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Sri Lanka: Account for Wartime Disappearances

The Sri Lankan government should account for everyone who was taken into custody at the end of Sri Lanka’s 26-year-long armed conflict in May 2009 and are feared to have been “disappeared,” Human Rights Watch said today. Despite numerous requests from families for information about their relatives, the authorities do not appear to have conducted any serious investigations, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch said unresolved enforced disappearances should be part of the mandate of a proposed United Nations investigation into laws-of-war violations by both government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). A Panel of Experts appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to advise him on steps for ensuring accountability for laws-of-war violations in Sri Lanka is expected to hand over its report later in April 2011.

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Onion Pickle

Sri Lanka onion prices to rise after Indian export ban
Dec 21, 2010 (LBO) – Prices of onions and leeks in Sri Lanka could rise after India’s decision to suspend exports of onions, a trade official said.

Pettah Wholesale Traders’ Association vice chairman Nihal Seneviratne said 90 percent of Sri Lanka’s onion requirement is imported from India and imports from other origins would be more costly.
India on Monday suspended exports of onions, a key food staple, after prices of the vegetable soared, adding to the government’s inflation woes.

Sri Lanka might be forced to import from sources like Pakistan, China, Egypt and the Netherlands, Seneviratne told Vimasuma.com, our sister news website. “Pakistani onions are not as good as Indian onions and they spoil quickly,” he said.

“To ship onions from China takes about a month and requires use of a refrigerated container. Therefore, onion imports from these countries will invariably be more expensive than from India.”

Even if the government reduces a 10-rupee a kilo import tax on onions retail prices cannot be reduced under present conditions, Seneviratne said.

Stocks of onions in the Pettah wholesale market were running low and Indian exporters had even taken back cargoes of onion already loaded on ships, he said.

Prices of onions grown in Sri Lanka’s northern Jaffna peninsula as well as leeks are likely to rise.

Sri Lanka imports 4,000-5,000 tonnes of onions a week from India which supplies about 60 percent of the world requirements of onion

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World Bank MD Calls on President

Surpassing the USD 2000 per capita income, Sri Lanka is no longer an underdeveloped country and as a result not qualified for International Development Association (IDA) loans that provide interest free financial assistance to underdeveloped countries, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Managing Director of the World Bank Group stated.

She made this statement when she called on President Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees today (17).

Instead, the World Bank will consider providing a commercial loan of USD 265 million from International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, she said.

International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), an arm of the World Bank aims to reduce poverty in middle-income and creditworthy countries by promoting sustainable development through loans, guarantees, risk management products, and analytical and advisory services.

`The World Bank has been an active partner in supporting Sri Lanka in its transition from a low income country in conflict to a middle income country in peace`, said Dr. Okonjo-Iweala.

The post-conflict environment provides an opportunity to build on our relationship to support the government`s vision to firmly establish the country`s place in the ranks of fast growing middle income countries, she said.

In addition to funding, she said the World Bank is willing to share knowledge and expertise with Sri Lanka regarding urban development.

Foreign Direct Investment is vital for any middle income country to achieve its economic targets, she added.

She also emphasized the importance of seeking alternative energy sources as the world is on the brink of an energy crisis.
Deputy Minister of External Affairs Geethanjana Gunawardena, Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga and Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Novard Cabrall were also present at the dicussion.

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Healthcare delivery: Lanka on top

Sri Lanka has once again emerged as the most successful country in South Asia in healthcare delivery, recording low indicators in Maternal Mortality and a high rate of Life Expectancy , ‘The State of World Population 2010’ (Report) issued by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said today.

According to the Report all other countries in South Asia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives lag much behind Sri Lanka in respect of these important health and social indicators.

The Infant Mortality Rate per thousand births in India in 2010 was 52, Pakistan 61, Bhutan 41, Nepal 38 and Maldives 20 while Sri Lanka had only15 deaths which was highly satisfactory.

The Maternal Mortality rate per 100,000 births stood at a high 830 in Nepal while in India it was 450, Bangladesh 570, Pakistan 320, Maldives 120 with Sri Lanka only 58 mother deaths.

The life expectancy in India respectively for male and female was 62 / 66 years, Bangladesh 68 years for both, Pakistan 66 / 67, Nepal 66 / 68, Maldives 70 / 74 and Sri Lanka was 71 and 74 years.

The country with most dismal indicators in the world, Afghanistan records 152 infant deaths per 1,000 births and 1,800 maternal deaths per 100,000. The life expectancy in Afghanistan is only 44 for both sexes.

Some of the best countries to live in, Sweden, Australia and Switzerland, the Infant Mortality rate, Maternal Morality rate and Life Expectancy stood respective at 3, 3 and 79 / 83, 4, 4 and 79 / 84 and 4, 5, and 79 / 84.

Mrs. Lene K. Christiansen, UNFPA country director Sri Lanka, addressing the gathering at the ceremony held to mark the release of the Report said the Report makes the case for replacing the vicious cycle of crisis and underdevelopment with virtuous cycle of peace and stability.

“It is time to tear down the false barriers between crisis, recovery and development. Investing in the development soften the impact of crisis and natural disaster and whatever is invested during humanitarian response can become a solid foundation for development and rebuilding a society,” Mrs. Cristiansen stressed. Mr. Reza Hassaini and Mrs. Sunila Abesekara also addressed the ceremony.

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Battle Against LTTE Elements Abroad

Defeated terrorist elements have encamped in several foreign nations and their latest weapon is to defame our country and throw allegations at our war heroes accusing them of war crimes, stated President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

‘We have already commenced the battle against them in the international sphere and are committed to continue it’. President Rajapaksa said so at the ceremonial passing out parade of Cadet officers at the Sri Lanka Military Academy (SLMA) in Diyatalawa (21 Dec).

We are now at a significant phase in the humanitarian operation. Our endeavor is to win hearts and minds after freeing the people and lands from terrorism. The humanitarian operation includes de-mining, resettlement and providing basic requirements among other tasks. All development programs carried out in the North and East are part of the humanitarian operation, the President stated.

He stressed that this humanitarian operation will not stop until the painful memories of terrorism and all thoughts of separatism are
removed from people’s hearts.

‘You pass out today to contribute to this noble humanitarian operation’, the President told the Cadet officers.

A person does not excel through talent and knowledge alone. Instead, the most important element is the love for one’s country, he pointed out.

‘The government not only lined up the security forces for the humanitarian operation but also organized the people against terrorism.’

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German Bakery blast accused was trained to assemble explosives in Colombo

The alleged mastermind of the February 13 German Bakery attack, Himayat Baig, was trained to assemble explosives in Colombo by two of the co-accused in the case when they visited the Sri Lankan capital in March 2008, the Maharashtra ATS has contended in the chargesheet submitted to the Judicial Magistrate in Pune.

A copy of the 2500-page chargesheet, which was filed by the ATS in the court of Judicial Magistrate S. Bose on Saturday, was handed over to Baig who was produced in the court on Monday.

According to certain details of the document shared by Defence Counsel A. Rahman with the press, Baig is charged with designing the German Bakery terror attack along with Faiyaz Kagzi and Sayyad Ansari, two of the six co-accused named in the case, who are absconding.

Baig, who ran a cyber cafe in Udgir, later finalised the plan to attack the eatery in the last week of January 2010 and went to Mumbai along with two other accused — Mohasin Choudhary and Bhatkal — to purchase a sack to keep the bomb and a Nokia mobile, the prosecution has alleged as quoted by Mr. Rahman.

The bomb that was planted in the Pune eatery at 17:00 hours went off killing 17 persons including some foreigners and injuring over 60.

The six other co-accused charged along with Baig are — Yasim Bhatkal, Mohsin Choudhary, Riyaz Bhatkal, Iqbal Bhatkal, Faiyaz Kagzi and Sayyad Ansari——— all stated to be absconding.

Mr. Rahman took instructions from Baig, who was brought to the court without a shroud.

ATS officer Vinod Satav told the Magistrate that names of some witnesses had been deleted from the chargesheet to protect their identity.

Baig is charged under various sections of IPC, Explosives Substances Act and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

The Defence Counsel said he would contest the omission of witnesses’ names in higher court. The Counsel also said that Baig had denied all charges mentioned by the ATS.

The Magistrate committed the case to the Sessions Court where a special judge will hear it.

The massive chargesheet is kept in custody of the judge and its details were not made public.

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Half of Colombo Population in Shanties

Approximately 75,000 families, which is half the population within the Colombo city limits are without houses and are living in shanty houses. They are living in unauthorized buildings and mostly occupy property belonging to the government, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa stated.

Speaking at an occasion held at the BMICH celebrating the World Town Planning Day today (08 November) he said that the government treasury cant afford to relocate all 75, 000 families, as the cost for building a single unit for a family costs some Rs. 2.5 million.

That is why we need Town Planning. In order to find out how to get the money needed to relocate in large numbers, fund the projects and make them a reality, the secretary said at the event which was organized by the Institute of Town Planners Sri Lanka.

We know that a lot of these unauthorized structures are in very valuable land in Colombo, so we need to make use of those properties, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said.

“Though the war is over and there is peace and stability in the country that alone won’t bring investors to the country. We need to encourage them and show them that their investment will be profitable” he added.

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Another Zone at Menik farm closed

Zone-2 welfare centre of the Menik Farm relief village in Vavuniya was also closed by the Authorities in charge of the northern IDPs yesterday (23).

With the closure of the Zone 2, the remaining number of Zones at the relief village is 4. 855 IDPs who were sheltered in Zone-2 are being resettled in Theravil, Pudukudirippu in Mullativu.

Currently, the total number of IDPs in Vavuniya relief villages has dropped to 16, 531 as for the 22nd of November. This number will be reduced to 15, 676 by tomorrow after resettling the batch of 855 IDPs in Theravil.

According to the Ministry of Resettlement, only 6529 IDPs remain in Kadirakamar relief center while 6677 IDPs remain in Anandakumaraswami Zone 1. Two batches of IDPs; 930, 2395 are remaining in Ramanadan and Arunachalam in zone 4 and zone 3 in the Menik Farm relief village. Out of these 10, 923 IDPs are moving freely outside camps.

Including the 1158 IDPs remaining in Jaffna, the total number of IDPs remaining in the North is 17, 183.

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Gota says US Statement at UN HRC Positive, Underscores Govt’s Responsibility to Maintain Peace

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa says the global community should realize the growing danger posed by terrorism and take tangible measures to deal with the threat.

Sri Lanka, he says, can share her experience with those fighting non-state actors in difficult circumstances in various parts of the world. “Anyone perpetrating terrorism should be considered as the common enemy and the world should be united to meet the challenge,” he said.

Responding to a query by The Island, Defence Secretary Rajapaksa said nothing could be as accurate as what US Assistant Secretary of State Esther Brimmer told the UN Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva on Friday (Nov.5).

The Defence Secretary was referring to Brimmer’s speech at the first comprehensive review of the US before the UN Human Rights Council, in which she noted it was “our own people, to whom we are ultimately accountable.”

The human rights review comes in the wake of whistleblower website, Wiki Leaks releasing a plethora of classified military documents relating to excesses by US forces fighting non-state actors and the US military turning a blind eye to abuses by those working under its command both in Afghanistan and Iraq.

War veteran Rajapaksa said that Brimmer was spot on. According to the Defence Secretary, President Mahinda Rajapaksa had emphasized on many occasions that his responsibility was for the people of Sri Lanka. The Defence Secretary said that the Sri Lankan government dubbed its military campaign a humanitarian operation as one of its major objectives was the rescue of the Tamil speaking people.

The outspoken official said that the position taken by the US Assistant Secretary could be applied to any other country fighting state or non-state actors, in Sri Lanka’s case a formidable internal threat backed by powerful external factors.

Commenting on an interview given by US analyst Stephen Cohen headlined ‘Lanka lauded for triumph over Tigers, asked to reconcile with Tamils,’ carried on the Oct. 17, 2009, issue of The Island, Defence Secretary Rajapaksa pointed out that the former US State Department employee had referred to the situation in Somali waters and what could have happened if the Sea Tigers established control over Sri Lankan waters.

The Defence Secretary said that the world could learn from Sri Lanka’s experience in fighting an unconventional enemy, who would stop at nothing to achieve its military targets. “For 30 years there was a constant change of strategies. They adopted strategies to counter ours, and we had to take on counter their new plans,” the Defence Secretary said, adding that the government always believed that it was responsible for the people and the entire military effort was directed at restoring civilian control over the entire country. Had there been any other objective, the war against terror wouldn’t have been successful, he said, adding that the people threw their weight behind the military campaign as they felt the action against the LTTE was justified.

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Menik Farm Zone 4 Closed Vavuniya IDPs

Vavuniya IDPs drop to 16, 625

The authorities in charge of the northern IDPs closed the Zone-4 area of the Menik Farm relief village in Vavuniya today (9 Nov) with the resettlement of IDPs sheltered there.

Accordingly, six hundred IDPs who were sheltered at Zone-4 were resettled in Mamule today which reduces the total number of IDPs in Vavuniya to 16, 625. With the closure of Zone-4, only 4 welfare centers remain in Vavuniya, the Chief Coordinating Officer of the Competent Office for IDPs in Vavuniya said.

Including the 1158 IDPs remaining in Jaffna, the total number of IDPs remaining in the North is 17, 183, the Ministry of Resettlement said.