Statues and emblems not enough for BBS

In an interview to Sri Lanka’s Daily Financial Times, the Chief Executive Officer of Bodu Bala Sena has stated that his group’s aim is to ensure “true Buddhism” is practised in the country, adding that the presence of Buddha statues across the island and Buddhist symbols in government logos was not enough. The group, a Sinhala translation of ‘Buddhist Power Force’, is a “civil society movement led by monks”, claimed Dilantha Withange, stating in his interview , “According to our Constitution, Buddhism should be given foremost priority. But we believe this is not practiced in Sri Lanka at present. Buddhism is not given due recognition in this country. We may have the dharma chakra in our national emblem; there may be Buddhist statues in every corner in the country; but the question is whether Buddhism is properly practiced in this country .” Since the end of the war Sri Lanka has rapidly escalated its construction of Buddha statues and other Buddhist sites across the Tamil homeland in the North-East of the island. Withange also commented, “Our country was under imperialists for a long period of time. They ruined the roots of Buddhism in this country. Although they left, our leaders continued their agendas. Various leaders come into power labelling themselves as Buddhists and patriots, but they all follow what the British and others did. Then the war worsened things. Our prime objective is to put an end to this and establish a Buddhist society in our country once again .” “Meanwhile, although the Constitution says foremost priority should be given to Buddhism, it doesn’t say anywhere that Buddhism is our State religion. Countries like Bangladesh clearly say that Islam is their State religion. We need to put things in the right place. That is what we want. This is a country that doesn’t even practice the five basic principles of Buddhism. We need to change this.”

Further increases in price of bakery product

Bread prices in Sri Lanka are set to increase, after the government hiked electricity tariffs, despite widespread opposition. The All Ceylon Bakery Owners' Association said the increase in electricity tariffs is affecting the industry and consequently prices of bakery goods would be increased. The Association said the price of gas was increased first, followed by a fuel price hike and now the electricity tariffs. "These steps will make bakers lose whatever profits they earn and therefore, the increase in prices of bakery goods was imminent," the Association said . The US sought a meeting with...

The philosophy behind SL 'reconciliation'

Permanent Representative to the UN, Palitha Kohona, told the UN General Assembly that Sri Lanka was not particularly interested in finding 'culprits'. Having mentioned the state's benevolent decision to not take 'punitive legal action' against many captured cadres and LTTE leaders, Kohona also managed to eloquently pitch Sri Lanka's reverence of impunity along with its disinterest in accountability: “Our underlying philosophy is that reconciliation is not about finding culprits to punish," See also: It wasn't the army, says the army - volume II

Ministry of Finance prohibits sale of land to 'foreigners'

Sri Lanka's Ministry of Finance sent a circular, dated 27th March 2013, explicitly stating that the transfer of land, included that which is privately owned, was prohibited to any foreign national or foreign company.

Rajapaksa - will not allow creation of 'religious or communal disharmony'

Addressing delegation from 15 Islamic countries on Thursday, Sri Lanka's president, Mahinda Rajapaksa said that the Sri Lankan government 'will not tolerate anyone perpetrating acts to create communal or religious disharmony'. The Ministry of Defence's website quoted Rajapaksa as saying: "If anyone has proof and evidence of such incidents, they should hand over that information, and action would be taken promptly." The visiting delegates included those from: Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Indonesia, Kuwait, Malaysia, Maldives, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates,...

Deportations breach Australia's international obligations

The Australian immigration department was accused of denying 38 failed asylum seekers access to legal advice before sending them back to Sri Lanka. Australian Human Rights Commission president, Gillian Triggs, expressed concern regarding the 'enhanced screening process' that had been implemented on Sri Lankan boat arrivals, resulting in involuntary deportations back to Sri Lanka. Triggs outlined that Austrailia risked breaching its non-refoulement obligations, which forbid asylum seekers from being returned to countries where they may be persecuted. The Australian Human Rights Commission's...

Cup of Gota's tea

Dilmah Tea owner and the Sri Lankan Defence Secretary open the latest Sri Lankan military monument in the Tamil homeland . During his address at the opening event, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, made a special mention to Dilmah Tea, one of Sri Lanka's leading brands, "for its patronage, extended to make Thoppigala a place of tourist interest."

'Idea of Tamil nation is not dead in SL'

Writing in Tehelka, Revati Laul, detailed her recent trip to the North-East, concluding, "but even in the aftermath of the terror and genocide, the Tamil idea of nationhood has not disappeared. If India does not want another cycle of violence at its doorstep, it cannot afford to be indifferent to the voices of the Lankan Tamils." See here for original article, extracts reproduced below: "With the war over, things have gone back to usual. Contrary to Rajapaksa’s famed 13th amendment, promising autonomy to the provincial councils in the north for the Tamils, this means a return to State policies from the 1950s that systematically and deliberately excluded them from cultivable farmland and prime fishing waters. The exclusion that sparked the Tamil resistance and war in the first place is back with a bang." "TRINCOMALEE IN the east, a long and beautiful stretch of coastline once held by the LTTE, is now back on the tourist map after it was recaptured by the army in 2006. But Trincomalee is overrun with soldiers at every street corner. Every passenger on every incoming bus to the north and east is checked by the military. Every time you board a bus, you have to write your contact numbers, purpose of visit and passport details." "In another camp in the east — local guides did not wish it to be identified — a frail 53-year-old woman stepped out of her mud hut to greet us. She dashed her daughter off to get us a sweet red drink from a store nearby as her eyes slowly shifted to a faraway place. She now lives entirely in the past. Every waking moment is spent thinking of the home they fled in 2006; the two cows she had to sell, named Neerum or water and Neeruppu or fire. “Even if I don’t get back my farmland, I will live with that. All I want, even if it’s just a small hut, is to get back to my homeland,” she said wistfully. At yet another camp in the north, a fisherman’s eyes brimmed over. Living in a camp for more than 22 years is no life, he said. In the 1990s, he left the camp to live in the Vanni, the LTTE heartland, where he felt protected and thought the Tamils would have a future. Now, at the age of 60, with that dream getting more and more blurred, he confessed, “I think I should just end it all now and walk into the sea.” The refusal to be named or identified is commonplace among the Tamils. Their fear is palpable."

Indian Navy ships on training visit in SL

Three Indian Navy ships arrived in Colombo on Thursday, on a 4 day training visit aimed at increasing mutual cooperation between the two navies. The ships, "INS Sujata", "INS Tarangini" and Coast Guard Ship "ICGS Varuna" were welcomed at the port by the Sri Lankan Navy. A total of 272 Indian Navy personnel and 187 Coast Guard personnel will take part in the special programme organised by the Sri Lankan Navy.

Australian Air Force plane sends asylum seekers home

The Australian government has sent back 38 asylum seekers who arrived by boat in Australia’s busy Geraldton port last week, as refugee advocacy groups claim they were denied access to lawyers. A further 28 asylum seekers who were on the boat are having their claims “processed” on Christmas Island, according to reports, after the group pulled into the port following a 44-day voyage from Sri Lanka. An Australian Air Force jet will be sending the asylum seekers to Colombo. Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor stated , ''Returning this group to Sri Lanka sends the powerful message that people who pay smugglers are throwing their money away and risking their lives in the process... There is no fast track to Australia - irrespective of whether someone arrives at an excised offshore place. If they do not engage Australia's protection obligations, they will be returned home.'' Meanwhile, as another group of asylum ended a 10-day hunger strike in a Melbourne detention centre, American political critic Noam Chomsky stated, “The true measure of the moral level of a society is how it treats the most vulnerable people... Few are as vulnerable as those who have fled to Australia in terror and are locked away without charge, their terrible fate veiled in secrecy. We may not be able to do much beyond lamenting about North Korean prisons. But we can do a great deal about severe human rights violations right within reach ”. He was joined by critically acclaimed Australian author Thomas Keneally, who said, “If any Australian citizens were treated as these people are, with detention, humiliation and denial of rights, we too would make protests to assert the justice of our cause – just as these present refugees have done”.