Thursday, May 17, 2012

Loans for ex-LTTE combatants to start anew

18 May 2012 - 08:53
The government has decided to grant loans to the 11,000 rehabilitated ex-LTTE combatants to engage in self-employment projects, Rehabilitation Authority chairman E A Samarasinghe said.

The chairman told the Daily News that the Treasury has allocated Rs 300 million on the direction of President Mahinda Rajapaksa toward the first first phase of this initiative scheduled to commence in July.

He said there are around 11,000 male and female rehabilitated ex - LTTE combatants altogether.

They have been given vocational training according to their choice and this measure is taken to turn their acquired skills into a productive livlihood. He added that the loan recipients are given a grace period of one year to commence repaying their loans.

He also stated that the government is taking measures to provide each of these ex - LTTE combatants a loan to re commence their once mis guided lives and join the government's efforts to make the country the Wonder of Asia.

Each candidate will be given a loan of Rs 250,000.

Samarasinghe further said the government has already granted loans to 3,000 needy persons in the North and East who were affected by the conflict to commence self employment projects.

The government allocated Rs 324 million for this purpose. He added that though those people were given a grace period of one year many of them have commenced to repay their loans before the laps of the year.

He said they monitor the development of the trade of the loan recipients by visiting them frequently and they found the progress of more than 90 percent of the loan recipients was remarkably positive.

He added that they had initiated small scale industries, carpentry, poultry farming, computer classes etc.

He also stated that two people had set up two mini cinema halls with the loan.

Courtesy: Daily News

Monday, May 14, 2012

Colombo 13 – temples, kovils and churches

Date:2012-05-13 10:46:00

By Kishanie S. Fernando

For the purpose of this article Kotahena (designated Colombo13) is taken to comprise of Kotahena, Kochchikade, Ginthupitiya and surrounded by the Pettah (Colombo 11), Mutwal (Colombo 15), Grandpass (Colombo 14) Dematagoda (Colombo 09) and the Colombo Harbour.

Kotahena or Kottanchina

This eighteenth century fishing hamlet now called Kotahena, rises from the marshes of the Kelani Ganga in the North-east of Colombo. Kottanchina as it was once known had groves of Kottan (Costus Speciousus) in the verdant jungle that covered this hillock. There were two small clusters of Kottan till about the mid twentieth century, one at the beginning of Bonjeans Road, and the other round the disused quarry at College Street. The British anglicized Kottanchina to Cottonchina and it is remarked that the people of Kotahena would nearly have been called “Cotton Chinese” in the mysterious way that words get evolved!

Colombo’s oldest Buddhist temples

Dipaduttarama Purana Raja Maha Viharaya in Kotahena was founded in 1806 and is the oldest Buddhist temple in Colombo with a history of over 300 years.

It is recorded to have been built in two stages, belonging to two periods: the mid-Dutch and the early British colonial periods. The date 1785 is found impressed on the lower half of an altar which belongs to the Dutch period, while the upper half can be attributed to the mid British period as the year 2416 (Buddhist era) is found inscribed thereon ie 1872 A.D.  At the very top, above the shrine is found the British crown and below that is a replica of a dagaba with a lion and a unicorn on either side below the dagaba. The first monk of this temple was Ven. Sinigama Dhirakkhanda who came into residence in 1845.

This temple was the centre for the revival of Buddhism which took place towards the end of the 19th century. The second incumbent Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera of Balapitiya, when he moved to Colombo decided to reside at Deepaduththaramaya.  It is here that the Thera began his work to revive Buddhism in the country.   He was known as the "Great Orator" – who made speeches defending Buddhism against the arguments of the Christian missionaries.

Ven. Gunananda Thera is said to have been one of the pioneers who created the Buddhist flag and at this temple in Kotahena the Buddhist flag was officially hoisted for the first time in Sri Lanka at the auspicious time of 8:30a.m. on 28th April 1885.  It was also at this temple Vesak Poya day was declared a Holiday.

The first “Daham pasala” or Dhamma school (school to teach the Buddha Dhamma ) in the island commenced at this temple by Mrs. Marie Musaeus Higgins and Madame Helena Patrovna Vlavatsky during the incumbency of the Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda.

Subsequently the temple began to be referred to as the Thai Temple in Sri Lanka as a member of the Thai Royal family who had been ordained by the Most Venerable Waskaduwe Subhuthi Mahanayake Thera lived at this temple from 1904 - 1911. Thai kings visited this temple on several occasions.  The foundation stone for the dagaba was laid in March 1908 and shows two architectural styles:  its lower half influenced by Mulagandhakuti Vihara at Buddhagaya and the upper half influenced by the Siamese architecture. Its golden pinnacle was gifted by a king of Thailand. This is the only Thai temple in our country.

The Paramananda Purana Viharaya in Kotahena is the second temple to be built in Colombo, founded around 1852 -1853. It contains murals depicting the life of the Buddha and the history of Buddhism in Ceylon.

A Unique Shivan Kovil

The Sri Ramanathan temple in Kotahena was built in 1857 by Sri Arumugam Ponnambala Mudaliyar, a devoted Hindu, hailing from Manipay, Jaffna and father of Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, legislator, statesman, and patriot who was one of those responsible for the independence of Sri Lanka. It is said that after a pilgrimage he made to India, he experienced a divine bidding through a dream to build a Shivan kovil for the Hindus of Colombo.

The work on the temple commenced in 1856 and was completed in 1857 during the British rule. This original temple was initially built modestly with lime and mortar.

It is said that the temple was situated on five acres of land overlooking the Colombo harbour, its garden filled with a variety of valuable trees, lush vegetation, beautifully laid out lawns, and about 20 head of cattle which provide milk for the temple’s daily poojas. The land which was originally a coconut plantation was purchased from Capt. John E. Stonean, an Englishman, by Sri Ponnambala Mudaliyar.

The trusteeship of the temple was passed on to his son Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, in 1905.

Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan who wished to improve the kovil, made several trips to India to consult renowned temple architects, and he subsequently enlisted the services of reputed sculptors and temple builders from South India, and commenced the renovation work in 1907. He completed the temple in solid gray granite stone, and the consecration (Kumbabishekam) ceremony took place on 21 November, 1912. However since then several additions have been made.  The eastern side Rajagopuram (Supreme Gate Pyramid) was erected in 1967.

A salient feature of this unique temple is that it is entirely built out of granite stone as per Dravidian architecture based on the principles of Hindu temples in India. The granite for the temple had been obtained from quarries in Veyangoda.  This temple is comparable to some of the famous Hindu temples in South India. The temple with its tall Gopuram (Gate Pyramid) and gateways facing the East and West stands majestically in all splendour. The kovil strictly followed the guidelines recommended in Hindu Vedic scriptures to replicate the human anatomy.

The Trusteeship of the Kovil continues to be carried out by the descendants of Sri Ponnambala Mudaliyar. 

The Mariamman Kovil in Kotahena is an ancient temple, more than 250 years old dedicated to Mariamman the goddess who embraces the force of the earth and the fire of the chakra. The earliest available records indicate that it was founded on 2 March, 1864 by Thiruvilanga Nagarathar for the protection and wellbeing of the Devotees.

Sri Muthumariamman is the main sanctum showering her Blessings on thousands of Devotees who patronize this Temple. There are many stories and miracles about the goddess transmitted from generation to generation.

Colombo’s only Cathedral

Named after St. Lucy of Sicily: virgin, martyr and saint, St. Lucia’s Cathedral in Kotahena, is the oldest and largest parish Cathedral in Sri Lanka and the seat of the Archbishop of Colombo The Cathedral stands tall, dominating Kotahena’s sky-scape.  Its handsome Romanesque features, elaborate Corinthian pillars, arches, balconies, beeralu cement fences, grills, pediments, surmounted by domes, lanterns and statues of saints. 

According to records, worship at this site goes back to a date in 1760, where  a small thatched  hut  built by the early mission fathers  served as a church for the faithful.  Gradually the building came to be replaced with larger and more grandeur constructions and in 1838 it was elevated to the status of  a  Cathedral.

The Cathedral, as it presently stands, is the design of  Bishop Hillarion Sillani and  Fr. Stanislaus Tabarrani   a pair  described to have been infused by a “Holy optimism and  a  prophetic spirit”  in their  vision of  building a  majestic structure  suitable for the worship of  God.  Their dream was to build a replica of the St. Peters Basilica in Rome. Bishop Sillani in fact, in a letter addressed to Rome dated 1874, requested for a photograph of the Basilica and instructions on   how  to construct the lantern that crowns the main dome of the building. To carry out his dream Bishop Sillani engaged the services of a master mason Anthony Pillai Tittaravu Pillai from Ponddicherry in India, to guide and supervise the workmen. The Cathedral was completed in thirty years in 1902.

The interior of the cathedral is as impressive with its sanctuary, naves and aisles.

Above the sanctuary is the main brick built double walled dome. Four medallions painted in shades of brown on canvas and fitted into frames, decorate the top four corners of the sanctuary. These are the only paintings in the Cathedral and are of the evangelists - Mathew, Mark, Luke and Johan  by  a local artist Gabriel Perera. High up on the back wall of the sanctuary, taking pride of place amongst other stained glass,  is a glass depicting a reproduction of  the Murillo’s  world famous painting of  the Immaculate Conception.  The marble altar table includes a carved frieze of the last supper. On the left side on a marble platform is the cathedra or the grandiose carved wooden throne of the Bishop, tastefully gilded. The polished wooden altar rails around the sanctuary match the design on the cathedra. Under the sanctuary is the underground crypt, heavily arched with stout pillars.

Among the many ornate larger than life statues of saints that stand in the church the famous statue of ‘Our Lady of  Kotahena’ – a dark faced Madonna  carrying the  baby  Jesus had features of  unusual beauty. It is said that this statue was an award winner at the Universal exhibition in Paris. The Baptistery of carved marble crowned with the statue of St. Johan the Baptist, and the large wooden framed friezes depicting the stations of the cross  are also worth  noting.

The cathedral is blessed with 4 bells in its two towers. The biggest bell christened ANTHONY THOMAS at 4,300 lbs hangs alone in the right bell tower, and rings only on very special occasions. The other three bells occupy the left Bell tower and are christened Constant Henry Lucia Emilia (2000 lbs). Francis Theresa (1,400 lbs) and Jean Baptist Edward Anna (950 lbs)

The shrine at Kochchikad where many religions worship

St. Anthony's Kochchikade is undoubtedly the most patronized church by Christians and non Christians alike and is designated by the Catholic Church as a National Shrine. It stands in an area that has derived its name from the very church.

It was a time in the 18th century under the Dutch rule, when Catholicism was still a proscribed religion in Sri Lanka and priests could not exercise their ministry in public.

The origin of the church is accorded to Fr. Antonio, who was a companion to Joseph Vaz and had been assigned to minister to the religious needs of the Catholics in Colombo.

Fr. Antonio, a zealous priest disguised as a merchant took up his abode in a house in Maliban Street, Colombo, close to St. Philip Neris Church. The Dutch discovered his hiding place, but Fr. Antonio, disguised, fled towards Mutwal. He met some fishermen who knew him and his reputation as a holy man, and volunteered to protect him from the Dutch, provided he obtained from God a favour for them - namely to stop the erosion of the sea which caused them great inconvenience. When the pursuers arrived, the fishermen refused to hand over Fr. Antonio until he had granted them the favour they were asking for. Fr. Antonio then returned to his home at Maliban Street, and came to the shore, clad in his priestly garments and with a large wooden Cross in his hand. Planting the Cross at the spot most threatened by the advancing Sea, he prayed to God to manifest His Glory, by working this miracle. On the third day the waves receded and an extensive sand bank was exposed to the view of all.

The Dutch Government appreciated this favor and offered a reward to the people’s benefactor. The humble priest asked only the permission to live and die near the Cross he had planted. This was granted and the priest built a Chapel with mud in honor of his patron, St. Anthony of Padua. When he died after many years, he was buried there.

It is said that as the priest was from Cochin, the land was referred to as the place in which the Cochinese had a shop hence the name Kochchikade.

The little Chapel which was made of mud was enlarged in 1806. And in 1822 one of the members of the Congregation went to Goa and brought a Statue of St. Anthony and it was solemnly placed on the altar of the small Church. This is the very image that is today held in great veneration at St. Anthony’s Church, Kochchikade, kept on the side altar which was the altar of the ancient Church and stands on the very spot Sanctified by miraculous event to which the origin of the same Sanctuary is due.

The church was enlarged many times, thereafter, to accommodate its growing devotees. The present church was constructed in 1938.

How Santhumpitiya became Ginthupitiya

The Church at Gintupitiya has a long and interesting history. The present church was built in 1815 and is the first church built for Anglican worship. It was built on the site of an earlier Portuguese Roman Catholic Church, which is believed to have been constructed on the foundations of an even earlier church of the Persian Nestorian Christians that lived in Sri Lanka around the 6th century much before the advent of the Portuguese.

The church is also closely connected with the name of St. Thomas one of Jesus’ 12 apostles. It is an accepted fact that St. Thomas the Apostle came to India and was the founder of the Syrian Christian church in that country. Some scholars are of the opinion that he also visited Sri Lanka and preached on the hillock or plain of St. Thomas or Santhumpitiya on which St. Thomas Church, Gintupitiya now stands.

However when the Dutch, as allies of the king of Kandy, laid siege to the fort of Colombo in 1656 they seized the surrounding hilltops and turned the churches on them (including St. Thomas’ church,)  into military barracks as an act of sacrilege.

As such in the times of the Dutch, the Portuguese church at Santhumpitiya fell into ruins, but the churchyard continued to be used for their small cemeteries; one for slaves, one for natives and one for the heathen, It was probably at this time that the name ‘Santhumpitiya’ (Plain of St. Thomas) was changed into Gintupitiya (Plain of the heathen) derived from ‘gentu’ the Portuguese word for heathen.

With the advent of the British the Malabar or Tamil Christians who had earlier followed the Presbyterian form changed over to the Anglican tradition. They wanted their own church and collected eight hundred Rix dollars and approached the government for permission to erect their own church separated from the Europeans. As such the present church was built.  It was  gothic in architecture and Sir Robert Brownrigg whose name is inscribed in the west wall, presented the chalice and other sacred vessels for the Holy Eucharist Service.
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SriLankan strengthens services to Middle East

sl airlines
SriLankan Airlines has announced that it would strengthen its operations to the Middle East region.  

The Chairman of the Sri Lankan Airlines Nishantha Wickremasinghe has told the Arabian Travel Market (ATM ) held in Dubai that the airline which currently flies 47 times a week to nine of the GCC countries in the Middle East, will increase its flights and frequencies to many Middle East countries as there is a substantial increase in the passenger traffic from these destinations.

He has said that the commencement of direct flights to Dubai and Kuwait from the 1st of May was a step towards increasing capacity and connectivity from two of our major markets to Colombo extending SriLankan’s renowned warm hospitality to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Bahrain, Doha, Muscat, Dammam, Riyadh, Jeddah and Kuwait.

Since last year, SriLankan Airlines increased its frequencies to Bahrain (three to five), Doha (five to daily), Muscat (two to four) and Jeddah (three) each week. The launch of daily direct services to Kuwait, which was earlier routed through Dubai, has ensured speedier outbound travel for passengers to Colombo and beyond.(niz)

“India abetted terror in Sri Lanka in the mid-1980s”

Role played by New Delhi needs intensive discussion, says Rajapaksa's Secretary
The Indian intelligence agencies had a big hand in planning and executing terrorist strikes in Colombo in the mid-eighties, the President's Secretary Lalith Weeratunga said. Reading from a book, Gota's War, at its launch here, he said the role India played in Sri Lanka needed “intensive discussion.” He described the events described in the book as “home truths.”
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa was under intense pressure from India, United Kingdom and France to stop the Eelam War IV in April of 2009.
But “he did not cave in to external pressure,” Mr. Weeratunga has revealed.
Mr. Weeratunga was privy to the meetings. The Indian team, led by its then National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan, had arrived here in April, just as the Lok Sabha elections were on in India, and just before Tamil Nadu went in to vote. For different reasons, Foreign Ministers of England and France were here too, with the same agenda.
‘Violated sovereignty'
The book launch function, meant to celebrate Defence Secretary and President's brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa's contribution to the war, turned out to be an India-bashing session: India aided and abetted terrorism, and repeatedly violated Sri Lanka's sovereignty. Its High Commissioner during the period dictated terms to Sri Lanka.
“…When the Vadamarachchi operation commenced, the Prime Minister of India at that time, Rajiv Gandhi, issued a strong statement against the operation…Sri Lanka could have been rid of terrorism [at that time, but for the] high-handed interference of the then Indian envoy, Mr. J.N. Dixit,” said Mr. Weeratunga, to an audience that comprised all top elected leaders and officials and diplomats in Sri Lanka, including President Rajapaksa and the Indian High Commissioner Ashok K. Kantha.
Sri Lanka firmly believed that if this operation had gone on, the country could have been rid of terrorism more than two decades ago. Reading from the book, Mr. Weeratunga said: “While the Vadamarachchi operation was on, the Indian Envoy Mr. J.N. Dixit had met President Jayawardene and bluntly told him that India will not stand by idly and allow Jaffna to fall into the hands of the Army, and if the military operation continued, there could be unforeseen consequences. Asked to explain what these ‘unforeseen consequences' could be, Dixit had told Jayawardene that military aid may be given by India to the LTTE leading to the possible dismemberment of Sri Lanka.” 

The Hindu

Sri Lanka has the opportunity to grow fast, expand regional trade and build bridges with neighbours

 Ruchir Sharma

I first visited
Sri Lanka in 1997, shortly after a rebel bombing of the central bank headquarters had thrown the financial system into chaos. Military checkpoints made travelling around Colombo rather punishing, but the overwhelming impression was of a charming island and talented people trapped inside a seemingly endless civil war.


When I returned in 2011, the civil war had ended with surprising finality, and I took an extra day to see the country, including the huge territory that had been behind the lines of the Tamil rebels.

This should have been easy enough: the Tamil capital at Trincomalee is just 160 miles from Colombo - but the new highways were still being built, and the helicopter on offer was a single-engine job of the kind that routinely crashes in India. My accommodating hosts arranged for the air force to take me up in a twin-engined helicopter.

I've taken helicopters in many emerging markets when the road network is inefficient, normally a bad sign for the economy. But the aerial views of the multiple expressways under construction, the lush green plantations of the interior, and the new resorts facing the turquoise waters that drape the island helped convince me that Sri Lanka is no longer a land in waiting.

In the 1960s, Sri Lanka was billed as the next Asian growth miracle, only to be stymied by a tryst with socialism that played a direct role in igniting the civil war. During the war, Sri Lanka grew half as fast as South Korea and Taiwan and became another country in the long line of emerging-market disappointments.

Today, it seems that Sri Lanka's time has come. The civil war is over, the process of healing is under way, and there is every chance that Sri Lanka will become a breakout nation. Despite slowing sharply during the war years, the economy continued to grow at an average pace of nearly 5% even though it was running on one engine: the prosperous Western province where Colombo is located, and where the well-educated young population was producing strong growth in industries and services.

The North and East Provinces, which account for 30% of Sri Lanka's land and 15% of its population, were largely war zones. With the nation whole again, achieving 7% growth over the next decade should be well within reach.

Since taking office in 2005, President
Mahinda Rajapaksa has been consolidating power in ways that critics see as the start of a family dynasty. For now, however, he is deploying his growing powers to ends that suggest he understands the fundamentals of growth, if not of democracy.

Rajapaksa's regime is working to trim the fat left over from the socialist experiments of the 1970s, including high taxes and government debts that still equal 80% of GDP. It is also bringing the vast swaths of formerly rebel-held territory back into play; the government has established vocational training centres and low-interest loan programmes, distributed boats and livestock, and begun building roads and bridges in the former war zone.

Banks are returning, big retail chains are setting up shop, and domestic airlines are flying to Jaffna and Trincomalee again. The flood of state spending drove growth in North and East provinces up to 14% in 2009 and 2010, and they are expected to grow at above 13% for several more years, making them the fastest-growing areas of the country.

The effects reverberate nationwide. On my helicopter trip, I visited some of the newly-renovated resorts, from the retro-chic Chaaya Blu in Trincomalee to the Cinnamon Lodge in Habarana, which lies in the 'cultural triangle' formed by Sri Lanka's three ancient cities.

It wasn't hard to imagine tourists, seduced by the country's raw appeal, coming in droves. While prices are not as dirt cheap as they were at the height of the war, they are still very low - $150 for a high-end hotel room - which means the Sri Lankan currency is still very competitive and attractive to foreign investors.

War-zone insurance rates that had made it too expensive to dock in Sri Lanka have disappeared, leading to a large increase in cargo traffic at the main port in Colombo. The government is pouring money into new terminals there, as well as new ports and harbours in formerly rebel-held regions.

The reintegration of the marginalised Tamils - with their high levels of educational achievement and English fluency - could provide a huge boost to a nation that multiple consulting firms already rank highly as a potential destination for multinationals looking to outsource customer service, IT and other back-office operations.

It would be a mistake to sugarcoat the post-war mood. The final stages of the war were highly controversial: charges of human-rights violations still fly against both sides.

There is evidence that Tamils, embittered by the bloody endgame of the war and suspicious of Rajapaksa, continue to leave the country. But many of those who remain seem determined to put the war memories behind them. I was surprised to see Tamils in Trincomalee working to attract Indian tourists to the 'Ravana trail'.

While to Indians Ravana was the devil incarnate, in Sri Lankan legend, he was one of the most powerful and inspired of ancient kings. The difference of interpretation is of no small magnitude in Sri Lanka, which has long feared domination by its much-larger neighbour.

But in Trincomalee locals say that as long as the 'Ravana trail' is drawing tourists, subjective spins on the myth don't matter.

It's only natural for nations to trade most heavily with their neighbours and, indeed, the success of east Asia has been driven in no small measure by the willingness of China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea to leave old wars in the past, at least when they are cutting business deals.

In contrast, there is no region in the world with weaker trade among immediate neighbours than south Asia where trade within the region has stagnated at 5% of total trade with the world.
Sri Lanka could be the country to move the region toward a new trade regime. The government is proposing a grand deal that could unlock trade with India and provide a huge boost to the economy. The opposition comes from Sri Lankan businessmen fearful of Indian competition. But India welcomes the deal, in part as an opportunity to balance China's growing interest in Sri Lanka as a linchpin on its supply routes through the Indian Ocean.

Sri Lanka is only too happy to exploit its felicitous location in return for even a small share of China's gargantuan outbound investment; China is investing heavily in the Sri Lankan port at Hambantota, the home base of the Rajapaksa family.

There is some risk that the peace dividend could prove fleeting: a 2009 study by the
US Agency for International Development found that 40% of nations that end a civil war will revert to violence within a decade. However, Sri Lanka's peace could well hold because of the decisive end to the war.

There is also a fundamental national consensus that the future should be decided based on what works, not on the ideological debates that retarded Sri Lanka's development for so long. By the late 1990s, even the main left-leaning party, the
SLFP, was moving toward a more modern development model built on an open economy and trade liberalisation.

Over the course of its war, Sri Lanka grew its economy slowly but positively, by a total of 206%. The country now has economic and administrative momentum. The government can build prosperity without interruption by suicide bombers.

(The author is head of emerging markets at
Morgan Stanley Investment Management. This article has been adapted from his new book,Breakout Nations)

Original Source....

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Release of information of the detainees to their close relatives

12 May 2012 - 16:48
A round-the-clock mechanism has been established by the Terrorist Investigation Division of Sri Lanka Police to provide details of the detainees and those who are already released.
Details will be issued only to the spouse / children / parents or brother / sister provided they establish their identity.
See the notice below issued by the Terrorist Investigation Division.