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LTTE in the doldrums

The LTTE which lost more or less its entire fleet of vessels on the high seas at the hands of the Navy, dealing a body blow to its arms smuggling operations is having its noose further tightened with the latest global and regional initiatives to cut off arms supplies to the outfit.

Although the serial loss of its floating warehouses virtually decimated the outfit's smuggling capability it is no secret that the Tigers are shopping for arms in a desperate bid to replenish the armouries.

It is in this context that the latest initiative to effectively enforce a maritime blockade to foil armed shipments assumes significance.

The outfit, recently described by the FBI as the most dangerous terrorist outfit in the world, will now have to contend with the combined might of the global and regional Navies which no doubt is going to have debilitating effect on its fighting capability on land and sea.

The latest exercise to indict LTTE arms shipments comes in the form of The Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) programme in the South Asian region and is designed at the detection of arms smuggling vessels which it is contended is more difficult than destruction. The programme has been receiving growing international cooperation according to a top military source.

An MDA conference is now being held in Port Blair in the Andaman Islands in which 12 Navies including the Sri Lankan Navy are participants. Significantly it is close to the Andamans in the Java islands that the floating warehouses of the LTTE which the Navy destroyed were anchored.

The latest initiative towards further debilitating the LTTE arms smuggling operations could not have come at a more propitious time for the Government which has hemmed in the LTTE on all fronts and are poised to deal the killer punch.

It is no secret that the LTTE is today woefully starved of weapons and is desperate to replenish its armouries. It is said to be sounding out unconventional sources to fulfil this task. The Government should be alert to this possibility and plug in all gaps to foil the Tigers' machinations.

The Government should also solicit international help to probe the extent of the LTTE's links with global terrorist networks so that extra vigilance could be exercised.

There is also the need for further strengthening of joint Naval surveillance with the Indian Navy to ensure the Tigers don't enjoy a free run in the country's sea lanes and also to augment the joint efforts now being taken to starve the LTTE of military wherewithal.

Rogue job agents

It is indeed gratifying to note that focus has at last been directed to the flawed recruitment process of Asian Labour in the Gulf countries. At an ongoing conference in the UAE, emphasis has been laid on the need to clamp down on rogue UAE and Asian labour recruiters and employers.

Illegal and unethical recruitment processes were highlighted at the 'Colombo Process' Conference in Abu Dhabi. It was held that there were flaws in the recruitment process both in the country of origin as well as in the processes in the destination countries.

Sri Lanka has been one of the countries whose migrant workers have had to undergo some of the worse ordeals at the country of the destination.

Though incidents of the abuse and maltreatment are fewer now, one shudders to recall the state of affairs in the first flush of the Middle East job boom when many housemaids returned home in coffins while for some the pot of gold at end of the rainbow ended in bitterness.

This was a time unscrupulous elements posing as job agents had a field day and made hay at the expense of poor villagers who had to mortgage their land to raise money to take wing to the promised land.

There was no proper streamlining of employment agencies and recruits were dispatched in an ad-hoc manner only to be stranded in an alien land. This is not to say that things have improved today. We still hear of unscrupulous job agents who dupe prospective job seekers.

The Rizana Nafeek episode is a case in point. It is hoped that the new initiative would provide the necessary safeguards to Lankan migrant workers and protect them from the human vultures who had been preying on them for a long time.

An opportunity for meaningful power sharing

As a matter of practicality, the existence of a strong and functioning provincial authority will provide a boost to the services that the Centre can offer the people of the Provinces. One example is the areas coming under my purview as Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights.

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What about the world?

America's next President will face a host of pressing and difficult foreign policy challenges - and how he or she responds will affect not only the US, but the entire world. In the meantime, though, foreign policy will have only an indirect influence on Americans' choice.

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