Safety beyond safe houses

Published : 12:02 am  November 15, 2013  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  553 views  |  

The Sri Lankan Government has established temporary shelters for migrant workers who were unable to leave Saudi Arabia ahead of an amnesty deadline earlier this month. Reports indicate that 1,000 workers have already been supplied with safe houses while another 500 remain in line. Yet, the number awaiting extraction could be much more. At the end of the amnesty period, the Government had stated that only 10,000 of the 16,000 who registered to be returned were actually able to do so. The Government is still struggling to extract these remaining workers and it remains a huge concern as they face a fine of Rs. 3 million and a one-year prison term. The tragic execution of Rizana Nafeek aside, the... 


China, CHOGM and FTA

Published : 12:00 am  November 14, 2013  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  9,402 views  |  

CHINA’S presence at the Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF) has been formidable. Along with a 100-stong delegation, special speakers, 42 company representatives for the trade exhibition and a special buyer delegation, not to mention Chinese tour operators, they easily outrank as the country with the highest participation. Despite being a non-Commonwealth country, China’s interest in Sri Lanka has long been obvious. In 2011, China requested observer status in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and in the latest development is working out a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Sri Lanka. As positive as an FTA with the world’s fastest growing economy would be, it can also... 


An unusual proposal

Published : 12:00 am  November 13, 2013  |  Category: CHOGM 2013, FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  1 views  |  

ENCOURAGING businessmen to share their wealth may not be an oft-done act to spur development, but that was the path chosen by President Mahinda Rajapaksa during his keynote address to the all-important Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF), which kicked off here on Tuesday. The CBF is critical for several reasons. Firstly, it is the first major summit taking place as part of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). Secondly the Government has set a target of attracting US$ 2 billion in investment for specific field-related projects that include as diverse as agriculture, manufacturing, naval, aviation, tourism and higher education. Moreover, the CBF, which was held in Asia for the first... 


Decisions have consequences

Published : 12:01 am  November 12, 2013  |  Category: CHOGM 2013, FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  529 views  |  

Sri Lanka’s post as host of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) has forced a range of countries to make tough diplomatic decisions. Most have taken the middle road while a few such as the Canadian Prime Minister have swerved towards more extreme measures. India, perhaps, had the hardest call to make and having made it will have to face significant consequences. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has echoed the sentiments of many countries by insisting that engagement is more constructive boycotts. Hague told the BBC he understood why other leaders had chosen not to attend, but for the UK to join them would “damage the Commonwealth without changing things positively in Sri... 


A negative trade-off

Published : 12:00 am  November 11, 2013  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  651 views  |  

TRADE-offs can be dangerous. The absence of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is now all but certain, paving the way for serious damage to Indo-Lanka relations. Top of the danger list is the fate of attempts to push Colombo further down the road of power devolution and reconciliation with the Tamil minority as well as India’s ability to counter Sri Lanka’s strong ties with ever-creeping China. Analysts fear that if Singh capitulates to Tamil Nadu politicians, it will result in irreparable damage to the struggle for political rights launched by the Sri Lankan Tamil community decades ago as well as gains that could be implemented through... 


Numbers say it all

Published : 7:01 am  November 9, 2013  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  703 views  |  

SOMETIMES the numbers do say it all. The university cut-off marks for the 2012/2013 academic year show only 22,943 students gaining entrance out of the 55,241 students who applied for university entrance, according to the University Grants Commission. It also mentioned 229,737 students sat the GCE A/L Examination last year. These numbers sum up the main problem of Sri Lanka’s higher education system. Even with stringent standards in place that aim to fail rather than pass students, over 55,000 of them scrambled across the line, but mainly due to a space issue less than half that number will gain access to public universities. This is indeed the unfair plight of what is arguably the best and... 


Tangible benefits from CHOGM

Published : 12:00 am  November 8, 2013  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  10,417 views  |  

The External Affairs Ministry has been in the news more often of late, mostly due to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). But on Wednesday its Secretary was quoted as being thankful that a decision to impose a 3,000 pound levy on Sri Lankan travellers to the UK has been dismissed. Yet there is little being done to improve the lot of the average traveller by these officials, as studies have shown. Anyone who believes that Sri Lanka’s international reputation has improved magnificently by the end of the war has only to take a look at a recent study done on passports to know that such optimism needs to be taken with a large dose of salt. Government officials including those at... 


Incredible injustice

Published : 12:00 am  November 7, 2013  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  823 views  |  

When politically powerful people act like fools, the innocent suffer. There are multiple examples of this in Sri Lanka’s society, but none more heartbreaking that the tale of Samurdhi officer Mohammad Irshad. Many will be confused over his name until they are told why he is famous – or infamous, as the case may be. He was the public official who was tied to a tree by Public Relations Minister Mervyn Silva for failing to show up for a dengue eradication program on 3 August 2010. For the first time he tells his side of the story in a tearful interview posted on Groundviews and shames not just the political system in Sri Lanka but the voters who allow it to exist in impunity. Irshad did not... 


Crime and punishment

Published : 12:00 am  November 6, 2013  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  524 views  |  

A teacher cuts a student’s pants while another splits an eardrum through a hearty slap. These are some of the headlines that shocked readers see in newspapers on a daily basis. How has discipline become such a deplorable act? Why are children punished in such cruel and humiliating ways and what can be done about it? Sri Lanka’s schools are already a morass of problems. Stepping up the fight against corruption and indiscipline in education is necessary not only to keep kids in school and meet literacy and development goals, but also to ensure that the next generation is prepared to be good citizens. No doubt the majority of teachers are kinder to their students and it is equally likely that... 


Amnesty leftovers

Published : 12:01 am  November 5, 2013  |  Category: FT View  |  Leave a Comment  |  439 views  |  

As the amnesty given to migrant workers by Saudi Arabia ends, there are concerns over the fate of thousands of Sri Lankans left as illegal employees. As demand exploded for the amnesty, reports indicate that at least 16,000 Sri Lankans registered at the Sri Lankan Embassy to be sent home. When the amnesty ended on Sunday, officials indicated that only 10,000 made it back to Sri Lanka on time, leaving the rest to face a fine of Rs. 3 million and a one-year prison sentence. Stark results indeed. The tragic execution of Rizana Nafeek aside, the increase of migrant workers to the Middle East is worrying for several reasons. One is that despite Government attempts to regularise recruitment agents,... 


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