Indian Bank targets Tamil clients in Sri Lanka

The state-owned Indian Bank , headquartered in Chennai, is going to open three more branches in Sri Lanka in the coming months, following the newly opened one in Jaffna (see more here ). Chairman and managing director T.M. Bhasin said the bank’s focus is on those areas where they can easily find Tamil clientele. “ Tamil speaking people are particularly very inclined towards our bank and we are also very close to them . So, we want to venture in those areas where many Tamil people are living. In Sri Lanka, many Tamils are there and we have very good business,” he said. See the report in Sri...

Moving refugees is not smuggling

It’s not human smuggling if you’re essentially trying to get caught, says a lawyer for one of the Tamils who sought asylum in Canada after arriving by ship. Smuggling must entail clandestine and illegal entry, Rod Holloway argued to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). However, in the Tamils’ case, “The [passengers’] intention appears to have been to bring the ship to Canada and to report at a port of entry, not to try and enter Canada clandestinely . “What has happened in this case is not smuggling and the people involved should not be denied access to the refugee process when they came...

Extraordinarily Perverse

Canada’s decision to deport the 74-year old widow of assassinated Tamil parliamentarian Joseph Parajasingham on the grounds she is a member “by association” of the Liberation Tigers exemplifies the Kafkaesque logics of the country’s asylum policy as implemented by its Immigration and Refugee Board. In Canada, as in many Western states, asylum and immigration policy has long been controversial and marked by heated political and public debates. These have intensified amid the insecurities since the global financial crisis, and border agencies in many Western states are under intense pressure to stem immigration – and not just from developing countries. However some of the recent decisions made, and the logics put forward for these, by the IRB stand out as especially perverse.

Mahinda model

Boosted by an email campaign by his supporters, Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa is sixth in Time magazine’s poll of the 100 most influential people of 2011. (While polling for inclusion in the 100 is now closed, voting for ranking within the shortlist continues till April 21.) When the shortlisting closed, President Rajapaksa, whose regime is in international focus for its war crimes, had polled over 74,000 ‘yes’ votes and 21,000 ‘no’ votes. (See Time's reasons here for why he might be considered 'influential', something his fans might have missed.) That's more than seven times that...

Sri Lanka let India win - Rajapaksa

President Mahinda Rajapaksa fetes the Sri Lankan team at his home on April 4. Photos Sudath Silva Sri Lanka let India win the Cricket World Cup, President Mahinda Rajapaksa suggested to a reception welcoming back the team, echoing wild allegations that the players had deliberately performed below par. "I like to tell my Indian friends that 20 million from our small country, took a step back to allow 1.2 billion Indian people to enjoy some happiness, for the second time since 1983," he told attendees. See NDTV’s report here . Rajapaksa’s comments nearly caused a diplomatic storm across the Palk Straits - see Emirates 24/7’s report here on another development since India’s victory: Sri Lanka’s Sports Minister has ordered eleven Sri Lankan cricketers playing in the Indian Premier League (IPL) to return to prepare for the national team’s tour of England next month. This is despite their prior agreement with Sri Lanka cricket (SLC) that the players would complete their IPL contracts before joining the national team in Britain. (The IPL league concludes end May, the England tour begins mid-May). The IPL contracts are lucrative for both the players and SLC. As such, the Minister’s directive makes clear Sri Lanka’s players have to put the country before their professional careers. That the Sri Lankan team are seen as ambassadors of the country is underscored by the lavish reception in his home that President Rajapaksa gave the team. Flanked by his wife Shiranthi, Rajapaksa presented players with a 5,000 rupee gold coin and a pair of gold cufflinks encrusted with colourful stones. “You have done us proud,” Rajapaksa, a staunch Sinhala nationalist, told the players. See more pictures (by Sudath Silva) of the reception:

Sign of the Times

Why has Sri Lanka inaugurated an official timekeeping website? Because the site "will make it easier for people to follow astrological advice and do things at the correct auspicious time," Trade Ministry spokesman Nipuna Ekanayake said. The launch of was hardly auspicious, however. No sooner had President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s launched the site on Monday, when unexpected stormy weather caused it to crash. "Too many hits and lightning affected our server and the website went down," a spokesman for the site told AFP. See the report here .

US: Cooperation hampered by human rights record

Below is an extract from the testimony of Robert O. Blake, Jr., Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. The full text of his prepared speech can be found here . Sri Lanka stands poised to be a capable and willing partner to effectively combat violent extremism, trafficking and piracy, and thereby help to ensure the maritime security of the region. But the Government’s worrisome record on human rights, weakening of democratic institutions and practices, and the way in which it...

Which nation’s team?

It is no accident that Sri Lanka’s cricket team has long been made up mainly of Sinhalese. Ahead of the World Cup final Saturday, Mel Gunasekera writes for AFP : While [world record wicket-taker Muttiah] Muralitharan is the only Tamil in Sri Lanka’s team, the Muslim minority is partially represented by opening batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan. Dilshan, who has a Muslim father and Sinhalese mother, was born Tuwan Mohamed Dilshan but converted from Islam to Buddhism and changed his name. His manager, Roshan Abeysinghe, said he did it "for personal reasons," adding that Dilshan "wanted a Sinhala...

Indian engines no longer ‘spurious imports’

On March 14 Sri Lanka abruptly suspended acceptance of Indian-manufactured train power sets. Each reportedly costs $3.5m, the engines are manufactured by Indian state-owned firm RITES Ltd. The reason given by Sri Lanka for the suspension was that one of three already delivered had ‘stopped’ on a run on March 11 due to unspecified defects. An electrical short was later reported. Minister of Transport Kumar Welgama told reporters that defects had been identified and reported to President Mahinda Rajapaksa. “We have already initiated an investigation into the suitability of these Indian...

Why is it perplexing?

Two months after what has been described as Sri Lanka’s worst natural disaster since the 2004 tsunami, the lives of those in the most affected districts of Batticoloa, Amparai and Trincomalee remain devastated. The state’s much hyped rhetoric of aid has not materialized into tangible relief. Quite the reverse. In a predictable repeat of the post-tsunami situation, the state’s efforts to hamper flood relief for Tamil areas are part of a wider determination to block re-development there.