How the ICRC was kept out of killing zones

File photo: ICRC staff in Puthukkudiyiruppu's make-shift hospital in February 2009 struggling to cope with the flood of civilian casualties from Sri Lanka's bombardment of the 'Safe Zone'. Photo TamilNet.

BJP to take up Tamils’ plight

The President of India’s BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), Nitin Gadkari, said last week that his party would take up the miseries of Sri Lanka’s Tamils at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR). The BJP would also raise the issue in India’s Parliament, where it has 165 seats, he told a party event in Tamil Nadu on Saturday January 30. Arguing that the Sri Lankan Tamils’ plight is not an issue for Tamil Nadu alone, Mr. Gadkari said: "We always support the demand of Sri Lankan Tamils for getting fundamental rights. They are part of our family." Saying that India’s former BJP-led...

IMF: Sri Lanka’s exports/GDP falling ‘for years’

"[Sri Lanka’s] export earnings , as a percentage of GDP, have been falling for years . So the first thing for Sri Lanka is to boost its exports to where it was 10 years ago .” - IMF Asia Pacific Director Anoop Singh . (See The Island’s report here .) Interestingly, ten years ago Sri Lanka was gripped by high-intensity armed conflict. And, as the IMF’s chart (click more below) shows, Sri Lanka’s export/GDP ratio today is the same as in 1987 - when the JVP’s second insurgency erupted, and the IPKF intervention began. While Sri Lanka’s Central Bank says export earnings would grow strongly in 2011, the National Chamber of Exporters recently said it would not be able to deliver half of the Central Bank’s expectations. The exporters blame growing energy costs (for their production) and the strengthening rupee (making their products expensive in the global market). See ‘ Why Sri Lanka’s exporters are gloomy ’ Meanwhile, what exactly does the IMF want Sri Lanka to do? Diversify export destinations (to Asia from US and EU), and export products (from garments and tea to more sophisticated ones).

Stretch …

Even as Sri Lanka pledges to carry out the tax reform sought by the IMF, The Sunday Leader newspaper points out another of the system’s quirks: Two stretched limousines were recently imported with state duties being sharply reduced because they were classed as … buses. The logic? The limousines had multiple seats – one seating 18 and the other 13. Meanwhile, the IMF this week queried the Board of Investment’s (BOI) long-standing strategy for attracting foreign investment: giving tax holidays. This is what the IMF’s resident representative in Colombo Koshy Mathai told LBO : "Rather than having...

Powder Keg

In the run up to last month's referendum in South Sudan, it was widely accepted that the overwhelming majority would opt for independence. Similarly, even before Kosovo unilaterally declared independence two years ago, it was widely agreed that the majority of its people endorsed the move. What is striking, therefore, is what went before in these places. Sudan's civil war raged for four decades before the 2005 peace agreement. And when the international community ended the post-Cold War firestorm in the Balkans with the 1995 Dayton Accords, the Kosovars, despite their pleas, were actively excluded. Instead, they were told to make the best of it under Serbia's rule.

Misery returns: floods hit east again

Over 100,000 people have been displaced and more than 300,000 affected by a second wave of flooding in eastern Sri Lanka in less than a month, aid officials say. Over 43,000 have been marooned, Xinhua reported. Floods in mid-January displaced over 380,000 and affected over one million at their height, prompting the UN and its partners to launch a US$51 million appeal in support of the government. “The same districts that were hit the last time - Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Polonnaruwa - have been experiencing heavy rains in the past few days,” Pradeep Kodippili, assistant director of...

Killings after Katchatheevu

An investigation by the Times of India found 378 recorded attacks on Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Sri Lankan navy (SLN) between 1983 and 2005. Interestingly, however, most cases were closed in a few months with the comment "action dropped" or "unidentified" , the paper found. There have been many more attacks since 2005, with the issue repeatedly appearing in bilateral relations between the two states and prompting a bilateral agreement, which proved non-consequential, in October 2008. However, the paper quotes researchers as saying SLN attacks began well before 1983. "Firing and high-handedness by the Sri Lankan navy started in 1975, a year after Katchatheevu was ceded to them," said researcher L Selva Prakash. Katchatheevu, a tiny islet close to Rameswaram, was ceded to Sri Lanka in 1974. (See map and discussion of the deal here ) In March 2010, Chinese and Sri Lankan naval personnel were reported to be training on the islet. In Jan 2008, the SLN planted sea mines near it.

Foreign exit of Colombo bourse continues

Foreign funds are continuing to exit Sri Lanka’s stock market, Reuters reported Friday, sustaining a trend since the end of the armed conflict. [See also our post: 'Sri Lanka's stocks: a closer look '] Despite the bourse's main index doubling last year, foreign investors have been net sellers of the “overbought and expensive” market. Foreigners have sold a net US$ 25 million (2.8 billion rupees) so far in 2011, after selling a record net $236 million (Rs. 26.4 billion) through 2010. Sri Lanka’s bourse is described as ‘Asia's best performer’ with an 9 percent gain in 2011 after being the top...

Tamil Nadu wants stronger Indian naval presence

As India again warned Sri Lanka that the killing of Indian fishermen by the latter's navy was damaging bilateral relations, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi Tuesday called for a stronger Indian naval presence, “The coastal waters of south need to be paid some attention through resources and personnel [just] as land borders in north, west and east are being attended to,” Karunanidhi said. “It is requested that our demand for more vessels, police stations and manpower, and better air surveillance capabilities may be considered favourably,” he said. [See also related posts: ' Terror in Jaffna II: blocking international efforts ' and ' Sri Lanka's fishy story '.] Delhi Tuesday rejected Sri Lanka's claim a 'third force' was to be blamed for the attacks on Tamil Nadu fishermen and noted that such incidents don't happen even on the Pakistani border.