Immigration Minister Scott Morrison makes secret visit to Sri Lanka’s war-torn Jaffna region

Australia’s Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has reportedly made a secret visit to the war-torn Sri Lankan region of Jaffna during his whirlwind stop in the South Asian nation.

The ABC understands Mr Morrison arrived in Jaffna by helicopter yesterday afternoon after attending the inauguration of two customs boats donated by Canberra to Colombo.

Mr Morrison was accompanied by the Australian High Commissioner and other Australian officials.

Jaffna was the scene of some of the worst fighting during the civil war and some Tamils there say they still face persecution.

The major Tamil political party in Jaffna says Mr Morrison met only with the governor of Northern Province in Jaffna, GA Chandrasiri, who is a presidential appointee, and not with any Tamil politicians or civil society groups.

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Diaspora Lanka Report : 28 September to 31 December 2013 – Part 7

4. Urban planning

4.1 Mannarin Marumalarchi 2022 (the renaissance of Mannar)

Prabakaran, Town Planner, NPPD

Prabakaran, Town Planner, NPPD

In late 2011, Diaspora Lanka and the Urban Council Mannar (UC) instigated a community visioning program to identify a people-centred plan for Mannar City for the next 10 years. Based on the major themes that emerged from the MM22 consultations, eight subcommittees were established to implement the plan: town planning, environment, eco-tourism, business development, education, community programs, women’s development and finance.

Reflections
Due to the resignation in June, 2013 of the staff person responsible for the MM22 project, there has been little follow-up of the committees. The most active committee has been the Town Planning group which has worked consistently throughout that time. For the Mannar Urban Council to really take ownership of this program, DL will possibly need to fund a worker within the Council. Steps have been put in place to build up the following subcommittees in the next few months: education, business and eco-tourism.

Identifying “foreshore” issues

Identifying “foreshore” issues

Next steps
• Write a letter to existing members to determine their ongoing level of commitment to their chosen subcommittee.
• Recruit new members to the three highlighted subcommittees.

How you can help
• Help support one of the three subcommittees by providing expertise in the following areas: town planning, eco-tourism, business development and education.

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Diaspora Lanka Report : 28 September to 31 December 2013 – Part 4

3. Business development

IT Platform staff meet Australian planners

Planners get to know the services offered by ITP

3.2 IT Platform (ITP)

Eight young entrepreneurs and five staff in their 20s have commenced a business to provide computer services to underpin development in Mannar District, stalled as a result of 30 years of war. The business outlet offers graphic and web design services, computer repairs and maintenance, printing and photocopying facilities and spare parts sales. Recently ITP has established two outposts under the Computerizing Mannar Villages program. Diaspora Lanka assists with financial support, sourcing business and technical mentors and funding training and professional development.

Activities summary from last visit to Sri Lanka
• ITP continues to improve its profit margins and shoulder an increasing share of the costs.
• Currently Diaspora Lanka’s contribution has decreased to 50% of staff/operational expenses.
• Some staff changes occurred due to other enticing employment and training opportunities.
• To meet a dire need for “motherboard” training, DL provided Rs 60,000 (AU$525) for a five day intensive training course for three ITP entrepreneurs.
• ITP provided back-up IT and printing services to all 15 Australian and international volunteers, supporting them in their town planning, tourism and English language programs.
• During December volunteers from Vietnam and Estonia conducted weekly English language and activity programs for over 60 youngsters, culminating in a showcase event.

Next steps
• Find cost-effective transport solutions to provide services to far-flung areas of the district.
• Raise funds ($500) for motherboard tools to repair failed computer motherboards.
• Review existing contract for financial support and negotiate a new contract in March 2014.

How you can help
• Assist ITP to develop its financial management, reporting capacity and a business plan.
• Contribute towards the AU$800 per month financial contribution to ITP.
• Raise AU$2,000 to purchase motherboard repair tools and a motorbike for distance travel.

The first IT Platform wedding

Intensive motherboard training

Diaspora Lanka Report : 28 September to 31 December 2013 – Part 2

1. Helping out

david

David and family in front of their home

1.1 Heart operation

Frank and Stella Chen from Taiwan contributed AU$1,000 towards an urgent appeal for surgery for Mr David Arulappu, a deep sea diver and father of three school-going children living in Mannar. David is well known to Diaspora Lanka. An ECG confirmed serious heart problems. An angiogram revealed two blocked arteries:- one was 99% blocked and the other – 75%. Due to the severity of David’s condition, he was advised to have surgery in the private hospital system because the public waiting lists were long with no guarantee of an operation soon. As David is unable to work, he and his family have been surviving on the donations of church members. Many have donated towards his operation but local sources of funds are now exhausted, hence the appeal he made to us for the remaining AU$1,380.

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Diaspora Lanka Report : 28 September to 31 December 2013 – Part 1

diaspora 1

In this edition….
…A three-day “lockdown” workshop produces inspired urban design for Mannar’s town plan
…Visible progress made on the women’s rice mill project
…A community tourism strategy gets the attention of the International Financial Corporation
…Successful overseas volunteer programs in 2013 will generate further ones in 2014

 

The past three months in Sri Lanka have been a mixed bag, of frustration and hampered progress on some of our larger projects and encouraging headway on our more community-level ventures. The political backdrop of this trip was vibrant and at times volatile due to the holding of the Northern Provincial Government elections and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGM). The Government was also preoccupied with preparations for the forthcoming return to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in March of 2014.

A highlight of this period was having 15 overseas volunteers work alongside local counterparts on a range of projects. Although our town planning initiatives didn’t quite go according to plan, Diaspora Lanka brought out 11 Australian planning professionals who assisted to fast-track the Mannar urban development plan. Two volunteers came from Estonia to work on a community tourism strategy and an English-based activity program, while two further volunteers from Vietnam and Australia focused on establishing an ‘English as a Second Language’ (ESL) program.

Other pleasing developments included the progress made on establishing a rice mill so that women made vulnerable by the war can earn a daily income and the establishment of the Computerizing Mannar Villages initiative for children and youngsters in two more remote areas of Mannar.

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Reconciliation and the role of India

Reconciliation and the role of India

Presentation by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha, MP

At the Observatory Research Foundation

Delhi, December 13th 2013

I must admit to being deeply worried about the current state of relations between India and Sri Lanka. I contrast this with the excellent situation that obtained in 2009, when India was the chief component of the protective barrier against efforts to stop us eradicating terrorism from our shores. One might have thought that this was a goal the whole world would have supported, but sadly this is not an ideal world and countries will naturally put their own self interest first. Fortunately, not only did India’s interests coincide with our own at that stage, but given the terrible toll terrorism funded by external sources was taking on both our countries, I think it is also true to say that we worked in accordance with the highest moral perspectives.

But the aim we shared then, of eradicating terrorism on our shores, went hand in hand with another commitment, which was the promotion of pluralism in Sri Lanka. This again is a moral goal, but it also has a practical dimension, in that the full incorporation of the Tamil people in the body politic in Sri Lanka would have reduced the potential for future terrorism.

Sadly Sri Lanka has not pursued the Reconciliation process with the commitment it requires. Given its urgency I believe we should try to understand the reasons for this, and try to overcome them. In this process India has a significant role to play.

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Getting the balance right – David Cameron and foreign relations

Soon after David Cameron had left Sri Lanka, the Sunday Times in England published a satirical piece about his visit. It accused him of behaving like a public school prefect and treating the Sri Lankan President like a fag, a junior schoolboy who was at his beck and call.

Cameron’s was certainly a brilliant performance, full of British bravado. Having decided, correctly in my view, that he would attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, he had to contend with the anger of those who have in effect been running British policy with regard to Sri Lanka, which has been deeply negative about our success in overcoming terrorism in this country. He had therefore to put in an aggressive performance to keep them happy, and this he certainly did.

I do not mean only the extremist members of the diaspora, who have been enormously successful in lobbying British politicians where it matters. Having concentrated their attentions initially on Labour, and obtained brilliant results through David Miliband, they were quick to switch in 2010 when the Conservatives won, while the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry floundered, and did not even bother to appoint a High Commissioner to England for a lengthy period.

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