US believed China bribed way to Hambantota contract

A cable from the US embassy in Colombo last year, revealed how officials believed China bribed senior Sri Lankan government figures, possibly including President Mahinda Rajapakse himself, to win building contracts in Hambantota. The leaked cable went on to cast doubts on the long term viability of the city to attract investment. See full text from Wikileaks here . Sent by Deputy Chief of Mission Valerie Fowler, entitled “Hambantota Port Complex: Will Sri Lanka realize the dream?” the cable said, " It is likely that corruption and political patronage are significant factors playing into the focus on Hambantota. Often when Chinese companies win contracts, their success is due in part on their widespread distribution of graft to senior Sri Lankan government officials ." " While it is currently unknown to what extent President Mahinda Rajapaksa is involved in Hambantota development, it seems logical that his hand is also out when commercial enterprises, especially the Chinese, jockey for contracts and projects." Hambantota, President Rajapakse’s hometown, is currently bidding to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games. The bid is being led by the President's son, Namal Rajapakse.

Sri Lanka-India venture in $200m hotel-apartment build

Sri Lanka’s Rank Holdings, a group which has interests in gaming, power and logistics, is planning a $200 million hotel and residential complex in Colombo with an Indian partner. See SANA’s report here . A 5-star hotel and 171 apartments would be part of the mixed development on a 2.5 acre property leased from the state. The area has been earmarked for leisure and entertainment development by Sri Lanka’s urban development authority ( UDA ), part of the Ministry of Defence. Construction is expected to begin in November. Funding would be borrowed from foreign banks and put in by Rank Holdings...

Sri Lankan Army war criminal apprehended in Florida

A Sri Lankan Army sergeant involved in the torture and murder of civilians, as well as the construction of mass graves, has been apprehended by US authorities after being named by the Canada's Border Services as a suspected war criminal. Illandaridevage Kulatunga was named in a list of 30 suspected war criminals that were thought to have entered Canada illegally. The National Post said in a 2004 article that Kulatunga was directly involved in the arrest, torture and murder of innocent civilians as part of the Sri Lankan Army in the 1990s . It was also noted that Kulatunga and his fellow soldiers then dug mass graves in order to destroy evidence of their crimes. He is now set to be deported back to Sri Lanka, a decision that has been criticised by human rights group Amnesty International , who have called for all those on the list to face prosecution rather than deportation. Amnesty spokesman John Tackaberry said: “Serious human rights violators should be brought to justice, w e should ensure they face the consequences of their actions. These are very serious charges." "You can’t get worse than war crimes or crimes against humanity.”

US warns again on international action

Commenting on Sri Lanka's planned lifting of emergency laws, US State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, warned Sri Lanka to make further progress on human rights and humanitarian law: " We continue to urge the government of Sri Lanka to meet its international humanitarian law and international human rights law obligations ." "And we continue to say that if they cannot do this nationally, then the international community will have to step in. Bob Blake will be talking about all these issues on his visit." Robert Blake, US assistance secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs, will be visiting Sri Lanka from 29-31 August. Nuland confirmed that as part of his visit, he will be travelling to Jaffna.

On the economy

Comments to The Island newspaper (see reports on Friday here and here ): "The economy is being driven by the government. The state is a major player in the economy and as a result the country is accumulating debt, mainly from China who are funding major development projects in the face of low foreign direct investment. " Having economic freedom means that there should be more private sector involvement in development activities." - Dr. Harsha De Silva , economist and opposition MP. "Our FDI performance has not been all that great, at US$ 413 million for the first six months, and lifting...

Date set for hanging of 3 Tamils

Following the rejection of the clemency pleas of the 3 Tamils convicted for their alleged part in the assassination of the Rajiv Gandhi, a final date of execution has been confirmed: Friday 9th September 2011. The confirmation on date comes amidst increasing public outrage at India's decision to uphold capital punishment in this case. Three city advocates began a fast unto death today, in front of the Madras High Court, demanding clemency for the 3 Tamils. The advocates Kayalvizhi, Vadivambal and Sujatha also seek the abolition of capital punishment in India.

Sri Lanka lifts emergency laws, but terror law has same powers

Sri Lanka lifted draconian emergency laws imposed nearly 30 years on Thursday - but similarly tough powers remain available to authorities under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). See reports by AFP , AP and Reuters . Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced the lifting of the emergency regulations in Parliament. The laws, which give security forces sweeping powers of arrest and detention, have been renewed on a monthly basis - with only brief breaks - since they were first imposed 28 years ago. The government move comes ahead of next month's United Nations Human Rights Council...

Sri Lanka military to keep draconian powers

Sri Lanka will not repeal its draconian security legislation to satisfy demands by India, the United States or Britain or keep them ‘happy,’ Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa was quoted as saying. Only his brother, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, knows what is best for the country, he reportedly asserted. See reports by The Sunday Leader and ColomboPage . Since the end of the armed conflict, Sri Lanka has been under pressure from the international community to repeal the Emergency Regulations, which give sweeping powers to its military and police. Along with the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), the Emergency Regulations have long been criticised by international human rights groups for the immunity they grant to security forces who commit rights abuses. Amnesty International says of the ER and PTA: "Successive governments have used national security as an excuse to introduce a range of broad of emergency regulations." "This has led to the erosion and even suspension of people’s rights to freedom of thought, conscience and expression, as well as their right to live free from arbitrary arrest and detention ." "The national security laws grant state authorities sweeping powers of detention and permit people to be held in secret locations . "Security agents, often without proper uniforms or identification, can detain and hold suspects for months or years without a warrant or being produced before a magistrate." See the statement, and find a link to the briefing paper 'Forgotten prisoners: Sri Lanka uses anti-terrorism laws to detain thousands ', here .

Terror on cue

Sri Lankan security forces have an overbearing presence in many Tamil-speaking areas where 'grease devils' - night prowlers - are terrorising villages. Until very recently, the term ‘grease devil’ had not appeared in international reportage on Sri Lanka. However in the past few weeks it has been associated with an epidemic of terrifying attacks and attempted attacks by night prowlers on women, largely in Tamil-speaking areas. Wearing masks or face paint, they either break into female-only houses and residences, or loiter in areas frequented by women. The incidents have not only caused panic amongst residents in Tamil, Muslim and Upcountry Tamil villages (mainly, but not exclusively), but also anger - which has been directed, tellingly, at the security forces who are seen to be protecting the prowlers. Sri Lanka has been making much of supposed local superstitions. But people are terrorised by the attacks themselves, not paranormal readings of the perpetrators. Indeed, they have often chased after - and sometimes apprehended - the prowlers when they encounter them. It is no coincidence the wave of attacks comes as Sri Lanka’s authorities are under international pressure to repeal draconian Emergency Regulations and reduce the overbearing military presence in the war-shattered Tamil areas. In short, the ‘grease devil’ phenomenon has emerged as an all too convenient justification for Sri Lanka’s security establishment to continue its massive deployment in Tamil areas.

Karu Jayasuriya calls for UNP unity to save Sri Lanka

In a statement , UNP deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya, called upon fellow UNP members to unite with haste in order to rescue Sri Lanka from this 'strange and dangerous juncture'. See extracts below: " Sri Lanka stands poised at a strange and dangerous juncture of her history, this has now become glaringly apparent to all those of us who live here. There is a serious absence of accountability and transparency in matters of governance that have effectively sidelined the vast majority of the citizens in the decision-making process." " We live in a country where the state apparatus uses its defeat...

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