Monday, January 25, 2010

IDP's in Sri Lanka: Update by Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera posted an update on the IDP's today and I think its a fair assessment.

Things are better for the IDP's as most of the IDP's now have free movement but its still a ragged situation. They are yet to re-build their livelihoods and currently meet their daily needs via the food rations offered by the Government and aid agencies operating in Sri Lanka. The situation isn't ideal, but its a start and it beats the heck out of living in a secured refugee camp without the option of free movement. At least now they can work on rebuilding their lives.

Notes: Al Jazeera confirms that out of the initial 300,000 IDP's only 106,123 (35%) are still being detained without the option of free movement.

IDP's in Sri Lanka: 64% released, 53% returned to places of origin

The final stages of the Sri Lankan Civil War created 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who were transferred to camps in Vavuniya District and detained under military supervision in refugee camps as it was suspected that a large number of LTTE Terrorist cadres had covertly joined their ranks. Savvy PR abreast of the upcoming Sri Lankan Presidential elections (to be held on January 26th 2010) or not; the fact remains that as per data available on the 15th of January 187,535 of the IDP's(64%) have been released. Of this number 158,562 (53%)of the IDP's have been returned to their places of origin.

The released displaced persons were given kitchen utensils to start cooking and six months worth of rations as well as building materials to setup temporarily shelters.

In addition to helping them continue with their agricultural activities and setting up income-generating projects the government has provided them with 5,000 rupees ($44) in hand and 20,000 rupees ($175) via a bank account. They have been promised another instalment of 25,000 rupees ($219).

Notes: 5000 rupees is equal to 74% of the average monthly wage for a trades person in Sri Lanka as per data collected in 2008.

Out of the 300,000 a total of 106,123 (35%) are still being detained for screening and 10,000 IDP's have been identified as having some links to the Tamil Tigers. This includes not only former cadres but also their relatives, those who worked in the Tigers’s civil administrative structures and anyone believed to be a supporter or sympathizer of the Tigers. These individuals have been moved to separate refugee camps to ensure safer conditions for the remaining IDP's.

Wikipedia: Data on released IDP's and monthly wages in Sri Lanka
BCC: Funding for refugees allowed out of the camps and testimony of those who have been permanently resettled

Friday, January 22, 2010

Damn it Mahinda!!

I was surprised to realize that SLUNA (SRI LANKA UNITED NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF CANADA) which I consider to be the most active representation of Sri Lankans here in Canada and the only one which effectively counters the vile pro-LTTE propaganda spewed out by certain quarters of the Tamil diaspora is actively raising funds for Mahinda's reelection campaign. As an unbiased organization representing the common interests of all Sri Lankan expatriates I figuared they would remain impartial and would want to distance themselves from all the political mudslinging that's going on; but when I thought about it for a bit I realized that re-electing Mahinda makes sense. Well, at least for us here in Canada it does for re-electing Mahinda means that Bandula Jayasekara, Sri Lanka's Consul General here in Toronto, gets to stay.

Bandula is not a career diplomat but he is to date the most effective representation Sri Lanka has had in Canada. With his background in media and politics (he was Editor-in-Chief of the Daily News and a close personal confidant of Laxman Kadiragama) he has done an amazing job at advancing Sri Lanka's diplomatic profile here in Canada. He's eloquent, well opinionated and has a nonchalant approach which goes down well with the media here and as such he's gotten more interviews and media coverage than all the previous diplomats combined. And its not just quantity; his responses are well researched and opinionated. This gentleman is more than capable of holding his own with the news anchors here in Canada. In addition to being a media savvy diplomat he's really made an effort to reach out to the Tamil, Sinhalese and Muslim expatriates. He's made a point to stress over and over that being Tamil does not automatically associate one with the LTTE and that his offices in Toronto are for the benefit of all groups regardless of ethnicity. Canada is home to over 70,000+ Tamil Sri Lankan expatriates and has gained notoriety as an international safe haven for LTTE propaganda. So far Bandula Jayasekara is the only diplomat who has had any degree of success countering the LTTE Terrorist propaganda or reaching out to the Tamil community here in Toronto.

So yes, voting for Mahinda and raising funds for his campaign makes sense to me if it means Bandula gets to stay; but that also means that I'll be indirectly supporting 'pan-dan hora-golayas' as in the likes of Mervyn Silva and advocating the pillage of state coffers via politically motivated investments such as Mihin Air. Crap! DAMN IT MAHINDA!!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tamils don't have a voice?

One thing I hear often at Canadian Sri Lankan expatriate gatherings is that the Tamil population doesn't have a voice.

The pro-LTTE Tamil diaspora claim that they have been inadequately represented in parliament and the upper echelons of civil service since 1956, when the Official Language Act was enacted. The pro-Sinhalese extremist crowd claim otherwise and point out that the current setup allows representation by population and best serves the needs of the country.

The more moderate members of Canada's Tamil diaspora believe that the LTTE Terrorists were a group of power hungry profiteers who played on the fears of the county's Tamil and represented the needs of the Tamil population no better than the Sinhalese Buddhist politicians in parliament do. Like the more moderate Sinhalese diaspora they too, speak in favor of power devolution and provincial autonomy.

Its a web of discord, but one thing stands out clear: The Tamil population don't have a strong political presence to represent them democratically.

For decades the LTTE terrorists suppressed any contrary socio-political movements or any noteworthy individuals amongst the Tamil population that could be considered a threat to their dominance or their ideals. Fortunately for the Tamil population of Sri Lanka that menace has been eradicated and they now have an opportunity to seek democratic representation sans para-military intimidation or pseudo Tamil political organisations that represent the needs of the Sri Lankan Government rather than the needs of the Tamil population.

The present split political climate is ideal for a Tamil political organization to strategically lobby its way into prominence; as neither of the two main presidential candidates can oust the other without the support of Sri Lanka's Tamil minority.

And that's why the Tamil populace need to scour their ranks to find strong leadership during this presidential election. Leadership that can represent the values and ideals important to its voter base democratically without pandering to the terrorist elements that still smolder or without wilting before extremist Sinhalese movements.

Easier said than done; but if its to be done, now's the time.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Weird Statistic? Or intimidation?

I was discussing Sri Lankan groceries with an acquaintance recently, and was shocked to find that in this city of over 80,000+ Sri Lankans there happens to be no Sri Lankan Sinhalese run grocery stores anywhere in the Greater Toronto region. Every single retail Sri Lankan grocery store or supermarket is run by members of the Tamil diaspora. Add to that the fact that there are only two Sri Lankan restaurants featuring Sinhalese food (one's downtown Toronto and the other one is in the suburbs of Brampton) in the city and you have a truly skewered statistic.

Upon inquiry from one of Toronto's whole sale Sri Lankan food and grocery importers as to why there were no Sri Lankan Sinhalese grocers plying their trade I was told it was because "it is too much trouble; see even that Sri Lankan restaurant serving Sinhalese food in Brampton got burned."

A skewered statistic or intimidation?