Friday, September 7, 2012

India: Sri Lankan Pilgrims Flee Mob Attack

Fri, 2012-09-07 07:32 — editor
Chennai, 07 September, (
Location of Tamil Nadu in India
Christian pilgrims from Sri Lanka were forced to flee India yesterday after coming under attack by a mob in southern Tamil Nadu state.
The attack and a series of earlier protests against the group have prompted the Sri Lankan High Commission to issue a travel advisory to its nationals wanting to visit the state.
Of the group of around 148, at least eight pilgrims were reportedly injured when the mob attacked the five tour buses they were traveling in, following a visit to a popular Catholic shrine. A pro-Tamil mob blocked their vehicles and pelted them with stones. Police escorted them to the airport and they were flown back to Sri Lanka on a special flight yesterday,” a police official told
The pilgrims, who included 75 women and 36 children, earlier had to endure a gauntlet of abuse as they were praying at the famous Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health shrine in Velankanni, near Nagapattinam.
The protesters demanded they leave the country and attacked as they left the shrine, one of the pilgrims said after returning to Colombo.
“They were carrying LTTE -flags and pictures of the late LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran,” Waranakulasuriyage Chamin Sumith said.
“One protester threw a knife and one pilgrim tried to defend himself but ended up losing three fingers,’’ he explained.
“Several others received minor injuries after being hit by bricks thrown by the attackers,” he added.
Their ordeal began as soon as they arrived at Poondi Matha Church, a Catholic shrine near Thanjavur on Monday at the start of a week-long annual pilgrimage to several shrines in the state.
The hostility follows weeks of anti-Sri Lankan rhetoric from all the political parties in the state where the population is predominantly Tamil.
State politicians have been hitting out at Sri Lanka, in particular the Sinhalese majority, over allegations of human rights abuses committed against Tamils during and after the long running civil war.
The state government has also been objecting to India providing military training to Sri Lankan security personnel, while Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa recently ordered the expulsion of a visiting school football team.
T. M. Selvaganapathy, from the opposition Dravid Munnetta Kazhakam Party, told that anti-Sri-Lankan sentiments are very strong in Tamil Nadu.
“I don’t justify attacks on innocent pilgrims, but when they [the Sinhalese] are showing hostility to our brothers and sisters, some people may overreact,” he said.
He appealed to the federal government to cut ties with Sri Lanka and reiterated cross-party opposition to an upcoming visit to India by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Courtesy : UCAN (September 6, 2012, UCAN News is a news network that carry news mostly connected or interest to the Catholic Church in the Asian Region).
- Asian Tribune -

Lankan Minister commends the Appointment of Professor Patrick Mendis to the UNESCO Commission

Fri, 2012-09-07 07:53 — editor
Colombo, 07 September, (
Bandula Gunawardhana, Minister of Education and Chairman of the Sri Lanka National

Commission for UNESCO, praised the appointment of Sri Lankan-born American diplomat and professor Patrick Mendis to the UNESCO Commission by the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“As fellow alumni of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, I am very proud and pleased to congratulate you and remind you of the honour you have bestowed upon your mother country through such achievements,” the Minister wrote to American Commissioner Mendis.
The American diplomat was born and educated in a rice farming village of Polonnaruwa—a World Heritage Site. For his youth activities, he was then honored with the National UNESCO Award. “I missed my 13-water buffaloes, a milking cow, and our three-acre rice field,” said Mendis in a phone interview from Washington, D.C.
At the age of 18, Mendis won one of the nine American Field Service (AFS) scholarships among over 100,000 applicants in Sri Lanka. He earned his American high school diploma in the State of Minnesota where he learned to speak English for the first time.
Commissioner Mendis later obtained his BSc degree (First Class Honours) from the University of Sri Jayewardenepura before he returned to the United States on a Hubert Humphrey fellowship for graduate studies at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Author of several acclaimed books, Dr. Mendis is also an alumnus of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
“You have certainly gone a long way by leaving water buffaloes to embrace the reindeer in the beautiful snow landscapes of America. It seems natural that UNESCO-Sri Lanka had recognized the great potential in you from a young age,” wrote Prithi Perera, the Secretary General of the UNESCO Commission in Colombo.
Before becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen, Professor Mendis represented the Government of Sri Lanka as a “Youth Ambassador” at the UN with distinguished Sri Lankan Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala, who later became a mentor to Dr. Mendis. To recognize his outstanding leadership at the International Year of the Youth, the young ambassador was honored with the UN Medal.
A life-long Sarvodaya volunteer, Professor Mendis worked with legendary Sarvodaya founder Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne and established a Sarvodaya Peace Prize and a number of tsunami scholarships in Sri Lanka. From the sales of his books, he has endowed the leadership and management awards at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura. The founder of the Tsunami Leaders Caring (“TLC”) Foundation, Professor Mendis serves as an advisor to the Educate Lanka Foundation that sponsors underprivileged students with financial scholarships in Sri Lanka.
During his illustrious career in international organizations, government and academia, Commissioner Mendis worked in and traveled to over 100 countries and visited all 50 states in America. He is an affiliate professor of public and international affairs at George Mason University in the United States and a consulting professor of international relations at the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies in China.
“We are so fortunate to have Patrick Mendis as a commissioner. The depth and breadth of his unique experience as a teacher, diplomat, author, traveler, and scholar make our UNESCO Commission stronger,” said Eric Woodard, Executive Director of the UNESCO Commission at the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C.
“This is a great privilege that has been bestowed on Professor Mendis by the high echelons of the U.S. government,” said Secretary General Perera. “As a Sri Lankan born, the commissioner has brought great honour to his country of birth. It is truly a well-deserved recognition of his acclaimed works and extensive experiences in various fields of public and foreign policy,” the Secretary General added.
- Asian Tribune -

Targeting Lankans brings India shame

Sep 06, 2012
It is up to the Tamil Nadu government not only to provide security to visiting Sri Lankans but to lower political temperatures as well
There has been of late a disturbing trend in Tamil Nadu of people from Sri Lanka — both Sinhala and Tamils — being intimidated and even attacked. While the narrative has been building up for some time, on Tuesday this week 184 Catholic pilgrims visiting the Vailankinni church in the Nagapattinam area were forced to take an early flight home when buses carrying them were stoned by an extremist Tamil organisation.
This brings little credit either to Tamil Nadu or to India, which prides itself on being a tolerant society.
In the light of what has been happening, it is logical for Sri Lanka to issue an advisory to its citizens not to travel to Tamil Nadu unless doing so is unavoidable. Naturally, this does not reflect well on this country. To allay Colombo’s fears, it is up to the Tamil Nadu government primarily not only to provide security to visiting Sri Lankan nationals but to lower political temperatures as well. Chauvinist organisations tend to go overboard only when they believe that the government of the day will look the other way.
Be that as it may, if President Mahinda Rajapakse’s programme to visit Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh later this month to inaugurate a Buddhist university there is firmed up, New Delhi must put potential troublemakers on notice. India is a diverse country. Many here are of the same ethnic stock (and speak the same language) as some citizens in our neighbouring countries. But this cannot be permitted to become a factor in foreign policy. Neighbours, too, are expected to keep cross-border sensitivities in mind.
It is a pity that lately Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa has not given thought to the broader dimensions of our foreign relations. She has been speaking against the training of Sri Lankan armed forces personnel in India, especially in institutions located in her state, although this is under a formal agreement between the two nations. The visit of a Sri Lankan schoolboys’ football team was handled with poor grace. In another era, the AIADMK chief had opposed the LTTE and its Eelam concept, but curiously she now engages in competitive populism with the DMK — which is a part of the UPA at the Centre — in the post-LTTE era. The UPA leadership, too, needs to signal the DMK to tone down.
India and Sri Lanka have ancient ties. Historically, Colombo’s distorted policies towards its Tamil minority has upset all Indians. President Rajapakse’s government must seize the moment to genuinely devolve power to the Tamil areas.
But while these larger issues are in process, it will hurt the interests of both nations if people to people contacts are brought under strain by thoughtless actions.

Sri Lankan Tamils call off fast

KOLLAM, September 6, 2012 | The Hindu
Staff Reporter
Fourteen Sri Lankan Tamils lodged at the Pathanapuram Gandhi Bhavan, a charity home, since August 18 who launched an indefinite fast on Wednesday morning in protest against the delay in their deportation called off the fast in the evening following an assurance given by the government that the formalities for their deportation would be completed by September 12.
The Sri Lankans went on fast in protest against alleged apathy on the part of the State government in ensuring their early deportation. Talking to The Hindu , they said when they were brought here, they were given an assurance that the formalities for their deportation would be completed in two weeks.
Six of their relatives, all women who had arrived here since their arrest on June 3 and were camping at Pathanapuram, had also joined the fast. District Collector P.G. Thomas had directed Additional District Magistrate (ADM) O. Raju to hold talks with the fasting Sri Lankans. It was on the basis of the talks with the ADM that the fast was called off.
The 14 were arrested by the police on June 3 on charges of violating the Foreigners Act. They were part of a group of 151 Sri Lankan Tamils comprising women and children who were arrested from a fishing boat at Kavanad in the city. All of them were victims of a human trafficking racket and they were being taken to Australia by the traffickers who had collected amounts ranging between Rs.50,000 and Rs.1 lakh each.
They were remanded to judicial custody on charges of violating the Foreigners Act as they had reached here directly from Sri Lanka without any travel documents.
The rest had reached here from various refugee camps in Tamil Nadu. Since they had the relevant documents, they were arrested and sent back to the respective refugee camps.
But on August 18, the Kollam Judicial First Class Magistrate Court-11 ordered their release from judicial custody under the provisions of a Ministry of External Affairs notification which classified them as victims and not accused persons. Though they were released from judicial custody, the court said they were not free and till the completion of the formalities for their deportation, they would be under government protection at the Gandhi Bhavan.
The Sri Lankans said though the Gandhi Bhavan authorities were very cordial with them, they had decided to launch the fast due to uncertainty over their deportation.
They said they hailed from the districts of Jaffna, Vavuniya and Udappu in Sri Lanka..