Categories
Foreign Affairs

Sri Lanka Gains from Indo-Chinese Supremacy Battle

As India and China jostle for influence in the Indian Ocean region, the island nation of Sri Lanka seems to be getting unintended economic benefits.
China has pledged more financial assistance as Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa visited Shanghai Expo exhibition earlier this month.

China is already the biggest lender for the Indian Ocean island. Sri Lanka’s Deputy Minister for Economic Development Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene says that China has, so far, pledged more than $3bn (£1.9bn) for infrastructure development, maintenance and other projects.

“China has been investing in Sri Lanka when many other countries were reluctant to invest during the war,” he tells BBC Sinhala service.

China has finished the first phase of the major sea port of Hambantota on the southern Sri Lankan coast – Mr Rajapaksa’s hometown – and is funding a new airport in the south. Chinese firms are also rebuilding roads in the north.

Many other projects are already in the pipeline, including handling a Special Economic Zone, a 900 megawatt coal-fired power plant and the Colombo-Katunayake expressway, the road connecting the capital with the island’s only international airport.

China is also funding port projects in Chitagong in Bangladesh and in Pakistan and Burma.

Categories
Domestic

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.

Categories
Domestic

Zardari, MR agree to enhance economic, defence cooperation

Pakistan and Sri Lanka yesterday agreed to work towards enhancing economic and defence cooperation.

Diplomatic and government sources told The Island, that the decision had been taken during one-to one talks between the visiting Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in Colombo.

They said that Zardari’s four-day state visit, which commenced on Saturday, was aimed at further strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries which dated back to Buddhist civilisation.

Sources said that regional peace, stability, money laundering and the fight against militancy had also figured in the discussions between the two leaders.

“The other areas agreed on were connectivity and cultural exchanges. Tourist,educational, technology and media sector exchanges were also discussed. The Pakistan Presidents visit is part of a long tradition of high-level contacts between the two countries,” sources said.

Pakistani diplomatic sources said that Pakistan had stood by Sri Lanka in good and bad times and expected the same solidarity with Pakistan now.

“The security situation in Sri Lanka was never an issue for us to do business or visit there. We expect the same solidarity now. The situation in Pakistan is not so bad as it is made out to be by some media groups with vested interests,” they said.

External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L.Peiris, asked to comment on his discussions with Zardari on the question of regional peace stability and the fight against militancy, told The Island that no country could act in isolation and that SAARC had to adopt a joint approach on the issue.

Money laundering, he said, was an equally serious problem that had to be tackled together as it was fast spreading its tentacles.

Prof. Peiris said: “The important thing is that violence is behind us and there is a huge scope for economic and social development. We discussed political, economic, social and cultural cooperation. Broad agreement was reached on enhanced bilateral trade in tea, sugar, betel leaves, edible oils etc. President Zadari will have a meeting the Sri Lankan Chambers of Commerce tomorrow, where the specifics will be gone into.”

Sri Lanka-Pakistan bilateral trade has increased from US$ 150 million to around US$ 350 million since the Free Trade Agreement signed in 2002 became operational in 2005. The two countries are also exploring the possibility of establishing an Investment Bank.

Categories
Domestic

Sri Lanka unveils tax reforms to boost post-war economy

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse yesterday announced a major tax reform package aimed at boosting the economy of the island as it recovers from the civil war that ended last year, reports AFP.

Rajapakse, who is also finance minister, unveiled the new measures as he presented the annual budget for 2011 with the deficit predicted to fall to 6.8 per cent of gross domestic product from 8.0 per cent this year.
He slashed import taxes on many capital goods, including on vehicles and industrial machinery by 25 per cent, and also simplified taxes charged on imports and retail trade. “Having ended the war, and with vital infrastructure in place, we are now in a better position to engage in an accelerated development process within the next six years,” Rajapakse said.

As part of foreign exchange liberalisation, he said foreigners in future would be able to buy into companies through local investment funds.

He also announced plans to lower value added tax for banks from 20 per cent to 12 per cent, ease taxes on construction companies to 12 per cent and offer breaks on commodity exports like tea, rubber and spices.
Tax breaks for the fisheries, agriculture and construction sectors were among the schemes to boost economic activity in the island after the bloody conflict between government troops and Tamil separatists ended in May 2009.

“One of the main objectives of my government is to double per capita income to 4,000 dollars by 2016,” Rajapakse said. “But, that is not the only objective, I want real incomes to go up.” “A high per capita economy will help us to regain many opportunities we have lost during the war years.”

Rajapakse, who has a strong grip on power in Sri Lanka after overseeing the defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels, raised taxes on casinos, alcohol and international phone calls.
Charges for overseas calls have fallen to historic lows due to stiff competition among phone companies.

The president said he would cut income tax for tourism- related businesses, but added tax breaks would favour more expensive hotels in Sri Lanka in an attempt to push the island towards the luxury holiday market.

Categories
Domestic

The right and wrong pertaining to Poddala Jayantha

Poddala Jayantha, Secretary of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association was abducted and assaulted on June 1, 2009. The ‘who’ and the ‘why’ of this attack is yet to be determined and I believe it is of little use to engage in conjecture.

On the other hand, this attack is not the first on a journalist. Over the years many journalists have been abducted, attacked and even killed. Some of these incidents have been investigated to conclusion and some have not.

I am not a member of any media collective. I believe that there are people out there who prefer quiescent journalists to relatively independent ones (‘an independent journalist’ is a non-existent creature) and I know that politicians are pretty sensitive creatures who for the most part don’t have what it takes to stomach criticism. At the same time, we have to keep in mind that journalists are hardly the saints they would like people to believe they are. Journalists are not above the law; they don’t enjoy any special immunity. They have enemies and not all of these enemies are in the Government.

We know that some arrests have been made. We know that Poddala Jayantha was quite an activist, even though one might not agree with the causes he championed or endorsed the policies his fellow-travellers.

Today, there are few, if any, who would stand up and say ‘this was wrong!’ when the news came that Poddala Jayantha had been attacked. Why? First, it was Poddala Jayantha who was attacked. He not only spouted nonsense on occasion regarding the situation in the country, but his organization had intimate dealings with forces that were actively operating to destabilize the country and give leg-room for the Tigers. Under these circumstances and especially after all such efforts have been comprehensively squashed, few would be ready to stand with Jayantha as per the basic civil duty of opposing anything outside the framework of the law. This is after all a period when everyone is a ‘patriot’ and when it is not easy to not be one.

Poddala Jayantha was never a patriot in the sense that he belonged to a motley group of disgruntled Enjoyists (NGO activists) whose livelihoods depended on bad mouthing the Government, the Sinhalese and the Buddhists. The organization he was associated with, the Working Journalists’ Association and its sister organizations in the sphere of agitation are moreover are currently in the dock (along with Jayantha and his pals Sunanda Deshapriya and Balasuriya) for perpetrating fraud. He was certainly a man whose hand can be held even in a moment of tragedy only with trepidation.

Let me repeat, I do not wish to go into the ‘who’ and ‘why’ of this attack. At the same time, one needs to remember that there have been strident ‘expose and kill’ calls regarding journalists and others deemed to have acted against the national interest. Such cries have been raised perhaps by a nationalist urge that has spilled over the boundaries of reason and the need to respect the structures that dispense justice in this country. A moment of euphoria cannot be grudged a nation that has suffered for 30 years under the shadow of terrorism, but that does not justify in any way the call for lynch-mobs.

I should mention also, that not all ‘patriots’ lighting crackers in the print and electronic media were exactly patriotic during those long years when one was called ‘war monger’ or ‘racist’ for saying that the LTTE must and can be defeated militarily. As my friend Shamindra Ferdinando observed in a good-humoured tone laced with a dash of irony, the media war was the private property of ITN and Rupavahini. Until they came into the picture, the media and journalistic fraternity in general was ‘unpatriotic’, they would have us believe.

This mindless ‘call for blood’ may or may not have precipitated this incident. It may be come from elsewhere, but it should alert all of us to the dangerous consequences of irresponsible journalism. On the one hand, a cogent argument can be made for arguments of the Jayantha-asked-for-it kind, even though, strictly speaking Jayantha was not a journalist and not even a working journalist but a person who profited from activism and a man who is under a shadow for defrauding organizations he is associated with. On the other hand, this lets-bypass-the-law attitude is the bread and butter of the worst kind of anarchy possible. We can’t afford it.

Categories
Domestic

Sri Lanka Frost Over Sri Lanka Live

An international aid group has suspended its aid operations in Sri Lanka due to restrictions placed on it by the government.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) told Al Jazeera on Wednesday, a day after Sri Lanka’s government declared victory over the Tamil Tigers, that “additional restrictions” meant it had no choice but to halt its activities.

About 265,000 ethnic Tamils were displaced in the military’s recent offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, and many of them have been sent to overcrowded camps in the country’s north.

“Since last weekend there have been additional restrictions imposed on aid organisations, including ICRC,” Paul Castella, the head of the group’s Sri Lanka operations, said.

“The authorities have said that because of security they had to restrict access to certain areas.

“What is the take of these civilians and what the conditions are we don’t know because we are not granted access to the area.”

Categories
Domestic

A point of view by a peace loving Sri Lankan Tamil

A point of view by a peace loving Sri Lankan Tamil having spent 30 years in Sri Lanka and the later 30 years in the U.K.

This is my personal view of Sri Lankan Tamils: Karunanidhi, Jayalalitha, Vaico, Nadumaran all are dancers to the changing tunes of the Tamil Nadu Politics poor Sri Lankan Tamils are used as Pawns for their political board game.

The truth is as follows as I was a Sri Lankan Tamil born and brought up in Sri Lanka grown with the Sinhalese, Muslims and Jaffna Tamils.

I am a Colombo born Tamil; I know my father came from Tamil Nadu in 1912. My mother also Colombo Tamil, born in Gampaha and her grand parents may have come from Tamil Nadu. My mother’s side all were Ceylon Government Railway (CGR) workers, under British administration and my father had a Government service with the CGR for 40 years in Colombo.

After my father’s retirement from Railways we lived in Kandy, I was a Trinitian went to Trinity College in Kandy. I had very good Sinhala and Muslim schoolmates and friends. We had good Teachers from Batticaloa, Jaffna and a very strict Sinhalese Principal. Sri Lankan Government services not oppressed me.

Categories
Domestic

Michael Coren – Toronto Show Panel Discussion about Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka

Michael Coren Show – Panel discussion about Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka on 28th April 2009. Mrs. Ira De Silva, Mr. Lenin Benedict, Mr. David Poopalsingham and Ms. Manjula Selvarajaha were the guests of Michael Coran.

Categories
Economics

Now OPEN: Treasury bill and Treasury bond Market for Sri Lankan Diaspora

Treasury bills and Treasury bonds are issued by the Government of Sri Lanka to Sri Lankan Diaspora and Migrant Workforce since January 6th, 2009.

Through this scheme, it is expected to widen the investor base, diversify the Government Securities market, make it more convenient for Sri Lankans living abroad to access Government Securities, and to create a more stable Government securities market.

This scheme will also provide a safe and highly liquid investment opportunity for Sri Lankans living abroad, while providing them with an attractive return on their investments.

To facilitate this endeavour, which is expected to cover almost the entire globe, six Joint Lead Managers, namely, Bank of Ceylon, Commercial Bank of Ceylon PLC, National Savings Bank, NatWealth Securities Ltd., People’s Bank and Sampath Bank have been appointed.

Investments in Treasury bills or Treasury bonds could be channelled through any one of the Joint Lead Managers, using the Treasury bill/bond Investment External Rupee Account-D (TIERA-D) to be opened by the investor for that purpose.Remittances into and out of TIERA-D accounts would be free from exchange controls.This scheme will benefit, Sri Lankans living abroad, including Sri Lankans who have made their permanent residence overseas (Non-residents), citizens of Sri Lanka who have taken up overseas employment or set up business abroad, citizens of Sri Lanka with dual citizenship living in Sri Lanka or abroad, and Sri Lankan professionals living in Sri Lanka or abroad who earn income in foreign currency.

Categories
Domestic

Suriya Sinha Awards Presented by Mawbima Lanka Foundation

Suriya Sinha Awards, an annual awards ceremony of the Mawbima Lanka Foundation was held at the BMICH last morning (18).

The event saw 46 Sri Lankan home grown corporates being awarded brand names while 300 were presented with Suriya Sinha Award. ITN and Lakhanda Radio were honoured for their media role on innovations.

The http://www.gannaapede.com website was also launched.

Chairman Maubima Lanka Foundation, Ariyaseela Wickrmanayake said Sri Lanka has spent Rs. 30billion for the import of milk when the country can be self-sufficient. There has been a 15 per cent increase of milk production after the ban of slaughter of cows from last year. `Milk production is a major contributor to the New Zealand`s GDP and 85 per cent of their produce is for export. With the present initiative taken I am sure Sri Lanka will be self sufficient in milk in five years. Similarly Sri Lanka can be self sufficient in sugar and many other imported commodities, he said.

He also said the telecommunication industry had revenue in the excess of Rs. 8 billion and appealed for the companies to reduce tariff. He appealed from the users to use a handset for a longer period to cut foreign exchange flowing to foreign manufacturers. He appealed from the public to buy Sri Lankan products thus saving foreign exchange, encouraging entrepreneurs and strengthening Sri Lankan economy.

The Minister Kumara Welgama addressing the ceremony said that the Government was implementing a major programme for the well being of the local industrialists. This he said had been consolidated through the Budget.

It was also mentioned that President Mahinda Rajapaksa presented the last budget travelling in a locally assembled Micro car powered by locally made Ethanol.