UK and South Africa pull out of Sri Lanka maritime conference

Reports have stated that the United Kingdom and South Africa have pulled out of the “Galle Dialogue Maritime Conference” hosted by the Sri Lankan Navy and Ministry of Defense, which is due to commence on Monday. This follows Dr. W Lawrence S Prabhakar, Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science of Madras Christian College, confirming that he will be boycotting the event, “in full solidarity with the issue of the Tamils”, and said he was “pained by this heinous crime” against the Tamil people. The conference has come under intense scrutiny, with the Sri Lanka Campaign...

Attacks on fisherman 'totally unacceptable' - India

India's Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, speaking directly to Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa, has condemned the Sri Lankan navy attacks of Tamil fishermen, deeming them " totally unacceptable ". The bilateral talks took place on the sidelines of the SAARC summit on Thursday. Speaking to journalists on board Air India One on Saturday, Singh said, "We explained this to President Rajapaksa and he agreed that the use of force to deal with Indian fishermen is totally unacceptable , that it is a human problem and it must be dealt in a humane manner ." "Principally, my concern was with regard...

Hambantota deemed 'high risk' to host 2018 Commonwealth Games

The Australian Gold Coast has won the bid to host the 2018 Commonwealth games, beating Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse’s hometown of Hambantota. The decision was made at a meeting of the Commonwealth nations on the Caribbean Island of St Kitts this morning, with the Gold Coast gathering 43 votes and Hambantota only managing 27. The announcement sparked celebrations for the Australians, with the Games predicted to deliver $2 billion in economic benefits and around 30,000 jobs in the next 7 years. A Commonwealth Games Federation Evaluation Commission also stated that the Gold Coast was a “low risk” venue for the games, while Hambantota was “medium to high risk”. The report went on to say that “the majority of telecommunications infrastructure required for the Games venues does not currently exist”, acknowledging that Hambantota does not currently have an international airport and only 1009 accommodation rooms. It will come as a bitter blow for the Sri Lankans who were reported to have paid British firm Pmplegacy, owned by Chime Communications, $2.3 million for PR work for the bid. Also flown to St Kitts were former cricket players Aravinda de Silva and Muttiah Muralitharan. Earlier Muralitharan had made an impassioned plea to the Commonwealth, likening the 2013 bid to the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa. He said both events were a chance to unite the respective countries, and even compared Mahinda Rajapakse to Nelson Mandela.

Former UK Prime Minister urges protection of religious minorities from Sri Lankan state

Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, writing in the UK Guardian on Friday, urged the world to protect the religious freedoms of minorities in Sri Lanka, including Hindus, from religious extremism by the Sri Lankan state. Integral to the Sri Lankan constitution is the state's responsibility to 'protect and foster' Buddhism. Extracts from Blair's article : "It is not only the acts of terror that should alarm us. It is the extremism that promotes persecution of religious minorities, too . " The challenge is that much greater where human dignity is not respected and freedom of religion denied . This results in a general oppression of people of faith. " It means we must support Muslims in Gujarat, India; non-Orthodox Christians in Moldova; Bahai's in Iran; Ahmadis in Pakistan; all Christians in north Africa; Hindus in Sri Lanka ; Shia in several Sunni majority countries, and other places. " The essence of democracy is that it is pluralistic. It is inherently secular , even if rooted in cultures that are profoundly religious. This is where democracy-friendly religion really means something very important in the way society is governed. " It is about free media; freedom of expression; and about freedom of religion. It is also about an independent judiciary and the rule of law and even about free markets albeit with appropriate government intervention and regulation."

Volumes down as bourse reacts to expropriation bill

Sri Lanka’s stock market reacted to the uncertainty caused by the expropriation bill with plummeting numbers of trades. After a holiday on Thursday, turnover on Friday was 393.7 million Sri Lanka rupees, a fraction of this year’s average of 2.5 billion per day. The total volume of shares traded was just 13.6 million shares, against a five-day average of 28.3 million and a 90-day average of 102.4 million reported Reuters . "Nobody knows what they are taking over, whether it's just the land or the shares of the company," a bourse official told Reuters on condition of anonymity, referring to the...

US official - Sri Lanka must be prepared to prosecute military

Speaking to Reuters news agency, on condition of anonymity, a senior Obama administration official is reported to have said, "These domestic mechanisms must also be credible and must result in credible action being taken by the Sri Lankans that will show that they are determined to pursue serious reconciliation and accountability ," " It's important that they've measures on the accountability side that show they are prepared to bring members of the military that may have been responsible for war crimes to book ." See US has 'high expectations' from LLRC (Nov 2011) The LLRC said on Friday its...

‘Do not let Sri Lanka off the hook’ – Freedom from Torture

The British Charity Freedom from Torture, has stated that the Sri Lankan government’s commitment to eradicate torture cannot be trusted and call upon the international community to ensure that it is held accountable for any breach of the UN Convention Against Torture. In a statement released on Friday, the group said, “It is clear as day under international law that torture is wrong in all circumstances , whoever the victim – be they combatant or civilian, man or woman. Allegations must be investigated; torturers must be held to account. " " Let us hope that governments around the world do not let Sri Lanka off the hook if the government fails to achieve the justice it has promised through its own means." "Given the shocking cases of torture we have documented – survivors arriving at our door in the UK with the resulting mental and physical scars still fresh – the government's word on torture is not something we can hold in any regard. ” It comes after the UN Committee Against Torture meeting concluded this week, where Sri Lanka’s abuses were once again under the spotlight.

Parliament passes expropriation bill

Sri Lanka’s parliament has passed the controversial nationalisation bill, clearing the way for the government to take over 37 companies. The "Revival of Under-performing Enterprises and Under-utilised Assets Act" allows the takeover of companies that are deemed to be underperforming by the government. Opposition leader Ranil Wikremesinghe and the influential Buddhist clergy have spoken out against the new bill. The 37 companies to be nationalised include several companies with foreign capital and businesses owned by supporters of the main opposition. See our previous articles: Supreme Court...

India raises fishing issue with Rajapakse

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse on Thursday, where he raised the issue of the Sri Lankan Navy’s frequent attacks on Tamil Nadu fishermen. The 45-minute meeting took place on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in the Maldives, and comes as Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai ended a three-day trip to Sri Lanka, where he also discussed the issue with the Sri Lankan President. Last week, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa wrote to Manmohan Singh, urging him to “take a strong stand” against Colombo and "convey its serious apprehension through tough words and action", after a recent spate of attacks by the Sri Lankan Navy. The letter read , “I am constrained to point out that all the concerns of the Centre and Government of Tamil Nadu in this regard have only fallen on deaf ears where the Sri Lankan authorities are concerned .”

Free press campaigners condemn Sri Lanka's proposed media regulation

The Committee to Protect Journalists has criticised the Sri Lankan government's announcement to enforce regulation of the media, in a statement released on Thursday. CPJ said, "The CPJ is concerned by the Sri Lankan government's announcement of an upcoming set of guidelines and code of conduct for journalists and media organizations, and believes these regulations will only increase the government's control of the media ." Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator, said, "Website registration rules, the blocking of websites, and now talk of media guidelines are indicators that the pressure on...