Sri Lankan elephants saved from drowning

This video says about itself:

Sri Lanka NAVY rescues two elephants washed out to sea in Trincomalee

23 July 2017

A group of naval personnel attached to the Eastern Naval Command managed to rescue 2 elephants that were swept out to the sea, in between Round Island and Foul Point, Trincomalee this morning (July, 23).

The jumbos in troubled waters were first noticed by an Inshore Patrol Craft on routine sea patrol. Upon being alerted the Department of Wildlife in Trincomalee, a combined rescue mission was launched by the Navy and Wildlife officials to save these 2 wild elephants. Responding promptly to the situation, the Navy augmented the rescue mission by deploying 3 more Fast Attack Craft on patrol and a team of Navy Divers.

Accordingly, the mammoth effort of the rescue teams saw the two jumbos being carefully directed to the shore without causing any harm to the animals. Having safely guided the two elephants to the shore, they were subsequently released to the Foul Point jungle.

According to Dutch NOS TV, the boats arrived just in time, as the elephants had become tired and had a problem in staying above water.

And ten days earlier, this had happened:

13 July 2017

The Sri Lankan navy released dramatic footage of the moment it rescued a drowning elephant when the mammal was dragged out to sea by the current.

In saving these beautiful threatened Asian elephants, the Sri Lankan navy is doing a much better job than most navies in the world. Especially than the royal navy of Saudi Arabia, which blocks the ports of Yemen, causing many civilian deaths by famine and cholera, apart from the Saudi royal air force killing civilians again and again.


Sri Lankan garbage dump kills many people

This video says abot itself:

16 April 2017

Hopes faded on Sunday for the survival of an estimated 100 people trapped under a landslide at a giant rubbish dump in the Sri Lankan capital. Police say the known death toll from the disaster has risen to 26. Emergency workers are to resume their search on Monday after halting late on Sunday night. The 300-foot-high dump collapsed after flames engulfed it late on Friday, burying as many as 145 homes. The police say they are investigating whether the landslide was natural or man-made. Residents of the area, mostly living in shanties, had been demanding the removal of the dump, saying it was causing health problems. The government had said it would remove it soon, under an infrastructure plan.

By Vijith Samarasinghe and Wimal Perera in Sri Lanka:

At least 26 dead in garbage dump collapse in Sri Lanka

17 April 2017

The death toll from Friday’s collapse of a large portion of the massive garbage dump in Meethotamulla, in the suburbs of Colombo, rose to 26 by yesterday evening. The bodies of seven children, along with 19 adults, have been found so far. Another 12 injured have been admitted to the Colombo National Hospital. Residents told WSWS reporters that there could be as many as a 100 people still buried under the debris.

About 145 houses have been destroyed or buried by the collapsing garbage mountain. Around 645 people from 180 families have been displaced and are temporarily sheltering in a nearby primary school and other places without basic amenities. Because the Hindu traditional New Year festival day fell on April 14, visiting relatives may also have been inside the buried houses. The Sri Lanka Electricity Board warned people to leave the surrounding area because a high voltage power line has been damaged.

The tragedy has provoked shock and outrage across the country, compounding the political crisis of the goernment, which is already facing widespread opposition over its austerity policies. President Maithripala Sirisena has held meetings with ministers, military chiefs and government officials to announce assistance and compensation for the victims. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has cut short his tour of Asia “because of the disaster.”

With government approval, Colombo Municipal Council had established a huge garbage dump on a 16-acre block of land and heaped waste up to 30 metres high. Management of the dump lacked any scientific application or concern for the lives of nearby residents. Friday’s collapse destroyed all the houses in its southern boundary.

A woman, who had been waiting since Friday for the bodies of her brother, his wife and 12-year-old daughter to be unearthed, told the WSWS that no government officials or rescue teams reached the site for more than an hour after the disaster. “Residents themselves started searching for the buried people. Then the navy and police came with few shovels,” she said.

Facing rising anger, the government sent army “rescue teams” a few hours later. The army brigadier in charge of the disaster site told the media that a contingent of 600 has now been deployed.

Soldiers and rescue teams are searching the site with rented excavation machinery and without proper equipment or protective gear. This shows the lack of proper disaster preparedness by the government, despite the many landslides in recent years that have killed hundreds. In 2004, the Asian tsunami killed around 40,000 people in Sri Lanka.

Another woman told the WSWS: “For how long have we been saying that this [heap of refuse] would collapse!” She said that a university professor had warned last year that the garbage mountain could collapse due to the pressure of methane gas being produced inside. “All our cries fell on the deaf ears of governments! They did nothing until so many people were buried alive,” said a man who was waiting for information about relatives.

Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayaka, S.M. Marikkar, a government parliamentarian for the area, and Police Chief Pujith Jayasundara faced angry protests by local people when they visited the area.

“People told them that there’s no need to visit after so many have died. What we got when we protested against dumping of garbage here was baton charges,” a man told the WSWS. “Politicians, Buddhist monks, or Catholic priests, none of them are wanted here.”

Another man, now alone with his grandson, angrily explained that these were not deaths, but murders.

Conscious of the simmering anger, the government has deployed a large number of police and soldiers in the area. Under the pretext of “public safety,” the entire area has been cordoned off. The residents are still unable to salvage valuables from their houses.

Contingents of riot police armed with water cannon, tear gas and firearms are on stand-by in nearby towns such as Wellampitiya and Gothatuwa New Town.

More than 24 hours after the collapse, Deputy Finance Minister Harsha de Silva said that the problem had been building up more than 20 years and the government had now decided to immediately stop the dumping of garbage at the site.

Blaming the victims themselves, de Silva stated that the tragedy occurred because the families had refused to move from the area, despite being offered compensation. Locals, however, told the WSWS that there had not been a resettlement program, apart from verbal promises by officials for a pittance in compensation or for rent for a house at an alternative location.

These attempts to evict people are a part of the project initiated by the previous government of President Mahinda Rajapakse, and continued by the current government, to transform Colombo into an international financial and commercial hub. The government is now seeking to use the tragedy to push ahead with evictions.

For a long time this area was used as a place for dumping garbage. However, the dangerous situation developed after 2009 when it became Colombo’s main garbage disposal facility. People protested, warning against the potential disasters on many occasions in the past few years. In early 2014 the Mahinda Rajapakse government launched a violent police attack on the residents who were engaged in a sit-in for days blocking dumping.

During the campaign for the January 2015 presidential election, Ranil Wickremesinghe, then opposition leader, visited the area and told the residents that the problem of the garbage dump would be solved as soon as Maithripala Sirisena was elected. Yesterday he sent hypocritical condolences and cynically stated that the government had been on the point of solving the problem of the garbage dump. In reality, his government responded to local protests in May and December 2015 with brutal police attacks and the arrest of many residents.

The Meethotamulla garbage dump disaster is another tragedy generated by successive governments and the drive for profit. It demonstrates that the capitalist system cannot resolve even the most basic problems facing the masses. While President Sirisena has reportedly ordered an immediate stop to garbage disposal in the area and relief for the victims, his real concern is to prevent the disaster from becoming a focus for mounting anger against the government.

Bird conservation in Sri Lanka

This 2015 video is called Birds of Sri Lanka.

From BirdLife:

Pioneering Sri Lankan bird group turns 40

By Rosa Gleave, 2 Dec 2016

Sri Lanka, October 1976: seven intrepid trailblazers set their sights on making a solid impact on bird awareness and biodiversity conservation on the island. The result? The creation of the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL).

Fast forward to 2016, and FOGSL are celebrating their 40th anniversary. Led by the much-loved Emeritus Prof Sarath Kotagama, the organisation transitioned from an academic group attached to the University of Colombo to becoming a full BirdLife Partner in 1994.

Since then, FOGSL’s influence within the BirdLife Partnership has only continued to grow. Kotagama was elected onto BirdLife’s Global Council in 2013, which met this year in Sri Lanka.

Inclusivity and breaking down social and language barriers is FOGSL’s modus operandi. Birdwatching was once restricted to an elite urban class in Sri Lanka, where the habit was adopted from colonial rulers. Now the organisation provides nature education for a 50,000-strong membership, in addition to working with scores of schools across the island.

FOGSL have always strived to reach out to the community. ‘Siyo Siri’ is a Sinhala (the language of the largest ethnic group in Sri Lanka) expression, suggesting splendour from people coming together. Their outreach activities form an exhaustive and impressive list, from photography exhibitions to field outings; bird ringing to kid’s activities.

Additionally, they publish bird, mammal and shark field guides in both English and Sinhalese. “We broke through barriers of language and made available to all sectors the information on birds and conservation.” said Kotagama. “We can all be proud of this accomplishment.”

“FOGSL has truly lived up to its motto ‘Partnership for Nature & People” said Prof Lakshman Dissanayake, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Colombo. “It continues to excel in conservation and public awareness to improving not just our environment but also the lives of many”.

Work hasn’t all been about outreach though. As BirdLife’s Sri Lankan Partner, FOGSL has worked to identify 70 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs).

Covering nearly 350,000 ha, these areas support 375 bird species, including 27 endemic to Sri Lanka, such as the Sri Lanka Whistling-thrush Myophonus blighi, Sri Lanka Scimitar-babbler Pomatorhinus melanurus and the Serendib Scops-owl Otus thilohoffmanni. A Red List of Birds for Sri Lanka was compiled in 2012, allowing a valuable status assessment of birds across the country.

Collaborations across the world are bearing fruit for globally-threatened Sri Lankan birds. Working with the US Forest Service and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the Kashmir Flycatcher Ficedula subruba is having its territory mapped, helping us to understand better its social behaviour and preferred habitats.

Conservation research has also been carried out on the highly elusive and nationally threatened Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meniniting, accompanied by the creation of an action plan for this species.

As with many of our Partners worldwide, FOGSL’s work doesn’t just concern birds. Mammals – specifically primates – have also received attention from the group. A Zoological Society of London and Open University of Sri Lanka collaboration ran the Red Slender Loris Conservation Programme, establishing Red slender loris Loris tardigardus taxonomy, occupancy and distribution across the tear-drop shaped island.

Sri Lanka’s largest growing industry, tourism, has also been intercepted to cater better to birding tours and eco-tourism with the ‘Bird Friendly Concept’. Launched in 1997, over 30 hotels and touring companies have now signed up, each receiving a training package in sustainability.

Looking to the future, urbanisation poses an ongoing challenge for FOGSL. The proposed ‘Megapolis Project’ will severely threaten wetlands around the country’s capital city of Colombo if proper planning is not put in place. FOGSL will be pilot testing the conservation of five urban wetlands, which act as flood defence as well as a rich hub of biodiversity, allowing their expertise on birds to act for both nature and people. Using citizen science as part of the approach, this represents just part of a suite of programmes planned to commemorate their 40th anniversary.

But development isn’t the only problem they face. “The future is going to be more challenging, as nature declines and novel technologies seem to restrict the youth indoors and the advent of modern gadgets, FOGSL will have to find novel ways to keep and promote the interest in Birds and Conservation.” said Sarath Kotagama.

With the philosophy ‘Once a Member, Always a Conservationist’, FOGSL looks set to go from strength to strength despite adversity on the horizon. Demonstrating how local actions make a global impact, this former grassroots organisation shows the spirit of the ‘Power of Many’ that lies at the heart of the BirdLife Partnership.

FOGSL’s success has not gone unnoticed. “It is with great pride and humbleness that I would like to congratulate the FOGSL family for the hard work, dedication and commitment for birds and biodiversity conservation in Sri Lanka in the past 40 years.” said Patricia Zurita, CEO, BirdLife International. On behalf of the entire Partnership, we’d like to wish FOGSL a happy 40th birthday, and share our gratitude for their continuing part in our mission.

Elephant calf rescued from drain in Sri Lanka

This video says about itself:

29 May 2016

A young elephant has been rescued from an uncovered drain in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port.

Locals workers joined forces with wildlife officials to use an array of basic tools to carry out the rescue operation.

The animal was taken away for treatment with a suspected broken leg.

United States ‘liberal hawk’ Samantha Power praises Sri Lankan human rights violators

This video from the USA says about itself:

Code Pink: ‘We see Samantha Power as a war hawk’

19 November 2014

A group of activists belonging to the anti-war group Code Pink interrupted the panel between Jorge Ramos and U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power at Fusion’s RiseUp event in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday …

Ramos caught up backstage with the activists after their intervention.

We see no future in war. “We are appalled that Samantha Power, who’s our diplomat, is now saying that military actions are the solution.”

By Kumaran Ira, exile from Sri Lanka:

UN Ambassador Samantha Power hails Sri Lanka as human rights champion

10 May 2016

At the recent US-Sri Lanka Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council Meeting in Washington, Samantha Power, the US permanent representative to the UN, took the time to promote the US “pivot to Asia” aimed to isolate and prepare war against China. She hailed Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s government, which was installed by Washington in January 2015 as part of the “pivot to Asia,” for its human rights record.

Power said Sirisena’s regime has made “extraordinary progress,” claiming, “Sri Lanka has, since January 2015, emerged as a global champion of human rights and democratic accountability.”

Power is lying through her teeth. The Sirisena government is no such thing. In fact, its violations of democratic rights and its flagrant contempt for the workers and toiling masses of Sri Lanka make fairly clear what kind of local allies Washington is relying on to carry out its “pivot to Asia,” behind a veil of empty and hypocritical “democratic” rhetoric.

The Sirisena government are burying the war crimes committed by the previous Rajapakse regime. Thousands are still missing after the civil war ended with the massacre of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009, killing tens of thousands. Many top Sirisena officials are deeply implicated in these crimes, with Sirisena himself having served as Rajapakse’s acting defence minister at the end of the civil war.

War victims’ families have protested, demanding the government release their relatives disappeared during the war. The Tamil minority in the North and East of Sri Lanka are still under military occupation since the end of civil war, and thousands are still living in makeshift camps in deplorable conditions. Hundreds of political prisoners of all ethnicities have been held without trial in prisons for years.

All these demands have been brushed aside by Sirisena, as well as his Tamil nationalist allies in the Tamil National Alliance. Even after Tamil political prisoners staged a hunger strike demanding their release, the Sirisena government brazenly insisted that there are no political prisoners in Sri Lanka.

The Sirisena government has cracked down on opposition to its austerity agenda from workers, students, and farmers. It resorted to legal frame-ups against tea estate workers protesting poor working conditions and obtained injunctions to prevent bank employees’ protests. When it faced large-scale protests by farmers against subsidy cuts and low prices for their products, and by students against education cuts, it ordered security forces to brutally attack the protesters.

Though Power and other top US diplomatic officials have repeatedly visited Colombo and are excellently informed of Sirisena’s attacks on democratic rights, Power claimed Washington’s regime in Colombo is overseeing an unprecedented flowering of democracy.

Power stated, “When I visited in November, the change since my last visit in 2010 was palpable. People told me that it felt as though a repressive climate of fear had been lifted and that they could breathe again. Activists felt safe to work openly and, of course, to criticize the Government with new fervor. Journalists reported freely; political prisoners were being released; land was being returned to the people; and the internally displaced were beginning to go home in new numbers. As part of its determination to deal with the abuses of the past, moreover, the Government had committed to justice and reconciliation processes to try to serve all Sri Lankans.”

Who does Power think she is kidding? A broad and growing body of public evidence points to a surge in human rights violations after Sirisena’s election, including abductions, torture, and rape, in an unsuccessful effort to silence broad popular opposition through state terror.

Recently, the International Truth and Justice Project-Sri Lanka published a report based on interviews with 20 Tamils abducted last year.

Their testimony was confirmed by physical evidence of torture including scarring, and by psychological or psychiatric symptoms of torture and sexual abuse. Torture methods included “beating, whipping, burning with cigarettes, branding with heated metal rods, water torture, asphyxiation in a plastic bag soaked in petrol or chilli and tied around their necks, hanging upside down, beating on the soles of the feet and the use of electric currents through their body”.

One torture victim, originally from a village in Sri Lanka’s east and now living in London, said he had signed a false confession to being a Tamil Tiger fighter after members of the security forces burned him repeatedly. “I don’t think there has been change, I don’t think there has been any change under the new government,” he said.

As she sings the praises of the Sirisena government with its torture chambers and detention camps as an exemplar of democracy, Power is engaging in what she has made her particular specialty: the justification of US foreign policy under the fraudulent banner of “human rights.” As the Director of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of the National Security Council in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2013, she was a leading advocate of the so-called R2P (responsibility to protect civilians) policy. It served as the justification for Obama’s “humanitarian” wars.

Power was a leading architect of the US-NATO war for regime-change in Libya, which ousted and murdered Muammar Gaddafi, killing tens of thousands and devastating the country, claiming this was necessary to protect Libyans’ human rights against Gaddafi.

At the UN in 2014, she backed the Israeli massacre of Palestinians in Gaza, blocking the UN Security Council’s passage of any binding resolution imposing a ceasefire. She warned that any attribution of blame on Israel is a “red line” for Washington.

It is fitting therefore that she should be chosen to give Sirisena’s reactionary policies a hypocritical “democratic” gloss, as Washington tries to ensure that Colombo will be a reliable partner for preparing war and suppressing opposition in the working class throughout Asia.

THE FUTURE OF THE ASIA PIVOT “As [President Barack] Obama’s time in office comes to an end, Asian nations are deeply skeptical about how much they can rely on Washington’s commitment and staying power in the region. They sense that for the first time in memory, Americans are questioning whether their economic and defense interests in Asia are really that vital.” [NYT]

A US Pacific Command (PACOM)-led team of military experts concluded a week-long Operation Pacific Angel exercise in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province on August 23. The exercise was part of the expanding links between the US military and Sri Lankan security forces, under the guise of providing humanitarian assistance: here.

US Pacific commander visits Sri Lanka, praising new regime: here.

Trump Shouldn’t Reward Sri Lanka’s Sirisena: here.

USA and Sri Lanka, September 2017: here.

Sri Lankan woman’s death penalty for false Saudi ‘adultery’ accusation

This video is about the horrible beheading of Ms Laila Bint Abdul Muttalib Basim in Saudi Arabia. Not fit to watch for children and sensitive people.

By Pani Wijesiriwardena in Sri Lanka:

Sri Lankan housemaid faces execution in Saudi Arabia

5 December 2015

Saudi Arabian authorities are about to carry out another barbaric execution: the public stoning to death of a Sri Lankan domestic worker. The 45-year-old woman, who worked in Riyadh since 2013, was convicted by a Sharia court for alleged adultery last August.

The Saudi monarchy maintains these reactionary laws as part of its repressive rule directed particularly against the working class, including the country’s estimated nine million foreign workers. This case also highlights the Sri Lankan government’s disregard for the plight of hundreds of thousands of citizens working in the Middle East.

The woman, whose name has been withheld by the Sri Lankan government and media, is reportedly a mother of three from Colombo. She went to Saudi Arabia to work as a housemaid in 2013. In 2014, she was arrested for allegedly committing adultery and after a trial beginning in March 2014 was found guilty of the charge.

The Colombo-based Sunday Leader, however, reported that the convicted woman had told her husband that she fled her employer because of unbearable living conditions and was arrested by police. Her husband sought the help of the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) by lodging a complaint.

The plight of the woman has been widely condemned by human rights groups in Sri Lanka and internationally. In response, the Sri Lankan government has made token efforts to intervene on her behalf. SLBFE spokesman Upul Deshapriya told Arab News that the government has contacted the Saudi authorities to seek a review of the death sentence.

Nalin Rajapakse, media secretary for Foreign Employment Minister Thalatha Athukorala, said that since the maid had already pleaded guilty, the conviction could not be overturned. He said the minister had hired a lawyer and filed an appeal before the Riyadh Court requesting that it reduce the punishment.”

The government’s priority, however, is to maintain good relations with the Saudi regime and thus the flow of remittances from migrant workers back to Sri Lanka. The attitude of President Maithripala Sirisena and the present government is no different to that of the previous government of President Mahinda Rajapakse.

In 2013, Saudi uthorities beheaded a young Sri Lankan housemaid Rizana Nafeek, who had been convicted for murdering her employer’s infant child. The Rajapakse government made no effort to help in her legal defence or to prevent the execution. Nafeek had no training in looking after infants and evidence came to light that the death had been accidental.

Even after a Saudi court sentenced her to death in 2007, the government refused to provide financial assistance for an appeal. Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Minister Keheliya Rambukwella declared that it was “important not to violate Saudi Arabia’s domestic laws.”

Tens of thousands of poverty-stricken male and female workers seek jobs in Middle Eastern countries. According to Central Bank of Sri Lanka statistics, 279,952 Sri Lankans went to work in the Middle East in 2014. Total remittances from migrant workers were more than $7 billion in 2014, mainly from Middle Eastern countries. Remittances account for about 9 percent of Sri Lanka’s gross domestic product.

One of the main destinations of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from South Asia is Saudi Arabia. Under that country’s law, workers have virtually no rights. Domestic workers in particular are ill-treated, work as slaves and are not properly paid.

Indonesia announced in May that it had decided not to send workers to Middle East countries after two housemaids were executed after being found guilty of murder. The Indonesian government, which was seeking to deflect the mass outrage over the executions, said its decision would be implemented in 15 months. Like Sri Lanka, Indonesia is dependent on migrant workers as a lucrative source of foreign exchange.

Foreign workers are particularly vulnerable as they do not read or speak Arabic. According to Amnesty International, they are not provided with adequate translations of the proceedings in court.

James Lynch, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program, commented: “The Saudi Arabian authorities appear intent on continuing a bloody execution spree which has seen at least 151 people put to death so far this year—an average of one person every two days.” In 2014, according to Amnesty International, the total number of executions carried out in Saudi Arabia was 90.

“The use of the death penalty is abhorrent in any circumstance but it is especially alarming that the Saudi Arabian authorities continue to use it in violation of international human rights law and standards, on such a wide scale, and after trials which are grossly unfair and sometimes politically motivated,” Lynch said.

As for the Sri Lankan government, it is seeking to defuse mounting public anger over the looming execution, while ensuring not to offend the Saudi regime. Sri Lankan Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Azmi Thassim, told Arab News that authorities were “vigilant about the progress of the appeal made to the Saudi Court of Appeal” and hoped that “the sentence would be lessened.”

At the same time, Thassim found fault with the Sri Lankan media for criticising Saudi laws. He also implied that the 45-year-old woman was responsible for her own fate. “The problem lies with the lack of awareness of local laws. If someone is not happy with the laws of the Kingdom, they should choose not to come,” he said.

Five things that Saudi Arabian women still cannot do: here.

US arms sale to Saudi Arabia criticised by human rights groups. More than 2,500 civilians have been killed in Yemen mostly in air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition: here.