Arugam Bay and the lagoon development

23 July 2009 :: Anjika Sridhar

…..An area around Arugam Bay, near a 300-acre lagoon, along the eastern coast, would be a site for planned developments, possibly a move to attract surf tourism.……

The 26-year civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has been declared ended, with the taking of the Tigersa?? last strongholds, the reported a??liberationa?? of the civilian population of the region, and the killing of LTTE founder and supreme commander Velupillai Prabhakaran, whom the government declared to have died on 18 May 2009, in an attack on an ambulance reportedly carrying LTTE leaders.

There has been no major flare-up in violence, and the LTTE says their new direction will be non-violent resistance to the Sri Lankan governmenta??s control of the area they will still seek to separate from Sri Lanka. They have named a new leader,A?Selvarasa Pathmanathan Aceon no prescription , the militant groupa??s former head of international relations and an alleged arms smuggling kingpin. The executive committee of the LTTE has said he a??will lead us into the next steps of our freedom struggle according to the vision of our esteemed leadera??.

Pathmanathan has said the Tigers will adapt the means of their a??liberation strugglea?? to suit the times, saying the times require non-violent means. According to the AP:

The defeated Tigers said they have set up a head office and an executive committee to move forward their campaign for an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils, who have claimed discrimination at the hands of Sri Lankaa??s majority Sinhalese.

Pathmanathan said earlier the Tigers would abandon their armed struggle and use nonviolence to achieve their goals, and he promised the group would reorganize itself based on democratic principles a?? a major change from Prabhakarana??s dictatorial leadership style.

The government of Sri Lanka has celebrated its military defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebel group and has signaled its desire to promote tourism as a new industry, now that the country is thought to be safe from bombings and clashes between the government and rebels. There are plans to develop the eastern coastline for beach-oriented tourism, and plans to develop transport infrastructure, to better service an influx of travelers.

The head of Sri Lankaa??s Tourism Development Authority,A?Bernard Goonetilleke,A?has told the press a??We are working to develop infrastructure – building roads, power supplies, and bridges where they currently have ferry services. We also want to plant trees along the roads to beautify the place.a??

Goonetilleke said an area around Arugam Bay, near a 300-acre lagoon, along the eastern coast, would be a site for planned developments, possibly a move to attract surf tourism. He said that a??at least 12 to 13 hotelsa?? would be built inA?Passigudda and suggested that a number of islands would be developed for resort tourism, with thousands of hotel rooms in total.

But after 26 years of civil war and the spring offensive, Sri Lanka has a lot to clean up before conditions return to a state of peacetime normalcy. An estimated 495,000 internally displaced people, most of them ethnic Tamils forced to flee the governmenta??s offensive against the Tamil Tiger rebels, still have no way to return home or find resettlement.

A number of sources have reported soaring numbers of deaths among the internally displaced in Sri Lankaa??s camps, as high as 1,400 per day. The government says those figures are exaggerated and that the highest reported number of deaths on any given day is 11. Now comes the news that encephalitis and meningitis have broken out among the internally displaced persons (IDPs), and that the outbreak is severe enough that UN staff have been warned to stay away from certain areas.

According to Xinhua:

Meningitis and encephalitis have erupted in Sri Lankaa??s northern Vavuniya district where about 300,000 Tamils civilians displaced by the last phase of war between the government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels are being housed, a local newspaper said on Sunday.

The Sunday Times reported that 14 new encephalitis cases were detected in the Vavuniya General Hospital over the past week.

There are concerns the disease is either extremely virulent or is being undertreated, possibly due to inattention to the needs of Tamil refugees. Official figures for treatment of meningitis in Sri Lankan hospitals showed the fatality rate had dropped to 5%. The Sunday Times report found that fatality was running as high as 50% for cases as the Vavuniya General Hospital.

There are concerns the government will not be held to account for alleged war crimes (like the bombing of civilian areas with cluster munitions or the targeting of civilian infrastructure, including schools and hospitals). The Asia director for Human Rights Watch, Brad Adams, has expressed dismay at the IMFa??s announcement it will soon make a loan to the Sri Lankan government.

Adams said:

To approve a loan, especially $600 million more than the government even asked for, while they have hundreds of thousands of people penned up in these camps is a reward for bad behavior, not an incentive to improvea??

While the IMF says the loan will help Sri Lanka to repair its fiscal situation and devote resources to reconstruction of the war-torn Tamil north, Human Rights Watch was critical of the approach Costo del aciclovir crema : a??Current government policies, however, in failing to respect human rights standards, threaten post-conflict reconstruction, reconciliation, and stability, and thereby undermine the purpose of the loana??.

Disputes over death reports, alleged bombing of civilians and rumored ongoing ill-treatment of encamped refugees has led human rights workers, journalists and international observers, to argue that greater freedom for the press would help resolve such disputes about what is going on in the camps. But even two months after the war was declared officially ended, the governmenta??s war on the press persists.

Perhaps in furtherance of its plans for a reborn Sri Lanka, free of the ills of war, or perhaps from inertia, or from fears that the old security crisis could return, the Sri Lankan government appears to be continuing its strict control of all media operating in the country. With numerous physical attacks on journalists, including several high-profile murders, foreign journalists have also had their visas revoked or their stories censored.

Now, AP reporter Ravi Nessman, the wire servicea??s chief correspondent in Sri Lanka, has been forced to leave, after the government refused to renew his visa. The reason given was that no foreign journalists are allowed to stay in the country for more than 2 years, but other journalists have said they have never heard of any such rule. The press-rights organization Reporters without Borders (RSF) says Nessman was expelled for reporting on the facts of the war.

RSF says a??After attacking human rights activists and doctors, the government is now taking it out on foreign journalists who reported on the suffering of the people. Ita??s extremely unfortunatea??. The watchdog group also says it has information that no fewer than a??eight foreign reporters or contributors to international mediaa?? have been forced to leave Sri Lanka in 2009 alone.

Over 30 Sri Lankan journalists have been forced to flee, due to violent assaults and/or threats since the beginning of 2008. Ongoing intimidation of the press has mystified some observers, who say it shows the Sri Lankan government is not willing to leave behind some of the authoritarian measures it used during the conflict with the Tamil Tigers. Others worry that heavy-handedness toward ethnic Tamils could cause the conflict to re-ignite.


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