Tuesday, September 28, 2004

‘Don’t resettle in areas mined by SLA’ - LTTE [TamilNet, September 28, 2001 04:44 GMT]

The Liberation Tigers said Friday that displaced civilians in Jaffna are being resettled in areas where land mines laid by the Sri Lanka army haven’t been removed. They said that the family of six that was killed in a land mine explosion on 24 September was among the displaced residents who were resettled in Irupalai where no SLA mines fields have been cleared so far. Meanwhile, Jaffna court sources said that residents of Irupalai had complained to Jaffna District Judge T. Vignarajah about the danger they face from land mines left behind in the village by the SLA when he visited the scene of the explosion that killed the family on 24 September. The sources said that the matter would be recorded at the inquest.

A leaflet issued by the LTTE’s political wing in the Jaffna district states, “The army laid many mine fields in the Irupalai area when it was constructing defences there, expecting an onslaught by us during Operation Unceasing Waves IV. None of these mines and mine fields have been removed so. Civilians who were resettled in Irupalai were not even warned of the danger.”

“Many people who were resettled by the army in similarly dangerous zones in the Thenmaradchi division where war can break out anytime have lost limb and life due to land mine explosions. There too our warnings were ignored. And the resettled civilians were not admonished of the danger posed by the mines,” the LTTE leaflet says.

Jaffna court sources said that the villagers of Irupalai had informed the Jaffna district judge that two persons were killed when the mini - tractor in which they were travelling was hit by a land mine in ‘V.H Lane’ in December last year and that many cattle and goats in the village have been killed by the mines left behind by the army.

The Irupalai residents had pointed out to him that they come to know the presence of anti personnel mines laid by the SLA in many parts of the village only when they are triggered off by ripe coconuts which fall from trees.

Catholic shrine demolished, Mannar tense [TamilNet, September 29, 2003 11:23 GMT]

Mannar town was tense Monday following the demolition of a catholic shrine in Erukkalampiddi, a Muslim village in the western part of the Mannar Island. Officials from the Mannar District Secretariat, the Liberation Tigers and officers from the Sri Lanka army and Police were engaged in talks to defuse the situation amid a sit in protest in the town by more than a thousand catholic fishermen from Pallimunai, a coastal suburb of Mannar town, who had built the shrine.

Muslim owned shops and businesses closed when reports of the attack on the shrine reached the town.

A group of persons from Erukkalampiddi village had attacked and demolished the shrine of St. Anthony at Oosi Mookkan Thurai between 7.30 and 8.30 a.m. Monday morning.

Three persons were injured during a fisticuff between some local Muslims and a group of Pallimunai fishermen when the latter visited the spot upon hearing reports of the attack later on Monday morning, Police said. They have been admitted to the Mannar hospital.

TamilNet’s Mannar correspondent who visited the spot this afternoon by boat with a group comprising the Mannar Government Agent and officials from the Mannar District Secretariat and the Parish priest for Pallimunai, Rev. A. Gnanapragasam, said the shrine was completely demolished.

The Mannar region remains tense and a large number of Police personnel have been moved into the town, he said. Military and Police guards have been posted at the in mosques in Moor Street, Uppukulam and Periyakadai, according to him.

Mannar GA and the Bishop of Mannar spoke to the protesting Pallimunai fishermen around noon to defuse the escalating tensions. Brigadier Sarath Fernando, the commanding officer for Sri Lanka army’s 2-5 and 21-2 Brigades in the Mannar District and Senior Superintendent of Police for Vanni, Mr. Mohammed Miskin were also present at there.

The Erukkalampiddy village is located in a small promontory 6 kilometres northwest of the Mannar town. The shrine is about 5 kilometres from the village, located on a remote part of the promontory’s coast called Oosi Mookkan Thurai. Fishermen from Pallimunai who fish in these parts and use the spot to dry their nets put up the shrine about 20 years ago, according to Mannar Catholic Church sources.

The shrine, built originally as a thatched wooden structure, was burnt on two occasions by mobs of Muslims from Erukkalampiddi.

“People in Erukkalampiddi tend to see the shrine as catholic encroachment into a Muslim enclave in this part of Mannar”, said an official who visited Oosi Mookkan Thurai Monday morning.

An emergency meeting was convened later Monday afternoon at the District Secretariat to explore measures to diffuse the situation. Mr. Noordin Mashoor, Minister Assisting Vanni Rehabilitation and Tamil National Alliance MPs for Vanni, Mr. Selvam Adaikalanathan and Mr. Sivasakthi Anandan are also taking part in the meeting, a Mannar kachcheri officials said.

Government must rope-in diaspora to the peace process By Champika Liyanaarachchi

How many of the 10,000 odd Tamil expatriates who gathered at Queens Park, Toronto last Saturday, carrying placards of Vellupillai Prabhakaran, will return to Sri Lanka if a final negotiated settlement is reached to the North and the East conflict?

In all probability there would not be even a fourth of them willing to leave the green pastures.

The Tamil Diaspora which finances the maintenance of both the political and the military wing of the LTTE, including the child soldiers, would always prefer to give their own children a western education and enjoy quality living standards in places like Toronto, London, Oslo or Melbourne.

For the majority of them, events like Pongu Thamil provide the necessary catharsis to vent their anger against the Sri Lankan State and demonstrate solidarity with the LTTE, the organization that has taken on their 'enemy' in a major way after they left the shores.

Those who have paid a visit to the motherland and witnessed the changes that have taken place in the centre, over the years, especially since the truce, perhaps have got over the anger and hate against the State to a certain extent.

On the other hand, for their youngsters especially for the ones who were born after Black July, Prabhakaran is a kind of a village thug who waged a war against the 'hostile' government which forced their parents to flee the country.

Though the Tiger supremo may not be their type of a hero, the influence of parents and also some of the horrifying accounts they have heard about the atrocities back in Sri Lanka, probably have made them uphold convictions similar to those held by their parents.

Ironically, despite this demonstration of solidarity with the Tigers, the reality is that, given a chance, a majority of the Tamil Diaspora will opt to remain in their host countries, especially if a predominantly LTTE administration starts ruling the North and East in a post-conflict period.

They are not prepared to forego the style of living they enjoy now and return to the 'Tamil homeland' or the federal state of the North and East which will take at least a decade to provide them with a decent standards of living.

Also, though hero-worshipped from a distance, these expatriates know for sure, that Velupillai Prabhakaran is not somebody they could trust while living under his writ especially when it comes to their freedom.

So the monies will be doled out, demonstrations will be held, but the distance will always be kept - a distance of tens of thousands of kilometres.

Apart from this, there are other trends.

For instance Sri Lankan Tamils living in the West especially those in Canada are passing through a period of transition of identity.

According to R. Cheran, Jaffna-born lecturer in Sociology at the York University, Toronto, during the 2001 census in Canada, despite strong requests from Tamil organizations to all Tamils to identify themselves as Tamils, only 96, 645 out of the 215,000 of the community had given their identity as Tamils.

It is very likely that the number would be further diminished given the penchant of the younger generation to dissociate themselves from Asian roots and identify more with the West.

Another contributory factor to this phenomenon is the hybrid Tamil identities - like Tamil- Canadian, Tamil- Dutch and Tamil- Norwegian that followed the mass exodus to these western destinations.

However, this fact in no way discounts the powerful position the Sri Lankan Tamils expatriates enjoy especially in Canada and the UK.

With a sizeable percentage of asylum seekers getting citizenship in the host countries, the Sri Lankan Tamils have managed to draw the attention of even local politicians from remote constituencies of these two countries, to the North-East conflict in Sri Lanka.

As a result, a large number of Canadian politicians from areas where there are heavy concentrations of Tamils have become champions of Tamils rights with a view to being in the good books of their constituents.

A good example of the power wielded by the Tamil diaspora was the manner they elected 86 Liberal party delegates from Ontario to support Prime Minister Paul Martin in September last year.

Therefore, given their strong presence in key cities in the West and also due to their decisive role in influencing the outcome of the North- East conflict, the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora has become a popular research subject among conflict analysts.

Numbering some 800,000 they are part of the 175 million people or 3% of the total world population, who live outside the country of birth and, along with the Irish, Kurds and Palestinians, form the most vibrant diasporas which 'fight' for the self-determination and rights of their communities back at home.

Of the 800,000 Sri Lankan Tamil migrants, about 250,000 have their applications rejected or pending appeal. However, nearly 40% of these have managed to find employment while the rest live solely on the dole.

According to researchers on the subject, the LTTE's international fundraising through the Tamil Diaspora ammounts to about US$ 80 million per year while the Tigers continue to deny this figure.

September 11, 2001 has seen a shift in the outlook of certain western countries towards Diaspora communities. Those who are from conflict- ridden countries are often viewed as potentially dangerous groups which bring their 'home' conflicts to the host countries.

Nine months after 9/11 Sri Lanka too rushed to enter into an agreement with the European Union to repatriate illegal asylum seekers in Europe in May 2002.

The agreement came into being at a time when the UNF government was marketing the peace process among the donor nations in order to help salvage the economy which by the time they came into office had reached its nadir with the public debt stock at Rs. 1,450 billion in 2001 surpassing the GDP.

The same period also saw fears of mass repatriation on the rise in Europe with a strong wave of nationalism sweeping across the continent especially with far right wingers like Le Pen in France taking a strong hostile stand on Asian and African expatriates.

As expected the repatriation agreement signed by the European Union's External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten and then Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka Tyronne Fernando, earned strong reactions from the Tamil Diaspora as well as local Tamils.

Immediately after the pact, the Uthayan newspaper quoted a Belgian Tamil news agency claiming that the purpose of the agreement reached in Brussels was to seek financial assistance to overcome the crisis the Sri Lanka government was saddled with.

One may not forget that almost half of the Sri Lankan Tamils in European destinations are not really the victims of Black July, but those who made use of the opportunity to improve their economic prospects and later got their families too to join them.

So these will continue to live where they are now - notwithstanding the improvements in the conditions in Sri Lanka.

In fact the majority of those who really suffered due to the riots, are the ones who fled to India and still continue to live there under extremely trying circumstances.

The repatriation agreement also saw the domestic Tamil population expressing their fears about the potential destabilizing effect that a large influx of refugees from abroad without proper plans for their welfare, would have on the North and the East.

From the LTTE point of view the deportation of illegal immigrants meant Tigers losing a chunk of their funds.
One did not hear much about the agreement afterwards and now with the spate of killings carried out especially in the East, and with the UNHCR still maintaining the position that the situation is not conducive to repatriation, the asylum seekers in the greener pastures have ample excuses to stay back.

Though return is still not an option considered by a majority of them, the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora is making a meaningful contribution to help improve the condition in the North and the East through legitimate financial assistance and capacity building measures. This is besides the financial assistance to the Tigers.

This is especially so in the health sector with organizations like - the Medical Institute of Tamils (MIOF) and TamMED which send their doctors to the Wanni and Jaffna to help the local doctors and also to impart knowledge. Besides, there are several individual physicians who do voluntary work.

Unfortunately other than the LTTE network there is no other strong set-up by the Sri Lanka government or the civil society to get the Diaspora, be they Tamil, Muslim or Sinhala, involved in the peace process or development work in Sri Lanka.

The African countries have set a very good example for the Asians in this regard.

The South African Diaspora agencies in the West, the programmes launched by the Nigerian government to maximize the involvement of its Diaspora in developing the country and the special departments created by the Ivory Coast to get the assistance of the diasporas are among them.

In addition, other countries like Uganda, Mali and Senegal are now following suit.

In the case of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, the historical reasons may deter a vast majority of them from getting involved in the development work in the Sinhala areas for some time. The absence of institutional mechanisms however has made it difficult for those who want to make their contributions outside the LTTE network, to do so even in Tamil areas.

Following the ceasefire agreement we witnessed how thousands of Tamil expatriates paid visits to Sri Lanka and made investments even in Colombo in an obvious sign that there has been a marked shift in their attitude towards the South.
It is high time that the government and the civil society opened a forum for them to get involved in a dialogue and push the peace process forward in a more meaningful way than simply carrying placards in far away destinations.

Top Tiger team flies to Geneva today

An LTTE delegation led by its political wing chief S.P. Thamilselvan is flying to Geneva today to discuss its ISGA proposals with its legal experts.

A special Air Force helicopter was scheduled to fly the ten-member delegation from Kilinochchi to the BIA for a flight from there to Geneva after dinner at the Airport Garden Hotel at Katunayake.

LTTE Peace Secretariat head Pulidevan, LTTE's police Chief Nadesan and Eastern Political head Kaushalyan are in the delegation. They are scheduled to travel from Geneva to Oslo on October 7 for talks with Norwegian facilitators Vidar Helgesen and Erik Solheim.

The delegation during their three-week tour is expected to meet United Nations officials in Geneva and political leaders in Ireland and Belgium.

The LTTE's chief negotiator Anton Balasingham is expected to join the delegation in Oslo.

"We will impress on the foreign governments to pressurize the Sri Lankan government to come back for talks immediately," Mr. Thamilselvan told Reuters yesterday before flying out of Kilinochchi.

He said the delegation would also appeal for funding to rebuild areas under the LTTE control in the north and east which he said still lay in ruins after years of crossfire and shelling.

Mr. Thamilselvan also said:

"We have clearly emphasized that we are always ready for the resumption of talks. That is the truth. The President does notseem to understand this."

The government insists the rebels must agree to talk permanent peace before granting interim self-rule, a Catch-22 situation paralyzing peace talks in an impasse that will likely stretch on for months.

Norway says killings beyond its control

The Norwegian government yesterday condemned all factional killings in Sri Lanka and said such acts were a danger to the peace process and the Ceasefire Agreement.

Referring to news reports that the Norwegian government had given an assurance to the EPDP that it would take steps to prevent further killings, a Norwegian Embassy spokesman said yesterday that the facilitators could not give such an assurance on matters that did not come under their control.

He said the political killings were essentially internal matters and Norway could give no assurances regarding such matters.

No swap, but moves under way for release of two homeguards By Sunil Jayasiri

As SLMM Chief Trond Furhovde prepares to meet LTTE political wing leader S. P. Thamilselvan near Katunayake today to negotiate the release of two homeguards by the LTTE, the government reiterated it would not agree to any prisoner swap.

Mr. Thamilselvam and an LTTE delegation are due to arrive at the BIA today to take a flight to Geneva and the SLMM chief is likely to meet him at the Airport Garden Hotel.

Public Security Ministry Secretary Tilak Ranaviraja said the detention of two members of the security forces was a violation of the ceasefire terms and it was clear the LTTE was exploiting the agreement to its advantage.

He said that when government forces arrest any LTTE cadres, they brought the matter to the notice of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission and the two peace secretariats as required by the Ceasefire Agreement, but the LTTE was not observing such procedures.

He said if the government agreed to any prisoner swap, it might set a dangerous precedent with the LTTE taking in more security forces members and demanding swaps.

The secretary said that on a directive from President Chandrika Kumaratunga, a special committee headed by Deputy Defence Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake was appointed to work out the release of the homeguards.

He said the committee including Defence Ministry Secretary Cyril Herath, a representative from the Presidential Secretariat and himself decided to exert 'strong pressure on the LTTE through the SLMM for the release of homeguards.

Security measures blamed for student desertions [TamilNet, September 18, 1999 02:55 GMT]

Students attending Tellipallai Mahajana College, which began functioning in its own buildings this Wednesday after nine years, have been subjected to severe body checking, said sources. The school is in the security zone.

Students coming from Kankesanthurai and Ambanai areas have been asked to hand over their identity cards at two army check points. Thereafter security forces transport them in their vehicles to the school, sources said.

During school hours no outsiders are allowed to enter the college premises. Students are also not allowed to leave the security zone during school hours, added sources.

These restrictions imposed by the army have caused severe hardships to the students and about 400 students have left the school, the sources said.

Earlier the total strength of the students was at about 1300, school sources said.

Most of the buildings of the college have been found damaged, school sources added.

Tellipalai Mahajana College, a leading educational institution in the peninsula was moved out to Pandatharippu Hindu College in October 1990. From there it was shifted to Inuvil Central College and then to Alaveddy Arunothaya Vidiyalayam.

Does the US government have strategic interests in Sri Lanka? If so, what are they? By Taraki

There are two schools of thought that seek to explain America's quest for global power. The dominant and popular school argues that American military power projection across the world is driven mainly by the desire to control vital resources and the domination of global sea lanes on which these resources have to be shipped to America and its allies.

The average reader has heard all about the war for oil and other vital resources and remains quite convinced about the arguments of this school of thought that dominates most public discourse on the US government's global interests. Those who subscribe to this school of thought are generally inclined to believe that America has no real strategic interests in Sri Lanka.

The second, lesser-known school, avers that there is more to US military expansionism than the securing of vital resources. If the US is driven only by the need to secure vital resources to sustain the economic foundations of its sole super power status then it is perfectly possible to do so by buying those resources in the world markets, according to this school of thought. Japan became the second biggest economic power in the world by buying oil and other vital resources at market prices. The same can be said of Korea and Taiwan. China, which is fast emerging as a super power, never went to war over oil.

Chalmers Johnson, a well-regarded American scholar, who is one of the main proponents of this view, provides an interesting illustration: After the first war for oil, the US spent 50 billion dollars out of its annual budget to defend the Persian Gulf. The annual cost of oil the US imported during that period was 11 billion dollars - the imports accounted only for ten percent of annual American consumption (for an insight into the workings of the US imperial military system at work around the world read his book 'Blowback')

Quite obviously the US military was not spending 50 billion dollars to protect and bring back 11 billion dollars worth of oil to America!

As one who subscribes to the second school of thought on US military expansionism, I will corroborate this point further with an example from the horse's mouth.

An American defence analyst argues in a centennial issue of the United States War College journal, 'Parameters', that the US should have a foothold on the Spratlys Islands in South China Sea.

"The Spratlys are not Kuwait - they are not even Falklands. They are not about oil, they are not about democracy, and they are not about human rights- for the most part they are not even inhabited. The correct answer, of course, is that in the Spratlys we would be fighting over the balance of power in Asia", ('An Evitable War: Engaged Containment and the US-China Balance' by Lt. Col. Roy C. Howle, acting executive officer and military assistant for operations to the Undersecretary of the US Army, in 'Parameters' Vol. XXXI, No. 3, Autumn 2001)

Simply put, the US wants to advantageously position its military power in all strategically important parts of the world so that the balance of power ineach region would inevitably and overwhelmingly be on its side. This would preclude the rise of any global hegemon like the USSR in the future and would help the US 'overdetermine' the course of world affairs by being in a position to effectively project its power in every nook and cranny of this planet. The US government's strategic interests in Sri Lanka are intertwined with its military objectives in South Asia and Asia.

Therefore a brief overview of the strategic objectives of the US in Asia in general and South Asia in particular is necessary to identity and understand the development of US military interests in Sri Lanka.

Four years ago the US Deputy Chief of Staff for Air and Space Operations, the US Air Force and the Commander of the US's Pacific Air Forces commissioned a study on projecting US military power in Asia. The research for the project was carried out by RAND Corporation.

According to the declassified version of this study - 'The US and Asia: Toward a New Force Posture'- America's "access strategy" in Asia is centred on "increasing opportunities for deployments and exercises and on the development of contingency agreements with potential security partners in the area" - in South Asia this means Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives and Nepal. It should be noted here that the "access strategy" also includes plans to significantly increase electronic and other intelligence assets in the territories of potential security partners in the region.

In this context it is interesting to note what the study says of potential security partners in the region such as Sri Lanka: "In the near term, access strategy for Asia should centre on increasing opportunities for deployments and exercises and on the development of contingency agreements with a number of potential security partners in the area. Depending on the closeness of the resulting relationship, this could include measures to tailor local infrastructure to USAF operations by extending runways, improving air traffic control facilities, repairing parking aprons and the like." It should be noted in this context that the US is only seeking and looking for basing opportunities in South Asia but not avenues for constructing new military installations for USAF operations.

According to the RAND study, "The identification of bases that are currently capable (or nearly so) of supporting USAF operations has both political and financial advantages. There appears to be little appetite, either in the United States or in the region, for the construction of additional American military installations.The bases identified in this analysis should not require significant upgrades that could be costly in terms of either USAF budget dollars or American political capital."

The study focused on five key attributes: the length of the runway(s) at the facility, runway width, the amount of ramp space, the number of fighter sized parking spaces available, and whether or not weapons storage is available. It also looked at pavement loading characteristics (which are critical to operating large heavy aircraft such as air-lifters), the availability of fuel and 'other factors'.

Discussing basing opportunities for the US in South Asia, the RAND study notes that they are "somewhat limited in this part of the world". The study observe further, "Diego Garcia is the permanent US outpost nearest the subcontinent, but we use the term 'near' advisedly - for that base lies approximately 2500 nautical miles from Islamabad. (The base is approximately the same distance from Kashmir.) and 2200 nautical miles from New Delhi."

The study identifies three general regions for basing opportunities located east, west, and north of India.

The study first discusses the area east of India: "This region has limited facilities and relations between Burma and the United States are stressed. Finally given the proximity of this region to China, opportunities for close military relations may be limited in the event of heightened tensions", the authors say.

"The second region consists of the Central Asian republics. Improved access to South Asia could grow from enhanced relations with these former Soviet republics". The study notes that Central Asian states such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan could serve as valuable entrepots to the Subcontinent.

"The third region is the Middle East, and it is here that we see the most prominence for conducting operations in South Asia. As was show during the Gulf War, the air base facilities in this region are second to none, and the governments in the region are relatively stable, often with national interests that align with those of the United States. With regard to geography, Oman is closest to the Indian-Pakistani border - about 500 nautical miles. Relations between the government of Oman and United States are good, and Oman has shown itself to be a steadfast ally. In addition the basing infrastructure is well developed. Two bases - Seeb International and Masirah Island - are particularly well suited for the conduct of USAF operations".

The other bases available to the USAF for operations in South Asia are in Thailand and Singapore. The US has a long-standing defence treaty relationship with Thailand and use of a Royal Thai naval air station in U Tapaho. It has a similar defence treaty arrangement with Singapore. But the RAND Corp. study notes that New Delhi is 1600 nautical miles from Bangkok as are bases in central Saudi Arabia and it is 2200 nautical miles from Singapore.

Therefore the US began to actively look for basing opportunities in countries closer to India. In Sri Lanka the war with the LTTE offered America ample scope for this purpose. The cease-fire agreement created the ideal environment for further studying and consolidating basing and other opportunities in Sri Lanka. This is when we saw a sharp increase in US Pacific Command visits to this island.

America has several legal instruments such as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) and Access and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) by which it can cement deals with countries where it wants to position itself to gain strategic advantage or dominance in a region. Explaining the advantages of such agreements, the US Pacific Command (USPACOM) chief Admiral Thomas Fargo says "ACSA and MLSA enhance inter operability and readiness and provide a cost effective mechanism for mutual logistics support for US".

According to him USPACOM has signed the ACSA with Philippines, Australia, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga. He says that eight other countries including Maldives, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are eligible for signing the ACSA. (Admiral Thomas B. Fargo: 'Statement of the US Navy Commander- US Pacific Command before the House International Relations Committee, Sub Committee on Asia and the Pacific, on US Pacific Command Posture' - June 26, 2003)

In 1999, the US signed a defence treaty (probably the VFA and/or MLSA) with Nepal. This was done despite a treaty between India and Nepal that explicitly prohibits Kathmandu from courting external military alliances and assistance without New Delhi's approval (Exchange of Letters in the Indo-Nepal Treaty of 1951).

India, patently alarmed by this development, has, since then, sought to dissuade countries in the region from entering into such defence agreements with the US. New Delhi is also apparently keen to subtly reduce the influence of the US military that has been silently expanding in some neighbouring countries in recent years. (It is no accident that the Maoist Guerrillas are attacking US interests in Nepal)

The Kuda Oya International Airport project is a case in point. On February 19, 2004 the Ministry of Transport, Highways and Civil Aviation placed an ad in the papers inviting "Expressions of Interests from Reputed Organisations/Consortia/Joint Ventures for the development of an International Aerodrome at Kuda Oya Wellawaya". In the past US Special Forces had allegedly trained in Kuda Oya with the Sri Lanka military. Later the place was called an adventure theme park. If one draws a radius from the sea-lanes that curve off our southern coast, one end would be in Kuda Oya. It would show the importance of its location. If anyone were to inquire into the project's current status it might throw some light on the tensions behind the specific strategic interests that intersect in Sri Lanka. Also consider India's stand on developing the Palaly airfield in Jaffna.

America recently 'upgraded' Pakistan to a Major Non NATO Ally status. If, on top of this, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka were to sign the ACSA, the American military's strategic posture in South Asia would be complete and unchallengeable. (A US offer to sign the ACSA with India was rejected by New Delhi as a ruse to take the edge off its objections to America signing the agreement with other South Asian countries).

It is a fact that the US wanted to sign the ACSA or a similar treaty with Sri Lanka in 2002 when the UNP was in power. USPACOM chief confirms that Sri Lanka is still on the list of countries with which America wants to sign the treaty. If his statement on what ACSA entails were perused together with the RAND Corp. study on increasing US basing opportunities in South Asia, we would get a very clear picture of America's strategic interests in Sri Lanka.

The Letters of Exchange of the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement of 1987 (ISLA) prohibit Sri Lanka from having foreign troops on its soil without India's sanction. But like Nepal, Sri Lanka too can ignore the ISLA and cement a military deal with the US.

Politicians and influential opinion makers (including former arch anti imperialist Dayan Jayatilleka) are clamouring for US assistance to defeat the LTTE. The US compulsion to find basing opportunities here and the desire of Sinhala nationalists to preserve the unitary state with foreign military assistance appear to be equal in their self-persuasive force.

This is why I argue that a point might be soon reached where there would be a confluence of American and Sinhala nationalist interests whether India likes it or not.
But then like Nepal there would be a price to pay.

PNM warns Govt. not to base peace talks on ISGA By Gagani Weerakoon

If the UPFA commenced peace talks based on the Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA) instead of a final solution, they would not hesitate to defeat the Government, warned the Patriotic National Movement (PNM).

Addressing the special convention of the PNM 'Perambera Dekma', held at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium on Monday co-president of the PNM, Ven. Elle Gunawansa Thera said that PNM had an ethical right to do so and it would never allow to establish such an interim authority in this country.

" The government is bound with the responsibility of protecting people's self esteem as they are the ones who voted to bring the UPFA into power" he said.

Ven. Thera also urged the Chief Incumbent of the Malwatta chapter not to accept the invitation of the LTTE to visit Kilinochchi to hold discussions with them.

" We also believe that Malwatte Mahanayake Thera will not betray the bhikkus by visiting Kilinochchi," he said.

Meanwhile, the JVP Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa who is also a member of the PNM denied allegations that the delay in the peace talks was caused by the JVP and due to an internal crisis in the UPFA.

The PNM also unanimously approved a proposal to urge the government to name the year 2005 as the 'Year against re-colonization', as it marks 500 years of Portuguese invasion.

Mother, daughter killed during ambush [TamilNet, September 29, 1999 14:08 GMT]

Three people, including a mother and her 14 year old daughter were killed yesterday in the coastal fishing hamlet of Kaluwankerni, about 20 km north east of Batticaloa when the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) soldiers and cadres from the Razeek group, a paramilitary organisation operating alongside the SLA, opened fire said sources.

Sources said troops waiting in ambush had observed a youth and fired at him last night around 9.30 p.m. The youth, known as Thevan, had ran towards a nearby hut to escape firing.

The soldiers chased the youth, shot and killed him.

The mother, A.Yogeswary, 34 and her daughter, V.Nageswaray,14, who were in the hut were hit by the firing and died on the spot.

The SLA claimed the youth was a member of the Liberation Tigers and handed over his body at the Eravur hospital.

Unconfirmed reports, however, said the youth was a civilian from Kaluwankerni.

The bodies of Yogeswary and her daughter were handed over to the hospital by the Divisional Secretary.

Civilian killed in shelling north of Batticaloa [TamilNet, September 28, 2004 10:45 GMT]

A civilian was killed and another wounded in shelling in Panichchankerni, 60 kilometres north of Batticaloa Tuesday around 11. 30 a.m. The shelling came from the direction of the Cashew Plantation Sri Lanka army camp in Mankerni, residents said. The woman who was injured in the shelling was taken to Valaichenai hospital and was then transferred to the Batticaloa teaching hospital. Panichchankerni is a village in the LTTE controlled region in Batticaloa north. Mankerni is five kilometres south of Panichchankerni. Police said the person who was killed in the shelling was a woman identified as Mrs. K. Kalipillai, 47. One of the injured women was identified as Ms. Uthayachelvi, 38. She is being operated on, doctors at the Batticaloa hospital said.

U.S funds training of Sri Lanka Police [TamilNet, September 28, 2004 20:04 GMT]

US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Jeffrey.J.Lunstead, and Srilankan Inspector General of police Indra De Silva signed an agreement today at the US Embassy initiating a two year program administered by the U.S Department of Justice where Sri Lanka Police will receive equipment and training worth $250,000, a US embassy press release issued today said.

Full text of the press release follows:

Several hundred policemen throughout Sri Lanka will soon benefit from new equipment and training offered by the United States under a program aimed to improve the performance of local community policemen. U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey J. Lunstead and Sri Lankan Inspector General of Police Indra De Silva signed a Memorandum of Agreement today at the U.S. Embassy outlining details of the program.

Valued at US$ 250,000, the program will run for two years and is administered by the U.S. Department of Justice under the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP).

''We're proud to be able to offer this assistance to local Sri Lankan policemen as a tangible benefit of the peace process,'' said Ambassador Lunstead. ''Hopefully this program will lead to better public relations within the communities where they work,'' Lunstead added.