Who needs papers?

The Sri Lankan government will support the ‘rightful’ residents of the North and East who have lost the documents proving ownership of their lands, the Daily Mirror reported . Sounds great – exactly what is needed in the Northeast, where after decades of war and displacement, many people do not have the official documents to prove their ownership of their properties. A telling problem, however, promptly arises: what is the criteria by which people can prove ownership of their ancestral lands? And who decides on their validity? The same government, it seems, whose military offensives drove these people from their homes. The real point of all this is underlined by how large numbers of Sinhalese are being hurriedly settled in Tamil areas through government-funded schemes. According to a 2002 survey by the Sinhala-dominated state itself, 81% of the displaced population was Tamil, 14% Muslim and 5% Sinhalese (see Amnesty International's report on Sri Lanka's displaced).

Sri Lanka wages war on ‘wheat terror’

The ultra-nationalist Sri Lankan government’s efforts to manage the economy has spurred a new war – against ‘wheat terrorism’. The government drive to slash consumption of wheat-based food, especially bread, is decimating what are presumably some of the worst purveyors of terror: bakers. Other bakers are trying to use rice flour to make bread ... because "we consider it our patriotic duty."

Learn Tamil, don’t employ Tamils

The Sri Lankan government is to apparently pay incentives to state employees to learn ‘local languages’, such as Tamil, to “reduce the communication gap with people of Tamil origin,” the Indian Express reported. The move "aims to reduce the communication gap between those in the Tamil-dominated northern and eastern parts and the rest of the Sinhalese-majority country.” Sounds like a good idea, moving towards bringing together the peoples of the island. That is until you read another piece of news – one that did not make it into any of the English language publications. The Sri Lankan...

Al Jazeera reveals photos of Sri Lankan military atrocities

Al Jazeera has obtained photographs that appear to show Sri Lankan army atrocities against Tamil civilians and captured or surrendered Tamil fighters in the final days of the Sri Lankan civil war in early 2009. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International say that the new photographic evidence warrants an independent, international, investigation. Sri Lanka rejects outright any probe of its military's conduct. Along with the International Crisis Group, the two groups Wednesday again rejected the Sri Lankan government's own inquiry as "warcrimes whitewashed". Earlier this year, the ICG...

Shining case in point

Sri Lanka’s government denounces those fleeing its repression to the West as nothing but economic migrants. Consider then the case of the wealthy gem merchant who has sought asylum in Canada with his family.

India-US partnership on 'creating order' in Sri Lanka

Amid the newly enhanced ties between the United States and India, the contours of a shared approach to Sri Lanka’s ethnic crisis by the two states appeared in little reported comments last month by Indian National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon. Speaking in Washington, he outlined a twin track Indian strategy, which he said was supported by the US: first, restoring normalcy in the war-shattered Tamil areas, and, second, “creating an order [in Sri Lanka] within which, not just the restoration of democracy, but … an order within which all the communities feel that they can determine their own futures.”

LLRC extension is no surprise

News that Sri Lanka's Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) has had it mandate extended by another six months was always expected, but there is an assumed logic behind Colombo's actions. The commission is the Sri Lankan state's attempt to fend off critics, buy time and forestall an independent, international inquiry.

Food for thought

The IMF recently praised Sri Lanka for bringing inflation under control. But on the streets, the price of food has been rising relentlessly. Increases are seen in the price of wheat flour, bread, rice, vegetables, coconut, coconut oil, big onions and red onions. The cause? A combination exposure to global prices in the wake of IMF reforms, and the Sri Lankan state's ham-fisted efforts to fix prices in favour Sinhala producers and consumers at the same time.

FDI slow despite war end

While Sri Lanka makes much of a ‘post-conflict economy’ foreign direct investment actually fell in the first six months of 2010 compared with the same period last year, the Central Bank reported in August. FDI dropped to $208 million, compared to $250 million in the first half of 2009, logged amid the final stages of the war, Reuters reported. And the reason? Uncertainty and government policies.

Tears and tractors: delivering aid in Sri Lanka

Just the other day, this newspaper raised doubts as to who India’s aid intended for the Tamil areas will actually go . As if on cue, the point was made. In Sri Lanka it seems not even the International Committee of the Red Cross can guarantee aid will be delivered to the right beneficiaries.