Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Bilateral relations on a strong footing − Sri Lankan Ambassador presents Credentials in Cuba

Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Cuba, Sarath Dissanayake presented Credentials on 21st March at the Palace of Revolution in Havana to the Deputy President of the Council of State of Cuba, Madam Gladys Maria Bejerano Portela who was accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Eduardo Rodriguez Parrilla. For the presentation, Ambassador Dissanayake together with his wife and Attache, Anuruddha left the official residence in a ceremonial motorcade accompanied by Ambassador Luis Castillo Campos of the Protocol Division of the Foreign Ministry and Major Braulio Hernandez Martinez of the Revolution Palace.
Upon arrival at the Palace, the Ambassador and delegation were received by the Chief of Protocol following which they were afforded a Red Carpet welcome and a Guard of Honour by the Palace Guards. Thereafter, the Cuban and Sri Lankan National Anthems were played by the Palace Band.
After presenting Credentials, Ambassador Dissanayake had an exchange of views with the Deputy President Gladys Bejerano during which he conveyed the best wishes of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to the Cuban President and for the well being and progress of the people of Cuba. He also recalled the long standing friendship between Sri Lanka and Cuba and that Sri Lanka was the first Asian country to recognize the revolutionary Government in February 1959 which followed the establishment of diplomatic relations in July that year. While appreciating Cuba’s grant of scholarships, assistance to combat dengue, malaria etc and its consistent support at the multilateral fora, the Ambassador emphasized the importance attached by Sri Lanka for further promotion of cooperation in such sectors that were broadly discussed at bilateral meetings during President Rajapaksa’s visit to Cuba in June 2012. The Ambassador also reiterated the invitation to President Castro to visit Sri Lanka.
For her part, the Deputy President Gladys Bejerano conveyed the greetings of President Raul Castro to the Sri Lankan President and wished the Ambassador all success. The Deputy President briefed the Ambassador on Cuba’s recent policy initiatives in promoting mutually beneficial cooperation among progressive nations in multifaceted areas of interest. In regard to bilateral relations, she expressed gratitude to Sri Lanka for its support to the Cuban cause and for the removal of embargo against the Cuban people. Speaking further, the Deputy President also praised President Rajapaksa’s   leadership in ushering a new era and noted that bilateral relations are on a strong footing.
After the ceremony, the Ambassador placed a flower bouquet at the monument of Cuba’s National Hero, Josi Marti at the Revolution Square. Upon his return to the official residence, a reception was hosted for the Cuban officials, members of the Sri Lankan community and Embassy staff.
The ceremony received wide coverage in the press, radio and TV.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
24th March 2013

Monday, April 1, 2013

No place for religious extremism or racism in Lanka: Rajapaksa

Colombo, March 31, 2013
A file photo of Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Photo: PTI
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said that his government would not allow racism or religious extremism in the country and advised the Buddhist majority community to protect the rights of others.
“This is a democratic country with non-Buddhists having equal rights and freedoms. While we safeguard the rights of Buddhists, it is the responsibility of the Buddhists to be exemplary and protect the rights of others,” he told a religious gathering at Weherahena in the south.
Rajapaksa said any attempt to promote religious extremism would supply ammunition to those elements who want to spread false accusations against Sri Lanka.
“All who love the motherland should shoulder the responsibility of safeguarding ethnic and religious harmony,” he said.
His comments came after communal attacks on Muslim-owned businesses that raised religious tensions in the country.
Bodu Bala Sena, a Buddhist nationalist group, is leading a campaign targeting the growing Muslim extremism in the country.
Less than 10 per cent of Sri Lanka’s population of 20 million are Muslims. The majority are Sinhalese Buddhist and Tamils being Hindu.
Rajapaksa said he appreciated the guidance received from the Buddhist clergy and their historical role in correcting the nation’s path.
“Everyone has the responsibility to ensure that Sri Lanka would not be tagged as a racist and extremist nation,” he added.

Can Tamil Nadu unilaterally ban Sri Lankan cricketers?

Dhananjay Mahapatra
More than a month ago, a heart-wrenching video released by Britain's Channel 4 accused the Sri Lankan army of executing Balachandran, the youngest son of slain Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam ( LTTE) chief V Prabhakaran, in 2009. The video was part of a documentary about alleged ethnic cleansing by the island nation's forces during the 37-year civil war.

By mid-March, the situation in Tamil Nadu, which shares ethnic roots with the Sri Lankan Tamils, came to a boil. Visiting Sri Lankan Buddhist monks were shamelessly chased and assaulted by goons in Chennai railway station and Tamil Nadu-bound trains.

Sporadic incidents of violence, instead of being quelled through law enforcing machinery, were quickly termed as "surcharged atmosphere". Chief minister J
Jayalalithaa wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking exclusion of Sri Lankan cricket players from Indian Premier League games in Chennai.
She threatened to stop the matches if her government's wishes were disregarded. She wrote, "We will permit IPL matches to be held in Tamil Nadu only if the organizers provide an undertaking that no Sri Lankan player, umpire, official or support staff participate in these matches."

India's ties with no other nation are as strong historically and mythically as it is with Sri Lanka. The first mention of Lanka is in Ramayana, which narrates how the ties started with Hanuman's flying visit to Ravana's Ashoka forest to get news of the abducted Sita followed by the building of a bridge 'Ram Sethu" across the Palk Strait by the 'vanara sena'.

In 2005, the PM and Congress president Sonia Gandhi were there for the inauguration of the Rs 25,000 crore Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project, which envisaged dredging the mythological 'Ram Sethu' to allow large ships to sail between India and Sri Lanka, reducing the shipping distance between our western and eastern coast.
It was Jayalalithaa who had petitioned the Supreme Court against the dredging of the Sethu or Adam's Bridge. Quoting extensively from various historical literature and compilations, she said 'Ram Sethu' was a symbol of the might of human will and the construction of the bridge by the 'vanara sena' of Lord Rama was a victory of human endeavour in the face of adversity.

Can assault of visiting Sri Lankan Buddhist monks be ever regarded as a victory of human endeavour in the face of adverse situation created in Tamil Nadu by the release of videos of alleged execution of Balachandran four years ago?
The filial links with India started with King Vijaya, an Indian prince who migrated to Sri Lanka with his followers and made it into a monarchy. But there is one link that was planted nearly 2,300 years ago and is still surviving.
When Kalinga war-reformed Ashoka sent his son and daughter to Sri Lanka to spread Buddhism, the young princess had taken with her a sapling of the pipal tree at Bodh Gaya, meditating under which prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment and became Gautam Buddha. That sapling was planted at Lanka's ancient capital Anuradhapura. The sapling grew into a huge tree and is still standing, whispering tales of centuries-old human tribulations.

Like the pipal sapling, trade ties between India and Lanka has grown steadily. India exported goods worth $4.3 billion to Lanka in 2011-12, accounting for 22% of the island nation's total imports. Indian majors Tata, Bajaj, Bharti, RPG, Dabur, Ultratech, Ambuja Cements and Ashok Leyland have registered their presence along with state-owned

Given the Tamil Nadu government's decision to ban entry of Sri Lankans into their territory through official diktat and goon violence, would it not spark retaliatory measures from Lankan authorities?
What will happen if they take a decision that no product of an Indian company employing residents of Tamil Nadu is welcome in Sri Lanka? It is hard to imagine any of the above mentioned companies not employing a single Tamilian or any one who has domiciled in Tamil Nadu.
Tamil Nadu, as an integral constituent of the union of states called India, had the right to use all its political clout and public pressure on the Indian government for taking whatever steps they collectively deemed fit to deal with Sri Lanka in the international forum or United Nations in the wake of the release of the video about execution of Balachandran.

But it would be rather unfortunate if constituent states take unilateral decisions, like banning entry of Sri Lankans into Tamil Nadu, on issues which are best left to the Union government.