| by I. S. Senguttuvan
(November 13, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Sri Lanka’s controversy-plagued bid to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games in faraway and ill-equipped Hambantota failed when the 70 strong Commonwealth Delegations voted 43-27 in the West Indian Island of St. Kits today favouring the highly developed Australian holiday city. The Aussie bid was led by the Mayor of Gold Coast Ron Clarke – one of the greatest athletes of the 1960s. The Lankan bid was highly questioned within Sri Lanka and overseas for months. The Lankan delegation of 60 had within Cricketer Muralitharan who clearly was no match for the Gold Coast delegation.
In Sri Lanka, Opposition political parties stridently questioned the need, the location, the exhorbitant costs plus a variety of issues – not excluding charges of potential corruption – in the light of the much criticised 2010 CWG held in New Delhi. Steaming Hambantota is in the arid Dry Zone of the Island. It is no more than a fishing town – seriously lacking in basic infra-structure even to hold a less significant national sporting event – even for a few thousands of spectators. Sources within the Island inform the object is largely to save the President and his 2 siblings forming the virtual government – falling rapidly in popularity in the eyes of the local people. Serious economic and governance failures are cited. The Games effort, it is alleged, is more aimed to dupe the local voter with the false notion the regime is held in high esteem overseas. It is also understood high-priced PR firms in London and Washington were engaged, outside the authority and scrutiny of Parliament, to get the nomination for the Lankan town
President Rajapakse has been under censure by Western countries for alleged serious HR and War Crimes during May 2009 where an estimated 40 000 civilians are alleged to have perished. His army of 200,000 well-equipped modern army took years to bring down a rag-tag shoeless band of LTTE fighters – estimated by the government to be not more than 9,000. Curiously, in addition to the relatively large army, the air-force and the Navy also joined in bombing and attacking much of the civilian population from land, air and from the surrounding seas of the small Island. Several visiting reporters were aghast at the likely overkill situation that eventually happened. This is now a matter of much criticism staining the Rajapakse regime. Almost the entire population in the Tamil-populated North-East Province (Jaffna, Trincomalee and Batticoloa) were evicted from their homes. Over a third of a million were forcibly held for over 2 years in Detention Camps – often compared to Jewish Concentration Camps. They were later released – in batches – only on pressure from the international community. Both the army and the government resolutely refused permission to the local and overseas media recognised NGOs and HR organisations to visit the conflict zone and camps where detainees were held. This aberration is likely to work against the Rajapakses when UN, ICC and other organisations soon take up the issue. To thwart international action the government appointed the lack-lustre Lessons Learnt and Rehabilitation Commission with its own nominees serving in it.
The LTTE are also guilty of instances of HR and War crimes against some of their own people whom they are alleged to have used as human-shield in several battles. The Tamil people favour an overseas inquiry on LTTE excesses.
The news of the failure at St. Kitts on Friday has not been announced to the Lankan people as it is considered a serious loss of face both for the regime and its many nervous cohorts.