Sri Lanka opposition to address war crimes concerns

Updated 19 December 2014

Sri Lanka opposition to address war crimes concerns

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s main opposition on Friday promised to address international concerns over war crimes and normalize relations with regional superpower India and Western nations if they won January presidential polls.
Candidate Maithripala Sirisena said he would also negotiate with the European Union to win back tariff concessions that were withdrawn four years ago after Colombo refused to bring about democratic reforms.
“I will negotiate to get back the ‘GSP-plus’ (generalised scheme of preferences) to ensure we export more and create more jobs,” Sirisena said while releasing his party’s 63-page manifesto.
He did not outline what his approach with the EU would be, but his manifesto promised that if elected, his party would set up independent bodies to run the civil service, the police, the judiciary and the elections department. The refusal to commit to good governance conditions led to Sri Lanka’s exports losing preferential tariffs from member states across the European Union in 2010.
According to the manifesto, a Sirisena administration would also set up a special domestic court to investigate war crimes allegations, a long-standing demand of neighboring India and Western nations, who in March established a UN probe after Colombo insisted that no abuses had taken place.
International rights groups say up to 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed by government forces in the final months of fighting, when the leadership of the Tamil Tiger separatists was wiped out, after decades of ethnic war.
Sirisena, who defected from Rajapakse’s Cabinet last month to mount a surprise challenge, said he would restore Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake who was sacked last year after some of her rulings went against the administration’s policies.
The controversial impeachment of the chief justice was criticised by the UN Human Rights Council as well as other governments as an assault on the independence of the judiciary in Sri Lanka.
Sirisena’s manifesto carried several populist measures, including a 10,000-rupee ($76) salary increase to public servants, free Internet wi-fi zones across the country and a host of agricultural subsidies.
Sirisena, a former health minister, also said he would bring back parliamentary democracy and won’t allow separatist Tamil Tiger rebels to re-emerge, a promise made by President Rajapakse too.
The UN has estimated that at least 100,000 people were killed in Sri Lanka’s separatist war between 1972 and 2009.
Rajapakse, 69, was seen as the favourite when he called the Jan. 8 snap election two years ahead of schedule.
But Sirisena, 63, has emerged as a formidable opponent after securing the support of all main opposition groups.
The popularity of Rajapakse’s party showed a 21 percentage point decline at local elections in September.

10-year-old Bangladeshi’s communication app creates buzz

Updated 55 min 13 sec ago

10-year-old Bangladeshi’s communication app creates buzz

  • “I thought we should have something of our own, which inspired me to start working on my communication app”: Ayman Al-Anam

DHAKA: A Bangladeshi fifth-grader’s new communication app — Lita Free Video Calls and Chat — has created a huge buzz among local internet users. Already, 10,500 people have downloaded the app from the Google Play Store since Saturday.

Ayman Al-Anam submitted the app to Google on Dec. 27. After scrutiny and manual verification, Google uploaded the app on its Play Store on Dec. 31.

 “Currently, Bangladeshi internet users are mostly dependent on apps like WhatsApp, Viber and Imo for communication overseas,” Al-Anam told Arab News.

“I thought we should have something of our own, which inspired me to start working on my communication app.”

It took the 10-year-old 10 months to create the app, which he said he accomplished by himself, without the help of any mentor. “I learned the process through different YouTube tutorials. The rest was just trial and error,” he added.

 The app provides better-quality, high-definition video calls to its users. It also works for transferring big data in a shorter amount of time compared to similar apps.

Al-Anam’s success at such an early age has surprised his parents. “From a very early age, my son had a knack for technology, and I encouraged him to pursue it. He used to spend his free time in front of computers, smartphones and other devices,” said proud father Tauhedush Salam Nishad. “I always supported him, but I never dreamed that he’d see this sort of success so young.”

Recalling the first successful test run of the new app, Nishad said: “One night, I returned home from work and Ayman took my smartphone and installed the raw file of the app. Later, he did the same with his mother’s phone and connected the two devices with a video call. It was the best moment in his life. He shouted with joy, ‘I did it!’” 

Al-Anam named the app after his mother Lita. The young inventor is currently studying at South Point School and College in Chattogram, 248 km from the capital. He dreams of becoming a software engineer and wants to work at Google headquarters.

His creation has drawn much attention from local experts. “We should nurture this sort of extraordinary talent very carefully,” Prof. Mohammad Kaikobad of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology told Arab News.

 “This new generation will lead the technology world of tomorrow if they’re guided and encouraged properly.”