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Lost and at sea: the asylum-seeker debate in Australia August 14, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Roberts, Michael, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Michael Roberts

Electoral politics have swamped the debate on irregular migrants, the ‘boat-people’ that is, in Australia. There is no change of consequence in the contents of the debate, however. Rudd, Abbott, the Greens and letters to the editors of major newspapers continue to present many of the old shibboleths and oversimplifications that have skewed discussions of this issue for years. The motifs that appear again and again in most quarters also suffer from misinformation, exaggeration and fabrication, and ideological blinkers.

A self-evident fact is often glossed over: migration in modern times, whether legal, humanitarian or irregular, is a complex phenomenon. Given the diverse lands from which migrants have departed  for Australia, it follows that one must attend to regional differentiation in speaking about this topic. Yet sweeping generalizations are continuously voiced – not only by politicians and human rights lawyers, but also by concerned citizens of compassionate heart and, on the other side, by instranigent opponents to ‘illegal immigrants’.


Sri Lanka’s renewed ethnic tension June 26, 2013

Posted by nishankmotwani in : By contributor, Future Directions International, Guest authors, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Lindsay Hughes

Sri Lanka appears to be moving towards renewed ethnic strife – this time between Buddhists and Muslims.


The Muslim community makes up approximately ten per cent of Sri Lanka’s population of twenty million. Relegated to a back seat during the Civil War between ethnic Sri Lankans and Tamilians, who fought for a homeland, Sri Lanka’s Muslims now appear to have taken the place of the latter. Muslim-owned businesses have been fire-bombed and boycotted. As in Burma (Myanmar), Buddhist groups have formed to lead organised protests and violence against Muslims.

Bodu Bala Sena's 'No Halal' protest in Sri Lanka


Sri Lanka: still difficult to ‘bell the cat’ February 23, 2013

Posted by auriolweigold in : Gordon, Sandy, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

Commissioned by East Asia Forum and previously published in Future Directions International

Sri Lanka is a small country of about the population of Australia. Its location astride the major energy sea lanes of communication (SLOCS) of the Indian Ocean and just south of behemoth India, however, puts it in a strategic box seat for the forthcoming struggle for influence over the liquid energy requirements of the East Asian economic giants, including China.

Until about a decade ago, the island was a Western-leaning democracy, but one with a generational civil war involving human rights violations on both side. The denouement of the war in May 2009 saw the death of the head of the Tamil Tigers, Vellupillai Prabhakaran. Few who were not Tamil Tiger loyalists would have mourned the passing of the homicidal head of the feared organisation.  Fewer still would have regretted the ending of a civil war that had lasted since 1983 and caused an estimated 80,000 deaths.


Implications of India’s decision on Sri Lanka UNHCR Resolution April 5, 2012

Posted by nishankmotwani in : Future Directions International, Guest authors, India, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Shanaka Jayasekara

First published in Future Directions International on 4 April 2012


The Indian decision to vote in support of the March 2012 US-sponsored United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution on Sri Lanka seems a departure from its stated doctrine for an Indian sphere of influence.


Former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi stated, in the so-called “Indira Doctrine”, that ‘India will neither intervene in the domestic affairs of any state in the region unless requested to do so, nor tolerate such intervention by an outsider power.’ By supporting the US resolution, India, in some sense, has outsourced its regional stake to an external power.

But, is this a complete change in Indian foreign policy at the behest of Tamil Nadu, or part of a new Indian approach to broaden the stakeholders in the region? India has, in recent times, opted to stand in the shadow of multilateral processes to deal with regional issues. In Nepal, the Indians preferred to watch the UN’s UNMIN special mission manage the peace process. In the Maldives, India outsourced responsibility, with the Commonwealth Secretariat taking the lead. (more…)

Another bead in the ‘string of pearls’?: interpreting Sri Lanka’s foreign policy realignment February 24, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, India, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Sergei De Silva-Ranasinghe

In this article, Sergei De Silva-Ranasinghe argues that India should be differentiated from the West in analysing Sri Lanka’s apparent drift towards a strategic relationship with China.  The West’s diminishing influence in relation to China should be seen as a manifestation of its overall decline.  Not so with India, which seeks to balance China’s involvement with Sri Lanka, and which also has a dynamic, on-going aid and trade relationship with the strategically placed island.  To read the article in Issue 19 of ChinaSecurity click here.

Sri Lanka: Colombo orders Islamist clerics to leave February 2, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Future Directions International, Guest authors, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Jahnu Russell, Future Directions International Associate

Reprinted from Future Directions International, Strategic Weekly Analysis, 1 February 2012. Read the full story.

The move by the Sri Lankan Government to order a group of 161 foreign Islamic clerics to leave the country by 31 January highlights the role of a global Islamic group that is challenging the more moderate indigenous form of Sufi Islam in Sri Lanka.

According to the Controller of Immigration and Emigration, Chulananda Perera, the clerics belonged to the Tablighi Jamaat group. They had entered the country on tourism visas in small batches, without officially applying for permission to preach. The clandestine nature of their arrival brings to light the activities of the largest Muslim proselytising organisation in the world. It is estimated to have between 80-150 million followers.

Largest-ever naval exercise signals new era in Indo-Lanka co-operation October 16, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, India, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

First published by Future Directions International on 28 September 2011.


In a bid to strengthen naval and maritime interoperability and co-operation, India and Sri Lanka have held their first joint-naval exercise since 2005, the largest-ever naval exercise between the two countries. Codenamed SLINEX II, the six-day exercise was held from 18-23 September off Sri Lanka’s eastern coastline and involved 17 warships, including helicopters and maritime aircraft.


The Indian Navy’s involvement comprised one Destroyer (INS Ravijay), one Frigate (INS Shivlik), one missile corvette (INS Khanjar), one Landing Ship Tank (INS Gharial), two Fast Attack Craft (Cheriyam and Koradivh) and one maritime patrol aircraft. The Sri Lankan contribution to the exercise was two Offshore Patrol Vessels (SLNS Sagara and SLNS Samudura), a Fast Missile Vessel (SLNS Nandimihra), two Fast Gun Boats (SLNS Prathapa and Ranajaya) and six Fast Attack Craft.

As reported in the Indian daily, The Hindu, Rear Admiral Bisht, Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet, Indian Navy, who commanded the Indian ships, affirmed India’s primary interest in the exercise: ‘The Sri Lankan Navy has gained a lot of experience in asymmetric warfare, basically handling attacks by small boats. We learnt from them how they handle these attacks.’

The manoeuvres were held against a backdrop of criticism from fringe ultra-nationalist Tamil parties in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. They accused the Sri Lankan Navy of a string of attacks against Tamil Nadu fishermen – allegations Sri Lanka has strongly denied. ‘India, which has been renovating the Kankesanturai port in Sri Lanka at a huge cost, is about to extend training and other assistance to the Sri Lankan Navy,’ said Dr Ramadoss, leader of the Tamil ultranationalist Pattali Makkal Katchi party. He added, ‘When the whole of Tamil Nadu is demanding that India have no relations whatsoever with Sri Lanka, it is improper for the Indian Navy to engage itself in joint naval exercises with the same country.’ (more…)

Gamini Goonesena, the unsung hero of Ceylon Cricket, passes away August 15, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Mahinda Wijesinghe

This article first appeared in Critiquing Cricket on 6 August 2011.

How many can lay claims of having captained his native land, played first-class cricket in England and Australia, captained Cambridge University, M.C.C.? And, then, on top of that, how many other than the three Indians (Ranjitsinhji, Duleepsinjhi and the Nawab of Pataudi Sr. who represented England no less) can lay claim to being the only Asian who represented the Gentlemen of England? That was our own Gamini Goonesena (b.16-2-1931) who passed away on 1 August 2011 in Canberra, Australia, aged 80 years.


Outcomes from my think-piece … and thoughts on pictorial imagery August 6, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Roberts, Michael, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Michael Roberts

Michael Roberts notes that pictures are by courtesy of Ministry of Defence – and that images can be read in different ways according to subjectivity and degrees of partisanship.

Critical to any overview of the last stages of the war are whatever authentic images one can recover. I was first led to the value of this kind of data when working on what is conventionally referred to as “communal violence” in South Asia. In particular, two photographs depicting obscene acts of aggression at Borella Junction in Colombo on the 24/ 25th July 1983 captured my attention. These appeared initially in the Tamil Guardian and it was only subsequently that I discovered Chandragupta Amarasinghe, the brave cameraman who recorded these atrocities.

This article appears in full at http://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2011/07/24/outcomes-from-my-think-piece-and-thoughts-on-pictorial-imagery/

Sri Lanka’s stability critical to New Delhi’s Indian Ocean ambitions June 30, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, India, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

This article first appeared in Future Directions International.


A controversial advisory panel report, published by the United Nations in late March 2011, called for a full investigation into the perceived breaches in the Laws of Armed Conflict during the endgame of Sri Lanka’s civil war. As a result, India continues to face the challenge of balancing its relations with Sri Lanka, while appeasing the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, which is home to over 72 million Indian Tamils.