|Somali pirates plead
|WASHINGTON (AFP) – Three Somali men have pleaded guilty
to piracy charges related to the hijacking of a yacht off
the coast of Oman in February that left four Americans dead.
Mohamud Hirs Issa Ali, 32, and Mohamud Salad Ali, 35, and
Ali Abdi Mohamed, 35, pleaded guilty in a federal court in
the eastern state of Virginia, according to US prosecutors.
The owners of the yacht Quest, Jean and Scott Adam, were
Christian missionaries based in California who were sailing
around the world at the time of the hijacking.
They were shot to death, along with their companions Bob
Riggle and Phyllis Macay from Seattle, Washington, several
days after being taken hostage and as negotiations were
taking place with US Navy officials.
Issa Ali and Salad Ali pleaded guilty to acts of piracy and
hostage taking resulting in death, as part of plea
agreements that will allow them to avoid the death penalty.
They face life in prison.
The two men “acknowledged in connection with their pleas
that they served as leaders of the piracy operation,”
prosecutors said in a statement.
The third man, Abdi Mohamed, who also made a plea deal,
acknowledged “that he fired a rocket propelled grenade in
the course of the crime.” He pleaded guilty to piracy. He
also faces life in prison.
“All three defendants warranted in their plea agreements
that they played no role in the murder of the four US
citizens,” the statement said.
Plea deals allow defendants to seek reductions in their
“He avoids death with the plea,” Jon Babineau, lawyer for
Issa Ali, told AFP.
Eight other suspects in the case were also expected to plead
guilty on Monday.
Accused Somali pirate Mohammad Saaili Shibin, said to have
been the chief negotiator in the hijacking, was indicted on
charges related to the killings earlier this year.
US service members, who had been trailing the yacht during
the hostage drama, boarded the vessel after hearing gunshots
and discovered the Americans’ bodies, according to US
The US military said it had undertaken negotiations, led by
Shibin, to secure the release of the hostages at the time
the pirates fatally shot their captives.
At the time of their arrest, the pirates were said to have
been in possession of heavy weaponry, including a grenade
launcher and several assault rifles.
The men are among 15 people – 14 from Somalia and one from
Yemen – arrested after the attack for their roles in the
kidnapping and killings.
|“Now we are illegal”
Spanish anti-crisis protesters
cheer as ban takes effect
MADRID (AFP) – Thousands of protesters in Madrid furious
over soaring unemployment staged a silent protest and then
erupted in cheers of joy as a 48-hour ban on their
demonstration took effect on Saturday.
“Now we are all illegal” and “the people united will never
be defeated,” were among the chants of the protesters who
crammed Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square and spilled onto side
The protesters held a minute’s silence, their hands in the
air and some with tape over their mouths, just before
midnight on Friday, when campaigning officially ended for
Sunday’s regional and municipal elections.
The crowd then cheered as the clock in the square, the main
site of New Year festivities in Madrid, chimed midnight and
a ban on the protest became effective.
“From Tahrir to Madrid to the world, world revolution,” said
one of the placards, referring to Tahrir Square in Cairo
which was the focal point of the Egyptian revolution earlier
Some 19,000 people took part, according to a calculation by
the Lynce organisation which estimates crowd numbers and
released by the Spanish national news agency Efe.
Thousands of people have massed in city centres across the
country in an swelling movement that began May 15, the
biggest spontaneous protests since the property bubble
exploded in 2008 and plunged Spain into a recession from
which it only emerged this year.
Spain’s electoral commission late on Thursday declared that
protests planned for Saturday and for Sunday are illegal as
they “go beyond the constitutionally guaranteed right to
Saturday is by law “a day of reflection” ahead of the local
elections, meaning political activity is barred.
But organisers of the spearhead protest in Madrid vowed to
defy the ban.
Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said Friday that
police “will enforce the law” against the protesters but “in
a proportional manner.”
But Spain’s leading daily El Pais quoted government sources
as saying police will only intervene if there is violence.
“The fact that the gatherings are banned in not enough
reason for the police to act” against the demonstrators, the
centre-left paper said on its website.
Calling for “Real Democracy Now,” the protests, popularly
known as M-15, were called to condemn Spain’s soaring
unemployment, economic crisis, politicians in general, and
Spain’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose
Socialist Party is facing a crushing defeat in Sunday’s
polls, on Friday voiced sympathy for the protesters, saying
they were reacting to unemployment and the economic crisis
“in a peaceful manner.”
Spain’s jobless rate hit 21.19 percent in the first quarter
of this year, the highest in the industrialised world. For
under-25s, the jobless rate in February was 44.6 percent.
“My obligation is to listen, be sensitive, try to give an
answer from the government so that we can recover the
economy and employment as soon as possible,” Zapatero told
radio Cadena Ser.
|New Irish Obama
DUBLIN (AFP) – US President Barack Obama will be greeted
by more Irish cousins when he visits the country next week,
after research uncovered new branches of his ancestral
family, researchers said Friday.
Dick Benn, a fifth cousin once removed, and Tom Donovan, a
third cousin three times removed, have been invited to
welcome Obama to Moneygall, the Irish village where his
great-great-great-grandfather hailed from, Eneclann, a
family history research company, said in a statement.
An eighth cousin of Obama, Henry Healy, is already among
around 2,000 people who have been given tickets to see Obama
in Moneygall -- but Eneclann said the new cousins were even
more closely related to the US leader.
“As a result of the new findings, Dick Benn and Tom Donovan
have been invited to meet the US president when he visits
Moneygall next week,” said Eneclann, which is based at
prestigious Trinity College, Dublin.
Obama’s great-great-great-grandfather on his mother’s side,
Falmouth Kearney, was a 19-year-old cobbler’s son when he
emigrated from famine-ravaged Ireland in 1850. Kearney
eventually settled in Ohio.
But in newly uncovered links, it emerged that Kearney’s
mother, Phoebe Donovan, was the daughter of Fulmoth Donovan
and Mary Benn – the ancestors of Dick Benn and Tom Donovan,
and also of Obama.
Diggging even deeper, the researchers said Obama’s roots may
come from continental Europe as the Benn family appear to
have been immigrants from there, and that as late as the
1750s their name was Behn.
“We think that the Benns may originally have been Flemish,
Dutch or even French Huguenot, who settled in Ireland in the
late seventeenth century,” said Eneclann’s research director
As a result of waves of immigration, about 34 million people
in the United States claim an Irish connection and many
previous presidential hopefuls have used their “green”
ancestry to attract the Irish-American vote.
|No word for time
(BBC News) – An Amazonian tribe has no abstract concept
of time, say researchers.
The Amondawa lacks the linguistic structures that relate
time and space – as in our idea of, for example, “working
through the night.”
The study, in Language and Cognition, shows that while the
Amondawa recognise events occurring in time, it does not
exist as a separate concept.
The idea is a controversial one, and further study will bear
out if it is also true among other Amazon languages.
The Amondawa were first contacted by the outside world in
1986, and now researchers from the University of Portsmouth
and the Federal University of Rondonia in Brazil have begun
to analyse the idea of time as it appears in Amondawa
“We’re really not saying these are a ‘people without time’
or ‘outside time’,” said Chris Sinha, a professor of
psychology of language at the University of Portsmouth.
“Amondawa people, like any other people, can talk about
events and sequences of events,” he told BBC News.
“What we don’t find is a notion of time as being independent
of the events which are occurring; they don’t have a notion
of time which is something the events occur in.”
The Amondawa language has no word for “time”, or indeed of
time periods such as “month” or “year.”
The people do not refer to their ages, but rather assume
different names in different stages of their lives or as
they achieve different status within the community.
But perhaps most surprising is the team’s suggestion that
there is no “mapping” between concepts of time passage and
movement through space.
Ideas such as an event having “passed” or being “well ahead”
of another are familiar from many languages, forming the
basis of what is known as the “mapping hypothesis.”
|Sahara nations to set
up desert patrol force
(Al Jazeera) – Mali,
Mauritania, Niger and Algeria will set up, within 18 months,
a joint force of up to 75,000 soldiers to secure their
shared Sahara-Sahel desert zone, Mali’s foreign minister
“The number of soldiers in the force tasked with fighting
terrorism will increase to 75,000 in the next 18 months,”
Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga said.
Leaders from the four nations gathered in Mali to look at
security issues, including the fall-out from the conflict in
Libya, which experts say has increased the access to arms.
The four nations are struggling to control the zone, where
al-Qaeda’s North African wing has stepped up attacks and is
operating alongside smugglers, rebels and local criminals.
A joint command centre has been established in Tamanrasset,
in southern Algeria, but regional rivalries and the lack of
trust between the countries have long stymied a coordinated
regional approach European nations and the US have called
“More than ever our people and our countries are exposed to
the threat of terrorism, heavy weapons in circulation, drug
trafficking and hostage-taking,” said Maiga.
Maiga also stressed the need to tackle “trans-national
organised crime”. He added that it was vital the four
countries, which share a military base in Algeria, acted
together against terrorism.
Algeria’s delegate, Abdel Kader Messahel, said: “The
challenges we face require more focused planning and
effective co-ordination. “It falls on us to evaluate
dangerous developments and the new dimensions the terrorist
threat is taking,” he added.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI) has several bases in
Mali from where it launches operations into the desert
region, carrying out attacks, kidnappings of foreigners and
AQIM is holding four French citizens abducted in northern
Niger in September 2010 as well as an Italian kidnapped in
southern Algeria in February.
|Armies of Sudan rivals
clash in Abyei region
(Al Jazeera) – Artillery
fire have broken up in Sudan’s contested Abyei region, hours
after the north accused the south of ambushing a convoy in
the border area, the United Nations said.
“We heard artillery exchanges in Abyei in Todach and Tagalei
but we don’t know who is fighting whom,” said Kouider
Zerrouk, spokesperson for the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) on
The fresh violence came after the north accused the SPLA of
attacking a convoy of Sudanese soldiers and UN peacekeepers
late on Thursday in Dokura north of Abyei town.
“Abyei is now a war zone,” said Sadiq Amer, deputy head of
northern intelligence and security forces, adding that at
least 22 soldiers had been killed in what he called an
“aggression” of southern forces against a convoy of around
“The troops were ambushed without any warning,” he told
reporters in the capital Khartoum. The SPLA denied
responsibility for the attack, which the United Nations said
had taken place on a convoy of northern troops escorted by
UN peacekeepers under a deal for both sides to withdraw
forces from the disputed territory.
The United States, one of the main backers of Sudan’s
landmark 2005 peace deal, deplored the attack and urged both
sides to stop all unauthorized military actions in Abyei.
“Political leaders on both sides must take responsibility
now to ensure that this situation does not escalate into a
wider crisis,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.
UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon “strongly condemns” Thursday’s attack and was “very
concerned over the reports of increased troop movements into
Abyei.” Ban wants all unauthorized troops to be withdrawn,
South Sudan voted to become independent in a referendum in
January. It agreed to a peace deal with the north in 2005,
but tensions have built up in the oil-producing Abyei border
region where both sides have built up forces.
|Obama names Patterson
as envoy to Egypt
WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama has named
former Pakistan troubleshooter Anne Patterson as the next US
ambassador to Egypt, a key ally which Washington hopes will
become a model for Arab democracy, the White House said.
Pending Senate confirmation, Patterson will replace Margaret
Scobey, who has served in the post for just over three years
and was present when a pro-democracy revolution toppled US
ally Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in February.
Patterson previously served from July 2007 to October 2010
as the US ambassador to Islamabad, which has long had a
tense relationship with Washington as a front-line ally in
the decade-long war on terrorism.
By naming Patterson, Obama signalled he wanted a tested
career diplomat to serve in Cairo where she will deal with
the new ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which is
steering a more independent diplomatic course from Mubarak.
The new Egypt has signalled closer ties with anti-US Iran
and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group.
After helping to ease Mubarak out of power, the United
States is trying to keep Egypt as a major ally in the war on
terrorism and ensure it preserves its 1979 peace treaty with
Israel, the cornerstone of US diplomacy in the region.
If confirmed, Patterson will likely confront lingering
bitterness among Egyptians that the decades-long US alliance
with Mubarak came at the expense of their human rights.
As she headed to Cairo for a visit in March, US Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton said the United States sought a
partnership with Egypt in its transition to democracy.
Egypt’s military said on Thursday that the country will hold
its first parliamentary election since Mubarak’s overthrow
as scheduled in September and then prepare a constitution
before a presidential poll.
Clinton has also said that the United States has “an
enormous stake in ensuring that Egypt and Tunisia provide
models for the kind of democracy that we want to see.”
Setting an example for Egypt, Tunisians toppled their
president, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, in a pro-democracy
revolution in January.
In a bid to shore up Egypt’s fledgling democracy and
mitigate the economic side effects of the revolution, Obama
promised Thursday to forgive one billion dollars (700
million euros) in Egyptian debt and provide one billion
dollars in aid.
Obama also said the United States has asked the World Bank
and the International Monetary Fund to present a plan at
next week’s G-8 summit for “what needs to be done to
stabilize and modernize the economies of Tunisia and Egypt.”
Patterson has also served as Assistant Secretary for
International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs as well
as Deputy Permanent Representative and Acting Permanent
Representative at the US Mission to the United Nations.
She was also US ambassador to Colombia and US ambassador to
Like Clinton, Patterson is a graduate of Wellesley College.
She joined the Foreign Service in 1973.
|Vesak 2011 at Los
Angeles focussed on youth
By Dr. Stephen Long
Los Angeles, California
Vesak was celebrated at Dharma Vijaya all day on Saturday,
May 7. The founder and Abbot, Ven. Walpola Piyananda,
realised long ago that the future of Buddhism in America
depended on the children, so this event, like all others at
his temple, emphasized the participation of young people.
The day began at 7.30 a.m. with members of the Dayaka Sabha
observing Sil, the Eight Precepts, and spending the next
eight hours in a meditation retreat. Ven. Yogavacara Rahula,
an American monk ordained in Sri Lanka in the mid-70s, took
time from his world travels to deliver an inspiring Dharma
talk and lead participants in meditation sessions.
The programme for lay people began at 4.30 p.m. with temple
children competing for prizes in speech and Pali chanting.
Awards were also given for essay contest winners who had
written their papers the week before. The Sri Lankan Acting
Consul General, the Asoka Godawita, presented the awards,
certificates and prizes. A costume drama entitled “Tanha”
was presented by the children, directed by Sunil Semasinghe,
and a youth orchestra and choir performed Bhakti Geetha and
popular Sri Lankan melodies for the approving crowd,
directed by Ramani Weerasingha.
Dharma Vijaya’s resident monks including Ven. Dr. Udagama
Sumangala, Ven. Bambarawane Kalyanawansa, and Ven.
Gajanayakagama Kassapa participated in religious services,
and worked hard to make the day a success.
Ven. Kalabululande Dhammajothi spent the week before Vesak
constructing an elaborate, multi-tiered and lighted moving
lantern, which delighted the attendees from Sri Lanka and
reminded them of Vesak back home. A giant screen was erected
to display a digital torana, provided by Colombo University.
The torana, complete with all the normal bells and whistles
found on toranas in Lanka, portrayed scenes from the
Buddha’s Jataka stories.
Dansala was served by the temple youth at the end of the
evening, and the venerable monks, members of the dayaka
sabha, their children, and scores of American guests
concluded the night in a pervasive mood of happiness.
The grand event commemorated the 2,600th anniversary of the
Buddha’s enlightenment, and is one of many to be celebrated
throughout temples in Southern California and beyond.
|Janaki appointed to
AgriFin steering committee
Chairperson of Regional Development Bank and the Advisor on
Food Security at the President’s Office of Sri Lanka has
been recently appointed as one of the 8-member global
steering committee members of AgriFin.
AgriFin has been set up by the World Bank with the help of
the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support the
activities that are expected to substantially increase
financing for agriculture, particularly for small holder
The International steering committee consists of just eight
members, two each representing the World Bank and the Bill
and Melinda Gates Foundation and four other members from
across the world with developing country experience. The
long term goal of AgriFin is to demonstrate that providing
financial services to smallholder farmers and other
enterprises in rural areas is a profitable business for
financial institutions by providing capacity-building grants
to regulated financial institutions to generate and
facilitate learning on agriculture finance.
She will serve this honorary position on this international
steering committee while continuing to serve as Chairperson
of the Regional Development Bank which is the largest 100
percent government owned development bank with over 250
branches serving customers residing in rural areas and
mostly encaged in agriculture, livestock, fisheries and
small and medium enterprises.
She also holds the positions of Advisor on Food Security, to
the cabinet sub-committee on Food Security Chaired by the
President of Sri Lanka, Chairperson of Mother Sri Lanka
Trust and a Director at the Colombo Dockyard Plc.
Ms Kuruppu has had an illustrious career of over 20 years in
both the private and public sectors locally and
internationally in a variety of industries covering research
and consultancy, agri-business, food manufacturing,
retailing, banking, academics, media and engineering and
held positions such as Director of Commercial Bank PLC,
Sathosa, Cargills Ceylon PLC and Managing Director of The
She joined the Public Sector in January 2008 in an advisory
capacity, to be able to make a direct contribution to nation
building and is currently spearheading some special projects
which include strategic Interventions into Food Security and
Cost of Living Management experimenting new agribusiness
models which tests supply chain interventions by
governments, private sector links and partnerships, with
special focus into efficiency, yield and value addition of
locally produced agriculture products to ensure farmer
economic stability and long term food security for the
She holds a M.A. in Applied Statistics and a B.Sc in
Mathematics from the University of Missouri, USA and from
the University of Colombo. She is also a recipient of the
All American Scholar Award, the US Achievement Academy Award
and The Most Outstanding Sri Lankan Award 2010.
|A tale of two nations
|The author rightly begins the book with a narration of
the historic ties between India and Sri Lanka. He takes us
through the peaceful political struggles for freedom in both
countries; the inter-State visits of political leaders and
cordial relations among the political parties of the two
There is an appropriate reference in the beginning to
‘Highland Tamils’ or ‘Indian Tamils’ in Sri Lanka who had
lived for about a century at the time of the country’s
independence and had built the only export industry of the
island at the time. But the issue of their citizenship
became an irritating factor soon after the independence of
the two countries and it was resolved only 50 years after
Sri Lanka got independence.
While tracing the recent history of Indo-Sri Lankan
relations, the author rightly questions the role of Sri
Lanka in Indo-China and Indo-Pakistan conflicts. The
discrimination of Tamils in Sri Lanka since 1956 has been
dealt with in a single chapter. The issue led to the
formation of militant groups like the Liberation Tigers of
Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and People’s Liberation Organisation of
Tamil Eelam (PLOTE). All this has been explained well in
The author describes in great detail the signing of the
Indo-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987 and Sri Lanka’s invitation to
the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) to assist the
government. He states that the problem that arose over the
effective functioning of the IPKF was due to Sri Lankan PM
Ranasinghe Premadasa’s opposition to the Accord.
When Premadasa became the President of Sri Lanka in 1989,
the ties between the two nations suffered, as he almost
‘ordered’ India to withdraw its forces. It’s heartening that
we were able to resolve the issue, the credit for which goes
to then Indian high commissioner to Sri Lanka, Lakhan
Mehrotra, who is the author of the book. The book is based
on authentic documents and his first-hand experiences.
|CHINESE DELEGATION VISITS AYURVEDIC CENTRES
A five-member delegation from China visited Ayurvedic
Centres in Sri Lanka last week accompanied by Pandu
Bandaranaike, Deputy Minister of Indigenous Medicine at the
Ayurvedic Corporation at Nawinna, Maharagama. The Deputy
Secretary General, Bal Hongkui and Director, Zui Jingping of
the Chinese Association for International Understanding also
took part in the tour (Pic by Ravi Dharmathilaka)
programme at SL embassy in NY
The embassy of
Sri Lanka in the United States opened its doors to more than
1,000 visitors May 14 as part of the Passport DC 2011
cultural tourism programme.
Visitors to the embassy tasted Sri Lankan cuisine and Ceylon
tea, tried on saris and sarong and wrote their names in
Tamil and Sinhalese. The embassy staff discussed current Sri
Lankan developments and history with visitors, who also
watched a Sri Lankan travel video. Sri Lanka’s embassy was
festooned with lights, banners and flags to welcome its
Passport DC sponsors an annual “Around the World Embassy
Tour” that functions as an open house for Washington DC’s
foreign embassies. Participants in the popular programme may
stroll along the famed Embassy Row and visit dozens of
Passport DC 2011 is an exploration through Washington, DC’s
international culture during the entire month of May. Now in
its fourth year, Passport DC invites participants to
experience a global journey without leaving the city.
Featuring street festivals, open houses, embassy events,
special performances, and much more, Passport DC explores
the international community that is a vital part of DC
|Nihal Sri Ameresekere
releases six books in Washington
|Nihal Sri Ameresekere has released six books in
Washington on May 12, 2011 titled:
1. PILLAGE OF PLANTATIONS IN SRI LANKA - VOLUME I
2. COLOMBO HILTON HOTEL CONSTRUCTION - VOLUME I
3. COLOMBO PORT BUNKERING PRIVATISATION - VOLUME III
4. “DERIVATIVE/HEDGING” DEALS
5. SRI LANKA INSURANCE PRIVATISATION - VOLUME IV, and
6. FISCAL MISMANAGEMENT – LACK OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY.
In this series of books, Nihal Sri meticulously documents
and analyses the ways in which corrupt forces in Sri Lanka
and abroad plundered the country’s resources through the
1990s and early 2000. He argues persuasively that the
policies adopted by the government of Sri Lanka during this
period, at the behest of the International Monetary Fund
(IMF), the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB),
set the stage for widespread corruption and allowed on
unprecedented illicit transfer of public wealth into
privileged and private hands.
Five of the Books are now available for purchase globally
from Amazon.com, Barnes & Nobel and at special introductory
discounted prices from the US Publisher at their websites.
|CATTLE SAVED FROM
SLAUGHTERHOUSE GIVEN FREE TO RESIDENTS
Over one hundred cattle, saved from the abattoir, were
given free to area residents last week by the Galle Animal
Lovers’ Welfare Society under the guidance of the Ven.
Kunumuldeniya Chandawimala Thero, Chief Incumbent of the
Galle Kaluwella International Buddhist Centre. The animals
were released paying Rs. 1.2 million and donations came from
|SL Magazine to
enlighten international community
‘SL Magazine’ - a quarterly magazine in English medium to
enlighten the international community as well as our reading
public on Sri Lankan Icons was launched by the Government
The first copy of the ‘SL Magazine’, was presented to the
Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa by the
Director General of Government Information Prof. Ariyarathne
Athugala at the office of the Ministry of Economic
Development on Monday.
The Magazine hopes to encourage the English reading public
as well as Sri Lankans living abroad to value our
traditions, heritages, culture. The magazine will also be a
resourceful handbook to provide information on Sri Lanka for
prospective investors in the spheres of investment, trade
This magazine will highlight and bring forth facts and
figures on Sri Lanka which will enable the international
community as well as our reading public to grasp at a glance
on truthful facts pertaining to our country.