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Ban Ki-moon Should Reject the Report of the Panel on Sri Lanka and Restore Confidence in the UN

An analysis of notices published by the UN Panel of Experts (POE) calling for submissions and email correspondence this writer has had wit...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Many Happy Returns of the Day Prince Charles ....

It was November 14, 2013, and heir to the British Throne Prince Charles was flying into Colombo later in the day, to preside over the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka.

Several Heads of State and dignitaries had gathered at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall in Colombo and were engaged in various bilateral and multilateral meetings.

The following two videos capture a reporter's question to both Willam Hague MP, First Secretary of State and the Leader of the House of Commons and to President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa as each of them arrived for meetings.

The question was, "Today is Prince Charles' birthday. What will you say to him?"


Catching Up......

Much water has flowed under the bridge since I last updated my blog. I'm looking forward to catching up on the time in-between so that you will get a glimpse of what I've been upto.

Enjoy reading.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Sri Lanka in the Eye of the Storm

Satellite picture taken at 0000 UTC October 29, 2012 by the Met7 Satellite shows Sri Lanka almost in the eye of the depression in the Bay of Bengal. Image copyright EUMETSAT, NERC Receiving Station, University of Dundee.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Indian Ocean Weather Picture

This satellite image of the Indian Ocean region was taken at 0600 UTC on September 7 2012 and shows the weather over Sri Lanka and India as well as Africa and the Middle East. Image courtesy Dundee Satellite Station. Twitter: @DundeeSat

Sunday, July 22, 2012

National Conference on the Role of Women in Reconciliation

National Conference on the Role of Women in Reconciliation
Organized by the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for  International Relations and
Strategic Studies (LKIIRSS)
23rd July , 2012, 13:30hrs Onwards
Venue : Auditorium, LKIIRSS, No. 24 Horton Place, Colombo 7

Session I
Chaired by: Mr. Asanga Abeyagoonesekera, Executive Director/LKIIRSS
Lighting of the Oil Lamp & National Anthem

Welcome Address

Mr. Asanga Abeyagoonesekera, Executive Director, LKIIRSS 
Creating a Harmonious Society: The Role of Women in Sri Lanka
Prof. Rohan Gunaratna, Head, ICPVTR, Singapore

14. 30
Improving psychological and physical health of women and children in North and East
Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopullai, Specialist Medical Officer and Member of Parliament
'Do Women play a role in Sri Lanka’s ‘Reconciliation’? : Gender dynamics in the transition from war to peace.
Dr. Sepali Kottegoda,  Executive Director,  Women and Media Collective
Family Support Services: skills development and capacity building of war widows in Sri Lanka
Major General Dr Dudley Perera USP, Chairman, Ranaviru Family Counseling & Support Services (RFCSS), Consultant Obstetrician and Gynecologist, Military Hospital, Colombo
15. 30
Q & A

Session II – Social Integration and Women Empowerment- The Way Forward
Moderator: Ms. Shyamala Gomez , Lawyer Activist and Programme Advisor, FOKUS Women
Micro Financing and Women Empowerment in North and East
Ms. Mudhitha Samadhani Kiriwandeniya, Deputy Chairman, Sanasa Development Bank
Social Integration Initiatives for war affected women and children in NE: Experience of the Ministry of Child Development and Women Affairs
Ms. Sumithra Rahubadda, Former Secretary, Ministry of Child Development and Women’s Affairs.

Topic TBC
Mr. Chandula Abeyawickrama, Deputy General Manager-Development Banking, HNB
Impact of Performing Arts on Reconciliation
Ms. Anoja Weerasinghe, Actress, Founder of Abhina Academy of Performing Arts.
Women’s Role in Reconciling Communities
Ms. Kumari Grero, Coordinating Principal, Lyceum International
Q & A

Vote of Thanks
Mr. Asanga Abeyagoonasekera, Executive Director, LKIIRSS
Networking Session

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mullaitivu Beach takes on Festive Air with New Year Celebrations

Mullaitivu beach which was the scene of intense battles just three years ago, turned festive Saturday with students Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala students enjoying the traditions of each others culture in a relaxed atmosphere away from their classrooms.

By mid-day a variety of new year games were worked out with children whooping and screaming with excitement. Pillow fights, dances by the indigenous veddhas, playing of the traditional Rabana (Drum) and climbing the greased pole were among activities that aroused keen interest.

A special feature of the festivities was the depiction of traditional Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim and Veddah homes with students dressed in traditional manner explaining the various cultural practices as visitors stepped into each specially constructed house.

Cultural performances will dominate the afternoon's activities before the students leave for their homes in Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Vavuniya, Mannar, Anuradhapura and other areas.

Two days of competitive sports preceded the New Year Festival helping the Muslim, Tamil and Sinhala students to bond together in the special programme organised by the Social Development Affairs Directorate of the President's Office undeer the Nena Guna Weduma; Sisu Diriya student empowerment programme which is in its sixth year.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Read how smugglers are raking up the marine eco-system around the Gulf of Mannar

Smugglers Devastate Gulf of Mannar Marine Reserve

By Malini Shankar*

RAMESHWARAM, India, May 2, 2012 (IPS) - Forest officials of the Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere Reserve abutting the Palk Straits between India and Sri Lanka have reported a decline in marine wildlife, as smugglers exploiting lax conservation laws in the region tank up on protected species used in traditional Chinese medicines and fine dining.

In coordination with the Indian Coast Guard, forest officials have recorded more than 200 cases of smuggling, accounting for the loss of over 13,000 kilogrammes of sea cucumbers (Holothurian scabra) and seahorses (Hippocampus species) in the last 16 months alone.

Illegal marine wildlife traders in India smuggle their catch to neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, where the red-flagged items become legal marine exports to other Southeast Asian countries due to exemptions in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

"The seahorse found in the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park is one of the five rarer species of seahorses," Shekhar Kumar Niraj, field director of the Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere Reserve, informed IPS.

In 2001, India’s stringent Wildlife Protection Act listed sea cucumbers and seahorses as ‘schedule I’, thereby making forest officials legally responsible for their protection.

Around the same time as this classification came into play, the markets for traditional Chinese medicines exploded.

A fragile ecosystem

The Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park (GOMMNP), part of the Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere Reserve, is an undersea reserve formed by the strip of land that once connected India to Sri Lanka. The peninsula divides the Palk Straits in the north from the Gulf of Mannar in the south.

The fragile reef ecosystem is shallow and forms the habitat for corals, crabs, clown fish, dugongs, dolphins, porpoise, prawns, parrot fish, sea cucumbers, seahorses, sea snakes, turtles, whales and a whole list of highly endangered endemic marine wildlife.

The marine diversity includes four species of shrimp, 106 species of crabs, 17 types of sea cucumbers, 466 species of molluscs, 108 species of sponges and 100 species of echinoderms.

More than 2000 species of fin fish are found in the Gulf of Mannar and seagrass is also clearly visible in the shallow sea. Prosopsis jujuba, a shrub forest species endemic to dry arid zones, "is surprisingly dominant in the mangroves and mud flats, amply justifying the protection lent to the marine national park," Sundar Kumar, the wildlife warden of the underwater reserve, told IPS.

"The hotbeds and kingpins of marine wildlife crime are in Rameshwaram, Mandapam, and Tuticorin all around the Indian coast of the GOMMNP," T. Rajendran, assistant conservator of forests for the marine reserve, told IPS.

Lose-lose deal for fisherfolk

"There is no local consumption or markets (for smuggled goods). Only the middlemen gain. These are the (people) who are connected to international crime syndicates," added Niraj. These ‘middlemen’ buy sea cucumbers from fisherfolk for about 50 dollars per kilogramme and sell them for a profit of 600 percent, at 307 dollars per kilogramme.

"Sea cucumbers have ecologically significant roles in scavenging coasts and seabeds, which in turn helps other species like corals and seagrass to flourish and propagate," Niraj explained.

"Only owners of trawler fishing boats indulge in poaching sea cucumbers, which is a double whammy for us traditional fishermen; not only is the catch depleting, but fuel prices are increasing. The additional burden of illegal poaching of marine wildlife by trawler fishermen make us suspect in the eyes of the enforcement agencies," lamented K. David, a traditional fisherman in Rameshwaram.

Field director Niraj disputes the fact that trawler fisherfolk are the only smugglers involved in this rackets, pointing to statistics of recent raids that show traditional (Dinghy) fishermen also indulging in the smuggling of sea cucumbers and seahorses.

David is convinced that traditional fishing will come to an end when his generation is "dead and gone", since youngsters like 10-year-old Vishal Selvan and 11-year-old Alan want to become merchant navy captains and Indian Administrative Service officers respectively.

In order to keep traditional fishermen from engaging with smugglers out of economic desperation, employment schemes have been put in place to guarantee the livelihoods of various fisherfolk, in the face of depleting fish stocks.

"The alternative livelihood initiatives carried out by the United Nations Development Programme-Global Environmental Facility (UNDP-GEF) through the Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere Reserve Trust (GoMBRT) include Palmyra mat weaving and thatch making, clown fish and other ornamental fish fattening, goat rearing, jasmine cultivation, betel leaf cultivation, salt-fish making and plaster of Paris for doll-making," V. Deepak Samuel, programme specialist at the energy and environment unit of the UNDP-GEF (GoMBRT), told IPS.

Unchecked crime

"We are as yet unable to trace the route of smuggled goods and links beyond Sri Lanka to markets in the Far East, primarily because once the goods arrive in Sri Lanka they become legal exports, blocking our investigations further," explained a wildlife crime inspector, speaking under condition of anonymity out of fear for his safety.

Patrolling the sea is all the more challenging given enforcement agencies’ meagre logistical capacity.

Led by Rajendran, the entire patrol operation includes four range forest officers, 22 foresters, 11 guards, two watchers and 33 anti-poaching camp watchers who share six jeeps, six wireless sets, two base stations, six anti-poaching camps, eight mechanised patrol boats and three speed boats between them – to patrol an area of 10,500 square kilometres or 18,900 nautical miles.

They lack night vision lamps and financial incentives. They are no match for the 25,000 well equipped trawlers that fish illegally across the whole Marine Biosphere Reserve every day.

Still, the greatest challenge is not out on the water.

"Opposition to protection of marine wildlife (and) fishes comes from even official establishments like the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, the Marine Products Export Development Authority and the National Institute of Oceanography – all in the name of livelihoods," Niraj said.

"Growing numbers of anthropologists propagate illusions glossing over the likely consequences that would emerge should we lose the remaining biodiversity… They quote the Convention on Biological Diversity where sustainability, right to access and benefits sharing are the guiding principles. However, sustainability that applies to economic principles may not exactly apply to ecology because of biological principles that are very different," Niraj explained.

Poaching of sea cucumbers even in the seas around the Andaman Nicobar Islands is so rampant that natives report they hardly sight sea cucumbers anymore.

*Malini Shankar is a wildlife photojournalist and filmmaker based in Bangalore.


(Courtesy: IPS News)

In Words

Loved and mentored by parents with values and discipline and a passion for good English; guided by teachers who wouldn't spare the rod to ensure excellence; copywriter; on-line journalist; editor-in-chief; and at long last, giving into the passion; Freelance Writer.

Nurtured in advertising and PR from freelance copywriter to account director and agency head; engaged throughout to humanitarian work in NGOs including the Red Cross and the UNDP; and experienced in both public and private sectors.

Looking forward to a future of writing on diverse subjects; sharing knowledge and experience; enriching the lives of others; but most of all, acquiring more knowledge and using it to make the world a better place for all.

More of my writing:
* Fuelling the Peace Process * Concepts for decentralisation of government * PEACE: Is it still an elusive dream? * Interview with the late Major General Trond Furuhovde first Head of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission * How polar bears are affected by global warming * Red Cross takes lead in clean water for Sri Lanka flood victims * The poorest hardest hit by Sri Lanka floods *