Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sri Lanka inflation slows to 18-month low

COLOMBO, Dec 31 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's annual inflation fell to an 18-month low of 14.4 percent in December, its sixth straight month of decline from June record highs, government said on Wednesday.

Inflation fell from 16.3 percent in November and it record high of 28.2 percent, the Department of Census and Statistics data showed.

Sri Lanka's annual average inflation eased to 22.6 percent from 23.0 percent in November. Analysts said falling oil and commodity prices and a tight monetary policy have helped bring inflation down. "This is mainly due to tight monetary policy," said Mohandas Thangarajah, an analyst at First Guardian Equities.

The central bank expects inflation to drop to single digits in mid 2009 and said the decline so far was a proof its policy, targeting reserve money rather than interest rates, was working.

"We didn't expect inflation to slow down so fast." said Nandalal Weerasinghe, chief economist at the central bank.

Central bank governor said on Wednesday that interest rates will decline next year alongside falling inflation while growth should hold at 6 percent with the help of government efforts to prop up the economy.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Prices of Gas and Petroleum Products Down. Government Expenditure Slashed

Sri Lankan government announced a Rs. 16 billion "economic stimulus and concession package" to maintain growth at an optimistic 6.0% in 2009, with cuts in energy prices and incentives for exporters and industrialists. Cuts in government expenditure is also in the cards.

* Prices of gas, petrol, diesel, furnace oil, and kerosine down. Special relief package for three-wheels.
* Minimum prices set for Tea leaves and Rubber. Fertilizer subsidy for Tea growers.
* Allowances of MPs, Ministers, PM and President slashed.
* Costs of all State Institutions to be reduced.

A special cabinet meeting was called today (30) by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in order to discuss several urgent issues pertaining to the cost of living for the coming year.

Consequently, cabinet decided to bring down the prices of gas and several petroleum products with a view to strengthening the economy and bringing relief to the consumer, Minister of Trade, Marketing Development, Consumer Affairs and Cooperatives, Bandula Gunawardena announced in a special media briefing held a short while ago at the Government Information Department.

Accordingly, the price Laughfs Gas was reduced by Rs. 276, Shell Gas by Rs. 166, Petrol by Rs. 2.00, Kerosine by Rs. 10, Diesel by Rs. 10 and Furnace Oil by Rs. 10. In a special relief package for three-wheel operators, it was decided that a coupon system would be introduced where upto 4 liters of petrol would be given to each three-wheeler at Rs. 20 less than the regular price for a maximum allowance of 75 liters a month.

Minister of Export Development and International Trade, Prof. G.L. Peiris said that an assured price of Rs. 45 per kilogram of tea leaves has been set as relief for tea small holders. Also, a fertilizer subsidy has been approved for tea growers whereby they can purchase mixed-fertilizer at the rate of Rs. 1000 per 50kg.

Minister of Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion, Sarath Amunugama meanwhile said that repayments on loans given to modernize tea factories would be suspended for one year. One month's working capital would also be given to tea factories through commercial banks on the recommendation of the Sri Lanka Tea Board.

In addition, a minimum price of Rs. 150 per kilogram of rubber has been set. The cess for rubber imports has been raised to 15%.

The government would also limit the delay in refunding value added tax to exporters to a maximum of six months.

The 15% electricity surcharge that was imposed on industries and tourism will also be removed.

In addition, it was decided to cut the costs of all state institutions by 5%, the expenses of Members of Parliament by 5% each and Ministers by 10% each, those of the Prime Minister and President by 15% each, and the housing allowance of all MPs by 50%. Ministers also promised some austerity from the island's bloated public sector, which has been a drag on productive sectors.

(Courtesy: Government Information Department)

Troops capture Puthuiyankulam and Malayalapuram in Kilinochchi - Wanni Operation - 30 Dec 2008

All that you lost due to terror will be restored

- President assures people of Jaffna

“All that was lost to you due to terrorism will be restored. It will not be long before your brothers and sisters who are trapped in areas such as Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu can be happy. That is when, just like the New Dawn in the East, there will be the New Spring in the North,” said President Mahinda Rajapaksa in a message to the people of Jaffna in connection with the “Future Minds of Jaffna" exhibition currently being held in Jaffna.

In the first ever address by a Sri Lankan Head of State to the Tamil people in their own language, the President said: “It is time for us to forget the unfortunate developments of the past. We shall take action to restore to the people of Jaffna and the North, all they have lost in the past.”

The "Future Minds of Jaffna" also known as the Jaffna Educational and Industrial Exhibition 2008, is organized by the Sri Lanka Army in Jaffna, and it is estimated that it drew nearly 200,000 visitors up to yesterday (29).

Here is the text of the President’s message to the people of Jaffna that was transmitted via satellite last night (29).

Vanakkam

My Dear Friends

I am pleased to address you today, because this exhibition shows the future vision for Jaffna.

I am pleased to send greetings to the people of Jaffna, as we set about bringing the dawn of a New Spring to the North of our country.

Some decades ago we traveled together in the Yal Devi Express. Just as the people from Jaffna carry on trade in Colombo, in the past the people from Matara in the South were successfully engaged in the restaurant and bakery trade in Jaffna.

The people in the South of our country always admire the industrious nature of those of the North. Similarly, it was the wish of the people of Jaffna that everyone be as friendly as those from the South.

It was a student leader from Jaffna who made the first demand for freedom from colonial rule for our country. Tamil leaders such as Sir Ponnambalam Ramanaden understood well how the imperialists were trying to divide us.

In the past, the leaders of Jaffna and the North who were fluent in Tamil, Sinhala and English wished that we all live together and in unity. We cannot live in this country that is divided as the North and South. We must live in unity.

It is time for us to forget the unfortunate developments of the past. We shall take action to restore to the people of Jaffna and the North, all they have lost in the past.

All that was lost to you due to terrorism will be restored. It will not be long before your brothers and sisters who are trapped in areas such as Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu can be happy. That is when, just like the New Dawn in the East there will be the New Spring in the North.

I believe that this exhibition will pave the way for persons with good skills and expertise to emerge in our country. I know that the youth of Jaffna has the strength, courage and determination to achieve this. Therefore, I extend my greetings to all the skilled and capable persons who will be the driving strength of the New Spring of Jaffna and the North.

I wish you all a very bright future

Thank you.

Vanakkam.

Courtesy : President Media Unit

Hundred Thousands of People Visited "Future Minds of Jaffna" 2008

'Future Minds of Jaffna' attracts over 100,000

The musical show at Jaffna Central College grounds attracted a large crowd. Picture courtesy Army Media Unit

Over 100,000 people from all parts of the Jaffna peninsula have visited the Industrial and Educational exhibition 'Future Minds of Jaffna - 2008' by yesterday.

According to records at the entrance around 17,000 people have participated during the first day, and by the next day, the count rose to 95,000 by late afternoon and night.

Over 100,000 people were present at the carnival at the Jaffna Central College grounds. Electric appliances were sold by leading Colombo based companies including Abans while telecommunication companies - Mobitel and Dialog, received a heavy demand.

All traders are selling their goods at the same rate as in other parts of the country.

Entertainment programs are also included in the carnival for children and adults. Merry-go-round, motorcycle rides in deathwell and the play train were favourites.

Local artistes and several south Indian artistes performed at the late night show which was well received.

South Indian artistes performed at the show as a result of the coordinating efforts of Social Services and Social Welfare Minister Douglas Devananda.

The demand for the benefits at the exhibition is growing higher each day. Book stalls, I.T. education stalls, and the Nenasala IT centre was packed with people, specially youth.

Co-ordinating officer of Jaffna Technical College Career Guidance Unit Gayathri Sabaratnam said they are trying to find avenues of employment in other parts of the country for their students as job opportunities are limited in the peninsula.

"I'm extremely satisfied with the immense success we have achieved so far. Creating a safe environment for the people to enjoy their lives is one of the top most challenges for us. In my view we have succeeded in meeting the challenge," Jaffna Security Forces Commander Major General G. A. Chandrasiri said.

Monday, December 29, 2008

LTTE abducts 16 children from Catholic Church run orphanage - Dharmapuram

LTTE terrorists had abducted 16 children from a Catholic Church run orphanage at Dahrmapuram in Kilinochchi on Friday (Dec 26), the church sources revealed. The sources while condemning this nefarious act of terrorism called the incident to be an ideal example of the inhumanity of the terrorist outfit.

Meanwhile, a group of civilians who were terrorized by the above incident have sought refuge with army on Saturday (Dec 27) afternoon. The refugees while confirming the incident have said that the abducted children had been taken to be trained as child soldiers and suicide bombers. 38 civilians belonging to 9 families including 3 infants have arrived at one of the Army Task Force 1 outposts after a risky journey across Kilaly lagoon. The refugees have told our special correspondent in the area that they had their homes close to the said orphanage and decided to escape into liberated areas for the love of their children.

"They (LTTE cadres) beat up the two priests in charge of the orphanage when they refused to give away the orphans" an eye witness has told our correspondent.

According to the sources, the terrorists had stormed the orphanage on the Boxing Day evening and demanded the two priest in charge of the place to give away all children above 12 years of age.

"They (LTTE) tied up the two priests and blindfold them before taking away the children at gunpoint" he has added.

A mother of two among the refugees who had also witnessed the crime said that she could not bear up the scene when the children had cried out for help.

"Those innocent children tried in vain to cling on to the two priests. They pleaded the LTTE cadres to let them go. But they were dragged like cattle taking to the slaughterhouse ...."

"I would never forgive myself for not helping those children ... But I have to save my children first. That is why I left my home "she has said showing her two young children.

Meanwhile, the church sources said that it was only Saturday (Dec 27) morning that the two priests had been able to untie themselves and reported the matter to church administration. The orphanage was initially located at Kilinochchi but recently moved to Dharmapuram due to increasing LTTE threats. It has been effectively functioning with the lavish support of the church and other donors for the last several years. The Church sources further said several more previous attempts of this nature were resisted and thwarted by the priests in charge. Church authorities are still on the look out for these parentless children who grew up in the orphanage while attending to their schooling.


Freedom Alliance and JNP ink historic agreement


The Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and the Jathika Nidahas Peramuna (JNP) have signed a historic MOU directing the country towards a victorious path defeating separatist tiger terrorism as well as conspiracies of treacherous forces on Sunday the 28th.

The historic MOU was inked by Freedom Alliance General Secretary and Minister Susil Premajayanth and Secretary of the Jathika Nidahas Peramuna and Parliamentarian Nandana Gunatillake. The JNP is a partner of the JVP which extended support to the President in 2005 during the Presidential election. Minister Susil Premajayanth said the signing of the agreement is a historic chapter in further consolidating the support extended by them to the President and the Freedom Alliance.

Minister Maithripala Sirisena said conspiracies are in place at this decisive juncture to reverse the victories of the Government. As such, the Government will get further strength to defeat such conspiracies through this support. He said they wish to pay tribute to the Jathika Nidahas Peramuna on behalf of the constituent parties of the Freedom Alliance for reaching such an agreement. He urged further dedication to march forward overcoming all obstacles.

Wimal Weerawansa said 2009 is to be declared as a year of military victories. Therefore, they had to strengthen the programme mooted by the President to eliminate terrorism defeating all conspiracies. It is their party which is satisfied over the MOU reached with the Freedom Alliance as a partner of a political force which took political decisions to direct the country towards the correct path and continue the journey overcoming all obstacles.

Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said that the agreement is another chapter in their effort to further bolster the security of the country and ensure its existence.
Parliamentarian Nandana Gunatillake pointed out that this was neither an election agreement nor an agreement which enables them to enjoy privileges from the Government. He also said it was not an agreement seeking ministerial portfolios, but an MOU for the betterment of the country.

Troops take control of a luxury LTTE bunker - Wanni Operation - 28 Dec 2008

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A new year resolution...

Every noble achievement ever made in the journey of mankind has always been a destination of a noble dream.

We Sri Lankans have been struggling to portray a cultural and national destiny to our small Nation ever since we became a colony of the West in 1505. Every battle we fought for independence was a stroke of the brush with which we have been trying to paint our destiny on the canvas of time. Of course there were grand victories. The day we won the Cricket World cup in 1995 was one such day for our small Nation because that was something we fought and won. Those days made us look at each other with eyes filled with joy. We saw the same joy in all our eyes no matter what ethnic group we belonged. And, there were debacles. They made us look up at the blank sky with eyes welled up in tears. But the sky saw that tears were tears in all our eyes no matter we were Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, or Burgers. Most often, the debacles were destinations of tribalism of a few. All those victories and debacles added different colors to our painting.

2009. What is magical in this year? Nothing, unless we decide to try another brush to paint our picture. What about stopping for a while to think seriously if we ever had a dream for our painting? Are we really painting a picture without knowing what we want to paint? Well there is no harm if each one of us can not see the dream. Few months back, I took my ailing father to Niagara Falls. We had little preparation. The first glance at the entrance from the American side shattered all our hopes. We moves from place to place and each time we saw different Niagara falls. Finally we took a boat ride in the river bellow, and still we saw different but larger views of the fall when the boat moved. Maybe people who look at it from the Canadian side could see a still wider view, but unless they moved along the Canadian boarder, they wouldn't realize that there is nothing called "this is how Niagara falls look like". Same is true with the picture we are painting. Each one of us has a stroke there, and we make it without knowing how the final destiny of the portrait should look like.

This is the point we can sit back and think about. Lets think of things we have done right. The days we had bright colors. Take the day we won the World cup. Did we win world cups when Cricket was limited to few schools in Colombo or a particular social class? Those were the days we used to come home with injuries. We started to win after we let it go. Where did it go when it was free? To the lads who would play in the hot sun with a suitcase or umbrellas for a wicket, some piece of wood for a bat, and something roughly spherical for a ball. Those lads spoke some language not necessarily English. The destiny was a portrait rich in color everywhere. Any sample from it for the National pool was inevitably rich in capability. But, did it happen magically? No, the price was also high. The Cricket board has been a place for vigorous battles. One of the first battles was to get rid of those who inherited colonial practices. I think the same applies to the bigger picture we are painting. We have to dream of a day where we can proudly say we are an Asian role model for democracy, social justice, human development, and human rights. Why do we need human rights? Why should we care? Is it because some NGOs are yelling too hard? No. It is the perception of every citizen that his/her fundamental rights as a human is upheld by the country he/she lives in that makes one identify himself/herself as a citizen of that country with pride and a heartfelt love for that country. An oath can not do that. Note that it is the perception that matters, not what is written in the Law. Do all our citizens love the country with equal spirit? If not we have room for a new dream. Why do we need human development? The full potential of a human comes out when one is educated and trained to be productive. Otherwise, the population will not be an asset, but a burden to a country. Sri Lanka has the population of Canada or Australia. Are we harnessing the full potential of it? If not we have room for a new dream. Why do we need social justice? Is social justice for some elite segment of the society is enough? Do our Government institutes treat anybody who walks in to get a service with equal hospitality no matter what one wears, no matter how well they speak English, no matter the level of connections one shows? Have we ever heard stories where people from far away places like Jaffna, Hambantota, or Monaragala being asked to come again another day because some officer was not there to serve, while a son of a minister is given special seating and served in no time? If yes, we have room for a new dream. Why do we need democracy? Democracy is important because our final portrait will be ours if every one of us contributed a stroke of brush on the canvas of time.

A day will come when all of us can step back and look at our portrait and say "that is a pride of Asia". Till that day, lets work.

Happy new year to you all.

With best regards,

Thrishantha Nanayakkara
Radcliffe Fellow
Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University
Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

LTTE suicide bomb blast in Wattala - 8 killed, 17 injured - 28 Dec 2008


LTTE terrorists have carried out a suicide bomb attack near the sacred St Anne's church, Hekitta, Wattla in the north of Sri Lankan capital this morning (Dec 28). According to police sources, a male suicide bomber has exploded himself around 9 AM in front of the Civil Defence Force office on the church road.

Eight people have been killed and 17 others suffered injuries in the attack. An Army officer and 6 other CDF personnel were among those killed in the bomb blast. 13 CDF personnel and 4 civilians including a women were reported injured due to the bomb blast.

The injured have been admitted to Teaching Hospital, Ragama and National Hospital, Colombo. Sources in the Ragama hospital said that 2 of the 10 injured admitted to the hospital are in serious condition. Later, a CDF guard and a civilian who were among injured admitted to the National Hospital, Colombo had succumbed to injuries.

According to eyewitnesses, the suicide bomber had exploded himself when he was stopped by the security personnel on guard from entering the CDF office.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Astrology holds sway over Sri Lanka

"President Rajapaksa's horoscope is powerful...He will defeat the enemies and terrorists" - Sumanadasa Abeygunawardene, Astrologer


People in many countries believe in astrology, but horoscopes have a particularly enthusiastic following in Sri Lanka.

Many consult astrologers when choosing marriage partners, on when to start new jobs, or even to find out the auspicious time to leave their house in the morning. And politicians are said to be heavily influenced by the stars too.

At a wedding hall in Colombo, a bride and groom are sitting on a stage brightly decorated with paintings of Hindu gods. At their feet, several Hindu priests are breaking coconuts and lighting oil lamps, performing rituals to invoke blessings on the couple. The invitation was very precise, the ceremony would take place at what was described as the auspicious time of 1109 local time, as set by astrologers.

It was an arranged marriage, and astrology had been a key factor in deciding whether Vijayaruban and Umaranjini should wed. Their horoscopes had been examined to see if they were compatible. "It matched 85% or something," said Vijayaruban. "So it is a good thing. Both sets of parents are happy and we are happy." If the horoscopes had not been so attuned, he added, the family would have tried to find another girl for him to marry.

Astrological passport

Astrologers play a significant role in the lives of Sri Lankan people from the Tamil and Sinhala communities.

Eshwaran Kurukkal is the sixth generation in his family to perform the task, which is combined with priestly duties such as officiating at weddings. He is a member of the Brahmin caste. Every day, but especially on auspicious days, people come to visit him in his consulting rooms in his suburban Colombo house.

The astrologer wears traditional dress - a white sarong with a purple and gold border. He is bare-chested, with gold necklaces and diamond stud earrings. His long hair is pulled back, and his wrists, elbows, shoulders and forehead have three white stripes, marked with powder.

Mr Eshwaran is examining a client's horoscope, a printed book about the size of a passport. Inside there are sections for name, names of parents, and the positions of the stars and planets at the date and precise time of birth.

Many people keep the documents throughout their lives.

"We think if we didn't write a horoscope for a child when the child was born, it would be a very big sin," says Mr Eshwaran. "That is important, more important than a birth certificate."

Political star gazers

Belief in the stars is widespread in Sri Lanka where people routinely sit down to start work on the first day of a new job at auspicious times set by astrologers.

Even many politicians follow astrology, right up to heads of state.

"[Former president Ranasinghe] Premadasa was very much aware of astrological predictions for him, and would very often make his actions commensurate with that," says Bradman Weerakoon, who served as secretary or advisor to nine Sri Lankan leaders.

Mr Weerakoon says he is sure that Sri Lanka's first woman prime minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, was astrologically inclined and that current President Mahinda Rajapaksa is also "perhaps moved that way".

"I am sure elections, dates of elections and so on are very often set on politicians getting their horoscopes read and finding out what is the best time for them."

Of the leaders he has encountered, Mr Weerakoon says only opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe does not seem to be inclined towards astrology.

'Hero king'

It is to astrologer Sumanadasa Abeygunawardene that many politicians have turned.

He says he even advised President Rajapaksa on the auspicious time to leave his house in the deep south to vote in the 2005 elections in which he became Sri Lanka's leader.

"Twenty-five years back, I said there would be a hero king from Ruhuna, Matara, now he's the one, we believe, President Mahinda Rajapaksa," said Mr Abeygunawardene.

"So President Rajapaksa's horoscope is a powerful one. He is the one who will bring development to the country. He will defeat the enemies and terrorists."

Mr Abeygunawardene said he had seen the horoscope of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the Tamil Tigers.

He said the rebel's horoscope was more powerful than those of previous Sri Lankan presidents, but Mahinda Rajapaksa's was stronger still.

Back in the wedding hall, Vijayaruban and Umaranjini were just hoping their marriage would be successful.

Even though they did not know each other very well, they were confident they will have a happy life together.

It was, after all, written in the stars.

(By Roland Buerk, BBC News)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Featured Articles Archive

Palestinians unhappy with Abbas' frequent absences

The foreign trips have paid off, he said, even to Sri Lanka, which is not a major player in Mideast politics.

"The president's visit to Sri Lanka was very important," Hamad said. "This is a friendly country, and Abbas' photo is still in the airport of Sri Lanka."


RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — In four years as Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas has traveled to the far corners of the Earth, but never set foot in the West Bank's largest city, Hebron.

Ordinary Palestinians have long grumbled about their leader's travels abroad, despite ongoing crises at home. Those include trips to France and several Arab countries immediately after the Islamic militant group Hamas routed forces loyal to Abbas' Fatah party to take over the Gaza Strip in June 2007.

Abbas aides say he's helping the Palestinian cause by rallying international support. They say the day-to-day government is the prime minister's job and Abbas, who was in Chechnya on Sunday, is continuing a pattern set by his predecessor, frequent flier Yasser Arafat.

"The world is still supporting us ... simply because of our efforts, the efforts of President Abbas and before that the late president, Yasser Arafat," said Abbas aide Nimr Hamad.

But the globetrotting Abbas was reminded recently by Fatah district leaders that he had never been to Hebron as president. Abbas, who also hasn't been to the nearby towns of Jenin, Qalqiliya and Tulkarem as president either, told the Fatah chiefs he'd get out more often. On Monday, his office said he would visit Hebron later this week, after attending Christmas festivities in Bethlehem.

The president's leadership style is becoming more of an issue now that he must win a new mandate. His opponents say his four-year term ends in early January, and he has said he'll call new elections. But there's also a possibility he will simply stay on as president, over Hamas' objections.

Either way, his performance, including the loss of Gaza and his failure to reach a peace deal with Israel, will come under more scrutiny as he struggles for renewed political legitimacy.

Commentator Hani al-Masri said Abbas has little to show for his years in office and, instead, will be remembered as the leader on whose watch Palestinian territories were torn in half.

Al-Masri said he believes Abbas tries to go abroad often, in part, to avoid dealing with the burning domestic issues. "We have very complicated problems that he couldn't handle, the split, the corruption, the occupation," said al-Masri, a writer for the pro-government Al Ayyam daily.

Since 2005, Abbas has visited dozens of countries — several of them repeatedly.

The list includes many Arab and European countries, as well as Chile, Mauritania, India, Sri Lanka, China, Japan, Brazil, New Zealand, Pakistan, Senegal, Malta, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mali and Brunei.

On Friday, he met President George W. Bush in Washington. He then headed to Moscow, but first stopped in Chechnya.

Since the West Bank doesn't have an airport, Abbas must cross into neighboring Jordan, where he often spends extra time at his villa there. He takes his private plane on short trips, but the United Arab Emirates lends him a larger plane for longer hauls.

When he's in the West Bank, he usually stays in the city of Ramallah, shuttling between his home there and his nearby government compound. The only other West Bank towns he's visited in his official capacity are Nablus, Jericho and Bethlehem.

Last month, Fatah district leaders met with Abbas to discuss the future of the movement, which lost parliament elections to Hamas in 2006 and has been unable to reform itself or regain its popularity.

Participants, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of angering Abbas, said they urged him to visit their districts and help boost Fatah support. They noted that even foreign leaders seem to be getting around the West Bank more than Abbas.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and international Mideast envoy Tony Blair have all visited the West Bank town of Jenin, held up as a model of Abbas' law-and-order reforms, while Abbas has not.

"We are dissatisfied with President Abbas for not visiting Jenin," said Mansour al-Saadi, a Fatah spokesman from the area. "People are asking why, and we have no answer."

Abbas needs to be more involved, said Jenin resident Ziyad Shalbak, 48. "We understand that he is conveying our message to the globe, but to do so, he has to meet us first and listen to our voice," Shalbak said.

Abbas is a reticent leader, more comfortable working with associates than facing large crowds. He was a reluctant campaigner during his 2005 presidential run. According to recent polls, he'd defeat a Hamas rival in presidential elections, but jailed uprising leader Marwan Barghouti of Fatah would do better.

Hamad, the Abbas aide, said the president is simply following procedure by allowing Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and district governors to do their jobs.

The foreign trips have paid off, he said, even to Sri Lanka, which is not a major player in Mideast politics.

"The president's visit to Sri Lanka was very important," Hamad said. "This is a friendly country, and Abbas' photo is still in the airport of Sri Lanka."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Sri Lanka expects 8 per cent GNP growth

The Government expects to bring Sri Lanka to middle income level by raising the annual per capita income to Rs. 485,000 by 2016 by increasing the Gross National Product with a minimum annual growth rate of eight per cent under the 10-year development program, said Labour Relations and Manpower Minister Athauda Seneviratne.

The Minister said it is necessary to increase productivity as well as investment to ensure a higher rate of development. Even by international standards, Sri Lanka’s productivity both in the public and private sector is at a low level.

“We want to increase the Gross National Product at least with a 30 per cent investment level and also by maintaining productivity level between four and five per cent right throughout,” the Minister added.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sri Lanka rupee hits a new 14-month low


Sri Lanka Rupee (LKR) and the US Dollar (USD) between 1994 and 2004


Sri Lanka Rupee (LKR) and the US Dollar (USD) between 6/26/2008 and 12/22/2008

The Sri Lankan rupee (LKR) fell 0.3 percent in early trading on Tuesday to 112.30/112.50 per dollar, its lowest level in 14-months, dealers said, predicting more selling pressure for the currency in weeks ahead. The rupee hit its weakest since level on Oct. 24, 2007, Reuters data showed. At 0606 GMT the currency was trading at 112.60/80, down 0.6 percent.

Currency dealers from two foreign banks and three local banks said that a state bank, which usually represents the central bank bought dollars at 112.15 soon after trading started.

"This state bank is seen buying dollars between 112.15/25 levels and the rupee fell to 112.30 level after this," one dealer said.

Traders said that with the gradual rupee depreciation allowed by the central bank since Dec. 8 the currency was likely to slide further to around 113.50 by the end of the year.

The rupee has fallen over 2.1 percent since Dec. 8 and 3.9 percent since Oct. 30, when the central bank permitted limited depreciation of the rupee to help improve the competitiveness of the country's exports and abandoned its defence of the 108 level.

The rupee hit its life low of 113.45/65 per dollar on Sept. 19, 2007.

Many analysts say the central bank allowed the rupee to depreciate to meet one of the conditions set by the International Monetary Fund for possible funding.

The IMF warned Sri Lanka of a risk of a balance of payment crisis and recommended a more flexible exchange rate regime to avoid disruptive flows of short-term speculative capital.

The central bank has said, however, the country would not seek IMF funding if it required changes in its economic policies.

Cricket-Sri Lanka dissolve Ranatunga-led cricket board

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's government-appointed cricket board headed by Arjuna Rantunga was dissolved on Tuesday, Sri Lanka Cricket said.

"Minister of Sports and Public Recreation Gamini Lokuge has dissolved the Sri Lanka Cricket Interim Committee with immediate effect," a media statement said.

Ranatunga, Sri Lanka's 1996 World Cup-winning captain, was appointed chairman of Sri Lanka Cricket in January.

Sports ministry secretary S. Liyanagama has been appointed to oversee the day-to-day affairs of the cricket administration until a new management committee is installed.

Lokuge has the option of calling board elections or appointing a fresh government-controlled interim committee.

"We will take a decision within a week," Lokuge said.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Troops capture Sinnaparanthan

KILINOCHCHI: Troops of the 58 Division successfully consolidated their position in the SINNAPARANTHAN area located 6km west of PARANTHAN this morning (23). Massive offences were launched by the troops of the 58 Division inflicting heavy damages on the LTTE terrorists. During subsequent search operations troops recovered the body of one LTTE terrorist along with a T-56 assault rifle.

Swarnavahini "Rana Bimen" - Wanni Operation - 21 Dec 2008

Free Tamil civilians or face ban, Rajapaksa warns LTTE

Following the address, the President was having a friendly discussion with the Chief Minister of Eastern Province Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan and MP Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa Monday threatened to outlaw the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist group if it did not allow Tamils living in its control to move to government-held areas.

Rajapaksa, who is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and the defence minister, made the statement while addressing officials, groups of clergy, professionals and several others here.

'Rajapaksa called on the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) that with the dawn of 2009 it should release all innocent Tamil people it is holding hostage and in bondage using them as human shields and allow them to come to safe areas provided by the government and security forces,' the president's office said.

'Failure to do this would lead the government proscribing the LTTE and they (rebels) will face all its consequences as a terrorist organisation thereafter,' Rajapaksa was quoted as saying.

The LTTE has already been listed as a terrorist group in various countries including India, the US and the 27-member European Union.

The LTTE was first banned in Sri Lanka in 1983 following the introduction of the emergency regulation. The ban was revoked when the regulation was withdrawn in 1987.

The ban was re-imposed in January 1998 after a suspected LTTE attack on the Buddhist tooth-relic temple in Kandy. It was revoked in 2002 after the signing of the Norwegian-brokered ceasefire agreement.

Rajapaksa's remarks came as heavy fighting raged in the districts of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu, the last of the strongholds of the LTTE in the island's north.

The LTTE has been fighting to carve out a separate state for Tamils in the north and east of the island for a quarter century.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Human Rights Watch Report “Trapped & Mistreated” - At last...

by Malin Abeyatunge

Human Rights Watch latest 17 page reports titled “Trapped and Mistreated” (as per extract reproduced by print media) shows at last they now see LTTE terrorist outfit in its true colors. It is pleased to learn that HRW has at last made some endeavour to see the LTTE’s human rights violation in its true perspective. If one peruses HRW’s previous Media Releases or reports, there was tendency of showing complacency on LTTE’s gross human rights violation but was only critical of the operations of GoSL against LTTE. GoSL. It became a norm to place LTTE Tamil Tiger Terrorists on par with GoSL when it reported the terrorist conflict in Sri Lanka. Certain HRW reports were targeted in tarnishing the image of Sri Lanka whilst totaling ignoring the atrocities and human rights violations committed by LTTE. There had been instances that HRW was very critical of GoSL when one or two civilians getting called in cross fires (collateral damage) but dumb founded when 74 innocent Afghan civilians who were having a wedding ceremony were killed by the Allied forces. That was HRW’s stance up to most recent times.

This is what HRW said in their last annual report “says thus re Sri Lanka “More than 1100 new disappearances or abductions were reported in Sri Lanka between January 2006 and 2007 with the vast majority of victims being Tamils. In the continuing conflict between the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) both sides show little regard for the safety and well being of civilians”.

And this is what HRW reports today in their 17 page report titled “Trapped and Mistreated”.

"In the report "Trapped and Mistreated," the HRW called upon the LTTE to allow civilians leave areas under its control; to respect the right to freedom of movement and the right to move to government-controlled territory for safety; Stop all forced recruitment; end all abductions and coercion; end all recruitment of children under the age of 18; cease the use of children in military operations; release all its child combatants including those recruited when children but were now over the age of 18; to stop all abusive or unpaid forced labor, including what it characterizes as voluntary; cease demanding that all families provide labor to the LTTE; stop forcing civilians to engage in labor directly related to the conduct of military operations, such as constructing trenches and bunkers; Provide humanitarian agencies and UN agencies safe and unhindered access to areas under its control, and guarantee the security of all humanitarian and UN workers, including Wanni residents working as humanitarian or UN staff."

The recent trend in seeing things in its true perspective is pleasing and most welcome and hope that HRW will continue to issue balanced reports in future without just quoting crap information extracted from Tamil NET or other LTTE propaganda websites.

There were hundreds of letters, articles, media releases by various organizations and individuals both in Sri Lanka and outside, continuous editorials in local papers (not all) have been written about the atrocities and human rights violations committed by LTTE over the last 25 years but the so called humanitarian monitors and observers never paid any attention to them but instead relied only on false propaganda disseminated by LTTE ‘s global propaganda network in preparing their reports.

The atrocities and human rights violations committed by LTTE were brought to the notice of the HRW, Amnesty International, UN Bodies and other humanitarian organizations in the world, heads of countries not once but umpteen number of times by the above mentioned groups and thro various government sources. It’s heartening to note that almost the same human rights violations committed over the years by LTTE and brought to the notice of the International Community have finally come to the light of HRW’s latest report “Trapped and Mistreated” report appearing to look like their newest findings...

Prof Rajiva Wijesinghe, Secretary General, Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process, comments in Daily News (17/12/2008) in respect of HRW’s report:

"Human Rights Watch, though it had been critical of the LTTE previously, had seemed over the last twelve months to aim for some sort of spurious balance in soft-pedalling its criticism of the LTTE whilst engaging in emotional and sometimes totally fraudulent attacks on the Sri Lankan Forces.

Now however the suffering to which the LTTE is subjecting Tamils seems to have got the better even of HRW’s ambiguities. The latest pronouncement on Sri Lanka says ‘Sri Lanka’s separatist Tamil Tigers are subjecting ethnic Tamils in their northern stronghold, the Vanni, to forced recruitment, abusive forced labour, and restrictions on movement that place their lives at risk... The LTTE has a long history of forced recruitment."

It is also pleasing to note that the latest HRW reports emphasized the latest human rights violation by LTTE on the trapped innocent Tamil civilians in the Wanni by holding them back forcibly and placing restrictions on their free movement into government-held territory. However HRW has also missed one point here that LTTE is using older men as human shield by forcibly conscripting them and prohibiting their move to safer areas under government control. Whether HRW has mentioned in their 17 page report of LTTE’s looting of essential foods, medicines and other basic material meant for the IDP’s I don’t know.

However, it’s never too late than never. HRW has finally come to learn the true nature of LTTE and its brutal human rights violations and it will be appreciated if HRW continues to report balanced view on the whole issue in future.

Civilians coming to cleared areas - Wanni Operation - 20 Dec 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bruce Fein US Attorney for the terrorists, at the Bar

By Charles.S.Perera

Bruce Fein the Attorney for the LTTE terrorist Front Group called the US Tamil Group, says that he has selected Sarath Fonseka and Gotabhaya Rajapkse, one as a citizen and the other as a permanent resident alien for whom USA is responsible as moral, and legal matters, for genocide prosecution under the United State Genocide Accountability Act of 2007.

But the hitch is that the Act requires that the offense is committed in whole or in part within the United States, and if the genocide had been committed outside USA, conduct required for the offence should have occurred.

Let us first examine what is, genocide. Genocide is a word made up to mean "race killing", introduced by a Polish scholar Rafael Lemkin, who thought it inacceptable that there is no law to punish as a criminal offence, the violence aimed to obliterate a human community not because for something they have done but because of who they are in belonging to a religious community, ethnic clan, or a racial group.

Lemkin carried out a campaign to make "genocide" a punishable offence in International Law. It resulted in it being accepted by the UN General Assembly in 1948
as a Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It all began as a result of the holocaust in which millions of Jews, and Gypsies were systematically massacred in gas chamber, by the German Nazi Regime under Hitler, whose intention was to eliminate the Jewish race .

Nevertheless, it took forty years for the US Congress to ratify the UN Convention, enacting in 1988,the Genocide Convention Implementation Act of 1987, known as the Proxmire Act, after Senator William Proxmire. The length of time taken by USA to make the enactment shows that the accusation for genocide is fraught with danger, and the holocaust was only one of its kind. And an atrocious one at that, which we wish with all our hearts will never repeat itself.

Therefore, Bruce Fein's attempt to accuse Army Commander Mr. Sarath Fonseka and Defence Secretary Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapakse for genocide and bring them before an American Court of Justice is a fanciful idea put out to fool the terrorist Front Group, which has engaged him at a substantial retainer.

Just because the United States has its Genocide Accountability Act of 2007, does not mean that Attorneys like Bruce Fein could accuse any one for this offence and bring him before an American Court of Justice under the GAA.

There are certain requirements to accuse someone for genocide, which under the Act are called the conduct required for the acts to become genocide under the GAA.

There are in fact five acts constituting genocide when committed with genocidal intent. They are:

1. Killing members of a religious community, an ethnic clan or a racial group;

2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of a religious community, an ethnic clan or a racial group

3. Deliberately inflicting on members of a religious community, an ethnic clan or a racial group, conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction;

4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within members of a religious community, an ethnic clan or a racial group

5. Forcibly transferring children of members of a religious community, an ethnic clan or a racial group, to another religious community, an ethnic clan or a racial group.

The Commander of the Army Mr. Sarath Fonseka, and the Defence Secretary Mr.Gotabhaya Rajapakse, have been engaged by the President of Sri Lanka, to take military action against a group of terrorists in the North and East of the Country, who kill, maim, kidnap, torture, massacre Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala civilians, kill their opponents, and murder politician using suicide bombs, and claymore explosives , with a view to end terrorism in Sri Lanka.

The terrorist are of Tamil Origin. But they live apart from the Tamil Civilian Communities in the North using them as their resource for forced "recruitment" of children, and conscript the physically able elders , for their fighting cadre, and keep the rest as a protective shield.

The Tamil population is quite apart from the terrorists, not accepting them as their representatives, or hold voluntary allegiance to them. Therefore, in removing the terrorists from their occupied territories in military action, the Government Armed Forces are not removing the Tamil people who are the rightful citizens of Sri Lanka. The Tamil Community enjoys freedom and all the privileges common to all citizens of Sri Lanka of whatever Community.

The Tamil Community is not restricted to the North and East. Well over 50 percent of them live in the South with the Sinhala, the Muslim, and the other Communities. Therefore, there is no war or intimidation against the Tamil population for their ethnicity, religion or race.

If Bruce Fein has to indict any one on his false notion of "genocide", it has to be the President of Sri Lanka, and not the Army Commander and the Defence Secretary of the Government, because, they act on the orders of the President, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

If Bruce Fein dares indict the President of the Government of Sri Lanka, for "Genocide" , then he has to indict the people of Sri Lanka as a whole including those Tamils, Muslims, Sinhala and others, who voted to elect democratically the President, going on his election manifesto, where he has promised the people to put and end to three decades of terrorism.

But, that being a mere argument to show the absurdity of Bruce Fein's pretentious , " I have prepared an approximately 400+ page model indictment etc.", it has to be pointed out to him, that the length of his model indictment has nothing to do with the fact of genocide he claims fall within the GAA.

Bruce Fein is challenged to answer how military action, which had been proceeded by several attempts for peace negotiation with the world's most ruthless terrorist group, banned by 33 countries of the International Community, could be "genocide" in terms of the GAA, if this group of terrorists does not fall within the definition of the Act, as constituting genocide committed with genecidal intent, on members of a religious community, an ethnic clan or a racial group. They are terrorists and therefore, not members of a religious community, an ethnic clan, or a racial group.

Bruce Fein in making out a group of ruthless terrorist for his purposes as an " ethnic clan or a racial group" is attempting to make travesty of the law that Polish Scholar Rafael Lemkin and the U.S.Senator William Proxmire fought so hard, first to integrate into a UN Convention and, then to have it ratified as a US Legislative Act.

Al-Queida, and the Talibans are groups of terrorists moved by religious fervour. Therefore, does Bruce Fein consider, that the American war against terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan in which according to Opinion Research Business Survey in 2007, a total of 1,033,000 Iraqis alone had met with violent death, genocide under the Genocide Accountability Act ?

Bruce Fein, may perhaps have heard the quotation attributed to Abraham Lincoln, that you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time. Well if you know it, please apply it to your self.

With your 400+ page Model Indictment, you can fool your retainers the US Tamil Group, but not the honourable Justices of the United States Courts of Justice . They will see through your plea for justice for a group of terrorists, as an Attorney's brief to earn his retention fee, as the devil's advocate.

In fact tables may be turned on Bruce Fein, being accused by the US Court of Justice under US Patriotic Act against terrorism, for aiding and abetting a terrorist group in Sri Lankan which has been banned in USA, by taking a brief from the terrorist proxy US Tamil Group , and for false accusation with a view to hinder the execution of its lawful duties of providing defence and security , and to bring disrepute to a Sovereign State for its just war against terrorism.

It is not worth even writing to meet Bruce Fein's arguments, stuffed with incoherent reference to Mahavamasa, Buddhism and Dharmapala, which may have come strait from Narapalasinghams rigmaroles dished out to pro terrorist websites.

Fein's Model Indictment may have been good material for Molière, who was a French playwright considered as one of the greatest masters of comedy, to write a play such as Tartuffe ou l'Imposteur, (Tartuffe or the Hypocrite), L'Avare ou l'École du mensonge (The Miser or the School of falsehood), or Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (The Middle Class Gentleman). It would be a great success on a French stage.

Other than that there seems to be no great interest in Fein's Model Indictment of 400+ pages. Meeting him for a debate will only be giving credence to a lopsided brief of an Attorney, which is best left to whither on the imaginary branch where it began to grow.

Navy shatters LTTE logistics vessel off Mullaitivu - 20 Dec 2008

Sunanda Deshapriya resigns from the CPA amid financial fraud allegations

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Karu casts the die

Last week the long awaited crossover of Karu Jayasuriya finally took place. This column had been reporting for some weeks now on the developments in this regard. Hence what was surprising was not Jayasuriya’s crossover, but the fact that he went alone. That came as a surprise even to the present columnist. There were others in the UNP(D) group who were disgruntled and given that fact, we fully expected at least two or three to follow him. Jayasuriya was not really one of the disgruntled MPs and from the fact that he crossed over alone, what that clearly shows is that whatever grievances the others had was not of a magnitude to warrant a crossover.

It would appear that not one of them had been negotiating with the UNP at the same pace as Jayasuriya. Before that crucial working committee meeting last week, which reinstated Jayasuriya in the position of deputy leader, the UNP operations committee met at Sirikotha and decided to halt the disciplinary inquiry against Jayasuriya only. A little while later, the working committee met and the first item of business that Wickremesinghe brought up was to appoint Jayasuriya as the deputy leader with Rukman Senanayake as the assistant leader and Gamini Jayawickreme Perera as the party chairman.

Sarcastic banter

At this, parliamentarian Dayasiri Jayasekera stood up and suggested that since several had applied for these posts, it would be best to hold an election within the working committee. Kolonnawa organizer and former minister Karunasena Kodituwakku spoke up against an election and said that this was a time when the party had to pull itself together and a contest for posts would create divisions. So it came to pass that Jayasuriya became deputy leader without a contest. In lighter vein, Palitha Range Bandara posed the question now that Karu Jayasuriya has been reinstated and the disciplinary proceedings against him dropped, would those who criticized Jayasuriya after he left the party now have to face disciplinary action? To this the party leader had jokingly replied that they would hold a disciplinary inquiry but instead of punishment, they would get a promotion.

Then Thalatha Arukorale chuckled that there was a problem in the Ratnapura district which still does not have a district leader and that either Susantha Punchinilame or Mahinda Ratnatilleke (Both of whom joined the government direct without being part of the UNP(D) group) be appointed to this post. To this the party leader had banteringly replied that could be done too.

The next person to stand up was parliamentarian Cader Hajjiar of Gampola. He said that he applied for the position of assistant leader and wanted to know whether he was overlooked because he was a member of a minority. To this Wickremesinghe had replied that Cader Hajjiar was the Muslim leader of the UNP and that they should discuss this after partaking of some of his delicious biriyani!

The working committee meeting lacked the solemnity that one would normally expect when they had just appointed the number two for the party. The disappointment of the younger MPs was almost palpable. What they had wanted in a deputy leader was a man who could compensate for what was lacking in the leader and could pave the way for the UNP to come into power. What they wanted was not a stop gap measure to keep Sajith and SB out but someone on whom some hope could be reposed.

On Wednesday the week before last, the UNP(D) group held their final meeting with Karu Jayasuriya in the chair. Speaking on this occasion, Rajitha Senaratne stated that they had left on the premise that they would not return so long as Ranil Wickremesinghe was the leader of the UNP. To this Jayasuriya had replied that they came to introduce reforms in the UNP. To this Senaratne replied that, that was not true and that their endeavour was to remove Ranil from the party. Secondly, Senaratne has continued, they wanted unity to save the country from the scourge of terrorism and that the government was now in the final stages of defeating the LTTE. In such a situation, Jayasuriya returning to the UNP alone was not good and that he had no right to do so.

Jayasuriya responded that he was going for a personal reason. Senaratne said that they had quit as a team and had made decisions together. Jayasuriya simply could not decamp citing personal reasons. However the UNP(D) group was not able to convince Jayasuriya to change his mind and at this stage the other members of the group instructed Senaratne to inform the president of this situation.

President unsurprised

When Senaratne went to the president, Rajapaksa was not surprised. He told Senaratne that Jayasuriya had been of such a mind for a long time. When the UNP(D) group member of Polonnaruwa, C. A. Suriyarachchi, had sent people’s representatives below him to join the SLFP, Jayasuriya had found fault with Suriyarachchi. The president had then realised that Jayasuriya was going to return to the UNP sooner or later. The president stated that he did not ask people to come nor has he asked anyone to go and if Karu was going, he would wish him all the best. Karu also should think about his own future.

On Monday, the UNP working committee decided to re-appoint Jayasuriya as the deputy leader and Jaysuriya requested an appointment with the president on Tuesday to keep him posted. At this meeting with the president, he said that he is going to return to his ‘mahagedara’ and that he is grateful to the president for the manner in which he was treated from the day he joined the government, that he had been given a responsible ministry and had been allowed a free hand to work. Their friendship should continue and that he (the president) was a good hearted person and a patriot.

The president thanked Jayasuriya for having supported the government and brought 16 other UNP members to the government. He also said that when Jayasuriya joined the government, the UNP launched a mud-slinging campaign against him (Karu) and they mentioned the IOC deal, the Lanka Marine Services deal and the COPE report and called him a rogue. Rajapaksa said that he would see to it that nobody in the government slings mud at Jayasuriya when he goes back to the UNP. The president then wished Jayasuriya all the best and they parted company, after which the president went to see the other 16 members of the UNP(D) group who were waiting for him in a different room. The first thing the president told the 16 was that their leader had just spoken to him and left.

This was the most civilized parting of ways that had taken place in local politics in recent times. In late 2001, when the UNP was negotiating with potential crossovers from the PA government, it was done in the utmost secrecy. Most of the time negotiations were carried out inside vehicles with Gamini Atukorale driving and Karu Jayasuriya seated in front with Rajitha Senaratne and the jittery potential crossover sitting uneasily in the rear seat. The discussions were carried out with the vehicle parked in the dark and the negotiators would not use the same mobile phone twice – so great was the need for secrecy because the crossovers feared for their very lives.

But Jayasuriya’s impending crossover was discussed for weeks in the press without any threats being directed at him. And the government has shown no interest in slinging mud at him either. That shows how times have changed. When Karu J joined the government less than two years ago, parliament resounded to cries of ‘hora’ aimed at Jayasuriya and the story floated by the UNP was that he joined the government to escape prosecution over the Lanka Marine Services deal which was exposed by COPE. That too shows how times have changed. When a group of UNPers among whom were Dr Sarath Amunugama, Wijepala Mendis, Dr Stanley Kalpage and others joined the government, in 1999, at the height of Chandrika Kumaratunga’s power, the UNP uttered not a word against them.

Jayasuriya’s consistency

It must of course be said that from the day he crossed over, Jayasuriya was consistent in one thing and that was that he was not going to join the SLFP. When the president invited members of the UNP(D) group to become SLFP organizers and start work, there was no response from Jayasuriya so his crossover could not have come as a surprise to the president. Jayasuriya too for his part made it an amicable parting by voting with the government at the budget one last time before he left. After Jayasuriya left the government, the UNP put out a letter of resignation purported to be written by Jayasuriya which said among other things that he was leaving the government because the only person who can uplift the economy of the country was Ranil wickremesinghe. When news about this began to circulate, the president called Jayasuriya and asked him about this purported letter of resignation and Jayasuriya’s reply was that he knew nothing about it and that it could be a gimmick of the UNP media unit.

How Karu Jayasuriya is going to fare in the UNP is the million dollar question. Today, he has been taken back to the UNP as deputy leader in order to thwart S. B. Dissanayake and Sajith Premadasa who were both eying that post. In fact for Wickremesinghe, it was providential that Jayasuriya returned at the time that he did because the week before last, three parliamentarians had come forward and recommended Sajith Premadasa’s name in writing for the position of deputy leader. S.B.Dissanayake had announced his own candidature and asked for a secret ballot within the working committee and some other parliamentarians had suggested Vajira Abeywardene’s name and the battle lines were drawn. If Wickremesinghe did not fill those posts quickly, matters would have come to a head and Wickremesinghe would have been compelled to allow a vote within the working committee to select a deputy leader. As this column has pointed out on numerous occasions, Wickremesinghe would not wish the appointment of a deputy leader to slip from his hands because that would be the beginning of the end as far as his hold over the UNP was concerned.

Sajith Premadasa, one of the key contenders for the post, was present at last week’s working committee meeting which decided to re-appoint Karu Jayasuriya but he did not say a word. S. B. Dissanayake the other key contender was not present at all because he would have wanted to avoid saying either yes or no to Karu J if a vote was taken in the working committee on the matter. To many in the UNP working committee his re-appointment was a joke. The banter and sarcastic cross talk was such that it can be said that there was not the solemnity to be seen when such important appointments are made. Things may be quiet for the moment, but the present columnist would confidently predict that after the Central Province and Wayamba elections are over, the UNP will begin discussing this appointment anew.

SB to the rescue

Jayasuriya was never taken seriously by Wickremesinghe’s inner circle even in the best of times. If one peruses past issues of the most pro-UNP newspapers during the UNP regime of 2001-2004, one will come across many uncomplimentary things said about Jayasuriya when he was a senior minister in the UNP government and the deputy leader of the party getting over a quarter of a million preference votes at the elections. To give just one example of how he was treated at the height of the UNP’s power, there was a meeting of the UNP government’s cost of living committee sometime in late 2002. Karu Jayasuriya was chairing the meeting and Charitha Ratwatte the then Secretary of the Treasury and Ministers, S.B.Dissanayake, Bandula Gunawardene and Milinda Moragoda among others were present.

Jayasuriya told Ratwatte who is a close Wickremsinghe protégé, that the cost of living has to be brought down. Pat came the answer from Ratwatte that there is a way to do it. Jayasuriya asked how and Ratwatte said that allocations to his ministry could be cut and the monies saved could be utilized to subsidize essential commodities. Jayasuriya, who is usually slow on the uptake in such matters, had naively asked by what percentage his allocations needed to be cut and Ratwatte’s triumphant answer was one hundred percent!

A horrified Jayasuriya had exclaimed, "How can you do that?" S.B.Dissanayake, who had been listening to this exchange between Jayasuriya and Ratwatte, unable to bear the presumptuous attitude of the Treasury Secretary, had pitched into Ratwatte reminding him that he was only an official and that everybody else present were ministers. He should remember that he was talking to the deputy leader of the UNP and a senior minister. Dissanayake, true to form, had then proceeded to give Ratwatte a mighty dressing down questioning among other things, even his educational qualifications, with Dissanayake stating that he has a ‘class’ (meaning that he passed his degree with merit) whereas Ratwatte has nothing of the sort. It was Dissanayake who rescued Jayasuriya that day from the bullying of a Wickremesinghe protégé. Thus ended the UNP’s cost of living cabinet sub-committee.

When R. Premadasa was the second in command of the UNP, no official would have dared to talk to him like that and when Ranil Wickremesinghe was the second in command of the D.B.Wijetunga government, no official would have dared to talk like that to him either.

Delusions of grandeur

That was when Jayasuriya was riding high. But now that he has returned to the party after having defected to the government and lost much of his credibility in the process of switching sides, how he will be treated is a moot point. What we can say about this whole sorry episode is that all this is the result of promoting non-politicians to political posts. Jayasuriya was one of the first such appointments that Wickremesinghe made. When people are catapulted to positions in that manner, it is not long before they begin to think of themselves differently. Jayasuriya became Mayor of Colombo in 1997. By 2001, he had become deputy leader of the party and was declaring during a meeting convened at Ravi Karunanayke’s house that D.S.Senanayake had appeared to him in a dream and told him to take over the party! Jaysuriya was always a nice man even before he entered politics and nobody has a bad word against him. But leadership is not his forte. He took 17 people out of the UNP and returned alone – that’s not leadership!

When Chandrika Kumaratunga left the SLFP in 1984 and returned around 1993, she brought back not only those who had left, but many more besides. When she came back, she was leading a splinter group the Bahujana Nidahas Peramuna. But the leader of the BNP became president and she made the deputy leader of this splinter group Ratnasiri Wickremenayake the prime minister and all other office bearers of her tiny party became ministers under her. It was with her that the LSSP and the CP in addition to one faction of the SLMP came back to the SLFP. That was leadership.

It’s a tragedy that political animals like Rajitha Senaratne who have been in politics from their students days and in the Janawegaya group of the SLFP have had to be under the leadership of political newcomers like Jayasuriya. Such things can happen only within the UNP. It’s unthinkable for even Harry Jayawardene who has for long been associated with the SLFP to solemnly declare to an audience of SLFP parliamentarians that either Mrs Sirima Bandaranaike or S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike appeared to him in a dream and wanted him to take over the party.

‘Kurullo ranchuwa’

When the JVP politburo met last week, the first topic taken up for discussion was the crossover of Jayasuriya to the UNP. Commenting on this, JVP parliamentary group leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that Karu Jayasuriya was going back to the UNP and that the true colours of those who joined the government to strengthen the hands of the president was only now becoming evident. Parliamentarian K.D.Lal Kantha said that this government was a bundle of contradictions, with theoreticians of the open economy and advocates of a national economy and committed federalists and vehement anti-terrorism activists all sitting together. This was not a government that had come together on a matter of principle. Vijitha Herath said that this government was like a flock of birds sitting on the same branch and any bird was free to fly off to another branch at any moment. Anura Dissanayake said that Karu has no shame, the government has no shame, Ranil has no shame, and what this episode shows is the absolute shamelessness of all these people.

Lal Kantha said that some government big shots were talking nonsense by saying that they were not going in for a parliamentary election at this stage in order to help the JVP. This was a joke in the context where the government failed to adhere to even basic political courtesies with regard to the parliamentary seat vacated by Wasantha Samarasinghe. This was a reference to the comments made at the last meeting of the government parliamentary group by the president saying that he had been helped by the JVP to come into power and that if he dissolves parliament at this time, the JVP stands to lose many of the parliamentary seats they have at the moment and also the sitting MPs would not qualify for a pension. Therefore he had to wait at least until April 2009 before going for a dissolution of parliament.

Parliamentarian Vijitha Herath presented the interim report of the parliamentary select committee on non-governmental organizations to the politburo and said that many NGOs had done things inimical to national security and that there were serious financial irregularities in some organizations. Herath reported that they had suggested that a presidential commission be appointed to look into the activities of NGOs. He stated that there was the possibility of this report also being swept under the carpet like the COPE report and that the JVP should build up public opinion to prevent such a thing from happening.

Last Monday morning, when the JNP (Weerawansa faction) parliamentary group met in parliament, they were aware that Karu Jayasuriya was on the verge of re-joining the UNP and they decided to vote for the budget. The JNP pointes out that had they not voted for the budget, the 126 votes received by the government would have gone down to 114 and had Jayasuriya voted against the budget, it would have gone down to 113 and this would have given ideas to those within the government who want to see the UNP back in power. When the JNP politburo met last week, the main topic once again was Jayasuriya’s crossover.

Parliamentarian Nandana Gunatilleke said that Jayasuriya’s original promise was that he would support the government until the LTTE was defeated once and for all. But now, at a crucial stage when the battle has entered the final phase, his return to the UNP is the result of an international conspiracy and that an international conspiracy has been launched to safeguard the LTTE. Parliamentarian Mohamed Muzammil said that the JNP should have a discussion with the president about this national and international conspiracy and that if necessary the JNP should consider direct involvement in the UPFA government.

(Quoted from Sunday Island paper)

Troops move forward from Paranthan defence bund - Wanni Operation - 19 Dec 2008

Parliament has the control over Public Finance

Chapter XVII - Article 148 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka 1978 states:

Parliament shall have full control over public finance. No tax, rate on any other levy shall be imposed by any local authority or any other public authority, except by or under the authority of a law passed by Parliament or of any existing law.

Only the Cabinet and the Parliament have rights to decide on imposing taxes, Sri Lanka government says

Dec 19, Colombo: Sri Lanka government today stressed that the Cabinet and the Parliament only have rights to decide on imposing taxes in the country.

Speaking at a press briefing held in Colombo this morning Consumer Affairs Minister Bandula Gunawardena said that nobody could interfere with this right.

Responding to a question made by the journalists on clash between the government and the Supreme Courts on fuel issue the Minister added that the price of petrol will remain unchanged.

According to the Minister the current fuel shortage was made by the shed owners and the main opposition to collapse the government.

Addressing the same press briefing the Media Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa also confirmed that the price of petrol will remain unchanged at least until next Wednesday. The Cabinet is to take up the issue on next Tuesday (23) when they meet again.

Friday, December 19, 2008

SL Troops Captured LTTE Defence Lines in Kilinochchi



The Sri Lankan government said Thursday that the forces have captured critical Tamil Tiger fortifications in the rebels' de facto capital of Kilinochchi amid heavy clashes between the two sides.

The Sri Lankan military said that a 17-km long ditch barrier around Kilinochchi was seized and would help clear the way for a final assault on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants in the area. This would force them to seek refuge in a small area in their capital, reports said.

Other sections of the lengthy fortifications are reportedly in the rebels' hands. Though the military had earlier said that Kilinochchi would be captured soon, the heavy rains and the rebels' resistance are reportedly keeping the government forces from taking over the town.

A defense ministry report said that the military carried out at least 10 bombing sorties against Tamil Tiger positions Wednesday. The rebels on the other hand claimed that the government attack was repelled and more than 170 soldiers were killed in the clashes.

The LTTE has been fighting a fierce military campaign against the Sri Lankan government forces for more than two decades for a separate homeland for the minority Tamil community in the country.

“Suriya Sinha” Awards Presented by Mawbima Lanka Foundation

“Suriya Sinha” Awards, an annual awards ceremony of the Mawbima Lanka Foundation was held at the BMICH last morning (18).

The event saw 46 Sri Lankan home grown corporates being awarded brand names while 300 were presented with Suriya Sinha Award. ITN and Lakhanda Radio were honoured for their media role on innovations.

The http://www.gannaapede.com website was also launched.

Chairman Maubima Lanka Foundation, Ariyaseela Wickrmanayake said Sri Lanka has spent Rs. 30billion for the import of milk when the country can be self-sufficient. There has been a 15 per cent increase of milk production after the ban of slaughter of cows from last year. "Milk production is a major contributor to the New Zealand’s GDP and 85 per cent of their produce is for export. With the present initiative taken I am sure Sri Lanka will be self sufficient in milk in five years. Similarly Sri Lanka can be self sufficient in sugar and many other imported commodities,” he said.

He also said the telecommunication industry had revenue in the excess of Rs. 8 billion and appealed for the companies to reduce tariff. He appealed from the users to use a handset for a longer period to cut foreign exchange flowing to foreign manufacturers. He appealed from the public to buy Sri Lankan products thus saving foreign exchange, encouraging entrepreneurs and strengthening Sri Lankan economy.

The Minister Kumara Welgama addressing the ceremony said that the Government was implementing a major programme for the well being of the local industrialists. This he said had been consolidated through the Budget.

It was also mentioned that President Mahinda Rajapaksa presented the last budget travelling in a locally assembled Micro car powered by locally made Ethanol.

Monk Parliamentarian the Ven. Athureliya Ratana thera on behalf of the Hela Urumaya, Parliamentarian Gayantha Karunatilake on behalf of the UNP and Parliamentarian Nandana Gunatilake representing the Jathika Nidahas Peramuna also expressed their views.

Minister Hemakumara Nanayakkara, Parliamentarian Jayalath Jayawardena, Chairman of the Strategic Enterprise Management Agency Willie Gamage, Secretary to the Ministry of Industrial Development R.V.D. Jayatillake, Chairman of Mawbima Lanka Foundation Ariyasheela Wickramanayake and Dr. Wasantha Bandara were present.

SAARC leaders should act quickly to regain the region for the People

SPUR (Society for Peace, Unity and Human Rights for Sri Lanka Inc)
Reg: A003 0777 M
P.O. Box 4066, Mulgrave VIC 3170, Australia
Phone: (03) 9795 7143 Fax: (03) 9795 7142


18 December 2008

MEDIA RELEASE

SAARC leaders should act quickly to regain the region for the People


The terrorist attack in Mumbai, Islamabad and the war in Sri Lanka should be a clarion call for the leaders and the people in SAARC countries to resolve that urgent attention is required to crucially important security issues.

We are happy to endorse the timely proposal of the Editorial Board of the Asian Tribune made on17 December 2008, requesting the SAARC leaders to urgently convene a summit meeting.

Compared to other international regional organizations SAARC has been rather slow to realize the importance of working as a team in spite of pressing bilateral and multilateral issues, especially the burgeoning economic problems consequent on the world economic meltdown, directly affecting the billions of people making up the population of SAARC countries.

Suspicion of each other among some of the countries and the “beggar my neighbour” policy followed by some factions within countries in the region have made it very easy for outside forces, including groups who depend on armed violence, to destabilize the region. Some international powers are fishing in the troubled waters in the region using foreign funding to leverage global political objectives.

SAARC countries have a combined population of 1,397,007,904, which provides a strong regional market as well as a possible source of unrest, if the socio-economic issues are not managed effectively. The SAARC region is strategically located in proximity to sea routes connecting the oil fields in the Middle East to the East Asian markets and abutting geopolitically important Russia and China. The agricultural resources in the region, if managed properly and tackled to encourage intra-regional economic relationship can boost the economy of the member countries while promoting regional identity.

The leaders in the SAARC region should send a message of hope to their citizens rather than score points at each other’s expense. With the whole of India almost going into a state of shock when a few terrorists held Bombay to ransom, the Indian leaders and her people should consider that the time is ripe to build a strong chain of regional friendship. The political custodians of SAARC member countries should think of creating opportunities to bestow the region’s potential to its millions of people.

We request the President of Sri Lanka to take the initiative and confer with the other leaders at a summit meeting to take crucial decisions effectively by recognising the critical message relayed by terrorism, armed violence ignited by cross-border gangs aided by international players.

We trust that the SAARC leaders will grasp the complexities of the urgent issues facing the region and move ahead as a formidable team

Yours truly

Ranjith Soysa
Spokesperson
SPUR

Mohan Pieris sworn in as new Attorney General

President's Counsel Mohan Pieris was sworn in as Attorney General before President Mahinda Rajapaksa at President's House today (18).

He filled the vacancy created by the retirement of Mr. C.R. de Silva and will serve as the 25th Attorney General of Sri Lanka.

Until his appointment today, Mr. Pieris was an Attorney at Law of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka practicing as a counsel in the original and appellate courts in the areas of inter alia, administrative law, commercial law, fundamental rights, industrial law, injunctions and criminal law, Counsel in arbitrations and as Arbitrator.

He holds a Diploma in Trial Advocacy Skills conferred by the National Institute for Trial Advocacy at its Teacher Training Trial Advocacy workshop at Harvard Law School, Cambridge ,Massachusetts 1988.

Mr. Pieris represented Sri Lanka at 10th International Symposium on Economic Crime conducted by the Centre for Police and Criminal Justice Studies. University of Exeter at Jesus College, Cambridge 1992.

He participated in a Technical Cooperation Programme on New Approaches in Foreign Investment Analysis and Negotiations conducted by the Agency for International Development of the United States of America 1992 and was the Sri Lanka delegate at the 50th Anniversary of the Wars Convention at the International Civil Aviation Organization, Moneral Canada - 1992.

(Government of Sri Lanka)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Response to Tamilnet by Ambassador Blake

I was disappointed to read on Tamilnet criticism of the US Government’s programs to help stabilize and develop Eastern Sri Lanka. Since there is no mechanism to respond to Tamilnet, I thought I would use the Embassy’s blog to respond to some of the incorrect assertions in the Tamilnet article.

First, a Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP asserts in the Tamilnet article that Washington’s purpose in our programs for the east is to, “help Colombo make majoritarian inroads into the east.” This is incorrect. We have specifically established the goal of fostering economic development, good governance and stability while preserving the existing ethnic balance in the east. It is well known that the east is one of Sri Lanka’s poorest provinces and that poverty and lack of adequate economic opportunity are principal drivers of conflict. One of the best ways to address such poverty is to establish programs that will link new businesses in the East with the country’s principal markets in the western and other parts of the country. Indeed, USAID’s Connecting Regional Economies program in the East has five goals:

- First, support livelihood development for vulnerable populations;
- Second, promote the development of agriculture-based value chains;
- Third, ensure that groups in conflict-affected areas benefit from participation in these value chains and our other efforts;
- Fourth, implement a workforce development strategy;
- and finally promote a business enabling environment. (click here for more info)

The Member of Parliament also alleges that that U.S. development initiatives “ take place through direct collaboration between the American agency and the ministries of Sri Lanka, sidelining the provincial council.” This also is incorrect. While we of course coordinate with the central government as we would in any country, none of our money goes through the central government. Rather, it goes directly to U.S. and/or Sri Lankan organizations working in the east to implement our programs. Furthermore, one of the goals of our “Supporting Regional Governance” program in the East is to improve the capacity and governance of the Eastern Provincial Council and local government authorities. Specifically, this program aims to support and facilitate increased citizen engagement in regional and local government, strengthen inter-community reconciliation, and promote social equality by, for example, promoting citizen interaction with government institutions, and strengthening the capacity of journalists and media outlets in the East.

Lastly, the MP alleges that America’s program in the east will only “add to the ethnic conflict in the island.” He says “meaningful development of the east can take place only after a substantial political solution to the Tamil national question.” We agree that a political solution is necessary (click here for my recent speech to the American Chamber of Commerce), but we do not agree that meaningful development can take place only after a political solution is agreed upon. It is important to give the people of the east the opportunity now to obtain vocational training and sustainable private sector jobs. Such sustainable livelihood opportunities are an essential part of ensuring stability and development so that the Tamil, Muslim and Sinhalese communities in the East can rebuild their lives and cooperate with each other to help the East realize its potential.

(US Embassy Colombo)

Paranthan earth bund captured and fighting goes on amid heavy rains - Wanni Operation - 17 Dec 2008

Heavy fighting erupts at outskirts of Kilinochchi - Wanni Operation - 16 Dec 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Reporters Without Borders - exposing their Borders: What price “Freedom of the Press”?


World Alliance for Peace in Sri Lanka
PO Box 4066, Mulgrave VIC 3170, Australia
Phone: +61 3 9548 0276 Fax: +61 3 9584 0276
Website: http://www.spur.asn.au/


MEDIA RELEASE

Reporters Without Borders - exposing their Borders: What price “Freedom of the Press”?

Reporters Without Borders have taken umbrage at the Sri Lanka government’s action in blocking out the BBC Sinhala service “Sandeshaya” programme rebroadcast by SLBC.

The Sri Lankan Diaspora welcomes this move by the Sri Lanka Government and the SLBC. This has been a long time coming.

The BBC Sinhala service, on many an occasion gave the impression that it was no more than another propaganda arm of the LTTE from the time Vasantha Rajah hijacked the programme. Subsequently, more inexperienced journalists involved in this programme worked towards the very same objectives.

In keeping with the Vasantha Rajah practice, the present BBC Sinhala service journalist, of questionable ethnic background whose past work experience in a notorious pro-separatist publishing house in Sri Lanka offers no credibility, has been fabricating news to help the Tamil Tiger terrorist cause.

His latest tactic of comparing Sri Lanka to Somalia using a WFP (World Food Programme) representative boomeranged on the BBC, when the WFP apologized to Sri Lanka denying the story. Unfortunately, by that time the Tamil Net and other NGO websites had already used the BBC’s white lie. This blunder has brought even more disrepute to the already questionable standards of the BBC ‘s SINHALA programme.

Further, your unfounded concerns about the judgement handed down by the Courts against the Editor of The Leader newspaper in Sri Lanka places a question mark about your impartiality. Whilst exposing your duplicitous actions, this has served to confirm your inability to sift right from wrong. Your recent statement has indicated scant regard for the Democratically elected multiethnic Government of Sri Lanka, which is indeed unbecoming of a supposedly well recognized organization of journalists. This manner of behaviour is totally inappropriate and unacceptable in this day and age.

If your organization,” Reporters Without Borders” are champions of truly democratic, ethical journalism, perhaps you might like to consider writing a factual article on the heinous barbaric terrorist acts perpetrated by the Tamil Tiger terrorists in Sri Lanka and how they suppress public opinion. Then perhaps we may be able to accept you as a vibrant body.

The LTTE has given a new meaning to the word ‘Infantry– by making pawns of children as young as eight years, abducted by them mostly at gunpoint from schools and homes, to fight as foot soldiers in their despicable terrorist war that mainly targets civilians: women, men, children, old people. religious dignitaries and democratic opinion makers.

Did your organisation take action when the LTTE supporters in Canada targeted Stewart Bell of the National Post when he published revealing investigative reports on their activities undermining the peaceful and democratic way of life in Canada and exposed the true nature of their so-called charities that raised millions of dollars for the LTTE terrorist coffers?

How about Paul Harris another well-known investigative reporter? Did your organisation come to his defence when he became a target of the LTTE’s ire at his revealing reports on their terrorist activities?

What were Reporters Without Borders doing when Tamil writers such as Rajini Thiranagama were murdered by the LTTE and many a Tamil journal was forced to stop publication, including Tamil journals published in foreign countries?

One-sided championing of “Press Freedom” with a bias seemingly favouring the Tamil terrorist cause only exposes the true nature of Reporters Without Borders. In contradistinction to their name, they appear to carry on a surreptitious sweeping campaign to safeguard the interests of Tamil Tiger terrorists of the LTTE and their fronts at the expense of Democratically elected Government. This manner of action is certainly not geared to preserve Press Freedom in its true sense and it will be helpful if the above facts were given consideration by your organization.

Jeanne Jayasinghe
President
Society for Peace, Unity and Human Rights for Sri Lanka,
Vic-Australia