Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sri Lanka signed contract to construct Colombo-Katunayake expressway

(May 16, 2008) The Sri Lankan government last week signed an agreement with China Metallurgical Construction Group to construct the Colombo-Katunayake expressway funded by China.

The Chinese government owned company will be engaged in funding, planning, designing and constructing the 25.6 km long expressway at a cost of US$ 310 million.

In terms of the agreement, construction is to begin within 60 days and the project completed by 2012.

The four-lane expressway between Colombo and Katunayake will have two interchanges at Kerawalapitiya and Peliyagoda, which is expected to reduce the travel time from Colombo to the airport to 20 minutes.

Prior to the signing of this agreement, there were many false starts to the construction of the Colombo-Katunayake expressway. The foundation stone for the Colombo-Katunayake expressway was first laid in 1967.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Pillayan sworn in as Chief Minister of Eastern Province

May 16, 2008 (LBO) – A former Tamil Tiger who broke away and later allied himself with the government was Friday sworn in as the chief minister of the island's eastern province following last week's polls.

Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan, also known as Pillayan, was sworn in as chief minister of the eastern provincial council by President Mahinda Rajapakse, a presidential spokesman said.

Rajapakse's decision to make Pillayan the chief minister could cause a split in the ruling party coalition which won the polls with its Muslim leaders saying they would operate as independent members in new provincial council.

Both Pillayan, who heads the TMVP, a grouping of Tamil Tiger defectors, and Muslim leader M.L.A.M Hizbullah had staked a claim for the chief minister's post.

The poll, the first for the eastern provincial council, was won by the governing United People's Freedom Alliance party (UPFA) and its allies.

The government wrested control of the eastern region in a military campaign last year that ousted the Tigers with the help of defectors including Pillayan.

Suicide bomb explosion near Lake House, Fort; 10 killed, over 95 wounded

At least ten people were killed and 95 others wounded in a Tamil Tiger suicide bombing in the capital Colombo near Lake House and Sambuddhaloka Buddhist Viharaya, Fort, officials said Friday. Eight police officers and two civilians -- plus the attacker -- died when a motorbike rammed into a bus ferrying police and exploded. The massive blast was heard across the city.

“At least 62 civilians, 30 policemen and three soldiers were among those injured,” said national hospital director Hector Weerasinghe.

The car of Sri Lanka`s Sports Minister, Gamini Lokuge, was also caught up in the blast, police said. He escaped unhurt, but his driver was among the dead.

The attack occurred outside a Buddhist temple in the Fort area of Colombo`s commercial district, a high security zone surrounded by several rings of military and police check posts.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa said the attack only reinforced his decision in January to pull out of a Norwegian-brokered truce with the Tigers and step up a military offensive against the rebels` mini-state in the north of the island.

`Repeated savagery reiterates the need for concerted action by all those who cherish democracy, human rights and the values of civilised society, to eradicate the menace of terrorism,` he said.

For the kind attention of the His Excellency Dr Mahinda Rajapakse

Dear Sir,

It was a rare honour to meet you in person at the Oxford Union. I admire the fact that you feel so passionately for your country and changing the lives of your fellow citizens. Sir, you inspire us, the young generation that our lives should not be squandered in personal merriment and self-promotion. Sir, may I thank you for answering my question in detail, it does not happen everyday that I get a chance to hear the first-hand views of the maker of a nation.

What I liked the most about your speech, was the fact that you talked about the sustainable development and paying attention to the strengthening the rural economy, as energy and food are two of the key questions. Policy makers should not forget that in the race of the making their nations industrialised or turning their countries into service industries. Another key point was that you mentioned the distribution of the wealth across all sections of the society, very important indeed, as discontent leads to social disharmony and problems. We need sustainable societies.

I am very happy that you have fond memories of India, especially Dehradoon. My brother Dr. Dev Ratna Shukla is currently posted in Dehradoon, as the National Head of the Information Ministry of Government of India in his role as Head for Rural & Land Records Reforms through Electronic Governance. I go to Dehradoon and Rishikesh for River-Rafting.

Sir, I pray that under your vision and leadership, the relationship between India and Sri Lanka will grow stronger. I wish the very best to the people of Sri Lanka. May your country prosper and be an example to the rest of the world as a nation. I also hope that increasing piligrimage to the Ramayana sites will allow people of our nations to have a closer cultural ties. I look forward to visting your beautiful land some day.

Thanks a lot for your attention.

Warm Regards,
Aadya Shukla

The Oxford Indian Society.
May 14, 2008

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Pillayan to be CM

TMVP Leader Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan, alias Pillayan, is tipped to be appointed as the Eastern Province Chief Minister despite requests by Muslim ministers to appoint M.L.A.M. Hizbullah to the post, government sources said.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa had, on Tuesday, contacted two senior Muslim ministers and told them that the controversy over demands that Mr. Hizbullah be made the Chief Minister should be resolved before his return to the country from Britain, scheduled for yesterday.

President Rajapaksa had also expressed his disappointment to the ministers over comments by Mr. Hizbullah to the effect that he was confident of being appointed to the post.

“The President told us to resolve the matter before his return to the country,” one of the ministers said, adding that the President had said he did not want to come home and face a ‘disaster,’ with Hizbullah or the Muslim ministers. He had said that Pillayan was tipped to be appointed to the post.

President Rajapaksa had told the Muslim ministers that Pillayan would be the suitable leader for the East, despite the Muslim ministers thinking otherwise, and told them to convey his message to all in the government before his return.

The President had contacted the two senior ministers moments after the Muslim ministers had insisted, on Tuesday, that Mr. Hizbullah be appointed to the CM post and warning that they might even leave otherwise. The President had, in his telephone conversation with the two Muslim ministers, dismissed the warning, stating that he would be the final decision maker.

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Dulles Alahapperuma, yesterday, iterated that Pillayan was the person most likely to be made the Chief Minister of the Eastern Province according to the agreement reached between the UPFA and its election partners and the pledge given by President Rajapaksa during the election campaign.

“At the outset President Rajapaksa had indicated to all groups that supported the UPFA that the Chief Minister’s post would be offered to the group that commanded the confidence of the greatest number of elected members. By this criterion Mr. Chandrakanthan (Pillayan) must become the Chief Minister as he has the support of six members as opposed to five for the UPFA, four for the Hizbullah faction and three for the National Congress headed by A.L.M. Athaulla,” said Mr. Alahapperuma.

“This has been the tradition right through. Whether it was Susil Premajayantha, Reginold Cooray or any other, the post of Chief Minister went to the member who could command the confidence of the majority of members of the council,” he said.

Courtesy: Daily Mirror

Video: Wanni Operation - 13 May 2008

Sri Lanka military liberation of Wanni (in the North) from the Tamil Tigers (LTTE). 13 May 2008.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Lankan expats can counter LTTE false propaganda globally - President

President Mahinda Rajapaksa speaking to Sri Lanka Freedom Party supporters in London yesterday morning said that it is the due responsibility of all patriotic Sri Lankans to convey to the international community the real situation in Sri Lanka as the LTTE is carrying an international false propaganda campaign distorting the image of the nation.

He emphasised that terrorism should be defeated irrespective of political agendas represented by each and every one.

President Rajapaksa also informed the Sri Lankan expatriates in London of the initiatives taken by his Government towards sustainable development of the country and measures taken to ensure democracy to the people who were deprived that right due to LTTE intimidation for many decades.

The President is scheduled to address the Oxford Union yesterday 7 pm UK time on the topic of “Strategy towards Empowering the Rural Economy of Sri Lanka”. President Rajapaksa will be the first Sri Lankan Head of State and Sri Lankan statesman who has not previously held office in the Oxford Union to address it as a guest speaker. The last distinguished Sri Lankan who addressed the Oxford Union was former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar.

Courtesy: Bottom Line

Video: International monitors claim the East poll was free and fair

Representatives of the Asian Elections Federation have said that the Eastern Provincial election had been conducted in a free and fair manner and with transparency.

Foreign monitors carried out their work on election day and the day before polls in all three Districts of the Province. The group comprised 17 monitors from 10 Asian countries. They emphasised that no pre-election or post-election violence had been reported from the region. The Foreign Monitors were addressing a media conference at the Galadari Hotel in Colombo. Head of the Monitoring Group Ming Hua Sai, Teresita De Liyako Flores and General Ayub Azil addressed the journalists. They said they were satisfied that a peaceful and democratic election had been held in the East, which was earlier a war zone. They expressed their gratitude to the Election Commissioner for his untiring efforts in this respect.

Senior Advisor in Philippines Teresita De Liyako Flores said they are actually satisfied over the situation that prevailed in the East. The poll was conducted peacefully and in a systematic manner. It was very clear to them that the election was free and fair due to the monitoring of areas in Batticaloa where less civilians lived. Deputy Chairman of the Afghan Election Commission General Ayub Azil said they had no complaints to be made on the poll. It was a beautiful day the election was held. There were no incidents during polling. The election was transparent.
Commissioner of the Asian Election Monitoring Federation Ming Hua Sai said several organisations including PAFFREL monitored the election and in general it was held peacefully.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Int. Observers take the stuffing out of allegations...…Say polls conducted in orderly manner

Eastern Provincial Council Elections

The verdict of the International polls observer group, which monitored Saturday’s Eastern Provincial Council Polls, is that the elections were conducted peacefully and in an orderly manner. There was no stuffing of ballot boxes, the group of 17 observers was from the Association of Asian Election Authority Observer Mission said yesterday.

Addressing a press conference in Colombo, Deputy Chairman of Election Observer Commission Group C – Trincomalee District - General Ayub Assil said the international observers represented 10 countries who were not under the influence of anybody but were keen to see the progress of Sri Lanka.

In Trincomalee District everything was in order and no complaints at all, he said. One of the most encouraging features was to see more than 70 women in the queue to vote. It was a pleasant and positive sign for a better future.

AAEA Coordinator/ Commissioner and International Observer Group leader Ming-Hwa Tsai said that the success of the Elections should be attributed to the people of Sri Lanka, particularly the people of the Eastern Province Districts of Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara, for showing their understanding of the importance of the electoral process and their enthusiasm and commitment to the democratic process.

She said that the fact that the people themselves embraced the elections was absolute proof that elections were indeed free and fair.

by Ifham Nizam, Island

Turn around by Tamilnadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi

Chief Minister of Tamilnadu M. Karunanidhi, addressing the State Assembly of Tamilnadu recently announced a surprising turn-around in political convictions, stating 'Tamil Eelam is the dream of the LTTE and it will never be a reality'. Karunanidhi, in the course of his statement, recalled with grief the brutal assassination of his friend and TULF leader, Appapillai Amirthalingam.
The Chief Minister was speaking on several pro-LTTE resolutions moved by pro-LTTE Pattali Makkal party leader Mr. Gnakoon Sudarshan. The resolution requested the Indian Central government to exert pressure on the Sri Lanka Government to stop the Wanni military operations against the Tigers forthwith. The Chief Minster explained that the military operations against the LTTE is not a war against the Tamil people. The Tamilnadu Congress leader Mr. Gnasekaran and Mr. Hasan Ali opposed the resolution and voiced their support to the Chief Ministers stance.

It was pointed out that the LTTE was a guerilla movement believing only in terrorism and a small armed group. The Chief Minister reiterated that the LTTE does not represent the Tamil community. The LTTE desperately needs Indians intervention to avert an ignoramus defeat, be stressed.

The defeat of the move of the Eelam lobbyists in the Tamilnadu State Assembly is seen as a major setback for the LTTE which isolated the dreaded terrorist outfit from Tamilnadu.

Political analysts opine that the Chief Minister has effectively foiled strategic attempts by the LTTE to involve the Indian government in Sri Lanka's operations.

Courtesy: Government Information Department

Sri Lanka’s war-ravaged East cries out for development

COLOMBO: For some time to come, Sri Lankans will be preoccupied with the question whether the first-ever elections to the Eastern provincial council last Saturday were free and fair, and whether the cause of democracy and national unity was served by the exercise. But very soon, the people of the region, denied an elected provincial council for two decades, will demand that the rulers get down to brass tacks and address bread-and-butter issues. Ravaged by war since the mid-1980s, the Tamil-speaking Eastern province has seen little or no economic development. Its agriculture, fisheries, industry and infrastructure were destroyed by Tamil militants and armed agencies of the state.

But change is in the offing.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who heads the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) which won the eastern elections, has given top priority to economic development in the East, allocating SLRs. 6 billion (US$ 56 million). He has also placed himself and his brother Basil Rajapaksa at the head of the Eastern task force.

Roads are being built. A paper factory at Valaichenai will soon begin to hum. A 500 MW power plant in Sampur is expected to come up with Indian help. Still, an enormous lot remains to be done.

According to Dr. Muttukrishna Sarvananthan of the Point Pedro Institute of Development, the Eastern Province, along with the other Tamil-speaking area, the Northern Province, is at the bottom of the table in terms of contribution to Sri Lanka’s GDP.

In 2000, for example, the East’s contribution was 4.5 per cent, and the North’s, 2.1 per cent. But the North and East account for a third of the island’s land mass, and two thirds of the coastline.

If the share of those employed in industry, as against those in agriculture, is a measure of development, the East has been going backwards. In contrast to the rest of Sri Lanka, the share of industry in employment in the East has declined from 15.4 per cent in 1985 to 8.3 per cent in 1995.

In 2002-2003, only 20 per cent of households in the East had access to safe drinking water, while the Sri Lankan average was 45 per cent. Only 40 per cent of the households in the East had electricity, while the national average was 56 per cent. In terms of access to sanitation, it was 28 per cent in Batticaloa as against the national average of 72 per cent.


Clear mandate from East: President

A jubilant President Mahinda Rajapaksa said yesterday the results of the Provincial Council Election showed that the Eastern people had endorsed the policies of the UPFA government.

He said it was also a call for the restoration of normalcy and democracy in areas hitherto controlled by the Tigers and for the overall development programme already initiated in the Eastern Province.

The President said after the successful completion of the local council elections in the Batticaloa District in March, this was another important milestone in the government’s policy of restoring democratic rights to the people in areas once dominated by the LTTE, and of ensuring democracy throughout the island.

“The Eastern Province voters who participated in this election peacefully and in large numbers have demonstrated their interest in protecting their democratic rights which were denied to them by the forces of terror for nearly two decades and have been now restored to them with the liberation of the Eastern Province by the Security Forces.

“This election emphasizes the policy of the government to create an environment in which all our people can enjoy democratic rights and live in freedom and harmony. The people of the East have given a clear mandate for peace through the defeat of terrorism, the strengthening of democracy and the development of the country.

“I thank all political parties and candidates who participated in the important election, all Election Department personnel, all other public officers, and members of the Armed Services and Police who helped in the successful conduct of this election.

“The representatives of the people chosen in this peaceful election represent the will of the people, and I look forward to their cooperation in the country’s march to strengthen and widen democracy throughout our country, and to assisting in the tasks already initiated and to develop the Eastern Province,” the President said in a statement.