7/18/2011

Sri Lanka government's new regulations regarding the vehicle import shows that the rulers are in need of making the car a luxury item that is restricted to affluent classes.

A new directive stipulates that only cars less than two years old could be imported. This comes on top of the increase of the effective total tax rate for petrol cars with standard engines with capacities below 1,000 cc from 95 percent to 120 percent. These cars are the type that is affordable for most of the lower middle class people.

The government increased the duty for poor man's trishaw also from 38 percent to 50 percent.

Motor Traffic Chief B.D.L. Dharmapriya said to the Sunday Times that with per capita income increasing rapidly, the government might soon impose a total ban on the import of used vehicles. He said a similar policy was enforced in Singapore which no longer imported used vehicles.

But does the increase of per capita income really show the development? Simply, it increases the income disparities more than it develops the country?

For instance, are the public transport systems developing per se the said increase of per capita income?

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7/17/2011

(Adopted from The Weekend Leader)

The ‘hidden hand’ in the ‘Killing Fields of Sri Lanka’ exposed: It’s India

  By M G Devasahayam
  Chennai
17 Jul 2011
M G DevasahayamPosted 15-Jul-2011
Vol 2 Issue 28
The air has been full with the "Killing Fields of Sri Lanka", the Channel 4 documentary. The visuals showed naked Tamil prisoners shot in the head, dead bodies of naked women who had been raped and dumped on a truck and other atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan armed forces in the final moments of the brutal civil war. World has never seen such barbarian brutality. Anyone who saw the documentary was numb with disbelief.
The authenticity of the footage has been confirmed by a forensic pathologist, forensic video analyst, firearms evidence expert and a forensic video expert of international repute and the images are horrific.
Meaningful silence: While worldwide protests have condemned Sri Lanka’s atrocities against Tamil minorities, India has maintained silence giving the impression it has endorsed Rajapaksa’s massacre of Tamils. (Photo above shows a demonstrator from May 17 Movement in Chennai holding a placard calling for boycott of Sri Lanka)  
While the world seethes in anger, India has been silent. Not surprising, given the fact that fresh from his ‘victory’ over Tamils in Sri Lanka in May 2009, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said he had fought 'India's war'. He was ecstatic of the fact that his victory coincided with Sonia's electoral victory. The ecstasy appeared to be mutual.
Given the venal Indian mindset, Tamils in post-war Sri Lanka have been progressively reduced to serfs of the Sinhalese. This is endorsed by David Miliband and Bernard Kouchner, former foreign ministers of Britain and France respectively, when they wrote after a recent visit to Sri Lanka: “Tamil life is treated as fourth or fifth class citizens. If foreign policy is about anything, it should be about stopping this kind of inhumanity.”
There is an untold story about how New Delhi became instrumental in the brutality and the present inhuman sufferings of Sri Lankan Tamils. In the 2005 presidential election, Rajapaksa of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), a known hawk, won by the narrowest of margins. As President he wanted to outlive his image of a hawk and establish rapport with the Indian government and leadership, but was repeatedly rebuffed and in fact snubbed.

This made Rajapaksa realise the importance of involving civil society in Tamil Nadu to resolve the intractable ethnic problem in his country and act as a bridge between the two countries.
After much persuasion by Colombo, a small core group of retired civil servants, senior journalists and military veterans was formed with myself as the convener. The group held its preliminary meeting in Chennai on 10 May, 2007, with a senior adviser to President Rajapaksa, participating. It was unanimously agreed that a mutually acceptable political package was the only lasting solution to the ethnic crisis.
The group met President Rajapaksa and his high-level team in Colombo on 17 July, 2007. Throughout the long discussions, Rajapaksa was very much involved and positive. He fully endorsed the group’s opinion expressed by me that the solution to the crisis should emerge from within Sri Lanka and refined through international opinion, particularly from India. After these parleys Rajapaksa made a public statement hinting at a merged, autonomous North-East, a solution just short of Tamil Eelam.

Following this, the core group had a series of meetings with Rajapaksa’s team of ministers and officials and agreed upon many steps to resolve the conflict. A crucial conference was held with President Rajapaksa in Colombo on 25 March, 2008, followed by meetings with Sri Lankan Minister for Constitutional Affairs and National Integration, Chairman of Official Language Commission, and others. An action agenda was set.

The Indian High Commission in Colombo got wind of the group’s activities and the Deputy High Commissioner, A Manickam, sought an appointment with me and it was fixed at 5 p.m. at the hotel I was staying in.

Manickam never kept his appointment but the Indian High Commission later reprimanded the Sri Lankan presidential team for holding peace talks with ‘unauthorised’ persons.

To fortify these initiatives I wrote to TKA Nair, my former colleague and presently principal secretary to Prime Minister on 01 April, 2008. The letter outlined the progress made by the group and the action agenda that has been set for political resolution and Confidence Building Measures.
It requested the government to support the initiative taken by the group to end the long-festering political and humanitarian crisis in the island. But there was no response.

Had New Delhi taken cognizance of this initiative and acted in concert by putting some pressure on President Rajapaksa, the issue would have been resolved and Tamils would now be living in the island with honour and dignity.

But instead, pursuing somebody’s personal agenda of ‘Sicilian Revenge’, New Delhi minions with a well-synchronised Network in Colombo, New York and Geneva, actively assisted the brutal Sri Lankan genocide. No wonder, Delhi is deafeningly silent today on Sri Lanka’s excesses.

Time is not far when Rajapaksa & Co is hauled up before the International Court of Justice for war crimes and genocide. In the event, New Delhi minions cannot escape responsibility for this inhuman horror. The bell is tolling!

M G Devasahayam is a retired IAS Officer


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7/14/2011

The flags have been waved, the anthem has been sung, and the new currency will be in circulation next week: the Republic of South Sudan has been launched, and is off to who knows where?

Perdition, probably, for it is a “pre-failed state,” condemned by its extreme poverty, 15 percent literacy and bitter ethnic rivalries to more decades of violence and misery. But what about the country it leaves behind?

It’s telling that there is a South Sudan, but no North Sudan. What’s left is still just Sudan. It’s still the second-biggest country in Africa, and it still has four-fifths of the people it had before the south broke away. But it has lost a big chunk of its income: almost three-quarters of the old united country’s oil was in the south. It’s also an Arab country run by a leader who has been in power for 22 years. So we know what comes next, don’t we?

President Bashir seized power in a military coup in 1989, and he is the first serving head of state to be indicted by the International Criminal Court. In 2009, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity in his conduct of the war in the rebellious province of Darfur. It added three counts of genocide last year. But he’s not all bad.

He inherited a much bigger war, between the north of the country and what is now South Sudan. It was a squalid, dreadful affair that killed about two million southerners and drove another four million — about half the southern population — from their homes. Bashir has a lot of blood on his hands. But he eventually realized that the south could not be held by force, and he had the wisdom and courage to act on his insight.

In 2005 he ended the fighting by agreeing that the two parts of the country would be run by separate governments for six years, after which the south would hold a referendum on independence. He knew that the south would say “yes” overwhelmingly — in the end, 98.83 percent of southern Sudanese voted to have their own country — yet he never reneged on the deal.

“President Bashir and (his) National Congress Party deserve a reward,” said Salva Kiir, now the president of South Sudan, after the votes were counted in February. And Bashir said: “We will come and congratulate and celebrate with you...We will not hold a mourning tent.” His decision made him very vulnerable politically in the north, but he stuck to it for all these years, and as a result many tens of thousands of people who would have died are still alive.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that north-south relations will be smooth after the South’s independence. Most of the oil is in South Sudan, but the new country is landlocked: the oil can only be exported through pipelines that cross Sudan proper to reach the Red Sea. Yet there is not a deal on revenue-sharing yet, nor even on the border between the two countries.

The dispute over the province of Abyei flared into open fighting between northern and southern forces last week, although there is now agreement to bring in an Ethiopian peacekeeping force. There is no agreement, however, on the referendum that was promised for the province but never held.

Abyei’s permanent population is mostly Dinka Ngok, who are Christian or animist by religion and “southern” in their loyalty. The north, however, insists that the Misseriya, Arabic-speaking Muslim nomads who bring their herds of cattle into Abyei to graze during the dry season, also have the right to vote in the referendum. Deadlock.

Such ethnic quarrels will persist and proliferate: at least five rebel groups are fighting the new southern government, and Bashir’s regime faces big rebellions in Darfur, South Kordofan and Nile Province. South Sudan will almost certainly end up as a one-party state that spends most of its revenue on the army — “the next Eritrea,” as one diplomat put it — but the future of Sudan itself is harder to foretell.

Bashir’s immediate problem is economic. The deal to split the oil revenue equally between north and south lapsed with South Sudan’s independence, and he is bringing in harsh austerity measures and a new currency as part of a three-year “emergency program” to stabilize the economy. But the price of food is already soaring in Khartoum as confidence in the Sudanese pound collapses.

Unaffordable food was a major factor in the popular revolts against oppressive Arab regimes in recent months, and Bashir is trying to insulate himself against that by promising stricter enforcement of Islamic law in Sudan. That may win him some support among the Muslim, Arabic-speaking majority, but by the same token it will further alienate the north’s remaining religious and ethnic minorities. So more rebellions in the outlying regions.

On top of all that, Bashir will forever be seen, however unfairly, as the man who “lost” the south. His status as an indicted war criminal does him no harm with the majority population at home; his failure to crush the southerners by force is what really undermines him. So he may soon have to go abroad and live with his money.

He did one good thing in his life, and no good deed goes unpunished.

© 2010 Arab News

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7/06/2011

Sri Lanka Cricket announced that the Minister of Sports Mahindananda Aluthgamage directed the new Chairman of Sri Lanka Cricket Interim Committee Jayantha Dharmadasa to express his views on the content of ex-captain Kumara Sangakkara's 2011 MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture.

The Minister has directed the Sri Lanka Cricket interim Chairman to look into if Sangakkara's criticism on the Sri Lanka cricket administration amounted breach of sports law of the country.

Stating "In Sri Lanka, cricket and politics have been synonymous", Sangakkara went on to say "After 1996 the cricket board has been controlled and administered by a handful of well-meaning individuals either personally or by proxy rotated in and out depending on appointment or election. Unfortunately to consolidate and perpetuate their power they opened the door of the administration to partisan cronies that would lead to corruption and wonton waste of cricket board finances and resources.

"It was and still is confusing. Accusations of vote buying and rigging, player interference due to lobbying from each side and even violence at the AGMs, including the brandishing of weapons and ugly fist fights, have characterised cricket board elections for as long as I can remember.

"The team lost the buffer between itself and the cricket administration. Players had become used to approaching members in power directly trading favours for mutual benefits and by 1999 all these changes in administration and player attitudes had transformed what was a close knit unit in 1996 into a collection of individuals with no shared vision or sense of team."

Sangakkara further says, "We have to aspire to better administration. The administration needs to adopt the same values enshrined by the team over the years: integrity, transparency, commitment and discipline.

"Unless the administration is capable of becoming more professional, forward-thinking and transparent then we risk alienating the common man. Indeed, this is already happening. Loyal fans are becoming increasingly disillusioned. This is very dangerous because it is not the administrators or players that sustain the game– it is the cricket-loving public. It is their passion that powers cricket and if they turn their backs on cricket then the whole system will come crashing down.

"The solution to this may be the ICC taking a stand to suspend member boards with any direct detrimental political interference and allegations of corruption and mismanagement. This will negate the ability to field representative teams or receive funding and other accompanying benefits from the ICC. But as a Sri Lankan I hope we have the strength to find the answers ourselves."

Daily Telegraph that posted the full speech delivered by Sangakkara quoted, "Kumar Sangakkara delivered an exceptional speech in his 2011MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture, touching on the history, culture and opportunties for Sri Lankan cricket as well a moving recounting of the terrorist attack on their team bus in Pakistan."

Martin Niemoller's poem we mentioned in the topic is as follows:

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

This is what Wikipedia says about Martin Niemoller:


Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemöller (14 January 1892 – 6 March 1984) was a German anti-Nazi theologian[1] and Lutheran pastor. He is best known as the author of the poem First they came....
Although he was a national conservative and initially a supporter of Adolf Hitler,[2] he became one of the founders of the Confessional Church, which opposed the nazification of German Protestant churches. He vehemently opposed the Nazis' Aryan Paragraph,[3] but made remarks about Jews that some scholars have called antisemitic.[4] For his opposition to the Nazis' state control of the churches, Niemöller was imprisoned in Sachsenhausen andDachau concentration camps from 1937 to 1945.[5][6] He narrowly escaped execution and survived imprisonment.[7] 

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7/05/2011

The following report signals that the conflict between Sri Lanka and India over the fishing activities in the Palk Straits have reached to a decisive point.

Reacting strongly to incidents of Indian fishermen being detained by Sri Lankan Navy, India today said a senior official of the External Affairs Ministry will soon visit the island nation to resolve the issues as such acts ''cannot go on''.

"I think this cannot go on like this. I think we will have to come to some firm understanding with the government of Sri Lanka," Krishna told mediapersons here.

His comments came after reports that Sri Lankan Navy detained 14 fishermen from Tamil Nadu for allegedly fishing in their waters earlier in the day. They, however, freed the fishermen hours later on sighting an Indian Navy vessel near the International Maritime Boundary Line.

Krishna said he will be deputing an MEA Joint Secretary to go to Sri Lanka and "prepare some kind of a ground so that such unpleasant incidents do not frequently occur." Krishna noted that international water is a "tricky issue" and that fishermen don't recognise international maritime boundaries.

In today's incident, the fishermen were taken into custody when they were near the third sand dune between Katchatheevu, an islet ceded by India to Sri Lanka, and Arichalmunai in the sea off Rameswaram, where another group of 13 fishermen were detained by the island navy and released recently.

Fishery department officials, quoting four released fishermen, said the armed Sri Lankan Navymen came in two boats and asked the 18 fishermen to surrender. They took 14 fishermen into custody and towed one boat away with them while releasing four fishermen and another boat. The 14 fishermen were handed over to Indian Navy who would bring them back.

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