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Thursday May 23rd, 2024

Sri Lanka’s Hill Country Tamils marginalized despite ending statelessness: report

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s ‘Hill Country Tamils’, who for generations produced its main agricultural export, Ceylon tea, remains marginalised despite gaining formal citizenship requring remedies, a new study said.

” . . . the mere granting of ‘formal citizenship’ to the community is inadequate to address and overcome the legacy of statelessness,” said the report by Verite Research, a think-tank.

“A rights-based development approach requires active measures to address the structural discrimination and marginalisation faced by the community.

“This requires development actors to actively consult the Hill Country Tamil population, to ensure that any development action plans address the real needs of the community as articulated by the community.”

The approach also demands transparency and ultimately accountability of development actors to the community, said the study produced in partnership with the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion with support from Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World).

“In the absence of this, ‘formal citizenship’ alone falls short of translating into the enjoyment of the full benefits of citizenship in a meaningful manner.”

The study said failure to understand the long-term impact of statelessness and the ongoing structural discrimination endured by the Hill Country Tamils can further the marginalisation of the community’s needs and interests.

The report argues that the persistent marginalisation experienced by this community stems from long-standing structural discrimination, of which deprivation of nationality was a central feature.

Hill Country Tamils, came to Sri Lanka when the country was part of the British Empire, to mainly work in plantations as well as public works agencies, where there was no nationalist citizenship laws or visas.

Though many travelled back and forth on what is now the A – 9 road thousands other stayed back on in the island as permanent residents, students of history say.

When Sri Lanka gained independence from Britain in 1948, Hill Country Tamils were denied citizenship in the new state, under a nationalist citizenship law. Naturalization of India migrants that has taken place for millennia was suddenly halted, students of history say.

But between the 1960s and early 2000s members of the Hill Country Tamil community had their citizenship restored after domestic political campaigns and pressure from the Indian government.

“Despite positive law reform, Hill Country Tamils remain one of the most discriminated against and economically, socially and politically marginalised communities in the country,” the study by Verite Research said.

“By many developmental indicators, this community is the ‘furthest behind’ in Sri Lanka.

Their statelessness entrenched three drivers of disadvantage: distancing of the state, dependency on the plantation company, and brokerage by plantation trade unions.

These structural drivers of disadvantage currently deprive the community from experiencing the full benefits of citizenship such as stronger protection of rights, political voice, and economic security.

“The persistence of these conditions despite positive law reform signals that development planning thus far has not adequately addressed the unique structural disadvantage experienced by the Hill Country Tamils,” the study said.

A change will not be possible unless “development actors change the way they operate, and prioritise a rights-based approach to development,” it said.

“Such an approach would see development actors engaging in direct and meaningful consultation with the community; limiting dependency on the usual interlocutors such as the union, and the plantation companies.”

It also means tailoring development programming to meet the needs of the community; and addressing head on, the structural discrimination and drivers of disadvantage faced by the community, the report said. (COLOMBO, 27 September 2019)

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Sri Lanka to speed up and expand Bingiriya export zone

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is expanding an export processing zone in Bingiriya in Kurunegala and plans to link the area with Puttalam with roads and other infrastructure, Minister Bandula Gunawardana said.

A task force of ministerial secretaries will be appointed to carry out the tasks speedily, following a cabinet paper submitted by President Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

The Bingiriya zone already has 157 acres and another 282 acres is being developed by the Board of Investment, he said.

Steps would also be taken to acquire 666 acres.

There was no information whose lands would be acquired. (Colombo/May23/2024)

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Sri Lanka has power breakdowns amidst extreme weather

ECONOMYNEXT – The state-owned power utility, the Ceylon Electricity Board has reported over 36,900 breakdowns resulting in power interruptions to more than 300,000 consumers in the last three days due to inclement weather in the island, the power minister said.

“Additional service staff has been assigned to attend the breakdowns and the CEB management & service staff are working 24 hours to restore power to the affected consumers,” Minister of Power and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekera said on social media platform X (twitter).

Wijesekera said consumers could report power interruptions through the CEB hotline 1987, via SMS to 1987 with BD and the electricity consumer number to follow, or use the CEB Care app, or through http://cebcare.ceb.lk.

The South-East monsoon has seen floods, landslides and strong winds do damage to the utility provider’s infrastructure in the last week. (Colombo/May23?2024)

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Sri Lanka President calls for unity, sacrificing for a better tomorrow on Vesak day

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe has recalled a sermon from the Buddha about sacrificing for a better tomorrow, and called for unity to heal and rebuild the country, as Buddhists celebrate Vesak.

Buddhists celebrate Vesak as commemorating the birth, enlightenment and passing away of the Buddha.

“At this challenging moment, we as a nation should cultivate the same great zeal for enlightenment that Buddha exemplified, inspired by his sermon, “Maththasukha parichchaga- passé che vipulan sukhan” – to sacrifice today for a better tomorrow,” President Wickremesinghe said in his Vesak day message.

“We must remember the advice of Lord Buddha, “Sabbattha Sammanaso,” to treat everyone equally and ensure we put it into practice as a country. This is the greatest offering we can present to the Buddha on this Vesak day.

“Regardless of race, religion, caste, or political affiliation, we must all unite to heal and rebuild our country. ”

The full statement is reproduced below:

The Vesak festival is a profoundly sacred day for Buddhists worldwide, commemorating the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and passing. Buddhists in Sri Lanka, along with their brethren around the globe, celebrate Vesak with deep devotion. They spend this period engaging in religious observances and venerating the Buddha with fervent devotion.

At this challenging moment, we as a nation should cultivate the same great zeal for enlightenment that Buddha exemplified, inspired by his sermon, “Maththasukha parichchaga- passé che vipulan sukhan” – to sacrifice today for a better tomorrow.

We must remember the advice of Lord Buddha, “Sabbattha Sammanaso,” to treat everyone equally and ensure we put it into practice as a country. This is the greatest offering we can present to the Buddha on this Vesak day. Regardless of race, religion, caste, or political affiliation, we must all unite to heal and rebuild our country. The principles of Lichchavi Raja Dharmaya will guide us in this endeavour.

Let us keep in mind that the primary aim of the Vesak festival is to foster spiritual growth and character development in a world rapidly advancing physically. I wish everyone a blessed Vesak festival.

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