Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka : News & DIscussions

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Did not have any prior knowledge of attacks: US envoy to Sri Lanka
United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina Teplitz on Tuesday said that Washington did not provide any advance intelligence regarding imminent attack prior to Easter Sunday attacks.

"We had no prior knowledge of these attacks.," Teplitz told CNN.

Teplitz clarification came two days after, a minister in Sri Lanka government, Harsha de Silva, had said that the US and India warned of imminent attacks before the Easter bombings, in which at least 310 people were killed.

When Teplitz was specifically asked about de Silva's claim, he responded, "Well, I cannot speak for others. I do not know what other sources of information the government of Sri Lanka might have had. I can just tell you that we had no prior knowledge."

Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan government have admitted that it failed to act on multiple warnings before the deadly attacks.

The ISIS on Tuesday claimed the responsibility of the eight explosions in Sri Lanka's high-end churches and hotels. However, there is no direct evidence to substantiate the IS' claims.

The government has arrested 40 people in connection with the attacks.
Did not have any prior knowledge of attacks: US envoy to Sri Lanka
 
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Cyber trailing of Zahran Hashim's links in Kerala and Tamil Nadu revealed Sri Lanka terror plot
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested several people in Kerala and Tamil Nadu citing that they were ISIS sympathisers and in constant touch with Zahran Hashim, the mastermind of Sri Lanka bombing which claimed the lives of 250 people.

The suspects have been identified as Mohammed Ashiq, Ismail, Samsudeen, Jafar Sadik Ali and Shahul Hameed. According to The Times of India, they were directly in touch with Hashim for over three years.

However, Ashiq, who is from Tamil Nadu, claims he is being framed by the NIA. He says he has given his Facebook details to the agency to complete the probe.

The NIA claims that Ashiq was in contact with several National Thowheed Jamaath leaders. He is also suspected to have plotted the murder of several Hindutva leaders in India. He and five others were accused of planning to assassinate Arjun Sampath of the Hindu Makkal Katchi in Tamil Nadu.

"The NIA registered a fake case against innocent Muslims and tried to create a story that Muslims are terrorists. But the NIA won't bother about the real culprits. The case against us in connection with plotting to murder Hindutva leaders is also a false one. We came out on bail because the NIA doesn't have any valid evidence against us," Ashiq told The Times of India.

He added, "I had not heard about ISIS earlier. I came to know about ISIS on after my arrest. I have never contacted NTJ leader Zahran Hashim. I haven't chatted with him. I gave my Facebook details to the NIA for investigation. But I don't know about the others whether they were in touch with NTJ leader."

According to the NIA, they had prior intel of the Sri Lanka bombings through the conversation that allegedly transpired between the six men and Hashim. The NIA then alerted the Sri Lankan government through the intelligence agency.

Ashiq added that the NIA is biased against Muslims and is trying to prove that Muslims are terrorists on the global front.

The Sri Lankan police authorities have accepted that they sent out an alert on April 11 post-India's warning that ISIS may be planning a terror attack on its soil. But until then, the involvement of Hashim was not speculated since he had not orchestrated a big terror activity in the country.
Cyber trailing of Zahran Hashim's links in Kerala and Tamil Nadu revealed Sri Lanka terror plot
 
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1558201437838.png

Improvised armored bulldozer used by the LTTE in the First Battle of Elephant Pass (1991), one of the major battles. This bulldozer was destroyed by Cpl. Gamini Kularatne. Today it stands on display as a war memorial.

10 YRS OF END OF EELAM WAR IV

How India Helped Sri Lanka Defeat The Tamil Tigers
Nitin A. Gokhale, New Delhi, 18 May 2019

Exactly a decade ago, the Sri Lankan military, backed by a clear political directive by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, decimated the Tamil Tigers and ended more than quarter century of conflict in the island nation. SNI’s Editor-in-Chief Nitin A. Gokhale, then reporting for NDTV, covered the Eelam War IV—as the final war came to be known—for three years between 2006 and 2009. He authored a book, Sri Lanka: From War to Peace in the immediate wake of the war. Here’s an excerpt from that book, detailing India’s secret but important role in the prosecution of war:

Since December 2005, when (Mahinda) Rajapaksa made his first visit to New Delhi less than a month after he took over as (Sri Lanka’s) President, India was aware of his intention to take the LTTE head on. Although in the initial days he was advised to seek a negotiated settlement with the Tigers, New Delhi saw merit in Rajapaksa’s argument that the LTTE was only biding its time to regroup and rearm itself and that war was inevitable sooner than later. And if the LTTE was preparing for a showdown, Rajapaksa did not want to be caught off guard either. His armed forces needed to be ready for any eventuality. The President therefore sent his brothers Basil and Gotabaya to New Delhi with a shopping list for essential weapons and equipment that the Sri Lankan armed forces needed. The shopping list included air defence weapons, artillery guns, Nishant UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and laser designators for PGMs (precision-guided munitions). Initially, New Delhi was non-committal. Top officials involved in the talks on either side told me that in its typical bureaucratic style, New Delhi neither said yes nor said no to the visiting Sri Lankans. So the two brothers went back slightly disappointed but were still hopeful of getting Indian help.

Outwardly, India did adopt a hands off policy vis-à-vis the Sri Lanka conflict. But that was because of domestic political compulsions born out of the fact that the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in New Delhi was dependent upon the DMK party from Tamil Nadu for its survival in the Parliament. Aware of DMK chief M. Karunanidhi’s soft corner for Prabhakaran, the UPA did not think it politically prudent to annoy the DMK patriarch by openly supporting the Sri Lankan government against the LTTE. So, publicly India maintained that it would not give Sri Lanka any offensive weapons. Yet, in early 2006 India quietly gifted five Mi-17 helicopters to the Sri Lankan Air Force. The only Indian condition was: these helicopters would fly under Sri Lankan Air Force colors. New Delhi clearly did not want to annoy UPA’s Tamil Nadu allies like the DMK unnecessarily. The Mi-17s were in addition to a Sukanya Class offshore patrol vessel (OPV) gifted by the Indian Coast Guard to the Sri Lankan Navy in 2002. Sri Lankan defence sources later told me that these helicopters played a major role in several daring missions launched by the Sri Lankan Air Force to rescue the Army’s Deep Penetration Units and the eight-man teams whenever they were surrounded by LTTE’s counter-infiltration units or when injured soldiers had to be airlifted from deep inside LTTE held territory. As a senior Sri Lankan Army officer confided in me: “Our soldiers operating behind enemy lines functioned with greater degree of confidence and efficiency in Eelam War IV since they knew these helicopters were always on hand to come to their rescue whenever necessary. This was surely one of the key factors in our Special Forces delivering spectacular results.” But hampered by domestic compulsion, New Delhi could not go beyond such meagre and clandestine transfer of military hardware. And publicly all that India was willing to acknowledge was the supply of low-flying detection “Indra” radars to the Sri Lankan Air Force since this equipment was considered a defensive apparatus.

Colombo, on the other hand, was becoming increasingly restless since an all-out war with the LTTE looked inevitable. Domestic political pressure had also stalled the signing of a Defence Cooperation Agreement between India and Sri Lanka. Although both sides had publicly committed themselves to such an accord in 2004 itself, the DCA never materialized. Insiders in Sri Lanka’s defence establishment reveal that India’s insistence on securing exclusive rights to the use of Palaly air base in the Jaffna peninsula was the most contentious point between the two delegations. Colombo saw this demand from India as downright insulting and symptomatic of India’s hegemonistic mindset. So the DCA never got off the ground. Ironically, three months after the Eelam War IV ended, India decided to fund the repair and restoration of the Palaly air base in north Sri Lanka. The Rajapaksa regime was nothing if not shrewd. It knew the past history. It was aware of the dynamics that determined India’s domestic politics in the context of Tamil Nadu. It was also conscious of India’s anxiety in losing strategic space in Sri Lanka. But above all, the Rajapaksa brothers were pragmatic enough to realize that Sri Lanka needed India’s support in the prosecution of the war against the LTTE, total support from China and Pakistan notwithstanding simply because India was Sri Lanka’s next door big neighbour. Colombo could ignore India but only up to a point.

So Mahinda Rajapaksa hit upon an idea of setting up an informal exchange mechanism between New Delhi and Colombo. The President nominated both his brothers Basil (an MP and Presidential Adviser) and Gotabaya, the Defence Secretary along with his own secretary, Lalith Weeratunga as members of an informal yet powerful delegation that would update the Indian government on the latest developments as frequently as possible.

India too reciprocated immediately. India’s National Security Adviser MK Narayanan, Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and Defence Secretary Vijay Singh formed the Indian trio. The two teams interacted frequently both on the phone and by visiting each other. The Sri Lankan trio in fact visited New Delhi at least five times between 2007 and 2009. The Indian delegation made three return visits in the same period. Most of the interactions were low-profile and discreet except the Indian team’s June 2008 trip to Colombo which attracted huge attention mainly because of its timing. That time Sri Lanka’s military operation was pushing the LTTE out of its north western coastal areas in the Mannar district. And two months later, Sri Lanka was supposed to host the 15 summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). When Narayanan, Menon and Singh arrived in the Sri Lankan capital in a special Indian Air Force plane, almost unannounced, military analysts both in India and Sri Lanka were speculating a massive retaliatory strike by the LTTE. Indian intelligence agencies apparently had credible information that such a counter attack could be aimed at the 15 SAARC summit that Colombo was hosting on August 2 and 3. The India officials wanted to ensure foolproof security for the summit. New Delhi in fact persuaded the Sri Lankans to accept India’s help during the summit. After much persuasion and even a veiled threat that India may stay away from the summit if New Delhi’s suggestions on a security upgrade in Colombo was not met, Sri Lanka reluctantly allowed Indian Naval ships, anti-aircraft guns and helicopters to be deployed in and around Colombo for the duration of the meet.


The author with a colleague, Sukumar, at the famous Elephant Pass near Jaffna.

I happened to be in Colombo as part of the media delegation that travelled with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. I had never seen such tight security in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan capital was indeed locked down in a tight security grid for the duration of the summit. The Indian Prime Minister and all top Indian officials were transported in Indian Air Force helicopters from the Bandarnaike International Airport to the heart of Colombo. All roads used by the VIPs were shut hours before they travelled on them. In fact, I remember friends in Colombo having left town to avoid being inconvenienced by the stifling security arrangements. The SAARC summit did pass off peacefully although, as usual, its focus was hijacked by the hyped meeting between the Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers. But security at the SAARC summit was not the only point of discussion that India was interested in. The top Indian officials, according to sources in Colombo, also wanted detailed briefing on the on-going operations in the North. This was readily done at the Ministry of Defence by both the Commander of the Army, General Fonseka and Commander of the Navy, Vice Admiral Karannagoda. The Indian delegation, I was told by an insider, once again raised the issue of increasing Chinese and Pakistani involvement in Sri Lanka’s military campaign but was quietly reminded that it was India’s refusal to supply lethal weapons that had compelled Colombo to look elsewhere, primarily to China. But the most important political message was delivered by the Indian delegation to President Rajapaksa. He was told to try and conclude Eelam War IV before the summer of 2009 when India was expected to hold the general elections for Lower House of the Parliament. The ruling Congress party obviously did not want the shadow of Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict to fall on the politics of Tamil Nadu and needlessly complicate matters during the election campaign. President Rajapaksa did not commit himself on the deadline but promised to expedite the operations. The trio returned to New Delhi perhaps with a mixed feeling of achieved only part of its objective.

Colombo may have been ambivalent about meeting Indian requests to end the operations before the general elections but the Sri Lankan leadership once again gratefully acknowledged the Indian Navy’s contribution in locating and destroying at least 10 ‘floating warehouses,’ owned by the LTTE. These warehouses or ships of varying sizes were used by the LTTE to store arms, ammunition and even armoured personnel carriers. These ships, which had no names or identification numbers used to remain on high seas for months on end. They were brought near Sri Lankan shores whenever LTTE needed the arms. Smaller ships and crafts were used to transport these arms to the Sea Tiger bases on the East and the West Coast. Indian and Sri Lankan Navy sources revealed that well-coordinated operations by the two navies between 2006 and 2009 actually broke the backbone of the Sea Tigers. The Indian Navy, the Sri Lankans said, helped in various ways. For instance, the Indian Navy’s Dorniers based at Ramnad in Tamil Nadu flew regular reconnaissance missions over the seas around Sri Lanka. These Dornier aircraft fitted with high-powered radars scoured the area for ships with suspicious movement and cargo. Whenever such a ship was detected, the Indian Navy passed on the information to the Sri Lankans. The real time intelligence helped Sri Lankan Navy to track and then destroy the LTTE arms consignments. Once the rogue ships were located, Sri Lankan Navy’s OPVs would go after these floating warehouses and destroy them. The Sri Lankan Navy destroyed the first warehouse ship on 17 September 2006, about 120 nautical miles east of the Island. Three more such ships were sunk in early 2007. Moreover, under an agreement between the two countries, the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard frequently sent out ships to patrol the Palk Strait and the Gulf of Mannar. The presence of warships and Indian Coast Guards Offshore Patrol Vessels acted as a firm deterrence against the Sea Tigers. Indian Naval ships travelling between the East and the West Coast and those going on overseas deployment were also told to look out for rogue vessels. Frequent exchange of information between the two navies resulted in a fine-tuned system that enabled quick remedial action. Sri Lanka’s Navy Chief Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda praised the Indian Navy’s role. “Co-operation with India has been extremely successful in countering the LTTE. Every year, the Indian Navy with the Indian Coast Guard and the Sri Lankan Navy holds four bilateral discussions. We are conducting coordinated patrols with the Indian Navy as well,’’ he said in early 2008. “The Navy has destroyed almost all LTTE vessels that could have assisted the Tigers in attacking the armed forces,” he said. “Within one year we have destroyed eight floating warehouses, which had carried more than 10,000 tons of war-like material including artillery, mortar, dismantled parts of three aircrafts, bullet proof vehicles, underwater delivery vehicles, scuba diving sets, and radar, among other things.” In one instance, accurate intelligence enabled the Sri Lankan Navy to sail nearly 1,600 nautical miles southeast of the country, close to coasts of Australia and Indonesia, to destroy three ships on 10-11 September 2007 and a fourth ship, which had escaped the initial action, three weeks later on 7 October, Admiral Karrannnagoda said. One of the LTTE weapons smuggling vessels was intercepted and destroyed by Naval Task units after a long hot pursuit in the high seas 1,700 km off Dondra Head, the southern extremity of Sri Lanka. At least 12 Tamil Tigers on board were killed in the attack.

“We went near to Australian waters and whacked the last four vessels,” the Vice- Admiral Karannagoda told Jane’s Navy International in March 2009. “Yet we are not a big navy; we had to improvise and use innovation and ingenuity to get our job done. The SLN (Sri Lankan Navy) does not possess any frigate-sized ships, so we used offshore patrol vessels and old tankers, merchant vessels and fishing trawlers as support vessels.” What he left unsaid, according to sources in both Indian and Sri Lankan navies, was India’s hidden hand in providing vital intelligence and operational support to identify and locate these ships. In March 2009, the Sri Lankan Naval chief deliberately avoided mentioning India’s crucial contribution since electioneering in Tamil Nadu was picking up speed and Eelam War IV was in its final stage that month. Any public admission of India’s hand in destruction of LTTE assets would have created a furore in Tamil Nadu and further strained the already delicate relationship between Sri Lanka and India. But the fact remains that in late 2007 the Indian Navy’s Southern Command deployed three fast attack boats and a missile corvette that patrolled the Palk Strait, searched and caught hold of LTTE fugitives. The “sea denial” and “naval blockade” by the Indian Navy started after a daring attack by the Sea Tigers on the Delft Island near Jaffna. Delft Island, the largest inhabited island of the Jaffna peninsula, is located almost equidistant from Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu and Jaffna. The Sri Lankan Navy used the island to monitor sea and air movements not only towards Jaffna but also between Mannar and Tamil Nadu coast. In May 2007, the Sea Tigers mounted a daring attack on the naval attachement posted at the Delft Island and after killing seven naval personnel took away two anti aircraft machine guns, two machine guns, one RPG launcher and eight rifles.



Some reports said the Sea Tigers also took away functioning radar from the island. Jolted by this setback, the Sri Lankan Navy requested India for operational help. The assistance was immediately given but both sides had decided to keep quiet about the details. Despite such a close working relations between the two navies, India was not happy with Colombo’s increasing dalliance with China and Pakistan. New Delhi was acutely aware of the deep inroads made by Pakistan and China in India’s backyard. A worried Narayanan had bluntly declared in May 2007: “It is high time that Sri Lanka understood that India is the big power in the region and ought to refrain from going to Pakistan or China for weapons, as we are prepared to accommodate them within the framework of our foreign policy.” Which in effect meant India could only supply ‘defensive’ equipment to Colombo. Narayanan’s statement in fact reflected the dilemma that New Delhi faced. The crisis was of course purely India’s own making. Crippled by the iron grip wielded by the DMK and other smaller Tamil parties on the UPA coalition at the Centre, New Delhi could not even openly approve of Colombo’s determination to exterminate the LTTE. Colombo understood India’s predicament but had no other option but to shop for weapons and ammunition from elsewhere once India refused to comply with its requests. Army Commander Sarath Fonseka admitted as much in an interview to me: “It is only after India told us that it cannot supply offensive weapons that we looked at other options. We first tried western countries but their weapons are expensive. Also the Western countries cannot be depended upon to continue the supplies when it came to the crunch as it happened with us in the middle of the war when certain countries blocked supply of spare parts for our airplanes and helicopters. So we turned to China which offered us arms immediately and on favorable terms. They gave us five-year long credit line. We bought armored personnel carriers, artillery pieces, basic infantry weapons and some ammunition from them. As for Pakistan, we only bought some emergency ammunition from them.”

How India Helped Sri Lanka Defeat The Tamil Tigers - Sniwire News
 

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China Faces New Competition as Japan, India Eye Sri Lanka Port

By Jon Herskovitz and Iain Marlow
May 21, 2019, 8:39 AM GMT+5:30, Updated on May 21, 2019, 5:12 PM GMT+5:30

  • Deal is to develop a container terminal at Colombo’s busy port
  • The countries will seek private investment, official says
1558520221851.png

The site of Colombo Port City in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Photographer: Atul Loke/Bloomberg

India, Japan and Sri Lanka are weighing the development of a terminal at the bustling port of Colombo in a country that’s seen ongoing political controversies related to investments from China’s Belt and Road initiative.

The three countries are set to sign a memorandum of understanding in the coming months to build out the east container terminal at the Port of Colombo, according to an Indian government official who asked not to be identified, citing rules.

India and Japan will seek private sector investment and a terminal operator after the framework agreement is signed, with India likely providing easy credit, the Indian official said. Sri Lanka will control 51% of the project with India and Japan jointly controlling the other 49%, this person said. Unlike the Chinese-owned Hambantota port in southern Sri Lanka -- which has been heavily criticized -- the Colombo port project is a commercially viable venture, though it should not be viewed as a counter to China’s Belt and Road, they said.

Japan has supported the Port of Colombo’s development since the 1980s in recognition of the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific, said Natsuko Sakata, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "Nothing has been decided at this moment on any policy of our new assistance regarding the port of Colombo,” she said in a statement sent by email.

Japan has also pushed its plans to be a bigger player in the region under its “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy.”

A Sri Lanka government official, who asked not to be named citing rules, said the deal with India and Japan would soon be finalized. Japan would provide a 40-year Yen loan with a 10-year grace period, with Sri Lanka holding 51% and Japan and India jointly holding 49%.

Two months ago Sri Lanka’s Port Minister Sagala Ratnayaka told parliament the Ports Authority was procuring cranes from Japan for the Colombo port’s east terminal. The country was seeking to "attract more shipping lines, especially shipping lines which operate the largest ships in the industry," he said, noting at the time India was a possible partner. Sri Lanka previously tried to court Indian investment in Hambantota’s empty airport.

The move reflects India’s new openness to cooperate with Japan, the U.S. and other Indo-Pacific powers in its immediate neighborhood, said Constantino Xavier, a foreign policy fellow at Brookings India. "China’s Belt and Road Initiative investments in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region have forced Delhi to be more proactive in offering reliable alternatives to Beijing’s rising economic clout."

Chinese Investment

Sri Lanka has been one of the countries drawn to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, an ambitious plan announced in 2013 by President Xi Jinping to build an estimated $1 trillion of infrastructure to support increased trade and economic ties and further China’s interests around the globe. However, China’s politically controversial investments in Sri Lanka became an election issue in 2015 and fueled infighting between politicians in the capital.

One project in the country includes Port City Colombo being built by China Communications Construction Co., or CCCC. The plan envisions a financial district -- pitched as a new hub between Singapore and Dubai -- with a marina, a hospital, shopping malls, and 21,000 apartments and homes.

State-owned CCCC, one of the world’s largest companies with annual revenue greater than Procter & Gamble Co. or FedEx Corp., says its portfolio of 700 projects in more than 100 countries outside China has a value of more than $100 billion. It is also one of the most vexed. CCCC and its subsidiaries have left a trail of controversy in many of the countries where they operate, with many of its projects criticized as debt traps.

The nine-year-old Hambantota port in southern Sri Lanka -- with almost no container traffic and trampled fences that elephants traverse with ease -- has become a prime example of what can go wrong for countries involved in Belt and Road. Sri Lanka borrowed heavily to build the port, couldn’t repay the loans, and then gave China a 99-year lease for debt relief.

— With assistance by Anusha Ondaatjie

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/arti...-in-deal-at-belt-and-road-colombo-port-nikkei
 

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We need patriotism like India and a leader who is trusted by all: Sri Lankan Buddhist monk Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero to WION

WION, New Delhi, Jul 18, 2019, 09.13 PM(IST)
Reported By : Ramesh Ramachandran
Edited By : Sparshita Saxena

Gnanasara Thero is the general secretary of Sri Lanka's Bodu Bala Sena, a group comprising the Sinhala Buddhist clergy.Photograph:(WION)

A controversial Sri Lankan Buddhist monk, Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero, says that the majority Sinhala community can learn from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's policy of zero-tolerance to terrorism.

"India’s action is important to us and if we become prey of Islamic terrorism it will be a threat for India as well. So, the understanding of the leaders is important," he tells in an exclusive interview to WION's Ramesh Ramachandran.

Gnanasara Thero is the general secretary of Bodu Bala Sena, a group comprising the Sinhala Buddhist clergy. He was released from the prison in May this year after president Maithripala Sirisena pardoned him.

The monk says that the Bodu Bala Sena has not decided who to support in the forthcoming presidential election in Sri Lanka.

WION: What did the July 7 meeting of the Buddhist clergy in Kandy decide?

Gnanasara Thero: On July 7, we held a convention in Kandy for a purpose. As a race, Sinhalas are divided due to party politics. Owing to this division, the (Sinhala) race has become weak and it has allowed extremist forces to operate in this country. Now is the time to resolve these issues and eradicate the fear of death. So, the convention was held to educate the Buddhist clergy. It was successful. There is no possibility of defeating extremism through politics. So, we proposed to establish a programme where the Sinhalese get stronger. We came out with 10 proposals on July 7 and plan to take it islandwide.

WION: Who will the Bodu Bala Sena support in the forthcoming presidential elections and the reasons therefor?

Gnanasara Thero: At this moment, the discussions are on about holding provincial council, general and presidential elections. No final decision has been reached. The political situation is complicated. None of the main political parties is able to announce their candidate. We don’t know if it will be a common candidate. We don’t have any faith in them and we believe that they all have failed. If you take the 225 members in the parliament, all are accused of some things. So, citizens are lobbying differently where some expect new names and some new faces which is new to politics. Such people are coming up and they have started publishing their policies. We have no anxiety even though it is at a complicated juncture. Why should we get excited if the main political parties are unable to find their candidates yet? For us, it is important to have a person who could change old laws, increase security, is capable of taking bold decisions to eradicate Islamic extremism, and is capable of establishing unity according to Buddha’s teaching. It should be a society based on trust for all citizens. It should be a free country for all. So, we want a Sinhalese to win with a Sinhala majority vote. Protection for all ethnicities can be assured only with such a move, to which we are committed.

WION: You are reported to have said on July 7 that a Sinhala government should be formed, that the Sinhalese need to unite politically, economically and culturally, and that there is a need to protect Sri Lanka from Islam. Please elaborate on it.

Gnanasara Thero: Sinhalese were never racists. When the Tamils in the north, east and the central hills were attacked culturally, the rulers were unable to find a solution. These Tamils in thousands were converted into Christianity and destroyed the Hindu culture. On the other hand, Hindus are getting Islamised. Not only that, the traditional Muslims are now moving towards Arabic Islamisation. Wahhabi groups with abundant funds operating within the government influence national decisions. We see the unity in India where they all say “Bharat Mata ki Jai". We see how they love their country. We also need that patriotism in Sri Lanka. We need a leader trusted by Muslims, Tamils and the Sinhalese. If you take Colombo, the number of Sinhalese are exceeded by Tamils and Muslims. They are not attacked and they have their living style without any issues. But minority voters are influencing the main political body. We need not have a situation where the tail wags the dog. It should be the dog who wags the tail. We need a government to take straight decisions. That is why it is necessary to have a Sinhalese government.

WION: Are you in favour of the Buddhist clergy or the Bodu Bala Sena forming a political party and fielding its candidates in future elections?

Gnanasara Thero: We are already engaged in a type of a political movement and we think that our involvement in a general election will be decisive. We are in the process of building a system at this movement.

WION: The Muslims in Sri Lanka fear for their lives after the April 2019 attacks in the country. What is the Bodu Bala Sena or the Buddhist clergy doing to reassure the Muslim community?

Gnanasara Thero: The traditional Muslims have lived with us in this country for centuries in harmony. In any society, there would be incidents. But since 1981, the traditional Muslims have started to change very fast. This change came to the point that they were willing to commit suicide for their God and make sacrifices. It is a very sad situation that brings tears to the eyes. So, we have a responsibility as the Buddhist clergy to solve this Islam issue rather than allowing the politicians to solve it. I trust the 75 per cent of this issue can be solved by Buddhist monks. We can use the Tripitaka to analyse the Quran and its verses which were found in dark ages and the validity of them in the modern world with an open discussion. We should be able to destroy the Wahhabism if this question is debated openly. We know that traditional Muslims will support us to eliminate the dark thoughts within them and defeat Wahhabism.

WION: Some people in Sri Lanka and around the world accuse you of hate speech, extremism and spoiling the image of Buddhism as a peaceful religion. Do you agree with them? What would you say in your defence?

Gnanasara Thero: There is nobody in this world who will not be insulted. Buddha, Jesus, Prophet Muhammad were also insulted. Our favourite leaders are also accused and there is nobody who doesn’t get accused of something. So, we also get accused of something. The insults we get are much similar to a naked man insulting a person in underpants. We as Buddhist monks can't allow the carnage to take place in the name of God, where they expect the entire world to be their followers. If you take the Quran, the hate speech and statements falling into such category are full of them. So, we are sad to see such accusations coming from people who barely know the basis of Islam.

WION: Some media reports liken you to Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu of Myanmar, who is variously described as an ultra-nationalist and the leader of an anti-muslim movement in Myanmar. Some other reports link the Bodu Bala Sena to the "969" movement of Myanmar. Your thoughts?

Gnanasara Thero: We have met the Buddhist monk in Myanmar and have discussed the Wahhabism spreading there. Myanmar is a Theravada Buddhist country but there is a difference. But there is no barrier for us to talk with another monk in that country. So, all Buddhists are facing the same situation. This is the same situation in southern Thailand as well. We don’t want any prize from the world. There are many media establishments using money from west Asia. We don’t have money and media to face them. So, we get hit by enemy attacks. So, we have joined hands with him to defeat Islamic extremism in the region. But here, our Bodu Bala Sena operation is different from the 969 organisation.

WION: You have said that politicians should leave the fight against Islamist extremism to religious leaders such as yourself. What do you propose to do, how and when?

Gnanasara Thero: We have experienced what happened in the recent past. So, it is essential to win the public trust for our new programme. Islamic extremism has created incidents as far back as the 1990s. But our leaders were unable to establish a programme against it. The black July in 1983 led to a 30-year war. Even though we defeated the LTTE, the separatist forces are still operating in other parts of the world to divide the country. If Prabhakaran was stopped at the initial stages, the Tamil society will not have gone back by several decades. As a result, both the Tamil and the Sinhalese failed and there was no victory for either party. Buddhist monks can defeat this by wisdom and not by weapons of different sizes. We did a similar fight against the bible in the 1800s. So, we have the experience. Today, the Quran, which is the other side of the Bible, has come to object us. We can defeat this using wisdom and that is why we wanted the politicians to step out. If the politicians are given the chance to solve, they will not be able to do it for the next 100 years. It is the nature of politicians to create situations or make use of the situations for their benefit. This Wahabism should get defeated within the mosque. Now it has come to the stage where the father and son fight within the house, the mosques are fighting each other and the villages are fighting against each other. We need the mosques to sort it out with the inputs from professionals and intellectuals. Once sorted, the politicians should bring in the laws.

WION: How do you view the policies of the BJP-led NDA government of prime minister Narendra Modi in India?

Gnanasara Thero: I think India’s Narendra Modi has a reputation similar to Putin in Russia, Donald Trump in the US, and Xi Jinping in China. Some of his radical decisions include the change of financial regulations and change of currency where many had to burn the 1,000 rupee notes. So, radical decisions of Narendra Modi are welcomed in India. He is against Islamic extremism and he also talks about building a Buddhist international platform. I think about the unity between the Hindus and the Buddhists to eradicate this global threat of terrorism. India is our ancestral house and the big brother. India’s action is important to us and if we become prey of Islamic terrorism it will be a threat for India as well. So, the understanding of the leaders is important and the protection of Narendra Modi. We need his protection. Gautama Siddhartha is an Indian and we have protected his preaching for 2,500 years. Now we need support from Narendra Modi.


We need patriotism like India and a leader who is trusted by all: Sri Lankan Buddhist monk Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero to WION
 

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Sri Lanka unhappy with share in India's budget, keen for review
Sri Lanka is known to be unhappy with the funds allocated to it by India in its latest Budget, which when compared to that allocated for other close neighbours and even Indian Ocean Region countries, is small.

While Sri Lanka is India's closest Indian Ocean Region neighbour and shares centuries-old close links, Colombo has been pipped by IOR countries Mauritius and the Maldives, who are the beneficiaries of India's largesse in this year's budget.

Aid to Sri Lanka has seen an increase to Rs 250 crore this year, up from Rs 150 crores last year. But for Mauritius, the aid has jumped to a generous Rs 1,100 crores - up from Rs 350 crore last year. In Maldives, where the friendly Mohammad Ibrahim Solih government is in place, the amount allocated is Rs 576 crore, up from Rs 125 crore.

Mauritius is the second highest recipient of Indian aid, after Bhutan, while Maldives is at fourth place, after Nepal.

The marked difference in the allocation of aid, despite Sri Lanka's geo-strategic importance, has left Colombo feeling a trifle slighted, it is learnt.

Colombo feels the amount is "not in keeping with its requirements" and would like aid amount to be reviewed by India, it is learnt.

In Mauritius, located off the eastern coast of Africa, India is involved in building the Metro Express, a 26km light rail transit system with 19 stations. India gave a $353 million grant to Mauritius in March 2017 for the metro express, a new Supreme Court building, and also for building infrastructure at Agalega Island, including an air strip and jetty.

China has increased its activity in the IOR, courtesy its 'One Belt, One Road' initiative and Maritime Silk Road strategy, with Beijing acquiring strategic ports in the region - Bangladesh (Chittagong), Sri Lanka (Hambantota) and Pakistan (Gwadar).

In Maldives, ever since President Solih came to power last November, following the defeat of Beijing-leaning Abdulla Yameen, India has been warming up to Male. Yameen's regime had seen China increasing its footprint majorly, with involvement in infrastructure projects, including a $830 million upgrade of Male airport and the two-km Sinamale Bridge (China-Maldives Friendship Bridge) linking the airport with the capital.

Solih's government has said it owes China $3.4 billion as repayment for loans for projects undertaken during Yameen's rule.

After Yameen's ouster, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had attended President Solih's inauguration - in his first visit to the atoll nation. He also visited Male in June - in his first trip to a foreign country after taking over as prime minister for the second term.

Sri Lanka handed over its southern port of Hambantota to the Chinese on a 99-year lease, after it failed to repay its debts.

China began to develop close ties with Colombo when Mahinda Rajapaksa was president from 2005 to 2015. In 2013, China unveiled plans for the $1.4 billion Colombo Port City.

India is a partner along with Japan to develop the East Container Terminal (ECT) at the Colombo Port, an estimated cost of $700 million, and is also involved in the Kankesanthurai port.

In May during President Maithripala Sirisena's visit to Beijing, China decided to provide Sri Lanka with aid to the tune of $14 million for Colombo to procure China-made counterinsurgency equipment. China is also said to be providing the Sri Lankan police with 150 vehicles. Earlier this month, China gifted a frigate to the Sri Lankan Navy.

India is involved in several people-linked projects in Sri Lanka, like housing projects, upgrading railway lines, renovating schools, and capacity building.
Sri Lanka unhappy with share in India's budget, keen for review
 
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The bombs that went off on Easter are really producing some blow back.

Pakistani tourist claims was deported from Colombo airport despite valid documents

Dawn
Updated July 31, 2019
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Pakistani travel video blogger Hasnain Manzoor was reportedly deported from Colombo airport after being told that around 2,000 Pakistanis had arrived in Sri Lanka on a tourist visa and sought asylum, it emerged on Wednesday.

Manzoor took to Facebook to narrate his ordeal and said that even though he had all the relevant documents required for his stay, the authorities were not ready to reconsider their decision and had told him that he will be placed on a flight to Kuala Lumpur. He added that some Pakistani families had been detained at the airport as well in a similar fashion.

He said authorities did not give him a "solid answer" when he asked them for a reason for deportation.

"One of the immigration guys said 'They have doubts in you. Your considered suspicious maybe [sic]'," he wrote on Facebook.

"Another lame excuse," he added.

He urged social media users to "connect him to any TV channel" that would "help [him] solve this issue".

"I request each and every Pakistani citizen who is reading this to please spread the message as much as possible! [Prime Minister] Imran khan and other relevant authorities we need your help here! Kindly take immediate action so we can come back to our homeland Pakistan!" he said.

Dawn.com reached out to the Sri Lankan High Commission in Islamabad but no official was available to give a statement on the matter.

The Foreign Office has not given any statement on the issue so far.

Meanwhile, Samaa TV quoted an unnamed official of the Sri Lankan High Commission, who denied the claim that "2,000 Pakistanis" had sought illegal asylum in Sri Lanka.

Pakistani tourist claims was deported from Colombo airport despite valid documents - World - DAWN.COM