Monthly Archives: April 2013

Destitute N-E children Get Equal Opportunities

By P. Krishnaswamy

The most tragic aspect of the LTTE’s long drawn out terrorism was that it had rendered thousands of budding, innocent children fatherless, motherless and homeless, reducing them to utter destitution with nowhere to go. According to reports of the Department of Probation and Child Care Services (DPCCS),the largest number of such children were recorded in the worst-terrorism-ravaged Northern province where the entire population remained displaced for years together, either confined to refugee camps or moving to and living in other Southern provinces.

The security forces, after defeating the LTTE in May 2009, found children in various illegal homes run by the LTTE, including in the “Chencholai” home.

The LTTE, while fleeing, had abandoned the children. Consequently the DPCCS and other government authorities took steps take care of the children and have them admitted either in state-run children’s homes or homes run by religious organisations.

The DPCCS Northern Province, with its head office in Jaffna, is under the purview of the Northern Provincial Council and is the key government department in the province with the mandate of protecting children who need care and protection. Prior to the final conflict the Department handled a fair number of cases in respect of children’s home admissions, child abuse, child offenders and so on.

The number of cases drastically increased since the final battle and the cases in the post-conflict period were highly-complicated, time consuming and required high technical skills for the probation officers to handle the cases in the prevailing sensitive environment.

The mission of the Probation Department is to provide equal opportunities to the destitute children, victims of abuse and children in conflict with the law, while promoting and preserving their rights and also helping in the implementation and enforcement of national policies. The ultimate objective is to protect and support and help in the maintenance of the affected children, DPCCS sources said.

The responsibility of protecting the children from sex perverts, other kinds of exploiters and mischievous propaganda as well as facing court cases and closely monitoring every administration of the homes rests with the DPCCS, according to authoritative sources.

The functions of the Department include monitoring and regulating Children’s Homes, admission of destitute children to Children’s Homes, extending support for the due functioning of Day Care Centers, reunification of children with their own or extended families, processing and providing “Fit Person Orders’ through the court, adoption of children with appropriate families through the court, family tracing and reunification of children separated from families, coordination of all child protection stake holders and other activities such as advocating for the best interest of the children, the sources said.

The orphaned children are housed in Voluntary Children’s Homes (VCH) and in state-run homes. Of the VCH there are many that have not been registered and the Probation Department which had been persuading for the registration of the unregistered homes had closed down some of them after evaluation and had clustered some with others.

At the beginning of 2011, there were a total of 54 registered children’s homes in the Northern province with a total of 2,125 children (838 male children and 1,287 female children). The district-wise break up is 27 in Jaffna, six in Kilinochchi, six in Mullaitivu, five in Vavuniya and 10 in Mannar. The number of unregistered Children’s Homes in the province were 26 housing a total of 812 children (228 female children and 584 male children). The number of registered and unregistered homes together were 80, housing a total of 2,937 children.

The number of homes in the five districts of the Northern province and the number of children in them have declined by 40 percent with a considerable number of the children having been reunited with their families, extended families or other relatives through the hard and persistent efforts of the officials of the Probation Department officials, according to Northern Province Commissioner for Probation and Child Care and Services Thangavadivel Uma.

Every case of reunification with the family or others have to go through the usual judicial process. The number of children’s homes in the Vavuniya district is 16 with a total of 170 boys and 380 girls housed in them.

The number of homes in the Jaffna district is 29 with 348 boys and 776 girls housed in them.The number of homes in the Mullaitivu district is four with 86 boys and 112 girls, the number of homes in the Kilinochchi district is six and the number in the Mannar district is seven with 112 boys and 168 girls housed in them. According to a survey,18 percent of the children are orphans who neither have their mother nor father, 15 percent belong to the category” parental status is not known”, 14 percent have only the father, 23 percent have only the mother and 30 percent have both parents.

The reason why the parental status of the 15 percent children is not known or to be established is because a majority of them were in children’s homes then run by the LTTE who had admitted very small children who knew nothing about their parents or relatives.

About seven percent of the children belong to the under six age group, 18 percent belong to the 6-10 age group, 44 percent belong to the 11 – 16 age group, 18 percent belong to the 16 – 18 age group and 13 percent belong to the above 18 age group. Some of the women in the age group of 40 – 55 presently engaged by the children’s home administrations to look after the children are unmarried and were engaged for similar services by the LTTE in their children’s homes such as the ‘Chencholai’. All children of school-going age are attending schools and private-tuitions are also being provided by benevolent teachers employed in government schools. Some homes run by religious institutions had given girls in marriage marriage to suitable partners with their consent.

This was done under proper legal procedures because they had reached marriage age and had nowhere to go. children’s home sources said. Divisional level committees are already in operation to monitor the administrative functions and childcare in the children’s homes and the provincial administration is to appoint also village level committees for similar functions, Commissioner Uma said.

The UNICEF and INGOs such as the Save The Children are also providing services which include awareness programs, she said. She and the officers of her department undertake periodical visits to the children’s homes.

Although their responsibility is only in respect of children below 18 they, in an effort not to abandon the children above that age, undertake measures to provide them assistance for higher education, employment opportunities, vocational training and social integration, she said. Adoptions of children have to go through the usual judicial procedures and determined on ascertaining the antecedents of the families concerned and their financial status, she said.

Regulations will also be formulated to give girls of marriageable age in marriage through proper legal procedures, she said. Periodical visits by medical officers to the homes and counselling to the children where necessary are also part of the program of the Department, she said.

The purported recent abduction of 16 girls from a children’s home in Kaithady, Jaffna and their alleged sexual abuse which received much publicity was proved in court as baseless and false. The children fled the home due to disagreement with the administration and, with court orders, they have been admitted to another children’s home, she said.

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US preoccupation with Sri Lanka

By Neville Ladduwahetty  Courtesy ISLAND

US preoccupation with Sri Lanka’s internal affairs is a cause for concern. Every incident has prompted a comment from the US. If the office of a newspaper is attacked, it is an attack on the independence of the media despite the fact that any number of possibilities not connected with media freedom exists for such attacks. While issues such as increase in electricity tariffs, transfers of judges and concerns over religious tensions have elicited comment, the following are repeated on a regular basis: progress on reconciliation; delays in implementing the National Plan of Action; delays in evolving a political solution; need for accountability, and the list goes on and on.

A point has been reached where analysts and commentators speculate as to which issue or issues should be addressed for the US in particular and the West in general in order to get them off Sri Lanka’s back; the most popular being the implementation of the National Plan of Action. A recently adopted strategy to retain two PR Firms at a reported cost of $116,000 per month to improve Sri Lanka’s image in the US would work only if hidden agendas do not exist on the part of the US and the West. However, if the litany cited above is only a cover for an unstated agenda, living up to the expectations of the US and the West would not in any way prevent their continued preoccupation with Sri Lanka.

Despite the fact that perfect societies do not exist anywhere and that every country has shortfalls in performance and shortcomings of every conceivable kind, including even the US, there has to be some compelling reasons for Sri Lanka to be hit on with such regularity and persistence. Historically such strategies have been adopted in order to break down a nation to a point where it would barter away an asset that is prized in the hope that they would be left alone. Is this what is at play in Sri Lanka? This was the technique used with the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). The explanation doing the rounds for the broader than expected recommendations in the LLRC Report particularly by a membership most of whom had been associated with the Government, was because of their perception that such a report would soften the call for inquiries into war crimes that had persisted prior to the publication of the Report. Whether or not there was a tacit understanding on which such a perception was based, the LLRC presented a Report that came to be acclaimed internationally subject to a caveat: the Report fell short on issues of accountability. Doubt was also expressed as to whether the Commission’s findings would be implemented. This doubt was overcome by the US initiated resolution in Geneva in 2012 which internationalized and concretized the LLRC recommendations in order to ensure that the recommendations of the LLRC that were incorporated into the National Plan of Action would be implemented to the satisfaction of the US and the West. In short, resolutions of 2012, 2013 and what is to follow would not let Sri Lanka off the hook.

GEOSTRATEGIC DEVELOPMENTS

The compelling reason for US preoccupation with Sri Lanka is attributed to Sri Lanka’s extended engagement with China. The need to counter or balance China’s engagement in Sri Lanka has been recognized by the US and India. While India’s concern has both national and geostrategic ramifications, to the US it is primarily geostrategic. As a first step, Japan has got involved with Sri Lanka by way of maritime security and project aid, perhaps at the prompting of the US. The next step may be to get a foot hold for the US in Trincomalee despite recommendations of some military strategists for the US to reduce Naval bases globally. Others however have called for an increase in US presence in the Indian and Pacific Oceans in view of the growing importance of these two oceans to contain or balance China regaining power. Sri Lanka is increasingly becoming the focus of these developments because of its location: as they say the 3 most important factors in Real Estate are “Location, Location and Location”. A consequence of the growing importance of Sri Lanka has been to bring together the US, India, China and most recently Japan to engage with Sri Lanka in the pursuit of their strategic interests or as proxies for others. In this regard, how prudent was it to develop maritime relations with Japan in the background of growing tensions between China and Japan in the South China Sea? This development will likely have repercussions in Sri Lanka’s relations with China. Similar displeasure with Libya for engaging with the West prompted China who had been a faithful ally of Libya to abstain and permit the West to militarily attack Libya. Sri Lanka therefore has to clearly figure out how it is to survive with all this attention and at the same time protect its national and strategic interests without seeming to be aligned to any power in particular. It is certain that if Sri Lanka enters into a strategic relationship with the US on the understanding that in exchange for access to Naval bases and/or other assets beyond the current provisions of the Access and Cross Service Agreement, the US would relax on the issue of accountability, Sri Lanka would fall into a trap as it did with the LLRC Report. Hence, Sri Lanka has to be extremely circumspect in whatever negotiations rumoured to be taking place. In short, adopt President Reagan’s warning: “Trust but verify”.

IMPACT ON SRI LANKA

In the background of these global engagements how could Sri Lanka protect its interests, the most vital of which is its territorial integrity? Current plans are to hold elections to set up a Northern Province Provincial Council. What would follow thereafter is uncertain. The Council could very well resort to legal action for the full implementation of the Constitutional provisions of the 13th Amendment that include Police and Land powers. If the ruling is in favour of such powers, they would apply to all the Provincial Councils. A Council could resort to other actions as well such as calling for a referendum in keeping with sentiments expressed in Tamil Nadu for a UN sponsored referendum to set up Tamil Eelam. The fact that such developments would impact on India’s territorial integrity by way of a breakaway Tamil Nadu is recognized and accepted by analysts and commentators in India. Despite this recognition regular calls by the Central Government of India to implement the 13th Amendment may be then seen as a ploy to placate Tamil Nadu rather than as a durable political arrangement for Sri Lanka. However, the fallout from a Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka would encourage Tamil Nadu to break away from India with the possibility of the two regions merging to form a combined region for the Tamils of the world. To some, such possibilities are wild imaginings beyond the realm of reality. However, countries such as Sudan and Timor were divided on the basis of referenda, which attest to the possibility becoming very real. The mutual dependence for security between Sri Lanka and India was recognized by the former Foreign Minister, S.M.Krishna when he stated that the security of India depends on the security of Sri Lanka. India may be confident that it has both Constitutional and military capabilities to prevent threats to India’s territorial integrity. This is a false security considering the capabilities of powerful external states to subvert and destabilize states such as India, which incidentally never in history existed in the form it is structured today. The reward for such efforts would be to alter the emerging global architecture of a multi-polar world made up of the US, India and China as the major players, to one that is bipolar made up of only the US and China. Under such a global formation the US would have full dominance in the Indian Ocean. For Tamil Nadu a confederated state made up of itself and Tamil Eelam would present opportunities far in excess of being one of many states in the Indian Republic with only a Chief Minister. Furthermore, such a confederation would be a sovereign state with joint access to demarcated resources in the Economic Zone in the Indian Ocean. All in all, this outcome would offer decided advantages to the Tamils of Sri Lanka and those in Tamil Nadu, with a geostrategic advantage for the US to pursue its interests in the Indian Ocean.

OPTIONS FOR SRI LANKA

If Sri Lanka goes ahead with holding Provincial Council elections for the Northern Province, it would precipitate an irreversible process from which Sri Lanka would not be able to extricate itself. Under these circumstances Sri Lanka has 3 options. 1 – Work with the UNP, the major party in the Opposition, and evolve a common agenda based on the District as the peripheral unit to ensure territorial integrity together with an equitable arrangement to share Executive power among the three major communities at the Center. 2. – The Government could use its 2/3 majority in Parliament and unilaterally abrogate the 13th Amendment and replace it with the District as the peripheral unit and share Executive power at the Center with the three major communities on an equitable basis. 3. – A referendum could be conducted to establish the acceptance or rejection of the 13th Amendment as a political arrangement. Whatever option is adopted there is bound to be fallout of significant proportions because the outcome of any of these options would be detrimental to the interests of the Tamils within and outside Sri Lanka who are for Tamil Eelam, the Tamils in Tamil Nadu who are for separation from the Indian Union, and the geostrategic interests of the US. The combined effect of these interests is formidable. In all likelihood it would be similar to the price Sri Lanka is paying for not having suspended military operations when called for by the US and the West. Under the circumstances, the choice for Sri Lanka is either to hold the Provincial Council elections and live with the consequences, or to take the risk and do what is best to protect Sri Lanka’s interests. The choice before Sri Lanka is either to witness the dismemberment of the state, or retain its territorial integrity and pay the price for keeping it so. Such a momentous decision should be made by the Peoples of the nation.

CONCLUSION

Procrastination has compelled Sri Lanka to face some hard decision in the eleventh hour. The outcome of the planned elections for a Northern Province Provincial Council would have precipitous consequences for many stakeholders. A TNA-backed Provincial Council would inexorably gravitate towards a Tamil Eelam with the active support of Tamil Nadu. This in turn would tempt Tamil Nadu to seek separation from the Indian Union and for a joint confederation with Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka. The prospect of such a notion is the creation of a sovereign state for the global Tamils with the potential to reap the rich resources of the greater Economic Zone in the Indian Ocean; a dividend it would not have if Tamil Nadu remains one of several states of the Indian Union. The pay-off for the US from these developments is for it to gain legitimate access to the Indian Ocean by working out arrangements with the newly created confederation thereby denying to India its claim that the Indian Ocean is India’s exclusive backyard. In the meantime, negotiations are rumored to be underway for the US to gain access to the assets in Trincomalee in the misguided hope that there would be relief from issues of accountability, having forgotten the lessons learnt with the LLRC Report, i.e., that accountability issues would remain intact whatever the nature of the arrangements negotiated. Make no mistake about it. Since the US already has a stake in the Pacific Ocean, a stake in the Indian Ocean independent of India would considerably extend US’s geostrategic capabilities to contain China’s expansion both in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific with a choke point straddling the two Oceans in the Malacca Straits. In light of US preoccupations with Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu involvements in Sri Lanka, an election for a Northern Province Provincial Council would precipitate a series of events that Sri Lanka and India would not be able to contain or hold. Therefore, it is in the interest of both India and Sri Lanka to jointly work out a strategy that would serve their vital interests since the territorial integrity of one is a conditioned dependency that affects the other.

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Response to US Ambassador’s remarks

  • By  The Nation
  • Saturday, 13 April 2013 02:00

US Ambassador in Sri Lanka, Michele J Sison, addressing the Foreign Correspondents’ Association last week, warned that if the Government fails to address concerns regarding human rights and accountability as contained in the US-sponsored resolution on Sri Lanka in Geneva, and furthermore does not show progress in reconciliation matters, the international community will be compelled to consider other options. She also warned that Sri Lanka could very well see a return to war if these issues are not adequately addressed.  The Nation solicited opinions from several individuals who hold different perspectives on this matter.

Sri Lanka doesn’t have to dance to US’s tune-Gomin Dayasiri

Sri Land does not have to dance according to the US tune. What needs to be done is to act in the best interest of the country and its citizens.  For this to happen, we should implement those recommendations of the LLRC that are beneficial to the country within a framework that we ourselves design.  I believe that in the next phase of this process we will see India playing a far more prominent role than the USA.  Today, we can see even the Indian Opposition submitting to the dictates of Tamil Nadu in order to further their selfish and greedy political agenda.  Implementing the LLRC would help solidify the support extended to Sri Lanka in Geneva by those countries that stood with us.

UNHRC should help protect Human Rights- Dr. Prathibha Mahanamaheva

Every member of the United Nations enjoys independence and has the right to assert its own identity.  Accordingly, the policy of the UNHRC should not be to act against a member state and isolate but rather to help that country strengthen mechanisms to protect human rights.  The USA is but one member state.  However strong they may be economically, in terms of UN representation, they are as equal to a small state like Sri Lanka.  They have essentially operated as though on contract by the pro-Eeelam sections of the Sri Lankan Tamil expatriates.  Having failed to get the UNHRC to adopt a resolution against Sri Lanka in 2009, partly due to the good relations we had with India at the time, they have used Jayalalithaa to turn things against us.  The LLRC recommendations cannot be implemented overnight.   It is likely that the US will further petition the UNHRC against Sri Lanka in October this year.  Similar resolutions against Israel and Cuba have been passed but these countries were not perturbed.  We have to keep in mind that the manufacturing of crises in this manner is not prompted by any special love or regard for the Tamil community in Sri Lanka, but greed for our resources, our territorial waters.  If we implemented the LLRC and educated the international community through our diplomatic missions we can stump these moves by the USA.

All countries have right to chart own destiny- Dr. Dilantha Vithanage

The LLRC Report was compiled subsequent to a Government initiative.  No foreign country needs to interpret, demand and interfere with respect to this document.  All countries have the right to chart its own destiny independently.  No one likes to be browbeaten and bullied.  We are totally opposed to such maneuvers.  Our organization will not hesitate to support all measures aimed at resolving problems faced by our citizens, regardless of the ethnic identity or religious faith.  We are opposed to threats and condemn them without reservation.  We need of course to operate in such a manner that there is no return to war.  Similarly, resettlement should be done in a way that the rights of all stakeholders are upheld.

Why should we fear economic sanctions- Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera

This is not news.  This is something that has frequently and for long been articulated by those who stand for the division of this country.  We will not be subdued by such statements and threats.  Those who articulate such things should never forget that we are a sovereign nation.  The 13th Amendment to the Constitution should be repealed.   Neither should we fear economic sanctions.  Both Government and citizenry must be ready to face such challenges.  If the Government acts in any manner that subverts our sovereignty, we will oppose it and take whatever steps necessary.

Defence Secretary opines…..

The Government clarified its stance over the numerous requests and demands to recommence a dialogue with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) on political devolution and asserted the necessity of correctly identifying the TNA politically. Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, commenting on the US Ambassador Michele J. Sison’s assertion, said that the US still had not realized that the TNA was playing politics with the issue.

Ambassador Sisons at a recent gathering in Colombo highlighted the necessity of strengthening those who are still pursuing a separatist agenda, both here and abroad, and the Defense Secretary questioned her understanding of post-war situation in Sri Lanka. He pointed out that Prabhakaran compelled the TNA to recognize the LTTE as the sole representative of Tamil speaking people way back in 2001 and the same fact kept the TNA out of the Norwegian-led negotiating process.  He emphasized that the TNA had regained its right to represent Tamil speaking people again only after the eradication of the LTTE in May 2009. Until then, the TNA simply acted as the LTTEs mouthpiece both here and abroad, he said.

Sison had been invited to speak on ‘The next steps for U.S. engagement with Sri Lanka’ where she had claimed that the US will renew its consideration of all mechanisms available, both in the Human Rights Council and beyond.  She had also taken time to speak more on the resolutions on Sri Lanka at the UNHRC.  Ambassador Sisons who appreciated the LLRC said that the government had failed to implement the recommendations of the LLRC and that this was also a reason to go for a second resolution.
The Defense Secretary offering a long description of LTTE’s behavior in the past said that those who demand accountability from the Government, keep strangely silent on the TNA’s role during the conflict. Defense Secretary Rajapaksa also charged that the US, although proscribing the LTTE has been working with LTTE operatives at different levels.

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US Next Step for Sri Lanka

Daya Gamage – Asian Tribune Political Note
Washington, D.C. 11 April (Asiantribune.com):

The Government of the United States through its diplomatic envoy in Colombo signaled Sri Lanka the next step it intends taking; Go beyond the UNHRC system to get Sri Lanka to a total commitment toward reconciliation and accountability.

American Ambassador Michele Sison in a policy statement addressing Sri Lanka’s Foreign Correspondents Association on Monday, April 8 in Colombo gave the GSL the following message;“As we examine next steps, we will renew our consideration of all mechanisms available, both in the Human Rights Council and beyond”.

The U.S. qualified the above in the following manner through Ambassador Sison.

She declared “This brings us back to the original question: what happens next? I would submit that this depends on the government of Sri Lanka. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report dated February 11, 2013 reaffirmed a long-standing recommendation for “an independent and credible international investigation” into alleged violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law in Sri Lanka. The latest resolution took note of this call”.

So the United States in incorporating Navi Pillai’s longstanding suggestion that ‘ an independent and credible international investigation’ reaffirmed its policy through its ambassador in Colombo.

These are the two highlights of Ms. Sison’s address to the Foreign Correspondents Association on Monday.
She explains what ‘reconciliation’ and ‘accountability’ means to the United States: “When we say reconciliation, we mean finding a way for all Sri Lankans to live together in peace, harmony, and security in a unified country…a country in which the democratic space exists for all to be able to express their views freely, and for all to share in the prosperity of the country in terms of access to land, employment, education, and so forth. When we say accountability, we mean, identifying those responsible for committing abuses and imposing consequences for these acts or omissions”.

The ambassador explained why the U.S. took such a stand.

(Quote) And, of course, the United States has expressed disappointment with the stalled progress on reconciliation and accountability since the end of the conflict in 2009. As you know, this is the second year the U.S. has sponsored a resolution in Geneva. Some have asked me, “why a second resolution?” Let me explain.

The 2012 resolution, passed by a majority of countries on the Human Rights Council, sent a clear message that the international community shared the United States’ concerns regarding the lack of progress on reconciliation and accountability. The 2012 resolution simply asked the government of Sri Lanka to fulfill its own commitments to its people from its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission report, and to meet its own international obligations.

Following the 2012 resolution, the United States Government continued to raise concerns on the human rights front. We monitored the situation throughout the country, engaged with the government when we had concerns, and offered assistance whenever we were able.

A few months after the 2012 resolution, the government of Sri Lanka took the positive step of releasing a National Action Plan to implement its commitments regarding the recommendations of the LLRC report. Unfortunately, the National Action Plan did not cover all the recommendations of the LLRC, just as the LLRC recommendations did not address all the outstanding issues of reconciliation and accountability. Nevertheless, the National Action Plan included many steps that, if completed, would be helpful for the country.

So, at the beginning of 2013, the U.S. Government looked at what the government of Sri Lanka had undertaken to do under its own LLRC report. We looked at the conditions around the country. We compared those to the government’s commitments and stated goals. We realized that not only were many of the concerns that led to the first resolution still there, but also, that in some ways the situation had deteriorated. (End Quote)

But the Government of Sri Lanka took a completely different tone as expressed by its External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L.Pieris in Sri Lanka parliament on Tuesday, April 9.

There is no change in the government’s policy of rejecting the US sponsored resolution in Geneva against Sri Lanka as it indicated selective treatment — while the report referenced in the resolution is entirely ‘outside of inter-governmental process’ the Minister said.

In totally disagreeing with the U.S. position he added that the resolution attempts to show that Sri Lanka is one of the most trouble-prone countries in the world which cannot be accepted since the country has returned to peace after 30 years of violence. This is a selective treatment.

The External Affairs Minister further stated that another reason for not accepting this resolution fundamentally is that the resolution seeks to incorporate the report of the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights. He added that the High Commissioner called for an international investigation on this country not today or last week but one week after the hostilities ended in 2009.

He questioned on what evidence did she call for the international investigation. He added she had repeatedly called for such investigation.

The American ambassador’s complete statement is carried in Asian Tribune elsewhere.

– Asian Tribune –

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April 13, 2013 · 8:39 pm

Common Differences

This film attempts to provide a balanced insight to the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict.

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April 8, 2013 · 1:50 pm