami Funds Spent on Creating a “Tourist Paradise”

The initial investment in the planned development is estimated at $80 million. Of that, $50 million is earmarked for a bridge over Arugam Lagoon, which according to the plan “will stand as an inspirational symbol that shows progress towards the achievement of prosperity for Arugam Bay” as “the gateway to a tourist paradise.”

Another $5 million is allocated for a new road around Arugam Lagoon, and $20 million is proposed for the construction of the new inland townships of 2,500 houses each. The remaining $5 million is slated for water supply and sanitation systems in the new townships and the tourist zone. The cost of the other proposed infrastructure, such as the floating plane pier and helipad, is not yet included in the overall plan, although it is stated in the document that such amenities will have to be funded either by investment by the government or from NGOs.

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What else could $80 million do?

The government has decided to stop the weekly food grant of 200 rupees in cash and 175 rupees in rations for the 881,000 people affected by the disaster. $80 million would be sufficient to extend this relief for all for another 6 months.

The government has only started to build 1,659 permanent houses to replace the 41,393 that were completely destroyed, a mere fraction of the housing desperately needed by tsunami victims. $80 million would be enough for 32,000 families to build houses.

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Redevelopment Plan Conceived in Isolation

The plan was apparently initiated independently by the Rebuild Sri Lanka Trust, which was set up in the aftermath of the tsunami by 4 individuals and started working in the Arugam Bay area as a “non- political private sector initiative.” The Trustees include the managing director of Maxim Ltd., a garment manufacturing company; a senior partner in a Colombo law firm, specialising in foreign investment, infrastructure development advisory services and real estate; the Managing Director of Expolanka Freight Ltd, a transport services company; and a retired doctor.

The Rebuild Sri Lanka Trust had within a month of the tsunami contracted a series of consultants to work on the plan. These are Dutch engineering consultants Arcadis; ECOPLAN-Z Limited from New Zealand; and EML Consultants from Sri Lanka. All of these consultants are involved in or are directly linked to work on large Asian Development Bank or World Bank infrastructure projects. The local company, EML Consultants, according to their website, normally works in facilitating US investment in water and environmental services, in carbon trading and in the promotion of plantation agriculture and floriculture.

The plan was finalised in late April of this year, and states that at the time of writing the President had already given approval, and was “keen to see the action projects proposed in the report are implemented without delay.” In fact, USAID had already published a presolicitation notice for a contract to construct the bridge, road, water supply scheme and wastewater system in Arugam Bay by 8th April 2005, and hosted a pre-bid conference for potential contractors in Colombo on 10th May 2005.

The first the residents of Arugam Bay heard of the plan was at a meeting organised by the Sri Lanka Tourist Board and Sewalanka Foundation in Colombo on 17th May 2005, nearly a month after the plan had been approved and finalized by the government, and more than a month after the USAID presoliciation notice was issued.

An assessment of the plan carried out by Arcadis said “the most important shortcoming is that it has largely been produced in isolation in Colombo, with little or no stakeholder involvement. It is evident that the team spent only two days in Pottuvil – Arugam Bay, and apart from the GA officer in Ampara and the DS in Pottuvil, they met only with INGO staff.”

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Business Interests at the Top

The plan falls under the remit of the Taskforce for Rebuilding the Nation (TAFREN), an extra-governmental body functioning under the authority of the President. TAFREN is headed by 10 business leaders, at least 5 of whom own or manage companies that operate beach hotels.

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For Tsunami Victims, Another “Cruel Twist of Fate” In Store

The picture that is becoming clearer by the day shows that the direction being taken in the post-tsunami rebuilding is completely counter to the interests of those people who have suffered in the disaster. They are being driven off their land and out of their livelihoods in the name of a grand plan for the ‘modernisation’ of the country.

This process started long before tsunami, but it is now being pushed with the weight of the $3 billion the government has gathered in the name of the tsunami victims. If all of the 15 tourist townships require an investment of $80 million, the cost will be $1.2 billion, or a massive 40% of the total amount committed. If all of the 15 tourist township plans follow the model of Arugam Bay, the number of families pushed out to make way for hotels, yachting marinas, helipads and floating plane landing strips could be well over 75,000.

source:

http://www.50years.org/cms/ejn/story/274

published September, 2005 – but only found on the net now, January, 2008

Reconsider your need to travel to Sri Lanka !

Safety and Security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General Advice to Australian Travellers.

Civil Unrest/Political Tension

We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Sri Lanka at this time because of ongoing civil unrest, the volatile security situation and the very high risk of further attacks by the LTTE. There have been attacks against aid workers. Attacks occur frequently and further attacks can happen at any time, anywhere in Sri Lanka, including the south. Australians could inadvertently become victims of violence directed at others.
Tensions between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are high. There has been a significant escalation in the number of serious incidents of politically motivated violence, including in tourist areas in the centre and south of the country. On 2 January 2008, the Government of Sri Lanka announced it would withdraw from the ceasefire agreement it signed in 2002 with the LTTE. The security situation could deteriorate further without warning.
You should pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media and other local information sources for information about possible new safety or security risks.
On 27 November 2006, the LTTE indicated that it would pursue an independent state through renewed struggle rather than negotiation. Road access to the north of the country, including to Jaffna, has been restricted because of intermittent fighting at Muhamalai. A State of Emergency was declared by the Government of Sri Lanka on 13 August 2005 following the assassination of the Foreign Minister and remains in effect. The State of Emergency gives additional powers to security forces including the authority to establish road blocks and impose curfews. Further powers were given to the security forces under emergency regulations introduced in December 2006.
Air and ground attacks in late 2007 in areas held by the LTTE escalated the conflict in the north. On 2 November 2007, the LTTE announced that the leader of its political wing was killed in an aerial attack by the Sri Lanka Air Force. These events may increase the risk of further attacks by the LTTE in any part of Sri Lanka, including Colombo.
On 5 December 2007, 15 civilians on a public bus in North Central Province were killed and 23 injured in a roadside bomb attack.
On 28 November 2007, an explosion in a clothing shop in a Colombo suburb killed 20 civilians and injured 34. These attacks appear to have targeted civilians. Also on 28 November 2007, a suicide bombing at a government ministry in central Colombo killed two people and injured a further two. On 2 January 2008, a roadside bomb targeting a military bus killed four people and injured 23 in central Colombo. The majority of those killed and injured were civilians. On 8 January 2008, a Sri Lankan government minister was killed and 10 civilians injured in a roadside bomb attack targeting the minister’s convoy. The attack took place on the road between Colombo’s international airport and the city centre. A second blast occurred in a phone booth near major hotels in the Fort district and the headquarters of the Sri Lankan Air Force headquarters.
Although tourists have not been targets of politically motivated violence, the LTTE have undertaken attacks at locations frequented by tourists, including the international airport in Colombo and the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy. There has been a significant escalation in the number of serious incidents of politically motivated violence throughout Sri Lanka, including in tourist areas in the centre and south. On 22 October 2007, the LTTE launched a ground and air attack on the Sri Lanka Air Force base at Anuradhapura, near the popular tourism facilities in the cultural triangle. The attack killed over 30 people and destroyed several military aircraft. Several bombs were reportedly dropped on the base during the attack. On 15 October 2007, the LTTE attacked a military camp located in Yala National Park, a popular tourist location, killing eight people. On 16 October 2007, a military vehicle hit a landmine in Yala National Park in Southern Province killing one and injuring three people.
Attacks could occur at any time and in any place, including infrastructure associated with the Sri Lankan Government such as military establishments, public transport, airports, sea ports, oil depots and public buildings, as well as political offices of anti-LTTE Tamil organisations. Nearby locations could sustain collateral damage. Potentially affected locations also include shopping malls, clubs, hotels, restaurants, bars, movie theatres, schools, places of worship, embassies, tourist areas (including national parks), markets and outdoor recreation areas, major sporting events and religious festivals.
Events of political significance, including elections, could be catalysts for violence and civil unrest. You should avoid all demonstrations and large public gatherings as they may turn violent.
You should be particularly vigilant on and around anniversaries and days of national significance such as May Day (1 May), Vesak (which falls in May), the Kandy Esela Perahara Festival (which falls in August), Heroes week (late November), the Tamil and Sinhala New Year festivals (13-14 April), the anniversary of the 2002 cessations of hostilities (22 February) and of the first LTTE suicide bombing (5 July), as militants have in the past used such occasions to mount attacks. Security forces discovered an explosive device and components for an explosive device in central Colombo in early October 2007. On 23 August 2007 police arrested five men for allegedly planning an attack on the Kandy Esela Perahara Festival. There were further arrests on 26 August 2007 following the recovery of an unexploded bomb on a street in Kandy.
On 28 May 2007 a bomb blast near a Sri Lankan Air Force base south of Colombo killed at least seven civilians and injured more than 35 other people, including Sri Lankan Police personnel. On 29 April 2007 Tamil Tiger aircraft bombed the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) base at Ratmalana and an oil refinery in Colombo. On 26 April 2007 the Bandaranaike International Airport near the capital Colombo and its access roads were temporarily closed when Sri Lankan troops at the nearby SLAF base at Katunayeke fired anti-aircraft guns following reports a Tamil Tiger aircraft was in the area. The LTTE launched aerial attacks on the SLAF base on 26 March 2007, forcing the temporary closure of Bandaranaike International Airport, and on the SLAF base at Palali, Jaffna on 23 April 2007, killing armed forces personnel. The Sri Lankan Government has warned more aerial attacks could occur, including, but not limited to, in the High Security Zone in Colombo 1 and 2 suburbs and parts of Colombo 3 suburb where a number of international hotels are located.
You should avoid anti-aircraft batteries and their immediate surroundings, including high-rise buildings, especially during blackouts. New batteries have been established in central Colombo in areas frequented by tourists, including hotels. . In the event of anti-aircraft fire you should stay indoors in a secure location because of the risk of falling projectiles and shrapnel. You should also avoid travelling at night time when anti-aircraft fire is more likely to occur. On 29 April 2007, 14 people were injured and buildings were damaged after anti-aircraft weapons were fired over Colombo.
In the event of a Sri Lankan Government-enforced security related blackout, Australian government officials have been advised to avoid anti-aircraft batteries and their surroundings, including tall buildings and to take cover in a secured area for protection against projectiles, likely to be on the ground floor of an internal room with solid concrete walls and ceiling and no, or limited, windows. If unable to leave a tall building, they have been advised to take cover in an inner room with solid walls using heavy furniture for additional overhead protection. They have been further advised to stay indoors for at least one hour after the cessation of firing of any anti-aircraft guns.
Due to the on-going conflict, the SLAF base at Katunayeke could be targeted at any time. The co-located international airport could be closed without warning and commercial aircraft could be at risk, particularly at night. In light of the increased threat, some airlines have suspended flights to Colombo or changed flight schedules suspending commercial late night flights. We recommend you contact your airline to confirm flight details.
Recent reports indicate that terrorists may be planning suicide attacks against the headquarters of the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) in Sir Chitampalam A Gardiner Mawatha in central Colombo and the main SLAF fighter wing at Katunayake, collocated with Bandaranaike International Airport, the country’s main international airport.
Truck bombings could occur at any time in any part of Sri Lanka. You should exercise extreme caution, maintain high personal security awareness and avoid locations known to be targeted by terrorists in Sri Lanka. On 24 July 2007 a roadside bomb targeting a military bus in Mannar district killed nine soldiers. On 24 May 2007 a road side bomb targeting a military bus was detonated in the Fort Area of the Colombo 15 suburb near the port and naval base, killing one soldier and injuring several others, including civilians.
We are aware of media reports that the High Security Zone Residents’ Liberation Force (HSZRLF) has threatened to attack civilian targets in the south including hospitals and dams. The Ellalan Force, which claimed responsibility for the bombing of civilian buses on 5 and 6 January 2007, issued a statement on 21 January threatening further attacks.
Northern areas (including Wilpattu National Park): We advise you not to travel to the north of Sri Lanka, including the area north of the highway between Puttalam, Anuradhapura and Polonaruwa and Wilpattu National Park. An explosion in Wilpattu National Park in May 2006 killed seven visitors. The Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE have engaged in significant battles in the area between Mannar and Omanthai near Vavuniya, as well as Muhamalai in Jaffna. In October 2007, the government began a new offensive against LTTE positions north of Giant Tank near Adampan in Mannar district.
East and south-eastern areas (including Yala National Park): We advise you not to travel east of Pollonaruwa town on the A11 road or to points east of a straight line between Polonaruwa town and the South Coast, passing through Badulla including Yala National Park. On 16 October 2007, the LTTE attacked an army camp in Panama in Ampara district in the east. A day earlier, the LTTE attacked a military camp in Yala National Park in Southern Province near Hambantota. Eight people were killed. Vehicles travelling in Yala National Park hit landmines in October and November 2007. Vehicles have reportedly been attacked with improvised explosive devices in the vicinity of Yala National Park and Kataragama in the South-East.
There have been incidents of violence against aid workers. On 20 August 2007, a member of the Danish Demining Group was shot dead in Jaffna, while his co-worker was injured. On 23 June 2007 an aid worker with the Danish Refugee Council was shot dead in Jaffna. On 2 June 2007, two volunteer Red Cross workers were abducted from a train station and murdered. On 13 June 2007, an expatriate aid worker with Mercy Corps was shot on a beach at the Club Oceanic Hotel in Trincomalee.
The Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE have engaged in significant battles in Mannar district between Adampan and Madhu, as well as near Omanthai in Vavuniya district and in the general vicinity of Trincomalee. In November 2007, the Government of Sir Lanka attempted to breach the LTTE’s defences in Jaffna. Military strikes have also occurred in the Batticaloa, Ampara, Mannar, Mulaitivu, Killinochchi and Hambantota districts. Travellers have inadvertently been caught up in these actions. An attack on a passenger train on 6 June 2007 in Batticaloa district derailed several carriages and caused injuries to a number of civilians. A passenger train was attacked with an improvised bomb on 18 December 2007 in Trincomalee, causing no injuries.
Reports indicate a pro-government Tamil paramilitary faction has threatened aid workers operating in Eastern Province.
If you are already in the “Do Not Travel” areas described above, including the Wilpattu or Yala National Parks, and concerned for your safety, you should consider departing if it is safe to do so. Politically motivated violence including assassinations, bombings in public places and on roads is escalating and there is widespread civil unrest. Communal and inter-ethnic tensions in these regions are very high and further violence is highly likely, particularly between Muslim communities on the east coast and pro-government Tamil paramilitaries.

Crime

There is a danger of kidnapping for ransom of foreign nationals in Sri Lanka, including in Colombo. All Australians in Sri Lanka, particularly those of Sri Lankan Tamil origin, should ensure that appropriate identification is carried at all times.
Violent crime continues to increase, including sexual assault and robbery. Policing in remote areas is often hampered by a lack of resources and poor infrastructure.
There have been incidents of violence against aid workers. On 2 June 2007, two volunteer Red Cross workers were abducted from a train station and murdered. On 13 June 2007, an expatriate aid worker with Mercy Corps was shot on a beach at the Club Oceanic Hotel in Trincomalee.
Petty crime such as pick-pocketing and bag snatching occurs, particularly on public transport.

Local Travel

Due to the volatile security situation in Sri Lanka, Australian government officials and dependants have been advised to limit travel (particularly at night), maintain a high degree of awareness at roadblocks and checkpoints and avoid using public transport. Australian diplomatic and consular staff have also been advised to exercise heightened security vigilance, avoid travel to locations that may be potential targets and curtail all non-essential travel. Anti-aircraft batteries and their immediate surroundings, including high-rise buildings, should also be avoided. In the event of anti-aircraft fire you should stay indoors in a secure location because of the risk of falling projectiles and shrapnel.
Security personnel may impose curfews, roadblocks and security checks at short notice across the country, and may require proof of identification, such as your current passport.
There can be lengthy delays when travelling to the airport as a result of checkpoints established by the security forces. Sections of the road to the airport are occasionally closed at night, requiring all traffic to be diverted along narrow local roads. Travellers should allow adequate time for security checks on the road to the airport and maintain a high degree of security vigilance if diverted from the main road along the narrow local road system.
Check points between government held areas and “uncleared areas”, (i.e. areas controlled by the LTTE) including on the main A-9 highway which links the north and south of the country, can be closed without notice. The checkpoint at Muhamalai, the entry point to Jaffna, has been closed since 11 August.
Transport conditions throughout Sri Lanka are hazardous. There are a high number of road deaths and injuries, particularly on inter-city buses and three-wheeler taxis. The standard of driving and vehicle maintenance is poor. There have been a number of fatal accidents on Sri Lankan railways in recent years.
Marked and unmarked landmines are widespread in parts of the north and east, especially in Vanni, Jaffna and along the A9 road in the north.
On 28 December 2005 the Government of Sri Lanka announced arrangements for foreigners seeking to enter the uncleared areas of the north and east which are presently under LTTE control. Foreign staff of diplomatic missions, international organisations and international non-government organisations accredited with the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be allowed to cross entry and exit checkpoints into uncleared areas without restriction. All other foreigners must seek approval from the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence before being allowed to enter uncleared areas. For advice on the location of uncleared areas, you can contact the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence on telephone number (+94 11) 243 3215.
Road access between Jaffna and the rest of Sri Lanka has been closed since 11 August 2006. The LTTE has refused to guarantee the safety of shipping in waters around Jaffna. On 9 November 2006, LTTE Sea Tigers attacked Sri Lankan Navy ships escorting a passenger ferry from Trincomalee to Jaffna. The LTTE launched a suicide attack against a cargo vessel in Jaffna on 21 January 2006. Australians in Jaffna who wish to depart should do so by air.
The waters around the northern and eastern coast of Sri Lanka are declared restricted zones by the Government of Sri Lanka. Government security forces have fired upon unauthorised vessels in coastal areas. In September 2006 a vessel was destroyed in waters beyond the territorial sea.
Piracy occurs in the coastal areas of Sri Lanka. The LTTE hi-jacked a Jordanian cargo vessel off the north-east coast in December 2006. See our travel advice on shipping and ports for more information. The International Maritime Bureau issues weekly piracy reports on its website.

Airline Safety

Due to the on-going conflict, the SLAF base at Katunayeke could be targeted at any time. The co-located international airport could be closed without warning and commercial aircraft could be at risk, particularly at night. We recommend you contact your airline to confirm flight details.
Passengers on international flights to and from Australia are only allowed to carry a small amount of liquids (including aerosols and gels) in their carry-on baggage. You can find out more information at the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government website. Similar restrictions apply to flights in an increasing number of countries. Contact your airline for further information.
If you have concerns about the safety standards of a particular airline or aircraft, we recommend you research the airline or aircraft through organisations such as Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government has published fact sheets on security for air travellers. When staff at Australia’s overseas missions are advised not to use particular airlines due to safety concerns this will be included in travel advice.
The European Union (EU) has published a list of airlines that are subject to operating bans or restrictions within the EU. The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through its foreign assessment program focuses on a country’s ability, not the individual airline, to adhere to international standards and recommended practices for aircraft operations and maintenance established by ICAO.
source:
http://joyceheyzer.spaces.live.com/Blog/cns!79F27886F50B9A13!1961.entry?wa=
wsignin1.0

2007 What was

2007 What was

By Madhushala Senaratne and Tahnee Hopman

Looking back on yet another year, there is little to smile about with even the few positive moments being overshadowed by conflict, death and destruction. As 2008 approaches, we can only hope that the New Year brings some joy and solace to a country haunted by increasing violence and burdened by the soaring cost of living.

January

6: Around 15 people are killed and more than 40 injured in an explosion on a bus at Godagama near Hikkaduwa. UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe declares that the Memorandum of Understanding between his party and the ruling SLFP may be annulled in the wake of a Cabinet decision to allow crossovers from the UNP.
12: In the worst landslides in 15 years, around 18 people die, 15 go missing, 1,500 houses are destroyed and more than 100,000 are displaced in the Walapane, Hanguranketa and Maturata areas.
Across the country, heavy rains result in widespread flooding – Hambantota district being badly-hit.
19: After weeks of heavy fighting, security forces secure Vakarai town, a crucial gain, and advance north. More than 300 LTTE fighters and 50 security forces personnel are killed. Thousands of civilians flee to government-controlled areas.
27: The navy thwarts an attack on the Colombo port, when it intercepts and destroys three suspected LTTE suicide boats.

The Sunday Times photographer M.A. Pushpa Kumara captured this scene when Colombo’s night sky was set alight by anti-aircraft gunfire when two LTTE light aircraft hovered over the city and suburbs on April 29

February
9: President Mahinda Rajapaksa sacks three of his senior Ministers — Mangala Samaraweera (Ports and Aviation), Anura Bandaranaike (National Heritage) and Sripathi Sooriyarachchi (Port Development – non-Cabinet rank).

March
2: Five bullet-riddled bodies with faces disfigured and blindfolded are found in a swamp in Kandana.
10: The bodies of eight people, including the Anuradhapura Area Commander of the Army, Jayantha Suraweera, are recovered at the Wilpattu National Park.

April
1: Six labourers are killed at Mailambavani, Batticaloa, and hours later, 16 civilians and a soldier fall victim to a bus bomb blast at Kondawatturan, Ampara.
7: Seven including two children are killed when a state-run passenger bus is hit by a powerful claymore mine at Pirimanalankulam in Vavuniya.
10: In a horrific accident which shocked the country, 23 people die and more than 50 suffer injuries when a beer delivery truck crashes into a CTB bus at Kaikawala, close to Bentota.
29: A total blackout is imposed on the city of Colombo shortly after midnight as two Tiger rebel aircraft hover over the area. The craft drop bombs on a fuel dump of the CPC oil installations at Kolonnawa and an LPG gas facility in Muthurajawela. The LTTE air attack comes as Sri Lankans are glued to their TVs watching the World Cup cricket finals in Barbados, with Sri Lanka taking on Australia. Rain dampened the match with Australia winning the World Cup.

May
6: Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s security is slashed on a Supreme Court ruling.
18: Two small children and three other members of one family are hacked to death in their sleep, over a land dispute, in Meegahawatte, Delgoda. A 12-year-old girl who is critically injured is the sole survivor.
27: The de-merged Northern and Eastern Provinces get new flags. The Eastern Province flag depicts an eagle, a fish and a lion, signifying Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara respectively while the Northern Province flag depicts the sun.
28: A claymore blast in Ratmalana kills eight and injures 30. The mine had been kept on the roof of a video shop at Belekkade junction.

June
1: A lorry laden with explosives weighing around 1,000 kilograms – is detected at a road block at Kotavehera, Nikaweratiya.
7: More than 300 Tamils are evicted from lodges in Colombo amidst strong protests and condemnation not only by human rights groups but also the international community.
8: Nine bodies of people killed, with their eyes blindfolded and hands tied behind their backs, are found at Wennappuwa.
9: Following a spate of abductions, ransom demands and killings, the Criminal Investigation Department questions a former Air Force Squadron Leader Nishantha Gajanayaka.
16: Sri Lankan Rizana Nafeek (19) is sentenced to death by a Saudi Arabian court after an infant she was bottle-feeding chokes. Rizana who was from Mutur had gone to Saudi Arabia in May 2005 at the age of 17 giving a false age on her passport. The appeal against the death sentence is pending.
29: ‘The Buddhist’, the first Buddhist TV channel in Sri Lanka is launched and goes on the air.

Troops celebrate the fall of Thoppigala, the last eastern stronghold of the LTTE, on July 11

July
11: The army captures Thoppigala, the last eastern stronghold of the LTTE, bringing the entire Eastern Province under government control in 14 years. The military claims that at least 211 LTTE cadres were killed.

August
1: The CWC resigns from the government and Leader Arumugam Thondaman gives up his ministerial portfolio.
9: The government expresses concern in Parliament over the statement of UN Humanitarian Affairs Chief John Holmes who in an interview with Reuters described Sri Lanka as one of the most dangerous places for aid workers.
12: Former Attorney General K.C. Kamalasabayson passes away while receiving treatment at Apollo Hospital in Chennai, South India. He is 58.

September
7: A new system for Grade 1 admissions to state schools is approved by the Supreme Court.
10: Malaka Silva, son of non-cabinet minister Mervyn Silva, who is alleged to have hit an accountant of a private firm with a pistol, is remanded.

October
5: Several high-rise buildings in Colombo are asked to switch off their exterior lights and key locations including the Colombo Port, the Bandaranaike International Airport and the Shell Gas facility in Kerawalapitiya are put on full alert after the sighting of two suspected LTTE light aircraft in Tantirimale near Anuradhapura.
11: The CWC rejoins the government with Leader Arumugam Thondaman regaining his portfolio.
14: Just as UN Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour concludes her fact-finding mission to Sri Lanka, four of the 10 civil society members (part of an advisory committee set up to address human rights concerns) resign from the panel citing differences with the government. Earlier, Arbour and Disaster Management and Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe differed strongly on the need for UN monitors in Sri Lanka.

The Anuradhapura Air Force base after the Black Tiger attack on October 22

Sri Lanka’s sprint queen Susanthika Jayasinghe is in line for a gold and a silver for her performance at the World Athletic Championships in Athens, Greece, and the Olympics in Sydney, Australia, respectively both in 2000, with Marion Jones due to be stripped of her medals after admitting the usage of steroids.

15: The LTTE launches an attack on an army detachment at Thalgasmankada in Yala, killing six soldiers and injuring three. A massive military search operation is carried out. The National Park is closed to visitors.
18: Malaka Silva, son of non-cabinet minister Mervyn Silva, allegedly involved in an assault case is released on bail.
22: Several aircraft are destroyed or damaged when the LTTE’s Black Tiger unit attacks the Anuradhapura Air Force base.
25: The Manampitiya Peace Bridge, Sri Lanka’s longest bridge built across the Mahaweli linking the Northern and Eastern Provinces is opened by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
26: The government suspends the licence of the Asia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) for allegedly misreporting an incident at Ranminithenna in Tissamaharama.

November
1: The Supreme Court dismisses the application filed by ABC challenging the licence cancellation by the government
2: LTTE political head S. P. Thamilselvan is killed in an Air Force raid over Kilinochchi. Five LTTE military wing leaders are also killed in the attack. Thamilselvan was the LTTE’s chief negotiator at peace talks with successive governments.
Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna is arrested in London for travelling under a forged passport.
More than 100 Sri Lankan soldiers serving with the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti (Minustah) are accused of sexual exploitation and abuse including the rape of children.
7: The budget offers little relief to the public already affected by the soaring cost of living.
9: The Supreme Court issues a significant directive on noise pollution, banning the use of loudspeakers or any other amplifiers from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The scene after a beer delivery truck crashed into a CTB bus at Kaikawala on April 10

12: A 22-year-old garment factory worker, Chamila Dissanayake, who had sought treatment at the Negombo Hospital, is found with critical injuries on a pathway close to the hospital. Police investigations indicate she had allegedly been pushed from the sixth floor by a doctor. Chamila dies while being taken to the National Hospital.
15: The United States freezes the US held assets of the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), that acts as a front to facilitate fundraising and procurement for the LTTE.
17: Elina Jayewardene, widow of the first Executive President of Sri Lanka, J.R. Jayewardene passes away at the age of 94.
19: After weeks of speculation and tension that the government will not be able to get a majority and also crossovers, the second reading of the 2008 budget is passed in Parliament. The JVP votes against the budget.
21: The printing press of Leader Publications, which publishes the Sunday Leader, the Morning Leader and the Irudina, in Ratmalana comes under an arson attack.
29: Steven Peiris, Coordinating Secretary to Social Services Minister and EPDP Leader Douglas Devananda, is killed in a suicide bomb attack at the ministry office at Isipathana Road, Colombo 5. Two others are injured. For the first time, the attack is captured on CCTV and is possibly the only live pictures of a suicide bomber blowing herself up.
In the evening, like a sequel to a bloody story, 20 people are killed and 43 injured when a bomb left at the parcel counter at the Nugegoda NoLimit explodes.

December
3: Muttiah Muralitharan breaks the record for the highest number of Test wickets reaching 709, when he dismisses England one-day captain Paul Collingwood during the third day of the first Test match at Asgiriya, Kandy. This match is also the last Test match of veteran cricketer, Sanath Jayasuriya who retires from Test cricket.
5: Fifteen civilians are killed and 23 injured when a powerful claymore mine blows up a CTB bus on the Anuradhapura-Janakapura Road close to Kebithigo-llewa.

Spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan celebrates with wicket keeper Prasanna Jayawardene as he breaks the record for the highest number of Test wickets reaching 709.

8: In keeping with a Supreme Court ruling, permanent security checkpoints in and around Colombo are abandoned. The ruling that permanent checkpoints are illegal was issued after a motorist filed an application that he was harassed and unlawfully detained by police officers at Kirulapone.
10: On World Human Rights Day, several media organizations, civil society groups and trade unions march to the Media Ministry and hand over a petition demanding immediate action to curb increasing violence against journalists.
12: SLMC politicians including Leader Rauff Hakeem cross over to the opposition.
14: Foiling UNP plans to defeat the government, the third reading of the budget is passed with 114 voting for and 67 against. A while before the crucial vote, National Heritage Minister Anura Bandaranaike crosses over to the opposition but leaves Parliament just before voting. The JVP abstains from voting.
19: A newborn baby boy goes missing from the Kalubowila Hospital and is believed to have been stolen by a woman who had offered to look after him while his mother was having a bath. The baby is found by the Kohuwela Police in a house in Thalapathpitiya on December 24. However, another couple who lost their baby son in November from their home is still searching for him.

SriLankan Airlines CEO Peter Hill’s work permit is cancelled by the Board of Investment on the grounds that he failed to comply with a request from the main shareholder of the national carrier, the government. The request was for 36 seats from London to Colombo for the President and his entourage.
Flash floods and heavy rains in the Eastern, Central and North Central Provincesleave over 200,000 people homeless.
26: As the third anniversary of the devastating 2004 tsunami comes round, it is revealed that only US$ 1.7 billion of the US$ 3.1 billion pledged by foreign donors has been received and rehabilitation work is delayed.
27: Tension mounts at the state-owned Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation when Deputy Minister of Labour Relations and Foreign Employment Mervyn Silva and his bodyguards allegedly assault the News Director for not telecasting a speech made by him. When the staff attempts to retaliate, the Deputy Minister takes refuge in the Chairman’s office, until he is taken away under police protection.

source:
http://www.sundaytimes.lk/071230/Plus/plus00011.html

Tsunami billions still at sea

Thousands of Victims still stranded 3 years after catastrophe
By Madhushala Senaratne

As Sri Lanka marks the third anniversary of the catastrophic 2004 tsunami, it has come to light that only US$ 1.7 billion of the US$ 3.1 billion pledged by foreign donors has been received. As a result of the shortage of funds and other reasons, thousands are still living in makeshift camps while rehabilitation work has been delayed.

According to Nation Building Ministry figures, there was a shortfall of US dollars 1.4 billion as against the money pledged for tsunami rehabilitation and related projects. Some of the agencies and governments had disbursed almost all the funds they pledged or were on the verge of keeping to their commitments, but others were lagging far behind. The money was pledged from more than 480 organisations.

An abandoned house at a tsunami housing scheme in the south.

Of its total commitment of US$ 150 million, the World Bank had disbursed US$ 142 million while the UNICEF had dispersed its full commitment of US$ 42. 3 million. The USAID which had committed $ 115 million had disbursed $ 68 million. NORAD which pledged $ 1.2 million had disbursed $ 607,992.

At least 19,791 housing units still remain to be completed for those hit by the tsunami while in some cases there were people who received more than two houses due to uncoordinated distribution. “Of the estimated 117,483 houses required, 85% of the work has been completed while the remaining would be completed by end of June next year,” the ministry’s tsunami housing projects director, Ramesh Selliah said.

Although 100% of the work has been completed in the Southern province, about 88% has been completed in the East, Mr. Selliah said. He said thousands were still living in temporary camps and were reluctant to move. He said the construction of houses in the northern and eastern areas was slower mainly due to the fighting in the areas.

Batticaloa’s Additional District Secretary K. Mahesan, said reconstruction work in areas such as Vakarai was put on hold due to heavy fighting in the region and the subsequent displacement of thousands of civilians worsened the situation. “However, over 90% of the required houses in the Batticaloa district have been completed”, he said. In addition, much of the work in Ampara has also been completed.

However, maintaining an estimate cost for a house is becoming increasingly difficult with the rise in prices of materials such as cement, according to Sritharan Sylvester, Director of Caritas which handles human and economic development issues in the East. Limited funds, donors moving out of the East and the rainy season were adding to their woes, he said. In President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s homebase of Hambantota a total of 6,391 houses have been rebuilt and families resettled. This is in excess of the 3193 houses that were directly affected or damaged. “The houses built in excess are now occupied by the indirectly affected people such as renters, sub families and extended families,” Hambantota District Secretariat tsunami work chief Mahinda Manawadu, said.

But, some of the housing projects have been completed halfway and abandoned. The construction of 200 houses in Ichallampattu in Trincomalee undertaken by World Vision Lanka was stopped due to the conflict in the area. However, its National Director Yu Hwa Li said that they would resume work once stability is restored in the area.Meanwhile, a senior official of the Tsunami Education Rehabilitation Monitor (TERM) said that of the 183 schools identified as directly damaged, 100 have been rebuild so far. Work on the rebuilding of some 40 schools in the Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi, Trincomalee and Batticaloa has been put on hold due to security reasons while the work on the remaining 40 schools is to be finished next year, he said.

Certain projects implemented by the Japanese government in the East had also been delayed due to the prevailing security conditions. “Although much of the work has been completed, including the reconstruction of Japan-Sri Lanka friendship villages in Trincomalee and Ampara, we faced many difficulties especially with regard to transportation of goods and equipment,”, the Japanese embassy’s second secretary Yasuhiro Watanabe said.
source:

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/071223/News/news0001.html

Red Cross Houses

Text by Leanne Mitchell, Australian Red Cross.
Photos by Sujeewa de Silva, Australian Red Cross
The tsunami that hit Sri Lanka three years ago was indiscriminate in its impact – people from all backgrounds were equally affected.

But while the tsunami’s impact knew no boundaries, for organizations like the Red Cross Red Crescent, building back required careful consideration. People with very different needs and expectations required houses with very different uses and functions. It was evident very early on that no one method would fit all.

‘Owner driven housing’ – an approach that closely involves home owners in the building process through the issuing of a series of small grants – has proven a huge success both for the International Federation and partner, UN Habitat, as well as for programme participants, says field coordinator Kefa Owino.

“Owner driven housing gives the resident the opportunity to decide what they want,” Owino says. “The donor doesn’t come with a standard design and say ‘this is what we are giving you’. Instead it works the other way. People have the freedom to build the house they want to their own taste.”

The International Federation is working with tsunami survivors, contributing to the building of more than 1,200 houses in Sri Lanka’s south and east. Each house built needs to meet minimum standards – such as having a bathroom, kitchen, a lockable room – after that owners can decide to follow standard building plans, adjust them or go with their own design.

Owners may decide to build the houses themselves or engage local contractors to do the job. Funds are released based on owners reaching agreed milestones along the way, such as completing the foundations, then the walls, then the roof, etc.

The beauty of this approach, says Australian Red Cross country coordinator, Barry Armstrong, is that it encourages individuality. “It is much more personalised than any other approach to rebuilding and people can bring their own character to the house, making it the right size and design to suit their own family and the people using it.

“While the houses being built are very different, one of the things they have in common is that people have used the funds provided to them as efficiently as possible – because the local people can get the best deals on materials and on labour. We have also seen them expressing their own character and own cultural background in different ways in different parts of the island.”

In Ampara district, on the island’s east coast, A.M. Fouze and his extended family are building the house of their dreams.

“Our family lost two houses when the tsunami hit…One was within 65 metres of the shoreline so we were not allowed to rebuild at that site. We are now building back on the site of our other house,” Mr Fouze explains, referring to the zone by the coast in which the government did not permit resettlement in order to protect the coastal environment.

The extended family will live in the four story home which is being finished off with intricate painting, plaster and woodwork. In fact, the whole area is abuzz with work. All around, owners, in this predominately Muslim neighbourhood, are putting the finishing touches to houses that are just as intricate as the Fouze family’s.

“We got the money we needed through instalments,” says Mr. Fouze. “We are local, so we know who the good people are to do the work…We got a local architect to draw up the plans and local masons to work on it.”

Further up the east coast, in Marnkerny, a Tamil community where the tsunami came on the heels of 20 years of conflict, Udhayakumar Subramaniyn and his wife are building their own house.

“My wife and I are building this house,” Mr Subramaniyn says. “I’m the mason and she is giving me a hand. I come from three generations of masons so it’s been easy for me to build this house.

“Here people are much better off than they were before. People in the community are getting help to improve their businesses and they are doing much better, farmers and fisherman. We are learning how to improve our yields.”

The Subramaniyn’s have enough space out the back of the house to raise goats, an extra business for the family.

“I am very happy to live here and I look forward to finishing my house and starting life again,” he says.

Near the southern city of Hambantota, another community has moved into their new village and houses and gardens are blooming. The people of Yodakandyia village, a Singhalese community, used to have seaside houses, but their new village is a few kilometres inland.

Many residents accepted the structural plans offered by the Red Cross Red Crescent and UN Habitat, but chose to add in their own touches. Sayuri Natasha lives with her husband in a neat green rendered house that is fitted with traditional wooden window frames. Sayuri tends to a flourishing garden which the family planted.

“UN Habitat gave us a floor plan and we had the freedom to design our own house and garden,” Sayuri says. “That’s why houses here have different styles. Now we have our own house according to our own wishes and we are very happy here.”

Owino says that it’s this kind of approach – fostering consultation and encouraging individual involvement – that makes the project so successful.

“It’s not just about building houses. People drive the process of rebuilding their own community. This to me is one of our most successful tsunami project because communities come together and people have a stake in building their own home. And at the end they can say ‘this is what I did.’”

source:

http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/RWB.NSF/db900SID/YSAR-79VT8R?OpenDocument

Muslim Concerns

Sri Lanka government and Muslim ministers giving wrong signals to Muslims

By: M.I.M. Mohideen
Courtesy: The Island – October 30, 2007

Rebuilding and rehabilitation of the East

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s UPFA government, which has elaborate plans to rebuild and rehabilitate the East, has not, so far, included the civil society and elected representatives in the development process.

Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Leader and Minister Rauff Hakeem has deplored the government’s decision to have development projects in the East managed by the security forces and the police.

Controversy over the New Flag

Soon after the demerger of the East by the Supreme Court and following the take-over of the province by the armed forces, Sri Lanka government has designed a new flag for the Eastern Province. This new flag has caused much misunderstanding and confusion as the flag has failed to represent all the communities living in the East in a just and fair manners.

The Muslim community, which is the largest ethnic group in the East now has raised serious concern over the failure of the government to recognize the identity of the Muslim community by not printing any symbols in the flag to represent the Muslims.

Para Military Forces – harassing civilians

Law enforcement authorities in many parts of the Eastern province are allegedly turning a ‘blind eye’ to the continuous complaints made against the para military groups. Despite several political parties in the Eastern Province taking up this issue with the law enforcement officers, it remains to be properly addressed.

Most victims have now stopped complaining to the police and security forces as the identities of the complaints are leaked out. As a result, these families that are intimidated and harassed are suffering in silence.

Muslims discriminated against

Serious issues have been raised by Muslims of Batticaloa on the ongoing activities of the several international organizations assisted by the Government and the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) in re-locating displaced Tamils on lands owned by Muslims.

After 1985, the LTTE forcibly occupied Muslim residential, agricultural and cattle farming lands – more than 35,000 acres in areas under their control. The GOSL did nothing to restore these properties owned by the Muslims on title deeds, government permits and paddy cultivation register. The displaced Muslims have suffered untold hardships during the last 22 years. After the GOSL cleared these areas from the LTTE, the TMVP with the help of the government security forces and INGO assistance, began putting up permanent houses, churches, temples and schools in the Muslim lands forcibly occupied by the Tamils, without any consideration for the rights of the Muslims who are the lawful owners of these lands.

Koralaipaththu Central

The Batticaloa District consists of 14 Pradesiya Sabhas and encompasses an extent of 2,633 sq. km. There are four predominant Muslim DS divisions and the land area – Kattankudi 3.4 sq. km. Eravur Town 3.89 sq. km., Koralaipaththu West (Ottamavadi) 6.84 sq. km. Koralaipaththu Central 6.50 sq. km. The total extent of Muslim land area is approximately 20.0 sq., km., which is less than 1.0% of the total area of Batticaloa District, where the Muslim population is nearly 30% today.

Although the Local Government Commission declared Koralaipaththu Central – the area of historical habitation of the Muslims, covering more than 240 sq. km., consisting of 11 Grama Sevaka Niladhari divisions, the boundaries have not yet been demarcated.

Eravur

Most of the agricultural and cattle farm lands owned by the Muslims lie along the Chenkaladi – Badulla (A5) Road. Today, the entire area along this road has come under the control of GOSL. Eravur Muslims owned more than 12,000 acres. Arrangements are being made now to bring back the Tamils who have been unlawfully occupying Muslim lands and settle them permanently by the TMVP and the Government armed forces, without any concern for the displaced Muslims.

During the ethnic conflict 1983, 1985, 1990 etc., more than 12,700 Muslim families were chased out by the LTTE and the Tamils forcibly occupied all the Muslim lands that came under LTTE control. The GOSL did nothing to provide any relief or pay compensation for the loss of livelihood of these displaced Muslims.

Resettlement of displaced Tamils on Muslim land in, Iyankerni, Meerakerni, Mitchanagar, Hidayathanagar, Thakvanagar and Eravurpathu Pradeshiya Sabha would adversely impact on the peaceful co-existence between the Muslims and the Tamils in Eravur.

Further, the Eastern University is making arrangements to acquire nearly 30 acres of land in the Meerakerni Muslim area, which is about 7 km. away from the university.

Kattankudi Muslim Border Villages

Ollikulam, Sikaram, Karbela, Palamunai, Kankayan Odai, Keechampallam are the Muslim border villages of Kattankudi in the Arayanipathi Pradeshiya Sabha. Displaced Tamils after tsunami and GOSL military operations to flush the LTTE terrorists in the Paduvankarai Tamil villages have been temporarily settled in private lands owned by the Muslims and the Mosques. Now the TMVP with the assistance of Government Armed Forces and help from INGO’s are making arrangements to provide accommodation to settle the displaced Tamils who have come from Tamil areas, on land belonging to the Muslims and the Mosques, depriving the Muslims of the lands belonging to them.

Kuchchaveli

Kuchchaveli in Trincomalee District is a predominant Muslim area. Total population is 29,967 or 8,058 families. Of them 65% are Muslim (19,443) and 31 % Tamils (9,282) and 01 % Sinhalese (337). Of the Kuchchaveli Pradeshiya Sabha members numbering 9, six are Muslims and three Tamils.

The Divisional Secretary is a Tamil for the predominant Muslim division. In the appointment of Grama Niladharies. 65% Muslims are given only 7 slots but the balance 17 GS are given to the Tamils and others who are only 35%. The average population of a Tamil GS division is 250 people whereas the population in Muslims GS is around 1,350.

Iqbal Nagar is a predominant Muslim area. Due to the ethnic conflict, the Muslims were displaced during 1984, 1990 and 1994. In 2002, the Muslim refugees came back to Iqbal Nagar and are living under abject poverty. In the East of Iqbal Nagar almost 250 acres were forcibly taken over by the Eastern University. 50 acres from Thamraikulam and Muthuraimalai are allocated to and INGO by the Kuchchaveli Divisional Secretary for a tsunami Housing Project. 185 Muslims were promised 15 perches each but all all the plots were distributed to the Tamils and Tamil Government officers and nothing was given to the displaced Muslims.

Of the 265 Muslim families identified as refugees, only 45 were selected for the NERHP projects. But all the Tamil refugees were settled in the new housing projects in Konespuri, Kopalapuram., Kumpirupity, Iranaikerni and Thriyai.

Harassment of Pottuvil Muslims

How the security of Muslims had been compromised for a political agenda became evident in the massacre of ten Muslims in Pottuvil in September 2006. The perpetrators of this massacre were well exposed by the public.

The area of Radella in Pottuvil has been the bone of contention between the Sinhala and the Muslim communities, both groups accusing each other of encroaching on state land. Radella was abandoned during the conflict and was reclaimed by Muslims farmers. The STF was vehemently opposed to Muslims cultivating the state lands in the Radella area.

Muslim tsunami victims

It is widely criticized that the government has not treated the Muslim tsunami victims fairly. Ampara, the country’s worst affected district is a glaring example of how ineffective institutions, political rivalries and misinformation can make a mockery of disaster management.

Mutur, Kinniya, Kuchchaveli, Pulmoddai and Trincomalee town come under the Divisional Secretariat Division in the Trincomalee District, where thousands of Muslims have been affected by tsunami. Political confusion has greatly contributed to the mismanagement of relief. The LTTE held areas in the district have come under INGO relief and resettlement work. But Muslim areas have been neglected.

The situation in the South is different. In Hambantota, the need is only 1,057 houses for the tsunami victims. But the donors have built 4,852 houses!

Abduction of Muslim Businessman

The issue of abduction and extortion of Muslim Businessmen was raised recently in Parliament. The Muslim politicians in the UNP took up the issue and demanded the resignation of Muslim Ministers. The Muslim ministers chose to trade allegations with the UNP saying that when the Northern Muslims were ethnically cleansed in 1990 during the UNP government, the then Muslim ministers did not resign.

Wrong Signal

Muslim Political leaders who joined the government to look after the interests of Muslims have miserably failed and neglected the issues confronting the Muslim community. They have tackled only Muslim issues that conform to their party politics and ignored others.

The Muslim community is beginning to feel that they are discriminated against and the government is not interested in utilising its resources, when it comes to safe-guarding the interests of the Muslims. It is the Muslims who have been at the receiving end of atrocities by the LTTE for not extending support for the creation of a separate state in the North East. If the government and the security forces, too, cause harm, harass and their lives miserable, one wonders whom the Muslims can turn to for protection.

Muslims can’t figure out the signals the government is sending. Is it that the government wants the Muslims to think on the lines of protecting themselves?

Are the Muslims to believe that if they remained unarmed there would not be any respect or protection for them? What would be the consequences if the Muslims, too, pinned hopes on arms? The Muslims can no longer be at the receiving end losing more and more lives and property for no fault of theirs. It is time for everyone to realize the gravity of the situation. The government and the Muslim ministers must now indicate clearly without any hesitation that they are prepared to stand by the peaceful and unarmed Muslim community to redress their legitimate grievances before it is too late.

Published: Oct 30, 2007 10:51:15 GMT
source:

http://www.tamilcanadian.com/page.php?cat=133&id=5237

Comments [ 1 ]:

Attack in deep South

Yala attack plan to shift attention away from North

Desperate LTTE in diversionary attacks:

“Remark by arugam.info webmistress:
In keeping with our pledge and promise, all security related news are published. After careful consideration, even this depolrable incident is not considered to present any danger for visitors to the Bay. Firstly, foreigners are NEVER targeted, secondly the place of this incident is far away from your famous Arugam Bay.”

The LTTE this time has come with a different game plan with the launch of a sudden attack on an isolated Army detachment in the Southern end of the country. The intention of the LTTE is quite evident.

It wants to give the message to the country and also to the international community about their capability to launch attacks on Security Forces even in the South despite the setbacks suffered by the outfit in the Wanni and


Environment Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka visited the Yala National Park on Tuesday after Monday evening’s LTTE attack on Thalgasmankada Army Post. Here the Minister meeting the wild life officers.

 the Jaffna Forward Defence Lines.

But, it is very evident from this attack that the LTTE is in a desperate state. If not, why target an Army detachment guarding the Yala National Park. It also betrays a sign of desperation after the outfit’s inability to launch any major attack in the North or in the Wanni.

Out of the seven soldiers attached to the detachment manned by the troops of the 18 Sri Lanka National Guard six were killed in this unexpected attack.

Many feared that the LTTE had infiltrated the Yala National Park in large numbers as the tractor which was heading towards Thalgasmankada Army detachment to collect the bodies of the soldiers was caught in a landmine explosion just 600 metres away from the detachment.

One soldier was killed and five others injured in this mine explosion increasing the number of deaths to seven.

Elite Commandos and Special Forces were flown to the Yala National Park on Wednesday morning to launch a massive search operation and track down the Tiger cadres who had infiltrated the National Park.

Even two days after the search operation, troops found no proof of a Tiger presence despite searching many parts of the Park including block II of the park hemmed between Kumbukkan Oya-the border of the Ampara district and Menik Ganga.

Therefore, it is believed that the number of Tiger cadres who had launched this attack would not have exceeded ten.

Yet, the existence of even a handful of Tiger cadres inside the National Park will be a threat as they can launch unexpected attacks not only on Security Forces and Police personnel but also the civilians visiting the park, in their desperation.

That was why the Defence Authorities have taken steps to screen all parts of the National Park to give a full security guarantee to the people visiting the Park before it is open to the public.

Apart from this the security of the historic Situlpawwa Raja Maha Vihara has to be considered in view of the large number of Buddhists visiting the sacred area as it is located just six kilometres away from the Thalgamsmankada Army detachment.

However, this is not the first occasion the LTTE carried out such attacks inside the Yala National Park. There had been many occasions where the LTTE had set fire to a number of Holiday Bungalows inside the National Park in the late 1990’s.

But according to records this is the first occasion the LTTE was able to kill seven soldiers inside the Yala National Park located in the southern tip of the country.

What is most important here is to find out how the Tiger cadres infiltrated the Park. There are many possibilities for them to infiltrate the national park considering the enormous jungle area it covers bordering many districts including Ampara, Moneragala, and Hambantota.

According to Security Forces the most probable way for the LTTE infiltrate the national park is through Ampara border across Kumbukkan Oya which demarcates Ampara district and the Hambantota district.

Zone II of the National Park located between Kumbukkan Oya and Menik Ganga, according to sources, provides a safe haven for any group to operate freely considering the number of rock caves in the region.

This area could have been used by the LTTE to infiltrate into the Zone I of the National Park and launch this


The Wild Life department vehicle that gamagedot d

attack on Thalgasmankada located some six kilometres into the land from the location which links Menik Ganga into the sea.

The Security Forces believe that groups of Tiger cadres who fled from Kanchikudichchiaru jungle would have entered the this area across the Lahugala National Park in the Ampara border with the Police Special Task Force launching a number of search operations in the jungle patches of the Ampara district in search of the Tiger cadres who fled from Thoppigala.

There had been information that a team led by LTTE leader Ram had fled further southwards from the Thoppigala in their bid to escape Security Forces operations.

The presence of the STF in the area has paved the way for the LTTE to flee from the Kanchikudichchuaru jungle towards further south of the Ampara district.

The other possibility for the LTTE to move into the area is by mingling with the fishermen arriving there to the Yala National Park area for seasonal fishing.

There had been information from a hunter, that some suspected people were living inside a rock cave in the Block II area of the National Park.

Therefore, it is quite clear the LTTE infiltrated the jungle through the Ampara border from Panama and Lahugala jungle.

Another possible way for the LTTE to infiltrate the Yala National Park is mingling with the pilgrims from the North to the annual Kataragama perahera through the jungle terrains passing the Yala National Park.

The recently concluded Kataragama perahera gave ample opportunities for fleeing Tiger terrorists from the Eastern theatre to move towards the southern end mingling with these pilgrims on Pada Yatra.

Though it was compulsory for the Security Forces to screen them before arriving at Kataragama they had many opportunities to move away from these pilgrims and take refuge in jungle patches easily.

The Security Forces who were guarding the Yala National Park had not been on alert as the area had not come under such a terror attack for the past few years.

The LTTE took this chance to overrun the Army detachment killing six soldiers there in the detachment as the Security Forces guarding the National Park have not conducted any search operations outside their detachment.

But this cannot be taken as a serious lapse on the part of the Security Forces as they never expected such an attack from the LTTE at this point, though there had been many incidents in the past inside the Yala National Park.

There had been several terror attacks on Thalgasmanakada in 1986, and in 1996. The LTTE set fire to a few holiday bungalows inside Yala National Park in 1996.

In October 1997 there was an incident in which the Kataragama bus depot was set on fire while a few vehicles were set ablaze in Galge area inside the Yala National Park.

The LTTE had selected an easy target to transmit a message across the world announcing their presence at a time the outfit was at the receiving end of a severe hiding both on ground, sea and through air attacks, its worst ever reversal in the near three decade old conflict.

There had been wide publicity to this incident as it involved a world famous Wild Life Park and also due to its location hundreds of miles away from the theatre of battle in the Wanni and in the Jaffna peninsula.

Had the LTTE launched this attack targeting a small Army detachment in Weli Oya or in Jaffna the incident would have gained the least prominence to the LTTE since such incidents were commonplace in the North.

Even if they did the same thing in Trincomalee or in Batticaloa, that also would not had any effect as this type of isolated incidents are frequently reported when Security Forces launch search operations to check Tiger infiltrations into the province possibly from the Northern sector.

One major objective of the LTTE through this attack is to divert the attention of the Security Forces from the Wanni in the face of the severe beating taken by the outfit. They want the Security Forces to deploy a major strength, at least a Brigade to secure an area like the Yala National Park, which stretches over 97,889 hectares.

It is vital for the LTTE to shift a considerable strength from the Wanni battle front as it facing an acute shortage of fighters to face the Security Forces advancing towards their Wanni strongholds slowly but steadily.

Such a vacuum in the Wanni battle front will enable the LTTE face the Security Forces easily with the limited number of cadres available with them.

During this week alone more than 100 Tiger cadres were killed in the confrontations with the Security Forces West of Omanthai. The number of Tiger cadres killed in these confrontations in this location have increased to 1,500.

Heavy LTTE casualties were reported when troops crippled a Tiger advance on Wednesday at the defence lines North of Uyilankulam, Mannar.

The limited encounter between Forces and the LTTE sprung amidst stormy weather with the onset of monsoonal rains.

Earlier, on Monday the Security Forces were able to kill more than 30 Tiger cadres in the FDLs West of Omanthai. Many of these cadres were female cadres and bodies recovered by the Security Forces were handed over to the LTTE later through the ICRC.

Yesterday too the security Forces averted another major LTTE move towards Security Forces defences in Periyathampanai in the West of Omanthai killing at least 13 LTTE cadres and injuring 10 of them. Seven bodies of the LTTE were recovered by the Security Forces along with their personnel weapons.

What is most significant is that the LTTE is realising that the fall of the Wanni bastions is inevitable in the face of determined efforts by the Security Forces to continue their advance towards the uncleared areas amidst heavy resistance from the LTTE.

In the same way the LTTE is also receiving severe beatings from the Security Forces in the Jaffna FDLs. According to the military at least five LTTE cadres are being killed on daily basis in the Jaffna FDLs in Muhamalai, Kilali and Nagar Kovil.

The recovery of a large haul of arms inside a house in Jaffna was a major breakthrough to the Security Forces since this detection could well have averted a major disaster that could have been planned by the LTTE to gain the upper hand.

That was the biggest recovery ever made by the Security Forces in the Jaffna peninsula. Troops acting on information given by civilians detected this massive LTTE war chest inside a false wall of a house.

The recovery included 622 Kilograms of C-4 explosives packed in boxes, 6334 live rounds of T-56 ammunition, one T-56 weapon, one silence pistol, 21 boxes of bicycle balls, eight suicide jackets, five claymore mines, five cellular phones, one Global Positioning System(GPS) set, 20 T-56 magazines, 790 T-56 silencer ammunition, 70 LTTE code sheets and a large stock of batteries.

This is the second largest quantity of C4 explosives detected in a single instance after the recovery of an explosive laden freezer truck in Trincomalee.

It is clearly evident that LTTE is now in a major preparation to launch a massive attack on vital security installations either in Jaffna or elsewhere in the country in order to rise from its present debacles.

Therefore, the attack on the Thalgasmanakada Army detachment can be seen as one step towards destabilising security in the South as it was the only place they could find to attack the Security Forces.

Therefore it is vital on the part of the Security Forces and also the public to be alert to possible LTTE moves to launch a desperate and inhumane attack targeting civilians in Colombo to exert pressure on the Government to hold back military operations targeting the group’s Wanni strongholds.
source:

http://www.dailynews.lk/2007/10/19/fea02.asp

Eastern Development?

Hambantota: Into the future, but what about the people?

While people await eagerly the many development projects in this once backwater area, there is a lot of heartburn over relocation plans, reports……

By Rohan Abeywardena

Hambantota may have been in Lanka’s backwater for a very long time and a pertinent question that used to be asked by political rivals here from the most powerful clan from this backward district, the Rajapaksa’s of Giruwapattuwa was what they have done for the region all these years?

Rajapaksa’s may have been thinking of the greater national good while holding many ministerial posts over the years, instead of merely enriching a pocket borough, but now with them being at the helm of the country, Hambantota is being truly transformed into the 21st century.

We toured the region last week to get a first hand look at what is in store and we found that though much local and international attention has gone to the construction of the proposed international harbour and airport here, there are many other complementary and supplementary projects that are either under construction or are about to take off the ground.

One project that is working full steam with ADB assistance is the upgrading of the existing natural fishery harbour. Here the China Harbour Engineering Company is building two breakwaters of 173 metres and 253 metres to enable this fishery harbour to be used through out the year. This part of the contract amounting Rs.334 million, includes deepening its approach to a depth of five metres and a width of 70 metres, deepening the inner basin to a depth of 3.5 metres and building a 150 metre quay. On completion in July it will be able to accommodate 70 multi-day boats and other smaller craft. The project originally set to be completed last April has got delayed, according to its Assistant Resident Engineer W.A.N. Silva due to the contractor finding it difficult to obtain adequate amount of large boulders for the breakwater construction on time.

Its Project Director from the Fishery Harbours Corporation Nissanka Perera adds that these are no ordinary granite boulders, with each weighing as much as three to five tonnes. He assures that the contract for the second half of the project, the building of the shore facilities, including the fish auction building, a net mending facility, and an administrative complex too will be awarded shortly and that too will be ready by the end of the year.

Another project, the work on which has just been started is a US$20 million modern administrative complex for the new Hambantota town. The South Korean construction giant Keangnam has been awarded the contract. It is being funded by a soft loan from the Korean government. The repayment is spread over a long period, according to Secretary to the Ministry of Urban Development Dr. P Ramunajam

Almost adjoining this office complex will see the construction of an international conference hall, 70 per cent of its total cost of US$ 8 million is being met by the South Korean government as a gift to Sri Lanka. One hundred acres have been set aside for the office complex and the conference hall.

Another 400 acres have been set aside adjacent to the new harbour for a BOI approved oil refinery project. Parallel to these projects, work is also in progress on the construction of infrastructure and other support facilities such as a new Galle Road through the interior circling the new harbour as a big portion of the present Galle Road will disappear with the construction of the port inland between Mirijjawila junction and encompassing the Karagan Saltern lagoon. This lagoon, as its Sinhala name suggests originally a saltern, but has not been used for that purpose for a long time since waste water had been flowing into it from the nearby government base hospital.

While practically everyone in Hambantota is now eagerly and proudly awaiting these massive projects, there is much heartburn especially over the compensation packages on offer among several hundred families who will have to be shifted to accommodate the flag ship projects, the international harbour and the airport at Weerawila, . Unlike all the other projects which are coming up on recently cleared virgin shrub jungle, these two massive projects and their support facilities expected to cost initially US$360 million and US$ 125 million, require thousands of acres of land now occupied by people.

Because of these frictions and the enormity of the tasks ahead, one cannot really blame President Mahinda Rajapaksa appointing his elder brother Chamal to the portfolio of Shipping and Aviation early this month. The haughty attitude of some officials attached to the Sri Lanka Ports Authority may have contributed to the deepening of friction with the affected people.

A policeman stands guard at the foundation stone site of the airport. Pic by Saman Kariyawasam

When we tried to raise the grievances of people who will have to be moved out for the harbour project, from a senior Ports Authority engineer, such as the low compensation amounts offered to them , he at once maintained that 192 families had already agreed to leave the area accepting the package offered and only 78 were holding back for more. And when it was pointed out that there are grave shortcomings in the infrastructure of the new township being prepared to resettle those people at Siribopura, he immediately cut the call.

The affected people took us to the new scheme, which was devoid of any trees, where the drains were being built and the inner roads were being macadamized at a cost of Rs. 60 million. It was obvious to anyone that the tar was being poured over a layer of metal not even two inches thick and beneath that thin layer of metal was just plain earth. And the drains and the hume pipes used for culverts couldn’t have been even one foot in diameter.

SLPA Chief Engineer Janaka Kurukulasuriya was more accommodating and assured us that he would personally inspect the scheme to see that everything was done according to specifications. He maintained that the diameter of drains and culverts had to be 300 mm and the contractor should ensure that the roads should have two layers of metal totalling 75mm of thickness.

In addition to the dispute over compensation package, the affected people also complain about having to move to an area which is barren amidst unbearable arid weather conditions in the district. They also fear wild animals and especially wild elephants, for Siribopura adjoins elephant infested shrub jungle. In fact while we were there around noon, we ourselves observed a wild elephant feeding at a garbage dump nearby. So without an electric fence it would be suicidal to live there.

Even the 78 families who have so far not signed up to leave, are willing to vacate, if a compensation package similar to the extremely lucrative ones given to affected people at places like Norochcholai and areas coming under the southern hi-way, is offerd to them.

Though these two big projects are definitely needed for the development of the whole country, raising the required finances appears to be the problem facing the authorities.

Government Agent, Hambantota, R.M.D. Meegasmulla hit the nail on the head when he admitted that compensation packages offered at Norichcholai and for areas coming under the southern hi – way were high, thanks to donor funding, but the problem here was much of the funding has to be raised locally.

It appears that even the launching of the harbour project has been somewhat delayed over the issue of raising the required finances, but Minister Chamal Rajapaksa told The Sunday Times that they would now lay the foundation stone with a soft ceremony on June 07.

The new port is earmarked to be completed in three years and three months, while the new international airport is expected to go into basic operation in 2009.

He said officials of the Ex-Im Bank of China, which is to provide a loan to finance the venture visited the area last Sunday in this regard. Pending the finalization of the loan they were going ahead with the project with SLPA funds.

President Rajapaksa during his state visit to China earlier this year has already signed the general agreement with Beijing to build the port.

Chief Engineer Kurukulasuriya assures speeding up of compensation payments to 150 families out of the 192 already agreed to leave, within the next two to three weeks. As for the balance 42 he said there are disputes about ownership and other issues preventing them from disbursing any funds to them. As for those refusing to sign up to vacate, Minister Rajapksa has met the members of the Association of Those Losing Properties to the Proposed Port early this week and have agreed to review their individual cases with a view to paying maximum compensation possible.

Unlike people being ousted by the harbour project who have been ever ready to leave provided they are provided the right compensation package, those being asked to leave to facilitate the new airport at Weerawila, the request has come like a bolt of lightning late last year, for earlier under the previous UNP regime the second international airport was earmarked to be built at Kuda Oya in the Moneragala District about 30 miles north of the present location.

Here, about 362 families in Colony 10 and few families in Colony 11 face the prospect of having to be uprooted after struggling to build their lives for the past 22 years. They were settled here in 1985 under the Lunugamvehera scheme. The scheme was a failure till few years back due to inadequate supply of water, but with the bringing in of additional water through the newly constructed Weherahgala canal people have begun enjoying bountiful harvests during both seasons.

According to the Airport and Aviation Services sources Kuda Oya site was a hasty selection done without giving consideration to access to infrastructure and even the presence of a nearby mountain range in Wellawaya is seen as a potential threat to the safe operation of an airport.

But at Weerawila, there is a greater problem over the threat faced by the adjoining Bundala bird sanctuary. An Environmental Impact Assessment prepared for the Weerawila airport project is said to be now under the review of a high-powered committee appoited by the Central Environmental Authority.

Director General of the Hambantota District Chamber of Commerce Azmi Thassim too feels the build up of friction. Therefore, he appeals to authorities to take the people into confidence and to march forward as a team to achieve these goals. “These are good ideas and if properly managed they are not impossible to achieve. Instead of ad hoc decisions, people must be taken into confidence and from there work as a team, through continuous engagement of the community.”

Tourism being the main income source of the region and the airport also being an urgent need, he suggests that the new airport be sited at least ten kilometres from Yala and at least 50 kilometres from Bundala to ensure that no harm is done to the two nature reserves by aircraft landing and taking off. With certainty, he says the harbour and the airport are the answers to the economic woes faced by them as those two alone would make the area centre of a lucrative triangle. To the east, he points to Arugam Bay, the best surfing destination in the world; to the west the golden beaches of the South and to the North the cool climes of hill destinations.

The Director General recalls that the current crisis facing the district is unprecedented. and far worse than the troubles they faced during the first and second JVP insurrections and the tsunami.

Similar desperate sentiments are echoed by Hambantota Regional President of the Hoteliers Association, Priyankara Wickramasekera. He says not only the survival of hotels are at stake, but thousands of their direct employees, suppliers, and everyone down the chain are in jeopardy.

Even with the Weerawila airport project, again the authorities have obviously run into a financial problem, which is envisaged to be resolved through raising the required funds from national lotteries run by the Lotteries Board. As such all Rs10 lottery tickets will double in price from August. The Lotteries Board will also introduce two new dollar denominated lottery tickets eying foreign travellers.

source:

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/070603/News/news7.html

#50 Siam View Hotel -SVH-

The Siam View Hotel

The facade appears rather ramshackle and unattractive, but this hotel has the honour of being the oldest wooden construction on the east coast of Sri Lanka and as such is on the National Heritage list of protected buildings. Go behind the facade and you will make a few interesting discoveries, not least of which has to be the excellent food served on the terrace and a wide selection of draft beers brewed in accordance with an old German tradition which allows only the use of the purist ingredients. You will also discover a special breed of people, an important piece of local history and a vast number of brilliant innovations. Without the Siam View Hotel, which opened in 1979, Arugam Bay would not be what it is today. Dr. Fred Netzband-Miller, an engineer of Dutch/German – English extraction and a handful of friends built this unpretentious landmark on what was, in the late 1970’s, a deserted stretch of beach. Since then, it has served its visitors in many ways: during the worst phases of the civil war it was declared a weapon free zone respected by all parties. It has always been and still is: a haven for homesick ex-patriots and for adventurers of all nationalities, a meeting point for surfers and a place where NGO workers can come to discuss their ideas, exchange information and work on plans for future projects to benefit the local population.

“We’re not here because we want to get rich, we’re here because we enjoy it”, emphasises Fred, who does not, even these days, have a brochure or visiting card for his hotel.

“The name Siam View is intended to suggest that theoretically it would be possible (if the earth were flat) to see Thailand”, explains the 56 year old, who lived there for many years and as the son of a diplomat grew up in Africa and feels that the whole world is home. It is one of his dreams to cross the 2000 km stretch of ocean on a jetski. That is not necessarily as unrealistic as it may sound: in 1977 Fred left the Isle of Man on a motorbike and succeeded in travelling the entire distance to India by land, then finally crossing to Sri Lanka by ferry. There is probably no one with a better knowledge of this corner of the world. Fred has counted 63 bays on the way to Hambantota. At one time, Fred served as a Liaison Officer for the British Army and was stationed in Potsdam. He has already twice negotiated the dense jungle and crossed the rivers of the Yala East National Park on a Unimog with a specially adapted and waterproof motor. His intention was to reach Colombo and as he says: “That was the shortest way”.

It is therefore not surprising that, at least until the Tsunami struck, the Siam View Hotel offered its guests the use of six ATV (All Terrain Vehicles) and during the specially conceived “Full Moon” parties massive 1800 watt loudspeakers created an unforgettable atmosphere as the disco played music from the hotel’s 8000 CD library.

Now 4 satellite dishes feed in television channels from around the world and provide an international telephone connection. In January 2004 a permanent high speed internet connection was installed and is still the only one on the entire east coast.

Although this costs nearly $1000 a month to run, locals are able to surf the net without charge. Everyone in the immediate vicinity also benefits from the 180 hp Mitsubishi Generator, which provides a standby source of electricity in the event of power cuts and there are very good reasons to believe that it once stood in Saddam Hussein’s Republican Gardens.

This generator, which uses between 7 – 9 litres of fuel per hour, initially saw service in Siam View in 1990 to provide a power source for the first air conditioning units. The hotel is particularly proud of a number of environmentally friendly innovations. One of these is the hotels own very efficient and clean sewage treatment system. Plastic bottles are collected and re-cycled to be used roof insulation.

The Tsunami left only the shell of the main building standing and of the original 26 rooms only 4 now remain. But, the disaster served to further enhance the hotel’s legend. At about 08:45 on the morning of 26 December, the gardener persisted in waking up all the guests; not an easy task as most people had only just gone to bed after the previous night’s lively Christmas party. The old man had noticed that the ocean was behaving strangely and he was convinced that a terrible catastrophe was about to happen. The disaster was not long in coming and within a few minutes, a gigantic 15 metre wave struck the small town. Thanks to the timely warning, all 165 guests survived, but everywhere else the retreating flood left behind horrific scenes of death and devastation. In this apocalyptic world, the Siam View became a symbol of survival, hope and regeneration. From the recovered food stores over 500 free meals were distributed to survivors in the first few days. “More importantly, were the stocks of alcohol and cigarettes”, remembers Fred and adds that in the middle of this chaos, his hotel managed to put on a modest New Year’s party.

Fred is convinced that the terrible Tsunami disaster taught him more about physics than all the years he spent at university. And it is this knowledge, which he has put to practical use in rebuilding the hotel. The new supporting concrete pillars are triangular in shape in order to deflect boats and other debris which would be swept against the structure should another tidal wave occur. The water tower has been fitted with three large sirens with a range of 700m. Other features of the Tsunami Early Warning System are three computers permanently connected to seismological monitoring stations in Alaska, Hawaii and Bangkok. Even the matter of emancipation is one which has been given consideration at the Siam View Hotel. The new beach bar, which has been constructed entirely from natural materials, has a second floor which bears the name “Ladies Lounge”. It is available to female guests only, but men may be allowed to enter on rare occasions, if specially invited.

Source: Du Mont Loose Reisefuehrer – German Travel Guide
Translation by: Alf Docherty, Rheindahlen

Tsu Aid from Venezuela?

What happened to tsunami aid from Venezuela? – JVP MP Vijitha Herath

By: Dasun Edrisinghe
Courtesy: The Island – February 10, 2007

JVP MP Vijitha Herath yesterday wanted to know what the government had done with the US dollars 6.2 million it had received from Venezuela as tsunami assistance.

He said the money was collected by the people of Venezuela, with President Hugo Chavez launching the fund raiser and sent to Sri Lanka in mid July 2005 during former President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s term of government.

“The funds were collected by the people of Venezuela as a symbol of their solidarity with the tsunami-affected people in Sri Lanka. It was initiated by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez,” Herath told The Island yesterday.

“The Venezuelan government has inquired about what was done with the money but has received no answer,” he said.

Herath said the Venezuelan Chief Director of the Cabinet of the Vice Minister Asia Middle East and the Pacific Wolheng Gonzales had told him in the presence of the Venezuela’s Ambassador to India, Milena Santana-Ramirez, that they believed the money had been misused.

He said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had led the fund raiser titled ‘One Bolivar for Asia’ and it was mainly the poor Venezuelans who had contributed in order to show their solidarity with the tsunami affected people.

The meeting between the JVP and Venezuelan government officials took place last week at the Colombo Hilton, where the two teams discussed measures to be taken to strengthen bi-lateral relations between the two nations.

Venezuela’s contribution was for the construction of 1,000 houses in Arugambay, Ampara. “A Venezuelan delegation was accompanied by the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse to Arugambay to survey the area after the catastrophe. When they had promised this huge sum of money as aid, our PM had promised to invite the Venezuelan government to send a delegation to declare open this village. Now, Venezuela is wondering what our people had done with money as there is no sign of the 1,000-houses scheme, Herath said.

Published: Feb 09, 2007 22:02:59 GMT

Comments [ 4 ]:

Sayon from Canada on Feb 10, 2007 2:33:15 GMT

We Tamil Diaspora owe to Tamil Tsunami victims. So, we should urge our western governments and NGOs (such Care, Red Cross) also urge the GoSL to detail the Tsunami aid. I would alos like to point out that an audit is long due on Tsunami aid in Sri Lanka. The outsted Mangala Samaraweera will expose many corruptions soon.

We should start changing our mindset and start thinking that we deal with a “Terrorist State”.

Shane from USA on Feb 10, 2007 1:17:28 GMT

I have to say with this entire power squabble over who get to hold what portfolio; we will get to know which politician stole the most money. I hope this is good future reference for the international donors. YOU ARE NOT HELPING THE AFFECTED; INSTEAD YOU’RE BEING AN ASSALANTS TO A HIGHWAY ROBBERY.

Pon from Canada on Feb 10, 2007 1:01:03 GMT

Check the Bank accounts of Rajapakse holdings. We had the fraud of Helping Hambantota. Now the fraud of Rajapakse family.

Vincent K from United Kingdom on Feb 09, 2007 23:37:05 GMT

“Panamentral pinamum vaithirakum”. Even a corpse will open its mouth if it is money as the tamil saying goes. Any government or International body giving money to Sri Lanka are fools. How could they give money without checking how it is going to be spent? You can’t give money to a government which has a very bloated cabinet; has had 3 foreign ministers in fewer than 3 years and flouts international law. Give us your money but bugger off( pardon my french) is what they have been saying. It used to be a bit suttle but now the power has gone to their heads. They think they are in Chile, El salvador etc. Do you see an American hand in all this or is it my imagination?

source:

http://www.tamilcanadian.com/page.php?cat=490&id=4770