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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Both terms expire in early November Presidential polls sans National Police and PSC?

Sri Lanka WORLD:: Sunday, 4 September 2005 - 5:17 AM SL Time

Sri Lanka has no Constitutional Council (CC), no independent Election Commission and is possibly facing another major election without a National Police or Public Service Commission, legal sources said yesterday.

The terms of both the National Police and Public Service Commissions are due to expire in early November. Election Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake has already announced that he will only hold the poll after Ramazan ends in the first week of November.

`It is distressing that we may have no functioning Police Commission during the election,` commented one senior lawyer. `The independence of the police is especially vital at this time.`

Meanwhile, the Election Commission has been pending since 2003, when President Chandrika Kumaratunga rejected the CC`s nomination of Retired Supreme Court Judge Ranjit Dheeraratne as chairman. The Human Rights Commission expires next year. The appointment of the new CC is itself stalled because Muslim parties have failed to agree on a representative from their community.

The CC is responsible for recommending all appointments to and filling vacancies in the Election, Public Service, National Police, Human Rights, Bribery or Corruption, the Finance and the Delimitation Commissions.

The council must also approve the appointments of the chief justice and judges of the Supreme Court; the president and judges of the Court of Appeal; and the members of the Judicial Service Commission other than the chairman.

The first Constitutional Council expired in 2004. Several discussions were recently held between the Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to choose five new members to the CC. Three of these must be from the minority community.

After consultations with the political parties and independent groups represented in parliament ' as required by the constitution ' Rajapakse and Wickremesinghe were able to finalise the nominations of Kumar Nadesan and Justice C V Vigneswaran.

From the Muslim community, Javed Yusuf and former South East University Vice Chancellor M L A Cader were suggested but there`s no agreement by Muslim members of parliament.

`The 17th Amendment to the Constitution holds that the prime minister and leader of the opposition shall consult leaders of political parties and independent groups represented in parliament when making their nominations,` the lawyer said. `Consequently, the two leaders summoned the MPs and explored the possibility of getting them to agree on one individual.`

`There was no problem with the Tamil nominees,` he elaborated. `But they are unable to finalise the nomination from the Muslim community because of a lack of consensus.`

This difficulty forced the CC office to seek an opinion from the attorney general. `Since the problem concerned just one member, the CC wanted to know whether they can go ahead with the other four,` a government source said. `The AG said the other four members may be appointed but that the Constitutional Council cannot function till all five members are in place.`

No other Muslim name has been put forward despite several rounds of talks with Muslim parliamentarians. Another legal source suggested that the prime minister and opposition leader go ahead with appointing a Muslim member of their choice. He opined that the constitution does not require them to seek consensus, only to consult the parties. However, there was no indication of this happening.

The process is further delayed because meetings in this regard only take place during parliamentary sitting days. The next session is only in the second week of September.

`We must move ahead with this process,` this source emphasised. `Everything is held up at a most important time in Sri Lankan politics.`

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New hospital complex lacks basic facilities

Sri Lanka BUSINESS: Sunday, 4 September 2005 - 5:31 AM SL Time
The new complex of the Ragama National Hospital is facing severe problems with regard to sanitary facilities and other basic necessities of patients who are admitted to the hospital.

Two wards of the complex which are reserved for maternity cases have only one toilet available for the approximately 120 patients who can be accommodated in them. The taps leak and some electricity wires are exposed with no repairs effected since the inception.

According to patients and medical sources four toilets each in the two wards remained closed since February. The toilets are barricaded as they have not been completed.

They said only one toilet is in use and that is the toilet used by the staff.
They said patients have to stand in a queue to answer a call of nature. They also said that before surgery a patient has to be given a bath for which too there is a queue.

They said that before patients are taken for surgery they have to be given an enema on the previous day which is very often given to about four patients at a time. They said that in these circumstances the patients are placed in great inconvenience due to the lack of toilets. In addition patients after surgery have to walk downstairs from the operating theatre to ward 24 to answer a call of nature.

The drainage system is in such a bad state that the walls are damp and leaking. When Mr. H.A.M.P.K. Algama, the managing director of the company which undertook the work at the hospital was contacted he said that though he estimated Rs. 12 million was required at the commencement, unforeseen work had put the cost up. He is now in communication with the Health Ministry to get the tender value enhanced.

Health Ministry Deputy Director General Logistics H.A. Ariyadasa said the Ministry had verbally agreed with Mr. Algama on August 31 that the tender value could be enhanced by 10% to meet the increased cost but that the work has to be expedited as the hospital was in need of the facilities urgently.
Last year 6417 patients were admitted to ward 24 and 5695 patients to ward 25.

This hospital not only serves Gampaha district patients but also patients from Chilaw Puttalam and other districts.

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Friday, September 09, 2005

Humanitarian Situation Report - Sri Lanka: 26 Aug - 02 Sep 2005

ReliefWeb - Document Preview: Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Date: 02 Sep 2005

Overall Situation

Eric Schwartz, UN Deputy Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery began a ten-day assessment mission in Sri Lanka and Indonesia on 31 August. Mr. Schwartz who was appointed to replace Mr. Erskine Bowles as Former President Bill Clinton’s deputy by the Secretary General in August will see first-hand the impact the tsunami has had on people’s lives, gauge the current status of the recovery effort and explore additional ways to support the efforts of governments and civil society in the reconstruction process. Schwartz who arrived in Sri Lanka 2 September is consulting with a wide range of partners- including government officials, United Nations agencies, civil society groups and the business community. He will specifically focus on issues such as the launch of the online financial tracking system --- Development Assistance Database, shelter, livelihoods and suitable timber sourcing.

Main challenges and response

The government of China donated a further US$ 6,174,897 towards tsunami relief activities in Sri Lanka, which is in addition to the same amount donated by China in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami.

Food security

Save the Children in Sri Lanka’s Feeding programme for over 1,200 tsunami-affected children got underway in Ampara. SCiSL also recently completed 100 shelters in Ampara and another 50 more are to be built.

Health

On 31 August, more than 100 tsunami-affected young people took part in a workshop in Kalutara aimed at helping them find employment and avoid falling victim to trafficking, HIV/AIDS and other dangers. Participants received packs of playing cards with information on HIV/AIDS in English, Sinhala and Tamil, produced with funding from USAID and the Government of Japan. The workshop was organized after field workers in IOM camps and transitional housing sites reported that many young people, aged from 16 to 22 years old, were neither employed nor enrolled in formal education, thereby making them more susceptible to various risks. Operation Phoenix, a not-for-profit organisation founded in New Zealand is embarking on a project in Hikkaduwa to provide the division its first Emergency Ambulance Service. It has provided assistance to tsunami-affected communities in the form of medical aid, permanent housing, well-cleaning, sanitation blocks, planting of coconut trees, and other relief work in the emergency phase mostly in the area of Hikkaduwa Division, Galle District and Batticaloa District. The ambulance programme has been well received by the local residents and volunteer community as a whole, and has been approved by the local authorities and commencement of the service is planned for October 10, 2005. The service will work in conjunction with the state teaching hospital, Karapitiya Hospital, in Galle District.

Water and sanitation

The Water & Sanitation (Watsan) Working Group in Galle District is identify the watsan needs in the transitional shelter sites through the provision of watsan surveys and mapping of water supply/ tank locations with GPS coordinates. This mapping programme, which will take between four and eight weeks, is the collaborative work of the Watsan Working Group, in particular UNICEF, CHF, World Vision, Project Galle 2005 and the Humanitarian Information Centre (HIC).

Non-food items and shelter

All housing needs in Bentota division, the least tsunami-affected area in Galle district are now complete. The first site for permanent housing construction is in Nelunpokunagama Site Number 1, where 40 single-story houses have been constructed and new home-owners have been residing there for a little over a month. The houses were built by the Sri Lanka Fund from the Lankarama Buddhist Vihara on two acres of state-owned land. Nelunpokunagama Site 2 and 3 have ten single-storey houses in the final stages of construction by the Bentota Buddhist Service Association. Twelve single-storey houses are also being built by an organization called Only One World in Galtuduwa.In Ampara, SCiSL has given 1,144 yards of shirt/frock and 711 meters of shorts/trouser material to tailors for school uniforms, distributed 217 mosquito nets, 20 plastic sheets and 19 bicycles to pre school teachers in Jaffna.The Government’s Damage Assessment Team inspected 6,741 tsunami-damaged houses in the Galle district which reside beyond the 100 meter buffer zone. They determined 1,921 houses to be fully damaged and 4,769 houses as partially damaged. A total of 6,690 houses are eligible for compensation. One hundred shelters were completed by SCiSL and handed-over to beneficiaries on 31 August 2005 in Ampara district. Banks in Galle district disbursed 4,596 grants for a first installment of Rs. 50,000 each and five grants for a second installment of Rs.50,000. There is an outstanding payment of 173 grants on the first installment and 4,364 grants on the second installment for partially damaged houses beyond the 100 meter buffer zone

Education

SWOAD, a SCiSL partner, has purchased 100 chairs, three water tanks, three first aid boxes, three closets, three clocks and 25 tables for pre schools in Ampara. Save the Children in Sri Lanka distributed 9837 pairs of school shoes to 26 schools in Ampara.People in Peril, an NGO that has built permanent housing in Deliwata in the South coordinating with Save the Children in Sri Lanka is seeking its expertise in child involvement and children’s rights to make these new communities child friendly.In an effort to strengthen the local capacity of pre-school teachers SCiSL held a training programme for 35 zonal education staff in Ampara on 26 August with a focus on the psycho-social aspect of teaching pre-school children. Furthermore, 21 bicycles were donated to Pre School teachers in Jaffna and out of 25 new temporary pre schools to be built in Trincomalee three have been completed and handed over to the community.In an attempt to build social harmony and create an environment of peace Save the Children has established five huts in Batticaloa where children can gather and partake in activities such as gardening and the YMCA Batticaloa facilitates evening classes for slow learners, club meetings, book readings, cultural performances and field officer visits to schools and families.The National Library and Documentation Services Council has taken steps to publish a series of books motivated to inspire and foster the morals of children affected by the tsunami to strengthen their character in order to better face and overcome challenges in life. The Council expects to publish 15 such books under its Tsunami Children’s Books Publication Project, seven in Sinhala, five in Tamil and three in English.

Livelihoods

GTZ along with SCiSL conducted a career guidance programme at a Sarvodaya training centre in Sathurukondan in which 21 children including 18 former underage recruits and their parents participated. The parents welcomed the initiative to guide their children and the opportunity afforded for vocational training through GTZ which is working to affiliate the endeavour with the Government Technical College.One million rupees provided to the Rotary Club of Nikaweratiya by its UK based Rotary Club was utilized to hand over 30 rafts to tsunami-affected fishermen in Negombo

Protection

Save the Children in Sri Lanka held a four-day capacity building workshop titled “How to approach children with special needs and how to integrate them into the community” as support to the Inyavalvuz Illam School for the differently abled children in KilinochchiSave the children organized a children’s retreat 25 through 28 August in Matara --- “Tear to Tear- Building bridges beyond borders” which was an opportunity for children who lost parents or siblings, and for adults who lost children to the tsunami or other traumas to meet, share experiences and build communication networks. Teenagers from the southern region are tasked with keeping the network alive and will be guided by Save the Children

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Thursday, September 08, 2005

Research crucial for rubber industry development

Daily Mirror: 06/09/2005" By Dr. N. Yogaratnam, Consultant at National Institute of Plantation Management

Research and development efforts on rubber in Sri Lanka have centred around public sector organizations since 1930. These institutions have been in the forefront, their findings and programmes providing considerable economic benefits to the rubber industry. They are now faced with the daunting task of maintaining their traditional glory and rendering the much needed assistance to overcome the industry’s current problems and to meet its long-term goals as rubber plantations still remain vital in the economy of Sri Lanka.

Although Sri Lanka’s total rubber planted area has declined from about 280,000 hectares in the late 60s to about 128,000 hectares in 2004, the yield per unit area increased considerably, it being more rapid in the last two to three decades. These increases in productivity are mainly the outcome of innovations emanating from research, complemented by contributions from the private sector, and extension and development agencies. Through breeding and selection of new clones and improvements in agronomic practices, it has been possible to increase the yield over time. Nevertheless in addition to increase in yield and productivity, research innovations should also include issues of early returns to investments, reduced labour requirement, and conservation of the environment.

In the earlier years of breeding, the emphasis was on total yield over the life of the planting. This approach continued until the development of RRIC 100 series clones. With increasing concern for quicker returns to investments, selection criteria emphasized on early high yield, in addition to total high yield and related secondary characteristics. This is now reflected in a yield of about 3500 kg/ha/yr in the first five years.

In the smallholder sector also, RRIC clones now account for a larger percentage of planted area. It is a well accepted fact that in the estate sector, clones produced by the RRI eg. RRIC and RRISL series are dominant now.

Genetic potential
Due to wide variability in management practices and, to a lesser extent, soil and climatic conditions, the genetic potential of the existing commercially planted clones is not fully achieved. The average yield per hectare in most estates is 1500 kg/ha/yr. Yet these yields varied from a low of 1000 to a high of 2000 kg / ha. The data reflects that even then there is a gap between the average yield in experimental plots ( about 3500 kg / ha) and the best managed estates ( about 2000 kg / ha); such differences exist in other crops too, as, understandably, scales of operations vary.

However, the low national average yield of about 900 kg/ha for example, reflects that the industry is still short of the commercial potential by about 1000 kg/ha/year. In short, the research outputs on improved genetic material and agronomic practices have not been fully utilized. Breeding for newer clones has progressed relatively fast, despite the fact that Hevea is a tree crop. In the earlier years, breeding for newer clones generally took 30 – 40 years from the production of hand-pollinated seeds to the evolution of the release of new clones for commercial planting. Newer approaches in breeding and selection programmes have now resulted in the cycle being shortened. Molecular biological techniques now available to the breeders should be exploited fully to reduce the selection cycle even further.

Propagation
For a long time since the inception of using clonal materials, budding of field planted seedlings about 15 to 20 months after planting was the norm. Subsequently, budding of plants of about two to eight months old seedlings, known as ‘green budding’, was introduced and this became the accepted practice. Later developments led to techniques for budding on seedlings of three to five months. Additionally, research findings led to field planting (field budding being changed to budding in the nursery, either in the ground nursery and transferred to polybags as budded stumps or by raising seedlings in the bags for budding) and transplanting in the field as one to two whorled plants.

The various techniques developed were implemented and effects evaluated in the commercial sector. The newer techniques of green buddings in intensively managed nurseries and transplanted as two-whorled plants not only came into tapping earlier ( in 59 months as opposed to 67 months) but also gave higher initial yield.Subsequently green budding gained dominance and green budding in bags and transplanting as one to two-whorled plants has become the norm.

The recent developments to tissue culture techniques enabling the production of transgenic plants etc. have now opened up new potentials.

Agro management
The potential of a given clone is best realised with optimal agromanagement where soil management, balanced fertilizer use, plant protection and exploitation practices are some of the important components.

The rubber fertilizer use polices in Sri Lanka demand a new strategy, emphasis to be directed more only to the critical immature phase, to be then followed by a NIL fertilizer use phase after commencement of tapping for a reasonable period during maturity say five years particularly during the economically lean years ( unfavourable trading conditions for crop and / or fertilizers), and finally a phase of periodic tree monitoring, at three to five year intervals by soil and leaf nutrient survey approach, a technique perfected in the late 70’s for corrective and cost effective fertilization as and when, required, until 8 to 10 years prior to replanting.

During the critical immature phase it is expected that NPKMg fertilizers are applied regularly at the current normal rates or even may be in excess by 45 to 50% of the currently used level, to meet immature growth patterns and tree nutrient needs and appropriate methods, time and frequency of application, are adopted to ensure efficient nutrient uptake, enlarged nutrient retention within the tree system and enhanced vigorous growth. This would a adequately meet the trees requirements during the early period of the mature phase. Non discriminatory use of the discriminatory fertilizer use technique is undesirable, as it goes against the principles based on which the discriminatory site specific fertilizer technique was formulated.

Also, Soil and foliar survey date collected from a handful of estates in a single year cannot form the basis of recommendation for the entire rubber industry. The industry expects firm and accurate recommendation based on sound field experimentation. Fertilizer trials conducted over a very long period have not exhibited positive responses during the mature phase. If NPKMg fertilizers are required during the mature phase, then scarce resources should not be wasted in conducting the soil and foliar survey programme. Let us be realistic and not blindly follow what was thought fit 30 years ago.

The importance and benefits of legume covers and manuring during immaturity on initial as well as subsequent yields should be recognized by the industry and accepted as a sound agro management practice.

It also appears that the limiting factors for rubber production are not nutritional. Therefore, it is likely that the mature yield and harvest index may be increased by other methods related to exploitation rather than manuring practices.

The advent of ethephon as a yield stimulant has also enabled earlier expoloitation of trees at girths smaller than conventional girths. A minimum of 50 cm was for long considered the norm before exploitation could commence. The current thinking is that commercial areas could be exploited at smaller girths provided adequate management input are supplied. In fact, with controlled use of low concentration of ethephon, trees of girth of 43 cm or over are being exploited economically in some countries.

A number of other practices are available to reduce the unproductive phase of the trees and thus increase profitability. These include inherent properties of clones, planting materials, management practices and exploitation systems.

The newer clones are more vigorous and tappability ( at 50 cm girth) could be achived in 4.5 to 5 years compared to period of 5.5 to 6.0 years for older clones. The newer clones now being made available are more profitable than the older clones.

The factors contributing to earlier monetary returns, and thus also higher economic returns, are however dependent not only on clonal vigour but also on initial high yields.

With increasing labour wages and with lack of available labour for the plantation sector, the need for labour saving approaches should be addressed although a major drawback is that the new clones do not lend themselves to be exploited by any non-conventional systems.

Low Frequency systems
Nevertheless, the introduction of ethephon stimulation has enabled the development of lower frequency of tapping, labour intensity is reduced and area covered per tapper increased.

Until recently, almost all estates followed the d/2 frequency ( once in two days) of tapping for buddings; but currently d/3 frequency ( once in three days) is a accepted system for tapping. The use of ethephon allows further reduction to d/4 ( once in four days) or maybe even to d/6 ( once in six days). However, to obtain acceptable yields, these low frequency systems should be introduced from the commencement of tapping.

The development of long flow systems, which in addition to increased yield, could lead to less labour-intensive system, e.g. through increased tapping task etc. should be considered.

In addressing the issue of shortage of skilled tapping labour, Malaysia has considered the use of mechanized tapping knives, auto-tap( using mechanized tapping knife attached to trees) , collection of latex by pipe systems and many others. So far, their research has not provided a practical application system but such approaches may provide a solution by the turn of the century.

Crop Protection
Crop protection is an aspect that includes control of both weeds and diseases. In disease control, e.g. for oidium, sulphur-dusting was replaced by some oil-based formuations. However, this is more an emergency measure, as disease avoidance is the majorapproach, which should be continued. In this approach, climatic factors and disease out breaks are considered. Additionally, all clones are screened for the major diseases. The final selection of clones for commercial planting should therefore be based on avoiding susceptible clones in areas where the disease outbreak is likely. The nutrition of trees as a means of overcoming severity of infestation, e.g. due to odium etc. should also be looked into.

In addition to diseases, weed competition adversely affects growth and productivity of rubber. At the same time, control of weeds accounts for over 30 percent of upkeep costs of young rubber. Research should fully address the issue of choice of chemicals and applicators to increase the effectiveness of weed control while at the same time reducing costs.

Environment
The use of terracing for soil conservation on sloping lands, an accepted practice both in the estate and smallholders sectors should be continued. In addition, the use of legume covers enhances soil’s physical properties, reduces erosion losses to almost nil on full establishment and reduces leaching of nutrients to lower depths.

Intensive efforts to find economically and environmentally acceptable herbicides combinations that should dominate the chemicals used in the rubber industry should be made. Large quantities of effluents (process waste) emanate in the processing of rubber. In the earlier years, these effluents used to be discharged indiscriminately into water ways. Biological treatment of effluent (through anaerobic and aerobic digestion) has been developed. The treatment of effluents before discharge should be an accepted practice and should be governed by clear guidelines from the authorities concerned. Effluent can also be recycled and used as source of nutrients for crops.

The early treatment of the felled rubber trees to convert the trunks into valuable medium hardwood timber opened up a huge potential. In addition to contributing to reduction in Co2 buildup, rubber plantings also reduce pressure on natural forests.

Challenges
Continued and enhanced progress in all facets of production is crucial to a viable rubber industry. Of crucial importance is less labour-intensive systems, particularly in tapping. A system amenable to, say, exploitation once a week on a simple puncture(s) system, appears a possibility. Such a system should work on existing clones for it to be of immediate benefit to the rubber industry.

Will a clone produced from the existing germplasm collection bridge the yield gap that exists between the experimental yields of 3500 kg / ha/ yr and the maximum yield potential ( theoretical) of 10,000 kg/ha./yr?

Mechanization appears to be also an important proposition. This holds promise in areas of land preparation and, more importantly, in transplanting of more and more advanced materials. In addition, mechanization including robotics has a key role in tapping and collection and this is being pursued with vigour in some countries.

The approach to rubber as a monocrop, solely for latex, is slowly phasing out. In such in event, it appears that rubber trees may be planted for the timber as a primary product and latex will only be an important byproduct which will pay for the up keep of the trees until they are harvested for timber.

In the smallholder sector, integration of other tree crops with rubber, possibly in avenue planting should be of common occurrence. The area under mixed cropping in Sri Lanka is still rather small. Constrained by available resources and knowledge, researches into mixed cropping in plantations are also very limited and superficial. Some traditional intercrops can be continued with but some new intercrops with high market potentials must be introduced into the cropping scheme. Environmental concern must be a further factor for consideration in the mixed crop decision making process. Another aspect for concern is that of rural social development.

Privatization
The industry always looks for new options for improving the viability of the plantations. The pubic sector research should therefore be made compatible with a private sector industry. With privatized management of plantations and limited privatization oftraining of plantation personnel, the question that arises is whether such a measure is required for research as well. At least a limited privatization of research may not be counter productive and will be in line with the Governments policy frame work that encourages greater private sector participation as it has been recognized that the state has too great an involvement in the provision of goods and series that would be more efficiently under taken by the private sector.

Another question that comes in mind is, has the role of research and extension been clearly defined eg. Soil and foliar survey for fertilizer application should be an Extension and not a Research programme. Such programmes can be done more efficientky by the private sector than the public sector as is being done in other rubber producing countries.

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THRU gears for environmentally sustainable housing

Daily News: 06/09/2005"

Professionals engaged in the Tsunami Housing Construction Program face challenges concerning housing. It is due to the populations determined by the number of houses at each location demanding services that could sustain the new settlements in the long term.

In spite of all these, the impacts on environment arising out of houses and housing in the new settlements, are hardly spoken about, a statement issued by the Tsunami Housing Reconstructions Unit (THRU) Environment and Project Planning Division said.

It is true that the priority in the agenda is moving the affected families into permanent houses as soon as possible.

Similar experiences in the world over show that people always reacted to quality of environment in the new settlements, after settling in the new houses.

It has to be understood because the agony of living in temporary or transit shelter is felt by the displaced people and not by the planners, designers and contractors.

However, it would be a lost opportunity if the available expertise is not put into use for parallel programming. It is better late than never. All donors are unanimous that environment concerns are addressed simultaneously with houses and housing, the release said.

Environment concerns of tsunami housing projects are addressed under three stages.

Planning teams of the Urban Development Authority (UDA) operating at district level, evaluate the suitability of available sites for housing with the help of a planning checklist and this checklist includes criteria for screening the sites for environment concerns.

Locations are checked for accessibility to environment infrastructure services and also from avoiding, flood plains, marshes or low-lying land, steep slopes, archaeological, forest and wildlife reserves, the release added.

Upon establishment of suitability, the donors are given the green light to develop the designs for the new settlements and they are required to obtain planning clearance from the UDA for the layout and the building design. During this stage the donors are also advised to discuss with the NWS & DB, the proposals for water supply and waste water disposal.

Although it is often cited as a red tape, compliance with the National Environment Law is prime requirement at this stage. The environment law requires that all development projects that exceed the prescribed limits in scope or located within or close to listed sensitive sites should be screened for environment impacts in order to mitigate negative impacts.

Environment impact studies are time consuming. Screening over 300-sites spread across 12-districts is another problem. This is where THRU has stepped in.

A facilitation approach has been decided through preparation of environment profiles of all sites. Universities in the coastal regions have agreed to undertake the assignment on regional basis. This 30-day program will result in a comprehensive data base of environment profiles of all housing sites.

The Central Environment Authority (CEA), which is responsible for ensuring compliance with environment laws, will then decide on the need for extending the program for further environment impact (EI) studies. All major donors have expressed willingness to undertake EI Studies if their projects are found to be falling into that category, statement said.

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Ending tsunami legal disputes through mediation

Daily News: 06/09/2005" by S. S. Wijeratne, Chairman, Alternative Dispute Resolution Institute (ADRI).

On June 15, the Minister of Justice and Judicial Reforms gazetted the operation of Mediation (Special Categories) Act No. 21 of 2003 in relation to tsunami disputes. The Legal Aid Commission had been advocating the need for a special dispute resolution mechanism to deal with a myriad disputes, especially with regard to property and equitable rehabilitation assistance of the half million tsunami displaced persons.

When Mediation (Special Categories Act) No. 21 of 2003 was presented in Parliament, its constitutional validity was challenged before the Supreme Court. The petitioners contended that the Special Mediation Act which could be extended by the Minister to cover social and economic issues is interfering with the judicial process.

The Supreme Court rejected the contention on the basis 'that Minister can only prescribe by Gazette Notification, types of disputes to be referred and the qualification of the Mediators'. The panel of mediators was not appointed by the Minister but by the Mediation Board Commission appointed under Mediation Boards Act No. 12 of 1988 by the President.

Three out of five Commissioners should have held judicial office either in the Supreme Court or in the Court of Appeal. Independence of the Special Mediation Boards was thus secured.

Litigious culture

Ironically, the skill and unblemished reputation of the superior courts of Sri Lanka for integrity, independence and the commitment to uphold the principle of Rule of Law is a major reason for the proclivity of an adversarial litigation culture in Sri Lanka.

Despite the perennial complaints of Laws Delays and unsalutary professional practices of some lawyers and the recalcitrant attitude of some judges which underpin the Laws Delays, Sri Lankan litigants, human or juristic, are submerged in a litigious culture. They wallop at winning cases even pyrrhic victories at great cost sometime contributing to social discord.

Sri Lanka is considered to be the second most litigious society in the contemporary world, a record that we should not be proud of as litigated victories and defeats can increase violence and even result in gruesome murders like the reported Hokandara quintuplet killing.

Despite the existence of socio-religious creeds of non-violence influencing the Sri Lankan psyche, social violence - whether they erupt due to bitter litigations, elections or ethnic or religious prejudices appear to define modern Sri Lankan society. We are no longer peace-loving or peaceful. Even the demonstrations for peace end up in violence.

Historically, the greatest protagonists of mediation as the basis of non-violent dispute resolution were the founders of great religions. Moses, The Buddha, Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohamed were all great mediators. In more recent times Mahathma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King espoused the doctrine of non-violence as a political philosophy. Negotiation and mediation was their chosen strategy.

In the modern world, after the great catastrophe of the two World Wars, the victorious nations set up the United Nations as the superior mediator of international disputes. The comparative decrease of international wars during the past fifty-two years was largely due to the UN mediation efforts.

"Med-Arb" process

All mediation by definition should be facilitative where emotional barriers between parties are addressed by improving the communication process and identifying a range of mutually beneficial options. In the profit-driven commercial world, where rational, profitable, and timely decisions are made, negotiation is the primary method of dispute resolution.

The failure of inter-party negotiations, mainly due to subjective reasons, sequentially calls for provision in commercial agreements mediation clauses. If mediation fails parties may resort to arbitration by agreement of all disputants or resort to adversarial litigation as a fundamental right.

Since the late Seventies, a growing trend in the developed countries, specially in the USA and Scandinavian countries as well as international agencies mandated to resolve specific sector disputes, such as intellectual property, is to develop a hybrid process termed "Med-Arb" - an abbreviation for mediation - Arbitration process.

"Med-Arb" procedure for dispute resolution is triggered when a commercial agreement provides that in the event of any dispute arising out of the contract it will be resolved by negotiation with the assistance of a mediator failing which the matter will proceed to arbitration. The fundamental requirement is that the use of the 'Med-Arb' process should be agreed upon before hand.

As an illustration, we can cite the ingredients in the World Intellectual Property Organisation's "Med-Arb" clause. The first part of the 'Med-Arb' clause provides for the reference of all disputes arising from the contract to be submitted to be settled in accordance with WIPO mediation rules. The place of mediation and the language to be used in the mediation should be included in the contract.

The second limb of the clause deals with the question what follows if the dispute is not settled by mediation within the stipulated period of time. The clause provides that if the dispute is not settled within in the stipulated period (i.e. 90 days/six months) from the commencement of mediation, it will be referred to arbitration if either party files a request for arbitration under the WIPO arbitration rules or in the alternative if before the expiry of the stipulated time period if any party fails to participate in the mediation, the other party has the right to request for arbitration for final adjudication in accordance with WIPO arbitration rules.

The arbitral tribunal can consist of a sole arbitrator or a panel of three and the place and the language of arbitration should be stipulated. The WIPO 'Med-Arb' clause could be suitably modified and adopted to suit the Sri Lankan Arbitration Law and the several arbitration institutions.

Many transnational commercial disputants prefer to avoid the delay and exorbitant expenses, when settling international commercial disputes. But also at the same time prefer to have a legally-recognised and a binding and enforceable conclusion to their commercial disputes.

On the other hand the 'Med-Arb' process which combines the two traditional methods assures a non-adversarial mediation phase in the resolution of the dispute. In this anticipation of eventual arbitration if mediation fails, the disputants try to act in a non-adversarial manner and reasonably, which help to dissolve subjective emotional barriers.

However, this prior knowledge that the failure of negotiation will lead to arbitration would make the parties extremely cautious and may withhold vital confidential information needed for successful mediation.

The task of the mediator is more difficult than an arbitrator or judge who is called upon to decide on the dispute on the applicable law. But the task of a 'Med-Arb' neutral is even more difficult. The prestige of the 'Med-Arbitrators' should be so high, that often, former judges of the superior courts of third countries with reputable legal systems are sought to perform this function.

The mediator in the 'Med-Arb' process could transit to arbitration mode if the contract so stipulates of if the parties agree. However, the confidential information received from parties in mediation caucuses should not be used in making the arbitral award unless the party concerned continues to rely on the confidential process even during the arbitral proceedings.

This is an extremely sensitive process and it is essential that the mediator checks with the parties before hand whether the information confided in him during the mediation caucuses could be used when the mediator assumes the role of an arbitrator.

In Sri Lanka, like many other developing countries 'Med-Arb' clauses are rarely incorporated in commercial contracts. The main reason is that we do not have the necessary institutions or skill training programs to develop mediation.

The Arbitration Act No. 11 of 1995 while modernising the Arbitration law to keep abreast with international developments had also empowered in its section 14 that the "Arbitration Tribunal with the agreements of the parties" use "mediation, conciliation, or any other procedure at any time during the Arbitral proceedings to encourage settlement." Hence incorporation of 'Med-Arb' clauses in a commercial contract is legally feasible and could contribute to fill a void, developing modern legal norms and practices to meet the challenges of globalised commerce.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Human Security Report Jun 2005

ReliefWeb - Document Preview: Source: Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA),Date: 30 Jun 2005

This issue...
Covers the period April to June 2005

Introduction

Taylor Owen in an article titled Human Rights, Human Security and Disarmament has discussed the differentiations between traditional security and human security. He points out that the primary premise of this differentiation is based on the referent object of security. The following table is explains his argument. ...... Read More

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Monday, September 05, 2005

New Orleans Begins Counting Its Dead

New Orleans Begins Counting Its Dead - Yahoo! News: "'The guy who runs this building I'm in, emergency management, he's responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home, and every day she called him and said, `Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?' And he said, `And yeah, Momma, somebody's coming to get you. Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody's coming to get you Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you on Friday' and she drowned Friday night. She drowned on Friday night,' Broussard said.
'Nobody's coming to get her, nobody's coming to get her. The secretary's promise, everybody's promise. They've had press conferences. I'm sick of the press conferences. For God's sakes, shut up and send us somebody.'

Read more

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Sri Lanka launches new system to monitor tsunami funds

ReliefWeb: 02/09/2005" Tracking System for Tsunami Aid Goes Online http://dad.tafren.gov.lk -- Allows full public access to tsunami aid use

A new web portal, launched here today, will enable easy-to-read online access to the assistance coming into Sri Lanka for tsunami recovery. Known as the Development Assistance Database (DAD), the system will help to better coordinate and monitor post tsunami recovery aid.

The Task Force for Rebuilding the Nation (TAFREN) is spearheading the online database with the support and funding of the United Nations Development Programme in Colombo (UNDP). TAFREN is leading the customization of the database to ensure that it is tailored to the specific context of post tsunami reconstruction needs in Sri Lanka.

It is designed to promote the allocation of assistance in line with priority national needs. DAD Sri Lanka is accessible to the world community over the internet, including ministries, local governments, donors, UN, NGO partners and the Sri Lankan public. DAD shows the allocation of aid by sector, district, donor and implementer. It includes projects from UN agencies, International Financial Institutions, bilateral donors, national and international NGOs and the private sector.

"This tool will help us to coordinate better and maximize the impact of our work in support of tsunami affected populations," said Mano Tittawella, Chairman of TAFREN.

The national and international assistance community have responded positively and actively to TAFREN's rquest for up-to-date project data. Already 150 projects have been entered, covering over $1,000 million in commitments and $450 million disbursements. Over 50 implementing partners and 47 donors have provided updates over the internet on their activities.

"A powerful monitoring tool for tracking resources and results is required for effective coordination of all Stakeholders involved in Tsunami Rebuilding. The customized database helps the government to meet this need. It indicates who is doing what, where and spells out clear deliverables tied to financial information. However the success of DAD depends very much on all the organizations contributing accurate, validated and updated information at least once a month." said Rachel C. Perera, Director TAFREN Donor Coordination Unit.

The DAD has been customized to meet the urgent needs of four Tsunami affected countries, and are being launched by Maldives, Thailand and Indonesia. A Regional Tsunami DAD will be launched in September, bringing together information from across all four countries. The custom made DAD software for Sri Lanka was developed by Synergy International systems, which has made DAD operational in 20 countries as part of a package of UNDP assistance.

"The DAD for Sri Lanka will help government and its partners identify where needs remain unmet, where duplication exists, and where implementation bottlenecks are being encountered," said Miguel Bermeo, Resident Representative of UNDP.

Bermeo said that DAD Sri Lanka will enable TAFREN and its partners to specify clear outputs for each project and track progress towards these outputs.

"The goal is to ensure that information collected centrally can be cross-checked and verified at the district and divisional level, and to ensure transparency in overall relief and reconstruction activities," he said.

The need for a system where governments can track tsunami funds and ascertain whether projects are achieving their goals was highlighted in mid March at a high level coordination meeting on 'Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Tsunami-Affected Countries' hosted by the Asian Development Bank.

Work on DAD is ongoing to ensure it adapts to meet evolving needs. A specialist housing module is almost complete, and will provide detailed information on the housing needs of each community, and the progress in either repairing or rebuilding homes.

DAD is owned by the Sri Lankan Government and is maintained by TAFREN. DAD Sri Lanka is a critical element in the Government's strategy to ensure that the needs of tsunami affected communities are met across Sri Lanka.

For more information please contact:

Rachel Perera mb: +94 773171762, Aruni Athauda mb: +94 773171763 or Yudhish Omprasadham mb: +94 773171788. Or email aruni@tafren.gov.lk and yudhish@tafren.gov.lk

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Sunday, September 04, 2005

Growth without equity

Sri Lanka EDITORIAL: Wednesday, 31 August 2005 - 8:15 AM SL Time


With the country being put on a fast track towards a Presidential election which could change the course of our political history, the main candidates and parties are working out their manifestos. The immediate major concern, of course, is the ethnic conflict and the solution to it. Beyond, if not above, that issue is the long-term economic policy which could make, break or mar the country and the lives of millions of people. In a world order where a new empire comprising the Bush-Blair Coalition and its transnational corporations appears to be dictating terms, Third World countries like Sri Lanka need to avoid the temptation of presuming there is no valid alternative to globalized economic capitalism. In Sri Lanka this month was Dr. Walden Bello, regarded as one of the most respected thinkers in a movement that offers a viable alternative to globalization and wants to build a more people-friendly and sustainable development with a more equitable distribution of wealth and resources. This movement believes that growth without a growingly equitable distribution of wealth and resources would be not only counter-productive but socially catastrophic. Dr. Bello is the founding director of Focus on the Global South, a policy research institute based in Thailand, with offices in India and the Philippines. He has written 14 books, including most recently `Dilemmas of Domination: The Unmaking of the American Empire` (2005) and `Deglobalization: Ideas for a New World Economy` (2002). Giving a series of talks in Colombo, Dr. Bello traced the advent of neo-liberalism, the ideology that said basically the best way to move to sustained economic growth as well as the best distribution of income and wealth, is to leave it all up to the market. That, as far as the government was concerned, its major task was to get out of the economy and not interfere. Dr. Bello points out that in the early 1990s about 100 developing and transitional economies ' transitional meaning moving from state socialism to capitalism ' were being subjected to structural adjustment programmes. Sri Lanka was also one of those countries. At that time, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund basically were using the Third World debt crisis that erupted in the early 1980s, using the tremendous lack of financing for the developing countries to be able to settle their debts to the big commercial banks, to provide what were called structural adjustment loans, which would then be turned around as payments to commercial banks. This was the mechanism by which free market programmes were being pushed in so many parts of the developing world. According to Dr. Bello the main components of the structural adjustment programmes were; the liberalisation of trade -- which was an assault on protectionism; deregulation -- the idea being that the economy was being stifled by too many government regulations, especially those that were designed to protect the population from the ravages of the market and of course privatisation, despite the fact that many of the most efficient companies in the world, including in Asia, were run by the state. Nevertheless, state enterprises had a bad name, and if economic growth was to be unshackled, it was important to move state-owned or state-managed enterprises into the private sector. Basically, this was the thrust of structural adjustment programmes. So in the early 1990s, structural adjustment was at its height. At that time already the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and a number of other agencies were saying that, well, structural adjustment had been in place for the last 12 to 13 years and the statistics were showing that the successes of the structural adjustment were few. Of the 100 countries that were under structural adjustment, it was hard to find the predictions coming true, the prediction that there would be sustained economic growth, that there would be less income inequality, and that there would be less poverty. Then in 1995 came the crown jewel, the World Trade Organization with all its hype. And now the world has an unholy Trinity to perpetuate a system where the rich countries get richer and plunder more while the poor Third World is plunged deeper into enslavement in poverty.
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