Petrol bombs thrown at Tamil home in Jaffna

Petrol bombs thrown at Tamil home in Jaffna

A Tamil home in Jaffna was attacked with petrol bombs last night by a group of unknown persons who arrived by motorbike.
19 February 2019
At least two motorbikes and a vehicle were destroyed in the attack on the home in Karuvapulam Road, Kokkuvil.
Following the attack a Tamil journalist who arrived the report on the attack was assaulted by Sri Lankan police and hospitalised as a result.
Read more:
The petrol bomb attack follows an increasing pattern of attacks on homes and rising crime in the Jaffna peninsula,  despite a massive military presence with tens of thousands of soldiers stationed in the peninsula.
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Sri Lanka: Still looking for answers

Sri Lanka: Still looking for answers

by Thulasi Muttulingam- 

A mother died recently. Not news.

She died in mental anguish. Perhaps news.
She died not knowing whether her youngest child, a daughter, was living or dead.
She had been campaigning for 10 long years to find out – and died still not knowing.
While a very few media organisations reported this as news, others wanted to know why it was news-worthy. It’s not news, they said. It’s not new either, they said. People disappeared in Sri Lanka all the time; not just in the North and East, but also in the South, especially during the JVP uprisings. What of it?
News value
When something terrible happens regularly, it doesn’t lose its news value.
We may have become desensitised to it in mainstream news, as the latest dead mother and her still-missing daughter add just one more micro decimal point to a large statistic, but “so what” being the response is hugely problematic.
Was there no way this poor lady could have had closure before her death? Why are so many rolling their eyes at the very idea?
She wanted to know if her daughter was dead or alive – is that so beyond our Government that detained her daughter in Mullivaikkal back in 2009? Shouldn’t the Government be held accountable? Shouldn’t they deliver some answers on what exactly happened to her detained daughter under their watch, instead of continuously obfuscating the matter?
This mother was a native of Mullaitivu, who died there last week (12 February). Until then, despite being an elderly heart patient, she took part in the nearly two-year-long protests by the families of the disappeared, searching for their loved ones.
She had sat in thatched makeshift huts under the burning sun for more than 500 days, holding a picture of her daughter, demanding an answer to where she was. She died, still not knowing.
This mother, Saraswathy, gave birth to four children. Three joined the LTTE and died in battle – she was certain of their deaths. As such, while she definitely grieved over them, she also had closure. Anguish over their current whereabouts or welfare did not rob her peace of mind.
Her last decade of life was blighted solely due to anguish over her youngest child – daughter Parvathy who went missing in the last stages of the war in 2009.
Amidst all the trauma this mother endured – the various trials of war she would have had to undergo until 2009, losing three of her children first to the LTTE, then to death – this last remaining blow of her missing child was likely the most traumatising.
The pain of limbo
I didn’t interview this mother, but I have spoken to many other mothers like her across various protest sites in the North.
Their pain, long years after the war ended, still pulses palpably in the air around them.
The shelling and bombing around them stopped a long time ago, but their inner trauma still holds them in thrall – they neither notice nor care that the chaos has stopped for everyone else. Their world is still in chaos.
The former Defence Secretary and current presidential hopeful Gotabaya Rajapaksa gave an interview to a leading English daily recently, in which he acknowledged, for the first time, the use of white vans by the Government to abduct people.
He maintained that he was not responsible for it, but also maintained that this was something that happened “all over the world” and was done by “all previous governments” in Sri Lanka.
Rather dubious counter assertions. That makes it alright, does it?
He also went on to claim that since 2005, only LTTE persons were thus abducted (patently not true), while in earlier periods under other government regimes, Sinhala youths were arbitrarily abducted. He referred to the JVP eras.
This was one of those puerile counter arguments of whataboutism that always leaves me scratching my head.
It keeps cropping up regularly whenever minorities here speak of what happened to them and ask for justice. What exactly is being purported with these counter arguments?
That it happened in the South too, therefore it is alright if it happens in the North and East? It happened to Sinhalese too, so Tamils and Muslims shouldn’t ask for justice over their disappeared and murdered?
The “logic” simply doesn’t compute. Yet, this is the counter argument we receive all the time.
“It happened in the South too.” “Our youths were arbitrarily killed too.”
Yes, that it happened in South and to Sinhala youths too is indeed heinous, but how is that the answer to Tamil parents’ question of what happened to their children?
There are Sinhalese parents looking for answers to their missing to this day. We are aware of that. So why not work to give them answers too, instead of brushing off their very just demands for answers with some tripe version of “all’s fair in love and war! Don’t try to hold the government accountable”?
The government is accountable to the people. What’s so hard to understand?
Also, nice work claiming Sinhalese youths were arbitrarily picked up while all Tamils similarly abducted by white vans were only the LTTE.
As a reporter from the Tamil community, let me now reiterate what I have to reiterate every time I bring up issues such as these:
Yes, I am aware the LTTE carried out heinous crimes against humanity.
No, I am not a supporter of the LTTE.
No, my advocating for the pain of the families of the disappeared does not mean that I condone what the LTTE did.
Not all of us Tamils are the LTTE. What’s so hard to understand?
Not all of us who were detained, tortured, and murdered were from the LTTE either.
Just as Sinhalese youths were arbitrarily picked up in the JVP eras, Tamil youths were arbitrarily picked up all over the country in the war years. All the people thus picked up by the Government, whether LTTE or not, have families waiting for them who are owed answers. Yet for now, obfuscation and whataboutism are the answers proffered.
I know a mother searching for her missing younger son – her elder son died in an LTTE claymore attack, and the younger son was arrested for it. Neither were in the LTTE and both were still schoolboys at the time. Yet, when the Army brought a hooded informant to indicate a suspect among all the rounded up youths in the neighbourhood, the thalayatti/gonibilla had nodded at the younger brother.
So he, still grieving his elder brother’s death, was dragged away despite the protests of the family, and has been missing ever since. This is the way justice operates in this country.
She has been searching for her son for two decades now. Is she not owed answers? Can you even begin to compute the level of her trauma?
And as with all other parents similarly traumatised, she said: “I have closure over my dead son. I light a candle to him on every death anniversary of his, but I have no closure over my younger son. Where is he? Is he being tortured somewhere? Is he angry with me for not doing enough to rescue him? I dare not rest for a moment, because I am haunted by thoughts of my son languishing somewhere wondering why I have not come to his rescue yet.
“I have exhausted every avenue possible. I have visited every detainment camp in the country asking if my son is there and begging for him back. People with only dead children are lucky. We with missing children as well are left in torturous limbo.
“No one else, even from our own war-affected community, understands us. They keep telling us to move on. Do they not realise that it’s impossible?
“How can a mother move on in life when her child might be alive and getting tortured somewhere? I have not had a single meal in peace since.”
Her husband, meanwhile, descended into alcoholism after his sons’ tragedy so she had to become the breadwinner as well. They have two daughters to look after.
The effect on the men
One of the effects not often talked about on the families of the missing is how the men cope.
A culture of toxic masculinity ensures that men do not feel comfortable displaying emotion. It is not an accident that the “mothers of the disappeared” hold vigils at all the protest sites. There are plenty of men grieving their children too, but very few of them feel comfortable enough to display it.
Many of the men descended into alcoholism to deal with their loss. Others keep their emotions bottled up and succumb either to depression or somatoform disorders.
At a psychiatrist’s clinic last year, I noticed an elderly couple coming in, the man clutching his heart. He feared he was having a heart attack. The doctor checked – there was nothing wrong with his heart. The doctor then asked him if he had been worrying about anything recently.
“No,” he replied.
“Yes,” replied his wife.
The death anniversary of one child had just passed, and the disappearance anniversary of another was coming up.
“You are both grieving,” said the doctor. “Why not talk to each other about it?”
“I talk about it all the time doctor, but he tells me to keep quiet. He doesn’t want to discuss our lost children. I find solace by talking to other affected mothers, but he refuses to talk to anybody about it.”
“No,” said the man, “I am not thinking of my children. I am alright.”
He went away, still clutching his heart.
One day, that heart too will stop beating, after beating painfully all these years. And some of us will continue to ask: “So what?”
Will we ever get an answer?
(Thulasi Muttulingam is a freelance journalist based in Jaffna. All views expressed are her own and not of any organisations affiliated to her)
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Image: Burned body ( File photo)

Sri Lanka Brief20/02/2019

(The Island/February 20, 2019)

Investigations being conducted by the Criminal Investigations Department have revealed that some members of the Southern Province Special Crime Operations Unit killed two businessmen, abducted from the Ratgama police area, recently.

Investigations have revealed that the bodies of the victims were destroyed by the policemen.
Police sources told The Island that they were in the process of collecting evidence regarding the killings. Sources said that there hadn’t been any complaints or allegations against the slain businessmen. They were either kidnapped or were killed on a contract given by someone.

An Inspector attached to Southern Province Special Crime Operations Unit Inspector Nishantha Silva was arrested by the CID over the abduction and disappearance of two businessmen in Ratgama and produced before the Galle Magistrate, who remanded him till February 27.

The police inspector was interrogated at length by the CID sleuths. The officer has denied involvement in the killings.

The CID has questioned the Ratgama police OIC and 30 others in connection with the incident.
The CID has received information that the two businessmen were abducted by a group of policemen who arrived in a van.

The CID has taken into custody the van in which the two businessmen were abducted. Its owner has been arrested.

DIG Southern Range Ravi Wijegoonewardena has been transferred to the Police headquarters until the investigations are completed.

Sources said that the OIC had been transferred from Galle to Matara sometime ago following a spate of complaints against him.

Meanwhile, the OIC of the unit under investigations and five other officers have been asked to report to the CID today (Jan 20).

Thirteen policemen are alleged to have been involved in the abductions.

Police launched investigations in the wake of some unidentified policemen, in a letter to the family of a victim, revealed the abduction and killings carried out by their colleagues.

The Island

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Welikada prison report leak: Minister Thalatha to seek IGP’s explanation

Camelia Nathaniel and Disna Mudalige-Thursday, February 21, 2019

Justice Minister Thalatha Athukorala turning down a request by the JVP to table the Committee report on the killing of Welikada Prison inmates said that she would call for an explanation from the IGP on the leak of the report to the media.

She was responding to a question by JVP MP Dr.Nalinda Jayatissa in Parliament yesterday. Dr.Jayatissa queried over the delay in the investigations on the killing of about 27 inmates at Welikada Prison in November, 2012.

He also asked the recommendations given in the report by the three-member committee appointed to look into the incident.

Minister Athukorala, observing that the Committee which was appointed on January 22, 2015 submitted its report on June 9, 2015.However, refused to reveal its recommendations stating that premature disclosure of information could affect negatively when identifying the suspects and taking legal action against them. She said that the report has been forwarded to the IGP to implement its recommendations.

JVP Leader Anura Dissanayake and Dr.Jayatissa pointed out that the report was published in full in a certain newspaper in several editions. “There is no point in you keeping the report without disclosing its content to the public.

The witnesses and family members of victims who gave evidence before the Committee have come under various threats. The culprits get off the hook due to delay in implementing the law. Its six years since the incident took place and three years since the report was submitted. The inmates who were killed were linked to various crimes committed during the former government. The names of several powerful political figures of that time were linked to those crimes. It was those evidences that were killed during this infamous incident,” Dr.Jayatissa said.

Minister Athukorala, while stating that she was not aware of the publication of the report’s content in a newspaper, said that explanation should be called from the IGP if that was true.

“The IGP or a higher official than him has no right to leak the report. It is a document before the courts of law now,” she replied.

The Justice Minister said the weapons and bullets used in the prison riot had been sent to the Government Analyst’s Department to ascertain the identity of persons who shot at the prisoners.

“There is a certain delay because we want to ascertain the facts. But the investigation is progressing. We cannot file legal action in haste. The Attorney General must be satisfied over the investigation,” she said.

Minister Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka at this point reminded the House that punishing those responsible in the killing of Welikada Prison inmates was a key pre-election pledge of the Government.

“If the investigations were stuck around ascertaining as to who shot at the prisoners, then only the low ranking officers who pulled the trigger to execute the orders they received would be punished. If you have a genuine interest, investigate as to who were behind the crime and who gave orders to do so,” he commented.

Angunakolapelessa Prison video leak: Stern action against culprits

Justice Minister Thalatha Athukorala reiterated that she would definitely take disciplinary action against the persons who leaked the inside information of Angunakolapelessa Prison.
She made this comment in response to a question by JVP MP Dr.Nalinda Jayatissa in Parliament yesterday.

“The prison officials have the power under the Prisons Act to control any incident within the prison premises. There was no bloodshed and no weapons were used. This was entirely different to the incident at Welikada Prison. On November 16, when there was a political coup, a death row prisoner convicted for the murder of six persons in Hokandara was murdered by another prisoner inside the prison. Another prisoner was inhumanly assaulted by an inmate on November 22. This incident occurred on that day as the prison officers who tried to control the situation were attacked back,” she said.

“I will definitely take disciplinary action against those responsible for leaking inside information of the institution,” she added.

Dr.Jayatissa said the failure to take action against the offenders of the killing of inmates at Welikada Prison in 2012 has led to more such incidents also citing the incident at Angunakolapelessa prison as an example. “The Justice Minister was keen on inquiring as to how the video was leaked than investigating on the assault on the prisoners,” he commented.

Modern elevators to be installed in House – Deputy Speaker

Making a special statement in Parliament yesterday on behalf of the Speaker regarding the issue raised by MPs Wimal Weerawansa and Dinesh Gunawardena about the 12 MPs being stuck in an elevator, Deputy Speaker Ananda Kumarasiri said the matter had been reported to the company that had installed the elevator, Aitkin Spence Elevators (Pvt) Ltd who had inspected the relevant elevator and issued a report to Parliament.

“In the report they had stated that this elevator is approximately 36 years old and due to the excessive weight, the micro switch had malfunctioned and the alarm had also failed. Although the elevator should have stopped working, it had travelled a short distance and stalled. The company, having inspected the elevators at the Parliament complex had recommended that modern elevators be fitted, replacing the over 36-year-old elevators as soon as possible,” the Deputy Speaker said.

He said the Parliament General Secretary has already been issued instructions to take measures to install modern elevators as soon as possible to ensure the safety of MPs and the public using these elevators.

‘Dr. Lester’s home a mound of rubble today’

On the day of Dr.Lester James Peries’ funeral, the President and Prime Minister promised to convert his home into a museum on a policy decision taken by the government, said Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa in Parliament yesterday.

“The President and Prime Minister made this pledge in our presence. However, as of today instead of making Dr. Lester James Peries’ home into a museum, his wife has been evicted and that house demolished. This is a very pathetic situation. Sadly, today this great cinematographer’s home is just a mound of rubble.

Former Cultural Minister T.B.Ekanayake was also there at the funeral and hailed the pledge made by the President and the Prime Minister. Hence, I would like to urge the government to keep to their promise and construct a museum in Dr. Lester James Peries’ honour as a duty and responsibility of the government,” Rajapaksa said.

Raising a question under Standing Orders 27/2, Rajapaksa drew the attention of Parliament to the pathetic plight that Sri Lankan cinema has been plunged to.

“The golden era of the Sri Lankan cinema was between 1963-1980 and the cinematographers of that era were able to introduce investigative cinematography to the country by protecting the country’s identity. Even today it is a blessing that there are many professional cinematographers in the country who are dedicated to the industry. However, they are facing numerous difficulties at present and it is an irony that the government has failed to address these issues,” he noted.

The Opposition Leader said in order to uplift the cinema industry infrastructure should be developed, technical facilities at old cinema halls need to be upgraded, human resources developed, cinema regulating and distribution should be streamlined, financial assistance for film production provided and measures should be taken for the welfare of those in the film industry, while appreciating their contribution to the country.

He noted that during the previous government, tax concessions were provided for films made at a cost exceeding Rs. 35 million, but unfortunately, the current government had removed these concessions. “Currently there are around 80 films that have been produced which are unable to receive screening turns and having spent so much to produce, a film they face grave financial difficulty in having to wait for years to screen their films.”

Having raised many issues affecting the country’s cinema industry, Mahinda Rajapaksa urged the government to take measures to uplift the facilities for the betterment and protection of the film industry in the country and honour their pledge made at the funeral of Dr.Lester James Peries’ to construct a museum in honour of the country’s greatest cinematographer.

In response, Housing, Construction and Cultural Affairs Minister Sajith Premadasa said he would take measures to provide a comprehensive response to the points raised by the Opposition Leader. Rajapaksa also requested the Housing, Construction and Cultural Affairs Minister to focus his attention to the Ranminitenna Tele-Cinema village. However, Minister Premadasa noted that the Tele Cinema village and the surrounding area was gazetted under the Media Ministry.

Bimal requests report on degree awarding status

JVP MP Bimal Rathnayake yesterday requested the Higher Education Minister to submit a report about the accreditation process followed to grant degree awarding status to private education institutions.

Rathnayake raising a Point of Order during yesterday’s Parliamentary sittings brought to the attention of the House about a Gazette Notification which was tabled on the same day.

He said, “Through this Gazette the government allows two private education institutions to offer degrees. There is a process conducted by an accreditation committee prior to that. The institutions like SAITM medical faculty did not go through a proper accreditation process and the whole country witnessed what happened after that. Such things should not be happen in the future.”

“Therefore, I request the Higher Education Minister to provide a report to Parliament regarding the private education institutions which were granted degree awarding status during last 4 years. It should include the information such as the members of the accreditation committee and the procedure followed,” he added.

CID to record Opposition MPs statements on Parliament brawl

The CID had summoned the opposition MPs to record their statements with regard to the brawl in Parliament. However, the Speaker who created this incident has not been summoned for a statement, which is wrong, said MP Chandima Weerakkody.

He raised a question with the Deputy Speaker of Parliament yesterday as to why only the opposition MPs had been summoned.

Ten new lifts to cost Rs 100 mn

A decision has been taken to fix 10 new lifts in Parliament at a cost of about Rs 100 million, Parliament sources said.

The decision was taken after the company that inspected the lifts recommended replacing them as they were old more than 30 years.

The conditions of the lifts were checked after the incident of 12MPs getting stuck in the Parliament VIP lift early this month.

Cabinet nod to temporarily suspend several spice imports

Cabinet approval has been granted to temporary suspend imports of several spices including pepper, nutmeg, tamarind and arecanut in order to protect local farmers, Deputy Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Nalin Bandara said in Parliament yesterday (20).

Kicking off the debate on two orders under the Sri Lanka Export Development Act, Bandara said that spice re-exporting rackets had been carried out by unscrupulous exporters fraudulently enjoying tax relief under free trade agreements.

“The exporters had imported spices from countries like Vietnam and Indonesia and re-exported them to India and Pakistan as Sri Lankan grown spices. As a result of this racket, prices of locally manufactured spices have decreased rapidly and our farmers had to endure huge financial difficulties due to the lack of demand. Under the Indo-Lanka Free Trade Agreement (FTA) a stock of 2,500 tons of pepper could be exported to India duty free. These exporters used such advantages to derive profits fraudulently,” Bandara noted.

He said that the proposal to temporarily suspend spice imports was presented by the Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrama.

Furthermore, Bandara said that under the Orders which were taken into the debate, several taxes imposed on imported sanitary napkins would also be scrapped. Apart from a 30 percent Cess tax would be imposed on imports of polypropylene bags.

Further, he said, “14.3% of export income is from condiments but there were many issues with regard to the condiments sector especially with regard to pepper, areca nut, tamarind, nutmeg, cinnamon etc. There is a huge demand and value for Sri Lankan black pepper. Sri Lankan pepper and cinnamon is known to be the best in the world, but during the past few years the farmers growing these condiments have been facing serious difficulties and they even launched many protests drawing attention to their issues. This is a quite rightful demand. Therefore, the decision to temporarily suspend spice imports was made to protect the local spice cultivators.

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Sri Lanka Brief19/02/2019
Read the full report as a PDF:Sri Lanka Briefing Note No 14 Feb. 2019
In the last two months of 2018, Sri Lanka witnessed a political coup led by its President. The coup was short lived. The attempt to overthrow the democratically elected Government and bring back the authoritarian ruler, who was rejected by the people in the last Presidential election, has implications on transitional justice and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.
Despite several positive developments, the progress of the transitional justice process has been slow, inconsistent, fragmented, and delayed. The Government’s genuineness of political will for transitional justice remains highly questionable. The war hero rhetoric that is being continued, mainly by President Sirisena, points to the fact that impunity for alleged war crimes as well as for attacks against human rights defenders and journalists will be prolonged.
While the investigations over killings and disappearances of human rights defenders and journalists stagnate with no real progress, tens of thousands of people remain disappeared. The Government continues to hold some of the civilian land acquired during the war and the displaced people continue their struggle to re-gain their land.
The process Constitution making process has come to a complete standstill and thus, finding a political solution to the ethnic issue has become an illusion. The country remains polarized along ethnic lines amidst growing Islamophobia. Sections of the political, social, and religious forces continue to take up extremist and non-negotiable positions.
Among the war affected communities, poverty is prevalent. Economic justice remains one of the least addressed issues. In general, the economy is stagnating.
2019 will be a crucial year for Sri Lankan politics: while the current Government is failing to implement the commitments under Resolution A/HRC/30/1, political forces that oppose the Transitional Justice (TJ) process are attempting to come into power – and this threat is real.
A re-energised civil society activism on the ground as well as in the social media remains a sliver line among these dark clouds. Checks and balances introduced by the 19th Amendment in the form of Independent Commissions continue to be a source of strength for rights-based activism.
Under these circumstances, the critical and continued engagement of the international community with the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) is of utmost importance. The continuation of a UN oversight of the implementation of the TJ process remains pivotal.
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Muslims protest Sri Lanka navy occupation in Mannar

Muslims protest Sri Lanka navy occupation in Mannar

Muslims in Mannar protested for the release of their lands from Sri Lankan navy occupation.
21 February 2019
The protestors called for the release of 35 acres of land in Silavathurai which displaced families have been unable to return to due to the navy’s occupation.
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Are Children Safe From Abuse In Sri Lanka?

Are Children Safe From Abuse In Sri Lanka?

logoThe recent much publicised, despicable event in Sri Lanka when a ruggerite from St. Peters college, possibly in his mid to late teens, was repeatedly slapped by his coach in the full glare of the public eye says so much about how our society is evolving or has already evolved. The event itself is no doubt one amongst hundreds and thousands of occurrences where helpless children are abused by their teachers while at school and by their parents when they are home. While abuse itself is despicable. The inability of the State and non-state entities to protect children while allowing perpetrators to go scot free is even more despicable.
Despite the hoopla about safeguarding children and their rights, the Sri Lankan State has failed to ensure these rights and have a mechanism to provide redress to children who are being abused. The toothless pussy cat, the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA), is a joke and it does not provide any effective mechanism to protect children. It is another bureaucracy for providing a well-paid resting place for supporters of the governing party. The NCPA web site does not record data about the number of telephone calls or appeals they have received from the public and they do not record what action they have taken when such appeals are made. It does not record the outcomes of any investigations they have made on complaints received. In the absence of such data, what other conclusions could the public come to except to say it is a joke?
Child abuse is any behaviour that harms a child (in this case anyone under 18). It can take many forms, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse, as well as neglect and exploitation.
In Sri Lanka, if a child has been abused, or know someone that has, who does one go to?  The effects of abuse on a child are serious and long-lasting. No matter when the abuse has occurred, whether in the past or it’s something that’s ongoing, children in Sri Lanka are helpless and there are no effective remedial measures for them to seek counselling and justice.
What is child abuse?
The following are based on expert study reports cited in the internet. 
Abusive behaviour involves treating someone with cruelty or violence. It often happens regularly or repeatedly. There are four main types of accepted forms of abuse:
  • Physical abuse: any use of physical force against a child that doesn’t happen by accident and causes injury. Hitting, beating, shaking, punching, biting, burning, scratching, strangling or choking a child are all examples of child abuse.
  • Sexual abuse: any type of sexual involvement or contact between a child and an adult. Sexual abuse can be voyeurism (spying on or watching a child), sexual acts and incest (sex between family members). 
  • Emotional abuse: a pattern of denying a child love, approval and security, or mistreating a child in the way an adult speaks to them or acts towards them. Bullying, yelling, isolating, criticising, terrorising, ignoring and shaming are all types of emotional abuse.
  • Neglect: failing to provide a child with the things they need to grow, such as shelter, food, hygiene, supervision, medical attention, education or safety.
Why are children abused?

Read More

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Germany calls for more transparency in SL as bilateral ties expand

Germany calls for more transparency in SL as bilateral ties expand

 German Ambassador to Sri Lanka Jörn Rohde
  • Sri Lanka and Germany footprint in each other on the rise
  • Greater private sector interactions this year following opening of German Trade Office in Colombo
  • Ambassador says post-Constitutional crisis, regaining investor confidence with stability and reforms is key
  • Suggests liberalisation of shipping and freight forwarding if Sri Lanka is to successfully achieve maritime hub status
  • Warns corruption and lack of transparency dampen investor confidence
  • Says tender procedures must be clear and transparent and concluded without delay

logoBy Nisthar Cassim-Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Amidst growing bilateral ties, Germany is calling for improved efficiency and transparency in Sri Lanka to achieve a more robust and win-win partnership.

“Germany’s footprint in Sri Lanka and vice versa have been growing, resulting in greater bilateral cooperation,” German Ambassador in Sri Lanka Jörn Rohde told Daily FT, adding that in recent years, the German Foreign Minister visited Sri Lanka followed by a State visit to Germany by President Maithripala Sirisena in 2016.

“There have been high level visits during the past three years. Besides that, we have taken concrete steps to increase Germany’s footprint in Sri Lanka whilst Sri Lanka too has made greater inroads. Our relations and initiatives have been mutually beneficial,” the Ambassador emphasised.

In the first half of this year, there will be a host of Sri Lanka-German private sector interactions by way of top-level business and industry delegations visiting each other. Sectors include apparel, rubber, renewable energy, agriculture, furniture and interior, transportation and logistics, and IT.

Achieving a major milestone towards enhancing economic ties, Germany opened a fully-fledged trade office in Colombo last year. “It professionalises the trade relations,” he explained.

“This is a proactive office which also has a German Chamber of Commerce desk. The Embassy with limited personnel resources could not have achieved this professional level in trade and business promotion and facilitation alone, but this office manned by dedicated and focused professionals can do so,” he said.
Bilateral trade is a record € 1 billion plus which is a 10% growth. Sri Lanka’s return to the EU GSP-Plus program as well as exchange of trade delegation were key contributors to the increase. He said that Sri Lanka’s exports to Germany had enjoyed double-digit growth regularly, which was a good sign. The Trade Office will further help this momentum though global trade is facing headwinds.

Noting that Sri Lanka had an extraordinary year in 2018, especially with the state of emergency in the first and the Constitutional crisis in the last quarter, he said that this impacted the economy with faster fall of the rupee, a dip in tourist bookings and a revision in Sovereign Ratings.

“Since the reinstatement of the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Government, we see greater stability and renewed positive international interest. We also welcome the announced recommencement of the IMF program with the Government,” he said.

The German Ambassador said Sri Lanka continued to face many challenges – political, social and economic, hence the need to remain dynamic in addressing those challenges.

“In my view, the most important challenge is to regain investor confidence, for which greater political stability and faster reforms process are key factors. For the latter, the IMF program is helpful and Sri Lanka needs to modernise its economy with much-needed reforms,” he said.

“Sri Lanka must further open up its economy to foreign companies, especially shipping and freight forwarding. The restriction on foreign ownership to 40% in this sector should be immediately removed as it has been done by many other competing and progressive nations in the region,” he stressed.

According to him, Sri Lanka’s strategic geographic location enhances the potential to be a maritime hub and this advantage can be maximised and realised faster via liberalisation and not protecting vested local interest. If Sri Lanka fails to open up, other competing nations stand to gain and it will be Sri Lanka’s loss of opportunity.

“Past liberalisation measures in the shipping sector have been beneficial and propelled Sri Lanka to be a popular port and brought in much-needed foreign investment in the development of container terminals. To remain competitive, the challenge is to complete the liberalisation process by allowing foreign investments into shipping and freight forwarding activities,” he said.

“In that context I don’t see any economic sense in limiting foreign ownership. Instead, the failure to liberalise sends wrong signals to the international business community and suggests that it is not serious in modernising the economy,” Ambassador Rohde added.

Another key challenge for Sri Lanka is corruption, which can be addressed by ensuring greater transparency and accountability, especially in the procurement and tender practices.

“Corruption and lack of transparency dampens investor confidence. Tender procedures must be clear and transparent and concluded without delay,” Rohde emphasised.

See full interview >>>
Political stability, right policies can boost Sri Lanka’s growth beyond 5%: German envoy

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Speaking Malay in Kompannaveediya

Speaking Malay in Kompannaveediya

The Kompannaveediya area has seen rapid transformation over the last decade. What is being termed ‘urban development’, in the form of skyscrapers and luxury properties, has come at the cost of several homes and landmarks being demolished, fundamentally changing the nature of the area.
Beneath the surface, other changes and erasures are taking place. Speaking to Groundviewsin lieu of International Mother Language Day (February 21), five residents of the area – whose ages vary from 30 to 70 – reflected on the Malay language that is their heritage. Generations of intermarriage, and the language practices in the schools attended by the younger generation, see Malay slowly slipping out of use. While some of the older individuals say it is limited to their homes, young residents fear that many in their age group will grow up with no regard or need for the language.
A community leader in the local Wekanda Mosque, however, notes that there are spaces that promote the use and appreciation of the language. There are gatherings in the form of Malay clubs – often specific to a particular locality – where the language must be spoken exclusively, and with drama and song in Malay being performed. These spaces do offer a sense of community and help to preserve the language and culture, but many Malays note that they are populated by members of a higher socio-economic class, and are therefore not widely accessible.
For these men and women living in Kompannaveediya, their attempts at keeping the language alive involve speaking it to their children, who they hope will learn and more regularly use the language. Still, they worry that with the passage of time, their language will disappear from use completely.
Groundviews would like to thank Firi Rahman and Vicky Shahjahan of the ‘We Are From Here Project‘ for facilitating these conversations.
Watch the video below.
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Police block families of disappeared protesting in front of Ranil

Police block families of disappeared protesting in front of Ranil

Tamil families of the disappeared were blocked from protesting in front of the Sri Lankan prime minister in Mullaitivu by police.
 20 February 2019
Families of the disappeared gathered to protest in Mullaitivu on February 16 when Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was visiting the district.
The families wanted to draw the prime minister’s attention to their struggle for answers and highlight the government’s inaction.
However when the families began marching towards the District Secretariat where Wickremesinghe was presiding over a meeting to discuss development issues, Sri Lankan police blocked them from getting into the town.
Although the families tried to negotiate with the police and were protesting peacefully, police would not allow them to proceed, leading to them carrying out their protest on the roadside.
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