Monday, December 29, 2008



By T. Asok Kumar

A massive earthslip at Miriyabedda in Koslanda razed several estate lines to the ground causing the death of a 20-year-old daughter of an estate labourer. The torrential rains experienced in the area for weeks resulted in the landside at the dead of night when the occupants of the line rooms on the slopes were fast asleep. A labourer of the estate Marimuttu Raju (48) and his daughter R. Pushpareka (20) were seriously injured in the disaster, admitted to the Koslanda hospital and later transferred to the Diyathalawa General Hospital. Marimuttu recovered in a few days but the condition his daughter worsened. Meanwhile, the superintendent of the estate and government officials moved eight families from the endangered area and sheltered them in the estate hospital. Pushpareka who was unconscious for weeks underwent surgery to amputate a leg. However, she succumbed to her injuries two days later. Narrating his gruesome experience, Marimuttu said, “My eldest daughter died and we shifted to the refugee camp in the rural hospital. My daughter was to take up an appointment as a minor employee of the hospital in a couple of days, when the tragedy hit her. She was already working at a private institution to earn for the education of her brother and two sisters. Although my injuries healed, I am not able to work. We lost all our cooking utensils, plates and other household effects in the disaster. Now we are living in utter misery without any attention by the authorities who failed to provide us with any relief.”

Meanwhile, Estate Superintendent Gamini Weerasinghe said, “We immediately moved eight families from the endangered area and provided them with temporary shelter. The officials of the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau commended us for taking steps to provide shelter for the displaced families in the safer location. The earth slip caused extensive damage to two of the houses. Five other houses are in danger. The displaced families could be resettled if the mound of earth is cleared. However, we must consult the Geological Survey and the Mines Bureau and we are awaiting their report. Until then the displaced families will live in the hospital building. A large area of the estate is endangered with caving in and erosion. The estate superintendent’s bungalow is one of the endangered buildings. We proposed to settle the displaced families in two of our estates in Bandarawela and to provide them employment. However, they did not agree. A housing scheme for the displaced families in Koslanda and Naketiya areas has been closed. The people are not prepared to leave their old habitats and to settle in safer locations.”

Haldumulla Divisional Secretary, Saman Ratnayake said he depends on allocations from the Provincial Council and the Disaster Management Centre to provide relief to the displaced persons in case of a disaster. “I made a report on the Miriyabedda landslide and in two weeks I received funds to pay compensation. However, it is sad that a young woman died after receiving the allocation. I made a fresh report on her death. The Divisional Secretariat does not have funds to provide relief in case of a disaster. We have pointed out that many areas in the Badulla district are vulnerable to landslides, gales and floods and requested the government to allocate adequate funds to provide relief to the displaced. The Divisional Secretariat does not have powers to alienate land belonging to the estates managed by the plantation companies. We can only grant Rs.20,000 to build a house, if the plantation company provides the land,” he added.

However, the displaced persons accused the authorities of neglecting the displaced persons without the least concern about their hardships. They stressed that the estate management and the government officials should join hands and implement an effective plan to resettle the displaced families.


Islam in ancient Sri Lanka
Kamalika PIERIS

Islam is based on the vision and ideas of the Prophet Mohammed (570- 637 AD). The Muslim community originated when the Prophet Mohammad explained his vision of Islam to the Arabs at Mecca and Medina in the 7th century. In addition to religious beliefs, Islam also provided rules for secular life. There were Islamic laws and codes of conduct.

The first wave of Muslims to arrive in Sri Lanka came from West Asia.

This meant that Muslims were united by a common set of social norms. Mohammad's teachings stressed the equality of all Muslims. Mohammad inculcated a sense of brotherhood and a bond of faith among his followers. But this did not prevent Islam from dividing into two mutually antagonistic sects, the Sunni and Shia. The Shias are mostly in Iran and Iraq. The rest of the Muslim world, including Sri Lanka is Sunni.

The Sinhala king knew of the rise of Islam. His intelligence was good. The Iranian navigator, Buzburg Ibn Shahryar, who lived in the 10th century, recorded that in the 7th century, the Sinhala king (probably Aggabodhi III) had sent an embassy to the Prophet Mohammad.

By the time the envoy reached Medina the Prophet as well as the first Caliph, Abu Bakr, had died, so he met the Caliph Umar. On the return journey the envoy also died, and his servant returned to make a report to the Sinhala king.

Kiribamune says that Muslims had settled in Sri Lanka by the end of the 7th century. Some of them brought their wives and families with them but the majority married local women.

The first arrivals were from West Asia. They came from Arabia and the Persian Gulf area.

Around the 13th century second set of Muslims came into Sri Lanka from the Muslim communities of south India. Marina Azeez says Muslims from Kalyanapattam in Tamilnadu, established themselves in the eastern and western ports of Sri Lanka and continued to trade with India.

A 10th century Arab tombstone found in Colombo provides information on the establishment of Islam. The inscription written in Kufic characters states that the Muslim community in Colombo requested the Caliph of Baghdad to send a religious teacher who would instruct them in Islam. A religious teacher of great eminence named Khalid Ibn al Bakaya was sent by the Caliph in 940 AD. He organised the Muslims in Sri Lanka into a Muslim community and got a mosque built. He died 17 years later and was buried at Colombo. The Caliph of Baghdad sent a person to engrave the inscription on his tombstone. The inscription contains a prayer to Allah for the repose of the soul of Abu Bakaya. This tombstone is now in the National Museum, Colombo.

Arab authors record that the Sinhala king was particularly noted for its religious tolerance. Ibn Batuta wrote of Shaikh Usman of Shiraz who had his mosque outside the royal city of Konakr (unidentified). This priest, who had acted as a guide to pilgrims going up to Adam's peak had slaughtered a cow on the way. Instead of the usual punishment of beheading, his hand and foot were cut off. Since he was held in high esteem, he was compensated by a grant of taxes from a certain market. Ibn Batuta says the Sinhala king and his people visited him and held him in high regard. When the Portuguese sailed into Colombo in the 16th century, they saw the white walls of two mosques standing out clear from the background of green. In 1410, the Muslims of Colombo sent to Beruwela for a Katheeb, to officiate for them. Portuguese writers stated that the Muslim villages had quazis for religious instruction. Mosques of this period have not survived.

Sri Pada (Adam's Peak) became a favourite place of pilgrimage. The Muslims regarded Sri Pada as the place where Adam stood on one foot for seven years and thus his footprint was impressed on the solid rock. Sri Pada was known to the Muslims as 'Al Rohoun'. Muslim pilgrims to Adam's Peak increased over the period between the 9th and 14th centuries. Muslims came from abroad to worship there. Tabari writing in the 9th century mentions Sri Pada. The sea captain Sulaiman of Siraf recounts his visit to Sri Lanka in 850 AD and mentions a pilgrimage to Adam's peak. According to Muslim belief, Adam had put his other foot on Kuragala. Kuragala is another place of Muslim worship in Sri Lanka.

Ibn Batuta (14th century) said that there were two paths to Adams peak. Pilgrims went up the difficult path and descended down the easier path. He said that there were ten chains suspended from iron pegs for the support of the pilgrims. One of the chains was called the chain of the Islamic creed, because at this point, Muslims gripped with fear would automatically recite the Islamic prayer. Ibn Batuta also spoke of numerous caves along the route to Adam's peak which were associated with Muslims ascetics, such as cave of Usta Mahmud Luri and cave of Baba Khurzi. The caves were recognised halting places at Adam's Peak. A fragmentary inscription in Arabic characters dated to 13th century, was found in a cave known as Bhagvalena, lying about 100 ft below the summit on the northern route to Adams Peak. It is written by the side of a Sinhala inscription of Nissanka malla. It records an invocation for the blessing of the Prophet. A few other inscriptions have been discovered but they are damaged and illegible.

Initially the Sinhalese had been hostile towards Muslim worship at Sri Pada. It is said that this had changed when the great Sheikh, Abu Abdullah bin Khalif, a religious leader from Persia visited Sri Lanka in 929 AD. It is said that he had objected when his companions killed and ate an elephant at Sri Pada. They were in turn killed by elephants, but he had been spared and one of the elephants had lifted him on his back and brought him to a nearby village. Thereafter Muslims were allowed to perform the pilgrimage in peace' The Sheikh lived among the Sinhalese in Chilaw and later returned to Persia where he died in 943 AD. He had departed with unusually large gems which he presented to his king.

M. Yusuf writing in the University of Ceylon History of Ceylon suggests that the main purpose of going to Adam's Peak was not religion, but trade. The Muslims wished to penetrate the interior so as to get to the gems in the vicinity of Adams Peak. Muslims joined the pilgrim caravans, in the garb of ascetics, saying that Sumana kuta was linked with Adam's fall from Paradise. They used Christian beliefs for the purpose. Most pilgrims were traders as well. Yusuf says that obtaining access to the Peak probably took a long time. It would have involved a series of efforts spread over time.

Eventually Muslims were able to win the confidence of the local population and the Muslim traders were able to join the pilgrims, pay homage to the Peak and acquire the gems on their return.

The writings of M. Azeez, Premakumara de Silva, L Dewaraja, S. Kiribamune and S.M. Yusuf were used for this essay.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Post-tsunami Reconstruction in Sri Lanka:
an Analysis of Newspaper Content
by Dileep Chandralal
Professor of Okinawa University

1. Introduction

I have done a survey of newspapers as proxies of media coverage of the post-tsunami recovery situation, focusing on different perspectives on the reconstruction effort. It reveals the practices taken by different sectors, sections or groups, the responses of the affected communities or opinion leaders, the tensions between different social groups or camps and the lack of mutuality and cooperation.

The social context of post-tsunami construction can be divided into two large areas: one area includes the representation of the local community and the other that of foreign participants. Crosscutting these divisions, at the background level, there was a wide range of interest groups such as governments, political organisations, independent bodies, NGOs and activists, academics and professionals, social workers, and individual volunteers. The represented discourses inherently invoke a consideration of differences reflecting writers’ loyalties to different social groups. The focus of the study was how the text producers, strongly backed up by their respective social contexts, produced the texts and messages, depicting different world views and bearing different results for agenda setting.

My text corpus consists of, mainly, newspapers published during the year 2005. A period of one year was thought of as an appropriate period for depicting individual or collective reflections of, and responses for, the tragedy itself. Moreover, it was during this period that national and international media were bursting at the seams with continuous deliberations, ideas and arguments on post-tsunami reconstruction.

2. Analysis

From the beginning, it appeared that reconstruction work was hampered by bureaucratic inefficiency, corruption, lack of coordination and confusion, especially caused by the new land-use rules. How the bureaucratic red tape and incompetence on the part of the government was responsible for the chaos and confusion surrounding the rebuilding effort was a favourite subject-matter for reportage in both local and international newsprint. The Washington Post (March 9, 2005:12) and The Times (June 26, 2005:14) carried lengthy articles with photos and maps on their feature pages for world news.

Newspapers also revealed how the new settlement rule sparked a controversy by favouring wealthy businessmen and hotel owners over fishermen and other traditional coastal dwellers and that the government was unable to clarify the rules in a convincing manner. (The Island, March 1, 2005). Decisions on settlements were taken without consulting with affected communities or caring for local needs. The reconstruction process including the issue of relocation of land and housing and township planning was conducted from the center level without giving appropriate decision making capacity to the local level.

The incompetence and inefficiency of the government was contrasted with the speed and efficiency demonstrated by the rebel group of Tamil Tigers (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE). The headlines "Tamil rebels bring discipline to relief effort" (AP news, The Daily Yomiuri, January 4, 2005) and "Tamil Tigers direct relief effort: In ruined town, rebels out perform government officials in aid, cleanup" (The Washington Post, January 5, 2005) are suggestive of carefully textured stories. The rebels’ performance was described by the writers as a breathtaking display of precision, planning and coordination.

As to counterbalance the picture, the Washington Post (January 23, 2005) published a news item in narrative style choosing a 34-year government employee as the main actor. The background of the story is related to an isolated fishing village called Sarvodayapuram belonging to the Pottuvil administrative division on Sri Lanka’s hard-hit southeastern coast. Story begins by saying that the waves had just destroyed his home and office, left much of his village in ruins and killed 13 relatives, including his mother and sister. Despite all this personal and communal devastation, he braved to shoulder the primary burden of running relief efforts for the 430 families he served as chief administrator in the village.

At the end of the story, however, the writer does not forget to make another comparison, this time with international aid workers: "In any case, Razik (the government servant’s name) perseveres. One afternoon last week, he looked on a bit forlornly as a brand-new four-wheel-drive, filled with French aid workers, rolled past on its way to the relief camp that is his primary responsibility. Razik had business at the camp, too, but he has had no transportation since the tsunami claimed his motorcycle. Eventually he found someone to lend him a bicycle and pedalled off through the rice paddies in the direction of the displaced families." With this powerful imagery employed by the writer, as he initially intended to draw, the diminutive civil servant turns out to be the unlikely relief coordinator with much dedication towards displaced families.

Another story that appeared in the World Report section of Los Angeles Times (January 17, 2005), covering the space of one and half page and including very impressive photos, vividly profiled a village community in the Sri Lankan southern coast. The article titled as "A community remains intact" described how the village people recalled their trauma and loss from the tsunami, but the instinct to rebuild remained stirring amid the wreckage. After adding a brief critique of the slow pace of government’s recovery work and defects of relocation policy process, the writer hailed the town as a model for "those trying to figure out how to make something out of nothing after losing so much." While the ravaged local towns or town officials were greeted with acclamation, on the other side of the coin, there was a government that had to survive the waves of ruthless criticism. The May 28 editorial of the Daily Telegraph was sharply critical towards the Sri Lankan government, putting it as "Sri Lanka’s shame".

However, news articles didn’t hesitate to reveal that there were some other blameworthy sections, too. There appeared news reports claiming that many NGOs who received large funds from international organisations for reconstruction work did not use them for the purpose. Critics pointed out that donors were slower to spend the money than to raise it. Of the $2 billion or so in promised aid that the government of Sri Lanka was tracking, only $1 billion had actually been handed over, and only $ 141 million of that has been spent (The economist, Dec. 24-Jan. 6 issue, 2005).

International NGOs and charity organisations also showed their ineptitude in evaluating local needs. The AP news from the southern city of Sri Lanka, titled as "Tsunami-hit Sri Lanka struggles with unusable aid", said that "seven weeks after the disaster, no one knows what to do with some supplies piled up at government buildings, aid agencies and refugee camps", and highlighted the common plea made by authorities, aid workers and the displaced, "no more clothes and bottled waters, please" (The Daily Yomiuri, February 13, 2005). The report pointed out the mismatch in concrete term: "In a country where most people wear flip-flops or sandals, some boxes held only used shoes, including soccer cleats, boots and silver evening shoes with 10 centimeter heels."

According to The Times article on October 9, 2005, The World Disasters Report written by independent experts had uncovered another aspect of the disaster. The article highlighted the report’s claim that the UN failed to coordinate and unite its own agencies, let alone the other organisations. Some writers did not forget to reveal how aid workers lapped up the luxury available amidst confusion and chaos.

We can also observe a conflict between professional aid workers and amateur volunteer workers working in disaster zones, with reports expressing considerable ambivalence about the contribution made by inexperienced volunteer workers. It is widely known that the wider publicity given to the disaster and the relative ease of access brought an awful lot of agencies and individual volunteer workers to the disaster zones; some of them whom came without much planning and experience, no doubt, caused duplication of work. The World Disaster Report noted that some local emergency services became furious at "disaster tourists" taking the place of doctors (The Times, October 9, 2005).

The Washington Post (May 29, 2005) carried a detailed news story about two separate young women who arrived in Sri Lanka with fresh hopes and good intentions to work in an ad hoc recovery effort and found themselves disappointed, facing repeated setbacks.

The writer has pointed out that not only incompetence and bureaucracy on the part of the government but the passivity, lethargy and the sense of dependence of refugees also have been responsible for confining thousands of them into sweltering temporary camps. It might be hard for enthusiastic freelancers to understand the passivity of these people during the short period they were staying there. As far as I noticed, none of local news papers dared to mention of this aspect of Sri Lankan society even in a scant way. That is where outsiders’ perspectives become ‘significant others’.

Granted the sheer scale of the devastation itself, public sector was bound to show stronger skills for negotiations, supervision and coordination, whereas private sector and non-government groups were expected to promote a bottom-up approach strengthening consultation and information networking.

In fact, without such a co-existence policy, vulnerable sections of the society seemed to be exposed to further dangers. Showing this naked exposure of vulnerable sections in the post-tsunami society, both local and international news papers addressed the question of protecting children in tsunami-hit area with particular attention. How women and children become vulnerable and are prone to harassment in the aftermath of calamities was shown by reporting several alleged cases of abuse and attempted rape of children in the wake of the tsunami.

While the local media were quick to reveal the LTTE’s attempts to recruit children as soldiers to compensate for cadres lost in the disaster, they seemed to have paid scant attention to the overall problems and the scale of the devastation brought by the waves in the North and East, where people had been battered by the 20-year civil conflict. The complexities of the reconstruction effort were widely evident in this area because their recovery, both physical and emotional, was aggravated by conflict-related problems. Since there have been cases of internally displaced persons living in camps over a decade, the ensuring of equal distribution of aid was a difficult task. Mostly it was the foreign correspondents that paid quick attention to such complexities (see, for example, Washington Post (January 23, March 9 and May 1, 2005) and AP news (The Daily Yomiuri, January 4, 2005).

News papers had also initiated a dialogue on the importance of inclusion of ethnic minorities in the reconstruction process. Whether actual or perceived, there had been a sense of victimisation more ore less prevailing among the members of different ethnic groups. Tamil tsunami victims complained that government leaders or officials didn’t bother to visit their camps to see their plight. They tended to perceive that the problems caused by the government’s partial policies or inertia put their lives into inevitable difficulties. (The Island, May 11, 2005)

Meanwhile, according to a local news item, Muslim people complained that "the lethargy shown by responsible officials in not visiting affected areas, even weeks after the tragedy, has added the sense of helplessness among the people." (The Island, February 9, 2005) Yet another article appeared in Sunday Observer (January 23, 2005) calling attention to the "Forgotten Batticaloa Burghers: Caught up in the tsunami."

The discourse about ethnic minorities, as discussed above, employed the same rule in building their arguments or voicing their grievances. Knowledge of all the communities, including the majority for that matter, seems to be based on the idea of difference. The discursive formation that links all these statements is ‘we are mutually exclusive; our problems cannot be understood by the members of other communities; hence only we should be entrusted with the task of handling our problems.’ The situation being such, the newspaper articles only reflected the features of the prevailing national discourse of the country built along ethnic divisions.

The biggest pandemonium that reigned across the island was over the government’s proposal to share tsunami relief aid with separatist Tamil rebels. The aid-sharing proposal called Joint Mechanism (JM) attracted much opposition from various quarters including the majority and even some minorities. This situation of collisions and juxtapositions not only suggested how deep ethnic divisions are but also brought to notice that petty human squabbles that were submerged and proved futile in the wake of overwhelming disaster can revive as time rolls on.?

3. Conclusion

The varied range of discourses had been created through a rhetorical process full of contradictions and disparities. The contradictions reveal the complexities of contexts and the limitations of human actors. However, objective characterization of events took a predominant place in news coverage. The discourses revealed interlocking structures of ethnic exclusionism, sexism, elitism and bureaucracy interwoven with the reconstruction process. Also revealed were egoistic motives, political mileage and competition among different groups or NGOs.

All these behavioural patterns reflected a conscious or unconscious belief in oppression, patriarchal domination and top-down approach prevailing in the society. This shows how the reconstruction effort was marked by the devaluation of the oral and the local. The inescapable inference is that the present political and public administrative framework situated the shared experiences of the tsunami-affected communities in a context of forces of domination, distance, and depravity. The missing aspects were cooperation, community, mutual recognition and open communication. While the post-tsunami reconstruction was an important site for local and international interface, encompassing a massive global response to a community breakup, the interfaces between policies and needs, between the center and local levels, between relief operators and affected communities were inadequate.

To break these repressive deadlocks, a new communication process bypassing the tensions of individuals, social groups and ethnic communities has to be facilitated. This analysis suggests that it is imperative to adopt a more bottom-up, consultative-participatory approach for a long-term reconstruction process after any disaster.


Saturday, December 20, 2008


U.S. Weapons at War 2008
Beyond the Bush Legacy
By William D. Hartung, Frida Berrigan, New America Foundation

New America Foundation | December 2008
Learn More About:
William D. Hartung, Frida Berrigan

Related Programs:
American Strategy Program, Arms and Security Initiative

Foreign Policy, National Security

Related Programs:
American Strategy Program, Arms and Security Initiative
The United States, which entered into over $23 billion in Foreign Military Sales (FMS) agreements in fiscal year (FY) 2007 and $32 billion in FY 2008 (see table 1), is the world's largest arms supplier. U.S. exports range from combat aircraft to Pakistan, Morocco, Greece, Romania, and Chile to small arms and light weapons to the Philippines, Egypt, and Georgia. In 2006 and 2007, the United States sold weapons to over 174 states and territories, a significant increase from the beginning of the Bush administration when the number of U.S. arms clients stood at 123.[1] While many of these sales were relatively small deals licensed commercially by the State Department, a number of important new states were added or restored to the U.S. client list, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, East Timor, Indonesia, Iraq, Afghanistan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan.

Click here for an executive summary
of this paper, or see below for
country-specific reports. An appendix
on human rights and democracy
records is also available.
Arms transfers are undertaken for a variety of rationales. On the strategic side of the ledger, weapons exports and military training can be utilized to increase interoperability (the ability to fight together in a coalition) among U.S. and allied forces; to reward partners in the fight against terrorism, including countries fighting alongside U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq; to gain access to foreign military bases; and to strengthen allies against internal and/or external threats. Politically, arms and training can be used as leverage for everything from gaining preferential access to oil and other strategic resources to persuading other countries to vote with the United States in international and regional bodies like the United Nations and the Organization of American States. In the domestic economic sphere, the arms trade is a source of income and jobs for key localities, a way to lower the costs of weapons purchased by the U.S. military, and a means of maintaining a larger U.S. defense industrial base than would be possible without these foreign sales. Whether arms transfers are the best tools for achieving these objectives is a matter of debate, but there is no question that the United States utilizes them in hopes of achieving these goals.

Table 1
U.S. Foreign Military Sales Agreements, FY 2002 through FY 2008 (dollars in billions)

FY 2002 FY 2003 FY 2004 FY 2005 FY 2006 FY 2007 FY 2008
$12.0 $12.6 $13.2 $9.6 $18.1 $19.1 $32.0

Sources: U.S.Department of Defense, Defense Security Assistance Agency, Historical Facts Book, as of September 30, 2007; and Eric Lipton, "With Push from White House, Arms Sales Jump," New York Times, September 14, 2008.

There is less concern in policymaking circles about the negative impacts of arms sales, from fueling conflict to enabling major human rights abuses. In the case of the United States, this is true despite the fact that U.S. law calls for curbs on sales to countries engaged in a "gross and consistent" pattern of human rights abuses or to countries using U.S. weapons for aggressive purposes.[2]More often than not, these reasonable requirements are set aside in favor of the short-term strategic, political, and economic objectives set out above. This tendency has been even stronger since the 9/11 attacks, with limits on arms sales and security assistance to certain client nations being lifted in the name of winning support for the U.S. campaign against terrorism.

The purpose of this report is to look at the risks entailed by U.S. arms sales, with a focus on sales to the developing world, since this is where the vast majority of conflicts are to be found. There is much to criticize in the behavior of all of the major suppliers of arms, but as the world's number one arms exporting nation (see table 2, below), the United States and U.S. arms sales policy deserve special scrutiny.[3]

Table 2
Arms Transfer Agreements with the World by Supplier, 2000-07 (current dollars in millions)

Nation 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 TOTAL 2000-07
United States 17,483 11,487 13,067 14,548 12,674 12,939 16,905 24,860 123,963
Russia 6,700 5,600 5,700 4,500 5,400 7,200 8,700 10,400 54,200
United Kingdom 600 600 700 600 6,400 2,800 3,100 9,800 24,600
France 4,600 4,200 500 2,500 2,200 8,000 500 1,800 24,300
Germany 1,200 1,200 1,000 1,500 1,700 1,700 1,900 1,500 11,700
China 600 1,200 400 500 700 2,500 800 3,800 10,500
Italy 200 1,100 400 600 600 1,400 900 900 6,100
All Other European 4,100 2,700 4,400 2,100 6,500 5,800 5,200 4,400 35,200
All Other 2,500 2,600 2,100 1,700 2,600 2,200 2,300 2,500 18,500
TOTAL 37,983 30,687 28,267 28,548 38,774 44,539 40,305 59,960 309,063

Source: Congressional Research Service, Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2000-2007, October 23, 2008.
Note: The Congressional Research Service figures differ from the Pentagon numbers cited in Table 1 for a variety of reasons; most notably the CRS figures are by calendar year rather than the U.S. fiscal year (October 1 through September 30) used by the Pentagon.

The Biggest Recipients of U.S. Weapons and Training
If we take an expansive view of the developing world, as defined by the Congressional Research Service and other U.S. government agencies, the top recipients of U.S. arms fall into two categories: 1) major oil-producing states or rapidly growing nations that can afford to pay for expensive systems like fighter planes and tanks, and 2) nations that receive U.S. weaponry on subsidized terms because of their perceived value as strategic partners. Of the top ten U.S. arms recipients in the developing world (see table 3) five- Pakistan, Israel, Iraq, Egypt and Colombia-rely on U.S. government subsidies for all or part of the funds needed to purchase U.S. weapons. The remaining four countries on the top ten list-Saudi Arabia, Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Singapore-pay for U.S. weaponry out of their own pockets.

Table 3
Top 25 U.S. Arms Recipients in the Developing World, FY 2006 and FY 2007

Country by Rank Amount of Weapons Received
Combined Total for FY 2006 and FY 2007 (dollars in millions)
1. Pakistan $3,662.4
2. Saudi Arabia $2,511.3
3. Israel $2,070.1
4. Iraq $1,416.7
5. Korea $1,246.8
6. United Arab Emirates (UAE) $983.5
7. Kuwait $878.7
8. Egypt $845.0
9. Colombia $575.1
10. Singapore $492.7
11. Jordan $473.6
12. Bahrain $307.5
13. Thailand $164.0
14. Philippines $156.1
15. Brazil $95.4
16. India $92.3
17. Malaysia $68.7
18. Oman $57.1
19. Chile $53.8
20. Morocco $52.3
21. Argentina $44.0
22. Lebanon $41.9
23. Indonesia $37.3
24. Yemen $18.1
25. Tunisia $16.6

Source: U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Security Cooperation Agency, Historical Facts Book, as of September 30,2007, published in 2008.
Note: Figures in this table cover only agreements under the Pentagon's Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, the largest U.S.government arms transfer program.

U.S. Assistance Channels
In addition to the growing number of countries receiving U.S. weapons and military assistance since September 11, 2001, there has also been a proliferation of aid channels. Before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the vast bulk of U.S. assistance went through programs like the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program or the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, both of which are authorized by the Department of State and implemented by the Pentagon. In addition to vastly increasing the amount of military assistance available to potential U.S. arms clients, the new post-9/11 programs have shifted the balance in the provision of foreign and security assistance from the State Department toward the Pentagon. Table 4 gives an overview of the funding provided by major U.S. security assistance programs, highlighting programs initiated after 9/11.

Table 4
Major U.S. Security Assistance Programs as of 2008

"Traditional" Programs Funding 2002-08 (dollars in billions)
Foreign Military Financing (FMF) $33.8
International Military Education and Training (IMET) $ 0 .6
International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE) $ 4.1
Andean Counterdrug Initiative (ACI) $ 4.7
Economic Support Fund (ESF) $25.9
Traditional Programs Total $69.1 billion
Programs Initiated Since 2001
Train and Equip Funds (T&E) for Iraq and Afghanistan $28.8
Global Train and Equip (T&E) Funds, Section 1206 $ 0.5
Coalition Support Funds (for allies in Iraq and Afghanistan) $ 6.6
Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP) $ 3.7
Combating Terrorism Fellowship Program (CTFP) $ 0.1
Nontraditional Programs Total $ 39.7 billion

Sources: U.S. Department of State, Congressional Presentation for Foreign Operations, FY 2003 through FY 2009 editions; and, for nontraditional programs, Cindy Williams and Gordon Adams, Strengthening Statecraft and Security: Reforming U.S. Planning and Resource Allocation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Security Studies Program Occasional Paper, June 2008.

In monetary terms, the creation of a series of new aid programs authorized and implemented by the Pentagon has resulted in a massive increase in the resources available for arming and training foreign military forces-nearly $40 billion in funding for programs that did not exist before 9/11. In addition to this new funding, the traditional security assistance programs cited in table 4-Foreign Military Financing, the Economic Support Fund (ESF), the Andean Counterdrug Initiative (ACI), and the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement program (INCLE)-grew by over a third from FY2002 to FY2008, with funding increasing from $7.4 billion to $11.2 billion.

As for the balance of supervisory and budgetary power between the State Department and the Pentagon, the Department of Defense went from a position of having little or no authorizing power before 2001 to controlling 35 percent of all security assistance issued between 2002 and 2008. Whether Defense or State funds a particular program is more than just a bureaucratic distinction. Some human rights conditions on aid cover only State Department programs, so that programs funded by the military can continue even when programs funded by the State Department have been cut off. This obviously sends mixed signals to the foreign governments that Washington is trying to influence. This distinction is further exacerbated by the fact that the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee-which oversee State Department-funded programs-have more experience in providing oversight for security assistance programs and are more likely to raise questions about the impact of a given program on human rights or regional stability. By contrast, the House Armed Services Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Defense, which govern Pentagon-funded security assistance programs, are less likely to pursue these questions in depth.[4]

There are also issues of management capabilities between the State Department and the Pentagon. For example, the Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP), a flexible program that gives U.S. commanders in the field money to spend on everything from compensating families for damage done to their homes during searches by U.S. forces to improving local sewer systems, has been effective in addressing particular needs of key communities on a timely basis. This in turn has engendered goodwill toward U.S. military personnel. But there have been serious questions raised about the sustainability of CERP over the longer term as larger development projects have begun to be funded through the program. The benefits of these "one-shot" investments are often negated by an inability or unwillingness to monitor their progress, with the result that in some cases additional CERP funds have been needed to re-do projects. The Pentagon was never meant to be a development agency, and funding anything other than small-scale local efforts through CERP risks wasting scarce resources.[5]

Finally, there tends to be much more transparency in programs funded by the State Department than in Pentagon programs that serve similar functions. Pentagon programs are often presented as lump sums in budgetary documents without details as to how the monies are to be disbursed. For example, it was only after the Center for Public Integrity, a nongovernmental organization, filed Freedom of Information Act requests for breakdowns on the recipients of the Pentagon's Coalition Support Fund (CSF) program that this information was made public.[6]

The future direction of both aid levels and the division of control between State and Defense over security assistance will be determined to some degree by the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But certain programs, like the Pentagon's Section 1206 initiative - one of the new military aid programs introduced since 9/11 -- are growing independently of the course of spending on Iraq or Afghanistan. And programs like CERP that were designed specifically for use in Iraq and Afghanistan are being "globalized" by the creation of parallel programs such as the Combatant Commander's Initiative Fund (CCIF). This suggests that the battle for control and monitoring of security assistance funding will continue beyond the end of these conflicts.

The vast bulk (over 83 percent) of the $108.80 billion in security assistance distributed by the Bush administration for FY2002 through FY2008 went to just five countries, all in the Middle East or South Asia (see table 5).

Table 5
Top Five Recipients of U.S.Security Assistance, FY2002 to FY2009 (dollars in millions)

Country FY 2002-06 FY 2007 FY 2008a FY 2009b Total
Afghanistan $11,520.2 $9,085.6 $4,502.6 $4,656.2 $29,764.6
Iraq $14,459.5 $7,658.1 $3,997.2 $ 2,397.0 $27,492.2
Israel $14,219.7 $2,460.2 $2,380.6 $2,550.0 $21,610.5
Egypt $9,994.4 $1,757.7 $1,705.9 $1,505.4 $14,963.4
Pakistan $7,600.8 $616.6 $738.5 $798.4 $9,754.4
Total $57,794.6 $21,578.7 $13,824.8 $11,907 $104,585.1

Sources: U.S.Department of State, Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations, FY 2004 through FY 2009 editions; International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Collateral Damage: Human Rights and U.S. Military Aid Since 9/11, Center for Public Integrity, May 2007; and U.S. Department of Defense, "Global War on Terror" supplemental budget requests, FY 2003 through FY 2009 editions.
aFY 2008 figures are estimates.
bFY 2009 figures are as proposed in the administration's budget.

U.S. Weapons at War
U.S. arms and military training played a role in 20 of the world's 27 major wars in 2006/07 (see table 6). The dollar value of U.S. weapons transfers and weapons orders destined for zones of conflict during that two-year period was $11.2 billion. The biggest recipients were Pakistan ($3.7 billion), Turkey ($3.0 billion), Israel ($2.1 billion), Iraq ($1.4 billion), and Colombia ($575 million). Nations receiving less than $5 million in transfers included Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Uganda, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Haiti. But since the figures in table 6 include only transfers under the Pentagon's Foreign Military Sales program, these relatively modest numbers do not represent the full scope of security assistance provided to these nations (for example, see our profile of Nigeria).

Table 6
U.S. Arms Sales to Nations at War,2006/07 (in current dollars)

Nation Foreign Military Sales
FY 2006 Foreign Military Sales
FY 2007 Total
Algeria -- -- --
Burundi -- -- --
Chad $1,816,000 $100,000 $1,916,000
Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) -- -- --
Democratic Republic of the Congo $1,255,00 $1,464,000 $2,719,000
Ethiopia $8,852,000 $3,200,000 $12,052,000
Kenya $1,600,000 $3,853,000 $5,453,000
Nigeria $253,000 $724,000 $977,000
Somalia -- -- --
Sudan -- -- --
Uganda $3,017,000 -- $3,017,000
Afghanistan $1,727,000 -- $1,727,000
Burma (Myanmar) -- -- --
India -- $92,334,000 $92,334,000
Nepal $100,000 $200,000 $300,000
Pakistan $3,475,245,000 $187,156,000 $3,662,401,000
Philippines $30,578,000 $125,502,000 $156,080,000
Sri Lanka $1,400,000 $310,000 $1,710,000
Thailand $75,576,000 $88,439,000 $164,015,000
Russia-Chechnya -- -- --
Turkey $967,776,000 $2,033,629,000 $3,001,405,000
The Americas
Colombia $139,463,000 $435,617,000 $575,080,000
Haiti $200,000 $835,000 $1,035,000
Middle East
Iraq -- $1,416,752,000 $1,416,752,000
Israel $1,004,631,000 $1,065,541,000 $2,070,172,000
Lebanon $1,684,000 $40,154,000 $41,838,000
Yemen $4,143,000 $14,056,000 $18,199,000

Source: U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Security Assistance Agency, Historical Facts Book, as of September 30, 2007 and Project Ploughshares, Armed Conflicts in 2007, at

Thirteen of the top 25 U.S. arms recipients in the developing world in 2006/07 were either undemocratic governments or regimes guilty of major ongoing human rights abuses (see appendix). This is a one-third reduction in the number (18) of top U.S. recipients that fit these categories when we last surveyed these trends in 2005, but the number of such recipients contrasts sharply with the Bush administration's pro-democracy rhetoric. The majority of the undemocratic and/or human-rights-abusing governments armed by the United States are in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Bahrain) and South Asia (Afghanistan and Pakistan). Although the administration's motivations for arming these nations-protecting oil flows, supporting antiterrorism efforts, or promoting coalition partnerships in theaters of war-are not without merit, the rationales for making these sales and their effectiveness in achieving U.S. policy goals need to be reconsidered. For example, does arming the Saudi regime make it easier or harder for Riyadh to move toward a more open, more stable political system that will keep that nation's oil on the world market uninterrupted by internal or external conflict? Will U.S. weapons supplied to Iraqi and Afghan forces end up in the right hands or disappear into local black markets where they could just as easily end up in the possession of anti-U.S. rebels, insurgents, and terrorists? Has the U.S. decision to arm and support Ethiopia in its recent war against Somalia helped to stabilize or destabilize the Horn of Africa?[7] These and other questions will be addressed as appropriate in the country profiles that follow.

Country Profiles: U.S. Arms Recipients, 2006/07
The 13 countries profiled here have been chosen because they represent important aspects of U.S. arms transfer policies, and serve as proving grounds for measuring the efficacy of current approaches to weapons exports. The profiles are organized by region, beginning with Africa. The countries profiled are Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Georgia, Turkey, the Philippines, Thailand, Iraq, Israel, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and Colombia.

East Asia and the Pacific
Near East
Central and South Asia
Western Hemisphere
Conclusion and Recommendations
U.S. arms sales policy is in disarray. As the size, scope, and sophistication of U.S. transfers has increased during the Bush administration, so have the risks.

When the vast bulk of U.S. arms transfers to the developing world go to human rights abusers and undemocratic regimes, it does real and substantial damage to the reputation of the United States as a force for democracy and the rule of law. This in turn undermines the ability of Washington to promote cooperation in other areas of national need, from the coordination of intelligence and law enforcement, to promoting economic growth, to curbing climate change. While some of these objectives-particularly those in the economic and environmental spheres-should be of mutual interest to all countries, Washington's ability to play a leadership role is hampered by its role as the world's leading arms trafficking nation.

In addition, arming repressive regimes is more likely to promote instability than it is to foster stability. Arms transfers can serve as a U.S. government "seal of approval" for governments engaged in unacceptable behavior, not to mention being used as tools of internal repression and instruments of warfare with neighboring states. This concern is underscored by the fact that U.S. weapons are present in fully half of the major armed conflicts currently under way worldwide. And in some potential conflicts-between India and Pakistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Turkey and the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, forces on both sides are receiving U.S. arms and training.

These negative consequences of runaway arms transfers are exacerbated by the fact that there has been a proliferation of new aid and training programs run by the Pentagon without much transparency or accountability. Until these programs are reformed, the ability of Congress to play a meaningful role in overseeing the weapons trade will be severely undermined.

All of this is not to say that arms transfers do not have security benefits, particularly in the realm of fostering military cooperation. But the level and types of exports provided to specific countries need to be subjected to much more careful scrutiny, including consideration as to whether the same benefits might be obtained through nonmilitary forms of engagement.

Accordingly, we make the following recommendations:

The next administration should follow the leads set by the Reagan, Carter, and Clinton administrations by putting forward a new arms transfer policy directive within its first six months in office. The directive should establish clearer criteria for arms transfer decision making that strike a balance among military, political, economic, human rights, and nonproliferation objectives.
Congress should establish common standards of transparency and accountability for all arms transfer and security assistance programs, including required reporting on amounts disbursed, countries served, and weapons systems and training provided.
The president and Congress should reverse the trend toward situating security assistance programs within the Pentagon budget. The State Department is better equipped to mesh the competing interests that U.S. foreign and military policies are meant to address.
The president and the Congress should endorse and/or ratify key international initiatives like the global ban on anti-personnel land mines, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and a global arms trade treaty.

[1] Figure derived by the authors from U.S.Department of Defense, Defense Security Cooperation Agency, Historical Facts Book as of September 30,2006; and U.S. Department of State, CongressionalBudget Justification for Foreign Operations, FY2009 ed., PM Annex, “TitleIV Supporting Information.”

[2] The human rights language is containedin section 502 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.

[3] To cite just one egregious example--China’s role in arming the government of the Sudan--see William D. Hartung, Deadly Traffic: China’s Arms Trade with theSudan (Washington, DC: New AmericaFoundation, August 5, 2008).

[4] On this point, see George Withers, Adam Isacson, LisaHaugaard, Joy Olson, and Joel Fyke, “Ready, Aim, Foreign Policy: How thePentagon’s Role in Foreign Policy Is Growing, and Why the Congress, and theAmerican Public—Should be Worried,” a joint project of the Center forInternational Policy, the Latin America Working Group Education Fund, and theWashington Office on Latin America, March 2008.

[5] Dana Hedgpath and Sarah Cohen, “Money asa Weapon,” Washington Post, August 11, 2008.

[6] International Consortium ofInvestigative Journalists, “Collateral Damage: Human Rights and U.S. MilitaryAid Since 9/11,” Center for Public Integrity, May 2007,

[7] On the impact of the U.S.-backedEthiopian invasion of Somalia,see Nicholas D. Kristof, “The Endorsement from Hell,” New York Times, October 25, 2008.

Protecting Human Rights, Safeguarding Democracy?
The Records of the Top 25 Recipients of U.S. Arms in the Developing World

Sunday, December 14, 2008


How Muslims settled in Sri Lanka
The east-west trade between Asia and Europe came into the hands of the Muslims when trading nations such as Persia went over to Islam. The Muslim traders used the monsoon for sailing in the Indian Ocean. The last stop to wait for the change of monsoon was Sri Lanka. On leaving the Malabar coast, the next landmark they looked out for was Adams Peak.

Sri Lanka therefore became a permanent base of operations for the Muslim trader. Three Muslim writers of the 10th century, Istakhri, Ibn Hawqual and Maqdisi, speak of Sri Lanka as the final destination of Muslim navigators.

Kiribamune says that Muslims had settled in Sri Lanka by the end of the 7th century. Some of them brought their wives and families with them but the majority married local women. The first arrivals were from West Asia.

A focal point for Sri Lanka’s Muslim minority, Kechemalai Mosque at beruwela marks the location of the first recorded Muslim settlement on the island in 1024.

They came from Arabia and the Persian Gulf area. M.A.M.Shukri, using evidence from the Arabic (Kufi) inscriptions found in Sri Lanka, says that the first settlers came from Aleppo, a city in Syria.

Three Muslim tombstones were found in the Mannar - Puttalam area. Z.A.Desai, Superintending Epigraphist for Arabic and Persian at the Indian Archaeological Survey said that the tombstone found off Puttalam-Anuradhapura Road was in calligraphy peculiar to Morocco.

It probably belonged to the 9th or 10th century. The one found off the Puttalam-Kurunegala Road appeared to be inscribed in Sabean characters over which Tamil letters had been super inscribed.

Sabean script was used in kingdoms such as Yemen and Ethiopia. The tombstone found off Puliyantivu in Mannar District was in Arabic Kufic script and was dated it to 12th century.

By the 10 century, Arabs had entrenched themselves as traders on the western coast of India. They married Indian women and from the 12th century, Indo - Muslim settlements came up along the Indian coast, from Gujerat to Bengal. The major settlements were in Gujerat and Kerala.

Low caste Hindus converted to Islam, adding to the number. In the 13th century, the Bay of Bengal trade passed into the hands of these Indian Muslims. The Arabs had dropped out and were concentrating on the Arabian Sea.

The Hindu merchants had also dropped out. The high caste Hindu felt that travelling with Muslims and Europeans, contaminated him and made him unclean. So Hindu merchants let Muslims export their merchandise. A second set of Muslims came into Sri Lanka from these Muslim communities of south India.

Marina Azeez says Muslims from Kalyanapattam in Tamilnadu, established themselves in the eastern and western ports of Sri Lanka and continued to trade with India.

Settlers from Kalyanapattam are believed to have arrived at Beruwela in 1024 AD. Kalyanapattam was the main settlement of Indo-Muslims in southeast India. Dewaraja says that south Indian Muslims visited Sri Lanka in the 14th and 15th centuries for trade and in due course, married local women. W.I.Siriweera says that the local settlements held Malaysian Muslims as well.

The Muslim settlements in Sri Lanka were, almost without exception, located close to sea ports. Kiribamune says the first settlement was near the port of Mantota. Mantota was the leading port during Anuradhapura period. This settlement seems to have disappeared once Mantota lost its position as an international port. Ibn Batuta who visited Sri Lanka in 1344 found no Muslims at Mundel, except for one person from Khurasan who had been stranded there due to illness.

There were Muslim settlements at the ports in the south west of Sri Lanka. The Muslims seem to have followed the movement of trade from the north west to the southwest.

A Kufic inscription datable to 949 AD was found in Colombo, in a Muslim cemetery. Azeez says Kolontota or Kolamba consisted at this time of a small fort and a small harbour from where extensive trade was carried on. This settlement continued to develop. Ibn Batuta visiting in 1344 said Colombo was controlled by a Jalasti who is said to have had a 100 Ethiopians under him. Ibn Batuta also found a Muslim settlement in Chilaw.

Beruwela was at one time regarded as the main centre of Muslim settlements. A tombstone with Hijra 331 found in Muslim cemetery in Beruwela, indicates that Muslim had settled there in the 10th century.

Marginolli who visited Sri Lanka in 1349 refers to a Kwajah Jahan at Beruwela. Gira sandesaya (15 century) refers to Muslim women of Beruwela. The Portuguese arriving in the 16th century, noted that Beruwela was in Muslim hands. Ibn Batuta saw many Muslim merchants at Devinuwara (Dondra). In Galle he was treated by a Muslim named captain Ibrahim who had a residence in town. The Galle settlement continued into the modern period. A collection of 15 tombstones datable to 16th century were found at Karapitiya, Galle.

The main centres of Muslim settlement were in Colombo, Beruwela and Galle. From these centres, the Muslims spread to other points along the western and south western coasts such as such as Kalutara and Alutgama.

Close commercial contacts were maintained with the main ports and often the Muslims at these small settlements inter-married with those of the major ports. Shukri stated that port tombs show that in 16th century, there were permanent well consolidated Moorish settlements in all major ports from Mannar to Matara and in most of these towns, the Moors had their own headmen. However, he provides no supporting evidence.

There were many trading points centred on sheltered bays and inlets such as Weligama (Valuk gama) Matara (Nilvalatiththa) and Bentota (Bhimmathithta). These were predominantly Sinhalese settlements where Muslims were allowed to settle.

There has been a settlement of Muslims in Trincomalee in the 15th and 16th centuries. Two tombstones were discovered at Nicholson’s cove overlooking Trincomalee harbour. One tombstone, in Arabic Kufi and Naskh script was that of a respected Quazi. Desai says the date given is 16.8.1405.

The other was for a ‘noble, pious and chaste lady’ the daughter of Amir Badr ud din Hussain, son of Ali Al-Halabi. Desai was unable to decide whether the year was 1329 or 1523 because the third digit of the year had been ‘completely scraped off.’

There is little or no data regarding Muslim settlements in the interior. Only two tombstones have been found in the interior, one by the Puttalam - Kurunegala Road and the other by Puttalam - Anuradhapura Road.

Ibn Batuta said that initially traders were not given access to the interior. However, he had encountered a Muslim settlement at Gampola. Azeez says it was only after the arrival of the Portuguese and Dutch that Muslims migrated in large numbers and settled in the hill country and in the eastern province.

However, the Portuguese sources say that when the Portuguese arrived in Sri Lanka, Muslim villages were ‘to be found in every disawani.’

Marco Polo who was in Sri Lanka in 1292 AD, said the Muslims in the ports were actively and busily engaged in trade. In 1344, Ibn Batuta found that Muslims were in a position of privilege and even of power in certain areas. Kiribamune says that after Parakrama bahu VI (1412-1467) Sri Lanka rulers appear to have allowed Muslim and South Indian Hindu merchants, particularly the Muslims, to take over control of the foreign trade of the country and by the 15th century, the dispatch of export items was completely in the hands of the Muslims.

She says that Muslim trade with Sri Lanka showed an undulating pattern of growth culminating in an almost monopoly situation by the end of the 15 century. The memoirs of Gaspar Corea show that when Lorenzo de Almeida entered Colombo harbour, in the 16th century, vessels belonging to Muslims were being loaded with cinnamon, small elephants, various kinds of wood and green and dry coconuts.

Muslims have also been employed as mercenaries in the army. Marco Polo said Sri Lanka hired Muslim soldiers. Marignolli also commented on the fact that there were Muslim soldiers fighting in the armies of this country.

(The writings of M. Azeez, S Devendra, L Dewaraja, S Kiribamune, M.A.M. Shukri and W. I. Siriweera were used for this essay.)

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Dear Shan,

As we honor the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day this week, 2 million children and young adults under the age of 15 are now living with HIV/AIDS. Hundreds of thousands will die unless we do everything in our power to ensure that they live productive and fulfilling lives with the medicine they require.

The Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative has been responding to the global pandemic since 2002. By the end of this year, in partnership with the international drug purchasing entity UNITAID, we will have helped more than 173,000 kids in 33 countries receive the care and treatment they need to survive.

Here are some results we've helped achieve this year in Zambia:
Nearly tripled the number of infants tested for HIV.
Nearly doubled the number of infant HIV testing facilities.
Increased the number of health care workers able to treat children by more than 20 percent.
With your support, we have accomplished a great deal, but we must continue our efforts to fulfill our promise and give all children all over the world a better tomorrow.

I encourage you to learn more about our HIV/AIDS program today.


Bill Clinton
P.S. If you'd like to support our work, please click here.

New York Office: William J. Clinton Foundation • 55 West 125th St. • New York, NY 10027
Little Rock Office: William J. Clinton Foundation • 1200 President Clinton Ave. • Little Rock, AR 72201

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


ACF did not ask for army protection: Witness

By Sumaiya Rizvi

Trincomalee security forces commander told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI) investigating serious violations of human rights that he directed the army to look for the bodies of 17 Action Contre le Femme (ACF) workers after the Government Agent informed him of the killing.

“Some civilians told the Trincomalee GA about seeing bodies in the area and about two and half hours later my troops informed me about recovering the bodies,” the witness said.

The CoI requested that the identity of the witness should not be revealed.

Trincomalee GA had also told the witness that the bodies might be those of some NGO workers and that they were in an area close to a communications tower in the Mutur town.

The army started entering Mutur town only after August 6, the Witness said and after the bodies were found had informed the GA and the police to take necessary action.

“The LTTE was in Mutur town from August 2 to August 4 or 5 based on the mortar and artillery attacks directed at the army. But sometime on the 4th evening and early morning of the 5th the LTTE had a considerably reduced presence in the area,” the witness said.The witness, a army Major General said that his priority was to get in to the Mutur jetty and re establish and re-inforce the defence perimeter in the area and increase the supply of arms and ammunition and rations to the Kattaparichchan Camp.

He said the Kattaparichchan Camp, naval detachment at the Mutur jetty and the Mutur police station had come under severe attack while the Selvanagar and Mahindapura Army Camps for some reason were free of terrorist attacks.

“Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission head Ulf Henriksson did not contact me or speak to anyone under my command to get any information,” the witness said.

The witness denied that any ACF personnel approached the Army in relation to the safety of the 17 aid workers and said that if the ACF did so he would have definitely known about it.

Previously ACF officials testifying before the Commission said they had spoken to a high ranking Army officer about the safety of the ACF workers.

The Witness said Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse had instructed him to send security forces to the Mutur police station since the policemen were going to flee or surrender.

On August 7 the police were in the area to video the removal of the bodies of the 17 aid workers who were killed, a retired senior Trincomalee police DIG said.

The witness said he was surprised that an important incident such as this was not made known at a crucial meeting attended by SSP Nimal Samarakoon.


August 6, 2006 – 17 Aid workers of Action found assassinated in Muttur
October 6, 2006 – Presidential Commission appointed to probe incident


‘Wrong place at the wrong time’

Tragical death of Lankan student in Malaysia

By Jamila Najmuddin

“Today my son would have been alive if I had not fulfilled his wish,” are the only words which keep reverberating in the house of A. Sriskandarajah.

The corridor leading up to his apartment in Wellawatte is decorated with white flags. The usual laughter which occupied this small house, is now gone as people sit in the doorway with tears pouring down their cheeks.

Unable to accept the series of events which had haunted this loving home, Sriskandarajah’s remaining two siblings keep starring at the front door, hoping that their 22-year-old brother would soon walk in with his usual smile on his face.

However, they are well aware their hope would remain just that, as their beloved brother whom they used to joke with and share their thoughts with is no more.

Twenty-two-year-old Sarankan Sriskandarajah’s story has already hit the headlines.

Leaving the country, to pursue his studies in Malaysia, Sarankan was tragically killed by a group of men on November 26 at a tea boutique, a little distance away from his university.

The killing which has sent shockwaves throughout the student population in Malaysia, was even more tragic, as Sarankan was believed to be a victim of mistaken identity and was killed a day after his mother’s birthday.

According to eye witnesses, a group of ten men, in two cars had pulled up in front of the boutique and started attacking three students, one of them which included Sarankan. They had hacked and slashed the victims and had tried to slit their throats.Sarankan had, in an attempt to save himself, protected his chest and head with his hands, which is why, according to family members, he had received serious cut injuries on both hands.

He had also received serious cut injuries on his heels as he had tried to kick the knife away.

After attacking the students for almost two minutes, eye witnesses said the assailants had left the premises without saying a word.

Sarankan’s friends who were also present at the scene at that time, had rushed him and the other two to hospital. Sarankan had immediately undergone surgery and was said to be ‘out of danger’.

“My wife received a telephone call on November 27, from Sarankan’s friend, stating he had been attacked but was safe. They assured us that everything was normal and he was receiving treatment in hospital.

For two days later I did not eat as I was much worried. Sarankan’s guardian who was also a doctor in Malaysia, also assured me that my son was OK and was receiving the necessary treatment,” Sriskandarajah said.

Sarankan’s guardian who had rushed to the hospital upon hearing the incident from his friends, had immediately transferred Sarankan to a private hospital after his operation.

Despite receiving the necessary treatment, Sarankan had been suffering from a high temperature and short breath.

Sarankan’s father, back in Colombo, had started preparing to send his wife to Malaysia to look after their son. After completing the visa procedures, Sriskandarajah had booked a ticket for his wife on December 1.

Meanwhile, Sarankan’s guardian had informed Sriskandarajah that he would make their son talk to them over the telephone to assure them that everything was normal.

On November 28, Sarankan, had in a faint voice spoken to his parents and kids and told that he was in immense pain. He had also started crying saying his leg and hands had been badly hurt.

“I told my son over the telephone that everything would be ok. I also told him to pray to God. I told him that once he recovers, I would take care of all the financial difficulties for him. I just wanted to encourage him to battle on and recover fast,” Srikandarajah said. Same day, Sriskandarajah had received a telephone call that his wife was able to leave for Malaysia that day as a seat was available on the flight.

Sriskandarajah and his wife had immediately packed all her belongings and dropped her at the airport late at night.

When Sriskandarajah had returned home, on early Saturday morning, he received the telephone call, which he said he would never forget. It was the Malaysian hospital authorities informing him that his son had passed away.

When Sriskandarajah received the dreaded news, his wife was on a flight to Malaysia, unaware that her son, who everyone assured saying that he was recovering, had actually died.

Sriskandarajah’s wife heard the news upon reaching the hospital and was still in Malaysia. She would return home, with the body of her son, later this week. “I have been crying ever since the day I heard the news. My son had high hopes of excelling as an engineer after which he had told me he would return to the country and look after us. Just a few months before he died, he had also informed my wife, to tell me not to be so emotionally attatched to him. He was my son, how could I distance away from him,” a grieving Sriskandarajah said.

Ever since the day Sarankan’s parents had heard of their son’s wish to pursue his studies abroad, they were unhappy to part with their son, fearing of sending him to an overseas land.

“He was so adamant that he wanted to study in Britain. He did not want to take NO as an answer. He was a very bright boy which was why I wanted him to pursue his career,” Sriskandarajah said.

Sarankan who achieved seven A’s in his GCE O/Level examination and three A’s in his GCE A/Level examination, had gained entry into the Moratuwa University Engineering Faculty in the year 2005.

He attended the University for six months but had kept voicing his wish to his parents, of pursuing his studies in Britain. “The six months that he attended the Moratuwa University, I knew that my son was sad. He came home everyday with a frown. As a father I could not see him this way which was why I fulfilled his wish by sending him abroad,” Sriskandarajah said.

Unable to afford to send him to a university in Britain, Sriskandarajah had offered to send his son to Malaysia as his wife’s relatives were in that country.

Gaining admission in the University of Nottingham, a British university with an affiliate in Malaysia, Sarankan left for Malaysia in September 2006.

After gaining the necessary marks, Sarankan left for the UK in 2008 on a scholarship to complete his second year in Engineering. He had returned to Malaysia to complete his finals just two months ago.

“I looked after him in the best way I could. I loved him dearly and will continue to love him. Although I have lost him, I have forgiven the perpetrators who killed my son. I knew it was a mistake. He only seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Sriskandarajah said.

As he now awaits the body of his beloved son to return home, Sriskandarajah said he also did not want to continue with an inquiry into the death of his son as all he wanted now was to protect his other two kids in the best manner possible.

While Sarankan is no more, he would continue to live in the hearts of all, especially his parents, who silently wished that someday their son would walk in through the front door and return home.

Campus cooperates with the investigation

Following the killing of Sarankan, security has been tightened at the Nottingham University campus in Malaysia as a precaution, and police beefed up in the area.
A day of mourning was held at the Malaysian campus on Monday in honour of the Electrical and Electronic Engineering student.
On Friday, December 5, all lectures and other academic activities would be cancelled for a day of commemoration.
Professor Ian Pashby, Vice-President and Chief Executive of the University of Nottingham, Malaysia, said, “we are all deeply saddened by the tragic death of Sarankan Sriskandarajah. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this very difficult time.
“The serious and tragic nature of the incident has shocked the whole university community, because we have not experienced anything of this sort in the past. The university has taken several immediate steps to address the current situation,” he said.
Campus security has been tightened as a precaution. Dialogue has taken place with the police to intensify their visible presence in the area, and of course the university is cooperating fully with the police investigation,” Prof. Pashby said.

Foreign Ministry helps to release the body

The Foreign Ministry in a statement yesterday said the Sri Lankan High Commission in Malaysia was assisting the family of the dead student to secure the release of the body, after the post mortem examination was performed on Monday.
The Ministry also said it was understood that the target of the assailants was a group of middle aged Malaysian men of South Indian origin. The armed gang had mistaken the Sri Lankan students as acquaintances of their target and launched the brutal attack on them.
The High Commission officials have visited the hospital and spoken with the President of the Sri Lankan Students Union at the university. They were also due to meet with the Director of the University to discuss the security concerns of the Sri Lankan students, the press statement said.

Monday, December 1, 2008


PETALING JAYA, MALAYSIA: A 22-year-old Sri Lankan student who was killed by a group of kinife-wielding men is believed to be a victim of mistaken identity.
Sarankan Srikandarajah from Sri Lanka(KOKUVIL) was having lunch at 3.45 pm last Wednesday in Taman Tasik Semenyih, just a two-minute drive from Nottingham University in Kajang where he studied, when 10 men in three cars pulled up and attacked three students.

A witness said the assailants hacked and slashed the victims.

"It was horrible and everyone was stunned as they attacked my friends for almost two minutes before leaving without saying a word," the witness, who requested to remain anonymous, said.

Sarankan, a final-year student, suffered multiple slash wounds, losing part of his heels and fingers as he tried to kick the kinfe away.

He died at the Subang Jaya Medical Centre over the weekend.

A few minutes after the attack on Wednesday, another student of the same university was attacked two kilometres away when the same assailants blocked his car and began slashing at him.

"They rammed my car to a stop in the middle of the road.

One of them opened my door and began slashing me until one of his gang members said in Tamil: 'He is not the person'.

"He stopped attacking me and got back in his car and drove off," the victim, said.

He suffered cuts on his thigh, hand and leg and needed 48 stitches.

It is learnt that many of the students living the area are afraid for their safety following the vicious attack.

Kajang OCPD Asst Comm Sakaruddin Che Mood confirmed the incidents. (The Star)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Climate Change and indigenous groups
Thalif Deen

As the United Nations readies for a key climate change meeting in Poland next month, a London-based human rights group warns that any new deal on global warming would be seriously compromised if the most vulnerable groups, specifically indigenous peoples, are shut out of the negotiations.

“The entire U.N. process will be flawed if communities that have firsthand experience of dealing with climate change are not allowed to participate,” says Minority Rights Group (MRG).

Mark Lattimer, MRG’s executive director, says “because we naturally think of climate change as affecting us all the whole planet there is a tendency to resist considering the effect on particular groups.”

Human rights advocates, he said, have also arrived late to a debate that has been long dominated by environmentalists.

“Yet indigenous peoples living in fragile environments are not only more likely to be affected adversely by climate change, they are already being affected, sometimes in devastating ways,” Lattimer told IPS.

The upcoming U.N. meeting in Poznan, Poland scheduled to take place Dec.

1-12 is expected to agree on a programme of work in advance of a major U.N. conference on climate change in Copenhagen in December 2009.

Both conferences will be working towards a comprehensive climate change regime to be established after 2012 when the Kyoto Protocol, which requires developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, runs out.

Asked if the international community is to be blamed for the continued marginalisation of indigenous peoples, Lattimer said inter-governmental negotiations frequently marginalise civil society, which has taken decades to find an effective voice in U.N. human rights and development processes.

In the climate change negotiations, which are much more recent, they are still largely excluded, often deliberately, he added.

“Governments think of indigenous communities, who may face displacement or even the eradication of their homelands, as being part of the problem, when in reality they should be seen as part of the solution,” he added.

Speaking at a U.N. seminar last year, Daniel Salau Rogei of the Simba Maasai Outreach Organisation, and a member of Maasai tribe in Kenya, said his community was nomadic and largely made of farmers dependent on their traditional lands and affected by changing weather patterns.

The Maasai considered themselves to be part of nature and, indeed, more than 75 percent of Kenyan wildlife species were found in Maasai territory.

But the territory was under threat from climate change, as well as from encroachment and predation by logging companies and other international business concerns that were actively wiping out natural resources and biological species, he added.

The MRG study says the impact of climate change hits indigenous and minority communities the hardest because they live in ecologically diverse areas and their livelihoods are dependent on the environment.

There are two reasons why minority and indigenous communities are more affected than others as the world’s climate changes.

Firstly, because they have a close and unique relationship with nature and often the entire community’s livelihood depends on the environment, the study said.

Secondly, because these communities are already living in poor, marginalised areas, and in some countries are already victims of state discrimination.

The livelihoods of indigenous and minority communities, including Sami reindeer herders in Norway, Sweden and Finland and Khmer Krom rice farmers in the Mekong Delta in south Vietnam, depend heavily on the environment.

Indigenous communities in particular live in fragile ecosystems, ranging from small islands in the Pacific to mountainous regions, arid lands in Africa and the ice-covered Arctic.

The report also points out that melting ice caps and desertification occurring as a result of climate change prevent animals accessing food and hinders herding and livestock rearing.

“This leads to loss of livestock, which in turn curtails incomes and leads to poverty, hunger and food shortages,” it says.

The eventual long-term impacts include death or migration to cities, often condemning generations to poverty, and a shift from traditional ways of life.

Asked if future climate change negotiations, including the plight of minorities, will undergo a radical change when the new administration of U.S. President Barack Obama takes office in January next year, Lattimer said that Obama has indicated that under his presidency, the U.S. will become both more environmentally responsible and take a more multilateralist approach to international affairs.

“This is welcome, but the US has traditionally been sceptical of indigenous peoples’ rights,” he noted.

He said the U.S. was one of only four countries that voted against the U.N.

Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, agreed by the General Assembly last year.

“Indigenous groups are hoping for a change of approach, but they are likely to be disappointed,” he warned.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Obama not the only minority president
The late President John Kennedy was the first Irish/Catholic to be elected to office representing a minority community. He was assassinated. His brother Robert Kennedy was assassinated the day he won the Presidential Primaries. JFK’s son John Kennedy Jnr. and his wife Caroline both died in a mysterious plane crash.

The post of President of the USA has primarily been controlled by WASPs (White Anglo, Saxon Protestants). Obama’s election as 44th President of the USA is, in my opinion, a highly political one plotted and planned to defuse the unpopularity of America. It could have been seen from the media exposure, given to Obama during his campaign, that Joe Biden, his running mate, now VP, only received 1 per cent exposure. The propaganda worked; America has re-emerged as The Most Powerful Country in the World! Its imperialistic stance shown previously has also been de-fused giving way to its image as the country espousing democracy, fraternity, and equality.

Incumbent President Bush will be remembered for (a) Deposing and executing Iraq’s Saddam Hussein whose reign resulted in: the Iran/Iraq war which lasted eight years and killed a million on each side. ‘the invasion of Kuwait, and the ill-treatment and genocide of Northern Iraq’s Kurds. (b) ousting Taliban rule in Afghanistan. whose actions reeked of fundamentalist Islam, directed mostly at Afghan women who lost the right to work, to dress as they liked and whose lives were made miserable by Islamic militants (c) for weakening Islamic fundamentalism (d) for decreasing terrorist attacks by Palestinian extremists on Israelis (Saddam Hussein used to handsomely reward the families of Palestinian suicide bombers whose suicide vests were provided by him) and (e) foe introducing Democracy to the Middle East. The Middle East has a long way to go, but they are finally on the correct path. These are the things Bush will be remembered for, not now but much later.

Linda van Schagen,
Mt. Lavinia.


Sunday, November 16, 2008


Veddahs’ world is a no man’s land

Citizens’ rights continue to elude Lanka’s original inhabitants. Many of them live at poverty level, and do not possess birth or marriage certificates

The country’s oldest residents, a people whose history goes back a couple of thousand years at least, are in the humiliating position of not being even able to call themselves proper citizens of this country.
The Veddhas, Sri Lanka’s Aborigines, live much as they did generations back, in comparative poverty, and shunned by the rest of society, except for the occasional tourist, or journalist who meets them out of curiosity.

Most Veddahs do not have birth certificates, and few Veddah parents possess marriage certificates.
Meanwhile, little or nothing has been done by the authorities to improve the lot of the Veddahs, or to make them feel a part of Sri Lanka’s multi-ethnic community.

Veddahs: a neglected people
Once upon a time, the Veddahs lived largely along the Mahaweli River. Up to around 1945, a community of Veddhas lived in the Bibile area. In more recent times, the Veddahs have moved out to districts such as Moneragala and Ampara, living in remote villages such as Rathugala and Nilgala.Some 78 Veddah families live in Rathugala.

Sudubandiyala Aththo, one of the Rathugala residents, said his father came to the village from the Senanayake Samudraya area. He said the it would take the Veddahs years, even generations, to catch up with the modern world.

Veddah children, he said, face many obstacles in getting an education. They are shunned at school by the other students, and are made to sit at the back of the class. They are called names and taunted. Many Veddah children refuse to go to school because of the unkind treatment they get.Sudubandiyala says he has to travel 50 miles in order to collect get his Samurdhi allowance from the state.

Thalabanda, one of the village elders, said life in the modern world was difficult, and finding the basics a challenge. “I am the leader of the Pollebadda tribe of Veddhas, and it is true that we have a very hard life,” he said. “Sometimes I wonder whether it would not be better to go back to our ancient bow-and-arrow way of life,”

In 1997, Thalabanda’s tribe gave up its traditional habitat and moved into village areas to begin life as farmers. Ten Veddah families were given a 10-acre piece of land by the state. The land was inadequate for the Veddah community. There was only one well for irrigation purposes, and this would run almost dry in the dry season.

Meanwhile, the Veddahs’ movements are strictly restricted to the land they have been allotted. If a Veddah is found to have strayed outside the limits of the reserve, he or she is liable for a fine of between Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 50,000. Veddahs do not have this kind of money to pay penalties, and so errant Veddahs end up in prison.

The Veddahs also have a housing problem. There are only 22 permanent houses, and the other 78 living spaces are mere shacks. The villagers wonder how they will manage with the limited land when the village population expands.

Worst of all, most Veddahas have no birth or marriage certificates. The lack of documentation means they face insurmountable problems when they try to find employment or interact with society at large.
A Veddah youth said it was time the Veddahs were given a better deal and treated like other Sri Lankan citizens.

“The authorities should give us our rights,” the 24-year-old said. “We deserve better. We too are human, like the rest of society.”

Friday, November 7, 2008

Civilians Turn To Those Who Provide Security/Freedom/Peace!

A history- making election in the Shanie A history-making election in US

Blow ye the trumpet, blow!

The gladly solemn sound

Let all the nations know,

To earth’s remotest bound:

On New Year’s Day in 1863, exactly one hundred years before the assassination of Martin Luther King, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation ostensibly to free the slaves. A large group, like many other blacks all over the northern states, had gathered at a Baptist Church in Boston to await news of the signing. Immediately the news reached them, they broke into the hymn that begins with the words quoted above. This was during the American Civil War when there nearly four million slaves. The actual abolition of slavery did not happen until nearly three years later after the Civil War had ended and the 13th Amendment had been passed.

Now, one hundred and forty five years later, the dream of the founding fathers of the United States of America is finding a resonance in the election of Barack Hussain Obama as the next US President. The founding fathers in the Declaration of Independence declared: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness..." But slavery and segregation were a blot on American society, and violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. Forty seven years ago when Obama was born, segregation was common and accepted. It was some years later than segregation was also abolished. In July this year, the US House of Representatives passed a historic resolution acknowledging the inhumanity of slavery and segregation and apologised to the African Americans for the injustice done to them.

When segregation was completely abolished throughout the US, nobody would have thought that forty years later, the people of the US would elect a black man as their President. Obama’s father was a Kenyan, his mother was American, he grew up as a school kid in Indonesia and Hawaii and had his graduate studies in Ivy League Universities in the US. That is why, it is said, he used to joke that his family occasions were like a mini UN General Assembly. He has been elected to the Presidency not because of his colour, not because of his ethnicity or religion but because the US voter found in him a leader who had the ability to change the faltering direction in which their country was moving. They elected him despite his colour, despite his middle name which identified his mixed background. As he stated in his victory speech at Chicago’s Grant Park: "If there is anyone out there who doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our Founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."

In the same speech, he acknowledged the difficulties he would be facing when he took office: "Two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century." Then in a spirit of candour, he said: "The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. There will be setbacks and false starts, but I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face." Two years earlier, when he launched his campaign for the Presidency, he had said: "I imagine they (the American people) are waiting for a politics with the maturity to balance idealism and realism, to distinguish between what can and cannot be compromised, to admit the possibility that the other side might sometimes have a point." That was the realism and humility that ensured for Obama such a decisive victory.

The US still remains the world’s largest power. Her politics and her economy impact on the rest of the world. This is why the rest of the world took a keen interest in the US Presidential Election. In almost all countries, a substantial body of the opinion-makers appeared to favour an Obama victory. He was one who seemed to have the vision and idealism and the realism to understand the hurdles he had to clear. He has now shown that he has the overwhelming support of the American people and goodwill from people all over the globe. Despite limited experience in Washington, he has everything else going in his favour. There is therefore every hope that he will be able to deliver both to the American people and to the world.

War, Peace and Civilians

The public have a right to information, though, in times of war, some sensitive information may have to be withheld. But feeding the public with disinformation can and will be counter-productive. In recent weeks, the Government spokespersons have been more circumspect in their reporting. The public were earlier given the impression that the Army were on the verge of taking Kilinochchi. One senior political figure at an election rally in the NCP even thought that it would happen before the NCP election was over. This may have been just election rhetoric but, when propaganda does not become reality, disillusionment sets in. The more cautious reporting in recent weeks is therefore to be welcomed.

Also to be welcomed is the possibility that proposals for a political package to bring about a settlement to the National Question may be released soon. President Chandrika Kumaratunge presented her proposals whilst pursuing military action against the LTTE. It is good that President Rajapakse also seems to have around to the same view. He must engage the Tamil civil society and attempt to win over the minds of the civilians. This cannot be done by using elements whose mindset and actions are as fascistic as that of the LTTE. The people of the East (and North) continue to be in the grip of violence because of these elements. The ordinary peace-needing civilians will turn to a group who will provide them with security and freedom from harassment and violence. The Government has the opportunity to use its security forces to provide just that security to the civilians. By using fascist elements with their own personal agendas, the Government is sadly losing that opportunity and allowing a resurgence of activity that terrorises the civilian population.

Good Governance

Along with a political settlement, President Rajapakse needs to change his thinking on two other matters. First, is the question of getting the GSP+ facility renewed for our apparel industry. Non-renewal of that privilege will have enormous and permanent effects on our economy. It centres on ensuring that we implement fully the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It has been pointed out that there are a number of ICCPR rights which are still not recognised by the Sri Lankan Constitution or law. These include the right to life; freedom from negative discrimination on the basis of national or social origin; freedom from forced or compulsory labour; the security and liberty of persons deprived of liberty; the right to compensation for unlawful arrest or detention; right to require free consent to medical or scientific experimentation; right to leave the country; rights of minorities, including in respect of religion, language and culture; and the right to privacy. Surely, there can be no objection to ensuring that we specifically recognise and incorporate them into our statute book. The loss of the GSP+ privilege is not a temporary loss of employment for thousands of our young people who need this income. If the apparel industry decides to move to other countries that have no problems with recognising ICCPR rights, it will have long-term effects on our economy.

President Rajapakse must also, not waiting for Supreme Court strictures, fully implement the 17th Amendment and set up the Constitutional Council. Abiding by the provisions of the Constitution not just ensures good governance; it benefits not only the people but the Government as well. Not to do so will inevitably lead to growing dissatisfaction with the Government. People will want to see that justice is being done, even if they do not always receive justice.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Barack Hussein Obama: Who is he? Dinesh Iriyagolle Weerakkody

This article was written a few days before the US Presidential Election. It is widely expected that the US will see its first black president in the White House after the elections. The president and vice president-elect are scheduled to be inaugurated on January 20, 2009 and take control of the White House.

Parents and birth

Barack Hussein Obama (Jnr), was born on 4 August 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., a Black Muslim from Nyangoma-Kogel, Kenya and Ann Dunham, a white atheist from Wichita, Kansas. His parents met while attending the University of Hawaii, where his father was a foreign student. They separated when he was two years old and later divorced. Obama’s father returned to Kenya and saw his son only once more before dying in an automobile accident in 1982 when Obama (Jnr), was 21-years-old.

After her divorce, Dunham married Lolo Soetoro, when the younger Obama was six years old, and the family moved to Soetoro’s home country of Indonesia in 1967, where Obama attended local schools in Jakarta until he was 10-years-old. He then returned to Honolulu to live with his maternal grandparents, while attending Punahou School from the fifth grade in 1971 until his graduation from high school in 1979. Obama’s mother returned to Hawaii in 1972 for several years and then back to Indonesia to complete fieldwork for her Doctoral Dissertation. She died of ovarian cancer in 1995.

School and religion

His religion was an issue in the election campaign. His stepfather, Lolo Soetoro, was a Muslim from Indonesia. When Obama was six-years-old, the family relocated to Indonesia. Obama attended a Muslim school in Jakarta. He also spent two years in a Catholic school. Although the elder Obama (father), was raised as a Muslim, no evidence supports the claim that he was ever a "radical Muslim," and Senator Obama’s family histories note that his father was an atheist or agnostic (i.e., no longer a practicing Muslim), by the time he married the young Obama’s mother.

Of his mother’s religious views, Senator Obama wrote: For my mother, organized religion too often dressed up closed-mindedness in the garb of piety, cruelty and oppression in the cloak of righteousness.

This isn’t to say that she provided me with no religious instruction. In her mind, a working knowledge of the world’s great religions was a necessary part of any well-rounded education. In our household, the Bible, the Koran and the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf alongside books of Greek and Norse and African mythology.

On Easter or Christmas Day my mother might drag me to church, just as she dragged me to the Buddhist temple, the Chinese New Year celebration, the Shinto shrine and ancient Hawaiian burial sites. But I was made to understand that such religious samplings required no sustained commitment on my part. Religion was an expression of human culture, she would explain, not its wellspring, just one of the many ways - and not necessarily the best way - that man attempted to control the unknowable and understand the deeper truths about our lives.

In summary, my mother viewed religion through the eyes of the anthropologist she would become; it was a phenomenon to be treated with suitable respect, but with a suitable detachment as well.

The religious debate - a Muslim or a Christian

In his 2006 book, ‘The Audacity of Hope’, Obama elaborated on his early schooling, explaining that he attended both Catholic and Muslim schools in Indonesia - not out of any particular religious affiliation, but because his mother wanted him to obtain the best education possible under the circumstances.

During the five years that we would live with my stepfather in Indonesia, I was sent first to a neighbourhood Catholic school and then to a predominantly Muslim school; in both cases, my mother was less concerned with me learning the catechism or puzzling out the meaning of the muezzin’s call to evening prayer, than she was with whether I was properly learning my multiplication tables.

Barack Obama describes himself as "a Christian," says that he is "rooted in the Christian tradition," and his association with the United Church of Christ began over 20 years ago, long before he contemplated a political career. (Obama was first elected to the Illinois State Senate in 1996, but he has been involved with the United Church of Christ since the mid-1980s.)

Obama, marijuana and cocaine

As an adult Obama admitted that during high school he used marijuana, cocaine and alcohol, which he described at the 2008 Civil Forum on the Presidency, as his greatest moral failure.

Harvard Law School
and an Attorney

Obama entered Harvard Law School in late 1988. At the end of his first year, he was selected, based on his grades and a writing competition, as an editor of the Harvard Law Review. In February 1990, in his second year, he was elected president of the Law Review, a full-time volunteer position functioning as editor-in-chief and supervising the Law Review’s staff of 80 editors. Obama’s election as the first black president of the Law Review was widely reported and followed by several long, detailed profiles. During his summers, he returned to Chicago, where he worked as a summer associate at a law firm. Obama graduated with a Juris Doctor (J.D.) magna cum laude, from Harvard, in 1991.

Family and personal life

Obama met his wife, Michelle Robinson, in June 1989, when he was employed as a summer associate at a Chicago law firm. Assigned for three months as Obama’s adviser at the firm, Robinson joined him at group social functions, but declined his initial offers to date. They began dating later that summer, became engaged in 1991, and were married on October 3, 1992. The couple’s first daughter, Malia Ann, was born in 1998, followed by a second daughter, Natasha (‘Sasha’), in 2001.

2008 presidential

On February 10, 2007, Obama announced his candidacy for President of the United States in front of the Old State Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois. The choice of the announcement site was symbolic, because it was also where Abraham Lincoln delivered his historic ‘House Divided’ speech in 1858. Throughout the campaign, Obama has emphasized the issues of rapidly ending the Iraq War, increasing energy independence, and providing universal health care, at one point identifying these as his top three priorities.

Obama, LTTE and Tamil Eelam

Characterizing the conflict in Sri Lanka as a "vicious civil war," Senator Barack Obama, said during an interview that, "the problem of the 21st century is the problem of the other." He described this phenomenon as the inability of people to accommodate others "who are not like us," and mentioned Sri Lanka as an example, pointing out that war rages even when "everybody there looks exactly the same." This clip can be seen on YouTube:

Characterization of conflicts in the 21st century this way, Obama said, is an extension to the American Civil Rights era activist W. E. Dubois’ quote "The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line."

This problem of "the other" afflicted places like Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland and the issue of race within the United States, he said.

Obama also criticized the Bush administration’s "war on terror" as the cause for suppressing civil liberties, saying: "Part of my job as next president is to break the fever of fear that has been exploited by this administration. We are told to be afraid of terrorists, immigrants, and each other. This becomes the means, by which our civil liberties are subverted, [and] our values are distorted," implying policy changes are in order.

He promised a break from the Bush-Cheney diplomacy: "a willingness to speak to our adversaries," and cited President Kennedy, saying "we should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate."

"The notion that not talking with leaders we don’t like makes us look tough is fundamentally flawed. It makes us look arrogant and sends a message to the world that we are not listening."

He said that if he becomes president, he would lead diplomacy with Iran, even though Tehran was a "grave threat," because the acquisition of nuclear weapons could spark another arms race and Iran had assisted terrorist activities by Hezbollah and Hamas.

This does not mean conceding any positions to Iran, but listening to Iran to see where the US could "find common ground," he added. He criticized the Bush administration, saying it had "repeatedly rebuffed gestures [from Iran] that might allow for some resolution of these conflicts in a non-military way."

He said the detention facility in Guantanamo should be "closed down," rendition should be ended; Habeas Corpus restored and end warrantless wiretaps.

Senator Hillary Clinton, in the Democratic Presidential Primaries, had earlier urged a more nuanced approach to armed non-state actors and identified Tamil Tigers as one of the groups deserving such consideration.

Early this year, in a campaign "celebrating a century," the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), said of the Liberation Tigers: "Needless to say, the Tamil Tigers are among the most dangerous and deadly extremists in the world. For more than three decades, the group has launched a campaign of violence and bloodshed in Sri Lanka."

The U.S. government has designated the Tigers a foreign terrorist organization, so their activities in the US are illegal. We’re determined to stop them, using the full range of our investigative and intelligence capabilities," the FBI said.

Considering the status of the LTTE in the US and the research material available, it is believed and hoped that once in office, Obama will be not in a position to deviate radically from the current US policy in relation to the LTTE.

(The writer is a resident of Australia and is practicing as an Australian Solicitor and Barrister. He can be contacted on

Note from WTRF:
LTTE was created by Sinhala racism,oppression,brutality,pogroms,massacres, discrimination and marginalisation of Tamil people!If you remove these, then all the problems solved!Why don't you all understand this basic fact!!!