www.dailymirror.lk https://www.dailymirror.lk/RSS_Feeds/plus The only Sri Lankan newspaper with round the clock news updates - Dailymirror Online Edition en-us [email protected] Copyright 2024 Businesses of Israeli, Ukrainian nationals spell doom for Southerners https://www.dailymirror.lk/recomended-news/Businesses-of-Israeli--Ukrainian-nationals-spell-doom-for-Southerners/277-277838 https://www.dailymirror.lk/recomended-news/Businesses-of-Israeli--Ukrainian-nationals-spell-doom-for-Southerners/277-277838

Tourists have rented out bikes and three-wheelers to cut down on traveling costs 

 

  • Businesses are run by tourists using tourist visas and this has become a serious cause of concern for locals in the area
  • Critics point out that though Sri Lanka needs more revenue its resources and the sovereignty of citizens cannot be infringed at the expense of tourists
  • Pleas made by Sri Lankans urging the authorities to streamline the legal framework, so that the tourism sector would help locals and local businesses to thrive
  • Many tour guides warn of possible consequences of neglecting the country’s pristine beaches

 

Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Sabry recently said that tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka may exceed 2.5 million in 2024. While the figures look promising, many controversial events that have been reported in recent weeks have indeed kept locals in doubt. From exposés of tourists engaging in illegal businesses, attempts to organise parties with ‘face controls’, the darker side of allowing tourists into the country have already been revealed. It is a fact that Sri Lanka needs more revenue to recover from its economic failures, but critics point out that at the same time, its resources and sovereignty of citizens cannot be infringed at the expense of tourists.


Haven for foreign investors

In recent days the Daily Mirror reported that many Russian tourists stationed here long-term had resorted to running tourism related businesses in the south; especially Weligama and Arugambay; these enterprises severely hampering local businesses. Some of these businesses owned by Russian tourists include running restaurants, bars, cafes and even renting out gear for water sports as well as renting tuk tuk’s and scooty’s for tourists to travel around. In fact Tourism Minister Harin Fernando told Daily Mirror over the weekend that most of these foreign run businesses weren’t registered with the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority and they were not paying taxes. In raids conducted by the authorities in recent months, many Russians were deported for running businesses under tourist visas, but as the issue still exists, it has caused serious concerns for locals in the area.


However Russian owned businesses are not the only alarming concern for the local tourism industry. The Daily Mirror learns that many Israeli nationals have also started local businesses in areas such as Ahangama and Weligama. A local source told this newspaper that around 50% of lands in Ahangama have already been purchased by Israelis. “A perch of land costs around Rs. 5 million given the demand. As you go towards the interiors you can see that many Israeli nationals have purchased lands. Some have obtained these lands on a 99-year lease. Many foreigners are interested in setting up hospitality ventures such as boutique hotels, cafes and restaurants,” a local source revealed when the Daily Mirror visited the area.

 

The coral reef is dying because most tourists don’t know to do snorkeling the proper way. These are sensitive ecosystems. We need to protect the environment if we want to continue with our profession”

Oscar Weerasinghe, Tour Guide

 

 

 

 

On a visit to the area, the Daily Mirror team witnessed some businesses, which were owned by Israeli nationals, but these businesses had a local partner. All businesses were 
tourism related. 
According to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority website, the laws relating to business organizations do not permit non-nationals to run sole proprietorship businesses. However, foreign investors can incorporate a resident company in Sri Lanka to operate the business. 


Under the Companies Act of Sri Lanka, a foreign company can register a private limited liability company, incorporated with a minimum of two shareholders, who can own the entire share capital of the company. Following incorporation, the company must comply with all statutory requirements imposed on domestic companies.


Ukrainian nationals operating businesses in the South

In addition to the Israeli and Russian nationals entering the local tourism market, Ukrainian tourists have also set up excursions, surfing lessons, three-wheeler and bike rental operations and boutique hotels where the money is circulated among themselves. “They have their own ways of exchanging money such as undial (an underground banking system), hence local businesses cannot thrive due to the tourism sector anymore,” said Sampath Perera, President, Professional Tour Guide Alliance. “It is illegal for tourists to carry out excursions because they are not licensed tour guides. Some claim that their tourist visas have expired, but continue to remain in the country. This is a major challenge for us because it not only creates a competition among locals and foreigners, but it may also lead to clashes. Thereafter, bilateral ties among countries too will be severed. We therefore urge the authorities to streamline the legal framework, so that the tourism sector would help locals and local businesses to thrive. The Department of Immigration and Emigration has already issued a notice for Russian and Ukrainian tourists to leave the country within 14 days. I feel that there’s a political hand involved in this issue. Otherwise how can these foreigners act according to their own whims and fancies,” questioned Perera.

 

They have their own ways of exchanging money such as undial (an underground banking system), hence local businesses cannot thrive due to the tourism sector anymore”

Sampath Perera, President Professional Tour Guide Alliance

 


A mix of tourists

There was a time when Sri Lanka promoted budget accommodation and budget travel packages for tourists. Today, many backpackers, who visit Sri Lanka, are inclined to stay at hostels that rent out rooms for as low as $5 per night as opposed to semi luxury accommodation where rooms are rented out at $ 20 or more per night. They share costs among their groups and one may in fact wonder whether there’s any benefit for the country in promoting tourism when they hardly spend any money.
But, there’s another side to the story.


The Daily Mirror learned that when the season begins in Down South, tourists purchase rooms irrespective of whether they cost $ 400 or $ 1000 per night! Sharing his views on the seasonal influx of tourists, one local told the Daily Mirror that even a price of a king coconut soars to Rs. 1500 during that time of the year.

 

For me it is an eyesore to see garbage dumps on either side of the roads and drains clogged with plastics etc. We’re leaving a negative impression on tourists. It’s not only about promoting beautiful videos of the island. It should be a pleasant experience for them”

W. D Lakshman, Proprietor Peacock Collection

 


Is the country clean for tourists?

Echoing similar sentiments, W. D Lakshman, proprietor at Peacock Collection, a souvenir shop in Ahangama said that there is always a mix of tourists. “Some spend thumping amounts of money while others are reserved when it comes to expenses. Many tourists purchase local teas, spices and other handicraft,” said Lakshman. 
While acknowledging the government’s efforts to attract tourists to the country, Lakshman said that the Municipal Council for example should carry out more robust operations to keep the city clean.


“For me it is an eyesore to see garbage dumps on either side of the roads and drains clogged with plastics etc. We’re leaving a negative impression on tourists. It’s not only about promoting beautiful videos of the island. It should be a pleasant experience for them when they visit the country afterwards,” said Lakshman. 


The Polhena beach is one of the must-visit destinations in Matara. Many locals and foreigners visit this beach stretch to witness breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean. But today, many tour guides warn of possible consequences of neglecting the country’s pristine beaches. “The Tourism Promotion Bureau should ideally be educating tourists on the dos and don’ts when visiting a location,” said Oscar Weerasinghe, an experienced tour guide. “The coral reef is dying because most tourists don’t know to do snorkeling the proper way. These are sensitive ecosystems. We need to protect the environment if we want to continue with our profession. I carry out beach cleanups and bear the expenses. But these are initiatives that the government should undertake,” added Weerasinghe. 


Many tourists visit the Southern and Eastern beach stretches to learn surfing. “Surfing lessons are conducted at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels starting from $ 30 onwards.”
Weerasinghe said. He added that whale watching has been temporarily halted due to oil leaks from boats. “The boats go at top speed and such activities disturb these animals. I haven’t done any whale watching tours this year. It’s one thing to have fun, but it shouldn’t be done at the expense of our resources,” said Weerasinghe. 


He further said that the government should have appropriate garbage disposal systems for example to ensure that the cities are clean at all times, irrespective of whether they are frequented by tourists or not. “These are initiatives that the government can take and perform well. We wonder what is being done to all the funds that they receive for tourism promotion programmes. It’s high time that they get their together,” he added.

 

No response from Harsha 

Several attempts made to contact Harsha Ilukpitiya, Controller General at the Department of Immigration and Emigration to inquire about the visa status of foreign nationals, who are carrying out businesses locally, proved futile.

 

In addition to the Israeli and Russian nationals entering the local tourism market, Ukrainian tourists have also set up excursions, surfing lessons, three-wheeler and bike rental operations

]]>

Tourists have rented out bikes and three-wheelers to cut down on traveling costs 

 

  • Businesses are run by tourists using tourist visas and this has become a serious cause of concern for locals in the area
  • Critics point out that though Sri Lanka needs more revenue its resources and the sovereignty of citizens cannot be infringed at the expense of tourists
  • Pleas made by Sri Lankans urging the authorities to streamline the legal framework, so that the tourism sector would help locals and local businesses to thrive
  • Many tour guides warn of possible consequences of neglecting the country’s pristine beaches

 

Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Sabry recently said that tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka may exceed 2.5 million in 2024. While the figures look promising, many controversial events that have been reported in recent weeks have indeed kept locals in doubt. From exposés of tourists engaging in illegal businesses, attempts to organise parties with ‘face controls’, the darker side of allowing tourists into the country have already been revealed. It is a fact that Sri Lanka needs more revenue to recover from its economic failures, but critics point out that at the same time, its resources and sovereignty of citizens cannot be infringed at the expense of tourists.


Haven for foreign investors

In recent days the Daily Mirror reported that many Russian tourists stationed here long-term had resorted to running tourism related businesses in the south; especially Weligama and Arugambay; these enterprises severely hampering local businesses. Some of these businesses owned by Russian tourists include running restaurants, bars, cafes and even renting out gear for water sports as well as renting tuk tuk’s and scooty’s for tourists to travel around. In fact Tourism Minister Harin Fernando told Daily Mirror over the weekend that most of these foreign run businesses weren’t registered with the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority and they were not paying taxes. In raids conducted by the authorities in recent months, many Russians were deported for running businesses under tourist visas, but as the issue still exists, it has caused serious concerns for locals in the area.


However Russian owned businesses are not the only alarming concern for the local tourism industry. The Daily Mirror learns that many Israeli nationals have also started local businesses in areas such as Ahangama and Weligama. A local source told this newspaper that around 50% of lands in Ahangama have already been purchased by Israelis. “A perch of land costs around Rs. 5 million given the demand. As you go towards the interiors you can see that many Israeli nationals have purchased lands. Some have obtained these lands on a 99-year lease. Many foreigners are interested in setting up hospitality ventures such as boutique hotels, cafes and restaurants,” a local source revealed when the Daily Mirror visited the area.

 

The coral reef is dying because most tourists don’t know to do snorkeling the proper way. These are sensitive ecosystems. We need to protect the environment if we want to continue with our profession”

Oscar Weerasinghe, Tour Guide

 

 

 

 

On a visit to the area, the Daily Mirror team witnessed some businesses, which were owned by Israeli nationals, but these businesses had a local partner. All businesses were 
tourism related. 
According to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority website, the laws relating to business organizations do not permit non-nationals to run sole proprietorship businesses. However, foreign investors can incorporate a resident company in Sri Lanka to operate the business. 


Under the Companies Act of Sri Lanka, a foreign company can register a private limited liability company, incorporated with a minimum of two shareholders, who can own the entire share capital of the company. Following incorporation, the company must comply with all statutory requirements imposed on domestic companies.


Ukrainian nationals operating businesses in the South

In addition to the Israeli and Russian nationals entering the local tourism market, Ukrainian tourists have also set up excursions, surfing lessons, three-wheeler and bike rental operations and boutique hotels where the money is circulated among themselves. “They have their own ways of exchanging money such as undial (an underground banking system), hence local businesses cannot thrive due to the tourism sector anymore,” said Sampath Perera, President, Professional Tour Guide Alliance. “It is illegal for tourists to carry out excursions because they are not licensed tour guides. Some claim that their tourist visas have expired, but continue to remain in the country. This is a major challenge for us because it not only creates a competition among locals and foreigners, but it may also lead to clashes. Thereafter, bilateral ties among countries too will be severed. We therefore urge the authorities to streamline the legal framework, so that the tourism sector would help locals and local businesses to thrive. The Department of Immigration and Emigration has already issued a notice for Russian and Ukrainian tourists to leave the country within 14 days. I feel that there’s a political hand involved in this issue. Otherwise how can these foreigners act according to their own whims and fancies,” questioned Perera.

 

They have their own ways of exchanging money such as undial (an underground banking system), hence local businesses cannot thrive due to the tourism sector anymore”

Sampath Perera, President Professional Tour Guide Alliance

 


A mix of tourists

There was a time when Sri Lanka promoted budget accommodation and budget travel packages for tourists. Today, many backpackers, who visit Sri Lanka, are inclined to stay at hostels that rent out rooms for as low as $5 per night as opposed to semi luxury accommodation where rooms are rented out at $ 20 or more per night. They share costs among their groups and one may in fact wonder whether there’s any benefit for the country in promoting tourism when they hardly spend any money.
But, there’s another side to the story.


The Daily Mirror learned that when the season begins in Down South, tourists purchase rooms irrespective of whether they cost $ 400 or $ 1000 per night! Sharing his views on the seasonal influx of tourists, one local told the Daily Mirror that even a price of a king coconut soars to Rs. 1500 during that time of the year.

 

For me it is an eyesore to see garbage dumps on either side of the roads and drains clogged with plastics etc. We’re leaving a negative impression on tourists. It’s not only about promoting beautiful videos of the island. It should be a pleasant experience for them”

W. D Lakshman, Proprietor Peacock Collection

 


Is the country clean for tourists?

Echoing similar sentiments, W. D Lakshman, proprietor at Peacock Collection, a souvenir shop in Ahangama said that there is always a mix of tourists. “Some spend thumping amounts of money while others are reserved when it comes to expenses. Many tourists purchase local teas, spices and other handicraft,” said Lakshman. 
While acknowledging the government’s efforts to attract tourists to the country, Lakshman said that the Municipal Council for example should carry out more robust operations to keep the city clean.


“For me it is an eyesore to see garbage dumps on either side of the roads and drains clogged with plastics etc. We’re leaving a negative impression on tourists. It’s not only about promoting beautiful videos of the island. It should be a pleasant experience for them when they visit the country afterwards,” said Lakshman. 


The Polhena beach is one of the must-visit destinations in Matara. Many locals and foreigners visit this beach stretch to witness breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean. But today, many tour guides warn of possible consequences of neglecting the country’s pristine beaches. “The Tourism Promotion Bureau should ideally be educating tourists on the dos and don’ts when visiting a location,” said Oscar Weerasinghe, an experienced tour guide. “The coral reef is dying because most tourists don’t know to do snorkeling the proper way. These are sensitive ecosystems. We need to protect the environment if we want to continue with our profession. I carry out beach cleanups and bear the expenses. But these are initiatives that the government should undertake,” added Weerasinghe. 


Many tourists visit the Southern and Eastern beach stretches to learn surfing. “Surfing lessons are conducted at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels starting from $ 30 onwards.”
Weerasinghe said. He added that whale watching has been temporarily halted due to oil leaks from boats. “The boats go at top speed and such activities disturb these animals. I haven’t done any whale watching tours this year. It’s one thing to have fun, but it shouldn’t be done at the expense of our resources,” said Weerasinghe. 


He further said that the government should have appropriate garbage disposal systems for example to ensure that the cities are clean at all times, irrespective of whether they are frequented by tourists or not. “These are initiatives that the government can take and perform well. We wonder what is being done to all the funds that they receive for tourism promotion programmes. It’s high time that they get their together,” he added.

 

No response from Harsha 

Several attempts made to contact Harsha Ilukpitiya, Controller General at the Department of Immigration and Emigration to inquire about the visa status of foreign nationals, who are carrying out businesses locally, proved futile.

 

In addition to the Israeli and Russian nationals entering the local tourism market, Ukrainian tourists have also set up excursions, surfing lessons, three-wheeler and bike rental operations

]]>
https://bmkltsly13vb.compat.objectstorage.ap-singapore-1.oraclecloud.com/cdn.sg.dailymirror.lk/assets/uploads/image_9ff9a230f4.jpg 2024-02-28 00:57:00
Internally Divided ITAK is in the Eye of a Legal Storm https://www.dailymirror.lk/opinion/Internally-Divided-ITAK-is-in-the-Eye-of-a-Legal-Storm/172-277639 https://www.dailymirror.lk/opinion/Internally-Divided-ITAK-is-in-the-Eye-of-a-Legal-Storm/172-277639

The Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK) known in English as the Federal Party (FP) is in the eye of a legal storm. The premier political party representing the Sri Lankan Tamils of the Northern and Eastern provinces is currently undergoing an internal crisis mainly due to recently held inner-party elections. Issues relating to the intra-party elections have brought about a clearly visible divide within the ITAK.   
This in turn has led to an unprecedented situation where two members of the ITAK have sought legal recourse against allegedly illegal action by party authorities. Enjoining orders were obtained. Party Leaders were restrained from conducting its postponed National Convention on 19 February.   
ITAK leaders were also restrained from implementing decisions made by the Party’s General Council on 21 and 27 January 2024. The General Council known as “Podhuchabhai” comprises members of the Central Working Committee and representatives elected by the party’s district branches. The stay order was issued on 15 February for 2 weeks until 29 February.   
As a result of the court orders, the ITAK National Convention did not take place as planned on 19 February. Furthermore, courts have also restrained ITAK Party Leaders from implementing decisions reached at the party General Council meetings on Jan 21 and 27. The decisions reached on the two days were the election of a new party President on January 21, and the election of other office bearers on 27 January. Hence all the new party office bearers including the new President, Sivagnanam Shritharan are debarred temporarily from functioning in their posts.   
As is the case with most democratic political parties, the ITAK too has several internal divisions. The fault lines within the ITAK came to the fore when the party’s General Council elected a new President, Secretary and other key office bearers in Trincomalee on 21 and 27 January 2024. These elections and their implications have been discussed by this writer in two articles published in our sister newspaper (Daily FT) on 24 January and 9 February 2024 respectively.   
The new office bearers for the years 2024-26 were to be ceremonially announced at the party convention earlier scheduled for January 28. However the “old” ITAK President, Maavai Senathirajah in a controversial move unilaterally announced that the convention was being postponed indefinitely due to differences of opinion within the party. This had the tacit support of the “new” ITAK president Sivagnanam Shritharan. After some days it was announced that the party convention would be held in Trincomalee on February 19.   
 What happened next was that some party members sought legal intervention on 15 February to prevent the party convention from being held on February 19, on the basis that the number which voted at the elections was in excess of the numbers allocated to the General Council in terms of the ITAK party constitution. They also challenged the legality of the elections of office bearers on the basis that procedures set out in the party constitution were not followed.   
Consequentially, the District Courts of Trincomalee and Jaffna issued Enjoining Orders staying the ITAK from holding its party convention or General Council meeting on February 19. This resulted in the party convention not being held on February 19. The Trincomalee Courts have also effectively stayed the functioning of the newly elected office bearers. 


Trincomalee


Trincomalee was the venue of the ITAK General Council conclaves. The National Convention was also to be held there. In Trincomalee the complaint was filed by lawyer, Aishwarya Sivakumar on behalf of Para Chandrasekaram, the owner of “Para Hotel” and a resident of Konesapuri in Saambaltheevu. He is a member of the ITAK in the Trincomalee District. When the case was heard by Trincomalee District Judge, Manickavasagam Ganesharajah on 15 February, Geoffrey Alagaratnam PC along with Attorney-at-Law, Purantharan appeared for the petitioner.   
Seven ITAK leaders were named as respondents. They were Somasundaram Senathirajah, Sivagnanam Shritharan, M.A. Sumanthiran, Shanmugam Kugathasan, Pathmanathan Sathialingam, Seenithamby Yogeswaran and Xavier Kulanayagam.   
Of these, Senathirajah known as “Maavai” was the ITAK President from 2014 to 2024. He remained as President officially on 21 January, when 321 members of the ITAK General Council voted to elect a new President. Shritharan was elected as the new ITAK President, with a 47 majority on January 21. Sumanthiran was a candidate at the party Presidential poll. He obtained 137 votes. The winner Shritharan got 184. Both Shritharan and Sumanthiran are Jaffna district MPs. “Maavai” is a former Jaffna MP.   
Shanmugam Kugathasan is the ITAK Trincomalee District Chairman. He was elected as the new General Secretary of the ITAK on 27 January. Pathmanathan Sathialingam, a medical doctor was functioning as the Acting General Secretary of the ITAK until a new secretary was elected on the 27th. He is a former Northern Provincial Council Minister.   
Seenithamby Yogeswaran is a former Batticaloa District MP. He was also a candidate for the ITAK Presidency, but withdrew in favour of Shritharan. Xavier Kulanayagam was elected as the ITAK’s new Deputy General Secretary on January 27. He was earlier the party’s Administrative Secretary. 


Enjoining Orders


After hearing submissions praying for an Interim Injunction on behalf of Petitioner Para Chandrasekaram, Trincomalee District Judge, Manickavasagar Ganesharajah issued two Enjoining Orders valid for 14 days until 29 February when the next hearing is scheduled.   
One enjoining order restrained the seven defendants namely, Messrs Senathirajah, Shritharan, Sumanthiran, Kugathasan, Sathialingam, Yogeswaran and Kulanayagam from holding/conducting the purported National Convention on 19 February 2024 until the hearing and determination of the application for an injunction.   
The other Enjoining Order restrained the seven defendants, Senathirajah, Shritharan, Sumanthiran, Kugathasan, Sathialingam, Yogeswaran and Kulanayagam from implementing any of the purported decisions taken at the purported General Council meetings held on 21 and 27 January 2024 until the hearing and determination of the application for an injunction.   
The Trincomalee Court’s Enjoining Order has restrained the party from implementing decisions taken by the General Council on January 21 and 27. What this meant was that the party Presidential election on January 21 and the election of other office bearers on January 27 cannot be followed through. None of those elected can function in their posts until the Courts make their final decision. The stay order is likely to be extended further unless an amicable agreement is reached.   
The new office bearers elected are as follows – President - Sivagnanam Shritharan. Senior Vice President - CVK Sivagnanam. Vice Presidents – Charles Nirmalanathan, T. Kalaiarasan, P. Ariyanendran, P. Sathialingam and KV Thavarasa; General Secretary - Shanmugam Kugathasan. Deputy General Secretary - Xavier Kulanayagam. Assistant Secretaries - Shanthi Sriskandarajah, Ranjani Kanagarajah, Krishnapillai Seyon, T. Krukularajah, E. Saravanabavan and C Sivamohan. Joint Treasurers - P. Kanagasabapathy and Gnanamuthu Sreenesan.   
Currently, none of these persons can function in the posts they were elected to. 


Jaffna


The ITAK party headquarters is located at Martin Road in Jaffna. Peter Ilanchezhiyan, a member of the ITAK Central Working Committee petitioned the Jaffna District Court seeking an injunction against the postponed ITAK National Convention being held in Trincomalee on 19 February. Ilanchezhiyan is the son of former Northern Provincial Council Deputy Chairman, Anton Jeyanathan and the nephew of ITAK Deputy General Secretary, Xavier Kulanayagam. When the ITAK General Council meeting was in progress on January 27, Ilanchezhiyan had openly declared that he would go to Courts if the party constitution was not adhered to.   
Ilanchezhiyan’s application was heard by Jaffna District Judge, Sinnathurai Sathiswaran. Lawyer Kumaravadivel Guruparan appeared on behalf of Peter Ilanchezhiyan. Five Persons were named as respondents. They were Somasundaram Senathirajah, Sivagnanam Shritharan, Shanmugam Kugathasan, Pathmanathan Sathialingam and Xavier Kulanayagam. Senathirajah and Shritharan are the old and new party Presidents, respectively. Kugathasan and Kulanayagam are the new General Secretary and Deputy General Secretary. Sathiyalingam is the former Deputy General Secretary cum Acting General Secretary.   
In his submissions, Guruparan stated that the party constitution had been violated in constituting the General Council. Persons far in excess of the numbers eligible had attended the General Council meeting and voted at the election. Procedures set out in the party constitution were not followed. Some of the posts had been filled unlawfully.   
Counsel Guruparan further stated that the holding of the party convention was improper because the party constitution stipulated that 21 days notice should be given in the media before the convention was held. This had not been done. An injunction against the National Convention being held on February 19 was sought. After hearing the submissions, the Courts issued an Enjoining Order. The convention was not held on the February 19. 


Maavai Senathirajah


Several acts of commission and omission by ITAK leaders over the years have culminated in the current crisis. The main share of the blame should be borne by Maavai Senathirajah who functioned as party President for 10 years from 2014 to 2024. Senathirajah was the immediate cause for the present problem too. It was he who arbitrarily postponed the ITAK convention indefinitely. Otherwise it would have been held without any hitch on January 28.   

Senathirajah postponed the convention unilaterally and illegitimately on the pretext that a group of persons from Batticaloa were objecting to the election of Shanmugam Kugathasan of Trincomalee as the new ITAK General Secretary. They were demanding that the post should be given to Gnanamuthu Srinesan a former Batticaloa district MP. Though Ex-President Senathirajah was not empowered to do so, he announced a postponement of the party convention until the issue was solved by electing a new General Secretary.   
Shritharan and Sumanthiran met Senathirajah. In that meeting Sumanthiran emphasised that the election of Kugathasan as General Secretary was valid in fact and law. The Central Working Committee had endorsed it unanimously. The General Council had accepted it unanimously. Thereafter, it had been put to the vote also and carried forward with 112 voting in favour and 104 against. Therefore, it was not correct for Senathirajah to have postponed the convention on the basis that a new Secretary had to be elected.   
 Senathirajah disagreed. He said that he was going to Singapore for his son’s wedding and would be back in Sri Lanka on 10 February. He would re-convene a General Council meeting after his return and resolve the issue. Shritharan was amenable to Maavai’s suggestion. Srinesan and the Batticaloa group were Shritharan’s supporters. Kugathasan was perceived as being in the Sumanthiran camp.   
Sumanthiran then said that Senathirajah’s suggestion was contrary to the ITAK party constitution. Senathirajah then retorted, “We don’t have to always work according to the party constitution.” Sumanthiran responded that violating the party constitution was unacceptable and could have legal consequences. Senathirajah, with tacit support from Shritharan, disregarded Sumanthiran’s legal advice and went off to Singapore. 


Gentleman’s Agreement


After Senathirajah returned, an unofficial meeting was held in which an arrangement was arrived at. A gentleman’s agreement was reached where Kugathasan would function as General Secretary for one year. Thereafter, he would resign and Srinesan would function as General Secretary for a year. Thus the two year term of office was to be divided as one year each. This was followed by another announcement that the party convention would be held on 19 February 2024.   
Subsequently, it was announced that the ITAK General Council too would be re-convened and a “mini –election” held. It was said that in terms of the ITAK constitution, it was the Deputy General Secretary who would automatically become General Secretary if the latter resigned. As such, it would be Deputy General Secretary, Kulanayagam who would become General Secretary, if Kugathasan resigned. Srinesan who had been elected joint Treasurer could not replace Kugathasan   
Hence it was said that the General Council would be convened to hold two elections. Srinesan would become Deputy General Secretary, and Kulanayagam, Joint Treasurer. This was followed by a meeting between veteran ITAK Trincomalee MP, Rajavarothayam Sampanthan and Shritharan who was accompanied by ITAK Wanni MP, Charles Nirmalanathan. Tamil newspapers reported that Sampanthan had declared at the meeting that conspiracies should be thwarted and fresh elections to all posts in the ITAK should be held.   
This caused a major upset in the ITAK circles. The party grapevine began humming that the idea of convening the General Council was not to have a mini-election but to have a major poll in which fresh elections were to be held for all the office bearers elected on January 27. It was strongly believed that people suspected of being Sumanthiran loyalists were going to be replaced by Shritharan supporters. Financial incentives provided by Tamil Diaspora elements were going to play a role as in the case of the party Presidential election of January 21. Rules, norms and procedures laid out in the ITAK Constitution were going to be brazenly flouted.

 
Constitutionalism Fought Back


It was then that the ITAK constitution or “Constitutionalism” fought back! The legal action initiated in Trincomalee and Jaffna was on the basis that the party constitution was not being adhered to. An Interim Injunction was sought. After ex parte proceedings, the courts have issued enjoining orders.   
The crucial question that arises is what the ITAK leaders propose to do. It is blatantly obvious that the ITAK constitution has been flagrantly violated. Protracted legal proceedings may tie up the party in knots. There is also the danger of potential intervention by the Elections Commission. The party runs the risk of losing its registration and popular “House” symbol. 
Crux of the Matter
This writer consulted some members of the legal fraternity over the ITAK legal wrangle. According to these legal eagles, the crux of the matter is the composition of the ITAK General Council and the decisions taken by this body on the 21st and 27th of January 2024.   
The problem arose when Shritharan’s supporters disputed the decisions taken on the 27th of January and made attempts to change them. The legal challenges seem to be a defensive response to those perceived attempts.   
If Shritharan and his supporters provide an assurance that no changes will be made to those decisions and that the newly elected office bearers including the General Secretary and Deputy General Secretary will be allowed to function in their posts, there are chances of persuading the two plaintiffs to withdraw the cases. If this is not done, the cases will drag on and even the position of Shritharan who was elected President on January 21st could be challenged. 
Saner Counsel
As stated earlier, the ITAK is in the eye of a legal storm. Unless and until saner counsel prevails within the upper echelons of the ITAK, the party seems headed for protracted legal proceedings. 
D.B.S. Jeyaraj can be reached at [email protected]

]]>

The Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK) known in English as the Federal Party (FP) is in the eye of a legal storm. The premier political party representing the Sri Lankan Tamils of the Northern and Eastern provinces is currently undergoing an internal crisis mainly due to recently held inner-party elections. Issues relating to the intra-party elections have brought about a clearly visible divide within the ITAK.   
This in turn has led to an unprecedented situation where two members of the ITAK have sought legal recourse against allegedly illegal action by party authorities. Enjoining orders were obtained. Party Leaders were restrained from conducting its postponed National Convention on 19 February.   
ITAK leaders were also restrained from implementing decisions made by the Party’s General Council on 21 and 27 January 2024. The General Council known as “Podhuchabhai” comprises members of the Central Working Committee and representatives elected by the party’s district branches. The stay order was issued on 15 February for 2 weeks until 29 February.   
As a result of the court orders, the ITAK National Convention did not take place as planned on 19 February. Furthermore, courts have also restrained ITAK Party Leaders from implementing decisions reached at the party General Council meetings on Jan 21 and 27. The decisions reached on the two days were the election of a new party President on January 21, and the election of other office bearers on 27 January. Hence all the new party office bearers including the new President, Sivagnanam Shritharan are debarred temporarily from functioning in their posts.   
As is the case with most democratic political parties, the ITAK too has several internal divisions. The fault lines within the ITAK came to the fore when the party’s General Council elected a new President, Secretary and other key office bearers in Trincomalee on 21 and 27 January 2024. These elections and their implications have been discussed by this writer in two articles published in our sister newspaper (Daily FT) on 24 January and 9 February 2024 respectively.   
The new office bearers for the years 2024-26 were to be ceremonially announced at the party convention earlier scheduled for January 28. However the “old” ITAK President, Maavai Senathirajah in a controversial move unilaterally announced that the convention was being postponed indefinitely due to differences of opinion within the party. This had the tacit support of the “new” ITAK president Sivagnanam Shritharan. After some days it was announced that the party convention would be held in Trincomalee on February 19.   
 What happened next was that some party members sought legal intervention on 15 February to prevent the party convention from being held on February 19, on the basis that the number which voted at the elections was in excess of the numbers allocated to the General Council in terms of the ITAK party constitution. They also challenged the legality of the elections of office bearers on the basis that procedures set out in the party constitution were not followed.   
Consequentially, the District Courts of Trincomalee and Jaffna issued Enjoining Orders staying the ITAK from holding its party convention or General Council meeting on February 19. This resulted in the party convention not being held on February 19. The Trincomalee Courts have also effectively stayed the functioning of the newly elected office bearers. 


Trincomalee


Trincomalee was the venue of the ITAK General Council conclaves. The National Convention was also to be held there. In Trincomalee the complaint was filed by lawyer, Aishwarya Sivakumar on behalf of Para Chandrasekaram, the owner of “Para Hotel” and a resident of Konesapuri in Saambaltheevu. He is a member of the ITAK in the Trincomalee District. When the case was heard by Trincomalee District Judge, Manickavasagam Ganesharajah on 15 February, Geoffrey Alagaratnam PC along with Attorney-at-Law, Purantharan appeared for the petitioner.   
Seven ITAK leaders were named as respondents. They were Somasundaram Senathirajah, Sivagnanam Shritharan, M.A. Sumanthiran, Shanmugam Kugathasan, Pathmanathan Sathialingam, Seenithamby Yogeswaran and Xavier Kulanayagam.   
Of these, Senathirajah known as “Maavai” was the ITAK President from 2014 to 2024. He remained as President officially on 21 January, when 321 members of the ITAK General Council voted to elect a new President. Shritharan was elected as the new ITAK President, with a 47 majority on January 21. Sumanthiran was a candidate at the party Presidential poll. He obtained 137 votes. The winner Shritharan got 184. Both Shritharan and Sumanthiran are Jaffna district MPs. “Maavai” is a former Jaffna MP.   
Shanmugam Kugathasan is the ITAK Trincomalee District Chairman. He was elected as the new General Secretary of the ITAK on 27 January. Pathmanathan Sathialingam, a medical doctor was functioning as the Acting General Secretary of the ITAK until a new secretary was elected on the 27th. He is a former Northern Provincial Council Minister.   
Seenithamby Yogeswaran is a former Batticaloa District MP. He was also a candidate for the ITAK Presidency, but withdrew in favour of Shritharan. Xavier Kulanayagam was elected as the ITAK’s new Deputy General Secretary on January 27. He was earlier the party’s Administrative Secretary. 


Enjoining Orders


After hearing submissions praying for an Interim Injunction on behalf of Petitioner Para Chandrasekaram, Trincomalee District Judge, Manickavasagar Ganesharajah issued two Enjoining Orders valid for 14 days until 29 February when the next hearing is scheduled.   
One enjoining order restrained the seven defendants namely, Messrs Senathirajah, Shritharan, Sumanthiran, Kugathasan, Sathialingam, Yogeswaran and Kulanayagam from holding/conducting the purported National Convention on 19 February 2024 until the hearing and determination of the application for an injunction.   
The other Enjoining Order restrained the seven defendants, Senathirajah, Shritharan, Sumanthiran, Kugathasan, Sathialingam, Yogeswaran and Kulanayagam from implementing any of the purported decisions taken at the purported General Council meetings held on 21 and 27 January 2024 until the hearing and determination of the application for an injunction.   
The Trincomalee Court’s Enjoining Order has restrained the party from implementing decisions taken by the General Council on January 21 and 27. What this meant was that the party Presidential election on January 21 and the election of other office bearers on January 27 cannot be followed through. None of those elected can function in their posts until the Courts make their final decision. The stay order is likely to be extended further unless an amicable agreement is reached.   
The new office bearers elected are as follows – President - Sivagnanam Shritharan. Senior Vice President - CVK Sivagnanam. Vice Presidents – Charles Nirmalanathan, T. Kalaiarasan, P. Ariyanendran, P. Sathialingam and KV Thavarasa; General Secretary - Shanmugam Kugathasan. Deputy General Secretary - Xavier Kulanayagam. Assistant Secretaries - Shanthi Sriskandarajah, Ranjani Kanagarajah, Krishnapillai Seyon, T. Krukularajah, E. Saravanabavan and C Sivamohan. Joint Treasurers - P. Kanagasabapathy and Gnanamuthu Sreenesan.   
Currently, none of these persons can function in the posts they were elected to. 


Jaffna


The ITAK party headquarters is located at Martin Road in Jaffna. Peter Ilanchezhiyan, a member of the ITAK Central Working Committee petitioned the Jaffna District Court seeking an injunction against the postponed ITAK National Convention being held in Trincomalee on 19 February. Ilanchezhiyan is the son of former Northern Provincial Council Deputy Chairman, Anton Jeyanathan and the nephew of ITAK Deputy General Secretary, Xavier Kulanayagam. When the ITAK General Council meeting was in progress on January 27, Ilanchezhiyan had openly declared that he would go to Courts if the party constitution was not adhered to.   
Ilanchezhiyan’s application was heard by Jaffna District Judge, Sinnathurai Sathiswaran. Lawyer Kumaravadivel Guruparan appeared on behalf of Peter Ilanchezhiyan. Five Persons were named as respondents. They were Somasundaram Senathirajah, Sivagnanam Shritharan, Shanmugam Kugathasan, Pathmanathan Sathialingam and Xavier Kulanayagam. Senathirajah and Shritharan are the old and new party Presidents, respectively. Kugathasan and Kulanayagam are the new General Secretary and Deputy General Secretary. Sathiyalingam is the former Deputy General Secretary cum Acting General Secretary.   
In his submissions, Guruparan stated that the party constitution had been violated in constituting the General Council. Persons far in excess of the numbers eligible had attended the General Council meeting and voted at the election. Procedures set out in the party constitution were not followed. Some of the posts had been filled unlawfully.   
Counsel Guruparan further stated that the holding of the party convention was improper because the party constitution stipulated that 21 days notice should be given in the media before the convention was held. This had not been done. An injunction against the National Convention being held on February 19 was sought. After hearing the submissions, the Courts issued an Enjoining Order. The convention was not held on the February 19. 


Maavai Senathirajah


Several acts of commission and omission by ITAK leaders over the years have culminated in the current crisis. The main share of the blame should be borne by Maavai Senathirajah who functioned as party President for 10 years from 2014 to 2024. Senathirajah was the immediate cause for the present problem too. It was he who arbitrarily postponed the ITAK convention indefinitely. Otherwise it would have been held without any hitch on January 28.   

Senathirajah postponed the convention unilaterally and illegitimately on the pretext that a group of persons from Batticaloa were objecting to the election of Shanmugam Kugathasan of Trincomalee as the new ITAK General Secretary. They were demanding that the post should be given to Gnanamuthu Srinesan a former Batticaloa district MP. Though Ex-President Senathirajah was not empowered to do so, he announced a postponement of the party convention until the issue was solved by electing a new General Secretary.   
Shritharan and Sumanthiran met Senathirajah. In that meeting Sumanthiran emphasised that the election of Kugathasan as General Secretary was valid in fact and law. The Central Working Committee had endorsed it unanimously. The General Council had accepted it unanimously. Thereafter, it had been put to the vote also and carried forward with 112 voting in favour and 104 against. Therefore, it was not correct for Senathirajah to have postponed the convention on the basis that a new Secretary had to be elected.   
 Senathirajah disagreed. He said that he was going to Singapore for his son’s wedding and would be back in Sri Lanka on 10 February. He would re-convene a General Council meeting after his return and resolve the issue. Shritharan was amenable to Maavai’s suggestion. Srinesan and the Batticaloa group were Shritharan’s supporters. Kugathasan was perceived as being in the Sumanthiran camp.   
Sumanthiran then said that Senathirajah’s suggestion was contrary to the ITAK party constitution. Senathirajah then retorted, “We don’t have to always work according to the party constitution.” Sumanthiran responded that violating the party constitution was unacceptable and could have legal consequences. Senathirajah, with tacit support from Shritharan, disregarded Sumanthiran’s legal advice and went off to Singapore. 


Gentleman’s Agreement


After Senathirajah returned, an unofficial meeting was held in which an arrangement was arrived at. A gentleman’s agreement was reached where Kugathasan would function as General Secretary for one year. Thereafter, he would resign and Srinesan would function as General Secretary for a year. Thus the two year term of office was to be divided as one year each. This was followed by another announcement that the party convention would be held on 19 February 2024.   
Subsequently, it was announced that the ITAK General Council too would be re-convened and a “mini –election” held. It was said that in terms of the ITAK constitution, it was the Deputy General Secretary who would automatically become General Secretary if the latter resigned. As such, it would be Deputy General Secretary, Kulanayagam who would become General Secretary, if Kugathasan resigned. Srinesan who had been elected joint Treasurer could not replace Kugathasan   
Hence it was said that the General Council would be convened to hold two elections. Srinesan would become Deputy General Secretary, and Kulanayagam, Joint Treasurer. This was followed by a meeting between veteran ITAK Trincomalee MP, Rajavarothayam Sampanthan and Shritharan who was accompanied by ITAK Wanni MP, Charles Nirmalanathan. Tamil newspapers reported that Sampanthan had declared at the meeting that conspiracies should be thwarted and fresh elections to all posts in the ITAK should be held.   
This caused a major upset in the ITAK circles. The party grapevine began humming that the idea of convening the General Council was not to have a mini-election but to have a major poll in which fresh elections were to be held for all the office bearers elected on January 27. It was strongly believed that people suspected of being Sumanthiran loyalists were going to be replaced by Shritharan supporters. Financial incentives provided by Tamil Diaspora elements were going to play a role as in the case of the party Presidential election of January 21. Rules, norms and procedures laid out in the ITAK Constitution were going to be brazenly flouted.

 
Constitutionalism Fought Back


It was then that the ITAK constitution or “Constitutionalism” fought back! The legal action initiated in Trincomalee and Jaffna was on the basis that the party constitution was not being adhered to. An Interim Injunction was sought. After ex parte proceedings, the courts have issued enjoining orders.   
The crucial question that arises is what the ITAK leaders propose to do. It is blatantly obvious that the ITAK constitution has been flagrantly violated. Protracted legal proceedings may tie up the party in knots. There is also the danger of potential intervention by the Elections Commission. The party runs the risk of losing its registration and popular “House” symbol. 
Crux of the Matter
This writer consulted some members of the legal fraternity over the ITAK legal wrangle. According to these legal eagles, the crux of the matter is the composition of the ITAK General Council and the decisions taken by this body on the 21st and 27th of January 2024.   
The problem arose when Shritharan’s supporters disputed the decisions taken on the 27th of January and made attempts to change them. The legal challenges seem to be a defensive response to those perceived attempts.   
If Shritharan and his supporters provide an assurance that no changes will be made to those decisions and that the newly elected office bearers including the General Secretary and Deputy General Secretary will be allowed to function in their posts, there are chances of persuading the two plaintiffs to withdraw the cases. If this is not done, the cases will drag on and even the position of Shritharan who was elected President on January 21st could be challenged. 
Saner Counsel
As stated earlier, the ITAK is in the eye of a legal storm. Unless and until saner counsel prevails within the upper echelons of the ITAK, the party seems headed for protracted legal proceedings. 
D.B.S. Jeyaraj can be reached at [email protected]

]]>
https://bmkltsly13vb.compat.objectstorage.ap-singapore-1.oraclecloud.com/cdn.sg.dailymirror.lk/assets/uploads/image_7312e40fde.jpg 2024-02-24 01:44:00
Upali Wijewardene, Free Trade Zone and “The Island” https://www.dailymirror.lk/opinion/Upali-Wijewardene--Free-Trade-Zone-and-“The-Island”/172-277224 https://www.dailymirror.lk/opinion/Upali-Wijewardene--Free-Trade-Zone-and-“The-Island”/172-277224

Upali Learjet

Upali also went into aviation and began local helicopter and airline services

When working for a Tamil newspaper, I have come across many Sinhala persons who simply did not care a hoot about the Tamil media. I have also come across many Sinhalese who were extremely concerned about what appeared in the Tamil newspapers. Upali belonged to the latter group. Though he could not read Tamil he got his Tamil employees at the Upali Group to inform him about what was appearing in the Virakesari.

Today (Feb 17) is the birthday of Sri Lanka’s popular business magnate Philip Upali Wijewardene. If Upali Wijewardene were among the living now, he would have celebrated his 86th birthday this year.  Alas, this was not to be as the Lear Jet he was travelling in disappeared on 13 February 1983, just 4 days before his 45th birthday.
It was my privilege to be associated with Upali Wijewardene slightly and briefly during the years 1978 to 1983. As a journalist on the Tamil Daily “Virakesari”, I covered the Greater Colombo Economic Commission (GCEC) or “free trade zone” from 1978 to 1981. Upali was the first Director General of the GCEC. 
Later in 1981, I began working as a staff reporter on the English daily, “The Island” published by Upali Newspapers Ltd of which he was the proprietor. I was at “The Island” in 1983, when Upali went missing 41 years ago. The Island of Tuesday, February 15 broke the sad news with a banner headline “Plane carrying Upali Wijewardene feared lost.”
It is in this context that this column focuses this week on Upali Wijewardene on his Birthday. I have written about him in the past and will draw from those writings for this article. In this piece I intend sharing some memories of my limited interaction with him.


“Virakesari”


My first personal encounter with Upali Wijewardene was after he became head of the GCEC. I was then a journalist on the Tamil daily, “Virakesari”, run by Express Newspapers Ceylon Ltd. Our Chairman then was the well-known industrialist, A.Y.S. Gnanam. When the GCEC was formed, Gnanam was made a Deputy Director General by President J.R. Jayewardene. Chairman Gnanam did not inform his newspaper company of the appointment. When news of the GCEC appeared in other papers, Virakesari had ‘missed’ it.
When the GCEC held its first press conference at the Upali Group premises on Bloemendhal Road, I was assigned to cover it. I was also asked by my editors to get an exclusive interview with Wijewardene if possible. When I approached Upali for the interview, he agreed immediately. When I went to see him the following day his greeting was, “So you missed the story about your Chairman being in the GCEC and now you are trying to make amends by doing a belated write-up.” He then guffawed loudly! I warmed to him immediately.
Upali was a wonderful subject to interview. He answered each question informatively and at times wittily. Ananda Pelimuhandhiram, who disappeared on the ill-fated flight along with Upali Wijewardene, was present throughout the interview, as a silent observer. The interview turned out well, and my editors were pleased. Upali got it translated and was happy too. Thereafter, I was assigned the GCEC, as one of my regular beats.


GCEC


The GCEC was something new and controversial. The ‘Shannon’ experiment of Ireland was catching on in many parts of the world. The idea of providing massive tax concessions and financial incentives to foreign ‘capitalists’ to come and invest in Sri Lanka was a novel project at that time.
Looking back I think Wijewardena was the ideal man for the job at that time. The GCEC went about its task methodically and diligently. It was my duty then to record its progress regularly in the columns of Virakesari. Due to the Gnanam connection, the GCEC received top billing in the paper.
Vijitha Yapa, who later became the pioneering editor of The Island, was media liaison officer at the GCEC. Ranjan Perera was Wijewardena’s Secretary and was very helpful. As most journalists know, the Secretaries can cut you off literally and metaphorically from the boss.
I interacted a lot with Wijewardene while covering the GCEC. When working for a Tamil newspaper, I have come across many Sinhala persons who simply did not care a hoot about the Tamil media. I have also come across many Sinhalese who were extremely concerned about what appeared in the Tamil newspapers. Upali belonged to the latter group. Though he could not read Tamil he got his Tamil employees at the Upali Group to inform him about what was appearing in the Virakesari. Thus he was happy with my work, and perhaps due to that made himself easily accessible.
I met him on more than one occasion then. Also, he was always ready to answer my questions whenever I telephoned him. Sometimes I pestered him but he didn’t seem to mind. I remember Mrs. Wijewardene once gently admonishing me on the phone, “He is a busy man you know and you shouldn’t disturb him like this.”Little did I realise then that one day, I would be working on Wijewardene’s newspaper, The Island, and that someday Mrs. Wijewardene would become my chairperson.
The opposition papers used to regularly publish negative stories about the GCEC. I remember one particular news item about water shortages at the FTZ in the Communist Party’s “Forward” weekly, and I asked Upali some questions based on the news item. He started chuckling and said, “You have read Forward.” Sheepishly I said, “Yes.” He then proceeded to answer. This demonstrated that Wijewardene was keeping abreast of all the media reports on the GCEC.
I recall an incident where Upali addressed a seminar at Marga Institute. I came in late when Upali was speaking and began taking down notes. Upali saw me scribbling frantically after coming in late. When the event ended, Upali called me up and gave me the copy of his speech joking “so that you can report in full”.
As I stated before, the GCEC was a novel, new project and there were no Lanka-based precedents to go by in writing about it. Still I managed to write regularly on various aspects concerning the GCEC. There was very little about the GCEC in the Tamil language then.
However, the GCEC became a question at the GCE Advanced Level Economics paper. I was immensely gratified when many teachers and students from Tamil schools wrote to me and the paper saying that they had only relied on articles and news in the Virakesari about the GCEC for the exams. Such incidents make journalists feel that they are doing something worthwhile in this life.
One of the biggest criticisms against the GCEC then was that our workers were being exploited by the global capitalists. Being somewhat left of centre in my political beliefs during the days of my youth, I felt this charge was perfectly valid.
My perspective changed when I interviewed many of the girls employed at the FTZ. Though factory workers, many of them were well educated in the Sinhala medium and were politically conscious. But they were realists. One of them observed pithily in Sinhala that she knew she was getting only half a plate, but if she agitated for a full plate, then she may lose even this half a plate and go hungry. Their families depended on them.


Talked Freely


For some reason, Upali Wijewardene used to talk freely on many matters with me in those days. Perhaps he was at ease with me, a young journalist on a Tamil newspaper without any hidden agenda or being linked to vested interests. There was much speculation then in the media about his political ambition. I thought then that he would focus on Kelaniya due to his Sedawatte connection and asked him directly but I was surprised when he said, “No, the south.”It was then that I came to know of his southern roots from his mother’s side and the Sarath Wijesinghe relationship.
Later he earmarked the Kamburupitiya electoral division and began nursing it. He focused on improving the standard of English among students in the area. I once went to a meeting in the South where Upali spoke. The cheers for him were loud, huge and spontaneous. The people on that side of the Bentara River loved Upali and regarded him as a true son of the southern soil. After all, southerners are known for their entrepreneurial acumen and success.
When I was working at Virakesari, I once asked Wijewardene how he would resolve the ethnic crisis if he became Sri Lanka’s Head of State. Of course the problem then was not as bad as it became later. He thought a while and said that all people should be able to study and communicate with the government in their own language and that official administration should be done in all three languages and that no person should be discriminated against on grounds of race or religion. He was of the view that all parts of the country should be developed evenly and access to jobs provided on merit basis. Upali opined that when the country prospered economically, the ethnic issue would lose its sting. Reflecting upon this, now I get the feeling that Upali’s thoughts then do have the potential to help resolve the problem even now, if implemented honestly and well.


The Island


Subsequently, I left Virakesari and joined The Island in November 1981. Wijewardene had nothing to do with my entry into English journalism. My joining The Island was due to recommendations made by fellow journalists and friends, Ajith Samaranayake and Ravindran Casinader who had started working for “Sunday Island”.
It was Vijitha Yapa now the owner of a string of bookshops who recruited me to The Island. Wijewardene did not interfere with the recruitment of personnel for the editorial and I never tried to approach him either.
My earlier interaction with Wijewardene as a reporter ceased at a personal level after I became a journalist in his newspaper. I was put on the ‘Tamil affairs’ round by the Editor, Vijitha Yapa and Deputy Editor, Gamini Weerakoon. I ran across ‘Mr. Wijewardene’ a few times in those days. We simply smiled. He seldom visited the editorial then.


Behind the Cadjan Curtain


I remember Upali Wijewardene speaking to me directly only once after I had started working at The Island. After a trip to Jaffna I began writing a series of articles for The Sunday Island. Vijitha Yapa then made it a permanent column. That was the ‘Behind the Cadjan Curtain’ column. It was a take on the “iron curtain” of the then Soviet Union and “bamboo curtain” of People’s China. Since Jaffna was then noted for rows and rows of cadjan fences, the column was titled “Behind the Cadjan curtain”. It was rather popular then.  
Vijitha Yapa’s instructions to me about the column were simple. “Remember that you are writing for a pre-dominantly Sinhala readership in English,” he said. “Explain the problems of the Tamils to them. Think of it as building a bridge between the communities.”I have never forgotten those guidelines which influence my writing mode to this day. Vijitha even used one of his own photographs of a “kiduguvaeli” or cadjan fence to design the column’s logo.


Keep It Up


One day I saw Upali Wijewardene at a distance within company precincts. He was about to get into the car with Pelimuhandhiram who hailed me and beckoned. When I went near, Upali praised my column and said that he liked it.“Keep it up,” he said. That was all. I was thrilled. A few months later came their fateful ‘disappearance.’ 
D.B.S.Jeyaraj can be reached at [email protected]

 

]]>

Upali Learjet

Upali also went into aviation and began local helicopter and airline services

When working for a Tamil newspaper, I have come across many Sinhala persons who simply did not care a hoot about the Tamil media. I have also come across many Sinhalese who were extremely concerned about what appeared in the Tamil newspapers. Upali belonged to the latter group. Though he could not read Tamil he got his Tamil employees at the Upali Group to inform him about what was appearing in the Virakesari.

Today (Feb 17) is the birthday of Sri Lanka’s popular business magnate Philip Upali Wijewardene. If Upali Wijewardene were among the living now, he would have celebrated his 86th birthday this year.  Alas, this was not to be as the Lear Jet he was travelling in disappeared on 13 February 1983, just 4 days before his 45th birthday.
It was my privilege to be associated with Upali Wijewardene slightly and briefly during the years 1978 to 1983. As a journalist on the Tamil Daily “Virakesari”, I covered the Greater Colombo Economic Commission (GCEC) or “free trade zone” from 1978 to 1981. Upali was the first Director General of the GCEC. 
Later in 1981, I began working as a staff reporter on the English daily, “The Island” published by Upali Newspapers Ltd of which he was the proprietor. I was at “The Island” in 1983, when Upali went missing 41 years ago. The Island of Tuesday, February 15 broke the sad news with a banner headline “Plane carrying Upali Wijewardene feared lost.”
It is in this context that this column focuses this week on Upali Wijewardene on his Birthday. I have written about him in the past and will draw from those writings for this article. In this piece I intend sharing some memories of my limited interaction with him.


“Virakesari”


My first personal encounter with Upali Wijewardene was after he became head of the GCEC. I was then a journalist on the Tamil daily, “Virakesari”, run by Express Newspapers Ceylon Ltd. Our Chairman then was the well-known industrialist, A.Y.S. Gnanam. When the GCEC was formed, Gnanam was made a Deputy Director General by President J.R. Jayewardene. Chairman Gnanam did not inform his newspaper company of the appointment. When news of the GCEC appeared in other papers, Virakesari had ‘missed’ it.
When the GCEC held its first press conference at the Upali Group premises on Bloemendhal Road, I was assigned to cover it. I was also asked by my editors to get an exclusive interview with Wijewardene if possible. When I approached Upali for the interview, he agreed immediately. When I went to see him the following day his greeting was, “So you missed the story about your Chairman being in the GCEC and now you are trying to make amends by doing a belated write-up.” He then guffawed loudly! I warmed to him immediately.
Upali was a wonderful subject to interview. He answered each question informatively and at times wittily. Ananda Pelimuhandhiram, who disappeared on the ill-fated flight along with Upali Wijewardene, was present throughout the interview, as a silent observer. The interview turned out well, and my editors were pleased. Upali got it translated and was happy too. Thereafter, I was assigned the GCEC, as one of my regular beats.


GCEC


The GCEC was something new and controversial. The ‘Shannon’ experiment of Ireland was catching on in many parts of the world. The idea of providing massive tax concessions and financial incentives to foreign ‘capitalists’ to come and invest in Sri Lanka was a novel project at that time.
Looking back I think Wijewardena was the ideal man for the job at that time. The GCEC went about its task methodically and diligently. It was my duty then to record its progress regularly in the columns of Virakesari. Due to the Gnanam connection, the GCEC received top billing in the paper.
Vijitha Yapa, who later became the pioneering editor of The Island, was media liaison officer at the GCEC. Ranjan Perera was Wijewardena’s Secretary and was very helpful. As most journalists know, the Secretaries can cut you off literally and metaphorically from the boss.
I interacted a lot with Wijewardene while covering the GCEC. When working for a Tamil newspaper, I have come across many Sinhala persons who simply did not care a hoot about the Tamil media. I have also come across many Sinhalese who were extremely concerned about what appeared in the Tamil newspapers. Upali belonged to the latter group. Though he could not read Tamil he got his Tamil employees at the Upali Group to inform him about what was appearing in the Virakesari. Thus he was happy with my work, and perhaps due to that made himself easily accessible.
I met him on more than one occasion then. Also, he was always ready to answer my questions whenever I telephoned him. Sometimes I pestered him but he didn’t seem to mind. I remember Mrs. Wijewardene once gently admonishing me on the phone, “He is a busy man you know and you shouldn’t disturb him like this.”Little did I realise then that one day, I would be working on Wijewardene’s newspaper, The Island, and that someday Mrs. Wijewardene would become my chairperson.
The opposition papers used to regularly publish negative stories about the GCEC. I remember one particular news item about water shortages at the FTZ in the Communist Party’s “Forward” weekly, and I asked Upali some questions based on the news item. He started chuckling and said, “You have read Forward.” Sheepishly I said, “Yes.” He then proceeded to answer. This demonstrated that Wijewardene was keeping abreast of all the media reports on the GCEC.
I recall an incident where Upali addressed a seminar at Marga Institute. I came in late when Upali was speaking and began taking down notes. Upali saw me scribbling frantically after coming in late. When the event ended, Upali called me up and gave me the copy of his speech joking “so that you can report in full”.
As I stated before, the GCEC was a novel, new project and there were no Lanka-based precedents to go by in writing about it. Still I managed to write regularly on various aspects concerning the GCEC. There was very little about the GCEC in the Tamil language then.
However, the GCEC became a question at the GCE Advanced Level Economics paper. I was immensely gratified when many teachers and students from Tamil schools wrote to me and the paper saying that they had only relied on articles and news in the Virakesari about the GCEC for the exams. Such incidents make journalists feel that they are doing something worthwhile in this life.
One of the biggest criticisms against the GCEC then was that our workers were being exploited by the global capitalists. Being somewhat left of centre in my political beliefs during the days of my youth, I felt this charge was perfectly valid.
My perspective changed when I interviewed many of the girls employed at the FTZ. Though factory workers, many of them were well educated in the Sinhala medium and were politically conscious. But they were realists. One of them observed pithily in Sinhala that she knew she was getting only half a plate, but if she agitated for a full plate, then she may lose even this half a plate and go hungry. Their families depended on them.


Talked Freely


For some reason, Upali Wijewardene used to talk freely on many matters with me in those days. Perhaps he was at ease with me, a young journalist on a Tamil newspaper without any hidden agenda or being linked to vested interests. There was much speculation then in the media about his political ambition. I thought then that he would focus on Kelaniya due to his Sedawatte connection and asked him directly but I was surprised when he said, “No, the south.”It was then that I came to know of his southern roots from his mother’s side and the Sarath Wijesinghe relationship.
Later he earmarked the Kamburupitiya electoral division and began nursing it. He focused on improving the standard of English among students in the area. I once went to a meeting in the South where Upali spoke. The cheers for him were loud, huge and spontaneous. The people on that side of the Bentara River loved Upali and regarded him as a true son of the southern soil. After all, southerners are known for their entrepreneurial acumen and success.
When I was working at Virakesari, I once asked Wijewardene how he would resolve the ethnic crisis if he became Sri Lanka’s Head of State. Of course the problem then was not as bad as it became later. He thought a while and said that all people should be able to study and communicate with the government in their own language and that official administration should be done in all three languages and that no person should be discriminated against on grounds of race or religion. He was of the view that all parts of the country should be developed evenly and access to jobs provided on merit basis. Upali opined that when the country prospered economically, the ethnic issue would lose its sting. Reflecting upon this, now I get the feeling that Upali’s thoughts then do have the potential to help resolve the problem even now, if implemented honestly and well.


The Island


Subsequently, I left Virakesari and joined The Island in November 1981. Wijewardene had nothing to do with my entry into English journalism. My joining The Island was due to recommendations made by fellow journalists and friends, Ajith Samaranayake and Ravindran Casinader who had started working for “Sunday Island”.
It was Vijitha Yapa now the owner of a string of bookshops who recruited me to The Island. Wijewardene did not interfere with the recruitment of personnel for the editorial and I never tried to approach him either.
My earlier interaction with Wijewardene as a reporter ceased at a personal level after I became a journalist in his newspaper. I was put on the ‘Tamil affairs’ round by the Editor, Vijitha Yapa and Deputy Editor, Gamini Weerakoon. I ran across ‘Mr. Wijewardene’ a few times in those days. We simply smiled. He seldom visited the editorial then.


Behind the Cadjan Curtain


I remember Upali Wijewardene speaking to me directly only once after I had started working at The Island. After a trip to Jaffna I began writing a series of articles for The Sunday Island. Vijitha Yapa then made it a permanent column. That was the ‘Behind the Cadjan Curtain’ column. It was a take on the “iron curtain” of the then Soviet Union and “bamboo curtain” of People’s China. Since Jaffna was then noted for rows and rows of cadjan fences, the column was titled “Behind the Cadjan curtain”. It was rather popular then.  
Vijitha Yapa’s instructions to me about the column were simple. “Remember that you are writing for a pre-dominantly Sinhala readership in English,” he said. “Explain the problems of the Tamils to them. Think of it as building a bridge between the communities.”I have never forgotten those guidelines which influence my writing mode to this day. Vijitha even used one of his own photographs of a “kiduguvaeli” or cadjan fence to design the column’s logo.


Keep It Up


One day I saw Upali Wijewardene at a distance within company precincts. He was about to get into the car with Pelimuhandhiram who hailed me and beckoned. When I went near, Upali praised my column and said that he liked it.“Keep it up,” he said. That was all. I was thrilled. A few months later came their fateful ‘disappearance.’ 
D.B.S.Jeyaraj can be reached at [email protected]

 

]]>
https://bmkltsly13vb.compat.objectstorage.ap-singapore-1.oraclecloud.com/cdn.sg.dailymirror.lk/assets/uploads/image_ed9ca2164e.jpg 2024-02-17 01:38:00
RTI reveals… Budget allocated to conduct one election in 2024 https://www.dailymirror.lk/news-features/RTI-reveals…-Budget-allocated-to-conduct-one-election-in-2024/131-276857 https://www.dailymirror.lk/news-features/RTI-reveals…-Budget-allocated-to-conduct-one-election-in-2024/131-276857

It seems like President Ranil Wickremesinghe had already begun his campaign, defections among key figures in major political parties indicate that an election is likely in the offing

  • Whether a General Election could be held with Rs. 250,000,000 remains doubtful, according to critics in the political scene
  • NPP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that it is no secret that the incumbent President has delayed elections 

The Presidential and General elections are two much anticipated events in Sri Lanka’s political calendar this year (2024). The lack of funds to conduct an election has been one of the key factors that supposedly delayed the local government elections for four consecutive years. While it seems like President Ranil Wickremesinghe had already begun his campaign, defections among key figures in major political parties indicate that an election is likely in the offing. Speaking to the media after returning from his recent visit to India, NPP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that it is no secret that the incumbent President has delayed elections. He further said that a Presidential Election will be held this year and that the elections scheduled to be held in October will be a turning point for Sri Lanka’s political landscape.


Limited funds again?


However at a recent cabinet briefing Cabinet Spokesman Bandula Gunawardena said Rs. 10 billion had been allocated to conduct a Presidential and a General Election this year and allocations to conduct a provincial councils and a local government election will be provided from the 2025 Budget. 
But, the numbers speak otherwise. 


The cost of an election


In response to a Right to Information request filed to the Elections Commission to inquire about the expenditure to conduct an election, the Elections Commission revealed that a sum of Rs. 10 billion had been allocated to conduct ONE election in 2024. 
Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Elections Commissioner Saman Ratnayake said that it is the Parliament that should be managing the country’s finances. “We submitted this estimate in August 2023 and it was approved during the Budget reading held in November. A similar amount is required to conduct a General Election,” said Ratnayake. 


Contradictory statements?


When inquired about the figures, Gunawardena told the Daily Mirror that the government in fact has limited funds to conduct two elections in 2024. “But we will definitely have the Presidential Elections this year. Perhaps with any remaining money we could conduct a General Election, but the Elections Commission will have to decide on it. In any case the Provincial Councils and Local Government elections will be held next year,” said Gunawardena. 
However, according to the estimate given, whether a General Election could be held with Rs. 250,000,000 remains doubtful, according to critics in the political scene. 


Govt. under scrutiny 


Even though possible dates were announced to conduct a Local Government Election in 2023, no such event saw the light of day. But with many party leaders launching their campaigns, it does seem like everybody is prepping for a heated election this year. Conducting free and fair elections as mandated by the Constitution is one key feature of a democratic society. 
“The government has a tendency to consider elections as unimportant,” said Senior Political Scientist Prof. Jayadeva Uyangoda. “If the government says that it doesn’t have money to conduct an election it is an outright false claim. This could be a pretext to postpone elections. If any government says that it doesn’t have money to conduct constitutionally mandated elections, then those who are in power are playing with the people’s sovereignty. It is in fact a tragic development,” said Prof. Jayadeva Uyangoda. 

]]>

It seems like President Ranil Wickremesinghe had already begun his campaign, defections among key figures in major political parties indicate that an election is likely in the offing

  • Whether a General Election could be held with Rs. 250,000,000 remains doubtful, according to critics in the political scene
  • NPP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that it is no secret that the incumbent President has delayed elections 

The Presidential and General elections are two much anticipated events in Sri Lanka’s political calendar this year (2024). The lack of funds to conduct an election has been one of the key factors that supposedly delayed the local government elections for four consecutive years. While it seems like President Ranil Wickremesinghe had already begun his campaign, defections among key figures in major political parties indicate that an election is likely in the offing. Speaking to the media after returning from his recent visit to India, NPP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that it is no secret that the incumbent President has delayed elections. He further said that a Presidential Election will be held this year and that the elections scheduled to be held in October will be a turning point for Sri Lanka’s political landscape.


Limited funds again?


However at a recent cabinet briefing Cabinet Spokesman Bandula Gunawardena said Rs. 10 billion had been allocated to conduct a Presidential and a General Election this year and allocations to conduct a provincial councils and a local government election will be provided from the 2025 Budget. 
But, the numbers speak otherwise. 


The cost of an election


In response to a Right to Information request filed to the Elections Commission to inquire about the expenditure to conduct an election, the Elections Commission revealed that a sum of Rs. 10 billion had been allocated to conduct ONE election in 2024. 
Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Elections Commissioner Saman Ratnayake said that it is the Parliament that should be managing the country’s finances. “We submitted this estimate in August 2023 and it was approved during the Budget reading held in November. A similar amount is required to conduct a General Election,” said Ratnayake. 


Contradictory statements?


When inquired about the figures, Gunawardena told the Daily Mirror that the government in fact has limited funds to conduct two elections in 2024. “But we will definitely have the Presidential Elections this year. Perhaps with any remaining money we could conduct a General Election, but the Elections Commission will have to decide on it. In any case the Provincial Councils and Local Government elections will be held next year,” said Gunawardena. 
However, according to the estimate given, whether a General Election could be held with Rs. 250,000,000 remains doubtful, according to critics in the political scene. 


Govt. under scrutiny 


Even though possible dates were announced to conduct a Local Government Election in 2023, no such event saw the light of day. But with many party leaders launching their campaigns, it does seem like everybody is prepping for a heated election this year. Conducting free and fair elections as mandated by the Constitution is one key feature of a democratic society. 
“The government has a tendency to consider elections as unimportant,” said Senior Political Scientist Prof. Jayadeva Uyangoda. “If the government says that it doesn’t have money to conduct an election it is an outright false claim. This could be a pretext to postpone elections. If any government says that it doesn’t have money to conduct constitutionally mandated elections, then those who are in power are playing with the people’s sovereignty. It is in fact a tragic development,” said Prof. Jayadeva Uyangoda. 

]]>
https://bmkltsly13vb.compat.objectstorage.ap-singapore-1.oraclecloud.com/cdn.sg.dailymirror.lk/assets/uploads/image_807836dca1.jpg 2024-02-13 00:00:00
The Kaithady Explosion that Rocked the LTTE on Valentine’s Day https://www.dailymirror.lk/opinion/The-Kaithady-Explosion-that-Rocked-the-LTTE-on-Valentine’s-Day/172-276711 https://www.dailymirror.lk/opinion/The-Kaithady-Explosion-that-Rocked-the-LTTE-on-Valentine’s-Day/172-276711

Prabakaran and his Commanders

The 14th of February 1987 remains an explosive date in the  annals of contemporary military history. A well-laid plan by the LTTE –  known popularly as the ‘Tigers’ – to attack the Navatkuli Army Camp on  Valentine’s Day went awry, due to the accidental explosion that killed  43 and injured 51 persons

Prabakaran wanted his cadres to re-draw plans and attack  Navatkuli again. But while preparations were in progress, the soldiers  expanded the camp area further by taking over the Andriesz factory and  the Thamby Walavu Coconut grove. The water problem faced by the Army was  solved.    

  • The H-hour struck. The water bowser was substituted, and then filled with water at Kaithady, but the Tigers found to their dismay that in spite of their elaborate preparations, they had neglected one aspect. They had not tried filling their duplicate bowser with water, prior to the actual switching of both. When the water was filled, the outer pipes of the explosive laden bowser began leaking 
  • When Ponnamman reached the scene he found the pipes leaking. He and Ranjan decided to fix it with a blow torch welder. The welding began on the outside, while the explosives were in the secret compartment on the inside. Curdles, Vasu, Paran and others also gathered around those engaged in welding. The time was between 5.20 and 5.25 pm. Suddenly, there was a powerful blast! The bowser exploded. The explosion expected at Navatkuli went off by accident in Kaithady. All hell broke loose! 
  • The exact reason for the explosion is unknown even today  although it is surmised that the heat generated by the welding process  may have been the cause. The armed forces became aware of the situation,  and a helicopter assault was launched on the withdrawing cadres 

“The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry,” penned the Scottish bard, Robert Burns in his poem, “To A Mouse”. This truth was brought home in an explosive manner to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), 37 years ago, when a massive explosion rocked the Kaithady area in the Thenmaratchi division of the Jaffna peninsula.
A well-laid plan by the LTTE – known popularly as the ‘Tigers’ – to attack the Navatkuli Army Camp on Valentine’s Day went awry due to the  accidental explosion that killed 43 and injured 51 persons. 14 February 1987 remains an explosive date in the annals of contemporary military history, and is worthy of being recounted as its 34thanniversary draws near.


What happened then was this:


The war between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the LTTE was continuing. LTTE leader, Veluppillai Prabhakaran gave the slip to Indian authorities, and clandestinely returned to Jaffna from Tamil Nadu, on 5 January 1987. To mark his return, the Tiger supremo wanted his men to expedite a bold attack being planned against a Sri Lankan Army camp in the North.


Navatkuli Camp


The army camp at Navatkuli was set up in the 1984-85 period along the Jaffna-Kandy road near the lagoon. It had around 300 to 400 security personnel. The Ceygma Company factory which specialised in manufacturing water pumps and pipes had been acquired by the state for this purpose. 
 At the time the camp was set up, the military installation was not self-sufficient in drinking water. If premises belonging to the adjoining Andriesz Seafood Processing Factory or the adjacent “Thamby Walavu” coconut grove had also been acquired, then drinking water could have been available, but it was not done initially.
Instead, a Tamil civilian from the neighbouring village, Kaithadi was contracted to supply water to the camp. This man would haul a water bowser attached to his tractor every morning and evening, and fill it up with good drinking water at a well in Kaithady. He would then deliver it routinely to the Navatkuli camp.


Thileepan alias “Curdles”


The LTTE commander for Jaffna district in 1987 was Sathasivampillai Krishnakumar alias ‘Kittu’. The Thenmaratchi divisional area commander was Thileepan alias ‘Curdles’ a.k.a. ‘Curdy.’ Curdles was entrusted with the task of preparing a feasibility study on attacking the Kaithady camp. He was in the process of planning the attack when the LTTE supremo, Velupillai Prabakharan relocated to Jaffna from India. 
Prabakharan was very keen that the hitherto “defensive” war should be transformed to “offensive” status. So he instructed Kittu to prioritise the attack on Navatkuli. Since the Navatkuli-Kaithady areas were part of Thenmaratchy, and therefore technically under Curdles, Kittu ordered him to draw up the initial plan of action. Later, it was personally streamlined by Kittu.
The LTTE obtained maps and plans of the Ceygma factory premises from a construction contracting firm in Jaffna, and made elaborate plans including the setting up of a model replica. Also heavy reconnaissance known in LTTE parlance as ‘rekki’ was also conducted. Since LTTE sentries were posted around the camp earlier, the presence of LTTE ‘rekki’ scouts did not arouse the suspicion of the army camp.


Water Bowser Driver


Another unexpected bonanza to the Tigers was the willing cooperation of the water bowser driver. The man was apparently an ardent Tamil nationalist and a genuine supporter of the Tigers.
He was prepared to go to any length to help the LTTE and proved to be a useful accomplice. Through his assistance, the LTTE photographed the water bowser in minute detail and started work on the project. It was decided to build an exact replica of the water bowser at a secret site in Meesalai.
Ranjan, a non-LTTE civilian engineer who had collaborated earlier with ‘Ideas Vasu’ on an aircraft project was in charge. He was assisted by Yogaratnam Kugan alias ‘Ponnamman’ in this respect. Although Ponnamman was then technically the Mullaitheevu district commander, Prabakharan personally assigned Ponnamman also known as ‘Atputhanto’ to work on this project. The duplicate water bowser was to have a false bottom in which explosives were to be placed. Since the army sentries had got used to the reliable tractor driver and his water bowser, intensive search was not anticipated. 


Explosive-laden Bowser


The plan was to substitute the explosive-laden bowser for the original with the connivance of the driver. To avoid suspicion, the duplicate bowser was constructed almost as an exact replica of the original with the appropriate shade of blue paint, water marks, signs of corrosion, etc.
The day of attack was scheduled for Feb 14th 1987, a Saturday. In those days, the LTTE had a penchant to launch major attacks on a numerological basis. The 5th, 14th and 23rd were ‘good days’ while the 8th, 17th and 26th were ‘bad days’. The duplicate bowser was surreptitiously transported in the early hours of the 13th, a Friday, to a granary at Kaithady. 
There the false bottom was loaded with explosives along with proportionate booster charges. This was personally undertaken by Ponnamman, the resident LTTE expert at that time in explosive technology. The plan was for the driver to bring the original bowser to this granary, where it would be substituted with the explosive laden duplicate bowser filled with water, and taken to the Navatkuli camp. The attack was to begin with the explosion of the water bowser between 5.30pm and 6pm.
In the meantime, the carefully drawn up attack plan was being executed with exact precision by the Tigers. Cadres from all over the Jaffna peninsula and Mannar were transported on 13th night in small groups to abandoned houses at Navatkuli. They were ordered to remain hidden throughout daylight on the 14th.


Action Plan


The action plan was drawn up with meticulous detail. The driver was to enter the camp with the water bowser, and then walk away towards the toilet without attracting attention. When he reached a safe distance, the explosion was to be triggered off through remote control. In case the remote did not work, a timer too had been fitted on, as a precautionary measure. 
The LTTE spokesman of the time, Rahim was stationed at the top of the adjoining Andriesz factory air-conditioning plant. It was a vantage point to obtain a bird’s eye view of what was happening in the camp. When the driver was clear, Rahim was to signal another senior cadre, Ravi who was to press the plunger. Once Ravi triggered the explosion at Rahim’s signal, the attack was to commence.
It was expected that the whole Navatkuli camp would be thrown into confusion and disarray by the explosion. A group led by Uthaman was to assault the gates with the extensive use of “Bangalore Torpedoes’. Uthaman’s group would clear frontal defensive mines.
Four sandbag laden trucks with mounted fire-arms were to penetrate the outer defences and enter the camp frontally from different points. Each truck was at the vanguard of four different Tiger groups on foot. The four groups were led by Curdles, Johnny, Soosai and Paran respectively.
At that time, Curdles was LTTE leader of the Thenmaratchi division, Johnny – the Valigamam division, Soosai – the Vadamaratchi division, and Paran – the deputy-leader of Prabakharan’s body guard squad. Each leader was perched on each of the advancing trucks.
Two groups led by Vasu and Kutti Sri were to conduct mortar fire from two directions. Veeman was in charge of the group assigned to provide covering fire with small arms. 
Six groups led by Ravi, Malaravan, Mathan, Rahim, Kandeepan and Mayooran respectively were to breach the defences at six points on three sides and enter the camp fighting.
A cut-out to prevent military reinforcements by air was established towards the Ariyalai direction under the command of Daniel. This cut-out was equipped with 50 calibre guns then the most powerful in the LTTE arsenal.
180 LTTE guerrillas comprising assault and support cadres were to be involved in the operation. The operational headquarters was at a house near the Kaithady-Kopay road. The person in charge was Kunju, the deputy leader of the Thenmaratchi area, but Kittu the overall Jaffna commander also stationed himself there. Prabakharan was at Valvettithurai then.


Leaking Pipes


The H-hour struck. The water bowser was substituted, and then filled with water at Kaithady, but the Tigers found to their dismay that in spite of their elaborate preparations, they had neglected one aspect. They had not tried filling their duplicate bowser with water, prior to the actual switching of both. When the water was filled, the outer pipes of the explosive laden bowser began leaking.
News of the leaking pipes did not reach all the leaders and group leaders, as only an uncommon frequency was used to inform Ponnamman and Ranjan the engineer. They raced to the scene in a pick-up vehicle. Three other Tiger leaders Vasu, Curdles and Paran also heard about the leaking pipes and proceeded to Kaithady with some of their cadres.
As was customary LTTE battle practice, a separate frequency was being used in the combat zone. Kittu also was using it. Some walkie-talkies had switched frequencies while others had not. That is why some leaders heard about the leaking pipes and others did not. 
The others did not know what was happening, and were waiting in their positions for the signal to attack. Rahim for example had detained the evening shift employees at Andriesz factory in a safe place, so that they would not get caught up in the attack. Residents of Navatkuli who strayed into the combat zone were also detained in this manner.


Blow-torch Welder


When Ponnamman reached the scene he found the pipes leaking. He and Ranjan decided to fix it with a blow torch welder. The welding began on the outside, while the explosives were in the secret compartment on the inside. Curdles, Vasu, Paran and others also gathered around those engaged in welding. 
The time was between 5.20 and 5.25 pm. Suddenly there was a powerful blast! The bowser exploded. The explosion expected at Navatkuli went off by accident in Kaithady. All hell broke loose!


43 Killed,51 Injured


12 LTTE cadres and 31 civilians were killed. 51 persons comprising civilians and LTTE cadres were injured. Those waiting at the Navatkuli battle-front heard the explosion report and wondered what happened. The explosion was powerful enough to rattle the windows of the Kailasapathy Hall at the Jaffna University at Thirunelveli. 
The exact reason for the explosion is unknown even today although it is surmised that the heat generated by the welding process may have been the cause.
Among those killed were Lt. Col. Kugan alias ‘Ponnamman’ – the Mullaitheevu commander and a favourite of Prabakharan. The Thenmaratchy leader, Major Curdles was also killed. Sudhagaran alias ‘Vasu’ – known as ‘Ideas Vasu’ – was also killed. Apart from Capt. Vasu, Lt. Paran and Lt. Siddarthan – the younger brother of Sornalingam alias ‘Shankar’, the Chief of the Air-Tigers wing – was also killed. Among the civilians killed were Ranjan the engineer and the water bowser driver.
The body of Ponnamman was blown to bits and nothing was recovered. Curdles was identified by parts of a belt. Vasu was identified through a piece of an identity card. 
Curdles had a premonition that he was going to die in the Navatkuli attack. He left behind a letter written to Kittu. He had also made entries in his diary to that effect. But Curdles never expected death by explosion, and it is said that the hard-boiled Kittu cried when reading Curdy’s last epistle.
Aruna, another senior leader was despatched with the unenviable task of breaking the news to the LTTE supremo, Prabakharan in Valvettithurai. Kittu who visited the scene of the explosion almost broke down, and it was left to Radha another senior leader to call off the operation. Couriers were dispatched to the attack groups who began withdrawing.
The armed forces became aware of the situation and a helicopter assault was launched on the withdrawing cadres. The LTTE retaliated with ground to air fire.
Prabakaran wanted his cadres to re-draw plans and attack Navatkuli again. But while preparations were in progress, the soldiers expanded the camp area further by taking over the Andriesz factory and the Thamby Walavu Coconut grove. The water problem faced by the Army was solved.
Separate funerals and Jaffna-wide memorial meetings were conducted in honour of the dead persons. The LTTE was the darling of the Jaffna masses then, and all Jaffna overtly mourned the victims of the Kaithady bowser explosion.


Conversations with Tigers


I conclude by stating that most of the information used in this article was obtained through conversations with ex-Jaffna LTTE commander Kittu and three other ex-tigers involved in the abortive Kaithady operation. 
D.B.S. Jeyaraj can be reached at [email protected]

 

]]>

Prabakaran and his Commanders

The 14th of February 1987 remains an explosive date in the  annals of contemporary military history. A well-laid plan by the LTTE –  known popularly as the ‘Tigers’ – to attack the Navatkuli Army Camp on  Valentine’s Day went awry, due to the accidental explosion that killed  43 and injured 51 persons

Prabakaran wanted his cadres to re-draw plans and attack  Navatkuli again. But while preparations were in progress, the soldiers  expanded the camp area further by taking over the Andriesz factory and  the Thamby Walavu Coconut grove. The water problem faced by the Army was  solved.    

  • The H-hour struck. The water bowser was substituted, and then filled with water at Kaithady, but the Tigers found to their dismay that in spite of their elaborate preparations, they had neglected one aspect. They had not tried filling their duplicate bowser with water, prior to the actual switching of both. When the water was filled, the outer pipes of the explosive laden bowser began leaking 
  • When Ponnamman reached the scene he found the pipes leaking. He and Ranjan decided to fix it with a blow torch welder. The welding began on the outside, while the explosives were in the secret compartment on the inside. Curdles, Vasu, Paran and others also gathered around those engaged in welding. The time was between 5.20 and 5.25 pm. Suddenly, there was a powerful blast! The bowser exploded. The explosion expected at Navatkuli went off by accident in Kaithady. All hell broke loose! 
  • The exact reason for the explosion is unknown even today  although it is surmised that the heat generated by the welding process  may have been the cause. The armed forces became aware of the situation,  and a helicopter assault was launched on the withdrawing cadres 

“The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry,” penned the Scottish bard, Robert Burns in his poem, “To A Mouse”. This truth was brought home in an explosive manner to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), 37 years ago, when a massive explosion rocked the Kaithady area in the Thenmaratchi division of the Jaffna peninsula.
A well-laid plan by the LTTE – known popularly as the ‘Tigers’ – to attack the Navatkuli Army Camp on Valentine’s Day went awry due to the  accidental explosion that killed 43 and injured 51 persons. 14 February 1987 remains an explosive date in the annals of contemporary military history, and is worthy of being recounted as its 34thanniversary draws near.


What happened then was this:


The war between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the LTTE was continuing. LTTE leader, Veluppillai Prabhakaran gave the slip to Indian authorities, and clandestinely returned to Jaffna from Tamil Nadu, on 5 January 1987. To mark his return, the Tiger supremo wanted his men to expedite a bold attack being planned against a Sri Lankan Army camp in the North.


Navatkuli Camp


The army camp at Navatkuli was set up in the 1984-85 period along the Jaffna-Kandy road near the lagoon. It had around 300 to 400 security personnel. The Ceygma Company factory which specialised in manufacturing water pumps and pipes had been acquired by the state for this purpose. 
 At the time the camp was set up, the military installation was not self-sufficient in drinking water. If premises belonging to the adjoining Andriesz Seafood Processing Factory or the adjacent “Thamby Walavu” coconut grove had also been acquired, then drinking water could have been available, but it was not done initially.
Instead, a Tamil civilian from the neighbouring village, Kaithadi was contracted to supply water to the camp. This man would haul a water bowser attached to his tractor every morning and evening, and fill it up with good drinking water at a well in Kaithady. He would then deliver it routinely to the Navatkuli camp.


Thileepan alias “Curdles”


The LTTE commander for Jaffna district in 1987 was Sathasivampillai Krishnakumar alias ‘Kittu’. The Thenmaratchi divisional area commander was Thileepan alias ‘Curdles’ a.k.a. ‘Curdy.’ Curdles was entrusted with the task of preparing a feasibility study on attacking the Kaithady camp. He was in the process of planning the attack when the LTTE supremo, Velupillai Prabakharan relocated to Jaffna from India. 
Prabakharan was very keen that the hitherto “defensive” war should be transformed to “offensive” status. So he instructed Kittu to prioritise the attack on Navatkuli. Since the Navatkuli-Kaithady areas were part of Thenmaratchy, and therefore technically under Curdles, Kittu ordered him to draw up the initial plan of action. Later, it was personally streamlined by Kittu.
The LTTE obtained maps and plans of the Ceygma factory premises from a construction contracting firm in Jaffna, and made elaborate plans including the setting up of a model replica. Also heavy reconnaissance known in LTTE parlance as ‘rekki’ was also conducted. Since LTTE sentries were posted around the camp earlier, the presence of LTTE ‘rekki’ scouts did not arouse the suspicion of the army camp.


Water Bowser Driver


Another unexpected bonanza to the Tigers was the willing cooperation of the water bowser driver. The man was apparently an ardent Tamil nationalist and a genuine supporter of the Tigers.
He was prepared to go to any length to help the LTTE and proved to be a useful accomplice. Through his assistance, the LTTE photographed the water bowser in minute detail and started work on the project. It was decided to build an exact replica of the water bowser at a secret site in Meesalai.
Ranjan, a non-LTTE civilian engineer who had collaborated earlier with ‘Ideas Vasu’ on an aircraft project was in charge. He was assisted by Yogaratnam Kugan alias ‘Ponnamman’ in this respect. Although Ponnamman was then technically the Mullaitheevu district commander, Prabakharan personally assigned Ponnamman also known as ‘Atputhanto’ to work on this project. The duplicate water bowser was to have a false bottom in which explosives were to be placed. Since the army sentries had got used to the reliable tractor driver and his water bowser, intensive search was not anticipated. 


Explosive-laden Bowser


The plan was to substitute the explosive-laden bowser for the original with the connivance of the driver. To avoid suspicion, the duplicate bowser was constructed almost as an exact replica of the original with the appropriate shade of blue paint, water marks, signs of corrosion, etc.
The day of attack was scheduled for Feb 14th 1987, a Saturday. In those days, the LTTE had a penchant to launch major attacks on a numerological basis. The 5th, 14th and 23rd were ‘good days’ while the 8th, 17th and 26th were ‘bad days’. The duplicate bowser was surreptitiously transported in the early hours of the 13th, a Friday, to a granary at Kaithady. 
There the false bottom was loaded with explosives along with proportionate booster charges. This was personally undertaken by Ponnamman, the resident LTTE expert at that time in explosive technology. The plan was for the driver to bring the original bowser to this granary, where it would be substituted with the explosive laden duplicate bowser filled with water, and taken to the Navatkuli camp. The attack was to begin with the explosion of the water bowser between 5.30pm and 6pm.
In the meantime, the carefully drawn up attack plan was being executed with exact precision by the Tigers. Cadres from all over the Jaffna peninsula and Mannar were transported on 13th night in small groups to abandoned houses at Navatkuli. They were ordered to remain hidden throughout daylight on the 14th.


Action Plan


The action plan was drawn up with meticulous detail. The driver was to enter the camp with the water bowser, and then walk away towards the toilet without attracting attention. When he reached a safe distance, the explosion was to be triggered off through remote control. In case the remote did not work, a timer too had been fitted on, as a precautionary measure. 
The LTTE spokesman of the time, Rahim was stationed at the top of the adjoining Andriesz factory air-conditioning plant. It was a vantage point to obtain a bird’s eye view of what was happening in the camp. When the driver was clear, Rahim was to signal another senior cadre, Ravi who was to press the plunger. Once Ravi triggered the explosion at Rahim’s signal, the attack was to commence.
It was expected that the whole Navatkuli camp would be thrown into confusion and disarray by the explosion. A group led by Uthaman was to assault the gates with the extensive use of “Bangalore Torpedoes’. Uthaman’s group would clear frontal defensive mines.
Four sandbag laden trucks with mounted fire-arms were to penetrate the outer defences and enter the camp frontally from different points. Each truck was at the vanguard of four different Tiger groups on foot. The four groups were led by Curdles, Johnny, Soosai and Paran respectively.
At that time, Curdles was LTTE leader of the Thenmaratchi division, Johnny – the Valigamam division, Soosai – the Vadamaratchi division, and Paran – the deputy-leader of Prabakharan’s body guard squad. Each leader was perched on each of the advancing trucks.
Two groups led by Vasu and Kutti Sri were to conduct mortar fire from two directions. Veeman was in charge of the group assigned to provide covering fire with small arms. 
Six groups led by Ravi, Malaravan, Mathan, Rahim, Kandeepan and Mayooran respectively were to breach the defences at six points on three sides and enter the camp fighting.
A cut-out to prevent military reinforcements by air was established towards the Ariyalai direction under the command of Daniel. This cut-out was equipped with 50 calibre guns then the most powerful in the LTTE arsenal.
180 LTTE guerrillas comprising assault and support cadres were to be involved in the operation. The operational headquarters was at a house near the Kaithady-Kopay road. The person in charge was Kunju, the deputy leader of the Thenmaratchi area, but Kittu the overall Jaffna commander also stationed himself there. Prabakharan was at Valvettithurai then.


Leaking Pipes


The H-hour struck. The water bowser was substituted, and then filled with water at Kaithady, but the Tigers found to their dismay that in spite of their elaborate preparations, they had neglected one aspect. They had not tried filling their duplicate bowser with water, prior to the actual switching of both. When the water was filled, the outer pipes of the explosive laden bowser began leaking.
News of the leaking pipes did not reach all the leaders and group leaders, as only an uncommon frequency was used to inform Ponnamman and Ranjan the engineer. They raced to the scene in a pick-up vehicle. Three other Tiger leaders Vasu, Curdles and Paran also heard about the leaking pipes and proceeded to Kaithady with some of their cadres.
As was customary LTTE battle practice, a separate frequency was being used in the combat zone. Kittu also was using it. Some walkie-talkies had switched frequencies while others had not. That is why some leaders heard about the leaking pipes and others did not. 
The others did not know what was happening, and were waiting in their positions for the signal to attack. Rahim for example had detained the evening shift employees at Andriesz factory in a safe place, so that they would not get caught up in the attack. Residents of Navatkuli who strayed into the combat zone were also detained in this manner.


Blow-torch Welder


When Ponnamman reached the scene he found the pipes leaking. He and Ranjan decided to fix it with a blow torch welder. The welding began on the outside, while the explosives were in the secret compartment on the inside. Curdles, Vasu, Paran and others also gathered around those engaged in welding. 
The time was between 5.20 and 5.25 pm. Suddenly there was a powerful blast! The bowser exploded. The explosion expected at Navatkuli went off by accident in Kaithady. All hell broke loose!


43 Killed,51 Injured


12 LTTE cadres and 31 civilians were killed. 51 persons comprising civilians and LTTE cadres were injured. Those waiting at the Navatkuli battle-front heard the explosion report and wondered what happened. The explosion was powerful enough to rattle the windows of the Kailasapathy Hall at the Jaffna University at Thirunelveli. 
The exact reason for the explosion is unknown even today although it is surmised that the heat generated by the welding process may have been the cause.
Among those killed were Lt. Col. Kugan alias ‘Ponnamman’ – the Mullaitheevu commander and a favourite of Prabakharan. The Thenmaratchy leader, Major Curdles was also killed. Sudhagaran alias ‘Vasu’ – known as ‘Ideas Vasu’ – was also killed. Apart from Capt. Vasu, Lt. Paran and Lt. Siddarthan – the younger brother of Sornalingam alias ‘Shankar’, the Chief of the Air-Tigers wing – was also killed. Among the civilians killed were Ranjan the engineer and the water bowser driver.
The body of Ponnamman was blown to bits and nothing was recovered. Curdles was identified by parts of a belt. Vasu was identified through a piece of an identity card. 
Curdles had a premonition that he was going to die in the Navatkuli attack. He left behind a letter written to Kittu. He had also made entries in his diary to that effect. But Curdles never expected death by explosion, and it is said that the hard-boiled Kittu cried when reading Curdy’s last epistle.
Aruna, another senior leader was despatched with the unenviable task of breaking the news to the LTTE supremo, Prabakharan in Valvettithurai. Kittu who visited the scene of the explosion almost broke down, and it was left to Radha another senior leader to call off the operation. Couriers were dispatched to the attack groups who began withdrawing.
The armed forces became aware of the situation and a helicopter assault was launched on the withdrawing cadres. The LTTE retaliated with ground to air fire.
Prabakaran wanted his cadres to re-draw plans and attack Navatkuli again. But while preparations were in progress, the soldiers expanded the camp area further by taking over the Andriesz factory and the Thamby Walavu Coconut grove. The water problem faced by the Army was solved.
Separate funerals and Jaffna-wide memorial meetings were conducted in honour of the dead persons. The LTTE was the darling of the Jaffna masses then, and all Jaffna overtly mourned the victims of the Kaithady bowser explosion.


Conversations with Tigers


I conclude by stating that most of the information used in this article was obtained through conversations with ex-Jaffna LTTE commander Kittu and three other ex-tigers involved in the abortive Kaithady operation. 
D.B.S. Jeyaraj can be reached at [email protected]

 

]]>
https://bmkltsly13vb.compat.objectstorage.ap-singapore-1.oraclecloud.com/cdn.sg.dailymirror.lk/assets/uploads/image_8c1de52ccb.jpg 2024-02-10 00:00:00
Sri Lanka’s War with Elephants https://www.dailymirror.lk/news-features/Sri-Lanka’s-War-with-Elephants/131-276534 https://www.dailymirror.lk/news-features/Sri-Lanka’s-War-with-Elephants/131-276534

DWC officers treating an elephant that suffered gunshot injuries Image Courtesy DWC 

 Wildlife officials educating people on electric fences in Kudumbimalai  Image courtesy DWC

Elephant carcass found in Giribawa, Kurunegala

“We are also experimenting with a collar system, again working with the ETH of the DWC, to understand if we can use this collar to provide an early warning system to mitigate conflict between villagers/farmers and elephants

  • Elephants are frequently at the receiving end of the ever-aggravating human-elephant conflict (HEC) that was created more than 50-60 years ago, when people moved into elephant territory sans any assessment.
  • The WNPS experimented on a Light Repel System (LRS) for the past three years which has yielded satisfactory results in 6 districts, at 24 locations. 

 The discovery of an elephant carcass in Giribawa on February 6 raised the total count of elephant deaths to 21 for this year. In 2023, Sri Lanka made history as the country with the highest number of elephant deaths, hitting a record high of 400 or more. Elephants are frequently at the receiving end of the ever-aggravating human-elephant conflict (HEC) that was created more than 50-60 years ago, when people moved into elephant territory sans any assessment. As a result, people are more worried about their paddy lands and vegetable plots, and would go to any extent to keep the elephants away. But what they fail to understand is that they have constructed their houses along elephant corridors or near forest reserves which are home to elephants.


HEC in the North Central Province 


The North Central Province is one of the worst-affected areas by the HEC. Most elephants succumb to gunshot injuries while some elephants are subject to illegal electrocution. Others collide with speeding trains. In September last year, within a span of 36 hours, eleven elephants succumbed to injuries as a result of elephant-train collisions. But no practical solution has been implemented to mitigate this situation. 
Haphazard encroachment activities have kept people and elephants at war. The HEC has claimed the lives of at least 176 people in 2023. As more humans are being killed, people fear to coexist with elephants. A common notion is that elephant fences and other solutions may not work anymore. “There have to be orders given from above for the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) to provide a lasting solution for the HEC,” opined R. M. J Bandara, a resident from Galgamuwa. Bandara has been working at the grassroots level, raising awareness on the HEC for many years. 
He observes how illegal constructions along elephant corridors, environmentally sensitive areas and forest reserves have pushed more elephant herds to raid villages and cause irreversible damages to property and vegetation. “Elephants travel long distances in search of water and food. We have seen how elephant herds in Palukadawala Lake reserve now frequent smaller lakes such as the Ambakola Wewa when water levels in bigger lakes go down. They travel to the Kala Wewa via the Kahalla-Pallekele forest reserve towards the Inginimitiya Wewa, Thabbowa all the way up to Wilpattu. Hence when their usual migratory path has been disturbed they will seek alternatives,” Bandara added.


Efforts by WNPS to Mitigate HEC


As a leading conservation organization in the country, the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society believes that no single mitigative method will solve the problem of the Human Elephant Conflict. “All stakeholders must gather and work in unison to reduce the stress levels of both the farmer and the elephant,” WNPS President, Jehan CanagaRetna. “A mind-set change of how the farmer sees the elephant, and if we can change their minds to make an earning from the elephant will solve a lot of our HEC issues in the future.”
The WNPS experimented on a Light Repel System (LRS) for the past three years which has yielded satisfactory results in 6 districts, at 24 locations. “Currently, we have an 82% efficacy rate for the LRS. We are in the process of compiling a ‘white paper’ so that we can publish the results, and pass on the concept to the government as another effective tool for conflict mitigation.”
The WNPS has supported the Presidential Committee headed by former Director General of Wildlife Conservation, Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya, to monitor the progress of the implementation of the National Action Plan for the Mitigation of the Human-Elephant Conflict, by implementing pilot projects in erecting protective fencing around villages, as well as agricultural cultivations. This is a concept of Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando who has been experimenting with it in two Districts with more than 500 farmers benefiting from it. The idea is to fence the village in and keep the jungle free for the elephants to roam their traditional ranges.

The WNPS is also working on legal proceedings that bring about landmark judgements against perpetrators of elephant killings. “For good reason, we cannot publicly outline the details. We are also working on a method of engaging with villagers, trying to implore them to see the elephant in a different light, with the priority of making them understand that humans and elephants can co-exist. We are trying this out in the Anuradhapura District, and we hope to publish our results within 2 years. We have individuals who are on WNPS pay roll that live in hamlets, and are going through the problem with the villagers, to come up with the best solution. There is no better way than experiencing the stress by living with farmers and understanding the situation first hand,” CanagaRetna added.
Work continues with farmer communities to provide them with immediate assistance to make their lives less stressful, and thereby make the elephants’ lives less stressful too.
In collaboration with the Elephant Transit Home (ETH) of the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) and the Ragama Campus of the University of Kelaniya, the team has conducted research on an antibiotic study to understand the resistance levels of elephants in the wild, in captivity and elephants in the wild who feed on garbage dumps.
“We are also experimenting with a collar system, again working with the ETH of the DWC, to understand if we can use this collar to provide an early warning system to mitigate conflict between villagers/farmers and elephants. This experiment is currently taking place but it will not be until the end of 2024 before we can assess how successful it has been,” he said in conclusion. 


Will The Numbers Come Down?


In December 2023, the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Sustainable Development presented the National Action Plan for reducing Human-Elephant Conflicts. The committee was chaired by Senior Elephant Researcher, Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya. In their presentation, the Committee pointed out that wild elephants have spread across 62% of the country’s landscape and that the construction of community-led electric fences is the most viable solution to minimize the HEC. 
But even though electric fences seem to be the most viable solution, many elephants succumb to illegal electrocution. As a result, DWC officials are now conducting a survey to ensure that private electric fences have direct current instead of alternating current. “We don’t have adequate technical staff but we are now working in different zones to educate people on constructing standard electric fences,” said DWC Director General, M. G. C Sooriyabandara. “The DWC has put up electric fences in certain areas, and people should ideally take these fences as an example.”


When asked about the rise in elephant-train collisions, Sooriyabandara said that there doesn’t seem to be any increase, but several elephants succumbed to injuries within a span of a few days in 2023. “We found that these incidents are likely to occur in places where new railway tracks have been laid or when trains run behind schedule. We have deployed our officials to clear the thick shrub growing on either side of railway tracks to minimize elephant-train collisions.”
Sooriyabandara further said that a collaborative approach among stakeholder institutions would help provide more feasible solutions to minimize HEC. “Already the Department of Agrarian Development has started putting up fences around plots of agriculture in areas with a heavy HEC. The Railway Department is working on a plan to minimize accidents. This way going forward we hope to bring down the number of elephants as well as human deaths.”

 

]]>

DWC officers treating an elephant that suffered gunshot injuries Image Courtesy DWC 

 Wildlife officials educating people on electric fences in Kudumbimalai  Image courtesy DWC

Elephant carcass found in Giribawa, Kurunegala

“We are also experimenting with a collar system, again working with the ETH of the DWC, to understand if we can use this collar to provide an early warning system to mitigate conflict between villagers/farmers and elephants

  • Elephants are frequently at the receiving end of the ever-aggravating human-elephant conflict (HEC) that was created more than 50-60 years ago, when people moved into elephant territory sans any assessment.
  • The WNPS experimented on a Light Repel System (LRS) for the past three years which has yielded satisfactory results in 6 districts, at 24 locations. 

 The discovery of an elephant carcass in Giribawa on February 6 raised the total count of elephant deaths to 21 for this year. In 2023, Sri Lanka made history as the country with the highest number of elephant deaths, hitting a record high of 400 or more. Elephants are frequently at the receiving end of the ever-aggravating human-elephant conflict (HEC) that was created more than 50-60 years ago, when people moved into elephant territory sans any assessment. As a result, people are more worried about their paddy lands and vegetable plots, and would go to any extent to keep the elephants away. But what they fail to understand is that they have constructed their houses along elephant corridors or near forest reserves which are home to elephants.


HEC in the North Central Province 


The North Central Province is one of the worst-affected areas by the HEC. Most elephants succumb to gunshot injuries while some elephants are subject to illegal electrocution. Others collide with speeding trains. In September last year, within a span of 36 hours, eleven elephants succumbed to injuries as a result of elephant-train collisions. But no practical solution has been implemented to mitigate this situation. 
Haphazard encroachment activities have kept people and elephants at war. The HEC has claimed the lives of at least 176 people in 2023. As more humans are being killed, people fear to coexist with elephants. A common notion is that elephant fences and other solutions may not work anymore. “There have to be orders given from above for the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) to provide a lasting solution for the HEC,” opined R. M. J Bandara, a resident from Galgamuwa. Bandara has been working at the grassroots level, raising awareness on the HEC for many years. 
He observes how illegal constructions along elephant corridors, environmentally sensitive areas and forest reserves have pushed more elephant herds to raid villages and cause irreversible damages to property and vegetation. “Elephants travel long distances in search of water and food. We have seen how elephant herds in Palukadawala Lake reserve now frequent smaller lakes such as the Ambakola Wewa when water levels in bigger lakes go down. They travel to the Kala Wewa via the Kahalla-Pallekele forest reserve towards the Inginimitiya Wewa, Thabbowa all the way up to Wilpattu. Hence when their usual migratory path has been disturbed they will seek alternatives,” Bandara added.


Efforts by WNPS to Mitigate HEC


As a leading conservation organization in the country, the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society believes that no single mitigative method will solve the problem of the Human Elephant Conflict. “All stakeholders must gather and work in unison to reduce the stress levels of both the farmer and the elephant,” WNPS President, Jehan CanagaRetna. “A mind-set change of how the farmer sees the elephant, and if we can change their minds to make an earning from the elephant will solve a lot of our HEC issues in the future.”
The WNPS experimented on a Light Repel System (LRS) for the past three years which has yielded satisfactory results in 6 districts, at 24 locations. “Currently, we have an 82% efficacy rate for the LRS. We are in the process of compiling a ‘white paper’ so that we can publish the results, and pass on the concept to the government as another effective tool for conflict mitigation.”
The WNPS has supported the Presidential Committee headed by former Director General of Wildlife Conservation, Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya, to monitor the progress of the implementation of the National Action Plan for the Mitigation of the Human-Elephant Conflict, by implementing pilot projects in erecting protective fencing around villages, as well as agricultural cultivations. This is a concept of Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando who has been experimenting with it in two Districts with more than 500 farmers benefiting from it. The idea is to fence the village in and keep the jungle free for the elephants to roam their traditional ranges.

The WNPS is also working on legal proceedings that bring about landmark judgements against perpetrators of elephant killings. “For good reason, we cannot publicly outline the details. We are also working on a method of engaging with villagers, trying to implore them to see the elephant in a different light, with the priority of making them understand that humans and elephants can co-exist. We are trying this out in the Anuradhapura District, and we hope to publish our results within 2 years. We have individuals who are on WNPS pay roll that live in hamlets, and are going through the problem with the villagers, to come up with the best solution. There is no better way than experiencing the stress by living with farmers and understanding the situation first hand,” CanagaRetna added.
Work continues with farmer communities to provide them with immediate assistance to make their lives less stressful, and thereby make the elephants’ lives less stressful too.
In collaboration with the Elephant Transit Home (ETH) of the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) and the Ragama Campus of the University of Kelaniya, the team has conducted research on an antibiotic study to understand the resistance levels of elephants in the wild, in captivity and elephants in the wild who feed on garbage dumps.
“We are also experimenting with a collar system, again working with the ETH of the DWC, to understand if we can use this collar to provide an early warning system to mitigate conflict between villagers/farmers and elephants. This experiment is currently taking place but it will not be until the end of 2024 before we can assess how successful it has been,” he said in conclusion. 


Will The Numbers Come Down?


In December 2023, the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Sustainable Development presented the National Action Plan for reducing Human-Elephant Conflicts. The committee was chaired by Senior Elephant Researcher, Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya. In their presentation, the Committee pointed out that wild elephants have spread across 62% of the country’s landscape and that the construction of community-led electric fences is the most viable solution to minimize the HEC. 
But even though electric fences seem to be the most viable solution, many elephants succumb to illegal electrocution. As a result, DWC officials are now conducting a survey to ensure that private electric fences have direct current instead of alternating current. “We don’t have adequate technical staff but we are now working in different zones to educate people on constructing standard electric fences,” said DWC Director General, M. G. C Sooriyabandara. “The DWC has put up electric fences in certain areas, and people should ideally take these fences as an example.”


When asked about the rise in elephant-train collisions, Sooriyabandara said that there doesn’t seem to be any increase, but several elephants succumbed to injuries within a span of a few days in 2023. “We found that these incidents are likely to occur in places where new railway tracks have been laid or when trains run behind schedule. We have deployed our officials to clear the thick shrub growing on either side of railway tracks to minimize elephant-train collisions.”
Sooriyabandara further said that a collaborative approach among stakeholder institutions would help provide more feasible solutions to minimize HEC. “Already the Department of Agrarian Development has started putting up fences around plots of agriculture in areas with a heavy HEC. The Railway Department is working on a plan to minimize accidents. This way going forward we hope to bring down the number of elephants as well as human deaths.”

 

]]>
https://bmkltsly13vb.compat.objectstorage.ap-singapore-1.oraclecloud.com/cdn.sg.dailymirror.lk/assets/uploads/image_e00a3efbd7.jpg 2024-02-08 00:00:00
“Govt. tax policies are based on deals” -Dr. HariniAmarasuriya https://www.dailymirror.lk/recomended-news/“Govt--tax-policies-are-based-on-deals”--Dr--HariniAmarasuriya/277-276364 https://www.dailymirror.lk/recomended-news/“Govt--tax-policies-are-based-on-deals”--Dr--HariniAmarasuriya/277-276364

  • There is nothing underground or clandestine how we do things.
  • Taking a more flexible line on geopolitics compared to several decades ago the NPP is ready to deal with any foreign power by placing national interest in the forefront
  • We must engage with a country based on an agenda that best suits us. Whether it’s India, China or America no other country is going to come and work with us or engage with us without an agenda.

National People’s Power or NPP, the major alliance of JanathaVimukthi Peramuna (JVP), is in a historical juncture of its political journey as its leaders have visited India on an invitation by the Indian Government. In the 1980s the JVP took a strong stance on India, especially against the Indo-Lanka pact signed under the J. R. Jayewardene government. Taking a more flexible line on geopolitics compared to several decades ago the NPP is ready to deal with any foreign power by placing national interest in the forefront. Talking about transformation from once a revolutionary movement, Dr. HariniAmarasuriya, academic who was elected to Parliament on NPP’s national list, criticised how tax policies have been implemented by the government and went on to share how the party is going to deal with IMF’s loan restructuring process. 
Excerpts of the interview:  

Q: You are a member of the NPP and are you a you member of the JVP as well?
No I am not a member of the JVP. 
Q: How does this statement make a difference?
 JVP is a political party which is part of the National People’s Power (NPP), which is a broader coalition that consists of about 28 other organizations of which the JVP is the leading political party. But there are other organisations which are also part of the NPP and I am a member of the Progressive Women’s Collective (PWC) which was started in 2019 and the National Intellectual Organization (NIO) which was started in 2017 or 2018. 
Q:Who made the decision for you to be an MP? Was it made by the JVP or NPP? 
Well it was a decision that was taken collectively by NPP when we met soon after the election and there was a discussion about what we should do in the aftermath and also about who we should send as our national list MP. To be honest the JVP is represented in our national steering committee and each of our organizations has two representatives in the NPP’s Steering Committee and the proposal that it should be made came from the JVP representatives in the steering committee. And the rest of the committee agreed. 
Q: Is this understanding between the JVP and NPP continuing from strength to strength or where does it stand now?
We made the decision in 2019 itself when the NPP was formed that future elections will be contested by the NPP. Since 2019 and 2020 we have been there as the NPP. So at the Presidential Elections, Anura Kumara Dissanayake will be contesting as the NPP Presidential candidate and at the General Election we will be contesting as the NPP. Already we have worked together over the last few years and this is one of the biggest achievements. During the last couple of years we have been drawing in new people into the movement. Some of them are coming through the JVP and some of them are coming through NIO and some of them are coming through DWC and the other women’s organizations.  There are other organizations like Aluth Piyapath, the youth groups and trade unions that are involved with us. 
Q:Certain critics of NPP/JVP allege that the decision making process is not clear and takes place secretively. What are your comments?
There is nothing underground or clandestine how we do things. In fact neither is the JVP an underground or a clandestine movement. The leadership is very evident. Everybody knows who the leader is and the leadership of the NPP is very public. This perception that you are talking about is a perception that is created and how our opponents try to challenge us. In a political arena our critics also have to come ups with something. So this is kind of going back to history and labelling it as a secretive Left organization and a guerrilla type movement. Attempts are made to delve into the past to try and indicate that this is what is happening now as well. Even if you take only the JVP forget the NPP, the JVP has been in parliament and part of the democratic system since 1990s. We are a registered political party, so is the JVP. And JVP and the NPP are a few of the political parties that actually conduct proper audits and submit them to the Election Commission. You can check on that. So we have been very transparent in our dealings. Of course we have a decision making structure. Our decision making structure, unlike the traditional parties, is not the leader, who makes our decisions for us. Ranil Wickremesinghe can decide what he wants to do with the UNP. But Anura Kumara Dissanayake doesn’t decide on what to do with the NPP or with the JVP. We have a leadership council. We have a steering committee at the NPP and the decisions are made through discussion, debate and dialogue. And once a decision is made we all stick to it. 
We are actually a democratic party where the leader doesn’t have the sole authority to decide on things for us. Clandestine decision making in a secret organization is really an old way of thinking and one that the JVP discarded several decades ago. 
Q:As a solution to the ongoing economic crisis, the government has come up with the plan to go with the IMF and none other than the Central Bank Governor says there is no other alternative even if there is a change in government. Even some opposition politicians are also of the opinion that this is the way forward. What is the stance of the NPP? 
First of all this idea that there is no alternative is something that needs to be examined carefully because there is always alternatives. There are always alternatives for everything and it is very dangerous limiting way of thinking if we start off by saying that there is no alternative. In that case the human history will never change or will never evolve. That is an extremely narrow way of thinking. What we are talking about relates to a specific situation, context and crisis right now.
We would have dealt with this crisis in a different way perhaps. Had we been in power we might not have had to declare a state of bankruptcy. That would not have been the path we would have taken. But that path has already been taken. It is beyond our control now. That is the path that the previous government had taken. Now we have to sort it out from there. Once a country declares a state of bankruptcy you have to restructure loans. The restructuring process has already emerged. A new government cannot suddenly decide on going back to the drawing board on that. However we don’t necessarily agree with all the conditions or all the decisions that are being made by this government under the guise of an IMF agreement. The IMF will tell you to balance the account. How you balance your account is up to your government. The IMF will say get your tax system in order. How you do that is up to each government. The IMF is not going say or specify that you should raise your taxes upto 18 percent or 25 percent or whether it is that VAT that needs to be increased or some other tax. The IMF will say come up with a rational tax policy. What we disagree on is the manner in which this government is using the IMF agreement or the IMF restructuring agreement to make decision about the economy. 
Because those decisions have been proven to have failed. We are not doing anything different now that we haven’t already done. Privatisation didn’t start today; it started in the 1990s. This tax system has been around for years. Selling what we consider as our important national assets is not a new thing either. So it is these policies that were badly managed which led to this crisis. So nothing has changed.
QSo what needs to be changed primarily?
Primarily what needs to be changed is the political culture in this country or the politics of this country where all decision making is actually based not on policy but on corruptions and deals. So the government tax policies are based on deals. They are not based on the most rational tax policy for a country such as ours, but what is the tax policy that will benefit your friend. At the end of the day that is what happens in this country. You decide on a development project not based on science or evidence on discussions with the public, but from where you get the best commissions. That is what needs to be changed first. 
This government keeps talking about successive governments that had ruled this country and about the importance of the private sector. What have they done to support the private sector? What have they done to enable the private sector to function in a way that doesn’t mean that a private sector has to make friends and deals with politicians in order to get things done? 
It is extremely difficult for the majority who are really ethical and honest private sector people who have integrity to function in this country. The only people who thrive or most of the people who thrive do so because they have connections with the politicians. We want to change that. There needs to be policies in place. That’s the role of the government.
Q:Do you mean that the tax policies are based on deals and vested interests?
That’s what I said. I mean I take an example. How was that tax on sugar imposed? We are a country with certain tax exemptions. How come? OK, you need to have room for a government to have tax exemptions. But the way tax exemptions are being granted in this country have benefited those having political connections. 
QBut when the Restructuring Process was introduced there were conditions laid by the IMF itself to follow anticorruption policies and introduce a transparent system? Doesn’t the government know about it or is that the IMF ignores them?
The IMF is not intervening in political decision making. In the Governance Diagnostic Report too they have stated how corruption is one of the major reasons for the political crisis. So they have recommended that you bring in laws to prevent corruption. We all supported the Anti-Corruption Bill. Has it being implemented? Has the necessary institutional infrastructure required to implement the Act being set up? No. So to this idea that to sort economic issues laws can be removed from politics and that will effect change is really a misguided idea. You need a political will. 
Q:So provided an NPP lead government assumes power at the next elections would you continue with the IMF or not?
If we are elected we will be elected on the mandate on which we campaign. In that campaign what we will say is that we will free ourselves from this crisis. We will present a plan as to how we are going to resolve this crisis. And we don’t think the IMF will be opposed to that plan. We don’t see any reason why the IMF will be unable to work with us. 
Q:Results of certain surveys have been released and NPP is even more popular than the Samagi Janabalawegaya (SJB), the main opposition party. But when the election results are released we don’t see this popularity being reflected in the final count. Can people expect something different at the elections this year? 
 I think what you saw in the past was that the JVP wasn’t popular like the way we are at present. The citizens of the country are more aware, have a conscience and are mobilised. The second factor that is being ignored is that we as the NPP have worked really hard at the grassroots level to educate the citizens of this country to provide that political mobilization and political education and what citizenship really is about. We have also educated them about the need and the role of a citizen in doing this in a very critical moment. We are talking about a different time and different period where a lot of things have changed. 
Q:Do you have any estimation as to what percentage of the vote base the NPP can account for?
Thats a tricky question. We want to be able to form a government with the majority and be able to bring about changes. So we are working towards winning that majority. And we want to be able to establish a government that will enable us to bring about the transformation this country so desperately needs. 
Q:Over the passage of time the JVP has been branded as an anti-west or an anti-American political movement. Certain past leaders of the party strongly used this slogan during the party’s campaigns. Does the NPP has similar views?
We are not anti anything. We are only anti people who have destroyed this country through their corruption and through their extremely petty personal agendas. We have been having meetings with the diplomatic community on a regular basis over the past few months and years. We have very cordial relationships with all the diplomatic missions in this country. 
Q:If we talk about the geopolitical situation right now Sri Lanka is being hounded up by super powers like China, India, Japan and the United States. What is the relationship NPP is going to have with these super powers specially China and India? 
We will engage with every country based on a foreign policy that we feel is most suitable for us. So we will have a foreign policy that we will be developed based on what will be to our best interest. The ideal position for us to take is one where we are not aligned too much with any one country, but one which allows us to be open with every country. We must engage with a country based on an agenda that best suits us. Whether it’s India, China or America no other country is going to come and work with us or engage with us without an agenda. The problem is that we don’t have an agenda. And then we have to go with their agenda because we don’t have one. When we sit at a discussion table we are in a weak position. We don’t know what we want. We can’t really engage with them in a straightforward manner because at any moment the minister might ask for a bribe. They know that we are already on the backfoot. We must make the changes that’ll enable us to engage in business matters with mutual respect. And when we sit down having an agenda we can look at areas of common interest and work with common cooperation and collaboration and trust. 
Q:Traditionally the JVP with its Marxist ideology has had a soft corner for China hasn’t it? This relationship had not been denied by the party leadership as well.
Obviously China is a socialist country and JVP is a socialist party, so there is a engagement that exists between them. I mean Communism and socialism are international movements. It’s not that something happens in isolation. Of course there are areas where political ideologies are more sort in sync with others. But it is a different situation when you engage with a political party and when you engage with the government in power. When the Chinese government engages with the Government of Sri Lanka it doesn’t happen on a communist agenda. Then how on earth is it working with Ranil Wickremesinghe who is the most right wing of all presidents and also with Mahinda Rajapaksa? So this is not how foreign policy works.

]]>

  • There is nothing underground or clandestine how we do things.
  • Taking a more flexible line on geopolitics compared to several decades ago the NPP is ready to deal with any foreign power by placing national interest in the forefront
  • We must engage with a country based on an agenda that best suits us. Whether it’s India, China or America no other country is going to come and work with us or engage with us without an agenda.

National People’s Power or NPP, the major alliance of JanathaVimukthi Peramuna (JVP), is in a historical juncture of its political journey as its leaders have visited India on an invitation by the Indian Government. In the 1980s the JVP took a strong stance on India, especially against the Indo-Lanka pact signed under the J. R. Jayewardene government. Taking a more flexible line on geopolitics compared to several decades ago the NPP is ready to deal with any foreign power by placing national interest in the forefront. Talking about transformation from once a revolutionary movement, Dr. HariniAmarasuriya, academic who was elected to Parliament on NPP’s national list, criticised how tax policies have been implemented by the government and went on to share how the party is going to deal with IMF’s loan restructuring process. 
Excerpts of the interview:  

Q: You are a member of the NPP and are you a you member of the JVP as well?
No I am not a member of the JVP. 
Q: How does this statement make a difference?
 JVP is a political party which is part of the National People’s Power (NPP), which is a broader coalition that consists of about 28 other organizations of which the JVP is the leading political party. But there are other organisations which are also part of the NPP and I am a member of the Progressive Women’s Collective (PWC) which was started in 2019 and the National Intellectual Organization (NIO) which was started in 2017 or 2018. 
Q:Who made the decision for you to be an MP? Was it made by the JVP or NPP? 
Well it was a decision that was taken collectively by NPP when we met soon after the election and there was a discussion about what we should do in the aftermath and also about who we should send as our national list MP. To be honest the JVP is represented in our national steering committee and each of our organizations has two representatives in the NPP’s Steering Committee and the proposal that it should be made came from the JVP representatives in the steering committee. And the rest of the committee agreed. 
Q: Is this understanding between the JVP and NPP continuing from strength to strength or where does it stand now?
We made the decision in 2019 itself when the NPP was formed that future elections will be contested by the NPP. Since 2019 and 2020 we have been there as the NPP. So at the Presidential Elections, Anura Kumara Dissanayake will be contesting as the NPP Presidential candidate and at the General Election we will be contesting as the NPP. Already we have worked together over the last few years and this is one of the biggest achievements. During the last couple of years we have been drawing in new people into the movement. Some of them are coming through the JVP and some of them are coming through NIO and some of them are coming through DWC and the other women’s organizations.  There are other organizations like Aluth Piyapath, the youth groups and trade unions that are involved with us. 
Q:Certain critics of NPP/JVP allege that the decision making process is not clear and takes place secretively. What are your comments?
There is nothing underground or clandestine how we do things. In fact neither is the JVP an underground or a clandestine movement. The leadership is very evident. Everybody knows who the leader is and the leadership of the NPP is very public. This perception that you are talking about is a perception that is created and how our opponents try to challenge us. In a political arena our critics also have to come ups with something. So this is kind of going back to history and labelling it as a secretive Left organization and a guerrilla type movement. Attempts are made to delve into the past to try and indicate that this is what is happening now as well. Even if you take only the JVP forget the NPP, the JVP has been in parliament and part of the democratic system since 1990s. We are a registered political party, so is the JVP. And JVP and the NPP are a few of the political parties that actually conduct proper audits and submit them to the Election Commission. You can check on that. So we have been very transparent in our dealings. Of course we have a decision making structure. Our decision making structure, unlike the traditional parties, is not the leader, who makes our decisions for us. Ranil Wickremesinghe can decide what he wants to do with the UNP. But Anura Kumara Dissanayake doesn’t decide on what to do with the NPP or with the JVP. We have a leadership council. We have a steering committee at the NPP and the decisions are made through discussion, debate and dialogue. And once a decision is made we all stick to it. 
We are actually a democratic party where the leader doesn’t have the sole authority to decide on things for us. Clandestine decision making in a secret organization is really an old way of thinking and one that the JVP discarded several decades ago. 
Q:As a solution to the ongoing economic crisis, the government has come up with the plan to go with the IMF and none other than the Central Bank Governor says there is no other alternative even if there is a change in government. Even some opposition politicians are also of the opinion that this is the way forward. What is the stance of the NPP? 
First of all this idea that there is no alternative is something that needs to be examined carefully because there is always alternatives. There are always alternatives for everything and it is very dangerous limiting way of thinking if we start off by saying that there is no alternative. In that case the human history will never change or will never evolve. That is an extremely narrow way of thinking. What we are talking about relates to a specific situation, context and crisis right now.
We would have dealt with this crisis in a different way perhaps. Had we been in power we might not have had to declare a state of bankruptcy. That would not have been the path we would have taken. But that path has already been taken. It is beyond our control now. That is the path that the previous government had taken. Now we have to sort it out from there. Once a country declares a state of bankruptcy you have to restructure loans. The restructuring process has already emerged. A new government cannot suddenly decide on going back to the drawing board on that. However we don’t necessarily agree with all the conditions or all the decisions that are being made by this government under the guise of an IMF agreement. The IMF will tell you to balance the account. How you balance your account is up to your government. The IMF will say get your tax system in order. How you do that is up to each government. The IMF is not going say or specify that you should raise your taxes upto 18 percent or 25 percent or whether it is that VAT that needs to be increased or some other tax. The IMF will say come up with a rational tax policy. What we disagree on is the manner in which this government is using the IMF agreement or the IMF restructuring agreement to make decision about the economy. 
Because those decisions have been proven to have failed. We are not doing anything different now that we haven’t already done. Privatisation didn’t start today; it started in the 1990s. This tax system has been around for years. Selling what we consider as our important national assets is not a new thing either. So it is these policies that were badly managed which led to this crisis. So nothing has changed.
QSo what needs to be changed primarily?
Primarily what needs to be changed is the political culture in this country or the politics of this country where all decision making is actually based not on policy but on corruptions and deals. So the government tax policies are based on deals. They are not based on the most rational tax policy for a country such as ours, but what is the tax policy that will benefit your friend. At the end of the day that is what happens in this country. You decide on a development project not based on science or evidence on discussions with the public, but from where you get the best commissions. That is what needs to be changed first. 
This government keeps talking about successive governments that had ruled this country and about the importance of the private sector. What have they done to support the private sector? What have they done to enable the private sector to function in a way that doesn’t mean that a private sector has to make friends and deals with politicians in order to get things done? 
It is extremely difficult for the majority who are really ethical and honest private sector people who have integrity to function in this country. The only people who thrive or most of the people who thrive do so because they have connections with the politicians. We want to change that. There needs to be policies in place. That’s the role of the government.
Q:Do you mean that the tax policies are based on deals and vested interests?
That’s what I said. I mean I take an example. How was that tax on sugar imposed? We are a country with certain tax exemptions. How come? OK, you need to have room for a government to have tax exemptions. But the way tax exemptions are being granted in this country have benefited those having political connections. 
QBut when the Restructuring Process was introduced there were conditions laid by the IMF itself to follow anticorruption policies and introduce a transparent system? Doesn’t the government know about it or is that the IMF ignores them?
The IMF is not intervening in political decision making. In the Governance Diagnostic Report too they have stated how corruption is one of the major reasons for the political crisis. So they have recommended that you bring in laws to prevent corruption. We all supported the Anti-Corruption Bill. Has it being implemented? Has the necessary institutional infrastructure required to implement the Act being set up? No. So to this idea that to sort economic issues laws can be removed from politics and that will effect change is really a misguided idea. You need a political will. 
Q:So provided an NPP lead government assumes power at the next elections would you continue with the IMF or not?
If we are elected we will be elected on the mandate on which we campaign. In that campaign what we will say is that we will free ourselves from this crisis. We will present a plan as to how we are going to resolve this crisis. And we don’t think the IMF will be opposed to that plan. We don’t see any reason why the IMF will be unable to work with us. 
Q:Results of certain surveys have been released and NPP is even more popular than the Samagi Janabalawegaya (SJB), the main opposition party. But when the election results are released we don’t see this popularity being reflected in the final count. Can people expect something different at the elections this year? 
 I think what you saw in the past was that the JVP wasn’t popular like the way we are at present. The citizens of the country are more aware, have a conscience and are mobilised. The second factor that is being ignored is that we as the NPP have worked really hard at the grassroots level to educate the citizens of this country to provide that political mobilization and political education and what citizenship really is about. We have also educated them about the need and the role of a citizen in doing this in a very critical moment. We are talking about a different time and different period where a lot of things have changed. 
Q:Do you have any estimation as to what percentage of the vote base the NPP can account for?
Thats a tricky question. We want to be able to form a government with the majority and be able to bring about changes. So we are working towards winning that majority. And we want to be able to establish a government that will enable us to bring about the transformation this country so desperately needs. 
Q:Over the passage of time the JVP has been branded as an anti-west or an anti-American political movement. Certain past leaders of the party strongly used this slogan during the party’s campaigns. Does the NPP has similar views?
We are not anti anything. We are only anti people who have destroyed this country through their corruption and through their extremely petty personal agendas. We have been having meetings with the diplomatic community on a regular basis over the past few months and years. We have very cordial relationships with all the diplomatic missions in this country. 
Q:If we talk about the geopolitical situation right now Sri Lanka is being hounded up by super powers like China, India, Japan and the United States. What is the relationship NPP is going to have with these super powers specially China and India? 
We will engage with every country based on a foreign policy that we feel is most suitable for us. So we will have a foreign policy that we will be developed based on what will be to our best interest. The ideal position for us to take is one where we are not aligned too much with any one country, but one which allows us to be open with every country. We must engage with a country based on an agenda that best suits us. Whether it’s India, China or America no other country is going to come and work with us or engage with us without an agenda. The problem is that we don’t have an agenda. And then we have to go with their agenda because we don’t have one. When we sit at a discussion table we are in a weak position. We don’t know what we want. We can’t really engage with them in a straightforward manner because at any moment the minister might ask for a bribe. They know that we are already on the backfoot. We must make the changes that’ll enable us to engage in business matters with mutual respect. And when we sit down having an agenda we can look at areas of common interest and work with common cooperation and collaboration and trust. 
Q:Traditionally the JVP with its Marxist ideology has had a soft corner for China hasn’t it? This relationship had not been denied by the party leadership as well.
Obviously China is a socialist country and JVP is a socialist party, so there is a engagement that exists between them. I mean Communism and socialism are international movements. It’s not that something happens in isolation. Of course there are areas where political ideologies are more sort in sync with others. But it is a different situation when you engage with a political party and when you engage with the government in power. When the Chinese government engages with the Government of Sri Lanka it doesn’t happen on a communist agenda. Then how on earth is it working with Ranil Wickremesinghe who is the most right wing of all presidents and also with Mahinda Rajapaksa? So this is not how foreign policy works.

]]>
https://bmkltsly13vb.compat.objectstorage.ap-singapore-1.oraclecloud.com/cdn.sg.dailymirror.lk/assets/uploads/image_c7aa663cb4.jpg 2024-02-06 00:00:00
The Attack on ITAK Jaffna MP, Shritharan in Anuradhapura https://www.dailymirror.lk/opinion/The-Attack-on-ITAK--Jaffna-MP---Shritharan-in--Anuradhapura/172-275815 https://www.dailymirror.lk/opinion/The-Attack-on-ITAK--Jaffna-MP---Shritharan-in--Anuradhapura/172-275815

A noteworthy incident was the attack launched on the vehicle he was travelling in by “unknown” gunmen more than 23 years ago. In the news story appearing in the “Uthayan”, Shritharan was quoted that the attack was a planned attempt to kill him and that his Tamil political opponents who were aligned with the government for concessions and ministerial posts were responsible. 

Shritharan has been projecting himself as a supporter and fellow traveller of the LTTE from the time he entered Parliament. This has earned him bouquets from pro-Tiger elements and brickbats from anti-Tiger elements. While the pro-LTTE label has helped him in politics, it has at times placed him in jeopardy too

The media spotlight is focused to a great extent on Jaffna District Parliamentarian, Sivagnanam Shritharan these days. The 55 year old former school principal has been elected as the President of Sri Lanka’s premier Tamil political party, the Ilankai Thamil Arasuk Katchi (ITAK) known in English as the Federal Party (FP). Shritharan has been elected an MP continuously since 2010.
Shritharan contested the ITAK Presidential election on a pro-LTTE platform euphemistically described as “Thamizh Thesiyam” (Tamil Nationalism). The newly elected ITAK leader demonstrated that he was a hawk in Tamil politics by paying obeisance at the LTTE cemetery in Kilinochchi. He also issued a statement calling upon all Tamil nationalist parties to join him and realise the dreams of fallen LTTE fighters known as “Maaveerar” or “great heroes”. 
Shritharan has been projecting himself as a supporter and fellow traveller of the LTTE from the time he entered Parliament. This has earned him bouquets from pro-Tiger elements and brickbats from anti-Tiger elements. While the pro-LTTE label has helped him in politics, it has at times placed him in jeopardy too. 
A noteworthy incident in this regard was the attack launched on the vehicle he was travelling in by “unknown” gunmen. This attack took place on the road in the Anuradhapura district more than 23 years ago. I wrote extensively about the incident then. This column re-visits the attack on Shritharan with the aid of those earlier writings this week.
According to the complaints made by Shritharan to the Police and to the then Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa what had reportedly happened then was this: 
Parliament was to convene on March 8th 2011. Shritharan, based in Kilinochchi, left for Colombo on March 7th 2011 to attend sittings in the House by the Diyawanna Oya. It was his usual practice to start out from Kilinochchi in the afternoon on the day before Parliament was scheduled to convene and reach Colombo after nightfall. 


WP – HG 4846


The Jaffna District MP, after an early lunch, started out from Kilinochchi at 1.00 pm in his Toyota van bearing the number plate WP – HG 4846. There were five persons in the vehicle. They were Shritharan, his driver, his Police bodyguard and two others. The Policeman was a Sinhalese while the driver and the other two passengers were Tamils.
One of these passengers was a close relative of the MP who was to be dropped off at Vavuniya. The other was a young undergraduate who was the son of a close supporter. The youth was to accompany the MP to Colombo. The van reached Vavuniya at about 3.30 pm. After a brief stopover during which the relative took his leave, the van resumed its journey with four occupants at about 4 pm.
The van was somewhere in the Medawachchiya region when a white van with unmarked number plates crossed them. Within minutes the same vehicle did a “U” turn and changed direction .The unnumbered white van overtook the MP’s vehicle slowly and then sped away ahead. Soon it was lost. Although the antics of the white van attracted attention it did not cause too much concern.
Shritharan’s van that was going along the A-9 highway or Jaffna–Kandy road changed course at Anuradhapura. The vehicle now got on to the A-12 highway or Puttalam–Trincomalee road. The stretch between Anuradhapura and Puttalam along the A–12 is 71.54 kilometres (44.45 miles).


Ulukkulama Area


The vehicle was travelling along the A-12 in the Ulukkulama area of the Maha Bulankulama region when it negotiated a small bend on the road. Further down was a pond. A white van without number plates was parked by the roadside. Two men in denim trousers and white t-shirts were standing by the vehicle. The time was about 5.30 pm.
As the van proceeded, the two men in white drew out pistols and began firing at the front of the vehicle. Two shots pierced the windscreen and entered but did not hit anyone. Alarmed but alert, the driver began to accelerate. The attackers were now seen with a hand grenade each. As the vehicle drew near, one of the men pulled the clip and tossed it in front. The other tried to roll the grenade under the van. Thereafter, they drew back and continued to fire at the van.
The driver who had been accelerating saw the grenades and veered to a side. One of the grenades exploded without causing much damage to the vehicle. One of the rear wheel tyres burst but it was not clear whether the grenade or the gunfire caused the damage.
Seeing that the rear wheel was damaged the assailants kept on firing at the back of the van. A third person in denims and a black t-shirt presumed to be the white van driver also joined the other two.


Policeman Fires


The solitary Policeman in the vehicle had only a nine millimetre pistol. The cop was seated by the side of the driver in the front. He now tried to fire back at the trio through the side from within the vehicle. It was difficult to aim accurately in this position and the first shot was an “own goal” hitting their vehicle’s rear screen.
The Policeman then asked the driver to stop. Seeing the vehicle stop the three gunmen started running towards the van with their firing guns. But the lone policeman bravely got down on the road and began firing at them. The trio were unprepared for this and immediately ran back towards their van. Altogether the cop had fired nine rounds.
The Policeman then got in and the van proceeded on the road despite the damaged rear wheel. The van reportedly plodded along the road for a further 8 km. But finally the tyre was totally deflated and the van was forced to stop somewhere in the Nochchiyagama area. The time was about 6 pm.
The four people got down from the van and went to a house nearby. Upon being told of the predicament the hospitable household invited the four inside. As is customary among rural folk, the Sinhala family showered them with hospitality serving them refreshments.


Nochchiyagama


Meanwhile Shritharan had begun telephoning the Police while the van was going towards Nochchiyagama after the incident. He informed Police Emergency and the Anuradhapura Police of the incident. The Police bodyguard also informed his superiors of the incident.
Shritharan then tried to telephone fellow Jaffna district MP and the then ITAK Secretary, Maavai Senathirajah, but Senathirajah was at a meeting and had switched off his cellular phone. Shritharan then called the then National List MP, MA Sumanthiran in Colombo.
Upon hearing of the incident Sumanthiran also made a round of telephone calls to various Police circles. He also called the Ministerial Security Division. Despite these efforts the official response was rather lethargic. Shritharan and the other three continued to remain at the Sinhala household in Nochchiyagama without any one from the Police coming there or contacting them.


MA Sumanthiran


Disappointed by this lack of response, MA Sumanthiran telephoned the then Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mahinda Balasuriya directly. The IGP to his credit, apologised for the delay by the Police in responding. Within minutes the IGP got cracking and the Police machinery got into action.
Balasuriya got the telephone number of Shritharan from Sumanthiran and telephoned him personally. The IGP told the MP not to worry and assured him of speedy Police action. Within a short time, a Police party from Nochchiyagama arrived at the house and escorted Shritharan and the others to the Nochchiyagama Police station. The damaged vehicle was also towed there. Shritharan lodged a formal complaint about the attack at the Nochchiyagama Police Station.
A police contingent also went to the spot where the attack took place and cordoned off the area. A full scale probe was launched at daylight. Several people in the vicinity were questioned and statements recorded.
 Much evidence like shattered glass, empty bullets, grenade clip, unexploded grenade, etc were collected and photographs were taken. In addition to these, other pieces of evidence found in the vehicle were also collected. A team from the Government Analysts Department went to Nochchiyagama and conducted an inspection. The evidence collected was sent down to the Government Analysts Department in Colombo for further examination.
Statements were also recorded in detail from Shritharan, the bodyguard, driver and the undergraduate. Fortunately, none of them had any serious injury. Finally, the Police transported Shritharan and the rest in a Police vehicle to Colombo with increased Police escort. They had been at the Nochchiyagama Police Station from 7.14 to 11.30 pm. Shritharan reached his official residence at Madiwela at about 2.30 am.


Chamal Rajapaksa


Shritharan together with colleagues Senathirajah and Sumanthiran called on the then Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa at his chambers in the morning of March 8th before Parliament sittings commenced. The Speaker was shocked to hear of the attack. He promised the TNA of a full–fledged investigation into the incident. He contacted the IGP immediately and asked him for a full report. 
The IGP assured the speaker that he would provide a preliminary report on the following morning (March 9th). The Speaker then asked the TNA to be with him when the IGP presented the report.
Chamal Rajapaksa also allowed Sivagnanam Shritharan to raise a breach of privilege issue in Parliament. Shritharan made a short statement explaining in brief what had occurred. He also thanked his Police bodyguard and driver for their commendable action in safeguarding him.
Responding to Shritharan, the Speaker assured full safety and security for all MP’s. He also told Parliament that a full investigation will be conducted into the incident and a comprehensive report would be presented to Parliament in due course.


IGP Mahinda Balasuriya


When IGP Mahinda  Balasuriya  came with the preliminary report compiled by the Anuradhapura DIG of Police, several Tamil Parliamentarians including Shritharan were also present at the Speaker’s chambers. The IGP brought several photographs of the crime scene and the affected vehicle. He also related the different lines of inquiry being followed by the Police.
The IGP then stated that two teams of Police sleuths were investigating the incident. One was from the Anuradhapura district where the attack happened. The other was a special team sent from Colombo. Mahinda Balasuriya told Chamal Rajapaksa that a final report would be submitted in due course.


“Uthayan” Daily


Apart from his statement in Parliament, Sivagnanam Shritharan also made statements to various media organs about the attack. In a statement made to the “Uthayan” daily, Shritharan made an interesting observation. In the news story appearing in the “Uthayan”, Shritharan was quoted that the attack was a planned attempt to kill him and that his Tamil political opponents who were aligned with the government for concessions and ministerial posts were responsible.
EPDP leader and Cabinet Minister, Douglas Devananda responded to Shritharan’s coded attack by alleging that the so called attack had never taken place. Wimal Weerawansa also said the alleged incident was fabricated friction.
Responding to Weerawansa, former ITAK Jaffna district MP, Saravanabavan said that they had met the IGP earlier in the Speakers chambers where the Police chief had submitted a report with photographs about the incident. Contrary to Weerawansa, the IGP had confirmed clearly that there had been an attempt to kill Shritharan, said Saravanabavan.


Fabrication


There were also reports in some overseas Tamil websites insinuating that the attack on Shritharan was a fabrication. It was alleged that the entire episode was a contrived drama and that there had been no real assassination attempt. None of these accusations were substantiated with credible proof. They were for the most part wild speculation tinged with venom against Shritharan. However, the fact remains that no one was arrested or charged over the incident. The investigation petered out with the passage of time. For some inexplicable reason, Shritharan himself never pursued this firmly. He never exerted pressure on successive governments to probe and bring to book those allegedly responsible. 


Forgotten Chapter


Shritharan also did not make much of the incident in the propaganda speeches he made during the elections of 2015 and 2020.  The episode is almost like a forgotten or omitted chapter in the book about Shritharan’s life.
D.B.S. Jeyaraj  can be reached at 
[email protected]

 

 

]]>

A noteworthy incident was the attack launched on the vehicle he was travelling in by “unknown” gunmen more than 23 years ago. In the news story appearing in the “Uthayan”, Shritharan was quoted that the attack was a planned attempt to kill him and that his Tamil political opponents who were aligned with the government for concessions and ministerial posts were responsible. 

Shritharan has been projecting himself as a supporter and fellow traveller of the LTTE from the time he entered Parliament. This has earned him bouquets from pro-Tiger elements and brickbats from anti-Tiger elements. While the pro-LTTE label has helped him in politics, it has at times placed him in jeopardy too

The media spotlight is focused to a great extent on Jaffna District Parliamentarian, Sivagnanam Shritharan these days. The 55 year old former school principal has been elected as the President of Sri Lanka’s premier Tamil political party, the Ilankai Thamil Arasuk Katchi (ITAK) known in English as the Federal Party (FP). Shritharan has been elected an MP continuously since 2010.
Shritharan contested the ITAK Presidential election on a pro-LTTE platform euphemistically described as “Thamizh Thesiyam” (Tamil Nationalism). The newly elected ITAK leader demonstrated that he was a hawk in Tamil politics by paying obeisance at the LTTE cemetery in Kilinochchi. He also issued a statement calling upon all Tamil nationalist parties to join him and realise the dreams of fallen LTTE fighters known as “Maaveerar” or “great heroes”. 
Shritharan has been projecting himself as a supporter and fellow traveller of the LTTE from the time he entered Parliament. This has earned him bouquets from pro-Tiger elements and brickbats from anti-Tiger elements. While the pro-LTTE label has helped him in politics, it has at times placed him in jeopardy too. 
A noteworthy incident in this regard was the attack launched on the vehicle he was travelling in by “unknown” gunmen. This attack took place on the road in the Anuradhapura district more than 23 years ago. I wrote extensively about the incident then. This column re-visits the attack on Shritharan with the aid of those earlier writings this week.
According to the complaints made by Shritharan to the Police and to the then Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa what had reportedly happened then was this: 
Parliament was to convene on March 8th 2011. Shritharan, based in Kilinochchi, left for Colombo on March 7th 2011 to attend sittings in the House by the Diyawanna Oya. It was his usual practice to start out from Kilinochchi in the afternoon on the day before Parliament was scheduled to convene and reach Colombo after nightfall. 


WP – HG 4846


The Jaffna District MP, after an early lunch, started out from Kilinochchi at 1.00 pm in his Toyota van bearing the number plate WP – HG 4846. There were five persons in the vehicle. They were Shritharan, his driver, his Police bodyguard and two others. The Policeman was a Sinhalese while the driver and the other two passengers were Tamils.
One of these passengers was a close relative of the MP who was to be dropped off at Vavuniya. The other was a young undergraduate who was the son of a close supporter. The youth was to accompany the MP to Colombo. The van reached Vavuniya at about 3.30 pm. After a brief stopover during which the relative took his leave, the van resumed its journey with four occupants at about 4 pm.
The van was somewhere in the Medawachchiya region when a white van with unmarked number plates crossed them. Within minutes the same vehicle did a “U” turn and changed direction .The unnumbered white van overtook the MP’s vehicle slowly and then sped away ahead. Soon it was lost. Although the antics of the white van attracted attention it did not cause too much concern.
Shritharan’s van that was going along the A-9 highway or Jaffna–Kandy road changed course at Anuradhapura. The vehicle now got on to the A-12 highway or Puttalam–Trincomalee road. The stretch between Anuradhapura and Puttalam along the A–12 is 71.54 kilometres (44.45 miles).


Ulukkulama Area


The vehicle was travelling along the A-12 in the Ulukkulama area of the Maha Bulankulama region when it negotiated a small bend on the road. Further down was a pond. A white van without number plates was parked by the roadside. Two men in denim trousers and white t-shirts were standing by the vehicle. The time was about 5.30 pm.
As the van proceeded, the two men in white drew out pistols and began firing at the front of the vehicle. Two shots pierced the windscreen and entered but did not hit anyone. Alarmed but alert, the driver began to accelerate. The attackers were now seen with a hand grenade each. As the vehicle drew near, one of the men pulled the clip and tossed it in front. The other tried to roll the grenade under the van. Thereafter, they drew back and continued to fire at the van.
The driver who had been accelerating saw the grenades and veered to a side. One of the grenades exploded without causing much damage to the vehicle. One of the rear wheel tyres burst but it was not clear whether the grenade or the gunfire caused the damage.
Seeing that the rear wheel was damaged the assailants kept on firing at the back of the van. A third person in denims and a black t-shirt presumed to be the white van driver also joined the other two.


Policeman Fires


The solitary Policeman in the vehicle had only a nine millimetre pistol. The cop was seated by the side of the driver in the front. He now tried to fire back at the trio through the side from within the vehicle. It was difficult to aim accurately in this position and the first shot was an “own goal” hitting their vehicle’s rear screen.
The Policeman then asked the driver to stop. Seeing the vehicle stop the three gunmen started running towards the van with their firing guns. But the lone policeman bravely got down on the road and began firing at them. The trio were unprepared for this and immediately ran back towards their van. Altogether the cop had fired nine rounds.
The Policeman then got in and the van proceeded on the road despite the damaged rear wheel. The van reportedly plodded along the road for a further 8 km. But finally the tyre was totally deflated and the van was forced to stop somewhere in the Nochchiyagama area. The time was about 6 pm.
The four people got down from the van and went to a house nearby. Upon being told of the predicament the hospitable household invited the four inside. As is customary among rural folk, the Sinhala family showered them with hospitality serving them refreshments.


Nochchiyagama


Meanwhile Shritharan had begun telephoning the Police while the van was going towards Nochchiyagama after the incident. He informed Police Emergency and the Anuradhapura Police of the incident. The Police bodyguard also informed his superiors of the incident.
Shritharan then tried to telephone fellow Jaffna district MP and the then ITAK Secretary, Maavai Senathirajah, but Senathirajah was at a meeting and had switched off his cellular phone. Shritharan then called the then National List MP, MA Sumanthiran in Colombo.
Upon hearing of the incident Sumanthiran also made a round of telephone calls to various Police circles. He also called the Ministerial Security Division. Despite these efforts the official response was rather lethargic. Shritharan and the other three continued to remain at the Sinhala household in Nochchiyagama without any one from the Police coming there or contacting them.


MA Sumanthiran


Disappointed by this lack of response, MA Sumanthiran telephoned the then Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mahinda Balasuriya directly. The IGP to his credit, apologised for the delay by the Police in responding. Within minutes the IGP got cracking and the Police machinery got into action.
Balasuriya got the telephone number of Shritharan from Sumanthiran and telephoned him personally. The IGP told the MP not to worry and assured him of speedy Police action. Within a short time, a Police party from Nochchiyagama arrived at the house and escorted Shritharan and the others to the Nochchiyagama Police station. The damaged vehicle was also towed there. Shritharan lodged a formal complaint about the attack at the Nochchiyagama Police Station.
A police contingent also went to the spot where the attack took place and cordoned off the area. A full scale probe was launched at daylight. Several people in the vicinity were questioned and statements recorded.
 Much evidence like shattered glass, empty bullets, grenade clip, unexploded grenade, etc were collected and photographs were taken. In addition to these, other pieces of evidence found in the vehicle were also collected. A team from the Government Analysts Department went to Nochchiyagama and conducted an inspection. The evidence collected was sent down to the Government Analysts Department in Colombo for further examination.
Statements were also recorded in detail from Shritharan, the bodyguard, driver and the undergraduate. Fortunately, none of them had any serious injury. Finally, the Police transported Shritharan and the rest in a Police vehicle to Colombo with increased Police escort. They had been at the Nochchiyagama Police Station from 7.14 to 11.30 pm. Shritharan reached his official residence at Madiwela at about 2.30 am.


Chamal Rajapaksa


Shritharan together with colleagues Senathirajah and Sumanthiran called on the then Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa at his chambers in the morning of March 8th before Parliament sittings commenced. The Speaker was shocked to hear of the attack. He promised the TNA of a full–fledged investigation into the incident. He contacted the IGP immediately and asked him for a full report. 
The IGP assured the speaker that he would provide a preliminary report on the following morning (March 9th). The Speaker then asked the TNA to be with him when the IGP presented the report.
Chamal Rajapaksa also allowed Sivagnanam Shritharan to raise a breach of privilege issue in Parliament. Shritharan made a short statement explaining in brief what had occurred. He also thanked his Police bodyguard and driver for their commendable action in safeguarding him.
Responding to Shritharan, the Speaker assured full safety and security for all MP’s. He also told Parliament that a full investigation will be conducted into the incident and a comprehensive report would be presented to Parliament in due course.


IGP Mahinda Balasuriya


When IGP Mahinda  Balasuriya  came with the preliminary report compiled by the Anuradhapura DIG of Police, several Tamil Parliamentarians including Shritharan were also present at the Speaker’s chambers. The IGP brought several photographs of the crime scene and the affected vehicle. He also related the different lines of inquiry being followed by the Police.
The IGP then stated that two teams of Police sleuths were investigating the incident. One was from the Anuradhapura district where the attack happened. The other was a special team sent from Colombo. Mahinda Balasuriya told Chamal Rajapaksa that a final report would be submitted in due course.


“Uthayan” Daily


Apart from his statement in Parliament, Sivagnanam Shritharan also made statements to various media organs about the attack. In a statement made to the “Uthayan” daily, Shritharan made an interesting observation. In the news story appearing in the “Uthayan”, Shritharan was quoted that the attack was a planned attempt to kill him and that his Tamil political opponents who were aligned with the government for concessions and ministerial posts were responsible.
EPDP leader and Cabinet Minister, Douglas Devananda responded to Shritharan’s coded attack by alleging that the so called attack had never taken place. Wimal Weerawansa also said the alleged incident was fabricated friction.
Responding to Weerawansa, former ITAK Jaffna district MP, Saravanabavan said that they had met the IGP earlier in the Speakers chambers where the Police chief had submitted a report with photographs about the incident. Contrary to Weerawansa, the IGP had confirmed clearly that there had been an attempt to kill Shritharan, said Saravanabavan.


Fabrication


There were also reports in some overseas Tamil websites insinuating that the attack on Shritharan was a fabrication. It was alleged that the entire episode was a contrived drama and that there had been no real assassination attempt. None of these accusations were substantiated with credible proof. They were for the most part wild speculation tinged with venom against Shritharan. However, the fact remains that no one was arrested or charged over the incident. The investigation petered out with the passage of time. For some inexplicable reason, Shritharan himself never pursued this firmly. He never exerted pressure on successive governments to probe and bring to book those allegedly responsible. 


Forgotten Chapter


Shritharan also did not make much of the incident in the propaganda speeches he made during the elections of 2015 and 2020.  The episode is almost like a forgotten or omitted chapter in the book about Shritharan’s life.
D.B.S. Jeyaraj  can be reached at 
[email protected]

 

 

]]>
https://bmkltsly13vb.compat.objectstorage.ap-singapore-1.oraclecloud.com/cdn.sg.dailymirror.lk/assets/uploads/image_77a3575c16.jpg 2024-01-27 00:00:00
Human lives at stake… When protectors of the law become predators https://www.dailymirror.lk/news-features/Human-lives-at-stake…-When-protectors-of-the-law-become-predators/131-275599 https://www.dailymirror.lk/news-features/Human-lives-at-stake…-When-protectors-of-the-law-become-predators/131-275599

SI carrying his pistol at the scene of crime

 

  • Following the Narammala shooting incident people are worried about their own safety
  • The dead civilian’s wallet is still missing, according to his best friend
  • Kumarasiri who was shot dead by the Narammala Police was the sole breadwinner of the family and his wife is unemployed

 

On Thursday (January 18), a sub-inspector attached to the Narammala Police Station opened fire at a civilian. The civilian, identified as K. A Roshan Kumarasiri succumbed to injuries instantly. The reason for this brutal encounter was the fact that the police officer who was in civilian clothes had signaled Kumarasiri to stop his lorry, but since there was no sign to identify him as a police officer, Kumarasiri had ignored the signal.Eyewitness accounts claim that the cop had chased after the lorry from Rammuthugala to Dampelessa. He had then pulled it over for a spot inspection, but eyewitness accounts claim that the sub-inspector had loaded his gun while going towards the lorry driver and subsequently opened fire. 


“We will take legal action” – Dharmasena

Kumarasiri, a father of three, had been a carpenter by profession, specialising in installing roofs. “On the day of the incident he was returning home after installing a roof in Katupotha,” said Mahesh Chinthaka Dharmasena, who claims to be Kumarasiri’s best friend. “The Police say that it was mistake, but that is not an excuse. The irony of the situation is that even at the time of the incident it was two police officers from the Narammala Police station who were deployed to inspect the scene of crime. Thereafter we heard that the two officers who were involved in the incident had been transferred and suspended from duties. But that is not a solution to this matter,”
said Dharmasena. 
Following the incident, area residents agitated in front of the Narammala Police Station. The cop opened fire near a vegetable shop in Dampelessa. In one video the owner of the

Ambika

vegetable shop, who is also the main eyewitness of this incident, blamed the cop for killing an individual. The cop appeared to be in shock, but was still waiving his pistol around. He even attempts to flee the scene at onepoint. 
“Kumarasiri’s two daughters are twins and will be sitting for their O/L exam this year. His son is in grade two. The wife is unemployed and Kumarasiri was the sole breadwinner of the family. There were around 15 employees working with him,” Dharmasena added. 
He said that providing compensation doesn’t solve the problem. “His wallet is still missing. We need to know why the police officer opened fire at him. We need justice and we will take legal action,” said Dharmasena. 


Police provides explanations

Following the incident, Acting IGP DeshabanduTennakoon ordered the launch of a special probe into the incident and issued a directive to the effect that policemen in civvies shouldn’t be allowed to stop vehicles. But the damage has already been done. Thereafter the police provided Rs. One million as compensation to the family of the victim. Police Media Spokesperson SSP Nihal Thalduwa said that the police officer behaved recklessly and had not adhered to proper procedures while carrying out his duties. A disciplinary inquiry too had been launched against the sub-inspector and constable who accompanied him. The sub-inspector has been remanded till January 31.


BASL calls for independent investigation

In the wake of the incident, ‘The Bar Association of Sri Lanka’ issued a statement calling for an independent investigation on the recent surge of fatalities involving the police. The BASL statement further said that the justice system provides a vital check and balance and should not be attacked for the sake of political point-scoring. “We vehemently denounce the use of divisive and deceptive rhetoric that undermines the rue of law and those dedicated to upholding it,” the statement read.

 

“Police officers must be easily identifiable”
- Satkunanathan 

 

The Police have been heavily criticised for alleged incidents of harassment while carrying out search operations under the Yukthiya programme. Following the

Kumarasiri

Narammala incident people are worried about their own safety. Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Human Rights Lawyer and former commissioner of the Human Rights Commission Ambika Satkunanathan responds to a few salient questions regarding the conduct of the police. 
Excerpts of the interview: 

 

What are your observations regarding the conduct of the police as of late?

The police are supposed to provide protection to the public. However, not only in Sri Lanka, but also in many other countries the police have become the predators. They are supposed to arrest law breakers, but instead the police break the law, violate human rights and are never held accountable. They also fail to take action to protect the public- for instance, it is quite common for women who try to lodge complaints about domestic violence to be turned away. The police breaking the law undermines respect for the rule of law in general, which makes society more insecure. 


Can a cop in civil clothes stop a vehicle ?

They should not because how would the public know it is a police officer and not a random civilian asking them to stop. Police officers must be easily identifiable through uniform, badge, insignia etc. 


Q What should the family or loved ones of a victim do in a similar situation? (Eg; file a case at HRCSL or any other actions they could take)

They can file a fundamental rights petition in the Supreme Court, but the verdict can take even years. They can initiate civil action for compensation, which can also take years. But both options require them to retain lawyers; which requires financial means. They can also file a complaint with the HRCSL, but the commission can only issue recommendations, which the state authorities can ignore.

 

 Sub-inspector captured on video following the incident

]]>

SI carrying his pistol at the scene of crime

 

  • Following the Narammala shooting incident people are worried about their own safety
  • The dead civilian’s wallet is still missing, according to his best friend
  • Kumarasiri who was shot dead by the Narammala Police was the sole breadwinner of the family and his wife is unemployed

 

On Thursday (January 18), a sub-inspector attached to the Narammala Police Station opened fire at a civilian. The civilian, identified as K. A Roshan Kumarasiri succumbed to injuries instantly. The reason for this brutal encounter was the fact that the police officer who was in civilian clothes had signaled Kumarasiri to stop his lorry, but since there was no sign to identify him as a police officer, Kumarasiri had ignored the signal.Eyewitness accounts claim that the cop had chased after the lorry from Rammuthugala to Dampelessa. He had then pulled it over for a spot inspection, but eyewitness accounts claim that the sub-inspector had loaded his gun while going towards the lorry driver and subsequently opened fire. 


“We will take legal action” – Dharmasena

Kumarasiri, a father of three, had been a carpenter by profession, specialising in installing roofs. “On the day of the incident he was returning home after installing a roof in Katupotha,” said Mahesh Chinthaka Dharmasena, who claims to be Kumarasiri’s best friend. “The Police say that it was mistake, but that is not an excuse. The irony of the situation is that even at the time of the incident it was two police officers from the Narammala Police station who were deployed to inspect the scene of crime. Thereafter we heard that the two officers who were involved in the incident had been transferred and suspended from duties. But that is not a solution to this matter,”
said Dharmasena. 
Following the incident, area residents agitated in front of the Narammala Police Station. The cop opened fire near a vegetable shop in Dampelessa. In one video the owner of the

Ambika

vegetable shop, who is also the main eyewitness of this incident, blamed the cop for killing an individual. The cop appeared to be in shock, but was still waiving his pistol around. He even attempts to flee the scene at onepoint. 
“Kumarasiri’s two daughters are twins and will be sitting for their O/L exam this year. His son is in grade two. The wife is unemployed and Kumarasiri was the sole breadwinner of the family. There were around 15 employees working with him,” Dharmasena added. 
He said that providing compensation doesn’t solve the problem. “His wallet is still missing. We need to know why the police officer opened fire at him. We need justice and we will take legal action,” said Dharmasena. 


Police provides explanations

Following the incident, Acting IGP DeshabanduTennakoon ordered the launch of a special probe into the incident and issued a directive to the effect that policemen in civvies shouldn’t be allowed to stop vehicles. But the damage has already been done. Thereafter the police provided Rs. One million as compensation to the family of the victim. Police Media Spokesperson SSP Nihal Thalduwa said that the police officer behaved recklessly and had not adhered to proper procedures while carrying out his duties. A disciplinary inquiry too had been launched against the sub-inspector and constable who accompanied him. The sub-inspector has been remanded till January 31.


BASL calls for independent investigation

In the wake of the incident, ‘The Bar Association of Sri Lanka’ issued a statement calling for an independent investigation on the recent surge of fatalities involving the police. The BASL statement further said that the justice system provides a vital check and balance and should not be attacked for the sake of political point-scoring. “We vehemently denounce the use of divisive and deceptive rhetoric that undermines the rue of law and those dedicated to upholding it,” the statement read.

 

“Police officers must be easily identifiable”
- Satkunanathan 

 

The Police have been heavily criticised for alleged incidents of harassment while carrying out search operations under the Yukthiya programme. Following the

Kumarasiri

Narammala incident people are worried about their own safety. Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Human Rights Lawyer and former commissioner of the Human Rights Commission Ambika Satkunanathan responds to a few salient questions regarding the conduct of the police. 
Excerpts of the interview: 

 

What are your observations regarding the conduct of the police as of late?

The police are supposed to provide protection to the public. However, not only in Sri Lanka, but also in many other countries the police have become the predators. They are supposed to arrest law breakers, but instead the police break the law, violate human rights and are never held accountable. They also fail to take action to protect the public- for instance, it is quite common for women who try to lodge complaints about domestic violence to be turned away. The police breaking the law undermines respect for the rule of law in general, which makes society more insecure. 


Can a cop in civil clothes stop a vehicle ?

They should not because how would the public know it is a police officer and not a random civilian asking them to stop. Police officers must be easily identifiable through uniform, badge, insignia etc. 


Q What should the family or loved ones of a victim do in a similar situation? (Eg; file a case at HRCSL or any other actions they could take)

They can file a fundamental rights petition in the Supreme Court, but the verdict can take even years. They can initiate civil action for compensation, which can also take years. But both options require them to retain lawyers; which requires financial means. They can also file a complaint with the HRCSL, but the commission can only issue recommendations, which the state authorities can ignore.

 

 Sub-inspector captured on video following the incident

]]>
https://bmkltsly13vb.compat.objectstorage.ap-singapore-1.oraclecloud.com/cdn.sg.dailymirror.lk/assets/uploads/image_6c829cbfea.jpg 2024-01-24 00:02:00
Duminda’s Conviction, Gotabaya’s Pardon and the Supreme Court Ruling https://www.dailymirror.lk/opinion/Duminda’s-Conviction--Gotabaya’s-Pardon-and-the-Supreme-Court-Ruling/172-275393 https://www.dailymirror.lk/opinion/Duminda’s-Conviction--Gotabaya’s-Pardon-and-the-Supreme-Court-Ruling/172-275393 Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa was portrayed as a monument of efficiency who could uplift Sri Lanka by his ‘Viyathmaga’ cronies and his family party the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) at the Presidential elections of 2019. More than 6.9 million people voted him to stupendous success, 
Barely three years later Gotabaya fled Sri Lanka and resigned as President due to a mass uprising against him that was described as the “Aragalaya”. A large number of the voters who elected him to office realised belatedly that their ‘hero’ was an incompetent, inefficient person who was unfit to be the President of Sri Lanka.
This notion of an inefficient ‘Veda beri Gota’ () was further reinforced this week by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. A three-judge bench comprising Justices Preethi Padman Surasena, Gamini Amarasekara and Arjuna Obeysekera ordered to set aside the Presidential pardon granted by the former the President to ex-MP, Duminda Silva for not following the Constitutional provisions correctly. Of course some may say this was not merely proof of his inadequacy or inefficiency but also an indication of Gota’s authoritarian arrogance.


Hirunika Mocks


Former Parliamentarian Hirunika Premachandra mocked the ex-President after the landmark Supreme Court ruling. As is well known, Hirunika is the daughter of former MP Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra for whose murder Duminda Silva was convicted. Hirunnika’s FR petition was one of the three taken up by the Supreme Court.
Addressing a media conference, Hirunika Premachandra said that “Gotabaya Rajapaksa was so ignorant that he could not even adopt the due procedure in granting a Presidential Pardon.”  She further alleged that “Gotabaya Rajapaksa gave into pressure by Duminda Silva’s faction and signed the document to grant Duminda the Presidential pardon, and ultimately ended up being humiliated”
Arumadura Lawrence Romelo Duminda Silva known as Duminda Silva was the fortunate recipient of a munificent Presidential Pardon on 24 June 2021. The convict on death row was released as a result of the pardon. Duminda Silva, a former Parliamentarian and ex-Provincial Councillor, was involved in a shooting incident in October 2011 during Local Authority Elections, where former MP Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra and three of his bodyguards were killed. 
The High Court of Sri Lanka convicted Duminda Silva and four of his associates for murder and imposed the death sentence on them in September 2016. Subsequently, the sentence was appealed, but a five-Judge bench of the Supreme Court upheld the murder conviction of Silva in October 2018. Despite the High Court conviction of 2016 being upheld by the Supreme Court in 2018, Duminda Silva was a free man in 2021 on Poson Poya Day. The then President Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa invoking article 34(1) of the Constitution, granted a Presidential pardon to 93 convicted prisoners including Duminda Silva on Poson Poya Day of 24 June 2021.


FR Petitions


Consequently, Bharatha’s daughter and Ex- MP, Hirunika Premachandra, her mother, Sumana Premachandra and former Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL), Ghazali Hussain filed three Fundamental Rights petitions challenging the legality of the Presidential pardon granted to Duminda Silva.   
After hearing the three Fundamental Rights petitions filed challenging the legality of the Presidential pardon granted by Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Supreme Court ruled on 17 January 2024 that the former President’s decision to grant a Presidential pardon to Duminda Silva was not valid in law, and quashed it. It was a unanimous decision of the three-judge bench.
Justice Preethi Padman Surasena delivered the judgement with Judges AGR Amarasekara and Arjuna Obeyesekere concurring. The court declared that the pardon granted to Duminda Silva by the former President was null and void and had no effect in law. 
 “As set out in Article 33(h) of the Constitution, it has only empowered the President to do acts and things which would not be inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution or written law. Thus, in this instance I hold that the former President has clearly violated the provisions in Section 3 (q) of the Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act No. 04 of 2015. I have to accept the Petitioners’ argument that the instant grant of pardon to the recipient of the pardon by the former President of the country, has totally eroded the confidence the public has reposed in the criminal justice system of the country,” stated Justice Surasena.   


SC Ruling Conclusion


The conclusion of the judgement was as follows - 
 “I have no legal basis or even a factual basis to uphold the decision made by the former President to grant a pardon to the recipient in the instant case. I hold that the said decision is arbitrary, irrational and has been made for the reasons best known to the former President who appears to have not even made any written decision and has not given any reason thereto. Further, no reason can be discerned from any document submitted by Hon. Attorney General as forming part of the record pertaining to the impugned grant of pardon. The Petitioners are therefore entitled to succeed with their petitions.
I proceed to grant the following relief to the Petitioners in SC FRA No. 221/ 2021, SC FRA No. 225/ 2021 and SC FRA No. 228/ 2021:
a) declaration that the Fundamental Rights guaranteed to the Petitioners by Article 12(1) of the Constitution have been infringed by the act of granting the afore-stated pardon to Arumadura Lawrence Romello Duminda Silva who stands as the 2nd Respondent in SC FRA No. 221/2021 and SC FRA No. 225/2021 and the 4th Respondent in SC FRA No. 228/2021 by the President of the country (former President) acting in his official capacity;
b) declaration that the decision to grant the pardon to Arumadura Lawrence Komello Duminda Silva who stands as the 2nd Respondent in SC FRA No. 221/2021 and SC FRA No. 225/2021 and the 4th Respondent in SC FRA No. 228/2021 by the President of the country (former President) is null and void and of no force or avail or any effect in law;
c) declaration that the pardon granted to Arumadura Lawrence Romello Duminda Silva who stands as the 2nd Respondent in SC FRA No. 221/2021 and SC FRA No. 225/2021 and the 4th Respondent in SC FRA No. 228/2021 by the President of the country (former President) is null and void and of no force or avail or any effect in law:
I proceed to quash the decision to grant the pardon to Arumadura Lawrence Romello Duminda Silva who stands as the 2nd Respondent in SC FRA No. 221/2021 and SC FRA No. 225/2021 and the 4th Respondent in SC FRA No. 228/2021 by the President of the country (former President).
I direct the Commissioner General of Prisons to take necessary steps in terms of law with regard to the implementation of the sentences imposed on Arumadura Lawrence Romello Duminda Silva (the 2nd Respondent in SC FRA No. 221/2021 and SC FRA No. 225/2021 and the 4th Respondent in SC FRA No. 228/2021) as per the judgments of Court (the judgment of
High Court of Colombo Case No. 7781/2015 read with the judgment of Supreme Court in case No. SC/TAB/2A-D/2017).


Legal Eagles


M.A. Sumanthiran PC with Suren Fernando appeared for former Parliamentarian Hirunika Premachandra. Eraj de Silva PC with Daminda Wijeratne, Janagan Sundramoorthy, Shehan Chamika Silva instructed by Dimuthu Kuruppuarachchi appeared for Sumana Premachandra. Jeffry Alagaratnam PC appeared for Attorney-at-Law Ghazali Hussain.   
 Gamini Marapana PC, Navin Marapana PC, Manohara de Silva PC and Anuja Premaratna PC appeared for Duminda Silva. Dr. K. Kanag-Isvaran PC appeared for the Bar Association of Sri Lanka. Additional Solicitor General Nerin Pulle appeared for the Attorney General. 


Sumanthiran PC


Hirunika Premachandra’s lawyer, MA Sumanthiran was contacted by this column for his views about the case. The Jaffna district Parliamentarian cum President’s Counsel observed thus - “This is a historic verdict. Hitherto it was assumed that an Executive pardon was not justiciable. This ground breaking judgment shows that no decision of the Executive is beyond review (except perhaps, the Declaration of War and Peace, since that is specifically excluded in the Constitution). This power of the President is clearly distinguishable from the Royal Prerogative, and can be reviewed by court; a welcome precedent that enhances the Rule of Law, and militates against arbitrariness.”
Let me conclude with a brief chronological outline of legal proceedings concerning the prosecution, conviction and ‘absolution’ of Duminda Silva.


Killed in Shoot-out


Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra known as “Lucky Aiya” and three of his bodyguards were killed on 8 October 2011 in a shoot-out near the Walpola junction close to Mulleriyawa town, about six miles away from Colombo city. Another bodyguard was seriously injured.
Instead of the perpetrators being arrested, the country was regaled with what appeared to be a massive cover-up exercise. There was an undue delay in effective legal proceedings being instituted. There was a long period of perceived procrastination attributed euphemistically to the law’s delays. The matter dragged on for years and it was widely believed that the aphorism “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied” was being proven true in this instance also.
The advent of a new dispensation under President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in 2015 saw a fresh breeze blowing in musty judicial corridors. The Attorney-General filed an indictment in courts on March 2015 for the killings of Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra, Dharshana Jayathilake, Mohamed Azmi and Manivel Kumaraswamy and also for inflicting gunshot injuries on Rajapurage Gamini. 


Trial-at-Bar


The indictment consisted of 17 charges against 13 suspects including Duminda Silva. The then Chief Justice, Kanagasabapathy Sripavan, appointed in May 2015 a three-member bench for Trial-at-Bar proceedings. The bench comprised three High Court Judges, namely Shiran Guneratne, Pathmini Ranawaka and M.C.B.S. Moraes. The Chairman was Shiran Guneratne.
Trial-at-Bar proceedings began on 22 May 2015. The case was heard on a regular basis from 12 September 2015. The names of the 13 accused were Chandana Jagath Kumara, Lanka Rasanjana, Malaka Sameera, Widanagamage Amila, Suranga Premalal, Saman Kumara, Saman Abeywickrema, Rohana Marasinghe, Duminda Silva, Anura Thushara de Mel, Chaminda Ravi Jayanath alias Dematagoda Chaminda, Dissanayake Mudiyanselage Sarath Bandara and Janaka Bandara Galagoda. The last named was tried in absentia as he was absconding. The accused were charged under Sections 296, 140, 146, 147, 486 and 300 of the Penal Code and some clauses of the Firearms Act.
Among the 17 charges were committing and conspiring to commit murder of four individuals, attempted murder, possessing illegal firearms, inflicting gunshot injuries, unlawful assembly and criminal intimidation on or around 8 October 2011. A team of lawyers from the Attorney General’s Department led by Deputy Solicitor General Thusith Mudalige represented the prosecution; 42 witnesses testified in Courts and 126 documents including Government Analysts reports and JMO reports were produced.


Two to One Verdict


Trial-at-Bar proceedings concluded on 14 July 2016. The verdict in the high profile trial was delivered on 8 September 2016. It was a divided verdict with two of three Judges finding five of the accused guilty and acquitting eight others. One judge however found all 13 accused not guilty.
High Court Judge Pathmini N. Ranawaka pronounced the two to one majority verdict in the packed Courthouse with Judge Moraes concurring. Judge Pathmini Ranawaka delivering the majority verdict stated that the prosecution had proved during the trial that the provocative conduct of 11th accused Duminda Silva led to the whole incident.
Courts then acquitted and discharged eight of the accused. They were – Chandana Jagath Kumara, Lanka Rasanjana, Malaka Sameera, Widanagamage Amila, Suranga Premalal, Saman Kumara, Saman Abeywickrema and Rohana Marasinghe. 


Death Sentence


The death sentence was pronounced for five persons. They were – Duminda Silva, Anura Thushara De Mel, Chaminda Ravi Jayanath alias Dematagoda Chaminda, Dissanayake Mudiyanselage Sarath Bandara and Janaka Bandara Galagoda. 

he 10th accused, Janaka Bandara Galagoda was tried in absentia and convicted. In addition to the verdict of execution, the five convicted persons were also fined Rs. 40,000 each.

 
Appeal to Supreme Court


The Trial-at-Bar High Court ruling was appealed at the Supreme Court. A five-Judge bench of the Supreme Court presided over by the then Chief Justice Priyasath Dep upheld the conviction unanimously. 
Chief Justice Dep issued a 51-page ruling on 11 October 2018. The outgoing Chief Justice Priyasath Dep in his order noted a string of crimes, including election law violations, committed by Silva and his cohorts culminating in the killing of Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra and three others.  The five-Judge bench arrived at a unanimous decision. The others on the bench were justices Nalin Perera, Buwaneka Aluwihare, Priyantha Jayawardena and Vijith K. Malalgoda. The Supreme Court upheld that Bharatha Lakshman and three others were shot dead at the behest of Duminda Silva. 


“Arbitrary and Irrational”


Though convicted for murder, Duminda Silva was pardoned due to the clemency of President Rajapaksa. No explanation was given. In that context, it is indeed poetic justice that the Supreme Court ruling chides the acts of omission and commission by Gotabaya Rajapaksa as “arbitrary and irrational”. 
  D.B.S. Jeyaraj can be reached at [email protected] 

]]>
Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa was portrayed as a monument of efficiency who could uplift Sri Lanka by his ‘Viyathmaga’ cronies and his family party the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) at the Presidential elections of 2019. More than 6.9 million people voted him to stupendous success, 
Barely three years later Gotabaya fled Sri Lanka and resigned as President due to a mass uprising against him that was described as the “Aragalaya”. A large number of the voters who elected him to office realised belatedly that their ‘hero’ was an incompetent, inefficient person who was unfit to be the President of Sri Lanka.
This notion of an inefficient ‘Veda beri Gota’ () was further reinforced this week by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. A three-judge bench comprising Justices Preethi Padman Surasena, Gamini Amarasekara and Arjuna Obeysekera ordered to set aside the Presidential pardon granted by the former the President to ex-MP, Duminda Silva for not following the Constitutional provisions correctly. Of course some may say this was not merely proof of his inadequacy or inefficiency but also an indication of Gota’s authoritarian arrogance.


Hirunika Mocks


Former Parliamentarian Hirunika Premachandra mocked the ex-President after the landmark Supreme Court ruling. As is well known, Hirunika is the daughter of former MP Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra for whose murder Duminda Silva was convicted. Hirunnika’s FR petition was one of the three taken up by the Supreme Court.
Addressing a media conference, Hirunika Premachandra said that “Gotabaya Rajapaksa was so ignorant that he could not even adopt the due procedure in granting a Presidential Pardon.”  She further alleged that “Gotabaya Rajapaksa gave into pressure by Duminda Silva’s faction and signed the document to grant Duminda the Presidential pardon, and ultimately ended up being humiliated”
Arumadura Lawrence Romelo Duminda Silva known as Duminda Silva was the fortunate recipient of a munificent Presidential Pardon on 24 June 2021. The convict on death row was released as a result of the pardon. Duminda Silva, a former Parliamentarian and ex-Provincial Councillor, was involved in a shooting incident in October 2011 during Local Authority Elections, where former MP Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra and three of his bodyguards were killed. 
The High Court of Sri Lanka convicted Duminda Silva and four of his associates for murder and imposed the death sentence on them in September 2016. Subsequently, the sentence was appealed, but a five-Judge bench of the Supreme Court upheld the murder conviction of Silva in October 2018. Despite the High Court conviction of 2016 being upheld by the Supreme Court in 2018, Duminda Silva was a free man in 2021 on Poson Poya Day. The then President Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa invoking article 34(1) of the Constitution, granted a Presidential pardon to 93 convicted prisoners including Duminda Silva on Poson Poya Day of 24 June 2021.


FR Petitions


Consequently, Bharatha’s daughter and Ex- MP, Hirunika Premachandra, her mother, Sumana Premachandra and former Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL), Ghazali Hussain filed three Fundamental Rights petitions challenging the legality of the Presidential pardon granted to Duminda Silva.   
After hearing the three Fundamental Rights petitions filed challenging the legality of the Presidential pardon granted by Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Supreme Court ruled on 17 January 2024 that the former President’s decision to grant a Presidential pardon to Duminda Silva was not valid in law, and quashed it. It was a unanimous decision of the three-judge bench.
Justice Preethi Padman Surasena delivered the judgement with Judges AGR Amarasekara and Arjuna Obeyesekere concurring. The court declared that the pardon granted to Duminda Silva by the former President was null and void and had no effect in law. 
 “As set out in Article 33(h) of the Constitution, it has only empowered the President to do acts and things which would not be inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution or written law. Thus, in this instance I hold that the former President has clearly violated the provisions in Section 3 (q) of the Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act No. 04 of 2015. I have to accept the Petitioners’ argument that the instant grant of pardon to the recipient of the pardon by the former President of the country, has totally eroded the confidence the public has reposed in the criminal justice system of the country,” stated Justice Surasena.   


SC Ruling Conclusion


The conclusion of the judgement was as follows - 
 “I have no legal basis or even a factual basis to uphold the decision made by the former President to grant a pardon to the recipient in the instant case. I hold that the said decision is arbitrary, irrational and has been made for the reasons best known to the former President who appears to have not even made any written decision and has not given any reason thereto. Further, no reason can be discerned from any document submitted by Hon. Attorney General as forming part of the record pertaining to the impugned grant of pardon. The Petitioners are therefore entitled to succeed with their petitions.
I proceed to grant the following relief to the Petitioners in SC FRA No. 221/ 2021, SC FRA No. 225/ 2021 and SC FRA No. 228/ 2021:
a) declaration that the Fundamental Rights guaranteed to the Petitioners by Article 12(1) of the Constitution have been infringed by the act of granting the afore-stated pardon to Arumadura Lawrence Romello Duminda Silva who stands as the 2nd Respondent in SC FRA No. 221/2021 and SC FRA No. 225/2021 and the 4th Respondent in SC FRA No. 228/2021 by the President of the country (former President) acting in his official capacity;
b) declaration that the decision to grant the pardon to Arumadura Lawrence Komello Duminda Silva who stands as the 2nd Respondent in SC FRA No. 221/2021 and SC FRA No. 225/2021 and the 4th Respondent in SC FRA No. 228/2021 by the President of the country (former President) is null and void and of no force or avail or any effect in law;
c) declaration that the pardon granted to Arumadura Lawrence Romello Duminda Silva who stands as the 2nd Respondent in SC FRA No. 221/2021 and SC FRA No. 225/2021 and the 4th Respondent in SC FRA No. 228/2021 by the President of the country (former President) is null and void and of no force or avail or any effect in law:
I proceed to quash the decision to grant the pardon to Arumadura Lawrence Romello Duminda Silva who stands as the 2nd Respondent in SC FRA No. 221/2021 and SC FRA No. 225/2021 and the 4th Respondent in SC FRA No. 228/2021 by the President of the country (former President).
I direct the Commissioner General of Prisons to take necessary steps in terms of law with regard to the implementation of the sentences imposed on Arumadura Lawrence Romello Duminda Silva (the 2nd Respondent in SC FRA No. 221/2021 and SC FRA No. 225/2021 and the 4th Respondent in SC FRA No. 228/2021) as per the judgments of Court (the judgment of
High Court of Colombo Case No. 7781/2015 read with the judgment of Supreme Court in case No. SC/TAB/2A-D/2017).


Legal Eagles


M.A. Sumanthiran PC with Suren Fernando appeared for former Parliamentarian Hirunika Premachandra. Eraj de Silva PC with Daminda Wijeratne, Janagan Sundramoorthy, Shehan Chamika Silva instructed by Dimuthu Kuruppuarachchi appeared for Sumana Premachandra. Jeffry Alagaratnam PC appeared for Attorney-at-Law Ghazali Hussain.   
 Gamini Marapana PC, Navin Marapana PC, Manohara de Silva PC and Anuja Premaratna PC appeared for Duminda Silva. Dr. K. Kanag-Isvaran PC appeared for the Bar Association of Sri Lanka. Additional Solicitor General Nerin Pulle appeared for the Attorney General. 


Sumanthiran PC


Hirunika Premachandra’s lawyer, MA Sumanthiran was contacted by this column for his views about the case. The Jaffna district Parliamentarian cum President’s Counsel observed thus - “This is a historic verdict. Hitherto it was assumed that an Executive pardon was not justiciable. This ground breaking judgment shows that no decision of the Executive is beyond review (except perhaps, the Declaration of War and Peace, since that is specifically excluded in the Constitution). This power of the President is clearly distinguishable from the Royal Prerogative, and can be reviewed by court; a welcome precedent that enhances the Rule of Law, and militates against arbitrariness.”
Let me conclude with a brief chronological outline of legal proceedings concerning the prosecution, conviction and ‘absolution’ of Duminda Silva.


Killed in Shoot-out


Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra known as “Lucky Aiya” and three of his bodyguards were killed on 8 October 2011 in a shoot-out near the Walpola junction close to Mulleriyawa town, about six miles away from Colombo city. Another bodyguard was seriously injured.
Instead of the perpetrators being arrested, the country was regaled with what appeared to be a massive cover-up exercise. There was an undue delay in effective legal proceedings being instituted. There was a long period of perceived procrastination attributed euphemistically to the law’s delays. The matter dragged on for years and it was widely believed that the aphorism “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied” was being proven true in this instance also.
The advent of a new dispensation under President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in 2015 saw a fresh breeze blowing in musty judicial corridors. The Attorney-General filed an indictment in courts on March 2015 for the killings of Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra, Dharshana Jayathilake, Mohamed Azmi and Manivel Kumaraswamy and also for inflicting gunshot injuries on Rajapurage Gamini. 


Trial-at-Bar


The indictment consisted of 17 charges against 13 suspects including Duminda Silva. The then Chief Justice, Kanagasabapathy Sripavan, appointed in May 2015 a three-member bench for Trial-at-Bar proceedings. The bench comprised three High Court Judges, namely Shiran Guneratne, Pathmini Ranawaka and M.C.B.S. Moraes. The Chairman was Shiran Guneratne.
Trial-at-Bar proceedings began on 22 May 2015. The case was heard on a regular basis from 12 September 2015. The names of the 13 accused were Chandana Jagath Kumara, Lanka Rasanjana, Malaka Sameera, Widanagamage Amila, Suranga Premalal, Saman Kumara, Saman Abeywickrema, Rohana Marasinghe, Duminda Silva, Anura Thushara de Mel, Chaminda Ravi Jayanath alias Dematagoda Chaminda, Dissanayake Mudiyanselage Sarath Bandara and Janaka Bandara Galagoda. The last named was tried in absentia as he was absconding. The accused were charged under Sections 296, 140, 146, 147, 486 and 300 of the Penal Code and some clauses of the Firearms Act.
Among the 17 charges were committing and conspiring to commit murder of four individuals, attempted murder, possessing illegal firearms, inflicting gunshot injuries, unlawful assembly and criminal intimidation on or around 8 October 2011. A team of lawyers from the Attorney General’s Department led by Deputy Solicitor General Thusith Mudalige represented the prosecution; 42 witnesses testified in Courts and 126 documents including Government Analysts reports and JMO reports were produced.


Two to One Verdict


Trial-at-Bar proceedings concluded on 14 July 2016. The verdict in the high profile trial was delivered on 8 September 2016. It was a divided verdict with two of three Judges finding five of the accused guilty and acquitting eight others. One judge however found all 13 accused not guilty.
High Court Judge Pathmini N. Ranawaka pronounced the two to one majority verdict in the packed Courthouse with Judge Moraes concurring. Judge Pathmini Ranawaka delivering the majority verdict stated that the prosecution had proved during the trial that the provocative conduct of 11th accused Duminda Silva led to the whole incident.
Courts then acquitted and discharged eight of the accused. They were – Chandana Jagath Kumara, Lanka Rasanjana, Malaka Sameera, Widanagamage Amila, Suranga Premalal, Saman Kumara, Saman Abeywickrema and Rohana Marasinghe. 


Death Sentence


The death sentence was pronounced for five persons. They were – Duminda Silva, Anura Thushara De Mel, Chaminda Ravi Jayanath alias Dematagoda Chaminda, Dissanayake Mudiyanselage Sarath Bandara and Janaka Bandara Galagoda. 

he 10th accused, Janaka Bandara Galagoda was tried in absentia and convicted. In addition to the verdict of execution, the five convicted persons were also fined Rs. 40,000 each.

 
Appeal to Supreme Court


The Trial-at-Bar High Court ruling was appealed at the Supreme Court. A five-Judge bench of the Supreme Court presided over by the then Chief Justice Priyasath Dep upheld the conviction unanimously. 
Chief Justice Dep issued a 51-page ruling on 11 October 2018. The outgoing Chief Justice Priyasath Dep in his order noted a string of crimes, including election law violations, committed by Silva and his cohorts culminating in the killing of Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra and three others.  The five-Judge bench arrived at a unanimous decision. The others on the bench were justices Nalin Perera, Buwaneka Aluwihare, Priyantha Jayawardena and Vijith K. Malalgoda. The Supreme Court upheld that Bharatha Lakshman and three others were shot dead at the behest of Duminda Silva. 


“Arbitrary and Irrational”


Though convicted for murder, Duminda Silva was pardoned due to the clemency of President Rajapaksa. No explanation was given. In that context, it is indeed poetic justice that the Supreme Court ruling chides the acts of omission and commission by Gotabaya Rajapaksa as “arbitrary and irrational”. 
  D.B.S. Jeyaraj can be reached at [email protected] 

]]>
https://bmkltsly13vb.compat.objectstorage.ap-singapore-1.oraclecloud.com/cdn.sg.dailymirror.lk/assets/uploads/image_7d9a2f323a.jpg 2024-01-20 00:00:00
Research on sex work during Lankan civil war: Sex workers and their faint cries to access basic rights https://www.dailymirror.lk/news-features/Research-on-sex-work-during-Lankan-civil-war:-Sex--workers-and-their-faint-cries-to-access-basic-rights/131-275146 https://www.dailymirror.lk/news-features/Research-on-sex-work-during-Lankan-civil-war:-Sex--workers-and-their-faint-cries-to-access-basic-rights/131-275146

Sri Lanka’s sex workers are a socially secluded group who are often denied access to basic rights. They now demand dignity of labor and for authorities to accept that sex work is work (Pic courtesy The Herstories Project, Sri Lanka) 

 

A broken pair of rubber slippers kept on a display caught this writer’s eye as she walked into the ICES auditorium to witness an exhibition that explored Women’s Histories of Sex Work during the conflict. One may wonder as to what a pair of slippers possibly had to do at an exhibition that explored a topic that is seldom spoken about in Sri Lankan society. But the slippers had a story of their own. The trilingual display read how this pair of slippers was the first gift that a girl received from her boyfriend. But upon suspicion that she had had an affair with his friend, the boyfriend had not only beaten her with the slippers, but had eventually deserted her. The pair of slippers is her first memory of a pleasant relationship. Now this girl is a sex worker, but her boyfriend remains her first love.


Complexities of the commercial sex industry 

As such, stories of 35 women from across the country were documented by Radhika Hettiarachchi along with ‘the Grassrooted Trust’ where each story underscored the complexities of sex work during the conflict and how they extend beyond that historical moment to the present as women still engage in the commercial sex industry for their livelihood. Some stories highlighted sexual violence and sexual impunity during the conflict, some the impact of the conflict on women and their mental health, some accounts were about childhood trauma of rape and its consequences, some about empathy and kindness while others highlight how these women who are sole breadwinners of their families have taken control of the economic opportunities sex work offers. 


“Nobody perceives this as a decent job. Everyone demeans it as indecent. But my main priority is to raise my children,” said one of the women who wished to remain anonymous while being feature on a video that captures the lives of sex workers. The Sex Workers and Allies South Asia (SWASA) network as per its peer-reviewed Status Report of Sex Workers (2023) states that the average sex worker is a woman between 26-50 years of age, who generally belongs to the urban poor, is a daily wage labourer, is directly affected by the war or is connected to the rural farming community.

 

“It is not about punishing these people for the only viable economic option that they have, but to make it safer and if they still choose to get out of it, to provide them ways in which they could get out of it without social recrimination”
-  Paba Deshapriya of The Grassrooted Trust


Even though sex work is widespread in Sri Lanka sex workers are often arrested under the Vagrants Ordinance No. 4 of 1841. This archaic law allows police to arrest without warrant “every common prostitute wandering in the public street or highway, or in any place of public resort, and behaving in a riotous or indecent manner”. For the record sex work is criminalised in Sri Lanka. 


The research identifies how sex workers who worked during and after the conflict are absent from the narratives of history. Their experiences are hidden behind social stigma, moral admonition and deliberate public silence. Therefore, this makes it difficult for this specific group of women to access compensation, recognition, accountability, justice and other economic opportunities afforded to survivors of a conflict in a setting of transitional justice. Women who shared their experiences during this project recollected how they had to remain low key in order to continue in their profession in a heavily securitised backdrop. 


Lucrative profession 

Many women showcased in the study have been placed in these circumstances due to poverty, war, displacement, the loss of a breadwinner or support system, compounded by the desperation of providing for their children/ families. 


*Manjula, a mother of one who is in her sixties and is from Puttalam, recollected memories of a brutal past. She is from a migrant fisher family and at the age of 19 or 20 she had eloped with a fisherman. “I lived with him. But one day he packed his clothes and said he’s going to work and never returned. I was thrown into sex work and my clients were mostly army personnel and policemen. We were afraid of the uniforms because they were in control. Eventually I became pregnant and later found out that the father of my child was legally married and settled. My parents thought I was doing a job, but I was worried about my child. I used to work at a shop, but I only earned Rs. 400-700 daily. But through this type of work I can earn about Rs. 4000-6000 daily; hence I thought of continuing as a sex worker.”


Stories of women like Manjula elaborate on how the war had presented an opportunity for women to break out of their strictly defined social roles, giving them the opportunity and agency to find more lucrative livelihoods. These women view their choice to become sex workers as an act of courage.

 

“My parents thought I was doing a job, but I was worried about my child. I used to work at a shop, but I only earned Rs. 400-700 daily. But through this type of work I can earn about Rs. 4000-6000 daily; hence I thought of continuing as a sex worker,” 
-Manjula

 


“Sex workers are doing a service”-*Kamala

*Kamala’s story reveals how some women engaged in sex work are courageous enough to emerge resilient and

Pair of slippers kept as a memory reminds one sex worker about her first love.  The items have been documented by the Praja Diriya Foundation..

 

A sex worker has kept a Camouflage T-shirt worn by the father of her son to remind him that he has a father, even though his name was not given for the birth certificate.

 

Birth control pills given to one woman who had hopes to marry her lover. 

self-sufficient while enduring harassment and violence. Kamala, a mother of two and in her late forties is from a family of farmers from Hasalaka, Kandy. Having settled in Polonnaruwa many Sinhalese farmers couldn’t engage in farming as LTTE terrorists would abduct and kill them.“They would cut you down if they found that you were a Sinhalese,” recalled Kamala. “But my husband didn’t want to endure the trauma and decided to return to my village and work as a wage labourer instead,” she said.


But one day, Kamala’s husband who had said he would visit the town never returned. “We tried to find him, telegrammed everyone, but to date there is no trace of him. The government said that they would compensate widows, but I haven’t received anything. When I visited the police to lodge a complaint they took my number down and promised help. But after my husband disappeared I had an affair with a policeman. He would secretly visit me at home because back then my two children were small. But later on I found out that he was already a family man. Thereafter I stopped seeing him,” she said. 


However Kamala recalled how she misunderstood people’s gestures. “Some shopkeepers gave me free food, dry rations and I thought they were doing that out of pity as I was widowed. But eventually they would ask me for sexual favours. Since I didn’t have money I engaged in sex work. But after sometime I gave up. People in my village respect me for who I am. I keep guard at my paddy field during the night,” she said. 


Kamala said that people shouldn’t view sex workers in disgust. “Sex workers are doing a service. We give a man what he doesn’t get from home and he is happy at least momentarily. I managed to educate my children, built my own house and therefore I believe that I am courageous,” she added. 


Building a context of sisterhood 

For this research, the women were identified through regional associations of sex workers and peer-to-peer introductions if they were not part of any networks. They shared their histories because they wanted these stories to add weight to their journey towards societal acceptance and equality before the law. When asked how the researchers built the trust with the women to narrate their true life stories, the project’s lead researcher Hettiarachchi said that out of the 35 women about 20-22 of them were associated in some way with the SWASA network.“So they may be part of regional organisations or small groups from Moneragala, Puttalam etc., but they are part of a larger movement leading them towards asking for few different things. One such requirement is not to get arrested, another one is about dignity of labour and another need is to not be penalised by using healthcare such as forcing them to do blood tests etc, but to actually care for their wellbeing. This association allows them a kind of sisterhood, a kind of space to engage and get to know each other. They have shared their stories and have built a trust over a period of time and thereafter we documented these cases,” said Hettiarachchi. 


A call to decriminalise sex work

The two-year research underscores how these women haven’t been given an opportunity to speak about violations they have experienced as whatever that happened during the war is outside public witness. “Women also think that this is part of their job and they don’t understand how much violence has permeated into their lives,” Hettiarachchi continued. “They don’t come forward from a justice point of view because sex work is often being look through a criminalised mindset. So the women themselves think they somewhat deserves this kind of violation and it’s something to be endured rather than challenged,” she said. 


Although the research highlights stories from the past it connects to the present as these women still don’t have access to the justice system and because of the way the law is being applied to sex work. “Most women who were interviewed for this project are still engaged in sex work; hence this isn’t their past as yet. Therefore by linking them with the SWASA network they have been given a platform to amplify their voices, a way to interpret one another and build a context of sisterhood,” Hettiarachchi added. 


Decolonising the law

The SWASA network is a movement comprising sex workers and their work in Sri Lanka has mainly been on decolonizing the legal system. The Vagrants Ordinance is a colonial law on vagrants to keep people away from white people and it is now being applied to sex workers as well. “Sex workers don’t need to be punished, they are doing all this to feed their children,” added Paba Deshapriya of The Grassrooted Trust. “Sometimes when their children find out about this they kick their mothers out. It is not about punishing these people for the only viable economic option that they have, but to make it safer and if they still choose to get out of it, to provide them ways in which they could get out of it without social recrimination,” said Deshapriya. 


In 2020 when a brothel was raided and seven sex workers were produced before the court, the judge ruled that sex work is not an offence if they’re engaging in it for a living. “The Vagrants Ordinance includes words such as ‘indecent’ which were all drafted according to the Victorian eye,” said Deshapriya. 
Deshapriya also spoke of how sex workers are being arrested while on their way home or while getting off the bus. “Our overall demand is to decriminalize sex work but until and unless the ordinance is repealed this demand will never see light of day,” said Deshapriya. 


Sex workers’ demands

Sex workers now demand the authorities to not arrest them under the Vagrants ordinance. They say that nobody can ask them to plead guilty for soliciting sex work or for loitering or being indecent because they are doing a job. “The findings of the status report where we interviewed over 300 women indicate that over 50% of women are asked to plead guilty by either their lawyers or law enforcement officers. This way they carry a criminal record, but they were actually not loitering or soliciting or being indecent, but were standing on the road in sex work. The police for example need to accept that sex work is work and not go about beating sex workers,” said Deshapriya. 

 

Sex workers are excluded from society to a point that sometimes they are reluctant to even obtain an ID for themselves. The status report indicates that 70% of them haven’t applied to obtain these documents. “They don’t go to the grama niladhari to inquire about these matters. The small percentage of women who have applied for these documents admit that they have been asked for sexual favors in order to be on the list! They don’t get birth certificates for their children because they don’t have a husband. Once they say they don’t have a husband they have to disclose what they do. Thereafter they cannot send their children to school and it’s a cycle of violence because of the stigma around sex work. As a result a lot of their rights are completely violated,” said Deshapriya.
The workers also recognize that their work is unsafe. “The status report lists out a number of threats which vary from the, being killed to raped, gang-rated, getting robbed, their children seeing them, parents walking into the room or to the house. Most of the time their workplace is not safe for them,” explained Deshapriya. 


Accepting sex work as another form of labour 

In 2017, the CEDAW committee in its concluding observations on Sri Lanka said that ‘faced with the constant threat of criminal action, sex workers in Sri Lanka are unable to benefit from Sri Lanka’s labour framework such as demanding safe and dignified working conditions or obtain social security benefits.’


When asked if sex workers are willing to change their profession Deshapriya said that it had been a longstanding argument. “For them, this is the only lucrative and viable mode of income. There have been various projects done to provide sex workers with alternative jobs, but they may not have skills to do other jobs,” said Deshapriya. 
Many don’t take to sex work as a choice, but do out of necessity. “But when you consent to have sex work it doesn’t mean your consent should be violated. Their men may be disabled or have abandoned women with children. Sex work is therefore a form of labour; a form of work,” said Deshapriya. 


However, going forward, the lead researchers of this project plan to work locally, with grama niladhari officers and most importantly lawyers who can accompany sex workers to the government officers or to the police. “However there’s a gap to be bridged and a lot of sensitization needs to happen at the ground level because that is where most challenges are. Hence our next step is to have these conversations with the lawyers,” Deshapriya concluded. 


As this writer walked past a camouflage T-shirt and a baby’s bonnet kept on display, these items further highlighted the emotional trauma endured by sex workers. The camouflage T-shirt is a memoir that a mother keeps to remind her son that he had a father ; “He gave me a child but not his name for my son’s birth certificate,” the display read, while the baby’s bonnet is the only cherished memory of a sex worker who gave birth to a stillborn child. 

(Names of women have been withheld 
under conditions of privacy)

]]>

Sri Lanka’s sex workers are a socially secluded group who are often denied access to basic rights. They now demand dignity of labor and for authorities to accept that sex work is work (Pic courtesy The Herstories Project, Sri Lanka) 

 

A broken pair of rubber slippers kept on a display caught this writer’s eye as she walked into the ICES auditorium to witness an exhibition that explored Women’s Histories of Sex Work during the conflict. One may wonder as to what a pair of slippers possibly had to do at an exhibition that explored a topic that is seldom spoken about in Sri Lankan society. But the slippers had a story of their own. The trilingual display read how this pair of slippers was the first gift that a girl received from her boyfriend. But upon suspicion that she had had an affair with his friend, the boyfriend had not only beaten her with the slippers, but had eventually deserted her. The pair of slippers is her first memory of a pleasant relationship. Now this girl is a sex worker, but her boyfriend remains her first love.


Complexities of the commercial sex industry 

As such, stories of 35 women from across the country were documented by Radhika Hettiarachchi along with ‘the Grassrooted Trust’ where each story underscored the complexities of sex work during the conflict and how they extend beyond that historical moment to the present as women still engage in the commercial sex industry for their livelihood. Some stories highlighted sexual violence and sexual impunity during the conflict, some the impact of the conflict on women and their mental health, some accounts were about childhood trauma of rape and its consequences, some about empathy and kindness while others highlight how these women who are sole breadwinners of their families have taken control of the economic opportunities sex work offers. 


“Nobody perceives this as a decent job. Everyone demeans it as indecent. But my main priority is to raise my children,” said one of the women who wished to remain anonymous while being feature on a video that captures the lives of sex workers. The Sex Workers and Allies South Asia (SWASA) network as per its peer-reviewed Status Report of Sex Workers (2023) states that the average sex worker is a woman between 26-50 years of age, who generally belongs to the urban poor, is a daily wage labourer, is directly affected by the war or is connected to the rural farming community.

 

“It is not about punishing these people for the only viable economic option that they have, but to make it safer and if they still choose to get out of it, to provide them ways in which they could get out of it without social recrimination”
-  Paba Deshapriya of The Grassrooted Trust


Even though sex work is widespread in Sri Lanka sex workers are often arrested under the Vagrants Ordinance No. 4 of 1841. This archaic law allows police to arrest without warrant “every common prostitute wandering in the public street or highway, or in any place of public resort, and behaving in a riotous or indecent manner”. For the record sex work is criminalised in Sri Lanka. 


The research identifies how sex workers who worked during and after the conflict are absent from the narratives of history. Their experiences are hidden behind social stigma, moral admonition and deliberate public silence. Therefore, this makes it difficult for this specific group of women to access compensation, recognition, accountability, justice and other economic opportunities afforded to survivors of a conflict in a setting of transitional justice. Women who shared their experiences during this project recollected how they had to remain low key in order to continue in their profession in a heavily securitised backdrop. 


Lucrative profession 

Many women showcased in the study have been placed in these circumstances due to poverty, war, displacement, the loss of a breadwinner or support system, compounded by the desperation of providing for their children/ families. 


*Manjula, a mother of one who is in her sixties and is from Puttalam, recollected memories of a brutal past. She is from a migrant fisher family and at the age of 19 or 20 she had eloped with a fisherman. “I lived with him. But one day he packed his clothes and said he’s going to work and never returned. I was thrown into sex work and my clients were mostly army personnel and policemen. We were afraid of the uniforms because they were in control. Eventually I became pregnant and later found out that the father of my child was legally married and settled. My parents thought I was doing a job, but I was worried about my child. I used to work at a shop, but I only earned Rs. 400-700 daily. But through this type of work I can earn about Rs. 4000-6000 daily; hence I thought of continuing as a sex worker.”


Stories of women like Manjula elaborate on how the war had presented an opportunity for women to break out of their strictly defined social roles, giving them the opportunity and agency to find more lucrative livelihoods. These women view their choice to become sex workers as an act of courage.

 

“My parents thought I was doing a job, but I was worried about my child. I used to work at a shop, but I only earned Rs. 400-700 daily. But through this type of work I can earn about Rs. 4000-6000 daily; hence I thought of continuing as a sex worker,” 
-Manjula

 


“Sex workers are doing a service”-*Kamala

*Kamala’s story reveals how some women engaged in sex work are courageous enough to emerge resilient and

Pair of slippers kept as a memory reminds one sex worker about her first love.  The items have been documented by the Praja Diriya Foundation..

 

A sex worker has kept a Camouflage T-shirt worn by the father of her son to remind him that he has a father, even though his name was not given for the birth certificate.

 

Birth control pills given to one woman who had hopes to marry her lover. 

self-sufficient while enduring harassment and violence. Kamala, a mother of two and in her late forties is from a family of farmers from Hasalaka, Kandy. Having settled in Polonnaruwa many Sinhalese farmers couldn’t engage in farming as LTTE terrorists would abduct and kill them.“They would cut you down if they found that you were a Sinhalese,” recalled Kamala. “But my husband didn’t want to endure the trauma and decided to return to my village and work as a wage labourer instead,” she said.


But one day, Kamala’s husband who had said he would visit the town never returned. “We tried to find him, telegrammed everyone, but to date there is no trace of him. The government said that they would compensate widows, but I haven’t received anything. When I visited the police to lodge a complaint they took my number down and promised help. But after my husband disappeared I had an affair with a policeman. He would secretly visit me at home because back then my two children were small. But later on I found out that he was already a family man. Thereafter I stopped seeing him,” she said. 


However Kamala recalled how she misunderstood people’s gestures. “Some shopkeepers gave me free food, dry rations and I thought they were doing that out of pity as I was widowed. But eventually they would ask me for sexual favours. Since I didn’t have money I engaged in sex work. But after sometime I gave up. People in my village respect me for who I am. I keep guard at my paddy field during the night,” she said. 


Kamala said that people shouldn’t view sex workers in disgust. “Sex workers are doing a service. We give a man what he doesn’t get from home and he is happy at least momentarily. I managed to educate my children, built my own house and therefore I believe that I am courageous,” she added. 


Building a context of sisterhood 

For this research, the women were identified through regional associations of sex workers and peer-to-peer introductions if they were not part of any networks. They shared their histories because they wanted these stories to add weight to their journey towards societal acceptance and equality before the law. When asked how the researchers built the trust with the women to narrate their true life stories, the project’s lead researcher Hettiarachchi said that out of the 35 women about 20-22 of them were associated in some way with the SWASA network.“So they may be part of regional organisations or small groups from Moneragala, Puttalam etc., but they are part of a larger movement leading them towards asking for few different things. One such requirement is not to get arrested, another one is about dignity of labour and another need is to not be penalised by using healthcare such as forcing them to do blood tests etc, but to actually care for their wellbeing. This association allows them a kind of sisterhood, a kind of space to engage and get to know each other. They have shared their stories and have built a trust over a period of time and thereafter we documented these cases,” said Hettiarachchi. 


A call to decriminalise sex work

The two-year research underscores how these women haven’t been given an opportunity to speak about violations they have experienced as whatever that happened during the war is outside public witness. “Women also think that this is part of their job and they don’t understand how much violence has permeated into their lives,” Hettiarachchi continued. “They don’t come forward from a justice point of view because sex work is often being look through a criminalised mindset. So the women themselves think they somewhat deserves this kind of violation and it’s something to be endured rather than challenged,” she said. 


Although the research highlights stories from the past it connects to the present as these women still don’t have access to the justice system and because of the way the law is being applied to sex work. “Most women who were interviewed for this project are still engaged in sex work; hence this isn’t their past as yet. Therefore by linking them with the SWASA network they have been given a platform to amplify their voices, a way to interpret one another and build a context of sisterhood,” Hettiarachchi added. 


Decolonising the law

The SWASA network is a movement comprising sex workers and their work in Sri Lanka has mainly been on decolonizing the legal system. The Vagrants Ordinance is a colonial law on vagrants to keep people away from white people and it is now being applied to sex workers as well. “Sex workers don’t need to be punished, they are doing all this to feed their children,” added Paba Deshapriya of The Grassrooted Trust. “Sometimes when their children find out about this they kick their mothers out. It is not about punishing these people for the only viable economic option that they have, but to make it safer and if they still choose to get out of it, to provide them ways in which they could get out of it without social recrimination,” said Deshapriya. 


In 2020 when a brothel was raided and seven sex workers were produced before the court, the judge ruled that sex work is not an offence if they’re engaging in it for a living. “The Vagrants Ordinance includes words such as ‘indecent’ which were all drafted according to the Victorian eye,” said Deshapriya. 
Deshapriya also spoke of how sex workers are being arrested while on their way home or while getting off the bus. “Our overall demand is to decriminalize sex work but until and unless the ordinance is repealed this demand will never see light of day,” said Deshapriya. 


Sex workers’ demands

Sex workers now demand the authorities to not arrest them under the Vagrants ordinance. They say that nobody can ask them to plead guilty for soliciting sex work or for loitering or being indecent because they are doing a job. “The findings of the status report where we interviewed over 300 women indicate that over 50% of women are asked to plead guilty by either their lawyers or law enforcement officers. This way they carry a criminal record, but they were actually not loitering or soliciting or being indecent, but were standing on the road in sex work. The police for example need to accept that sex work is work and not go about beating sex workers,” said Deshapriya. 

 

Sex workers are excluded from society to a point that sometimes they are reluctant to even obtain an ID for themselves. The status report indicates that 70% of them haven’t applied to obtain these documents. “They don’t go to the grama niladhari to inquire about these matters. The small percentage of women who have applied for these documents admit that they have been asked for sexual favors in order to be on the list! They don’t get birth certificates for their children because they don’t have a husband. Once they say they don’t have a husband they have to disclose what they do. Thereafter they cannot send their children to school and it’s a cycle of violence because of the stigma around sex work. As a result a lot of their rights are completely violated,” said Deshapriya.
The workers also recognize that their work is unsafe. “The status report lists out a number of threats which vary from the, being killed to raped, gang-rated, getting robbed, their children seeing them, parents walking into the room or to the house. Most of the time their workplace is not safe for them,” explained Deshapriya. 


Accepting sex work as another form of labour 

In 2017, the CEDAW committee in its concluding observations on Sri Lanka said that ‘faced with the constant threat of criminal action, sex workers in Sri Lanka are unable to benefit from Sri Lanka’s labour framework such as demanding safe and dignified working conditions or obtain social security benefits.’


When asked if sex workers are willing to change their profession Deshapriya said that it had been a longstanding argument. “For them, this is the only lucrative and viable mode of income. There have been various projects done to provide sex workers with alternative jobs, but they may not have skills to do other jobs,” said Deshapriya. 
Many don’t take to sex work as a choice, but do out of necessity. “But when you consent to have sex work it doesn’t mean your consent should be violated. Their men may be disabled or have abandoned women with children. Sex work is therefore a form of labour; a form of work,” said Deshapriya. 


However, going forward, the lead researchers of this project plan to work locally, with grama niladhari officers and most importantly lawyers who can accompany sex workers to the government officers or to the police. “However there’s a gap to be bridged and a lot of sensitization needs to happen at the ground level because that is where most challenges are. Hence our next step is to have these conversations with the lawyers,” Deshapriya concluded. 


As this writer walked past a camouflage T-shirt and a baby’s bonnet kept on display, these items further highlighted the emotional trauma endured by sex workers. The camouflage T-shirt is a memoir that a mother keeps to remind her son that he had a father ; “He gave me a child but not his name for my son’s birth certificate,” the display read, while the baby’s bonnet is the only cherished memory of a sex worker who gave birth to a stillborn child. 

(Names of women have been withheld 
under conditions of privacy)

]]>
https://bmkltsly13vb.compat.objectstorage.ap-singapore-1.oraclecloud.com/cdn.sg.dailymirror.lk/assets/uploads/image_011c90eebb.jpg 2024-01-17 02:05:00
Newlywed Sri Lankans forced to remain childless https://www.dailymirror.lk/news-features/Newlywed-Sri-Lankans--forced-to-remain-childless/131-275059 https://www.dailymirror.lk/news-features/Newlywed-Sri-Lankans--forced-to-remain-childless/131-275059

Some newlywedded couples argue that love alone is not sufficient to raise children at present and affirm that the economy must support the cause of adding to the population 

 

  •  According to the Department of Census and Statistics the number of new births has decreased by about 100,000 compared to previous years
  • Newly wedded couples opt for a marriage registration and utilise the money allocated for the wedding ceremony to immigrate 
  • Sources from the Department of Census and Statistics maintain that details about a decrease in marriage registrations have been concealed due to the fear that such information can impact upcoming elections 

The ongoing economic crisis in the country is not only impacting the availability of food, but has also had a significant effect on population growth. This is evident in the fact that the majority of individuals who married in the years 2021-2022-2023 are choosing not to have children, according to data provided by the Department of Census and Statistics. Consequently, compared to previous years, the number of new births has decreased by about 100,000. According to newly married couples, who chose not to have children in 2019 and 2020, the reason was the Covid epidemic. Due to the vaccinations administered to control the epidemic, they had to delay having children based on medical advice.  


Even though the COVID epidemic has subsided, newly married couples are showing reluctance to produce children; citing the country’s economic crisis as the reason. They say that raising children in a situation where they cannot afford living expenses adds an unnecessary burden.”We love children, but we choose not to have our own. It’s a personal decision. We entered wedded life getting in to debt and it will take at least six years to pay off the loan we’ve taken. Currently, we are renting a house and our income is insufficient to settle debts and pay for rent, daily necessities and utility bills. Additionally, there are concerns about job security due to ongoing issues at the work place. We’ve decided not to raise a child to prevent jeopardizing their future amid this economic crisis. The financial strain after childbirth-which includes expenses for formula and other necessities-poses a significant challenge. Providing proper education for children under these circumstances is also a concern. This is why we have chosen not to have children,” opined a newly married couple.  
Some argue that love alone is not sufficient to bring children into the world. They emphasise that their children would not receive a proper education in Sri Lanka. “Even families with just one child struggle to make ends meet with their monthly income. The recent increase in VAT has elevated the cost of everything. Additionally, there are limited job opportunities for children who receive education in Sri Lanka. Migration is becoming a common consideration. We do not want our children to endure the hardships that we face, even after obtaining an education. Therefore, we have decided against having children,” aired another couple sharing their views on marriage raising children.  
Moreover, many newlyweds and those on the verge of getting married aspire to migrate shortly after registering their marriage due to their inability to confront the economic crisis prevalent in the country. They often opt for a marriage registration and utilise the money allocated for the wedding ceremony to move abroad. In this scenario, one of the partners typically goes abroad first and eventually brings his or her spouse over after some time. The prospect of having children is not a priority in such circumstances as their future depends on the employment opportunities they secure overseas. These individuals also refuse to have children despite getting married.  
Another group says that their parents endured hardships on their behalf, and now they find themselves grappling with the country’s economic challenges. As a result, they are refusing to have children because of the possibility that they will have to undergo hardships due to the prevailing economic situation.  
Politicians and other authorities seem reluctant to acknowledge the fact that a significant number of newly married couples are refraining from having children. Consequently, certain officials express hesitation in releasing specific reports from the Department of Census and Statistics. A department spokesperson confirmed that this reluctance is solely to prevent the emergence of another issue amid the economic crisis in the country. The spokesperson of the Department of Census and Statistics added that there is a decrease in marriage registrations; indicating a possible halt in marriages due to the ongoing economic challenges. Additionally, it was reported that data has been concealed due to the fear that if such issues surface, especially with this year’s presidential and general elections approaching, it will significantly impact the voter base of those in power.   


Decrease in new births


Although the release of the latest data from the Department of Census and Statistics has been delayed, according to birth registration records covering the period July 2012 to June 2023 it appears that the number of new births has decreased by nearly 100,000. From July 2012 to June 2013, 352,450 new births were registered for the year 2013. From July 2013 to June 2014, 361,800 new births were registered for the year 2014. From July 2014 to June 2015, 342,108 new births were registered for the year 2015. From July 2015 to June 2016, 331,525 new births were registered for the year 2016. From July 2016 to June 2017, 322,089 new births were registered for the year 2017. From July 2017 to June 2018, 325,741 new births were registered for the year 2018. From July 2018 to June 2019, 329,177 new births were recorded for the year 2019. From July 2019 to June 2020, 299,875 new births were registered for the year 2020. From July 2020 to June 2021, 295,418 new births were registered for the year 2021. From July 2021 to June 2022, 289,863 new births were registered for the year 2022. From July 2022 to June 2023, 268,920 new births were registered for the year 2023.  
Compared to data from 2013, there was a rapid decrease in the registration of new births in Sri Lanka in the year 2023. Compared to 2013, 83,530 new births have decreased in 2023. Compared to 2013, the registration of new births in 2022 has decreased by 62,587. Compared to 2013, the birth registration in 2021 has decreased by 57032.  
It is also noteworthy that the majority of newly married individuals who do not have children are Sinhala Buddhists. A Muslim youth, recently married, expressed his views, stating that the Muslim community is also having fewer children due to the current economic crisis. Traditionally, Muslim families used to have about 3-5 children. However, considering the present economic challenges, he mentioned that the number of children in their community has now been limited to 2-3.  


According to the latest World Bank data, a family in Sri Lanka has limited the number of children to two. Data obtained from the Family Health Bureau and the Sri Lanka Police indicate that the Child Protection Authority points out that there were 2087 teenage mothers reported in the year 2022 alone. The authority shows that these pregnancies often resulted from instances of rape connected to intimate relationships or other circumstances. That number is associated with 4 percent of the teenagers. The police report also reveals that 1391 individuals who filed complaints of rape in this manner in 2022 became pregnant through consensual sexual activity.  
However, these teenagers who got pregnant were between the ages 15-19. Additionally, only one-third of abuses are reported to the Child Protection Authority and the police. A spokeswoman of the Child Protection Authority confirmed that it is widely acknowledged that the actual number of rape cases is seven times higher than those officially reported, even if not formally announced.  
Sixteen children with disabilities are born every day in Sri Lanka, as revealed in a 2020 survey conducted by the Department of Health. The survey report also indicates that 5800 children are born with birth defects annually. According to the report, 16 children with birth defects are born every day. Additionally, based on data from the health department, the number of foetuses dying in the womb after 7 months is about 1900. According to a recent report from 2016, the health sector has discovered that 650 illegal abortions are performed every day. The health department reports also state that there are more than 240,000 abortions done during a year.  
The reason for this, as pointed out by the health sector, is that young people are increasingly adopting the concept of not getting married and living together. Maintaining that it is difficult to have children in the face of COVID and economic crises, they adopt the concept of unmarried cohabitation. The various drugs and vaccines that these individuals take to prevent pregnancy have led to an increase in the birth of children with birth defects. There is also a rise in abortions. Therefore, a spokesperson from the Department of Health emphasised that te responsible parties should pay attention to this trend.  
Commenting on this issue Family Health Bureau Director Dr. Chithramali de Silva stated that there is no significant increase in the rape of teenage girls. “The information we receive is the number of teenagers among pregnant mothers registered with Public Health Midwives. There is no notable increase, and the information covers the entirety of Sri Lanka. In some areas, however, the percentage is higher. Apart from that, there is no significant increase. To assert that newly married people are not having children, we would need to conduct a survey as we currently lack the necessary data for that. However, the registration of new births is lower compared to previous years, and there is a decline in marriages. The COVID epidemic contributed to the decrease in new births,” said Dr. De Silva. She added that data provided by the Department of Census and Statistics suggests that most of the newly married couples are not raising children due to the current economic crisis.  


If so, this is another sad situation that this nation has to confront in the face of the economic crisis. This country having a promising generation of children in the future will remain a dream given the present situation in the country. Therefore, Sri Lankans hope that the authorities will swiftly pay attention to all these issues and provide a solid solution.

]]>

Some newlywedded couples argue that love alone is not sufficient to raise children at present and affirm that the economy must support the cause of adding to the population 

 

  •  According to the Department of Census and Statistics the number of new births has decreased by about 100,000 compared to previous years
  • Newly wedded couples opt for a marriage registration and utilise the money allocated for the wedding ceremony to immigrate 
  • Sources from the Department of Census and Statistics maintain that details about a decrease in marriage registrations have been concealed due to the fear that such information can impact upcoming elections 

The ongoing economic crisis in the country is not only impacting the availability of food, but has also had a significant effect on population growth. This is evident in the fact that the majority of individuals who married in the years 2021-2022-2023 are choosing not to have children, according to data provided by the Department of Census and Statistics. Consequently, compared to previous years, the number of new births has decreased by about 100,000. According to newly married couples, who chose not to have children in 2019 and 2020, the reason was the Covid epidemic. Due to the vaccinations administered to control the epidemic, they had to delay having children based on medical advice.  


Even though the COVID epidemic has subsided, newly married couples are showing reluctance to produce children; citing the country’s economic crisis as the reason. They say that raising children in a situation where they cannot afford living expenses adds an unnecessary burden.”We love children, but we choose not to have our own. It’s a personal decision. We entered wedded life getting in to debt and it will take at least six years to pay off the loan we’ve taken. Currently, we are renting a house and our income is insufficient to settle debts and pay for rent, daily necessities and utility bills. Additionally, there are concerns about job security due to ongoing issues at the work place. We’ve decided not to raise a child to prevent jeopardizing their future amid this economic crisis. The financial strain after childbirth-which includes expenses for formula and other necessities-poses a significant challenge. Providing proper education for children under these circumstances is also a concern. This is why we have chosen not to have children,” opined a newly married couple.  
Some argue that love alone is not sufficient to bring children into the world. They emphasise that their children would not receive a proper education in Sri Lanka. “Even families with just one child struggle to make ends meet with their monthly income. The recent increase in VAT has elevated the cost of everything. Additionally, there are limited job opportunities for children who receive education in Sri Lanka. Migration is becoming a common consideration. We do not want our children to endure the hardships that we face, even after obtaining an education. Therefore, we have decided against having children,” aired another couple sharing their views on marriage raising children.  
Moreover, many newlyweds and those on the verge of getting married aspire to migrate shortly after registering their marriage due to their inability to confront the economic crisis prevalent in the country. They often opt for a marriage registration and utilise the money allocated for the wedding ceremony to move abroad. In this scenario, one of the partners typically goes abroad first and eventually brings his or her spouse over after some time. The prospect of having children is not a priority in such circumstances as their future depends on the employment opportunities they secure overseas. These individuals also refuse to have children despite getting married.  
Another group says that their parents endured hardships on their behalf, and now they find themselves grappling with the country’s economic challenges. As a result, they are refusing to have children because of the possibility that they will have to undergo hardships due to the prevailing economic situation.  
Politicians and other authorities seem reluctant to acknowledge the fact that a significant number of newly married couples are refraining from having children. Consequently, certain officials express hesitation in releasing specific reports from the Department of Census and Statistics. A department spokesperson confirmed that this reluctance is solely to prevent the emergence of another issue amid the economic crisis in the country. The spokesperson of the Department of Census and Statistics added that there is a decrease in marriage registrations; indicating a possible halt in marriages due to the ongoing economic challenges. Additionally, it was reported that data has been concealed due to the fear that if such issues surface, especially with this year’s presidential and general elections approaching, it will significantly impact the voter base of those in power.   


Decrease in new births


Although the release of the latest data from the Department of Census and Statistics has been delayed, according to birth registration records covering the period July 2012 to June 2023 it appears that the number of new births has decreased by nearly 100,000. From July 2012 to June 2013, 352,450 new births were registered for the year 2013. From July 2013 to June 2014, 361,800 new births were registered for the year 2014. From July 2014 to June 2015, 342,108 new births were registered for the year 2015. From July 2015 to June 2016, 331,525 new births were registered for the year 2016. From July 2016 to June 2017, 322,089 new births were registered for the year 2017. From July 2017 to June 2018, 325,741 new births were registered for the year 2018. From July 2018 to June 2019, 329,177 new births were recorded for the year 2019. From July 2019 to June 2020, 299,875 new births were registered for the year 2020. From July 2020 to June 2021, 295,418 new births were registered for the year 2021. From July 2021 to June 2022, 289,863 new births were registered for the year 2022. From July 2022 to June 2023, 268,920 new births were registered for the year 2023.  
Compared to data from 2013, there was a rapid decrease in the registration of new births in Sri Lanka in the year 2023. Compared to 2013, 83,530 new births have decreased in 2023. Compared to 2013, the registration of new births in 2022 has decreased by 62,587. Compared to 2013, the birth registration in 2021 has decreased by 57032.  
It is also noteworthy that the majority of newly married individuals who do not have children are Sinhala Buddhists. A Muslim youth, recently married, expressed his views, stating that the Muslim community is also having fewer children due to the current economic crisis. Traditionally, Muslim families used to have about 3-5 children. However, considering the present economic challenges, he mentioned that the number of children in their community has now been limited to 2-3.  


According to the latest World Bank data, a family in Sri Lanka has limited the number of children to two. Data obtained from the Family Health Bureau and the Sri Lanka Police indicate that the Child Protection Authority points out that there were 2087 teenage mothers reported in the year 2022 alone. The authority shows that these pregnancies often resulted from instances of rape connected to intimate relationships or other circumstances. That number is associated with 4 percent of the teenagers. The police report also reveals that 1391 individuals who filed complaints of rape in this manner in 2022 became pregnant through consensual sexual activity.  
However, these teenagers who got pregnant were between the ages 15-19. Additionally, only one-third of abuses are reported to the Child Protection Authority and the police. A spokeswoman of the Child Protection Authority confirmed that it is widely acknowledged that the actual number of rape cases is seven times higher than those officially reported, even if not formally announced.  
Sixteen children with disabilities are born every day in Sri Lanka, as revealed in a 2020 survey conducted by the Department of Health. The survey report also indicates that 5800 children are born with birth defects annually. According to the report, 16 children with birth defects are born every day. Additionally, based on data from the health department, the number of foetuses dying in the womb after 7 months is about 1900. According to a recent report from 2016, the health sector has discovered that 650 illegal abortions are performed every day. The health department reports also state that there are more than 240,000 abortions done during a year.  
The reason for this, as pointed out by the health sector, is that young people are increasingly adopting the concept of not getting married and living together. Maintaining that it is difficult to have children in the face of COVID and economic crises, they adopt the concept of unmarried cohabitation. The various drugs and vaccines that these individuals take to prevent pregnancy have led to an increase in the birth of children with birth defects. There is also a rise in abortions. Therefore, a spokesperson from the Department of Health emphasised that te responsible parties should pay attention to this trend.  
Commenting on this issue Family Health Bureau Director Dr. Chithramali de Silva stated that there is no significant increase in the rape of teenage girls. “The information we receive is the number of teenagers among pregnant mothers registered with Public Health Midwives. There is no notable increase, and the information covers the entirety of Sri Lanka. In some areas, however, the percentage is higher. Apart from that, there is no significant increase. To assert that newly married people are not having children, we would need to conduct a survey as we currently lack the necessary data for that. However, the registration of new births is lower compared to previous years, and there is a decline in marriages. The COVID epidemic contributed to the decrease in new births,” said Dr. De Silva. She added that data provided by the Department of Census and Statistics suggests that most of the newly married couples are not raising children due to the current economic crisis.  


If so, this is another sad situation that this nation has to confront in the face of the economic crisis. This country having a promising generation of children in the future will remain a dream given the present situation in the country. Therefore, Sri Lankans hope that the authorities will swiftly pay attention to all these issues and provide a solid solution.

]]>
https://bmkltsly13vb.compat.objectstorage.ap-singapore-1.oraclecloud.com/cdn.sg.dailymirror.lk/assets/uploads/image_9de26c15ce.jpg 2024-01-16 00:00:00