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.

Why should borders be sacrosanct?

“It is clearly unreasonable to expect all disputing couples to behave like the Czechs and the Slovaks [who peacefully separated in 1993]. But is it reasonable in this day and age to set treat secession as somehow worse than unwilling union? “Countries and territories change. For one reason or another, the ethnic or religious mix shifts; technological advances may dictate a sharp rise or fall in economic fortunes. Why should state borders not be subject to pragmatic fluctuation, too? “Is it not ... where demographic change has been acute, and where many colonial-era borders already rode...

Boycott campaign continues in London

Groups of protestors outside retailers and business in Britain are not unusual. Most recently UK-Uncut activists launched a wave of sit-ins in and around corporations associated with tax dodging. That campaign turn on consumers not wishing to put money into pockets of those they believe are behaving unethically or exploitatively. Amidst other campaigns-through-consumer, Tamil activists are also continuing to push for a boycott of Sri Lankan products.

Future Tense

" There is no reason to believe that Sri Lanka will return to a rights-respecting government any time in the near future . “Until wartime abuses are prosecuted, minority grievances are addressed, and repression against the press and civil society ends, only the president and his family members in power have reason to feel secure in Sri Lanka." - Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. See HRW's summary of Sri Lanka's section in it annual Human Rights report.

Sri Lanka to export war crimes

“For now impunity is ruling the day. So much so, that Sri Lanka is apparently seeking to export its brand of counter-insurgency to other countries. “Will the Sri Lankan method of dealing with rebellion and insurgency catch on elsewhere? Or will the long arm of international justice give pause to would-be war criminals? “ This is pretty much the defining question of international justice these days .” - Mark Leon Goldberg. See his comment for UN Despatch here . See here Sri Lanka's announcement of the international seminar in June by its military.