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Posts tagged ‘Lone Island of Sri Lanka’

Sri Lanka refuse Chinese submarine docking: official

Colombo (AFP)

May 11, 2017

Sri Lanka refused permission for a Chinese submarine to dock at Colombo next week after a similar visit in 2014 angered regional super-power India, a top defense official said Thursday.

Chinese authorities had sought clearance for a port call at Colombo where a Chinese state-owned company operates a mega container terminal, the official said asking not to be named.

“They have asked for permission, but we have said no,” the official told AFP. “It is a very sensitive matter.” He did not elaborate.

The rejection came as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was visiting Sri Lanka as chief guest of Vesak, the island’s main Buddhist celebration making the birth, enlightenment and the passing of the Buddha.

The request for the Chinese submarine visit was for next week, after Modi’s departure on Friday evening, official sources said.

There was no immediate comment from the Chinese embassy in Colombo, but two submarine calls at the Colombo harbor in 2014 had reportedly angered India which considered it as undermining their security.

New Delhi traditionally regards its smaller neighbor as being within its sphere of influence. New Delhi is said to have been worried about Beijing’s growing influence on Colombo under the former regime of strongman president Mahinda Rajapakse.

Sri Lanka’s new President Maithripala Sirisena came to power in January 2015 promising to loosen ties with China after a decade of hefty funding by Beijing under his predecessor.

However, analysts have noted that Beijing’s influence was on the rise again as Colombo struggles to find alternative sources of much needed foreign capital.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Sri_Lanka_refuse_Chinese_submarine_docking_official_999.html.

Dozens still missing in Sri Lankan garbage collapse; 29 dead

April 17, 2017

MEETOTAMULLA, Sri Lanka (AP) — Rescuers were digging Monday through heaps of mud and trash that collapsed onto a clutch of homes near a Sri Lankan garbage dump, killing at least 29 people and possibly burying dozens more.

Hundreds had been living in the working-class neighborhood on the fringe of the towering dump in Meetotamulla, a town outside of Colombo, when a huge mound collapsed Friday night during a local new year celebration, damaging at least 150 homes.

By Monday morning, authorities had pulled 29 bodies from beneath the debris, according to lawyer Nuwan Bopage, who has worked with locals to protest the dump. Authorities were unsure how many more could still be trapped, but about 30 people were still reported missing, Bopage said.

Soldiers were digging with backhoes and shovels, as relatives of the missing pointed out where their houses once stood amid coconut, mango and banana trees. Those homes now lay in piles of collapsed concrete walls encased in a wall of mud up to 25 feet (8 meters) high and mixed with plastic bags, broken glass and other trash. Bicycles and auto-rickshaws, the three-wheeled vehicles used as local taxis, were crushed or lying topsy-turvy.

Rasika Sanjeewa, 41, his wife, two sons and a daughter had a narrow escape. Just as he stopped his auto-rickshaw and he and his family stepped to the ground, his daughter said the ground seemed to be moving beneath her feet.

“There was a strong wind from the side of the dump and my daughter shouted the mound is splitting. Suddenly one slice of the mound came crashing down. The whole area was shaking,” Sanjeewa told The Associated Press on Monday.

Debris blocked their way but they waited and eventually found their way out. Sanjeewa’s family had been heading to their friends’ home to celebrate the new year. The home was buried and their friends, a mother and daughter who worked as laborers in the area, had died, Sanjeewa said.

The prime minister over the weekend vowed to shut down the dump, which has absorbed much of Colombo’s garbage for several years as much of the capital has undergone extensive renovations. As the garbage piled up, the growing mound began threatening the tiny homes nearby, prompting residents to stage regular protests while complaining of health hazards.

“These people did not choose to live next to a dump. But they brought the garbage in and made this place horrible,” said rickshaw driver Dilip Mirmal, 34, whose home was spared while those surrounding were completely subsumed, killing 23 of his neighbors.

“This is a government-made disaster,” he said. “I have a mix of feelings, of anger, frustration and sorrow. We have been trying to protest and raise these issues, but no one was listening.” Another 11 people injured in the garbage collapse were being treated in a hospital.

Hundreds protest as Sri Lanka launches Chinese industrial zone

07 January 2017 Saturday

Sri Lanka police fired teargas to disperse hundreds of people protesting the launch Saturday of a special industrial zone in the island’s south that hopes to attract billions of dollars in Chinese investment.

Protesters pelted government supporters with stones and police retaliated with teargas and water cannon at the launch, which was also attended by the prime minister and the Chinese ambassador, a police official told AFP.

Authorities said about 25 people were hurt in the skirmishes, including 12 police.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and ambassador Yi Xianliang said the zone in Hambantota, 240 kilometers (150 miles) south of Colombo, will generate thousands of jobs and bring in about $5 billion in Chinese investment.

But residents are afraid they will loose their land to the project, which is situated adjacent to a loss-making $1.4 billion harbor that Colombo hopes to turn into a joint venture with a Chinese company.

The port has already proved controversial in itself with hundreds of temporary dock workers going on strike in December demanding that they be absorbed into the main port-owning company ahead of any sale to the Chinese.

The government denies residents will lose any land to the new industrial zone, saying 95 percent of the area allocated for the project is state-owned and the remainder will be bought from private owners. They say there will be no forced acquisitions.

“In the next two to five years, if everything is OK, there will be about $5 billion of (Chinese) investments in this zone,” ambassador Yi said at the launch, adding that 100,000 jobs could be created.

“The Hambantota port was going to sink us (Sri Lanka), but we are now trying to leverage it to create new economic activity and boost growth,” Wickremesinghe said.

The government, which came to power in 2015, has been trying to renegotiate the terms of its $8-billion Chinese debt, which includes the construction costs of the Hambantota port as well as a nearby international airport which is used by only one airline.

The former administration relied heavily on China to build ports, highways and railways as Western nations shunned it over its dismal human rights record.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/todays-news/182812/hundreds-protest-as-sri-lanka-launches-chinese-industrial-zone.

Sri Lanka to replace its ageing fighter jets

Colombo (AFP)

Aug 10, 2016

Sri Lanka Wednesday announced plans to replace its ageing jet fighters to better defend its maritime borders including rich fishing grounds, seven years after the island’s separatist war ended.

Cabinet approved President Maithripala Sirisena’s proposal to call for expressions of interest from global manufacturers to sell Sri Lanka the jets, government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said.

“The idea is to buy eight multi-role fighter aircraft with associated weapons on a government-to-government basis,” Senaratne, who is also a cabinet minister, told reporters.

Sri Lanka’s fleet of Chinese-made F-7, Soviet-era MiG-27 and Israeli Kfir aircraft are about 30 years old and have become obsolete, according to experts.

Sri Lanka used both the MiG-27 and Kfir jets to bomb rebel targets in the north at the height of the Tamil separatist war which ended in May 2009.

The country lost large numbers of aircraft during the decades-long fighting.

The main role of the new fleet would be to defend the island’s exclusive economic zone which stretches some 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) offshore, senior sources in the government said.

Both neighboring India and its rival Pakistan are keen to sell combat aircraft to the island, they said.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Sri_Lanka_to_replace_its_ageing_fighter_jets_999.html.

Pakistan seeks closer military ties with Sri Lanka

Colombo (AFP)

Jan 5, 2016

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called Tuesday for closer military cooperation with Sri Lanka on an official visit to the island.

Pakistan was a key supplier of arms and aircraft for Sri Lanka’s military in their battle against separatist Tamil Tiger rebels during the civil war that ended in May 2009.

In talks with President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sharif also expressed a desire for more naval exchanges.

“I conveyed our desire for more frequent port calls, participation in military exercises and defense seminars and training of military personnel,” Pakistan’s leader said in a statement following an official welcoming ceremony.

Sharif held talks with Wickremesinghe soon after his arrival on Monday and is due to fly back Wednesday after visiting the Buddhist pilgrim city of Kandy.

Sri Lanka sends its military officers for higher training to both Pakistan and its arch-rival India as well as to several other countries, including the United States and China.

The island’s closest neighbor India withheld arms and ammunition during the height of Colombo’s war with Tamil rebels, who have close cultural and religious links with the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

Sharif said he was also keen to expand trade with Sri Lanka and was eager to invest in its sugar and cement industries.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Pakistan_seeks_closer_military_ties_with_Sri_Lanka_999.html.

Sri Lankan leader dissolves Parliament, calls August polls

June 27, 2015

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena dissolved the Parliament loyal to his predecessor and called fresh elections in August in an attempt to consolidate power and carry out his promise of reforms.

Sirisena issued the notice at midnight Friday announcing the election for the 225-member Parliament for Aug. 17. Sirisena won the January presidential election against Mahinda Rajapaksa on a pledge of full-scale political reforms, but has faced resistance from lawmakers in implementing his program. It includes reducing powers of the presidency and changes to the electoral system.

A majority of the lawmakers in the dissolved Parliament belonged to the United People’s Freedom Alliance, which Rajapaksa led until his defeat. Sirisena is also keen to secure cooperation of a new Parliament ahead of an internal investigation into war crimes allegations in the final stages of the country’s civil war.

In March, Sirisena secured postponement of a United Nations report on the alleged atrocities by promising a domestic investigation. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights is expected to release the report in September.

Calling an election ahead of the report is also an apparent bid to deny Rajapaksa an opportunity to come back to power by stirring up nationalism. Rajapaksa is still popular with the country’s majority Sinhalese, who oppose international involvement in Sri Lanka. He is also considered a war hero among Sinhalese for ending the three-decade civil war in 2009.

The conflict ended after government troops crushed the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels, who fought for a separate state for the ethnic minority Tamils.

Modi in landmark visit to steer Sri Lanka away from China

By Amal JAYASINGHE

Colombo (AFP)

March 13, 2015

Narendra Modi began the first official visit by an Indian premier to Sri Lanka in nearly three decades Friday, looking to reassert New Delhi’s influence over Colombo after its drift towards China.

Modi will hold talks with Sri Lanka’s new President Maithripala Sirisena, who has promised to repair international ties damaged under his predecessor Mahinda Rajapakse’s China-friendly regime, after a ceremonial welcome in Colombo.

The Indian prime minister will also address parliament and visit the Tamil-dominated northern Jaffna region on a visit that comes just weeks after Sirisena made India his first foreign port of call since his election in January.

While observers don’t expect major policy initiatives so soon after the neighboring leaders’ last meeting, it is seen as an important signal of a desire to reset ties.

“I am sure together we are going to script a golden chapter in the history of India-Sri Lanka relations,” Modi said this week as he set off on a three-nation Indian Ocean island tour that has already taken him to the Seychelles and Mauritius.

He travels north on Saturday for a landmark visit to the Jaffna peninsula, home to the island’s Tamil minority and which bore the brunt of a 37-year separatist war in which India was intricately involved.

Modi is expected to push for demilitarization in the former war zone and more autonomy for minority Tamils who share close cultural and religious ties with those across the Palk Strait in Tamil Nadu.

Modi will be the first Indian prime minister to hold bilateral talks in Colombo since 1987, although several predecessors attended regional summits.

– Rifle assault –

When Rajiv Gandhi visited in 1987, the then premier was famously assaulted with a rifle butt by a Sri Lankan naval rating while inspecting a guard of honor.

Gandhi had gone to sign a bilateral pact that sought to end a guerrilla war by Tamil separatist rebels who had effectively enjoyed a safe haven in India since the mid 1980s.

The main rebel group, the Tamil Tigers, repudiated the peace accord and India ended up fighting the militants they had once trained and armed.

Around 1,140 Indian soldiers lost their lives during the 32-month deployment in Sri Lanka and Gandhi himself was assassinated in 1991 by a female Tiger suicide bomber while campaigning in Tamil Nadu.

After the war ended in 2009, relations remained strained and Sirisena’s predecessor Rajapakse caused unease in New Delhi by forging close ties with Beijing.

India, which traditionally regarded Sri Lanka as within its sphere of influence, was furious last year when Rajapakse allowed two Chinese submarines to dock in Colombo.

Under Rajapakse, Sri Lanka built up steady debts as Beijing funded a string of major construction projects.

Since his loss to Sirisena in a January election, the pendulum has swung back towards India with the new president making attempts to renegotiate the terms of some loans.

Sri Lanka’s new rulers last month also ordered a suspension of China’s biggest investment project, a $1.4 billion new city on reclaimed land just next to Colombo’s main sea port.

– ‘Diplomatic recalibration’ –

Mangala Samaraweera, Sirisena’s foreign minister, has said that while Colombo wants to retain good relations with China, “we will not go overboard like the Rajapakse regime”.

Charu Lata Hogg, a Sri Lanka expert at London’s Chatham House think-tank, said there were signs of “a recalibration in its previous relationships with China in favour of improved ties with the West and India”.

Modi is expected to finalize energy and construction deals, including funding for Sri Lanka’s creaking railways.

He will also lay the foundation stone for a cultural center in battle-scarred Jaffna where he is expected to receive a rapturous reception.

He will be only the second foreign leader since independence to visit the region, where India is seen by locals as a crucial protector against the dominance of the ethnic Sinhalese majority.

Beijing was a key defender of Sri Lanka at international forums when Rajapakse came under criticism over its rights record and allegations that 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed at the end of the war.

Modi’s predecessor, Manmohan Singh, pointedly shunned a Commonwealth summit hosted by Rajapakse in 2013 over the treatment of Tamils.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Modi_in_landmark_visit_to_steer_Sri_Lanka_away_from_China_999.html.

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