Wednesday, June 3, 2009
You have lost your feet in enabling a nation to rise on its feet. You have lost your hands, eyes, flesh and blood in providing a pleasant and prosperous land to this world. Our responsibility is to honour those great sacrifices by joining to build a great nation” President Mahinda Rajapaksa said at the Victory Day Parade to pay national tribute to the Security Forces following the defeat of terrorism at Galle Face Green, Colombo today (03)
The President said that the new model may be tested on an experimental basis and if it proved workable it may be replicated.
President Asif Ali Zardari said that due to pressure on equity with the government the private sector may be induced for equity participation in the infrastructure projects.
He said that by adopting this model new avenues could be opened for undertaking new developmental projects more aggressively.
Security forces say they are close to driving militants from Swat and neighboring districts in the northwest after a five-week offensive. The fighting has forced 3 million civilians to flee the area.
The government needs “assistance in undertaking the gigantic construction phase of the operation after the return of the displaced people to their homes,” President Zardari told officials yesterday in the capital, Islamabad, according to the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan.
The government of Sri Lanka have already in the process of finding a home-grown political solution for the ethnic issue while addressing more immediate problems at hand, said Hon Mahinda Samarasinghe, Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights. Also , he said that international community has no reason to doubt Sri Lanka's capability in finding such solution as she has already overcome a challenge that the world was unable to achieve. He made this comments on Tuesday (June 2) addressing the 11th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council held in Geneva.
New York, June 3 (DPA) The UN Security Council plans to meet with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon this week to discuss the situation in Sri Lanka for the first time since fighting ceased in the island nation, the council's president said Tuesday.
Ban Ki-moon will brief the 15-nation council behind closed doors on Friday and it will be an 'unofficial, interactive dialogue,' said Turkish Ambassador Baki Ilkin, whose country presides over the body in June. He provided no other details.
The UN secretary general has dismissed allegations that the UN covered up a high civilian death toll during the last phase of the Sri Lanka conflict.
Ban Ki-Moon said he "categorically rejected" reports that the UN had "deliberately underestimated" the toll.
The Sri Lankan government has strongly denied the claims surrounding its recent onslaught against Tamil rebels.
The figure was also disputed by UN human rights chief John Holmes who said an investigation would be a good idea.
'Not yet known'
"I categorically reject - repeat, categorically - any suggestion that the United Nations has deliberately underestimated any figures," Mr Ban said in a speech to the General Assembly.
"In regard to some reports in the media, I should emphasise that the final total is not yet known," the UN secretary general said.
"Most of these figures do not emanate from the UN and most are not consistent with the information at our disposal," he said.
Debris was seen in the conflict zone after Sri Lanka declared the war over
The secretary general added: "Let me also say, whatever the total, the casualties in the conflict were unacceptably high."
On 23 May, Mr Ban visited a huge camp for refugees who fled fighting between Tamil rebels and government forces.
The UN secretary general toured the main government-run camp for about 220,000 refugees at Manik Farm, near Vavuniya.
The figure of 20,000 - published last week by the French newspaper Le Monde and then the Times newspaper in the UK and quoting official UN documents and witness accounts - is far higher than previous estimates.
The UN has said that there were no confirmed estimates of civilian casualties, and its last estimate two weeks before the end of the war said 6,500 people had died.
On Saturday, leading human rights group Amnesty International called for an urgent inquiry into claims of civilian deaths.
The group also urged the UN to publicise its estimate of the death toll.
The UN's senior humanitarian affairs co-ordinator John Holmes queried the figures but said the claims needed to be examined.
"I think a lot of the figures which are floating around don't have much justification behind them.
"But nevertheless, there have been serious charges against the [Tamil Tiger rebels]... for holding civilians as human shields for such a long time, and thereby being indirectly responsible for their deaths.
"And against the government for using heavy weapons in an area where there are so many civilians and thereby, not deliberately, but again causing many civilian deaths."
He added: "No-one was there, no-one knows and we may never know. And that's why an investigation would be a good idea."
Foreign journalists and humanitarian groups were barred from the conflict zone and although the Red Cross entered, it does not give evidence in international courts.
Senior Sri Lankan officials have consistently denied the accusation.
India to have first woman Speaker
India's parliament is to have its first woman Speaker after a sweeping win for the Congress party in recent elections.
Meira Kumar, 64, filed her nomination papers on Tuesday and is expected to be elected unopposed on Wednesday.
Ms Kumar belongs to the low-caste Dalit - formerly untouchable - community. Her nomination has been welcomed by members of political parties across the house.
She had been sworn in as a cabinet minister, but resigned on Sunday after Congress offered her the Speaker's job.
India's newly-elected lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha, began its first session on Monday.
Ms Kumar, who has been elected to parliament five times, is the daughter of the late Babu Jagjivan Ram, a prominent Dalit leader and former deputy prime minister of India.
She confirmed to reporters that she had filed her nomination papers on Tuesday.
"Tomorrow is the election and it is a historic moment and it is a very overwhelming moment for me," Ms Kumar was quoted by news agency Reuters as saying.
"Historic because a woman has been considered for this very important and august position."
Congress won a decisive mandate in the recent general elections and Ms Kumar has emerged as a consensus candidate, with the main opposition BJP and other parties also supporting her.
Ms Kumar was earlier sworn in as a minister and given charge of the water resources ministry.
Analysts say naming her as Speaker works to the advantage of the Congress as it helps the party position itself as pro-women.
It also projects Congress as a party which is concerned about the welfare of the low-caste Dalits who have faced discrimination from upper-caste Hindus for centuries.