Four thousand HIV infections in a population of 20 million should not be a difficult figure to manage. But experts in Sri Lanka say social customs and strict laws are hindering them from carrying out prevention and awareness campaigns among high-risk groups.
When the American Centre in Colombo held a memorial event honouring the late South African President Nelson Mandela, the first few questions at the question and answer session had nothing to do with the great freedom fighter.
For years, it was the power chamber at the headquarters of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva - the Director General’s Conference Room, more popularly known as the Green Room, where a handful of delegates would gather for important discussions and meetings.
When the first trains in almost two and a half decades started running through this war-ravaged town in Sri Lanka in mid-September, Sinngamuththu Jesudasan could not resist the temptation to go and have a look - repeatedly.
The battle might have been over four long years ago, but for the women in Sri Lanka’s former conflict zones in the northern and eastern provinces, the war continues.
Some call it ‘frozen loss,’ a point in time that families and relatives find almost impossible to extricate themselves out of, even years after their loved ones have disappeared.
True democracy at last or a toothless tiger propped up to appease unfavourable international opinion? As Sri Lanka’s Northern Province got its first council after an election last month, many in this South Asian island nation were mulling this conundrum.
Stricter laws could curb the rising trend of child abuse in Sri Lanka, experts say. However, recommendations like witness protection, special courts and procedures to hear abuse cases and more legal assistance to victims are unlikely to be included in a new draft Child Protection Policy that is to be presented to parliament before the end of the year.
It was a decision based on simple sums. Ananda, 28, from Weligama in the southern Sri Lankan district Matara decided to risk it all boarding a boat to Australia last year because he never had enough money.
That it would be a visit fraught with diplomatic tension was undoubted. Navanetham ‘Navi’ Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, was into the third day of her week-long visit from Aug. 25 to Aug. 31 to Sri Lanka when her entourage broke into animated discussion.
Gulam Rasul, chief meteorologist at the Pakistan Meteorological Department, was sure early this month that the second leg of the annual monsoon due in the latter half of the month was going to be bad. “Normally it peaks towards late August,” Rasul told IPS.
Life for a widow with young children in Sri Lanka’s poor agrarian areas can be harsh. Families in remote areas like Anuradhapura in the North Central Province barely eke out a living through paddy cultivation or through vegetable and other crops planted in cleared jungle shrub - Chena cultivation as it is called.
As he stood on the westernmost edge of Colombo’s new harbour expansion, it was hard for Priyath Bandu Wickrema - the man tasked with reinventing the port as a regional giant - to cap his enthusiasm.
A listing ship taking in water and facing up to the treacherous Indian Ocean monsoon is hardly cause for optimism.
It has been four years since the guns fell silent in Sri Lanka’s northern Vanni region, after almost three decades of ethnic violence. Unfortunately peace does not mean the end of hardship for the most vulnerable people here: the women.